I couldn't believe it when I first heard DC Comics was going to kill of Superman. Despite dwindling sales and unpopularity because of his Boy Scount tendencies, the world's mightiest superhero was going to get cancelled. This is not some TV show that got canned because of poor ratings, but a legacy that had spanned since the 30s, that had been ingrained very uch in pop culture, and DC was going to call it quits. As a teenager, I believed it, despite some deep rooted common sense saying it's simply nuts to kill such a cash cow, but like thousands around the world, I bought into the hype, and traced the Man of Steel's last battle.
It was toward the tail end of 1992, with the US Presidential elections battle between George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton, but closer to personal life, it was the O Levels, but that didn't stop me from visiting the comic store every week to mourn with other fans what would be the inevitable. Sales jumped through the roof of course, and in the climax of the Doomsday series, Superman #75 came polybagged, and I got my mint (and still mint copy) of it, thanks to my dad who got it for me as I was sitting for an examination paper, only to rush home after it to plough through the normal newsstand edition to see Supes and Doomsday plummet each other to the end.
We see Supes slumped and unresponsive. He's gone, and printing of the comic books seized after Funeral for a Friend. As we all know now, he's still patrolling the skies of Metropolis, after a debacle of the reign of 4 supermen. Novels have been published, and so were trade paperbacks, and at one point in time, Superman Returns was to have adopted this storyline on his death for the cinema. It's still a popular plot line to exploit, so now comes the animated movie for the DVD market, which combines the gist of the stories listed here.
Is it any good? For starters, this isn't like the comics because it had to condense pretty much everything. Gone are the periphery characters involved in stopping Doomsday, and shortened too is the comeback. In about 80 minutes, we witness Superman's death to his ressurection. Under the Warner Premiere however, it allowed for a little more mature moments in scenes, where actual death do get shown, albeit sometimes using shadow play, and it even comes with the suggestion of sex too. Violence was ramped up a bit, and between Superman and Doomsday, it was like a throwback to the Japanese Ultraman series and the likes, with a slugfest without regard to occupants in buildings. Talk about massive property destruction too.
Lex Luthor got a litte more involved this time round, especially with his corporation's discovery of the beast, and his manipulation of DNA to clone a Superman to do his bidding, but I suppose these changes do bring about a whiff of fresh air for those already familiar with the original plot. The best scene here for me is not the animosity between the adversaries, or any of the action sequences, but rather an emotional one between Lois Lane and Martha Kent. The pain that these two share in knowing that their loved one in Clark Kent, not Superman to the world, is something that the filmmakers crafted in top notch fashion, totally moving for an animated film.
Other than that, the quality of animation is as expected, though I must say the Superman here does look a little older with those strong facial lines drawn on like added wrinkles. It doesn't have a lot of defining moments, and narratively it still engages, but the extras contained in the DVD, is worth a way lot more than the actual film itself. Watch this just to get to the extras.
The Code 3 DVD by Warner Premiere comes presented in anamorphic widescreen format with Dolby Surround 5.1 audio for its English track. Portuguese and Thai tracks are also available, as with English subtitles and scene selection over 20 chapters.
For a relatively short animated feature film, the Special Features are worth a lot more than the film itself. First, there's a ensemble filmmaker commentary by Producer Bruce Timm, Writer Duane Capizzi, Voice Director Andrea Romano and Executive Producer Gregory Noveck. While most of the commentary were pretty descriptive in nature, you'll get to hear more about the more “adult moments” that they incorporated into the film, since after all this is the first title released under the Warner Premiere label, as well as each of them bringing to the table their respective areas of contribution to the movie.
But the extra that takes the cake and makes this DVD worth picking up, is the documentary Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives! (43:12). Split into chapters which you can use the Play All function, it brings us back to the 90s where the entire Superman creative team got involved in brainstorming an idea to last the entire year, because their initial plan to have Clark and Lois get hitched, was thwarted by studio executives who wanted the television series to do just that, and not the comic books to jump the gun. So credit goes to someone (you'll have to find out just who) in exasperation, suggested to just kill Supes instead. And as they say, the rest is history.
The first chapter of the documentary, Let's Just Kill Im!, introduces the audience to the creative team back then, with the likes of Louis Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, Jon Bogdanove, Roger Stern, Brett Breeding, Ksrl Kesel, as well as group editor Mike Carlin, DC editor in chief Jeanette Kahn and president Paul Levitz. We go a little behind the background to the Super Summit, which is a yearly get together to plan stories for subsequent years, as well as listen in to how the entire Doomsday series was conceptualize. A must watch for any Supes fan, as well as aficionados caught in the frenzy back then.
Chapter 2 on The World Was Watching captures the reactions and response of fans and news media worldwide to this groundbreaking comics event, as well as some coverage during that year's Comic Con. It goes on for a bit and covers details of the story arc in Funeral For a Friend. Some nuggests and easter eggs of information will get revealed, and I for one didn't realize those, except for the panel-for-a-page slugfest style used in Superman #75. Chapter 3 - Superman Lives! is quite self-explanatory, but covers the duration of the cessation of issues, before the plan on how to kickstart the return of the Man of Steel (anyone remembers the return of the 4 Supermen?), and how each creative team for each of the four books, get a chance to deal with an aspect of Superman they enjoy with their independent creations, before tying back everything again for the bona fide Last Son of Krypton to return.
All in all, if you need a single reason to pick this DVD up, this documentary would be it!
Other extras include Justice League: The New Frontier Teaser Reel (10:44) containing interviews with filmmakers, voice actors and comic book creators talking about this new original animated movie, which of course includes a sneak peek at the film, and it definitely piqued my interest to pick this up as well. Behind the Voice (5:18) looks at the voice casting process where there was a conscious search for actors who have not worked on any Superman works before, and also a behind the scenes look at the recording booth.
And for those who think you can be Superman duking it out with Doomsday, there's a pretty nifty game included titled Superman's Last Stand where you control the Man of Steel in his climatic battle to take down the beast. It gets very difficult as you progress because it takes a lot more to store power in your punches, and your damage inflicted also gets drastically reduced because of fatigue, while any slugs from the beast will cause some 50% damage on your each time. Now you know what the last boy scout is up against!