Justice League Dark
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.
Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly Tags: Alfred Molina, Batman, Batmania, Camilla Luddington, Colleen Villard, comic book movie, Enrico Colantoni, Ernie Altbacker, Hail Satan!, Jason O'Mara, Jay Oliva, Jeremy Davies, Jerry O'Connell, Matt Ryan, Nicholas Turturro, Ray Chase, Roger Cross, Rosario Dawson, super heroes
Batman: Assault on Arkham
Written by Heath Corson
Directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding
DC Animated has hit some sort of weird divergence where the films are either really good or really bad. Batman: Assault on Arkham fits in the really good category, even though it reduces Amanda Waller’s character to too simplistic of a bully villain. That’s a shame, as Waller is one of the greatest comic book characters, a high-ranking official who runs her own show outside of the normal good and evil duology, and is capable of standing up to the greatest heroes and villains.
Assault on Arkham becomes unlike a lot of the animated super hero fare because it features a team of scummy villains, who have no qualms about killing people and spend half the film trying to betray Waller and each other.
the Suicide Squad is a group of criminals with heavy sentences who are sent on dangerous missions in return for time being shaved off their terms. As the teams are largely made up of sociopaths, they don’t get along and have trouble working in teams. The fighting and backstabbing just adds to the fun of watching the villains work as they push towards their goal. Waller uses the team to take down threats that can’t be dealt with by normal means and need to be off the books, often ignoring what may be bigger problems to achieve her own goals.
This is as much a Batman film as a Suicide Squad film, so Batman runs around looking for a dirty bomb the Joker has to try to stop it from exploding. That means he crosses paths with the Squad more than once, especially since Harely Quinn is part of the team, despite her insistence that she and the Joker aren’t together any more. As the Squad has to break into Arkham to retrieve a flash disk and the Joker is interred in Arkham, he does end up becoming part of the story, especially when things begin to go haywire.
The Suicide Squad consists of Deadshot (who is concerned only with getting out so he can spend time with his young daughter), throwing expert Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, ninja Black Spider, ice queen Killer Frost, Killer Croc ripoff King Shark, and guy not to get too attached to KGBeast. Deadshot serves as the alternate main character, who keeps the team focused on the mission despite their various distractions like ex-boyfriends and marksmen rivalries. The Deadshot presented here is just professional enough to make a compelling main character. Captain Boomerang serves as his less moral counter and constant thorn in his side as Boomerang’s competitive and antisocial streak causes him to see Deadshot as an enemy.
Categories: Bad, Movie Reviews Tags: animated, Batman, Batmania, C.C.H. Pounder, Chris Cox, Ethan Spaulding, Giancarlo Esposito, Greg Ellis, Heath Corson, Hynden Walch, Jay Oliva, Jennifer Hale, John DiMaggio, Kevin Conroy, Martin Jarvis, Matthew Gray Gubler, Neal McDonough, Nolan North, super heroes, Troy Baker
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Written by James Krieg
Based on Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert
Directed by Jay Oliva
Flashpoint became the even that subsequently rebooted the DC universe into The New 52!, as the covers say. Basically, everything got rebooted, and was done so with less of a notice than you would like to wrap up storylines in dozens of comic books. This resulted in some things being a bit more rebooted than others, but all that continuity you knew and loved was once again thrown out the window by the latest DC reboot. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox doesn’t get into the continuity situation (except a brief costume change at the end), but deals with the storyline that causes it, leaving the actual fallout for the eventual sequels like Justice League: War. It lacks the excitement and fun of some of the animated DC flicks, though does have a few bright points to offer.
Flash is a character that, like Batman, is overshadowed by his villains. I say this not because I don’t really care for Flash, but because I find the dynamics of his villains far more interesting. Captain Cold and the Rogues are a cool team dynamic, working together for profit while avoiding excess casualties, even if they occasionally get sucked into more bloody affairs simply because they walk in the criminal underworld. Flash is potentially one of the most powerful heroes on the planet, and they regularly do battle with him. They even fight against other super-villain teams that try to control them. However, Professor Zoom/Reverse Flash/Eobard Thawne is simply an Evil Flash from the future who is a jerk. Sadly, the tale here turns the Rogues into petty thugs easily tricked by Professor Zoom, who then orchestrates manipulating Flash into altering history and continues to taunt Flash even as the future Professor Zoom comes from ceases to exist. C. Thomas Howell puts in a good performance letting the creepy sociopath shine through, but he’s stuck with what is there in the script to deliver, and Professor Zoom never becomes a classic villain.
The biggest problem with Flashpoint is that it was never really that good to begin with. The series wasn’t terrible, but it never really turned into a classic story that will survived through the ages. The only real continual allure is the alternate reality itself, and even some of that is a bit corny. We already had alternate versions of the Justice League members not that long ago with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and despite the limited screen times, many of those characters felt more developed than the inhabitants of the Flashpoint world.
The fact the event was used to justify the rebooting of all of DC continuity makes it a lightning point of controversy, as some of the rebooting caused arguments of their own (Superman’s marriage went kaput, many dead characters sprung back to life, a few established female characters suddenly became giant slores) in addition to the general idea of everything getting reset yet again in DC. One theory was the resetting was a ploy to gain new readers, though if that was true, it didn’t seem to pan out too well, but much digital ink was spilt as various factions argued throughout the internet.
Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly Tags: Andy Kubert, animated, Batman, Batmania, C. Thomas Howell, Cary Elwes, Dana Delany, Dee Bradley Baker, Geoff Johns, Hynden Walch, James Krieg, James Patrick Stuart, Jay Oliva, Kevin Conroy, Kevin McKidd, Michael B. Jordan, Nathan Fillion, Ron Perlman, Sam Daly, Steve Blum, super heroes, Superman, Vanessa Marshall
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
Based on the comic book by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
Written by Bob Goodman
Characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and John Sikela
Directed by Jay Oliva
When last we left the Dark Knight, he had returned, and so had a lot of problems. Both an immediate threat and a looming menace have been defeated, and now things need mopping up. But new dangers lurk in the shadows, preparing to strike. And Batman’s activities have gained the attention of powerful people, who aren’t fans of things happening outside their control. The Dark Knight Returns continues with Part 2, covering issues #3 and 4 of the comic series. Fair warning, we pretty much go over every detail of the movie and comic, so SPOILERS!
The Joker has awakened from his catatonic state, for without the Batman around, there was no meaning in his life. Now he is infused with revitalized purpose, and the doctors at Arkham Asylum have taken a break from appearing on television to blame Batman for everything to praise Joker for the breakthroughs he’s accomplished. They feel the Joker has genuine remorse for his crimes. The manipulation here is more forced and too brief, in the comics Joker awakens earlier and we see him develop through a few scenes instead of jumping to the point. Though it does highlight the incompetent doctors by making them more incompetent. Joker is playing them like a fiddle, but he does manage to get them to agree to have him appear on a television show: The David Endocrine Show (a take on David Letterman, here voiced by excellent stunt casting with Conan O’Brien!) Batman immediately knows that Joker is planning to kill everyone. And he’s right.
The Mutants have splintered in the wake of their leader’s defeat and humiliation. Some have taken up the mantle of Batman and viciously attack criminals in the streets. Others have formed more smaller gangs run by strongmen, or strongwomen, in the case of the Bruno gang. Bruno being a rather muscular woman who runs around without a shirt and only red paint Nazi swastikas covering her breasts. She’s referred to as Joker’s girl (this was pre-Harley Quinn), and she’s Batman’s next target as he tries to figure out what Joker is up to.
The cops are now lead by the new Commissioner Yindel, whose first act was to call for Batman’s arrest. They are guarding the roof of the studio with a massive force. The battle will be futile, the cops are well armed enough that despite all of Batman’s skills and tricks, there are just too many of them with too much force that he can’t get through. He’s saved by Carrie as she flies the Batcopter in close to pick him up. By then it is too late, everyone in the studio is dead and the Joker is free.
Categories: Bad, Movie Reviews Tags: Ariel Winter, Batman, Batmania, Bill Finger, Bob Goodman, Bob Kane, David Selby, Frank Miller, Jay Oliva, Jerry Robinson, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, John Sikela, Klaus Janson, Maria Canals-Barrera, Mark Valley, Michael Emerson, Michael Jackson, Peter Weller, Wade Williams
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1
Based on the comic book by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
Written by Bob Goodman
Characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, and John Sikela
Directed by Jay Oliva
The Dark Knight Returns is one of those comics that literally changed everything. With four issues, Batman was transformed as a character from the 1960s camp into a gritty dark hero that echoed parts of the original tales. It became one of the main influences of the Tim Burton Batman film, which further popularized the darker, more serious Batman that survives to this day in how the character is interpreted. The comic series is considered one of the best comics of all time. Fair warning, we pretty much go over every detail of the movie and comic, so SPOILERS!
With how high of a regard The Dark Knight Returns is held, it is only natural that there would be a cartoon movie adaption of it at some point. It became a thing both anticipated and feared (especially after a brief bit was used in an episode of The New Batman Adventures), and was finally announced as a two-parter DC animated movie. As the DC Animated films are hit or miss, there is always room to worry. Miller’s other work Batman: Year One had been successfully adapted in 2011, sticking closely to the comic (almost too closely), and DKR follows the same pattern, following the original story, even being split into two films to better incorporate it all.
The series is four separate stories that are part of a larger tale, the stories divided into the two films (with bits shoved both ways to make things flow better). This structure works better in comic format, but leaves DKR Part 1 feeling a bit anticlimactic, especially with the teaser that comes much earlier in the comics.
Let’s focus more now on how things are in the comic/movies for The Dark Knight Returns and less on whatever nutty thing Frank Miller has said or published recently. The Dark Knight Returns becomes a snapshot into the values of Frank Miller at the time of publication, and events that happen subsequent to the production of the comic have no bearing on how the comic was created, though they have the same ultimate origins.
DKR is less of a fascist tale and more of a skewering of those that have power. Organized institutions are represented at weak and buffoonish, and all sides of the political spectrum are skewered via the constant media commentary. The television news framing devices is one of the most brilliant parts of The Dark Knight Returns, actually preceding the 24 hour news cycle, but still capturing the highs and lows of idiotic news programming. The Mayor of Gotham is a endless stream of no actions ever, constantly diverting questions on issues by saying he’s still weighing opinions. He literally only makes one real decision in the entire film, and it proves to be a fatally stupid one. He’s replaced by a mayor just as spineless, but thinner, showing that the new mayor can at least make a decision to skip the extra slice of cake.