Justice League Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Justice League
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 26 (13 stories)
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum, Maria Canals-Barrera (Credited as Maria Canals)
  • DVD: Widescreen, Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

The second season of the animated Justice League series is bigger and the stakes are higher. Again, most stories are two parts, except the Holiday episode, “Comfort and Joy” and the three-part season finale “Starcrossed”. The season opens with Orion attacking and defeating one of Darkseid’s attacks, but as Darkseid recovers, he’s attacked by Brainiac – Darkseid convinces the Justice League to help him. They work with Highfather to stop Brainiac’s attack, but it puts New Genesis in danger.

In “Only a Dream”, Doctor Destiny traps most of the Justice League in nightmares, but insomniac Batman is able to defeat Doctor Destiny.

In “Maid of Honor” Wonder Woman befriends the party girl princess of Kasnia. Despite at first complaining about the princess’s lack of responsibility, the two bond and have fun. The princess confesses she doesn’t even want to marry her fiancé but she must as part of her duty. When her father has a sudden “stroke” the marriage is moved up. Diana is shocked that the Kasnian princess’s new husband is Vandal Savage. The Justice League ends up interfering when Savage threatens the world with an orbiting rail gun satellite.

This season features an episode with the Justice Lords – an alternate Earth Justice League that became world dictators after the death of their Flash. The fight scenes in the second part are particularly good because our Justice League doesn’t face off against their own opposite numbers but fights other members. This allows them to succeed.

“The Terror Beyond” has Aquaman, Doctor Fate, and Solomon Grundy fighting off Cthulhu-like monsters. Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl and Superman stop Dr. Fate’s spell to close the gate that’s been opened to the horrific monsters. Eventually, Fate, Aquaman, and Grundy are able to convince Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, and Superman that they must stop the creatures. While Fate and his group try to close the gate again, Superman and company go through it to stop the invasion from the other side. This two-parter is visually stunning, and the “mad” monsters from the Cthulhu-like beings are drawn well.

“Secret Society” features another group of B-rate super-villains banding together to drive apart the Justice League. However, by spying on the league their plan almost works and the league splits and each go their own way. It takes Batman, who discovers the surveillance to get the League back together so they can defeat the”Secret Society of Evil”.

In “Hereafter” it appears Superman is killed in a battle with Toyman. While the world deals with its grief, and tries to process a world without a Superman – Superman is actually thrust forward into the far future. He meets Vandal Savage who has finally figured out that ruling an empty, destroyed planet is no fun at all. Superman and Savage finish a time machine Savage was working on and send Superman back to his own time.

In “Wild Cards” the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) and the Wild Card gang take over Las Vegas. The Joker airs the chaos on TV, like some type of reality show. Joker has also placed a large number of bombs, some real, some fake all over Vegas – the League has to find and dismantle the bombs.

Finally in “Starcrossed”, an alien spaceship attacks Washington DC, but the ship is destroyed by Thangarian ships. Thangar gets world leaders to accept their “protection”. However, they later impose martial law. Later it turns out the Thangarians aren’t building a shield for the Earth to protect it from a Gordanian invasion – rather they are building a hyperspace bypass engine so the Thangarians can invade to Gordanian homeworld. Unfortunately, activating the hyperspace bypass will destroy the Earth. It also turns out Hawkgirl was an advance scout and spy for the Thangarians. She is also promised or engaged to one of the other Thangarians – which surprises Green Lantern. The League is upset that Hawkgirl betrayed them. But when Hawkgirl finds out Thanagar intends to destroy the Earth she jumps sides, frees the League from their prison on one of the Thangarian ships, and helps the League defeat the Thanagarians and destroy the hyperspace bypass engine. The League decides to take a vote as to if Hawkgirl will still be accepted in the League, but Hawkgirl leaves first.

Justice League Season 2 is bigger than the first season, and the Justice League faces bigger threats. This is still top-notch animation. There are again several notable guest performances. I highly recommend this season.

Read my review of Justice League Season 1.

