While I love Bruce Timm, and while I appreciate him bringing DC out from the stone age and into modern times, he basically ruined the Superman series, and never realized it to the full potential it was capable of. Timm, a hardcore fan of batman, relegated Supes to secondary character, and when he actually focused on Superman, he never really understood what the character was about. Even in the “Justice League” series, Timm always tried to push Batman into the center square and downsize on the Superman character. So you can imagine my sheer ease when the announcement for the new Superman animated movie would not feature Timm on board.
“Superman: Braniac Attacks” is an interesting effort from the DCU, and without a doubt a tie-in with the upcoming “Superman Returns” even featuring interesting foreshadowing that’s meant for fun. But, the true glory of this film is that Tim Daly returns! Out of all the animated voices for Superman, Daly is my favorite mainly because he provides a humility that a god-like individual like Superman needs to have. While I thought George Newbern was great, Daly is the man I grew to enjoy, and he’s back yet again, and this time Clark is re-considering confessing his secret to Lois. But when Lex and Braniac team up to create the ultimate weapon to defeat Superman, he must save Metropolis once more and discover a cure for Lois who is infected by Braniac.
Gladly, the welcome refreshing course is also aided by the talents of Dana Delany, the definitive voice of Lois Lane as the spunky and brave reporter. “Braniac Attacks” has the same wide-eyed enthusiasm as the series, the wide-eyed enthusiasm Timm couldn’t grasp, and evidently, the writers were approaching the same fantastic experience to make way for the upcoming film, and I didn’t mind it. The script dares to have more fun with Superman and his powers, and the audience gets to watch him make use of his abilities with a wider spectrum. One highlight of which is seeing Superman enter the Phantom Zone, Superman struggling to leave the Phantom Zone, and we even get to witness an effect we never saw in the animated series. Superman uses his x-ray vision to see Lois’ beating heart, and the infection coursing through her blood stream.
A wonderful use of x-ray vision, and his redundant microscopic vision. Superman is superman here. Powerful, determined, and center square. Sadly, though, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, this felt awfully empty, and not because Timm was gone, but because there was really nothing to it. Superman is Superman, and Lex and Braniac team up. It’s the same themes we saw throughout the end of the “Justice League” Series, and we see it here, too. Though the film takes place before “Justice League” continuity, and this is intended as foreshadowing to future team-ups we’d see in the former series, it’s really nothing but more of the same plot we saw in the last seasons of the “Justice League” series involving cadmus and whatnot.
So, with this alliance, we have the awkward, and I do mean awkward, alliance of Lex and Braniac that I’ve seen played with much more grace. And that’s due primarily to the wholly inconsistent characterization presented without much shame. One of the many inconsistencies is that Lex is a sniveling, spineless, comedic presence, a complete departure from any of the variations on the character and a most unwelcome change. Lex is a man among a god challenging him, not some worm. Also Mercy is annoying and becomes nothing but a Harley Quinn clone who sits around waxing sarcastic to Lex, and has a ridiculously forgettable sub-plot where she trades flirts with Jimmy Olsen. In the series, Mercy was a hard-boiled, street tough, vicious body guard who must have been in the mid-thirties, but oddly the writers feel compelled to make her in her mid-twenties, and not very useful to her employer.
And, you expect me to believe Jimmy could sneak into Lex’s labs without being spotted? Give me a break. Worst of all, Lois is reduced to nothing but a lovelorn teenager who sighs and gazes wide-eyed at Superman’s presence and gets herself into trouble. I’m aware this film disconnects from continuity, but did they really have to back step character progress? So, Superman is back in animated form, and I couldn’t be happier. True, there are many bumps along the road in terms of characterization, and some of it feels empty, but I had fun, and it was great to see the actors voicing these great characters once again. Would I buy it? No, but as a passing experience I’d definitely recommend it. Bring on “Superman Returns”!