We Want Action: Superman/Batman Apocaylpse

The DC Universe straight-to-DVD movies from Warner Bros. Animation have been killing it lately. I still haven’t seen Batman: Red Hood even though it’s on Netflix Instant, but I’ve heard good things and had a great time watching Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. It’s kind of interesting that they’ve created this little sub-universe of movies based on Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman run which started with Public Enemies, a movie I liked a lot much to my surprise.

I was not surprised at all that I liked Apocalypse. the run of the comic that the movie is based on is one of my favorite guilty pleasures of all time. Superman, Batman, Woonder Woman and the Amazons facing off against an army of Doomsdays? Perfect. Batman racing around on Orion’s Astro-Harness? Awesome. Batman punching Darkseid in the face and using his smarts to get what he wants from the villain? Amazing. It’s probably my favorite comic by Loeb and definitely my favorite Michael Turner-drawn book.

And the movie doesn’t disappoint, even though we don’t see Batman punch Darkseid. The flick does a great job with the action sequences and thankfully takes out that ultra-lame speech Superman gives Darkseid in the last issue about Supergirl not being able to eat apple pie or whatever. I actually got chills when it was time for the Doomsday fight. I got such a kick out of the idea of a legion of the creature that killed Superman fighting some of the toughest women in the DCU plus Batman. Overall, I had a great time with this movie and it made me want to get my hands on the trade again (I swapped it a while back after a somewhat ill-advised shelf purge), which brings the WB good list up to include New Frontier, Green Lantern: First Flight, Wonder Woman, Public Enemies, Crisis On Two Earths and now Apocalypse with the only stumbling blocks in my opinion being the first two attempts: Superman/Doomsday and Batman: Gotham Knight. Even with such a great streak going, I’m nervous about All-Star Superman because the original comic is such a masterpiece. Can’t wait to see Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (longs as it’s better than Gotham Knights) because I’m all for more GL. I’ve yet to see any of the shorts yet, how have those been?

Animated Double Feature: Coraline (2009) & Justice League Crisis On Two Earths (2010)

I really dug Coraline even though I fell asleep for a few minutes towards the end which was a bummer because I missed part of the ending, but I got the gist of it, so didn’t go back and rewatch it. The movie is based on a Neil Gaiman novel that I haven’t read yet, but I’m a huge fan of his work on Sandman and his other novels like American Gods, Good Omens, Neverwhere and his short story collection Smoke And Mirrors. The movie version is a stop-motion animated flick directed by Henry Selick who also did The Nightmare Before Christmas, a movie that I seem to be the only one in the world who isn’t absolutely in love with.

The story revolves around the titular character who just moved into a new house that is broken up into four apartments. Her parents are jerks wrapped up in their work (kind of a terrifying look at a potential future for someone who spends all day working at home on a computer), so wanders around exploring the house and talking to the other tenants. Eventually she finds a door that was wallpapered over that leads to a mirror universe where everything’s pretty much the same, except better and the people have creepy button eyes. As you might expect, things aren’t as great as they look and the fantastic world turns quickly into a crap hole.

Well, quickly’s not the best word. The movie’s about an hour and forty minutes which according to the IMDb Trivia page makes it the longest stop motion movie of all time. I’d say it could probably use to lose about 10 minutes to make things a little snappier and more taut. As it is, it crawls along at times which probably is what put me to sleep. A lot comes out towards the end that could have been seeded earlier throughout the movie (like the ghost kids), but overall it was a pretty good view. Maybe I’ll give it another view when I’m feeling less sleepy.

The DC Universe Animated movies are amazing. I’ve seen Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman which I really dug, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and New Frontier which was okay and then Superman: Doomsday and Batman: Gotham Knight which sucked. I’d firmly place Justice League Crisis On Two Earths in the higher echelon of the the flicks. IMDb’s Trivia page for the movie tells me that this was originally written as a bridge movie between the Justice League and JLU series, which explains why it’s the core seven Leaguers (though Hal takes John Stewart’s spot and Martian Manhunter has his old new look) and why they’re repairing the satellite and seem short handed for no apparent reason. This JLA gets put in direct conflict with Earth-2’s Crime Society which gave us pretty cool bad guy versions of random heroes like Vibe and Halo.

The story’s pretty solid, but like with JL and JLU, the fights really take center stage and there are some real doozies that made me actually set my computer down and pay attention which is no small feat. My only problem with this movie, which was also one of my problems with Superman: Doomsday is that when the characters look so much like the cartoon versions I want them to sound like the cartoon versions. Frankly I thought Superman and Batman sounded pretty lame in this one played by Billy Bladwin and Mark Harmon. James Woods as Owlman was solid though.

