One of the most important things about Kal-El is his villains, without whom there’d be no point to his character. In fact, him having villains makes his tolerable, because it means that he’s at least doing something right. Superman Doomsday is about one thing: the fight between Kal-El and Doomsday. Kal-El being the Human element, who fights Doomsday to protect Metropolis, and Doomsday being the un-Human element, who destroys what he sees out of animalistic instinct. Doomsday is a key Kal-El villain, as the only creature that was ever able to actually kill him, in Superman vol. 2 #75, Doomsday!. And like other direct-to-DVD productions, Superman Doomsday adapts that storyline.
The problem with Superman Doomsday is that, for a villain with top billing, alongside the protagonist, Doomsday doesn’t really appear very much. As soon as he escapes, and heads toward Metropolis, Kal-El engages him and the fight begins. But the fight is also over pretty quickly, and what follows is a new story involving a false Kal-El and Lex Luthor, who’s never actually defeated or reaches some sort of closure. The final shot is Luthor realizing his first plan’s failed, only to declare that he’ll beat Kal-El eventually. Which just about sums-up how this works: there are lots of elements of the mythology, which are either underused or unnecessary. One scene has Toyman terrorising a bridge, only for Toyman to be instantly killed minutes later. He even had to introduce himself to the audience by speaking in the third person, along with puns. That’s a thing, as well. Superman Doomsday is filled with puns, and after a while they lose their effect.
A much more daring approach would have been to make the whole thing a battle between the two, ending in their mutual defeats. Except Warner Premiere don’t really like having continuity between their different releases, so that’s put the scuppers on that idea. And they clearly didn’t want to do something more than ninety minutes long, since it wasn’t being released in mainstream cinema. Which is immediately a problem, since they wanted there to be a fight with Doomsday, but also a continuation involving the infamous resurrection, since they didn’t want to end of the sombre not of their flagship character being killed, without a way for him to have survived.
So really, the problem with Superman Doomsday is that it’s not really about Doomsday. Doomsday is only there for Superman to quickly die, and make the real story be actually about him showing his ability to survive anything. And given it’s direct-to-DVD, and that therefore, only fans will be seeing it… wouldn’t they want a bit more than that? Rather than taking eighty minutes to get a message the same message as always, isn’t there a more interesting spin on it? Of course, it is only eighty minutes, and there isn’t really a legitimate problem with something at least being watchable and satisfying the audience. It might not be much – in fact, it’s pretty much the most basic idea of Superman being unkillable – but the animation’s pretty cool, and there are worse ways to pass eighty minutes of an evening. Even if it isn’t what you might be expecting.
Superman Doomsday: tangential storytelling with adequate animation. 5/10