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Justice League – A Review

justice-league-posterIt’s fine. The movie is fine. It’s not great or as grand as a Justice League movie should be. It feels small, but not in an intimate way. It’s scale and tone reminded me of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. For a movie that cost as much as it did, I sure doesn’t look great. There’s a lot to dislike about the movie, but, for the first time in this non-solo Wonder Woman series, there’s some stuff to generally like.

After the face-slap that was Man of Steel and the so-dumb-I-feel-bad-for-it Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I pretty much retired any hope of ever enjoying these films. Some people like the darker tones, the hopeless characterization, the over-complicated plotting and maybe that’s a good thing. We don’t want every superhero movie to look and feel the same. I simply had to resign that, like Deadpool, these movies weren’t being made for me.

After Wonder Woman gave Warner Bros. their first great DC movie since The Dark Knight, I felt a bit better but could tell from the lead up and trailers that Justice League was going to be messy. Zach Snyder leaving for personal reasons and bringing in Joss Whedon to rewrite and reshoot seemed like a good way to mess up the joint. And messy it was! But, somehow, the worst feeling I had while watching it was boredom. The anger I used to feel has burnt out and maybe that’s due to the small amount of sunlight that’s allowed through all the sepia tone and CGI-smoke.

justice-equipo-960x480First, I suppose, the good. Ray Fisher came out of nowhere and impressed me as Cyborg. In fact, while watching his story, I kept wishing I was seeing the Cyborg movie already, because it would have to be more compelling than what I watching at the moment. I didn’t hate this version of Aquaman, despite being the bro-est bro of bro-dom. I look forward to being surprised by him in his own, solo movie. And Gal Gadot is still a Wonder Woman I would follow into battle. Oh! That reminds me! The fight in Themyscira was fun! And, when there was action on screen, it was entertaining, for the most part.

Now, for the rest. During any scene that there was no fighting, I was bored. And, hey, I’m not some action junky who needs people to shut up and punch! The conversations between these characters, Justice League members or not, felt like time killers or placeholders for the real script. There was always the element of humor laced in the lines, but nothing was able to be truly funny, except for Batman’s, “I don’t not” line.

1024x1024Ben Affleck’s Batman was less interesting this time around, lacking the fire of his previous performance. The Flash doesn’t really impress and I’m sure that’s due to the fact I’ve been watching a successful representation of the character weekly on the CW for three years now. And Superman, well, that character has been a wash since day one. They try to clean him up a bit, make him a beacon of hope and all, but it’s not enough. He’s still not a Superman I want to watch, even when using all his cool powers. These movies love showing off how strong he is, but the heart is never there.

I’ll say this, and I don’t want anyone thinking I like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or think it’s even close to a good movie, but Justice League feels small in comparison. BvS felt like an event, albeit a dumb one. It’s tone, cinematography and over-dramatic dialog made it feel like an important, stupid moment in history. Justice League just sort of happens. A big, gray monster-man shows up and is going to make more CGI fire and smoke and some people get together. This doesn’t feel mythic or memorable. If anything, it feels like a preview for a real Justice League movie, with a full roster and characters who aren’t learning their powers or motivations.

warner-bros-2-1So, to summarize, Justice League is fine. It’s watchable and has some moments that make it worth the time. It’s not epic and it’s not a trendsetter, which is a shame. The Justice League deserve better, they deserve to have the best superhero movie, to put the Avengers to shame. This is a team with the biggest names in super-lore and I had hoped for a feeling of awe and insperation. But, that feeling never comes. Sometimes, during the movie, Batman and Superman’s classic musical scores of the past will play and I was reminded of the good feelings and pleasant memories I had for these characters. Unfortunately, I realized, nothing on screen was causing that to happen this time around.. If anything, those themes emphasize the lack of direction and identity this movie has, requiring past visions to guide the way.

I hope a Justice League sequel will be better and I hope the characters can rebuild from here. Whereas the continuity in the Marvel films feels like a boon, these DC movies suffer from it. Every time a movie comes out, I can’t shake the past these heroes are burdened with. You can lighten Superman up, but he still snapped a man’s neck. You can make Batman a team player, but he still loves his guns and shooting people. But, with Justice League, they’re now another step in a more enjoyable direction. I hope they can keep that momentum and get past this version I’ve had not interest in before. I hope I can enjoy future DC films. But, for the first time in a long time with these movies, at least I can hope.