Justice League Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Justice League
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes:  26 (12 stories)
  • Discs:  3
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum, Maria Canals-Barrera (Credited as Maria Canals)
  • DVD: Standard, Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

Justice League was the first of the DCAU series that I ever saw and even nearly ten years later the series still stands up. The members of the Justice League are: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz), Flash, and Hawkgirl. The individual episodes of Justice League are 30 minutes (well, 22-25) but in this season every story consists of two or three parts. This means that it’s more like watching a series of short movies than a normal animated television series. The stories have plenty of time for characterization and in-depth storytelling. Justice League also doesn’t waste time on traditional “origin stories”. The first episode, “Origins” has Batman and Superman confronting an actual alien invasion, including a first shot of the tripod-like invading machine that’s reminiscent of George Pal’s War of the Worlds. Superman is telepathically attacked but finds Martian Manhunter being held in a military prison. He and Batman free Martian Manhunter and learn his name is J’onn J’onzz and that he’s the last survivor of Mars. J’onn tells him the beings that threaten the entire Earth had attacked Mars and destroyed their entire civilization. Other leaguers-to-be, including Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Flash, and Wonder Woman join the fight against the alien invaders, eventually defeating the alien menace. Batman proposes building a satellite Watchtower to warn of future invasions. Superman proposes a permanent league of superheroes. Flash asks, “What a type of superfriends?” to which Batman replies, “More like a Justice League”. This sets the stage for the series.

Green Lantern is given an in-depth story, “In Blackest Night” in which he is put on trial for destroying an entire inhabited alien planet while in pursuit of a space pirate. Once the league discovers what’s happened, they rush to his defense. Martian Manhunter and the others are able to prove the planet’s destruction was an illusion orchestrated by the Manhunters (different Manhunters than on Mars, these are androids from Oa the home of the Green Lantern Corps, and the Guardians first attempt at a benevolent galaxy-wide police force). The league frees Jon Stewart Green Lantern and the Flash, who acted as his advocate, clears John’s name, then defends Oa from the Manhunters with the aid of the Green Lantern Corps.

“The Enemy Below” is a modern Aquaman story, and although Aquaman doesn’t formally join the League, he is recognized as the King of under the seas.

“Injustice for All” has Lex Luthor bringing together a group of supervillains to fight the Justice League, especially Superman. It doesn’t go well for Lex.

“Paradise Lost” sees Felix Faust attack Thermyscira, turn all the Amazons to stone, and bribe Wonder Woman to find a McGuffin in three parts – the Key to the Underworld. Wonder Woman and the League find the key but are very worried about what Faust will do to it. Faust releases Hades, who then drains him of life (not the reward he was expecting). The Justice League is able to defeat Hades and return the Amazons to life. But Hippolyta decides to follow Amazon law to the letter and banishes her daughter for bringing men to the island.

“War World” is a slugfest with Superman forced to fight in the War World arena for Mondo.

“The Brave and the Bold” has Gorilla Grood taking over Central City after a scientist accidentally reveals the location of Gorilla City.

“Fury” has a refugee who was raised as an Amazon on Thermyscira reviving Luthor’s Injustice League and launching a biological attack on the world’s men. But Hippolyta reveals that Aresia was actually rescued by a man who got her to Thermyscira before dying.

“Legends” has the League transported to a parallel Earth where the heroes resemble Golden Age comics heroes and John Stewart (GL) recognizes the heroes as heroes from the comics he read as a kid. The “Justice Guild of America” is locked in battle with the “Injustice League” but something doesn’t seem right. J’onn J’onzz keeps having telepathic flashes of a disaster. One of the League members finds the graves of the entire JGA. Eventually, they discover the entire dimension was destroyed in a Nuclear War and a telepathic mutant had re-created the “perfect” world of years ago. The story works both as a story and as a comment on the good and the really bad aspects of older Golden Age comics. After the illusion is broken the League members are able to find a way back to their own Earth.

“A Knight with Shadows,” tells the story of Jason Blood, Etrigan the Demon, Morgaine, Merlin, and Modred. It’s as close to a traditional origin story as season 1 of Justice League gets. But it’s also a great story full of Arthurian lore, magic, demons, etc. For the most part, only Batman is in this story, though the rest of the League lend a hand at the end. I enjoyed the story very much.

“Metamorphosis,” tells the story of Rex Mason who is turned into the Element Man – rather than an archeologist, he works for Stagg Industries and is rich and accomplished, but when he and Sapphire Stagg decide to marry, her overprotective and cruel father decides to use Mason as an unwilling human subject in his plan to create artificial workers who can withstand any environment. Mason and John Stewart are also old friends, having both been in military service together. Although Mason’s origin is substantially different, it’s a great story, and very enjoyable.

