In 2009, Warner Bros. Animation released Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The movie – part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies collection – was released as a direct-to-video title, with the story based on the ‘Public Enemies’ storyline from DC’s Superman/Batman comic.
Directed by Sam Liu, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies starred Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, and CCH Pounder. The movie saw the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader become enemies of the state, in an action-packed adventure featuring various heroes and villains from the DC Universe.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was a hit with audiences, and was quickly followed by a loose sequel: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010). This film was based on the storyline, ‘The Supergirl from Krypton’ (also from the Superman/Batman comic) and starred Summer Glau in the role of Kara Zor-el.
In this post I am revisiting both movies to give them a long overdue screening. I will document each movie in turn, highlighting the plot, the standout moments, as well as any background info along the way.
It pretty much goes without say, but if you have never watched these movies, and you want to avoid spoilers, then you may want to skip this next part. Spoilers ahead.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
1min – There’s an economic downturn in the US, with mass unemployment, a rise in homelessness, and an increase in crime across the States. With the general public unsure where to turn, Lex Luthor uses this as his opportunity to win the public trust and manoeuvre his way into the White House.
1mins 30secs – And just like that the Gotham Gazette headline reads: Lex Luthor elected President. Who knew it was so simple?
2mins 15secs – Big question now: Does Lex use his newfound power to unite the country? Nope! Instead, he begins to cast doubt on costumed heroes, turning the public against them. Luthor makes it clear that super heroes either work for him, or they are working against him and against the country.
2mins 30secs – The heroes that have so far joined Luthor as representatives of the US Government include Captain Atom, Black Lightning, Power Girl, Katana, and Major Force. A new age is dawning.
2mins 35secs – Into the opening credits now, which gives me time to point out that Luthor is voiced by Clancy Brown – the same actor who voiced Lex Luthor in DC Animated Universe (DCAU) shows such as Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited.
3mins – Oh, and Brown isn’t the only actor to voice a character they have previously voiced in a DCAU show. Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series/Justice League) is back playing Batman, Tim Daly (Superman: The Animated Series) is once again Superman, CCH Pounder (Justice League Unlimited) is Amanda Waller, and Jennifer Hale (Justice League/Justice League Unlimited) is Killer Frost. This movie isn’t part of the DCAU, but it sure is nice to have these guys back in these roles.
5mins – As the opening credits end, a car chase is taking place in Metropolis. This looks like a job for…
5mins 35secs – …Superman!
6mins 15secs – Captain Atom, Major Force, and Power Girl have arrived in Metropolis to speak to Superman. They are trying to convince Superman that Luthor has changed his ways. Superman is having none of it.
6mins 30secs – I should mention that Power Girl is voiced by former Smallville actress, Allison Mack. Superman fans will recall that Mack played the role of Chloe Sullivan on the hit show, and built up quite a fanbase in the process. Unfortunately, in recent years, Mack has lost that following due to her involvement with the NXIVM organisation. It’s worth a Google, if you’re not aware of the situation.
7mins – With Luthor in power, and the economy back on track, everyone believes Lex to be a good guy. Everyone except Superman, of course.
9mins 30secs – And in another important development, a meteor is heading towards Earth. This is very, very bad news, causing Luthor to reach out to Superman, to ask for his help.
11mins 30secs – Superman has met up with Luthor, but not surprisingly, it is trap. Superman has been ambushed by Metallo – a cyborg with a heart made of Kryptonite. Luthor doesn’t want Superman’s help, he just wants him out of the way.
14mins 30secs – With Metallo proving to be a formidable foe, and Superman struggling to defeat him, Batman arrives to offer some assistance.
17mins – Superman and Batman manage to escape Metallo, but only barely. Who knew Metallo was so powerful?!
18mins – Time to point out how good the animation is in this movie. As with all DC Universe Animated Original Movies, it is superb. Clean, bold, and distinctive. The character designs are based on the artwork of Ed McGuiness – the artist behind the ‘Public Enemies’ comic – and it looks fab.
21mins – While Superman and Batman are recuperating in the Batcave, Lex has been busy. He has framed Superman for the murder of Metallo (yeah, Metallo is now dead), and has placed a bounty on Superman’s head.
26mins – With $1 billion at stake, various villains are after Superman (and Batman), including Mr. Freeze, Killer Frost, and Silver Banshee, amongst others. A big fight begins.
29mins – Many, many, more villains are now after the bounty. There’s more fighting.
32mins – Superman and Batman fend off the super villains as best as possible, but now they have to take on Luthor’s super hero task force. Yep, even more fighting.
