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Western Animation / Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

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Next Sunday A.D., a recession leads to Lex Luthor becoming President of the United States. Seemingly solving the financial crisis with a wave of his hand, he declares the curbing of vigilantes the main focus of his Presidency, even forming a government Super Team. Understandably, Superman is pissed.

Soon, it's discovered that a Kryptonite meteor the size of a small country is headed towards Earth and will impact in seven days. While President Luthor tries fighting it off with rockets, Batman slyly hints he's "working on something with one of his contacts". Luthor proposes to meet with Superman to discuss the threat; it turns out to be an ambush where Secret Service Agent John Corben (Metallo) lays the smackdown on the Man of Steel until Batman bails him out. In the aftermath of the ambush, however, Metallo is found murdered. Luthor frames Superman, citing mental imbalance due to the meteor, and places a bounty on his head.

Cue an entire movie's worth of Superman and Batman going up against pretty much the entire DCU. Along the way they pick up a grand total of two allies: Power Girl and Japanese 13-year-old genius the Toyman. Things change quite a bit as the film progresses, however. A sub-plot deals with Luthor having a Villainous Breakdown as panic spreads, his anti-meteor tactics fail and his Presidency goes south.

A direct-to-video adaptation of the first arc of Superman/Batman story arc Public Enemies, and one of DC's Bruce Timm-produced animated films. Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Clancy Brown and C.C.H. Pounder reprise their respective roles from the DC Animated Universe as Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and Amanda Waller, while Allison Mack of Smallville fame takes on Power Girl's first animated appearance.

A sequel, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, was released in 2010.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: Essentially every vehicle and especially the composite Batman/Superman rocket, which makes for some mixed animation.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Alan Oppenheimer's credits include Alfred Expy Norman Burg. Here, he voices the actual Alfred.
    • Allison Mack's character, Power Girl, had been referenced on Smallville quite a few times. In fact, it was Chloe who discovered the existence of the character in the show's universe in the first place.
    • The casting of LeVar Burton as Black Lightning, as Jefferson Pierce's day job in the comics was a teacher and one of Burton's best known gigs was the host of Reading Rainbow.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film refines the storyline in many ways with increased coherency (such as giving Luthor a more plausible case in incriminating Superman and putting some more reason into Batman and Superman's story). A few of the comic's more awesome moments had to be omitted, however (such as the tussle with the future Superman, the appearance of the Bat- and Super- families, and Batman's fight with Luthor).
  • Adaptational Heroism: Amanda Waller. In the comics, she sided with President Luthor's actions and policies against superheroes, even under the threat of an impending asteroid collision. In this movie, she confronts and complains about President Luthor's actions from the start and eventually orders his arrest for treason when she realizes he's dooming the world.
  • Adaptational Karma: Although defeated and disgraced, Lex Luthor was able to escape at the end of the comic and managed to evade charges by blaming Alexander Luthor Junior after Infinite Crisis. Here Luthor is arrested and the sequel confirms he was formally impeached for his role in the near-disaster.
  • Adapted Out: The Green Lantern John Stewart , Pete Ross, the future Superman, and the Super- and Bat-families (Superboy, Krypto, the Cir-El Supergirl, the Natasha Irons Steel, Nightwing, the Tim Drake Robin, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, and Huntress) all appear in the comic, but not in the movie. John Stewart and Pete Ross are notable because in the comic version, John was part of Luthor's Super Team and Pete was Luthor's VP. The Michael Holt Mister Terrific and the original Flash and Green Lantern were also in the comic, but their only scene was in the lead-in to Superman and Batman's confrontation with Hawkman and Captain Marvel.
  • Analogy Backfire: The exchange between Captain Marvel and Superman.
    Captain Marvel: It doesn't take the wisdom of Solomon to know that you should stay down.
    Superman: Tell me something, Captain Marvel: would Solomon have gone to work for Lex Luthor?
  • Anime Hair: Toyman.
  • Ascended Extra: Amanda Waller didn't figure as much into the comic version of the event as she does here.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Amanda Waller
  • Ax-Crazy: Lex Luthor during his Villainous Breakdown.
