Here we will be unpacking details behind Doomsday’s appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. If you want to avoid spoilers beyond what you’ve seen in the trailers, come back after you’ve seen the film.
In 1992, DC Comics did the unthinkable. They killed Superman. It was an idea that was literally viewed as impossible. Superman’s invincibility was his stock in trade. The event sent shockwaves through the comic world into parts of the media not usually interested in comic books. It also helped the company sell a whole mess of comic books.
Ever since then, Warner Bros., whose parent company has owned DC since the 1960s, has wanted to turn this storyline into a movie. Starting in the mid-90’s and running all the way through to the present day, everybody from Tim Burton to Kevin Smith has tried to take a shot at turning the "Death of Superman" storyline into a film. Now, with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, they’ve finally done it. Superman and Doomsday have had their moment of battle on the big screen. And it was the wrong move. Why? For a couple of reasons. Let me explain:
The Death of Superman Was A Bad Plot
While The Death of Superman sold comics, that’s not the same thing as it being a good story. The arc was a gimmick that existed to sell comics to speculators in an era where this seemed to be the only reason to write books, and this was clear in the plot. There wasn’t one. An entirely new villain we’ve never heard of before shows up out of nowhere and reigns down destruction. That was it. Superman’s death could have meant something, but it didn’t. The death didn’t cause any other characters to grow or change. Everybody was just sad Superman was dead. There was never anything of value for the movie to use here. If they wanted to try and make Superman’s death valuable, that’s one thing, but following the script from the comic was never going to get them there.
Doomsday Is Kinda Boring
And let’s talk about that new villain. Doomsday was a big dumb thug. There’s a reason that Superman’s greatest villains have been characters like Lex Luthor or Brainiac. When your hero is big and strong, it makes sense to make your villain really smart, in contradiction. Rather than using Doomsday as a reason to come up with a brilliant plan to kill the Man of Steel, DC Comics just made a guy who was bigger and could punch harder. In the end, punching Superman to death is all that Doomsday does. It may make for an acceptable fight scene in a movie -- I’ll let you be the judge of that -- but whether or not Superman is able to successfully out-punch the beast doesn’t give us anything useful or interesting about the last son of Krypton. Doomsday eventually gets a backstory in the comics after the fact, but for the purposes of his initial appearance, as well as his use in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he’s not a character, he’s a necessary plot development.
Doomsday Creates A ‘Too Many Villains’ Problem?
To be clear, the "too many villains" problem that many comic book movies have isn’t actually a problem. It’s rare that a movie has problems because it has too many villains. It’s more that the movie has too many villains because it has problems, and the studio tries to fix them with more characters.
Remember how Spider-Man 3 shoehorned Venom into a story where he wasn’t needed? Or the way Bane was used in Batman & Robin? It's decided that having these characters is more important than having something for them to do. Doomsday was dropped into the finale of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because Warner Bros. (or, Zack Snyder) decided that they had to do this story, without really thinking about if they should. The fact is that Doomsday couldn’t carry a movie himself, and rather than take that as a sign, they instead dropped him in at the end so they could give fans the scene they thought fans wanted, without having to rely on him for anything more than a few minutes of work. Was it worth it?
?It’s Too Soon? To Play That Card
If you’re going to insist that we do a Death of Superman story in the movies, let’s have it mean something, shall we? For death to matter, we have to be invested in these characters and the DC cinematic universe is simply too young for this to happen at this moment. As weak as the "Death of Superman" story may have been in the comics, it was built on more than 50 years of history. There was no way the moment was not going to be iconic. Henry Cavill's Superman doesn’t have that history. Whether you like this Superman or not, the one thing that is clear is that this is not the one that many fans are familiar with. Superman deserves an epic death, but you have to make us love him first if you want that moment to resonate. And finally...
What Do You Do Now?
? Great question. We don't have the answer. If there was a story arc that was even weaker than The Death of Superman, it was Reign of the Supermen, the story that followed, which led to Superman’s eventual resurrection. While there’s no indication the DC movies will be following any of that story (thank god), then what are they going to do? How much of the upcoming Justice League movies will be dedicated to the return of Superman when they need to be building other characters so that they can carry their own films? Is there any resurrection method that’s not going to feel cheap and contrived? It feels like a gimmick for the sake of a gimmick, which is how all this started. There’s plenty of work to do with the new DCEU and adding this to the mix is just one thing they didn’t need.
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