Son of Batman

  • Title: Son of Batman
  • Director: Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2014
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Fantasy, Drama
  • Cast: Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, David McCallum
  • Format: Widescreen, color, animation
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray

“I’ll drive.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman
“I know how.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman

“Do you know what you were tonight?” You weren’t a warrior. You weren’t a soldier. You were a child.” – Batman
“If it hadn’t been for him [Nightwing, Dick Grayson], I…” – Damian
[breaking in] “If it hadn’t been for Dick, you’d have gone too far.” – Batman
“It’s easier my way!” – Damian
“It has nothing to do with easy. It’s about doing what’s right, because it’s right and that’s the only reason you need.” – Batman

“You’ve never felt vengeful?” – Damian
“Everyday. You have to keep your center, Damain. You can’t fight crime by becoming a criminal.” – Batman

Son of Batman is the first of a trilogy of films about Damian Wayne – the son of Talia al Ghul (daughter of Ra’s al Ghul) and Bruce Wayne. Damian will become the fourth Robin (after Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake). The film opens with Ra’s al Ghul and Damian standing on a balcony in the secret temple of the League of Assassins. They watch the assassins exercising and training below, and Ra’s tells Damian it will be his birthright. But the temple is attacked. Talia protects Damian, but ultimately Ra’s is killed. Talia takes Damian to his father in Gotham City.

Once Talia makes introductions she leaves, and Batman returns to his mansion with his young son. Meanwhile a scientist, whom we learn later is Kirk Langstrom, is being forced to work on a formula or his wife and daughter will be harmed. Previously working for the League of Assassins, Langstrom is now working for Deathstroke – the leader of the attack on Ra’s temple. At Wayne Manor, Damian finds an antique sword and attacks the bushes. Bruce is impressed by the young man’s skill, while Alfred bemoans the destruction of the shrubbery.

Later that day or the next, Damian shows up at Wayne Enterprises – and proves himself an adept hacker. Bruce brings him home and grounds him. This will not go well.

Deathstroke’s henchman, Ubu, enters a hotel room with two hookers – but immediately gets suspicious. Damian arrives and fights Ubu – the fight spills out onto the street. Damain’s about to take Ubu’s head off with a sword, when Nightwing arrives. A few minutes later, Nightwing, looking the worse for wear, calls Bruce and tells him he has his son.

Back at the Batcave, Damian says just the wrong thing to Batman, and Dick who knows his mentor well, mutters, “uh-oh”, then Batman reads Damian the riot act. However, Damian is allowed to put on his own spin on the Robin suit and he and Batman travel on Gotham’s rooftops together. Batman introduces the new Robin to Commissioner Gordon with a nod and a “I’ll explain later”. Gordon gives Batman a clue, a scrap of paper from the investigation of Ubu. Batman and Damian follow it up, finding Langstrom. They find out Deathstroke has his family. There’s a massive fight against guards that ends-up in an old stadium that’s filled with giant man-bats.

Damian has Langstrom at knifepoint. He’s taken to the Batcave. There, finding out about his family, and that Ra’s wanted him to create a formula to create human/animal crossbreeds to create super-soldiers. Batman and Damian head off on a rescue mission, while Nightwing watches Langstrom as he makes a antidote to his man-bat formula. Damian had recognized the scientist’s daughter’s description of two mountain peaks like cat’s ears as Interlochen.

The rescue mission goes smoothly, and Batman finds the mother and daughter. But the daughter slips Damian a phone with a video message from Deathstroke and a location of Damian’s still-missing mother, Talia. Bruce calls Dick from a hotel room – then realizes Damian is missing. Batman, having heard from Mrs. Langstrom that Talia was also a prisoner but she was taken to another location. Dick quickly deduces the location, a nearby oil rig off the coast of Scotland.

The oil rig is at sunset and the animation is gorgeous. Damian takes an elevator to a sea base. Batman arrives and takes out the guards. Damian discovers a Lazarus Pit. Deathstroke threatens Talia. Damian threatens Deathstroke. But when pushed, Damian drops his gun. Talia gets shot trying to save Damian from Deathstroke. Batman arrives. Man-bats also attack. Batman uses sound signals on his batarangs to draw away the man-bats. Batman has the injured Talia.

