Title: Reign Of The Supermen (2019)
Director: Sam Liu
Writers: Jon Bogdanove, Brett Breeding, Tom Grummett, Gerard Jones, Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, James Krieg (co-writer), Bill Messner-Loebs, Jerry Ordway, Tim Sheridan (co-writer), Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Louise Simonson, and Roger Stern
Artists: Cassandra Canete, Brendan Clogher, Justin Copeland, Jarelle Dampier, Tim Divar, Chuck Drost, Yasmin Khudari, Micah Lewis, Shawna Mills, Shaun O’Neil, Christina Sotta, Bui Duc Thuong, Jose Andres Velasco, Melchior Zwyer
Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Patrick Fabian, Charles Halford, Cameron Monaghan, Cress Williams, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Shemar Moore, Tony Todd, and more.
Production: Warner Brothers Animation
Release date: January 2019
I watched Warner Brothers Animation’s Reign OF Supermen today with skepticism, and I got pleasantly surprised, it was a mostly enjoyable animated adventure; maybe the best one I have seen in a long time from the studios. Frankly, I have not enjoyed any of their recent efforts much at all with maybe one or two exceptions, and I hated that Harley Quinn Batman and Robin (2017) movie, what a piece of, well, you know. That movie was the dumbest thing I have seen in a long time, and the artwork was deplorable. In America there is an uphill battle going on regarding animated films; unlike Asia, everyone here thinks animated films are strictly for kids and making movies that utterly awful is downright irresponsible in a world that needs more excellence in animation not less.
Admittedly I am in the camp that still thinks the Bruce Timm era Justice League Unlimited and some of the episodes from The Batman/Superman Adventures are among the best genre animated adventures ever made. Outside of Asia (specifically Japan), going forward, the world is on the cusp of wholeheartedly embracing adult genre animation, and unknowingly for many they already have because the lines have already begun to blur between what’s real and what’s computer animation.
I have been a fan of cartoons or animation as it’s mostly referred to these days by grown adults too embarrassed to admit they still love these gems of colorful motion, for most of my life. I am a stickler for and even as a kid, demanded the highest quality be adhered to in overall artwork, character designs and animation (how the characters move and get integrated into the background art) before I can fully enjoy these animated productions and the work on this film, while not flawless, does reasonably well in the art department. The attention to detail seen in most Japanese productions is not here, but this film’s creators did a mostly favorably impressive job. They miss the target entirely on a couple of character designs that seemed poorly done, and the animation is not the best, but I have seen much worse. Bottom line: not a bad job for a commercial release, slightly better than the standard commercial quality animated production.
The voice work, while professional in every way, seemed like pretty standard fare, with nothing memorable good or bad, for the most part. The exception is the work of Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor who I felt was completely miscast for the role; his voice didn’t resonate well with me for the character at all, and it was a huge distraction from an otherwise pretty good animated film. Likewise, the character designs of some of the characters did not get done, as well as they might, Also, there were a couple of times I wasn’t sure if it was Lois Lane or Wonder Woman on the screen, and that isn’t good. Besides, the Kents did not look how they should look; Ma Kent looks like Fred Armisen in drag except maybe less attractive. They changed the Kents into a pair of generic older farmers here. The film also goes too far with an updated character design for Darkseid, that is not acceptable; you do not mess with a Jack Kirby Character design, ever.
The film’s narrative was, for the most part, an enjoyable one, although it did seem close to being overly cluttered at times, with plots and subplots due to the nature of the story it tells with multiple Supermen. Still, it managed to not only cover all the bases, but the writers managed to instill a little humor more or less successfully into a nicely balanced screenplay.
They are composed of a young Superboy clone dressed in a tight black outfit. This kid is an obvious statement about millennials and the digital age we live in, drawn in a slightly more anime-like style. He gets soon joined by a very serious, and even grim, safety glasses wearing Superman of adult age, and a messed-up looking adult patchwork cyborg Superman added in for good measure.
The film starts and works well as a classic mystery that makes us wonder just what’s the story behind all these new Supermen, and what’s their agenda? iThe film manages to remain somewhat lighthearted despite the dark nature of its narrative and the adult and grounded approach used by the film to tell its story.
The film begins sometime, perhaps a year or so, after the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday. A crowd gathers at a memorial to the Kryptonian when a strange ring suddenly appears in the sky which starts spitting out para-demons from Apokalips, letting us know Darkseid is involved in the film’s plot. The film is smart enough to remain coy and allows us to decide if we want to figure it out ourselves or wait for the movie to reveal its secrets at its own pace. As the fight ensues, the ring begins to show signs of losing power and begins to collapse and fall towards earth on top of the Justice League members that were there for security at the event. The collapsing ring lands on the JLA, causing them to disappear moving them conveniently out of the way for most of the film’s duration. Their disappearance conveniently coincides with the sudden appearance of several new super-powered individuals who all call themselves Superman. The film works well as a mystery for most of the first act and as the truth gets revealed about the new Supermen, one at a time as the rest of the story develops.
There are subplots galore; there’s one about Lois’ and Superman’s relationship, of course, and several more the movie tells along the way while remaining, for me at least, confusion-free and enjoyable enough to pass muster I suppose. After all is said and done, I give the film a B+