‘Superman vs. The Elite’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated August 8th, 2012 at 9:32 am,

Crazy Superman in Superman vs. The Elite Review Superman vs. The Elite Review

In Superman vs. The Elite, the Man of Steel faces his most daunting foe yet: public opinion. In an era where the realities of terrorism and global strife have created a cynical and hardline attitudes about the concept of “justice,” Superman’s idealistic optimism seems more and more outdated (both in the film, and in the real-world). So when a group of younger super-powered vigilantes known as The Elite appear on the scene, Superman is not prepared for their brutal stance against criminals – nor the resounding public approval that follows.

The greatest super hero in the world soon discovers that changing times and public opinion are not things that even his god-like powers can control. Even with the world turning away from him, Superman must find some way to win back the support of humanity, before The Elite do something truly reckless and get themselves – and/or others – killed in the process.

Superman vs. The Elite is an odd entry in the canon of DC Universe direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray animated features. On the one hand, the story (based on the Action Comics storyline “What’s So Funny About Truth Justice & the American Way?”) is actually one the most timely and interesting Superman tales to come along in awhile. (It certainly covers thematic ground that bears examination – as the upcoming feature-film reboot Man of Steel will attempt to do next year.)

Superman vs. The Elite Review Superman vs. The Elite Review

The Elite

The story works in this animated feature as well as it did on the comic book page – primarily because the writer of the comic story (Joe Kelly) also wrote this animated feature version. The plot-points – sketching the modern world and how Superman’s idealism is outdated; edgy anti-heroes being more popular than classic super heroes – are all directly addressing questions that fanboys and average people alike have been asking – namely, why does Superman still matter?

With The Elite, we get an interesting antagonist – not really evil, per se, just grittier and darker than the classic superhero archetypes. There will no doubt be healthy debate amongst viewers as to whether The Elite are, or are not, the heroes we need in modern times, and whether or not Superman is the dinosaur some claim he is.

Lois Lane Superman Superman vs. The Elite Review

While the narrative is intriguing and well-told, the visuals in Superman vs. The Elite leave something to be desired. DC Animation has long been praised (usually in comparison to Marvel Animation) for its character designs and animation quality – but this film looks as though it had a fraction of the usual budget for a DCU animated feature. The character designs are much more cartoony, in a 1950s comic strip sort of way; the quality of movement is also fairly shoddy, which is entirely noticeable during the action scenes. Strangely enough, the film looks like “Superman: The Nickelodeon Version,” even though it’s dealing with mature material and themes. Blu-ray viewing will only make these discrepancies more apparent.

Manchester Black in Superman vs. The Elite Superman vs. The Elite Review

The voicework in the film is pretty solid, with Superman being voiced by George Newbern – who has been doing animated Superman since the Justice League days in the early 2000s. NCIS star Pauley Perrette has a pretty good go at playing Lois Lane, while The Elite are suitably voiced by some talented character actors – including voice work veteran Robin Atkin Downes, who voices the group’s leader, Manchester Black. (He was also the ship computer in Prometheus, the “soccer announcer” in Battleship, and has done voice work in more video games than I’m willing to count).

All in all, Superman vs. The Elite is a Superman flick that’s actually interesting to watch for intellectual reasons, but won’t blow you away in terms of visual splendor or action. In that sense it’s an easy recommend to those who maybe haven’t been able to connect with the character in a long time (Batman crowd, looking at you); though it may be less satisfying to the hardcore fans, who already know why they love Big Blue.

Superman vs. The Elite is currently available on DVD/Blu-ray and Video On Demand. Check with your local cable provider for availability.

 

TAGS: superman

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  1. I got an early viewing of SUPERMAN vs THE ELITE and I have to say its definitely a thought provoking animated film.

    At first I feared it was going to really stink because the opening title sequence featured the most horrific music I’ve heard, at least for an animated comic book base film. The animation as Kofi mentioned is at best average. Where SMvTE (Superman vs The Elite) shines is in the questions it raises namely is Superman an outdated relic of a time tat no longer exists.

