Brainiac has long been one of Superman’s most powerful villains. One of the universe’s supreme intellects…and in Superman: Unbound he’s defeated by mud! Ok, so that might be over simplifying things somewhat but it does serve to underscore the many disappointing aspects of the latest DC Comics animated film. Unbound is an adaptation of the “Brainiac” storyline from Action Comics in 2008, a story written by Geoff Johns, one of the better writers in comics today.
Superman investigates a UFO that arrives on Earth and discovers it is one of Brainiac’s robotic drones. Superman disables the drone before it can transmit back to Brainiac and takes it back to his Fortress of Solitude. Supergirl arrives because she has seen drones like these before. She relates how thousands of them attacked Krypton’s capital of Kandor, killing thousands. Brainiac then removed the entire city from the planet and miniaturized it, keeping it in a bottle, along with thousands of other stolen cities aboard his ship. Supergirl is terrified that Earth will be Brainiac’s next target so Superman leaves Earth to try and stop him.
Unfortunately this was the high point of Superman: Unbound. For the next hour Superman and Brainiac take turns defeating each other in laughable fashion. Brainiac’s omnipresent awareness apparently had the day off as Superman roams about his ship as casually as if he was browsing at the local Wal-Mart. When Brainiac traps Superman within the City of Kandor, he manages to escape by hitching a ride on a damaged drone when Brainiac teleports it back to his ship. Yeah, some genius!
Brainiac eventually makes his way to Earth where he plans to add Metropolis to his collection but when Superman takes Brainiac out of his ship, the alien finds he cannot tolerate Earths organic life forms…and the traffic bothers him too. While I like Johns’ work this clearly is not one of his better efforts. I mean nothing like stealing a page from H.G. Wells. Believe it or not this is not the worst part of Superman: Unbound.
Far more annoying is the relationship sub-plot between Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Lois harps on Clark endlessly for wanting to keep their relationship secret. Clark, overplaying the mild-manner reporter stereotype sits there and takes it. Look I’m not saying we have to return to the 1950s but when exactly did Superman lose his gonads? Did they take a Kryptonite scalpel to remove them? A better question is why, in a 75 minute animated comic book film, do we need to waste time on relationship issues? These movies are all standalone features so why even expend the effort for something that won’t be remembered and may even be changed in the next film?
The animation style was a weird hybrid of American animation and anime with figures that were lean and angular and just not a good design for a powerful hero like Superman. This style would have been better suited to someone like Green Lantern or something of a Sci-Fi nature although Brainiac’s design was decent.
When it comes to voice acting, DC seems to alternate between using those actors who have provided the voices for the animated TV shows like Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy, and using generally well-known actors. Matt Bomer of the TV show “White Collar’ provides the voice of Superman/Clark Kent and while he’s not horrible he’s just…plain. Stana Katic grates on you as a shrewish Lois Lane. The one standout was John Noble of “Fringe” as Brainiac. His deep, resonating voice gave the villain life.
Kandor: History of the Bottle City (17:00) – This featurette looks at the history of Kandor, the Bottle City from its creation in 1958 to present day. Features comments by Marv Wolfman, Dan DiDio, and Mike Carlin.
Brainiac: Technology and Terror (24:00) – Looks at Brainiac’s creation from the same 1958 issue of Action Comics that introduced Kandor to his evolution over the decades. Examines how brainiac was changed from his original look into a more robotic look in the 1980s.
Four episodes from Superman: The Animated Series – I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of these recycled episodes making their way onto all of the DC animated films. What happened to the excellent short animated films that we got a few years back with characters like Green Arrow and The Spectre?
A Sneak Peak at Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox (10:00) – A look at the next DC animated film.