Oct 3, 2014

[Movies] Superman Unbound (2013)

I have never that big of a Superman fan. Sure he's a bit of a classic character and DC seems to have invested a lot into his continued development. But at the same time he always seemed too perfect - a character with way too many powers and a near-perfect sense of right and wrong. That last bit alone is what really makes him feel more impossible than anything else - I can totally believe an alien having different powers than humans!

Superman Unbound is the latest DC Universe Animated Original Movie dedicated to this character after Superman vs. the Elite that had come out the year prior. It wasn't totally bad, admittedly, and it had some pretty compelling moments. Then again, I think I just appreciate Brainiac stories because of my affinity for robots or something.

It did feature a somewhat unusual voice casting choice for Superman in the form of Matt Bomer. I can't quite say it was good or bad, but it was certainly interesting - or at the very least unique. But was it Superman? I'm not 100% sure about that particular point.

Synopsis: Superman Unbound is a 2013 DC Universe Animated Original Movie directed by James Tucker. The screenplay was written by Bob Goodman based on the Geoff Johns and Gary Frank story arc Superman: Brainiac.

The movie starts like any other Superman adventure - with Lois Lane (Stana Katic) in danger. Of course the only reason she's in danger now is that she offered herself as an alternative hostage. Eventually the combined efforts of both Supergirl (Molly Quinn) and Superman (Matt Bomer) result in her rescue. And as Lois and Clark/Superman juggle both the superhero side and the personal side of their shared lives as a couple, news breaks out that a meteor is crashing down to Earth. But once Superman arrives on the scene, he discovers that the meteor is actually a robot.

Superman eventually defeats the robot, but not before it manages to send some sort of a signal out. At the same time, Superman realizes that Supergirl is deathly afraid of the robot. She eventually reveals that the last time she had seen the robot was during the fall of Krypton when a cyborg known as Brainiac (John Noble) and his army of such robots managed to shrink the city of Kandor in order to collect it and its residents as some sort of a specimen. Now Superman decides to find Brainiac before he can come to Earth while Supergirl continues to struggle with her trauma as she is left behind on Earth.

The story has an interesting tone to it that starts fairly light but gets heavy pretty quickly. Both Supergirl and Superman have their share of the burden of plot to carry, and both characters are well situated to do precisely that. Superman generally has the "simpler" struggle initially of taking the battle to Brainiac. But Supergirl has a more complex concern to resolve - facing the ghosts of her past and her memories of the fall of Krypton.

And thus all roads eventually lead to Brainiac, and John Noble made for an interesting casting choice. As much as there's a certain affinity for him given his often bumbling character on Fringe, longtime fans know well enough that Noble had more than enough acting skills to quickly turn that around. And in this case, the wonderfully low timbre of his voice was just perfect for the calculating and menacing Brainiac.

The art for the film was a little weird for me - it's hard to put my finger on the problem precisely, but I guess it just felt that the proportions seemed a little stretched at times. I don't think it was downright distractnig or anything - it may just be a question of artistic license and perhaps a difference of opinion on my part.

Those quirks aside, this is a pretty solid adventure that ties into some key Superman stories such as the lost city of Kandor and of course Brainiac's activities during the last days of Krypton. You'd think that a planet on the brink of destruction would have more than enough on its plate not to have to worry about some cyborg super villain with his own agenda for Krypton. I don't write this stuff - this is all classic Superman lore that has evolved over the years.

As expected from these animated movies, the action was pretty well done and the various fights, especially the big finale with Brainiac, were all rather well done. My praise goes out to whoever manages to choreograph these different fight sequences - I can't fully wrap my head around how one captures movement so well from an animation perspective. It takes a good understanding of human motion and how to translate that into the medium.

Superman Unbound is a pretty solid Superman adventure. It's not something that will win awards, but at the very least it'll provide a great entertainment experience for comic book fans. Thus the movie gets a good 4 Superman hammer blows out of a possible 5.

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