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Western Animation / Superman Unbound

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"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 respective roles of Lois Lane and Supergirl, and John Noble (Fringe) as Brainiac. The film is part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line.

This movie provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: Vehicles such as the helicopters in the opening scene are done in CGI.
  • A-Team Firing: In the opening scene, the terrorists and SWAT team fire at each other with machine guns from about 20 feet away and no cover for nearly ten seconds before any of them score a hit.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the comic story, Zor-El used Brainiac's shield generators to protect his home city during the destruction of Krypton, and Brainiac found it floating in space. Here, Brainiac went back to Krypton and abducted Argo City and its people before the planet's destruction because Zor-El was studying ways to fight him.
  • 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 brunette Zor-El and blonde Alura have switched hair colors.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Superman: Unbound is an adaptation of Superman: Brainiac.
  • Adaptational Badass: In the comics, Superman stomping Brainiac's face into the mud was how he was defeated. In this film, Brainiac gets up from that and gives Superman a more lengthy brawl before going down.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Steve helps Ron ram a robot with a table in the comic, but in the film, Ron and Jimmy do that to save a helpless Steve.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Brainiac in the original story basically looked like a really buff and tall human with green skin and some implants in his head. In the movie, he's an inhumanly large and menacing hulk with creepy cybernetic eyes and more obvious cybernetics along his body, along with generally much broader and more thuggish facial features.
  • Adapted Out: General Zod appears in the first scene of the comic, leading the battle against Brainiac when he abducts the people of Kandor. Kara's flashback in the film does feature the Kryptonian army fighting Brainiac, but Zod himself isn't seen or mentioned.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: Brainiac, who bottled Kandor and is coming for Earth.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Brainiac constantly monitors all activity within his bottled cities, dispatching drones to curb any subversive conversation or actions.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The first person shown getting killed onscreen when Brainiac attacks Metropolis.
  • Body Horror: The entire opening credits sequence is comprised of various enhancements Brainiac does to his (formerly) frail body...which includes locking himself in a cocoon, replacing his eyes with a cybernetic set (as below in Eye Scream) as well as jacking himself up with steroids (or some sort of muscle-enhancing alien solution) to give him a physical edge, which would be useful against Superman later. By the time of his defeat, the transformation is so deep that his skeleton is revealed to be metallic.
  • 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.
  • The Cameo:
    • Dan Turpin appears leading the SWAT team at the start of the film.
    • Ultra the Multi-Alien is among Brainiac's collected specimens. Coincidentally the invasion of his probes that Clark crashes is on a planet of two species he is comprised of.
  • Casting Gag: Matt Bomer was in the running to play Superman in a live-action movie. He's also often confused with Henry Cavill who plays Superman in Man of Steel.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue:
    • Lois has a constant line of snark for her hostage takers in the opening.
    • The terrorist leader gives as good as he gets, for the most part.
  • 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: Exaggerated with Brainiac, 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.
  • 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...
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Superman's first fight with Brainiac does not go well for him. The cyborg pulls a No-Sell on Superman's attempts to punch him, before doing a Punch Catch, crushing Superman's fist, and nearly knocking him unconscious with a single punch to the face, after which he just restrains him with Combat Tentacles.
  • 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 Not Think This Through: The criminals taking Lois hostage at the beginning, while they were at least smart enough to wait for a severe earthquake in Belize to keep Superman occupied, both hadn't considered (or heard of) Supergirl or considered just how insanely quickly Superman does his job.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: When Brainiac gloats over his domination of Earth, Lois simply flips him off. With both hands. His reaction to this non-verbal Precision F-Strike is priceless.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Lois and Supergirl discuss this in regards to Supergirl as she takes out the thieves in the beginning, even using the trope name word for word. Kara states that she didn't grow into her powers like her cousin did, she just suddenly had 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.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Brainiac gives one after Lois' Flipping the Bird moment below.
