Superman: Doomsday is the third-and-a-half animated Superman film (the half if one counts Supermans appearance in The Batman Superman Movie) and the first of Bruce Timms films to be based on an actual storyline in a DC comic-book. In this case, Bruce Timm and company have adapted The Death of Superman story arc that played out over a year between 1992 and 1993. The storyline featured Supermans death at the hands of genetically engineered Kryptonian killing machine known as Doomsday and the worldwide grief that followed. The subsequent storyline had Supermans absence filled by four pretenders a cyborg copy of Superman; an alien villain known as The Eradicator who had formed itself into a copy of Superman; the weapons designer John Henry Irons aka Steel, who later became a regular DC superhero and even appeared in his own live-action film with Steel (1997); and a cloned version of Superman known as Superboy. The Death of Superman was a massive success the No. 1 best-selling title of the 1990s. It wrought considerable change in the way DC dealt with superheroes within the space of a year, Batman suffered a fatal back injury and various other characters underwent killing/revival/abrupt life changes to the point that this became a cliche referred to as a Comic-Book Event. During this time, there were efforts made to adapt The Death of Superman into a film version to be called Superman Lives. Kevin Smith worked on the script of this version in fact, Smith appears here in a two-line voice cameo, making scathing comments about Superman destroying a mechanical spider (one of the notorious changes that producer Jon Peters tried to force into his script). A full account of the Tim Burton-Nicolas Cage Superman Lives can be found in the documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015). Doomsday and a condensed version of The Death of Superman was subsequently incorporated into Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
The joy of many of Bruce Timms animated series (particularly Superman) is always their massively scaled superheroic battles. Part of the reason that Timm took on Superman: Doomsday, one suspects, is the opportunity to go wild in terms of superheroic action. Much of the film has been construed around two major sequences the battle with Doomsday and the climactic battle against Dark Superman. The Doomsday battle is a massively exciting set-piece with the two cannoning through office blocks and out the other side as they fight, pounding one another into the pavement, Doomsday falling down through every level of a skyscraper, and finally Superman dragging Doomsday up into orbit, the two falling and creating a massive crater as they impact into the ground. The climactic battle between the two Supermen with them using power punches that send shockwaves, blasting one another with their heat vision, more smashing through buildings, even attempting to batter each another using a boat, is an exhilarating show capper.
Superman: Doomsday follows the story arc of The Death of Superman of Supermans death at the hands of Doomsday, the whole worlds grief and then the arrival of an impostor(s) albeit in a condensed way. Timm and co do differ notably from The Death of Superman storyline on a number of points Dark Superman was not one of the Superman impostors in the comic-book storyline, although seems to have been composited from the attributes of some of the other characters; while various other DC superheroes who were engaged in battling Doomsday are also absent. The film does retain many other small details Supermans solar suit, his return with long hair, the scenes where he reveals his identity to Lois Lane. Certainly, the story arc is there in its essence and it works fine on screen and with a suitably mythic size to the story. One is kept intrigued by the mysteries of the script, wondering what exactly is going on with the Superman duplicate and what happened to Supermans body. The script questions what a world without Superman would be like (as the comic-book series did), he being seen as representing an ideal of good in the world, with Perry White even going so far as to comment how it is possible to lose a moral grip without Superman there as a symbol.
Bruce Timm and co abandon the Art Deco look of the animated tv series. Superman still gets his jutting larger-than-life jawline and physique but Metropolis is less stylised and much more realistically detailed. The degree of background detail that has gone into Superman: Doomsday is also much richer than in the series and other films (excepting perhaps Batman: Gotham Knight) and the animation much more vibrant. Superman: Doomsday also has a more adult tone than any of the previous DC animated works it was released in the US with a PG-13 rating it is directly implied that Superman and Lois have slept together at the Fortress of Solitude, Doomsday tears the heads off soldiers, Lex Luthor shoots one of his employees (in a beautifully stylish silhouetted slow-motion shot), while Lexcorp employees crack jokes about shoving industrial pumps up Luthors rectum.
Amid the voice cast, Adam Baldwin makes an acceptable stand-in for Tim Daly who voiced Superman/Clark Kent through the tv series and Brainiac Attacks. (In fact, there do not appear to be any voice actors in the film who were also present in the original tv series). The piece of recasting that does not work is that of Anne Heche as Lois Lane. Dana Delany was perfect as Lois in the tv series (and also Brainiac Attacks) where she played the part with a tough sass. On the other hand, Anne Heche gives Lois a Midwestern drawl that makes the part sound much more like an older woman and not at all what one imagines Lois to be. James Marsters voices Lex Luthor, which is adequate but one misses Clancy Browns wonderful basso voicing of the role from the tv series.
Superman: Doomsday was the flagship in a series of original DC animated films from the Bruce Timm team entitled DC Universe Original Animated Movies. Others of these include Batman: Gotham Knight (2008), Justice League: The New Frontier (2008), Green Lantern: First Flight (2009), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009), Wonder Woman (2009), Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010), Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010), All-Star Superman (2011), Batman: Year One (2011), Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part I (2012), Justice League: Doom (2012), Superman vs. The Elite (2012), Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II (2013), Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013), Superman Unbound (2013), Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), Justice League: War (2014), Son of Batman (2014), Batman vs. Robin (2015), Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015), Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015), Batman: Bad Blood (2016), Batman: The Killing Joke (2016), Justice League vs Teen Titans (2016), Justice League Dark (2017) and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017).