The final story in season one is the three-part “The Savage Time”. All of the Justice League but Batman are returning from a mission in space when there’s a flash on Earth below them and the Watchtower disappears. Green Lantern lands the Javelin spacecraft (which was apparently out of power because he’s towing it with his Ring). The Justice League discovers the US is now a dictatorship under the power of a mysterious Leader. They walk into a resistance attack on the military police of the leader and run into a different version of Batman who is the leader of the Resistance. Working with Batman, they discover a time tunnel anomaly. The League, minus Batman, enters the anomaly and finds themselves in World War II. There they join the allies, the Blackhawks, Easy Company, Steve Trevor and other forces to help the allies and defeat Savage before he can become a world dictator. “The Savage Time” is a brilliant story, and also a lot of fun to watch. (Savage in the future sent a laptop and plans for weapons and communications equipment to Savage in the past.) This is a much more menacing Vandal Savage than the one in Season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow.

Overall, I really enjoyed Justice League (the animated series). The regular and guest casts are wonderful, and the series features many well-known and excellent guest actors. The animation is hand-drawn and beautiful and has that traditional DCAU square-jawed look. I highly recommend this series. Even if animation usually isn’t your thing, or you’ve tried the live action DC film Universe and been unimpressed, this series overcomes many of the faults of other versions of DC Comics in both older animation and in live action.

Note: For some reason, the Blu-Ray discs auto-play the first episode whenever a disc is put in the player. You can get a list of episodes by pressing the “Top Menu” button and then choosing the episode you want to watch, but it’s still annoying and results in a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the disc.

Supergirl Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Supergirl
  • Season: Season 3
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Melissa Benoist, Katie McGrath, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, Chris Wood, David Harewood, Odette Annable, Carl Lumbly
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the third season of Supergirl.

The third season of Supergirl is focused on family, including the families the characters have built for themselves. Cat Grant is now gone (she’s the press secretary to the president, played by Linda Carter). Lina and Kara are friends, and when conservative jerk Morgan Edge threatens to purchase Catco in a hostile takeover to stop them from publishing the truth, Lina steps in and buys Catco instead. Lina initially tries to be hands-on with running Catco, but James Olsen the managing editor and Lina’s boyfriend convinces her to step back a bit. Edge at one point tries to get back at Lina by accusing her of poisoning the children of National City with lead. Supergirl proves that the children are sick because of chemicals in the city’s swimming pools – chemicals produced by Morgan’s company. There are mutual accusations of attempted murder as well, but Lina isn’t guilty and it’s implied neither is Morgan.

J’onn J’onzz receives a message from M’Gann to come to Mars. He goes with Supergirl and they find a White Martian resistance who have discovered J’onn’s father being held, prisoner. They release him and J’onn brings M’yrnn J’onzz back to Earth. M’yrnn initially stays at the DEO, and then in J’onn’s apartment. However, sadly, M’yrnn is suffering from a Martian form of Alzheimer’s Disease. There are a lot of ups and downs in J’onn and his father’s relationship. In the end, J’onn accepts his father is dying and prepares for “The Reach” a Martian mental passage where all of M’yrnn’s memories and experiences will be passed to his son.

Alex and Maggie Sawyer prepare for their wedding. Alex even finds Maggie’s family who abandoned her when they learned she was a lesbian. Maggie’s reunion with her father seems to go OK, but in the end, he rejects her again. Alex comes to realize that she really wants to be a mom, whereas Maggie doesn’t want children. The two reach an impasse and break up – and Maggie is never seen again. Alex is understandably hurt by this throughout the rest of the season. In the last few episodes of the season, she’s starting to research adopting a child.

Morgan Edge orders an attack at the unveiling of National City’s waterfront Supergirl statue and a young mother, who had bumped into Alex earlier, uses incredible strength to move a fallen metal pipe from her daughter. Alex, Lina, and eventually Kara become friends with Samantha and her daughter, Ruby. Sam works with Lina at L-Corp and is promoted to Chief Financial Officer after Lina buys Catco and steps back from the day to day running of L-Corp. Some weird things happen to Sam and Ruby. Slowly through the season, it becomes obvious that Sam’s blackouts and losses of time are related to the appearance of a new supervillain, Reign – the Kryptonian Worldkiller. Sam/Reign is an oddly sympathetic villain. Sam has no idea what her other half is doing. Sam’s a struggling single mother, trying to balance a demanding new job with raising her 12-year-old daughter. Sam and Ruby have a good relationship, but Ruby is a bit put out that her Mom doesn’t spend as much time with her as she used to. And Sam doesn’t know she is Reign – a supervillain capable of beating Supergirl badly and putting her in a coma.

