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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Warner Home Video and DC Comics have, over the last few years, teamed up for a series of high-quality animated DVD movies. I've reviewed most of them here and have been impressed with how good they've been; it's clear that these films are being made by people who respect the characters. I mention this because the latest WHV/DC release, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is perhaps their best yet. Fans of either character (or both) will find a solid story that does justice to the long history of team-ups between the two superhero legends.

Public Enemies begins with an intriguing premise: Lex Luthor has become President of the United States after professing a change in his evil ways. Luthor's tough-talking, no-nonsense policies seem to be having a positive effect. Superman remains unconvinced; he thinks Luthor is merely manipulating for some greater personal gain. And he's right. When a Kryptonite asteroid is discovered to be plummeting straight toward the Earth, Luthor uses the opportunity to frame Superman, even going so far as to offer a $1 billion bounty on his head. Suddenly, all kinds of supervillians (and even a few heroes) come out of the woodwork trying to hunt him down. Batman, meanwhile, knows that his ally has been set up and tries to help him not only fight off his attackers but also save the planet from destruction.

The film is based on the well-regarded comic series/graphic novel by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. For any serious comic fan, there is something exciting about seeing two legends such as Superman and Batman together. What I respect so much about Public Enemies is that it's not content just to coast on that pairing. The story here is solid, and it explores themes of trust, partnership, and corruption. Even with a brisk 67-minute running time, the movie manages to make story a priority.

The animation is stunning to look at, and the action scenes are quite good, especially as they compliment the story rather than overwhelm it. I particularly like the idea that so many good- and bad-guys emerge trying to take down Superman for a price. There's a nice contrast in how Superman uses his powers to fight back, whereas Batman uses his gizmos, combined with old-fashioned strategy. There are several few action scenes here, each one seeming different from the one before.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies really entertained me. As someone who has enjoyed these animated superhero movies, I can honestly say that it lived up to my expectations. Hopefully we'll see these two classic characters together again in future DVD releases.

( 1/2 out of four)

DVD Features:

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies comes in a single-disc, movie-only package, or in a 2-disc Special Edition starting Sept. 29. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Picture and sound quality are outstanding.

The movie itself is on the first disc, along with previews of some of the other WHV/DC animated features. The second disc contains all kinds of goodies:

  • "A Test of Minds" - This 18-minute segment looks at the different psychologies of Superman and Batman, via interviews from DC staff and actual psychiatrists. One interviewee astutely notes that, in the DC universe, Superman is like a fireman (he responds to crises when they occur) whereas Batman is like a policeman (he actively tries to prevent crimes, or hunts down baddies when they do occur). There are also some interesting insights into how both characters view the world and their place in it. This feature is extremely well-produced and insightful.
  • "Dinner with DC: With Special Guest Kevin Conroy" - The actor who provides Batman's voice joins the crew for dinner, where they discuss various aspects of the Superman/Batman team-up in detail. If you've ever dreamed of chatting around the dinner table with DC folk, this will be almost as good as the real thing.
  • "The Blackest Night: Inside the DC Comics Event:" - Behind the scenes of the upcoming DC series in which the dead rise. Certain to be one of the most notable comics events of the past few years.
  • Two episodes of "Justice League Unlimited" hand-picked by Bruce Timm, an animation legend who has been a key creative force in the series.
  • Digital copy for portable media systems.

    The Blu-Ray will have all these features, plus two additional episodes of "Justice League Unlimited" and two more from "Justice League." Whether on DVD or Blu-Ray, this is a terrific package.

    Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is rated PG-13 for action violence throughout and a crude comment. The running time is 1 hour and 7 minutes.

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