Works well as an animated feature. Casual fans will probably get more out of it.
Lois Lane is kidnapped by a small terrorist group which ends with her rescue by Superman and his cousin Supergirl. Later as Clark Kent, he's notified of an object that has entered Earth and he takes off to investigate; this leads him into a quick fight with an android that could be an early sign of an invasion. Supergirl has seen this type of machine before, which leads to her revealing a very disturbing story concerning their Kryptonian heritage. -summary
Released in 2013, Superman: Unbound is the 16th movie in the DCU line up, and the story is based on the 2008 storyline Superman: Brainiac written by Geoff Johns, which took place in Action Comics 866 - 870. The original storyline is noteworthy for several elements it brought into the Superman mythos leading to a big status quo change. Some of these elements worth mentioning are the return of the bottled Krypton city Kandor, and Superman meeting the true Brainiac for the first time. That story would also lead into the Krypton trilogy - New Krypton, Last Stand of New Krypton, and War of the Supermen. Directed by James Tucker and produced by Tucker and Alan Burnett, Superman: Unbound is a solid 75 minute animated movie that will more than likely appeal to mainstream and casual viewers, like it should anyway, and even though fans of the comic may be entertained because it is loyal in many ways. There's one element that I can imagine effecting their enjoyment.
For starters the visuals are quite different from the book as it forsakes Gary Frank's art style. The character designs are still heavily based on his work though in the case of Brainiac. He still looks awesome as the hulking menace, which gives off the feel his vast intelligence is far from his only weapon. He puts on a terrifying display being able to confront Superman head on with one powerful blow after the other. Superman looks quite different with a heavy emphasis on definition, but I will always prefer Bruce Timm's influence on the bulkier more intimidating version. Supergirl looks great here and I was glad to see there was no anime influence in her design. It's true female characters can be sexy without incredible busts. I'm glad to see this wasn't done by 40 year old boys with cartoon crushes.
The visuals didn't appear to rely on CG much, I can't exactly remember if there was any used at all. In any case, the best moments take place on Brainiac's ship and even in space. The backgrounds do give off a sci-fi feel distinguishing Brainiac from usual threats in Superman's rogues gallery. He definitely feels different in an other worldly view that reminds me of Darkseid and Despero. The action scenes are good at times with multiple exchanges and the two Kryptonians are used very well. The action can be quick paced, yet you can still see some good trade offs. Unfortunately, the action isn't as grounded if you're use to American animation. Someone on the production team has been watching too much damn anime, and they think everyone likes anime. No, some of us are not that crazy about it, in fact, some wish that the culture would just go away. Some of the things that stood out was during an action filled segment that saw a use of stills and static backgrounds. This is a lazy animation technique that I find off putting, and I just rather not see it in the medium I love.
The violence is mild, however, there are both onscreen killings and others where death is highly implied through blood splatters. The new voice casting is rounded out by Matt Bomer (Superman), Stana Katic (Lois Lane), Molly Quinn (Supergirl), and John Noble (Brainiac) and they pull off some good performances; but I can imagine those whom followed the recent animated movies and series needing time to warm up to this crew. For me, they meshed in to where I didn't notice the differences anymore.
The plot is paced well enough as it follows Superman taking off into space in search for Brainiac's ship, in hopes of preventing a full invasion. While on Earth, Supergirl vents by doing things Superman would do. The character development is somewhat mixed but it does have those strong moments, since it does receive an extra push through its various themes, with one mainly concerning overcoming one's fear. Supergirl witnessed the Brainiac invasion first hand before Krypton blew up, and she's terrified of going through it again claiming Brainiac to be unstoppable. It makes for good drama, and Lois Lane adding to the topic only helps further the development.
Now casual fans are going to be in on the story and it does feel like a stand alone tale, with no references at all towards Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which introduces Supergirl and that's a good thing for them; but as a fan of the book, the stand alone feel is kind of a problem, because despite some claiming that the major points of the book are addressed, there's one major thing that was ignored. Superman had been fighting Brainiac for years, he knew Brainiac very well and therefore knew his weaknesses and strengths. The original source material threw all of that out the window by stating Superman never met the true Brainiac before, therefore, revealing that he had been fighting pawns for years without knowing it. The true Brainiac was far more dangerous and near unstoppable; this refreshed the long blood feud putting it in a different perspective. It would have made for better storytelling had this translated over to film. It not only would have given long time fans an epic twist to the feud, but also educated newbies on the war between these two, thus encouraging them to backtrack earlier animated works. I'm not faulting the movie for deviating so much from the source material because it does stand well enough. I'm just not too fond of abandoning all this history as if it doesn't mean anything. Superman himself also feels somewhat under-developed, and some of his antics feel too deus ex machina for my taste. Some things about his character actually needed more spoon-fed detail.
Overall, Superman: Unbound is a solid outing. It even meshes the comedy in some of the coolest ways. If you're not too familiar with comics, well that's not a problem at all since it has all those things that make these type of movies cool viewing. If you're a fan of the comic, there's still plenty to enjoy here.
Pros: Does plenty of things right, and it's quite enjoyable
Cons: Fans of the comic may be a little iffy, some annoying elements