I had a couple issues with the episode where Reign beats up Supergirl and puts her in a coma. First, I’m a little tired of the pattern – new villain beats up Supergirl, but by the end of the season, Supergirl will defeat the villain. Second, since Kara is in an honest-to-goodness coma and severely injured, Alex should have contacted Clark (Superman). Clark is her cousin, he has a right to know she’s been so seriously hurt. Alex also should have contacted Eliza, she also has a right to know what happened.

Kara is in a funk during the first half of the season because she had to send Mon-El away. Mon-El comes back from the future with a spaceship and his team-mates in the Legion of Superheroes, Brainiac 5 and his wife, Imra. Mon-El’s ship went through a wormhole and he had lived for seven years in the future. The Legion was sent back in time with multiple missions, some of which Mon-El doesn’t know about.

Once Mon-El, Brainiac 5, and Imra arrive, Supergirl and her team are able to learn more about Reign and the two other Worldkillers: Purity and Pestilence. The Legion really wants to destroy Pestilence because in their time she evolves into a being called Blight which is responsible for the destruction of whole planets and everything on them: people, animals, and plants. Lina also, as a friend of Sam’s, wants to help. Lina realizes that Sam is Reign, but that she has no knowledge of her other half. Lina even explains that Reign is over-writing Sam’s DNA, a process that if it continues will cause Sam to be Reign all the time, eventually killing her own personality. (We see this process happen quickly with Pestilence.) Lina keeps Sam in a secret lab at L-Corp and at first tries to figure out what is wrong with her and later tries to fix it. Lina also arranges for protective custody for Ruby while her mother is sick.

Despite Lina’s best efforts – she doesn’t tell Kara, Alex, or Supergirl what she is doing. When the DEO tracks Reign and finds out that Lina’s been trying to stop her – Supergirl especially is very upset, though Alex is also angry. Lina is invited to continue working at the DEO and Reign escapes. There is now considerable tension between Supergirl and Lina – though Lina is still friends with Kara. Yes, this seems to be setting up future conflict.

The story with Reign gets more and more complicated. At one point, Sam is locked in a dream state of a dark, dead valley on Krypton. Kara recognizes this valley. Reign decides to kill Ruby to assure her success – but a threat to her daughter is the one thing Sam can’t handle and it makes her own internal struggle stronger. Kara and company think they have killed Pestilence and Purity at one point, but the audience sees their spirits being absorbed by Reign. Lina realizes they need a special element to stop Reign, but there is no more of it on Earth. Supergirl and Mon-El travel to an “asteroid” to get some but it turns out to be Argo City. Kara meets her mother (now played by a different actress). After an argument with the council, Kara succeeds in getting some of this element. The DEO uses it to “defeat” Reign and Kara and Mon-El return to Argo City so Kara can spend time with her mother. However, Serena, a council member turns out to be the leader of a cult of three Kryptonian witches. They steal Mon-El’s ship and head to Earth to raise the Worldkillers and terraform Earth into New Krypton.

It takes all of the DEOs resources, including help from Lina, Alura (Kara’s mother), Mon-El, Brainiac 5, the other Legionnaires, M’yrnn, and everyone else including Sam to stop Reign. They succeed, but M’yrnn gives his life. Sam lives and is reunited with Ruby.

After Reign’s final defeat and M’yrnn’s death – J’onn decides he needs to spend more time around normal human beings and not stay cooped up at the DEO – he promotes Alex to director of the DEO. Alex, who was wondering how’d she balance her active and dangerous agent lifestyle with adopting a child is happy to take a more desk-bound position. Lina expresses friendship with Kara but anger at Supergirl for betraying her and not trusting her. Mon-El has to return to the future – and takes Winn with him, though it looks like Brainiac 5 will remain behind at the DEO.

Season 3 of Supergirl was a bit dark, but the show is still very good. I liked the female friendships in this season, though the end of season rivalry between Lina and Supergirl was a bit annoying (I hope they do not become enemies next season). Recommended.

