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"Superman: Unbound" Animated Movie
Superman battles Brainiac in order to save his home planet's city of Kandor which has been miniaturized on Brainiac's ship. Based on Geoff Johns' mini series.
Automated blimps patrol Gotham as a radio announcer talks about President Luthor's impeachment, and how Batman exploded an approaching Kryptonite asteroid, resulting in a lot of Kryptonite meteorite sightings.
A meteor crashes down into Gotham Harbor. Batman arrives to investigate the scene and finds kryptonite fragments and a crashed ship with Kryptonian writing on it. Meanwhile, a naked blonde girl has swum to the surface, climbed aboard Batman's boat and then accidentally turns it on. Bats goes after it as it crashes into the shore and explodes. The opening credits roll.
On the harbor, the naked blonde girl approaches some dockworkers. One of the guys gets skeezy and the girl breaks his arm. As another of the guys runs off in terror, he throws his trench coat at the girl and tells her it's all he's got. She takes the coat and runs off through Gotham, as Batman questions the dockworkers.
A car crashes into the blonde girl, but she's unharmed. The police arrive and something about their lights causes heat-vision to erupt from the girl's eyes, which destroys a police car. She runs, tries to jump over a car and winds up floating up into the air. The police open fire, but she's unharmed. She climbs a building and Batman is waiting for her.
She takes off but can't control her flying and crashes through one of the blimps. Batman watches it fall as Superman arrives to stop the flaming wreckage from crashing into the city.
Batman finds the blonde girl sitting in an empty room, in shock. He brings out a piece of the Kryptonite and she falls unconscious. In the Batcave, Batman does scans on her and confirms she's not human and has a high concentration of "neural stem cells". That moment is when the girl breaks out of her restraints and heat-visions Batman's computer.
She begins floating off, but Superman stops her and talks to her in Kryptonian, revealing that she's his cousin, Kara Zor-El. In the Fortress of Solitude, Superman reads an inscription on Kara's ship which says she'll be a "treasure" for our world, but Batman is unsure. Apparently Kara metabolizes sunlight faster than Kal and might be more powerful than him, which worries Batman.
Just then Kara breaks into the room and Kal tells her to speak English, which apparently she now can (hey, she's also got clothes now, too). She says, "it's attacking" and then Krypto comes bounding into the room. Batman sends Kara to her room (yes, really) and says he always thought Krypto was a good judge of character.
Kal says she's been through a lot ("including learning an entire language in less than a week") and they continue to argue. Kara says she's can't remember what happened, but then says she remembers "Uncle Jor-El" because he was like her father, they both believed Krypton was doomed.
Zor-El built her a ship, told her it was headed to Earth, and then she watched her parents die right as her ship took off. Then she doesn't know anything else until the asteroid broke apart and she landed on Earth.
On Apokalips, a redheaded woman has been killing people in an arena and Granny Goodness asks her if she has what it takes to lead Darkseid's honor guard. The Furies arrive and attack, dispatching her in brutal fashion.
Darkseid is disappointed, and tells Granny there have been no suitable replacements since Barda left. He tells her to bring him Kara.
On Earth, a girl who might very well be Kara (but has brown eyes) watches some sphere hovering over her (in a very ornate bed), showing Superman picking up a lifeless blonde girl out of the water.
Clark and Kara are then walking through Metropolis, and Kara says she wants to stay there. Clark then takes her shopping, and she fawns over "Earth-girl" clothes and high heeled shoes and gets her nails done. Then she tries to put on lipstick and it breaks. And she literally puts on a fashion show for the audience, ending with her in a dress that would make a stripper blush. Then they stop for hot dogs, and Clark literally tells her that by shopping and eating junk food, she's now an "Earth-girl". (Oh good lord.)
As they walk they come across the statue of Superman. Kara says her powers terrify her and she doesn't want to be anybody's champion. Some women in shadows arrive to apprehend Kara, and it's played up so you think it's the Furies, but it's Wonder Woman and the Amazons. They fight Kal, Kara panics and her heat-vision destroys the Superman statue.
