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Western Animation: Superman Unbound

"Millions under siege. One Superman to save them."

Superman: Unbound is an animated adaptation of the 2008 comic arc Superman: Brainiac which was released in 2013. Voice actors include Matt Bomer (White Collar) as Superman, Castle stars Stana Katic and Molly Quinn in the repsective roles of Lois Lane and Supergirl, and John Noble (Fringe) as Brainiac.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Unlike the comics where the bottled city of Kandor is kept by Superman because he could not restore it to full size, the end of the film sees Kandor restored on a new worldnote .
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: The usually brunet Zor-El and blonde Alura have switched hair colors.
  • Alien Blood: And Alien Entrails, at one point, courtesy of the Torso with a View trope.
  • Animesque: It's subtle, but a number of the action scenes have a clear anime influence.
  • Apocalypse How: Brainiac vaporizes worlds once he's done with them, or destroys the local star. He didn't bother with Krypton because it was going to go up by itself.
  • Badass Boast:
    Brainiac: I am the knowledge and strength of ten thousand worlds. I am flesh and machine. I am becoming everything.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Supergirl
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Brainiac constantly monitors all activity within his bottled cities, dispatching drones to curb any subversive conversation or actions.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Superman loses a good amount of strength due to Kandor's artificial red sun. He keeps enough to make a successful escape attempt, though.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Lois has a constant line of snark for her hostage takers in the opening.
  • City in a Bottle: Brainiac has a whole collection of them.
  • Combat Tentacles: Brainiac's harvester ship has them, both outside and in.
    • His probes have them, too.
  • Control Freak: Braniac Up to Eleven, to the point he combusted into flames when forced into an area he had no control over.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: One Brainiac probe is a mildly difficult opponent for Superman before he knows what it is. He mows them down in droves after that. Then goes back to having trouble with one again.
  • Conspicuous CGI: Not as blatant as some instances in the DC animated line, but vehicles such as the helicopters in the opening scene are noticeably CGI.
  • Cool Starship: Superman's Kryptonian rocket.
    • Brainiac's skull ship is pretty boss, too.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Every city Brainiac keeps, they are clean and in order, but step out of line...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Would we recognize Lois any other way? Superman gets into the act as well, such as when Brainiac attacks him:
    Superman: Not big on people skills, aren't you?
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Lois literally flips Brainiac off while he's gloating over his domination of Earth. His reaction is priceless.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Lois lampshades this in regards to Supergirl as she takes out the thieves in the beginning, even using the trope name word for word.
    • Discussed. Kara explitily states that unlike Clark she did not grow into her powers like she did, she just suddenly had them and unlike her cousin does not have a lifetime of practiced control with them.
  • Enhance Button: Consciously averted with Perry asking how far an image could be zoomed in before loss of detail.
  • Eye Scream: Brainiac having his eyes replaced with cybernetic ones in the opening sequence.
  • Fish out of Water: Supergirl, who showed up on Earth a few months ago well into her teens. For example, she finds the idea of eating pigs off-putting.
  • Flipping the Bird: Lois gives Brainiac both middle fingers when he's in the middle of some Evil Gloating.
  • Funny Background Event: After Supergirl takes down the first helicopter, the main focus turns to Lois talking to the terrorist in the other helicopter while Supergirl repeatedly smash the first helicopter into a wall.
  • A God Am I: As Superman points out, Brainiac arranges his collection according to each city's former placement in the galaxy...with himself at the center.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The deaths of most of the people killed by Brainiac's drones, save for one poor resident of Kandor who has his head impaled with blood shooting from the back of it
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Brainiac's decision to spare Krypton because it was going to explode anyway ultimately doomed him. More generally, Superman escapes Kandor by destroying the drones sent to stop him then hitching a ride when they're beamed out for repairs.
  • Holding Out for a Hero: Perry speculates that attempting to make humans self-sufficient may be the reason Superman has been gone for weeks.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: They're both superpowered aliens, and her strength and abilities rival his own, but it would take four or five of Kara to make one Clark.
  • Magic Skirt: Supergirl wears one.
  • Maybe Ever After: A mild version of this trope. The last scene before the closing credits shows Clark proposing to Lois in front of the Daily Planet staff. We don't hear her answer but given the conversation they have about their relationship earlier in the movie, "Yes" seems to be a safe assumption.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: No women are seen harmed or killed on screen. We clearly see probes going into Superman's skull complete with blood, but when we see probes about to go into Supergirl's ears, the scene cuts just before it happens.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Lombard points out that Clark is secretive about whether he has a girlfriend and has a bodybuilder's figure, but isn't into sports. Lois throws it right back at him.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: Brainiac hooks Superman up to his archive and starts downloading, betting that Superman's brain would liquify after only one world. Superman then beats Brainiac by taking him out of his ship, overloading him with the constant shifting data of a living world which he so desperately tries to contain in his bottled cities.