    It will be interesting and perhaps a little concerning to see just how the younger generation responds to this. Will they walk away believing Supes needs to retire and make way for a modern day hero like Black or will the deeper lessons of justice and right vs wrong win out?

    With the dumbing down of America through the public school system like it is I guess we’ll be lucky if the young kids even care to watch SMvTE let alone understand its deeper meanings.

    BTW Kofi, did I just miss it or did you not rate the film (X stars out of X stars)??

  2. Quick question is it a stand alone or does it tie into the other movies

    • The movie does not tie into any of the others… though other heroes are alluded to, they are not seen or mentioned by name.

    • @Blue Collar Critic – We don’t do stars for the animated features – just print reviews.

      @Mr. – It’s a stanalone piece.

      • ‘The Elite’ is a comment on/parody of the book ‘The Authority’ by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch , which was popular at the time, and it was made by people who didn’t get the Authority, in fact I question whether they even read it. By the way, Ellis and Hitch’s Authority was the template for The Ultimates, which paved the way for Marvel finally being able to envision a big screen version of the Avengers.

  3. Probay the best animated Superman movie I ever watched.

  4. I liked the art style because it was simple, after years of Timmverse pointy chins. In fact I thought the animation flowed smoothly, was pretty to look at, and served the story well. The story itself was refreshingly honest for one so topical. And on that note, “In an era where the realities of terrorism… have created a cynical and hardline attitude about the concept of ‘justice,’” should probably be changed to “certain people’s reactions to terrorism have created a…” but let’s not split hairs.

  5. The best Supes cartoon to date would have to be…

    All Star Superman

    This animation directly follows that release in terms of Superman on his own type thingy cartoons, and it is poor. The animation leaves a lot to be desired. The voice direction lol, where do I begin???? Supes voice is fine, but all the British accents are aweful. Does a person from Manchester really sound like that??? not really. Maybe Americans don’t notice, but British people do, it’s even worse than the little guys accent from Game of Thrones (who also happens to be my favourite character in that tv show lol).

    The story was weak, interesting topic, but could hardly take it seriously, due to the kids tv animation.

    How can this be the follow on from All Star Superman???? Piss poor Warner Bros piss poor.

    What next? Superman Vs Teletubbies, but this time they all were big as Disney land type costumes and fun around chasing after the evil Noo-Noo!!!

    • Ok, I suppose it wasn’t all bad, the opening credits had some very well done artwork, AND THAT IS IT!

    • All Star Superman was a great book but a terrible movie.

      • Never read the book, I try to do one or the other. Watch the film or read the book. Sometimes I do both and always regret it, as the book is almost always better, and that then spoils the movie for me.

        Of course there are exceptions.

        So, I can’t say I agree with you as I have never read the book, but just through watching the animation, I think it was the best one yet.

        • Please, I’m begging you…read the All-Star Superman book.

      • Agreed. I watch the movie first, and even then didn’t like. Then I read the book. Needless to say, I will not be watching the movie again.

    • Americans get wrong british accents all the Time, but british Tv simetimes has attrocious American ones. Beign british but living in America, I’ll just say “That’s how people from Manchester talk in the Movies alternate Timeline… not our world” and leave it at that.

  6. I enjoyed this film, I thought it was good. I still think Doomsday is the best Superman animated film, but that may just be me.

  7. I have yet to watch it fully but from what i have seen i have enjoyed it.

    Loved the opening credits for sure, but i am kinda turned off on lois for i love the actress and all but i keep seeing the actress everytime i hear lois speak which kinda sucks.

    Maybe i will finish it with the chicken i am cooking, but i cannot say whether or not i like all star supeman over doomsday both were great films to me.

  8. Thanks for taking the time to review this, Kofi.
    I was not sure this title would make the cut.
    Great breakdown and I’ll pick this puppy up.

  9. Aren’t you gonna give it a rating out of 5.

  10. The ending of this movie gave me chills. It was so intense and brutal. I absolutely loved it! All Star Superman was an okay movie, but it felt weak because if kept jumping from comic to comic skipping some of the stories in between which left me confused. This animation was okay for the most part. Still kind of childish in the way it looked, but the seriousness of the action made up for it.

