Superman Unbound is flawed, but fun
Superman Unbound sees Superman like we rarely see him in animated films featuring the Man of Steel.
Inspired by Geoff Johns and Gary Franks’ Superman: Brainiac, Superman (Matt Bomer) and his cousin, Supergirl (Molly C. Quinn, Castle), tangle with Brainiac (John Noble, Fringe), the calculating data seeker who steals cities to satisfy his mad quest for knowledge.
Brainiac is a longtime Superman foe and has already been the subject of a home video release with the 2006 Superman: Brainiac Attacks, and the Unbound filmmakers don’t truly justify the need for another Superman/Brainiac clash.
Superman encounters a drone sent by Brainiac, a name that terrifies Supergirl as she recalls how Brainiac invaded Krypton and kidnapped a city, killing hundreds in his wake and leaving the planet to its inevitable fate. Fearing for Earth’s safety, Superman sets off into space to stop the would-be conqueror before he destroys Superman’s adopted home world.
For the most part, screenwriter Bob Goodman (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) is faithful to the source material — right down to the Easter Egg cameo of another DC Comics character and the final battle between Superman/Brainiac.
But the story takes its biggest hit as Goodman decides to revamp the relationship of Lois Lane (Stana Katic) and Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent and cast them as secret office lovers at The Daily Planet.
Clark is paranoid Superman’s enemies could learn his identity and then come after Lois — a bit of a reach since Superman is already so closely associated with Lois that she’s already a target.
The Clark/Lois subplot bogs the story down and makes Lois come across as needy compared to the strong support system for Clark she’s been in the comics. Goodman would have been better off using Johns’ ending as it showed that no matter how powerful he is, even Superman can’t protect everyone all the time.
Another problem is the constantly changing status quo in nearly every DC Comics animated effort. The films are only 75 minutes and too much time is wasted establishing the new character dynamics. Superman has never heard of Brainiac. Supergirl being treated like a new addition to the Superman mythos despite being prominently featured in the 2010 film Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.
The sharp angular character designs are reminiscent of the old Aeon Flux cartoons and make Superman look slight and frail — traits you don’t normally associate with a guy nicknamed ‘The Man of Steel.’
The casting is hit or miss here. Quinn and Noble are excellent and should become the regular voice actors for their characters in future projects. Katic is a capable Lois fill-in for Dana Delany, but Bomer is miscast and won’t have anyone forgetting longtime Superman voice actor Tim Daly.
Despite those issues, the film is still fun as this Superman can smash away at scores of Brainiac drones and actually cut loose with all his powers and live up to the movie’s title.
Watching Superman ‘Hulk-out’ on Brainiac and his army is worth it alone. Superman Unbound is a reminder it’s time to give Superman some new opponents instead of dipping in the reliable well of Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Metallo and Brainiac. That will truly make his animated adventures truly soar.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment