Ahead of DC Studios’ upcoming adaptation of Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, the animated branch of DC/Warner Bros. has its own exciting movie spotlighting the character, along with the (now) 31st Century’s Legion of Super-Heroes.
Written by Josie Campbell and directed by Jeff Wamester, the movie opens with Kara Zor-El (Meg Donnelly) and her mother, Alura (Jennifer Hale), having a friendly race on Krypton. Just as Alura lets her daughter know she’s been accepted into the military guild, we learn that we are witness to that pivotal moment in Krypton’s destruction. Before she can fully realize what is happening, Kara is placed in a rocket escape pod, tasked with caring for her infant cousin, Kal-El, and sent off into the galaxy, before a mishap causes her to arrive on Earth decades after her cousin has arrived.
And with that, we are off and running, zooming through the galaxy as the credits roll. While the opening will feel very familiar to Super fans, it still feels fresh seeing it from this perspective as it hits home how much more traumatic Krypton’s destruction is for Kara, compared to Kal.
The story jumps forward a few months as Kara tries in vain to acclimate to Earth society. When a mysterious threat, the Dark Circle, unleashes Solomon Grundy upon Metropolis (Someone be sure to tell the Straight Outta Gotham boys!) It becomes clear to Batman (Jensen Ackles) that Supergirl needs some additional training.
Superman (Darren Criss) offers Kara a rare opportunity to go to the 31st century and train alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes, a futuristic version of the Justice League, inspired by Superman himself. There Kara meets Daxamite Mon-El (Yuri Lowenthal), Dawnstar (Cynthia Hamidi), Triplicate Girl (Daisy Lightfoot), and Brainiac 5 (Harry Shum, Jr.), whom Kara immediately mistakes for a villain, given her past history with his ancestor, the original Brainiac.
Kara then does her best to acclimate to her new environment, often coming into conflict with Brainiac 5. As the older Legionnaires become worried about losing contact with their most senior members, Kara starts to notice strange things happening, including the appearance of the Dark Circle in the 31st Century. Meanwhile, Batman continues to investigate the group in the present day.
While I appreciate the LOSH and their specific place in the DC Universe, I can’t attest to being a gigantic fan, or that I’m up to date on their lore, which has gotten very convoluted as different continuity reboots have happened thanks to all the Crises the world has endured. Still, the filmmakers pull off a very engaging story here, one that focuses on Supergirl’s perspective, which helps the audience learn alongside her.
The film utilizes the animation style seen in their more recent output, such as Superman: Man of Tomorrow and Batman: The Long Halloween. If you enjoy that look as I do, you’ll appreciate it here. There are a few moments where it feels a little choppy; otherwise, this new house style fits this movie well. Character designs are by Dusty Abell, Tina Duong, and Otto Schmidt, familiar names, particularly Schmidt, whose art has graced the pages of DC Rebirth’s Green Arrow.
The voice cast is a great match to their characters, with Donnelly being pitch-perfect as Supergirl. Harry Shum has great antagonistic chemistry with her and Yuri Lowenthal captures the nuance in Mon-El. Although they are not prominent in the movie, I welcomed hearing Criss as Superman and Ackles as Batman, although I’m still getting used to Ackles’ version of the Dark Knight.
The threat of the Dark Circle leads to some interesting twists and turns, including a horrific reveal. The film definitely leans into its PG-13 rating with some violence and body horror moments. The stakes become huge and also personal for Supergirl, getting the audience emotionally invested and adding to my enjoyment. If I had a criticism of the story, it would be how the present-day JLA is utilized, but a post-credits scene dulled my complaint, so make sure you watch to the end.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this latest installment, but I found myself engrossed throughout its entire 83-minute run time. Sure, some of the Legion has some ridiculous super-powers (Bouncing Boy and Arms Fall Off Boy, I’m looking at you), but the creators did a fantastic job selecting which ones to focus on and the voice performances are top-notch with Donnelly and Shum being excellent co-leads. Kara’s journey is compelling and
I’d definitely welcome a trip back to the future! – Javier E. Trujillo