I was surprised by how much I got into Legion of Super-Heroes.
Legion of Super-Heroes (2023) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on May 18, 2023
Rating 3.5 /5
DC Comics animated movies can be hit or miss. Given their current trajectory of framing yet another connected universe, their latest movies have a specific rigid nature. While starting off strong with Superman: Man of Tomorrow, the following films on the Justice Society and Green Lantern have been lukewarm. So my expectations were already low for their next chapter focusing on the Legion of Super-Heroes, given the rocky and dense history of the future-based hero ensemble. Surprisingly, however, this is a refreshing entry for feeling so different, despite existing in a connected universe and sharing the same art style as previous films in this saga.
This Supergirl story does a solid job of introducing the character of Kara and making her interesting. Her origins are briefly established as being a refugee of Krypton’s neighboring planet that was affected by Krypton’s explosion. Immediately after Kara is accepted for a position in Argo City’s military, Kara is sent off to Earth, where she becomes Supergirl. She does not adjust well as she ends up causing too much property damage that worries Superman and anger Batman. The main issue is that Kara can’t adjust to 21st-century Earth with its limited technology.
Superman figures that a better setting for Kara would be their future, where robots and automatic tech are more common. There’s also a love interest to be had in the unlikely ally of Brainiac 5, the good version of the high-intellect android that once terrorized Superman. They hit it off well as Supergirl is inducted into the Legion’s amateurs-in-training camp. Despite Supergirl and Brainiac 5 being incredibly powerful, they can’t exactly be trusted with their egos. This leads them to try to befriend the other struggling heroes like Phantom Girl, Bouncing Boy, Invisible Kid, Triplicate Girl, and the oddly-named Arm-Fall-Off Boy.
The villain that Supergirl and her Legion pals have to fight in this narrative is the Dark Circle, an organization that has been so profoundly drenched in secret that no known leader has been tracked for centuries. There’s already some mystery and allure to this villain group, and there’s a fantastic payoff to it as well. Without revealing too much, the Dark Circle is essentially fascist. They want to recreate the world in their own image, even if that image contradicts their own people and even their own egos. It’s presented as the perfect foil for Supergirl, longing for her homeworld to be more present on Earth. She’s allowed to reshape society at the cost of genocide and gets the pleasure of beating back on these fascist villains.
After the previous DC Comics animated movies, this film felt like a breath of fresh air. There’s better chemistry within the characters as the romance between Supergirl and Braianc bubbles well enough to believe they’d fall for each other. The story is loaded with mystery and dark violence, considering the vicious brutality of the Dark Circle’s faceless operatives armed with weapons designed to incinerate and vaporize. There’s also a grotesque version of Brainac revealed in the third act that plays well with the overall theme and feels like something straight out of a great monster movie. All of this works well with the bold-outlined style of the animation, reflecting the comic style well.
I was surprised by how much I got into Legion of Super-Heroes. Having never been that big into the comic books of this series, I found myself so entranced by this animated adaptation that I’m inspired to go back and read a few more issues of Legion. As someone who has never been into the tales of futuristic superheroes, I was very invested in watching Supergirl and her Brainiac 5 boyfriend beating up on alien fascists.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.