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Following up on February's premiere of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (read our story HERE), DC and Warner Bros. proudly debuted their latest DC Universe animated film Superman/Batman: Apocalypse last week! Bringing back the 'trinity' of the DC comics universe along with newcomers Supergirl and Darkseid, the film releases on DVD, Blu-ray and more on September 28th. To promote the film two screenings were held last week - one in Beverly Hills and one in New York City. I was lucky enough to attend the West Coast premiere!
The Red Carpet
Just like in the fall, the main event took place at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills featuring the very first screening. While some tickets were available to the public, most were reserved for media and press. Before the film began those of us in the "press corps" were invited to interview and take photos of the film's cast and crew on the Paley Center red carpet. The room was surrounded by posters for the film, which looked really cool.
Andrea Romano, casting/dialogue director for Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
First up was Andrea Romano, casting/dialogue director for Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (not to mention nearly 100 other animated project stretching back all the way to 1984)! The always pleasant Romano was eager to discuss this project. I asked her what was "new and different" about S/B: Apocalypse, to which she replied that it's the first time in the DC films we'll be seeing Darkseid! And he won't be simply a rehash of the character from the animated series, but even more evil, with an elegant side as portrayed by Andre Braugher. Also appearing for the first time is Supergirl, who provides a whole new view of the DC universe – innocent and ignorant of culture. Andrea described the film's "dichotomies: there's a more sophisticated Darkseid and the innocent Supergirl, and at the same time the pair of Superman and Batman. Then there's the issue of the first new Kryptonian (other than Superman); Kal-El and Kara didn’t even know each other existed!" When asked about the return of Tim Daly as Superman Romano recalled his "great acting ability. He has friendliness, and while he's not dark (that's Batman), he is tremendously strong. He's a perfect everyday good guy."
Susan Eisenberg, voice of Wonder Woman
Next up was Susan Eisenberg, who triumphantly returns to the role of Wonder Woman which she essentially defined in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon series. I asked her about this, and she enthusiastically agreed "I'm back as Wonder Woman! It's been six years, so I basically put away the character. It's been thrilling." Asked about what was different or the same, she said "it was easy because it was the same crowd. Wonder Woman looks a little different. She's tougher, kickin' butt in lots of big action scenes." Apocalypse also features a return to the island of the Amazons, Themyscira. Susan noted that "there are some new Amazon characters too, in addition to Supergirl who's also different from what she was in the Justice League series. Wonder Woman is more grown up, and becomes a mentor to Supergirl." Considering whether there were any notable Wonder Woman lines, Susan recalled an interesting tidbit. "When the trailer came out there was a Wonder Woman line, but they used temp audio. I had to tell people that it wasn't me in the trailer, but I am in the movie!"
Rachel Quaintance, voice of Lyla and Artemis
Just like in every DC Animated feature, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse features some new voice talent alongside those who have played before. In dual Amazon roles is Rachel Quaintance, who was up next on the red carpet. She described her experience as "very interesting. It was my first time voice acting, and my introduction to these movies and comics. Lyla [the superheroine known as Harbinger] is introspective, while Artemis is much more aggressive." I asked Rachel which character related more to her, which elicited a laugh. "Well," she replied, "Lyla is the prettiest, but it was all fun!" Her favorite part was the acting, which she described as "smaller, requiring a whole new skill and style." Rachel is only just now beginning to understand what it means to be involved in the DC Universe, and is incredibly thankful to the loyal fanbase.
Lauren Montgomery, Director of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Swinging by for a brief interview was Apocalypse's director, Lauren Montgomery. A true veteran in the field, Montgomery previously directed Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Green Lantern: First Flight, Wonder Woman, and Superman/Doomsday! Asked how she chooses her films, Lauren divulged that "there's a list of projects at Warner Brothers, and the directors are assigned to the films. I was really excited to do this one because of all of the strong female characters. And there's plenty of what the fans like: the fighting! There are even lots of girl fights. But, there's also a heart-warming story." I asked Lauren about how she approached the different planets seen in the film. "It was very organic to the source material [the film is based on the DC storyline Superman/Batman: The Supergirl from Krypton]. We started with the look and went from there." Coming up next for Lauren is a segment in the anthology Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, and then Batman: Year One, which will emulate the classic story all the way down to the art style!