The Death of Long Form Storytelling in Comics

26030872I just finished reading the third volume of Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange series and, so far, so good. Chris Bachalo’s art is a great fit for a Doctor Strange comic and he and Aaron made a good team while working on Wolverine and the X-Men a few years back.

But, what surprises me the most about this Doctor Strange comic is that we’re three volumes in and a fourth is on it’s way in October. While reading the first trade paperback, I assumed Aaron would be around for a least a second volume. After all, most series at least last for twelve issues to get that one-two-punch setup of two single volumes of trade paperback and, then, the later released “definitive” single edition.

Three volumes, though? With a fourth on the way? What’s with this extended storytelling? Who does Aaron think he is? Chris Claremont? (Chris Claremont is a comic book writer who wrote X-Men comics for seventeen years straight. You can get the joke now.)

Of course, I don’t really think of four volumes as an extended run but it’s not far off. Twelve issues seems to be the magic number for most series before they get the reboot and a new first issue. I’m sure that helps sales, as most people would be more willing to pick up a first issue rather than a thirty-second. But, I’ve begun to have setup fatigue.

439383-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_See, with every first or second issue, we need a setup. The writers have to explain why this new series is different than the previous series, even if it’s just one Hulk book from the next. Yes, last year’s Uncanny X-Men was about our heroes on the run in Antarctica, so we needed to reboot the series so we could place our heroes on the run in London. It’s different. And we have to spend forty four pages explaining why it’s different.

With DC Comic’s Rebirth event, it hit me harder than ever before. Wonder WomanThe Lies was fine and entertaining, but I’ve read so many first volumes and origin stories of Wonder Woman that I just couldn’t care anymore. The same thing goes for the new Justice League comic. Instead of a new story, I have to read six more issues of introductory action and be reminded who these characters are again and why Batman chooses to fight crime dressed as bat.

Team book, like the X-Men and Justice League, are the worst for this because each incarnation of the team has to have a reason to exist and a new lineup of heroes. I can’t count how many X-Men comics I’ve read that are just characters walking down halls, welcoming back Iceman for whatever new direction they’re going with. But, solo heroes still get annoying, with constant first issues of Batgirl leaping from buildings, talking about how much she loves being a hero. All reminder, no momentum.

51FM5Cut0PL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_What happens, with this setup fatigue, is I stop caring and I don’t let myself get invested. It’s partly because these stories have little overlap and almost none of them carry over. Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men comes back to mind because that lasted for a while, filling up eight volumes. That’s one heck of a run in these days. But, as soon as the series was over, almost all the work that he was doing with Wolverine as a character was ignored. Series that run for less time are even worse investments. Iron Man is obsessed with rebuilding his company’s name in one series, two months later he couldn’t care less in the reboot. Why should I care for one setup when the other is one the way?

What we lose is a sense of purpose, that these stories matter. Villains no longer have plans, they simply attack because it can fill two issues with action. Subplots are largely ignored. Not to keep singing the praises of Wolverine and the X-Men, but over the course of that series, Jason Aaron was able to tell lots of small stories throughout. There was a time, such as with Chris Claremont’s X-Men run, where you could have Mastermind working in the background for a year and still not reveal is full plan to drive Jean Grey insane.

1157943-av1Maybe superhero comics aren’t going to be that type of story anymore. Brian K. Vaughan rarely writes comics that don’t last ten trade paperbacks. Fables, by Bill Willingham, lasted for twenty two volumes and spin-off titles. Sure, Scott Snyder wrote on the New 52’s Batman for the whole run, but he’s also been writing American Vampire for years.

Times have changed and I don’t mean to sound like I want “the good old days” back (I least hate thinking I sound old). I just want good stories. Comics are episodic with many having no end in sight. But, when we’re constantly starting over, that lack of ending is getting exhausting. It has to do with the fact many comics used to run hundreds of issues, so we just went along for the ride. Imagine going on a road trip for two days and how enjoyable it could be with no traffic and some great music. Now, imagine being on that road trip and the driver keeps stopping the car every hour, turns around and goes back twenty minutes and pick a new route. You have to repeat the music too. Also, I think he keeps slamming on the brakes for no reason. Dad’s are the worst.

All the Books Show: Episode 93 – Wonder Woman

One more week and we’re right on schedule!

This episode we talk about the history of Wonder Woman, her comics and media representations. It’s a geeky episode, but Wonder Woman is cool so it’s all good!

