Tag Archives: Warner Bros.

Review – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

What’s this?

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.

Why’s that?

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.

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Review – Superman: Unbound

What’s this?

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.

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Review – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1

What’s this?

Another delve into the addled imagination of Frank Miller, whose definitive Batman origin story, Year One, I recently declared one of the worst adaptations to yet be churned out by DC’s generally-excellent collaboration with Warner Bros.

Well… I guess we’re off to an awkward start.

Fear not, though, because Miller didn’t just reimagine Batman’s beginning, but also his end; The Dark Knight Returns is another iconic, seminal work in Batman’s long and storied history, and the first part of it, directed by Jay Oliva and adapted for the screen by Bob Goodman, is easily the best Batman story since Under the Red Hood, and stands alongside that movie, Wonder Woman and Superman vs. The Elite as some of the best superheroic shenanigans yet committed to film.

Hold on… part 1?

Yes, indeed. It seems that the original story’s vaunted place in the comic-book pantheon didn’t lend itself well to an abridgement. For the first time, instead of trying to compress a multi-issue arc into a single, short movie, DC and Warner have taken the scalpel to the source material and delivered two feature-length halves of Miller’s four-part classic.

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Review – Superman vs. The Elite

What’s this?

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.

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Review – Justice League: Doom

What’s this?

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.

Sounds familiar…

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.

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Review – Batman: Year One

What’s this?

The animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal Year One, the four-issue 1987 arc that has since come to more or less completely define our current understanding of Batman, Gotham City, and their various stories. This is the work – a grim, nihilistic noir detective thriller – that spawned countless classic Batman tales, and planted the seeds which eventually grew into Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.

What’s it about?

The first year of Batman’s crime-fighting career, which just so happens to coincide with Jim Gordon’s first year at the GCPD; here, a nakedly corrupt institution nestled firmly within the pockets of local mobster Carmine Falcone. As inextricably tied to the character as Year One is, this is far from a typical Batman outing. There are no colourful super-villains or fancy, high-tech gadgetry, just two idealistic men wading through the cesspool of a city whose citizens need a reason to hope again.

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Review – Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

What’s this?

It’s – blimey – the eleventh DC Animated Original, and the second after the mediocre Batman: Gotham Knight to feature an anthology format. Don’t panic, though – Emerald Knights ­isn’t as artsy-fartsy as that movie; it retains a uniform visual style (which is more or less identical to what was used in Green Lantern: First Flight, although this otherwise has no connection), and each individual tale is linked together by an overarching narrative.

And that narrative is?

The home planet of the Green Lantern Corps is on the precipice of a galactic-scale battle with an ancient enemy, and in preparation for the coming conflict Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion) regales new recruit Arisia Rrab (Elizabeth Moss) with tales of the first Green Lantern and several of his current comrades. And that’s it, really. We get stories that explore the formation of the Corps; the trial-by-fire that led to Kilowog (Henry Rollins) becoming a certified ass-kicking space-swine; Bolphunga’s (Roddy Piper) meeting of an “antisocial” Green Lantern known as Mogo (Steve Blum); some familial drama as Laira (Kelly Hu) investigates her vaguely Nipponese home world; and a team-up between Abin Sur (Arnold Vooslo) and Sinestro (Jason Isaacs) as they take on the villain Atrocitus (Bruce Thomas) while waxing philosophical about the nature of destiny and free will.

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