Director – Curt Geda, Screenplay – Duane Capizzi, Story – Duane Capizzi & Christopher Simmons, Producer – Margaret M. Dean, Music – Thomas Chase Jones, Animation – Lotto Animation (Supervising Directors – Heelchung Kang, Byongki Lee & Kyungchuk Sa), Visual Effects Supervisor – John Dillon. Production Company – Warner Bros. Animation
Tim Daly (Superman/Clark Kent), Dana Delany (Lois Lane), Lance Henriksen (Brainiac), Powers Boothe (Lex Luthor), David Kaufman (Jimmy Olsen), George Dzundza (Perry White)
Brainiac returns to Earth and invades the Lexcorp laboratories in search of data, seeking to become the supreme intellect in the universe. When Superman arrives to stop him, Brainiac turns Lexcorp’s Lex-7000 satellite weapon against him, before being defeated. Among the rubble, Lex Luthor finds Brainiac’s control chip and rebuilds it, uploading it into the satellite. Brainiac uses the satellite to transform into a giant killer robot and returns to Earth, tracking down Superman to destroy him. During the massive city-wrecking conflict, Lois Lane is injured and left fatally infected by Brainiac. Finding that there is no cure on earth, Superman’s only recourse is to journey into The Phantom Zone in search of the rare minerals there.
Brainiac Attacks was the first film spinoff from the animated tv series Superman (1996-2000). This was created by Bruce W. Timm as a companion piece to the very excellent animated Batman (1992-4) and was followed by other DC superhero-based animated shows from Timm with Batman Beyond/Batman of the Future (1999-2001) and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (2001-5). Timm spun off three animated Batman films with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Batman and Mr Freeze: SubZero (1998), Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003), as well as Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000). The same however did not happen with Superman until Brainiac Attacks, unless you count Superman: The Last Son of Krypton (1996) and The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest (1998), which were both video-released compilations made up of the multi-story episodes of the series as opposed to original films.
Brainiac Attacks takes place within the animated Superman universe. The film uses the same designs of the characters (notedly Superman with his giant square lantern jaw) and the same Art Deco-styled designs of cars and buildings. It features all of the key actors in the roles they played in the series – Tim Daly as Superman, Dana Delany as Lois Lane, David Kaufman as Jimmy Olsen and George Dzundza as Perry White. The only missing voice is Clancy Brown who delivered a magnificent Lex Luthor in the series but is replaced here by Powers Boothe. The film is directed by Curt Geda, the most prolific director on the Superman tv series and known for work on other animated superhero films such as Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, Ultimate Avengers (2006) and Turok: Son of Stone (2008). The surprising missing name is Bruce W. Timm. Why is a good question, especially given that Timm rebooted the animated DC universe in a series of films the following year beginning with Superman: Doomsday (2007) but for some reason does not lend his name here. It may have had something to do with conflict in the house or simply that Brainiac Attacks is not that good a film. Another overriding reason would seem to be that Brainiac Attacks was made to capitalise on the release of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006), being released only one day before the live-action film, which may have resulted in a hurried shooting schedule.
Brainiac Attacks is strictly an average entry in the animated DC mythos. It feels like a fairly ordinary episode of the series and Curt Geda does nothing spectacular with the material. Brainiac, a key Superman villain who has been under-represented on the screen compared to Lex Luthor and the Phantom Zone villains, appears but does little more than engage in several fight scenes against Superman. (Brainiac subsequently made a much more magisterial appearance in the animated Superman Unbound (2013) voiced by John Noble). Even worse is Lex Luthor who is turned into little more than the supporting guest star playing second banana to other villains much as he was in Superman II (1980). The one interesting arc the film has is whether Clark should come out and tells Lois that he is Superman, which it does resolve in an interesting way – only to then go and blow with an annoying revelation that it was only a Phantom Zone illusion, a continuity reset device that is only one step above the aforementioned Superman II‘s magic amnesia inducing kiss. On the plus side, you do have to admit that the film does fairly well when it comes to the action scenes – Superman saving Lois from a collapsing pylon and some spectacular battles with the Brainiac robot over the skies of Metropolis.