Sunday, April 10, 2016

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

When it comes to these direct-to-video DC animated movies, there are so many of them at this point that I can't keep track of when I first found out about each one of them, which is the case with this film. I know I saw a sneak peek of it on one of the DVDs or Blu-Rays of these films, as they almost always have glimpses of what's coming next as special features, but I'll be damned if I can remember which one it was. Regardless, the preview that I saw of this film caught my interest, not only for the really cool-looking art design and animation but also for the fact that it had Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy reprising their respective roles and the story of them being turned into outlaws by Lex Luthor, who's now the President. It sounded like a good flick and so, when I got the opportunity, I bought the Blu-Ray, along with a handful of DC animated films, at a big used book and movie store in Chattanooga in the summer of 2013. They were mainly stuff I bought since my birthday had been the week before and someone I knew took me to Chattanooga in celebration but they were also something that I could use to get me through a tough time that my family was going through. In any case, I wound up being very glad that I snagged Superman/Batman: Public Enemies because it turned out to be a film that I very much enjoyed. It's not my absolute favorite of these movies but it is up there because it's a film that I have nothing but praise for: the voice-acting is top notch, the animation and look of the film is gorgeous, the story is simple, to the point, fast-paced, and very well-told, with plenty of fun action sequences, and it manages to accomplish a lot despite being only 67 minutes long.

America is going through a period of great economic depression and widespread crime, so much so that, when Lex Luthor decides to throw his hat into the presidential race, he manages to get enough support to actually win the election. However, upon election, he declares that one of America's biggest problems are powerful beings who call themselves "superheroes" and, stating that no one is above the law, decides to create a team of heroes who officially work for the government and makes it clear that any who don't join will learn the hard way just how much the law applies to them as well. Under his leadership, America manages to get back on its feet again, but it means little to Superman, who still doesn't trust Luthor and refuses to join his team. Meanwhile, Luthor has discovered that a large meteor made of Kryptonite is heading straight for Earth but, rather than have the heroes deal with it, he intends to destroy it with missiles in order to get absolute credit for saving the country. He arranges a meeting with Superman in Gotham City, apparently wishing to form a pact with his archenemy, but when one of Luthor's bodyguards turns out to be Metallo, a fight breaks out that soon also involves Batman when the latter comes to save Superman's life. Although both heroes are injured in the battle, with Superman being shot by a Kryptonite bullet, they manage to escape, with Metallo then being destroyed by a shadowy figure. Luthor then takes the opportunity to pin Metallo's death on Superman, saying that the radiation from the approaching meteor is affecting his mind, and places a bounty of $1 billion on him. When Superman and Batman investigate what happened, they find evidence that prove that Metallo's death was caused by someone else and later learn that it was orchestrated by Luthor in an attempt to get his most hated enemy out of the way. Now, the two heroes must defend themselves both from attacks by villains out for the reward and Luthor's own team of heroes, as well as find a way to stop the meteorite when Luthor's attempt fails, which becomes further complicated when the president begins to lose his mind from a serum he's begin secretly injecting himself with and decides that the meteor is now an opportunity for him to create a new world order ruled solely by him.

The film's director is Sam Liu, a Chinese-American who's been involved with a number of different animated films and TV shows, particularly comic book-based ones, since the late 90's. In addition to Public Enemies, he's directed other DC animated movies like Batman: Year One, All-Star Superman, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and Justice League: Gods and Monsters (he's also the director of their adaptation of The Killing Joke). He's also directed episodes of Young Justice, the short-lived Beware the Batman, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and The Batman, as well as direct-to-video films, The Batman vs. Dracula, and has also done some stuff for Marvel like Planet Hulk, Thor: Tales of Asgard, and the Thor segment of Hulk Vs. Some non-comic book-oriented stuff that he's been involved with include Extreme Ghostbusters (his earliest directing credit), Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles, and most notably to me, Godzilla: The Series, the cartoon based on the 1998 film (which is supposed to be infinitely superior to its source material). Besides directing, he's worked in the animation and art department on many other projects, particularly other DC animated movies, including Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, the follow-up to this. Not much else I can say about the guy other than he's had a very healthy, steady career since 1997 and has done some good work.

While I love Christopher Reeve's wholesome, all-around saintly portrayal of Superman (to me, he always will be Superman), I've also come to appreciate the portrayal of him in the DC Animated Universe and in these films, particularly when he's voiced by Tim Daly. I like that he's portrayed not so much as a boyscout or a larger-than-life hero with an over-the-top, deep voice, as he was in those SuperFriends cartoons, but as a guy who, while still using his immense powers to help people whenever and wherever they need him, has a limit to his tolerance and isn't afraid to speak his mind. It makes him feel more human and relatable. He's not afraid to tell the heroes working for Luthor that, even though he's now the president, he still doesn't trust him as far as he could throw him and feels in his gut that he's up to something. I like how, when Captain Atom tries to rationalize that Luthor is hardly the first president America has had that isn't exactly a saint, Superman responds with, "Thanks for the history lesson, but I'm not buying it." However, in spite of this, he does decide to meet with Luthor, saying that, "I just can't stand back and do nothing," leading to him realizing that he was right about him all along. As the story progresses, his rage and anger towards Luthor increases, especially after he accuses him of killing Metallo in cold blood, to the point where, during a battle with Mongul later on, he angrily yells, "I'm sick of Lex Luthor!" and during his final battle between him and Luthor when the latter puts on this robotic battle suit, he says, "When does it end, Luthor? I'll answer for you: it ends tonight!" Plus, I like that Superman isn't above snarky comments, like when, at the end of the film, Luthor declares, "You can't touch me. We're on American soil now. And I am the president," and Superman responds by grabbing him and punching him clear across the street, saying, "Consider yourself impeached." He has plenty of other nice lines that I'll get into when I talk about his relationship with Batman. Finally, I really like the way he's designed here and it's probably my favorite look for Superman in animation. The musculature is rather exaggerated, especially his abs (look at those things) and his face looks odd to me when viewed from the side but, otherwise, I think it's a very appealing design and I like it much more than his design in Superman: The Animated Series, especially when it comes to his eyes, which are natural and full of expression, rather than being small and squinty like they were there, and his face when you see it straight-on, which often makes him look downright badass and someone you wouldn't want to tangle with.