  • Mythology Gag: Why does the shot of Superman holding the helicopter in one hand look familiar?
    • And so does the Fortress of Solitude. The post-Infinite Crisis comics follow this.
    • Superman is finally able to fully tell Brainiac to "Go to hell."
    • In a blink-and-miss scene, Superman stabs Brainiac with two electrical cords just like he did in the Smallville episode "Arctic".
    • Superman fought a large white space monkey.
    • Kara wears a brunette wig and glasses like in Superman: The Animated Series. She briefly don this disguise in the comics.
    • Jimmy Olsen wears a bowtie. His crushing on Supergirl.
    • Brainiac's sentries all have the "three connected dots" logo he used in the DCAU.
  • Neck Lift: See Orifice Invasion below, which naturally lends itself to a lot of examples of this trope.
  • Never Grew Up: The people of Kandor (and the other cities) haven't aged since they've been taken. The shielding may have stunted their growth. After being free, they likely can age normally.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Superman boarding Brainiac's ship allows Brainiac to find Earth.
  • No Infantile Amnesia: Superman claims to have some memories of Krypton despite having left as a baby.
  • Off Model: When Superman grabs a chunk of the floor in Kandor, int he next shot, even though he hasn't moved, the floor is fully intact.
  • Orifice Invasion: Brainiac's drones are fond of shoving probe cables down victims' throats.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech:
    Brainiac: Such a savage world.
    Superman: It gives me strength.
  • Punch Catch: Brainiac does this to Superman in their first fight. Superman gets to return the favor later.
  • Purple Eyes: This film's Lois Lane has them.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Superman's eyes glow red when he's readying his heat ray vision, or often just when he's really pissed. Brainiac's eyes are always red, but they glow more brightly when he's angry.
  • Reflective Eyes: The helicopter chase reflects in Supergirl's eyes.
  • Sequel Hook: See The Stinger.
  • Shockwave Clap: Superman does one.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Bizarrely, the police in the opening have zero problem shooting at the thieves while they're using Lois as a hostage. The ringleader actually points this out, figuring they must not be on good terms.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In addition to some other similarities to the Reapers, Brainiac at one point tells Superman "You exist because I allowed you to be", much like Sovereign's "You exist because we allow it".
    • Brainiac being defeated by removing him from his hermetically-sealed ship is a nod to The War of the Worlds.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Courtesy of Supergirl.
    "Hey! Plughead! You talk too much!"
  • Skele Bot 9000: The Brainiac probes, in a nod to Brainiac's Bronze Age incarnation.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Jonathan Kent.
  • The Stinger: Brainiac's cube boots up in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: The Brainiac probes are strong enough to fistfight Superman, but weak enough to be shoved out a window by Lois Lane.
  • Super OCD: Brainiac Up to Eleven. Due to what Zor-El believes to be a bug in his programming, he must learn everything in the universe...but since intelligent beings are constantly changing, he destroys their planets and keeps what he does collect artificially stagnant.
  • Teens Are Monsters: When Supergirl and not Superman comes to rescue Lois at the beginning of the movie, Lois points out that her kidnappers should be very afraid, given their opponent is an entity with all the strength of Superman along with...the hormonal angst of a teenager.
  • Tempting Fate: Ma Kent points out that Superman probably acts the way he does because he's afraid of history (i.e. the destruction of Krypton) repeating himself. Cue the appearance of an envoy of the guy who stole Kandor...
  • The Theme Park Version: The fact that Brainiac's bottled cities are this to the cultures they're meant to represent is repeatedly referenced.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Played with in some of the exchanges between Superman and Supergirl, with the latter strongly implying she's willing to use her powers to kill if necessary. (Later, when we hear of her taking on Somali warlords, it is taken as read that she isn't necessarily letting the bad guys walk away.)
  • Torso with a View: An alien torso, with entrails clearly visible.
  • Verb This!:
    Robot: Your actions have become subversive.
    Superman: (destroys robot) Subvert that.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Brainiac "can't face what [he] can't control."
  • The Voiceless: Cat Grant and Jonathan Kent.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Jimmy Olsen wears one in a departure from the more traditional sweater-vest.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: All the bottled worlds except Metropolis and Kandor.
    • Superman said that he would free them and find new planets for them to live on. He probably did that after defeating Brainiac.
    • We don't know if Kara is reunited with her Black Best Friend. Or if the other Argoans who joined Zor-El and Alura are still alive.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The thieves in the beginning think they've got their escape all planned out, having timed their heist to coincide with a natural disaster elsewhere in the world so Superman will be occupied. They neglected to read about the second Kryptonian, then Superman shows up anyway.

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alternative title(s): Superman Unbound
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