2010-10-28

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #21


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#(21): Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Before I go into the actual review I feel compelled to give you a complete understanding of one of the key characters in this movie. One of the most troublesome characters for DC Comics of late was one that they had pretty much written off for several years before finally killing her.

Supergirl really didn’t have too much of an appeal as her cousin Superman did. She was sexy and powerful, but not as much as Wonder Woman. Superman could save the world three times a day and in five different comic series, while Supergirl mostly worried about her love life, her friendship with Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), her parents in the bottled Kandor City, and keeping her identity secret.

Her greatest hurrah came during the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, where whole multiple universes were eliminated, and Kara Zor-El dramatically gave her life to save her world and deal a mortal blow to the Anti-Monitor. The event was a shocking turn in the story that would galvanize Superman’s resolve to see the Anti-Monitor destroyed by any means necessary.

And then… she was forgotten. She was written out of the DC Universe, because the new One Earth Only canon dictated that Kal-El of Krypton was the ONLY survivor of that planet.

There were a few attempts to fill the gap, though. Fan-favorite Power Girl still existed as a member of the Justice Society, but her history was retconned a few times so she wouldn’t be an Earth-2 refugee and alternate-universe cousin to Superman, but rather she was a time-lost survivor of Atlantis. She became a Justice League member, and sadly reduced to being an emotional time bomb. She was the foul-tempered “Hot Lips Houlihan” to the “Hawkeye and Trapper” comedy team of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. She would finally get her respect, and her history, but not before leaving the Justice League and going back to the Justice Society. But even then she could not fill the gap of Supergirl. She was her own woman - with the emphasis on WOMAN - and with the cleavage-showing costume to prove it.

DC tried to bring Supergirl back as an alternate-universe creation using the same plot hole they used to justify having Superboy (another casualty of the Crisis retcon) still serve as the inspiration to the Legion of Super-Heroes. This Supergirl existed in a “pocket universe” in which their Superboy was killed. Soon after, that universe’s Lex Luthor (who didn’t go bald or bad) accidentally released three criminals from the Phantom Zone… yes, Zod, Ursa, and Non… who take over the world. Grief-stricken, Lex creates a “protomater matrix” being (later known as “Matrix”) first to replace Lana Lang (one of the first victims of the Kryptonians) and then later gives her powers so she could become a symbol of the resistance. She would end up being the last survivor of that universe, rescued only by Superman of the “normal” universe. DC allowed her to mature into her own character as Supergirl and played a key role in the “Doomsday” and “World Without A Superman” storylines. Eventually, though, the writers decided to mess with her some more, merging her with a human named Linda Danvers so she could have a human family, giving her a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse hooker costume (to match the one in the animated TV series) making her a fire-powered angel, and eventually really messing things up by switching places with the Pre-Crisis Supergirl, falling in love with Pre-Crisis Superman and having their lovechild, and then finally just becoming a full-blown fallen angel before falling into storyline limbo never to be seen again.

A second attempt to bring Supergirl back involved a future-born daughter of Superman and Lois Lane sent to the past to stop Brainiac-13 from taking over. The storyline was so badly convoluted that getting rid of her was actually a godsend.

Finally we get to THIS incarnation of Supergirl, whose origin became the second storyline in the “Superman/Batman” comic series, and the basis for this current review.

“Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” was released by Warner Brothers as a direct-to-video movie in 2010 and serves as the follow-up to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The movie features returning voice actors Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy playing Superman and Batman, along with “Justice League” actress Susan Eisenberg returning as Wonder Woman, “Serenity/Firefly” actress Summer Glau, Andre Braugher, and Ed Asner returning from “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League Unlimited” to play Granny Goodness (and, no, that is NOT a mistake).

We start the movie with a quick reference to the events in “Public Enemies”, how ex-President Lex Luthor was awaiting his criminal trial, and that the last remnants of the monstrous Kryptonite meteor were falling but thankfully the world was saved by Superman and Batman. As we hear that, a large chunk of K-rock falls into Gotham Harbor.

Batman (Conroy) investigates the impact to discover there was a spaceship in the meteor, and that it was already opened. Meanwhile, a nude woman (conveniently hidden in shadows of course) steals the Bat-Boat and crashes it on shore. She walks into the streets of Gotham, getting an overcoat from a dock worker to cover herself up before encountering Gotham police officers. She (Glau) speaks a strange language before being whisked skyward by her own uncontrolled power. She encounters Batman, who subdues her with a piece of the Kryptonite rock he fished from the harbor. Taken to the Bat-cave, she meets Superman (Daly) and discovers that he is her cousin from Krypton.

