Robot 6

Just say no Kal-el: A review of ‘Superman/Batman: Public Enemies’

Seriously, look at those necks

Seriously, look at those necks

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is a new direct-to-DVD film set in an alternate DC universe where everybody takes ungodly amounts of steroids.

Seriously, that’s the only conclusion I can come to as to why every single character in this movie, even the civilians, has a neck — when they have a neck at all — that’s wider than their goddamned skull. Seriously, their heads look like they’ve been bolted on. And that’s to say nothing of the endless oceans of muscles that ripple across everyone’s bodies. The entire planet is obviously juiced to the max.

But the display of over the top physiques really shouldn’t surprise me. At it’s heart, Public Enemies is your typical uber-macho buddy action movie, and just as dumb and sexist as most of them to boot. It’s the comic nerd’s version of Tango and Cash.

Lex Luthor has big eyebrows

Man, Lex Luthor has big eyebrows

The plot involves Lex Luthor becoming president. The U.S. populace, you see, has become desperate. How desperate? Why they’re destroying poor, innocent newspaper vending machines just to collect the loose change!! Obviously the parking meters are charging a fortune in this universe. Perhaps the steroids are needed just to smash the vending machines.

Anyway, Lex promises hope, or evil, or something, and gets elected. He then manipulates the media into thinking that Superman is public enemy number one and puts a billion dollar bounty on his head. Can Superman, with the help of his bestest friend Batman, clear his name, reveal Lex’s treacherous machinations and prevent a radioactive meteorite from destroying the planet. Do I really have to ask that question?

Is it good or bad that I don't know who most of these folks are?

Is it good or bad that I don't know who most of these folks are?

All this plot stuff though is really just an excuse to show one action scene after another. If you’re a devoted DC fanboy, who has waited all your life to, say, watch Hawkman, Captain Marvel and DC’s two biggest mainstays play Smack My Bitch Up, then you’ll be in hog heaven. Numerous second banana villains and heroes make cameo appearances here, but only for the express purpose of getting hit. There’s actually a scene where Superman and Batman should sensibly attempt to get out of Dodge quickly and Superman says “Naw, I want to stick around and hit some more people.” Or words to that effect.

Why doesn't Capt. Atom have nipples?

Why doesn't Capt. Atom have nipples?

Honestly, it’s a bit unfair to the actors who’ve been paid good money for these meager supporting roles. What’s the point of hiring LeVar Burton to voice Black Lightning if he’s only got one line? And it amounts to something like “Yes, I can do that thing you ask of me.”

I've found a clue as to why this movie sucks

I've found a clue as to why this movie sucks

Actually, I take back what I said two paragraphs ago, the battle scenes are nowhere near as important as the insufferable, uber-macho dialogue that Superman and Batman must constantly banter about in order to show that beneath their tough exterior they really, really care about one another maaaaan. The constant Lethal Weapon-style teasing set my back teeth on edge. (Bat: “Why don’t you do me a favor and lose the sense of humor? Supe: “Why don’t you do us both a favor and get one?” Oh, the hee-lar-ity.)

My eyes are for some reason drawn to the center of this image

My eyes are for some reason drawn to the center of this image

The best example of the boys club mentality that pervades this movie is its depiction of Power Girl. Apart from showing off her Everest-sized breasts (and seri0usly, even compared with her depiction in comics, those are some big melons) she has absolutely nothing to do. Her main role in the film consists of fretting a lot, biting her bee-stung lips and acting all indecisive. You know, just like a girl. The one moment she manages to actually use her powers she ends up inadvertently killing someone. So she’s incompetent as well as whiny.

There’s other examples of the sort of dumbed-down adolescent attitudes on display, like the bleeped swear words in the opening segment (Oooo! Suggested profanity! How edgy!) or the fact that despite all the excessive violence there’s not a single drop of blood. I mean, Superman gets shot in the freakin’ chest and there’s not so much as a trickle of hemoglobin.

Metallo!

Metallo!