 

ww1chiangI really did end up loving the Brian Azzarello run of Wonder Woman comics. It started off rocky and the weirdness of all it put me off. I think the problem was, when it was released, it was so different than the other stories being published in the New 52 and I was looking for anything to make sense during that terrible time. But the second volume really won me over and now I think it’s one of the best series they’ve done and my favorite run of the character. You just have to read it like a Vertigo title, or an Elseworld story.

Did we leave your favorite Wonder Woman story out? Favorite episode of the old Justice League cartoon? Let me know!

You can follow us on Soundcloud, Youtube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Wonder Woman – A Review

wwposter5It’s insane to me that Warner Bros. and DC Comics took seventy-five years to make a Wonder Woman movie. In that time, they’ve made movies for Steel, Jonah Hex, Catwoman, Supergirl, Constantine, the Suicide Squad and yes, I chose the bad ones to point out. I mean, they had a Lobo film in the works before they had a final script for their premier heroine.

But, the movie is here, so we can (but probably not for long) move on from that fact. Let’s focus on the film instead.

I had hesitancy about the movie leading up to seeing it. After all, Man of Steel made me rage until I had destroyed all the love in my life. (old blog, please come back to this one). Batman V. Superman was so dumb I just felt bad for it. And though Wonder Woman was a highlight in that movie, anything remotely NOT dumb would have been a relief during that two and a half hours.

But I was pleasantly surprised. For first two thirds of the movie, Wonder Woman is the film I wanted for years. The first third, which takes place in Themyscira, is great and the island itself feels exactly right. The Amazons have a Spartan vibe, without the machismo, and feel like a real society, even if our time with them isn’t that long. The action scenes that take place there have a 300 vibe, but those scenes are done with confidence and not in way that wears our patience.

Steve Trevor, as played by Chris Pine, is likable and charming, but he’s got an edge to him and also comes across as more progressive than his World War I society. The chemistry between him and Gal Gadot is on point and there’s some great interplay between the two early on.

The action is great. I think, like Captain America, we sometimes forget how strong Wonder Woman really is. But, unlike the First Avenger, Wonder Woman’s powers are big league. She can topple buildings, toss trucks and wreck through soldiers as she goes for jog. When her full powers are on display, such as the terrific charge through the front lines that ends the first half of the movie, she really is a full blown super hero.

ww-11802rv21But Wonder Woman is more than just a set of powers and lassos and bracelets. Gal Gadot is, and I don’t want to understate this, fantastic. For years, I thought Wonder Woman would be one of the hardest characters to cast, but I can’t imagine anyone doing the job better than her. There are times when I could of sworn the character walked right out the comics. She’s inspiring, she’s dangerous, she’s funny, smart, naive, she’s stubborn but for the right reasons. When she speaks, you believe her. When she charges into battle, you want to follow her. Gadot embodies the character in such a defining way that it feels iconic before the movie is even over.

wonder-womanAnd now, with all that praise, here comes my critique and my struggle to not spoil anything. And that’s hard, because my problem with the film, is in the third act and might qualify as a twist. For a long time, the movie seems like it’s going one way and it works. Characters are learning lessons, humanity is getting called out for being the worst species to ever walk the earth and it feels right. But, they need a big action scene to end with and after we’ve seen what a tank Wonder Woman is, the stakes have to be raised. The final confrontation is so fantastical and out there, it almost feels like it’s betraying the rest of the excellent movie that came before it. Actually, the excellent animated movie with Keri Russel might have hurt the live action’s take on the confrontation. It’s not a deal breaker, it doesn’t make the movie a bad film, but I feel like a stronger third act could have put this movie up there with Spider-Man 2, X2: X-Men United and Batman Begins.

But, please, don’t take my issues with the finale to indicate I don’t like the movie. It was great, should be seen and I look forward to watching it again. To meet expectations seventy-five years in the making is a daunting task, but Patty Jenkins was up to the challenge and delivered. This was the first live action DC movie I loved since the Dark Knight way back in 2008.

 

Super Hero Movies: Excitement Level Check 2017

Oh boy. 2017, am I right? It’s going to be busy for people like me, who go to the theater for every single superhero movie. We have seven of them coming out this year, if you count The Lego Batman Movie. And you should count it. Don’t be so cold.

The Lego Batman Movie (February 10)

Just like my rundown for 2016, I’m putting this list out too late to give my predictions for the first super hero movie of the year. Because The Lego Batman movie is already out, and I’ve already seen it! But if I had to guess, I’d say I’ll like it.

