Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Review: Superman vs. The Elite

This was one of those animated straight-to-video movies I watched on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.  The good thing about those is they're usually about 70 minutes, which is good to watch over lunch and then get back to editing and stuff.

Anyway, the reason I bring this movie up is that it sort of relates to stuff I was rambling about in my anti-violence campaign.  Because the whole point of the movie is how much violence is too much?  And are there some lines that no one--especially not Superman--should cross?

The gist of the story is that a new group of "heroes" has shown up.  They're more in the 80s mold of antiheroes who generally think bad people should be killed to save the world a lot of trouble.  This naturally conflicts with Superman's world view that says you arrest the bad guys and let due process take its course even though it doesn't really work and eventually the bad guys get out again.

In this case the bad guy is called the Atomic Skull--which sounds like a 50s sci-fi movie that would be lampooned on MST3K.  After his first rampage in Metropolis that kills numerous people and causes massive property damage, Superman puts him away in jail.  But of course he breaks out and goes on a second rampage.  This time the Elite antiheroes stop him and eventually kill him, which the public lauds them for.  This leads to a final showdown between them and Superman on the moon.

During that showdown Superman appears to go nuts and start killing the Elite and then some bystanders in Metropolis when the fight makes its way down there.  Except of course it's just an act; no one actually dies.  The idea was to show the Elite and the rest of the world just how horrific the consequences of their worldview can be.  In a way it was a smaller, bloodless version of what Ozymandias did in "Watchmen" to show the world just how horrible Armageddon can be to back them away from the cliff.

This kind of story has been done before in other comics too.  Like "The Dark Knight Returns" where since it was Frank Miller the answer was Hell yeah, kill 'em all!  Also "Kingdom Come" where the answer called for more restraint.

In the Scarlet Knight series Emma struggles numerous times over whether to kill or not kill her enemies.  She opts not to kill them because she believes to kill them would lead her on a slippery slope until she was no better than the criminals.  This becomes far less clear-cut in later volumes of the series when the bad guys do things that hurt her personally.

Anyway, the point is that there has to be a line in the sand somewhere.  When do you decide someone is so irredeemable that they have to be terminated?  3 strikes?  2 strikes?  1 strikes?  0 strikes?  Infinite number of strikes?  That's another one of those issues everyone needs to consider before they decide to pull a trigger.

Tomorrow Box Office Blitz Continues!


  1. I started watching this on Netflix last week. Pretty good stuff, but the animation is weird in spots and I didn't find the story compelling. Looks like I need to finish it. Kingdom Come is brilliant.

  2. I'll probably pass on this one. And you're right about "Atomic Skull" sounding very 1950s.

  3. I might check this out. "The Elite" sounds kind of interesting.

    I'm opposed to the death penalty; I used to be for it but I'm not convinced that we can apply it without problems, including errors, and also, I generally think that killing is wrong, and so state-sponsored killing is also wrong. My only exception would be self-defense or defense of others, but if you can lock a guy up for the rest of his life, there's really no need to kill him anymore.

    So I'm on Superman's side! Good for me!

  4. Atomic Skull is indeed an actual villain from the comics, by the way.

    The original Elite comics were some of the ones I most regretted missing, because I wasn't reading comics at the time, and still haven't gotten around to catching, since the essential story, involving Manchester Black, is hard to find. It does seem that the whole concept was very similar to Kingdom Come, which for years DC kept drawing on. This was one of the more oblique instances, and didn't involve Magog. It's funny, because once Magog actually did become a regular presence in the comics, he didn't have near the impact of the Elite.

    I'm glad these animated films keep getting made, and this is one that I hope to catch at some point.

  5. I think Kingdom Come was great. And I think not killing them when you know the criminal you caught will escape and kill again later is a real moral conundrum. In the black and white world of good and evil and crappy prisons I'd say to kill bad guys. In the real world of erroneous convictions and accidental deaths due to negligence and such, killing killers is not recommended. At least by me.



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