The movie is fanboy pandering at it’s most base and basic level. Even the special features, like a dinner where the actors and producers engage in a game of “No, you’re way more awesome than me,” or a pseudo-documentary on the characters where they actually get a psychiatrist to come out and say there’s nothing wrong with Batman’s psychological make-up, no siree, smack of of that sort of over-the-top justification that grown men sometimes offer up to justify reading Teen Titans.

Like a lot of recent DC animated movies, Public Enemies wants it both ways. They want to appear edgy and ever so slightly “adult” in order to appeal to the older fan base that wants to see Superman and Batman high-five each other without feeling childish about doing so. Unlike the past films, it fails to be entertaining enough to forgive that huge flaw. It’s a shame really, because this could have made a really good kids or all-ages film. If it weren’t for all the ‘roid abuse that is.

Great scott! Another vending machine in peril!

Great scott! Another vending machine in peril!

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Comments

45 Comments

Well, at least it sounds like a faithful adaptation of the source material.

Talk about unoriginal and void of entertainment value. Maybe CBR shouldn’t have the alt-comix nerd review something they know he will hate just to try and appear quasi-intellectual, culturally superior and uber-cool while trying to drum up some sort of weak “buzz” by baiting the same fanboys that make the site possible.

I fully admit that I haven’t seen the film, and I haven’t read the comic that it’s based on, but I’m not really sure what you were expecting from this. Characters in a Superman/Batman story have really well developed muscles? Wow, that’s kind of shocking. The secondary characters weren’t given much to do? It’s called Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. I’d imagine that people might be watching it for Superman or Batman. You can’t get too invested in the central conflict because the heroes are going to inevitably pull out a win? That’s what happens in a corporate-owned superhero story. If Power Girl comes off as incompetent, that’s a shame, but it also seems a little reactionary to start hurling around accusations of sexism based on the portrayal of one secondary character. For all I know, the movie is, in fact, crap, but you really seem to be attacking it for pretty specious reasons.

If you don’t mind rolling your eyes for 70 minutes at the absurdity of the story or the complete lack of logic contained therein, it’s a pretty fun little movie. I’m not saying it’s a good excuse to make a movie, but it is fun to watch Superman and Batman beat everyone up, and the three main actors do a great job playing the characters again.

A bit too snarky a review, but I can’t exactly disagree with any of it either. I thought Timm and the DCU guys could do something with Loeb’s story to make it make some kind of sense or at least be enjoyable, but I was asking too much of that. The only other thing left to enjoy was Ed McGuinness-style animation, but they were a far cry from McGuinness’s work and I kept wishing they’d just gone with the Timm-style art. And the image of roid rage Luthor kissing Amanda Waller will haunt my dreams…

The Ugly American

September 30, 2009 at 10:59 am

“Seriously, there heads look like they’ve been bolted on.”

Seriously, “their” is the proper homophone.

Kirk’s (the first one) sentiment is dead on. The reviewer doesn’t acknoweldge the source material ONCE. It’s based on the arc written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Ed McGuinness. It LOOKS like the comic and “SOUNDS” like that comic. Of course, this context-free review misses that by a mile. Whether you liked it or not, this is a big fact to miss. It’s like reviewing Iron Man without saying that it’s based on a comic book called Iron Man.

Yeah, the huge and grotesque necks are definitely in keeping with the source material, as was the stupid plot. The biggest problems I had with this were the fact that they had some of the same voice actors from JL/U playing the same parts, which didn’t set well because the characters looked so different. And honestly the angled, pointy shadows on everyone’s faces drove me crazy, I didn’t expect much from this, but even so, I was let down. Total POS.

Kirk and Alan — The movie stands and falls on its own merits. The source material is irrelevant.

Ugly — Thanks for catching the typo. It’s fixed now.

