“Superman: Unbound” is the 16th movie from DC now under the DC Animated Universe name, and like all of those that came before it, it is another solid entry into their series of direct to disc films. Based on the Action Comics story arc “Brainiac” by Geoff Johns, the comic aimed to retcon the villain a bit as well as return him to being a true threat to the Man of Steel.
The fifth movie to star Superman, this one takes a well known villain and some classic story elements and creates a well written drama filled with action and emotion. Brainiac is a villain that has gone through many incarnations over the decades. When he first appeared he was a green skinned guy in short pants and a purple top with some mental abilities and a force field, which is the look he held all the way til “Superfriends” and the 80’s where he got his robo-skeleton look and the classic Skullship. The 90’s gave us the android version from “Superman: The Animated Series” which is the version most know, and then in the “Brainiac” story we return to a version of the original.
In the comic it was stated that every version of Brainiac Superman had fought up til that point was just a probe or sentry and not the real Brainiac. Needless to say it was a great read, as it is now adapted into animated form. Much like “Superman: Doomsday” before it this is very loosely based on the source material. Many changes were made to create a self sufficient and self contained story, and it worked out very well. The general gist for this version is that Superman is dealing with issues with Lois, trying to keep her safe, to the point where he is over protecting her by not allowing them to be a public couple, even as Clark and Lois. Adding to that is the new lady in his life, his teenaged cousin Kara aka Supergirl who is still adjusting to life on Earth. An alien object appears and fights Superman, bringing back painful memories for Supergirl as she recognizes the object as a Brainiac probe and recalls how it stole the capital city of Kandor from the planet Krypton.
That’s the set up, and I won’t give anything away but it’s a fun and actually very emotional adventure. Superman stories usually focus on his humanity despite the fact that he’s an alien and so powerful. This film actually focuses on his alien heritage more and how he’s still an outsider to both cultures, and yet strives to protect all cultures. This is a movie that shows just why he’s the greatest hero and inspires so many. “Unbound” also does a great job at humanizing Kara and making her a believable teenager. There’s a great line from Lois early on that describes not just her but all teenagers, especially the girls.
Matt Bomer from “White Collar” voices Superman with a youthfulness that feels fresh for the character, but still has the authoritative tone needed. From “Castle” are the lovely pair of Stana Katic and Molly Quinn voicing Lois and Kara respectively. Both do great jobs, but as I said, Kara truly feels like a teen, and they did a great job at showing her vulnerability. Rounding out the cast is John Noble of “Fringe” fame as the voice of Brainiac. Noble gives the character a clinical tone, and yet has this amazing superior quality to him. He speaks down to Superman and everyone else as if everything and everyone are beneath him, and it fits completely. Andrea Romano has done it again with this cast, and Noble is a true highlight.
Directed by James Tucker who has taken over producing credits for the DC Animated Universe films from Bruce Timm, “Unbound” is a great story that is coupled with some pretty good action set pieces and an emotional core you don’t usually find in these sort of affairs. I do wish they had set it up for a sequel as the comic’s story led into the “New Krypton” story arc with a city full of Kryptonians arriving on Earth, but this was a very satisfying adaptation. Although I’d like to see other heroes get the spotlight in these films, they are at least choosing the right stories to tell if they are going to continue giving Batman and Superman all the love. Coming next, “Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox” the animated adaptation of the story that launched DC’s New 52 status quo.
James Tucker (director) / Bob Goodman (screenplay)
CAST: Matt Bomer … Superman / Clark Kent (voice)
Stana Katic … Lois Lane (voice)
John Noble … Brainiac (voice)
Molly C. Quinn … Supergirl / Kara Zor-El (voice)
Diedrich Bader … Steve Lombard (voice)
Jason Beghe … Terrorist Leader (voice)
Frances Conroy … Ma Kent (voice)
Alexander Gould … Jimmy Olsen (voice)