Oct 02 2013
As my first installment of Unreality Reader Recommendation was about Under the Hood, an animated DC feature, the other suggestions that came at the end of the post were mostly also animated superhero features. While that’s not meant to be the entire theme of the column, I felt I owed it to you guys to give another one a try since Red Hood went so well.
We’re staying in the DC universe this week, but switching from Batman to Superman. Specifically, Superman vs. The Elite. I knew nothing about this film going in, but it was suggested by a few of you so I figured there had to be something to it.
Superman vs. The Elite tells the story of our famed spandexed hero interacting with a new group of superheroes, The Elite. The title may imply that they’re not exactly the good guys, but it takes a bit of time to get to that point.
Rather, when they first show up, the Elite don’t seem so bad. There’s Hat, a magician who pulls demons out of his hat, Menagarie, a flying gargoyle woman who has a bunch of alien worms do her bidding, Coldcast, a dude who uh, shoots energy, and Manchester Black, their fearless leader and a powerful telekinetic.
All is well initially as they assist Superman with some key world events include dispatching of a monstrous bioweapon and saving a train from an underwater tunnel collapse. But Superman begins to suspect their true nature when the team starts torturing the terrorists responsible for information, and being outright slaughtering them eventually.
Superman vs. The Elite is almost entirely about the central question of Superman. Why doesn’t he kill? In this world, the public has started to grow tired of Superman and his boy scout ways. When he locks up a villain like the Atomic Skull instead of killing him, the Skull simply lives to escape another day, and kill even more people later.
The Elite position themselves as the answer to Superman’s apparently archaic philosophy. In one of the film’s best moments, Manchester tells Superman how it is.
“They don’t want to see a nanny spank the bad guys, they want a surgeon who cuts the cancer out, and makes sure it never comes back.”
Eventually, The Elite turn their attention from the villains of the world to Superman himself, and stage an epic brawl to rid the world of him once and for all. After apparently killing Superman, he comes back with a vengeance and slaughters the members of the Elite team, and renders Manchester powerless through a heat vision lobotomy.
Unleashed Superman is the scariest Superman.
“I finally bought what you were selling,” an enraged Superman screams as Manchester can’t believe the demon has finally been unleashed inside the man.
But it’s all a ruse. Superman didn’t kill anyone, and ensured Metropolis was kept safe from the conflict via his army of super-bots. The cameras capturing the whole thing prove to the world that if violence WAS the means to rid the world of evil, it would be a very scary thing.
The entire movie functions as not just commentary about Superman and his philosophy, but really the entire United States of America, which is called out directly by the English Manchester more than once. Made in 2012, the film is meant to make the audience think about if zipping around the world assassinating terrorists with drones is really how “justice” should function.
The film is incredibly well presented, though I’m not sure if Superman wins the argument in the end. I will never understand personally or karmically why it’s wrong for Superman to kill a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds, thousands or millions, be it The Elite or any other of his foes. In real life, it’s why I can’t oppose the death penalty for a serial killer. In the film, we watch as the escaped Atomic Skull kills a good friend of Supes, along with a lot of other innocents. How is Superman in turn not at least indirectly responsible for that after sparing him so many times before? The crowd cheers when Manchester executes the Skull on the spot, and honestly, who could blame them?
Vader force chokes work in other universes too.
Both Batman and Superman have this code, but it’s never really explained in a way that makes much sense. Superman vs. The Elite does the best job of it I’ve seen, but that said, it’s supposed to add up but I’m not sure it does. Superman can’t kill because that’s simply part of his core. Whether his core is supposed to universally apply to all situations not matter what, well, that’s an argument I’m not sure you can make. Granted, this is a philosophical question that goes far beyond the DC universe, and I think this film is at least a good framework for discussion about it.
It was interesting to see Superman in a new style, as this is not the “New Adventures of Superman” type of animation we’ve seen from the TV cartoons. Rather, it’s different animation, different voices. I didn’t really like Superman himself visually, but they did a really great job with Lois Lane and The Elite. Their voicework especially was top notch, considering I hadn’t heard of anyone involved.
Whether I agree with the moral of the story is beside the point, this was an expertly made feature and presented a more coherent and interesting story than anything I’ve seen in any of the live action Superman films to date. Great recommendation guys.
Alright, what’s it going to be for next week? Remember it doesn’t have to be more things in this genre. It can be a movie, show, game, book, whatever. Just let me know what I should be consuming and writing about!
More Unreal Posts