The film opens with images of Superman doing heroic deeds and Lex Luthor narrating, explaining how people look up to him like he was a god on Earth. Before the credits begin, he says “Enjoy your reign while you may, Superman. For as surely as night follows day, there comes a time when even gods must die.”
Lois Lane and Superman are revealed to have become romantically involved. Lois is unsatisfied with the arrangements of their relationship: Superman insists that they keep it a secret from the public by limiting their encounters to the Fortress, and he has not yet confided in her that he is actually Clark Kent, although she already knows.
Workers from LexCorp unearth a spaceship while digging for one of Lex’s projects, inadvertently releasing the genetically-engineered war machine Doomsday. Doomsday kills the entire digging crew and begins a bloody rampage towards Metropolis. Superman meets the monster in Metropolis, and the two engage in a devastating cross-city battle; the damage to Superman is enough that for the first time, he bleeds, without outside influence from Kryptonite or red solar energy. Ultimately, Superman kills Doomsday but dies shortly after. The world collectively mourns their fallen hero, whom they honor with a memorial in Metropolis.
All of the characters deal with Superman’s death in different ways. Jimmy takes a job at a seedy tabloid newspaper called National Voyeur, Perry falls off the wagon, and Lois visits Clark’s adoptive mother, Martha, for counsel. Even Lex grieves over Superman’s death, though only because he was not responsible for it: “I wanted a winning strategy. Instead, I’ve been cheated of the victory I planned for years by an intergalactic soccer hooligan!”
In Superman’s absence, the police are ill-equipped to deal with the villains he so regularly defeated. When Toyman holds a school bus filled with kids hostage using a giant mechanical spider, Lois, still grieving, decides to fight the villain on her own. As she does, Superman appears to dig his way out of his own grave and apprehends Toyman. However, he does not seem quite the same, missing Lois’ apartment as he flies her home and acting surprised when she kisses him. She dismisses it as shock from his supposed “death.” However, when Martha calls Lois trying to learn why Clark has not contacted her, the reporter’s suspicions arise.
The truth of this resurrected Superman is soon revealed: he is merely a clone created by Lex from a sample of blood stolen from the site of the battle. As such, he lacks all of the real Superman’s memories, including his relationships. Lex is keeping the body of the real Superman preserved in a tube for his personal amusement. Unbeknownst to anyone, even Lex, the real Superman is actually alive, but just barely. The robot at his Fortress of Solitude is able to recover his body and works to bring him back to health.
Meanwhile, the Superman clone begins to take a darker perspective on his job when he hears about Toyman killing a four-year-old girl. He meets with Toyman as he is about to enter the police station. There, he picks him up, flies him above the city, then drops him back to the ground, killing him. The city is stunned, and Lois suspects he is not Superman. The police are unable to do anything about this, as Superman is well beyond their ability to handle.
Upon returning to Lex, the clone is berated for his behavior. Lex sends him on a mission to find the real Superman’s corpse and threatens to kill him should he step out of line again. After leaving, the clone goes to a barbershop and uses x-ray vision on himself and finds a piece of lead-shielded kryptonite in his brain, which he then extracts. At the same time, Lois meets with Lex under the guise of wanting to move on, but first wants to know how he corrupted Superman. As she leans in to kiss him, she stabs him with a tranquilizer and begins looking through his files with Jimmy’s help. She and Jimmy discover that Lex is cloning an army of Supermen. After Lex comes to and threatens them, the original clone arrives and destroys the facility. Unable to kill the clone, Lex tries to hide in a lead-lined, red-sunlight room, only to have the clone lock Lex inside and toss the entire room to the street. This latest presumed murder triggers military action. Again, they cannot harm Superman.
Hearing the news, the real Superman resolves to help, even though his powers are not yet fully restored. To improve his odds he dons a black sunlight-absorbing “Solar Suit” and brings a kryptonite gun developed by Lex. The two engage in a massive battle, with Superman’s kryptonite gun failing to hit the much faster clone. Jimmy and Lois grab the kryptonite gun to help Superman, though still unsure if he’s the real one or not. The fight culminates at Superman’s memorial, where Lois manages to hit the clone with a shot from the kryptonite gun. The clone destroys the gun, leaving only the kryptonite canister. As the two Supermen continue their battle, the canister sticks to the clone’s chest, and Superman vaporizes it with his heat vision. The clone, overcome by the kryptonite gas, falls under the rock he was carrying. Dying, he tells Superman to protect the people. Lois is convinced that he’s the real Superman once he kisses her, and the crowd is similarly happy to be rid of the clone.
At Lois’ apartment, Superman sees that she misspelled “resurrection” in her article, where he mentions he was a spelling bee champ at Smallville Elementary, revealing himself to be Clark Kent. Lois is caught off guard by his off the cuff statement, but the two share a smile and she happily embraces him. At LexCorp, mirroring the movie’s beginning, an injured Lex narrates the ending, saying how gods can die but can also return from the dead. He smiles to himself, saying, “It would seem you can’t be destroyed after all, Superman. It would seem…”.
I’m far from being the biggest Superman fan, but when this comic came out back in ’93, I rushed out to get it. I still have it in mint condition locked away in a box for safe keeping. Think I’ve read it like all of 3 times at most since I bought it. Though I haven’t read it often, I do know that this direct-to-DVD adaptation took more than a few liberties with the story.
I could sit here and go over each and every difference I can between the comic and the film, but I’ll spare you. The major ones are the lack of the “replacement” Supermen (one of which was brought to life by Shaquille O’Neal…remember Steel?) and second Doomsday fought Superman and the Justice League, not just Superman. Let’s not forget, that by this time Lois knows Clark and Superman are one and the same and Jonathan Kent is still alive. I can go on, but I’ll stop there.
Aside from the obvious changed to the story, this is actually one of the better comic to animation adaptations I’ve seen. I believe that they changed the whole death scene to appeal to a younger crowd, though. I have mixed feelings about that, but I understand.
The voice cast includes Chuck’s Adam Baldwin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s James Marsters, Pushing Daisies’Swoozie Kurtz, Reaper’s Ray Wise, Anne Heche along with some other notable voice actors.
All do their characters justice, except Anne Heche. I don’t know why it is, maybe because of some reviews I read before watching, but she just didn’t seem to fit as the voice of Lois Lane.
The fight scenes are pretty good. I think they could have been better, especially the one between the two Supermen, but that’s just my personal opinion.
If you’re a comic or Superman fan, then you’ll love this film. It’s pretty solid. Shame the writers of this one didn’t write Superman III, IV and/or Superman Returns.
3 1/2 out of 5 stars