On the whole, it’s been easy to admire the work of Bruce Timm and his animation team, even after their TV series such as Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Animated Series went off the air. While not being able to match the quality of his animated series in feature-length projects such as Superman: Doomsday and Batman: Gotham Knight, each film has been enjoyable on their own merit, and certain examples like Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman have even come close to true greatness on their own terms. This is why it’s a bit disappointing that the newest offering from Timm and his DC Animation team, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, doesn’t come as close to spectacular as it really should.
First off, just like the excellent Justice League: The New Frontier, Timm’s team has adapted this particular Superman/Batman adventure from a graphic novel of the same name. The book, by author Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuiness, is a nonstop fight-fest where President Lex Luthor puts a bounty on Superman’s head, bringing out every villain to try and collect the reward, while many heroes take on the Man of Steel on orders from the new President. With Batman being the only hero to come to Superman’s aid, the duo must survive a gauntlet of friends and foes, from Gorilla Grodd and Solomon Grundy, to an epic showdown against the team of Captain Marvel and Hawkman, all the while trying to stop a bigger worldwide disaster.
Now while of this comes off swimmingly on the page, there’s just something in this film version that doesn’t give you the same kick. First off, it’s unfortunate that for a movie with pretty much non-stop action, there’s nothing in this piece that’s incredibly standout, especially when compared to stuff we’ve seen on JLU. In that series, brawls between Superman and Captain Marvel, as well as the final showdown between the Man of Steel and Darkseid, were some of the best superhero battles ever put on screen in any format. Nothing in this film manages to come anywhere near the same type of scope or visceral impact.
Also, at 67 minutes and moving at a breakneck pace, the movie feels overwhelmingly short. Both of the last two DCU Animated films (Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman) felt gigantic in comparison, and not only that, but they both earned a certain emotional depth along the way by fleshing out their stories. Other than one really good beat, this film doesn’t seem to be as interested in making you care as deeply for these characters.
Still, it’s not all bad news. For fans of Bruce Timm’s previous works, it’s utter joy to hear the voices of Tim Daly as Superman, Kevin Conroy as Batman, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. I’ve been listening to these men voice these characters since the early ’90s, so getting them back to do this feature was probably the best thing the producers could have possibly done for this film, and on that level it works pretty amazingly. These three have a terrific chemistry and from their voice-work here you’d have guessed they had never stopped voicing these characters.
Hopefully, the producers will get these three back in the studio for another project soon, but attach them to one that really shines instead of one that just entertains. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is better than most animated projects with superheroes these days, and does manage to keep your interest throughout, but doesn’t manage to enthrall you like the best episodes from Justice League or the better films produced by Bruce Timm such as Justice League: The New Frontier or Green Lantern: First Flight. You could do a lot worse, but unfortunately for this film, we’ve seen a lot better.
Simply put, the print on this Blu-ray disc looks spectacular. WB really made this presentation an impressive sight, with the colors of this movie really popping every second of its running time, and sound to match. The image quality is incredibly sharp, really making me want to see what a high definition transfer of previous DC properties could look like, especially the original Superman and Batman animated series.
Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Upcoming Movie Justice League Crisis on Two Earths – This movie looks pretty terrific so far, with this Featurette going into detail about DC’s vaunted history with multiple universes and how the film makers are incorporating that history into this future movie.
Blackest Night: Inside the DC Comics Event – DC Comics writer Geoff Johns and others are interviewed for this awesome event in which the heroes of the DC universe have to deal with fallen heroes and villains rising from the grave. If you’re a fan of Johns’ Green Lantern or Justice Society of America work, this looks to be a must read.
A Test of Minds: Superman and Batman – This Featurette is kind of short, but pretty sweet, looking at the relationship and history of DC’s two biggest heroes. Many people from DC Comics are interviewed here and look at how this friendship and rivalry has evolved over the years. If you’re a fan of DC and its history, this is a pretty fun watch.
Dinner with DCU and Special Guest Kevin Conroy – The Voice of Batman Shares a Meal and Talks with a DC Universe Creative Team – This is really fantastic stuff. You get an hour with Bruce Timm and other creators, as well as Kevin Conroy, the man who has voiced Batman since 1992. Full of anecdotes and insights into what this team has accomplished over the years, this is a wonderful extra.
Bruce Timm Presents Bonus Cartoons – You get 4 episodes from JLU, “Question Authority”, “Flash Point”, “Panic in the Sky”, and “Divided we Fall”, and 2 more from Superman: The Animated Series, “Demon Reborn” and “Knight Time.” These episodes are all excellent and work terrifically in conjunction with the film in question.
Digital Copy of Film
While the movie is entertaining enough, it just doesn’t rank with the best of Bruce Timm’s work regarding the DC Universe. With that said, this is still a fun ride with the best possible voice cast, as well as a gorgeous Blu-ray with a ton of great extras.
Warner Bros. presents Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Directed by: Sam Liu. Starring: Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, and Allison Mack. Written by: Stan Berkowitz. Running time: 67 Minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray: September 29, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Batman, Reviews, Superman