I say that because I did like it. As someone who didn’t love The Dark Knight Rises and just feels sorry for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was nice to feel excited for a Batman movie again It actually packed a few emotional punches I wasn’t ready to handle. While the film was never as funny as its first 15-20 minutes, it was enjoyable, beautifully and uniquely animated and still true to Batman as a character.

Excitement Level = Everything is Awesome

 

Logan (March 3)

While my love for the X-Men movies has always been strong, the Wolverine solo films are at 50% approval rating. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one of the worst super hero films ever and killed a slew of planned X-Men solo films. The Wolverine, on the other hand, is one of my favorites, both as an X-Men and super hero film. It was thoughtful, true to the character and unique. And now the same creative team is putting out what might be the last show for Hugh Jackman’s iconic take of the world’s favorite mutant.

I’ll save the emotions I have about seeing the man who played one of my favorite heroes for the past 17 years for after I see the film. I’m both excited to see another unique and focused take on the character, but the R rating doesn’t thrill me like it does for some. I get it and it makes sense when a man’s powers are razor sharp claws that can cut through bone like paper. I just don’t need gore and f-bombs for the sake of being grown up. But then, I’m lame.

That hesitation aside, I’m excited for this. I like the western-vibe the trailers are providing, I like the inclusion of X-23 and I’m always happy to see Wolverine cut loose. If this is as good as the Wolverine, I think we’ll be very happy.

Excitement Level = X-Static

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 5)

One of the best Marvel films is getting a sequel. The first movie did a better job with the characters than some of their comic outings and it was hilarious to boot. I’m having a hard time coming up with things to say about the first movie, just because it was as good as it was and most people saw it. I should watch it again.

The second outing looks like more of the same, but in this case, that should be a good thing. With the introduction of these characters out of the way, we can get straight to the fun and team interaction. I’m pumped to see Kurt Russell in this film and to see how they pull of Ego the Living Planet. What’s great about 2017 is that, even with this movie coming out, it’s not the Marvel movie I’m most excited for, but we’ll get to that.

Excitement Level = High

 

Wonder Woman (June 2)

It’s 2017. They’ve been making big budget super hero movies since 1978. If we’re talking about the time since the first X-Men movie, than comic book movies have been in the golden age for 17 years. So it’s either been almost two or four decades before they made a Wonder Woman film. That’s insane, considering Warner Bros. and DC comics have made a Steel, Jonah Hex, Constantine, Catwoman and Suicide Squad movie before one of the biggest characters on the planet. They should be embarrassed.

Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is coming at a time where I’m not at all excited for DC movies. They just don’t seem to making super hero movies I want to see. And it has nothing to do with being dark and/or gritty. I like plenty of dark and/or gritty films, super heroes are no exception. If I’m enjoying Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix, I can handle a grown up take on characters I like. But stupid, that’s another thing entirely. And Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were stupid.

I want Wonder Woman to buck that trend. I want it to be great. And from the trailers I’ve seen, it looks like it could be something unique and exciting. While setting it in World War I might play a bit too close to Captain America: The First Avenger, I doubt it will be a problem. Here’s hoping that this is the first DC film since Man of Steel that values character over imagery, while still giving us the super heroics.

Excitement Level = Hopeful

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 5)

Boy, just writing the title has made me tired.

It’s not that I don’t like Spider-Man! I love the guy! He’s one of my favorites. The first Spider-Man movie (2002) felt like a defining moment in my life and the sequel (2004) is one of my favorite movies ever, definitely in my top five super hero films of all time. It’s just that after fifteen years, five movies in which the last three weren’t the best and the speed of the reboot has left me underwhelmed.

Tom Holland was fantastic in Captain America: Civil War and he won me over quickly. I guess what keeps me from getting excited about this new movie is that we know what to expect from a Spider-Man film, a Marvel film, a coming of age film, ect. While we’re close to the film I’m most excited for, this one is at the bottom of my priorities. I’m sure it will be great. It will be charming, action-packed and a fun time. But that assurance also comes with a lack of anticipation. I hope to change my tune soon.

Excitement Level = Less than Amazing

 

Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)

Now we’re talking. Now we’re firing on all cylinders. Now we’re discussing a film with a director I’m excited to see work his weird craft. Taika Waititi is such a strange choice to helm the movie but I’m glad to see him aboard. This is a case of me liking both character and director for different reasons and wanting to see what the two will produce.

