Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Superman: Unbound" (2013)

Starring Matt Bomer, John Noble and Stana Katic
Written by Bob Goodman
Directed by James Tucker
Rated PG-13 - Animated violence, peril, language, offensive gestures
Running Time: 75 Minutes

Things are in flux for the Man of Steel. Superman (Matt Bomer) is struggling to teach his young cousin Supergirl (Molly Quinn) how to temper herself on Earth, not to go too far hurting the bad guys. At the same time, his girlfriend Lois Lane (Stana Katic) is frustrated that Clark refuses to allow knowledge of their relationship to go public. He worries that if anyone ever discovered that Clark Kent is Superman, Lois would be in trouble. She counters that she's already in trouble all the time, anyway.

But things are about to change, and Superman's world will be rocked the core by the arrival of an alien scout belonging to Brainiac (John Noble) a vast intelligence whose sole mission is to ingest the knowledge of entire worlds. But Brainiac's flaw is that he destroys every world he encounters after absorbing its knowledge. Supergirl tells Superman that Brainiac visited Krypton shortly before its destruction, and somehow stole its capital city, Kandor.

Superman tracks down Brainiac, who is in the process of consuming an alien world. He attempts to stop Brainiac, but is captured. Brainiac is intrigued by Superman's existence, and through him, learns of the planet Earth. Now, thanks to Superman, Brainiac is on his way, and not even the two powerful Kryptonian heroes may be able to stop him.

"Superman: Unbound" is the 16th of this line of DC animated features, and at this point, these guys have got things down pat. While I would still rank some of the Batman features and the lone Wonder Woman flick higher than this one, this is definitely a solid adventure for the Man of Steel. It boasts a good cast, interesting character designs and all the pounding action you'd expect.

First, the good - Stana Katic's Lois Lane is wonderful. Both the script and the actress nail the intelligence and ambition of the character. She's easily the movie's most intriguing aspect. She doesn't come off as pushy or whiny, and not only imparts some good wisdom on Supergirl, but also on Superman. And she has what is flat-out the movie's best moment with her reaction to hearing Brainiac's disappointment in Earth and its technology.

John Noble is also impressive as Brainiac, with a very dryly arrogant but also menacing performance. I always enjoyed the 90s TV animated version voiced by Corey Burton, and here Noble infuses Brainiac with more emotion than Burton. This Brainiac feels a bit more alive in that respect, more evil. No less awesome, though.

Matt Bomer and Molly Quinn do solid work as the Man and Girl of Steel, respectively. Bomer's version of Superman feels very warm and human, compared to some of the other actors who've voiced the role in these films who have come off as somewhat flat. I like Adam Baldwin as much as any Browncoat, but some of his line readings were... just bad. But here in scenes where Superman interacts emotionally with Kara or Lois, he really nails that sense of caring.

The character designs continue to move away from the designs for the 90s TV series. Superman has lost his massive block chin, looking like he's got a few more angles to him. Supergirl, unfortunately, wears a barely-there costume through the entire film, save for a brief scene in which she disguises herself in Smallville. Lois Lane has a very modern, short-haired look to her that's nice, and the script has a couple of sly jokes about her choice of wearing a skirt and heels.

If there's a complaint I have to voice about the film, it's that, in regards to the action sequences, the Brainiac robot drones, while interestingly designed, don't end up being much of a threat for Superman. He routinely punches right through them and in several sequences takes out large numbers of them with ease. After a while, it's just not all that interesting, even though the movie seems to think it is. The battles between Superman and Brainiac fare better, since Superman ends up being so outmatched by him.

Still, "Superman: Unbound" is a solid entry in the DC Animated Universe series. It doesn't quite reach the highs of some of the earlier efforts like "Batman: Under the Red Hood" but it is elevated by some great casting and occasionally brilliant writing.

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