Rated: PG-13 :: Released: 18 September 2007
Directors: Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery and Brandon Vietti :: Starring: Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche and James Marsters
By James D. Deaux IV
06 December 2007 — It has been a long time since I can remember a DC animated movie being hyped as much as Superman: Doomsday. It isn't often that a non-Disney direct-to-DVD animated movie is as advertised as this one has been. But it also isn't hard to see why DC put so much hype behind this movie. Bruce Timm produced it, they got Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche and James Marsters to play the three biggest roles in the film, and they went so far as to make it violent and crass enough to be rated PG-13 — a first for any animated Superman feature. Plus, look at the title — Superman: Doomsday. This is an animated movie that is based off of the best-selling graphic novel of all time. Why wouldn't DC and Warner Brothers want to hype it to the utmost? However, as is so often the case, the problem with over-hyping a movie is exactly what one would expect — it is immensely hard to live up to said hype.
From the very beginning — a series of still shots of Superman saving the day — something didn't seem quite right with this film, and I think it had to do with Superman's cheekbones. Superman has these gigantic, jagged lines going down his face and they made him look like a guy closing in on his 55th birthday. Even weirder, the narration happening over this opening scene is done by Lex Luthor, and he looks 20 years younger than he did in the DCAU. What the hell was with the character designs here? There's no rhyme or reason to any of it. So, Luthor is on one of his semi-deranged monologs that we all know and love from the comics and ends it with "... even gods must die." The opening credits roll, and we have Superman: Doomsday... kind of. I'll have more on my opinion of the title of this movie later.
After the credits, we visit the Daily Planet where Lois Lane, now voiced by Anne Heche, is arguing with Perry White about Luthor's real motives for drilling deep into the Earth. While listening to this, I thought at least for a moment or two that Lane's dialog was in fast-forward mode. Heche said her lines in such a rushed fashion that it was actually somewhat difficult to keep up with her conveyance of all of Luthor's past schemes. The lip-synching was perfect here, too, which means they were meant to be spoken in that fashion. Because of that, I'm not so much criticizing Heche, but the animators and voice acting directors. Once they stop arguing, Lane and White leave his office and we see Clark Kent, now looking even older in plain street clothes. Kent is apparently off to Afghanistan to do a story for the Daily Planet, and he bids farewell to Lois, who nonchalantly blows him off. Kent walks away, sad and dejected into the elevator.
The next scene shows Lexcorp's drill teams digging an enormous hole in the earth somewhere to start harnessing natural radiation from the Earth's core to use as an energy source — or so Luthor claims. (Gee, I wonder what's going to happen to these people?) Two of these unnamed worker bees start sarcastically groaning about Luthor's true intentions and how rich he'll get at the expense of their personal hygiene. Of note here is that they actually say the word "hell," a first for a Bruce Timm production. Even more amazing is that they make a joke about a gigantic thermal diode going straight into "Satan's rectum" to get this energy pumping straight to Lexcorp. As they laugh, another worker discovers a huge object lodged in the rock, and they try to figure out what it could be. Back at Luthor's building, he still stands in his office staring blankly at Metropolis. Mercy enters the room, but before she can say anything, he interrupts her and tells her to deliver a very important package. Mercy casually asks which cure it is this time, to which Luthor replies that he now has an immediate cure for muscular dystrophy. He then tells Mercy to have one of his biochemists slow it down to a lifetime treatment process because a $300 billion windfall just isn't enough — it needs to be $300 billion perennially. Mercy then explains that his two best biochemists are busy with AIDS and the bird flu, to which Luthor pouts, "I guess Jerry Kid's will have to wait their turn." I have to admit, this whole sequence is pretty cool, because you really see how much of a selfish, calculated dickhead he is.
