Superman/Batman: Public Enemies [2009]

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Batman is not pleased about Superman always getting top billing.

Batman is not pleased about Superman always getting top billing.

The prospect of superheroes working for the government is older than Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” (1986) in which it was popularized.  Not as old but still venerable is the Lex Luthor becomes president scenario.  However these themes still resonate.  Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (SBPE) took advantage of both, crafting an entertaining movie without really adding anything or evolving either theme.

"Hey Bats, where's the remote?  This channel's the worst."

"Hey Bats, where's the remote? This channel's the worst."

That is okay in this case.  The direct-to-video release throws in enough cameos, dream fights and shout outs to satisfy even the most ardent DC comics geek.  Here is the one sentence synopsis to set it up:

Good guy versus good guy?  To her credit, Nightshade lasted long against Superman than most.

Good guy versus good guy? To her credit, Nightshade lasted longer against Superman than most.

Economic travails and civil unrest lead to scheming Lex Luthor being elected president (on a third party ticket) allowing him to continue his vendetta against superheores and stroke is own ego while also granting opportunity to set Superman up as a criminal and while Batman tries to get his friend out of this jam a huge meteor of Kryptonite on a collision course with Earth conveniently enters as the ultimate plot complication.

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"Mr. Luthor sir, we are picking up a plot complication."  "I told you I wanted to see Dancing With the Stars!"

"Mr. Luthor sir, we've got a visual on the plot complication." "I told you I wanted to see Dancing With the Stars!"

It is more Superman story than Batman, however that does not mean Batman gets short shrift or even lacks screen time.  It just means the major story elements are more Superman centric.  As usual, we were gratified to see Batman hanging with the heavy hitters, although we feel he should have used his brain a little more.

These are NOT the heavy hitters I was talking about, but they're "cool".  Is that "Captain Cold"

These are NOT the heavy hitters we're talking about, but they're "cool". Is that "Captain Cold" next to Mr. Freeze? We like the goofball, but what a name! So who is the guy in the back then, "Baron Brisk"?

"Are you Sarah Connor?"

"Are you Sarah Connor?"

Many popular and classic voice actors participated or returned to don their capes and microphones, including Tim Daly as Superman, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, and Kevin Conroy as Batman.  (You know Luthor’s slippery voice from the first instant you hear it.)  The roster is replete with popular names despite some only needed to record a couple lines for “cameo central”.

Black Manta!?  He is one of our favorite minor villains, but one of the last we expected to see.

Black Manta!? He is one of our favorite minor villains, but one of the last we expected to see.

batman_alex_ross_3The art direction was hit or miss.  Perhaps they bit off too much.  Superman looked fittingly sculpted as did most of the male heroes.  Batman’s costume was straight out of an Alex Ross painting.  We think Ross makes fine paintings but that does not necessarily mean those costumes taken directly make for good animation models.  In this case it did not and always seemed a little “off”.

BTW, what's the trackball for Bruce?  Playing "Marble Madness"?

BTW, what's the trackball for Bruce? Playing "Marble Madness"?

Someone was paying a lot of attention in male anatomy class.  THat or Superman has found that those late night commercial ab devices really do work

Someone was paying a lot of attention in male anatomy class. That or Superman has found that those late night commercial ab devices really do work!

Some DC universe character you care about will make an appearance in this roster busting movie.  We like Mongul.  A great character.  While his appearance was welcome, it was a little disappointing in both look and improbable conception.  Power Girl played a large supporting role, but we found the take on her design in every respect to be underwhelming (except voice).  Compared to the sculpted men she seemed blobby and misshapen.

She did not look right in any of her scenes.  It was like she was dropped in from another show.

Power Girl's look did not match. It was like she was dropped in from another show. She wore this same expression in all her scenes: Cross-eyed and confused.

"When do I take Tylenol?"

"When do I take Tylenol?"

SBPE was “villa-palooza”, with villains coming out from under every rock and falling from second and third tiers at DC.  Despite this they also went to great and sometimes contrived lengths to get hero fighting hero.  You know, the age old match ups geeks and comic lovers argue about.  In comics, DC loves pitting new heroes up against Superman to establish their “cred”.  They realize afterward that they are on the same side of course.  “Ha ha old chap.  No harm done!”

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The fights were well choreographed albeit one dimensional slug fests on most occasions.  (If it could in any way be punched by Superman, it was.)  The animation quality was good, and there are no issues on that front.

Green and purple?  Luthor knows to keep his armor in the classic villain's pallette.

Green and purple. Luthor knows to keep his armor in the classic villain's pallette.

The modern trend making Superman and Batman friends contrasts against the more adversarial relationship they had in Miller’s Dark Knight.  However the buddy film template works with plots like this one.  With many fun moments and only minor disappointments SBPE should be a definite for any fan of the genre.

Captain Atom is...

Captain Atom is...

...da' bomb.

...da' bomb.

Check out Our Take on

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse [2010]

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Check Out Takes on Other Batman Related Media

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman [2003]

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths [2010]

Justice League: The New Frontier [2008]

Batman: Under the Red Hood [2010]

Batman: The Brave and the Bold