Josh Reviews the Legion of Super-Heroes Animated Movie
Legion of Super-Heroes is the latest direct-to-blu-ray DC animated movie. It’s a well-made depiction of the classic DC team of futuristic super-heroic teens. The story opens with the origin of Kara Zor-El, Supergirl. We see how she survived the destruction of Krypton and then we cut to her life in present-day Metropolis. She’s trying to be a hero in her own right, like her grown-up cousin Kal-El (Superman), but she’s struggling with adapting to life on Earth, a planet that feels very primitive to her compared to Krypton. Superman comes up with the idea of using a time-traveling Legion ring to send Kara to the future, where she can interact with super-powered teens just like herself, in a futuristic world much closer to that of Krypton. Kara is excited for the adventure, but she quickly gets swept up in a mystery and a potential dangerous threat to the Legion of Super-Heroes…
I quite enjoyed this film! It’s a very solid and entertaining story, with crisp animation, some great action, and fun characters.
I love that Supergirl was at the story’s center. (This really should have been called Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I feel like the creators knew that, because on the cover there’s a huge S Shield behind the Legion of Super-Heroes title. Maybe they thought having Supergirl in the title wouldn’t sell?)
The movie opens with a terrific version of Supergirl’s origin; possibly the best I’ve seen. The design of this portion of Krypton looked terrific. I loved seeing the crystal Kryptonian style of tech, as seen in 1978’s Superman: The Movie. I loved the way we were introduced to both Kara and her mom, Alura. The film does a great job at establishing both of their characters very quickly. I actually got a bit emotional when Alura puts Kara in the escape pod, even though I knew that was coming. That was very well done!
I was a little surprised they skipped over Kara’s being found on Earth and connecting with Clark. I understand narratively why they did that, but I was so hooked into the origin sequence that I wanted to see Kara’s next step!
But I enjoyed that they jumped right into an action sequence, featuring both Superman and Batman! That was a fun surprise! I loved this depiction of how Superman and Batman work together. Their relationship was spot-on.
I really enjoyed Kara’s arc in this story. It makes sense that Kara, who grew up on Krypton, would have a much harder time adjusting to Earth than Clark, who was just a baby when he left Krypton. For Kara, Earth feels so primitive, and she knows it’s not her home. That all makes perfect sense for the character, and I enjoyed the way the film depicted her growth from that point.
I loved getting this film’s depiction of the classic Legion of Super-Heroes characters. They make an interesting choice not to focus on the most famous Legion characters, but on some of the supporting ones. That makes sense to try to avoid what’s gone before and to tell new stories with somewhat lesser-known characters. It was a pleasure seeing these great characters from the comics brought to life on screen. I particularly loved the depiction of Brainiac 5, and the way the film charts his and Kara’s relationship to one another. That story went to places that surprised me! I enjoyed that a lot.
The voice cast was terrific, as per usual for these DC animated films. Meg Donnelly was fantastic as Kara/Supergirl. She played this character just right. She feels like a teenager; energetic and also a little angsty. But she didn’t ever lay on any of the teenager stuff too thickly. Kara felt like a real character to me. I also loved Harry Shum Jr. as Brainiac 5; he really developed Brainiac into an interesting character.
More thoughts on this animated film (beware some minor SPOILERS in this section):
- I laughed at the joke about how “Solomon Grundy” and “born on a Monday” (Grundy’s famous limerick) don’t actually rhyme. But then they go and kill the joke by having the Flash repeat it later. D’oh!
- It’s interesting to me that, in this movie, Superman has already met the Legion. And the main Legion kids are already grown up! So much time has already passed in this new animated continuity! That’s an interesting and surprising choice. On the one hand, it feels like we’ve skipped a lot of important steps. On the other hand, this new animated continuity has already basically caught up to modern DC Comics continuity, which makes it feel like they can tell of-the-moment stories, as opposed to just retreading material created decades ago. I am all for that.
- There’s a lot of gruesome stuff in this film! I liked that! I loved seeing the shriveled old Brainiac head with hole through its forehead in Star Labs. And the Zombie Brainiac we see at the end is pretty wild!! Also, that shot of one of the Legion characters’ corpses was quite a surprise to me. (And were the senior Legionnaires murdered by the Dark Circle goons?? I think they were!)
- Batman is fantastic here. I love that he’s already at Star Labs waiting for the bad guys. I love “No guns.”
- I wish Kara and her friends didn’t make such a huge ruckus breaking into the vault; that feels like a huge plot hole to me, because they’d said just a minute before that the senior Legionnaires were on patrol. They should have been on Kara & co. in a second.
- I wish they hadn’t walked back, at the end, what happened to Triplicate Girl. She’s presented here more like Marvel’s Madrox the Multiple Man, in which she’s unaffected by the death of one of her duplicates. I was more interested in Brian Michael Bendis’ take, from his recent run on the Legion of Super-Heroes comic book series, in which he depicted how she had to deal with a tremendous psychological shock when she thought that one of her three-some had been killed.
- I thought it was a great scene of Kara’s temptation at the end. That felt properly earned by what had gone before, which made the ending nicely effective. (Sometimes in stories like this we see the hero tempted by the villain, but it feels fake or obvious that the hero isn’t going to turn to the dark side. It’s of course clear here too that Supergirl is going to make the right choice, but I like how well the film worked up to the climax to show that she would be tempted by the opportunity to recreate her lost Krypton, and to be reunited with her mother.)
- As the film ended, I was bummed that we didn’t get one more scene at the end with Batman and Superman, to wrap up the present day side of the story. But then we got a great post-credits scene that gave me what I wanted, plus a fun cliffhanger tease of the next movie.
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