Chris,

If it stood or fell on its own merit, then why do you keep bringing up the flaws inherent with it because it is based on flawed material? Even though it is painfully obvious that you can’t stand anything associated with those dreadful little superhero comics, it’s something you feel the need to go back to over and over again in order to get your point across that superheroes are bad and anyone that enjoys them is a childish moron. Your review is dripping with bias and loathing for the source material, so please don’t pretend that you came to this with anything other than clear intentions to malign anything, or anyone, associated with mainstream comics.

I don’t think the movie has to be placed into the context of the source material. I do think the review itself has to be placed in context. All reviewers have a bias. It can’t be avoided. However, for a review to be useful to people, that bias should be disclosed up front. If the critic has never liked anything ever produced bearing Superman’s logo, it’s useful to know that (“This movie does nothing to dissuade me from me long-standing dislike for Superman.”). If the critic is a DC fanboy/girl, work that in, too (“I loved this movie but I have also loved all of the DCAU movies that have been released so far.”).

I saw this a couple days ago and thought it was absolutely awful and agree with the reviewer. I saw Power Girl’s characterization as sexist and exploitative, agreed that most of the supporting cast was wasted, and that overall it was a waste of time– with the exception of the opening/closing credits which were nicely designed. I was excited to watch this, and ended up totally disappointed by its complete and utter crapulence.

Kirk — You’re reading way too much into this. I don’t recall ever saying here or elsewhere that I thought superheroes were trash. I said this particular movie was trash. I like superhero comics just fine. I liked the last Green Lantern movie that DC did and said so on this blog. Perhaps rather than desperately reading between the lines to look for bias and casting wild aspersions at my feet you should try to go see the movie and then come back and tell me where and how I’m wrong.

Great review!

Enjoying the “angry” comments just as much.

15 comments and no one’s nailed Chris for missing that Superman’s eyebrows have been replaced with Nightwing’s logo…

Chris, you’re the first reviewer I’ve seen that disdains a mention of the source material. It’s an adaptation, and you’re remiss not to notice it. Another big miss: you didn’t note that this was the return of Conroy, Daly and Brown to the roles of Batman, Superman, and Luthor. Surely you could have mentioned THAT since it applied directly to the movie?

No blood? Didn’t Lex spit up some after Supes belted him in the gut towards the end?

You’re surprised that when Superman gets shot in the chest he doesn’t bleed? You’re surprised they tried to stick close to the original story and original artwork? You’re surprised there are too many characters so that everyone cannot get a substanstial amount of lines? You’re surprised there’s sexism in comics?

Honestly, what were you expecting? Up? Coraline? The Incredibles? It’s a direct to dvd adaptation of a Jeph Loeb comic book, it was only going to be solid at its best.

Also, is the weather nice up there on your high horse?

Alan — Why am I remiss? Is a film critic obligated to mention the source material for every single movie he sees in a year? A review is not a checklist, with a lot of boxes to be ticked off.

As far as the voices go, I noticed that a lot of the other online reviews had spent a lot of time talking about them and I decided I didn’t really have anything to say in that regard that they hadn’t already said. I had other points I wanted to make.

Josh — It’s a bit windy, but I’ll manage.

Well then I hope it knocks you off of it.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 30, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Well then I hope it knocks you off of it.

Well god knows none of these attacks/rebuttals are going to do it….

‘You didn’t mention that the second animation assistant worked on the Fan-Award winning episode from season three of The Batman Animated Series!!! How did you even think you were even close to qualified enough to have an opinion about this film???’.

“‘You didn’t mention that the second animation assistant worked on the Fan-Award winning episode from season three of The Batman Animated Series!!! How did you even think you were even close to qualified enough to have an opinion about this film???’.”

Man, you’re high. He didn’t mention the book that it’s based on, and he didn’t mention that the star voice actors came back for it. Then, he goes on to say that he didn’t cover it because other reviews did. That’s lazy. If you’re going to let people read other reviews for obvious details, why bother writing one at all?

He did talk about voice actors, specifically how one was used to voice one throw away line. Let’s say he’s never had the misfortune of reading Loeb’s Superman/Batman, how does that affect what he’s saying about the adaptation? This is a bad movie. What difference does it make if he talks about the comic book it originated from? Street cred?

