Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Last Caress, continuing our BRWC rundown of thirty Batman/Superman movies, ranked in order from worst to first (Part 1 HERE) :
20. Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (Geda, 2003)
Falling squarely into the good-not-great bin of mediocrity, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman sees Batman and Robin attempting to apprehend a new vigilante – Batwoman – before she can kill Penguin, Bane and other assorted nefarious Gotham lowlifes. And look here, Bruce Wayne has a new lady in his life: Mob boss daughter Kathy Duquesne. So who’s this Batwoman, anyway? It’s a real mystery, isn’t it? Actually, the answer’s not quite as obvious as I’ve telegraphed it there but it’s not much more perplexing either.
19. Superman: Unbound (Tucker, 2013)
Based on the comic book story Superman: Brainiac, Superman: Unbound is crisply animated and high octane but, concerned as it is with Superman and Supergirl’s battle to stop the demented cyborg Brainiac from destroying Earth whilst also attempting to retrieve the miniaturised Kryptonian city of Kandor from Brainiac’s ship, Superman: Unbound largely takes place off-planet, which means lots of dull metal panel spaceship locations or typically “alien” cityscape backdrops, leaving the movie feeling like a thousand generic kid’s cartoon shows. That’s a little unfair on the material which is fairly interesting for the most part and absolutely cracking from time to time but there we are. Those with a keen ear for voices might recognise that of Stephen Root (King of the Hill, Dodgeball) in the role of Zor-El, Superman’s uncle and Supergirl’s dad.
18. Superman Returns (Singer, 2006)
Fresh from his successes in bringing Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men to the big screen in 2000 and 2003 respectively, Bryan Singer – not particularly a fan of comic books, by the way – wanted a crack at rebooting Superman at the cinema, with an idea he’d had for a film which would ignore the events of Superman III (Lester, 1983) and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (Furie, 1987) and follow on more-or-less directly from Superman II (Lester, 1980). He pitched the idea to Warner Bros and the result was Superman Returns, a movie which, whilst chocked with ideas, is also WAY too long, too plodding when there isn’t an action set piece happening, and hampered by one or two questionable casting decisions; Brandon Routh is okay and he certainly looks like Christopher Reeve, but there needs to be more than just a physical similarity. The late, great movie critic Roger Ebert wondered if that was the only reason Routh was cast, and he may have a point. Kate Bosworth was immediately forgettable as Lois Lane, too. In its favour though, Kevin Spacey was excellent as Lex Luthor, a villain to whom I’ve never really taken.
17. Batman: Bad Blood (Oliva, 2016)
“This is the story of two nut-jobs. Bruce Wayne, and Talia Al Ghul. These are the Waynes. And these, are the Al Ghuls. And this is… Gotham.”
If you’re not old and decrepit enough to recognize the above reference to Soap, the wacky sitcom about a large Connecticut family of screwballs and oddbods, you have my sympathies. You missed out. Still, don’t despair; you’ve got your own wacky family shenanigans to laugh and cry along to now! Batman takes a step back from the spotlight yet again, this time yielding mostly to Dick Grayson/Nightwing, covering for the grounded Dark Knight, and to Batwoman, a newcomer to the Bat family in the “DC Universe Animated Original Movies” sequence of films, although the character guest starred in 2003’s Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (Geda, 2003), a movie spin-off of the nineties TV show The New Batman Adventures. But Damian Wayne’s back on Robin duties (though he’s less irritating here than in the previous two movies) and we get to say howdy to Batwing, too! Cripes, it’s like the bloody Slaters on EastEnders, isn’t it?
16. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (Liu, 2009)
Utilizing the well-worn concept of multiple heroes registering and working within the framework of the government, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies sadly doesn’t explore the implications of that scenario with any real depth, instead using it as no more than a means for Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) – who has incredibly and rather bizarrely been elected president of the USA – to take another stab at bringing down his nemesis, the Son of Krypton, by framing him and Batman for a crime they didn’t commit, setting all the other heroes – plus a shedload of bounty-hunting villains – after the pair. And if that’s not enough, a Kryptonite meteor is set to collide with Earth in seven days! Bugger. Terrific multi-character mashup but the Luthor-as-President premise is a hell of a reach. Captain Atom was the inspiration for Watchmen‘s Dr. Manhattan. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies features the character Amanda Waller who also appears in Batman: Assault on Arkham and will be played by Viola Davis in the upcoming movie Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016). Black Lightning is portrayed here by Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s LeVar Burton.
