While Warner Bros. struggles with adapting the DC Comics characters for the big screen, their Animation division manages, very consistently, to bring the DC Universe to the small screen, and tell compelling stories in the process. Their latest offering, Superman Unbound, is no exception. Based on the story by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank — who, coincidentally, collaborated with Richard Donner for the comics version of the same story — it tells the tale of the Man of Steel’s first encounter with classic Superman villain, Braniac. Though this though this story was already given the animated treatment once before, in Superman: The Animated Series [SATS], the film manages to stay fresh and original while exploring territory that, more or less, has already been covered.
This is due, in part to two things I’ve maintained for a very long time now:
You give Superman someone or something he can actually hit
Lex Luthor is played out, and not required for a good Superman story
I don’t want to venture too close to revealing “spoilers” (the film does depart from the story told in the comics) Superman Unbound adds some much needed dimension and weight to the character of Supergirl – ostensibly building on her origin story covered in the animated feature, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. Like the SATS storyline, Braniac is responsible for the destruction of Krypton, but the events and reasoning leading up to it are not only completely different, but much creepier and more sinister than in previous versions of the character.
Superman purists will probably be up in arms at the implication, from a Daily Planet reporter, that Clark Kent might be gay. Personally, I thought it was a funny take on “Why’s Clark never around when things go insane?” There’s also a genuinely funny moment with Lois Lane – but I won’t spoil the moment.
If I have a complaint with the film, it’s the same complaint I have with all of DC’s animated movies so far… How come we never see these things on the big screen? There’s probably a pie-chart someplace that explains how it’s not economically prudent, etc. But to date, Christopher Nolan’s Batman films notwithstanding, the talent behind the animated films, to me, done a better job at bringing the DCU to the screen while still staying faithful to the origins of the characters, and providing plenty of fan service.
Superman Unbound will be available on home video [streaming, on demand, and DVD] May 7th.