The Thor films are in this weird, separate world from the other Marvel films and I’ve liked both offerings. The second is underwhelming until Loki is on the scene, but the first is almost a near perfect origin film, almost on par with Iron Man.

Now the third is going to be bringing the Hulk into the fray, along with Doctor Strange, making an almost complete Defenders team-up (not the Netflix version of the Defenders, the comic version, with Thor standing in for Silver Surfer and Namor, the Sub-Mariner). I have high expectations for this one and I hope those are met.

Excitement Level = The Highest

 

Justice League (November 17)

Zach Snyder made a divisive Superman movie, one that I hate. But that’s okay, he gets a second chance with the first Batman/Superman team-up film. And then it was stupid. Embarrassingly so. Well, that’s okay. He may have film a crappy version of two heroes, but now he’s done and will move on…oh, wait. He’s going to direct the Justice League now.

Great. Just great. That’s fantastic. When thinking of the Justice League, I always see them as dark, violent, image focused and stupid idiots who get tricked by dumb villain plans. This should work out just fine.

Or maybe my sarcasm will be for naught. Maybe we’ll get an iconic, inspiring and larger than life story with some of the greatest heroes ever created. Maybe it won’t be warehouse scenes and mother issues and fish hobos and super villains no one has heard about. Maybe they’ll be surprised and fantastic character moments. Maybe Maybe Maybe…

Excitement Level = Not Again, Lord. Please. Not again.

DC Universe Animated Original Movies

I’ve been planning to do this for a while and since I finally sat down and watched Justice League: War, I figured now is as good of time as any to review all the DC Universe Animated Original movies. There have been a lot of good and not-so good moments in this line, so let’s see how they all stand up.

Superman: Doomsday
Considering how jarring this was to watch at when it came out, it being the first DC animated project outside of the DC Animated Universe, I was surprised by how much I liked the movie. Once I got past the different (but still miscast) voices, I found this an enjoyable, action packed Superman story. It has four villains and never feels crowded (a skill these movies actually share), strong animation and condenses the long, complicated Death of Superman story into a short seventy minute movie.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: The New Frontier
This movie wants to work but the elements never quite come together. I love the concept and the setting, the designs of the characters and even the voice acting. But the plot and final act seem to collapse on themselves. When the main villain shows up, the movie loses all momentum, which is too bad since that’s when the big fight happens and the action kicks into gear. I suppose it would be hard to make an evil, living island compelling, so I’ll give the producers some slack. If the movie had the same nostalgic, retro feel throughout, it would be better. But in reality, it is not to be.
Filed Under: Meh

Batman: Gotham Knight
The first Batman movie in this series and the first bad one as well. I was excited for this before it was released, but it doesn’t work at all. You have six, unconnected stories, set in the Dark Knight movie universe, all with different anime styles and every one seems to be as boring as the next. Many of the stories have the “been there, done that” feel damaging them, especially with the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini show still in memory. It might be that western attempts at mimicking eastern animation result in boring material, it might be that Christopher Nolan’s universe doesn’t translate to animation, it might be a lot of factors. But this movie was a let down and one I’ve yet to rewatch.
Filed Under: Bad

Wonder Woman
This is one of the best DC Animated movies. Focusing on Diana’s origin and first encounter with Man’s World, the story is a tightly plotted action movie with more humor than the previous installments. Wonder Woman’s warrior skills are on full display here as she kicks mythological butt and battles Ares, who is perfectly cast as Alfred Molina. Actually, the whole movie is the first of these films to feel like it nailed the voice acting. unfortunately, the DVD sales were slow at first, so Warner Brothers canceled any chances of a sequel. In hindsight, I wonder if they realize how stupid that move was since it’s gone on to be one of its highest selling movies, above all their Justice League offerings.
Filled Under: Good

Green Lantern: First Flight
This, along with the live action movie, really hampered my getting into the comics. While this DVD doesn’t suffer from repeated stories like Gotham Knights, it is bland. There’s nothing really interesting about this story, which is too bad given its Training Day comparisons. The characters never pop, the actions never sizzles, and the only moment that really works is when Sinestro turns at the beginning of the last act. This is disappointing, since Lantern really needs as much positive exposure as he can get after Ryan Reynolds.
Filed Under: Meh

