2019 Written by James Krieg and Tim Sheridan
Directed by Sam Liu
Six months later….
Superman is dead, but since he’s also Jesus you know he’s got to come back to life. But if you also followed the comics, you know there was no way they’d let you off the hook that easily! As there were 4 concurrent Superman comic series, 4 pretenders to the throne emerged, one in each book, each out to be the new Superman. Sort of. Steel (John Henry Irons) wasn’t out to replace Superman, he was inspired by Superman to become a hero himself and go after the weapons he designed that were let loose on the streets. So he build himself a metal outfit, became the Man of Steel, and got to work. Superboy was a clone of Superman, aged to teen years so he could use the name from the Superboy comics, but with cool 90s sunglasses and a leather jacket. Eradicator and Cyborg Superman are different in that they were way less clear as to their origins or how seriously they were pretending to be Superman. As these stories are decades old, it isn’t a spoiler to reveal Eradicator was a computer program while Cyborg Superman was evil (He nuked Coast City! Then some dumb stuff happened and then they rebuilt it….) Eventually Superman comes back and saves the day. As a primarily Marvel reader, when all the Death of Superman/Funeral for a Friend/Reign of the Supermen stuff was going on, I actually read and enjoyed DC comics. Before then I didn’t really make any special effort, but these were good enough to keep me hooked.
This story follows many of the same beats, but is remixed and streamlined. There are still four pretenders running around, but Superboy is now a clone created by Lex Luthor in an attempt to brand Superman as his own property (he’s even launched as Superman, the launch party descending into chaos as the Eradicator shows up to fight Superboy for daring to declare himself the real Superman, and Steel popping up to try to stop the fighting (as John Irons was nearby investigating Luthor for his own reasons) Steel seems more Iron Man inspired, though to be fair the biggest interpretation of him prior was Shaq’s film. Continue reading →
2018 Written by Peter Tomasi
Directed by Jake Castorena and Sam Liu
Superman is know for two things: Super powers and dying. Okay, that’s a vast oversimplification, but Superman does die a lot, and here he dies again, in animated form. But wait, didn’t they already do a Death of Superman animated movie? Why, yes, they did! It was one of the first animated DC movies (and it was quite bland!) This redo is more than just a remake, it’s incorporating multiple prior films that form a loose continuity while also flowing into the later parts of the story (Reign of the Supermen), all while updating and modifying where necessary. Sliced out is a lot of the embarrassing 90s stuff and unimportant plot elements (though the bigger changes are in the sequel!) In their place is story that makes Superman more human and necessary for humanity, right before the biggest threat appears that we all know is about to snatch him away.
One of the themes of the live-action films is if the world even needs a Superman. It’s the story Lois wrote in Superman Returns, it was one of the reasons Clark tried to hide his power and later is investigated by the government in the Snyder movies (yes those films are far more complicated than that, say with me here…) There is even shades of it here, with astronaut Hank Henshaw convinced Superman will save them when there is a problem in space (spoiler alert: he doesn’t!) But all those points become moot when a giant guy starts smashing his way through major cities and your heroes fall before him. The world needs people who can stand up to evil. Continue reading →
aka ニンジャバットマン 2018 Written by Kazuki Nakashima
English version written by Leo Chu and Eric S. Garcia
Directed by Junpei Mizusaki Batman Ninja, what the heck? You could have been so good, but you are just a beautiful mess that spends too much time being boring before getting to the good stuff. We are now in the reality where a film involving Batman villains piloting a giant combining mech is boring. This is truly the darkest timeline! Batman Ninja has two versions, one in Japanese with English subtitles, and one with an English dub. The English version has a bunch of extra dialogue not in the Japanese version (but since the original subtitles are just a transcript of the English version, there are subtitles that display when no character is speaking, and when they do talk some of what they say is different!) Most of the extra dialogue is just expository and explains things that are readily obvious to anyone paying the slightest attention.
Noted Batman villain Gorilla Grodd (wait, what???) builds a time machine device at Arkham Asylum and suddenly all the criminals of Gotham City are blasted to the past of ancient Japan. Batman soon pops up there as well, but what was seconds between jumps in his time turns out to be two years after the rest of the criminals arrived, and now Joker is a lord who controls a stable of samurai who wear his visage as masks. The rest of the criminals have also ran wild. It’s the warring states period and we get a bit of a history lesson as Catwoman explains to Batman which criminals are in charge of which states in their quests to unify Japan. Don’t worry, Alfred and the Batmobile are also back in time (okay, at this point things are so bonkers why didn’t they just make this an Elseworlds-style story set in Japan instead of this time travel stuff? At least with that we could get right to the story and have less setup!) Continue reading →
2018 Written by Jim Krieg
Based on the graphic novel Gotham by Gaslight written by Brian Augustyn
Directed by Sam Liu
Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of 1880s Gotham City. As the murders pile up, the police are helpless to stop them. But there is a Batman in this world…
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is based on one of the original alternate reality tales that would eventually become the Elseworlds brand at DC, though the story has been altered to better reflect the animated movie format and some modern sensibilities. Overall, we get something that feels closer to what would be produced from the 90s animated series than what some of the recent DC animated films have come out with. That’s a good thing, as the series is a high-water mark that all too often these films are unable to attain, despite some notable exceptions.
