Recently, DC has really been producing some quality animated movies. Both parts of the Dark Knight Returns were stellar, and many of their other animated movies (such as Under the Red Hood and Justice League: Doom) have been stellar. Unfortunately, their Superman movies haven’t always been the best movies they’ve released. Sure, Superman vs. The Elite, All Star Superman and Superman: Doomsday were decent movies, they were just never as good as the rest of DC’s animated movies.
Superman Unbound changes that. Based on Geoff Johns graphic novel Superman: Braniac, Unbound delivers on all fronts. As Johns has proved in the past, he really knows how to get Superman right. Sure, other authors like Mark Waid or Mark Millar have done better jobs with the character, but Johns has always done right by the character. Superman really doesn’t fit with the gritty darkness that is the DC’s current status quo, and, in a lot of ways, this movie, and the graphic novel that inspired it, show that.
Anyone who read Action Comics #19 (written by Andy Diggle), will know that that issue really got everything about Superman right. The flirtations with Lois Lane, the positive attitude, it was all there. In Unbound, it’s all there as well. What we see here is not the darkest story out of DC. Sure, it has it’s dark moments, like Braniac’s subjugation of his collection of cities.
But then there are the scenes back on Earth, especially the ones involving the reporters at the Daily Planet. They were entertaining, to say the least, and seed to really lighten the tone of the movie. Were this a Batman movie, that would have annoyed me. But Superman is not Batman, and while Batman is one of the darkest heroes out there, barring only The Punisher and Wolverine, Superman is a bright character.
At his core, he’s a good person, no matter what Injustice: Gods Among Us tries to make you believe. That comes out, at least to an extent, in this movie. When he flies off to find Braniac, we get a glimpse of how selfless Kal-El really is. He doesn’t care about his well being, but what he does care about is saving people. In the end, he does, of course, despite Braniac’s initial beat down of the last son of Krypton.
But… he’s not exactly the last son of Krypton. One of Braniac’s cities, that he keeps in a bottle, is Kandor, the Kryptonian Capitol. Of course, Superman’s aunt and uncle both live in this bottled city. These two are the parents of Kara Zor-El, more commonly known as Supergirl, who has a major role in this movie. She was there when Kandor was taken, and doesn’t want it to happen to her again. She lost one home, and she doesn’t want to lose another one.
By the end, though, Superman shows here what it truly means to be a hero. They have powers, and it’s their responsibility to use them to help people. It is from this that one of my biggest complaints about the movie stems, however. Unbound could have benefited from some more time on Earth, chronicling what Supergirl was doing there. Yes, we got some of that, but I felt that it was too brief, and didn’t really do the character justice.
It is the movie’s final act that really stands out, however. The intro, with the kidnapping of Lois Lane, and her being saved by Superman and Supergirl, is an awesome action sequence, and illustrates how powerful Superman really is. It’s cool, and the scene at the Planet that follows is a lot of fun. The pace really picks up towards the middle, beginning when the first probe is found, and lasting all the way until Superman returns to Earth.
From there, the movie really gets good. Braniac and Superman both come to Earth, and end up fighting it out on the planet’s surface while Supergirl saves the Earth from a missile streaking towards the sun. It’s extremely intense, and the climactic battle between Superman and Braniac, is wonderful. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the end of All Star Superman, with Braniac being forced to see the world in the way that Superman sees it. And Braniac simply can’t handle it.
Unlike Superman, he can’t adapt to everything. He can’t handle what life truly is, only what he documents it as being. It’s a profound moment, and a profound d statement about both characters. The final struggle was really, really great. I do, however, have a few issues with. This isn’t really the fault of the movie, more the fault of the original graphic novel. First of all: Does the Green Lantern Core just ignore Braniac? I mean, come on, Hal Jordan can go toe to toe with Superman, how could the Core not be able to take out Braniac? Second, where were the rest of Earth’s heroes? Metropolis getting stolen is kind of a big problem.
Regardless, this is a Superman story, so those issues are easily overlooked, especially since Superman Unbound is a really great movie. I do have one final criticism: What is up with Superman’s animation? His head is in no way proportional to his body! The dude looks party messed up! This is really the only animation flaw, though, everything else looks stellar.
Superman Unbound is an extremely fun, fast paced ride that captures Superman, as well as the rest if the story’s characters, as they were intended to be, resulting in what could be the best Superman movie yet, at least until Man of Steel comes out in June.