    Lex: *with a manic, ear to ear grin on his face* I CAN'T THINK OF A MORNING...WHEN I HAVEN'T WOKEN UP...WITH THE THOUGHT OF STRANGLING YOU! That sanctimonious image of yours fooled eeeeveryone—except me! Because I...KNOW...EVIL!!!
  • Badass in a Nice Suit:
    • Metallo as a Secret Service Agent combined with prosthetic skin.
    • President Lex Luthor is usually seen in his business suit outside of his mech suit.
  • Badass Normal: Batman, obviously. And this movie does more than a good job of showing just how badass.
  • Bat Deduction: Batman deduces that Grodd is the one mind-controlling villains based on the speech pattern of one sentence said by Nightshade.
  • Berserk Button: From Toyman's "The Reason You Suck" Speech, second only to Superman, basically being told he's not smart enough is this for Lex.
  • Big Bad: Lex Luthor spends his Presidency pursuing his vendetta against Superman. With the looming threat of the Kryptonite meteor in the horizon, he decides it would have been better if it hit Earth, so he can remake it in his own image.
  • The Cameo: The gang of super-villains who show up to claim the bounty is basically a small army of these from across the DC Universe. It includes Black Manta, Deadshot, Cheetah, Giganta, Icicle, Parasite, Riot, Captain Boomerang II, Girder, Captain Cold, Copperhead, Despero, Brimstone, Kestrel, Killer Frost, King Shark, Eclipso, Bane, Catman, Black Spider, Mr. Freeze, and Zeiss.
  • Captain Ersatz: The political comedy show at the beginning of the movie is called The Weekly Show.
  • Casting Gag: The casting of Allison Mack and John C. McGinley definitely qualifies, given that they are best known from a show about a young Superman and a show whose theme song is called "Superman", respectively. Furthermore, Mack's character, Power Girl, has been referenced on Smallville quite a few times, and it was Chloe who discovered her Starware corporation in a Season 3 episode.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Both Superman and Batman seem fond of doing this, even though at one point, Batman asks him to stop.
  • Composite Character:
    • Black Lightning takes John Stewart's place when he has to use his powers on Major Force to stop him from going nuclear.
    • Power Girl is the one to damage Major Force's suit instead of Katana, who is in the movie unlike John but gets Demoted to Extra.
    • In the climax, Batman is the one to pilot Toyman's missile manually towards the meteor instead of Captain Atom. While Atom got teleported to the WildStorm Universe, Batman survives by ejecting in the last minute.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Power Girl, between Superman and Lex Luthor. She truly believes Lex had changed and made America (and possibly the world) a better place. And she wants Superman to be a part of it, because they (and she) need him. But Superman doesn't believe Lex has truly changed and knows he's planning something. Power Girl was disappointed Superman refused the offer. Later, she doesn't really believe Superman killed Metallo. Lex tells her that people change, using himself as an example. She seemed thoroughly convinced. Yet, she admits to Superman and Batman that she was very disturbed by Lex in person, as Power Girl states he "makes [her] skin crawl", which led her to believe Superman was right about him all along.
  • Continuity Nod: A number of references are made to past events from the comics.
    • "That planet's been an endless source of grief for me." Though he may be obviously referring to Superman, he could also be referring to the Kryptonite cancer he suffered.
    • Batman and Superman's banter before a battle references Superman: Doomsday:
      Batman: Your funeral.
      Superman: Already had one.
    • At one point Superman asks Batman whatever happened to Magpie, who has the distinction of being the first villain that Superman and Batman faced together in the post-Crisis DCU (during John Byrne's The Man of Steel).
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Superman and Batman are mobbed by hordes of supervillains all looking to collect the billion dollar bounty on Superman, and each of the villains is defeated by a single punch or combo, despite many of them frequently challenging (and defeating, in some cases) these heroes single-handedly. Bane and Lady Shiva probably get the worst of it.
  • Cool Starship: Toyman's Composite Superman/Batman rocket.
    Batman: Wow.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Luthor is handing Superman one using a kryptonite-powered battlesuit. Until Superman thinks Batman is going to die because of what Luthor did. Then Superman returns the favor.