Gotham is easily transformed in style to a 19th century British city, it is sort of interesting how easily the pieces slide together. Bruce Wayne is still a rich playboy, but he also has connection to his orphan roots via Sister Leslie and her orphanage. This gives him another connection to the victims of the killer, as they are largely poorer women, some of which have gone through the same orphanage. Public outcry is muted because the victims are largely lower class women (mostly prostitutes), but actress Selina Kyle’s voice is one of the loudest to try to get the police to do anything. They are limited by the investigative tools of the time and by distractions of a World’s Fair preparation. An element not really used from historical accounts is the press whipping this up into a frenzy, besides deserted streets there is often nothing really indicating people are afraid (and the deserted streets might just be saving some animation budget!) The police presence is also lacking until it factors into the plot, at which point there are more police than grains of sand on the beach. Continue reading →
2018 Written by Alan Burnett
Directed by Sam Liu
Hot off the heels of the fantastic animated Batman: Assault on Arkham and the uneven but ultimately okay live action Suicide Squad, we got ourselves a new entry in the franchise with Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay! DC animated movies are notoriously hit or miss, but this time we got a relatively good one, buffed up by a core crew that has to deal with multiple parties interested in a magical card. Though not as superior as the original animated version, it is still good enough to deserve a watch.
Amanda Waller is still using task Force X to take care of dirty deeds and for her own personal projects, this time on a very personal mission. Deadshot (Christian Slater) is back, along with Harley Quinn (Tara Strong, naturally!) and Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre). They are joined by the freezing-powered Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer van Straten), ethical martial artist Bronze Tiger (Billy Brown), and body-modification enthusiast Copperhead (Gideon Emery) on their off the books mission where they are only given a name to track The mission is so off-books they have to drive around in a run down RV, though that does allow the characters to interact more and have conversations in a confined space.
Harley Quinn still gets many of the good lines, correctly toning her down as the stakes get raised. The down point is she’s basically a supporting character there to add flavor to the overall story, and doesn’t seem to have any sort of story arc. Captain Boomerang and Deadshot still hate each other, but have developed a working relationship by this point that doesn’t mean they won’t still insult each other. Boomerang at least gets to throw a bunch of boomerangs this time! The big wrench is Bronze Tiger, who aligns strongly on the side of morality (even though that’s just because he doesn’t want to kill innocent people!) and thus forces the other members of the team to stay on mission, sometimes by punching them until they comply. The film opens with a group lead by Deadshot and containing a few characters I had to look up (what can I say, I grew up on Marvel!) Count Vertigo, Punch, and Jewelee, all but Deadshot failing to come out of that one alive. Sorry, Punch and Jewelee fans, maybe next movie… Continue reading →
2017 Story by J.M. DeMatteis and Ernie Altbacker
Screenplay by Ernie Altbacker
Directed by Jay Oliva
The animated world is in danger once again (stupid world, stop being in danger!) and only the Justice League can save them. No, not the normal Justice League, this is Justice League Dark! And Batman for some reason. That reason is money. Keep in mind this is Justice League Dark, not Justice League After Dark, that’s the porn version debuting on Cinemax next year! Just kidding. Or am I? Yes.
Now let’s get to an actual review and not string of consciousness awful jokes. Justice League Dark follows the loose continuity the animated films have had since they got rebooted with Flashpoint/Justice League: War, including voices (and Matt Ryan from the Constantine tv series voices John Constantine here!) This time the team isn’t able to handle the threat, as the threat is supernatural in nature, so we need a different kind of hero. Supernatural heroes for a supernatural threat. Mainly John Constantine (of Keanu Reeves movie fame) and Zatanna, the magician lady I’m vaguely familiar with. There are others heroes like Deadman, who I hadn’t really known much about, but a ghost as a super hero does make a certain amount of sense. Maybe Casper should stop being so friendly and start taking down crime syndicates! This time, the ghosts are busting YOU!
I enjoyed the change of focus of heroes despite Batman being included so he could grunt every time something spooky happens. (And he does, Gotham City must be showing a lot of Home Improvement reruns) Usually movies like this have a regular guy character who all the characters that are steeped into the universe can explain things too (and thus explain to the audience!), but as Batman already knows a lot of things, he doesn’t really fit that well in the role. Continue reading →