The Man of Steel gets an edgier, more personal story, very similar to the classic crossover comic series. Death of Superman isn't nearly as dark as Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight; or on the artistic level of the mecha/anime Batman Ninja. What makes Death of Superman outstanding is the focus on Superman's life as Clark Kent. This has been one of my biggest complaints about the recent theatrical iterations of the character. Superman has a life outside of saving the world. Clark Kent has a job, an apartment, and the best gal in Metropolis.
Death of Superman begins with Clark Kent (Jerry O'Connell) in a quandary. His relationship with Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) is getting serious. The problem is that they're hiding the romance from their gossiping coworkers. And Lois hasn't the slightest clue that Clark is Superman. She wants to go public with their love. She doesn't understand why he's so secretive about his past and family.
As Clark struggles with Lois, Superman is facing deadlier enemies in Metropolis. Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson) is under house arrest, but somehow the bad guys are getting more technologically advanced. His Justice League colleagues are invaluable. They're with him in the trenches, but also a guide to what's possible. Flash (Christopher Gorham) makes a decisive move in his love life. It reminds Clark what's truly important. His decision to come clean on all fronts to Lois is interrupted by a meteor. A new threat arrives from the heavens, the deadliest foe the Justice League has ever faced.
The essential dichotomy to Superman's existence is skillfully explored. Superman is an invincible, godlike being revered and feared. Clark Kent is a mild-mannered reporter, raised in rural Kansas; shy and unassuming. Even though these two personas look exactly alike, no one, not even an ace reporter sleeping with him, can connect these men are the same person. It's unfathomable to the people who see Clark Kent every day. This is what makes the character so damn interesting. An alien with incredible power embodies the greatest traits of humanity. Death of Superman hearkens back to Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh's interpretation of Clark Kent/Superman. It's a welcome return, in my opinion, to how the character should be portrayed.
I wish this film had been longer. Death of Superman succumbs to the action barrage too soon. The drama between Clark and Lois is so well done, I wanted to see more of it. This is a minor complaint from a forty-something nerd. Younger audiences won't have an issue with the length. The film runs an hour and twenty minutes, which is textbook for this type of release. There could easily have been another ten glorious minutes of Clark's relationship woes.
Death of Superman has intense violence, but is firmly in the PG-13 sphere. Director Sam Liu and the brilliant Warner Bros. Animation team returns to the artistic style of the DC Animated Movie Universe. These are the eleven animated films based on DC's 2011 reboot of Justice League and spinoff characters. That said, Death of Superman story is drawn from the 1992 comics. It's a fascinating narrative that will continue in a sequel, The Reign of the Supermen; premiering next year.