Friday, May 3, 2013

Superman: Unbound - Advance DVD Review

Superman Unbound Advance Review
By: Jay 

Based on the 2008 Action Comics arc “Brainiac” by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Superman: Unbound finds the all-knowing, ever-evolving force responsible for the disappearance of Krypton’s Capital City Kandor – Brainiac. Brainiac has crossed the universe, collecting cities from interesting planets, and now he has his sights set on Metropolis. Superman must summon all of his physical and intellectual resources to protect his city, the love of his life, and his newly-arrived cousin, Supergirl.

I was lucky enough to get to see an advance viewing of the latest DC Animated Movie, Superman: Unbound, and I thought I’d review it. Before I get into the actual review I want to let you know how this review will be broken down. First, there will be mid-level spoilers, so if you haven’t read the “Brainiac” arc in Action Comics or the collected graphic novel Superman: Brainiac, and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now. Next this review will be divided in three sections: Story, Art, and Overall. Finally, I will be comparing and referencing the source material throughout the review. With all that said, on to the review.

Story: For the most part the plot is the same as the comic, but while the original comic arc was a foundation for future stories this movie is a stand-alone, so those subplots aren’t required. There are three main subplots removed for this reason. First is the set up for “New Krypton,” so they removed Zod from the story. The next subplot was Jonathan Kent’s passing. In fact he had one scene where he was just sleeping on a Lazy Boy chair. Finally, they removed Kat Grant and the subplot of her trying to expose the dirt on Supergirl. While these subplots were essential elements in the comic arc due to them setting up future stories, without any promised sequels they aren’t needed for this movie.

The movie starts off with a new scene. Lois is being taken hostage by armed gunman in helicopters. Lois reminds them where they are and who they took, but the head gunman tells her he knows and Superman is away because of an earthquake. Lois informs the gunman that Superman isn’t the only one in town and introduces him to Supergirl, who doesn’t like bullies and isn’t as soft handed as cousin.

This scene is pretty good because it shows us right from the start how strong Lois is and sets up Kara’s thoughts on bullies. The bad thing about it though is that it is essentially just to show those points. We never find out who the men are or what happened that got Lois to that point. There are two underlying character plots through the movie which are Lois’ strength and independence and Kara’s stance on bullies and why she feels that way.

The Lois and Clark relationship is changed from the comic. I would compare their relationship to the one that they shared at the end of Smallville. They aren’t married here but they are dating secretly to protect Lois in case anyone ever figures out that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person.

The movie takes this as the first time Brainiac and Superman ever meet, where in the comics Superman knows of Brainiac and in the arc he finally meets his true form. I prefer this take on it, but given the years of using Brainiac, this route wasn’t an option in the comics. Superman goes looking for Brainiac and finds him. Brainiac uploads his memories and learns of Earth, and Kara. I like this scene better in the movie. The meeting is better. In the comic Superman talks to Zor-El and Allura In-Ze (Kara’s parents) via telepathy, and that is how he finds Kandor. In the movie Superman actually uses his brains and notices the ship is set up like the galaxy. Brainiac sends him into the bottled city where he meets his uncle and aunt and Superman has to use his intellect to get out of Kandor to save Earth. I prefer Brainiac in the movie, he has that almost Lex Luthor level of arrogance telling Superman how smart he is, and how he is superior to him.

Kara in the comic seemed too emotionally weak. She was shaken about Brainiac, as she was in the movie, but unlike the comic, the movie balances that by showing her taking action and fighting slave traders and the like around the world. In the comic she didn’t show any of this strength until they fought Brainiac. 

While both final battles lacked epicness, I prefer the movie’s because in the end Brainiac wasn’t just locked up. I also prefer the way the movie ended because it wasn’t a set up for a “New Krypton.” There was resolution.

