This month DC Animation is releasing the second movie in their two part Death of Superman saga, Reign of The Supermen. Reign of The Supermen begins roughly 6 months after The Death of Superman. The world is still in morning, but none more so than Lois Lane. Shortly before his death, due to his injuries sustained saving the city from Doomsday in the previous film, Clark and Lois’ relationship had reached the point where they were deeply in love with each other. Which makes Clark’s death all the more tragic, but more on that in a moment.
Even with the fantastic action sequences we come to expect, I’ve really enjoyed the small character moments in both of these movies that give the films some heart. For example, the developing friendship between Lois Lane and Wonder Woman added a nice layer to the film. Superhero comics are often so male focused, we don’t get to see enough positive female friendships. Even though it’s Clark’s death that brings them together in this film, it’s great to see their bond develop throughout the film. Even though they are very different people in many ways, it makes a lot of sense that they would like each other, that they’d hit it off.
A problem DC characters face that most Marvel characters don’t, is the fact that the Justice League are almost a modern day pantheon of gods. Which can make them seem distant, inhuman and unrelatable. Seeing Lois and Diana together in civilian attire bonding at a local pub is a great scene that humanizes these larger than life characters. It’s a small moment, but I hope the writers take the opportunity to grow this relationship. There’s great dramatic and comedic potential in pairing Lois and Diana in this and future films.
As, I touched upon earlier, when that film began, Lois and Clark have been dating long enough that they both knew some serious choices needed to be made in their relationship. Was this just a fun office romance? Or is it something real? They love one another, but Clark struggles with how and if he should tell Lois that he is Superman. Their love story is a key story aspect of that film.
I think the decision to make this story into two films really works and you see that decision pay off here. Considering the ambition of the story they were telling, this does feel like one film, cut in two, instead of two separate movies. I hope they put out a deluxe edition with both films together like they did with The Dark Knight Returns Part One and Two. There are so many callbacks and little moments connected to the first film, that if you haven’t seen The Death of Superman, you may not understand the emotional impact of certain moments.
Following Superman’s death, four new “Superman themed” heroes appear. The question to some is, if somehow one of them could be the real deal. First there’s Steel, a scientist named John Henry Irons we’d met in a few previous DCAU films. Irons has essentially built Superman-themed Iron Man armor. He has a particularly cool mechanized hammer, almost like a high tech version of Thor’s new ax/hammer in Infinity War. With his flowing red cape and the S on his armor, he cant quite reach the power level of the original Man of Steel, but he certainly holds his own.
Then there’s the teenage Superboy, a LexCorp sponsored hero reveling in his celebrity and all too eager to prove himself to be the hero that Superman was and so much more. Unfortunately, he finds out the hard way that a cocky attitude and bravado can’t compete with the years of experience the original Superman had under his belt. His origin is pretty dark and I won’t spoil it here, if you don’t know it already. Some may find his character to be a little bit annoying, but I found there to be an underlying tragedy to the character and I thought his relationship with Lex Luthor was particularly interesting.
I don’t want to go into full spoilers, but there are 2 other contenders for the title of the new Man of Steel: The dangerous Eradicator and Cyborg-Superman. Both are much darker figures than Steel and Superboy. Strangely, it seems that if any of these new “heroes” are Kal-El of Krypton reborn, Cyborg-Superman seems like the best bet, but like all of the new Superman figures there is more to him than meets the eye.
When the shit really starts to hit the fan, the movie finds a particularly clever way to take of the Justice League out of the equation for the big final battle at the end of the film. Had the Justice League been present, it definitely would’ve created major story problems, so it was nice to see that was handled well. The absence of the Justice League forces some unpredictable and surprising figures to step up and act more heroically than you may expect, including Lex Luthor.
Rainn Wilson returns to the role of Lex Luthor in this film after first playing him in The Death of Superman. I really like how Lex is portrayed in both of these movies. He is undoubtably self-serving, amoral, and even a flat out piece of shit at times. However, he doesn’t want to see mankind destroyed or brought low. He genuinely wants to help the human race and at times, under the right circumstances, he can even act heroically. The film leaves him in a particularly interesting place in this regard and I‘m very much looking forward to see where they take the character from here.
In my review for last year’s The Death of Superman (Read it here: https://best-media-world.com/2018/07/29/movie-review-the-death-of-superman/ ), I mention how the film feels very much like a story about Clark Kent “the man” first and foremost. Not Superman, just Clark Kent. The Death of Superman is about the young man who grew up on a Kansas farm raised by wonderful parents.
If The Death of Superman was about Clark Kent, Reign of The Supermen is all about Lois Lane. She’s the lead in this film. Sure, we have four new Superman “replacements/Wannabes/psychos” running around that are crucial to the story, But make no mistake this is Lois’s film. We get to see you Lois in action playing the hero on a level I don’t think we’ve ever seen her before outside of the comics. Even without the costume and the powers she almost feels like the superhero of the film. I mentioned before that at some point in the film the Justice League are taken out of the equation and there are people seriously fighting out of their weight class. Lois Lane is of course one of these people. She manages to hold her own in against one of the most dangerous super villains in the DC Universe and the movie makes it work. Almost like Batman, Lois uses her cunning and what weapons she has at her disposal to take on some real heavy hitters. Lois and Lex Luthor, as characters are probably some of the strongest parts of this film
I don’t really want to get into the method in which a Superman is resurrected. I mean, c’mon! We all knew he was coming back. No one thought he going to stay dead. But the events surrounding his resurrection, put Superman at a slight disadvantage. Which was another creative way to up the stakes for the characters, especially when Superman is often labeled as being too powerful in his stories.
There are some really great action sequences in the climax. Some of the animation in particular is very dynamic, fluid, almost anime . That turns some people off, but I think it looks really cool and I thought it especially worked for this film.
SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH
The Death Of Superman strongly hinted at the mastermind behind the events in both of these films. It won’t be too hard to guess the individual’s identity. SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR FUTURE POSSIBLE FILMS: I really like how the story leaves Superman and the rest of the Justice League contemplating how to deal with the threat of Darkseid. This was his revenge for his failed invasion of Earth in Justice League: War (Though it seems he blames Superman for that defeat more than the other heroes for some reason). The JL knows that Darkseid is going to keep coming and they’re going to have to do something about him. I’m really excited for the story possibilities this set up for future movies. I hope the folks at DC animation take full advantage of the storytelling potential. Oh, and stay for the post-credits scene! Not only is it important to some potential future films but it’s also just really fun and funny. Don’t miss it
All in all, I loved The Death of Superman, I don’t think Reign of The Supermen quite reached the heights of the previous film. However, it still has a lot going for it that makes it absolutely worth a watch. For a fun and exciting superhero movie with some above average character work and thrilling action sequences, you can’t go wrong with Reign of The Supermen. I definitely recommend you check it out.
Reign of The Supermen: B-
Thanks for reading!
Review by Paul J. Wright