Reviews - Film

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Original Release Date - September 29th, 2009 (DTV Only)
A desperate solution for a troubled country: Lex Luthor for President with the Justice League in the service of the government. Only Batman and Superman stand against the new regime – and their disloyalty proves to be exactly what Luthor intended. Using their outcast status to instigate a scandal against Superman, Luthor finally tastes a victory in his vendetta against The Man of Steel. From Executive Producer Bruce Timm and voiced by the cast from both hit Batman and Superman animated TV series including Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly and Clancy Brown, this DC Universe Original Animated Movie of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’s popular graphic novel seethes with political intrigue and action-packed battles between heroes all believing they’re on the right side of the law.

Casting and Voice Direction by Andrea Romano
Executive Producers Benjamin Melniker, Michael Usland, Sam Register, Bruce Timm
Producers Michael Goguen, Bobbie Page
Co-Producer Alan Burnett
Music by Christopher Drake
Edited by Margaret Hou
Written by Stan Berkowitz
Directed by Sam Liu
Main Title Animation by Peter Girardi, Sarofsky Corp.
Animation Services by Lotto Animation
Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor
Kevin COnroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Tim Daly as Superman
Xander Berkely as Captain Atom
Corey Burton as Captain Marvel
Ricardo Chavira as Major Force
Allison Mack as Power Girl
John C. McGinley as Metallo
CCH Pounder as Amanda Waller
LeVar Burton as Black Lightning
Calvin Tran as Toyman
Mark Jonathan Davis as Newscaster
Brian George as Gorilla Grodd
Jennifer Hale as Starfire
Rachael MacFarlane as Nightshade, Billy Batson
Alan Oppenheimer as Alfred
Andrea Romano as Giganta
Bruce Timm as Mongul
Gallery

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Review (Zach Demeter)
Behold, the worst kept secret of the DC Universe films: Superman Batman: Public Enemies. The trailer for this film leaked onto internet supersite IMDb.com and within hours was all over comic book news websites and forums. The trailer was eventually pulled, but not before the majority had seen the animation contained within. Mind you the leak isn’t all that surprising (it’s the internet—these things are all too common now), but what was surprising was how far along this animated film was. We were still waiting on Green Lantern to finish up and here was Public Enemies, all polished and pushed into a trailer already. Exactly how did this film essentially get produced and creep up out of nowhere so damn fast?

So there you go—a brief history lesson on this film. Or, at the very least, the history of the film as it pertains to the online side of things. The film itself was known for awhile before the trailer leaked, it was just the fact that the film was already so far along in production that it made fans wonder exactly what was up at DCU headquarters. In the end it didn’t matter: months later we got Green Lantern and another peak at this film, so everything eventually evened out. Besides, a little early publicity for a film starring DC’s biggest heavy hitters, even as premature as that trailer was, is never really a bad thing.

The story itself is adapted from the comic book of the same name (one I admittedly didn’t even read until right before I started writing this review) and while it definitely centers on the same plot, the extraneous “fat” on the sides is once again excised for simplicities sake. It’s usually just minor things; Robin and Nightwing don’t show up, nor does Green Lantern and the dual Superman fight (whatever it was) in the bat cave doesn’t occur. Quite a few things don’t happen either, like the intro to the comic book or we get it mixed into other areas of the story. Unlike other films that “suffered” the same fate, however, Public Enemies never feels like too much is being crammed into the story…which is rather surprising considering this is the shortest DCU film to date (a brisk 67 minutes).

In fact, and I know I say this with just about every DCU title that comes out, but this may very well be my new favorite of the bunch. I enjoyed all of the films in some fashion or another, but as epic and exciting as they were at times, they always felt like they bit off more than it could handle. Not so with this film. No, this one is (dare I say) lighthearted; it’s got weighty material, to be sure, but none so much as to really drag the film down. I honestly haven’t had this much fun watching Batman and Superman on screen together since “Knight Time” way back in STAS/TNBA days. It’s really just a fantastic little self-contained story with the two of them and I’m genuinely surprised by how brilliantly this was pulled off.

