Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is the most recent DC animated film, and also an adaptation of Jeph Loeb’s graphic novel, called “Supergirl.” The story follows the origin of Supergirl (Kara Zor-El), a Kryptonian and Superman’s cousin, who has crash-landed on Earth with little memory of how she got there. Batman distrusts her, but Superman, overjoyed with his newfound family member, adopts his long-lost cousin; Wonder Woman trains her on Themyscera, teaching her to control her powers, but Darkseid, ruler of Apocalypse, plots to abduct and brainwash her for his own evil uses.
The voice performances are hands down the strongest elements of the movie. Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy reprise their roles as Superman and Batman respectively, and Susan Eisenberg, who voiced Wonder Woman in the Justice League show, returns. The three veterans are positively flawless and I love the sense of continuity that comes with hearing their voices. The newcomers, not so much: Andre Braugher was fine as Darkseid, but rather monotonous; and I’m far from a Summer Glau fan, so this is probably biased, but she’s utterly unforgettable as Supergirl.
The art was great too, modeled after Michael Turner’s gorgeous art in the graphic novel. Instead of the boxy, simplistic animation from Public Enemies, the visuals in Apocalypse are sleek, and more mature than the first film. I especially liked how Batman and Wonder Woman were rendered.
Even though the story follows Supergirl’s origin, it really isn’t about her. We never see her when she’s alone, nor does she make her own decisions; she’s constantly surrounded by Bats, Supes, Wonder Woman, or Darkseid, all of whom have such gigantic personalities that they automatically overshadow her. And then she gets brainwashed, showing no strength of will. Kara becomes Supergirl right at the end, but I am unconvinced that she truly is a hero in her own right.
Supergirl’s character is so shallow, thankfully we have Wonder Woman and Barda to balance it out. I’m so glad to see Barda, such a minor and often overlooked heroine, in a prominent role, with all the stubbornness and warriorness that makes her character so much fun. The fight scene with her and Diana against the Furies was my favorite part of the film; it was beautifully animated and exciting, less big-explosion oriented than the battle between Supes and Darkseid.
And yet, Barda doesn’t even mention her husband Scott (Mr. Miracle), especially when Scott met Barda at Apocalypse and the two escaped together! You see his costume for a moment, but that doesn’t explain his absence. One line of dialogue was all we needed. Or, gasp, you deviate from the book.
And after Lex Luthor’s villainy in the first movie, Darkseid is kind lame. I’m not a Darkseid fan, and though I liked Andre Braugher’s performance, he captures Supergirl for no real reason than to move the plot along, and he is never fully developed as a villain. Granny Goodness (Ed Asner, I know right?) lightens up the mood but not by much.
If you liked the previous Supes/Bats movie, or superheroes in general, give it a try. The movie has the same flaws as the book, but if anything it’s an hour of good animated superhero entertainment. Which is good enough for most people.