Comics Movie Reviews
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse Advance Review
By Colin Andersen
September 27, 2010 - 12:32

Studios: Warner Premier
Starring: Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Summer Glau, Andre Braugher
Directed by: Lauren Montgomery
Produced by: Bruce Timm
Running Time: 70 minutes (Approx.)
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Distributors: Warner Home Video
Genre: Animation

     This past Thursday, I was given a chance to go to the New York City premiere of DC Comics and Warner Bros. newest animated movie Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. Before the showing of the movie itself, I even got a chance to talk to Kevin Conroy, better known as the voice of Batman, and Andrea Romano, the movie’s casting director. Expect to see another article by me on this in the next few days. For now, I’ll just be giving you my thoughts on the movie. In short, is this movie perfect? No, not at all. Is it fun? Absolutely.

I should probably start by saying, for those that don’t know, that this movie is based off of a story arc that ran in the Superman/Batman comic, written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by the late Michael Turner, that reintroduced a new version of the character of Supergirl. This Supergirl was named Kara Zor-El and was actually Superman’s cousin and was also launched from their home planet of Krypton. Originally, she was older than Superman and was supposed to watch over him when they arrived on Earth, but a malfunction caused her to arrive much later than him without her aging in the meantime. The original comic certainly was not the deepest comic book story ever written, but I found it to be a lot of fun and a strong introduction of the new Supergirl. It also served to effectively illustrate not only the relationship between Batman and Superman, but also the way the they thought about any given situation. The color-coded captions that contained each of their thoughts were very engaging and actually seemed to explore the characters. They were easily my favorite part of the arc.

      Michael Turner turned in what may have been his strongest interior artwork for this story as well. To be completely honest, I had little interest in this series when this story debuted, but Turner’s art was so strong that it compelled me to buy the entirety of the “Supergirl” arc. Luckily for me, his art was pretty stellar throughout all six issues. If you weren’t a Turner fan before, then this wouldn’t win you over, but it did look pretty amazing if you did like his pencils. He drew some really dynamic and powerful fights and actually drew Supergirl like a relatively normally proportioned teenage girl. Anyway, onto the movie.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse starts in nearly the exact same way as the original story only with some added dialogue that adds a kind of continuity between this movie and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, the pair's last animated film. I thought this was a nice little bit of continuity to join the two movies together and make them a little more cohesive. From here, the movie largely follows the plot of movie, though it does change some scenes a bit. There is definitely more of focus on Kara in the movie than the comic gave her, which makes sense to me. In my opinion, these changes to the story are justified as the original story in the comic book seemed less about introducing the Supergirl character and more as using her as a plot point to see how Superman and Batman would go about a particular situation. Because of that, I enjoyed her increased role, especially near the end of the movie when she gets a major chance to shine (let’s just say that her training with Wonder Woman and the Amazons is used to much greater effect in the movie). Overall, the plot is serviceable, but nothing special. It was never boring and kept me constantly entertained and actually gave some very nice character moments. What bothered me most about the movie’s story was actually the lack of the aforementioned captions. They were what added most of the character to the story in the first place so the movie suffers for not having them. It makes both Superman and Batman seem significantly less deep as characters, though the captions (likely as narration had they been included) might not have worked as well in a movie, so I can understand their omission.

     There are some areas where Apocalypse definitely excels. As in the other recent animated DC Universe movies, the fight choreography is absolutely phenomenal. It’s quite obvious that a great deal of time and thought were put into making these fights look visceral and powerful and yet also smooth and natural. There is a fight between Wonder Woman and Big Barda against four of the Female Furies that perfectly showcases this; each punch feels like a it could break a planet yet each person actually looks as though they have been trained in combat. It makes the fights easily the most enjoyable parts of the movie. Sadly, Batman isn’t given much chance to show off his fighting skills, but both Superman and Supergirl get their turns later in the movie and it is excellent. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is also a surprisingly brutal movie. Instead of editing the original material, it actually makes it more violent and adds a death that wasn’t originally there. I think this works for the movie’s better, though sensibilities could vary on that.

      How good the animation looks to an individual will likely be heavily subjective. I have always been more partial to the “classic” style of animation for DC properties (i.e. the style used in Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League that was pioneered by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm), so I didn’t think the film looked as good as it could. Superman and Batman suffered the most and often had extra lines on their faces that made them look rather odd. The women of the movie fared much better with Wonder Woman benefiting from being taller and Supergirl looking remarkably like an animated version of Michael Turner’s rendition of her. I understand the change in style for this movie and, honestly, the “classic” style probably would have made the whole movie feel less serious, but it is just my personal preference. Regardless of that, the animation was very fluid and helped lend much of the power to the battles, so I’m quite impressed overall.

      Likely the most divisive area of the movie will be the choice of voice actors for Apocalypse. Casting ranges everywhere from excellent to, unfortunately, pretty bad. As one would expect, Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly, as Batman and Superman respectively, are as good as ever and it is really obvious that they are comfortable with these characters and really get them. Some of Daly’s line fall a little flat, but overall he is quite good. Also of note is Ed Asner’s performance as Granny Goodness, a role he previously occupied in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League. He plays a wonderfully evil sounding woman and I actually have trouble picturing anyone else in the role so I was glad he returned.

      Unfortunately, the new members of the cast don’t fare nearly as well. The one you’ll hear the most is Summer Glau’s(Firefly) Supergirl. Despite the fact that I’ve never had any problem with her live-action acting, her voiceover is often quite poor. Her lines are frequently devoid of any emotion and she sounds like they picked a random teenager off the street to provide Kara’s voice. This isn’t true all of the time and sometimes she manages to put some genuine emotion into her lines. However, when she’s bad, she is very bad. If she were a minor character, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem, but as such an integral part of the plot, and one that has even more involvement than she did in the original story, it can really hurt some of the more emotional scenes. Unfortunately, Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age) as Darkseid also doesn’t work very well. Darkseid should deliver his lines with purpose and power and every word should feel deliberate and commanding. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Michael Ironside’s portrayal of Darkseid in Justice League, but Braugher just did not bring the same regal power. He certainly had the intelligent feel that Darkseid should have, but his lines were often delivered far too fast with little pause between sentences. This resulted in a Darkseid that felt more desperate or less in control when he should be one of the most commanding forces in the universe. That being said, Warner Bros. could have certainly done much worse than Braugher for the role, but it did bother me.

      This is absolutely not a perfect movie. In fact, it isn’t even the best of the DC animated movies (as far as I’m concerned, that honor still goes to The New Frontier). It is, however, a fun and extremely entertaining adaptation that works even if you’re unfamiliar with the original comics or previous movies. Honestly, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is worth watching for some of the amazing fights alone. There are no hidden complexities to this movie, but that was neither expected nor does it affect how much most people will enjoy the movie. It’s brutal and fun and simple and a great way to pass some time. If you don’t feel like paying for this movie, I’d at the very least suggest a rental, though you would probably get your money out of the movie if you did buy it. If you enjoy action at all, then definitely give it a chance.

Rating: 8/10

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