Michael Scott

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The Death and Return of Superman


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :4.5stars:

Final Score: :4stars:


WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM BOTH FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW


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Movie

Last year’s The Death of Superman and this year’s The Reign of the Supermen was one of the better retelling of the classic death of one of our favorite superheroes. It had originally been done several years back with Superman: Doomsday, but this iteration was a bit more complete, and truer to the source material. When I initially saw that Warner Brothers was releasing this collection of both films together I was kind of nonplussed. I mean, we’ve had both the Blu-ray and the 4K UHD releases of the singles, so what was the point in buying it again? Well, the answer is two fold. The first (albeit minor) reason is because this is not just both discs packaged together. Warner took both movies and blended them into one seamless presentation (e.g., one set of credits, one runtime, one super cut of both films, ala The Dark Knight Returns). HOWEVER, the real biggie was that on digging into the press release even further, they had snuck one last goody into the package. A third disc containing the 4K UHD of Superman: Doomsday!, which makes it the first and only 4K UHD of that film to date, effectively making it the supreme collectors version of the story, complete with Superman: Doomsday, and both Death and Reign of the Superman in one cohesive form. Now THAT has my attention. Even though Death of Superman and The Reign of the Supermen are combined as two films, I’m put my review in a split format, being that there’s almost no change to the plots in making a super cut (all they did was smoosh the mid credits scenes from Death of Superman into one, and extended the scene with Superboy grabbing his jacket by like 3-4 seconds) and I’ve gone into each movie fully in the past.

The Death of Superman
I’m a huge fan of the newer DC Animated Universe (DCAU) and have really enjoyed the more serialized nature of the films over the last 8 years or so. The series started out as a more standalone idea, but soon morphed into a more cohesive universe, complete with recurring voice actors/actresses, continued story lines, and themes taken straight from the 80s, 90s and New52 reboot series. After the financial success (even though critically they’re trashed), the DC Live Action films have reinvigorated one of the 90s most powerful (and shocking) stories about supes. His death. Batman vs. Superman (and the resulting Justice League film) did their own spin on Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday, but the story had actually been done several years prior with the DCAU film Doomsday. However, like Batman vs. Superman, it wasn’t exactly nearly as faithful to the original comics as fans would have liked, so Warner/DC have gone back to the source and transposed the original tale of the Kryptonian killing machine’s war with Superman. Even going so far as to complete it by making the story a two parter and following it up with the conclusion in Reign of the Supermen (which will follow reasonably shortly from what my contacts have been able to reveal).

The story is really a dual story, with two plots going on simultaneously. The first is the rocky relationship between Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) and Clark Kent (Jerry O’Connell). Lois and Clark have been getting heated, but their relationship can only go so far when one person is keeping a deep secret. In this case, it’s the really obvious one. Clark can’t come to grips with telling Lois that he’s Superman and it’s killing their relationship. Lois want’s to take it further, but Clark still worries that if he tells her his secret, that she’ll be put in undue harm (the most common curse of a super hero).

Simultaneously, the world is going to need the strongest man alive, as a monster of unspeakable power has come to earth at the hands of an asteroid. This asteroid is bringer of Doomsday, an ancient Kryptonian monster of near invincible nature. Getting loose underwater after re-entry, Doomsday (nicknamed later in the film by Lois) begins an unstoppable rampage, destroying entire cities in his path of wanton destruction. Even the Justice League gets destroyed in a matter of minutes, meaning it’s up to the one alien being who has enough power to actually take on the monster mano-e-mano.

The title of the film really gives it away for anyone who isn’t aware of the original comics, or hasn’t watched Superman: Doomsday or Batman vs. Superman (the DEATH of Superman isn’t exactly subtle), but it’s the journey that counts. We all know that Superman is going to end up on a slab at the end of the film, but it’s how they portray the massive 35 minute battle between the ancient evil and Superman that sells it. The complex emotions that Superman portrays as he finally meets his literal match. Watching the cocky boy lose his invincible self image, to seeing him realize that he may not survive this is shocking. O’Connell gives a nice heart and soul to the Man of Steel, and keeps him both sensitive and kind towards Lois, and the powerful, godlike, persona of Superman equally.