Man-bats burst through the reinforced glass ceilings of the base, causing water to rush in and the system to overload. The man-bats burst above the base from the ocean and Nightwing and Langstrom fire antidotes at the man-bats from Nightwing’s plane.

Batman takes Talia into the Lazarus Pit. Damian and Deathstroke face off in a sword fight. Talia is cured by the Lazarus Pit.

The Sea-base starts to collapse as the sea rushes in. Water from the Lazarus Pit, which is being mined, also gets released. Deathstroke goads Damian into killing him – but Robin refuses – taking the name as his own for the first time. However, Deathstroke is caught by the explosion of the Lazarus pipelines. Batman, the new Robin, and Talia make it to an escape capsule and Nightwing rescues it from the ocean and the collapsing oil rig.

Talia and Bruce discuss who will have custody of Damian, but in the end he will stay with Bruce for now. Talia goes to rebuild the League of Assassins.

The animation in Son of Batman is excellent. This film looks gorgeous and the action sequences (of which there are many) are crisp and easy to follow. The sunset colors of the oil rig sequence are stunning. The film’s last shot of Batman and Robin, their capes blowing in the wind, the sunset behind them is beautiful. But this is also an extremely violent film with a high body count. The characterization is OK, but could have been better. Bruce Wayne seems a bit bland – and I found it hard to believe he didn’t even questions Talia. You’d think he would have demanded a paternity test – if only because of his position. Yet, Bruce also stops short of openly declaring that Damian is his son to the world.

I avoided this film and the two sequels for awhile because I’m not a fan of Grant Morrison at all, nor am I a fan of New 52, and I don’t really like Damian either. But, having said all that, I enjoyed this film. It looks gorgeous. The characterizations were pretty good. I loved seeing Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and the hint of the brothers-in-bat-hood relationship he will eventually have with Damian.

Recommendation: See It
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Well, it should be the next in sequence, Batman vs. Robin, but it will probably be Batman: The Killing Joke which I just bought.

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Superman Doomsday

  • Title:  Superman – Doomsday
  • Director:  Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, Brandon Vietti
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2007
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Drama, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, John Dimaggio, Tom Kenny, Swoosie Kurtz, Cree Summer
  • Format: Widescreen, color animation
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray 

“Just look at him, so sleek, so powerful, so beautiful, like some great golden god made flesh. Of course, any sensible god would demand absolute obidence in return for his favor. But no, our Man of Steel protects us and keeps us with no strings attached. And the people, hum, they practically worship him anyway. Enjoy your reign while you may, Superman, for as surely as night follows day, there comes a time when even gods must die.” – Lex Luthor, prologue

“The subject in question was biologically engineered to be the ultimate soldier: precise, clinical, unstoppable. But its creators came to realize it could not distinguish between friend and foe, thus this Doomsday machine lives to extinguish any and all life forms. Because it must.” Superman’s robot in the Fortress of Solitude

Luthor has a group of scientists and miners digging to the Earth’s core in search of a new energy source that Lexcorp can sell. However, they get more than they bargain for by freeing Doomsday, a biological killing machine. Luthor will later have his assistant Mercy eliminate all trace of Lexcorp’s involvement in freeing Doomsday, and to cover his tracks further, Lex cold-heartedly murders Mercy.

Doomsday escapes and wrecks havoc. Lois and Superman had been having a romantic get away to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, when Superman’s robot informs him of Doomsday’s attacks on Metropolis. They return. Superman fights Doomsday, and they both cause havoc. Lois and Jimmy Olsen cover the story. The fight between Superman and Doomsday wrecks buildings, causes havoc, and ranges all over Metropolis – city streets, subway tunnels, city streets again. But in the end, Superman does the only thing he can – he grabs Doomsday from the back, flies straight up to the stratosphere, then crashes to Earth. He and Doomsday land in a huge impact crater. Doomsday is stopped, but Superman is also killed. Superman crawls out from beneath Doomsday’s body, and dies in Lois’s arms. Jimmy Olsen takes a picture of the dead Superman, and of Lois with tears streaming down her face.

