Movie Review: Superman vs. The Elite
The DC Universe direct-to-DVD’s have been extremely hit and miss. They’ve released fourteen since Warner Bros. started putting them out but it seems as if only every other one is good. For every good film like All-Star Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman: Under the Red Hood, there’s stinkers like Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Justice League: Crisis of Two Earths and Batman: Gotham Knights. Not only that, but they’ve seemed to limit themselves by only doing stories based on either Superman or Batman, since they’re the money makers. After a while, though, it would be nice to see a Flash, Aquaman, or Secret Six animated film.
Until something new comes out, I’m fine with Superman. His animated films have been high quality under DCU’s watch; I liked Superman: Doomsday, loved Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and gushed over All-Star Superman. Now, we have the newest Superman DVD, the adaptation of Joe Kelly’s Action Comics #775, Superman vs. The Elite.
When the movie began, I was worried that this was going to be another miss for DCU. I hated the animation right off. I understand the desire to exaggerate features in animation and if you’re going to do it, superheroes are just asking for large chins and ridiculous poses. However, while every other character seems like they could fit in with the rest of the animated DVDs, we get a very goofy looking Superman, with a huge chin that comes off more as baby fat than square jaw. Despite how dark the story is, the animation is always colorful and fun, taking away from some of the serious moments.
But once I got used to the animation and design, I still had to get through the story. At first, I was fairly bored. Big guys show up, challenge Superman and his ideas, ect, ect. I wasn’t impressed with the four characters that make the Elite, nor the choice to use the Atomic Skull as a reoccurring villain. I wanted to like the movie, because I love Superman, but it wasn’t happening.
Then, somewhere near the middle of the movie, The Elite make their big move against the Atomic Skull and the movie’s theme really comes alive. Superman is now challenged, not by superpowered thugs who go down with a few punches, but by the idea that he’s no longer relevant to the world. As a hero, his ideals may be falling by the wayside and be a thing of the past. If the world wants superheroes that kill the bad guys, where does Superman, the banner for truth and justice, fit in anymore?
The last act of the movie, where Superman faces off against The Elite, won me over completely. The twist had me on the edge of my seat and I was terrified to see Superman acting the way he was. The idea of Superman without limits should scare everyone. What was wonderful was that, as the fight was televised, we can see the scared look in the world’s eyes. They wanted this, but now that they get it, is it not the too much? It was great realizing I was feeling the same thing as the citizens in the movie, and the story proves its point well. This strong ending brought this okay movie up to a great one and I loved it.
The voice work seemed a bit low-par compared to DCU’s other films. George Newbern was great, as always, and he pulled out all the stops in this film. I’m not sure I’ve ever liked his performance so much as I did in this movie. Newbern knows how to get to the heart of Superman, while still giving him a commanding presence. The rest of the cast, though, wasn’t so great. Pauley Perrette was a weird choice for Lois Lane and he character design made her seem more like Kitty Pride. Her lines weren’t bad, the delivery was simply off-putting. Robin Downes as Manchester Black was the worst offender. At the beginning, you just want to yell at the character “I get it! You’re British!” He never said, “Cor Blimey”, but he never sounded like he wouldn’t. Thankfully, near the turning point of the film, he starts to be more of a dark character and, when angry, sounds great.
Overall, Superman vs. The Elite is a great addition to the DC Universe DVDs, and another great Superman movie. It starts a little rough, but becomes a much deeper and thought provoking film, and I love Superman yelling “You want to deconstruct me?” Moments like Superman taking out the fighter jets and the slow motion punch at Manchester were terrific. For those who still want to question Superman and his ideals, this movie is the answer.
Final note; I’m fairly certain the main Superman theme music in this film is the same from Superman: Doomsday. What’s with that?