Warner Bros.’ latest direct-to-DVD DC Comics release, “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse,” hits the shelves today — and then hits them some more.
Like a lot of these PG-13-rated exercises, the emphasis is on action and then some, with Superman’s cousin Kara (voiced by Summer Glau) crash-landing on Earth, and then catching the attention of the evil Darkseid (Andre Braugher). This quickly unleashes a pitched battle that involves Superman (Tim Daly), Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), taking on the amassed forces of Darkseid’s army.
Given how rich the Darkseid character is — which spawned a terrific multipart storyline on the “Superman” TV series of a few years back — the minimalist story is a bit disappointing. At 77 minutes, there would still be enough time to develop the plot a little bit within the movie and leave ample room for a lot of serious butt-kicking.
There is something refreshing about these more mature animated offerings from Warner and Marvel, which at least capture the tone that their live-action productions need to seek, while indulging in a level of action that, in a more traditional film, would likely require a budget that would make James Cameron blink.
It’s fun, too, to see Superman genuinely unleash the full measure of his power against evenly matched adversaries, which has seldom been attempted in any of the live-action productions featuring the character. (Please nobody bring up the fourth Christopher Reeve movie.)
Still, the New Gods story and characters that Jack Kirby created are so dense and operatic — with a great big mythology all their own — that it’s a bit of a shame to see them handled in this broad manner, without incorporating much of that back story.
So while “Superman/Batman” looks great and delivers plenty of biffs and pows, in the final analysis, score it a swing and a miss.