It had been fifteen years since The Death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday, a virtually indestructible super villain, played out in the pages of DC comics when the story became available in an animated film from Warner Brothers and DC. Surprisingly, it is the Special Feature documentary “Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives!” that makes this DVD worth the purchase price.
The in-depth effort into how the DC comics team decided Superman’s fate, how it played out in the comics and in real life, and how the turn of events impacted the characters in the comics and the comic industry as a whole is engrossing. The story is told not only by the people who lived it, but is highlighted with personal stories, and graphics from the actual comic books. It’s a wonderfully told story worth watching more than once, and only increases one’s enthusiasm to read the comics again.
If only the same could be said for the animated film. For those totally unfamiliar with the story, this is an adequate Superman adventure, but any true fan will be disappointed, as it over simplifies and trivializes this brilliant story.
What existed in the comics as several issues leading up to the epic battle, the actual death, and is followed by series entitled Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Supermen, is jammed into 75 minutes that just leaves far too much out. Most noticeably missing are the other DC superheroes. In the version of the story told in the comics, the Justice League is defeated by Doomsday prior to Superman hooking up with him and meeting his demise. The funeral for Superman is attended by the entire superhero universe, and watching other heroes deal with the loss of an ally and a friend is one of the best features of the storyline, all of which is omitted in this animated feature. Even the fight between Doomsday and Superman is far too brief and less than spectacular.
This film does boast some excellent vocal talent including Anne Heche as Lois Lane, Adam Baldwin as Superman, and Swoosie Kurtz as Martha Kent, all of which do a fine job, though Heche’s voice is a little too familiar and that creates a distraction. The artwork here is fine though the facial features seem to have been drawn a bit heavy-handed.
Unfortunately, this was just going to be a tough product to produce and sell unless it met all the fans’ requirements. The fan base for the battle between Superman and Doomsday extends beyond the normal reader of the comics due to the excellent marketing done, and most fans were looking for a retelling as extravagant as the effort to bring the Transformers (2007) to life. Unfortunately, we got a story as poorly told and without the brilliant CGI characters.
Other features include a commentary by producer Bruce Timm, writer Duane Capizzi, voice director Andrea Romano, and executive producer Gregory Noveck; an Exclusive Sneak Peek at Justice League: The New Frontier; a “Behind the Voice” Featurette; and a game entitled “Superman’s Last Stand Challenge.”
Recommendation: Get it for the Special Features, but don’t watch the movie with any expectations whatsoever.