Martha Kent, who had been watching the fight between Superman and Doomsday on TV, collapses off her chair, tears streaming down her cheeks. In the wake of Superman’s death, Clark Kent is missing, though Perry White is convinced he’s “fine” just incommunicato in Afghanistan (where Kent had gone as a war correspondent). Lois decides she has to talk to Clark’s mother, and drives to Smallville to see her. At first, Martha is suspicious, but when Lois talks about being “in love with him” and “being loved by him” the two go inside to talk.

Lois returns to Metropolis and covers a story of Toyman threatening a schoolbus full of kids. She sneaks inside to rescue the kids, and all of them get out but one little girl. Lois and the girl are also threatened by a “Chuckie”-type living doll/toy with a big knife. Lois defeats the toy/doll, but Toyman pushes the bus off the building. Lois and the little girl are rescued by “Superman”. At first, Lois is overjoyed to have Superman back – but then she notices things – like he doesn’t know where her apartment is, and his attitude towards her is cold and clinical not romantic. Lois tries to figure out if it’s a result of Superman’s trauma, or if this Superman is perhaps not really Superman.

Lois becomes even more suspicious when Clark Kent still doesn’t return or make contact, and Martha calls her and says that even though “Superman” has returned – Clark hasn’t contacted her, he hasn’t even called.

The new Superman goes to confront Luthor, but he’s trapped in a room filled with red sunlight, and Luthor beats him up with Kryptonite brass knuckles. We then learn two things – this new Superman isn’t Superman, he’s a clone made by Luthor and under his control. And Luthor actually missed his enemy Superman so much after his death, he made the clone but a clone who would work for him. Luthor also has Superman’s dead body in status.

Lois tries to get Jimmy to help her investigate, but Jimmy, feeling his mortality after the huge Superman – Doomsday fight in Metropolis, has quit the Daily Planet, and taken a well-paid job as a Paparazzi photographer for a tabloid. Jimmy refuses to help the first time Lois asks.

Meanwhile, Superman’s robot steals Superman’s real body from Lex Luthor. The robot takes the body to the Fortress of Solitude where it turns out Superman isn’t dead – his pulse had slowed down to a rate of once every 17 days to allow him to heal. It had taken the robot 17 days to detect it, and another 17 days to pin-point the location. The robot tells the still injured Superman he retrieved him from LexCorp.

“Superman” takes on Toyman, and, after learning the villain had killed a young child at a day care center, takes him from police custody, flies up high with Toyman, then drops Toyman to his death on top of a police car. Jimmy takes a picture of the bloody and very dead Toyman. It becomes very apparent this this is not the Superman we know – he’s cold, threatening, and scary. Plus he’s still very, very powerful. When the police commissioner asks Superman to come in for questioning – Superman simply refuses because he has “better things to do”, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him.

At the Fortress of Solitude, the robot continues to treat Kal-El, the real Superman.

Back in Metropolis, “Superman” goes into a beauty shop and looks into a mirror. With his X-ray vision he finds a lead ball in his head containing Kryptonite. He uses his laser heat vision to remove it.

Lex Luthor hits on Lois when she confronts him. Lois lets Lex kiss her – and knocks him out with a hypo. She, and Jimmy search Lex’s office.  Lois and Jimmy use Lex’s unconscious body on a retinal scanner. They find Lex’s bank of cloned Supermen.  Lex arrives to kill Lois and Jimmy, then Superman arrives. Superman destroys the clone bank. Superman locks Lex in the red room and takes the entire thing into the stratosphere then throws it to the ground.

Meanwhile at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman weight-lifts and exercises to tone his body. He hears the news reports of Lex Luthor’s death. The army is mobilized in Metropolis to take out “Superman” for “killing” Lex Luthor.

The real Superman, in a solar suit, armed with a Kryptonite gun, flies to Metropolis to confront the clone “Rogue Superman”. Superman tries to use the Kryptonite gun, but it goes flying. Superman and Rogue Superman fight. There is a lot of destruction during the fight. Lois grabs the Kryptonite gun, but when she fires at Rogue Superman – she misses. Rogue Superman beats up Superman. However, Superman is able to get the Kryptonite into Rogue Superman’s chest and it explodes – destroying him. Superman is also weakened by the blast but survives. He kisses Lois Lane as proof that he’s the “real” Superman. At the end he reveals himself to Lois as Clark Kent.