She is taken to the Fortress of Solitude, where Batman still has his suspicions of her. Even Krypto doesn’t like Kara Zor-El, wherein Batman comments that the dog is a good judge of character. Superman takes Kara shopping in his disguise as Clark Kent (BIIIIIG mistake, Clark - you should have let Lois do it) and enjoys a hot dog (yes with all of the usual jokes about the food). But this time together is short-lived as Wonder Woman (Eisenberg) and a team of Amazon warriors kidnap Kara and bring her to Paradise Island for training. This was Batman’s idea, of course, as it would teach Kara to fight and to control her abilities. Superman, of course, doesn’t approve.

Meanwhile, Granny Goodness (Asner) oversees the training of her Female Furies when she is interrupted by Darkseid (Braugher). Darkseid knows that Kal-El’s cousin has appeared and he wants Granny’s furies to bring her to him.

Kara makes friends with Lyla - whom comic fans will remember as Harbinger from “Crisis on Infinite Earths” - although Lyla is plagued with visions of Superman fishing out a blond girl’s dead body from the water. She keeps the visions to herself… and to Batman and Wonder Woman… as she enjoys her time with Kara.

Suddenly, a Boom Tube from Apocalypse appears, bringing forth… Doomsday, the only creature that could (and once did) kill Superman. Then we see a whole ARMY of Doomsday clones. Wonder Woman rallies the Amazons together to fight the monsters, but they are clearly overpowered until Superman unleashed his heat vision and vaporizes the clones. Batman realizes that this was only a diversion, and we find that Lyla’s vision has come true.

At this point I’m going to have to stop the recap because I don’t want to give too much away. Sufficient to say we see the “Big Trinity” of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman recruiting Big Barda so they could travel to Apocalypse to face Darkseid, but saying anything more would be too much of a spoiler.

The overall story suffers on a few points, and - as usual - the biggest ones are at the end. This is another movie where the story starts off GREAT and then they have to struggle to keep it going to the end. The story fails to fully use the cast of characters seen in “Public Enemies” and instead only gives lip service to the previous movie at the very beginning and then forgetting about it completely. Introducing Barda into the mix was another refreshing step, especially seeing her team up with Wonder Woman in the big battle on Apocalypse. And while the final battle was somewhat refreshing, even the ending came up short.

The animation falls flat in several areas. Where “Public Enemies” had hints of anime (especially with Power Girl), “Apocalypse” goes all-out, with a look that is more “Cowboy Bebop” and “Samurai Champloo” than anything resembling a Bruce Timm production. Here’s a hint for DC producers: next time you want to emulate anime, think more Kenichi Sonoda than ShinichirĊ Watanabe. This is especially true with the portrayal of Darkseid.

The only positive point here is the vocal talent, and even that has one sore spot. I’m sorry, but Andre Braugher does NOT do a good Darkeid. Just like only Mark Hamill can do the voice of Joker, only Michael Ironside can do the voice of Darkseid. On the other hand, Summer Glau does an excellent Kara, and the vocal combination of Daley, Conroy, and Eisenberg did not fail. And Ed Asner does Granny so well you really wouldn’t know it was a man until you saw the credits.

The follow-up to this movie is a DC Spotlight mini-movie featuring Green Arrow. As with the “Spectre” mini-movie, this story works within the DC Universe and stars Neil McDonough as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and Malcom McDowell as Merlyn. The movie has a look and feel of “Die Hard 2”, with Oliver trying to save a young visiting queen from being taken by Merlyn and Count Vertigo in the middle of a busy airport. This was actually a much better production than the main feature, both in story and quality. In fact the people behind this mini-movie should be the ones in charge of future productions provided they can carry the same quality on through.

Bonus features (if you spring for the $19 2-disc special edition) include the “Little Girl Lost” story from “Superman: The Animated Series” and a look back at the history of Supergirl, but if you aren’t interested in either, you can always get the regular DVD.

In short, “Apocalypse” was not necessarily a “Superman/Batman” story as it was a “Superman” story, and that pretty much summed up the rest of the main feature. It has potential, but it still fell short in too many ways.

Capes: Despite having the “DC Trinity”, it only gets four out of five capes.
Cheese: Thankfully just Swiss Cheese (1).

Books: Unlike “Public Enemies”, which started strong and ended weak, there was weakness all around, which kept the story only at three out of five books.

1 comment:

lordciaran said...

Ah good review dude, enjoyed it, but i must admit that why did they bother, they seem to be focusing on batman lately so why bother doing a team up title like this, when its clear that all they want to do is Batman films, like year one The red hood, with the odd jla or Superman film to throw people off the scent.