I was a little surprised when it was first announced that Warner Home Video was planning on releasing Superman Vs. the Elite as their next original animated movie. The reason for my surprise is this was not only a remarkable story by Joe Kelly (back in ACTION COMICS #775) but a pretty heavy one.
Comic fans constantly ask the question why superheroes simply capture the villains the turn them over to the authority. What is the norm is the villain will eventually escape or be released only to cause chaos and death all over again. That was the question brought up in "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way?" Can Superman just capture villains and allow them to cause destruction and death later on?
From the moment you start the movie, you'll immediately get the sense that this is a different type of movie. There is an almost darker tone set with the heavier music pounding during the logo scenes. To show that the movie isn't necessarily going to be a trip to a dark place, we get a pretty spectacular opening during the actual credits.
What ends up happening is a group calling themselves the Elite arrives and puts Superman's methods into question. It's not only a look at Superman and his beliefs but also those of society and human nature.
It's a great story and you can see the care and thought put into the animated sequences. Unfortunately there are some issues many will have.
The first problem is the animation. It looks great and smooth with rich colors but it's the style of the animation that didn't quite work for me. You can immediately see the difference in style versus the original telling. It's a choice that sometimes is made.
But it's not all the character designs that are discouraging. There are times when it all does look really good. It's just an odd balance at times.
The voice cast includes George Newbern. Newbern should sound familiar to you if you've ever watched the Justice League animated series. Pauley Perrette (NCIS) gives a raspier version of Lois, more reminiscent of Margot Kidder. I wasn't necessarily crazy about her performance but Robin Atkin Downes was fitting for Manchester Black, as drawn here.
The other problem I had with this was with the big scope of the story, it just feels odd that other characters weren't or couldn't be included. There is a mention of Martian Manhunter but it was as a joke. If the world is willing to consider sanctioning heroes to use more extreme measures, you would think other heroes would step up for the debate. It makes sense the way it was originally told in a Superman comic but I just couldn't help wondering what other heroes thought of what was going down between Superman and the Elite.
- If you're into Commentary, you'll find some by Joe Kelly and Eddie Berganza. Great stuff.
- There's also a Sneak Peak of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. This twelve and a half minute feature discusses original and the thought that went into adapting this epic story. The story is so big, they're breaking it into two movies. Hearing from the directors, producers, etc, you really get the sense that they do get and understand how important this is and that there's only one way to do. They can't mess up on this one.
- There's a featurette "The Elite Unbound: No Rules, No Mercy" is a fourteen and a half minute short documentary on the characters with and the inspiration from Joe Kelly.
- If you're looking for more, Alan Burnett's Top Picks are included. There's a couple episodes from Superman: the Animated Series.
- A second feature, "Superman and the Moral Debate" features over seventeen minutes looking into the story and the idea of whether or not superheroes should kill.
- If you have't read the original ACTION COMICS #775, you're in luck. A digital comic is included on the disc.
- An odd choice to be included is a Photo Gallery for The Dark Knight Rises. I understand why they would included it but it doesn't really have a place here.
- There's also a couple 'look backs' at All-Star Superman and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
Overall, it's a great story. Many feel this is one of the best Superman stories written. If you've read the story, you'll definitely want to check this out. It's a great debate and Superman is the perfect character to look at the question. This isn't the typical Superman story. I never thought I'd actually hear Superman say "wanker." And wait until you see Superman really cut loose.
Superman Vs. The Elite is on sale now.