Luthor also is reveal to be not as dead as he appears.

This animated film adapts the Death of Superman storyline from the regular weekly Superman comic books. The blu-ray is accompanied by three excellent documentaries – especially the one on the public and press reaction to the Death of Superman (Superman # 75), as well as trailers and sneak peeks for other films in the DC Animated Universe series of films. However, this film also has some changes and unique features that differ from the original printed story. First, Bruce Timm, who co-wrote, produced, and co-directed the film with others introduced Luthor both as a narrator for the story and as the cause of Doomsday’s escape. I thought that made the film stronger – if someone’s going to kill Superman – it should be his well-known enemy. Second, though, simply for time limitations, many of the vignettes of the one to two-year long story arc of the death of Superman and his return weren’t used.

Also, this story, like many Superman stories, is a slug fest. Yes, it’s a slug fest where Superman loses, and he has to sacrifice himself to stop the threat, but it’s still a slug fest. The second half of the film -the world without a Superman, and Lois, Perry, Jimmy, and Martha all coping with there grief in their own ways, was better than the opening and closing fight scenes. However, I wanted to see more of that human story – especially Lois and Martha. Specifically, when Lois goes to see Martha at the Kent family farm, and Martha invites her in – I really wanted to see what happened next.

The animation in Superman- Doomsday was incredible. It was gorgeous and at times I forgot I was watching an animated film. It was that good. I haven’t seen a DC Comics / Warner Brothers Animation film that looked this good since Batman: Under the Red Hood (which, yes, I realize chronologically came after this – but I saw it first.) The realistic animation style and the seriousness of the subject matter also reminded me strongly of Batman: Under the Red Hood.

I will say though that this animated film from several years ago handled Doomsday and the Death of Superman better in many ways that a certain live-action film that is probably still in theaters.

Recommendation:  See It – especially  if your a fan of Superman or good animation
Rating: 4 Stars
Next film: I have several new films to choose from, but probably Spy

All-Star Superman

  • Title:  All-Star Superman
  • Director:  Sam Liu
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2011
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy, Drama, Animation
  • Cast:  James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony La Pagulia, Edward Asner, Alexis Denisoff, John Dimaggio, Robin Atkins Downes
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format: R1, Blu-Ray

“Lex Luthor, you’re under arrest for attempted murder and crimes against humanity!” – SWAT Captain

All-Star Superman opens with a group of scientists in a spaceship that’s about to crash into the Sun, in no small part due to evil goings-on by Lex Luthor. Superman flies near the Sun and rescues the scientists but soon finds out that he suffered and overdose of solar radiation and he’s dying. Essentially, the theme of the story is Superman with cancer. You would think that would be depressing, but this animated film has a wonderful tone to it. The story is very episodic, but in a very real sense we’re seeing Superman actually fulfilling the items on his bucket list.

Superman, tells Lois Lane he’s Clark Kent – something she barely believes, and brings her to his fortress of solitude. There he gives her a serum that gives her his powers for a day, and the two have a romantic day playing superheroes together. They even stop a fight between Samson and Atlas and intelligent dinosaurs from the center of the Earth. When Superman brings the creatures back where they belong, he’s goaded into a fight with Samson and Atlas. However, he ends-up besting them with his intelligence solving the Riddle of the Ultra Sphinx. The riddle is what happens when “the irresistible force meets an immovable object”, Superman answers, “They surrender”, and rescues Lois. He then bests Samson and Atlas in arm wrestling.

Meanwhile, the Daily Planet has exposed Luthor’s water crisis scheme, and Luthor’s been charged by the International Court of Justice. Not only is Luthor found guilty he’s sentenced to die in the electric chair even though it’s been banned for years.

Clark goes to interview Luthor in prison, and Luthor states he likes Clark Kent but he hates Superman – and he’s happy that even though he will die, Superman will die first. The Parasite escapes during Luthor and Kent’s discussion and starts a riot in the prison, killing guards and prisoners alike. Luthor escapes.

Superman, in his fortress with her, tells Lois he’s dying. Lois insists he will figure out an answer.

