Weekend Movie Review – “Superman: Doomsday”

This weekend’s review goes up early, as I’ve got this week off. This week, I checked out Tuesday’s direct to video Superman flick.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Adam Baldwin as Superman
Anne Heche as Lois Lane
James Marsters as Lex Luthor

Screenplay by Duane Capizzi and Bruce Timm, inspired by the work of a heck of a lot of DC employees.
Directed by Lauren Montgomery, Bruce Timm and Brandon Vietti.

Buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

Premise

An alien who was trapped on Earth millions of years ago is accidentally released. He goes on a rampage, and Superman steps up to stop him, paying a very high price. Lex Luthor decides to take advantage of Superman’s absence.

High Point

This has some great, great action. Kevin Smith fans will also appreciate his quick cameo.

Low Point

I have two major gripes, neither of which involves the massive story revisions. Both happen within the first 30 minutes, but I’m spoiler guarding them anyway: The first is easier to forgive, as it serves the story so well. Clark really was raised very conservatively. I don’t see him maintaining a six month relationship at that level of intimacy without revealing his secret identity. The second is the one I have the biggest problem with. Superman’s main goal is to protect Metropolis. He carries Doomsday up out of the atmosphere, and then brings him back down through atmospheric re-entry and smashes him into Metropolis again! From that height, the Coriolis force alone guarantees he’d miss Metropolis unless he was aiming at it. There is absolutely no reason for Superman to have brought him down in any populated area anywhere. That story choice was made for the sole reason of keeping him near the person he was trying to keep away from the fight, just for the touching aftermath. He should have died alone, and been found later. End spoiler.

The Scores

This loses some points for originality as it is an adaptation, but it’s a very liberal one. Given the length of the source material, there’s a lot that needs to be cut to keep it in the 80 minute timeframe produced here. (I don’t know where that time limit comes from, but I’m guessing it’s from Warner and not from Timm’s team, based on the difficulty involved in hitting it.) They basically kept the portions found in the “Death of Superman/World Without A Superman/Return of Superman” trade paperbacks that involve the Superman / Doomsday fight and Superman’s return, but dropped every other superhero on the planet and rewrote everything else about the story, including Doomsday’s origin and the four false Supermen. On balance, I give it a 4 out of 6.

The animation was smooth and clear, as is their usual style. I really dislike Superman’s cheekbones, though. He just looks far too harsh that way. The linework comes across as scarring more than facial features. It gets easier to ignore as the story moves on and I can forget it, but it’s still irritating at the start. The great work done as the combatants interact with their environment more than makes up for that, though. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is not the story from the comics in any but the most broad strokes. Doomsday has a slightly less lame origin, but it’s still weak. There has been a significant amount of rewriting done, and it effectively compacts the tail end of the story into the time span of this movie. I give it 5 out of 6.

The voice acting was good from the main cast. None had voiced these characters before, as there was a conscious effort made to seperate this project from the previous work by Timm and company. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is strong. Even knowing how the story would end, there was impact at the end of the first act. He’s an icon of our culture, and when handled properly, can’t help but resonate with the viewer. He’s handled well here, and resonate he does. Plus, the fights are really, really good. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was also good, with smooth editing, good pacing, and very good camera work, even giving a shaky, camcorder feel from angles positioned as though you were a bystander on the street during the first big knockdown. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is a decent movie, likely to be enjoyed by those who haven’t read the source material, or those who have but are willing to accept drastic changes in the interest of telling a single, economical story. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Superman: Doomsday receives 34 out of 42.

5 replies on “Weekend Movie Review – “Superman: Doomsday””

  1. y42 says:

    80 minutes
    One hour of TV with commercials is 40 minutes of content.
    Two hours of TV with commercials is ?? minutes of content.

    You do the math.

    • fiziko says:

      Re: 80 minutes

      One hour of TV with commercials is 40 minutes of content.
      Two hours of TV with commercials is ?? minutes of content.

      You do the math.

      The standards are 44:xx and 89:xx (with xx as I don’t remember how specific the seconds are.) This clocked in at 79 minutes and change, so it’s still ten minutes short for a televised broadcast, and even then, it never went to TV first, as it was intended to have its PG-13 rating from the outset.

