I never really read the graphic novel upon which “Superman Unbound” is based on, but I thankfully know of it, and what the new Brainiac is supposed to look like in the mini-series. With the adaptation, there really isn’t a lot to “Superman Unbound.” Brainiac wants to go to Earth to collect a city, Superman and Supergirl have to stop him. Fighting ensues. As an adaptation, it’s an entertaining animated film with some great action sequences, but not too much substance. The focus of “Superman Unbound” is mainly on Superman trying to live the human life, now that he and Lois are a relationship. Lois wants Superman/Clark to become the boyfriend she needs, the supportive and loving man who can give her a life. But Clark is hesitant to press his luck. Especially when she’s always in peril.
With Supergirl lurking around and refusing to adjust to her life on Earth, Clark is given much difficulty in this new film. Matt Bomer gives a great performance as Superman and Clark, offering shades of Tim Daly’s portrayal while giving his own edge to the character. Superman himself is still the same character we know and love, save for a little edge thanks to his having to chase after Supergirl and ensure she doesn’t recklessly hurt anyone with her massive powers. Brainiac is a different kind of foe this time around. He’s a vicious and violent being prone to collecting information and bottling up cities for his own personal collection. When Superman learns that a part of Supergirl’s home world still exists within Brainniac’s massive ship, he seeks to stop Brainiac and hopefully free the prisoners and specimens the being has collected. Actor John Noble is a welcome change as the deadly Brainiac, who is a complex and unusual being that Superman gradually attempts to figure out over the course of the film.
Superman as a whole presents moments of sheer brilliance, and then moments of blundering idiocy. Why would he presume to be able to fly out of the bottled city of Kandor, if he knew already that the red son loomed over Supergirl’s own world like Krypton? I also never understood why Brainiac’s drone landed on Earth if Brainiac makes it clear in the second half of the film that he wasn’t aware of the presence of Earth in the first place. Did the Drone just land there accidentally? Was Brainiac lobbing his drones out there hoping they’d land on a planet by pure luck? And if Brainiac wasn’t aware of Earth, why did he install a transmitter on the drone in the first place? “Superman Unbound” is mostly brought down by these holes that leave a lot of unanswered questions, and none of it is ever really resolved or explained for the viewer.
Plus you figure if Superman is a super being powered by the yellow sun, eventually Brainiac would find a being powered by the red sun. There’s a lot of truly exciting moments of action and pure science fiction thrills, and the excellent animation really brings us to the forefront of Superman’s journey. There are some great scenes where Superman takes on the drones, while Supergirl also manages to knock some heads in the process, while coming to grips with her own personal experience with the Brainiac drones from when she was a child. I’m not entirely sure why we even need Supergirl in this movie to begin with, but the writers are able to make due with the character, giving her much need humility, plus an empathetic performance by Molly Quinn. DC and Warner continue doling out some strong animated pictures, and “Unbound” is a worthy addition to the Superman library. It’s not as good as “All Star Superman” but it’s certainly much better than “Superman vs. The Elite.”
On the Blu-Ray/DVD release, there’s an audio commentary with director/producer James Tucker, screenwriter Bob Goodman and comic industry writer Mike Carlin whom discuss the movie, the production, and the original graphic novel “Superman: Brainiac.” There’s a twenty five minute featurette about Brainiac, in which animators and comic book historians explore the early origins of Brainiac, and his presence in the Superman comics throughout history. ” Kandor: History of the Bottle City” is a seventeen minute look at the origins of the city and the comic book appearances of the city. For fans there are bonus episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series” to help viewers catch up or just relive their favorite adventures, like: “The Last Son of Krypton, Part 1,” “New Kids in Town,” and “Little Girl Lost, Parts 1 & 2.” There’s also a Digital Comic excerpt from “Superman: Brainiac” available to read.