The supporting cast is filled with recurring voice actors, with Rosario Dawson reprising her role as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Nathan Fillion coming back as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern (since the DCAU Green Lantern film he’s been replaced by someone else), Jason O’Mara as the dark Knight, and Christopher Gorham as Barry Allen/The Flash. They aren’t really a big part of the movie as they get trashed by Doomsday early on, but it’s nice to see the continuity with the voice actors and they each add a little bit of flair to the movie, so it doesn’t end up just being a giant fight to the death between our main character and the villain. HOWEVER, that “one long battle” aspect of the film adds its own unique dynamic as well. It makes it a thrilling adventure, despite the simplicity, and sets up the series for the more dramatic sequel in Reign of the Supermen coming out later this year.

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The Reign of the Supermen
Small spoilers from The Death of Superman (sorry, the title alone gives away the biggest one). Superman (Jerry O’Connell) was killed by Darkseid’s (legendary character actor Tony Todd) tool Doomsday, and the world is reeling from the lack of Superman. Metropolis is not long for superheroes, as the city sees an uptick in crime, followed by an uptick in super men. The first being a child wonder with all the powers of Superman, but only a fraction of his age, named Superboy (Cameron Monaghan). The second a powerful entity wearing the superman cape and a brutal sense of justice known as Eradicator, a man of LITERAL steel who dons the cape, and a mysterious half human, half cyborg who claims he IS Clark Kent (e.g. the real deal) himself. None of these super MEN have the exact code of the one they claim to be, and each one vying for a spot in the limelight as the new king of superheroes.

Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) is more than suspicious of the newcomers, especially Superboy, who is bankrolled (and ruled) by Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson) himself. However, she is inexorably drawn to the Cyborg Superman, who claims that Kryptonian technology has made his return possible. He says the right things, he has enough of the memories, but there’s something “off” about him. When the rest of the Justice League is transported to another dimension via a Darkseid portal, Lois begins to dig deeper into the identities of these Super Men and slowly uncovers a plot that emanates much further away from her normal targets of Luthor and evil on earth.

Reign of the Superman is a fun movie, but one that has a few flaws. The introduction of all the new Super Men is actually quite fun, especially with Superboy and Steel coming into play. But like the comic book before it, Reign of the Supermen has a hard time living up to the legendary story that came before it. Hank Henshaw as Cyborg Superman is not really that scary at all (he’s scarier in Supergirl for that matter) and Darkseid is completely neutered. We get to see a bit of his power through the voice of Tony Todd, but the all powerful villain of the DC universe (this universe’s Thanos or Apocalypse) just growls a bit and is frustrated when Cyborg Superman ruins his arrival.

Still, there is a lot of fun to be had with the varying super men vying for power, and the battles are actually really neat. The opening one at the podium with Eradicator, Superboy and Steel is a (literal) blast, but sadly the Justice League themselves are only there for window dressing. It seemed like the studio felt that they needed more big name characters thrown in, so they did so, even if the result was that they were only in the movie to wave at the camera and then vanish.




Rated PG-13 For Sequences of Violence and Action, Including Bloody Images, and For Some Suggestive Content




Video: :4stars:
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The Death and Return of Superman :4stars:
The Death and Return of Superman is not going to blow your socks off in comparison to the Blu-rays, but it IS a rather decent upgrade over it in many ways. This is typical of most of the DC Animated films as there is only so much quality differences you can see with the minimalistic style of animation used. The details are good, but not much better than the Blu-ray due to already maxing about the animations inherent source details to begin with, BUT there are some subtle differences that do make it worthwhile. The contrast of characters vs. backdrops has been enhanced, with backgrounds showing a more refined and distinct look that sets them apart from the foreground characters. The same can be said for the use of HDR which pumps of certain primary and main colors with a little more pizazz and kick. Blacks are deeper and show a little more detail, and the minimal banding that is always present on the Blu-rays is completely gone (one of my favorite side effects from the upgrade to 4K from 1080 in animation). As I said, its’ a good disc and definitely the better one compared to the Blu-ray, just don’t go in expecting a night and day difference that will wow even the uninitiated.

Superman: Doomsday :4stars:
(This score is not included in the actual review’s overall calculations due to it being an “extra”, but is here for your reference as I’m sure most fans are curious to see how the new 4K UHD disc stacks up against the old Blu-ray from 2008).


Like the Blu-ray and 4K UHD comparisons of The Death and Return of Superman, Superman: Doomsday is not a massive upgrade in detail levels over’s its 1080p predecessor. However, there are several distinct features of upgrade that really ARE reason for getting this set. For one, the colors are more natural and precise here. They were a little darkened in the Blu-ray, yet brightened in other scenes. The 4K UHD gives a more stable appearance to the colors, with a more saturated and rich look to them. The contrast levels are way better as well, giving distinct differences between characters and foregrounds as well as evening out the highlights. The VC-1 encode was considered “good” for 2008, but it really shows its age, and the lack of color banding and the jaggies that are associated with charater lines are nearly completely gone (there are some character lines that still have some jaggies, but that seems mostly source related as the increased depth on the encode makes fore a much cleaner image. The sharpness is also rather improved, without that “hazy” look that the VC-1 Blu-ray encode has.