Unfortunately, I saw this on Netflix which means I didn’t get to see the Spectre short which is a bummer because I’m excited they started doing that. Maybe I’ll put it on the actual queue just to watch that. Next up is Red Hood which came out today so I’m jazzed about that to see if the good streak will continue.

Green Lantern: First Flight

As luck would have it, on the same day that my Blackest Night theory was confirmed, we got the animated Green Lantern: First Flight DVD and watched it. And I liked it, a lot. I haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet, but GL was far better than all the other animated movies I’ve seen from both DC and Marvel.

But, of course, I have a few fanboy complaints that I’d like to get out of my system right off the bat. I have no problem that they didn’t get into the emotional spectrum and only briefly mentioned how yellow and green are opposing colors, but I thought it was kind of strange that, given that, the floating cities on Oa were yellow. This is pretty picky, but it bothered me (to be SUPER picky, the planet Oa was red). There was a ton of yellow in the movie actually that seemingly had no effect which is why I was surprised when they got into the yellow vs. green stuff later on.

This might dip into SPOILER territory, but I didn’t understand why Sinestro, once he got the yellow ring, had the Sinestro Corps symbol on his chest, but the yellow battery and his ring had the Green Lantern symbol (what’s even weirder is that the actual Green Lantern power battery did not have that symbol).

Okay, fanboy bitching aside, this movie was rad. Within five minutes of the movie beginning Hal Jordan has received the ring from Abin Sur and, soon, he’s approached by a cache of GLs including Kilowog, Boodika and Tomar-Re. After that he’s off-planet on Oa getting hassled by the Guardians (who are more dottering old guys than omnipotent schemers) for being human and not worthy of the ring (we don’t ever get told how the rings are divvied up). Sinestro offers to back him and the two of them go off in search of Kanjar Ro. We get hints of Sinestro’s crazy strictness and desire for order and then the story flips to a GLs vs. Sinestro while Hal’s ring has been stripped away for reason I don’t want to spoil. So, there’s kind of an Iron Man like set-up at the end (depowered hero fighting fully functional villain and still winning), but I thought it was done a lot better.

I was also surprised at how adult the movie was even though it’s rated PG-13. I mean there’s not hardcore sex (or any sex actually) and head splattering violence, but there are a few swears and one particular death towards the end that reminded me of that dude getting “screwed to death” in Jason X. I was shocked by that one actually. There’s even some neck snaps and all that. SPOILER. The final battle itself doesn’t exactly get bloody, but there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of implied GL deaths due to suffocation in space. Yeesh.

For GL fans, the movie doesn’t quite get into the specific details that Geoff Johns gets into in Rebirth (like how Kilowog’s constructs are the only ones that make a sound), but we do get great characterizations of all the characters (though Boodika fans will probably not like how she’s portrayed either visually or her character). And a huge part of the characterization is thanks to the voice actors. I especially love Victor Garber as Sinestro. He’s the dad in Alias and plays a somewhat similar character (I think they even based aspects of Sinestro’s face on Garber as I could literally see him). I also really dug Michael Madsen as Kilowog, though it’s not a casting choice I would have ever thought of. The biggest head scratcher for me, though was John Larroquette as Tomar-Re. It’s a pretty small part and Larroquette’s a fairly big deal, so I wonder how he got involved in the project. Maybe he’s a big fan?

An interesting note about the aliens is that they actually changed a lot of their looks. Abin Sur has chin horns, the Weaopners of Qward are spider-like (maybe a Spider Guild reference?) and Kanjar Ro has a squidish look. I was scratching my head about this changes when I realized that, in the comics, those are all just regular looking dudes who happen to be pink. The redesigns end up looking pretty cool and the artists seem to have had a ton of fun creating all kinds of new ones to throw in the background.

There’s been a lot of talk about getting a Sinestro Corps War animated movie (in fact, I’ve written at least two wish list-style bits on the subject myself for ToyFare and Wizard) and I think this might be a pretty good set up. By the end of First Flight you’ve got a status quo that could easily lead into a stripped-down version of SCW that would work pretty well. My finger’s are crossed.

Also of note, there’s a special feature on the DVD where Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi all talk about Blackest Night. Johns actually explains an aspect of the Black Lanterns in it that has been hinted at, but not full stated in the series so far. SPOILER? So, you know the scenes where the BLs see which emotion their targets are giving off? Well, apparently, they actually feed off of that energy and the more there is the more powerful they become. Cool, right? I was wondering when they were going to get around to explaining why they kept analyzing peoples’ placement on the emotional spectrum (this may have been explained in another interview somewhere, but I’ve been keeping away because I don’t want anything spoiled).