Sunday, March 2, 2014

Superman: Unbound

Directed by James Tucker.
2013. Rated PG-13, 75 minutes.
Matt Bomer
Stana Katic
John Noble
Molly C. Quinn
Diedrich Bader
Jason Beghe
Sirena Irwin

A few months before our story begins, Superman's (Bomer) cousin Kara, aka Supergirl (Quinn) arrives from the Planet Krypton. Yes, we're shoehorning her into the canon yet again. Check out my Supergirl review for a full explanation of my problem with the very existence of this character. This time due to some time warp thingy, paradox, or total BS I fail to grasp, the planet hadn't yet blown up in her life like it has his. Okay, fine. the point of all this is that before she came to Earth, she witnessed the Kryptonian city of Kandor attacked by an army of androids. The whole thing was then literally shrunken to fit in a glass jar and taken away with many people still inside, including her parents. When those same androids start showing up in Metropolis, she fears the worst. Sure enough, they are trying to do the same to Superman's place of residence.

Ignoring my disdain for every origin story I've ever heard for Supergirl, this is a thoroughly fun adventure. Her character is more fully realized than normal. She comes across as a real person struggling with a slew of emotions the way most teenage girls do. She sulks, she pouts, she lashes out in anger, and so on. She's a bit of a mess. That's okay. given what she's been through and how recently it all took place, she should be. She hasn't had a lifetime to come to grips with things like her more famous cousin.

Speaking of Superman, he's actually much more of a secondary character, at least while being super. The Man of Steel disappears for lengthy stretches and doesn't get a whole lot to do until the final act. Don't worry, there is still lots of action and the final battle with the eventual villain is splendid. All of it is beautifully animated, as well. However, things are more intently focused on the mild-mannered Clark Kent and the state of his relationship with Lois Lane (Katic). It is well handled with situational humor and familiar, yet effective, dialogue. We get a real sense that these are two folks in love, but not necessarily sure what their next step should be.

Lois herself continues to be a perplexing character, though. Consistently, over the last few decades, her substance has been at war with her style. She's a fierce woman - independent and driven. Obviously, she is amazing at what she does. The issue is one that afflicts many ladies in the DC Animated Universe. She dresses like someone not even considering being taken seriously in her chosen profession. Her skirts barely cover her hoo-ha and her blouses have more buttons undone that most moms would approve of. I understand that many of us boys of all ages in the target audience have no qualms with this and may not even notice. Hell, it's taken me years to recognize the strange juxtaposition of who she is and what she looks like. I fully understand and agree that women are free to dress however they like. Let's be honest, though. This isn't a woman making a fashion choice. I'm not going prude on you. I may not even be fully mature. After all, I still count Porky's among my favorite movies of all-time. I realize how hypocritical this sounds. The difference, to me at least, is that superhero cartoons are largely thought to be family friendly. I don't think they should all be sanitized and completely devoid of any mature themes, but I'd rather not encourage little girls to show up for their job interviews with mini-skirts and showing as much cleavage as possible. This is to say nothing of the double-bird she flips.

Whether Superman: Unbound is really family friendly is debatable, anyway. Admittedly, it's rather tame in comparison to many things we watch, including most recent animated Batman fare. Still, the violence is a little more explicit than I expected from a Superman title. This is NOT a knock on the movie. I rather enjoyed this aspect of it. It's more a heads up for parents who don't want their kids to see blood splattering after a droid has stabbed some person in the head. Some adults look at the cover and think it's "just" a cartoon and then are mortified by what they see as they watch with the kids. This isn't a Saw movie, or anything, but be prepared.

Okay, I'm stepping down from my soap box now. The truth is I had a good time watching Superman: Unbound. All of the storylines work pretty well and come together in a way that makes sense. The action is fun and applies a gritty feel to the proceedings without making our hero a dark, brooding guy. It certainly helps that he has a physically formidable foe. To me, Supes is naturally more tense when he has a villain that can match his brawn. This guy, not giving the name on purpose, does that and has a superior intellect. I'll dock it just a little because there are some significant similarities between their battle and that of our hero with General Zod in the live-action Man of Steel. But, just a small dock.

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