Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Review: Superman Unbound

Starring: Matthew Bomer, Stana Katic and John Noble
Director: James Tucker
Studio: Warner Premiere

After a deadly probe crashes to Earth, Superman must venture out into the Universe to stop the looming alien menace of Brainiac and save his adopted homeworld once again. Hearing tales of the cybernetic despot abducting entire cities from unsuspecting planets, could Krypton's capital, Kandor, be amongst them?

Adapting Geoff Johns' renowned Action Comics arc from 2008, this film marks a distinct departure from the DC Animated features which precede it. For acclaimed 'Batman: The Animated Series' producer Bruce Timm is no longer involved in these ongoing DVD releases. Replacing him is long-time colleague, James Tucker, who has an equally impressive resume featuring the likes of 'Legion of Super-Heroes' and 'Batman: Brave & The Bold'.

The difference in styles, both visually and creatively, between the two teams is immediately apparent. Where Timm had been aiming slightly more adult in his latest offerings 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2', Tucker brings us back to a more innocent family friendly vibe. A ridiculous statement considering this film features the massacre of multiple civilisations at the cold robotic hands of Brainiac, however, the plot is almost an afterthought, instead relying upon an endless stream of action scenes. After you've seen Superman (and Supergirl) punch something, the thousandth variation isn't going to do much more for you.

White Collar's Matthew Bomer takes on the role of Superman this time around, offering his usual blend of caring charm. Having been rumoured to play the big screen equivalent for several years, it's fitting that he should have his turn at bat, even with the change in medium. As such, he practically disappears into the role, as if it were one he were born to play. The fight scenes don't leave him much to do besides grunt, but he gets several juicy scenes with Supergirl and Brainiac.

Castle's Stana Katic, who you would imagine would make for a tremendous Lois Lane, simply did not have the material with this script. The opening scenes featuring her kidnap were surprisingly tiresome, as the disaffected Lane refused to fear for her safety, knowing either Superman or Supergirl would rush to her rescue at any moment. It's meant to be played as cool, calm and collected in the face of the danger, yet when even a hostage doesn't care about her plight, the audience struggles in turn. Similarly, her character beats whilst engaging with Bomer's Clark Kent failed to spark, leaving the feisty reporter coming across as nagging the poor hero.

John Noble makes for an intimidating Brainiac, with any sympathetic human tones being hidden behind a terrifying voice synthesizer. The visuals are equally as scary once the signature villain exits his technological cocoon, managing to swat Superman as if he were nothing but an insignificant bug. Which I was hugely grateful for, as the initially daunting robot probes quickly proved ineffective and our Kryptonian survivor was left with nothing but the true mastermind to challenge him.

'Superman Unbound' makes for an unspectacular debut for incoming producer James Tucker, his sensibilities far more blunted and child-friendly than recent classics from the very same DVD series. This adaptation failed to engage me in the same way that Geoff Johns' story did five years ago and the visuals were also too generic and lightweight for me to invest in any meaningful way. Not even attempting to match the stunning sights of Gary Frank's art. Think of this film in the same vain of 2007's 'Superman: Doomsday' i.e. big dumb fun, lots of fights and explosions, but lacking the heart and punch of the original material.

5 out of 10


  1. thanks for the review, my friend told me it was terrible but did not go into detail. I will avoid this one for sure
    sad Bruce Timm is not around :(

  2. You're welcome :)

    I'd highly recommend the source material, contained within the "Superman: Brainiac" trade paperback. Geoff Johns' writing in combination with Gary Frank's stunning visuals, they convey a true sense of wonder that this adaptation could only ever aspire to.

    I agree, it's sad to lose Bruce Timm from the DC Animated creative team. He's been a staple of their shows and films for as long as I can remember. I take solace in the fact he went out on a high note with "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2", not to mention the promise that he will someday return.

    If you're looking for some quality Timm, have you tried "Green Lantern: The Animated Series"? The switch to CG is a little jarring at first, but once the show hits full swing, it's the most compelling science fiction I've seen in years.