Diana holds Kara and says she has to take her to train her, and Batman appears out of the shadows and says Wonder Woman is right. And there's another reason Kara can't stay in Metropolis, but they can't talk about it now and Batman asks Kal to trust him.
Kara pleads with Kal to not let them take her away, but he stands there in silence like a jerk and won't answer her.
On Themyscira, the same blonde girl with the brown eyes (Lyla) has the same vision of Superman carrying a dead blonde girl. She then passes out, but wakes right back up to go see Kara fight Artemis.
As Kara and Artemis battle, Superman wonders what the point of it all is when Kara could level the entire island, and Diana has to tell him that having power and knowing how to use it aren't the same thing, and he of all people should know that. Well yes, HE SHOULD.
Superman gets mad when Kara loses and says he's seen enough, and she belongs in Metropolis with him. He and Diana argue about it, and both tell Kara she has no say in the matter. Kal apologizes, but Kara tells him off and leaves with Lyla.
Superman says Harbinger's vision shows Kara in danger (Harbinger being Lyla, but the movie doesn't tell you that yet, so it's confusing) and that's why Kal stopped Artemis, and Batman chews him out for letting his guard down and exposing his secret identity (??).
Lyla tells Kara that if she needs someone to talk to, Diana is always there. Kara said they've all made her feel welcome (by abducting her?) and she feels like Lyla is her only real friend.
As Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman talk, a boom tube opens and a ton of Doomsdays hop out. The Amazons arrive and battle is joined. After reaching a seeming stalemate, Superman unleashes a massive burst of heat-vision that incinerates all of the Doomsdays.
Superman and Wonder Woman then find Batman, who tells them the Doomsday attack was a diversion and a second boom tube opened elsewhere on the island. Lyla is dead and Kara is missing, and Superman vows to go to Apokolips.
Kara then meets Darkseid, who offers her power and respect as the leader of his Furies.
Superman and Wonder Woman go to visit Barda in the middle of suburbia, where she says Darkseid will exploit Kara's mind and turn her into a killing machine. Barda agrees to use her Mother Box to help them get to Apokolips, but she's going with them. Superman initially refuses for some reason, but she goes with them anyway.
They arrive on Apokolips and are attacked by Parademons in tanks. Superman punches some fire (yes, really) as they fight them off, and he and Batman (using some tech he brought with him) fly off through the air, leaving Barda and Wonder Woman to trudge through what seem to be Apokoliptian sewers where Barda says she's always been inspired by Diana, and that's a gift.
They pop up in the middle of the battle arena (of course they do), and the Furies attack them. Batman, meanwhile, is being chased by giant armored dogs with lasers fired by guys riding on their backs. And Superman is conveniently attacked by flying robots, who aren't alive so he can incinerate them, which he apparently does.
Batman's flying doohickey is shot down, but he survives and uses the mother box to locate a room full of hellspores, which contain enough power to blow a hole to the planet's core, but a giant dog chomps down on him.
Barda gets captured and Diana's ordered to surrender, "or the bitch dies". Superman confronts Darkseid and meets "evil Kara". Kal tries to leave with her, she attacks him and Darkseid orders her to kill Superman.
Batman pushes his way out of the giant dog's mouth, which is smoking perhaps from an explosion of some kind, and then he orders some guards to take off their armor.
Wonder Woman helps Barda escape and defeat the Furies, and Granny tries to get Barda to kill her like she was programmed to do.
Superman gets his butt kicked by Kara, and is thrown outside into one of the fire pits. Kal tries to stop her, but she keeps fighting him and he says he sees Darkseid's control over her is total, and so finally starts fighting back.
Batman arrives to talk to Darkseid, and tells him he armed the hellspores to explode. Darkseid says that's impossible as they're encrypted, to which Batman says he broke the code and armed them. Uh huh. Darkseid wants the code to disarm them, but Batman won't give it up unless Kara is released.
Darkseid agrees, and digs on Batman's willingness to destroy an entire planet to achieve his goals and the ways humans will kill each other. Just then Kara get knocked through a window into the room and crashes down. Kal picks up Kara and they leave.
