Directed By: Lauren Montgomery
Voice Cast: Andre Braugher, Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Summer Glau, Julianne Grossman, Edward Asner
Studio: Warner Bros.
Film Length: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, German SDH, Spanish
Release Date: September 28, 2010
The Film ****
In Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, an object from space crashes into a harbor in Gotham City. When Batman (Conroy) arrives on the scene, he discovers that it was a space craft containing a teenage girl (Glau) with abilities similar to those of Superman (Daly). She leads Batman and Gotham authorities on a wild and destructive chase before Superman intervenes and is able to calm her down by speaking Kryptonian. The girl is revealed to be Kara Jor-El, a cousin to Superman and the only other survivor of the destruction of his home planet. Batman is immediately suspicious due both to the potentially destructive power wielded by the emotionally unstable Kara and by her admitted lapses in memory. Superman takes a more paternalistic approach. After much discussion and the intervention of Wonder Woman (Eisenberg), they agree that Kara's best interests would be served if she lived among the Amazon women on their remote island. Despite some initial reservations on Kara's part, this arrangement works well until Darkseid (Braugher), an old nemesis of Superman's, abducts Kara and brings her to his distant planet of Apokolips. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Apokolips refugee Big Barda (Grossman) conspire to travel to Apokolips to rescue Kara, but they may already be too late.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse picks up almost exactly where the earlier DTV Superman/Batman: Public Enemies left off. Viewers familiar with the earlier DTV animated film will recognize several references to the events of that story during the opening minutes of this one, but knowledge of those events is not necessary to appreciate this otherwise self-contained narrative. Much like the earlier film, the emphasis is largely on animated action and mayhem, but the modern spin on the "Supergirl" origin story opens the door for a bit more complexity in plot and characterization than the earlier film. Most of this complexity is introduced throughout the first half of the film before being allowed to play out as near-constant superhero action violence from that point forward.
Darkseid, a character originally created by comic artist Jack Kirby in the early 1970s, has always been a good antagonist for Superman, particularly in his animated incarnations, but the desire to keep things fast-moving and get to the action may throw viewers not already familiar with the characters' history for a loop. As much care as is taken in establishing the character of Kara and her situation in the first half of the film, the filmmakers take as a given that viewers will be familiar with "Boom Tubes", Granny Goodness, Big Bartha, Darkseid's motivations, and various other aspects of the "New Gods Kirbyverse". As a result, the first half of the film tends to work better than the last half from a story perspective, although viewers tuning in for animated action probably will not mind, especially when a third act twist occurs that guarantees some extra super-pummeling.
The voice work is uniformly good, and fans will appreciate that, as was the case with Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, many popular voices from the Batman, Superman, and Justice League television series' of the last 20 years reprise their roles in this film. This includes Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, and even Ed Asner as Granny Goodness. The only significant voice re-cast is Darkseid, who was voiced by Michael Ironside on the Superman and Justice League television series, but is voiced by Andre Braugher here. Super fanboys will even appreciate that the producers have continued a DC animated universe tradition of casting voice actors who are alumni of Joss Whedon produced TV shows by casting Summer Glau as Kara.
The Video ****
The video, which fills the entire 16:9 frame, shows little evidence of digital video artifacts such as contrast banding which have marred a couple of the previous DC animated DTV Blu-rays. I did notice a couple of brief mild instances of aliasing "shimmer", but nothing that will distract most viewers. One aesthetic choice which makes it look less than pristine at times is a purposeful application of blurring and blooming to the image presumably to give it a more "realistic" appearance. This usually affects the backgrounds moreso than the main action in the frame, but I found it more distracting than enhancing.
The Audio ***½
Audio is provided courtesy of a lossless English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. This is an upgrade in specifications from the previous Batman/Superman DTV animated movie which did not have lossless audio. The mix itself is pretty subdued with very little use of the surrounds, even during the action set-pieces that would seem to lend themselves to it. The mix is focused almost entirely on the front hemisphere of the sound field with occasional extra "oomph" from the LFE channel and no more discrete audio effects than a viewer could count on one hand. Fidelity is very good as one would expect from a lossless rendering of a modern animated production with all sound recorded in a controlled studio environment.
