Superman Batman Public Enemies

  • Title: Superman Batman Public Enemies
  • Director: Sam Liu
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2009
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Drama
  • Cast: Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, CCH Pounder, LeVar Burton
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Luther did the one thing nobody was expecting. He made things boring again. And boring’s good, isn’t it? The economy’s back to normal, crime’s down, there are no wars or anything.”— Power Girl

“You mean those so-called super heroes?”— Lex Luthor

“They do work for you now, most of them anyway.” — Amanda Waller
“That’s to keep them from working against me. I’m not going to put the fate of this planet in the hands of… of freaks and monsters.” — Lex Luthor

“It doesn’t matter what any of us think, Luthor’s the president and what he says goes.” — Capt. Atom


“You’re not going to tell me you killed him for your country, are you?”— Batman

“Some of us still believe in putting our country first.”— Maj. Force
“Sorry, but I don’t see any patriotism here. All I see is a psycho who latched onto an excuse to kill people and who’s so stupid he doesn’t realize he’s being used by Luthor.”— Batman

This is the second time I’ve watched this film, and it does stand up to re-watching, something that’s difficult for animated films to do. The two Superman Batman animated films are based on a series of Superman Batman Graphic Novels. This film in particular is based on the graphic novel of the same name, which I loved, and I think it’s one of the best in an excellent series of books.

The film opens with a voice-over and video montage of economic collapse. Companies are laying off workers, people are demanding jobs in protests, people are getting evicted and living in tent cities, there are audio clips of politicians telling people to “tighten their belts”, there’s a corresponding rise in crime, and martial law is imposed. Into this walks Lex Luthor, campaigning for the presidency on a “third party” ticket. He wins.

And in his first speech, he attacks super heroes, while introducing the country to his own hand-picked super hero force: Power Girl, Captain Atom, Major Force, Black Lightning, and some other female hero (who’s neither recognizable nor important to the plot). They’re stooges, essentially, even Power Girl, who should know better than to trust Luthor.

Luthor then, privately, discusses the private threat he hasn’t yet revealed to the public – a meteor of pure Kryptonite is heading straight for Earth, and will hit the planet in seven days. Luthor’s plan?  Destroy it with nuclear missiles, of course. Amanda Waller, and later even Luthor’s own general ask Luthor to consider a back-up plan, but he ignores their advice, swearing he’s made the calculations himself and he knows he will succeed.

Batman and Superman are together in the Batcave below Wayne Manor when Luthor announces he wants a meeting with Superman to “bury the hatchet”. Both Bruce and Clark know it’s probably a trap, but they go anyway.  At the meeting, Luthor threatens Superman, then unleases Metallo – a Krypton-powered metal man whose very presence hurts the Man of Steel. Metallo and Superman fight. Batman arrives to rescue Superman, and is nearly strangled. Superman rescues Batman but gets shot with a Kryptonite bullet. Batman blows Metallo to smithereens, but Superman warns he’ll re-form. Batman and Superman are covered in the dirt, ash, and rock from the explosion. But before Batman can remove the Kryptonite bullet from Superman, he realizes that Metallo is after them again. Batman sets off another explosion, and he and Superman escape through the sewers.  The explosions catches them, though. Clark sees Bruce lying face down in the water, “Bruce! It’s not ending here… I won’t let it!” he gasps, and moves to his friend’s side, and pulls him out of the water. Bruce coughs up the water, somewhat recovered, and the two limp their way through the sewers to the Batcave. Bruce has Clark pull down the electric fence covering the opening. They are met by a startled but unflappable, Alfred.

Though Clark and Bruce are both weak and injured, they soon recover. Alfred is shown sealing away the Kryptonite bullet in a lead box. Alfred also returns Superman’s washed uniform shirt and cape.