Tim Daly, voice of Superman
Next up was the biggest star of the night, film and television star Tim Daly! If you didn't know, when it comes to animation Daly IS Superman. Way back in 1996 he starred in the Superman television series, which solidified that identity. It's been a while since he's played the character, so he was asked about how he does it. "Superman to me is all about telling the truth. When I originally went in to audition I put on a voice and was told 'stop, just be you.' So, Superman is my voice." Pondering the eternal popularity of the character, Daly broke it down this way. "It's all about what the fans enjoy, and when you boil it down it's all about the idea of having powers. And what's the one power that everyone really wants deep down? To fly." I asked Daly about what Superman gets to do in this new film, and he explained that "Superman gets to mentor Supergirl; for the first time he has a real family. The film also further develops his relationship with Batman. Superman accepts him, and even gets a kick out of teasing the dark hero. Bruce 'sees the cloud in every silver lining.'" Daly's favorite part of playing Superman is the appreciation he has for the devoted fans. "I never take it for granted. It's an honor."
Tab Murphy, writer of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Tab Murphy may not be a name that’s familiar to a lot of comic book fans, but the writer of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse has a very interesting career. His works include several animated Disney films and the 1987 cult classic My Best Friend is a Vampire, but he's best known for 1988's Gorillas in the Mist! Murphy first got involved with the DC animated films by writing the Green Arrow short, and then they sent him Apocalypse as a follow up project. He calls it "a great gig." On the subject of how much freedom he had in adapting the graphic novel, Tab said "I really respected the source material. These are iconic characters, in a story full of humanity and even humor. Supergirl in particular is a fantastic character dealing with a crucial dilemma. I have a 13 year old daughter so I can relate to her story. Her point of view was what I focused on most. She's lost, but an incredibly strong female character." Asked about the most challenging aspect of writing this film, Murphy explained that every morning he would "sit down in front of the computer and find the graphic novel missing; then it was a matter of finding which of my six kids took it!"
Bruce Timm, animator for Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Last up on the red carpet was the guru of DC animation himself, Bruce Timm. He too was very eager to discuss the new film, noting that it was unique with "a bunch of awesome women; we've got Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and more! It also closely follows the graphic novel in art and style. The project was very gratifying." When asked what the hardcore fans will like specifically, Timm pointed out "the voices, especially the return of Daly and Eisenberg. Michael Turner's art also really translates well into appealing animation. It's a good combination of the strengths of the novel and what we do in the animation world." I asked Bruce the elements that are new to the DC film series. "Darkseid appears for the first time, and he's not the original Kirby style; Turner's take on the character was distinct. Apokalips too!" The last question before we were ushered into the theatre elicited a humorous response. Asked what’s the best part of working on these films, Timm replied "finishing the project!"
As I mentioned above, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is based on the storyline Superman/Batman: the Supergirl from Krypton written by Jeph Loeb in 2004. While it diverges slightly, the film essentially tells the same story. At its outset, a strange object crashes into Gotham City's bay, leading to an investigation by the Dark Knight. Batman finds an alien spaceship, but its occupant is missing. He quickly tracks down a young woman with various super powers, who is revealed to be not just another living Kryptonian, but the cousin of Superman himself! Unsure of herself and unaware of the world she now inhabits, Kara Zor-El must learn what it means to live on Earth and to control her powers. At the same time across the universe, Darkseid's lieutenant Granny Goodness is "auditioning" candidates for the post of her highness' bodyguard, with little success. Keeping tabs on the events on Earth, the lord of Apokalips determines that Kara will be his...
