Superman / Batman: Apocalypse (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Superman / Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTThe DC Animation division has been working overtime for the last few years. We could point to the success of Batman Begins for kickstarting the trend, but these direct to DVD features have been a mainstay of animation since the early 90's when WB would package serialized episodes together and release it as a single movie on VHS.  Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is a direct sequel to their previous film, Public Enemies, and serves more as an introduction to this animated universe's version of Supergirl than functioning as a Superman/Batman story.  It's also the weakest of any of the DC Animation films that I've seen.

S/B:A opens with some radio broadcast exposition letting us know that this does, indeed, take place right after their previous film.  We start off in Gotham after a mysterious explosion sends objects into the harbor.  Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) investigates and, while underwater, watches as a stranger takes control of his boat and propels off.  This stranger turns out to be Kara (Summer Glau), a cousin of Superman's (Tim Daly) who needs some help controlling her powers as she accidentally takes out large parts of Gotham.

Describing the plot is a bit difficult, as the film moves from location to location so quickly that it's difficult to get your bearings at times.  To boil it down, two different groups end up wanting to take responsibility for Kara's development.  On the side of the angels we have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), and then on the side of darkness we have Darkseid (Andre Braugher) and his seemingly endless supply of bloodthirsty minions from the planet Apokolips.

Flaws aside, Krypto sightings never fail to make me smile.

What I've enjoyed about a lot of the DC Animation films is how they use the comic stories as a jumping off point to tell something slightly original.  The problem with S/B:A and with its predecessor is that they so closely follow the storyline of the comics they're based on that there is no real distinction between the two.  Now, this might not be such a problem if the story was interesting but, truth be told, the original story (penned by the still strangely successful Jeph Loeb) is not really that good.  It is now as it was then an excuse to show off the new Supergirl in a variety of skimpy clothes as everyone fights for control over her.

Problematic themes aside, that premise is essentially dull and the film does nothing to rectify the source materials mistakes.  Instead of a few panels we could skim through we're treated to minutes of Supergirl getting dressed, trying on makeup, and basically being a Barbie doll for the audience and the other superheroes.  It might have helped if the characters had more interesting things to say than, oh, "I thought I sensed your presence earlier because you have no heartbeat.  I was wrong... you have no heart."

Look, I'm not expecting Spike Jonze here, but S/B:A lacks the humor of Wonder Woman or the edge of anything from the 90's Batman animated series.  This just isn't material worthy of the animation budget spent.

Which, by the way, is also really poorly done.  I was not the biggest fan of the sadly departed Michael Turner's art, but it was serviceable and at least gave Batman an interesting edge.  Here the animators try and mimic his style to occasionally disastrous and out of place effect.  Batman mostly escapes unscathed and for the most part looks good, but Superman looks like he escaped from an Aeon Flux cartoon and Supergirl looks like a refugee from any number of animes.  Then there's the matter of Darkseid, who looked good in the comic but here looks like a poorly assembled mishmash of geometric figures.  A little consistency in any direction would not have hurt.

Ok, Batman with a battle-axe is a fun image too.

The designs wouldn't be so noticeably bad if there were at least some inventive fight scenes.  I did get a small chuckle out of watching Batman take out hellhounds the size of small buildings and even Superman gets a nice time to shine towards the end.  But most of the fights consisted of punch, enemy goes flying, tackle, reversal, hero goes flying and repeat ad nauseam.

It boils down to the simple fact that this wasn't a story worth telling.  Now, if you are a fan of the original storyline and just want to see those scenes animated, then you'll enjoy this film.  If you're not in that mindset, then you'll see this as I did: a sad waste of time and resources.  I didn't hate S/B:A, but it's not going to do comic fans any favors.

Ah well, even if they failed with this one, they're bound to get one of the next seven films and shorts right.

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Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

Directed by Lauren Montgomery.
Written by Tab Murphy.
Featuring the voices of Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Summer Glau, Andre Braugher and Susan Eisenberg.

Posted by Andrew

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