Read my review of Season 1 of Supergirl.

Read my review of Season 2 of Supergirl.

Justice League Gods and Monsters

  • Title:  Justice League Gods and Monsters
  • Director: Sam Liu
  • Date:  2015
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Fantasy, Action, Animation
  • Cast:  Benjamin Bratt, Michael C. Hall, Tamara Taylor, Jason Isaacs, Richard Chamberlain, Penny Johnson Jerald, Carl Lumbly
  • Format:  Widscreen, Color, Animation
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“At least fifty dead in the embassy massacre, and not just dead – dismembered, burnt alive, sucked of their blood, a virtual house of horrors. Granted the victims were part of a terrorist organization… but what about our terrorist organization? What about the Justice League? It’s not like we haven’t been warned.” – Female Newscaster
“What the government has sanctioned is more than a Super-SWAT Team, it’s a weapon of absolute power. We all know where that leads.” – Lex Luthor

“We’re being framed! Someone’s actively trying to frame the Justice League? Who would have the balls?” – Superman

Gods and Monsters is an alternative universe story, DC calls these types of stories – “Elseworlds”, and before that “Imaginary Stories” (to distinguish them from the main continuity) as pointed out on one of the special features that accompany the film. This tale gives us three very different versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The film starts with Superman’s new origin story. In Gods and Monsters Superman’s father isn’t Jor-El but Zod. This is shown in the opening scene where Zod pokes his finger into a genetic device that will develop into a baby in the spaceship that’s sent to Earth. Once the ship lands, he’s rescued by a migrant laborer couple rather than the Kents. This Superman is very different – he’s brash, arrogant, and even rude. He also knows very little about his genetic parents or Krypton, because Luther stole his baby spaceship and everything inside.

In the film’s present, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are on a US-sanctioned mission to destroy a terrorist cell. Steve Trevor is marginally in charge of the mission, but they neither listen to him nor do they wait for Trevor and his troops to arrive before totally trashing the cell and everyone in it. This shows the violence of this alternative Justice League, and their willingness to let the end justify the means.

However, before long, a series of scientists – many who were known as “Luther’s Whiz Kids” are getting killed in horrible ways – and the crime scenes are designed to look like the Justice League is guilty. But since we see the robots committing the crimes from the beginning the audience knows that this Justice League, as twisted as the are, aren’t responsible. Though, like all mysteries – who is responsible isn’t revealed until the end.

While telling the mystery story we also see flashbacks explaining the origins of Batman and Wonder Woman. Batman is Kirk Langstrom, who attended university with Will Magnus, and Tina. Kirk was suffering from some form of cancer or blood disease (it isn’t spelled out exactly what) and is experimenting with bats. He ends up becoming Batman, a vampire.

Wonder Woman isn’t from Paradise Island, but New Genesis. Bekka was to marry the son of Darkseid, Orion, whom she had actually fallen for – despite the fact that the marriage was arranged and she was actually a bride-price to stop an eons-long war between New Genesis and Apokolips. Just after the wedding, however, her Grandfather, known as High Father (Richard Chamberlain), and his troops break up the wedding by killing everyone they can, including Bekka’s very new husband. Angered at both the carnage and the death of her consort, Bekka turns her back on High Father, and New Genesis, and makes her way to Earth via Motherbox (boom tube – basically a type of very long distance teleport).

The rest of the story involves the attacks on the scientists, the Justice League finding out about the attacks – and various people calling for sanctions against the League, including Amanda Waller, who had been their government liaison and handler.

Superman decides to challenge Luther as well (Luther is still his arch enemy) – from Luther he finds out the truth of his origins. However, this Luther, though initially overly cautious (thus his refusal to share the information from Krypton with Superman), is won over by his use of Kryptonian technology to study the universe.

Gods and Monsters is a surprisingly violent story – fifty people are killed in close to the opening scene (after the background scenes on Krypton), the scientists – Victor Fries (now a climatologist), Silas Stone, Ray Palmer, etc. are first killed one by one, but then there’s a bloodbath to kill any scientist who had opposed the Justice League. At times, it seems both Batman and Superman have real blind spots when it comes to protecting themselves when solidly framed. Batman, though a vampire and having a completely different back story, does have good investigation skills – but not good enough to see what’s going on until it’s almost too late. Superman, upon realizing they are being framed is incredulous, as in, “Who dare be dumb enough to frame us?” Still, as in all good mysteries – the League does figure it out and with some surprising help, is exonerated.

