on June 15, 2012
In Superman vs. The Elite, the Man of Steel faces his most daunting foe yet: public opinion. In an era where the realities of terrorism and global strife have created a cynical and hardline attitudes about the concept of "justice," Superman's idealistic optimism seems more and more outdated (both in the film, and in the real-world). So when a group of younger super-powered vigilantes known as The Elite appear on the scene, Superman is not prepared for their brutal stance against criminals - nor the resounding public approval that follows.
The greatest super hero in the world soon discovers that changing times and public opinion are not things that even his god-like powers can control. Even with the world turning away from him, Superman must find some way to win back the support of humanity, before The Elite do something truly reckless and get themselves - and/or others - killed in the process.
Superman vs. The Elite is an odd entry in the canon of DC Universe direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray animated features. On the one hand, the story (based on the Action Comics storyline "What's So Funny About Truth Justice & the American Way?") is actually one the most timely and interesting Superman tales to come along in awhile. (It certainly covers thematic ground that bears examination - as the upcoming feature-film reboot Man of Steel will attempt to do next year.)
The story works in this animated feature as well as it did on the comic book page - primarily because the writer of the comic story (Joe Kelly) also wrote this animated feature version. The plot-points - sketching the modern world and how Superman's idealism is outdated; edgy anti-heroes being more popular than classic super heroes - are all directly addressing questions that fanboys and average people alike have been asking - namely, why does Superman still matter?
With The Elite, we get an interesting antagonist - not really evil, per se, just grittier and darker than the classic superhero archetypes. There will no doubt be healthy debate amongst viewers as to whether The Elite are, or are not, the heroes we need in modern times, and whether or not Superman is the dinosaur some claim he is.
While the narrative is intriguing and well-told, the visuals in Superman vs. The Elite leave something to be desired. DC Animation has long been praised (usually in comparison to Marvel Animation) for its character designs and animation quality - but this film looks as though it had a fraction of the usual budget for a DCU animated feature. The character designs are much more cartoony, in a 1950s comic strip sort of way; the quality of movement is also fairly shoddy, which is entirely noticeable during the action scenes. Strangely enough, the film looks like "Superman: The Nickelodeon Version," even though it's dealing with mature material and themes. Blu-ray viewing will only make these discrepancies more apparent.
The voicework in the film is pretty solid, with Superman being voiced by George Newbern - who has been doing animated Superman since the Justice League days in the early 2000s. NCIS star Pauley Perrette has a pretty good go at playing Lois Lane, while The Elite are suitably voiced by some talented character actors - including voice work veteran Robin Atkin Downes, who voices the group's leader, Manchester Black. (He was also the ship computer in Prometheus, the "soccer announcer" in Battleship, and has done voice work in more video games than I'm willing to count).
All in all, Superman vs. The Elite is a Superman flick that's actually interesting to watch for intellectual reasons, but won't blow you away in terms of visual splendor or action. In that sense it's an easy recommend to those who maybe haven't been able to connect with the character in a long time (Batman crowd, looking at you); though it may be less satisfying to the hardcore fans, who already know why they love Big Blue.
on July 4, 2013
I just took a look at a relatively recent animated Superman film, Superman vs. The Elite. I am very glad I did. This has been, without a doubt, one of the best Superman media in recent years, and one of the best representations of the character that I have ever seen.
The plot of this animated feature is based on one particular issue of the comic series, and a relatively recent one at that. Taken from Action Comics #775, "Whatever Happened to Truth, Justice, and the American Way?", written by Joe Kelly back in 2001. Kelly himself wrote the adaptation, so he pretty much gives his approval on the faithfulness of that adaptation since he did himself. The plot of this film (and by extension, the comic book on which it is based) is that Superman must deal with this new team of superhuman antiheroes called the Elite. The elite are led by Manchester Black, who has telekinetic and telepathic abilities. The other members are Coldcast, who can manipulate electromagnetic energy; the Hat, who possesses a magical hat from which he can summon demons and other things; and Menagerie, who has access to some sort of symbiotic alien life form that summon and control alien creatures from her body. The Elite are of the persuasion that superheroes who simply turn in criminals to prison, as opposed to killing them outright, are being too soft on evil, with Superman being the metaphorical embodiment of this ideology. To this end, the Elite make use of lethal force when combating their enemies, in direct opposition to Superman and his methods. The world, it seems, are on the side of the Elite, and they want more permanent solutions to problems like criminals and violence. Superman begins to question his place in the world, and whether or not his ideals are outdated in an ever-changing world. A climactic showdown is imminent, of both powers and ideologies, as the Elite prove a formidable test of not only Superman's abilities, but also the very core of his morals.