  11. Ok so , I read this a while back, They used the art style for a reason, Due to the subject matter they chose this art style to make it more approachable. they felt that with the heavy themes that if they would have gone with a more serious art style that they would have a feature that would have been to dark in nature for a animated feature. That said at first the art style bothered me but as the movie developed I became more comfortable with in fact it is very reminiscent of Action comics 799. Overall I really enjoyed this feature and it will find its place into my collection if for no other reason then the final battle which was great, i have the scene with supes glowing red eyes coming through the cloud of debris burnt in to my mind

  12. I still think that the fight scene with Superman, Darkseid. and Supergirl at the end of Apocalypse, was the best fight scene in any Dc animated feature to date. Not to mention it also had the fight scene with Wonder Woman and Barda Vs the Female Furies, the fight scene was like something I can only dream will ever make it into a Movie format

    • Yeah, Supes/Bats: Apocalypse has the most epic DCU fights ever.

    • Agreed. The Supes, Supergirl & Darksied fight scene was the best I’ve seen to date. Loved the way Superman lost his cool when he thought Supergirl was dead.

  13. good movie i liked the end when superman beat the hell out of them!

  14. I was going to give this one a skip, but now I’m not so sure… all the reviews and reactions are pretty positive.

  15. Still waiting for a Kingdom Come movie… best “Supes” story yet (although it is more like a Justice League Story). Watching him threatening the UN with those same red eyes would give me full body chills…

  16. I watched it last night. It was great, actually.

    B

  17. Ok, here is the truth on this movie, I watched it last night and was highly disappointed. They tried to address philosophical and moral issues but it degenerated into a “superman is right, let’s just let it go at that”.

    Spoilers:

    So the premise was great, should superpowered humans be utilitarians, meaning that they exists to save the most amount of lives (the elite) or should they follow the laws of the land, even if it costs more innocent lives (Superman).

    I thought they did a great job examining that deeper idea until about 3/4ths of the movie was done then they got cliched.

    For example, they had to make the leader of the ‘elite’ have a criminal background, as with all the elite. It would have been a more powerful movie if he would have simply been a normal guy with a strong philosophical disagreement with superman.

    Then superman’s actions weren’t rational. So he holds this, thou shall not kill concept, yet because of this the young black kids dad dies. This doesn’t even CAUSE HIM TO REFLECT ON HIS PHILOSOPHY, he just questions whether he doesn’t fit in the world. WHAT? A guy you could have got rid of who already killed multiple people, get’s free AGAIN like many other criminals, kills innocents AGAIN and you don’t even question the merits of your belief?

    Then he wants to take the Elite to supermax prison. Ummmmm the WHOLE DAMN WORLD WAS CHEERING AND APPLAUDING THEIR ACTIONS so who is going to prosecute them.

    Finally, and this is what pissed me off the most. All of Superman’s ‘let’s let the law of man handle them once I capture them’ was thrown out the window when he finally downs the Elite and has the robots take their powers away at the crystal castle.

    So I thought it was great in the beginning tackling some interesting philosophical issues in an action packed way. Then it turned to a cliche’d weak ending of a movie. Disappointing.

    • I agree with you but i have to say that I think you missed one thing. Throughout the film Supes had this unfailing loyalty to established government and the law. There have been multiple times and situations in which the law has failed. I dont know much about Supes but I found it irrational that he could possess such loyalty to the system when he has a colleague like Batman. Batman came to exist because of corruption and the law falling short in his city. Everyone wants to believe that the law protects us and does not fail us but this is a lie.

      • I think Superman appears to have an unfailing loyalty to the law and the government because he believes in its intention, to protect and serve a free society-Superman is the ultimate idealist. It’s the people involved that corrupt the law. The human corruption is what created Batman as well. It’s not the failure of the Law, it’s the failure of the people, along with incorruptible ideals that allow the two characters to be functional allies.

    • Well said.

      You know as well as I do that the Elite had to have criminal records so that the audience would turn on them. If they were just philosophically opposed, then more people would agree with their position.

