Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (Movie Review)

This week “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” came out on DVD and Blu-ray, and being the DC Comics fanatic that I am, I couldn’t resist making the purchase. For awhile now, Warner has been putting out some fantastic animated movies in the DC universe. And while this one isn’t near the top of the heap, it’s still some cool action and fun in the DCU.

The story centers on Kara Zor-el, Superman’s cousin, who arrives late to earth as another survivor of Krypton’s destruction. Superman immediately takes her under his wing while Batman is of course suspicious. Wonder Woman shows up and is a little of both, demanding that she be allowed to train Kara on Paradise Island so that she will not threaten others with her poorly controlled powers. And wouldn’t you know it, cosmic baddy, Darkseid has designs on Kara as well.

The action goes from earth, to Apokalypse and back again and provides a real visual treat. Near the end we get to see some of the most explosive and epic animated DC action to grace home video. Another visual treat is the character design, which carries over original artist Michael Turner’s flavor without going overboard.

Where the movie becomes mediocre is in the voice casting and/or direction. I’ll be the first to say that I wanted Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly to reprise their animated series roles as Batman and Superman in these animated movies. But I’m amazed to say that I think I’m getting tired of them.

Daly’s voice is getting older and losing some of the clean “farmboy” quality that has made his portrayal so endearing in the past. And Conroy seems to be putting too much bark and tonal clarity in his Batman voice these days, when I’d rather hear a gruff, breathier sound that sits lower in his voice.

But the worst fit in this flick is the voice of Darkseid, as provided by Andre Braugher. Braugher received top billing for this movie, though I’m not sure why, as Batman and Superman are more prominent than Darkseid and Braugher isn’t THAT well known compared to Daly and Conroy.

In any case, his delivery sounds just like that. An actor delivering lines. No subtext and not much expression, either. It sounded read. Read well, but read just the same. Not to mention the fact that his voice just didn’t have the depth and size to fill the shoes of Darkseid. Ed Asner, who reprised his animated series role as Granny Goodness, would have been a better choice. Or perhaps Michael Dorn, who voiced Kalibak (the son of Darkseid) in the animated series. Or best of all just a good unknown that could really do it well. As it is, Braugher’s voice sounds strangely “small” and uninteresting coming from the hulking gray tower that is Darkseid.

If you haven’t read the original comic book story, there are some cool surprises and it’s fun watching Kara interact with the other characters. If you were a fan of the animated series, though, this ground will feel covered already, as it nearly was in the two-part story “Little Girl Lost”, which is actually included in this release.

The included special features are cool, as usual, and definitely add to the value. The Supergirl feature was alright, until it started showing clips from Smallville (blech!). And the New Gods documentary was insightful.

The Green Arrow short feature is okay, though Black Canary stole some screen time and I would have liked to see Oliver Queen’s skills as an archer showcased a little better.

Nothing much to talk about of philosophical value in the main feature. Kara wants to be her own person and everyone else wants her to conform to a certain way of living. So there may be a parent/child metaphor in there somewhere, but it’s not brought out at all and is easily missed.

A cool, fan-service animated movie that isn’t the best they’ve put out for the DCU, but is hardly the worst.

Quality: 8.5/10

Relevance: 5.0/10

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