Just say no Kal-el: A review of 'Superman/Batman: Public Enemies'

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is a new direct-to-DVD film set in an alternate DC universe where everybody takes ungodly amounts of steroids.

Seriously, that's the only conclusion I can come to as to why every single character in this movie, even the civilians, has a neck -- when they have a neck at all -- that's wider than their goddamned skull. Seriously, their heads look like they've been bolted on. And that's to say nothing of the endless oceans of muscles that ripple across everyone's bodies. The entire planet is obviously juiced to the max.

But the display of over the top physiques really shouldn't surprise me. At it's heart, Public Enemies is your typical uber-macho buddy action movie, and just as dumb and sexist as most of them to boot. It's the comic nerd's version of Tango and Cash.

The plot involves Lex Luthor becoming president. The U.S. populace, you see, has become desperate. How desperate? Why they're destroying poor, innocent newspaper vending machines just to collect the loose change!! Obviously the parking meters are charging a fortune in this universe. Perhaps the steroids are needed just to smash the vending machines.

Anyway, Lex promises hope, or evil, or something, and gets elected. He then manipulates the media into thinking that Superman is public enemy number one and puts a billion dollar bounty on his head. Can Superman, with the help of his bestest friend Batman, clear his name, reveal Lex's treacherous machinations and prevent a radioactive meteorite from destroying the planet. Do I really have to ask that question?

All this plot stuff though is really just an excuse to show one action scene after another. If you're a devoted DC fanboy, who has waited all your life to, say, watch Hawkman, Captain Marvel and DC's two biggest mainstays play Smack My Bitch Up, then you'll be in hog heaven. Numerous second banana villains and heroes make cameo appearances here, but only for the express purpose of getting hit. There's actually a scene where Superman and Batman should sensibly attempt to get out of Dodge quickly and Superman says "Naw, I want to stick around and hit some more people." Or words to that effect.

Honestly, it's a bit unfair to the actors who've been paid good money for these meager supporting roles. What's the point of hiring LeVar Burton to voice Black Lightning if he's only got one line? And it amounts to something like "Yes, I can do that thing you ask of me."

Actually, I take back what I said two paragraphs ago, the battle scenes are nowhere near as important as the insufferable, uber-macho dialogue that Superman and Batman must constantly banter about in order to show that beneath their tough exterior they really, really care about one another maaaaan. The constant Lethal Weapon-style teasing set my back teeth on edge. (Bat: "Why don't you do me a favor and lose the sense of humor? Supe: "Why don't you do us both a favor and get one?" Oh, the hee-lar-ity.)

The best example of the boys club mentality that pervades this movie is its depiction of Power Girl. Apart from showing off her Everest-sized breasts (and seri0usly, even compared with her depiction in comics, those are some big melons) she has absolutely nothing to do. Her main role in the film consists of fretting a lot, biting her bee-stung lips and acting all indecisive. You know, just like a girl. The one moment she manages to actually use her powers she ends up inadvertently killing someone. So she's incompetent as well as whiny.

There's other examples of the sort of dumbed-down adolescent attitudes on display, like the bleeped swear words in the opening segment (Oooo! Suggested profanity! How edgy!) or the fact that despite all the excessive violence there's not a single drop of blood. I mean, Superman gets shot in the freakin' chest and there's not so much as a trickle of hemoglobin.

The movie is fanboy pandering at it's most base and basic level. Even the special features, like a dinner where the actors and producers engage in a game of "No, you're way more awesome than me," or a pseudo-documentary on the characters where they actually get a psychiatrist to come out and say there's nothing wrong with Batman's psychological make-up, no siree, smack of of that sort of over-the-top justification that grown men sometimes offer up to justify reading Teen Titans.

Like a lot of recent DC animated movies, Public Enemies wants it both ways. They want to appear edgy and ever so slightly "adult" in order to appeal to the older fan base that wants to see Superman and Batman high-five each other without feeling childish about doing so. Unlike the past films, it fails to be entertaining enough to forgive that huge flaw. It's a shame really, because this could have made a really good kids or all-ages film. If it weren't for all the 'roid abuse that is.

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