Meanwhile, at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman, who is now very shiny for some reason, bellyaches to his personal robot sidekick about being able to do some pretty amazing things, but he can't figure out how to cure cancer. Hell, just ask Luthor, Supes. He seems to have a cure for everything else. Lois walks up behind them, soaking wet, wearing nothing but a bath towel. (Shouldn't she be freezing to death?) After a few lame jokes about Superman's many different kinds of vision, we cut back to the dig site. Luthor, watching via satellite from his swank office, sees a holographic message appear after an alien ship is damaged by the digging lasers. As the last of the freezing cold air spews out of the ship, Doomsday breaks free and slaughters everyone — on screen, even. For the most part, all he does is crush these people or beat them into a pulp. However, he does tip a huge piece of machinery on top of one guy. Outside, Doomsday kills the remaining workers and then breaks a deer's neck for some reason. I guess Doomsday is going by the "kill anything that moves" philosophy. What I find strange here is that Doomsday utilizes electronic imaging to scan and analyze life on Earth, yet he has no visor or other eyewear on — he just has red eyes. I thought he was supposed to be an organic creature? It's just confusing to me.
Back at the Antarctic love nest, we have Lois and Supes in bathrobes, complete with the pink, heart-shaped bed in the background. Yes, they just had sex. You can stop snickering now. It's obvious. But unlike Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the scene after the implied intercourse is painful to listen to — and it's almost entirely because of Anne Heche. There is just something about her acting here that I did not like in the slightest. Briefly, there is a scene shift where Doomsday is wandering around what I have to assume is the American Midwestern, and he ends up killing a farmer and his dog. I swear I have seen that farmer guy somewhere else in the now-defunct DCAU. I just cannot remember where. Luthor, in the interim, demands that any inkling of evidence that Lexcorp dug up the alien be destroyed. Back at Ice Station Zebra, Lois goads Superman into admitting that he is really Clark Kent, because let's face it, she knows already. Here is where I think I can pinpoint my problem with Heche's voice acting. It seems to me that she's already out of breath before uttering word one; everything she says is terribly rushed and ends abruptly. It's difficult to explain in writing and you really would have to listen to her dialog to hear what I mean.
Doomsday is still trudging across the country knocking everything in his path over, and this time he comes across a truck driver, who for some reason is listening to techno-rock music. He kills him, causing the tanker to careen off the mountain road and burst into a huge ball of flames. As Doomsday walks away he spots Metropolis in the distance. Hours later, Superman and Lois make up after their argument and the robot interrupts, explaining that Supes is needed in Metropolis. So, they head back to Metropolis where the military is getting their collective ass handed to them on a silver platter. Doomsday massacres dozens of soldiers before Superman enters the fray and tries to freeze him. He succeeds but only for 10 seconds, after which Doomsday breaks free and they start beating the hell out of each other all over the city. I won't knock the action sequences here at all — they were topnotch and were definitely fun to sit back and absorb. But the one thing here that really just irked me was what happens right before Superman kills Doomsday. Doomsday, at that point, had just punched Superman four times in the gut causing massive internal bleeding to him (as evidenced by him visibly vomiting up blood). Suddenly, out of nowhere, a little girl walks through the middle of the destroyed street and distracts Doomsday, who immediately walks up to her to kill her. Superman then grabs Doomsday before he can slaughter the girl and flies into space. He then plunges himself and the alien back to Earth, ultimately killing both himself and Doomsday. How much lazier can you get? When watching that girl stumble upon the epicenter of the destruction out of the clear blue, my immediate reaction was, "You have got to be kidding me." So, Superman is dead, and Doomsday is dead. The movie is called Superman: Doomsday, and yet, Doomsday is gone after about 20 minutes. I understand how it parallels the graphic novel's timeline, but since that is the case, I think the movie's title was poorly chosen.
