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 →
2012 Written by Joe Kelly
Based on “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” from Action Comics #775 by Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, and Lee Bermejo
Directed by Michael Chang
Superman has been a cultural icon for 80 years, he’s survived several waves of popularity of comic books, multiple reboots and revisions to his story and character, and still remains popular world wide despite the world being far different than the one he was introduced to. In fact, one of the major things people write about Superman is how he seems to be a character from another time. Back when things seemed simple and a super powered guy could just punch his way to the right answer. Now things are complicated, because we think about the consequences of actions and about the causes of problems, so just punching things is usually out. This is helped in part by characterizations of Superman by people who don’t really know what to do with him, turning him into a boy scout tool of the government or a deadbeat dad. One of the plot points of Superman Returns was Lois Lane winning a Pulitzer for an article basically saying the world didn’t need a Superman.
Where some media interpretations of Superman has failed, he has gained a pretty solid characterization in the numerous animated projects from DC comics, across tv and dtv films. The Superman presented is a man who does his best to balance power and responsibility while stopping threats of immense power (and they usually have to be, because Superman is just invincible otherwise!)
So it’s natural that the animated DC movies would cover What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? from Action Comics #775. Written by Joe Kelly (with pencils by Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo), it’s a story about how the world seems to have changed, how heroes that are willing to kill (a line Superman doesn’t cross) have gained traction, and just how much Superman holds back in the hope of inspiring people to be better. Superman takes his responsibility as a role model seriously, and holds himself to the highest moral standard. Some of the themes are also present in the awesome Kingdom Come story (another tale I hope gets the animated treatment!)
The Elite is a team consisting of four members. Manchester Black is the leader, he has a Union Jack tattooed over his chest (I thought it was just a shirt until it was specifically pointed out!) The Hat is an Asian mystic who can do magic tricks and summon supernatural creatures thanks to his magic hat. He’s also constantly drunker as the movie goes on. Menagerie has some sort of alien biosuit that allows her to turn into creatures. Coldcast is a large man wearing chains that has electromagnetic powers. Aside from Manchester’s long tragic flashback, the other three Elite don’t get much in the way of characterization and pretty much follow Black’s lead. Continue reading →