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.

Comic Book Vs. Movie: Planet Hulk

I’ve been looking forward to the Planet Hulk dvd for quite a while. I first posted the Alex Ross DVD cover back in October, then I did interviews with some of the people behind the movie for Marvel.com and even mentioned how hopeful I was for it in a list over at Topless Robot. Plus, the comic is one of my all time favorite Marvel runs of all time, so, needless to say, I was really hoping the dvd feature wouldn’t disappoint me. And thankfully it didn’t.

What I liked about the comics is that the story by Greg Pak took a character who generally seemed to be a plot device and turned him into an actual down-to-Sakaar character who you were rooting for. There was an epic nature to that tale, taking the Hulk from stranded and betrayed to revered royalty. I didn’t like World War Hulk because, let’s face it, the premise itself just wasn’t going to happen in the regular Marvel universe. Hulk was never going to come to Earth and kill the guys who sent him there. I know that ended up not being the point of the story anyway, but that was the bill of goods we were sold heading in the project. Anyway, as a collection, the hardcover is one of my favorite because it includes so many extras and just looks damn nice on a shelf.

So, what about the movie? I think they did a helluva job interpreting it for the small screen. Sure, it could have been longer and covered the entire run of the book, but I like where it left off, even if I wasn’t expecting it to end so soon. Consider this potential SPOILER territory if you haven’t seen it. The movie covers the first 2/3 of the comic basically, with Hulk and the Warbound overthrowing the Red King and Hulk becoming the new king. So, you don’t get the spaceship blowing up and a vengeful Hulk ready to smash the Earth, instead it ends on a happy note with Hulk and his lady celebrating. It was kind of a nice change. Plus, it leaves plenty of room for a sequel that can go right into World War Hulk if they think that will work.

And, while many of the story points were compressed and combined, I didn’t feel like anything huge was left out. There were some changes seemingly made based on the rights to certain characters. For instance, the Warbound does not include a Brood, presumably because she’s part of the X-Men license which isn’t held by Marvel Studios presumably. The same goes for the lack of Silver Surfer who showed up in the comics to fight Hulk and company. This time it’s Beta Ray Bill who first pops up in Korg’s Thor-based flashback and then fights Hulk. I’m guessing this is the same thing, considering Fantastic Four characters fall outside of Marvel Studios’ purview currently. It was a change I liked, I mean, how can you not like seeing ol’ Horseface fighting Hulk?

Which brings me to the fight scenes. Man are they cool. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of Hulk throwing down with robots, pink zombies or dudes in armor. Those were the best parts of the Incredible Hulk movie, which I really didn’t like, but luckily, the story here is a lot tighter and makes more sense. The pace is rapid, but not without character moments and all around a great piece of work by everyone involved. Two thumbs way up.

EDIT: In a conversation with my buddy Ben, I was reminded that Marvel Studios does the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon, so they obviously do have the rights to do Brood. Maybe they didn’t because they’re gross.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

So far we’ve gotten six offerings from DC’s animated universe straight-to-DVD movies. Here’s how they break down for me:

BAD
Superman/Doomsday
Batman: Gotham Knight

GOOD
Justice League: The New Frontier
Wonder Woamn
Green Lantern: First Flight

The bad ones are bad either because they strayed way too far from the original concept (Superman/Doomsday) or were just plain old boring (I think you can figure out which one that is). The good ones either stick to an existing story or create a brand new story using the basic mythos. For whatever reason, I had some pretty big reservations about Public Enemies. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a big fan of the comics the movie was based on. Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman (or as Em calls it SuperBatman) was a big fun popcorn comic that was dragged down by the interminable thought boxes he through in so that you could see how Superman and Batman think about each other. It was SOOO boring.

Anyway, after watching PE last night I would definitely put this one in the good column. I’m not a big fan of mixing the voice talents of previous incarnations with a different art style. I keep hearing Kevin Conroy as Batman and Tim Daly and expecting to see the classic Batman/Superman/JL/JLU versions of these characters. It’s a small complaint and really the only one I’ve got. I like how they used Ed McGuinness’s art to base the animation on, though it could have been a little bigger. The basic story follows that of the comic: Lex Luthor’s president, he’s got some heroes and villains working for him, tries to turn the world against Superman because there’s a big Kryptonite meteor coming towards Earth and Superman and Batman have to put a stop to it.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the comics (or more accurately looked at the pretty pictures) so I can’t remember how closely the movie mirrors the comic. You don’t get a teaming up of Superman and Batman’s family of heroes coming to the rescue, but you do get the fight between the dynamic duo and Hawkman and Capt. Marvel. There’s also a JLU-worthy fight in the episode where Supes and Bats fight a giant army of villains because Luthor put a bounty on Supes’ head. While the action scenes are a lot of fun, I’m not sure how well the story is told. It’s hard for me to judge because I did read the comics and all the comics from around that time, so I’ve got a lot of extra info bouncing around my head. I think Em had a pretty easy time following, but again, she’s read a lot of that stuff too. Then again, I don’t know how many non-comic fans will be checking these DVDs out. Hopefully a good deal will, then they’ll fall in love with these characters and start following their adventures in comic book form. Ha, who am I kidding? That almost never happens for ongoing comics.