As the two heroes recover in Bruce’s inner sanctum of the Batcave, Luthor gives a presidential address. He blames Superman for the death of John Corbin (Metallo), and shows an edited videotape of Superman attacking himself and Corbin “for no reason”, before showing Corbin’s burnt body. Then Luthor supplies an answer for anyone doubting that Superman could do something so evil — the approaching meteor is Kryptonite (true) and driving Superman mad (not true). Luthor closes his presidential speech by announcing a one billion dollar bounty on Superman’s head.

Batman and Superman attempt to investigate, but they are attacked – first by Banshee, then by a group of ice villians (Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold, Killer Frost, etc), then by Soloman Grundy and Mongo, then Sheba, then Night-Shade and Grog. Before long Superman and Batman are seemingly surrounded by every DC villain that could fit on the screen.

Captain Atom arrives with his team and a Federal Warrant for Superman’s arrest. But Superman and Batman fight Luther’s heroes and defeat them, then Superman escapes with Power Girl, his cousin, Kara. Captain Atom and his group follow Superman and Batman, after receiving orders from Luthor to “do your job” and eliminate Superman. During that fight, Batman shows his skills not only at fighting, but at psychological manipulation, not only goading Major Force by calling him a psychotic murderer, but doing so in front of Captain Atom who hears every word, and takes it to heart.

Kara, however, has realized that her cousin is right and Lex Luthor is wrong, and attacks Major Force to defend Batman. Despite everyone yelling at her, she breaks Force’s containment field causing a radiation leak. Black Lightening and Captain Atom co-operate to contain Major Force. In the resulting explosion, Force is dead, and Atom appears dead. Kara, that is, Power Girl, decides to stay with her cousin.

Meanwhile, Luthor’s launched his nuclear missiles at the meteor. It doesn’t work. The meteor is still on course for the planet. Luther appears weak and sick. Power Girl takes Superman and Batman to Luthor’s hideout, but they are met by Hawkman and Captain Marvel who attempt to take the two out. When Superman knocks out Captain Marvel, and Billy Batson is left in a crater, a concerned Batman goes to check out the young teen to see if he’s OK. Batman asks the injured child to say something. Billy answers, “Shazam!” and becomes Marvel again. But, the two, with Power Girl’s help manage to convince Hawkman and Marvel to not listen to Luthor.

Meanwhile, Luthor claims the first attempt to destroy the meteor was a “fact finding” mission, but he can now put his plan into action. Not even the public is convinced by this, as rioting and looting breaks out.

Amanda Waller, shocked by Luthor’s inaction, discovers he’s taking steroids and liquid Kryptonite injections. Luthor tells Amanda he will let the meteor hit, so he can be in charge of the world that rises from the ashes. Dressed as Hawkman and Captain Marvel, Batman and Superman arrive. Luthor destroys all the information on the meteor, but Amanda gives them a back-up on a thumb drive. She also asks a general to arrest Luthor. Luthor, however, escapes, and takes more Liquid Kryptonite, before climbing into a robotic super suit.

Superman and Batman travel to Japan, to meet Hiro — the Toyman. Power Girl has arrived before them and acts as lookout to avoid the teen billionaire genius.

Toyman shows the two heroes a giant Superman/Batman Robot, he mentions it has manual controls, but he can control it from a nearby computer console. The Lex-bot arrives, takes out Power Girl, using Kryptonite blasts. He fights Superman, also using his Kryptonite gun. Then he destroys the control council. Batman heads for the rocket, saying “Goodbye” to Clark/Superman as he gets inside the robot and takes off.

Superman fights and defeats Luthor. Batman takes off in the rocket. “That was my best friend! And you just killed him!” Superman yells at Lex, before knocking him into next week. However, Luthor takes off again in pursuit of the rocket and Batman.

Batman manages to destroy the meteor using the rocket. Superman and Lex fight, and even though they’ve landed back in the US he finally knocks him out. Captain Atom has recovered and arrives with Power Girl and a message for Superman. Superman rescues Bruce who’s in a survival capsule shaped like a combination of the Batman and Superman symbols. He sets Bruce on a rooftop, and helps him out of the ship. Luthor is taken away. Lois arrives. Batman disappears as Superman watches the sun rise.

