There's a new superhero group in town that'll make Superman question his beliefs on truth, justice, and all that stuff.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Written by: Joe Kelly
Directed by: Michael Chang
George Newbern - Clark Kent/ Superman
Pauley Perrette - Lois Lane
Robin Atkin Downes - Manchester Black
Dee Bradley Baker - Atomic Skull
Ogie Banks - Terrence
Catero Colbert - Coldcast
Melissa Disney - Menagerie
Paul Eiding - Pa Kent
Troy Evans - Pundit
David Kaufman - Jimmy Olsen
Andrew Kishino - The Hat
Marcella Lentz-Pope - Vera Black
Fred Tatasciore - Perry White
Adapting the story from Action Comics #775, Superman is pitted against a super powered team called the Elite, who deal out no mercy toward their foes. You do evil in their eyes and you're as good as dead. Worse, the people of the Earth seem to love the Elite for it. So what's the Man of Steel going to have to do when he puts himself in their cross-hairs?
I have to say I was very much curious of this particular movie. There were two issues about it that leaped out to me immediately. The first being that unlike previous DC animated movie fare, this one had only one issue to adapt from. Where would it go with the actual free time instead of rushing and keeping the important beats of the original story? These sorts of issues plagued the two other Superman animated films: Superman: Doomsday (2007) and All Star Superman (2011). So condensing so much wouldn't be an issue for this movie (given it's based on a single issue not twelve or more which the other two Superman movies had to deal with). Instead, what more could this movie tell?
The other was the art style. This movie wasn't going to even try with using the art style of original artists Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo. It was going for its own style and Superman and his enormous jaw-line made me wonder about just how cheap the animation looked would it hinder the film?
Thankfully, the questions I had when watching the film were answered quite instantly. The film expanded on certain elements only hinted at in the original story, and had a much better pace than previous Superman films. These are all well-rounded characters with some pretty good motivations. Even though Manchester Black is in the wrong you can clearly see the viewpoint he and the Elite take could be considered right, though more on that later.
The animation style for the film also didn't conflict with anything it told. The chin of Supes didn't distract me more than likely due to the fact of the returning presence of my favorite voice actor for Superman, George Newbern. Why is he my favorite? Well, Tim Daly has this nice good wholesome charm, but I never once could buy the times he went dark (namely the later stages of Superman: The Animated Series).
Newbern's portrayal of Superman, on the other hand, had the same edges, though he took the role to a whole other level with the Twilight two-parter, the Justice Lords arc, and Destroyer. When he went to that other side you just had that shocked look on your face and you just couldn't believe Superman could be this bad ass or go down a path you're not accustomed the character going down too. Yet, Newbern could convince you with the tone of his voice. He could convince you that his Superman lived truly in a world of cardboard. This way of acting he uses gels so perfectly in the final act of the film and again you can't help but be as shocked as the people around him are, yet on the other hand can't help but be giddy over how awesome the moment is.
All the more that makes Manchester Black such a darn fascinating a character (voiced perfectly smugly arrogant by Robin Atkin Downes). Here is a juxtaposition of a super hero in a modern setting; the hero who has no limitations or care of the laws. You do bad and Black is going to kill you. If you're a lackey, he and the Elite are going to make your end just as horrific as the act the bad guy was going to unleash. The idea is understandable and played to perfection in the mid act featuring the Atomic Skull an unrepentant villain. He's a fiend and knows it. There will never be any redemption for him... EVER! However, the idea of why he should breath is perfectly justified when Superman gives his answer to the Elite. It shows why Manchester is in the wrong and that's the films strongest point.
In the comic, the point was hammered nicely, but never as hit so perfectly on the mark here. With so much more time to use, Joe Kelly, the original writer from the story weaves a nice tale to fully show the whys of how Manchester was fully wrong and before it, tease the line on why it's so easy to root for what the Elite do.
The animation is quite smooth and the whole Superman massive chin didn't annoy me as much I thought it would. Everyone is given a nice unique style to them and the action throughout is very nice to watch. Again, the climax is where the fun is truly at, though the fight the Atomic Skull has with Superman and the Elite was a treat as well. If there's anything that I had any issues with, it is some character designs of the Elite themselves, namely Coldcast. He looked so out of place compared to everyone else. Like someone Bruce Timm designed specifically yet everyone else around him was designed by someone else. The design just felt out of place. There are some other small inconsistent moments, but they don't derail you from watching the movie.
I have to admit this so far is my favorite of the animated Superman movies. It got everything right and instead of rushing through told a nice solid story. Never once I thought to myself the movie dragged on too much or rushed itself toward a conclusion. Everything was just perfectly paced. Likewise the performances handled the nicely raised issue of justice and punishment perfectly. All the voice actors brought their A game to the movie. This is the sort of movie you wish the people behind live action Superman tales could get. It tells a nicely written Superman story without a hint of Lex Luthor or General Zod to be seen. The only true issues are some slight animation, but other than the story, with such great acting behind it shines through. For those who hunger for a truly entertaining Superman film from beginning to end, this is the film for you.
4 out of 5
Review by: Zechs