Brainiac: “I am everything. You are nothing but fists.”
Superman: (Punches Brainiac) “When I need to be.”
Well, it’s not funny and in fact it’s kind of creepy. The original moral of the comic which this is based on (Superman: Brainiac) is simply that knowledge does not equal life experience. That’s what makes life worth saving. The point of life is life itself. That was fine. I have to be believe most of this “Superman learns restraint” stuff is just the result of Batmanmania, mainly caused by The Dark Knight. In the comic, he discovers Brainiac, learns about it from Supergirl, and is genuinely concerned for his loved ones once he hears about Brainiac’s destruction on Krypton. Here, just he tells the women to stay put, so we can get another forced moral.
There are subtle differences in tone from comic-to-movie, I feel. In the movie, Supergirl rightfully feels the need to rebel against Superman because he tells her to stay away. So, she beats up thugs in North Korea, simply because she wants to make a difference. In no way does Superman explain to her Truth, Justice, and The American Way; I think almost starting a nuclear war would pretty much NOT be representative of any of those values.
Also, when Superman is fighting Brainiac in the comic he says that he usually has a problem with resorting to violence…usually. Then, he punches Brainiac across the room. That’s funny! It just reminds me that he only fights when necessary, and maybe doesn’t know his own strength. In the movie, the similar line (see above.) makes it sound like he’s just a bully provoked to anger. Superman doesn’t let him know that he’s crossed a line, and is thus acting in defense. This animated version makes it seem rather like a pre-emptive strike, done in the name of a bruised ego.
I mean, the animation is good, although Superman has sort of a weirdly shaped head, and something about Brainiac’s ship in this version reminds me of Skeletor. But, it’s got that weird other moral about Superman learning not to control everything. Scenes are included to shoehorn in this moral. Including the Supergirl attacks North Korea scene, the terrorist plot scene, and the scene where Lois Lane gives Brainiac “The Bird”; which is sort of forcedly funny, but more cringe-worthy. The tone is just all over the place and makes Superman look kind of like a jerk.
However, I will say, the showdown with Brainiac does keep the original moral. (That Brainiac has knowledge but knows nothing of life’s value.) The graphic novel by Geoff Johns is amazing, and here it’s loyally re-created. I enjoyed the animation, and it’s certainly worth a watch, but I feel like something is a bit off with Superman Unbound. It seems like they’ve sacrificed Superman’s integrity to make him more like Batman, in my opinion. Is there hope for Truth and Justice? Or are all the superheroes becoming mere action movie stars? I’m all for good action, but I want to see a Superman that gives me hope in Mankind. My final judgment: one thumb up, 2 stars, C+. Good if you like an almost 80s-style cartoon animation mixed with CGI, but not memorable like its graphic novel counterpart.