Again, this was an excellent animated film. It is a bit political in tone – rich businessman Lex Luthor, one of the most evil villains in the DC Universe, yet someone that Superman can never really stop because he can’t prove he’s broken the law – becomes president. And in the DC universe, Lex Luthor was president for awhile during the Bush years (besides harrassing Superman, he bombs Gotham City at one point to annoy Batman, making part of the city a wasteland). Although the film doesn’t state outright that Luthor caused the economic turmoil that he then exploits to get himself elected, it’s certainly implied. And the economic turmoil described in the film’s excellent opening sequence is half the Great Depression, and half every economic down turn since.

But what is even more striking about Lex Luthor is what an obvious xenophobic racist he is. He wants to get rid of Superheroes, especially Superman, not only because he doesn’t trust them, but because he considers them “freaks and monsters” – and not human. Luthor is one step away from openly declaring a war between humans and meta-humans.

But one of the best things about this film isn’t merely it’s politics – it’s seeing the glimpses of the close friendship between Bruce Wayne (voiced by the incomparable Kevin Conroy of Batman: The Animated Series) and Clark Kent (Tim Daly of Superman: The Animated Series). Though they don’t see eye to eye on how to solve crimes, or battle super villains, in this film they are nonetheless close friends – and it’s threats to Bruce that cause Clark to really go after Lex Luthor. Plus there’s some wonderful dialogue between the two.

If I had one quibble with the film, I could have done with less of the mega fight scenes, especially every super villain they could find being thrown into a fight with Superman and Batman, and more of the male bonding between Clark and Bruce. And more Alfred. I always like to see the more Alfred the better – he only gets one scene here. It’s a great bit, but once Batman sails off into what appears to be a one-man one-way mission to save the planet, you’d think someone would break the news to him. But I digress.

The Superman Batman Graphic Novels were known for their thought bubbles, yellow for Superman’s pov, and blue for Batman’s pov. I think the film could have used some voice-over between the two, because that was a big part of what made the graphic fun – seeing Clark’s view of  Bruce and Bruce’s view of Clark, or their situation or whatever. It was always great fun to see how iconic characters viewed each other. However, the film does do a great job, when we see Superman and Batman working together, of showing their different personalities and methodology. And that was terribly fun.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Highlander

  • Title:  Highlander
  • Director:  Russell Mulcahy
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  Republic Pictures
  • Genre:  Action, Romance
  • Cast:  Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen 
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC (DVD is 10th Anniversary Ed. – Director’s Cut)
  • Soundtrack:  Queen

This is a review of the first Highlander film, not the subsequent ones (which were pretty awful) or the TV series (which wasn’t bad, but I personally didn’t like the lead).  It’s a real pity the sequels were such a mess – because the original film is seriously an excellent film.  The cast is excellent, though Lambert’s accent is a tad distracting at times.  The filming is beautiful – especially in the scenes in Scotland.  The film is built on layers of contrast — even the romances contrast with each other.  And, the intercutting between Connor MacLeod’s past and his present is extremely well done and keeps the audience interested, by using short vignettes to build up the characters.  And the sword fighting is excellent as well.

Highlander drops you in to the middle of the action,  trusting the audience enough to stay with the film long enough to understand what’s going on.  Russell Nash attends a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden, then ends up in the parking garage having a sword fight with a guy who I swear looks like the Equalizer — dark suit, glasses, even semi-grey hair.  Nash wins his sword fight, cutting off the guy’s head and uttering the catch phrase of the film, “There can be only one!”  He then hides his sword and leaves, but gets caught by the police.  He’s released because the cops don’t have enough to hold him on.

