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DVD Review: Superman – Doomsday

Superman – Doomsday is the first in DC’s direct-to-DVD animated features utilizing some key storylines from DC Comics rich history. This one starts it, and then next year will see Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier and then Marve Wolfman’s and George Perez’s Teen Titans story The Judas Contract following that. If Superman – Doomsday is any indication at all, DC and Warners are going to make one hell of a mark in original DVD productions, because this first one is absolutely fantastic.

Superman – Doomsday tackles one of the biggest and best Superman stories ever, The Death and Return of Superman and it certainly does take some liberties with the original story. You won’t find the Justice League involved with the battle with Doomsday, and you won’t see the appearances of Steel, Superboy, the Eradicator and the Cyborg in the return part, as the movie is only about 70 minutes long. This compresses the event considerably, but it never loses the flavor of the piece, and the result is a tightly paced, extra dynamic and highly emotional (in the good way) film that at least in my estimation makes this one of the finest Superman stories ever brought to any sort of filmed medium.

That’s saying a lot, I know, but with Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano and the Warners animation team behind this, based on their past track records, it was already in good hands. Timm and his crew have re-designed all the characters, and if there’s any caveat at all it’s that a couple of lines have been added to Superman’s face that makes it a little disconcerting to see when you first see him, but by it’s end, I was used to it, and in some angles it actually works really well. The look that they’ve come up with is closer to the animated look that you’re used to seeing, but this Superman is a little leaner and more chiseled, and in sort of an animated reflection and amalgam of all of the artists who worked on the feature at the time. All of the supporting characters have undergone some re-designs as well. This literally is not at all supposed to be seen as a continuation of the original animated series, but something brand new and designed to stand on it’s own, and in my opinion, it really succeeds.

There’s little salutes and homages to all sorts of versions of Superman in the past too, from little details in the backgrounds, like seeing one of the Mechanical Monsters from the Fleischer cartoons in the fortress, and the statues of Jor-El and Lara as depicted by John Byrne’s re-vamp to a little flying sequence that virtually mimics the way Christopher Reeve did it in the first movie, this is a true treasure trove for a Superman fan.

As always, the Warners voice work is head and shoulders above anyone else’s out there. Adam Baldwin is the voice of Superman, Anne Heche is the voice of Lois Lane and James Marsters provides the voice of Lex Luthor amongst others in the film. Heche and Marsters are particularly good here, and I think Heche is the real standout in one scene in particular where Lois Lane goes to meet with Martha Kent.

This is also the first ever PG-13 rated Superman movie, and it earns that rating, being more mature than other films, and much more violent. I was pleased to see that they really let themselves cut loose here.

The disk also includes some very nice extras. The centerpiece being a very long piece that focuses on the comics at the time and interviewing all of the creators involved, even showcasing some video of he creators at work during one of the Superman summits that DC conducts regularly. For comic fans, this one is a real treat. There’s also a nice short on the voice casting of the film, and I always find those things, particularly on the Warners pieces, to be fun viewing. And Warners has even tossed in a 10-minute featurette on The New Frontier as well, and that looks like it might re-define these movies all over again.

I cannot recommend this one enough, if you’re at all curious, just go ahead and buy it, and if you’re a Superman fan, this will really be treasured in your collection, I know it is in mine anyway. Go get it!!

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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