Based on the six-issue comic-book arc by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness,Superman/Batman Public Enemiesfinds DC's stalwart heroes on the wrong side of the law. It's not too surprising, considering Lex Luthor has been elected President of the United States, … see full wiki
To be perfectly honest, these direct-to-DVD animated flicks (SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY, WONDER WOMAN, GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT, and now SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES) are very solid outings. More often than not, they hit pretty close to the mark in presenting excellent adventures within the established mythology and continuity of the DC Universe, and that's always been very important to comic book fans ... but I'm not entirely certain how pleased non-fans or casual movie viewers might be to embrace these films as they really don't 'gel' with any previous theatrical releases. In fact, they mostly ignore those takes -- understandably so -- all at the risk of creating a shorter-than-average shelf life for these supplemental DC properties. If anything, they do make me miss the days when BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, JUSTICE LEAGUE, and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED were churning out much more regular visits to this universe ... but I won't dwell on that possible focal point for this review. I'll mention it, as I have, and I'll concentrate on the film.
SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES is an animated adaptation of the existing graphic novel collection of the same name. While it's a faithful adaptation, one could make the argument that it's too faithful in some spots when straying from the source material might've been more easily embraced by casual followers of either the Batman or Superman franchise. In a nutshell: Batman and Superman are crime-fighting partners; Lex Luthor is President of the United States; and a massive meteor of the planet Krypton is hurtling toward Earth. Everyone who knows a cape from a cowl knows that the resulting 'kryptonite' poses the greatest possible threat to Superman's adopted planet: not only will it decimate the population of Earth, creating its own E.L.E. (Existinction Level Event) to wipe out mankind, but the fact that it is 'kryptonite' means our greatest defense -- Superman himself -- is powerless to intercept it. This means Earth has to rely on Lex Luthor and whatever defense he can muster as President, but wouldn't you know it he's more than a bit pre-occupied with using this opportunity to destroy everyone's favorite Man of Steel? Before you know it, Luthor's nefarious scheme is set into motion, and Batman and Superman find themselves as fugitives on the lam from some of Earth's heroes who've fought at their sides for years.
It's all well and good so far as slugfests go, and PUBLIC ENEMIES delivers more than a Batcave full of fisticuffs and derring-do for caped and uncaped crusaders. That's what of the strengths here: a planet-spanning story gives the writers and animators a terrific opportunity to put some of the lesser known heroes on parade here ... but that's also a weakness. The casual viewer may wonder, "Who or what is Captain Atom, and, even worse, why should I care?" "Where did all of these supervillains come from, and what's the source of their power?" And "what's with the blonde girl in white with the killer breastline?" (All praise to Power Girl!)
PUBLIC ENEMIES is definitely worth the time -- it clocks in at a skinny 64 minutes -- but it would be served to be much longer. More screen time could've given the writers a greater chance to flesh out some of these secondary characters or to even beef up the exceptional witty dialogue so central to these Batman/Superman shared adventures. Also, greater time would've given the animators a bit more screen to work with -- amp up the budget a bit and elevate some of the background animation to better than Saturday morning fair, at least -- but those quibbles some might consider minor. What I absolutely didn't much care for was the massive amalgam rocket -- I'll spare the spoilerish description for those of you still inclined to watch. Such an obvious nod to the conventions of anime may be welcome; to me, they serve as a bit of a narrative distraction -- an insider's "nudge nudge wink wink" "aren't we clever" moment that I, personally, believe either of these franchises should be well past.
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