15. All Star Superman (Liu, 2011)
I’ve never read the 12-part comic story but I’m led to understand that, in many ways, All-Star Superman is the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns of Superman literature. Sadly, while All Star Superman (the movie) is an interesting enough self-contained picture concerning Superman dealing with his mortality and impending death, the delivery gives the material no more gravity than a run-of-the-mill Saturday morning cartoon. The animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s pounding adieu to Gotham managed to retain the emotion of the comic book; All Star Superman didn’t, it would seem. Indeed, a popular complaint of the movie by fans of the book is that the movie rushed through the story. Still, it’s made me eager to check out the source material. Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks features as Lois Lane, as does the great Ed Asner (Up) as Perry White.
14. Superman: Doomsday (Montgomery/Timm, 2007)
In this loose adaptation of the successful comic book story arc The Death of Superman, Superman (Adam Baldwin) “dies” fighting Doomsday before being replaced by the first of what’s intended to be an army of Superman clones created by Lex Luthor. Superman: Doomsday was the first of the “DC Universe Animated Original Movies”, and although it lacked the gravity the story deserved (in the same way All Star Superman would four years later) it was a decent if unchallenging start. Antagonist Doomsday will feature in the upcoming movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Snyder, 2016).
13. Superman II (Lester, 1980)
I don’t know, you wait all day for a Kryptonian supervillain and then, all of a sudden, three show up at once! Undoubtedly the best of the Christopher Reeve-era Superman pics, Superman II sees the Man of Steel up against Ursa, Non and their leader General Zod (Terence Stamp), the insurgents locked up by Jor-El in the previous film, who arrive for a spot of world domination just as Supes has rescinded his powers in order to live a mortal, human life with Lois Lane. Always the way, isn’t it?
12. Batman: The Movie (Martinson, 1966)
“Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”
Of course we all like our Dark Knight to be… well, dark. And of course the 1966 TV show could very well have sunk Batman as a credible literary icon forever. But Batman (the TV show) was so gleefully silly, it forced a sappy grin from everyone who tuned in, which was a lot of people. I can’t think of too many other shows I enjoyed as a kid and then enjoyed again as an adult for entirely different reasons. The Muppet Show maybe, and I guess The Simpsons had that same layered quality, once. Anyway, the Crown Jewel of the Adam West era was Batman: The Movie, basically a 105-minute extended episode featuring not one, not two, not three but ALL FOUR of The Caped Crusader’s arch enemies: Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman and The Joker. All at once! Holy Foursome! And if that wasn’t enough, we see The Dynamic Duo scramble the Bat-Boat, the Bat-Copter AND the Bat-Bike as well as the Batmobile (for my money, still the definitive incarnation of Batman’s ride and the greatest automobile ever captured on film). And we haven’t even mentioned Batman’s epic demonstration of the early extreme sport “Punch the Shark” whilst clinging to a rope ladder, or the quite incredibly handy can of “Shark Repellent” bat-spray which finished the hapless fish for good. I never leave the house without mine.
11. Superman vs The Elite (Chang, 2012)
How would people with genuine superpowers go about solving complex world crises like the Middle East, Pakistan/India, Korea, Russia in the Crimea, the slowly re-emerging Cold War? And once these superheroes have decided who’s right and who’s wrong, how far is too far in achieving their goals? Some pretty heavy sh*t right there for a Superman cartoon, but that’s what Superman vs The Elite attempts to tackle as Superman finds himself aided by a very able but maybe too willing band of assistants, against the backdrop of global political unrest and imminent military action. “Look Supes, when we take down the baddies, they stay down,” says Manchester Black to the Man of Steel, in a stance similar to that which Frank Castle takes opposing Matt Murdock in the second season of Daredevil on Netflix. Superman vs The Elite‘s bold, simplistic animation doesn’t do justice to its thought-provoking storyline though, which is a shame because many will likely dismiss the movie as a result.
Our rundown concludes with part 3 HERE.
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