- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fans waiting until next month for the Man of Steel to, once again, fight General Zod in DC Comics’ famed superhero’s latest live-action movie can immediately appreciate an animated confrontation with a more intriguing villain in Superman: Unbound (Warner Home Video, rated: PG-13, $24.98).

Specifically, viewers learn about the Kryptonian kidnapping plans of Brainiac through a PG-13 cartoon on a Blu-ray disc.

Adapted from the 2008, 5-issue story arc from Action Comics (Nos. 866 to 870) featuring the creative talents of writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank, the 75-minute movie stars an egomaniacal, cybernetic organism fascinated with Superman and Supergirl.

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In the finest tradition of the Borg and Cyberdyne Systems’ famed product lines, the planet-destroying alien obsesses on the collection of knowledge from civilizations, to the point that he shrinks especially intriguing cities into living snow globes that he stores on his spaceship.

Superman not only finds himself in an overwhelming battle with the powerful villain who has even kidnapped his relatives, but must balance helping Supergirl emotionally deal with living on Earth and  iron out some relationship issues with his sassy girlfriend Lois Lane.

Artist Gary Frank's Brainiac compared to the animated version in Superman: Unbound.
Artist Gary Frank’s Brainiac compared to the animated version in Superman: Unbound. more >

It will take the might of Dr. Phil to walk though this dramatic minefield.

Now, full disclosure here for my upcoming grumpiness, I made a big mistake.

I went and read the brilliant and gorgeously illustrated comic books before watching the animated feature.

Maybe I will never be able to wrap my head around the watering down of comic book page to an animated format or even the Hollywood meddling involved with bringing a well-constructed sequential-art story to the screen.

Suffice to report, I am not thrilled with the result.

Screenwriter Bob Goodman tinkers too much with an already great story and sterilizes much of its impact.

Sure, many vestiges of Mr. Johns’ tale still remain in tact, with plenty of detail, but life is too cut and dry here, too sterile, not emotional enough to capitalize on the horror of the situations.

Mr. Goodman forces new scenes to the plot, including a helicopter battle with bad guys and dinner in the city of Kandor, rather than giving me simply a faithful recreation.

He ignores the Ma and Pa Kent side-saga, introduces a lover’s spat between Clark and Lois and minimizes the cerebral drama of the monstrous, devoid-of-emotion Brainiac through a constant supply of Terminator-like battles and a final drawn-out slugfest between the villain and Superman.

Much worse is introducing a “happily ever after” ending rather than Mr. Johns’ much more depressing and unexpected turn of events.

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