As always, Kevin Conroy is simply awesome as Batman, here playing him in the same way that he has for a good while now, ever since The New Batman Adventures: a dark and very pessimistic man who's also a brilliant detective and skilled fighter in his own right. Like Superman, he has no trust for Luthor, president or not, but you also know that he doesn't trust anybody period. He seems initially reluctant to get involved with the situation between Superman and his old nemesis, telling him when he goes to meet him, "When it all goes south, don't count on me to save you." That, however, turns out to not be the case, as Batman does come to Supes' rescue when he's attacked by Metallo, helping him escape and make it back to the Batcave, where he removes the Kryptonite bullet Metallo shot him with. He goes on to help him find information about the meteor that's approaching Earth, which Batman himself has been monitoring for some time and has learned that the Kryptonite emitting from it is too much for Superman to deal with even if he wore a lead suit. When they discover Metallo's remains at Star Labs, Batman finds proof that Superman couldn't have been the killer since whatever destroyed the cyborg was radioactive. Even though he has no powers, Batman proves that he can more than hold his own against those who do when they're attacked by super-villains who want the bounty on Superman's head and by Luthor's team of heroes when they arrive to arrest Superman, and he also shows how smart and tactical he is in dealing with them, as well as deducing that Major Force was the one who killed Metallo. I love the scene where he goads Major Force into admitting it in front of the other heroes, particularly Captain Atom, saying, "You're not going to tell me you killed him for your country, are you?" When Major Force says, "Some of us still believe in putting our country first," Batman says, "Sorry, I don't see any patriotism here. All I see is a psycho who's latched onto an excuse to kill people and who's so stupid he doesn't realize he's being used by Luthor." During the climax, when Luthor destroys the remote guidance system of a rocket that's been built to destroy the oncoming meteor, Batman takes it upon himself to fly it into the meteor, which will result in certain death for him (he survives, of course). Like Superman, Batman has some nice one-liners and snarky comments all his own, like when he battles Solomon Grundy and is almost drowned, when the villain inexplicably stops his attack, moaning, "Grundy not feel good," to which Batman says, "Grundy gonna feel a lot worse," before whacking him. Another one that always make me smirk is when he and Superman see the rocket that Toyman has been built for them to use to destroy the meteor. The thing looks like a composite of the two of them and all Batman can say is, "Wow." As for his look, I think Batman has a nice design here. I wish the ears on his cowl were a little longer and I miss the gold around the bat symbol on his chest but, otherwise, he looks pretty damn good and, like Superman, is clearly very muscular and athletic. That said, though, I'm not too fond of his face, which you see in only one scene. He looks too much like Superman, save for a darker shade to his skin (in fact, doesn't he kind of look the way Supes did in Superman: The Animated Series, only with bigger, more expressive eyes?)

My favorite thing about this film is the relationship between Superman and Batman and the nice friendship and comradery they have. While the two of them being enemies can work if it's done well, like in the second part of The Dark Knight Returns, I do prefer to see them as friends because I like seeing people with two different personal philosophies and outlooks on the world being able to form a bond. I enjoy their interaction and how they play off each other, with Superman being a good yin to Batman's yang. There's some nice banter between the two of them, like the scene that first got me interested in the film, which is when Batman is trying to remove the Kryptonite bullet from Superman's chest. When Batman tells him that he's not sure if he'll be able to remove it before the wound closes up, Superman jokes, "Where's the Flash when you need him?" Batman says, "Do me a favor and lose the sense of humor," to which Superman responds, "Do us both a favor and buy one." Another good one is when Batman is helping Superman make it back to the Batcave through Gotham City's sewers and the latter, slightly delirious from his condition, says, "Why is it that the good villains never die?", prompting Batman to ask, "Clark, what the hell are good villains?" I think my favorite, though, is when they're surrounded by villains and Batman asks, "I suppose it's useless to tell you to leave," with Superman answering, "I wouldn't miss this for anything." Batman then says, "Your funeral," and Superman responds, "Already had one," which made me smile because I knew what it was referring to. Besides that, I think the two of them make a good team, with Batman being the brains while Superman provides the muscle, even though neither of them are slouches in the other departments, especially Batman when it comes to fighting off enemies (although he does need Supes' help when he's clearly outmatched), and it's inspiring to see them working together towards the same goal. But, above everything else, I like that the two of them clearly value their friendship. Superman is more direct about this than Batman, obviously, but I like seeing them being concerned for each other when they're seriously injured and that they're close enough to refer to each other as Clark and Bruce. I also like how, the first time we see Batman, it's when Superman has gone to the Batcave and is watching a national address that Luthor is giving about the meteor, while Batman is studying it himself. I like how it feels that he didn't need permission to go there but simply did so because Batman's his friend and is the only other hero he could turn to since he's also suspicious of Luthor's intentions. Finally, you have the moment near the end when Luthor's interference has forced Batman to seemingly sacrifice himself to destroy the meteor and Superman tells him, "That was my best friend... and you just killed him." I don't think I need to say anything else.

