Superman Unbound (DVD) Review
Based on Geoff Johns' and Gary Frank's "Brainiac" story arc from Action Comics #886-870, Superman Unbound is perfectly timed to take advantage of the runaway freight train that is Zack Snyder's Man of Steel.
The 16th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, Superman Unbound offers a look at Superman that is sadly missed in many an adaptation. What Unbound manages to do in 70 short minutes, is show just how much Superman's adopted home means to him. This human element is what makes Superman not only relatable but also interesting. Without such a focus, he can often come across as being quite vanilla. With no real threat to his safety, it is his attachment to the things and people around him that gives importance to his exploits.
This particular DC animation style does not quite resemble that of Gary Frank, the co-creator of the source material. Instead, the character designs are more cartoony and somewhat resembles the art style of Aeon Flux creator, Peter Chung. Regardless, it looks fantastic. Each of DC's releases have felt unique and not like a sequel to what has come before it. Superman still looks impossibly muscular, Supergirl lithe and cute as a button and Brainiac suitably menacing if not a tad like Martian Manhunter. The picture looked fantastic on DVD and I can only imagine how wonderful it would look on Blu Ray in all of its high definition glory.
Long time collaborator Andrea Romano returns as the voice director and as such, the performances are pitch perfect. Unlike with the animated incarnation of Batman, we don't automatically expect a particular actor to represent Superman and in this instance we get Matt Bomer (Chuck, White Collar). First of all, Bomer could very well play Superman in real life, but beside that he delivers an earnestness that highlights the human element of the character. Little known actress Molly Quinn instills a fragility in Supergirl that belies her invulnerable exterior while Australian born John Noble vocally rumbles his way into the skin of the calculating Brainiac.
The story is fantastic, as is the source material. Bob Goodman's adaptation of the original story takes a small handful of liberties and all but cuts one particular character out of the story entirely but not to the detriment of the film. The thing that makes these DC Universe films so great, apart from the fantastic visuals and wonderful voice acting, is the way in which they approach story. Instead of creating some all new story outside of canon, they adapt some of the greatest in-canon stories that have ever worn spandex and capes. While it may seem like a logical thing to do, it seems like a fantastic way to expand upon the brand and, hopefully, push viewers into comic book stores where they can grab this and many other fantastic stories straight of the shelf.
This is yet another fantastic addition to the DC Universe Animated Original Movies imprint and, frankly, another victory over Marvel's animation releases. If there was one downside to this release it would have to be the lack of special features. While the DVD release has a sneak peek at the next release, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the Blu Ray release also has featurettes on Kandor and Brainiac, 4 episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, a digital excerpt of the original comic and an audio commentary by the creative team. Certainly worth the extra couple of dollars.
Superman Unbound is available now on Blu Ray, DVD and digital download.