Reign of the Supermen is my favorite Superman story. The comic book crossover event was used to revitalize the character (both literally and figuratively). Decades later, some of those once-new elements have aged better than others. The really fun part of the animated adaptation is that it again updates things to make it contemporary. At the same time, it knows when to embrace the ’90s cheese.
The movie takes place six months after Superman’s battle against Doomsday in The Death of Superman. The Justice League struggle to fill the void left by the loss of Superman until four people arrive to take up the empty mantle: a youthful clone created by Lex Luthor, the Man of Steel in an armored suit, a visor-clad extremist, and a cyborg who claims to have gaps in his memories. It explores the influence of Superman by dissecting different aspects of the character and examining how those aspects inspire others.
It is funny how trends are cyclical. Superboy’s hyper-stylized ’90s look fits in with modern hipster culture, and the movie is not afraid to lean right into it. Making him an angsty Millennial obsessed with ’90s TV shows is a natural fit.
Other changes were made to the story which helped streamline the narrative. Probably the greatest decision was to make it Lois Lane’s story. Instead of just interviewing the new Supermen, she is now the anchor for the movie. The audience follows her on her quest for truth, and she is more than just a character used to receive exposition.
The entire cast is great and did a fantastic job in bringing the characters to life, but there is one in particular I would like to discuss. Whether he be the zany mad scientist of his early years or the modern, sophisticated businessman, Lex Luthor remains one of the most iconic villains of all time. I was surprised when Rainn Wilson was cast in the role and even more surprised at how great he was at it. He maintains a perfect balance between having an utter disdain for others and the desire to save them in a messianic complex.
Fans of the comic storyline will enjoy how closely it is adapted, and the changes are respectful of the source material. Those who are new to the story will enjoy it—even with a basic understanding of the Superman mythos – although, it would be strongly recommended to watch The Death of Superman first.
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