While it carries the same basic title of "Superman/Batman," Apocalypse is not so much a direct sequel to Public Enemies as it is a story in the same universe. The biggest thread running through the two films is the deep and close relationship between the two named protagonists. As usual, the two very different heroes do not see eye to eye, and it is up to the Kryptonians' optimism to win over the Dark Knight. hat being said, Batman has some great and funny lines in this movie that will surprise some fans!
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8wEPZc2yh4]YouTube - SMBMA DC Run Promo Clips 500[/ame]
Like Public Enemies and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, this new film expands the DC universe on film by bringing in lots of characters that may not be familiar to new fans. The amazons of Themyscira play a large role in the story, as does their leader Wonder Woman and resident seer Harbinger. Granny Goodness' Female Furies provide vicious opponents for the heroes, and the catalyst for Darkseid's search is the defection of Big Barda, who also has a major role in the film. Bringing these characters to life is a fantastic voice cast. Other than the aforementioned Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, and Rachel Quaintance, Apocalypse brings together the quintessential Batman in Kevin Conroy, Andre Braugher as Darkseid, Summer Glau as Supergirl, Edward Asner as Granny Goodness, and many more!
The animation of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is very cool. It's very authentic to the original Michael Turner art, especially the character styles. Supergirl in particular is re-created with that intense big eyed look as defined by Turner. Superman is big and strong without going overboard in the McGuiness style, with a powerful chin balanced by soft eyes. All of the female characters are, frankly, hot, with particular attention paid to the physiques of Kara, Wonder Woman, and Big Barda. Darkseid is a hulking brute, though not as craggy as other versions we’ve seen. As discussed in the interview segment, the film also has breathtaking vistas of Earth and Apokalips, clearly showing the difference between the beauty of Themyscira and the blasted landscape of Darkseid’s domain.
After the film came a Q&A/panel discussion with the night's guests. The moderator for this event was a gentleman from UGO, the other sponsor of the event. He was thoroughly versed in the story as well as the larger DC universe, and couldn't wait to get started. But first came the obligatory reminder of the film's release on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download on September 28th. Certain versions will also come with the latest DC animated short film, Green Arrow!
The moderator first asked about the challenges or benefits to working on the second adaptation of a Jeph Loeb story and sequel to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Timm called the comic book writer "a great entertainer with some crazy ideas that aren’t always stitched together that well. When looking at adapting one of his stories you have to look for the logic and step up to fill in the blanks. But it's easy to adapt his great stories." Murphy added that "it was just fun. They're great stories, with great characters. They are somewhat free in their structure, so it's a matter of putting in the transitions, entrances, and exits."
Discussing the blend of new and old cast members, Romano called it "like coming home with Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, and Susan Eisenberg. But it's also good to mix in some new elements as well, which we had with Andre Braugher, Summer Glau, and Rachel Quaintance. Ed Asner was only verified late in the project, and we were lucky to get him." A follow up asked Romano and the actors about the Kryptonian language spoken in the film. Daly asked if they wanted him to recite some, but then said he'd "have to brush up," and that “it took a while to learn.” Romano revealed that they created the language with "some French, Scandinavian, and other elements."
Tim Daly was asked about being the voice of Superman. As he described it, "it's different from playing the character in person. I try to bring a sense of truth, of self. I didn't realize the responsibility and tradition I was taking on when I first auditioned for the role. People still come up to me and talk about it. I have the utmost respect for the character and the fans."
The title of the film is "Superman/Batman," but it's really about kick *** female characters... was the gist of the next question. Montgomery reminded the audience that the original story had Supergirl in the title... but since the Wonder Woman film didn't sell well Warner Bros. decided to trick the audience this time. She further revealed that "it was a fight even to have Supergirl on the DVD cover, and that's the skanky version!" Even so, she was very excited to work on this film with its strong female characters. Daly said the movie reminded him of beach volleyball, with "men in costumes and women in skimpy outfits."
