Enter the Skirt
It's hard to resist the innate pull of SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s. and BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen.. DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. has known this for decades, finding ways to pair the two superheroes (two of their three biggest, the other being Wonder WomanLong considered the third pillar of the DC Comics "Trinity", Wonder Woman was one of the first female superheroes ever created. Running for as long as Batman or Superman (and without breaks despite a comic downturn in the 60s that killed superhero comics for about a decade), Wondie has the honor to be one of the longest serving, and most prolific, superheroes ever.) so they could sell books. As soon as Batman became a hit on the big screen (courtesy of Tim Burton) DC started exploring ways to pit the Dark Knight against the Man of Steel for a battle of the ages. Bats and Supes put butts in seats.
That is, of course, what helped make Superman/Batman: Public Enemies one of the two most successful animated video released DC has ever produced (the other being Superman: Doomsday). The two biggest heroes, in a battle against every other hero and villain in the DC universe, voiced by the mainstays of the DC Animated Universe? That's a natural selling point. Hell, you don't even have to show people trailers for that and it'll sell DVDs all on its own.
That film's success directly led to DC signing off on a sequel. Since the previous film adapted the first arc of the Superman/Batman comics, the second film would continue the trend and take the second arc, "Supergirl", as its source material. As before, it would be a loose adaptation, streamlining and massaging the story to fit into an animated film version. But the broad strokes would be the same. And if things went right, the resulting film, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, would be a success. It was, although not to the same numbers as the first film, and that might have been why no further sequels were made.
The movie opens with an asteroid crashing down outside of Gotham City. Batman (Kevin Conroy) is naturally the first on the scene, investigating the strange rocks. What he discovers is that within the rocky formation resides an alien spacecraft, and that the craft is empty. Soon there are reports of a woman walking around Gotham, exhibiting powers like those of Superman (Tim Daly). Soon, Superman is on the scene and what he finds is a kryptonian woman, a blond girl named Kara Zor-El (Summer Glau) who is, in fact, his cousin from back on Krypton. She was sent off the same day as Kal-El, baby Superman, when Krypton exploded, but her ship was caught in debris and it took years for her to come to Earth.
It takes time for Kara to settle on Earth, and with her powers and not much training, it doesn't go well. The Amazons, including Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) soon come for her, thinking it would be better to train her in a controlled environment for her training instead of among civilians. But another force wants her, a darker force: the legions of Apokolips. Darkseid (Andre Braugher) needs a new leader for his royal guard and he thinks the Kryptonian girl would be the perfect addition. He sends his forces to kidnap her so she can be brainwashed into being his servant. It'll take the combined forces of BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen., SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s., and Wonder WomanLong considered the third pillar of the DC Comics "Trinity", Wonder Woman was one of the first female superheroes ever created. Running for as long as Batman or Superman (and without breaks despite a comic downturn in the 60s that killed superhero comics for about a decade), Wondie has the honor to be one of the longest serving, and most prolific, superheroes ever. to bring the Girl of Tomorrow home.
There is plenty that I like about this film, which we will get to, but my first real quibble is that despite it being based on the "Supergirl" arc, this movie isn't called Superman/Batman: Supergirl. It's her film, a movie all about her being added to this pocket continuity, and she doesn't get included in the top billing for her own arc. If we want to be really pedantic, she's taken to Apokolips to work under Darkseid, but it's not called Apokolips or Darkseid either. It really should be called Supergirl, but even Superman/Batman: Darkseid would at least be more accurate than the generic sounding name we did get.
It should tell you something about the quality of the film, though, that the biggest complaint I have is with the name. In all other respects this is a pretty solid movie that holds together quite nicely. While I don't think, in retrospect, this is the best retelling of Supergirl's origin story, it was at least comics accurate at the time. It focuses on her, really digs into her character, and lets her shine in multiple moments so that the film really can be a SupergirlIntroduced in 1959 as a female counterpart for Superman, the Last Daughter of Krypton would go onto have a long career in the DC Universe, thriving, dying, coming back, all the eventually become an even more powerful superhero than even her famous cousin. tale (even if she doesn't get title billing).
One thing I really liked is that it's a very different story from the previous film, Public Enemies. That one was basically one long action sequences with the creators smashing their action figures together. This film, by comparison, plays out over multiple months, showing the slow evolution of Kara from scared teen to superheroine, taking time to develop characters and relationships. There's action, yet, but it's used to punctuate story instead of replacing it. That gives the film a very different vibe avoiding the curse of just being a retread.
I also think the film is very funny. Because of its focus on story the characters are given time to breathe and can be real people. This lets their quirks come out, and none get this better than Batman. One sequence in particular is a perfect showcase of his inadvertently comedic side, from the other heroes approaching a house to be let in, but he's already there, lurking in he shadows of the living room, to a speech a character gets saying, "I'm coming with you and you better get over it," and his who reply is a wry, "I'm over it." Kevin Conroy's delivery was perfect here, showing that he was the best Batman ever.
It does help, of course, that most of the voice actors here were the same performers from the DC Animated Universe shows and movies. Conroy's Batman is always great, and there's a reason that the actor continued returning as the character (including 12 television roles and cameos, 14 film appearances, and 11 video games performances). While not as universally beloved, I also really like Tom Daly's Superman as the actor always brought a warm, endearing quality to the role. Susan Eisenberg's Wonder Woman and Ed Asner's Granny Goodness round out the recurring cast, and while they don't get as much to do, their practiced voice acting is still greatly appreciated.
With the new actors, the stand out is Andre Braugher as Darkseid. His commanding voice gives the character depth, and Braugher adds a lot of malice and menace that might not have been on the page. Braugher really adds so much to Darkseid that I'd love to see him come back to voice the character in other works. With that said, there is one weak part of the cast and it's Summer Glau. I like her as an actress, and I think she can do well in certain roles, but maybe voice acting isn't for her. She doesn't have the same command of her voice as Braugher, and she absolutely pales in comparison to Conroy, Daly, and the rest. Her character sounds very flat with all these pros around.
I don't think that really hurts Supergirl as a character as she's supposed to be finding herself this whole time, but it does mean that the Girl of Steel isn't quite as interesting of a focus as she could have been. It's easy to imagine a more convincing voice actress leading this film and making it even better than it is. I don't know if the sequel could have outperformed the original with a better Supergirl voice actress, but I expect it couldn't have hurt.
That said, this film is still great. Solid voice acting from the pros combined with a character-driven story makes this not just a great follow-up in the Superman/Batman movie continuity but a solid introduction for new characters that could have been. The films in this pocket universe stopped with this sequel (which made about $3 Mil less, at $8 Mil total, than Public Enemies) and DC would go on to explore other movie universes (DC Animated Movie UniverseWhile DC Comics was amping up production on this big "MCU-killer", the DC Extended Universe they were also quietly putting together another shared movie continuity, the DC Animated Movie Universe. This series was more closely related to the comics, directly adapting a number of famous storylines to, arguably, better effect than the live-action movies could., DC TomorrowverseA fresh start for DC's direct-to-video animated films, this is the successor universe to the DC Animated Movie Universe, promising bright new stories for DC's classic stable of heroes.) instead. But for a short time, these films started building out a version of the world with these classic voice actors carrying solid stories, and it was really good.