  • Death by Adaptation: Metallo.
  • Demoted to Extra: While they don't have big roles, Starfire, Lois Lane, and Katana do speak in the comics version. The latter in particular had her most significant moment such as damaging Major Force's suit is given to Power Girl instead.
  • Dirty Kid/Hormone-Addled Teenager: Hiro is close to the cutoff point between the two, but is clearly at least one of them given the mention of an incident involving Power Girl and a pair of x-ray goggles.
    Power Girl: He's not really that much of a boy, you know? He's thirteen.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Superman and Batman infiltrate Luthor's compound dressed as Captain Marvel and Hawkman.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Batman goads Major Force into admitting that he killed Metallo. This results in the rest of the team turning against Luthor and Power Girl flipping out and lethally attacking Major Force.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Captain Marvel.
  • Fan Disservice: Lex Luthor provides about forty tons of it. That's as many as four tens. And That's Terrible.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Lex Luthor pulls one when Power Girl walks into his office with "something important to talk about".
  • Forceful Kiss: Lex Luthor plants one on Amanda Waller. It's not romantic, however; it's just a further sign of how he's completely losing it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    Batman: "I'm working on something with one of my contacts."
    • Lex Luthor claiming that Kryptonite radiation is affecting Supes' mind, and that the approaching meteor drove him crazy. It's actually what's happening to Luthor.
    • Power Girl says that Lex makes her skin crawl. Maybe that's because she can sense he's evil, or maybe it's because of the liquid Kryptonite he's been pumping into himself.
  • Frameup: Luthor strings together out-of-context clips to make Superman appear to be acting irrationally and guilty of murdering Metallo.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The Gotham Gazette article about Luthor's election isn't just meaningless filler text, but presents a coherent narrative. It includes such tidbits as the names of Luthor's opponents (Perkins from the GOP and Diaz from the DNC) and the fact that his Vice President was "Max Yezpitlek" (imagine Mister Mxyzptlk).
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: During Superman's Punctuated Pounding delivered to Mongul.
    Superman: You want to be...Luthor's...boy now?!
  • Harmless Freezing: Batman is briefly frozen, then thawed out in seconds by Superman's heat vision with no ill-effects. If nothing else, it lasted barely a minute.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Amanda Waller.
  • Heroic Build: The movie is somewhat infamous for depicting every single male superhero with the physique of an oversized bodybuilder, while all the women (save the realistically muscular Power Girl and the plus-sized Amanda Waller) look like borderline supermodels. It provides the current trope image.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the movie, when Luthor blows up the guidance system for the rocket, Batman decides to fly it into the meteor himself at the cost of his own life, taking the role Captain Atom had in the comics, though he ends up having survived rather than presumed dead.
  • Humongous Mecha: All through Toyman's base.
  • An Ice Person: One of the villain sub-groups consists of four of these: Captain Cold, M. Freeze, Killer Frost and Icicle.
  • An Ice Suit: The ice/cold themed villains Mr. Freeze, Killer Frost, Captain Cold and Icicle.
  • Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: When Superman question about the Toyman's Humongous Mecha.
    Superman: Are you sure this thing can do the job?
    Toyman: Does Power Girl have big--
    Batman: Just input the codes!
  • It's All About Me: Lex's defining character trait. His presidential campaign is noted as one big ego booster, and he would rather die and doom the entire world with him than live in a world where he wasn't the one to save it. After he fails to do so, he becomes noticeably unhinged and decides that since he couldn't stop the meteor it must be destined to come, in order to usher in a world where he is ruler and savior.
    Luthor: God bless America! God bless me!
  • Joker Immunity: Lampshaded.
    Superman: Why is it the good villains never die?
    Batman: Clark, what the hell are "good villains"?
  • Lack of Empathy: Unsurprisingly, Lex doesn't really care if the meteor destroys the earth, along with everyone on it, so long as he gets to preserve and strengthen his reputation. He even tries to ruin the duo's attempt to stop the meteor themselves when he confronts them.
  • Large Ham:
    • Captain Marvel to an extent, he seems to enjoy it too.
