Superman Unbound came out today - the latest in DC's stellar line of Animated Movies. Sadly, I see no hide nor hair of Bruce Timm's name on the project - and I have to wonder if that effected the quality of this film.
The movie, by no means, is bad at all -- it faithfully adapts the Brainiac storyline, from Geoff Johns' run on Action Comics. Yet it didn't seem to live up to the same bombastic sensibilities you expect from a movie (even if that means being unfaithful to the original source material) What it relied on, sadly, seemed to be scenes of violence, blood, and body mutilation (His Eyes!!!) While a Superman story can have violence, it seemed gratuitously added, to make Brainiac more frightening. In that way, at least, they succeeded - giving us the same Matrix-Inspired Collector developed by Johns and Gary Frank. Brainiac was expertly voice casted with John Noble (Fringe), perfectly captured the analytical monstrosity, but underlaid with a seething anger.
It seems like every time they do a new movie, they take the opportunity to cast someone new as the Man of Steel's voice. Matt Bomer does a good job here - but his voice likewise doesn't stand out as distinct or noteworthy as the Man of Steel. The same can be said for Molly Quinn, who voiced Supergirl -- she fit the part spot on, but nothing special was added to the character or roll. It didn't help matters that Kara, while being a relatable Super-Person with problems, instead came off as indecisive and annoying. Stana Katic, on the other hand, did a great job portraying Lois Lane, adding that sense of fierce competitiveness and brashness the character embodies.
The art design of the story, also, felt like it could have done so much more. Superman looks fine -- but, at times it felt like the story might have been served better with a more bombastic art style, like from the Elite movie -- or at least anything that didn't depict Superman as so skinny. That, contrasted by his many muscles, seemed like an odd contrast.
Also, as far as art direction, I feel like there where some missed opportunities, when it came to depicting Brainiac's ship. They captured the feel of it, but didn't seem to take advantage of it; I felt like, it should feel more scary - more alien. (I hesitate to say more cables and wires would have made it more creepy - but it really might have helped!)
I was also confused as to why Supergirl's parents where written into the movie, when steam-lining, and leaving them out of the story, would have made so much more sense. The emotional impact, of Superman finding them, was completely absent; making their inclusion all the more perplexing.
One last thing to mention -- the ending. It ended quite similarly to the original storyline, which excellently had Superman use his wits, in addition to his brawn. Still, there was a problem after the fight. I don't want to spoil anything - but I thought the gratuitous need for violence went over the top, concerning Brainiac's demise - with Superman looking on, no less! Superman doesn't have to save everyone - but it seemed very off-putting, to see Superman stand there while the villain self-imploded. (He could at least show a little concern)
I am being overly critical on some issues, to what was otherwise a good movie. The story arch for Superman, contrasted against Brainiac's ambitions, seemed like a decent direction to follow in; but they made it corny by what they added at the very end. It just feels like this movie could have been so much more!
Special features seem decent -- but only if you get the Blueray Combo pack - as DC Warner always seem to be trying to stick it to anyone who dares buy the cheaper DVD, which apparently isn't even worthy of having Audio Commentary (that was saved for Blueray only) They always seem like cheap manipulative jerks, when it comes to this.
BTW - Target might be you're best bet, to buy this movie - as they include a code for a Free Digital Copy of Action Comics #866, Part 1 of the Brainiac Story.
If you're interested, at all, in the original story -- they have a great value TPB, on Amazon.com, featuring the Last Son storyline, in addition to the Brainiac Storyline. Geoff Johns is a superb writer - and he brought his A-Game to the Superman titles. So if you're curious, especially with the upcoming movie coming out, this is an excellent volume to start with.
I really hope my disappointment about the DC Animated Film franchise will be put to rest, if the next film "Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox" turns out to be good. Bruce Timm might be gone - but there are still many immensely talented people still working there; I would just suggest to them; don't always play it safe. If a movie can be better, by changing something in the original story, then change it. It just felt like this movie kept too much to the original script - and what played excellently in comics, didn't work as well as it could have in film.