Review: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

For the record, the title does not refer to Batman and Superman being enemies with each other, as in Batman v. Superman. No, this refers to the two most famous superheroes in the world being enemies of the public. Or more precisely, the U.S. government, which is not the same thing at all.

And that concept is enough to carry most of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, with Superman and Batman going up against progressively more powerful enemies from both the hero and villain categories. But the real meat of the movie is the powerful friendship between two very different men, one an energetic and morally-powerful alien and one a dark brooding guy with problems expressing his feelings.

After the American economy collapses, Lex Luthor runs for president as a third-party candidate, and somehow manages to win despite his past as a supervillain. A third-party candidate winning? Now you know comic-book stories are science-fiction.

However, Superman bluntly refuses to believe that Luthor has reformed, and believes this is all some kind of elaborate scheme. And his suspicions are apparently proved correct when Luthor arranges a meeting… which turns out to be a trap so that his old enemy can be taken down by Metallo. Batman manages to rescue Superman from Metallo’s ongoing attack, but soon Superman finds that he’s been framed for Metallo’s murder.

Also, a meteorite made of kryptonite is about to smash into the Earth, and Luthor has appointed himself the Big Brain who can save us all from it. This will be important.

Claiming that the kryptonite meteorite has driven Superman insane, Luthor puts a bounty of one billion on his head – and now Superman and Batman are up against money-hungry attackers from both the villain and hero sides of the aisle. And their enemies are getting progressively more powerful as they approach Luthor, even as they try to come up with a solution to save the Earth from total destruction.

Speaking personally, I really enjoy the friendship between Batman and Superman, primarily because their relationship is a study in contrasts. Superman is open, emotional, bright and sunny, while Batman is taciturn, emotionally reserved, dark and more than a little weird. And yet they are both noble and deeply moral at their core, which is what makes them so compatible despite their differing outlooks and ways. That aspect of their friendship is what makes Public Enemies such a rewarding experience: seeing their bromance and how they uncomplainingly support and protect each other no matter what.

And while they do that, they’re also in a series of superpowered punch-’em-ups that pit them against a variety of enemies, ranging from the relatively obscure (Black Spider, Nightshade) to the famous (Captain Marvel, Hawkman). Some of these fights are pretty intricate and harrowing, such as Metallo shooting Superman with a sliver of kryptonite. And in between, we have some quieter moments such as Superman and Batman making their way through the sewers, having odd little discussions about the supervillains they’ve defeated over the years.

It also has a pretty excellent voice cast, with the trinity of Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly and Clancy Brown as Batman, Superman, and Lex Luthor. Conroy and Daly are typically excellent in their roles, and Brown plays both the oily, cruel Lex and the cuckoopants Lex with equal aplomb. C.C.H. Pounder is also excellent as Amanda Waller, who serves as a blunt-spoken counterbalance to Lex’s delusion and egotistical hubris. Allison Mack’s performance as Power Girl is rather flat, though.

And the animation is pretty clean and well-done. The only problem I have is that the superhero costumes are beyond skin-tight – the male characters have abs so perfectly-outlined that it looks like they’re all smuggling bags of oranges. As for Power Girl… let’s just say we know for a fact that she isn’t wearing a bra.

If you like the friendship between Batman and Superman, than Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is the movie for you. If you like cleanly animated, action-filled superhero adventures, then it works too.

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