The Extras ***
When the disc is first inserted into a player, the viewer is greeted with the following two promos. Both are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound:
- Batman: Under the Red Hood DTV trailer (4:3 letterboxed SD video)
- Lost Boys: The Thirst DTV trailer (1080p HD video)
Proper special features are presented in 16:9 SD video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound unless otherwise indicated:
DC Showcase: Green Arrow (1080p video – Dolby Digital 5.1 audio – 11:14) is a newly produced animated short in which Oliver McQueen's aka "Green Arrow" (Neal McDonough) plans to pick up his girlfriend (Grey DeLisle) at the airport are pre-empted by an encounter with a group of assassins including Merlyn the Magnificent (Malcolm McDowell) and Count Vertigo (Steve Blum) who are targeting a young princess (Ariel Winter) for death. I think this very action-heavy short is a step up from some of the previous "DC Showcase" animated shorts, and the 5.1 audio mix on this short is more enveloping than the one on the main Superman/Batman: Apocalypse feature.
Four Episodes from Superman: The Animated Series (4:3 SD video – 1:25:22 w/"Play All") constitute a pair of two-part story arcs from the animated Superman series that originally aired in 1998. Little Girl Lost Parts 1 & 2 were the episodes that introduced Supergirl to the continuity of the television show which makes it fun to compare and contrast with the DTV movie, especially since it crosses over with parts of the "New Gods" characters as well. Apokolips…Now! Parts 1 & 2 concerns a major conflict between Superman and Darkseid on Earth and involves many of the other characters from the DC "New Gods" universe. It was also the show producers' tribute to Jack Kirby, both in how it involved a large number of characters he created for DC Comics and the significant involvement of the "Dan Turpin" character whose appearance was modeled after the legendary comic book artist. The episodes look no better than they have appeared on previous SD DVD release, inclusive of aliasing. "jaggies" and other such artifacts.
The Fourth World: The New Gods (1080p HD video – 22:12) is a featurette conveying the history of the "New Gods" universe created by legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby after he jumped ship from Marvel to DC Comics in 1970. After some brief biographical information on Kirby, it focuses on the four separate comics he created set in the "Fourth World/New Gods" universe that looked at its history/mythology from four distinct perspectives. While the stories in these series took place primarily in a self-contained "universe", the ultra-powerful ruthless world conquering character of Darkseid proved irresistible to writers in the larger DC Universe, and he has subsequently been used as a major villain, especially for Superman, in both comics and animation. The featurette consists of a mix of talking head interviews, archival stills, clips from animated TV and DTV shows, and pans across comic art. On-camera comments are provided by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, DC Comics Writer/Former Publisher Paul Levitz, Historian Alan Kistler, Writer/Artist Walter Simonson, Executive Producer Bruce Timm, and DC Vice President of Creative Affairs Greg Noveck.
New Gods: Mr. Miracle Pod (1080p video – 4:57) is a brief featurette that provides some back story and history for the "Mr. Miracle/Scott Free" character from the "New Gods" comic universe. On screen comments are provided by Timm and Noveck.
New Gods: Orion Pod (1080p video – 4:37) is a brief featurette that provides some back story and history for the "Orion" character: the son of Darkseid who was raised by Darkseid's brother/rival "High Father" from the "New Gods" comic universe. There is some "interview overlap" with the comments provided in The Fourth World: The New Gods featurette. On screen comments are provided by Didio, Noveck, and Timm.
Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton (4:3 Letterboxed SD Video – 17:49) looks at the history of the "Supergirl" character from her comic book beginnings in 1959 through her appearances in various other live action and animated media inclusive of feature films, TV shows, and this current Direct to Video release. Topics covered include her "pre-feminist" origins, the moment in comics where she was revealed by Superman to the rest of the world three years after she was introduced, the 1984 feature film starring Helen Slater, the character's death in the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" DC Comics event, her return to comics in 2003, her 2007 appearance on the Smallville television show, and the differences between her many incarnations including how sexuality is or is not reflected in her physical appearance and characterization.
Under the heading of "Trailers", are the following promos and "sneak peeks":
LEGO Universe Video Game Trailer (2:00) promotes the forthcoming LEGO-themed adventure/puzzle game.
