Reign of the Supermen

Completing the adaptation of the classic 1990s “Death of Superman” comic books, Reign of the Supermen pays off the storyline began in last year’s The Death of Superman with some solid action sequences and some nice character moments that will be appreciated by fans of the DC Universe animated movies.

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/29/19;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of action violence.
Voices of Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Cress Williams, Cameron Monaghan, Patrick Fabian, Tony Todd, Charles Halford, Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Nyambi Nyambi.

As the second part of a two-film event, Reign of the Supermen provides a worthy conclusion to the storyline set up in last year’s The Death of Superman.

Six months after Superman seemingly died stopping an alien monster from destroying Metropolis, four new heroes have arrived in the city to claim the legacy of the Man of Steel. And since Superman’s body disappeared from his tomb, there’s some discussion in the media as to whether one of these new heroes actually is Superman.

The most likely candidate is the Cyborg Superman, who claims his robotic appearance is due to a Kryptonian healing technique.

Another candidate is the mysterious Eradicator, who isn’t big into sticking around and talking after eliminating the bad guys.

A third is Superboy, who is working for Lex Luthor as part of his efforts to rehabilitate the city. Lois Lane discovers he’s a clone of Superman created by Lex to fill the void left by the original Superman with a hero Lex can control.

And finally, there’s Steel, who isn’t a clone or robot or anyone claiming to be Superman, but a man in a super-powered suit with a rocket-powered hammer. He’s basically a Superman-inspired version of Iron Man (with a little Thor’s hammer mixed in).

As Lois continues to investigate what’s really going on, the Justice League’s launch of their new orbital headquarters is interrupted by an alien attack that only raises the stakes in discovering the true nature of the impostor Supermen.

Reign of the Supermen is not as character driven as its predecessor, but still offers some impressive action sequences, especially when the various Supermen have to fight each other. And there are some nice touches that play off moments from several of the previous DC Universe movies.

In fact, this probably should have been the basis for a Man of Steel sequel in the live-action DC films had they not muddled their Justice League storylines in their crash course attempt to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen are distinct on their own, they also fit together nicely as a nearly three-hour epic, which is how they were shown in some Fathom events screenings prior to the disc release. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Warner release a Blu-ray that edits them into a single film, as was done with The Dark Knight Returns a few years ago.

The Reign of the Supermen Blu-ray offers an interesting 16-minute featurette about Lex Luthor that analyzes some of his best-known character traits and what makes him a good Superman villain. The disc also includes episodes from “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League Unlimited” that deal with similar subject matter as the movie.

Finally, there’s a 10-minute preview of the upcoming animated movie Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, which appears to be a tie-in with the “Justice League Unlimited” continuity and style, and not a continuation of the DC Universe animated continuity (though Reign of the Supermen does provide a post-credits tease for where its storyline could be headed next).

Reign of the Supermen

The Death of Superman

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 8/7/18;
Warner;
Animated;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 Blu-ray gift set, $39.99 UHD BD.
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action including some bloody images.
Voices of Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, Nathan Fillion, Matt Lanter, Christopher Gorham.

The Death of Superman packs a punch, in more ways than one.

The latest entry in the DC Universe brand of animated superhero movies is one of the more faithful representations of its source material, resulting in one of the most emotionally resonant movies based on a comic book in quite some time.

The Death of Superman is based on the legendary 1992-93 storyline that saw Superman sacrifice himself to save Metropolis from an unstoppable alien entity called Doomsday. Subsequent storylines dealt with Superman’s return amid the arrival of four new heroes each claiming the legacy of the Man of Steel, but that’s the subject for the next DC Universe movie, Reign of the Supermen.

The “Death of Superman” has provided inspiration for several adaptations over the years, most prominently in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (though the subsequent Justice League movie ignored most of the comic book’s storyline for his resurrection). A highly condensed version of the death and return arcs formed the basis of the first DC Universe animated movie, Superman: Doomsday, back in 2007.

And while Superman: Doomsday remains among the best-selling of the DC animated movies, it’s also regarded as something of a lost opportunity to really dive into the juiciest aspects of the storyline, given how much of it was altered to fit into the limited running time of a single movie. The Death of Superman does much to rectify that.

The new film is a continuation of a continuity that has established within the DC Universe films the past few years, allowing this film to build upon pre-existing character relationships. However, Superman was mostly a background player among an ensemble in those, so this is really the first of the sub-group to really give the character his due.

The movie begins with Superman, in his guise as Clark Kent, fumbling through a newfound love affair with Lois Lane, and getting relationship advice from, of all people, Wonder Woman, who had dated Superman in one of the earlier films.

The screenplay by Peter Tomasi is filled with wonderful insights about the Lois and Clark relationship as it explores the challenges of finding love when one is living a double life to conceal superpowers, as well as the tug-of-war between being a hero for the public and enjoying a private life.

There are also fun nods to other movies featuring the characters, such as Wonder Woman joking about an uptick in her popularity in the past year, and references going as far back to the 1978 Superman movie and its own iconic portraying of Superman’s courtship of Lois Lane.

The effectiveness of the story is given considerable weight by a great voice cast led by real-life husband-and-wife Jerry O’Connell as Superman and Rebecca Romijn as Lois (whose natural chemistry comes through despite the two not recording their lines together).

Rainn Wilson also has some fun in his portrayal of Lex Luthor, who is maneuvering in the background to understand what makes Doomsday tick even as Superman and the Justice League give their all to stop the monster’s rampage.

The film’s efforts to layer in its character dynamics pay off with a terrific climactic fight between Doomsday and Superman, who is all that stands in the creature’s way when the rest of the Justice League can’t stop it.

The Blu-ray includes a 16-minute featurette called “The Death of Superman: The Brawl That Topped Them All,” a good retrospective about the original comic book storyline involving many of the creative minds behind it, intercut with an analysis of the fight itself.

There’s also a 10-minute preview of the Reign of the Supermen movie due next year.

Finally, the Blu-ray includes the “Legion of Superheroes” certoon series two-part episode “Dark Victory,” which incorporated some ideas from the “Death of Superman” storyline.