A Superman & Batman 1st meeting done right.
While most people today will think of the 2016 live-action movie Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice when you talk about a Batman and Superman movie, there have been many other preceding it, though these were all animated features. Batman/Superman: Public Enemies and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse to name just two, but the one I remember the best and am taking a look at today is the Batman/Superman Movie: World's Finest. Originally a three-part story from Superman: The Animated series serving as a crossover with The New Batman Adventures airing in 1997, it was later released on DVD and VHS as its own standalone movie. I got back into the DC animated universe lately, which this movie is a part of in case you didn't know, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts on it with you all. Just like the universe it's a part of, the Batman/Superman Movie: World's Finest is one of the best pieces of animated DC Superhero entertainment out there.
Let's dive in.
The Joker indeed travelled to Metropolis and strikes a deal with Luthor. If Joker manages to kill Superman, Lex will pay him one billion dollars. After he takes over a Metropolis criminal gang, Batman goes to interrogate one of the criminals but is interrupted by Superman. After a tense standoff, Superman uses his X-ray vision to see under the cowl and learns that Batman and Bruce Wayne are one and the same. In turn, Batman places a tracker on Superman's cape and so learns his secret identity as well. With both the Joker and Lex Luthor plotting their demise, it's up to our heroes to find common ground and work together to take them both down and save the day.
What I immediately liked about the movie is that it dives right in. Maybe it's because I've become so used to the basic structure of the Arrowverse crossovers, but seeing it all start with the Joker instead of Superman (whose this crossover was produced for) felt very refreshing. It sets the right tone, that this is a Superman & Batman adventure, not just a Superman thing with Batman only guest starring.
|'Stop me if you've heard this one before: two super-villains are sitting in the back of a limousine...'|
This is further reinstated in the fact that the screen-time the two get is about equal. The movie puts in the effort to balance its cast and make the most out of them while they've got them all in the same thing. It's a lot of fun to see the characters of both shows interact with each other. From the equally successful yet differently motivated businessmen Bruce and Lex, the Joker trying to take down the near invulnerable Superman to even the surprisingly fun rivalry between Harley Quinn and Mercy Graves, it all a treat to behold.
It's in these departments that the movie benefits from being set within the DCAU. These version of the characters have already been established. We already know what these characters are about, they've had time to grow and both the voice actors and writers have had time to get comfortable with them. Because of this, their characterization is done very well a, there's a much better understanding of who these characters are. They truly feel like Batman and Superman. This makes their interactions especially interesting and gives the entire story more weight to it.
Another benefit from the DCAU? The animation, music and the choice of voice actors. Even though it's over 20 years old, the animation has held up considerably well over the years. It's not as crisp as something like Justice League vs. Fatal Five for example, and there a few moments here and there that the quality drips a bit but that's about it. The design of the Joker (unlike the rest of the characters) isn't the greatest out there, but it's functional and the energy the animation gives him more than makes up for it. The animation is still good 20 years later and honestly, I find that its age gives it some extra charm.
The music falls in the same category as the animation. It's very well done, the score of both Superman and Batman shows are iconic and are brought together very well. Its, again old, something which is especially noticeable in the sound effects, but it's not bad at all and is quite charming really. The cast is filled with iconic voice actors for these characters, which makes sense. Most of these actors have become iconic in these roles because of these DC animated shows and all of them bring their A-game here.
If all this talk about the DCAU makes you wonder if this movie only works if you've already seen the Superman and Batman animated shows, don't you worry. The movie is written in such a way that you can follow it with no problem. Seeing their respective shows first before this movie will certainly make the experience more fulfilling, but isn't required to enjoy it at all.
I've sung a lot of praises here, the movie is really good after all, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its flaws. The one department that the movie really falters in is the romance between Bruce and Lois. I just didn't buy it for even a millisecond. I understand that Batman must uphold his Bruce Wayne playboy persona and that striking something up with Lois Lane also gave him information on Superman, but I don't think to have Bruce genuinely fall in love with Lois made sense. Sure, it makes Bruce's behaviour less manipulative and did give Batman and Superman something to bond over, but still. It wasn't executed very well I feel and as a viewer, you know that this romance will lead nowhere, so it just ended feeling like a waste.
|Yeah, noting says: 'I'm not here to fight you' better then dangling a piece of Kryptonite right in front of Superman's face.|
Another problem the movie has is pacing. As the movie is essentially three episodes stitched together, the movie has three different beginnings, middles and ends. This is not a huge problem, but I did notice it and I felt it did somewhat break up the flow of the movie. Some scenes are also a bit longer or a bit shorter than absolutely necessary but again, not a deal-breaker.
Batman/Superman Movie: World's Finest is one very good movie. It has a well-written story featuring two very well-realized versions of Superman and Batman teaming up to fight their arch-nemeses. It features very good animation and music, if not a little dated, alongside an iconic voice cast. Some problems, like pacing issues and a romance sub-plot that just isn't believable, isn't enough to keep this movie down. It's a thoroughly enjoyable experience, for people both familiar and unfamiliar with the characters, and is well worth its time.