This film has great art direction and style. It is very similar to what we've seen before from the DCAU, but distinctive enough for its own look. Superman, for the most part, looks pretty good, although, his massive chin makes him look like genetic fusion of Jay Leno and Bruce Campbell. The voice cast, as is per the norm with DC in general and these animated pictures, his stellar, and a mix of the old and the new. George Newbern returns as the Man of Steel, back from the Justice League animated series. As here as it was there, Newbern can perfectly convey both Superman's authority and strength with his human vulnerability. Another returning DCAU alum, David Kaufman as Jimmy Olsen also does good, although he only gets a few throwaway lines. Pauley Perrette (whom you may recognize as Abby from NCIS) acts as a good replacement for Dana Delany, conveying both the sternness and caring of Lois Lane/Kent. Robin Atkin Downes also does really well as Manchester Black. His English accent is sick, but not to the point of being not understandable, although I will admit that a few of the British idioms that he used went over my head, but that's not a big deal. The rest of the cast does pretty good as well, with some people I haven't heard of, and other veteran voice actors like Dee Bradley Baker, Tara Strong, and Fred Tatasciore.
The opening credits have an interesting feel. It's a montage of old-time Superman footage (like from the Ruby-Spears cartoons and even the George Reeves serials) against 1980s pop-culture art like that of Roy Lichtenstein. We gives a very appropriate introduction of both the home watch two and a critique of ideas of an older time. There is also footage of a cartoon-within-a-cartoon that seems very much in the style of Rocky & Bullwinkle that depicts a clichéd interpretation of Superman. It serves to open the debate of a simplistic viewpoint versus reality and how to deal with the evils of that reality. Shortly thereafter, Superman battles Atomic Skull (the Joseph Martin version, for the other nerds like me who actually care about that sort of minutiae), and instead of killing him, Superman sends him back to prison at Stryker's Island (the Metropolis super prison version of real-life New York's Riker's Island) rather than kill him. Superman then gives a press conference at the United Nations. This scene in particular is done well because it furthers and demonstrates the central ideological conflict of this film, that is should superheroes that possess sufficient power right out kill criminals and other evil people and take along to their own hands as opposed to allowing the legal system to determine and levy punishment. Superman claims he is not judge, nor jury, nor executioner of anyone. This is a brilliant discussion of Superman's principles and what he stands for and represents both to his fictional world and to our real world.
Not long after, Superman encounters the Elite. The introductory scene of the elite is good, in that it shows that the Elite are both morally ambiguous and dangerous to those whom they considered to be against them. At first, it seems the Elite are Superman's allies, and they help him with a terrorist incident in England. The story that Manchester Black gives about his origins serves its purpose in being sympathetic, although it does seem fairly standard "tragic childhood backstory" for comic books. It quickly becomes apparent that not only are the Elite willing to use lethal force against their foes, they embrace it. This confrontation reaches a head during a battle between the fictional nations of Bialya and Pokolistan (which I assume to be real-world analogies to nations like Israel and Palestine, or essentially any other extreme regime from the volatile nations of that region). I admit that this part of the film seems a little odd, in the sense that the weapons that these two nations use seem particularly bizarre unrealistic. However they don't fully break my suspension of disbelief because I am familiar with this sort of thing and it's fairly normal for comic book stories. In particular, it seems reminiscent of the extreme science fiction of the Silver Age. Shortly after that confrontation, the Elite challenge Superman to a final fight, to cement their assertion of their ideology over Superman's. I won't give away the details of the climax nor the ending, but I will say that this climactic battle is legitimately intense and actually frightening in some aspects. The film will get those were not familiar with this story to believe the things that they are seeing on screen.
Another aspect of this film that I enjoyed is that there is a great dynamic between Clark Kent/Superman and Lois. At this point in the history of the comic books, they had been married for some time, and it shows here. They have good "couple banter" and Lois serves as a good confidant in Superman's life and to balance his alter ego.
