Sunday, January 29, 2012

On DVD: Superman-Doomsday (2007)

In 1993, DC Comics took a huge gamble by killing off Superman. Of course, it was only temporary, but the idea, as has been the case for similar storylines produced by Marvel since then, was to boost sales on a book that was no longer in the top 10. Remember, too, that this was during the speculator boom of the early 90's, when every Tom, Dick, & Harry felt compelled to buy multiple copies of certain "hot" books, thinking that they could turn over a tidy profit. In the long term, that profit has dissipated because in reality, the books were mass produced in the first place. A little more than a year later, Superman returned, good as new, but the experiment bore some other fruit for DC by introducing 4 new characters, two of whom would later be given their own books.

In 2007, DC & Warner Bros. decided to adapt the "Death of Superman" storyline, which introduced the monster known as Doomsday, into a direct-to-video feature film. The end product, "Superman-Doomsday", sorry to say, fails to live up to expectations. How did it fail? That is easily answered.

Doomsday, for starters, only appears in the first 20-odd minutes of the movie, as, presumably, he too was killed in the infamous battle with Superman (Adam Baldwin, most recently on Chuck). A scientific research team from LexCorp unearths the monster while on a top secret mission for LexCorp CEO Lex Luthor (James Marsters, ex-Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but the creature's idea of gratitude is to slaughter the entire team. Luthor is only interested in covering up his team's tracks, however, and has Mercy Graves, repackaged here as a mousy but loyal corporate assistant (Cree Summer), make arrangements. Graves, inexplicably, is slain by Luthor later in the film, something unexpected. Then again, this film was rated PG-13 for a reason.........

Superman is very involved with Lois Lane (Anne Heche), who at the start of the movie only suspects that Clark Kent and the Man of Steel are one and the same. Clark supposedly is headed to Afghanistan on assignment, but instead, Superman whisks Lois off to the Fortress of Solitude for a romantic getaway, attended to only by a lone robot (Tom Kenny). When Doomsday hits Metropolis, having already left behind a trail of death & destruction, Superman & Lois return home, and, well, you know the rest.

The funeral for the Last Son of Krypton is, as was the case in the comics, a very public memorial, but, unlike the comics, the Justice League is conspicuous by its absence, one of several mistakes made with this movie. When Lois spots Clark's adoptive mother, Martha Kent (Swoosie Kurtz), her suspicions are heightened, leading to an awkward meeting in Smallville. Mind you, this is all before the movie is half over! Past the halfway point, Lois takes it upon herself to rescue a busload of school children being held captive by the Toyman (John DiMaggio, Futurama) and a robot spider. Superman seems to appear out of nowhere after bursting from his grave to complete the rescue. However, not all is as it should be.

That's because Superman has been cloned by Luthor, but as Dr. Frankenstein lost control of his monster, so has Luthor lost control of his. The Superclone, after learning that Toyman slew a 4 year old girl, takes it upon himself to mete out a little vigilante justice to Toyman, taking him from police custody and throwing him to his death. Later, still trying to convince Lois he is the genuine article, he destroys his "brothers", when Lois & Jimmy Olsen (Adam Wylie) find the lab. Luthor is holding the real Superman, or at least he did, as the Man of Steel is spirited back to the Fortress for healing. Even though he's not 100%, Superman returns home for a final battle, garbed in a black costume, meant to absorb solar energy so he can get his strength back. Armed with a kryptonite gun he'd once confiscated from Luthor, Superman attempts to use it on the clone, but fails. Lois finds it, and connects, but it's not until Superman strikes the final blow before it takes effect.

The clone had turned on Luthor and tried to kill him, but Luthor survived, leaving open the prospect of a followup movie, but none has been discussed.

Aside from the glitches in translating the comics to the screen, Jimmy Olsen leaves the Daily Planet in favor of a sleazy tabloid, a decision I'm sure he'd regret later. Toyman's designs are radically different from how he actually appeared in the comics. In fact, the original Toyman, Winslow Schott, has never exactly been given the best treatment in cartoons to begin with. When she was introduced in 1996's Superman: The Animated Series, Mercy Graves was a leggy, redheaded chauffeur/bodyguard. She was transformed into an African American, plus-size character in the books when she was introduced into the core DC Universe a few years later, but here, she's a bespectacled blonde who is Luthor's right hand woman. Perhaps it was all summed up best by an average guy on the scene when Toyman held the school bus and passengers hostage. LAME!

The movie ends with Superman casually confiding in Lois in her apartment after spending the night there. Yes, it's implied they slept together, and not exactly like in "Superman 2", mind you. In the comics, by 1993, Lois was aware of Clark's dual identity, and the couple were married 3 years later, a union recently erased as part of the rebooting of the DCU. Maybe they're waiting for a more appropriate time to do that angle over again, and marry them off again, this time allowing it to stick. Like, their wedding was the reason they decided to marry off Popeye & Olive Oyl a year or three later, but that's another story.........

Rating: D.

Edit: 12/8/15: Here's a sample clip:


magicdog said...

I rented this a few months back on iTunes and it wasn't that bad.

Maybe a B-minus or a C-plus.

I do admit that Superman's "death" was handled far better in the Justice League ep, "Hereafter", even though the storyline is different.

I thought it odd that Jimmy Olson would have gone to work for a tabloid, but then again, I work in the media and sometimes you go where the pay is what you want even if the employer is not on the level of the Daily Planet!

hobbyfan said...

I have quibbles with a lot of the scripts that translate comics to the screen, because some things get left out or altered needlessly. This was one of them.