The DC Universe Animated Original Movies have, for the better part, been pretty successful, due primarily to their high levels of enjoyment and excellence. However I can’t find it within me to say the same for ‘Superman: Unbound’, the latest in the series (apologies for a late review: read; life).
The story-quality varies from intense moments of action or personal character growth to stiff and limp action scenes and interminably boring opening scenes. Whether we can place the blame for this at the feet of the original story’s creators – Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, who wrote the story that appeared in ‘Action Comics’ and was the prelude to the “New Krypton” story-arc – or at the interpretation to the screen is unclear. The story is lacklustre at best, lacking the meat of other DC stories, despite the focus of Superman, arguably DC’s most iconic and rich character.
Voice work has always been stellar on previous animated outings, but I was a little let down here. Superman, voiced by Matt Bomer, was adequate, but when exchanging lines with the impeccable Stana Katic as Lois Lane or Molly Quinn as Supergirl (the ‘Castle’ double!), his delivery seemed to lack the gravitas needed. Never was it more pronounced, however, than when facing down Brainiac, voiced by the inimitable John Noble, when Superman came off sounding like a nervous new employee.
The character designs were, again, mostly wonderful, except for two notable exceptions: Superman/Clark Kent’s face was suspiciously long, making me wonder whether there was previous design influence that the animators were forced to adhere too (I have not read the original storyline, “Superman: Brainiac”); and Lois Lane came across as eerily creepy, with a face reminiscent of Cruella de Vil from the animated ‘101 Dalmations’. Moments of looking into one another’s eyes were rent asunder with sharp obnoxious lines and off-putting man-face.
Highlights are easily Lois Lane’s character (minus her design) and Supergirl. Both are impressive females living in a man’s world, but still manage to exhibit realistic female qualities, rather than overbearing Xena-esque memories. Supergirl’s terror at the possibility of a Braniac attack are especially well acted, especially when considering the actress in question is only 19.
While there are some obvious detractors, they didn’t minimise the highlights of the film, leaving me feel more conflicted than either thrilled or disappointed. Maybe a different story, with actual depth, would have helped matters along and minimised the style and voice issues, but together they created a film which left me wishing for earlier movies in the series.