Another actor who reprises his respective role from the DC Animated Universe is Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, who manages to give the character a smooth-talking, convincingly benevolent exterior that just barely hides a mind that's just as narcissistic and twisted as it is brilliant. He becomes president and pulls the country out of a bad slump only to glorify himself, which isn't enough for him as he also wants sole credit for destroying the meteor that's threatening the Earth. In addition, his reason for getting the other heroes to work for him is simply to keep them from working against him; he has no respect for them whatsoever, referring to them as "freaks and monsters." Whether or not he really wanted Superman to work for him is questionable but, given that he brought Metallo with him to ensure he wouldn't be able to attack him, it's more likely that the meeting was simply a means for Luthor to dispose of Superman, who he probably knew wouldn't work for him in a million years. He may have intended for Metallo to kill Superman but, just in case that didn't work, he also had a back-up plan in using Major Force to frame him for Metallo's death. It's also possible that the framing was Luthor's plan all along since he knew Superman wouldn't agree to work with him and might incite others to revolt against him or, on the off-chance that Supes did agree to join his team, he would have arranged his death somewhere down the line. Whatever his goal truly was, it's obvious that Luthor always intended to use his newfound power and authority to rid himself of Superman at some point. Everyone who works for Luthor, including Amanda Waller and even Captain Atom, know how power-hungry and dangerously over-confident he is but they're unable to do anything since he's the president and it's their job to do what he says. However, it's revealed that Luthor's mental state is slowly but surely deteriorating due to a serum made up of liquid Kryptonite and steroids that he's been taking since the last days of the presidential campaign. He claims that it's been giving him boundless energy and is also enabling him to think clearer than he ever has before but, in reality, it's making him severely delusional and irrational, to the point where, after his attempt to destroy the meteor with the missiles fails, he decides to let the majority of the human race die so he can rule over whatever's left and create his own society. He has a very specific agenda for his proposed new society as well, as he tells Superman and Batman, "Everyone who lives to see the new world will have learned never to trust your kind again." This is where Waller and the other officials decide they've had enough and turn on the mad president, giving the heroes the information they need to stop the meteor. Luthor, however, is undeterred and uses a powerful battle suit to try to ruin their attempts to destroy the meteor, leading to a big battle between him and Superman. Throughout the battle, Luthor's crazed mindset causes him to spew out his hatred towards Superman, telling him, "I can't think of a morning I haven't woken up with the thought of strangling you! That sanctimonious image of yours fooled everyone, except me... because I know evil!", and, "You come to this planet, declare yourself the savior of mankind. Well, I think it's time you died for your sins." However, despite the advantage of having Kryptonite running through his veins, Luthor is ultimately beaten by Superman and taken away, by this point raving like a complete lunatic: "The voice of the people must be heard. I am the president! God bless America. God bless me."

Like I said, none of Luthor's subordinates are fooled by the benevolent, caring image he tries to project to the public, least of all Amanda Waller (voiced by CCH Pounder). She's the one who calls Luthor out on his reasoning for not using the heroes who work for him to destroy the meteor, saying right out that he wants the credit all for himself, much to his annoyance, despite his saying that he appreciates her honesty. She tries to make him understand that the missiles might not be enough to destroy the meteor, as does a general, but Luthor refuses to listen and, when they attempt his plan and it seems to work, he hugs her and says, "Don't worry. I'm not going to say, 'I told you so.'" Waller then says, "Good thing," and points out to him that the meteor hasn't even been touched, that the sheer radiation it's emitting caused the missiles to explode before they could reach it. After this, nobody is comforted, or fooled, by Luthor's national addresses and the country begins to fall apart again, prompting Waller to barge into Luthor's office in the special bunker they've been conducting the operations from in order to tell him that the public wants his head, which is when she learns of his injections. Upon realizing how much he's lost his mind as a result of the serum when he tells her of his new intention to let the meteor wipe out a good chunk of humanity so he can create a new society all his own, Waller decides that enough is enough and gives Superman and Batman a chip containing the information they need to stop the meteor. Once the heroes head out, she and the other officials attempt to arrest Luthor but are unable to stop him from getting into his battle-suit and heading out to ensure the meteor does hit. From what I've read, this sympathetic portrayal of Waller is quite a departure from how she's usually portrayed, which is as a powerful government official who's an enemy of the heroes.

