Based on the 2008 Superman: Brainiac arc by Geoff Johns, DC’s latest animated feature introduces Superman (Matt Bomer) and Supergirl (Molly Quinn) to a redesigned version of Brainiac (John Noble) for the first time when the Collector of Worlds heads to Earth to add Metropolis to a collection that already includes the Kryptonian city of Kandor. The result is a solid entry into the DC Animated Universe whose main issues come more from the original source material rather than the adaptation.
Given her role in the film this could easily have been titled Superman/Supergirl: Unbound as much of the emotional weight of the straight-to-DVD animated feature falls on Superman’s younger cousin. Screenwriter Bob Goodman also increases the role of Lois Lane (Stana Katic) and makes some intriguing parallels over the course of the film between how both Brainiac and Superman try to control those of interest to them.
The strengths of Superman: Unbound are the character moments, especially Superman’s interactions with Lois Lane, Kara, and his long lost aunt and uncle when he’s shrunk down to size and imprisoned inside the bottled city of Kandor. From his experiences with Brainiac, Superman learns a valuable lesson about his relationship with Lois. Kara also gets a full hero’s arc by assuming the role of Earth’s protector in Superman’s absence and finally facing the long-standing fears from her childhood.
Matt Bomer works well in as Superman and I was impressed with both Castle co-stars. Stana Katic provides Lois with the reporter’s necessary spunk, and Molly Quinn does an excellent job conveying the wide range of emotions Kara is forced to go through over the course of the film’s 75-minute running time. Diedrich Bader has a small role that’s fun, but basically nothing more than comic relief, and Alexander Gould steals a scene as Jimmy Olsen.
The look of the film works, although the elongated head of Superman and the muted colors of the classic design of his costume do take some getting used to. Where the story struggles is with the final confrontation between Superman and Brainiac and Geoff Johns’ logic of how Superman finally beats the Collector of Worlds. To call it awkward doesn’t quite do it justice. However, the film ends on a high note with an epilogue that plays back into the strengths of the movie.
The Blu-ray comes with Ultraviolet and DVD copies of the film, featurettes on the comic history of both Kandor and Brainiac, a sneak peak at DC’s next project Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, trailers, a digital comic with the first few pages of Superman: Brainiac, and audio commentary from director James Tucker, Mike Carlin, and Bob Goodman, and four Brainiac and Supergirl episodes of Superman: The Animated Series. The highlight of the group is the Brainiac featurette which includes interviews by writers and artists including Marv Wolfman who discusses the 80’s fully robotic version of the character and his robotic skull ship (a version of which is used here).
[Warner Home Video, Blu-ray $24.98 / DVD $19.98]