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Blu Ray Review: Superman/Batman Apocalypse (2010)

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Superman/Batman Apocalypse 2010 78 minutes rated PG-13 Available September 28th on DVD, Blu Ray, iTunes, and On Demand from WHV.
It is perhaps unfair for me to be overly critical of Superman/Batman Apocalypse, as I was not a fan of the comic book story arc from which it is adapted from. The early Jeph Loeb issues of the Superman/Batman comic were full of fan-friendly moments and epic smackdowns, but they lacked a genuine emotional drive and anything resembling complex storytelling. And so was the case with the 'Supergirl' arc, which ran in issues 8-13 back in 2004. The story existed to reintroduce the character of Supergirl, who had been killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985. But the movie version has its own sins to account for, as (like Superman/Batman Public Enemies), it actually alters a rousing climax that robs the story of what geek-pleasing moments it initially contained.
A token amount of plot - a Kryptonian spaceship crashes onto Earth, bringing with it a frightened young girl with powers identical to the fabled last son of Krypton. Superman is elated to discover that he apparently has a teenage cousin, Batman is deeply suspicious of this new visitor with untapped and unchecked powers, and Wonder Woman wants to take the child to train in Themyscira. As Kara Zor-El tries to decide what her own fate should be, the tyrannical Darkseid sees her as a potential weapon in his unending war against Superman.
Like Public Enemies, the film has a bare-minimum of plot and character from which to hang a nonstop parade of super-powered smackdowns. Frankly, the entire last half of the film is one epic battle after another. Yes, there is a terrific mass battle scene at the midway point between the army of Themyscira and an army of Doomsday clones, but it's never a good idea to peak at the start of your extended action climax. Furthermore, the actual climax alters the narrative of the original comic, robbing it of pathos (which to be fair, was partially due to some misdirection), and changing what is supposed to be an epic, possibly final battle against Darkseid into super-powered beings going at it in an empty cornfield. Considering all the blood-pumping showdowns that Superman and Darkseid have had in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League, this one just comes off like a Tuesday-night beatdown.

Speaking of Darkseid, that brings us to arguably the most shocking bit of miscasting in the entire DC Animated Universe history. I have been a fan of Andre Braugher since the pilot episode of Homicide: Life on the Street back in January 1993. But whatever intensity and authority he has brought to Frank Pembleton and any number of roles post-Homicide is missing from his vocal work as the omnipresent overlord and arguable arch enemy of the entire DC universe. I do not know whether to fault voice-director Andrea Romano (first time for everything...) or Braugher himself, but the choice to speak in a soft-spoken monotone comes off more like Andre Braugher performing the voice of Darkseid while reading a storybook to his children. It is bad enough that the producers and director Lauren Montgomery (who directed the dynamite Wonder Woman movie last year) cast nearly every major character with their original vocalist from the Batman, Superman, and Justice League animated series (Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, etc) but then decided not to have Michael Ironside reprise his definitive work as the master of Apocalypse. But Braugher doesn't work at all as a replacement for Ironside, robbing the film of its central source of menace and intensity.

The rest of the cast is fine, if unremarkable, and the animation is gorgeous and colorful per usual. But the central villain is fatally miscast, and the film lacks even the token gravitas that the fanboy-friendly original comic book happened to contain. This is simply not one of the better efforts in the DC AU filmography, but fans of the original story arc will enjoy seeing this relatively faithful adaptation. The next project is All-Star Superman, which frankly is better source material to start with. Better luck next time, gang.

Grade: C

For a look at the actual Blu Ray, including the extensive extras that outclass the feature, to to Mendelson's Memos.