Power Girl (voiced by Allison Mack) is the one hero who's rather conflicted about her duty of serving Luthor, especially when Superman is accused of killing Metallo and a bounty is put on his head. She does initially try to convince Superman to join Luthor's team, remarking on the good that Luthor has done for the country, and is clearly disappointed when he refuses. Later, she has a hard time believing that he killed Metallo in cold blood, knowing that's not how he does things, and while Luthor does try to convince her that people can change very drastically in a short amount of time, she's ultimately conflicted enough to not take part in the heroes' attempt to capture Superman and Batman and even warns the former of an oncoming attack at one point. Following that skirmish, Power Girl admits that Luthor creeps her out, despite being the president, and from then on, she helps them in their mission to save the Earth, aiding them in the battle against the other heroes and helping them to defeat Hawkman and Captain Marvel (off-camera) when the two of them ambush them outside of Luthor's secret canyon bunker. I had never heard of Power Girl before I saw this film, so when I first saw her, her two most notable assets really got my attention, especially with that gap in her costume that ensured you got a good look at them. In fact, I found the size of her boobs to be so damn distracting that I had a hard time paying attention to the dialogue in her scenes. I felt like such a pig until it got to the section with Toyman, who used X-ray goggles to get a "better" view and almost admitted outloud that she has big boobs before Batman stopped him, after which I thought, "Okay, I'm not the only one." I definitely felt better when I find out that her bustiness is one of her most well-known features but still, if you're in the wrong state of mind, that can distract you from the story!

Captain Atom (voiced by Xander Berkeley). who acts as the leader of the team of heroes under Luthor's employment, is interesting in that, like everyone else who works for him, he's well aware that Luthor is hardly the saint that he's trying to pass himself off as to the public, telling Superman at the beginning that he feels that he became president simply so everyone would respect him and his ego would get what it wants. That said, though, he also has no choice but to do his duty and attempt to bring Superman in for the charge of murdering Metallo, saying, "It doesn't matter what any of us thinks. Luthor is the president, and what he says goes." That changes, however, when Batman tricks Major Force into admitting that he was the one who killed Metallo under Luthor's orders in front of everyone. Realizing that Superman was right and that Luthor has indeed been using them all in one of his evil plots, Captain Atom decides to set things right by absorbing the blast of energy that occurs when Power Girl punches Major Force hard enough to rupture his containment suit, saying that it's the least he could do to help. This puts him out of commission until the end of the film, when he shows up too late to help in the crisis but, fortunately, Superman managed to get everything under control by himself.

Not being a comic book person, I was quite surprised when a character known as "Toyman" (voiced by Calvin Tran), a name that I've always associated with a member of the Legion of Doom in Challenge of the Super Friends, turned out to be a young, Japanese kid who helps Superman and Batman by building a rocket that's meant to destroy the oncoming meteor. He's shown to be a technological and scientific genius, supposedly having an I.Q. of 210 (he'd have to be in order to build that enormous rocket by himself), and claims that he was very big into hero worship when he built the rocket, which is why it's designed to be half Superman and half Batman. He's also apparently quite the pervert, using X-ray goggles to get a better look at Power Girl's goods, to the point where, when Superman and Batman arrive at his base in Japan, she waits outside and refuses to go in with them. He's also the one who almost says out-loud what we're all thinking about Power Girl's breasts but Batman cuts him off, a moment that I still can't help but smirk at.

Big comic book fans definitely get a lot of bang for their buck in this film when it comes to seeing their favorite characters. It amazes me that they manage to squeeze so many heroes and villains into a 67-minute movie but they did it, although a lot of them are, predictably, nonspeaking cameos. On the hero side, you have appearances by Katana, Black Lightning (voiced by LeVar Burton, and who I'm used to calling Black Falcon due to those SuperFriends cartoons I watched when I was a kid), Starfire (I was hoping that meant that Raven would show up since I really like her but, sadly, no), Hawkman (voiced by Michael Gough), and Captain Marvel (voiced by Corey Burton), who does briefly turn back into Billy Batson (voiced by Rachael MacFarlane) during his battle with Superman and Batman. Good old Alfred (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer) does appear in a couple of scenes when Superman and Batman make it back to the Batcave through the sewer following their battle with Metallo (he's good enough to wash Superman's cape and the top section of his suit for him) and Lois Lane does appear at the very end when she meets up with Superman, although he had mentioned meeting with her during the film's events. When it comes to the villains, Luthor secretly has a couple of them working for him: Metallo (voiced by John C. McGinley), who he uses to attack Superman during their meeting, and Major Force (voiced by Ricardo Chavira), who masquerades as a hero but, as Batman deduces, is really a merciless killer who's using his newfound authority as an excuse to do so and is the one who took out Metallo so Luthor could pin it on Superman. So many other villains show up to ambush Superman and Batman in the middle of the film that it's unreal. You've got Silver Banshee, Killer Frost (voiced by Jennifer Hale) and Mr. Freeze, Solomon Grundy (voiced by Corey Burton), Mongul, Lady Shiva, and Nightshade (both voiced by Rachael MacFarlane), the latter four of which are revealed to be under the mind-control of Grodd (voiced by Brian George). A veritable army then shows up to ambush the pair, consisting of Black Manta, Eclipso, Giganta, Parasite, Shrike, Captain Cold, Icicle, King Shark, Despero, Cheetah, Brimstone, Catman, Deadshot, and even Bane, among others who I don't recognize. It's also interesting to note that voice-director Andrea Romano and Bruce Timm himself did the brief vocals for Giganta and Mongul respectively, and that Jennifer Hale isn't credited for doing Killer Frost but is for Starfire... who doesn't make a sound.

