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“Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” is the latest direct-to-DVD animated feature from Warner Bros. and D.C. Comics, and is a direct sequel to last year’s “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies”, which saw the crimefighting duo of Batman and Superman going up against President Lex Luthor. Now that Baldy has been knocked down a peg or two, the heroes have gone their separate ways. Sort of. They are reunited when Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) discovers a naked Kryptonian girl named Kara (voiced by Summer Glau) in Gotham City’s harbor, having crashed to Earth on her ship.
It turns out that Kara is the long lost cousin of Superman (voiced by Tim Daly), and as a fellow Kryptonian exposed to the Earth’s sun, also has Supe’s powers. (She’s actually said to be even more powerful than Superman.) While Superman struggles to help the girl adapt to her new life on Earth, Batman watches on with apprehension. He’s not the only one: Enter Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), who shows up to abduct Kara back to Paradise Island for her own good. Of course, that doesn’t sit too well with Superman, but the heroes soon have bigger problems on their hands: the formidable Darkseid (voiced by Andre Braugher), ruler of the spitting fireball that is Planet Apokolips, is looking for a new superpowered soldier to lead his Furies, and he thinks Kara would make a prime candidate.
Honestly, that really is Darkseid’s sole motivation in getting involved in the entire movie. See, he’s got these really tough as nails soldiers, essentially his all-female commando squad, and since he lost his last Captain (Big Barda, who defected and is now hiding out on Earth), he thinks Kara would make a swell replacement. Of course, that’s just an excuse to get Darkseid and Superman pounding on each other, since the two are essentially even on a powers level. Though as far as I can tell, Darkseid may be a tad tougher, as it eventually takes both Superman and Kara pounding on him for a lengthy period of time to even make him flinch. No wonder this gun runs a whole planet; he’s definitely one tough mother.
“Apocalypse” is mostly Superman’s story, as he bonds with Kara and tries to teach her what it means to be one of the last Kryptonians still wandering around the galaxy. The movie is based on the D.C. story arc by comic book writer Jeph Loeb, and is adapted for the DVD by Tab Murphy, which is just an awesome name. (Who names their kid “Tab”? A cool dad, that’s who.) The film is directed by Lauren Montgomery, who is an old hand with D.C. animated movies, having directed “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths”, “Green Lantern: First Flight”, and the “Wonder Woman” movie for the company. At just under 80 minutes, Montgomery certainly gets a lot out of the story in terms of characters and action.
Of course, the single best reason to ever adapt any comic book superhero story into an animated movie is the type of action that is simply impossible in live-action. There are some nifty comic book fights throughout “Apocalypse”, but two stands out: a tag-team fight between Wonder Woman and Big Barda versus Darkseid’s Furies on Apokolips, and the aforementioned epic pounding between Superman and Kara versus Darkseid in a picturesque Kansas setting. The final climactic slugfest, in particular, would have taken weeks to shoot and cost millions of dollars in live-action. An animated movie doesn’t have those problems, and Montgomery makes the most of her format’s ability to render carnage on an epic scale.
“Apocalypse” features the always excellent voice work of Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly as Batman and Superman, respectively. Both actors have been doing their respective characters since their ongoing TV series days, so to say they’re old hats with these superheroes is an understatement. Other voices are provided by Edward Asner, who is amusingly cast as the transgendered Granny Goodness, and Andre Braugher brings surprising gravitas as Darkseid. I just wish there was a reason for him to even be here besides just wanting a replacement leader for his chick commando squad, but I digress. Rounding out the cast is “Serenity’s” Summer Glau, who struggles every now and then, but does eventually warm up to the role.
Like other past D.C. animated movies, “Apocalypse” sports a PG-13 rating for good reason. Kara spends a lot of time in no clothes at all or very revealing clothes, and there is plenty of blood to go around. Characters do get killed, and the violence is pretty strong. Granted, they’re usually pounding away at each other endlessly without doing much damage, so in that respect the D.C. movies very much represents what usually happens in every Superman or Batman comic book issue. If you’re a fan of D.C.’s past movies, there really is no reason why “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” shouldn’t be on your Must Have list. It’s more of the same – and that’s not a bad thing at all.
“Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” arrives on DVD September 28, 2010.
Lauren Montgomery (director) / Jeph Loeb (original story), Tab Murphy (screenplay)
CAST: Summer Glau … Kara Zor-El / Supergirl (voice)
Edward Asner … Granny Goodness (voice)
Tim Daly … Superman (voice)
Andre Braugher … Darkseid (voice)
Kevin Conroy … Batman (voice)
Susan Eisenberg … Wonder Woman (voice)