When DC announced they were making an animated film based on The Death of Superman story arc, every comic book fan knew what the next film was going to be. We all know it because we’ve seen it in the comics way, way back in 1993. I personally wasn’t all that excited because I knew they were going to bring The Man of Steel back to life but DC wanted to take the long way so they produced the Funeral for a Friend and, more importantly, the Reign of the Supermen story arcs. Suffice to say, I wasn’t excited to see the new “Supermen” but I will give credit as they used Superman’s other monikers as the basis for their designs. Cyborg Superman was the Man of Tomorrow. The stoic Eradicator was The Last Son of Krypton. The armored John Henry Irons became the Man of Steel and Kon-El was… Superboy. Okay, they all can’t be winners.
But, as I generally enjoyed the Death of Superman animated film, at least the last half of it anyway, I was hoping that DC would pull off a new twist to the original Reign of the Supermen arc because it was a huge mess, in my opinion. Well, they did try to do something different with the animated version and, well, it didn’t come off all that great as well.
By the way, Reign of the Supermen was just released a couple of days ago and I was just lucky enough to watch it early thanks to it being released digitally early. The physical Blu-Ray of the film is slated for release on the end of the month. I know not many fans have seen it yet so this will be a very SPOILER FREE review of Reign of the Supermen.
Reign of the Supermen takes place six months after the end of The Death of Superman. The Man of Steel died fighting the monster known as Doomsday and the world is still reeling from his passing. During this time, four other Supermen have appeared, each of them with the claim of being the next Superman or even the reincarnated version of the Last Son of Krypton. Lois Lane, still grieving over the death of Clark Kent (who’s really Superman but you all know that, right?), after realizing that Superman’s body is missing from his tomb, tries to solve the mystery of what happened to him and possibly figure out which one of the four Superman is the real deal.
One thing you have to know if you plan on going to watch Reign of the Supermen is that it’s closely related to The Death of Superman. It’s almost mandatory that you have to watch The Death of Superman as Reign of the Supermen has a few threads that are closely tied to the previous story. You won’t get lost or anything like that; the overall plot is rather simple and easy to follow. But it does help a lot as characters who popped in The Death of Superman as a little more prominent this time around. I mean, would you know the heck Bibbo Bibbowski, the really obscure DC character who runs the Ace o’ Clubs bar, was? Sure, he doesn’t do a whole lot in both films but DC decided to make him more than just a bit player in Reign of the Supermen.
Actually, trying to give characterizations to these bit players really hamper the entire pacing of the film. The Reign of the Superman feels like it’s twiddling its thumbs for two-thirds of its 87-minute runtime. I usually like a good mystery, even a mystery that I already know the solution to. I’m already familiar with the big “twist” of Reign of the Supermen as it’s the same one from the comics. But there just isn’t any agency to anything. While the story is generally focused, they do try to add a lot of extraneous elements that just slows everything down. I guess they had to find some way to fill out the 87 minutes.
Things only really pick up during the last third and that’s because it’s one long fight scene. There are some action scenes sprinkled throughout the movie but the first one feels a little pedantic, as if the hits and punches have no real weight to them. The second one is a little better but is marred by some weird editing and animation choices. This isn’t a spoiler or anything but there was one scene during the second battle where the innocent civilians, who were right smack dab in the middle of a warzone, were just lazily walking around until something happened. No, really! They even looked bored while apparently escaping from impending doom!
The voice acting is both good and bad. I don’t envy the guy who had to do Superboy’s voice as he probably gets the cheesiest lines in the film. But, God bless him, he makes it work. I actually like Cyborg Superman’s performance here as, even though he’s more robot than man, he actually sounds more human than Lois Lane and Lex Luthor here! In fact, the rest of the supporting cast does an admiral job overall. Still, I will say that Rainn Wilson’s take on Lex Luthor isn’t too bad. There are a few moments of brilliance in his performance, at least
The same can’t be said for Lois Lane, the character who gets the most screentime. Rebecca Romijn’s vocal performance just flat out sucks! It’s always so flat and uninterested! And it sucks because she’s pretty much the main character! Honestly, I don’t see what Superman/Clark Kent ever sees in that woman!
One of the questions a comic book fan may ask if there are any surprises if they’ve read the original Reign of the Supermen comics. I will say, yes. It does follow the plot of the comic story arc but they did add a few tweaks to it, for better or worse. Mostly worse, though. The biggest one comes from the main villain of the film, which I can’t reveal because this is a SPOILER FREE review. Oh, it’s probably who you think it is but how that person came to be is radically different. I can see some people liking the change but I just didn’t like it.
With all of the problems I’ve mentioned so far, the biggest issue of Reign of the Supermen is the development of, well, the Supermen. Superboy gets the most focus among the four and, to be fair, the writers did try to give him an interesting backstory. But the others weren’t given that luxury. It’s not that I wished DC gave them radically different histories from the comics but the issue is that they weren’t presented in an interesting fashion and there just wasn’t enough time spent on actually telling their stories because of guys like Bibbo Bibbowski and two specific Metropolis civilians eating up valuable screen time.
Even with all its problems, I can’t actually say that you should avoid watching Reign of the Supermen for one specific reason: it’s a great bookend to the previous film, The Death of Superman. In fact, I have a feeling that Reign of the Supermen should be watched right after seeing The Death of Superman because of how closely connected the two films are. If you do watch them back-to-back, you do get a really satisfying conclusion to everything.
Overall, Reign of the Supermen isn’t that spectacular of an animated film on its own. There are just too many flaws for me to give it a solid recommendation. But, if you haven’t seen The Death of Superman yet, I do suggest getting both films and binge watch them together to get the full effect. They would essentially be greater than the sum of its parts. But, all by itself, Reign of the Supermen just can’t stand on its own.
Have you seen Reign of the Supermen? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!