There could not be two characters more diametrically opposed than Superman and Batman. On the one hand you have the all powerful Superman, raised on a farm and instilled with traditional American values by his adoptive parents. On the other you have the very human Batman, orphaned after his parents were murdered. Of course, this makes them perfect foils for each other. This is probably why it seems like they are the two heroes most often teamed up or, alternatively, pitted against each other. In the case of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, it's a team-up.
"Public Enemies" jumps right into it's storyline: Luthor is President, and has all but outlawed superheroes except those working for the U.S. Government, i.e. him. Superman and Batman remain the lone hero holdouts. The front and center storylines of "Public Enemies" has a giant meteorite composed of Kryptonite headed right for Earth, and Superman being framed for murder by Luthor.
The script for "Public Enemies" is by Stan Berkowitz, and is adapted from a story arc in the "Superman/Batman" comics by scribes Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. For the most part Berkowitz has done a faithful adaptation, though with several huge detours, additions, and subtractions. The meteorite storyline remains, but the murder frame-up on Supes is new, though curiously Lex Luthorís motivations remain just as muddled in the movie as they were in the comics. We always knew Baldy had a grudge against Superman the size of Mt. Everest, but the whole Kryptonite meteorite plot always seemed overly McGuffin-ish to. Adding the complications of Supermanís frame-up also seems a tad unnecessary, especially in a 60-minute movie.
The first thing you notice about "Public Enemies" is the animation. Inspried by McGuinness' art from the graphic novel, it's a bit on the cartoony side but so is the story. The coloring is bright and vibrant and every scene seems like a pin-up. The writers take the fairly high concept premise of Batman and Superman kicking the crap out of everybody and run with it. While they allow the McGuinness style art to speak for itself, half the time it seems like the purpose of the script is just to give the writers more characters to feature. That's okay with me, however, because it's fun just to see all the other various DCU characters.
Fortunately the action in "Public Enemies" is excellent, and director Sam Liu has a great eye for comic book carnage. The movie is short, with just over an over of running time, but Liu and Berkowitz manage to pack in a hell of a lot of action.
At it's core, "Public Enemies" is a buddy picture. You have to two protagonists, as different as night and day, thrown together by circumstance. As the story continues, they start to seem less and less different and even take pages from each others' books. No, it's not deep. No, it doesn't have the same level of quality dialog or plotting as some of the other Warner Home Video animated films such as "Justice League: The New Frontier". With that said, I really liked it. It is just a whole lot of beautiful fun.
Itís hard to keep up with all the D.C. direct-to-DVD movies at the rate the company is putting them out (about once or twice a year), but if I had to guess, I would say that the films are separate entities, and donít necessarily exist in the same universe, so in that respect familiarity with the other movies are unnecessary to enjoy "Public Enemies". Though to be sure, knowing your comic books certainly help.