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies: After five movies of having to adjust to new voice actors, they finally threw a bone to long time fans and brought back Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy. It really did add a lot to this movie, which is great on its own. The animation style is hard to take seriously, and Power Girl is the stupidest character to use, especially in a world with Supergirl. But without those quibbles, the rest is a fun, action powerhouse with great back and forth between the heroes and a perfect Clancy Brown chewing the scenery as Lex Luthor. I watch this when ever I need a pick me up because it just puts a smile on my face.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
The second Justice League offering and it’s not a winner. CoTE comes complete with uninspired voice casting, bland animation, one heck of a boring story and completely unforgettable action. The one redeeming quality that keeps this from going into the ‘bad’ listing is James Woods as Owlman. His nihilism caused by the knowledge of the multiverse is perfectly translated through the actor and his moments against Batman work well. Maybe if this had been used as a bridge between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited like planned, it would have been better.
Filed Under: Meh

Batman: Under the Red Hood
I did not expect to like this movie. It’s based on a comic I don’t love, the last Batman animated movie was terrible and they Bender Bending Rodriguez doing the voice for the Joker. So, color me surprised when I finally watched the movie and found that it was great. It improves upon the original comic by changing the most problematic elements, it has multiple villains with enough room to breathe, terrific action and the final act is just boiling over from all the pressure. The first animated Batman movie to show that there’s life after Bruce Timm.
Filed Under: Good

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Considering how much I enjoy(ed) the first Superman/Batman movie, I had high hopes for this one. unfortunately, those expectations were not to be matched and this film falls under apart quickly. They somehow made Supergirl a boring character, made Doomsday a non-threat and spent WAY too long on Apokolips (that’s just a ridiculous spelling). I don’t know why they bothered calling this a Superman/Batman story as the Bat is barely in the movie and Superman isn’t much better off. The last fight that is Superman and Supergirl vs. Darkseid is overlong and pointless and is only there to satisfy action junkies. Too bad, considering the first film.
Filed Under: Bad

All-Star Superman
I’m willing to except that this movie isn’t for everyone. It’s weird and it draws from Superman’s entire history, as well as focusing on his most bizarre scifi elements. But I love this movie. To be fair, I loved the comic as well but this movie did a great job at adapting the story. All the little moments in the film are great; from the date between Supes and Lois to the tour of the Fortress of Solitude. This Lex Luthor is great as he goes on an evil, superpowered journey to finally kill Superman. This isn’t an action packed take on the character but a thoughtful look at one of pop culture’s greatest icons. Not to be missed, even if you disagree with me on the greatness of the movie.
Filed Under: Good

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
It may have taken a horrible live action movie to make this, but it’s almost worth it. Emerald Knights is the first good Green Lantern movie (and maybe the last). With a slightly anime style and a frame setup, we get a look at all the different aspects of being a Lantern. This movie proves that the Green Lantern Corps could be on equal footing with Star Wars if it was ever handled right. Laira’s story is probably the best of the bunch and it’s a shame she isn’t a prominent character in the comics. A lot of these stories have an epic feel to them and the action feels like a full blockbuster. It’s fun and huge in scope and should win over those who aren’t so sure about Green Lantern.
Filed Under: Good

Batman: Year One
This was a strange choice to me, though I understand wanting to cover the landmark comic. But, in almost every way, Batman Begins is an adaption of this story and Mask of the Phantasm showed a lot of this as well. I would think, post-2005, we’d move past Batman’s origins. But Bruce Timm loves Miller’s work and it’s not a bad story if you’re going to revisit it. The results are faithful, though redundant, hourish movie. Everything is decent in the film, from the animation to the voice acting, but nothing ever jumps out as incredible and I’m not sure how many people would be interested in this anymore.
Filed Under: Meh

Justice League: Doom
I was actually excited for this movie. It had the old animated series crew coming back for voices and it was based on the Tower of Babel story from the Justice League comics. But then they recast Ra’s al Ghul with the bland Vandal Savage, took out Aquaman for Cyborg (a tactic that would come up again) and made the movie more like a version of the Superfriends. All of Batman’s plans for taking out the League pale in comparison to his comic book contingencies. The rest is boring, with Savage having neither motive (they League might be a problem, someday, maybe) or method (oh no, a rocket). It really is a shame, because the source material was ripe for an adaptation but the end product wasn’t up to the task. Another wasted Justice League attempt.
Filed Under: Meh

