Out of the deepest darkest crevices of outer space, an impending Doomsday has mysteriously crash landed onto Earth, making its way straight toward Metropolis. This alien creature is leaving absolutely nothing but death and destruction in its path, but there’s no need to worry guys, Superman can handle it…right?
In case you’ve been living under a rock (no judgement, though, we’ve all been there) and haven’t read or even heard of the iconic Superman vs. Doomsday story arc, The Death of Superman animated feature is a must-watch film and an easy way to familiarize yourself with the iconic comic book event.
The Death of Superman is by far the truest adaptation of the 1992 Dan Jurgens storyline, bringing the tragedy to life in a modern and exciting new way. But in that accomplishment lies a problem: When it comes to Superman tales, the 25-year-old story of the Man of Steel’s death has proven to be surprisingly popular source material. Other movies have mined it for inspiration, notably the earlier 2007 animated movie Superman: Doomsday as well as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, so what could possibly make this one unique from the others?
As the title gently implies, the Man of Steel might not make it out of this one alive. And while the climax lies in the great fight between Doomsday and Superman, the central focus on Clark Kent’s personal life is where the movie goes beyond the comic storyline and makes this a well-executed adaptation.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Clark has a whole life outside of being Superman. He has friends, family, a journalism career and a budding romance with Lois Lane. This is a personal side of him that often doesn’t get explored in movies or even some comics.
In The Death of Superman, Lois and Clark’s relationship isn’t exclusive, and most importantly, Lois has absolutely no clue that she’s been secretly dating Superman. However, she is fully aware that Clark isn’t being completely honest with her and suspects he’s hiding something.
This creates a lot of tension between the two throughout the film—who doesn’t love relationship drama?—and an internal dilemma for Superman as he’s torn between keeping Lois safe from his secret life as a hero and being in an honest and committed relationship with her.
Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, you have Lex Luthor. Superman’s longtime adversary is an interesting addition to the film. While he initially doesn’t play a major role in the comics, he is closely involved in this adaptation and his arrogance and hatred for Superman gives him the inclination to handle Doomsday himself to gain the respect of Metropolis that Superman currently has.
Arguably, Superman’s most important relationship isn’t even with a person—it’s with that city of his. It is established early on that Superman is already an admired beacon of hope for Metropolis. Everyone can count on Big Blue to save the day. It’s something that’s just expected of him.
So, when Doomsday comes and throws Superman around like a chew toy, the citizens of Metropolis and even others around the world watch in horror as the reality sets in that their beloved hero might not survive this one. This realization ratchets up the drama and emotion, especially in one scene that transitions from mid-battle to Clark’s parents sobbing as they watch Doomsday clobber Superman on TV.
The ghastly appearance as well as the ferocious and bloodthirsty nature of Doomsday is torn straight from the comics and is sure to please fans of the classic comic storyline. Even with the combined forces of the Justice League, Doomsday remains both unbothered and unscathed, leaving the JL defeated and unable to fight any longer.
For fans of the storyline, and of Superman in general, it’s the climactic scenes where Superman and Doomsday go head-to-head in combat that they’ll be most interested in, and they do not disappoint. Superman is the only hero with enough strength and agility to fight Doomsday for hours as the sky shifts from day to night. Every punch and kick is accompanied with a massive explosion, emphasizing the godly might of the two contenders. These are two of the most powerful beings in the universe, and the immensity of the fight is on full display as they hurl vehicles and boats at each other. In a particularly cool sequence, they move the battle outside of Earth’s atmosphere, where they continue to headbutt each other as they furiously burn upon re-entry.
Superman’s perseverance and determination to keep Metropolis safe from Doomsday, no matter the consequence, makes his death so much more meaningful.
The Death of Superman gives us all of the dramatic weight, excitement and tragedy that the death of America’s greatest hero deserves. It creates a strong emotional connection between us and Superman. Most of the movie is devoted to learning about who Clark is and getting a personal inside look at his intimate relationships with his loved ones, what his fears and hopes are and why Metropolis loves him so much. This alien hero has more humanity and compassion than just about anyone else on Earth, making his death an immense loss to the world.
A final piece of advice—hang around until all the credits roll through or you’ll miss out on quite a few end credit scenes that tease the next film!