As you've no doubt been able to tell from the screenshots, the film is very appealing to the eye. The color palette is very rich, absolutely pops, and as such, you can tell that it's more inspired by the world of Superman than Batman. The sequence in the graveyard, the sewers beneath Gotham, and the Batcave are the only locations that have the sort of dark, gloomy quality you associate with Batman and even then, it's done so in the most rudimentary way possible since that tone is not what this story is about. In fact, the cities aren't nearly art decoy in design as what you saw in both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series but rather have a more average, everyday look to their architecture. As I said, the character designs are very well done and appealing for the most part, and the animation is very fluid and natural, particularly in the many action scenes (most significantly, the editing makes it very easy to tell what's going on the whole time). There is some use of CGI, particularly when it comes to the rocket that Toyman built, but it's integrated very well amongst the traditional hand-drawn animation and doesn't stick out like a sore thumb as it did in stuff like the animated Batman movie, Sub-Zero.

As I've been saying, Public Enemies is a short movie but it has a lot of really fun and well-done action sequences. The first one takes place right after the opening credits sequence, with cops in a city chasing after a suspect who pulled a gun on them during a routine traffic stop. The guy's driving a car that can go much faster than any police car, making it impossible for them to catch him, and he's driving crazily along the road, whipping around other traffic on the road and zooming through a tunnel far ahead of the cops. Even a news chopper that's covering the story is having difficulty keeping up, when an extremely fast blur suddenly flies past it and chases after the suspect's car. The guy is going so fast that he almost crashes into a bunch of cars that are backed up ahead due to a toll point but, just as he's about to swerve into them, the car lifts up into the air. As expected, it's Superman, who carries the car over the parked ones and past the toll point, where he finds Captain Atom, Power Girl, and Major Force waiting for him. He prepares to set the car down as the police pull up but the man in the car threatens to shoot himself, prompting Superman to first use his X-ray vision so he can see where the gun is and then use his laser eye-beams to shoot up through the car's underside and knock it out of the guy's hand, slicing it in half in the process. He then sets the car down and the man is taken away by the police.

The first really big sequence happens when Superman's meeting with President Luthor goes south, with Supes suddenly feeling weak and disoriented when one of his secret service agents approaches him. Realizing something's wrong, he grabs Luthor by the collar of his suit, and when he asks if he thought he'd be crazy enough to meet him without some protection, the agent removes his sunglasses to reveal green-glowing, artificial eyes, and opens his shirt up to reveal the glow of Kryptonite beneath the flesh on his chest. Realizing that it's Metallo, Superman shoves Luthor to the ground and backs away, but is already feeling too weak to stand, when the cyborg attacks. He gives Superman a brutal beating and slams his head into the hood of Luthor's limo, but Superman manages to punch him away, knock him down to the ground with one of the limo's tires, and then lifts it up and slams it on top of him, while Luthor and the other agents escape in another car. He uses his eye-beams to blow the car up but this doesn't stop Metallo, who emerges from the fire, now simply missing the flesh on his torso. He runs at Superman, giving him an uppercut, and then delivers a series of blows, with Supes unable to do much to defend himself in his weakened condition, except knock him away with a couple of lucky punches before falling to his knees. Metallo then sprouts a mallet and a chainsaw from his arms and Superman tries to dodge the weapon but Metallo knees him in the chin, knocking him to the ground, and smashes him in the face with the mallet three times before reconfiguring into a grip, lifting Superman up by his head, and activating the chainsaw. Superman manages to catch the blade and keep it away long enough for him to melt the grip with his heat-vision, freeing himself, and smash Metallo down to the ground with a downward punch straight to the face. Metallo, however, flips Superman over the back edge of the wharf they've been fighting on, causing him to land in Gotham Cemetery, where he tumbles for a good distance before finally coming to rest. As it begins to rain, Superman regains consciousness behind a headstone, while Metallo searches for him to continue the fight. It doesn't take him long to find him, as Superman throws a tombstone right at his head, slamming into the back of a monument. Metallo charges at Superman, smashing away another stone that gets thrown at him, and when Superman picks up another structure to use against him, the Kryptonite in Metallo's chest weakens him as he approaches, causing him to drop his would-be weapon. Metallo manages to grab Superman by the throat and lift him up, with Superman powerless to do anything. That's when a Batarang slices into Metallo's left arm, doing some damage, followed by four more sticking into his chest and shocking the hell out of him. Batman swoops in and supports Superman as the two of them attempt to escape but, as Superman warns him, Metallo isn't held off for long. He grabs Batman by the neck with his extending arm and slams him around the headstones, with Superman unable to help due to his weakened condition. Batman throws a Batarang at the Kryptonite in his chest but it does nothing to stop Metallo, although Superman slicing his left arm off with his heat-vision does. He drops Batman but he then spies a shard of the Kryptonite from when he pulled Batarang out and forms a gun around it, shooting Superman in the chest and knocking him into a freshly-dug grave behind him. Batman then charges at Metallo from behind and uses his back to spring over him and into the grave. It's then revealed that Batman planted some plastic explosives on Metallo's back, which explode before he can do anything to remove them. Batman tries to remove the Kryptonite from Superman's chest down in the ground, but Metallo quickly reforms from the explosion and pours a loud of dirt on top of them, burying them alive. Superman, however, managed to stop the earth from covering them and, as Metallo walks away, only to be greeted by a shadowy figure, they blast their way down into Gotham Sewers. It's not easy, especially since they're both injured and they have to get around an electrified gate, but they manage to make it back to the Batcave.

