SUPERMAN: UNBOUND Review

by     Posted 1 year, 116 days ago

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Anaheim’s WonderCon 2013 played host to the world premiere of Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment’s Superman: Unbound.  Directed by DC veteran and new supervisor of DC’s animation James Tucker (Legion of Super Heroes), Superman: Unbound was adapted by Bob Goodman (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Parts 1 and 2) from Geoff Johns’ five-part comic book arc, Superman: Brainiac.  The story centers on Superman (voiced by Matt Bomer) and his battle against Brainiac (voiced by John Noble) who is attempting to learn what he can from Earth and its intelligent life before destroying the planet.  Also highlighted in Superman: Unbound are the relationships of Superman/Clark Kent with his secret girlfriend Lois Lane (voiced by Stana Katic) and his recently-arrived cousin Kara/Supergirl (voiced by Molly C. Quinn).

Though Tucker’s version makes some changes from the original comic arc that may displease some fans, Superman: Unbound was pure Saturday morning animated fun.  The animation is bold, bright and unafraid to splash a little blood here and there.  Superman: Unbound, which will be available on Blu-ray/DVD/VOD on May 7th, is rated PG-13 for violence, action and a rude gesture (which elicited a great crowd reaction).  DC Entertainment continues its great track record of animated fare with this newest installment.  Hit the jump for my review and be sure to check out the panel recap from WonderCon.

superman-unbound-1With the exception of The Dark Knight Trilogy, live-action DC films have struggled a bit in recent years.  Thankfully their animated contributions have been more consistent, both in their regular intervals of arrival and in their quality.  Superman: Unbound continues this trend as a big and bold throwback to Saturday morning cartoons.  The heroes are burly, the women are slender yet busty (and scantily clothed whether they have a speaking part of not) and the action scenes keep the adrenaline pumping.  The straightforward story takes a little bit of license with the source material and changes the ending, which may come as a slight to comic purists but should be more than adequate for viewers just looking to enjoy a Superman flick.

The movie opens with an extended credit sequence that shows the creation of the villainous Brainiac, an alien who enhances his mind and body with technology and rampages throughout the universe attacking planets with sentient life in order to assimilate their knowledge.  Having done so, he destroys their planet to insure that he alone retains the information.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, Superman is busy saving Lois Lane yet again, though this time he gets a hand from an adolescent Supergirl.  It all seems to be what you expect on the surface, but it’s soon revealed to be a bit more complex than that.  Lois, who allowed herself to be captured in order to uncover some information, gets on Clark’s case for hiding their relationship from co-workers at the Daily Planet and for Superman’s overprotective nature.  Superman also hears it from his younger cousin Kara who is dealing with her new-found powers in addition to living life as a teenage girl.  Before long, Superman is almost thanking Brainiac for starting trouble so he has an excuse to travel off-world.

superman-unbound-2While Goodman and Tucker have managed to round out Lois and Kara’s characters as more than just a “damsel in distress” or “Superman in a short skirt,” there is an overtone of sexuality throughout the picture.  Usually it’s in the form of a joke here or there, such as a co-worker hitting on Lois and hinting that he thinks Clark is gay.  The most obvious presence of sexual stereotypes is in the design of the characters themselves, but like I said, Superman: Unbound is a definite throwback to older comics and cartoons.  It’s not necessarily demeaning in any way, but it’s an unfortunate aspect of a story that otherwise paints Lois as feisty and capable, with Supergirl getting an arc that allows her to develop as a character and play more than just Supe’s sidekick.

The voice-acting in Superman: Unbound is spot on.  Bomer plays a perfect Superman from the outset and Quinn is perfectly suited to voice a Supergirl who ranges all up and down the emotional spectrum.  Katic provides great sass to Lois.  Noble surprised me with how well his voice matched up with Brainiac’s bigger-than-life presence on screen, especially since I still hear the 64-year-old actor as FringeDr. Walter Bishop.

What would any Superman movie be without copious amounts of action and fight scenes?  Superman: Unbound definitely does not disappoint in this department.  The Last Son of Krypton gets to level up his opponents over the course of the movie, starting off with your common mercenary riffrraff and then graduating to Brainiac’s drones and eventually Brainiac himself.  Fights take place everywhere from Metropolis to outerspace to Brainiac’s ship and even in Kandor, the former capital city of Krypton (though I won’t tell you how he got there).  The settings are as varied as the sequences themselves.  The action never gets stale and rarely takes a breath at all unless it’s to let Superman’s relationships develop a bit more over the course of the story.

superman-unbound-3Again, the creative team behind Superman: Unbound chose to take a different tack on the ending of their picture versus that of Johns’ comic arc, so I’m curious to see how fan’s receive it.  As someone who wasn’t familiar with the Brainiac arc, I found Superman: Unbound to be an enjoyable 75 minutes of animated comic book fun.  Be sure check it out on Blu-ray/DVD/VOD starting May 7th, where you’ll also be treated to a ten-minute behind-the-scenes making of DC Entertainment’s next animated film: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.  Also, be sure to stick around for the post-credits scene which hints at events that may be following Superman: Unbound.

Rating: A-

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  • Tim

    Why does Superman look like Nicolas Cage in the top image?

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  • Mark

    Cheap, poorly directed and “written” children’s crap. Pure and simple.

    • eternalozzie

      dude … it’s a comic book character … it’s for kids.

      • Nolan fraud

        That’s what a lot of these infantile intellects don’t get. This is children’s stuff that is worth elevating and trying to do so is hubris.

      • Adam

        I’m guessing you meant to say “isn’t worth elevating” . . . either that, or you don’t know that Hubris means arrogance.