      "You know, you've never been any good against magic. And magic's what I'm all about!"
    • Clancy Brown gets to ham it up a bit more here than in the regular DCAU, particularly in the climax. Probably because Luthor's off his head on steroids and liquidized radioactive rocks.
  • Legacy Character: The Captain Boomerang who briefly appears with the army of supervillains is Owen Mercer, the son of the original Captain Boomerang in the comics.
  • Magic Pants: Once Metallo walks out of the fire, all of his skin has been burned off. The only piece of clothing that's remaining on him are his pants, which appear to be fireproof.
  • Magic Skirt: Amanda Waller.
  • Man of Kryptonite: Besides the obvious example of Metallo, Luthor's been injecting himself with liquid kryptonite, which is why Superman felt weak during their meeting.
  • Most Common Superpower: Power Girl, natch. Her costume even has the Cleavage Window. (Lampshaded twice by Toyman, including an apology for an incident with his experimental x-ray goggles.)
  • Motif Merger: The exact logo at the top of the page also appears in-universe on the chest of a giant robot that Toyman, Japanese wunderkind Hiro Okamura, built to destroy a Kryptonite asteroid that would hit Earth. Cut him some slack: he designed it when he was seven.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Power Girl, naturally. She is this trope in-universe if Toyman's reaction to her is any indication.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Captain Atom initially believes that it's his duty to carry out President Luthor's orders. He turns against Luthor after hearing Major Force admit that he (not Superman) killed Metallo.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Power Girl felt guilty for nearly getting Captain Atom killed because of her anger at Major Force and Lex.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • After Batman drove the rocket into the meteor, Captain Atom shows up and sadly quips that he arrived "a little too late." This is a reference to the comic the movie is based on, where it's Captain Atom and not Batman who makes the sacrifice.
    • Superman mentioning that he's already had a funeral.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: One commentator discussing Luthor's election at the beginning of the movie is clearly an Expy of Jon Stewart.
  • No-Sell: Superman, naturally, does this quite often. Near the end, he starts doing it to kryptonite beams after entering a Tranquil Fury.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Amanda's reaction to Luthor's kryptonite-induced insanity.
    • Later on, Luthor's reaction when he realizes Superman is starting to resist the kryptonite due to thinking that Batman was going to die...from a situation Luthor put them all in.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Both Superman and Batman notice that something's amiss because of the fact that in spite of Mongul's penchant for Trash Talking, he didn't say a word during his fight with Superman, along with the fact that Grundy, who is only capable of Hulk Speak, sounded surprisingly intelligent in his speech. They quickly conclude that mind control is involved. When Nightshade shows up, her speech pattern is enough for Batman to figure out who's controlling her: Grodd.
  • Power Fist: Hawkman whips one out and punches Superman through a mountain.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
    • After Superman pushes President Luthor to the ground when he finds out that their meeting was actually an ambush:
    Metallo: Shouldn't have done that. He's the President.
    • After Solomon Grundy is freed from Grodd's mind control:
    Grundy: Grundy not feel good.
    Batman: Grundy gonna feel a lot worse!
    • After Batman takes off on a suicide mission:
  • Precision F-Strike: Luthor calls Amanda Waller a bitch just before jumping into his Powered Armor.
  • President Evil: Lex Luthor, obviously.
  • Properly Paranoid: Superman doesn't believes Luthor really changed despite all the good he's done for the country. He turns out to be right all along.
  • Psycho Party Member: Major Force turns out to be this for Captain Atom's crew.
  • Punch Catch: How Superman gains control of the fight against Mongul.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Superman uses this trope to finish his fight against Mongul.
    Superman: You want to be...Luthor's...boy now?! I'm sick...of LEX LUTHOR!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Toyman gives a short one to Luthor when Luthor, seemingly about to kill him, calls Toyman the only other person on Earth smart enough to stop the meteor.
    Toyman: The only person. You couldn't do it, remember?
    • Earlier than that, Batman gives an epic one of these towards Major Force, sending him into a Villainous Breakdown
    Batman: Tell me something!
    Major Force: What do you want, dirtbag?