For the most part, the DVD extras are very good. There is an interview with the writer, Joe Kelly, about his original comic book story and the characters of the Elite. He explains each one well and also he goes into more detail of the other comic book stories that they featured in. There is also a brilliant documentary that serves as a sort of philosophical treatise on the methodology and ideology of Superman and his role in both his fictional world in our real world. They bring in various experts from various fields to discuss this idea both in context of the story and the realities of the real world. It fits brilliantly in with my overall feeling of this film and that it perfectly captures the character of Superman. Also as per the norm with these DC animated films, there are a few selected episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, although I may be mistaken, but I think one of them may have appeared before on a previous film release. Nonetheless, they're both good episodes. There are also standard trailers. What negative thing I will say about the DVD extras is that it advertises a digital comic version of the original issue that the story is based on, but in only offers a preview of a few pages towards the end of the story. I was disappointed in this; I was expecting the full issue, but I was let down in that regard.
Overall, I love this film. The animation and voice direction are superb, but what really nails it down is the story and the moral weight it carries. It is a brilliant discussion of Superman's morality, and the place it holds in our national conscience. This film perfectly understands the character of Superman, something that I find a welcome reprieve when another recent live-action film, which shall remain unnamed, completely failed to do this, in my opinion. I definitely recommend this to all fans of Superman and comics in general. This is the real Superman, and no other film that I've seen with him in it perfectly captures what it means to be the Man of Steel like this film does.
I've always enjoyed comic author Warren Ellis' work. His voice was new, jaded, and cynical - in a world where superheroes were black and white, Ellis was a dark shade of gray. I collected issues of Stormwatch and Planetary, both of which reinforced Ellis' ethos: the inherent evil of corporations, a corrupt America, and a selfish nature of humanity. This is the new world of superheroes: global, amoral, and casually violent with their power. All of this is critical in appreciating "Superman vs. the Elite," which is Joe Kelly's response to Ellis' jaded world view. And what better vehicle to defend the American Way than with Superman?
"Superman vs. the Elite" is an animated version of the comic that answered this question, "What's so Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?" The Elite consists of superheroes that play at the level of Superman: super-psychic Manchester Black (Robin Atkin Downes), energy-absorbing bruiser Coldcast (Catero Colbert), oversexed bioform Menagerie (Melissa Disney), and monster-summoning magician The Hat (Andrew Kishino). Black is a Brit (he wears a Union Jack shirt - actually, it's a tattoo!) who has little respect for anyone, including Superman. But the methods of his Elite team soon become globally renowned for their methods against Bialyan "terrorists."
It's not hard to see echoes of 9/11 and the War on Terror lurking on the fringes of this philosophical argument between justice and the ends justifying the means. Superman (George Newbern, reprising his role from the DC Animated Universe) at first tries to get along with these newcomers, leading them with tactics he's earned as a seasoned superhero. It doesn't last.
The Elite believes in torture and murder to get the job done - and their methods are soon endorsed by the world in the face of endless war. It's not long before Superman is forced to defend first his ethos, then himself when psychotic villain the Atomic Skull (Dee Bradley Baker) escapes from a justice system Superman endorses, only to kill again.
What makes "Superman vs. The Elite" so interesting is that it's not afraid to play on a higher level. Superman endorses a cheesy cartoon because it spreads his message, just as The Elite ensure that their every move is telecast to the world. This is a war of ideas that just happens to be settled with fisticuffs.
If you're not aware of the dichotomy between old and superhero styles, "Superman vs. The Elite" seems like a curious detour for an iconic character. The Elite are powerful enough that it's hard to believe they've never crossed paths with Superman before. But if you can accept that they're a foil for Superman to test his super-brand, this is a very compelling entry in a grim-and-gritty world defined by Batman ethics.
on June 10, 2014
I wish they would make up their minds. Sometimes Superman is super. And sometimes he's not that super at all. He's supposed to be Superman. His name has "super" in it. Thus, he should always be super. Having said that, this is one of the better Superman stories. Another one adapted from a comic books story. My son and I enjoyed the movie, but as almost always, we enjoyed the comic book more. Highly recommend finding and reading the original comic book versions of the Superman and Batman animated movies as the comic book stories are all so much better.
on December 26, 2012
Compared to other more superior DC animated films, Superman vs. The Elite, though making its point, takes awhile to do so. We have Superman, the butt of cartoon jokes, trying to protect Metropolis. He takes down one villain but at the expense of much property damage. Why not just kill the guy? Think of how much money we would save in property damage!
