Loosely based on Geoff Johns' graphic novel, "Superman: Brainiac," 'Superman Unbound' is a solid entry in the DC animated world, although it doesn't quite match up to some of the Superman releases we've seen from the studio in the past.
The movie opens with a big action sequence, as Lois Lane (Stana Katic) finds herself (again!) in peril aboard a helicopter full of bad guys. They know Superman (Matt Bomer) is out of town, but they aren't expecting Supergirl (Molly C. Quinn) to arrive and save the day. She's shortly joined by her older cousin, who helps her finish the job, but expresses concern about her well-being after the action is over. Kara misses her family, but Superman can't quite relate, never knowing his biological parents.
It doesn't take long for the real threat to show up, as a probe from Brainiac (John Noble) lands on Earth, and one of his killer robots emerges. Superman stops it, and Kara relays the story of what happened to her home city of Kandor, which Brainiac shrunk and added to his collection. Superman decides to fly into space to track down Brainiac and rescue the citizens of Kandor.
Superman underestimates Brainiac, however, and the Man of Steel winds up shrunken himself and stuck inside the bottle with the other citizens of Kandor. There, he meets Kara's parents and learns a little more about them (and his own heritage) in the process.
Of course, Superman figures out a way to escape the bottled city and eventually defeat Brainiac and his legion of robots, but that's isn't what makes 'Superman Unbound' worth checking out. It's actually Superman's relationship with the two women in his life – cousin Kara and girlfriend Lois (yes, Lois knows Clark Kent is Superman in this story) – that are the best parts of the movie.
There's an interesting arc for Superman in this film as we see him as very much a 1950's type of male as the movie opens. He's polite, respectful, but also extremely overprotective of the two ladies in his life. Lois (who's actually the best-developed of the characters, even though she doesn't have a ton of screen time) doesn't like the fact that Clark/Superman feels the need to "save" her all the time. Then there's Supergirl, who he can't relate to at all, but is also very much of a father figure to. Although the creators of the movie don't beat us over the head with the message, there's an obvious parallel between Brainiac's desire to control his bottled civilizations and Superman's "control" over those he is closest to. So while in the process of stopping Brianiac, Superman learns a little about himself too, and decides to change.
Sadly, the movie spends way too much time on robot fights and action pieces and far too little time on the premise detailed above. For every great five-minute exchange between characters, there's ten minutes of Superman smashing robots. For that reason, a very promising Superman movie turns into a rather average outing overall. Granted, a DC animated movie that skimped on the action in favor of characterization probably wouldn't be received very well, so perhaps DC needs to think about adding a little more time to their animated features ('Superman Unbound,' like most DC animated titles, runs around 75 minutes). Even with its faults, though, 'Superman Unbound' is worth checking out.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Superman Unbound' soars onto Blu-ray with a combo back that includes a DVD version, as well as an UltraViolet code for a digital copy. The discs are housed in one of those eco-friendly cases and includes a slip cover. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with trailers for 'Man of Steel' and the direct-to-home-video 'Lego Batman The Movie.'
One note: Although the back cover of this release indicates that the Kandor featurette and audio commentary are exclusive Blu-ray content, don't be fooled into thinking that the current DVD includes all the other features. Actually the current single disc DVD (both in this set and sold separately) only includes the trailers portion of the extras. Apparently, there's a 2-disc DVD version of 'Superman Unbound' coming in June 2013 that will include the other bonus materials (minus the Blu-ray exclusives). Why Warners didn't release the 2-disc set alongside the current versions is anyone's guess (most likely manufacturing delays of the second DVD).
Bright and colorful, the video transfer here is not without a few problems, most of which fortunately will only be noticed by a sharp eye or those with particularly large TV screens. The most noticeable issue with the video is aliasing, which results in the outlines of both characters and objects to be jagged instead of lined. There are also some (less frequent) problems with banding. Neither of these are so distracting that they take away from one's enjoyment of the movie, and often the action is so fast and furious on-screen that the typical viewer isn't going to notice the issues.
Since 'Superman Unbound's' animation was done completely digitally, it's very likely that the issues described above were problems with the original rendering themselves and have very little to do with the Blu-ray transfer. Also, given all the bonus materials, Warners has tried to cram a bunch of information onto a single 25-GB disc, which may also be a factor.
However, most viewers are going to find 'Superman Unbound' a quite pleasant viewing experience and more or less on par with the other direct-to-video titles that DC has released recently.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio on this release is above average, but often underused. Directionality is solid, not only via the rear speakers, but up front as well, as much of the dialogue is also directional. Voices are crisp and clear, while background noises, music, etc., are properly balanced with the dialogue. My biggest issue, however, is that there are a number of sequences where you'd expect a lot more from the audio and don't get anything. For example, while there are several large action pieces in the movie, the rear speakers are used very selectively when one would assume they'd be a lot more active.
In addition to the English track, Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are offered in French and both Spanish (Latin) and Spanish (Castilian). Subtitle options consist of English (SDH), French, and Spanish (Latin). There's also subtitles in Spanish (Castilian) but (for some odd reason) for the bonus materials only.
While it often gets bogged down with action pieces that distract from the characterizations, there's a good Superman story hidden within 'Superman Unbound' that is highlighted by some strong performances from the voice cast. It won't rank as Superman's best (or worst) outing in the DC animated canon, but it's solid enough to want to add it to your collection. Recommended.