However, during the wrestling match, Nash has dreams, or as we learn, memories… of his life in the Scottish Highlands as Connor MacLeod of the Clan McLeod.  Over the course of  the film, we see flashbacks to his life in Scotland that explain what’s going on.  His clan are to fight the Frasers, but on the field of battle no one will fight Connor and they even run away.  Unbeknownest to Conner — a mysterious Black Knight has paid the Fraser’s to fight anyone but Conner.  The Knight intends to kill Conner. However, he is mortally wounded and his cousin fends off the Black Knight.  Conner’s taken back to his village to die, but he recovers.  His girlfriend becomes convinced he has “the devil in him”, and stirs up trouble in the village against Conner.  He’s banished.  He ends up at a small sheep farm, where he meets Heather, falls in love with her, and marries her.

While living on the sheep farm, he meets Ramirez (Connery), another Immortal, like Conner and the Black Knight.  Ramirez takes Conner under his wing, teaches him how to fight, and about their ways.  He knows that some are Immortal, but doesn’t know why.  He knows that wounds that would kill a normal man, drowning, etc, will not kill an Immortal — the only method of killing one is by decapitation. He knows they cannot have children.  And he advises not falling in love — because he was devastated when his own third wife, a Japanese princess, died.  He also tells Conner that the Black Knight is the Kurgan (Clancy Brown), the oldest and strongest of the Immortals from the steppes of  Russia (think Ghangis Khan).  He also tells Conner that when only a few are left, The Gathering will take place, the last Immortals will be forced to fight and There Can Be Only One.  The last remaining Immortal will win The Prize.

Back in the “present” (the 1980s) the New York police are confused and befuddled by the sudden rash of beheadings.  An old friend of Conner’s shows up – but is killed by the Kurgan.  An woman who’s an expert in ancient swords, and works in forensics for the New York police, starts investigating both Russell Nash and one of the beheadings because the forensics of the sword used show it to be extraordinary — folded 200 times, yet made in 600 B.C.

We learn more about Nash/MacLeod’s life past and present — he does fall in love with Heather, marry her, and live with her until she dies.  The Kurgan also kills Ramirez — and Connor inherits his Katana. When Heather dies, he buries her under his MacLeod Claymore, and leaves, taking the Katana.  In the present, we meet Nash’s secretary, Rachel, who he had rescued when she was a child, during World War II — she knows all his secrets.

Nash and Brenda have a brief hot and steamy romance, and the Kurgan kidnaps her.  The climatic final sword fight between MacLeod and the Kurgan is on a rooftop by a bright red neon sign reading, “Silvercup”.  MacLeod wins – and discovers the prize is mortality, the ability to have children — and total knowledge of what everyone in the world is thinking.  The total knowledge thing is a bit scary, though a closing remembrance of Ramirez reminds MacLeod to use his gift wisely.

But the film is filmed beautifully — and filled with contrasts.  There’s the natural wide-open beauty of Scotland, verses the dirty and claustrophobic feel of modern day New York.  Most of the scenes in Scotland take place in the day as well; whereas the scenes in New York are mostly at night.  There’s the two romances — Conner’s original love, Heather, is sweet and kind and they have a life-long love.  His relationship with Brenda is more an animal attraction that quickly progresses to the hot and steamy side. However, they do seem to still be together at the end of the film.  And then there’s Rachel, who almost seems to mother Nash, though she knows exactly who and what he is.  Conner and Kurgan contrast as well — Kurgan is cruel, mean, and disgusting and only wants The Prize for whatever power it may bring him.  Conner seems to be honest and forthright, who will only use The Prize to help humanity.

And the sword fighting, both the fights and the various characters practicing their moves at various points, or Ramirez teaching Conner, are well realized.  Even watching Kurgan put together his multi-pieced broadsword and practice his moves is enjoyable to watch.

Overall, an excellent, enjoyable film, highly recommended.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  His Girl Friday

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 where I actually owned a copy 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 it’s 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