An all-out war between heroes and villains (I hope you'll forgive me if I get the names of some of these characters wrong) breaks out when Superman and Batman sneak into Star Labs to find information on the meteor and discover Metallo's charred, radioactive remains. Two security guards burst in on them and Superman quickly grabs Batman and flies them both up through the ceiling. As they fly away from the building, they're blown apart from each other by a loud wail that's revealed to have come from Silver Banshee. Falling to the ground, Batman manages to save himself by hooking and swinging around a plaza fountain, only to be confronted by more villains. Superman battles Banshee up in the air and they fall to the ground amongst some trees, with Banshee wailing right in his face. With no other choice, Superman grabs her arms and flies up into the sky, while Batman deals with four ice-themed villians: Captain Cold, Icicle, Killer Frost, and Mr. Freeze. He's forced to dodge Frost's ice-beams, using a bomb to create a big blast of water from the fountain that gets frozen in mid-air, and as he dodges more ice-beams, with his left wrist getting frozen in the process, he uses a special pair of ear-pieces the two of them are wearing to contact Superman, telling him to help when he can. Right then, Superman takes Banshee up into the far reaches of the atmosphere, causing her to pass out, and as Batman is frozen in mid-jump, he fires his heat-vision down to Earth, knocking the villains out and thawing Batman. Superman lands, with the unconscious Banshee in his arms, and Batman puts a hyper-sonic device on her neck that would drive her scream back at her should she attack again. However, the fight is just getting started, as Mongul and Solomon Grundy show up. Mongul blasts Superman away with his laser chest beam and flies after him, while Grundy charges at and grabs Batman. As Mongul picks up Superman by the head, slams him down, and kicks him, Grundy holds Batman up and shoves him into the fountain's water, attempting to drown him. Superman is getting blasted and hammered through the walls of a nearby building, while Batman loses consciousness. Joking that he'll have to ask the Joker why he's had so much trouble in killing Batman, Grundy lifts him out of the water and attempts to unmask him, triggering a failsafe device in the cowl that gasses him in the face. Superman continues to deal with Mongul, catching a punch and headbutting him, while Batman takes advantage of Grundy's being stunned by the gas to get loose and beat the crap out of him. However, he's knocked down from behind by a blow from Lady Shiva, as Superman manages to get the upperhand over Mongul, punching him repeatedly as the fight takes them back outside until he finally knocks him out. Although Shiva manages to give him a kicking-uppercut under the chin, Batman manages to fend off her other attacks and knock her unconscious in the small canal leading to the fountain.

Superman meets back up with Batman and they note how Mongul and Grundy weren't acting the way they usually do, figuring there might be some mind-control at work. Superman is then grabbed by a hand of black energy that's revealed to be coming from Nightshade, who speaks in a pattern that Batman recognizes. She creates some black, dagger-like crystals and throws them at him, forcing him to take cover behind a big chunk of rubble. Superman then points Batman's attention to the top of a nearby building, where they see the source of the villains' odd behavior: Grodd. It looks he has the two heroes right where he wants them thanks to Nightshade, but Batman manages to fire his grappling gun and lasso Grodd's neck. With Superman's help, they pull him off the building and Supes punches him in the face, putting him out of commission. Now free of Grodd's mind control, Nightshade returns to her senses and Batman uses her confusion to knock her out with a Batarang that spreads knockout gas, freeing Superman from her energy hand. However, the battle still isn't over, as Superman hears more villains coming, prompting a whole army of them to emerge from the treeline across the way from them, and another wave to appear from the other side. After some banter between the heroes, the villains charge from both side, with Superman fending off attacks by baddies like Black Manta and Copperhead, while Batman deals with others like King Shark and Bane, the latter of whom he takes out easily by slicing the tube that injects the Venom into him and knocking him to the ground. Superman also continues to have his hands full and almost gets stepped on by Giganta, whose chin he flies up to and uppercuts, sending her crashing down. The two heroes are back to back and are still outnumbered, when Captain Atom arrives, blowing away some of the villains while prompting the others to retreat, as other members of Luthor's team of heroes arrive, including Power Girl, Major Force, Black Lightning, and Starfire. Superman is at first relieved, but that doesn't last long when Captain Atom tells him that he has a warrant for his arrest. When Superman makes it clear that he's not coming without a fight, another breaks out, with Batman jumping into the air and bombing the heroes with smoke-bombs, while Major Force gets some goo in the face. Batman hits the ground and deals with Katana (who I didn't see up until this point), whose sword he manages to dodge, while Superman is chased up into the sky by Starfire, who throws fireballs at him. Superman blows one up in mid-air with his heat vision, temporarily blinding Starfire and enabling him to tackle her, while Batman fends off Katana with his gloves and manages to put her out of commission, only to have to run from Black Lightning's aerial attack. He throws some Batarangs that distract Black Lightning long enough for Superman to smash into him from behind and force both him and Starfire to the ground. Superman is almost blasted by Captain Atom but, thanks to a warning from Power Girl, manages to dodge it. Superman flies back up into the air, where Captain Atom grabs him, punches him, and blasts him back to the ground, with Major Force, who managed to pry the goo off his face, slamming into him and knocking over the monument that makes up the fountain. Batman is being chased by Black Lightning again, with Major Force brutally pounds Superman in the face, only stopping when Captain Atom grabs his arm. Superman takes the opportunity to fly up past both of them and then fly around the square at incredible speed, creating a tornado that has enough force to render the heroes helpless. Power Girl almost gets blown away but Superman grabs her and flies off with her (it's later revealed that Batman escaped in the confusion).

