Sunday, August 16, 2009

DC movies : the good, the bad and the ugly

Lately I haven´t had the time to write as much about the comics I´ve read because of the new job I´m trying to get.

I have finished with the DAREDEVIL trades and the last issues of 100 BULLETS but that´s material for a longer post than I have the time today. Still I want to write about something to get some new content on this blog ( to show my readers I´m still doing it ) so I thought that I should write about comic movies.

There are a lot of movies - comic related or not - that I have seen and not commented on - yet. But for this edition I am taking a look at the latest DC animated movies that go directly to home video since I have just seen the Wonder Woman movie this week.

One of my brothers just returned from Spain this week and had a lot of movies in his luggage as Spain is one of the few places where you can buy uncensored movies. Here in Germany I almost never buy DVDs because everything gets censored here....even LILO & STITCH. So the three movies I going to talk about are WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN : DOOMSDAY and BATMAN : GOTHAM KNIGHT with which I´ll start.


Batman Gotham Knight ( or BATMAN GUARDIAN DE GOTHAM how the spanish version is called ) is a 73 minute film made up of six short episodes from different creative teams. On the disc it says " done by the world´s greatest animation visionaries " but I´m not sure if that´s really true since most of the episodes have a manga look or at least a manga - influenced look. You would think that if you collected artists from all over the world they would look more different. But maybe it´s the same as with the german scientists. After World War two the Americans had their german scientists, Russia had their german scientists and so on. And maybe they asked the french anime artist and the english anime artist and so on.

Now the idea of such projects is nothing new namely to take the best of the best and let them do their interpretations of one subject. However the end result vary from pure genius to rather meeh or disastrous. Sometimes you get something like Marvel´s SHADOW AND LIGHT, sometimes something like BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE and on very rare occasions you get a real gem like DC´s SOLO. The problem with this movie - at least for me - is that while the artists involved may be the best there is in animation but I´m not sure if they really had a Batman story to tell.

Just because someone´s a good animation guy doesn´t mean he also has a good Batman story to tell. Now everybody has a different taste but for me the whole movie just looked ugly. Some people may find the Mangabatman exciting but I was rather turned off. As for the stories they range form " I´ve seen better " to " boring " all the way to " I can´t for the hell of me remember what the story was all about ".

The idea behind the movie seems to be to get more background information to people who saw BATMAN RETURNS and THE DARK KNIGHT and help them submerge more deeply into the world of the caped crusader. And to hopefully get them to read some comics. Since I´m not one of those comicmuggels I can´t speculate how successful it is in that departement. As a comic reader who has followed Batman over long periods of time I have to say I have seen better stories and ideas in the pages of the comics.

If you buy a movie it seems to me that you should have either something that is unique or that collects at least the best ideas. This movie does neither and the fact that the makers of the movie didn´t even bother to connect the random short stories with a overlaying story makes it seem as they were just too lazy. As it is it just presents a collection of short stories that have no connection and of which the first one has a story idea that was done better in the pages of the 70s comic that I read as a kid in which it first appeared.

As for the extra content there is one documentary about Batman creator Bob Kane that´s very interesting as well as one about the foes of Batman which just adds to the feeling that with all those great characters to choose from the producers could have come up with something better.

But there is also something good about this DVD which are the four episodes of BATMAN ADVENTURES handpicked by Bruce Timm one of which adapts the first story on Batman Gotham Knight in a much better way. Maybe they should have watched the episodes before doing the other stuff. Oh, and they have resisted to show Deadshot without the costume. Kudos for that.

My resume : if you like japanese animation or must have every Bat - item for your collection you should get the disc. To comic readers and all others I recommend to watch it first and then decide if you really have to add this to your collection. As A COMICBOOK ORANGE would say : one orange. And that is for the BATMAN ADVENTURE episodes.


As you may have noticed I´ve turned around the " good, bad and ugly " theme so that I start with the worst one and end with the best. I just don´t like to end on a sour note. Now SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY ( or LA MUERTE DE SUPERMAN ) is not as bad as BATMAN GOTHAM KNIGHT which may have something to do with the fact that it tells one story but there are still some things that keep it from being a really good movie. There may be some spoilers for those who have not seen the movie ( even if I tried to stay away from them for the most part ) so be warned.

The first thing that springs to mind are the weird lines in Superman´s face throughout the whole movie. I don´t know what that´s supposed to be - a hommage to the look of the old Superman comics - but it just looks weird. But that´s just a visual thing which most viewers probably won´t even notice. No the main problem is that they changed the story.

I don´t think that I will live to see the day when guys in Hollywood stop thinking they know better then the people who write comics their whole life. I don´t even know if that will ever happen. And I know that to turn a storyline into a 78 minute feature film you have to keep a few things out and to make some changes. My only problem is the kind of changes they made.

The fact that they have eliminated the whole DC universe may make sense from a business standpoint. But keeping in mind that it is from the same guys that had this huge success with JUSTICE LEAGUE it just makes you wonder what they were smoking. It´s just too weird that Superman dies ( that´s no spoiler it´s right there in the spanish title ) and no other hero shows up to his funeral. It just diminishes the story.