Superman takes the bottle city of Kandor to a planet that they can safely colonize. Two months later he returns to Earth.

Two Kryptonians show up and prove to be spoiled, superior, colonials bent on cultural imperialism. Superman discovers, however, they have been poisoned by Kryptonite. In the end, they are sent to the Phantom Zone.

Superman even goes to his father’s grave, leaving a Kryptonian flower there. He says hi to his mother, Martha Kent, but doesn’t stay long.

Lex Luthor is “executed” but he doesn’t die – he’s stolen some of Superman’s serum to give himself super powers for 24 hours.

Superman records his final journal entry in the Fortress of Solitude.

Luthor’s next stratagem arrives – Solaris a living, intelligent sun eater who will poison the sun and turn it blue. Luthor thinks he’s gotten Solaris to turn the Earth’s Sun red, which will leave Superman helpless – but Solaris betrays even Luthor and poisons the Sun to turn it blue.  There’s a classic fight scene.  Superman has his pet sun-eater attack Solaris, but Solaris rips it to shreds. Superman then faces the super-powered Luthor, including firing a gravity gun at him. The gun eventually speeds up Luthor’s personal time, so just as Luthor is beginning to see the real meaning of things, and that everything is connected, he collapses because he’s burned through the serum.

But Superman is also dying. As his face cracks with light, he kisses Lois then flies off to the Sun to “fix it” and reverse the poisoning done by Solaris. The film ends with Lois sitting in a park. Jimmy Olsen drops by and asks her if she’s “going to the memorial”. Lois says no because she knows that Superman isn’t dead, he’s fixing the Sun and he will be back.

All-Star Superman has a wonderful 50s/early 60s quality to it. It has innocence and sweetness without being saccharin. The story is episodic, but underlining the individual bits is the very real threat that Superman is dying, essentially from cancer, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. You’d think that would be depressing, but Superman takes the news in stride and does take the time to do the things he wants or needs to do. It’s even Clark Kent who writes the “Superman Dead” newspaper story then collapses at his desk. The animation style also has a wonderful retro look to it that works wonderfully with the story.

There are some lovely special features as well, including interviews with Grant Morrison who wrote the original graphic novel. Overall, it’s an enjoyable and feel-good Superman story that doesn’t get bogged down in just fight sequences but shows the audience a human side to the Man of Steel.

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a fan of Superman or Classic DC Comics
Rating: 4 Stars
Next Film: Hot Fuzz

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 Throne of Atlantis

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title:  Justice League:  Throne of Atlantis
  • Director:  Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2015
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Matt Lanter, Sean Astin, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Sumalee Montano, Sam Witwer, Sirena Irwin, Juliet Landau, George Newborn, Khary Payton
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Not all heroes wear capes.” – Sub Captain

“Death by collateral damage in a surface war does not comfort me. They kill our race, they poison our oceans, they will destroy this planet and take Atlantis with it. We must protect our people and attack!” – Prince Orm (aka Ocean Master)

“You speak to me of betrayal – you who spilled Atlantean blood and blamed it on the surface world! I have eyes everywhere Orm and you will pay for your treachery!” – Queen Atlanna

“This coup is over!  I am Queen and war is not in my plans!” – Queen Atlanna

I really enjoyed this DC Animated Feature — and it’s the first time in several DC Animated films I’ve been able to whole-heartedly say that. Although technically a Justice League movie, Throne of Atlantis really concentrates on the character of Arthur Curry and his journey to becoming Aquaman, and part of the New 52 Justice League.

The teaser for the film has a sub near the Marianas Trench responding to an SOS call. The sub is attacked and all aboard are lost. Cyborg is called in to investigate, and he calls in the rest of the Justice League.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man is in a seaside bar in Maine, getting drunk and sharing his troubles with a live lobster in a tank. The bartender cuts him off the booze. When the same bartender takes the lobster out of the tank to make it into someone’s dinner – the man, Arthur Curry, gets in a fist-fight. He’s very strong and a good fighter, despite being drunk. He rescues the lobster, keeps in in his vest, then escapes outside. Defeating several guys from the bar who attack him again, as well as one man armed with a knife, Arthur releases the rescued lobster, sans rubber bands on its claws, back into the ocean.

