This is the core issue addressed in SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE, the new film from WB Animation. The Elite of the title are a new group of super powered humans, led by Manchester Black, who show up one day and offer their assistance to Superman. What starts out as a standard superhero team-up quickly goes bad as Superman realizes that The Elite have a far more Machiavellian approach to crime fighting than even Batman. These guys are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Enhanced interrogation, torture, maiming and murder are all on the menu. If Jack Bauer had superpowers, he’d feel right at home as a member of The Elite.
The real problem for Superman is that their methods are effective, and the public starts to rally behind them. With his loved ones and fan base no longer supporting him, he begins to question whether his ideals have a place in society anymore. He’s always set the standard for playing by the rules, but maybe that way of thinking is outdated and flawed. Are The Elite really bad guys, or are they the right guys for today’s world? It’s a credit to Joe Kelly’s script, based on the acclaimed one he wrote for Action Comics #775 “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Truth, Justice & The American Way?” that I had difficulty determining which side I supported for much of the movie.
The main voice actors in this film are superb. George Newbern is no stranger to playing Superman, having voiced him for four seasons on Justice League. This script gives him some great material to work with and he really delivers. Pauley Perrette’s interpretation of Lois Lane is one of the best I’ve heard, and Robin Atkin Downes does a fantastic job making Manchester Black a credible counterpoint to Superman. The rest of The Elite don’t get much screen time, so their characters aren’t fully developed. The script could’ve invested a little more time in them, but it isn’t really necessary for the arc of the story.
At the beginning of the film, I found the animator’s depictions of Superman and The Elite to be distracting. I prefer characters that actually resemble humans and not caricatures with such severely exaggerated features. However, as the film progressed, I had to admit it was the right choice. Some of the methods The Elite use on people are quite disturbing, and the stylized animation allows the audience to disengage from it. By giving us the idea of torturing a person, without the emotional attachment of seeing a realistic person being tortured, we’re able to engage the issue on an intellectual level. At the conclusion of the final battle sequence, we have chills because we understand the inevitable, not because we’re squeamish.
Blu-ray Extras include a commentary by writer Joe Kelly and Eddie Berganza, the Executive Editor for DC Comics. These guys are obviously passionate about the material that they’ve created, and it’s fun listening to them, but they don’t have much insight into the production process of the film.
The Elite Unbound: An interview with writer Joe Kelly that covers his creative process. Some good stuff here for writers and aspiring writers.
Superman and the Moral Debate: An Air Force Drill Sergeant, a Law Professor, and a Social Psychologist take the issues addressed in the movie and apply them to current events. Geo-politics junkies will probably find this very interesting.
A digital comic of Action Comics #775: It was a good idea to include this because people who haven’t read the comic might want to after seeing the movie. Unfortunately, the size of the digitization leaves the lettering too small to read and there’s no way to zoom, so it just ends up being frustrating.
The team at WB Animation has consistently produced quality material, and SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE is no exception. Although there’s no shortage of action, the focus of the film is not on mind-blowing set pieces but rather in dissecting contemporary moral issues. If you’re a fan of their work, this should go in your collection. If you’re not, this is a great place to become one.
Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, the all-new, PG-13 rated SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE arrives JUNE 12, 2012 from Warner Home Video as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download. Both the Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD will include an UltraViolet™ Digital Copy.
Watch the clip below, and visit www.supermanvstheelite.com