In the comics the SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY / WORLD WITHOUT SUPERMAN / REIGN OF THE SUPERMAN epic had huge ramifications and showed who Superman really was and how important he was to the world and the superhero community. Okay, maybe they didn´t want to distract from the main story by inserting more heroes or Superman was afraid of someone like Blue Beetle stealing his thunder. But they could have mentioned the other heroes in the news or through some soundbites on tv. This way it seems that Superman dies and nobody outside of Metropolis seems to care. I guess Superman´s not very popular in the rest of the world.

Another problem is that they brought him back too soon. It seems that he´s just been laid to rest a few days ago before he returns to the land of the living. Would it have really been so much effort to do a " a few months later / one year later " sequence that would have lasted like....I don´t know.....ten seconds ? And what´s up with Lois ? I mean she can be a bitch in the comics but here she takes the cake. When Jimmy Olsen moves on with a life and becomes a successful paparazzi ( okay, that kind of people are scum but it was his decision ) she´s like totally pissed off at him and nags him constantly till he becomes her gopher again. Lois, you suck !

On the other hand Jimmy doesn´t offer too much resistance so he probably deserves it. Now reading all this stuff it may seem that I didn´t like the movie at all. The truth is that there were a few things I didn´t like - the things I have mentioned above - but there are also a lot of good things. While they have kept the movie from reaching it´s true potential and grandeur the changes give you a story you haven´t read before and there are some interesting scenes that explore facets of what it means to be Superman.

The fight between Superman and Doomsday is a drag out slugfest that´s just fun to watch.

And we even get " black bodysuit hippie Superman ". Who shoots a gun with kryptonite bullets which is always a plus.

The are some funny scenes, some really touching scenes and even some that show the relation between Superman and Lois in a very realistic way. All in all a good way to spend 78 minutes.

The extras on the DVD include a documentary about the whole storyline in the comics that just shows you what the producers missed when they decided not to go with the original story. It has some weak spots but all things considered it´s okay. This movie gets three oranges.

  • superman doomsday review by screenrant


    Now I have kept the best of the three movie for last. WONDER WOMAN ( la Mujer Maravilla ) also is a full length movie ( 71 minutes ) that tells the origin story of Wonder Woman.

    The life action Wonder Woman movie is still in the works and I think one of the reasons is that it´s hard to cast someone as Wonder Woman after Lynda Carter cemented the character for generations of tv viewers. With the animated version there are no such problems although I don´t know why they went away from the Wonder Woman look of the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon

    and opted for a look that is reminiscent of AEON FLUX.

    There may also be some spoilers in this review so be warned.

    The story uses the best elements from Wonder Woman´s various origin stories throughout the decades as well as the best of George Perez´run on the title when he re - imagined it after CRISIS ON INFINITE WORLDS. The general idea behind CRISIS was to restart all the DC titles and do a much better version with less baggage than before. But only a few writers really used that opportunity like Byrne on SUPERMAN or Perez on WONDER WOMAN.

    Beside the typical story of Wonder Woman winning the tournament to become Themiscaria´s ambassador in the world of men and the love story with Steve Trevor they have also included a story about Ares trying to conquer the world with an army of zombies which is always a plus. The zombies I mean. In the original story it was Herkules who had a fling with Hyppolita thus becoming a potential father for Wonder Woman but here it is Ares and instead of just turning the amazons into slaves he wants to conquer the world. After killing everybody of course. There are various elements from newer stories like the character of Artemis intertwined with the classic aspects of Wonder Woman lore which makes the movie not so connected to a certain period. It seems some people learn from ALL STAR SUPERMAN.

    The movie has a lot of action, some interesting clashes of cultures that provide the funny scenes ( I mean what would your reaction be if you crashlanded on an island full of amazons who look like centerfolds ? ) as well as some commentary on our society or societies in general. A Wonder Woman story always has the opportunity to take a look at the strange things that go in in man´s world as well as what happens when feminism is taken to the extreme.

    Both Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are interesting characters especially Wonder Woman who has a few prejudices about men which stem from the things her mother told her after her relationship with Ares. Too bad the movie doesn´t take the time necessary to really explore them. I don´t know if I´m just more used to the pacing of JUSTICE LEAGUE but for my taste some things felt rushed in the movie. Not as bad as the resurrection of Superman in SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY but in a few scenes things whappened to quickly. Like in one scene Steve is drinking Tequila after Tequila till he can barely stand but five minutes later he´s sober all of a sudden. Or maybe that´s just business as usual for Air Force pilots.

    Apart from that I really liked the movie that has some decapitations and also Alfred Molina as the voice of Ares. And the greek environment does look greek not like in the HERKULES tv series. This movie gets four and a half oranges because there are some scenes in which I whish it had a more adult rating.

    The edition I saw was the normal one that has just a short special about the making of the movie. All in all this is the best of the three movies and if the first look at the GREEN LANTERN FIRST FLIGHT movie is any indication the next DC movies are just getting better.

    Now they only have to manage to do some good real life movies about Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. And maybe they will even do a Superman movie that doesn´t suck.

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