Clearly Supe's pals are a bit twisted in what they consider moral and ethical. Even the people want a rougher treatment of criminals. The Elite, a loosely put together band of anti-heroes, takes up the Superman mantle and beat him up in the process. Possessing no morality, they have little regard for the bad guy.
Cool ending with Supes being the bad guy (not really -- and no spoilers, LOL).
Recommended for the DC Animated film completist.
on April 12, 2016
I choose this rating because the movie is good. What I like about the movie is that “We are not above the law!” (Superman) When catastrophe strikes, Superman once again rushes into action, but this time he gets some unexpected help from a new squad of super heroes calling themselves The Elite. Comprised of four powerful beings and spearheaded by the brash and calculating Manchester Black, this new force brings a raw, no-holds-barred mentality to the battle against evil. With swelling public support of The Elite's vicious methods, the stage is set for a showdown that has Superman feeling outnumbered and outdated. Featuring a stellar voice cast headed by George Newbern, Pauley Perrette and Robin Atkin Downes, this epic DC Comics Premiere Movie adventure explodes with a clash of styles and super powers that begs the question: which will break first The Man of Steel or his code? What I dislike about the movie is that I wanted to see more of it. I would recommend this movie to other people.
on April 19, 2014
Note: This review gives plot details but not many spoilers, I think!
The only complaint anybody can have about the movie is the 80's style Saturday morning cartoon animation. But it really fits perfectly with the theme of the movie, which is "Does the idealistic Superman fit in today's modern, cynical society?" It's a perfect visual representation of the contrast between the traditional and the post-post-modern preference for meaningless abstract art.
The philosophical (and even theological) implications in this movie (and the comic it's based on, A.C. 775) are immense. You will find yourself rooting for the bad guys, as the moral ambiguity of their methods seems more practical, and as Manchester Black (leader of the Elite) points out, Superman doesn't understand the fear that mortal humans feel when dealing with evil and violence because he can't be hurt. The Elite decide who's bad, and kill them. Period.
The Elite and Superman get along at first, until Superman learns that the Elite will simply execute anybody who they decide are "bad guys" including politicians, terrorists, criminals, etc. without due process or rule of law. That's when they get sideways with each other.
The movie climaxes with Manchester Black naming himself the ultimate dictator of the planet, as he lectures everybody about the superiority of his survival of the fittest, might makes right philosophy, and the world watches in sorrow and horror as the Elite annihilate and destroy Superman.
But finally, Superman caves to the Elite's philosophy, and...well, it can be summed up in this simple exchange:
"Is that... Superman?"
(Spoiler: it's still Superman, but he's SERIOUSLY P.O.'d)
Moral of the story is be glad that Superman is an idealist, you do NOT want to see the alternative! Except in this movie!
Superman: . o O ( Might makes right? Ok, you asked for it... )
on March 18, 2016
Great cartoon, the storyline is good and the picture quality is great. The Blu-ray version comes with additional features not found in the DVD version. Although I would have just been happy with the DVD version, I own other DC comics straight to TV cartoon in DVD format, I can honestly say that I really can't tell the different between the Blu-ray and DVD versions other than the additional features.
on September 8, 2014
This film really opened my eyes to who Superman truly is and what he stands for. If you are new to Superman and want to learn more about him, I recommend this film. This animated movie is based on Action Comics #775 where Superman meets four super-powered individuals who have their own methods of handling criminals. It was most interesting seeing Superman be outmatched and witness how these newcomers perceived Superman’s values. Equally as thought provoking was viewing how Superman himself had to deal with their different approach of handling many types of issues. Some viewers might be put off by the character-design, but aside from that, the film is solid from beginning to end. Great characters, well-paced action, and thought-provoking ideas are presented here. Highly recommended.
on June 17, 2015
Fun story, and definitely a superman that you have never seen before. Without giving spoilers, this is an interesting tale of what Sups will do when he's really up against the wall... how far is he willing to go? I'm not the biggest fan of the animation style for this particular video, and some of the writing is kind of sub-par but I do like the overall storyline.