Kara wakes up looking at Kal on Themyscira, and doesn't remember anything after Lyla's death. Kal tells her Darkseid is evil, but then Kara wonders whether Darkseid just brought out a darkness that was already there.
At a giant statue monument to Lyla, Kara says goodbye to her and Bruce and Diana, and she and Kal fly off.
They arrive in Smallville, and just as they're about to open the door, Darkseid attacks them from within the house and quickly dispatches Superman, sending him out into space.
Kara kicks Darkseid's butt for a while, but eventually he gets the upper hand. In space, Superman gets recharged by the sun. They fight some more, Kara opens a boom tube out into the middle of outer space and Superman forces Darkseid into it. Kara says she now knows what she wants to do, just as the Kents arrive to see their farm destroyed. Kal and Kara say they'll rebuild their house for them.
On Themyscira, Superman reintroduces Kara as Supergirl, now in costume. She and Superman fly off together.
If you only watch the last 20 minutes of this movie, you'll probably come away thinking it's awesome and entertaining and a fine piece of entertainment. When you watch the preceding 58 minutes, however, you're left wondering why so much of it ranges from a poor choice to downright blatantly terrible sexism.
Here's some notes I jotted down as the movie went along:
The opening radio announcers are pretty terrible. Acting! Try it.
Why are they even mentioning a giant asteroid? And then, in one sentence, explain that Batman went into space and destroyed it? There is no point or relevance to that at all. In a story that you're trimming to stand-alone, that has no place. It means nothing to this movie and just made the opening incredibly confusing for those who might not have read the comic this is based on.
The opening credits and theme are very cool. The music is happily reminiscent of the Justice League cartoon theme.
I'm not sure if we've ever heard spoken Kryptonian before, but I very much enjoyed getting to hear it.
If Kara is super strong (and invulnerable) right out of her ship, why is she only running as fast as a normal human? Seems like her powers were forgotten about to make it convenient for the writer. I get not knowing how to fly right, that was actually nice. But if she's already super-strong she'd be running super-fast, folks. Muscles is as muscles does.
Whereas I think McGuinness' style worked very well for animation in "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies", the exact opposite seems true for Turner's here in "Superman/Batman: Apocalypse". It does not animate well at all, and through to the end it didn't look right at all to hear Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy coming out of Turner-style artwork.
Batman's computer that can scan lifeforms and discover "neural stem cells" only cost him $50,000? Really? A CAT-scan machine costs $150,000 minimum. That just pulled me right out of the story because it seemed *comically* low. $5 million would have worked. $50 grand? Come on.
"I thought I heard your heartbeat. I was wrong, you have no heart". Oh, the cheese is so thick.
The Furies fight with their potential new leader is exciting and well-done, but too violent for small kids. It also serves no story point.
I've never seen Andre Braugher in anything before, but he was totally wrong for Darkseid. He has no gravitas.
KARA: "That was so much fun, I'm going to love being an Earth-girl."
CLARK: "You've certainly got the shopping part down."
My god, the sexism. More on that later.
A talk about why secret identities are awesome! But the only answer Clark gives makes it seem selfish, and it's entirely glossed over. But we got two entire minutes of shopping and makeup?
Why does Diana have to tell Superman that having power and knowing how to use it aren't the same thing? Just because she follows that up with telling him that, "Superman, of all people, should know that" doesn't mean it was okay for him to behave that way. Sure they're trying to paint him as not thinking clearly, but that right there is like saying because Superman was concerned about Kara he'd forget not to kill people. Argggh, come on!
Now let me touch on the sexism again, if I may. It's been a long time since I've read the comics this was based on, but I don't think the shopping/makeup bit was in there.
In what world is it okay for someone to say she wants to know what it's like to be an Earth-girl, and the first response is to take her to buy dresses and makeup? Are all girls vain? Is that foremost on their mind?
Why not take her to a library and show her great literature? Take her to a museum, show her the masterpieces of art from human history. Take her to an internet café and show her the wonders of all of human knowledge at your fingertips.
