Review: Superman – Unbound / Cert: 15 / Director: James Tucker / Screenplay: Bob Goodman / Starring: Matt Bomer, Stana Katic, John Noble / Release Date: June 3rd
Superman: Unbound is an adaptation of Geoff Johns’ 2005 Brainiac arc, first seen in Action Comics #866-870. And whilst this 75 minute adaptation addresses the events on a slightly smaller scale, it is perhaps the most thorough and thoughtful deconstruction of the Man of Steel’s personal relationships that there has ever been.
Unlike previous DCU adaptations, Unbound makes a stark departure from the comic book’s artistic direction, opting for a younger, more angular Superman. That said, the animation is fantastic. The colours are deep, vibrant, and truly add to the spectacle of the story, especially in the otherworldly sections of the narrative. The character model for Supergirl has her own, slightly brighter colour palette, reflecting her naivety and youth, and looks absolutely fantastic. A little bit Swedish too.
Unbound is actually as much Supergirl’s story as it is Superman’s. Kara opens the film as she haphazardly foils a robbery and hostage (read: Lois) situation, earning her a scolding off from her cousin Kal-El, which leads to a nice, healthy dose of exposition and the first deconstruction of these Super relationships. Even with the cosmic scale of the film and the menacing threat of Brainiac, there's an intimacy about Clark and Lois, Superman and Supergirl, and a keen sense of the two Kryptonian’s heritage.
Everything is turned upside down when Superman intercepts one of Brainiac’s scout drones, and leaves for space to pre-emptively save Earth. After witnessing the destruction of another alien planet, and experiencing firsthand Brainiac’s penchant for taking shrunken cities as souvenirs, the Last Son of Krypton confronts the Collector of Worlds aboard his Kafkaesque ship. Shenanigans invariably ensue.
There is an entire setpiece developed for the movie not present in the comic, which sees Superman trapped inside the infamous bottled city of Kandor, where he is able to interact with his people for the first time. His uncle Zor-El is wonderfully allegorical and summarises the film’s central theme, that you cannot control a living thing without destroying what is alive about it. And though he may be referring to Brainiac’s modus operandi, the viewer is left to muse on whether or not Clark being overprotective of Lois is really all that different.
In many ways, Superman: Unbound is the best Superman story out there, though that isn’t to say it doesn’t have flaws. The film has the uneven running pace of a peg-legged pirate, feeling rushed in some places and episodic in others, which is rather confusing considering its short run time. Plus, a villain who can be beaten with a series of pop-up ads for ‘Sexy Singles in Your Area’ should never be taken seriously.