After Superman takes Power Girl to the top of the Daily Planet building and Batman meets back up with them, it doesn't take long for Captain Atom and the others to track them down, landing atop a building across from them. Major Force, who's accused Power Girl of being a traitor, fires an energy beam at them, which they all dodge as Batman throws a grenade back at him. As Black Lightning and Starfire scatter up into the air, Power Girl swoops in and whacks Captain Atom, only to be hit from the side by Lightning, who forces her up into the air with his electrical energy, followed by Starfire joining him in the attack. Superman zooms past them both, hitting them and distracting them just enough to allow Power Girl to fall onto another rooftop. Captain Atom flies after Superman and the two engage in a mid-air brawl, while Batman flings another grenade at Major Force, only for him to blow it up and fire repeated energy blasts at him. Batman flings some Batarangs at Major Force and while they initially seem useless against him, they become grenades when they drop to the ground and explode, sending him falling through a hole in the roof. But, as Superman punches Captain Atom down to a rooftop, Major Force explodes up again and fires at Batman, who attempted to take cover in a radar dish. He jumps in order to dodge the blast and takes cover behind some concrete. He then goads Major Force into admitting that he was the one who killed Metallo, all within earshot of Captain Atom, and as he furiously tries to hit Batman with his energy blasts, Power Girl takes an opportunity to fly at him and punch him in the stomach as hard as she can. With his containment suit now ruptured, Major Force floats down to the rooftop as he begins to grow unstable and on the verge of exploding. Black Lightning attempts to contain the blast with a force-field but when it's obvious that he's not going to be able to hold it, Captain Atom decides to absorb the blast himself as an apology for the trouble he's caused Superman and Batman. He then proceeds to absorb the energy streaming out of Major Force through his chest, yelling as he's engulfed by a blinding light. When it clears and both bodies fall, Major Force's body has disintegrated, leaving behind only his suit, while Captain Atom is unconscious.

Later, Power Girl takes Superman and Batman to Luthor's secret bunker hidden in a canyon so they can get in and find the information they need on the meteor. After Superman tells Power Girl to go somewhere else, the two of them attempt to walk to the bunker to avoid any radar Luthor might have, when Superman is blindsided by an attack. Batman attempts to rush to his aid but is tied up by a net that's revealed to have been thrown at him by Hawkman, while Superman's attacker proves to be Captain Marvel. Unwilling to stay down like he's advised to, Superman fires his heat-rays at Marvel, while Batman begins to cut himself free of the net. Superman charges at Marvel and manages to deal some pretty heavy blows to the head, until he catches his fist and turns the tables. Batman manages to free himself and get out of the way just as Hawkman attempts to pound him with his mace and then proceeds to lasso him up with one of his lines, getting dragged along the ground as Hawkman flies up, trying to free himself. Superman and Captain Marvel trade some blows until Marvel manages to punch him down to the ground, pick him up by the hair, and then deliver a punch that sends him flying and slamming against the ground. Hawkman pulls Batman up into the air and hits him with the mace, sending him crashing back down. He then uses their comm to give Superman an idea and then, when Captain Marvel comes flying at him, he grabs his wrist, swings him around, and throws him up into the air before rushing at and grabbing Hawkman, while Batman shoots a small rocket at the helpless Captain Marvel, causing him to crash down on a ledge down below. Superman tangles with Hawkman for a bit and then zooms off into the sky with him, attempting to knock him out like he did Banshee earlier, while Batman finds that Marvel has reverted back to Billy Batson. Superman waits for Hawkman to lose consciousness from the thin air, telling him he wished that it didn't have to be this way, when he deploys a weapon in his left glove that enables him to punch Supes away and send him crashing into a mountaintop. Batman walks up to Billy and tells him to say something. Bill does say something: "Shazam!", turning him back into Captain Marvel.

That scene ends right there, although in a later on when Luthor appears to meet Captain Marvel and Hawkman at the entrance to the bunker, they're revealed to actually be Superman and Batman wearing their costumes. Superman grabs Luthor by the throat and demands all of the info he has on the meteor, when he suddenly weakens due to the Kryptonite that Luthor has running through his system. Batman, however, isn't having it, grabbing Luthor and throwing him into the room where the main computers are. He acts like he's about to comply, only to be horrified when Luthor tells the computer to delete all the files. Batman tries to stop it by smashing the computer with Hawkman's mace but he ends up being too late. That's when Amanda Waller steps in and gives them a backup drive with the information they need, prompting them to head out to save the world. Waller then tries to have the now deranged president arrested, but Luthor runs back to his office, locks himself inside, and injects himself with more of his serum, as Waller, the general, and a group of MPs close in on him. Unbeknownst to them, Luthor puts on a powerful, robotic battle suit, which he uses to blast them away from the door. The MPs fire their machine guns at him but the bullets bounce off the suit like nothing (I don't know why they don't just his clearly exposed head) and he easily knocks them out of the way, heading outside and flying off to ensure that the heroes won't be able to stop the meteor from hitting.