  • Rockslide

    I really wish DC would let us know they have more characters than Superman and Batman. I’ve seen almost all of these direct to video features. They started great but then kinda became paint-by-numbers boring. Superman is indeed very difficult to make an entertaining story with. (Hopefully Man of Steel solves this). They should really take inspiration from image’s Invincible title. Or just go back to when it worked with JLU. I would love to see a new JLU direct to video based on the series, not just the random changing interpretations that we’ve recently had.

    • Dave Trumbore

      James Tucker seems like he really wants to do that in the animated universe at least. As for the live-action films, your guess is as good as mine.

  • Nolan fraud

    Also, does anybody know if there is a Superman impersonator that i can hire to come to my house, gather my family in the living room, drop his pants and start pissing in my open mouth while yelling “UP, UP and AWAY! ! ! ! !”? I’d REALLY like that. . . . in fact, i’m pretty sure that it will be the greatest Easter ever. I’m willing to offer $300, cash. $350 if he can make it taste like asparagus.

    • Stay Puffed

      What the fuck is wrong with you

    • Griz’s Caregiver

      I offer my deepest condolences. The above poster is a child in my care who I should not have allowed near a computer while not on his medication. He is severely schizophrenic. I apologize for his obscenity and if you see a poster by the name of “Griz” on these message boards please do not engage him.

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  • Anonymous

    Superman Unbound: Poor dialogue, inconsistent action (use of powers). No spoilers but the creators of this film couldn’t even get the basics right, supermans power level for Petes sake. Supergirl is still annoying, Louis is still just Superman’s bit on the side & a complete diverse from the main story. The action sequences remind of a Powerpuff Girls cartoon.
    Some have commented the criticism of this movie should be tampered & excuse the consistent low standards because “..It’s a movie for kids???” Yeah right! My standards for animated for superhero movies are this. Superman/Batman – Public Enemies, Batman – Under the Red Hood, Justice League – Doom, Wonder Woman, Hulk vs Wolverine, Planet Hulk & Batman – The Dark Knight Returns part 1&2. Even DC showcase – Green Arrow & Doctor Strange – Socerer Supreme are better movies than this.
    This is for die hard Superman fans only.. I take that back. This film is for die hard animated movie fans only. If you like Superman films of this genre avoid this nonsense & watch any of these better Superman animated movies:
    All Star Superman
    Superman vs The Elite
    Superman Shazam – The Return of Black Adam
    Superman/ Batman – Public Enemies.

  • ahMEmon

    I am a DIE-HARD Superman fan (I have the ‘S’ symbol tattooed on my right shoulder) and can easily say that this movie was just plain BAD. The story was terrible and the movie was just about Superman and Supergirl smashing stuff.

    BOOORING!

  • socrates_777

    DC has gone the way of the wuss!

    This is probable one of the most ridiculous storylines I have ever read from DC.

    =====Spoiler Alert==== (This spoil should be more of a Godsend than a warning)
    What happened to the days when Superman was a man and Lois was a woman? I miss those days. The days when you could escape into a world where women didn’t hate men and men weren’t attracted to women who do. I have watched most, if not all, of DC animation movies and this one was so bad I had to research its origin.

    The story is written by Geoff Johns. Now, I haven’t read his other works so this could be just a whiffed swing at the plate, but I did have to check his gender because he writes more feminine than masculine.

    Let’s start with Lois. Man-hating-feminists-of-the-world-unite! When did Lois move from spunky reporter to man hater? Nearly every scene she was in made me literally sick to my stomach. She was so bitter and nasty that it was hard to focus on the plot when she spoke. I guess the author wanted to make her tough sounding, but he only succeeded in making her sound like a cat-loving old hag in training. This is one reason why I am forced to preview Marvel/DC animation movies before/if I allow my kids to watch them. Sad.

    Now let’s talk about Brainac, one of Superman’s most powerful enemies, brought down by getting dirty….literally. The author has Brainac incapable of handling getting muddy. This was such a feminization of Brainac; it would not have felt out of place if he broke down in tears during the final fight because he broke a fingernail. Seriously? When did writers become so lazy that “dirt” becomes the plot key?

    Next let’s look at Kara, a very wholesome looking girl who is mad at the world. When Superman goes off, she wages a world war on crime, which is fine, but the author gives the impression that she is doing this to either prove something or blow off this huge amount of anger that she has. The author tries to hide this by lines like, “she’s the typical teenager” and other similar thoughts. I have never seen a girl this angry. “Doesn’t know her own strength”? I have never encountered a girl that could physically hurt someone on accident. Boys yes; girls no. They just don’t have the upper body strength. Now Geoff can say that she is Supergirl, but then you can’t call her the “typical” teenager. Contradictions like this indicate the author is pushing some kind of agenda, not logic.

    Last but not least, let’s address Superman, the punching bag for Lois’s sharp tongue. It’s not that Lois has to fawn over Superman, but a thank you would be nice. The author shrouds her anger in some kind of boundary issue that she states, but, if Wonder Woman saved me, I don’t think I would hesitate to say thank you. If my wife spoke to me this way, I would have serious reservations about her mindset towards our marriage. Common courtesy is a foundation. Lois is not only rude, but she implies that Superman’s rescues are mandatory. And he sits there and takes it. No, “Hey Lois, a thank you would be nice.” Nothing. No man that I know of is going to sit and take a tongue lashing just to appease someone else, female or not. Of course there are “males” that do act as doormats, but then again, they’re not really men now are they?

    I don’t know if the author is planning a coming out party or not, but if this is how his other stories are written, then I’d say don’t waste the money on a party, it’s already evident. I hope that in the future DC will write stories where men as men and women are women. Neither needs to be subservient to the other, just have a little respect for each other.

    To end on a positive note, the animation was decent. Obviously anime inspired but not overly done. Of course the graphic nature of the opening scene and one or two other scenes means it’s a no-no for kids but besides that it was pretty good.

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