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Warner Home Video presents
Superman: Doomsday (2007)

"Why did you leave me? Why?!"
- Lex Luthor (James Marsters)

Review By: Ross Johnson   
Published: November 02, 2007

Stars: Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters
Other Stars: Swoosie Kurtz, Cree Summer, Ray Wise, John DiMaggio, Tom Kenny, Adam Wylie
Director: Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, Brandon Vietti

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Action Violence
Run Time: 01h:15m:00s
Release Date: September 18, 2007
UPC: 085391108313
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BAA- B+

DVD Review

Will we ever have had too much of Superman? As a life-long Superman fan, I ask that without any sarcasm, but instead with genuine astonishment that in our rather cynical age, the guy still sells. In addition to the various comic books, toys, and ancillary products that have been ubiquitous for most of the last seventy years, recently we've seen the expensive (and inexplicably maligned) Superman Returns, a new season of the long-running Smallville, with several major projects in the pipeline (including a new animated project teased in this disc's special features). Amidst all these live-action, big-money adventures, a direct-to-DVD animation project like Superman: Doomsday sounds almost as though it was an after-thought. A way to squeeze a couple of extra bucks out of a popular character. Fortunately, the folks at Warner Brothers Animation have clearly put some care into this project, assembling a talented team of animation pros alongside quality voice actors.

Superman: Doomsday is based upon the mega-selling "Death of Superman" series from the early 1990s, though in condensing that extended storyline into a 75-minute film, a great deal has been jettisoned, and much changed. It's all for the best, as any attempt to make a film out of what was essentially a year-long action soap opera would have been a convoluted mess, but even in condensing the story, there's still a bit much here for the film's running time. The first part of the movie introduces these particular incarnations of our main characters and sets up a genuinely brutal fight between Superman and the enigmatic powerhouse Doomsday, with a surprising amount of (PG-13) blood bone-crunching, not to mention the inevitable property damage. I don't think that mentioning Superman's apparent death during the battle provides much of a spoiler, since the film is really more about the different ways in which his supporting cast responds to the catastrophe. In trying to tell a more emotional story, the choice of talented actors really pays off. Anne Heche has always been a surprising actor, and she's stellar as Lois Lane, here a tough and sometimes rash reporter who watches the great love of her life beaten to death. She shares a scene with Swoosie Kurtz as Martha Kent that's heartbreaking: Martha has spent the days since her son was buried alone, in front of the television, mourning in secret. Heche and Kurtz play their first meeting not as cartoon characters, but as real people with very recognizable emotions. Producer/Director Bruce Timm and company, who have been involved in Warner Animation projects going back to Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s have certainly learned the importance of good voice casting in elevating a project. Adam Baldwin is plays a typically heroic but slightly cheeky Superman, while James Marsters is effectively nasty, but subtle, in his portrayal of Lex Luthor. He plays an important role in the events of the film, and there's a unique and ambiguous angle on the relationship between Superman and Lex that makes a great deal of sense given their mutual obsession through the decades. The image of Lex straddling his prone enemy screaming "Why did you leave me?!" has bold and brilliant implications.

The first bit of the film is paced very well, but I would have preferred a bit more breathing room in the back end. While the filmmakers manage to work in lovely character bits, the reaction to Superman's death and the mystery surrounding the brutal vigilante who appears to take his place provide just a bit much material. Everything feels a bit rushed, though, that having been said, I'd rather be complaining of a film trying to squeeze too much material into a short-ish running time than watching yet another paper-thin plot padded out to approach two hours. Director Timm and company keep things moving. As for the animation, the look is similar overall to the style established in Warner's previous DC comics animation projects, though the designs are all new so as to establish this as its own beast. For the most part the look is expressive and full of movement, with the only real hitch being the design on Superman himself. He's been given some extra facial lines that make him look...well, old. That might be intentional, but it doesn't quite work. I'd expect animators to draw me looking a bit haggard and worn-out, but Superman should probably look a bit fresher. Overall, though, Bruce Timm and company have maintained and even pushed forward the high-quality of animation that Warner Brothers has been putting into their superhero projects for that last 15 years.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The transfer is consitently solid throughout. Clean and clear, the anamorphic image doesn't include any of the pixilation issues that so often accompany animation transfers. Nice job.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The film's Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is full and dynamic across the channels. All of the requisite dramatic music, crashes, punches, and booms come across loud and clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Last Mimzy, I Am Legend, Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, Spawn: The TV Series, Blade: House of Chlthon, Smallville Season 6, Blade Runner 25th Anniversary
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Producer Bruce Timm, Writer Duane Capezi, Voice Director Andrea Romano, and Executive Producer Gregory Noveck
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Superman's Last Stand Chellenge Game
Extras Review: The disc really shines in its assortment of special features, headlined by a thorough documentary about the early-90s "Death of Superman" storyline/marketing event. Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives! features almost all of the writers and creators that decided to kill Superman. Hamstrung by storylines on Lois and Clark that kept them from carrying off the wedding that they had planned, the creative team was forced to rework the following year's worth of material. The offhand comment "Let's kill 'im!" turned into a credo, and then a minor media phenomenon. What comes through clearly is that all of the writers were thoroughly sincere in their intentions, and were a little stunned by the reaction. The doc also talks to fans and others in the industry. It's a neatly put together reminiscence, especially for those of us who remember the day when Superman's death was all over the news.

There's also a Feature Commentary by Producer/Director Bruce Timm, Writer Duane Capizzi, Voice Director Andrea Romano, and Executive Producer Gregory Noveck. They're all pros, and comfortable in the commentary setting. This is the only real making-of feature on the disc, and as such it's well-done, and with a friendly tone.

The Justice League: New Frontier Sneak Peak is a ten-minute long reel about next year's direct-to-video DC animated project. It's an early peak, with talking heads and almost no actual footage from the movie, but enjoyable enough on its own terms. The Behind the Voice featurette includes several of the main voice actors along with veteran voice director Andrea Romano. Ray Wise, Swoosie Kurtz, Adam Wylie, Anne Heche, and Adam Baldwin all pop up in the brief (just over five-minute) extra, along with footage from recording sessions.

Finally, there are an assortment of trailers for various, disparate, upcoming discs and feature films, along with an only mildly amusing, and mostly tiresome little game called the Superman's Last Stand Challenge.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

The question central to Superman: Doomsday is not, as you might guess: "Does the world need a Superman?" The more relevant question is: "Does the world need another Superman movie?" Though relative levels of interest in both superheroes and animation in general will influence your own answer to the latter question, I'll go out on a limb and say: "Sure, why not." Events feel awfully squeezed into the 75-minute running time, but the movie succeeds in taking Superman to a few places that we've never seen him go. Quality animation and some genuinely great voice work don't hurt, either. For true fans, the Requiem and Rebirth documentary included here is almost worth the price of admission, but the main feature ain't too shabby either.

 


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