By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The animated movies in the DC Animated Universe have often been consistently good. Some are better than others, namely the Batman films, and for Superman, some viewers may have to wonder why Tim Daly cannot reprise the role? For the people who grew up watching Superman: The Animated Series cartoon and Justice League (Unlimited), he was the seminal voice. But for every generation, this character gets reinvented anyways.
With Superman: Unbound, the characterizations are on par with what some people would expect before or after seeing the live action movie. The DVD release comes packaged with a good set of bonus material to get fans up to speed with what goes in Supes’ world. Without a doubt, Warner Bros Animation was hoping one product would ride the popularity wave of another, namely the release of Man of Steel. When a primer is needed to acquaint newcomers to who Superman is, both products do a good job to get newcomers acquainted to knowing who from Krypton survived.
While Supes’ home planet was destroyed quite literally from within, the city of Kandor was spared by being miniaturized by Brainiac, a cyborg not of Kryptonian origin. Unlike previous continuities which defined him as a product of Kryptonian science, this version is from another world. Just like Superman who protects Metropolis, Brainiac thinks he can do the same, but in more controlled if not sinister circumstances. But as Supes observes, he’s not in control of every single environmental variable–namely in what Mother Nature can toss at him.
Most of the tale surrounds itself in how Clark/Superman feels towards his adopted hometown of Metropolis. The subplot about how he feels towards Lois, especially in making their relationship known in the office, is iffy. There is not enough substance to make this character development important. To make Supergirl behave more like a helpless heroine for the starting act feels weird. She does not make up for her “we must flee” moment when she realizes Brainiac is on the loose and believes nothing can be done to save the Earth.
Somehow, Supes convinces her to stop a missile from destroying the sun but that’s hardly a piece of the rising action involved in this tale. The angst Clark Kent is feeling is towards leading a double life is no doubt more important for director James Tucker to explore. He must have taken notes from early reports of what the movie Man of Steel would entail.
Also, the decision to update the character for every new movie is getting very tired fast. The new designs are not too bad, but to have different voice talent every time a new DCAU product is made is odd. Bruce Timm defined this animated universe with a great cast of voice talent. Usually, their return to voicing a popular character makes cartoon community news, like in how Dana Delany is returning to voice Lois in the upcoming Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox video release. If that’s the case, then why should the producers get other vocal talent? Some fans will not mind the delay if the actor is booked and they rather him or her instead of someone new. The people who defined the characters should be resuming the roles that made them a recognized name. The real shame is that Bruce Timm is no longer a supervising producer at Warner Bros. Animation so his mark will no longer be felt in upcoming DCAU products.
Although James Tucker is a great replacement as a producer/director because he and Timm worked on Batman: TAS and Justice League together, the apple seems to have fallen further away from the tree. There are nuances in Superman’s mannerisms that are out-of-place. Most of it involves how Superman treats his closest friends. His proactive approach in dealing with Brainiac is vengeful. It’s almost like he’s being influenced by Red Kryptonite. This new interpretation does not quite work, and some viewers may well want the big boy scout to come back. That’s doubtful since last year marked a reboot of the entire DC comics universe. All the characters are being reinterpreted for a new age, and not all of it is good.