36mins – After a brief reprieve, with enough time for Power Girl to join forces with Superman and Batman, the fighting resumes. This film is nothing if not consistent.
40mins – While all the fighting is going on, there is still the pesky problem of the meteor heading to Earth.
40mins 45secs – Luthor’s plan to destroy the meteor has failed. He tried to use missiles to blow it up, but the radiation surrounding the meteor has detonated the weapons.
42mins 30secs – Another fight scene! Hawkman and Captain Marvel have just turned up to trade blows with Batman and Superman.
44mins – I should point out that Captain Marvel is the character most people now know as Shazam. He has a complicated history, but for anyone who is unaware, he used to be called Captain Marvel, but is now called Shazam.
45mins – This movie must be one of the last times he went by the name, Captain Marvel, because in the 2010 animated short, Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, he was going by his current name.
50mins – Anyway… while I’ve been busy discussing the Shazam/Captain Marvel stuff, Batman and Superman have exposed Lex Luthor for the fraud that he is. He’s been lying, scheming, and being thoroughly rotten, but now the truth is out there. And that’s great and all, but the meteor is still heading to Earth!
52mins – Superman and Batman have enlisted the help of Toyman, who may be able to stop the meteor. Toyman has a space ship/rocket (that looks like a robot) that could save the day. Hurrah!
53mins – Just as a solution presents itself, right on cue, a super powered Lex Luthor is here to ruin the plan.
56mins – As Superman and Luthor duke it out, Batman straps himself into the ship so that he can deal with the meteor.
59mins – Batman has destroyed the meteor, but has died in the process.
1hr 30secs – With Batman dead, Superman takes down Luthor:
Luthor – “You… you can’t touch me. We’re on American soil now, and I am the President.”
Superman – “Consider yourself… (punches Luthor) …impeached.”
1hr min – But wait, there’s a chance that Batman might have survived. Superman to the rescue!
1hr 1min 30secs – Yep, he’s alright. Batman survived, and Superman has fetched him from space.
1hr 4mins – And with Batman alive, the world saved from peril, and Luthor off to face the music, the movie draws to a close.
That was good, but not outstanding.
I want to make it clear that I do like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and certainly don’t think it to be a bad movie, but it is not the best DCUAOM title. There’s an interesting story in here, and the animation is gorgeous to look at, but it doesn’t have quite enough substance for me.
Luthor becoming President is something I would have liked to have seen more of, and I would have also liked a little more character development between Superman and Batman. Instead, the movie largely relies on extensive fight scenes, which are fine to watch, but they wear thin after a while.
I can see that writer Stan Berkowitz and director Sam Liu tried to bring the comic book to life, and for the most part they succeeded, but I think this story worked far better on the printed page. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is enjoyable enough, but it needed more depth.
OK, one movie down, now time for the sequel…
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
30mins – A quick mention to President Luthor’s impeachment. A nice little reminder of what came before.
1mins 20secs – And now a reference to the meteor.
2mins 30secs – OK, that’s the ‘links to the past movie’ out of the way, now onto the new stuff, and something has crash landed in Gotham City Harbour. Thankfully, Batman is on the case.
3mins 30secs – Batman has discovered a space craft.
4mins – The craft is empty. Oooohhhh….
5mins – Into the opening credits now, which are fairly similar in style to the credits for Public Enemies. However, I should note that the overall animation style has changed. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is much darker in its overall tone and appearance. The character designs are loosely based on the artwork of the late artist, Michael Turner, and it is a distinctive shift from the look and feel of the previous film.
7mins – Out of the credits, and a mysterious, and naked, blonde woman is walking through Gotham, speaking a strange language.
8mins – Batman is in hot pursuit.
10mins – Just in case there was any doubt, the mysterious blonde woman is a Kryptonian.
10mins 30secs – I have to say, I prefer this animation style over the one used in Public Enemies. It feels a little more ‘grown up’, and the colour palette reminds me of Batman: The Animated Series.
12mins – Superman and Batman have taken the mysterious woman to the Batcave for analysis.
12mins 30secs – She is Kara Zor-el – Superman’s cousin.
13mins 30secs – Oh, yay, Krypto! I forgot that Superman’s dog, Krypto was in this movie! I love Krypto. He should be in more movies.
16mins – A little bit of backstory, to explain who Kara is and how she escaped the destruction of the planet Krypton. In short: Kara left Krypton in a vessel before the planet exploded.
17mins 30secs – Meanwhile, on the planet Apokolips, Granny Goodness is testing out Darkseid’s warriors to see who will be the next Captain of the Guard. They are all very scary women.
18mins – Granny Goodness is voiced by Ed Asner. Asner previously voice Granny in Superman: The Animated Series. Yet again, another DCAU link.
