Superman Doomsday is based on the best-selling graphic novel of all time, The Death of Superman. In that tale, Superman battled the evil Doomsday and lost. In the film, we meet Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor before the Man of Steel becomes all too human at the hands of Doomsday. After about 20 minutes of set-up and a few clear nods to the attempt at a more adult tone, the fateful day comes for Metropolis. It's after Superman dies that Doomsday gets real interesting. People take fewer chances knowing that their hero isn't around to save them. Villains get more daring. Even Lex feels the void of not having a hero to battle. When Superman seems to return to the scene, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, until they realize that the perfect hero has come back a little different and a lot more dangerous.
It's a great story and one that the creators of Superman Doomsday have clearly put all of their hearts and minds behind. There are no corners cut on this project and it feels more artistically complete than a lot of straight-to-DVD animated adventures, far too many of which feel made just for profit. The voice talent in particular is spectacular with Baldwin perfectly capturing everyone's favorite hero and Marsters nailing Lex. Even Heche does great work as Lois. It's only in the cheesy dialogue department where Doomsday kind of falls flat. The storytelling and the voice work is stable enough that the old-fashioned dialogue was unnecessary, but it is what occasionally holds the entire project back from ultimate greatness.
Sorry Bryan Singer fans, as far as pure Man-of-Steel entertainment goes, Superman Doomsday is a better film than Superman Returns. It doesn't quite aim as high as the Brandon Routh take on the legend, but it features more of a compelling story and offers a darker tale than the controversial summer tentpole that restarted the Superman franchise. That film was correctly criticized for being too reverential to the Superman mythology, giving us a far-too-clean version of Kal-El that served more as a Christ allegory than as an action film. It had its moments, but it missed the chance to really update the legend rather than just pay homage to it. Doomsday from DC Universe legend Bruce Timm, and based on one of the best comic book arcs in the history of the medium, feels like a more successful reboot of Superman for a new millennium. We live in a time when our heroes can die, even Superman. The team behind Superman Doomsday has assembled a top-notch voice cast, put together some amazing action sequences, and created the first PG-13 DC Universe animated film. After months of hype, it not only lives up to expectations, but it surpasses them.
If you're a DC comics fan, Superman Doomsday is a must-purchase this season just for the comprehensive documentary - "Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives!" It's a complete look at the origin, execution, and reception of the Death of Superman arc, one that ran across all four books. It's a fascinating documentary, allowing rare insight into the entire process of writing what was, in essence, a weekly comic book at the time. The DVD also includes a commentary track with Timm, writer Duane Capizzi, voice director Andrea Romano, and executive producer Gregory Noveck, an exclusive sneak peek at the next movie called Justice League: The New Frontier, a too-brief featurette on the voice actors, and a game called "Superman's Last Stand."