Superman vs The Elite
You know, from the previews and the awkward character designs, I was sure this movie was another dud. And for the first act or so, the movie doesn’t do much. The Elite are a bunch of losers with powers and Superman seems to be the butt of a joke. But then the Elite go too far and the movie becomes an intelligent character study as well as a discussion on Superman’s place in modern comics. Should all superheroes be written as seriously as the Ultimates, Authority and Watchman? Is there any room left for heroes who don’t believe in killing? In a world like ours, with movies like Man of Steel, this animated movie makes strong cases for old school, super ethics and shows what a Superman with no rules really looks like and why we don’t really want heroes like the Elite. Unless you loved Man of Steel. Then I have no help to give your poor, lost soul.
Filed Under: Good

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The last Bruce Timm effort in these original animated movies and he goes out with a bang. Adapting one the most classic Batman movies and going all out for it, DKR is a massive story. Originally, the movie was split into two parts, but patient people like me waiting for the release of a supercut combining the films. It’s now as long as a live action piece and as meaty as the comic, though without the narration. With an excellent, 80’s score and appropriate voice casting, the movie looks and sounds like something from both the past and the future. This might not be for everyone but it’s one of the most ambitious projects out of these movies and a fitting end for Bruce Timm’s involvement.
Filed Under: Good

Superman: Unbound
Oh boy. This was is DULL. I don’t know how they did it, but this movie failed to entertain completely. I don’t understand how Superman is unbound in this either. Brainiac has never been less interesting, Supergirl underused and Superman’s voice actor forgettable. This is one of those movies you have to think really hard about afterwards just to remember it exists, like something out of The Graveyard Book. There is far superior interactions between Superman and Brainiac elsewhere so skip this if you’re someone who can skip these kinds of things. People like me? We get stuck enduring crap because of some personal defect.
Filed Under: Bad

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
And so, the New 52 breaks into film, joining DC’s comic book continuation and leaving the old world and reality behind. But, where Flashpoint was an unimpressive comic borrowing too much from Age of Apocalypse, this movie feels bigger and far more interesting. The action scenes are huge and full of characters not seen since the JLU ages. It’s also nice to see the first Flash centered movie, even if he has to get paired with Batman to do so. It’s sometimes too gruesome for its own good, as if it’s trying to prove something but the action is impressive. I wish Barry’s mother was a bigger part of the story rather than just the reason, but the emotion isn’t completely lost between the characters and the climax is exciting. Too bad it brought about the New 52.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: War
And now we come to the first New 52 adaptation. It doesn’t look like classic stories that have stood the test of time are up for movies anymore but instead we get to watch animated version of mediocre comics that haven’t even stood the test of this time. The first Justice League story in the New 52 was shaky and lacking, focusing on big action scenes and characters that are more jerks than heroes. The movie is about the same, with lots of repetitive fighting, character being mean to one another for no reason, and a completely wasted Darkseid who goes from would-be conqueror to JL punching bag. There are moments when the movie is funny and I almost wish they had gone for complete comedy over what we got. I’m sure there’s plenty that liked this, but it’s not for me; weak voice acting, animation that can’t make up its cultural mind (just pick a coast) and characters who are just too cool and mature to be taken seriously.
Filed Under: Bad

So, there you have it, a complete rundown of all the DC Animated Original movies, and my own personal commentary on all of them. I’m sure plenty will disagree with me as taste will vary. I found half of them to be good, six to be dull and uninspiring and four to be downright bad. I don’t know what the future holds, but if Justice League: War is any indication, I’m not too thrilled to find out. Batman and Son does not look like something I want to watch since I hate Damian Wayne. And the idea of more Justice League movies does not do it for me anymore. I don’t know if they’ll ever go back to non-New 52 stories like The Long Halloween and Sinestro Corps War, so I guess I’ll keep checking their next release plans with hope in my heart.

Eric’s Favorites!
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Wonder Woman
Batman: Under the Red Hood
All-Star Superman
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

The New 52 and Why It Has Failed

I think the New 52 is failure.

Maybe not commercially, it’s gotten plenty of publicity and I’ve read far more titles in the line than I would have before hand. According to my Goodreads, I’ve read 26 different trade paperbacks. But, if the objective is to bring new readers and to get them interested in new titles, the New 52 is not doing well.

Here’s an example. I’m not a new reader to comic books, but I’m not as into DC as Marvel. So, I tend to feel like an outsider when picking up a DC comic. The New 52 has given me the chance to read titles that I wouldn’t normally because they all started at a first issue. No matter what comic I picked, I should be on the same playing field as everyone else, right?

