Not to be confused with the upcoming Scott Snyder/Jim Lee series Superman Unchained, the latest DC animated film which premiered Friday night at Wondercon was entitled Superman Unbound. Apparently, Superman: Brainiac, the Geoff Johns story it's based on, wasn't catchy enough.
The story focuses on Brainiac (John Noble of Fringe), obviously, as the central villain – one who has traumatized the newly arrived Supergirl (Molly Quinn of Castle) in the past, as she starkly remembers when his creepy skull-headed mothership came to Krypton and abducted the city of Kandor, with her parents trapped inside it. Normally, Brainiac's M.O. is also to destroy any planets he takes samples of, but he saw that Krypton was going to blow up anyway, so he let it be. Meanwhile, Superman (Matt Bomer of White Collar) and Lois Lane (Stana Katic of Castle) are having some trouble, as he's dead-set on keeping their relationship secret out of an overprotective duty, while she is sick of feeling cooped up and controlled. When one of Brainiac's probes comes to Earth, Supergirl gets some PTSD, and Superman has to take off to deep space to stop the villain before he gets any more big ideas. But he does proceed to get big ideas.
It's a solid film. Bomer isn't doing that annoying breathy ain't-I-sexy thing he does on White Collar, and he thus he makes a pretty good Superman. Katic is a fun firecracker as Lois, who does something in this film I never expected to see in an animated Superman movie, taking full advantage of being PG-13. Brainiac's attacks are very bloody, and part of the rating includes a "rude gesture." It's perfectly timed and a fun surprise, and it's why Lois Lane is awesome and should have her own comic series. Noble's Brainiac is the right amount of ominously creepy, but with a bit more humanity to him rather than that cold, robotic mode we usually see him in. He's a little more supervillainy, a bit more prone to arrogant posturing. There are also some weirdly jarring anime-style fighty pose shots that feel a bit out of place, and while I tend to enjoy watching these animated films, and this one certainly has a bit of a different feel than the Superman films that came before it, they rarely seem to be exciting enough that I would ever bother watching them a second time. Maybe that's just me being an old fuddy-duddy for no discernible reason. I liked it. It's worth a watch.
The panel after the screening was pretty much a love fest, and although they basically said we have to wait until Comic-Con in San Diego to learn what their slate of films is for 2014, they did suggest that they were working on an Aquaman film – although it wasn't quite clear whether or not they were joking. We also heard that Bruce Timm is taking a hiatus from DC animation work to create some original material, and that we'll likely see The Riddler show up somewhere before 2015. So you've got that to watch out for, too.