Audio: :4stars:
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The Death and Return of Superman :4stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track (present on both the 4K disc and the Blu-ray in all iterations of the films), is a really good track that sometimes flickers into the great category. This is an action animated film, with near non stop explosions, eye laser blasts and crushing buildings to keep things active. The mix is aggressive and vicious, slamming you back with heavy waves of LFE and the chaos of battle. Musical score bits are full and rich, and dialog is cleanly replicated in the front of the room. Surrounds are a bit lighter than expected, but there’s enough battle sequences and chaotic action to keep them running. Every once in a while I was really wow’d by the bass, as it was hitting HARD and deep. Much heavier than some of the latest DCAU films, and it certainly added a nice flavor to the film.

Superman: Doomsday :4stars:
(This score is not included in the actual review’s overall calculations due to it being an “extra”, but is here for your reference as I’m sure most fans are curious to see how the new 4K UHD disc stacks up against the old Blu-ray from 2008).


Now the one thing that REALLY stunk about Superman: Doomsday on Blu-ray was the loss audio track. The original disc featured a 640 kbps lossy Digital track that was very VERY anemic to say the least. While the mix is still the same for this 4K UHD disc, it has been upgraded to DTS-HD MA 5.1 and is a LOT better. The bass is massively improved (on the Blu-ray it was pathetic), and the ambiance and surrounds sound more powerful and fully fleshed out. Dialog is still clean and clear, but all of the supporting elements feel like they have more weight and authority to them. Due to how it was mixed, the track will never be a massive powerhouse, but the issues from the 2008 Blu-ray have been remedied, making the movie enjoyable to listen to again, instead of having to suffer with the really weak mix that it’s had the last 11 years.









Extras: :4.5stars:
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• Long Live Superman (Featurette) – Superman is a symbol for hope across the world. Hear the story of how the Man of Tomorrow will always be the hero we need today. Long Live Superman!
The Death of Superman: The Brawl That Topped Them All (Featurette) – Experience the battle between Superman and Doomsday like never before as creators of the iconic comic and the new film explore the nuances of “The Greatest Fight” with the help of a martial arts expert.
Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis (Featurette) – Evil Genius. Archenemy of Superman. Misunderstood hero? This documentary will look at one of the most renowned villains in literature and debate his ethics and motivations throughout his publication history and as the calculated anti-hero of Reign of the Supermen. We’ll also explore how Lex Luthor is emblematic of technology without limit, often demonstrating what effect unbridled power, resources, and influence can have on humanity. We’ll discuss the affinity for storytellers to associate Lex Luthor and with the field of science as they challenge our morals and integrity with real world issues such as cloning and what can happen if science fiction became science reality.
• From the DC Vault: Legion of Superheroes, “Dark Victory: Part 1”
• From the DC Vault: Legion of Superheroes, “Dark Victory: Part 2”
• From the DC Vault: Superman: The Animated Series, “Heavy Metal”
• From the DC Vault: Justice League Unlimited, “Panic in the Sky”
Superman: Doomsday on 4K UHD











Final Score: :4stars:


The Death and Return of Superman is one of the better DC animated films about the classic death of the man of steel. It’s not THE best telling out there, and the film’s run time COULD have had some more material added to it, but it is still a very solid telling. For those wondering whether it is worth upgrading your Blu-rays or 4K UHD discs of the individual films, I honestly think this set is worth it. Not only do we have both movies as one giant super cut, BUUUUUUUUUT we have the 4K UHD of Superman: Doomsday for the first time ever (and only way to get it at the moment) on 4K, which alone is a massive treat and a huge boost to the extras (all other extras are the same extras found on the individual releases of The Death of Superman and The Reign of the Superman). Well worth getting in my opinion.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Jerry O'Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Patrick Fabian, Charles Halford, Cameron Monaghan, Nathan Fillion Rosario Dawson, Cress Williams
Directed by: Sam Liu, Jake Castorena
Written by: James Krieg, Jim Sheridan, Peter Tomasi
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC (Both Films films)
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Rated: PG-13
Runtime
: 167 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 1st, 2019

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Recommendation: Worth Getting


 
Last edited:

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Will check this one out.
 
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