Murphy was then asked about how the final version measured up to what he heard in his head when writing it. "It exceeded everything," he said, "which is exactly what you hope for. The film is elevated by the entire time, and I couldn't be prouder."
Timm discussed some of the behind the scenes, talking about the challenges. "We've been doing this a long time, but we always have to come up with new shtick. There are only so many ways for Superman to punch bad guys or Batman to throw batarangs. We always need new action gags and movement."
The moderator asked the two returning actors how hard or easy it was to fall back into the roles. Eisenberg related that Wonder Woman had evolved and changed some between her time in 2000 and this film, but that it was "like coming home." Daly simply added "what she said."
A simple question came next: why is Andrea Romano so good? Daly joked that "it's clearly luck" before getting serious. "It's an odd job, but she makes it fun. She's really good, and brings out the best in her actors."
Looking forward, Timm talked about the next few DC animated features in the pipeline. All-Star Superman is one of his favorite Superman comics, and the film brings a freshness to the character as while honoring the Silver Age incarnation in a combination of old and new. "It's completed, and it really feels like the definitive Superman." Next will be Batman: Year One, which Murphy described as "a faithful adaptation to a great comic. The look stays true to the deconstructed Batman." Finally, there will be Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors. Timm explained it as an anthology featuring five or six different corpsmen with an overall story arc. He revealed that some of the Lanterns will include Abin Sur, Sinestro, and Kilowog!
At that point the moderator opened up the floor to questions from the audience, of which there were many.
The first fan wanted to know how the gang picks their next projects. Timm revealed that "it's not all set. We have a weekly conference call with DC and Warner Bros., when we discuss what's being worked on and look down the line, then determine what we need for what slot, and whether it'll be a comic adaptation or something original. It's a back and forth process."
The next fan asked Daly the simple dilemma "Wonder Woman or Lois Lane?" Daly replied with "Oh, Wonder Woman of course. Love the one you're with."
Asked who would appear in their dream projects if they could delve into the DC vault, the panelists brought up some very unique characters. Timm would like to bring the Darkhawks to the screen, while Montgomery would like to tackle Batgirl or Aquaman. Let's hope they get the chance!
A longtime fan expressed his appreciation for Timm's years of work, and asked if enjoyed the different role he has now as opposed to the writing and directing he used to do. "I enjoy having Lauren do the heavy lifting," he replied. "I worked hard on the shows, and now I get to oversee what's happening. I don't have to do a lot. But, I have some other projects in the works that are very interesting."
Daly discussed what he thought of seeing the completed film for the first time. "It's better than I imagined! In real life I have a temperament much more like Batman's, but I liked Superman's sincere scenes. For the first time I didn't squirm at the sappy stuff!"
A hardcore fan noted that the end of the film wasn't exactly like the comic series. Murphy revealed that "the decision was made early. There's a double ending in the comic that wouldn't have worked on screen. We had to get to the point." Timm recalled the original ending with Superman pretending to be upset at Supergirl's "death" and throwing Darkseid into the Source Wall. "All of that was really hard to play cinematically. Frankly, it was really illogical."
The final question was for the crew, asking when they know they've made something special. Montgomery revealed her mantra: "if I'm gonna do it, it better be good!" She tries to make her films as good as possible, the best they can do. Timm feels that they never can really tell until the projects are finished, because there's so much to do right at the end including retakes, ADR, music, and more. "It does become a job, but when you watch it with everything mixed together you just say 'wow!'" Montgomery added that "sometimes it's not until we watch it with an audience, because we watch it so often we forget where there's humor, drama, etc."
With the questions complete and some of the panelists hurrying out to catch flights to the film's premiere in New York City, prizes were given away to those who had asked the best questions. These included autographed scripts and signed posters. Lastly, we all got another reminder to check out the film on DVD, Blu-ray, Pay Per View, digital download, etc. on September 28th!
Words and Photos by Scott Rubin