WonderCon 2013: Superman: Unbound (Movie Review)

Friday night at WonderCon, audiences got to witness premiere of the new animated Superman film, Superman: Unbound.  This is another entry in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series, presented by Warner Bros., which has previously released films such as Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Green Lantern: First Flight, and Wonder Woman.  For the most part, these animated adaptations of various DC superheroes and some of their most well-known stories have been pretty good, so I was excited to check out this new feature.  I say that in a somewhat surprising manner for myself, because Superman is not a character I tend to enjoy that much.  I only believe the character to be as interesting as the story that is written for him, so the fact that this film would revolve around Brainiac, one of Superman’s greatest foes, had my curiosity for sure.  Fortunately, this was a mighty enjoyable film, thanks to the work done by many involved.

Superman: Unbound is based on famous Geoff Johns comic arc, Superman: Brainiac, but the film first has to set up where we are with the characters in Metropolis.  Superman/Clark Kent (voiced by White Collar’s Matt Bomer) is currently secretly dating Lois Lane (voiced by Castle’s Stana Katic).  The two are in love, but Lois is frustrated by not knowing where this relationship is going, given Superman’s responsibilities and Clark’s effort to keep her safe from everything.  Additionally, Kara Zor El, aka Supergirl (voiced by Castle’s Molly Quinn) is now a presence in Superman’s life and she is dealing with what it means to have the powers she has and what it is to be a superhero for the people.

The story kicks into gear when a mysterious probe enters earth.  Superman investigates, fights against this probe that turns out to be a strong robotic solider, disables it, and takes it back to the Fortress of Solitude.  It is here that he learns about Brainiac, based on a story told to him by Supergirl and how she has been a firsthand witness to the kind of destruction that Brainiac can deliver to planets.  This leads to Superman journeying through space to find Brainiac.  From there, he eventually encounters the being known for absorbing the knowledge of the planets he destroys and soon learns that Brainiac actually keeps miniaturized cities from those planets in bubbles within his ship.  Hopefully Superman can do all he can to stop Brainiac from taking Earth for himself as well.

I really liked the depiction of the characters in this film.  The screenplay adaptation of this comic arc was handled by Bob Goodman, who has previously worked on other DC animated films, including the recent Dark Knight Returns, and I think he had a good handle on how the characters should behave in this story.  I appreciated the work done with Lois and Clark, giving them reasonable drama to contend with, even as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.  Adding Supergirl to the mix was just as satisfying, given that the character could easily have served as an annoyance.  She doesn’t though, as she factors into the story quite well and provides backstory that helps develop her character as well as setup Brainiac as a villain.

The voice work plays a large role in all of this.  As Superman, Matt Bomer pulls off making an indestructible man vulnerable, despite never wavering in confidence.  He provides the kind of strength you want to hear in the voice of the Man of Steel.  He is one that can handle these epic situations, but contending with Lois is another story.  As Lois, Stana Katic provides a great new iteration of the character.  This is the kind of Lois I generally enjoy, as she has the kind of sass and spunk that makes her more than just some girl at the Daily Bugle.  She challenges Clark, which is obviously why they are drawn to each other and really do love each other.  It doesn’t hurt that Lois also gets the very best moment late in the film (hint: it involves a “rude gesture”).

Molly Quinn also brings a quality to Supergirl that suggests she obviously wants to use her strength to perform heroics, but is vulnerable when it comes to having all of the confidence she needs, when it comes to being truly challenged.  The chemistry that you hear between the three (regardless of whether they were in the recording booth together or not) seems quite apparent, which I guess can be credited to both the vocal performances and the dialogue direction by veteran voice director Andrea Romano.

Of course, mention must also go to John Noble as Brainiac.  Wisely, for this character, the choice was to make him sound mostly like Noble – the human actor, with little done to “robot-omize” his voice.  It works well in keeping the character grounded in a realm of believability (as far as that goes for this kind of film), as the threat of this emotionally detached being becomes apparent fairly quickly, beyond just seeing what his ship is capable of.  Getting this voice along with the physical threat that Brainiac provides made for a strong use of a classic super villain character.

In regards to the action, Superman: Unbound has plenty of it.  We get lots of different Superman action, as he uses all of his powers in various instances.  The animation is stylized in a more old-fashioned sense, emphasizing the big muscly men and broad-chested women, which may or may not feel a bit degrading in some way, but for the most part I was fine with the character designs.  Most notable is that the film, opposed to Batman stories, is very bright and colorful, even as we start dealing with some dark stuff.  I tend to enjoy the use of primary colors in the Superman stories I am more fond of, so working in that type of look, while having a tone that plays up the dramatic aspects was effectively handled for me;  that and seeing some, frankly, awesome scenes of Superman and Supergirl beating up Brainiac’s robots.  I should note that the film is rated PG-13 for good reason, as there is some content that is a bit intense.  Shots of blood and implications of death make for a somewhat more intense viewing than some may assume, but it certainly is not excessive.

Some final thoughts; given what I know about the Geoff Johns comic arc, I am aware that there are some changes, especially in regards to the ending, but for the most part, this is a solid re-telling of the Brainiac story arc.  The vocal work is strong (you could easily cast these people in a live-action version), the animation is stylized but acceptable, the action is plentiful, and the characterizations are maybe the best thing about all of this.  As a guy that is not a big fan of the Man of Steel, this was a solid animated feature.

From the Original Press Release:

In Superman: Unbound, a destructive force is devastating planets across the galaxy – with Earth next in its sights – and even Superman may not be capable of halting the destruction alone. Based on the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank 2008 DC Comics release “Superman: Brainiac,” the film’s stellar voicecast also includes John Noble (Fringe, The Lord of the Rings films) as Brainiac, and Stana Katic (Castle) as Lois Lane. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Superman: Unbound will be released on Blu-ray, DVD, OnDemand and For Download on May 7, 2013.

Check out the trailer here:

Pre-Order Your Copy of the Film Here:

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “WonderCon 2013: Superman: Unbound (Movie Review)”

  1. Gregg

    Looks decent! I’m not overly thrilled with the art but the story looks really solid. I’m in!