Talk about being different as night and day. The relationship between Batman and Superman takes that old saying to a literal degree. Batman is a vigilante when properly portrayed. He’s violent and he works on the fringes as much against authorities as with them. Superman is a traditional hero type taking out bad guys while setting an example for kids. He’s as all American as a DC Comics character gets. These two characters are so different that they just had to be forced to work together. The pairings between the two of them in comics have made for some of the most entertaining reading in comics. Now that relationship finds its way into a feature film.
This film is very much of the modern era and it actually features some social commentary about our times. America is in an economic downfall and out of some sort of desperation America actually elects shady businessman Lex Luthor president of the United States. Luthor won the election based on his promises of social and economic change. Once in office he actually finds some success in bringing the country back from the brink of economic disaster. Using his new found influence with the American people he begins turning them against super heroes. In a very familiar move he wants to enlist the super heroes as government employees. This is a story that was done as a major event last year in a Marvel Comics event called Civil War. Sure the reasons for the Civil War are very different than what happens here in Public Enemies but there’s no denying the similarities between the film and the Marvel story when it comes to heroes being forced to register with the government.
Luthor has been Superman’s arch enemy for many years and the Man of Steel refuses to believe that Luthor doesn’t have some sinister endgame in the works. Batman also finds himself not trusting the President so the two heroes end up working together when Luthor sends several members of the Justice League to arrest Superman and Batman for not registering. The two heroes work in very different styles but they have to find some way of working it out. Even in their alternate identities of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne they end up in competition for the attention of spunky reporter Lois Lane. Things get worse when a giant kryptonite meteor heads toward Earth and Luthor finds a way to frame Superman and makes things even worse for him and the Dark Knight as they continue to investigate Luthor and try to find out what his plan is.
The basic story for this film comes from a comic book series, now classic graphic novel written by Jeph Loeb. I say basic because the creators of this film only took the most basic elements from that dramatic and highly character driven graphic novel. This film is limited by budget and time and also it must be well balanced for all ages so nothing gets nearly is complex in the film as it did in the book and that’s a real shame. If DC Comics took a survey I’m sure they’d discover that the average age of those buying this DVD is much older than they expect and they really need to start catering to that age group a bit more. This film is just over an hour long so it would have been very easy to add ten or fifteen minutes to the film to deepen the story and add more hardship for the heroes. Doing that would have made the overall story have more impact. With that complaint firmly lodged what they did take from the graphic novel is highly entertaining and some of the things they chose to leave out, such as Robin, were not missed. This is easily a much better interpretation of this classic story than the Superman Doomsday film. The art style in this film is also quite annoying honestly. The Green lantern film and the Justice League films both featured better art style than this film. It feels like the creators were attempting to replicate some of the exaggerated designs from the original graphic novel and they really shouldn’t have. If there are any complaints about that original graphic novel they are usually lodged deeply in the art and style. So, not only did the creators of this film gut the story they brought over some of the worst art concepts to the film. Above all of that though, the film is still overall a lot of fun. There’s one major action scene that nearly makes the film worth watching alone.
The colors and detail on this 1080p widescreen blu-ray are gorgeous and look the best of any of the DC Comics films released on home video so far. Black levels are often challenging for animation on home video but in this HD release they are near perfect. Batman’s black cape and cowl are deep black but still move and have detail. The only issues with this release are some pixilation here and there and just a bit of aliasing in a couple of spots. Overall though this blu-ray looks fantastic.
Shockingly this “high definition” release only features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. It’s stunning that this blu-ray doesn’t feature a lossless audio option. The audio is a mixed bag. Dialogue is sometimes crisp and clear and other times it feels a little lost in the mix. On the good side the surround speakers get a good amount of use during action scenes. With all of the surround usage you’d expect a fantastic dynamic range but since there’s no lossless audio the dynamics are left fairly flat, even during explosions.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The blu-ray comes packaged in a standard slim blu-ray case with a digital copy also included. The art on the slipcover and the main box feels very influenced by the cover of the graphic novel. While that art might not be that great it does connect quickly in the minds of comics fans to the original graphic novel.
First up for bonus features is a 20 minute conversation with Jeph Loeb and others about the personalities of the tow lead characters. This conversation is interesting but it actually gets much deeper than the film. Then there’s a first look at the next big DC film Crisis on Two earths. As much as I’m excited for this film I’m also concerned because this too is a very complex story that might not do well being stripped down to the minimum. The lengthiest bonus feature on the disc is an hour long dinner with voice actor Tim Conroy (Batman), and producers from various DC animated projects. This roundtable discussion covering most of DC’s animated films since Batman the Animated Series is really interesting. The rest of the bonus features are brief featurettes that have all appeared on other DC animated releases such as a brief featurette on the Wonder Woman film, one on the Green Lantern film, and one on the DC Comics even Blackest Night. These repeat featurettes are a bit irritating for the collector of DC animated films but for someone who just bought this blu-ray they are brief introductions to the other animated films. Finally there’s a digital copy of the film.
This isn’t the film it could have been but it is still quite entertaining and better than most of the Marvel animated films.
Overall (Not an average) 7/10
The Movie 7.5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10