Chris, how does it feel trying to rip off Tucker Stone’s reviewing style, but failing miserably at it? They don’t review these comics in a vacuum, playboy. Ooh, maybe I should fill in for you next time.

If he would have reviewed “Ghost World” and not mentioned Clowes, I would have called bullshit there too.

And he mentioned Levar Burton. Not the fact that the three voice actors most associated with the three main characters came back specifically for this movie. That seems like a big fact to leave out, especially since Mautner made time in his GL DVD review to discuss those voice actors, the DVD extras, and other points. That read like a review. This one reads like a bone to pick.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 30, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Man, you’re high.

Not till later.

He didn’t mention the book that it’s based on,

Do people mention ‘Three Doctors’ when reviewing MASH the movie?
(Heck, they don’t even mention the movie when reviewing the show).

Do you need to name drop ‘Red Alert’ to review Dr. Strangelove?

Am I supposed to have read the Orchid Thief before commenting on Adaptation?

He’s reviewing the film, not the book!

and he didn’t mention that the star voice actors came back for it.

So?
They are TV voice actors.
Who the heck knows any of their names, and who the heck cares?
These aren’t names known by everyone – only hardcore fans of the previous animations would know it.
And face facts, if you know their names, and it’s a ‘sell’ to you, you’re probably going to get it anyway, or be on a DC Animations message board already, and thus not need this review at all.

Then, he goes on to say that he didn’t cover it because other reviews did. That’s lazy. If you’re going to let people read other reviews for obvious details, why bother writing one at all?

It’s not lazy, he just didn’t really give a hoot.
He was saying ‘if that matters to you, go read one of the reviews that covers that sort of stuff’.

I gotta say that this review is exaggeratedly one-side. I get a strong impression that you’re not a fan of comics or movies based on comics. So its not very provoking but I’m 100% sure that the audience preferred 70mins of ass-kicking and violence verse 70mins of mind games and unnecessary use of sophisticated language. There isn’t anything wrong with a best buddies movie either, for pete’s sake it batman and superman what did u expect. there two very macho guys doing what guys do, or atleast the superhero version of what guys do.
It was a tad bit sexiest, but it has nothing to do with powergirl’s endowments, she’s had big hooters for the last 30 yrs (with the exception of a brief period of change in artists) and will continue to have them for many yrs to come. If anything I’ve really have grown accustomed to powergirl being portrayed aggressive, the ditsy role cud have been played by starfire and you can’t forget amanda played the strong supporting female.
however not every superhero chick needs to be an assertive muscle head under the pretense of woman empowerment. That’s just really unrealistic. FYI major force was a dick deserved what he got. If you wanted sexiest they would have stick a scene in where they sent all the girls home because things were going to get to “dangerous” for them.
As far as blood goes u should invest in some glasses because i saw it. So superman didn’t bleed, dammit man he’s superman!!!
Got to agree that America was overly health conscious except for 1 black woman and an aged general.
All in all this movie when placed in its proper context was great. Heaps of butt kicking and just the right amount of emotion to give it purpose but not enough for it to turn gay. You cant expect the same development of plot and characters as say harry potter, its not needed, not wanted. You have to remember this was just a part of a bigger story. if people don’t get it, its probably because they tried reading a new book and started from the middle. Okay now I’m just pulling at straws because quality of the film has nothing to do with the comic. Do have to admit if you never heard of batman or superman its an easy story to follow.
You may be right, its a show for the fans whether they be children or adults but what franchise isn’t.
Personally i hear batman, i hear superman, i will be watching. Congrats DC you’ve done it again.

TNT, you might want to take a look at this picture of the reviewer’s basement.

http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2009/01/send-us-your-shelf-porn/

I think Chris qualifies as a “fan of comics.” That’s a pretty stupid set-up if he doesn’t.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

September 30, 2009 at 11:27 pm

I gotta say that this review is exaggeratedly one-side.

