Saturday, November 13, 2010

DVD Review: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is quite a bit better than its predecessor, Public Enemies.  In fact, unlike Public Enemies, we actually enjoyed it more than the comic arc it was based on.  Granted, this wasn't a particularly high bar to ascend: the comic, while containing a handful of fantastic moments, just didn't succeed in making Kara - the story's central character - sympathetic or interesting.  The movie, on the other hand, did manage this feat, and worked as a result.

In some ways, the source material for this storyline was easier to adapt than that for Public Enemies.  As we explained in last year's review, our favorite moments in Public Enemies were internal, and as such wound up amputated from the DVD release.  The Supergirl arc didn't have this problem: the best scenes were action or dialogue.  Everything we wanted was present, and a few of the worst scenes were rewritten.

Unfortunately, all of this care was only enough to raise the movie to the level of "pretty good."  Despite their best effort, the filmmakers were still restrained by several absurd plot twists and poor dialogue, almost all of which we recall from the comics.

We should probably digress from a moment to talk about the movie's infamous title.  The comic series had "Supergirl" in the title, appropriate as the story revolves around the arrival of Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin.  The director has said she'd have preferred this title, but it was decided higher up that Supergirl wouldn't sell.

Of course we find such studio interference idiotic.  We presume that any comics fan who would avoid a dvd with the name "Supergirl" on the cover would likely also avoid a dvd they'd heard was about Supergirl, regardless what it was called.

Ultimately, we're less concerned with a movie's title than its content.  Warner Bros could have called it Batman/Superman 2: X-Men United, and we wouldn't hold it against the movie.  And, when push comes to shove, this version is fairer to its female characters - particularly Supergirl - than the comics were.  This was most notable during the finale, where Supergirl was given a far larger role.  It's also worth noting that throughout the character designs were less offensive (though we still miss the visual style of JLU).

There are some good moments and ideas in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.  And there's some good animation.  The voice acting is less consistent than we're used to, but, despite our skepticism, Summer Glau managed to carry the role and steal the movie.  It's also always nice to hear Kevin Conroy's voice coming from Batman's mouth.

The real issue with this is that we've seen it all before, and we've seen it better.  JLU used all these characters to far better effect, covering many of the same ideas and battles.  To any who haven't seen that series, watch those first.  This is good, but JLU was great.  So are the animated DCU films Justice League: New Frontier, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight, and Batman: Under the Red Hood.

Against the best of those, we'll award Apocalypse a relative three out of five stars.  If, like us, you're a connoisseur of these films, this is worth viewing, but we can't offer more than a luke warm recommendation to anyone else.

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