But no, what Clark thinks she needs FIRST THING is pretty dresses and lipstick and earrings and high heels. And Kara, being a TEEN GIRL FROM OUTER SPACE, is instantly into all of these things as if she was born to love them. That entire montage is so patently offensive it's rather sickening, and I didn't think it could get worse but then to end with SUPERMAN, of all people, saying:
"Well, that's it. Shopping, junk food... you're a bona fide Earth-girl."
I just felt sick. Really, DC? This is the message you're sending to young girls, who might want to watch this to be introduced to Supergirl? All girls are just little shopping machines fueled by junk food, huh?
And DC wonders why they can't appeal to more females!
And then the secret ID talk, which I got all excited about because that can be full of GREAT character stuff... Clark comes off as a selfish jerk (actually that's how he comes off through the entire movie, really) and says he does it to have a life "outside the cape". What about doing it to protect those you care about? What about the difficulty in having to lie to those you care about through the secret identity, just to protect them? Nope, nothing. This Superman doesn't care about those things, apparently, and doesn't need to impart that information to his newfound only blood relative.
But vanity posited as the most important thing in a teen girl's life, that's worth two full minutes of this movie, huh?
Moving on, this script has all kinds of junk cluttering it up that it doesn't need, and much less of the stuff it DOES need. You don't need that first fight with the furies. You sure as heck don't need the giant Doomsday fight, which goes mostly unexplained and serves no real purpose (and to anyone who doesn't already know who Doomsday is, it's extra meaningless). Nobody cares when Lyla/Harbinger dies, because we didn't know her and we don't even care for Kara's loss because you never once see Kara caring about her. They talk ONCE in the entire movie, and Kara says Lyla's her only friend! Why? Because she said so, I guess, because we see nothing.
But that entire bit with Harbinger should have been cut anyway, it didn't add anything except to try to fool the audience about the vision of the dead blonde girl she has. Well, anyone who's read the comic already knows that, and anyone who hasn't read the comic has no reason to care based on the way the movie fails to set any of that up properly, so it feels like it's left it just as a "aha, gotcha!" moment. Cut that stuff out entirely and my goodness, suddenly there's time for Kal to react to not being alone in the universe anymore, a talk with Kara about using a secret ID to protect those you care about, etc etc.
It's just sloppy, is what it boils down to.
For a movie that's trying to appeal to the mass market and draw in new fans as well as appeal to present fans, it almost completely fails at the former. And I'm staunchly in the camp of the latter, and the first 58 minutes of this were almost painful to sit through.
But let's move on to the positives. It's always nice to hear Conroy and Daly as Batman and Superman, and it was cool hearing Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman again as well. Summer Glau made for a decent Supergirl, but again Andre Braugher just was horribly miscast here. It's not his fault, but his voice just isn't at all right for Darkseid.
Ed Asner steals the show as Granny Goodness.
But again, the animation just didn't work for me for anyone except Granny Goodness, really. Turner's art style did not animate well here.
The fights (even though none of them really mattered to the story except for the ones at the very end) were exceedingly well choreographed and executed. That's my biggest compliment to the movie... whoever designed and executed those did an absolutely magnificent job. They were an absolute blast to watch and were everything you'd hope for out of a superhero fight (but again, too intense, violent and graphic for young children).
And the very end scene, after Kara's introduced as Supergirl and she and Superman fly off together... that was a little bit of magic. Those last 30 seconds are the only time you really feel Kal and Kara having any affection for each other, and it's my favorite part of the entire movie. That, coupled with the final battle on the Kent farm in Smallville, are excellently executed.
Sadly you have to sit through 58 minutes of mediocrity, sexism, boredom and pointless story threads ("Neural stem cells"? What the heck?) to get there.
Worth a rental, but only watch the last 20 minutes and save yourself the anguish.
Rating - 2 out of 5: I'd have given it a 3 if not for the most blatant sexism I've seen in a long, long time (and from Superman, no less). That's rather unforgivable.