Hey, woah, what’s that mixed in there with Striker Eureka and an Ood from Doctor Who? A new shelf? It’s almost like these reviews are being made in a different location than they were before! Haha, nah, that’d be silly.
So, today I’m reviewing Superman: Unbound! I’ve been in love with the DC direct-to-video productions for quite some time now, but I’ve mostly just rented them—I never really found them for a price that I felt justified the expense. And I mean, they’re just an hour and a half. Yeah, there are extras, but I doubt I’ll get the same amount of enjoyment that I would if I were to watch an entire TV show like Justice League. Put simply, the price-to-enjoyment ratio is often off. But that changed when I walked into my local Games Plus store and found this baby for—well, I’ll give you a second to look up at the picture and try to one-up me by figuring it out before I say it. You done? Yeah, it’s FIVE FUCKIN’ DOLLARS. And I had a $1 off gift card so it was only $4. So yeah, the ratio had fixed itself.
The store I got it at sells used DVDs and Blu-Rays that are traded in by customers. That means that somebody bought Superman: Unbound on Blu-Ray for full price, then for some reason decided they didn’t want it and traded it in for Call of Duty or some shit. For starters, that’s a terribly silly thing to do. But THEN, as if it wasn’t ludicrous enough that it was brought in, it apparently sat in the store with its initial price of $15 and nobody bought it for whatever chunk of time it is that these stores wait before dropping it down to bargain bin price levels. This is doubly terribly silly. For the life of me, I can’t discern why this would happen. The movie is great, the case has no defects, and the discs are flawless (it’s a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack). The digital copy is even still in there! Well, their loss is my gain and that’s why I love going to Games Plus. If there’s one in your area (as far as I can tell it’s only a chain that exists in Texas, so that narrows it down) run out to it immediately. Not only do they have great retro and modern games, they have crazy deals like these. But I’ve gone and wasted 403 words! 405! 40… Well, you get the idea.
The film adapts the graphic novel Superman: Brainiac, which as far as I can tell was a retcon of the Brainiac origin story. However, the same basic structure and characterization was retained. I’ve never really read DC Comics—I’m more of a Marvel guy—but I’ve always loved their animated productions. Thus, the image of Brainiac as an alien from another world rather than a sentient computer program from Krypton (as he was in the excellent Superman: the Animated Series) was new to me. However, the film does an excellent job of bringing you up to speed on the mythology that you may have missed (and let’s be honest, there’s 75 years of it so you probably HAVE missed something) without seeming too reboot-y. It makes casual references to past continuity but not so many as to leave a newbie in the dark. One of the ways you can see that it’s an old story told in a new way is in the character designs. This movie came out in early 2013, but the designs feel timeless. Superman, in particular, sports the classic costume but with a color pallet that more closely resembles the then-upcoming Man of Steel film (Just for the record, this is a much better film than that one). Jimmy Olsen has a bow tie like in the old days, but still fits into the sleek world the animators have created. And Lois… well, can we just talk about Lois for a second?
I love, love, love, LOVE Lois’s design in this movie. It’s spectacular. In this particular movie she’s portrayed as snarky and witty (which culminates in one of the most incredible reactions to the villain’s typical “I’m-so-evil” speech) and the design accentuates that to a T. She’s got a shorter haircut than normal and it makes her look more modern—ironic, considering it’s a throwback to older comics. Her design is great. I love it. I wish I could say the same about Superman’s design.
Superman’s design is pretty great—except for the head. In the film it’s taller and not as square-jawed as other incarnations, and it just looks funky. It looks like they got a moderately sized character’s head and stuck it on his Herculean body. It’s the worst thing about this movie and you get used to it—but still. It just looks off.
The action in the movie is mostly relegated to Supes beatin’ the stuffing out of some robots, but when it does involve humans (or humanoids), the violence takes a turn for bloody. It allows for the violence to seem more visceral—like it’s actually violent. It doesn’t dwell on it, but it’s just enough to make you realize the stakes are high. Hell, an entire PLANET gets destroyed (Not a spoiler, given that’s just part of Brainiac’s character, FYI). It’s not as if you see the people get disintegrated and it’s handled tastefully—just enough to show you how serious Brainiac is. In an age where comic characters are being brutalized excessively just to make things dark and gritty (New 52 anyone?), it’s very nice to see a superhero production where they know how to use violence properly—in service of a storyline rather than violence for violence’s sake.
Oh yeah, there’s also a scene where Superman gets tied up—presumably the source of the “Unbound” title. It lasts for like 5 minutes. That’s kind of like naming Jurassic Park “Jeff Goldblum Talks About Chaos Theory In An Electric Cart”. Whatever.
In conclusion, Superman: Unbound is an excellent buy—especially if you find it for the stupidly cheap price that I did. For that matter, go ahead and buy whatever other DC Direct-to-Video movie you can find. They’re all great.