Thursday, March 19, 2015

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse review

    As I mentioned in the "Who is the Girl of Steel" (here) essay, Supergirl was absent from comics in her original Kryptonian form for the better part of two decades. While there were women who wore the big red S, they weren't Superman's cousin from Krypton. This all changed in 2003 with the second story arc of Batman/Superman "The Supergirl from Krypton."

Superman is watching you. Do not look at his cousin.
    Overall, I was very fond of "The Supergirl from Krypton" because it was a fairly whimsical tale with some serious bits. It wasn't especially deep in its characterization, Supergirl is amnesiac about her past for example, but it was fun. You had such things as an entire army of cloned Doomsdays, the Amazons actually being good for a change, and a throw-down with both the Girl of Steel and the Man of Steel with the Lord of Apokolips.

    Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is a really good adaptation of that storyline.

    I know! It had to happen sometime.

    As mentioned above, the story consists of Kara Zor-El arriving with a mount of Kryptonite from her homeworld. In the original comic, it is the remains of Argo City but it just seems like a whole bunch of Kryptonite came with her this time. She makes the mistake of landing in Gotham City, immediately making Batman suspicious. Naked and unable to speak English, Supergirl gets into all manner of trouble with her new powers. Batman manages to disable her with a shard of Kryptonite, which really is troublesome since that's a teenage girl he's using a lethal radioactive isotope to knock out.
I love seeing the DC Trinity together.
    As expected, Superman shows up and is delighted to have some of his lost Kryptonian family back. We get some really good scenes between Kara and Clark where he introduces her to shopping. It's a bit questionable a girl from a scientific Utopia would take to buying like a credit-card happy Valley girl but I appreciated showing her taking to our world with gusto. Batman still believes this is all a trick by someone like Lex Luthor or Brainiac because Batman does not believe in good things happening to good people. Thus, Bruce Wayne calls Wonder Woman to see if Supergirl can get some hardassed training in her powers by someone who isn't her cousin.

    Darkseid, meanwhile, looks for someone to replace Big Barda as the head of his guard.

    Supergirl, being a Kryptonian, looks just right.

    This is a pretty straightforward story and there's not a lot of twists and turns. It's about the three biggest superheroes in the world dealing with the arrival of someone every bit as powerful as them (even if Batman's power is his mind) but none of the discipline. Darkseid senses Supergirl is a weak-link in Earth's champions and could be bent to the, no pun intended, dark side.

Supergirl goes Goth? Fine, good for her. Darkseid lusting after her? No, wrong! Find someone your own age, God of Evil.
    Sadly, we never get to see what methods the Lord of Apokolips uses to try to bend Supergirl to his will and it would have been nice for them to expand on the temptations he might offer. The movie makes much of how Kal-El is a controlling overprotective father-figure while Batman alienates everyone (and Wonder Woman tries to kidnap her for boot camp). Doing a Return of the Jedi scene where Darkseid tempts Supergirl with freedom would have been a good addition to the film.

    Really, my biggest complaint about this film is Supergirl is a sideshow to Superman and Batman's struggle between trust vs. caution. Summer Glau does an excellent Kara Zor-El and I can't help but think this story would have benefited from more scenes from her perspective. What works in a six-issue comic format doesn't always benefit from transitioning to an hour and ten minute movie.

    Also, less of a complaint and more an observation is the artists for these movies really threw in a lot of fanservice for the heterosexual male gaze. Supergirl and all of the women are depicted with large anime-esque eyes, curvy forms, and revealing outfits. Given much of the movie takes place on Paradise Island, this leads to a lot of attractive women in various form-fitting attire. It's on the mild-side but when some of Darkseid's Female Furies, who are historically a collection of grotesques, appear somewhat attractive then you know the artists have gone too far.

All will love her and despair!
    The voice acting in the movie is good with Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly doing their usual bang-up jobs with the Dark Knight and Man of Tomorrow. Susan Eisenberg also is an excellent Wonder Woman, which we knew already from the Justice League cartoon and the Wonder Woman movie. In a way, I miss Nicholle Tom as Supergirl but I think Summer Glau was a perfectly good substitute and probably better for their fundamentally different characters. Sadly, Andre Braugher just doesn't work for me as Darkseid after Michael Ironsides.

    In conclusion, this is an enjoyable little movie which is about as substantial as a vanilla wafer. It has beautiful characters, excellent action, and about 20% as much characterization as it needs. Still, I'm going to give it a generous review because I love Supergirl and Wonder Woman. Any movie which has both is hard for me to come down on hard on.


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