What better way to cleanse my eyes of the Snyder-verse than with the DC animated movies which, by the definition of animation, almost guarantees way more colors than I ever saw in Dawn of Justice? And if you want the lowdown on my April 1st post, scroll to the very bottom.
Watching several of these direct to video animated movies, all of which clock in under ninety minutes, I’ve found that they generally all share similar characteristics and quality standards. That being the case I’ll give impression of them as a whole and follow that up with my blurbs about each individual one.
The art styles vary movie to movie I’ve yet to come across one I didn’t care for. The styles often imitate the comics they’re based on so fans of those runs will find a lot to like seeing their favorite stories adapted to animation. The worlds these characters inhabit are often vibrant and filled with personality. Even Batman’s stories, while dark, aren’t devoid of color. The quality of the animation seems to vary a bit more; some movies look like they’ve had some extra care or money given to them. Even at the low end though they’re better than you’ll find on television, especially when the action kicks in. These exciting moments are usually fluid and fun.
The acting is for the most part…serviceable. With only one or two stand out moments all the actors get the job done without impressing. Most of the leads are voiced by B-lister geek favs like Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, Yvonne Strahovski, and Christina Hendricks. I don’t want to suggest they aren’t doing their best, but whether it’s lack of experience as a voice actor or poor direction they sometimes sound like they’re there just for the paycheck. No one is bad, but almost no one is particularly good either.
The biggest hurdle these movies have is the scope of their production. With some of these films squeaking by at barely over an hour the stories always feels rushed. At best this is a small knock when every story element still feels like it got its due. At worst makes the movie feel incomplete when it’s trying to cram too many story lines and origin stories into one. If these movies were given a little more time to breathe they could really be great. As they are they mostly feel like fanservice for people that have already had a primer on these characters from either the comics or other movies.
If you one of those people though you’ll likely enjoy these movies. What they may lack in animation or script due to their budgets they make up for with care. The creators behind the movies clearly care about the characters and stories they are telling and it shows. They have constraints they have to operate in but the love that is had for these superheroes still shines through. Story tweaks are made here and there, some liberties are taken as with any adaptation, but these movie makers get these characters and want to do them justice. There is a respect for the source material here.
And it’s ultimately that care that means I’ll watch most of these movies again before turning to Batman v Superman again.
Movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
All-Star Superman – After two movies of Zack Snyder’s Superman I wanted to watch this movie based on a run that is often considered to be the quintessential Superman. While I was disappointed not see the now famous scene of Superman helping a young suicidal woman, I did get to see a Superman that continued to hope, love, and give even as he faced his own end. In the end even Lex Luthor is inspired to be better. This is the Superman I’ve always heard about.
Superman: Doomsday – AND NOW HE’S DEAD no wait jk. A hulking creature known only as Doomsday is unleashed and Superman dies fighting it to protect the city. Then, diverging completely from the source material, Lex Luthor clones himself a Superman to do his bidding. Luckily, the real Supes manages to recover from being dead. A wise man once said there is a big difference between being all dead and mostly dead. The only thing more unfortunate than the black jumpsuit Superman wears upon his return is that mullet. Justice in the front, party in the back.
Green Lantern: First Flight – Within minutes of this movie starting ace fighter pilot Hal Jordan has his ring of +5 space magic and is chilling with aliens. The real highlight of this movie, one that is underutilized, is the chance to use animation to go nuts with alien designs and green lantern powers. While all of these movies have moments of violence beyond that of your average “cartoon,” this one in particular has some gruesome moments.
Justice League: New Frontier – While having some of the most striking artwork of this bunch this movie is probably the weakest for me. In one movie we need to have an origin story for Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, establish that Superman is on the government’s payroll and other masked vigilantes are essentially outlawed, set-up an arcane ancient evil, the Flash contemplating quitting the superhero business, have them all put aside their petty differences and unite, and go full blown crazy with rampaging dinosaurs at the end. Everyone is underserved and it all feels a little ADD. Shout out to Aquaman who showed at the end just be sure we all knew he existed.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2 – The story Zack Snyder borrowed most heavily from, Bruce Wayne is old and retired from jumping across rooftops. As gang violence grows he puts the cowl on again but is harder and tougher on his foes. I almost get the feeling he kind of snaps. In some slick actions scenes people are killed by Batman, even villain mainstays. Ultimately Superman, again taking orders from the president, is given a kill order and we’re treated to Batman in a power suit of armor taking on the man of steel. (With a little help from Oliver Queen.) In one very odd turn of events one of the gangs that Batman defeats starts calling themselves the Sons of Batman and help rid the city of crime with…gang violence? Is this an indictment of Batman himself? Look, this story goes to some weird places.
Batman: Bad Blood – When Batman goes missing it’s up to Dick Grayson to fill his shoes with help from Damien Wayne as the current Robin and newcomers Batwoman and Batwing. (I hope Bruce has a trademark on the bat symbol, he should be getting royalties.) I wish this movie had chosen one new character and focused on his or her origin instead of splitting our time but it does a good job of juggling those two stories with the main plot. Good fight scenes abound. Big extra points for to this one for giving Alfred a moment to be totally badass and for the chance to see our heroes fight Batman himself.
Batman: Gotham Knight – Take all of the general statements I made above and know that this movie is an outlier and should not be counted. In the vein of the Animatrix this anthology is comprised of six short stories all headed up by different Japanese artists. I really enjoy this method of quickly exploring different aspects of a world or asking short questions and what ifs about well known characters. Two of the six stories are mostly action oriented, and are fun, but the other four all have a laser focus on one theme or another. I think it peaks early with the first story, “Have I Got A Story For You” having fun with the impressions that Batman leaves on the people that see him. Each story is a completely different art style than the last so you have a one in six chance of liking SOMETHING here. Whether you like anime or not this is a worth checking out for any Batman fan.
Oh! And if you read my post on April 1st, you may have been disappointed if you tried to seek out Angels with Filthy Souls to enjoy yourself. All of those movies were in fact fake movies found within real movies. Here’s a list of where they all came from. Ya know, I wonder what it says about this gig that it was so easy totally BS those reviews…
- MoonQuake Lake – Annie (2014)
- Face Punch – The Twilight Saga: New Moon
- Ass – Idiocracy
- Angels with Filthy Souls – Home Alone
- Angels with Even Filthier Souls – Home Alone 2
- Mant! – Matinee
- Simple Jack – Tropic Thunder
- Deception – The Holiday