If your cousin ever falls out of the sky, and has super powers, don’t ever, ever, EVER try to do what you think is best for her. An evil godlike being will then kidnap her and make her the leader of his female army. At least, I think that’s the basic moral of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, the new direct-to-Blu-ray animated movie.
I watched the Super Friends when I was growing up. I liked it, even the stupid Wonder Twins and their “form of an ice rocket-ship” idiocy. I was a big fan of DC Comics and all their many costumed heroes. Watching that show these days is a shock. It was bad…really, really bad. So I’m not going to get all holier-than-thou when it comes to animated DC superhero movies. I’ve got dark days in my past where something that wasn’t really great held my attention and was appointment viewing for a few years. But still, if Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is representative of the types of animated superhero movies out there these days, I’m thinking that these are just always pretty bad. Because that’s what this movie is…bad.
Ripped straight out of the “listen to me and let me make my own decisions” school of teen-girl movies, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse introduces teenaged Kara (voiced by Summer Glau). She arrives in a meteor from the planet Krypton and is quickly identified as cousin to Clark Kent, the one and only Superman (Tim Daly). Although it seems like weird crap happens every day in their lives, Batman (Kevin Conroy) is suspicious of this newcomer, who has powers equal to Superman’s, but no ability to control or use them.
Kara is seen (somehow) by interstellar villain Darkseid (Andre Braugher -- oh how you’ve fallen, Detective Pendleton). He wants to use her as a brainwashed soldier in his army of buxomy, scantily dressed women. I want one of those! Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) wants to take Kara away to some island of buxomy, scantily dressed women to teach her to use her powers, but Superman ends up being against it. But you know who they didn’t ask? Kara! That’s right, the teen gets all pissy and says things like, “You never listen to me!” and “What about what I want?” and “I hate that Brianna, she’s always saying mean things on Facebook!” Okay, not the last thing. Instead, Darkseid kidnaps her, and so Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and someone named Big Barda (Julianne Grossman) go to his burning planet to rescue her.
The fairly slight plot, based on a DC comic arc and running a barely acceptable 78 minutes, goes back and forth between battles among various good and evil groups and inane dialogue delivered in wooden monotones. Glau is horrifically bad as Kara, and while I’m sure Daly and Braugher are decent voice actors when they want to be, nothing in this movie would make you think they are anything but blocks. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is so trite and stupid, or that much of the plot borders on the ridiculous. When Wonder Woman decides that it would be a good idea to train Kara on her island, she doesn’t just sit down and try to explain it all to Superman and Kara, she attempts to kidnap the kid. Stuff like that just annoys the hell out of me.
The animation is obviously well done and deserves to be acknowledged, but the basic square patterns leave me a little cold. Everything feels a bit off and false, and when characters are in the background, they don’t move, which is annoying. Plus, the producers are cynically making a play for horny young men and teens. There isn’t one female character, from Kara on down, who doesn’t have perfect large bazoombas (that’s what we used to call boobs) that are shown off in a skimpy outfit. Tight, revealing clothing is the order of the day for every female hero, especially the clearly teenage (underage?) Kara. I know I sound like an old fart, but it’s a pretty cheap move. I’m sure it follows comic-book tradition for the characters, but give me a break.
I just didn’t like this movie. It’s disappointing, since I was a DC fan back in the day. I think those who currently read the comics and have watched the other television shows and DVDs in this same series will probably be pleased, but if you are looking to jump in with this, be warned that it’s not “super” in any sense. Oh yeah, Kara turns out to be Supergirl, so you get to see her in her (skimpy) costume at the end.
While the movie is no great shakes, I do think it will appeal to the fans of the television series and the other movies. With that in mind, I have to say that the extras will likely be enjoyable for that segment of the viewing population as well. There are a good number of extra bits, although none of them really relate directly to the production of this movie.
The most enjoyable extra is an 11-minute short starring Green Arrow. He is headed to the airport to pick up Black Canary and stumbles on a plot to kill a young princess. Unlike the main film, I thought the dialogue was fun and witty and the action enjoyable. Maybe it was the brief running time that made them cut out all the crappy bits, but I could see watching five or six of these with different heroes (Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom) rather than one long movie with the big three.
There are also four episodes of the “Superman: The Animated Series” television show. They are hyped as being specially chosen by Bruce Timm, the show's co-creator, but really, they all feature either Darkseid or Supergirl. Since they are the focus of this movie as well, it doesn’t seem like much choosing was needed. Still, it’s a nice bonus for a fan to have these shows available.
The “behind-the-scenes” stuff isn’t really a behind-the-scenes for this particular movie. It’s more general information about either Darkseid or Supergirl. The longest featurette is 22 minutes and covers the creation of the New Gods story arc back in the 1970s and how the characters, including Darkseid, have been used over the years. There are also two shorter (five minutes) extras on both Orion and Scott Free, some of which duplicates what was said in the longer extra. If you know nothing about the New Gods (and I knew very little), then it’s actually pretty informative and interesting. But I get the feeling that fans of the material would be bored.
The final featurette, running about 17 minutes, focuses on the character of Supergirl. It discusses her comic origins but then sort of takes a left turn with the heavy involvement and discussion of the Supergirl character in the television show Smallville. The actress who plays the character in Smallville is interviewed -- but not Summer Glau -- and most of the creative people interviewed either work at DC or on Smallville. It looks like this was shot to publicize Smallville and was then thrown onto the disc because it relates to Supergirl. For those of us who remember the crummy Supergirlmovie back in the '80s, it’s funny to listen to people talk how it was good, just misunderstood in its time. Don’t be fooled, that movie sucked.
There are a group of sneak peeks, including one for the next direct-to-DVD movie, All-Star Superman. The remainder are for movies that have already been released. Again, this is a decent package for a fan. If you like the movie, you’ll enjoy the whole set of extras, and if you don’t, some of the extras improve things a bit. I did enjoy the Green Arrow short and the New Gods material, so that’s something. You also get a DVD copy and an electronic version (both on the same second disc.)