Jonah Hex Motion Comic Trailer (1:12) is a brief trailer for the motion comic series featuring DC's ghoulish western character released to coincide with the recent live action feature.
Batman: Under the Red Hood Extended Preview (13:46) is a behind the scenes sneak peek of the previously release DC animated DTV film featuring Batman battling a new nemesis with mysterious ties to his past. As with all of these extended previews, it blends comic art, storyboard art, and talking head footage. On-camera comments are provided by Director Brandon Vietti, Writer Judd Wineck, Noveck, Timm, Co-Producer Alan Burnett, Voice Director Andrea Romano, Jensen Ackles ("Red Hood"), Bruce Greenwood ("Batman"), and Neil Patrick Harris ("Nightwing").
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Extended Preview (11:11) is another behind the scenes sneak peek at a previously release DC animated DTV film in which the Justice League faces of against counterparts from a parallel universe with powers mirroring their own. The format is the same as described above. Comments are provided by Timm, Writer Dwayne McDuffie, Noveck, Director Lauren Montgomery, Romano, William Baldwin ("Batman"), Mark Harmon ("Superman"), Chris Noth ("Luthor"), James Woods ("Owlman"), and Gina Torres ("Superwoman").
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Extended Preview (7:47) is another behind the scenes sneak peek at a previously release DC animated DTV film in which Superman and Batman find themselves fugitives from justice after being framed by newly elected President of the United States Lex Luthor. The format is the same as described above. On-camera comments are provided by Tim Daly ("Superman"), Noveck, Timm, Scriptwriter Stan Berkowitz, Kevin Conroy ("Batman"), Director Sam Liu, Romano, Xander Berkeley ("Captain Atom"), Levar Burton ("Black Lightning"), Clancy Brown ("Lex Luthor"), Ricardo Chavira ("Major Force"), and John C. McGinley ("Metallo")
All-Star Superman Sneak Peek (1080p HD Video – 10:47) is a preview for the forthcoming (Spring 2011) DC Animated Universe DTV movie. It will be based on the All-Star Superman comic series created by Grant Morrison which took a "back to basics" approach to the character reminiscent of his comics appearances in the 1940s and 1950s. The featurette combines the usual mix of comic art, storyboard art, archival footage, and talking head interviews. On-camera comments are provided by Timm, Noveck, Liu, Romano, James Denton ("Superman"), Christina Hendricks ("Lois Lane"), and Anthony LaPaglia ("Lex Luthor").
A separate DVD includes SD DVD and Digital Copy versions of the film as has been the case for all Warner theatrical new release titles in 2010, but not always with these DTV releases. The SD DVD also includes the DC Showcase: Green Arrow short, but is otherwise without extras and includes only a 384kbps English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The video presentation has some noticeable mpeg compression noise areas of high frequency content (like the solid lines very common to hand-drawn animation), and light filtering appears to have been applied. The digital copy is compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media and downloads from the disc directly with a code provided on a physical insert in the disc case.
The disc is packaged in a standard sized blu-ray case with an extra hub on the inner left side to accomodate the decons DVD/digitalk copt disc and holes in the case to reduce plastic use. The interior of the case has a paper insert with information and an access code relating to the digital copy of the film. The hard case is, in turn, placed inside a cardboard slipcover that duplicates the art on the exterior insert with the addition of foil enhancements and some additional promotional text touting the SD DVD and Digital Copy. On-screen menus are straightfoward, although for some reason a chapter menu is not included. The film is authored on disc with a dozen or so chapters accessible by skipping with the Blu-ray remote.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse literally picks-up where the earlier DC Comics DTV Superman/Batman: Public Enemies left off and ups the superhero ante by bringing Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and various characters from Jack Kirby's "Fourth World/New Gods" comic universe into the mix. It is presented on Blu-ray disc with video marred only by some very light and infrequent aliasing/shimmer and stylistic cinematography that adds intentional softness and contrast boosting to the image. It receives a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio encoding of a fairly restrained mix. Extras include a newly produced "DC Showcase" animated short featuring Green Arrow, a featurette with background information on the history of Supergirl and a group of featurettes concerning legendary comic artist Jack Kirby and the "New Gods" universe he created in the early 1970s.