The Blu-Ray includes a documentary on DC’s history of Alternative Universe, “imaginary stories, and “Elseworlds” stories, starting with the example of, Gotham by Gaslight. The Blu-Ray also includes a documentary on Jack Kirby, New Genesis and Apokolips. And finally there’s a making-of documentary that’s excellent. Just the comics history and information in the documentaries make the Blu-Ray worth having.

Overall, I enjoyed this film, though it was very dark. Still, it was a good, alternative take on the big three DC Heroes.

Recommendation: See it
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: When Harry Met Sally

Justice League Doom

  • Title: Justice League Doom
  • Director: Lauren Montgomery
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2012
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Nathan Fillion, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Claudia Black, Paul Blackthorne, Olivia D’abo, Alexis Denisoff, Phil Morris, Robin Atkin Downes
  • Format: Widescreen, Color animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“When we fought before, I broke the bat; today I break the man.” — Bane to Bruce Wayne

“No, you weren’t afraid, not really. You were dosed with a synthesized version of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. Because will is the source of your strength.”— Batman
“And fear is the enemy of will.” — Green Lantern, Hal Jordan

Justice League Doom brings back most of the original cast from the original Justice League animated television series, only substituting Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern Hal Jordan, rather than keeping Phil LaMarr as GL Jon Stewart or introducing Guy Gardner. There is also a stellar cast of “guest stars” as the Leaguers greatest foes.

Vandal Savage uses Mirror Master to obtain secret files from the Batcave – files that Batman created containing plans on how to bring down any of the main Justice League members in case they went rogue. The villains then begin to attack and defeat the League members. Mirror Master gets Flash to put his hand inside a Schrodinger’s cat box to rescue an old woman. Flash ends up with a bomb in his wrist that will explode if he stops, de-accelerates, or does nothing when the timer runs out. Cheetah fist-fights Wonder Woman, but poisons her with her finger nails so everyone she sees looks and sounds like Cheetah. Green Lantern Hal Jordan is sent to a Salt Mine to rescue some hostages from a militia group and the rescue goes wrong – a woman who is a dead ringer for Carol (Hal’s former girlfriend) is killed. Even running into Star Sapphire doesn’t help Hal realize he’s been set up. Martian Manhunter is slipped a poison that caused him to sweat Magnesium, which bursts into flame, even under water. Superman is shot in the chest with a Kryptonite bullet. Bane takes Bruce’s parents out of their graves. A groundskeeper (not Alfred) reports this to Bruce, who goes out to investigate in civilian clothes. He’s jumped by Bane, who beats him up, then drops him into his mother’s (new) grave, and buries him alive, with her skeleton in her coffin.

Bruce, stranded underground, takes the keys out of his pocket and starts to pummel the coffin lid. He’s about to give up, when he turns and sees his mother’s skeleton staring at him — and he renews his attack and escapes. It’s a very eerie and spooky image — but it’s also something that is just “so Batman” and “so Bruce” — he cannot ever give up on the oath he swore to his parents that faithful night when he was only eight years old.

Once he’s escaped, Batman contacts the other Justice League members to get them out of their immediate danger, then they meet to find out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Vandal Savage has gathered the villains together to take out the Justice League, so he can put a secondary plan into motion. Once the various villains report their success — they insist on joining Savage in his plans. Savage’s plan is to fire a missile into the sun, causing a massive solar flare which will destroy the sunward side of the Earth as well as send out an EMP that will fry anything electronic. The Justice League arrives, and each member fights his or her opposite number villain. However, despite the assistance of Cyborg, Savage’s missile is fired. Superman and Green Lantern attempt to stop the missile at the sun, but fail, giving the League seven minutes to figure out what to do. They come up with something — and Earth is saved.

I really liked the first part of  the story — that Batman would have contingency plans for taking out everyone in the League (though his plans were non-lethal) is both scary, and yet fitting with his personality. I would have liked to see more of a sense of the League’s sense of betrayal though — not only that Batman would do that, but that he’d keep detailed records of his potential plans. After the Justice League saves Earth, they discuss what to do with Batman, and it’s Clark who tells Bruce that he was right, then asks what safety valve exists for Bruce — Bruce responds, “The Justice League”. In other words, he’s created an equal and balanced system. But, I would have liked more. More storyline, more background, especially for the villains, even more dialogue between the Leaguers (and between Alfred and Bruce. Alfred appears and then suddenly disappears, before just as suddenly appearing again. It was very frustrating). With six heroes and seven villains, including Savage, plus the opening gambit with the Royal Flush Gang, the film really should have been longer than 76 Minutes, and more flushed out.

