Ask most folks even slightly familiar with Superman to sum him up in one thought and you’ll probably get one of two answers; Farm boy and Boy Scout. With both stereotypes in mind, we enter the world of Mr. Kent, fastest typist in the Daily Planet reporter pool and ridiculously loving husband to cut throat reporter, Lois Lane. We get a sense of a day in the life of the man in blue and red as he muses on his responsibilities to the world through his image and actions, his position in the fast paced news world and going toe to toe with a homicidal powerhouse known as ATOMIC SKULL! The overlaying message of these scenes hammers home the unwavering morals of Superman. No matter how unpopular it may make him, Superman will be the hero the world needs, if not the hero the world cheers for.
Enter The Elite with energy manipulating Coldcast, alien creature infused Menagerie, dark magic wielding The Hat and their leader, super psychokinetic/ mega telepathic Manchester Black. As creepy as these newcomers seem, they wield their powers to protect the innocents and fight alongside Superman valiantly. They may be a pack of slightly dysfunctional, hard drinking, over sexed misfits, but no one is perfect! It seems to be the dawning of a new day with the Man of Steel speeding to the aid of foreign nations with newfound friends helping to save countless lives. The joys of success are short lived though, as The Elite make their intentions known. Tow the line or be crushed under the heel of those more powerful than you. What’s worse…humanity seems to celebrate this swing toward instant justice. Is there no longer a place in the world for a Superman?
The story is thoughtful and timely with frenzied action equal to the weight of the topic. The genius of the film lies in the varied tone of this action…from an almost comical throw down with the Atomic Skull (which morbidly does not shrink away from deaths of innocents) to The Elite getting their bearings as a super team alongside their life long idol and that progression as The Elite move away from those Justice League sensibilities and on down a darker path. By the film’s finale, we are neck deep in intense conflict with the safety and liberty of human kind on the line. I guarantee you’ll stand up and start clapping when you realize Superman is more than equal to the task…even if it means exploring a darker side of his nature. I nearly lost my mind watching him go to work!
The cast is superb in this installment of the DC Animated Films, allowing for distinct voices easily pinpointed amid the chaotic action. George Newbern creates a Superman with strength and conviction while Pauley Perrette cranks up the snark for a Lois Lane you’ll fall in love with. She is flawless! Other stand outs include Robin Atkin Downes as Manchester Black who’s every British-flavored intonation drips with sarcasm and a delicious level of arrogance, and Andrew Kishino as The Hat who lends as much to a scene by merely giggling or grimacing audibly as any character delivering a full speech.
The art is fairly standard. Nothing fancy is attempted, allowing the smooth flow of action and killer use of expression to add to every shot more than you could imagine. My only distraction was found in Superman’s inhumanly humongous chin! That gargantuan facial feature could have won every fight in the film on its own.
With no shortage of wit and charm, a KILLER retro opening credits sequence and, in my opinion, the BEST finale of any DC animated film to date, Superman Vs The Elite went from a movie I had very low expectations on to being my all time favorite. This movie captures the fun of superhero animation while tying in heavy subject matter, and cranks up the action while not sacrificing character development, creating a film you’ll want to immediately watch again! Thanks to the film’s creators for reminding me what I love about comic books. This is the best of the best.
Now since we dove into the Blu-Ray copy, there were plenty of extras to view after the main attraction. The Elite Unbound: No Rules, No Mercy tells the comic book origins of this super team. Superman and the Moral Debate delivers a fascinating look into the realities of our “kill them before they kill you” world and how our American government fully embraces this ideal. Alan Burnett’s Top Picks include Superman: The Animated Series episodes 12 and 24 (Brave New Metropolis & Warrior Queen.) Action Comics 775: What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way is a digital comic that sounds good in theory, but most of us have TV’s across the room, making the thing unreadable unless you throw it on your computer. You’ll also find some snappy commentary I found adequate but not highly exciting, trailers and …..the show stopper…a 12 minute or so preview of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS!!!!! As I wrote in a separate article, that preview alone will be worth the price of the DVD or Blu-ray, exploring the genesis of the story line and translation of the subject material into this two part animated, highly anticipated mega-film.
Even without an animated short, Superman Vs The Elite is an insanely fun ride that straddles the line between the whimsical fun of our classic comics and the black comedy and stark reality modern audiences have come to demand. It’s a must buy.