Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for violence
Running Time: 75 min.
Cast (voices): Timothy Daly, Dana Delany, Powers Boothe, Lance Henriksen, Tara Strong, David Kaufman, George Dzundza, Mike Farrell, Shelley Fabares
Director: Curt Geda
Screenplay: Duane Capizzi, Christopher Simmons
For purposes of this review, I'm going to try writing it both for "Superman: The Animated Series" series fans and for those that have never seen a single episode. It's a difficult task, but very necessary given the fact that the film intentionally captures the look and feel of the TV series, while mostly ignoring it in major ways at the same time. It was a stupid idea to try to squeeze this Superman package to fit the animated series if it wasn't going to adhere to its characters and visual style, but I suppose, given the limited time with which this project had in order to coincide with the theatrical release of Superman Returns, lack of time and resources (and a great deal of laziness) in coming up with an all-new design was a factor, as well as greed in trying to gain additional dollars through interest in those that revere the TV show.
Although the animated television show officially ended in 2000, that didn't stop Warner Bros. from trying to capitalize on the blockbuster 2006 film release of Superman Returns by putting out a new DVD on video store shelves a week before. While of good quality, and easily better than the last two Superman live-action feature films, I'm going to venture that fans of the television series will be less forgiving of this release than casual viewers -- in fact, some will probably hate it. Despite bringing back many of the same voice actors and general background design, it mostly ignores the continuity of the television series altogether.
People that are accustomed to having things a certain way also have certain expectations, so when Lex Luthor is voiced by Powers Boothe instead of Clancy Brown, Brainiac is voiced by Lance Henriksen instead of Corey Burton, the writing or conceptual design of Bruce Timm isn't present, or the animation doesn't quite match exactly that of the television show, the fanboys expecting adherence to convention are going to be annoyed to the point of outright dismissal. That's a bit of a shame, since Superman: Brainiac Attacks is much better than most superhero animated films I've seen, and as long as you aren't actually demanding that it be perfectly in sync with the television show, it delivers the Superman-related goods in a competent and entertaining way.
In this extended episode, the robotic genius Brainiac returns from space to continue his quest for supremacy. Lex Luthor latches on the Brainiac's scheme, teaming up with him to help defeat his nemesis, Superman, by adding a little bit of Kryptonite to his all-new robot form. In the midst of trying to thwart the menace that is Brainiac, Superman also struggles with whether or not to reveal his true identity to Lois Lane, as he feels it is only a matter of time before she sees through the disguise anyway, and he doesn't want to to lose her as a friend (or, potentially, something more) by breaking her trust. Before he can do it, Lois becomes infected by something fatally toxic in a run-in with Brainiac, leaving Superman to have to go to the dreaded Phantom Zone to find a cure -- all the while leaving Metropolis unprotected from Brainiac's rampage.
With nearly any animated release based on popular superheroes, you should probably have a familiarity with the origins of the superhero in question before making the attempt to watch it, so if you don't know who Clark Kent is, you already don't have enough knowledge to bother trying to figure things out just from this story alone. What you don't need to have is a familiarity with the television series, as those that have a decent grasp of the basics of "Superman" should easily be able to follow this feature without any trouble. I'll actually go one step further and state that the less familiar you are with the animated TV series, the more enjoyment you'll probably get from this, since it is aimed at a younger, less discriminating audience that expects good action and writing that doesn't refer to things that occurred in previous releases.
Since I'm trying to review this film, I think it's only fair that I ultimately grade it from the perspective of someone that has never seen an episode of the Superman series, since that will probably be the majority of people that will pick this up after going Superman-crazy from the hype of Superman Returns. If one were to completely divorce it from its television origins to take it as a standalone film, Brainiac Attacks is nicely animated, with an interesting plot and excellent production values in terms of music and sound effects all-around. If you are a casual fan of Supes, and of animation in general, it's worth a look. "S:TAS" die-hards will want to avoid it, however.
Qwipster's rating: (for casual Superman viewers), (for Superman: The Animated Series fans)
©2006 Vince Leo