I also felt the film fell a little flat at the end. It sort of turns into, “Of course the Justice League will win,” and really loses momentum. There’s some great stuff with Superman and Hal in space as they try to stop the missile and fail, but there’s still no real sense of danger — in part because Savage’s plan is just too big. I like the more subtle villains with subtle plans (like Lex Luthor becoming the US president — which he did in the DC Universe).

Still, it was great to see the re-united Justice League cast together again. I’d like to see Doom as the pilot for a new Justice League series, but I doubt it will happen. Still, one can hope. I will admit it was great to see the Legion of Doom appear threatening instead of as a joke, though. If you’re a DC fan you’ll enjoy this!

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a DC fan.
Rating: 4 out of 5

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

  • Title: The Adventures of  Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension
  • Director: W.D. Richter
  • Date: 1984
  • Studio: MGM / Sherwood Productions
  • Cast: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum, Rosalind Cash, Robert Ito, Clancy Brown, Vincent Schiavelli, Carl Lumbly
  • Genre: SF, Adventure, Comedy
  • Format: Color
  • DVD Formats: Anamorphic Widescreen, R1, NTSC

“Remember, no matter where you go – there you are.”  — Buckaroo Banzai

“History is made at night, Character is what you are in the dark.”  — Lord John Worphin

This is a movie that I actually owned on VHS tape. However, it is amazing just how good the DVD looks, especially the anamorphic widescreen. It is, without a doubt, one of my absolutely favorite movies. I have seen in many times, and have several of the best lines memorized.

Buckaroo Banzai comes at you all at once and never slows down, producing a wild ride, filled with great lines and snappy dialogue. However, it also quickly establishes it’s characters, so we come to care about them as people, as the film zips along at warp speed and then some. If you have never seen this movie before – I highly, highly recommend watching it at least twice in order to figure out what is going on.

The crawl at the beginning of the film attempts to explain part of what’s going on and introduces some of  the humor of the movie, mentioning that Buckaroo, with an American father and Japanese mother — was “brought into life the way he was destined to live it – going several directions at once.” It also mentions those “hard rocking scientists – the Hong Kong Cavaliers”, Buckaroo’s friends who have just sort of drifted into his circle. And in the movie – he picks up a couple of new followers.

The opening of the film attempts to introduce the many sides of Buckaroo — brilliant neuro-surgeon (Jeff Goldblum gets some great lines in that scene so watch closely), experimental scientist and physicist, head of a rock band, and founder of the Banzai Institute. He’s also an incredibly sensitive man, able to pick out a girl crying in a crowded audience while on stage playing jazzy rock music.

However, the majority of the plot involves the 1938 Radio Broadcast of “War of the Worlds” by Orson Welles – the one that panicked the country, when people believed it was real. This movie posits – What if it was real? But the aliens weren’t from Mars, but rather trapped in a prison called the 8th Dimension, an inter-spatial place between the tiny particles of matter. That is, matter is mostly empty space, so Banzai is attempting to prove it is possible to cross inside it. An earlier experiment into the 8th Dimension had released several aliens from this prison. When Banzai’s experiment opens the Dimension again, more aliens from the Planet 10 arrive to cause World War III – if Whorfin (formerly imprisoned in the 8th Dimension) isn’t stopped.

But that really simplifies this brilliant movie. There are many extremely likable aspects to the film — a brilliant cast; the idea that the film treats its audience as intelligent and just drops one into the middle of events, trusting the audience can figure it out without spoon-feeding information; some truly brilliant, funny lines; a rip-roaring, fast-moving fun plot; great characters. In many ways, it has everything.

By the bye – the sound design in this film is also notable. Pay attention to the background announcements in the scene when Whorfin escapes from a mental hospital (Whorfin is inhabiting the body of Dr. Emilio Lazardo) or in the scenes at YoYoDyne Propulsion Systems.

Recommendation: Run don’t walk to the nearest rental store or Netflix and get a copy of the film.
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Adventures of  Robin Hood