Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Film Review - 'Superman: Doomsday'

Just as Bane is probably best known for the time he once managed to break Batman's back, Doomsday's greatest claim to fame would have to be the time he managed to kill the Man of Steel, himself. Of course, unlike Bane (who went on to become a fixture of Batman's rogue's gallery), Doomsday was actually only ever created for that singular purpose.

It was back in the early 90's when the original 'Death of Superman' story-arc was published - and, if we're all being honest, it would probably be fair to say that the entire thing was as much a publicity stunt as it was a legitimate story-line. Superman has always been DC's most iconic character, after all (although, it would be very easy to argue that Batman is more popular) - so, it was never likely that he would be gone, for good. But, the idea of Superman dying still managed to catch on, among comic-book readers - and, the particular issue in which the deed was done went on to become the highest selling in the character's history.

Doomsday was a creature created with the sole purpose of making this happen. He was to be the one that managed to kill the Man of Steel - but, beyond that, there really wasn't all that much to him. He was, really, just a generic monster.

This is something that is carried of the the animated adaptation of this particular story-line, also - to such an extent that, despite being titled Superman: Doomsday, the film isn't actually about the creature, at all. In fact, Doomsday's entire role in the film will be done within the first half-hour. The mysterious creature is accidentally released by a team of scientists employed by Lex Luthor, and heads off on a violent rampage that eventually takes it to the streets of Metropolis. Superman comes to stop the creature, and the two fight until Superman is, just barely, able to defeat the creature. But, it seems that the Man of Steel was forced to sacrifice his own life in the process - as he only has a few moments to give a reluctant farewell before seeming to pass away.

This is how the film opens - and, it is a very impressive sequence. Doomsday may be little more than a one-dimensional villain, but it is also a genuinely threatening one. It is a biological weapon compelled by flawed programming - one who couldn't stop, even if it wanted to. It is, also, just as strong as the Man of Steel, and just as capable of taking a punch. Throughout the encounter between the Man of Steel and this mysterious creature, there was even a darkly humorous quality to be found in the way that the creature seemed to keep getting distracted by innocent bystanders that it felt compelled to kill.

The fight between Superman and Doomsday is really everything that a fan could possibly want from an epic showdown. And, I'm sure that the sight of a weak and bleeding Superman, but one who is still willing to fight, is one that is bound to have an effect on any long-time fans of the character. It would have been a fantastic way to end any other film. But, of course, it is only this film's opening scene - and, as such, it left me with the impression that it would be difficult to top.

That's not to say that the rest of the film is a disappointment, though. That just wouldn't be fair. It's just that Superman: Doomsday will never be as exciting as it is in its opening moments - and, it doesn't even seem to try to be. Honestly, that's probably something you're better off knowing right from the start.

For the rest of its running time, Superman: Doomsday is a film which concerns itself with the immediate consequences of the death of Superman. The city of Metropolis, as a whole, is left to mourn the loss of its champion. Lois Lane and Martha Kent have some genuinely emotional moments in which to bond over their own, much more personal, grief. And, also, there is Lex Luthor's impotent rage at the idea that some nameless monster was able to do what he never could. Each of these points is explored with an impressive amount of depth, for such a short film - and, they all serve to give the film a strong emotional core.

Beyond that, there is also the more practical concern of the sudden increase of violent crime in a city that is no longer protected by a superhero. Then, there is also the little matter of Superman's inevitable return - since it hardly counts as any sort of spoiler to point out that he does, indeed, come back. But, of course, as the Man of Steel makes his return to a city that needs him, there is also the strong indication that things aren't entirely what they seem.

There's a genuine sense of mystery concerning Superman's sudden return - and, for those who aren't already familiar with the source material, it is all very interesting, But, once again, the film is never going to be as exciting as it was in its first half-hour - which gives everything that happens throughout the rest of the film a somewhat muted, and anti-climactic, quality which can't really be helped. Also, without going into too much detail, it should probably be mentioned that there is a fair bit of the original source material that didn't manage to find its way into this film adaptation - something which may bother those among the audience who are familiar with the original comic-book story.

With most of the action taking place in the first half-hour, Superman: Doomsday is a strangely paced film. There isn't going to be any epic climax to look forward to, here - since, after all, you will have already seen the best that the film has to offer, in that regard. Despite this, though, the film still manages to provide an entertaining experience for any fans of the Man of Steel.

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