Another thing that bothered me was the fight itself. As the mayhem and damage to the city increased, I have to wonder why Superman didn't take the fight away from the city. He had plenty of opportunities — especially when delivering the final blow to Doomsday. He could have drilled him into the Grand Canyon, but he chose to go right back to the center of Metropolis? Who knows how many people he killed just from that shockwave? Anyway, after Superman collapses on the street and dies in Lois' arms, the funeral occurs, and Lois decides to visit Martha Kent, whom she saw at the funeral and whose picture is on Clark's desk at the Daily Planet. (Where is Jonathan Kent?) Lois reveals to her that she knows who Clark really is, and she breaks down on the Kent's porch. Martha invites her in to talk. Back in Metropolis, the crime rate has soared, of course, even though Luthor has donated millions to the police force. How nice of him. Jimmy Olsen quits working at the Planet to go work for a tabloid piece of trash magazine, while Perry White takes up drinking. Now, I'm not the biggest expert on Superman history and mythos, but what effect did Superman have on Perry White's alcoholic tendencies? Is this movie saying that Superman being around kept White from having that whiskey before he went to sleep every night? And now that he's gone, White is guzzling Crown Royal for some reason? Maybe there was something I missed in the many Superman comic books that have come and gone over the last 80 years, but that makes no sense to me. Furthermore, is Jimmy Olsen really that shallow? I mean, the day after Superman dies, he abandons his morals and goes to work for some slimy tabloid? This whole scene gets a big "WTF" from me.
Later that night, Luthor pulls his best Bruce Wayne imitation, sitting in his chair brooding and talking to himself. Seems he's furious at Superman's death, but only because he wanted to be the one who put Supes into his grave. I have to give props for Luthor calling Doomsday an "intergalactic soccer hooligan." He then asks Mercy if the evidence of Project Apple Core's existence was properly destroyed and buried. She says, "Lexcorp was never there," and then Luthor shoots her in the head, killing her immediately. Uh... okay. I know Luthor is supposed to be a cold bastard, but that was way out of leftfield. What was the point of it, exactly? It's instances like this that make me think that they put it in there just for shock value.
In the next scene, the new, grungy, slimy, guy-liner-wearing Toyman (who is obviously a raging pedophile here) is shown with a kidnapped busload of schoolchildren on top of a building in a gigantic mechanical spider with dozens of police officers looking on in horror. Lois decides to rescue the kids herself and sneaks into the bus, where she is met by a doll wielding a butcher knife. She stomps the disgusting thing's head off and herds the kids out quietly until the doll comes back to life, causing a little girl to scream. Toyman looks over, aghast to see his "playthings" running away. (The more I watch this scene, the more I yearn for Toyman from Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League.) He rips the bus to shreds with his mechanical spider, when suddenly, Superman bursts from his grave and flies in, saving Lois and the child. After defeating Toyman, and after an underwhelming Kevin Smith cameo, Superman and Lois fly back to her apartment. Lois eagerly kisses Supes, but he shows no emotion whatsoever, disheartening her. "You... are glad to see me?" (Was that supposed to be a tagline for a Levitra commercial? Because that's exactly how it came off.) Superman seems confused and he assures Lois that he'll be alright — he just needs time to reacclimatize to being "alive again." He flies off and Lois stands on her balcony, dejected.
The next day, Superman enters Lexcorp to see Luthor. Supes is trapped in a room filled with red solar lamps, while Luthor enters wearing Kryptonite-studded gauntlets. Luthor beats the hell out of him and demands to know, "Why did you leave me?! We had so much unfinished business!" So, Luthor beats him unconscious, all the while asking, "Who's your daddy?" He then compliments him on being a fine imposter Superman. Who knew? Luthor leaves, and enters a dark room where the real Superman is unconscious in a stasis field. He then goes into another disturbing monolog about cloning Superman from his blood left at the scene of his supposed death. It's actually a damn good monolog, I have to admit. In a nutshell, he states that the clone has all of Superman's physical traits, but not his mind.
At the Planet, Lois gets a call from Martha Kent, who reveals that Clark hasn't visited, written or even called. Lois makes up a pitiful excuse for his absence, but admits that she doesn't exactly see him much. Next, we see a night club called "Nite Club" where Jimmy Olsen is trolling around taking pictures of C-list celebrities, when Lois happens upon the scene. (How she knew Jimmy was there is beyond me, but whatever.) She tries to convince him that Superman isn't acting right and that a Pulitzer Prize winner like him shouldn't be doing what he's doing, but he throws a newspaper at her and says he's moved on. Jimmy Olsen: Douchebag hitting comic book shops near you this January! Luthor, in the meantime, goes to check on the real Superman (who is somehow in his clutches for no discernable reason), but he's gone. Luthor checks the security tapes, but there is a chunk of time missing in the tape, so he has no way of knowing who rescued him. We find out it was Superman's robot assistant and he is now trying to revive the fallen hero.
