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Someone actually sent me a YouTube link to the opening credits of "Superman vs. The Elite" before I received the Blu-rayTM Combo Pack in the mail. I wasn't sure it was legitimate, because it was totally different to anything I'd seen before from these animated movies.
The opening credits uses imagery from both the 1966 Filmation "The New Adventures of Superman" cartoons and the 1940s Fleischer Superman animated shorts, backed by a heavy rock music anthem. The stylized introduction is quite haphazard. There's lots of color and movement, that really grabs your attention.
I'll admit that the animation style and character designs do take a little getting used to. A lot has been made across the internet about the size of Superman's chin in this animated movie. His facial appearance does change quite a bit throughout the film depending on the angle and movement. It doesn't detract from the film however, but it does warrant a mention.
However, as I stated at the start of this review, "Superman vs. The Elite" is, in my opinion, the most adult of all the animated Superman films DC Entertainment has released to date. It earns its PG-13 rating. There's language that I've never heard in a Superman movie before (animated or otherwise), and quite a lot of violence. However this is exactly what this story requires. But it was a bit weird hearing Superman use the word "wanker".
The Elite are a brutal bunch. They pull no punches, and therefore the animated movie has to depict them as such. You can't sanitize the Elite and still deliver the story.
While this animated movie does simplify the origin stories of The Elite, and especially Manchester Black and his sister Vera, it loses nothing along the way. The fact that Joe Kelly, who wrote the original comic book this movie is based on, also wrote the screen play, means the story from "Action Comics #775" remains intact and delivers the same emotional punches from that comic book story.
Something about Manchester Black's design and mannerisms reminded me of those old Beatles cartoons from King Features Syndicate. The British accent probably has something to do with it too, but it was just something that came to mind as I was watching him.
The voice acting is spot on. Pauley Perrette has a great voice for Lois Lane. And it's great to hear George Newbern again as Superman. His delivery of an angry, over-the-top Superman was fantastic. Robin Atkin Downes almost steals the show as Manchester Black. He does an admirable job of making you like him and dislike him at the same time.
The Blu-rayTM Combo Pack offers quite a bit of bonus material. Probably the highlight is the complete issue of "Action Comics #775". I'm impressed that they decided to provide the complete comic book in digital form for people to read and compare to the animated film.
"The Elite Unbound: No Rules, No Mercy" and "Superman and the Moral Debate" featurettes are well worth a watch. They provide the usual top-notch interviews with creative people delivering their opinions on interesting and thought-provoking topics.
There are lots of sneak peeks, including a first-look at the next DC Universe animated movie "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1".
In all honesty, I think "Superman vs. The Elite" is probably the best animated Superman film released so far. It's brutal, emotional, eye-opening, and delivers on the story so many comic book readers loved. I just wish they'd chosen a different style for the character designs. This story deserved something more realistic and less cartoony.
If not for the character designs (which really aren't that bad), I would have given "Superman vs. The Elite" a solid 5 out of 5. As it stands I can't go as low as a 4 out of 5, so I'll make it a 4.5 out of 5.
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