REVIEW: The Death and Return of Superman
The Doomsday Saga sprawled across the four monthly Superman titles for the better part of a year, clearly too long to successfully adapt as part of the DC Animated Universe series of films. When The Death of Superman was announced, everyone knew a second film would follow and sure enough, viewers were treated to The Reign of the Superman. The 1992-93 storyline was streamlined and revised to be fit into the animated continuity, so characters who weren’t around at the time, are here now.
Warner Home Entertainment has edited the two films together into a 2:46 and has released it as The Death and Return of Superman released in a variety of formats including the nifty 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition Gift Set (4K, Blu-ray, Digital HD, and a Steel action figure). The 4K gift set comes with Superman: Doomsday as a bonus 4K disc.
As noted in reviews of the two films, it does a reasonable, but not perfect, job of taking the serialized story and putting it all together. Lex Luthor gets played up more than he deserves and the Justice League’s core heroes have a far more prominent role. The “replacement” heroes – Steel, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and the Eradicator – are all here for good or ill, adding new players for future films.
As one would expect, the excellent voice cast is back including Jerry O’Connell’s Superman, Rebecca Romjin’s Lois, and Rainn Wilson’s Luthor, supported by Jason O’Mara (Batman), Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman), Shemar Moore (Cyborg), Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern), Matt Lanter (Aquaman), Christopher Gorham (The Flash), and Nyambi Nyambi (Martian Manhunter). They are joined by Cress Williams (Steel), Cameron (Superboy), Patrick Fabian (Hank Henshaw), and Charles Halford (Eradicator).
In the edit, some dropped sequences are back, helping seamlessly meld the two into one, despite an unavoidable shift in tone given the Man of Steel’s prominence only in the first half and the void he left subduing the second.
It’s faithful enough and satisfying enough to own. As for which version to buy (or give, after all, the release is timed for holiday giving), the Blu-ray 1080p is just fine both visually and aurally. The 4K is nicer but not enough to justify the cost, unless you really want the Steel figure or find a good sale..
Thankfully, there’s a nice new special feature, Long Live Superman (45:57), with co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee joined by creators Denny O’Neil, Jerry Ordway, Jon Bogdanove, Brett Breeding, Neal Adams, and Danny Fingeroth discussing his history and enduring appeal. The celebration includes commentary on Action Comics #1000 and footage from the Fleischer cartoons, George Reeves television series, first Chris Reeve film, and various DCAU films.
Carried over from the previous editions are The Death of Superman: The Brawl That Topped Them All, Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis, and six episodes from various series: Legion of Superheroes, “Dark Victory: Part 1-2”; Superman: The Animated Series, “Heavy Metal”, Justice League Unlimited, “Panic in the Sky”.