You’d never tell judging from the scores I’ve awarded the various entries into the Bruce Timm-shepherded DC Animated Originals catalogue, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: They’re starting to get a bit tedious.
This might be because I’ve watched a significant number of them back-to-back, only taking a brief hiatus to completely upend my life and relocate somewhere else – an endeavour I briefly detailed here – which clearly isn’t the intended way to consume films which are released 6-8 months apart. I once decided I was going to read Chuck Palahniuk’s entire bibliography, and after the second book, Survivor, an extraordinarily cynical meditation on isolated religious cults and fervent media frenzy, I felt so aggressively fed-up with contemporary society that I was tempted to disappear into the wilderness myself.
Continue reading Review – Justice League: War
As I’ve noted before in this very series, the idea of alternate timelines and universes and all their attendant paradoxes is largely what has prohibited me from becoming what one might describe as a “fan” of comic books, which some would consider a rather egregious oversight given my line of work. When I reviewed Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, another direct-to-DVD feature courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC, which also concerned a superhero team who ventured into a mirrored dimension to battle their doppelgangers, I expressed concerns about the futility of the endeavour, which I still hold. That movie surprised me, though, and it must be said that this one, which is based on the 2011 comic book crossover event “Flashpoint”, by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, surprised me just as much, if not more so.
A couple of reasons. The first, rather obvious one is that a standalone feature-film is a very different proposition from a concerted effort to mangle and merge a dozen characters’ established continuities. In comic books, these events are permanent – until, that is, the next one happens, or the whole line is arbitrarily rebooted, though even then the ostensibly clean slate still contains the sticky residue of versions past. It’s a nightmare. Something like Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has the distinct advantage of having no obligation to a broader continuity. You can enjoy its hypothetical rearranging of DC’s stalwarts secure in the knowledge that by the time the credits roll, none of it will have mattered.
The second reason is that, unwieldy title notwithstanding, it isn’t a movie about the Justice League.
Continue reading Review – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
An adaptation of Superman: Brainiac, a better-titled miniseries by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank that reimagined Brainiac, one of Superman’s most iconic villains, as a cybernetic alien who boasts the knowledge of 10,000 worlds – accumulated, it’s worth noting, by pilfering those worlds’ most developed cities, miniaturizing them, and cataloguing them aboard his giant, tentacled skull-ship in little glass jars.
That sounds like hard work.
It does. I was compelled to ponder the logistics of this endeavour, but I gave up once I was reminded that a building full of investigative journalists still haven’t managed to determine that Clark Kent is Superman, despite him working in that very building and making no effort to disguise himself. In fact, I should really applaud Superman: Unbound, which is the sixteenth movie in DC’s animated line, for introducing a boorish Daily Planet employee who makes a point of noticing and commenting on Clark’s secretive behaviour. Admittedly he thinks that Clark sneaking around and being in good shape means that he’s a homosexual, but that’s still the closest anyone has come to putting two and two together.
Continue reading Review – Superman: Unbound
An adaptation – although, if we’re being completely honest, an expansion – of a story from Action Comics #775 called “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and The American Way”. The original appeared in 2001, and was written by Joe Kelly, who also adapted the screenplay. The issue served more as a discussion point than a real story. It dealt with the moral quandaries at the heart of vigilantism: the question of whether power could – or should – position one above the law; the reality that some evil cannot be reasoned or negotiated with; and the dilemma of how a hero can quash villainy without sacrificing what makes them heroic. It was a poor story that contained potent ideas, and they were made even more so just a few months after its publication, when terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and flew three of them into buildings.
What’s the set-up?
The Elite – Manchester Black (Robin Atkin Downes), Coldcast (Catero Colbert), The Hat (Andrew Kishino) and Menagerie (Melissa Disney) – are characters that were initially intended to serve as analogues for a certain breed of violent superhero team (particularly The Authority) who were popular at the time. They show up making a big deal about how they’ll fight injustice with lawless abandon; how they’ll go where others won’t, and do what needs to be done to keep people safe, including stepping over (and well beyond) the lines that Superman is so prickly about. This brings on one of Supes’ trademark moral crises, wherein he begins to question whether his aversion to murder is too old-fashioned for the modern world and for a society who are getting justifiably sick of villains breaking out of prison to wreak more havoc in their city.
Continue reading Review – Superman vs. The Elite
The motion picture version of Mark Waid’s Justice League of America arc, JLA: Tower of Babel, from 2000, adapted for the screen by the late Dwayne McDuffie, who died shortly after finishing the script. It’s also a sort-of sequel to the rather good Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, retaining the same character designs, being set, I think, in the same universe, and providing another iteration of the tried-and-true team vs. team structure.
It is, I guess, but if Justice League: Doom accomplishes something tangible among the usual large-scale action these films are known for, it’s a darker treatment of the Justice League that pushes each member to their physical and emotional limits (and the film to the very brink of its PG-13 classification.) Ever wanted to see Batman get buried alive with his father’s bones, or Martian Manhunter perpetually immolate as he sweats flaming magnesium? Well, this is the movie for you.
Continue reading Review – Justice League: Doom
[As this is an analysis post, please be aware that this will contain spoilers. If you have not watched the film, and you do not want to know what happens in the story, then please do not continue reading.]
Christopher Nolan spoiled us with his take on Batman. Throughout the Dark Knight trilogy, the public was provided with clear character development, a complex but deep narrative, and a story worth caring about. I think that’s where the problem stems.
As soon as BvS DoJ rolls, you are given a rushed introduction into how Batman came to be. The rest of the film clearly shows an older, bitter and tired Bruce Wayne. Was the start necessary? I felt the young Bruce Wayne was entirely irrelevant to this story. The story is years ahead of that time. Bruce has grown up, took on Gotham, experienced failure and success. Why try merging the two together? Oh yes, I guess his mother’s name does play a part, but I’m highlighting the problem of this film right from the start, and it felt disjointed immediately.
Continue reading Analysis – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
All-Star Superman is adapted from one of the most iconic, cerebral and visually-inventive Superman stories ever conceived – an out-of-continuity miniseries, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely, that recounted Superman’s last days. It explored every facet of Superman’s character and mythos through prophesised challenges; tackling his friends, his foes, and his legacy within 12 issues of beloved material. This film, the tenth DC animated original, was written by Dwayne McDuffie and directed by Sam Liu, and is perhaps the most disappointingly overstuffed, undercooked translation of such material since Justice League: The New Frontier.
It should have been obvious that an animated feature film was a woefully insufficient format for a complex meditation on an iconic character’s very identity. But DC’s collaborations with Warner Bros. Animation have surprised me so consistently that I was willing to give All-Star Superman the benefit of the doubt. And the initial premise is so simple and efficient that it took a while for the creeping schizophrenia of the movie to really overwhelm me. In it’s opening scenes, Lex Luthor (Anthony LaPaglia) tricks Superman (James Denton) into a rescue mission that flies him a little too close to the sun. Oversaturated by solar radiation, Superman’s powers and intelligence exponentially develop, but at the expense of his squishy physical form. He’s terminally ill.
Continue reading Review – All-Star Superman