Art: Usually for the DC Animated DVDs they try to bring the comic to life visually by adapting the artist’s style to an animation form. This one they didn’t. I like this style for the most part with only a few minor issues here and there. The main issue I have with the art is Superman himself. His build is a bit too top heavy and a bit too lanky. I also didn’t like the way the briefs were fitted. I would have loved to have seen Gary Frank’s art style adapted for this.  Gary Frank drew Superman/Clark Kent like Christopher Reeve, and come on, how cool would it be to see Christopher Reeve brought to life in animation?

The rest of the cast were drawn beautifully. Lois especially looked amazing. They really used the art to sell her personality. The way she walked, her facial expressions all sold us on her character, that she is this strong, confident, sexy woman.

Overall: Overall, I enjoyed the movie. Is it Public Enemies, or Apocalypse? Yes and no. This story isn’t as action-packed as those movies, but character-wise I think it is better. The best thing about the story that they changed from the comic is how they handled the Lois and Clark relationship, and his relationship with Metropolis to some extent. There is that realization on Superman’s part where he sees he has been keeping Lois in a metaphoric bottle by keeping their relationship a secret and trying to always protect her from everything.

The voice cast all did an excellent job. These are all iconic characters who have been animated and voiced by others. I am a huge fan of Superman: The Animated Series and for me those voices are synonymous with the characters, but this voice cast fit right in there flawlessly. They really bring the characters to life and make them their own while staying true to the characters.

If you liked the original comic arc, then you will love this, it adds new layers to that story and improves on it. My favorite additions were the opening scene with Lois and Superman. Their chemistry was great. And the scene where Brainiac looks at the bottled city of Metropolis and Lois Lane sends him a very clear message. The only thing I think could have made the movie better would have been a more epic battle between Brainiac and Superman, but they did improve it from the comic.

The title of the movie is a bit misleading. When I see Superman: Unbound, I think of something like the epic battle between Superman and Darkseid in Justice League Unlimited. They should have titled this Superman: Brainiac, but given how bad the last Brainiac movie was, I understand them not wanting to do that.  If you give me the comic and the movie and ask me which is better, I would choose the movie as a stand-alone piece of work. I highly recommend seeing this, especially if you enjoyed the arc in the comics. I do however caution parents with younger children to view this first, to make sure you're ok with you children watching it. The movie does have some violence with blood, and a scene with obscene hand gestures.

Superman: Unbound is a PG-13 rated film produced by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. James Tucker will be directing and producing the film from a script written by screenwriter Bob Goodman. Superman Unbound will be available on May 7, 2013 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group on Blu-Ray Combo Pack ($24.98 SRP), DVD ($19.98), and Digital Download.


  • Bonus Episodes (85 min.; SD): First up are four episodes from Superman: The Animated Series, spanning all three seasons: The first installment of "The Last Son of Krypton", "New Kids in Town", where Brainiac is the focal point of these two, and the two-parter "Little Girl Lost",  is where Supergirl makes her debut in the Animated Universe.

  • Superman: Brainiac (HD): Excerpts of a few pages from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's 2009 graphic novel from which this movie was adapted have also been included, complete with the ability to zoom in on panels as you read.

  • Kandor: History of the Bottle City (17 min.; HD): This is a documentary of the bottled city. Through interviews and conversations we get to see what Kandor represents to Superman as a character.

  • Brainiac: Technology and Terror (25 min.; HD): The second featurette explores the evolution of Brainiac over the years in various mediums, from the alien in the '50s and '60s to the mechanical creature that became so iconic throughout the '80s up to the Kryptonian A.I. in Superman: The Animated Series.

  • Audio Commentary: Commentary with producer/director James Tucker, screenwriter Bob Goodman, and DC Entertainment creative director Mark Carlin.

  • Trailers:  (11 min.; HD) As with all of the DC Animated Movies they included the trailer and teasers for future and already released DC Animated Movies. In this we get to see a sneak peek of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.

That is what I thought about Superman: Unbound. Now let us know your thoughts. Did you like the comic arc? Are you looking forward to this movie? Are you buying the DVD/Blu-ray? Or are you going to Netflix it? Let us know in the comments.

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