I’ve really been looking forward to this week’s release of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, based on the first six issues of the comic title of the same name, which was originally written by Jeph Loeb and featuring art by Ed McGuiness. There’s no denying that the story is incredibly stupid (a half Superman/half Batman robot?), but it’s also a helluva lot of fun, and was the story that took Lex Luthor out of the presidency of the DCU.
So the announcement of the movie was met with a decent amount of excitement from me. After all, the designs were based on the McGuinness designs, which I love (I even own the action figures based on these designs). And the last couple of DC films (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern) have been pretty decent.
So was Public Enemies seventy minutes of excitement, as good as the comics upon which it’s based? Did it continue DC Animated’s string of successful, well written films? Read my review after the jump!
Public Enemies starts with a brief summary of the events leading up to Lex Luthor becoming President of the United States, over the opening credits, featuring brief news clips (including a surprisingly vulgar joke). After that, it isn’t log before his plan is revealed – much like Tony Stark in Marvel’s Civil War, Lex Luthor has organized the world’s heroes as government employees, and Superman and Batman are resisting joining the fold. Still, the results are obvious – crime rates are down, and even Superman doesn’t have much to do. But when a fragment of Krypton is heading toward Earth, ready to cause total destruction of the planet, Luthor springs his plan – he goes on national television blaming Superman for the meteor, and offering a reward for his capture! Superman and Batman team up to take Lex out of office – for good.
While changing enough of the story to keep this self-contained, the majority of Public Enemies remains fairly true to the original source material. Characters like Power Girl, Captain Atom, and Katana appear with little to no explanation of their powers, as do a ton of villains who a more general audience won’t be familiar with. Still, these DC cartoons, despite their attempts to appeal to wider audience, really are intended for the die-hard comic fan who’s familiar with the material, with their PG-13 ratings (Lex Luthor says “bitch” in it, which I wasn’t expecting). The one omission I missed most was the removal of the Bat- and Super- families. I would have liked to see Nightwing and Robin and Supergirl and the rest appear as they did in the series, but had I not enjoyed their appearance so much in the comics, I wouldn’t have really missed them in the story of the film.
That’s not to say that Public Enemies is perfect. The voice acting is, as expected, strong (Clancy Brown, Tim Daly, and the immortal Kevin Conroy? How can they go wrong?). Hell, even CCH Pounder returns as Amanda Waller (her voice is PERFECT). Still, what worked as rip-roaring comic book doesn’t translate exactly well to the screen, as, once the “story” kicks in, we’re treating to non-stop fighting. So much, to the point that it actually becomes a little monotonous to jump from one fight scene to the next. While the film is pretty to look at, the animation isn’t as good as some of the previous DC Animated flicks (in fact, some scenes seem downright rushed), and without the spectacle to add to the fight scenes, they all look the same after a while, while some of the more important aspects of the story you want to be fleshed out (like Power Girl and Toyman) are sorely underused.
Overall, if you’re a fan of what Loeb and McGuinness did in the comic, or you like fun superhero action without a lot of story, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is the film for you. And with a load of cool bonus features, like a behind the scenes look at the upcoming Crisis on Two Earths, and a “Dinner for Five” style interview with Conroy, if you’re like me and you love the bonus features on your comic DVD’s more than the movies, you’ll be in DC Animated Heaven.