Saturday, July 14, 2012

Let’s Review a Movie: Superman/Batman Apocalypse (2010)

After Bruce Timm and his team worked on several DC Animated TV shows they moved into making animated direct to DVD movies of different DC heroes and stories based on several comic book story arcs.  I’m taking a look at one of the less well received of those releases.

Like with Pixar this team makes movies that have short subjects to go with them.  I liked the Green Arrow short here, including opening it with a shot of a comic shop, thus keeping this connected to its roots.  This team might take liberties when needed to make a story work in a different medium and bringing in their own ideas, but they always show great respect for the source material.  The short was action-packed and fun to watch.  Although seeing Green Arrow yanking Merlyn’s arrow out of his leg made the first aider in me scream, you don’t remove an impaled object like that you’re just going to make the wound bleed more!  But bad first aid aside there is some great fight chorography, fun dialogue, and a nice happy ending.  I love the short.  However, that same love doesn’t transfer over to the feature presentation.

First off why is this even called Superman/Batman Apocalypse?  Yes it’s technically a sequel to Superman/Batman Public Enemies, but that really has nothing to do with anything other than being referenced by a radio announcer in the opening and the kryptonite asteroid being what carried Kara to Earth.  Yeah it's an adaptation of a story that comes from the Superman/Batman comic run, but if this movie is supposed to be introducing the world to Supergirl you’d think her name would appear in the title somewhere.  The title as it is makes it sound like Batman and Superman are going to be saving the world from some great catastrophe and they’re not, heck they barely interact as a team here.  The only thing I really liked about them was the running gag of Superman having to pay back Batman for his computer on a reporter’s salary.  That’s really a shame because Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly are back in the voice cast and they work off each other so well that I really would have liked to have seen more of them together.  The rest of the voice cast turn in good performances though, expect for the Andre Braugher as Darkseid.  His voice is deep enough for the role but he plays it in a monotone fashion that doesn’t give the character a feeling of being threatening in the least.  Also having Granny Goodness with a male voice I find unsettling and creepy, and not in a good way.

The animation is well done in terms of character design and movement, but that’s about the only other compliment I can give this film.  The story seems really unfocused and so none of the characters really get any development.  I haven’t read the comics on which this story is based so I’m looking at this just as a movie.  This is supposed to be about Kara developing into a hero and yet we really don’t know anything about her.  We know that she saw her parents die in the destruction of Krypton, we know that she likes shopping, and we know that she can grow into a competent fighter and that’s really it.  I find I don’t have much sympathy for the character.  There was a nice scene of her in the fortress watching the animals interact as families and knowing that she can never have that again.  That was touching, but it really doesn’t go anywhere.  She doesn’t really keep herself close to Superman, as he does with her, because that is the only family she has now.  We don’t see how maybe that need for family influenced her turn to Darkseid, and that potential is there.  The only family she has is Superman and he is being overprotective.  Batman sees her as a threat, not surprising since she wrecked a chunk of Gotham when she arrived on Earth because she had no control over powers and can’t remember a whole lot.  That really doesn’t change outside of her telling him her mother’s name, and don’t know why any of that was necessary.  We don’t get to see her relationship with Lyla at all and so her death and Kara’s grief has no meaning.  Her whole capture by Darkseid is also a complete waste of screen time I find because it didn’t lead to Superman treating her differently.  It also didn’t lead to Kara growing as a character from the experience.  I mean Barda said that Kara was lost to them if Darkseid took her.  How dangerous it would be to even attempt a rescue.  So why is bringing her back just a matter of knocking her unconscious and have Batman being a badass?  Why does it have no impact on the story in anyway, besides Darkseid taking the fight to Earth instead? 

This movie is like a series of vignettes that don’t really connect to each other.  Kara lands on Earth and Superman tries to help her fit in.  Then Wonder Woman basically kidnaps Kara to train her with the Amazons.  And why does she do that anyway?  Yes Kara does need to learn to control her powers, but Superman is the only other person on the planet with those powers too and he has learned to control them, so yeah Kara should learn from him.  Batman and Wonder Woman are right that she shouldn’t be around humans until she won’t accidently hurt them, but if they wanted all that to be done at Themyscira to allow her to be around people who wouldn’t be helpless against her powers, the least they could have done was ask Kara if she wanted to go there.  Then she does go there and apparently learns some skills that we don’t really get to see.  Then we get a big fight that has no stakes because the monsters aren’t real and Kara is kidnapped anyway, and we don’t even get to see Lyla defending her.  Then we get a bunch of separate fights on Apokolips, managing to get Kara back with almost no effort at all and then she and Superman go to Smallville and have another fight with Darksied just for the heck of it apparently.  Then after all that she decides she does want to be someone’s champion because she thought Superman was dead.  Why is that the turning point?  Why wasn’t it her wanting to be a defender for others like her friend Lyla was to her?                

This movie couldn’t seem to decide what the heck it wants to be and everything ends up being under developed and boring frankly.  I’m not connected to the characters, especially Kara, and so I don’t care about them being in peril during the fights.  The animation is great, most of the cast is turning in good performances, but that’s not enough to save this movie.  All in all the Green Arrow short was more fun than this film and I’d much rather watch it again instead.

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