      • Babbster says:

        Re: 80 minutes

        One hour of TV with commercials is 40 minutes of content.
        Two hours of TV with commercials is ?? minutes of content.

        You do the math.

        The standards are 44:xx and 89:xx (with xx as I don’t remember how specific the seconds are.) This clocked in at 79 minutes and change, so it’s still ten minutes short for a televised broadcast, and even then, it never went to TV first, as it was intended to have its PG-13 rating from the outset.

        Even if they DID decide to show it on TV, they would probably bust it up into 4 half-hour blocks (or show it on a network that typically runs only 15- to 30-minute blocks – hello, Cartoon Network), and with an intro and end credits for each you’d be pretty close to 21-22 minutes a piece.

        That said, I think the real reason for the time limit is the front-end money. Good animation is expensive and some bean counter probably told them they’ve got 80 minutes (or 80 minutes plus a small buffer for scenes that get cut back) and that’s it.

      • y42 says:

        Re: 80 minutes

        One hour of TV with commercials is 40 minutes of content.
        Two hours of TV with commercials is ?? minutes of content.

        You do the math.

        The standards are 44:xx and 89:xx (with xx as I don’t remember how specific the seconds are.) This clocked in at 79 minutes and change, so it’s still ten minutes short for a televised broadcast, and even then, it never went to TV first, as it was intended to have its PG-13 rating from the outset.

        Welcome to the future of television http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=7c0bd06d-3a49-4f61-811f-e8b6bcff567a

  2. nkuzmik says:

    On the review
    Just a few points, It’s been many years since I read the TPB’s in Barnes & Noble, but I’ve read the novelization several times.
    Nor have I seen this DVD, though I’m seriously thinking on it now.

    Doomsday’s entrance was always supposed to be simple, even weak. If you read the foreword to the Hunter/Prey TPB(ISBN 1-56389-201-4, they explain a bit. Doomsday is the result of Dan Jurgens’ desire for a different kind of villian in Superman. Though he has many foes, Jurgens didn’t think any 0f them were in Superman’s physical weight class. He mentions Metallo and Parasite, but they don’t fit the bill. He makes no mention of Dark Seid or Mongul…
    He wanted a slam-bang-knock-down-drag fight. Every other villian Superman fights wants something. To steel some McGuffin, rule the world, kill Superman.

    You would think option 3 would give Jurgens his fight, but not so much. Think for a minute about who Superman is… He’s the ultimate Boy Scout, the ultimate defender, the ultimate hero. Its not just his powers, its how he uses them. Every criminal knows that he will go balls out, in ways no other hero can match, to thwart their plan and take them into custody. Villians need not fear for their safety, for they have only to surrender. The innocent know they will find safety, aid and comfort and even hope in his actions. He will defend them to his dying breath, but we all know that he’s Superman, even Kryptonite bullets couldn’t do the job!

    All that means that an attempt to kill Superman brings him down from the hero to the victim. A victim who can withstand a 40 kiloton thermo-nuclear weapon, but a victim none the less. Jurgens didn’t want tell a story about a victim, but a story about a hero.

    By making Doomsday’s intro simple, "He’s here and he’s cranky," Jurgen’s freed Superman to be a hero in his purest sense. Not stoping bank robbers, but protecting people from a force of nature. For Doomsday fits no archetype but that of a natural disaster, unthinking, unfeeling, mercilous, and unstoppable.

    By making Doomsday interested only in destruction, Superman is forced to draw a line in the sand. It also gives Superman a choice we all know he would never take, to quit the field. If Doomsday had been hell bent on killing Superman(which he really was, but that wasn’t decided until Hunter/Prey, so for the purposes of my thesis, that factoid doesn’t exist), Superman always has the option of running, and the villian would likely withdraw until his quarry can be found.

    But Doomsday doesn’t care about Superman, at least initially. I think after Superman survived the first punch or two, that kinda torqued Doomsday off. Doomsday perfectly happy to cause massive death and destruction. Sure Superman could run and lick his wounds. He never would but that option is there.

    Jurgens gives us Superman at his heroic best. He gives us a mortal who chooses to stand between the threatened and the threat. Though this battle is one on one, is it any different than 300 Spartans that stood in a narrow pass and told 2,000,000 Persians, "You go no further"?

    Yes, for unlike the Persians, Doomsday went no further.

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