  • 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 smashes 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.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: Lois is fine with attention from macho Steve Lombard, but has no issues with getting into dangerous situations knowing Superman will save her. She points out that it's two different situations though.
  • The Lancer: Supergirl acts as this compared to Superman due to being a moody teenager and seeing her planet blow up. A terrorist even lampshades it.
    "You mean the skirt's the bad cop?
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Look: Jimmy and Supergirl share one when they first meet. He's obviously smitten from that moment.
  • 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, and for whatever reason there's no blood on her when Superman rescues her.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Lombard points out that Clark is secretive about what he does with his free time and whether he has a girlfriend, and has a bodybuilder's figure, but isn't into sports. Lois throws it right back at him. Later she admits to Clark that it's an entirely believable cover story for the weirdness in his life and she's almost surprised he didn't think of it himself.
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: The planet Laroo has two very distinct species (one resembles green gorillas, and the other is blue and has somewhat conical heads), who fight Brainiac side by side.
  • 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 dons this disguise in the comics. Likewise, Dan Turpin appears briefly in the scene where the terrorists take Lois hostage, looking like he did in S: TAS.
    • Jimmy Olsen wears a bowtie.
    • Brainiac's sentries all have the "three connected dots" logo he used in the DC Animated Universe which is also seen on his brain.
    • Lois informs Clark that Perry White's son, Keith had a baby, referring to Keith Robert White, a young black orphan who appeared in the comics during the 90s that Perry and his wife eventually adopted.
  • 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 Celebrities Were Harmed: The television news anchor.
  • No Infantile Amnesia: Superman claims to have some memories of Krypton despite having left as a baby.
  • Not Worth Killing: Brainiac normally destroys a planet once he's taken his sample from it. He didn't bother to directly destroy Krypton because he knew the planet was close to its natural death to begin with.
  • 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.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: When Supergirl says it's not fair that a wormhole let her younger cousin reach Earth decades before her, Superman has this to say:
    Superman: Tell it to Einstein.
    Supergirl: Who?
    Superman: Smart guy. Lived here on Earth.
  • Punch Catch: Brainiac does this to Superman in their first fight. Superman gets to return the favor later.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Superman in his first fight with Brainiac.
  • Puny Earthlings: Brainiac's opinion on humans after he collects Metropolis, so much he goes on a tangent how inferior their fragility and achievements are next to other races he had taken and he might as well not bother collecting them because they have nothing else to offer him.
  • 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.
  • Sensory Overload: Superman drags Brainiac out of his ship and into a swamp on Earth. Brainiac is suddenly bombarded by sights, smells, and sounds of a living world he has no control over and it proves to be too much for him.
  • 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.
    • When Superman is fighting one of Brainiac's robots at the beginning of the film, he quickly realizes it's sending out a homing signal. He disconnects it while shouting ''No phoning home!"
    • Brainiac's ship approaching over Metropolis includes a nod to Independence Day.
      • and of course Superman saying "Welcome to Earth."
    • A news cameraman in Metropolis is wearing a baseball cap in the colors of Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine (as Warner Bros. are also the current producers of that franchise).
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Courtesy of Supergirl.
    "Hey! Plughead! You talk too much!"
  • SkeleBot 9000: The Brainiac probes, in a nod to Brainiac's Bronze Age incarnation.
  • The Sociopath: Brainiac, an alien who takes cities from planets and then destroys them out of an intense need to control all knowledge in the Universe.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Jonathan Kent.
  • Star Killing: Brainiac's Solar Aggressor missiles do this.
  • The Stinger: Brainiac's cube boots up in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Straw Feminist: Lois can come across as this in the film at times. Especially when she feels she's being patronized by Superman.
    Lois: Men, always finding an excuse to leave when things get scary.
  • 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.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: When Superman meets Zor-El and Alura for the first time, they're both initially taken aback by how much he resembles Jor-El.
  • 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.)
    • Early on, we even get this gem from one of the kidnappers as Kara prepares to use her Eye Beams on his face:
    Kidnapper: Hold it, the skirt's the bad cop?!
  • 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?: We don't know if Kara is reunited with her 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.


Video Example(s):


Superman Unbound (2013)

Lois Lane is not impressed with Brainiac's gloating.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / DidYouJustFlipOffCthulhu

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