I wasn’t able to pick up SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY last Tuesday on it’s release day. I had to choose earlier in the month between picking up that and one other title at the same time, or picking up Smallville Season 6. I went the Smallville route.
Luckily, my good friend and future contributor to the Geek Out Loud podcast, Big B stepped in with a copy he purchased and we had a viewing at The Fortress of Solitude South (My house) the Thursday after release day.
My thoughts? Weeellllll…..I’ve watched it three times now. Once with commentary. Bruce Timm and the gang didn’t fully sell me on it. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I didn’t like it too much, but I didn’t absolutely hate it. I thought it was great…but not that great. I thought it was bad…but not THAT bad. “Why so schizo?” you ask? Let’s begin with a recap of the film. Spoilers abound, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you may not want to read on til you do.
The movie opens with a monologue about who Superman is to Lex Luthor. Lex refers to him (and not for the last time) as a god among men who, rather than rule, has chosen to serve and protect…to save humanity.
Clark is dealt with pretty quickly after our initial introduction to Perry White and Lois Lane. Apparently, Clark is going to be the Planet’s foreign correspondent in Afghanistan. I read someone complaining about this country as a choice to place a foreign correspondent, but the truth is it makes sense and could end up contributing to the timelessness of the movie. News companies still have foreign correspondents there even if the big news is Iraq. Why? Because no matter if we forget or not, there are still things going down in Afghanistan. It’s still a dangerous place, but not so dangerous that someone like Clark couldn’t make it there as his first assignment as a foreign correspondent. Ultimately, this is just a way to keep from having to answer the question of Clark hiding his identity throughout the events that follow in the movie.
Lex is drilling deep into the Earth to harness radiation to be used as a power source. Of course, he’s not doing it himself, I should say that Lexcorp is funding the drilling. The workers unearth an ancient spacecraft that houses Doomsday in suspended animation. As the workers disturb the ship, it opens, or is punctured, and Doomsday wakes up and begins his killing ways.
He plows a path of destruction that leads him to Metropolis.
While all of this is going down, Superman and Lois are enjoying some time together in the Fortress of Solitude – North (Superman’s home…not mine.) While there, they have their first fight. They have been dating for six months, and Superman won’t reveal his secret identity to Lois. She’s pretty much got it figured out though. Just as they are making up, Superman’s robot alerts him to the trouble brewing in Metropolis and a Superman rushes headlong in to a battle to his death. Well, to steal a line from THE PRINCESS BRIDE “he’s just mostly dead.”
In the days that follow the funeral, Lois goes to see Martha Kent, she reveals that she knew that Clark and Superman were one and the same and has come to Martha to share her grief with the only other person on Earth who loved Superman in as personal a way as Lois did.
Suddenly, emo Toy Man appears with a giant spider and a bus load of children in danger. Lois jumps in to help the kids, but before she can save the last little girl, Toy Man catches her and snaps. He uses his giant toy spider to rip the bus to pieces and throw it over the side of a building.
At Superman’s grave, a fist smashes through the ground. Superman returns (so to speak) to save the day. But it’s not REALLY Superman, it’s a clone developed by Lex Luthor, who has stolen the body of Superman and used his DNA to begin building an army of Supermen that will be subservient to him.
This pseudo-Superman sees himself as Metropolis’ protector, but he lacks the moral center of the real Superman. He’s not evil. He’s not Bizarro. He’s just edgy, dark, and misguided. After seeing a report that Toy Man escaped from jail and killed a little girl, Superman kills Toy Man. He is now wanted and the National Guard is called in to take him down.
It should be mentioned at this point that the robot from the Fortress took the real Superman’s body from Lex and brought him to the Fortress to revive him and help him regain his strength. As I said, Superman wasn’t dead, he was mostly dead.
The fake Superman nearly kills Lex, and dismantles the army sent to take him in. It is now that the real Superman shows up to stop him. A fight ensues and the fake Superman dies in the arms of the real Superman, and hope lives anew in Metropolis.
If you notice, I spent more time on the events surrounding the fake Superman than I did those surrounding Doomsday…that’s because the movie did too. Therein lies my first problem with the movie…..The Doomsday fight wasn’t long enough. I know that the creators didn’t want a fight that dragged on and on, but at least give us a fight that lasts longer than a few minutes. The fight in the comics went on for three or four issues. It has to be epic. It has to feel more deadly than it did. One little shot of blood spattering on Lois’ face and Superman coughing up blood doesn’t do it. The fight is brutal. It is cool to watch, it just seems abbreviated. I feel like there could be more. But I like what we got.
In fact, both of the major fights in the movie are very cool. When Superman is fighting Doomsday, the animators do a great job toward the end of showing Superman stumble when he throws a punch because he’s so weak. During the Doomsday fight, there is some great punching and throwing. DOOMSDAY POWER BOMBS SUPERMAN! There is an homage to Superman 2 when Superman and Non fight under the street and it causes the whole place to shake. That happens here too.
When Superman fights fake Superman, there is a cool moment when fake Superman gets thrown into a building. Instead of crashing into it, he stops himself and lands gently on the building’s side, but then with force enough to crack the wall, he pushes himself off and lunges at Superman.
Cool, cool fights.
James Marsters was a perfect choice for the voice of Lex Luthor. The design of Lex Luthor was great. I prefer it to the design of Lex in Superman: The Animated Series. He looks like a classic villian. He is positively evil, make no mistake. He finds cures to diseases and has his scientist figure out a way to stretch the cures into treatments so that people pay for them their entire lives and Lexcorp reaps the profit again and again.
The only thing I didn’t like about Lex was the wierd way he dealt with Superman’s death. Not the clone, but the fact that he used his clone as a punching bag to let out his feelings about Superman dying. It seemed…well…it was just wierd.
Many people have very positive things to say about the music for this movie. My favorite musical moment is when Superman has grabbed Doomsday and flown with him into space only to push him back into Earth so as to finally end his rampage. The music is awesome at this moment and fits perfectly into what is happening and what is coming.
I didn’t like the theme though. Well, I liked it, but it seemed like something that belonged in a Star Trek movie…not a movie where Superman is going to give his life in an epic battle and risk it in another. It carried too much a feel of discovery and not enough of adventure. So it didn’t hit just the right emotional note with me when Superman comes back and the theme is playing in the background.
Here’s the problem…it’s not John Williams. Let’s face it, no one will ever be able to write a Superman theme that compares and it is Williams’ theme to which every theme written will be compared.
If for no other reason than two great fights and a cameo by Kevin Smith, (which, by the way, to completely understand you need to watch this. The language is quite coarse, so if you are esily offended don’t click this link. this movie is worth watching. The question is, “Is it worth buying?” I’m going with a definite yes. If you want to watch some cool Superman fight scenes, you can pop this in a watch anytime.
Also, there is a great documentary on the original storyline in the comics. It’s not a featurette, it’s a full fledged documentary featuring the writers who worked together to write the death and return story. It is a wonderful insight into not only breaking a story, but the passion that these people have for the characters they write. It’s worth the price of admission so to speak.
While the movie isn’t what I would have hoped, or even what I would have tried to do with the subject matter, it is a good Superman movie. Check it out, and don’t forget to throw your two cents worth in by commenting or E-mailing me.
Also, don’t forget we’re a few days away from the launch of Geek Out Loud, the official podcast of Geek Out Online.