Superman vs The Elite (2012, 74 minutes)
Plot: Superman finds himself in conflict with a brash team of upstarts called The Elite who take a far more aggressive, proactive approach to stopping villains.
Source Material: This is based directly on Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke’s Action Comics #775: “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way” with Kelly writing the film’s script. The movie follows the story fairly faithfully, expanding it while keeping multiple key scenes, shots, and even dialogue. The big change made to the plot is increasing Superman’s interactions with the rival team, making their rivalry far more personal. It’s quite effective.
Animation: It’s hard to deny the shift that’s occurred from more conventional animation to flash/CG animation mimicking cel. This is in the more conventional era and looks great. Colors are bold. Movement is smooth. Only a few shots call to mind anime and they’re well chosen. The film doesn’t use DCAU style but it’s solidly its own. At times it does feel a shade TV but it was nice to watch.
Script: Once more a writer I love is behind the wheel here. Joe Kelly is ever great, having given Deadpool his voice, written some of the best Spider-Man stories in the Brand New Day era, and worked extensively on Superman including this story. Rather inevitably he kills it with a strong adaptation of his original story. This adaptation does a great job of fleshing it out without losing the power of the commentary. It’s still a lacerating look at the idea of might makes right and a tribute to why Superman still matters. If this has a weakness, it’s the standard not enough time at the front end that most of these struggle with. Seriously, going to 85 minutes can’t be too hard.
Voice Acting: George Newbern returns from Justice League to play the Man of Steel and brings a nice amount of weight to the role. He’s matched by Robin Atkin Downes, a staple of the DC Animated films, as Elite leader Manchester Black who plays as a dark mirror to Superman. The rest of the supporting cast is decent if at TV level but Pauley Perrette as Lois Lane was an extraordinarily poor choice. Her Lois is a whiny, pouty take that doesn’t feel like an adult and annoyed me.
Final Verdict: 4. This is a fairly small story next to the larger epics we’ve gotten even with expansion but I think that was what made it stand out for me. This is a story about what Superman means and what he can be. While the action is great, this is a thinkpiece of a film. I think the animation and voice work aside from the leads keep it from feeling fully theatrical, but it’s a really worthwhile watch all the same.