PictureSuperman/Batman: Apocalypse comes to Blu-ray presented with a solid 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie’s original aspect ratio of widescreen 1.78:1. As fans will have noticed with previous DCU releases, the animated style of these movies inherently limits just how good they can look, irrespective of the HD format. Sure, this is as best as we’re going to get, but this is certainly not the kind of material that offers outstanding home cinema presentation, or any of the kind of excellence in picture quality that would make you want to show it off to your friends. Line detail is bold throughout, the characters and objects having reasonably well-defined lines, differentiating them amidst the proceedings. The style adopted for the animation is marginally different from the previous instalment, Public Enemies, and works well to add to the line detail (even if Clark’s eyebrows look hilarious).
The colour scheme is as broad and vivid as you would expect from the extravagant superhero proceedings – beautiful blue skies, strong fire-based oranges and yellows, deep reds (like Superman’s cape) and solid-enough blacks, which round out the palette and make for decent enough night action sequences. The trip to Apokolips shows just what hell might be like (if it was animated), the fiery realm simply sweltering with unbearable heat. The downside to all of this is that the style they use can make the image seem more soft than it should be, with backgrounds literally blurring into the... erm, background. This does have the vague effect of 3D pop, and a few moments stand out using the effects, but overall it is a strange attempt to create dimensionality, which makes the backgrounds feel like painted backdrops did for old movies. And this kind of softness, no matter what the reason or source material, is not really something you want to see on any Blu-ray rendition. This is a top notch version of the kind of presentation you would only expect had you seen any of the other DCU offerings, but that does not make it a particularly noteworthy rendition, just a decent but unexceptional one.
SoundOn the aural front the Studio behind the DC Universe titles have finally sorted things out – their earlier releases, like the Green Lantern feature, boasting a Dolby TrueHD track, but their last few offerings, including Superman/Doomsday Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, including just standard Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Here they’ve finally pulled it together and provided us with a suitably technically proficient DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that certainly brings out the best in the explosively eventful material. The vocal input is well presented across the frontal array, coming across clearly and coherently throughout. On the effects front there is plenty of stuff to keep your surrounds occupied – helicopters flying across your screen, and consequently across the array; flying batarangs, firing batgrapples, sizzling heat vision and all the other superhero effects coming across well. The score is suitably patriotic and rousing, it won’t stick in your mind, but it certainly suits the material. Overall, whilst this is still an occasionally front-heavy mix, it is far better than the track included on the last Superman/Batman instalment, and even throws a little LFE usage into the mix to accompany the reasonably active surround channels.
ExtrasThese DC Universe packages always tend to come with a wealth of extras, and this is no exception.
The Fourth World – the New Gods is a Featurette that basically revolves around Darkseid and his beginnings in the DC Universe, positing the supervillain as one of the biggest threats within the realm and showing how he made for a superior opponent for Superman. The New Gods is a Profiles Featurette which looks at two sub-characters: Orion and Mr. Miracle, and the part that they have to play within the DCU, and within Darkseid’s world.
Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton conversely looks at Kara and her heritage, discussing her appearances in the comic lines across the decades, and briefly looking at how they killed her and brought her back without really addressing her death. Honestly, some of the information that can be gleaned from these Featurettes would have been useful before the main event, to explain things better; but with a couple of spoilers, it doesn’t really work that way.
DC Showcase Animated Short: Green Arrow
As with many of the previous releases, this DCU title features one of the DC Showcase run of animated shorts which allow some of the less well-known superhero characters from the universe have their 15 minutes of fame. Here we get 22 minutes of action from the Green Arrow, currently a regular character in the enjoyable Smallville TV series. The story follows Oliver Queen’s fortuitous arrival at Star City International Airport, just around the time that the League of Assassins is planning on taking out a visiting dignitary, who happens to be just a little girl. Of course, Queen quickly changes into his Green Arrow alter-ego and goes to work to stop the devious plan. It’s a nice, lean, action-packed and occasionally brutal animated short, and whilst I’m not a huge fan of the Green Arrow (seriously, his origins were that he was deserted on an island for so long that he became an expert marksman with a hand-fashioned bow and arrow?), Neal Mcdonough’s voice-representation of him, facing off against Malcolm McDowell’s archer-assassin Merlyn, makes it a particularly interesting watch. One of the best DCU shorts so far in the series, and better than even some of the earlier main titles – boy do they get through a lot of storyline in 15 taut minutes! Highly recommended.
We get 4 Bonus Episodes, the last 4 episodes from the second season of Superman: The Animated Series. Apokolips Now! Parts 1 and 2, have Superman face off against Darkseid in an epic confrontation, and the subsequent season finale, Little Girl Lost (Parts 1 and 2) shows an alternative introduction to Supergirl, which features many of the same characters and ideas, just with a different spin on things: with The Female Furies taking the helm as lead villains, and this time kidnapping Superman, who Supergirl has to subsequently save. An enjoyable selection of episodes, perfectly chosen to offer a broader look at main of the characters from the main feature, but watch out because they are presented in the wrong order! Apokolips Now! should precede Little Girl Lost, so just play them in the opposite order.
We also get Trailers for other titles in the DC Universe selection – the average Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the excellent Batman: Under the Red Hood and the disappointing prequel to Apocalypse, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. There’s a Trailer for the Jonah Hex Motion Comic and for Lego Universe, as well as a 10-minute Sneak Peak into the upcoming All-Star Superman Animated Movie. The new ‘All-Star’ series of comics worked extremely well for Batman (even if it ended abruptly), and the Superman variation also rebooted the superhero using some imaginative ideas (he’s dying of radiation poisoning). I’m very much looking forward to this one.
VerdictSuperman/Batman: Apocalypse is a solid ninth entry within the Warner Bros. DC Animated Universe run of DTV movies. The first official sequel, and a reasonably good one at that, it is quite a bit better than the original. Providing some quality (and brutal) action sequences, it also maintains interest with its compelling storyline charting the introduction of the new Supergirl character, and the subsequent mixed feelings that Batman and Superman have over her strange arrival. It perfectly blends the events in normal Earthbound settings with the otherworldly chaos of strange, foreign planets, and despite having a few too many integral characters (particularly for newcomers), it still remains a great watch.
On Region Free US Blu-ray we get good video and audio presentation, as well as a superior selection of extra that houses not only some suitably-chosen extra episodes from the Superman Animated Series, but also a fantastic Green Arrow animated short movie that is definitely worth checking out. Fans of the DCU titles will find this a must-have addition to their collection, those burned by previous, less good, entries in the accolade should be pleasantly surprised by this return-to-form, and newcomers should consider this almost as good a starting-point as the recent Batman: Under the Red Hood animated movie, and easily the best of the Superman/Batman, solo-Superman or Justice League-themed titles. Recommended.
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