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Non-Review Review: Superman Unbound

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Superman Unbound is a little disappointing. These direct-to-video animated films can offer brilliant and energetic takes on established comic book characters and stories. The recent two-part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns and the animated version of New Frontier come to mind. However, Superman Unbound seems to be just treading water, offering a fairly generic Superman story with no real insight into the character and his world.

Up, up and away...

Up, up and away…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Blasts From the Past, Parts 1 & 2 (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Blasts from the Past feels like it should be a better episode. After all, Superman’s relationship with his Kryptonian heritage should be fodder for good drama. If you read Superman as a parable for the American Dream – the story of an orphan from far away who comes to America and makes something of himself – it’s always fascinating to look at that story from the other direction. What are Superman’s ties to Krypton, a planet destroyed before he could speak? Does he define himself as Kryptonian?

Some versions of the character’s mythology suggest that his outfit is Kryptonian armour. Most recent takes on the character suggest that the famous “S-shield” is the emblem of the House of El. There are a lot of interesting questions about how an alien from a dead world who has become the protector of Earth must see himself. Is he one or other, both, or neither? Most interpretations seem to opt for “both”, although the suggestion is that Kal-El leans more heavily towards Earth.

Blasts from the Past should be a vehicle to explore this, bringing back two Kryptonian characters and allowing Superman to interact with them. At the very least, perhaps it could be an exploration of how much a childhood on Earth changed Superman. Instead, it feels like a rather bland rehash of Superman II, just with some names changed.

Red sky in the... well, eternity, I guess...

Red sky in the… well, eternity, I guess…

 

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Superman: The Animated Series – Last Son of Krypton (Parts 1, 2 & 3) (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

After the success of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series must have seemed like the most logical choice. Bruce Timm had already assembled a team of writers and production personnel who had collaborated to produce one of the finest distillations of one of DC’s most iconic characters. Giving Timm a chance to work with Superman seems only reasonable. After all, Superman is a character that Warner Brothers has always had a bit of difficulty exploiting to his maximum potential.

However, Superman is not quite Batman. Despite the fact that he’s older and (at the very least) just as iconic, Superman hasn’t been quite as popular as Batman for quite some time. He doesn’t have the same depth of supporting characters, and his iconography isn’t as thoroughly integrated into popular consciousness as that of Batman. Superman didn’t have a live-action technicolour sixties television show to introduce an entire generation to the Parasite, Metallo, the Kryptonite Man or many others.

Opening with a three-part pilot, it’s immediately clear that Timm knows that Superman is a very different character than Batman, and that he can’t simply apply the same formula which made Batman: The Animated Series such a high-profile success. From the opening episode of Last Son of Krypton, it’s clear that Superman: The Animated Series is going to be a very different animal.

Up, up and away!

Up, up and away!

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Superman: The Animated Series – Stolen Memories (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Superman: The Animated Series gets a bit of a hard time among the Bruce Timm “DC animated universe” shows. I think it’s fair to say that the show never reaches the highs (or even the average consistency) of Batman: The Animated Series, and it never matches the scale of Justice League, the pace of Justice League Unlimited or the ambition of Batman Beyond. However, it actually does a fairly wonderful job working with a character who has proved quite difficult to handle. I think Superman: The Animated Series was at its strongest when it distinguished itself from its direct predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, and I think that Stolen Memoriesis the perfect example of that.

He’s got the whole world, in his hands…

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Alien Nation: What the Aborted Superman Returns Opening Sequence Tells Us About Bryan Singer’s Man of Steel…

I’ve already talked a great deal about Superman Returns and why the movie doesn’t really work as a Superman story, but I was still fascinated to get a glimpse at the aborted $10m dollar opening sequence that never made it to the final cut, but only wormed its way onto the internet today. The clip is well-made and there’s no doubt that it was abandoned fairly late in the process, almost ready to fit in Bryan Singer’s epic story about the Man of Steel. It’s fascinating what the clip tells about how Singer sees his protagonist, and how the clip bolsters his own take, while demonstrating some of the more fundamental flaws with his vision.

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Superman – New Krypton (Vol. I-IV), Last Stand of New Krypton (Vol. I & II) & War of the Supermen (Review/Retrospective)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

In fairness, it was too great an idea to ever ignore. At some point in the character’s publishing history, it was inevitable that Superman would be reunited with his people – the long dead planet Krypton. This storytelling opportunity forms the basis of the whole New Krypton saga, which crossed through the Superman line of comic books for well over a year. Unfortunately, despite having a rather wonderful core idea, it’s a ll a bit of a waste.

Up in the sky...

Note: This review contains what might be considered spoilers. But the title of the second sets of books in the header kinda give the game away.

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Justice League Unlimited – For the Man Who Has Everything

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. We’re winding down now, having worked our way through the nine animated features, so I’m just going to look at a few odds-and-ends, some of the more interesting or important episodes that the DC animated universe has produced. The one adaptation of his work Alan Moore is actually happy with is well worth a look.

Van, when you were born, it was the happiest day of my life. When I first saw your beautiful little face, your tiny fingers squeezed my hand so tight, like you never wanted to let go. I’ve watched every step, every struggle…I-I’ve… but, Van… Oh, Rao help me… but I don’t think you’re real. I don’t think any of this is-is real…

– Superman confronts the fact that none of this is real

Alan Moore is one of the best comic book writers out there – and he’s perhaps the greatest writer ever to work with the character of Superman. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is an oft-referenced fond farewell to the Silver Age Superman (which prompted a similar storyline for Batman with Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? in the wake of the character’s recent “death”), but I’ve always preferred his one-shot story For The Man Who Has Everything. Adapted into animated form as one of the first episodes of the relaunched Justice League Unlimited series.

Super-dad!

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