Apocalypse Pow! - Superman/Batman: Apocalypse Reviewed

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Allow me to preface this review by saying that, overall, Warner Premier does a tremendous job with its animated direct-to-video DC Universe films. However, even though the latest film in this line, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, is incredibly entertaining, one can’t escape the feeling that director Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman) sidestepped some critical characterization to instead cram the film’s all-too-brief 78-minute running time with a numbing succession of super-powered smackdowns. Then again, when you’re dealing with DC heavy-hitters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Big Barda, Supergirl and Darkseid, who has time for quiet contemplation?

An adaptation of Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner’s Superman/Batman story arc “The Supergirl from Krypton,” Apocalypse is a direct sequel to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, released on home video last year. Weeks after Batman destroyed a kryptonite meteor threatened to destroy the Earth, a spaceship lands in Gotham City Harbor. The Dark Knight investigates, encountering a young girl with powers similar to Superman’s. He and the Man of Steel soon learn that this girl is not only of Kryptonian origin, but is Superman’s cousin. Naturally, the arrival of such a force on Earth doesn’t go unnoticed—not even on the remote planet of Apokolips. The villainous Darkseid views this newcomer, Kara Zor-El, as an ideal candidate to lead his all-female honor guard. Meanwhile, Batman and Superman leave Kara under the protection of Wonder Woman’s people on Themyscira in the hopes that she’ll learn to control her burgeoning powers. However, not even the Amazons can repel the forces of Darkseid.

While Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman and an army of Amazons are locked in battle with hordes of Doomsday clones—sent to Themyscira from Apokolips—Kara is abducted by Darkseid. Superman might be a dyed-in-the-wool boy scout, but if you mess with his family, you’re asking for it. Enlisting the aid of Darkseid’s former Female Furies leader Big Barda, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman mount a high-risk rescue mission that takes them deep into the heart of Darkseid’s sinister empire.

From the point Darkseid’s army of Doomsday replicants lands on Themyscrira’s shores, Apocalypse seldom takes time to catch its breath. In fact, one could even say that more than half the film is comprised of action sequences. As a result, Apocalypse is far from boring, but one wonders how much more satisfying the film could have been had it spent more time focusing on what’s going on in Superman’s head during this ordeal. Kal-El has spent most of his life believing he’s the last of his people, and the discovery that he’s not alone just doesn’t have the dramatic it deserves. Also, it seems as though Supergirl often takes a backseat in her own coming-of-age story, but then again, the movie’s not called Supergirl: Apocalypse.

In terms of the overall look of the film, Apocalypse wonderfully adapts the late Michael Turner’s anime-esque artwork, which translates to the screen more fluidly than Ed McGuinness’ blockier style on display in Public Enemies. The Turner-inspired look of the film shines best during the film’s many action set pieces, most notably the bombastic final showdown between Superman and Darkseid.

In addition to DC animation mainstays Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy and Susan Eisenberg lending their voices to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman respectively, Apocalypse features a strong cast, which is par for the course in Warner Premier’s DC Universe line. Voicing Kara Zor-El/Supergirl is sci-fi/fantasy go-to girl Summer Glau (Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), while Ed Asner (Up) is suitably creepy as Darkseid’s gravel-voiced first-in-command, Granny Goodness. The one casting misstep seems to be Andre Braugher (The Mist, Salt) as Darkseid. For one of the most evil beings in the universe, Darkseid doesn’t sound all that menacing.

There are plenty of extras on the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, including an animated short starring Green Arrow, four bonus episodes of Superman: The Animated Series featuring Darkseid and featurettes on various characters in the film. If you’re not familiar with comic legend Jack Kirby’s New Gods mythology—which birthed Darkseid and the many denizens of Apokolips—there’s plenty to learn here.

Hardly among the best DC Universe animated films due to its rushed narrative and less-than-engaging characterization, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is still a solid rental thanks to its non-stop action and intriguing special features.

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  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Oct 1, 2010 at 3:36pm

    good solid review.
    I agree with you on many levels.

    it was great to see this especially since Turner indeed inspired this movie to some extent and it showed. Therefore it is with extra emotional baggage with which I witnessed this feature...

  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Oct 3, 2010 at 2:57pm

    I thought this was great. Lots of action, yes, but it was more story and character focused than the previous Superman/Batman movie (which was just one long fight scene. Wasn't crazy about it). They could have delved into what Superman was going through a bit more but Kara was pretty well developed as a character. I do agree that Darkseid didn't sound very menacing. Tony Todd would have been a better choice. That guy gives me the willies when he speaks!

  • CA3

    CA3 Oct 4, 2010 at 8:00am

    Honestly? I liked this movie. I think at this point it's safe to say that we all need to accept that a lot of comic book adaptations brought to motion picture, whether live action, or animated, will have elements of their story cut to accommodate the time limits of the production. There's no need to really delve further into Superman's motivations for his quick attachment to Kara, because the cartoon show, and comics have already well established his feelings and perspective on being the last Kryptonian.

    When you get right down to it, the only thing I found disappointing with the movie was when the story transitioned over to Apokalypse. The music scoring it wasn't as dark and foreboding as I'd expect. And I've got to agree with Eric, the voice of Darkseid in this movie wasn't nearly as prominent, imposing, or menacing as that of the one used for the Superman / Justice League series. I can only gather money may have played a factor there, but all in all this was still a nice bit to watch.

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