A couple of short animated comic book movie reviews. I actually saw these a while ago, but better late than never, right?
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – The 6th in the line of DC Universe Animated Original Movies, released September 2009, this one’s based on the first story arc in the monthly Superman/Batman comic book, by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. The main voice talent includes Tim Daly as Superman, Kevin Conroy as Batman, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, and C. C. H. Pounder as Amanda Waller. Here’s all you need to know about the plot, courtesy of Wikipedia: “President Lex Luthor uses the oncoming trajectory of a Kryptonite asteroid to frame Superman for the “pending destruction of the planet” and declares a $1 billion bounty on the heads of the Man of Steel and his “partner in crime,” Batman. Superheroes and super villains alike launch a relentless pursuit of Superman and Batman…”
Needless to say, that premise means we’re treated to dozens and dozens of on-screen portrayals of different DC superheroes and super-villains, from the well-known (Powergirl, Metallo, etc.) to the more obscure (Katana, Giganta, etc). Honestly, for me, that was probably the most enjoyable part of the movie. I’m not a huge Superman fan, I’ve never read the source material by Loeb, and I’m not a fan of McGuinness’ art. So yeah, there wasn’t much this movie could offer to knock me over. In fact, to my eyes, the producer’s decision to try and translate McGuinness’ style to the animation made for a very awkward, ugly look. Over the years a lot of people have commented how his style evokes animation on the comic book page, but if this experiment shows anything, it’s that it doesn’t translate back too well. Powergirl and Amanda Waller, in particular, look really wonky. The former often looks like a cross-eyed Asian caricature, and the latter just looks lumpy; the Micheline Man of covert Ops (I guess for me, the definitive Amanda “The Wall” Waller is the squarish, angular one drawn by Luke McDonnel in his Suicide Squad run).
Anyway, the story moves along at a brisk pace, and there are lots of fun action sequences. But overall, it’s just a big, dumb action flick. Which isn’t becessarily bad, but also nothing to write home about.
Green Lantern: First Flight – Released in July of 2009, this is DC’s 5th direct-to-DVD animated movie. It’s also probably my favorite one out of the series. The voice talent includes Christopher Meloni as Hal Jordan, Victor Garber as Sinestro, and John Larroquette as Tomar-Re. Rather than focus on a specific story arc from the comics, this is a straight-up character origin and first adventure movie, which actually works quite well. The movie’s director, Lauren Montgomery, describes it as such: “It’s a cop-thriller set in outer space, with very little time spent on Earth. It’s a training day sort of story where the veteran (Sinestro) space cop meets the rookie (Hal Jordan) space cop, but because the veteran has been ‘around the block’ it may have skewed his perspective a bit.”
And that’s exactly what this movie does right: they get GL’s origin out of the way in the first 5 minutes of the movie, and then BAM! he’s off to outer space to meet dozens of strange aliens, an intergalactic police force, and start his first mission under the tutelage of…Sinestro. In fact, this is almost as much a Sinestro movie as a Hal Jordan one. I thought the writers, Alan Burnett and Michael Allen, did an admirable job of presenting Sinestro’s world view, elevating him from a maniacal supervillain to one with depth and logic behind his actions. The action scenes are dynamic and fun, the alien landscapes and cities a feast for the eyes, and the appearance of lots of the more recognizable Green Lantern Corps members (Kilowog, Arisia, Ch’p, Boodikka) is certainly a treat for the fans. I also liked the return to classic solid-objects-formed-by-the-ring style of combat, complete with giant bats and tanks and nets, instead of the visually boring beam-of-energy approach. Also, the animation style is in the familiar style of Bruce Timm, which to me is always a plus
I’m a big fan of the GL characters and concepts, though I’ll admit I haven’t read the monthly books in many years (too grim-and-gritty and too much crossover madness for my tastes). But I have to say, I was thoroughly entertained by this movie, and would definitely recommend it to all.