Saturday, 29 December 2018

DCU: Death of Superman ★☆☆☆☆

I should preface this review with the fact that I have no experience with comics, and my only exposure to ‘the death of Superman’ is that iconic image of the torn cape raised as a flag. As such, I’ve no idea - and no interest - in how faithful of an adaptation The Death of Superman is; I’ll be judging it as a standalone film.

The Death of Superman suffers from an inconsistent tone. A bank robbery is underway during the opening, as a group villains emerge from the smoke. Their armour bulky and rounded, sporting green and purple. Initially, I was caught off guard at the absurdity. I considered then, that these silly (it’s really the only word) costumes, combined with the 90s era animation style meant that The Death of Superman was intended as a feature-length episode of a 90s superhero cartoon. Fine by me. I’m outside of that age demographic, but I can see the merits. However…

Following the reveal of these villains, they proceed to gun down police officers, followed by profanity which would immediately put the film well above a child-friendly rating. I was dumbfounded. What was going on? Dissonance set in from here and continued throughout. The Death of Superman has the appearance of a Saturday morning cartoon, yet features the dialogue and subject-matter of an edgier, adult-orientated affair. The combined result was laughable. Drama and emotional scenes undercut by an unfocused intent.

Furthering this issue is the animation. Whether this was due to a lack of talent or budget, I don’t know, but the low quality of the animation resulted in emotional character moments falling flat; faces lack proper emotion; nuances in expressions. The result is simply… stilted. Awkward, even. Environments are also flat and lifeless, which became more apparent during Doomsday’s rampage. Civilians could be heard screaming in terror, the sounds of traffic, screeching tires, panicked horns, yet the scenes were often devoid of any people. Scenes of destruction which were intended to be tense and dramatic lacked any impact whatsoever as a result. No one was to be seen, thus no one was in danger.

The biggest fault, however, is the fight between Superman and Doomsday. Not because of the fight itself (in fact, the choreography was surprisingly elegant), rather, neither characters interact with each other prior to combat, never even exchange a word. Doomsday is almost secondary to the plot and Superman’s arc, which makes their encounter bizarrely lacking any emotional connection. Thus, Superman’s death - the title of the film - misfires. It feels cheap and unearned. The Death of Superman suffers in many areas, but that is the most egregious. The titular death of Superman is undermined by how that death is achieved. It renders itself pointless.

Lewis Hill

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