SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES
Batman and Superman had previously been paired up on screen by Bruce Timms people in The Batman-Superman Movie: Worlds Finest (1998), although that was less a film than a release made up out of a three-episode story that aired on the Superman series. There had even been a Batman vs Superman live-action movie announced during the 1990s. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies adapts a six-episode story The Worlds Finest (2003-4) that appeared in the first issue of DCs ongoing Superman/Batman title, a monthly series that pairs the two heroes together and pointedly makes contrast between their opposing views on crimefighting. The script is adapted by Stan Berkowitz who has worked on almost all of the DC animated (and a good number of Marvel) tv series throughout the 1990s, even as far back as Superboy (1988-92), while director Sam Liu rose up out of the ranks of the rival non-Timm produced DC animated series The Batman (2004-8). The film has made a point of reuniting Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy and Clancy Brown who did sterling jobs in voicing Superman, Batman and Lex Luthor respectively in the various 1990s tv series though others have taken over the roles in some of the films, these three actors remain the best and it is great seeing them back on screen.
Bruce Timms various series and films have been some of the best DC adaptations ever conducted. He and his writers pay a great deal of respect to DC continuity far more so than the live-action adaptations and are constantly winding in appearances from minor characters, while the scripts are written with depths of adult characterisation. Moreover, his directors stage the superheroic action with an exhilarating kick. All of that said, I felt disappointed with Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The peculiar criticism might be made that it does all the things that the Bruce Timm superhero series do well paying respect to DC continuity and creating dazzling superhero action sequences and you feel it should work well as a result. Disappointingly, this happens to be the whole of the film and perhaps one was expecting more than that.
There are times the entirety of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies feels like one long piece of fanservice to DC Comics fans. There are an amazing number of obscure super-villains resurrected from various DC titles Metallo, Gorilla Grodd, Solomon Grundy, Bane, Mongul, Silver Banshee, Nightshade, Giganta, a quartet of frozen villains with Captain Cold, Icicle, Killer Frost and Mr Freeze, and unspeaking appearances from Black Manta, Black Spider, Brimstone, Brutale, Captain Boomerang, Catman, Cheetah, Copperhead, Deadshot, Despero, Girder, Kestrel, King Shark, Lady Shiva, Parasite and Shrike. Some of these are such obscure characters that, even though I was a reasonable DC reader in my teens, I had to go and look up who they were. There is also a lesser line-up of superheroes, including an unnamed team made up of Captain Atom, Power Girl (an alternate version of Supergirl depending on which DC retcon you follow), Starfire, Black Lightning, Katana and Major Force, as well as appearances from Hawkman and Captain Marvel. (There is a great scene where Superman and Captain Marvel are trading fisticuffs, which is appropriate given that the two were bitter rivals at different comic-book companies during the 1940s, before DC purchased the rights to Captain Marvel).
The entire film seems premised on not much more than bringing various obscure characters out of mothballs for one giant-sized punch up. The minus point is that there is not much more to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies than this. The film has a surprisingly brief running time of only 67 minutes it could easily have sustained another 20 minutes, which would have allowed it to fill the running time out with more in the way of story, which it greatly needs. Despite the profusion of superheroic fight scenes, none of these are truly standout and dazzling as they were in say Superman: Doomsday and most of the other film releases, while the animation is of a lesser quality than has been sustained on some of the more recent DC Universe Animated Original Movies.
The story is also weaker with some aspects not entirely credibly developed like Lex Luthors out-of-the-blue decision to destroy all of humanity or his emergence in a power-suit as a megalomaniacal super-villain shooting up Kryptonite like it were steroids. There is also a contrived visit to Japan to meet The Toyman, a teen genius (the films most original character) who has improbably built a giant robot that is designed down either side as one half Superman, the other half Batman, which then becomes an opportunity for the film to pay homage to an entire genre of giant mecha anime tv series.