I hesitate to say this as well, but I’m going to just because it’s what I felt while watching the film: this film could’ve easily been supplanted (crude comments/dialogue aside) into a three-part story in Justice League with little difficultly. I never read the Superman Batman comics before seeing this film so I don’t know if the entire series is like this, but just how the characters interact with one another and the rather quippy and fast paced dialogue that takes place in this film really sets it apart from any other DC Universe titles thus far. I found myself laughing at this one way more than any of the other ones and I think that’s an important thing to have when you deal with superheroes and super villains—nothing campy, mind you, but just some genuinely entertaining laughs. The banter between Batman and Superman really is some of the best I’ve ever heard and those of you hoping to hear the “Magpie” bit from the comic book will not be disappointed—Conroy and Daly deliver that whole sequence absolutely perfect.

Having said that, I suppose I should talk now about the voice actors on this piece. Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy and Clancy Brown return to the roles they played in the Bruce Timm cartoons and it really adds another layer to the film in terms of how easy it is to adapt to it. I especially found Daly’s performance to be really refreshing; I know we’ve heard him as Supes before his absence after STAS, but hearing him alongside Conroy, again, was something you hadn’t heard since “Knight Time” and “The Demon Reborn.” In terms of mood, this story is a lot closer to “Knight Time,” as, again, it’s just a very easy to enjoy and breezy viewing. It honestly just flies by.

Brown really deserves a special note for his performance as Luthor in this film, however. While Daly and Conroy bring back what they’re known for, Luthor was a bit different in this film. With him as president and jacked up on kryptonite injections, Luthor was skewed a bit more towards the maniacal scientist angle, but at the same time still very much the regal and imposing Luthor we’ve been accustomed to hearing Brown as over the years. He was definitely the source of more than a few laughs in the film, particularly in a bit with Waller that was taken from the comic book as well.

The only thing I can honestly complain about this time around is the animation. CGI backdrops of the city as Luthor and Superman fly over them just look strange at times; I can’t really pinpoint why it looks unnatural, as the cityscapes are just loaded with detail…maybe the models on top of them were too clean compared to the out of focus city. And then there are the cars/vehicles in this piece—they look like something out of STAS, but with the more detailed models, their simplicity just doesn’t gel. Probably just budget constraints and I get that, but the cars really do stick out like a sore thumb. Aside from that, the animation was remarkably solid; I figured that this piece would look rushed considering how quickly it was finished, but the new detailed designs and six-packs on everyone really didn’t distract from the picture in the least. I really enjoyed the new look and quite frankly I would love nothing more than an entire series of Superman Batman titles. This film was just too much fun to not revisit with another outing down the line (plus apparently they’re quick to produce).

While the film did ultimately lose some of the story points of Ed McGuinness and Jeph Loeb’s original graphic novel, in the end it doesn’t matter. From the Jon Stewart like news anchor opening the film with a rather explicit joke (it’s censored, don’t worry…but it’s pretty easy to make out what it is. I’m just surprised the “crude comment” that the film denotes in the PG-13 rating showed up so early in it) to the power packed and almost non-stop flights of heroes against villains and heroes against heroes, this film wasn’t exactly thick on plot, but it didn’t matter. It was just a lot of fun to watch and I honestly think the DCU titles would be better served to stop gnawing on epic and complex graphic novels like The New Frontier until their run times can expand and instead focus on one-shot pieces like this (or original outings like Wonder Woman and Green Lantern).

Overall Public Enemies comes Highly Recommended. This was the first of the DCU titles since New Frontier that I wanted to watch again immediately and it should be a big hit among fans. Not only for the superb voice cast, excellent character designs, simple and easily progressed story, but also just because it’s just so damn enjoyable.

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