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The Batman / Superman Movie
Rated: not rated :: Released: 04 October 1997
Director: Toshihiko Masuda :: Starring: Kevin Conroy, Timothy Daly and Dana Delany

By Michael David Sims
30 August 2004 — It's always a treat when two superheroes, especially icons, meet for the very first time. The problem is, unless one of the characters is a joke, they both have to be made to look strong — sometimes too strong. For instance, take the JLA / Avengers crossover. Based on everything we know about Superman, Thor should have wiped the floor with him — him being of magical origins and all, and Superman being prone to magic. But Marvel and DC had to compromise so that Superman — supposedly the strongest hero ever — wasn't made to look the weaker of the two in the end. (And, despite his weakness, actually held Mjolnir.) This shielding of icons mentality isn't limited to inter-company crossovers by any means. For instance, Batman, who's a mere mortal, has handed Superman his backside on more than one occasion. Sure, he cheats — that's what Batman does — but he and Superman have been palling around long enough that Clark should know Bruce's weaknesses by now, and could easily implement them against him — should he need to. Then again, he's Superman — he who might be faster than the Flash — and could just as easily whack the bat across the face with one strong (but not deadly) smack, sending him to the floor like Guy Gardner. Because we don't get to see our heroes at their strongest (or they're portrayed as being too strong), crossovers are more often than not a letdown, with sloppy writing and convenient situations where one can show his / her prowess over the other — and, in the end, the day is saved because they overcame their differences to save the city or world or whatever. The Batman / Superman Movie, however, avoids these common pitfalls by getting their fight (if you can call it that) out of the way instantly (establishing just who is stronger), and keeps the two heroes apart (at least in costume) until they need to come together in the end — to save the city.

After the Joker steals a small statue, which most believe to be jade, Batman cryptically heads to Metropolis. (Any comic book reader worth his collection already knows just what this so-called jade is, as should common viewers whose only knowledge of Superman comes from Superfriends and the Superman movies.) Before he arrives, however, Harley Quinn and the Joker abduct Lex Luthor — a death sentence for sure, had it not been for the 20 pounds of kryptonite the Joker just so happens to have. Intrigued, Luthor and the Clown Prince of Crime strike a deal: The Joker will kill Superman to the tune of one billion dollars.

Now that the villains have meet (and conspired), so must our heroes. Before Superman and Batman can meet (or even Clark and Bruce), Bruce meets the otherwise composed but rather flustered Lois Lane — whose taken aback by Bruce's stunningly good looks and charm. Having been spurned by Superman one too many times (and having no interest in Kent), Lane is eager to set a date with Wayne.

That night, after an enchanted evening, Bruce dons the ol' cape and cowl for his kind of night on the town — accosting a low-level mobster in a dance (strip?) club. Knowing the Joker has the kryptonite and having heard he's set-up shop somewhere in town, Batman plans to stealthily apprehend the Joker before a certain other hero involves himself. Before Batman has a chance to extract the information from the mobster (who insists he knows nothing), Superman silently steps behind Batman and calmly commands Batman to stop his impromptu interrogation. Having no time for games or Boy Scout antics, Batman surprisingly throws Superman across the room. When he turns his attention back to the thug however — distracted from Superman for one moment — Superman plows into Batman, sending him reeling into a wall with a deafening thud. With the wind knocked out of him (and a bit of his pride surely hurt), Superman takes the opportunity to use his X-ray vision to peek behind Batman's mask. Superman, surprised for the second time in just a few seconds, watches in horror as Bruce pulls a third surprise from his belt — a tiny bit of kryptonite left behind at the Joker's initial crime scene. With that, the stage is set for our two heroes to team-up to thwart the villain. But an odd thing happens — they don't. Instead, they agree to work separately, each using his own means of investigation.

Mind you, this is the first time these two heroes have met in this animated universe, so Superman might know of Batman, but he doesn't know how he works — yet. He quickly learns, however, when he flies home and finds a tracking device attached to his cape. When Clark squints, glaring across the distant skyline, there's Batman — smiling behind a pair of high-powered binoculars — returning the favor of unwillingly trading secret identities. Touchι, indeed.

As the days roll on, the budding relationship between Wayne and Lois intensifies, prompting Clark's jealousy — more so now that he knows who Bruce really is. But, being the heroes that they are, the two men set aside their feelings for Lois to kibitz about their investigations. Unfortunately, neither man has turned up much. That is, until Lois is kidnapped by the Joker from right under Bruce's nose — forcing both Superman and Batman to feverishly hunt him down.

Knowing full well that Superman will risk his hide to save his lady love, he's shocked to see Batman in town too — and on the case. No matter. Plans can be altered accordingly and killing two for the price of one might not be as profitable, but surely makes the Joker's life that much easier.

Of course the trio escapes and the Joker flees. Having lost half of his kryptonite and an assault from Luthor does little to deter the clown. Instead, he bargains for more money and time, which Lex reluctantly promises.

After a particularly nasty mugging by the Joker, Bruce is unmasked right before Lois' eyes. Naturally, she's pissed — especially considering she was going to uproot herself from Metropolis so she could live with Bruce in Gotham City. As she gets more iodine — burning, stinging iodine — Superman swoops in, somewhat amused by the circumstances. Here's Lois — who's in love with both Superman and Bruce Wayne, but is untracked to Clark Kent and hates Batman — having fallen for the alter ego of the wrong man who seemed so right.

Finally together, the duo confronts the Joker and Harley as they literally blow Metropolis to smithereens using Luthor's Lexwing — forcing Lex to watch as everything he's built is destroyed right before his very eyes.

In the end, of course, the status quo is once again returned — Harley under lock-and-key, the Joker missing and presumed dead, Luthor absolved of all involvement in the crimes, Superman in solitary control of Metropolis once more, and Bruce heading back to the much darker Gotham City — and we're left with a sense of a much larger animated universe.

Until these two icons crossed over in this three-part animated adventure, they resided in their own corners of the globe — hardly making mention of one another. But, thanks to this show, we — the fans — could now wait with baited breath until the next meeting between the powerhouses. Though crossovers didn't happen much until the debut of Justice League, one has to thank the creators of The Batman / Superman Movie for setting the bar and demanding that superhero crossovers (or permanent team-ups) be well written and not looked upon as a marketing ploy that fanboys will gobble up — no matter the quality.

Stars: 5 of 5


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