Yeah, it’s like he spent his entire review only talking about how he didn’t like it, as opposed to giving fifty percent over to why he did like it – what gives with that reviewer guy?
You think we’re reading this to get your personal opinion or something?

Personally, having read the storyline, this review is probably right. That story was shit.

Well, when you watch a movie based on a work by Joseph Loeb the Third, you DESERVE to spend a bad couple of hours.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

“All in all this movie when placed in its proper context was great. Heaps of butt kicking and just the right amount of emotion to give it purpose but not enough for it to turn gay.”

“Personally i hear batman, i hear superman, i will be watching. Congrats DC you’ve done it again.”

“Honestly, what were you expecting? Up? Coraline? The Incredibles? It’s a direct to dvd adaptation of a Jeph Loeb comic book, it was only going to be solid at its best.”

Alright, Internet. I tap out.

In case my first comment didn’t make it clear enough, Chris: great review, the fact that it applies pretty much just as well to the source arc as it does to the movie is very telling. Now excuse me, I’m going to go read some pretentious high-art indie comics like Thunderbolts, Secret Warriors and Green Lantern.

one word “Fantasy”

may i remind everyone that this is not based on reality!

I don’t really care if the movie is good or bad or if you are right or wrong in your opinion. Being right or wrong in your opinion is impossible. My only thoughts at all to this conversation is that your review was poorly conceived, poorly executed and a waste of time for anyone interested in reading a critique of the movie before purchasing it.

Cheers.

First up, I don’t think this is the greatest review ever written.

But:

“Honestly, what were you expecting? Up? Coraline? The Incredibles? It’s a direct to dvd adaptation of a Jeph Loeb comic book, it was only going to be solid at its best.”

This is the part where I pull out my new magic lense and point you to a quote I read several times recently, because it happens to be part of a very insightful interview available at THE COMICS JOURNAL’s Web site:

“Very few people in this industry really believe that their work has any artistic merit, or that it’s salable elsewhere. [...] People in the industry find it disturbing that one of their number might actually take his seriously, take pride not only in being fast and dependable, but in the work. They’re so completely brainwashed into thinking they’re creating throwaway culture…!”

Steve Gerber said that, in 1978: http://www.tcj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=754&Itemid=48&limit=1&limitstart=3

Obviously, this goes — still! today! in 2009! — to the very core of the North American comics industry’s issues. In many ways, publishers, creators, retailers and readers were able to get over that inferiority complex in the last thirty years. And, in many ways, they weren’t.

So: evaluating a toonsy film with supermen in underpantses kicking da beejeezus otta each odder as a bona fide, legitimate piece of entertainment? What were you expecting? OMEGA THE UNKNOWN?

You are in a world of trouble, Mautner.

Keep it up.

I think the main problem is the quality of the review. I don’t know if the reviewer actually has a bias against superheroes, but it certainly reads like it does, and/or like he put the movie in expecting, or even wanting, to hate it. So one of your negative critiques that is brought up is that there is no blood when Superman gets shot. Why did that bother you? I’m guessing it didn’t bother you in the uber-nerd way, so why does that stand out? What were you hoping for that the movie didn’t deliver for you? You call the movie “fanboy pandering” like it’s a bad thing. Guess what – Green Lantern First Flight was fanboy pandering as well. The entire Timmverse could be accused of that, depending on what your definition of the term is. Were you expecting this movie to have the complexity of Nolan’s The Dark Knight?

Judging just by the tone of your review, I would guess that you are not buying much of the Big Two’s current output and are more of an indy comics guy, and maybe this is not the type of film you should be reviewing. I would imagine there are others at CBR who could view the film in its proper context and write up a review, positive or negative, that readers of the site would find more useful.

Chris Mautner, why do you hate America?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 1, 2009 at 5:00 pm

You call the movie “fanboy pandering” like it’s a bad thing. Guess what – Green Lantern First Flight was fanboy pandering as well.

