Reign of the Supermen
Reign of the Supermen, the sequel to The Death of Superman, is my favorite of any of the original DC universe animated movies because it does more than just showcase a series of powered battles.
Those are included here, of course, but we also get a lot more focus on the effects of superheroes on our society. After Superman’s death, Lois (Rebecca Romijn) and the Kents are consoling each other on their loss, then Lois and Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) have an unusual sit-down discussion. (I’m not sure how I feel about them bonding over not having any female friends. And it’s weird seeing Wonder Woman change into costume by doing a spin but winding up in the non-traditional blue, silver, and red instead of the eagle and stars bathing suit.)
(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a review copy of this Blu-ray.)
As I said, there is lots of fighting, as the various replacement “Supermen” — Superboy (sponsored by LexCorp) (Cameron Monaghan), Steel (Cress Williams), Eradicator (Charles Halford), and Cyborg Superman (Patrick Fabian) — try to prove themselves to each other and the world, but at least it’s character-based. I don’t remember this comic story at all — although in a weird way, it changed my life** — but I found myself involved, particularly once the Justice League showed up. The diversity of personality is fun to see.
(** The success of these comics got Mike Carlin, editor, bumped in promotion, which got KC Carlson the job as Superman editor, which ended up bringing us together, and our 20th wedding anniversary is this coming spring.)
There’s a lot going on here. There’s a certain Cyberman aspect to the plot, with humans offered the choice to be heroes if they give up their individuality. Lois tries to figure out who the Cyborg Superman really is, helped by Steel, while Superboy wonders about who he was cloned from. (The Eradicator doesn’t get much screen time.) It was great seeing so many different, familiar aspects of Superman’s story come together — his family, his “co-workers”, his best-known villain, plus a cosmic challenge.
When Superman (Jerry O’Connell) finally returns, they’re faithful to the long-haired, stubbly, 90s black suit vision, which looks a little cheesy these days. The Lex Luthor voice (Rainn Wilson) remains lacking the power and velvet menace I expect from the character, and at times, the celebrity casting is too apparent. I love Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern, for example, but I never forget that I’m hearing him.
Ultimately, though, Reign of the Supermen is encouraging and hopeful, with the idea that people can make a difference even when inspired by an alien. And I loved seeing Lois and Clark depend on each other. The end sequence nicely nods to the movies in some of its visual iconography, and there’s a post-credit scene that also acknowledges some classic history.
Reign of the Supermen came out on digital mid-January, with the disc releases at the end of that month. Interestingly, the movie also became available to stream on the DC Universe subscription video service the same day it was released on disc.
Later this year, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will put out both movies in one package as a collectible box set with “never-before-seen extended footage”.
The special features are minimal but satisfying. The most exciting is the sneak peek (9 1/2 minutes) at the highly anticipated next DC movie, Justice League vs. the Fatal Five. It picks up from the animated series look, with the same voice casting for the big three heroes — George Newbern as Superman, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, and Kevin Conroy as Batman. They’re accompanied by Mr. Terrific (Kevin Michael Richardson), Green Lantern Jessica Cruz (Diane Guerrero), Star Boy (Elyes Gabel), and Miss Martian (Daniela Bobadilla).
I was excited to see the teases of the Legion of Super-Heroes cameos. Instead of adapting a particular comic storyline, the plot will apparently involve dealing with two neuro-atypical people and their struggles while still being heroes.
The other special feature is a 16-minute featurette, “Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis”. Jon Bogdanove calls him the original supervillian, and it’s his enthusiasm that I appreciated most about this piece.
There are two “vault” animation episodes, “Heavy Metal” from Superman: The Animated Series and “Panic in the Sky” from Justice League Unlimited.
I got to watch this last night and really enjoyed it, except for the new 52 costumes that look really dumb. I remember the comic story well, and this is fairly close to the original. Only big changes was no Coast City destruction (a shame as I wouldn’t mind seeing an Emerald Twilight movie that introduced Kyle Rayner), Mongul and brought in Darkseid instead.
But seeing Steel in action gave me more appreciation for his power, and Superboy was a lot of fun. Shame no Supergirl in this to be trying to fill the gap of her cousin, like the comics did. But that also means no skeevy relationship with Luthor either, so I’ll take the tradeoff.
Still was a fun movie, wish they’d taken opporunity to put him back in the trunks at the end though.