    Batman: Did Metallo say anything before he died? Was he surprised to see you?
    Major Force: I don't know what you're talking about!
    Batman: What did Luthor promise you, money?
    Major Force: What do I need with money? I'm living energy!
    Batman: You're not going to tell me you killed him for your country are you?
    Major Force: ...Some of us still believe in putting our country first!
    Batman: Sorry, but I don't see any patriotism here! All I see is a psycho who's latched onto an excuse to kill people! And who's so stupid he doesn't realize he's being used by Luthor!
  • Revenge Before Reason: Lex Luthor would rather let the world die than accept help from Superman in saving the world - he would rather let the world die than accept help from anyone in saving the world, but with Superman it's particularly pronounced. He spends valuable time and manpower attempting to hunt down and frame Superman instead, and when it's clear that Supes is going to save everyone where he can't he nearly dooms the world trying to stop its only hope for survival.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Solomon Grundy's Out-of-Character Alert has him speaking in a verbose, eloquent fashion — or, as Batman put it, "sound[ing] like William F. Buckley" — instead of his usual Hulk Speak.
  • Shapeshifter Weapon: This version of Metallo has near T-1000-levels of ability to reconfigure.
  • Shout-Out: The SuperBat Mecha had a Gundam crotch.
  • Sinister Shades: John Corben AKA Metallo as a Secret Service Agent, which serves to hide his green, robotic eyes.
  • Slasher Smile: Grodd gives one to Batman after Superman gives away his location.
  • The Sociopath: Lex Luthor gets elected President to spite Superman, orders Superman and Batman killed because he can, and decides to let a giant meteor crash into the Earth and rule over the ashes when his attempts to stop it don't work.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: It's Batman.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: The first criminal Superman catches (the red car driver) attempts this. Superman simply blasts away his Colt Python revolver.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Major Force is the only supervillain among Captain Atom's group, and revealed to be Metallo's actual killer and framing Superman for it.
  • Tornado Move: Superman does this to simultaneously overpower Captain Atom, Starfire, Black Lightning, Major Force and Power Girl.
  • Tranquil Fury: After Superman believes that Batman is dead thanks to Luthor, he stops holding back and beats him to a mess on the floor. Luthor is lucky to escape with his life.
  • Unstoppable Rage:
    • Superman does this to Luthor after Batman takes off in the rocket ship. For starters, he punches him so hard that he coughs blood. A few minutes later, Superman takes a kryptonite beam to the face while chasing Luthor and keeps flying at full speed.
    Superman: That was my Best Friend. And you just killed him!
    • Power Girl, after finding out Major Force killed Metallo on Lex's order.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Luthor, drugged-up on Venom, decides that the meteor crashing into the Earth might not be such a bad thing since it means he has a chance to start the world anew with a few carefully chosen survivors who can build a glorious new Ubermenschen society under his leadership. Subverted though since this is just Insane Troll Logic to protect his ego by justifying why his original plan to blow up the meteors failed- after all, the alternative is that Lex himself just made a mistake.
  • The Voiceless: Starfire and Katana.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Luthor goes through one of these. From trying to stop the only human on the planet capable of destroying the meteor to donning an armored power suit to wildly rambling at the cheering crowds at the end:
    Luthor: The voice of the people must be heard! I am the President! God bless America! God bless me!
  • Would Hit a Girl: Batman versus Shiva. Superman versus Giganta, as well.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Luthor tries to squish the Toyman, but Superman stops him.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Lex lures Superman to a meeting only to provoke him and set Metallo upon him. Either Metallo kills Superman or he fails, and Major Force murders Metallo and frames Superman for it, letting Luthor turn the entire country against him. A particularly clever spin on this is that neither Lex nor Superman think the general public will just buy this story, so Lex also suggests that the Kryptonite meteor is affecting Superman's brain and causing him to act violent and irrationally, making the story much more plausible even to people who don't trust Luthor and know that he and Superman hate each other.
  • Your Size May Vary: Luthor's armor is huge when we first see it, towering over everyone. It suddenly shrinks down to human size again when Superman begins tearing off armor pieces.