I watched that last night, it’s awesome.

Is Public Enemies as awesome?

Because if it’s not – and everything points to it not being as good – then why should the review act like it is?

Whee, this is fun!

A few quick points and then I’m done: a) It’s not a right/wrong thing. People are free to disagree with me. I’d just prefer to talk about the qualities (or lack thereof) of the movie than how much I supposedly hate superhero comics.

b) The reason I brought up the lack of blood, and Power Girl, etc. is that I feel Public Enemies is endemic of a problem of an adolescent, sophomoric attitude in all forms of media — not just comics — that attempts to pander to an older audience in the most obvious ways but doesn’t have the nerve to go the extra mile. Refusing to be either “kiddie” or “adult” it ends up being merely juvenile. Yes, some of the past DCU films had this problem too, but usually (except for the Wonder Woman movie) they were executed stylishly enough that I was willing to overlook it. Here, I simply couldn’t. And I thought that was worth addressing more than giving a shout-out to Jeph Loeb and Kevin Cannon.

But hey, if you want to get all huffy cause I didn’t like the film and make ridiculous assumptions about bias just because I like Acme Novelty, knock yourself out.

Chris –

a) I dont know if anyone said you were wrong (well actually I’m sure someone did at some point in the comments); most people seemed to just take issue with the tone of the review. I don’t know if you have a bias, but if all I knew about you was what I read in that review it certainly left that impression.

b) that comment better explained your opinion about the movie than anything you wrote in your actual review.

And assuming the “whee this is fun” comment is meant to be snark, I would think you would be thrilled to have 40 responses to something you wrote. At least you provoked a reaction.

But who the hell is Kevin Cannon?

Sorry, cold medicine is affecting my typing. I meant Kevin Conroy, the guy who voiced Batman.

And I wasn’t being snarky. Well, OK, maybe I was a little, but I am generally glad when we get responses like this, good or bad.

Chris -

I think you nailed this pretty well. For everyone saying it reads like you’re biased… think about this people: maybe the movie’s just that bad. I know that’s basically how I felt. I read the story shortly after it came out, I liked it well enough though it had its flaws, and I moved on. When I heard they were making a movie, I was excited. I was hoping to see the source material lifted up (as in the case of Metallo’s presence). Instead, everything (else) managed to be as bad as or worse than the book. I agree that Power Girl was dumbed down to window dressing even moreso than in the book. I agree that the emphasis was almost completely shifted to punching and kicking.

The one thing I don’t understand is calling out the art style, since it’s a reasonable adaptation of the source material’s art. Sure, it doesn’t exactly capture McGuinness’s charm, but it tries, and does a pretty decent job of it. Now, I’m not a McGuinness fan in the first place and would have no problem with your critique, had it been of HIS style. But criticizing the movie for “getting it right” in so far as replicating the style of the art it was based on? That seems a bit odd, to me. It’d be far easier to just turn this into a back-handed compliment and say “The animators did a decent job of aping Ed McGuiness’ artistic style on the source material (though given his roided out bodies, two-times-too-thick necks, and eyebrows that look like two caterpillars fighting over a leaf, I’m not sure if that’s such a good thing or not),” but then, I suppose, you’d be plagiarizing my review XD

Basically, people… if you’re attacking Chris, I think you probably just think it’s fun to attack reviewers, whether it’s because you don’t like him personally, or you’re jealous of a reviewer’s ability to be heard, or whatever. I’ve seen the movie, I’ve written my review, and I’ve read Chris’s. The bottom line here is that he’s right – it’s a very flawed movie that does nothing to enhance the story it was based on and instead finds numerous ways to detract from it. It’s not to say there’s nothing in the film to like, just that there’s really not enough.

The movie sucks no doubt. One of the worst things that DC animation has ever put out on DVD.

That said the reviewer obviously shouldn’t have been reviewing this. He clearly has no interest in this genre and his writing and terrible captions make him out to be an irritating smartass.

Terrible movie, terrible review.

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