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So…this and Superman, and the four Batman books and the three Justice League books…

Or, maybe not. Because to understand Superman, I need to read Action Comics. To understand Teen Titans, I need to read Superboy. And it goes on with books like Nightwing and any Justice League title. Since the goal was to make the DC universe accessible, you would think that I could read one of the books without having read anything else, but it doesn’t work out that way. I was reading Justice League of America and I had to stop after the fourth issue because the next two were part of a crossover with two other Justice League series, of which I haven’t read and weren’t included. And, part of the reason I haven’t read the main series, Justice League, is because it crosses over with Aquaman.

Okay, so, I’m confused but it’s nothing a little bit of Wiki research can’t fix. But, how’s the quality?

Well, looking at my Goodreads, out of the 26 titles I’ve read, I’ve given eight of the series four stars, twelve have three stars, four have two stars and two have a one star rating. So, I’ve found a little more than a fourth of the titles to be great and another fourth to be terrible. That means half of the New 52 is mediocre and that’s not good for a line that’s supposed to be all about bringing in new readers. You know why nobody remembers the Fantastic Four movies? Because they were mediocre. That’s half of the New 52 (or at least, half of the half I’ve read).

How about diversity?

Well, out of the titles I’ve read; two are Superman with two Superman tie-ins, four are Batman titles with three spinoffs, four Green Lantern comics and three Justice League books. That means about a fourth of what I read stands alone from other series. Now, this is more of a critique of my own taste, but it does bring up the question as to why DC is using a line that’s supposed to feel fresh when I can find eighteen books that I’m used to instead of trying something new. Why does Batman need four titles?

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I remember getting this…four months after it was supposed to be out…

Here’s the biggest problem I see, however. It’s not about diversity, it’s not even the amount of four star material. The biggest problem I see is how poorly DC reset the universe. For this, I’m going to be comparing the New 52 to Marvel’s Ultimate line.

When Marvel wanted to update their characters with modern origins and new takes on old troupes, they created the Ultimate line. They had four main titles; Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four and The Ultimates. Crossovers were done in miniseries separate from their main series and were few and far between. So, as a new reader, I could read all about the Ultimate universe with only four titles and if I chose to not read a book, I wouldn’t be lost reading the ones I liked (which is good considering how off the shipping schedule was for some of those titles).

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I love this book! The New 52 is great! Wait…it’s canceled?

With the New 52, there are fifty-two books to read. Fifty-two! I’ve read half and I still feel lost most of the time. Every title has had some weird crossover, some series take place five years in the past while others take place in the present. I can’t read just one Justice League book, I have to read all of them. I went from enjoying two Green Lantern to having to read four and one I wouldn’t unless I didn’t want to be lost. Even with fifty-two titles, they still decide to cancel titles that show promise because of low sales. I don’t think they understand the concept of spreading themselves too thin.

When the Ultimate line was setup, Marvel didn’t cancel their other titles. So, if you didn’t like the Ultimate version of Spider-Man, it was okay because the regular Spider-Man still existed. You didn’t have to deal with the Ultimate universe if you didn’t want to, it was your choice.

With the New 52, if I don’t like this new version of Wonder Woman or Harley Quinn or Martian Manhunter, it’s too bad because that’s my only choice with these characters.

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Supreme Power! The Ultimates! Watchmen!

That leads to a huge problem. With the New 52, a lot of titles read like What If? takes of the characters. Justice League of America is really just the New 52 answer to The Authority or The Ultimates, except those titles weren’t the main canon of a line. A lot of the DC universe feels like material that could have been a miniseries or one-shot take, but it’s the real (fake) universe. Before, when DC had multiple realities, they could have just had a few of these weird titles over at Earth Insert Number Here, but they decided to streamline the universe into one. They did this to keep confusion to a minimum but I’ve already mentioned  how that went.

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Remember when Harley Quinn was fun? DC doesn’t.

Again, maybe this is all about taste. I don’t want my Justice League comics to feel like Watchmen or Supreme Power, I don’t want Wonder Woman to feel like a Vertigo title unless I have an alternative take. I don’t want Harley Quinn or Starfire or Catwoman to exemplify everything that’s wrong with most female superheroes.

There’s something to be said here about acting bold and doing new things, but there’s something else to be said about throwing away everything, including things that worked. It’s almost like DC was ashamed of everything that came before but overly proud and confident over their new ideas. Marvel is always ‘soft rebooting’ their characters, giving them new takes while keeping their history intact (or retconning it without removing everything along the way).

I guess you could say DC doesn’t doing anything small or subtle, and it’s up to you to decide if that’s a good or bad thing.