Distributor: Warner Premiere / Warner Home Video
Age Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 74 min.
Release Date: 06/12/2012
Writer: Joe Kelly
Director: Michael Chang
Do morality and ethics matter in the 21st century when it comes to killing super villains or terrorists? In Superman vs. The Elite, Superman encounters a new team of superheroes but soon realizes they lack a code of ethics and are willing to kill and endanger anyone in their way. As a final showdown against the Elite becomes inevitable, Superman begins to question his own place in the modern age.
Superman vs. The Elite is a story with a bit of sociopolitical commentary at the forefront. This is in sharp contrast to the previous direct-to-video movie, Justice League: Doom, and essentially all of the other DC Universe/DC Comics Premiere Movies, when it was merely subtext hidden in the background. The movie places Superman directly in a post-9/11 world where terrorism, political intrigue, international law, and war test what he preaches - Truth, Justice, and the American way.
Lois Lane isn't sold and immediately questions Clark Kent about it like any decent Jiminy Cricket would. But her thought provoking statements melt away when, in reality, Atomic Skull appears and kills innocent bystanders.
Superman eventually defeats Skull. And after momentarily considering a dark fantasy about ending the villain once and for all, Superman carries him off to Stryker's Island Penitentiary.
Elsewhere, a new group of heroes called the Elite begin their search for Superman. Superman, meanwhile, is engaged in a debate at a United Nations building with Professor Baxter. When asked point blank why he doesn't kill repeat metahuman felons, Superman reiterates he will never be judge, jury, and executioner, nor will be place himself above the law. News breaks out and Superman hurries to Tamarev, capital of the Eastern Bloc nation Bialya. A bioweapon is unleashed in the city. Superman and the Elite team up to take out the beast. In the aftermath, Superman "tests" them out and learns more about their origins while Lois does some digging of her own in England.
Superman finally does the math and realizes some things aren't adding up. It comes to a head when Atomic Skull escapes Stryker's even more powerful than before. Manchester Black, a member of The Elite, influenced by a life of anger, fear, and vengeance, tires of Superman's lead and takes matters into his own hands. At the behest of the crowd, Black executes Atomic Skull. When The Elite begins to "clean up" Bialya and Pokolistan, Superman has had enough and strikes down Black. Even if it means his own death, Superman contends he must stand up for humanity. A dramatic battle takes place on the moon where Superman is seemingly killed. However, he emerges and accepts the Elite's doctrine... then picks them off one by one until only Manchester Black is left.
The people start to realize the error of their ways and Superman reveals the Elite were all alive, stripped of their powers, and being transported to prison. Superman's Super-Bots helped save bystanders and create a mock scenario. Black contends he won't give up and Superman retorts he won't either.
Like Judd Winick writing a script for one of his own comic book stories in Batman: Under The Red Hood, Joe Kelly had the task of adapting his one shot "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" from Action Comics #775, and into a 75-minute movie. In comparison to the former, Superman vs. The Elite takes full advantage of the freedom of a PG-13 rating and the format to expand and enrich the original story. However, the conclusion is morally ambiguous. Even though Superman won the fight, it felt like the ideological war still raged on. Black wasn't absolutely wrong, just relatively, and Superman proved his methods still had relevance.
However, the character designs came off as inconsistent and lacked a uniform look that other movies had no issue with. Some characters look cartoony and huge-jawed while others are depicted in a more realistic fashion.
The cast chosen for this movie was an interesting mix of DC animation vets like George Newbern as "Superman," David Kaufman as "Jimmy Olsen," and Robin Atkin Downes with a new role as "Manchester Black," with newcomers such as NCIS's Pauley Perrette as "Lois Lane." This is also the first movie that didn't involve voice director Andrea Romano, but Dawn Hershey instead. Robert Kral is the composer for this movie, instead of Christopher Drake, and brings back a few pieces from past Superman movies echoing throughout.
Overall, Superman vs. The Elite is a must-have purchase. The film presents a provocative commentary on current events as layered with what makes Superman, Superman. We can only hope Man of Steel will live up to the storytelling Superman vs. The Elite, All-Star Superman, and Superman Doomsday have amazed us with.