23mins – There are some nice scenes here, as Clark shows Kara around Metropolis.
23mins 40secs – Kara has just referred to Batman as “Grumpy Ass”. Ha! Best moment so far.
26mins – Clark and Kara have been attacked… by Amazons! Wonder Woman wants to take Kara away to be trained, and apparently the best way to do this is by ambushing the poor girl while she’s walking in the park.
27mins – Wonder Woman is voiced by Susan Eisenberg. Eisenberg previously voiced Wonder Woman in Justice League/Justice League Unlimited. Yep, another DCAU connection.
28mins 30secs – Some training scenes on Themyscira, as Kara learns about power etc.
32mins 30secs – I’m under half-way through this movie and it is clearly a much stronger picture than Public Enemies. There is some fantastic inter-play between Batman and Superman, and the story as a whole just feels tighter. It is also great to have Wonder Woman involved. More movies should feature the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman trinity.
32mins 45secs – Doomsday has arrived on Themyscira. Or to be more precise, Doomsdays! Multiple Doomsdays have arrived in search of Kara.
34mins – An epic battle between the Amazons and the Doomsdays is taking place. This is pretty awesome.
36mins 15secs – Superman just used his heat vision to destroy all of the creatures. Savage.
39mins – Kara has been kidnapped by Darkseid.
40mins – Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are enlisting the help of Big Barda – Darkseid’s former Captain of the Guard.
42mins – Nice little reference to Barda’s partner, Scott Free (aka Mister Miracle). One for the fans.
43mins – Barda, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have travelled to Apokolips to take the fight directly to Darkseid.
47mins – The colours in this movie, especially all these scenes on Apokolips, are so rich. This is a BEAUTIFUL looking film.
48mins – You know, I’ve previously praised the animation in DC movies such as Superman: Doomsday (2007) and Green Lantern: First Flight (2009), so it’s something I do mention, and yet I feel DC animated movies do not get the praise they deserve. Such a shame. There are so many great-looking DC animated films out there and they often fly under the radar.
50mins – The team has split up, with Wonder Woman and Big Barda facing off against Granny Goodness and her minions, while Batman and Superman are looking for Darkseid and Kara.
52mins 45secs – Superman has found Kara, but she is under Darkseid’s control. He has brainwashed her and this is bad news for Superman.
56mins – Round one: Superman v Kara.
58mins – Round two: Batman v Darkseid.
59mins – Superman has defeated the brainwashed Kara, Barda and Wonder Woman have disabled Granny Goodness, and Batman has outsmarted Darkseid. All seems well.
1hr 3mins – Back on Earth and Kara is off to the one place she can truly learn everything she needs to know about life: Smallville.
1hr 4mins 45secs – Time for one last surprise, as Darkseid appears at the Kent farm. He wants revenge!
1hr 6mins – Kara v Darkseid.
1hr 9mins 30secs – Darkseid has beaten Kara into submission and not surprisingly, Superman is very, very, very angry about this.
1hr 10mins – Superman v Darkseid.
1hr 12mins – Darkseid has been defeated (and sent into space), but the Kent Farm has been destroyed. Whoops.
1hr 14mins – The movie is coming to an end, and that means it is time to reintroduce Kara as… Supergirl!
What a great movie.
Although Public Enemies and Apocalypse are connected, with actors and references carrying over from one movie to the next, the films are very different beasts and are effectively two standalone tales. It is also clear Apocalypse is the stronger of the two.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse has a much richer story, has better animation, and has a greater handle on its action sequences. There are many fight scenes – just like there are in Public Enemies – but here they feel more balanced, so that the action doesn’t outweigh the story.
In terms of characters, Superman and Batman get some nice scenes together, which leads to a dash of humour here and there, and the inclusion of Wonder Woman and Big Barda are a great addition. In fact, between Kara, the Amazons, Wonder Woman, Big Barda, Granny Goodness, and Granny’s warriors, this movie is loaded with dynamic characters.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is a treat of a movie, and I will be honest, I completely forgot how good it is. I’ve clearly overlooked it on previous screenings, but I’ll be sure to revisit again in the not-too-distant future.
Of the two movies, Apocalypse is the winner for me. Public Enemies is fine, but Apocalypse feels more developed, and is the film I will return to first.
As a twosome, well, these films feel very different, but it was fun to watch them back-to-back. I think this was the first time I’ve ever done that.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by I’ll Get Drive-Thru to read this post about the Superman/Batman movies. If you’re a fan of either film, let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.
And for more DC-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below. Here you will find a mix of posts focusing on iconic DC characters.