This Tuesday DC Direct will release their latest animated feature titled Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. This will be the second DVD starring the two big guns from DC Comics under their own banner, and although it is not a sequel, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse begins during the fallout from the previous feature, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The understanding and enjoyment of the newest movie does not rely on having watched its predecessor.
The movie is based on the best-selling comic book that tells the story of Superman’s young cousin arriving on Earth and the struggle to determine her fate, be it as hero, regular teenager, or pawn to the cosmic despot Darkseid. Written Jeph Loeb and penciled by Michael Turner, the story was originally presented in Superman/Batman #8-13, and later collected in both hard and soft covers as Superman/Batman:Supergirl.
Like the previous DVD, voice actors Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy return to their roles made famous by the much beloved 90s animated series. Many fans hear Kevin Conroy’s voice in their heads while they read Batman comics, and it came as no surprise that message boards were littered with postings complaining when Conroy was not cast as the Dark Knight Detective in several other features. Summer Glau (Dollhouse and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) debuts as Kara Zor-El / Supergirl, Andre Braugher takes the role of Darkseid, and legendary television actor Ed Asner reprises his tongue in cheek role as Granny Goodness.
As one expects, the quality of the visuals is on par with the other DC Animation DVDs, which is a good thing. Backgrounds and settings seamlessly improve every few years, and the computer effects contribute without notice. The character movement and action is also up to standard, and, like other features, the fight scenes are fantastic.
The character design is based on the work of Michael Turner, who passed away in June 2008. Although I have an appreciation for his rendering skill, I am not a fan of his drawing style, particularly his representation of both the male and female figure. His men tend to have the shoulders of weightlifters (which is normal in comics) but have the posturing, abs, and low-cut underwear of male models. The visual connection to any type of combatant or warrior is lost in his distinctive brand of cartooning. Turner’s female figures are so freakishly thin that you are reminded that you are looking at someone’s drawing and it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief. In contrast to the pin-up girl style seen from most, Turner’s creations are narrow shouldered, narrow hipped, and have elongated limbs (as seen below). Although the characters in the movie are slightly redesigned, and somewhat moderated by the animation talent involved, Turner’s influence is still visible. Our eyes are used to the streamlined design work of Bruce Timm’s Warner Animation team, but in this case, their usual graceful line work is compromised by their attempt to include Turner as inspiration.
The story follows predictable narrative beats, introducing characters, villains, challenges, and changes to the protagonist’s life. ‘Apocalypse’ is far from original, and superficially spends time examining Kara’s adjustment to living on Earth in a clichéd montage of her shopping in the big city with her over-protective mild-mannered cousin.
Although the story spends too much of its 70 minutes on scenes that could have been trimmed for the sake of greater suspense or more action, this story does feature a scene where Batman proves that he has the biggest stones of them all.
Unlike the other recent DC features, I am not interested to learn more about this movie, like reading interviews with creators or listening to director’s commentary. I also do not imagine watching this one again in the near future. If you enjoyed Batman: Under the Red Hood or Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, it is unlikely that you will find the magic from previous features. The best part of this DVD might very well be the excitement around the trailer for the upcoming All Star Superman.