The climax begins at Toyman's headquarters in Japan. As Power Girl paces near the entrance, not wanting to be around Toyman after the massive invasion of privacy he gave her earlier, she hears a pounding at the door that's followed by a beam of Kryptonite blasting through it and knocking her to the floor. Elsewhere, while he and Batman wait for Toyman to feed the rocket the necessary information, Superman hears the faint sound of Power Girl screaming and flies to the entrance to see what's wrong. He finds Luthor in his battle-suit, with Power Girl slumped over his shoulder, and the madman then throws her limp body at him. He manages to catch her but Luthor then fires a beam of Kryptonite that sends Superman crashing through the wall and into the rocket's hangar, landing on a walkway. Seeing what's happening, Batman tells Toyman to keep working as he tries to help, while Luthor has Superman by the throat and attempts to hit him right in the face with a Kryptonite beam. Batman then wraps his arm up with a line, forcing him to drop Supes, but Luthor yanks the line and sends Batman crashing against the edge of a platform, with some heavy equipment then falling on top of him. Luthor tears the line off his arm, and when Superman tries to deliver a punch, he catches his fist, bends it, and delivers a power punch that knocks him back down to the floor. He picks him up by his suit's neck-hole and punches him again, sending him slamming onto the walkway. He punches him again up against a big pipe before zapping him in the torso with a Kryptonite beam, weakening him to where he completely collapses. That done, Luthor smashes the mainframe Toyman is using to feed the rocket the vital information, then tosses the kid aside and destroys it completely. Batman regains consciousness and realizes what's happening. With Superman too weak to do anything, he uses his grappling gun to get himself on the walkway leading to the rocket's cockpit. Upon hearing what he plans to do, Superman tries to stop him but Luthor destroys the walkway he's standing on, causing him to fall since he's still weak from Luthor's attacks. After saying goodbye, Batman marches into the rocket's cockpit and when Superman again tries to stop him, he's blasted back down and then brutally beaten by Luthor. He's just about to finish Supes off when Batman activates the rocket. Luthor tries to stop it and when Superman grabs his leg, he punches him away. He flies up to the front of the rocket and tries to blast it but Superman charges at him, slams him into a wall, and then throws him onto a walkway, giving Batman enough time to take off.

Enraged at Luthor for forcing Batman to fly off on a suicide mission, Superman grabs him arm when he goes in for a punch, crushing the machinery, and delivering a punch that slams him against the edge of a platform. In desperation, Luthor attempts to fly up into space to stop the rocket, while Batman engages a wormhole that allows him to get to the meteor faster. While Superman and Luthor get into an aerial dogfight, with the latter unable to stop him despite his Kryptonite weapons, Batman comes out of the wormhole and heads right at the meteor. The chase between Superman and Luthor leads them away from Japan and all the way back towards Metropolis, with Superman trying to shoot Luthor down with his eye-beams while Luthor tries to stop him with Kryptonite blasts and throwing objects in his way. Superman manages to knock out one of Luthor's thrusters with a piece of shrapnel from a radio tower he hurled at him, sending him careening out of control and smashing through a rural watertower. Superman catches up to him and the two grapple in the air, with Luthor still trying to fight Superman off but he manages to overpower and grab ahold of him as they fly over the suburbs leading to Metropolis. He punches Luthor into the city and then zooms ahead of him and delivers another punch that sends him crashing down to the streets. Batman reaches the meteor and braces for impact, while Superman destroys the energy core to Luthor's suit with his heat-vision. He picks Luthor up and is just about to punch him again, when the two of them, and everybody in the city, are distracted by an enormous explosion in the sky as the rocket blows up the meteor. Everybody else cheers but Superman is only able to mourn the apparent loss of his friend. He prepares to dish out some more punishment and when Luthor tries to use their being on American soil and his being the president as a defense, Superman whacks him across the street and into the bottom floor of a nearby building, telling him to consider himself impeached. He prepares to walk away in despair, when Captain Atom, Power Girl, Black Lightning, and Starfire show up and Power Girl tells him that Toyman told her that there might still be a chance to save Batman. Taking it, Superman flies off into space, while Captain Atom takes the now former president into custody. Superman finds Batman alive and well in an escape pod (which, fittingly, is shaped like a combination of the two heroes' symbols) and brings him back to Earth, with the movie wrapping up with the raving Luthor being taken away, Batman slipping away back to Gotham City, and Superman meeting up with Lois Lane.

The music for these DC animated movies is usually done by Christopher Drake, and this film is no exception. He manages to give it a rousing, adrenaline-pumping sound, particularly the main theme, which you hear during the opening credits, Superman and Batman's first battle with Luthor's team of heroes, and the ending credits. It's a really memorable, pulse-pounding, and epic piece and fits the film's two main characters and the situation they're in very well. The same can be said of the rest of Drake's music, which may not have many other really distinctive sounds but go well with the images they accompany (one of my favorites is the rhythmic, pulsing beat that you hear when the movie first starts). Not much more I can say other than that.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is nothing less than a well-written, well-paced, and, most importantly, well-made 67 minutes. It has everything you'd want in a modern day comic book film: a straightforward, to-the-point story, very good performances from the voice actors (it's great to hear Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, and Clancy Brown reprising their respective roles) that are made even better by really good dialogue, a supporting cast that's a veritable who's-who of well-known and obscure characters, beautiful animation and appealing art direction, lots of really fun, fast-paced action sequences, and a very rousing, exciting music score. Aside from a couple of visual bits that I don't particularly care for, I have nothing but good things to say about this flick. It's most definitely worth a watch if you're at all interested in this kind of material and is a prime example of how these direct-to-video DC animated films are a force to be reckoned with and are, in many ways, superior to the live-action films.

1 comment:

  1. many people could want to ship power girl with toyman, after all, what he saw surely was worth of the smash XD