      They also had to be portrayed as sinister with strong personal flaws. Manchester Black was smarmy and flippant. Cold Cast was always frowning unless he was being thuggish or sadistic. Menagerie was portrayed as a murderous slut. Hat was a littering, undisciplined drunk.

      If these guys were honorable, disciplined and generally normal people, then 90% of the arguments against them evaporate.

      In the beginning of the movie, Superman even says “I’m not anyone’s judge and jury.”, yet he does unilaterally decide to remove the powers from the Elites. It doesn’t hold up.

      • It does hold up. Remember what Manchester Black says to Superman in the final battle. He calls Big Blue a,”Self-righteous hypocrite!” And if you look at the film objectively; this is undeniable… The 1st Rule that MB mentions is: “Those with power make the rules.” The Man of Steel does this the entire film.

        You know its ironic… Superman refuses to take a life, but is incapable of having a “Live and let live.” attitude. With Supes, its always “My way or the highway.” (When it comes to superhero conduct.) I think what would have been even better than not having The Elite not have a sordid past — would have been if The Elite said to Superman:

        “Look… You do things your way and we`ll do things our way. And let`s stay out of each others way. If you want to use “kid-gloves” with criminals, that`s your buisness. Look, I`m not trying to tug on your cape Superman ;) But you need to “Stop trying to tell Jack Bauer how to do his job!

        But I will say this though; I thought how Superman decided to deal with The Elite was justified and satisfactory. Seeing as how they were trying to kill him. I like how Superman showed that there is another way. There is a choice other than death or incarceration. A birds wings can be clipped. A sharks teeth can be pulled out. So why shouldn`t it be possible for a meta-human to be stripped of his or her power if thier misusing it?!

        The question is: Who decides what constitutes as an abuse of superpowers?

        I agree with you that DC Comics rigged the game.Trying to make the messengers (The Elite) more important than message (How should evil be confronted and dealt with?) Clearly favoring one side of the arguement over the other.As they often do.Like in the 1st season of Justice League Unlimited when Superman (interestingly enough) spoke of the JLU taking the fight to Cadmus Labs, the argument ends with The Flash saying, “Granny Flash use to say, “An “Eye for an eye.” leaves the whole world blind.”

        No one is permitted to say that “Eye for an eye.” is not so much about revenge and bloodlust, but rather “PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE & Equality of suffering.”

    • Superman is a zealot when it comes to “Thou shall not kill.” Nothing makes this abundantly more self-evident than Clark Kent`s final written words to Lois Lane before his battle with The Elite:

      “BELIEVE ALWAYS BELIEVE.”

      Okay… if that`s not the Motto of a fanatic; I don`t know what is ;) So a person should continue to have faith in an idea even if all evidence to the contrary disproves thier assertions? The Cathlic Church kept “believing” that the sun revolved around the earth and persecuted those who did not based upon scientific inquiry. Some today still “Climate Change/Global Warming is b.s.There are people today who almost seem to take pride in making up there own facts or living in the Fox News bubble.

      They say that the definition of insanity is: Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Isn`t this how Kal-El is in Superman Vs Elite? I love how in this movie the people give weigh in on the issue as well.They speak thier mind about Superman & The Elite and have very interesting and intelligent points of view on it all.I love how they are not portrayed as being fickle. And all… Out with the old in with the new.They have legitimate concerns and they voice them.

      Its clear that Superman`s approval rating is way down and many might give him a Vote of No-Confidence if they could. He even sort of acknowleges this when he`s back on the farm talking to his folks. So for me: If the films message is ” Might does not make right.” Then just because Superman defeated The Elite: doesn`t mean that he`s right. He just won the battle. Not the argument :)

  18. Still waiting for Superman: Red Son. Would love to see the WB Animators emulate Dave Johnson’s artistic style.

  19. Was skeptical about the film at first, but impressed to see George Newbern involved with voiceover work, especially after reading this interview with him: http://voicecoaches.com/blog/2012/06/vo-behind-the-scenes-superman-vs-the-elite/

  20. I finally rented this last night. Not a bad film but I wasn’t that impressed, mainly because of the animation. Also, Lois had brown hair! WTH!!

