The DC Animated Universe keeps on trucking with its newest film, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, a terrific addition to the collection, and possibly my favorite thus far in the ever-growing series. This one is taken from the graphic novel by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. It is my shame that I’ve never read this one, but based on what I’ve seen here, I might soon check it out.
For those unfamiliar, the DC Animated Universe is the label affixed to a recent series of straight-to-DVD animated movies centering on popular DC characters. So far there’s been Superman: Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier, Batman: Gotham Knight, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern: First Flight. Each movie is aimed more towards adult audiences, and proudly boasts their PG-13 ratings on the front labels of their packaging. They may not have quite what the casual summer-blockbuster superhero fans are looking for, but for the comic book and animation nerds, they’re quite enjoyable. This newest film, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, is no exception.
The story opens on a desperate nation as it elects classic Superman villain Lex Luthor to the seat of President of the United States. Luthor has formed a union with a regime of superheroes including the likes of Captain Atom, Power Girl, and Major Force. Sold to the public as a strengthening coalition, Luthor’s motivations are more to keep them out of the way.
The superheroes and the public have a newfound trust in Luthor and he seems to have done nothing but good for the country. Superman, however, remains suspicious. He knows that Luthor is up to something, and Batman knows it, too. When Luthor requests a secret meeting with Superman to discuss a kryptonite asteroid that is hurtling towards Earth, things soon turn ugly, and Luthor frames Superman for the subsequent murder of Metallo.
Superman is soon public enemy #1, with a $1 billion bounty on his head. Batman is the only one who knows the truth, and he joins together with Superman to help evade the incoming cavalry and get to the bottom of Luthor’s plans.
I’ve enjoyed all of the previous DC Universe films, but this one held my interest even more intensely, as the plot was so much more satisfactory. The imminent conflict and political intrigue of the story translate much more cinematically than some of what we’ve seen from them before. A lot of the films so far, particularly Justice League, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, have been origin stories, which—as a matter of my own personal taste—I tend to lose a bit of interest with. Luckily for DC, both Batman and Superman are characters who need no introduction (plus, they’ve both already been featured prominently in their own movies).
And it’s a hell of a good thing to hear Tim Daly doing Superman’s voice (as he did on Superman: The Animated Series) and Kevin Conroy doing Batman (as he did on Batman: The Animated Series). Clancy Brown, who has voiced Lex Luthor throughout all of the Bruce Timm productions where he has shown up, continues to do a fantastic job with the character.
The action is fun and exciting, and it’s more than a treat to see so many DC characters in one movie, particularly the sequence in which a horde of villains, including Mr. Freeze, Bane, Mongol, Solomon Grundy, Deadshot, and more gang up on Batman and Superman to collect that lucrative bounty.
An area of concern, however, lies with the length of the film and all of the other films, for that matter. Most of them, so far, have been just over 70 minutes, and Superman/Batman clocks in at a mere 67 minutes, barely able to be called feature-length. It works fine for this film as far as I can tell, but so much of the time is spent on action sequences, that I worry about how much of the story is suffering in translation. But if it works, then it works, and who am I to complain?
If I have one complaint about the story here, though, it’s that the titular union of Superman and Batman doesn’t really hold much weight. That is to say that the story is more about Superman than anything (or anyone) else, and Batman’s involvement is pretty much entirely incidental. I’m not too worried, though. It’s a hell of a good time, nonetheless, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more from Batman in the future. (Perhaps they’ll try and take on The Long Halloween?? Although, we’ll run into that whole length issue again.)
But the whole damn thing is quite enjoyable and has what I suspect will be a higher rewatch value than any of the others that came before it. The next one on the way is Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, which you can see a sneak peek of on this Special Edition DVD and Blu Ray for this film. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait!