Directed by Michael Chang
Like the previous two superman films I reviewed, Public Enemies and All Star Superman, this is an adaptation of a comic book storyline. Unlike those earlier films though, Superman vs. the Elite is based on a single issue rather than an entire series, which means a lot of elaboration must have gone into the plot in order to make it the standard hour and spare change length that these DC animated films tend to run at. Also unlike the previous two, it doesn’t seem to carry over the art style of the comic. This is largely just me jumping to conclusions, since I never read the comic book version, but I got a very cartoony vibe from the visual designs.
I didn’t really care for the aesthetics, but the quality of presentation is well done. Especially the CG which takes a back seat this time, much to my joy. So, despite some minor gripes, I have to say the film looks good. And I can stretch that statement to the entire film. It’s good. I’m not a fan of Pauley Perrette’s gravely voice as Lois Lane, but I’m running out of things to complain about in this film. It delivers a solid, exciting Superman adventure that surprised me by how strongly it held me to the chair. And despite the cartoony look, the subject matter was a lot more mature than I had expected.
The real theme of the movie is a very important one to a character like Superman. It’s all about whether killing the bad guy is right. Superman never kills. It’s one of his defining traits. That trait may only have been a response to parents concerned about their kids being shown death as a good thing, but it’s very important to the character. It needs to have a real explanation in the story, and that’s just what this film does. You may not agree with Superman, but that’s not the point. The point is that Superman must believe in it, and justify that belief, otherwise the character makes no sense.
There’s a lot of fun action over the whole film. And who doesn’t like watching Superman slap around bad guys with a telephone pole? But even though there are a lot of characters flinging superpowers around, it never falls into the confusion of Public Enemies‘s giant assortment of random characters. In that film, no one was there for anything other than to have a giant brawl. Sure it’s fun, but the action in Superman vs. the Elite is just as much fun, and has nearly as much variety. It also has characters that you come to know over the course of the film. Sure, they don’t have a lot of depth, but there’s just enough to make their battles mean something more than just a simple dust-up. The outcome is actually significant.