Back in Metropolis, Superman's clone overhears that Toyman has escaped and stormed a daycare center — killing a young girl in the process. The clone, infuriated, flies off. At the Fortress of Solitude, the robot explains to the finally awakened Superman that the laws of human death apparently don't apply to him (oh, great, so he's immortal now, too). The robot explains that he found him by tracking his biorhythmic signature, even though his body had been relocated to Lexcorp. Okay, so Luthor dug him up. I can buy that as to why Lex had the body — even though there were no signs of vandalism anywhere near Superman's memorial. But that still doesn't explain why the clone burst from the real Superman's grave. Anyway, Superman tries to get up, claiming he has to get back to Metropolis, but he can barely sit. The robot says Superman can return, but only after he's regained his strength. While the robot doesn't know the clone's agenda, he seems to be protecting Metropolis.
At the police station, Toyman gets out of the police cruiser when the Superman clone flies down and grabs him. He flies straight up several hundred feet and drops Toyman, who plunges to his grisly death on top of the same police car. This was really gruesome, and it was incredibly cool. Lois is having coffee in a restaurant when she gets a call telling her what Superman did. This may seem like a nitpick, but damn it if it doesn't annoy the hell out of me every time I see it. When you are acting, and you are portraying someone who receives a phone call, you need to pause for a few moments to allow a believable amount of time to pass relative to what you have "heard" from the person on the other end. Lane picks the phone up and literally less than a full second later, she exclaims, "He did what?!" So whoever called her had enough time to say something like, "Lane, did you hear? Superman killed Toyman by dropping him on top of a car!" Yeah, right. If you think about it, it really isn't a minor mistake, and it makes no sense at all. Lois runs to the scene of the crime and sees blood dripping from the roof of the mangled police cruiser. Jimmy is there taking pictures and he actually looks saddened to see what "Superman" has done. The clone, meanwhile, answers questions from a rabid media gathering in the street, and basically says that he's the law and to hell with you if you don't like it. Martha Kent, watching on TV in Smallville, doesn't approve.
Later that night, Superman's clone flies down to a suburban street in Metropolis where a cat is stuck in a tree. He retrieves it and oh-so-calmly threatens the poor old lady who owns the cat (while stroking its back) saying that when he has to sweat the small stuff, it keeps him from attending to the life-threatening matters. This was actually really cool, because you wonder if the clone is going to squish that poor cat in the blink of an eye or give it back to the lady unharmed. Eventually, he hands it back to the terrified old woman as the police enter the scene and try to apprehend him. The clone has none of it and disarms them rather painfully. One cop almost blurts out cusses, to which the clone interrupts, "Watch the language." At the Fortress, Superman's healing continues. Back at Lexcorp, Luthor basically tells the clone that if he doesn't stop killing people he'll kill him. Luthor gives him a list of competitors who would want to steal Superman's body for research, telling the clone to retrieve the body. The clone walks away and is seen next walking down a street to the horror of everyone he comes across. He enters a fashion boutique with yet another incredibly banal name — Le Fantastique Salon. What happens next is one of the coolest things you'll never see. The clone sits down, looks in a mirror, uses his X-ray vision to look all the way past every layer of skin, muscle and bone in his head, and finds a ball of lead lodged between the hemispheres of his brain. He knows it could only be holding Kryptonite (Luthor's last resort plan should the clone ever turn rogue, although I would think a ball of lead inside one's brain could kill someone regardless), so he uses his heat vision to pierce a hole straight through his skull to where the ball of lead lays. Using a pair of trimming scissors, he reaches into the hole and removes the ball, which causes one of the women in the salon to faint. He throws it down a sink drain. As he calmly exits, the clone says, "A safe Superman means a safe Metropolis." That. Ruled.