  21. when i heard the animation wasn’t that good i was expecting worse but i thought the animation served it’s purpose, it’s nothing to write home about but it’s not god awful. you hit the nail on the head when you said this would appeal to the batman crowd, counting myself among them, this was really interesting to watch with the questions it raises. i thought the british accents seemed fake so i was surprised to find robin atkin downes was british. maybe he was asked to play it up or maybe it’s just me, who knows. didn’t sound right to me. favourite line has to be when lois comments on “having an app for that” after hearing about the teleporter.

    wasn’t the best thing i’ve seen, far from it but it raised good questions and made good points on both sides and leaves the floor open after viewing for debate on the death penalty and morality in the modern world.

  22. good storyline just like all star superman but graphics is kinda questionable. I would love to get this movie

  23. Admittedly, the fundamental question posed in this movie is timely and interesting. For all his power, Superman’s ideals restrain him from killing, which means that it is only a matter of time before those he imprisons escape to cause more death and mayhem. The Elite have no such restraint, and exterminate threats forever.

    The question is cleanly posed, but in order to answer it (and answer it in a way palatable to the DC audience), the writers had to malign the members of the Elite. The ad hominem was an unnecessary muddying of the waters. This is very much a movie debating the merits of the death penalty, although the writers turned it into a piece about how slimy and mean the executioners are. Slimy or not, the death penalty is an entirely separate issue.

    Superman’s closing sermon is self righteous trash. It doesn’t answer the question “why do we put dangerous, murderous super villains in jails they keep escaping from rather than just kill them?”. Instead, it tries to say that “violence isn’t ever the answer”, which I’m sure we’ll all remember the next time Superman gets into a fight.

    Superman doesn’t have to worry about being collateral damage. He doesn’t have to worry about being shot or mugged or run over by a car or blown up by a villain’s powers. Because he’s essentially a god, he can afford not to take any of this stuff seriously. Humans do, and the conclusion is a frankly insulting imposition of Superman’s ideals on the audience.

  24. @ Kofi Outlaw: Actually I was sort of blown away by its “visual splender and action scenes.” :D I never read the comic book story but I rented Superman Vs. The Elite the other day in HD on Flex View: and while I did think that it looked more like a Saturday morning than a Feature Film, the interesting subject matter and breathtaking visuals like the sunset at the Kent`s Farm made up for that.

    And concerning the action chorography: I was really amazed at how well Superman and The Elite fought together! They were like a well oiled machine.The way they worked together to save those people trapped in that train under water and how they took down the Atomic Skull together was impressive. This made it all the more tragic that they were unable to find common ground with Superman and continue to be allies :(

    Its been awhile since I cheered and applauded while watching a Superhero movie. But this one got me to a couple of times :) Like when Superman stopped the fighter pilots and bombers from killing anyone. More than that though: I think this may be the best Superman film ever made… live-action or animated. Every photographer seeks to capture the essense of the subject of thier photograph. Whether its a person, place or thing.

    I feel that Superman Vs Elite does this in spades! It showcases who Kal-El is.What he believes. And what he`s willing to fight and (potentially) die for. Better than any other Superman film or TV Series has. If you didn`t know who The Last Son of Krypton was. This film says and shows everthing you need to know; and would make one hell of a first impression :P

  25. Personally I found the biggest drawback was the art style. It was way too childishly cartoony and even within the realm of children cartoons amateurish.
    This felt more like the slop they did on teen titans than the amazing Bruce Timm style movies.

    Whoever led this art team was way too into over-exaggerated eyes emoting and asinine facial expressions. Even superman was emoting like a silly ass cartoon.

    I was able to ignore the art for the most part, but just like when humberto ramos draws Xmen, I am annoyed through most of it.

  26. I can’t believe I made it through this whole review without see The Authourity mentioned once. “What’s so funny about…” was actually DCs sendup of The Authourity, by Warren Ellis, which raised these same questions FAR more expertly. They even had a “big blue Boy Scout” Superman analog called The High, whose idealistic approach indirectly got him killed.

    I would recommend that anyone who watched Superman vs. the Elite and came away confused or wanting, go read volume 1 of the Authourity and the underlying message will make far more sense.

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