"...suffers from trying to accomplish far too much in a mere 87-minute run-time."

Reign Lacks Power

(021719) Last year, DC Animation gave us the best Superman film in years with The Death of Superman. If you read my review for that film, then you know that I absolutely loved it! The Death of Superman did a great job respecting its source material, while also making key changes to allow that story to fit into the current animated universe. While "The Death of Superman" comic was a pretty cut and dry story to adapt – especially when written by comic legend Peter Tomasi – the writers behind Reign of the Supermen don’t have it quite as easy. So, while I was excited for this film, I was far more curious to see what would change and how. To say that the source material for this movie is a bit convoluted would be an understatement, and there’s simply no way to fit everything from the 90s saga into a DC Animated Universe primarily influenced by The New 52 without making drastic changes.

The DC Animated Universe keeps churning out product, and its latest offering is one of the more overcooked entries in the series to date. A direct sequel to The Death of Superman , Reign of the Supermen is bursting at the seams with more characters, more subplots, more action and generally more stuff than any of its predecessors. It took the original DC artisans over 700 pages of graphic novel to cover the material that RotS tries to cram into 87 minutes. The result is a frantic mess. It'll hold your attention while it's on, but nothing in the film has any staying power. As soon as it's over, it vanishes from your head quicker than a Justin Bieber song.

It doesn't help that so much of RotS's storyline was recently covered by the live-action Justice League, leaving us with the distinct feeling that we've already seen much of this movie. For all its considerable flaws, the live-action Justice League still managed to draw more emotional impact from Superman's resurrection than the DCAU iteration. And as far as exposition and back story are concerned, Justice League does a better job of it compared to RotS. The live-action film made at least some effort to explain important plot points like a "Mother Box", but RotS appears to have been made strictly for hardcore fanatics. If you don't already know your DC mythology backwards and forwards, you're out of luck.

RotS begins six months after The Death of Superman, with the world still mourning the loss of its greatest guardian in the battle against Doomsday. But then everyone, especially Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) and the members of the Justice League are startled by the appearance of four separate claimants to Superman's mantle, three of whom purport to be Superman himself. Superboy (Cameron Monaghan) is the brash junior version (and hates being called "Superboy"). Cyborg Superman (Patrick Fabian) resembles a souped-up verison of the Justice League's Cyborg, while The Eradicator (Charles Halford) has formidable powers but acts more like an emotionless cyborg than any of the characters who are actually named "Cyborg". Steel (Cress Williams) is the only one who doesn't pretend to be Superman; he's a formidable fighter against evil, but he knows that he's really John Henry Irons in a metallic suit.

Lex Luthor (Rainn Williams) and the seemingly infinite resources of Lex Corp remain in the mix, and so is the super-villain known as Darkseid (Tony Todd, with his intimidating basso profondo). As for the Justice League itself, let's just say that they get sidetracked by a convenient (and less-than-convincing) plot device, leaving the world to sort out the profusion of would-be Superman successors. We also get an invasion of Parademons, visits to the Fortress of Solitude, competing plots for world domination and an army of ordinary people transformed into cyborg clones in service of . . . oh, never mind. RotS devotes as little effort to explanation as it does to emotional depth or character development. It rushes through key story points so that it can devote as much time as possible to the kind of destructive smack downs that have become the meat and potatoes of modern superhero tales. By the time DC and Marvel have finished busting up the world and sacrificing its citizens—allegedly in the fight against evil, but in reality for the entertainment of the Comic Con crowd—there won't be anything left worth saving.

Reign of the Supermen is an action-packed film that suffers from trying to accomplish far too much in a mere 87-minute run-time. Events from two colossal comic book events (Reign & Return) unfold at break-neck speed, which makes for a shallow experience.

Directed by:  Sam Liu
Written by: Screenplay by James Krieg & Tim Sheridan, based on the DC Comics characters.
Starring the Voices Of:   Jerry O'Connell, Rebecca Romijn Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson
Released:  011019
Length: 87 minutes
Rating:   Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence

REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN  © 2019 DC Entertainment
Review © 2019 Alternate Reality, Inc.