At Lexcorp, Lois Lane enters Luthor's office and tries to get answers. Luthor figures out that she was Superman's lover and tries to seduce her, but she puts him to sleep with an injection. She and Jimmy start nosing through Lex's genetic research files. Upon finding retinal scanners to his laboratories, they drag Luthor's sleeping carcass through door after door until they arrive and find hundreds of naked Superman clones in tubes. Luthor wakes up and points a gun at Lane and Olsen, when suddenly the original clone (does that even make sense?) flies in, and destroys the gun and the rest of the clones. Luthor tried to activate the Kryptonite bomb in his brain, but somehow he saw the barely visible scar on his head (give me a break) and realized it was futile: "Oh, hell." He tries to escape into the previously seen red radiated room, but the clone tears the room out of the Lexcorp building and hurls it to the streets of Metropolis below. The real Superman is continuing his recovery, when news of the Luthor incident is broadcasted on the television. The robot gives Superman Luthor's Kryptonite cannon and a black and silver solar-radiation-absorbing suit to even the playing field since he isn't fully healed.
In Metropolis, the military is utterly obliterated by the clone, but Superman flies onto the scene and begins fighting the clone. Superman tries to use the cannon on the clone at the top of a tower, but he easily dodges it and smacks it away. Lois and Jimmy follow behind in a military Jeep as Superman and the clone duke it out all over Metropolis. The clone mostly gets the upper hand on Superman, and even at one point gives Supes a chance to walk away safely. He, of course, refuses and they continue to destroy Metropolis with their duel. Lois retrieves the Kryptonite cannon (even though it should be in pieces after being hit by the clone and falling hundreds of feet onto pavement) and heads back to the scene. By this time, the two combatants have made their way to Superman Memorial Park and are fighting in oil from a spilled tanker thanks to the clone hurling Superman into it. Lois arrives and uses the gun on the clone, who then blasts it to shrapnel with his heat vision. The Kryptonite cell inside the gun falls into a puddle of oil as the fight nears its end. The clone eventually beats Superman and goes for the deathblow — dropping the giant memorial S from the park on top of him from about a hundred feet in the air. Unfortunately for the clone, the Kryptonite cell is stuck to a blob of oil on his chest and Superman uses his heat vision on it, causing it to explode in the clone's face. He gasps for air as he plummets to the ground. I find it odd that Superman can stand there with plumes of Kryptonite smoke billowing everywhere and not be weakened. The clone begs Superman to protect Metropolis and he dies in his arms. Superman saves the day, and kills a person (a clone, but a person nonetheless) in the process and kisses Lois to prove he's the real deal. Superman wonders if the city will ever trust him, but a kid walks up and tells him he likes the blue and red suit better. Gee, that didn't take long at all. In "Legacy", the epic two-part Superman: The Animated Series finale, Superman stands on top of the Daily Planet in silhouette as we wonder if Metropolis will ever trust him again. And that's how the entire series ended! In this, it's like, "Oh, you're the real Superman, and even though you just killed a guy, we all trust you as if none of this nonsense ever happened." Again, this is such lazy writing. The movie ends with Luthor (yes, somehow he survived plummeting God knows how many stories to the ground inside a metal box) mentally lamenting Superman's triumphant return, insinuating that he will kill the seemingly immortal Superman.
This movie wasn't even remotely as bad as any of the movies I have reviewed in the past. It actually wasn't bad at all — just mediocre. It has plenty of good — even great — moments. Thus, the grade I'll give it will easily be the highest so far. However, that doesn't excuse the many instances of blatantly lazy writing, the confusing animation, a couple of glaring plot holes and some mediocre voice acting. This film was far too overhyped, and it was a disappointment in many regards when it should have been something close to epic. I can only hope that Justice League: The New Frontier and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract will be much better than this.
Grade: 55 / 100