Cyborg holds a meeting of the entire Justice League, with Flash convincing everyone to show up, though it’s Green Lantern who brings in Batman. Once everyone arrives he shows him the information about the attack on the sub. Wonder Woman recognizes the writing on the weapons as Atlantean. Shazam (Captain Marvel, Billy Batson) suggests contacting an expert in Atlantis and it’s lore. Superman and Batman go to investigate.

Meanwhile, Arthur Curry is living in his father’s lighthouse.

Prince Orm, in league with Black Manta, confronts Queen Atlanna, his mother, whom he blames for his father’s death. His father, the king was warlike and was considering a war plan to “cleanse” the surface dwellers. Atlanna, by contrasts, wishes to abandon their isolationist practices and contact the surface to broker a peaceful co-existence. Atlanna sends Meara to find Arthur, her older son.

Black Manta talks to Dr. Shin, the expert on Atlantis, on the phone, then sends his troops after the scientist. Dr. Shin arrives at Arthur’s door to give him some information about his father. Arthur is very hung-over and takes awhile to get to the door, he agrees to let Dr. Shin in, but when he closes the door to take the chain bolt off, Dr. Shin is attacked and killed by Manta’s troops. At the same time, Black Manta’s troops, under orders from Prince Orm, attack and kill Atlantean farmers.

Meara rescues Arthur from Manta’s troops. She takes him to Atlantis and sees the dead villagers who have been attacked.

Superman and Batman investigate Dr. Shin’s lab – but everything’s been destroyed. They find enough to lead them to Arthur Curry.

Prince Orm uses the attack on the Atlantean villagers to stir up hatred and war. Queen Atlanna tries to arrange a meeting between herself and the Justice League. Meara explains to Aquaman that he is the son of Queen Atlanna and a human, his father, Thomas, this sequence uses flashbacks. Meara shows Arthur his armor. He wears the orange and green body suit but not the outer armor.

Meara and Arthur are attacked by Trenchers (sea creatures). The Flash arrives to help Arthur and Meara. A few minutes later, Green Lantern, then the rest of the Justice League arrive to help.

Prince Orm, who shares his dead father’s hatred of the surface world, again confronts his mother, Queen Atlanna. However, she knows he was behind the attack on the farmers, and she insists they will not go to war. He kills her – then blames her death on a surface dweller. Orm and Manta will lead the Atlanteans to war.

Arthur and some Justice League members go to Atlantis. They meet an old woman who says the city is empty because Queen Atlanna is dead, at the hands of a surface dweller, and Atlantis prepares for war.

Arthur, Meara and the League investigate, and run into Orm in his Ocean Master uniform. He brags that he killed his mother, the Queen. He then uses the Trident, the symbol of royal power and a powerful weapon, to attack and imprison the League.

Meanwhile, Batman, the Flash, and Shazam who have stayed behind get an alert that a tidal wave is heading for coastal cities, including Metropolis.

Arthur uses his royal power to break out of the cocoon Orm trapped him in, then uses his telepathic power to call sea creatures to help. He gets the Leaguers free and defeats the sea monster guarding them. Arthur also rescues Meara.

A tidal wave heads for Metropolis, the National Guard arrives, and sirens go off in the city causing panic. An Army General orders the Atlanteans, led by “King” Orm to stand down. Orm orders his troops to attack. The army attacks back. The entire League joins the fray, both those who had gone to Atlantis, and those who had stayed on the surface, including Aquaman and Meara.

The League keep getting defeated in battle. Finally, Batman finds Cyborg and reboots his systems. He finds out from Cyborg that Orm killed Atlanna. Cyborg has computer recordings of this. He plays the recordings a couple of times to the Atlantean troops. When Orm claims it’s a trick, Meara backs up the recording, swearing it’s a true depiction of what happened. The Atlanteans lay down their arms and stop fighting.

Arthur makes a speech that he will guide his people. A little while later, Arthur is “knighted” as king, takes his place as ruler and king of Atlantis. The League meanwhile decide they need to meet on a regular basis, and Arthur is invited to join the League as Aquaman.

I really enjoyed this film. It’s an origin story for Aquaman and explains how he became part of the Justice League. The film also had some great touches – the flashback scene of Arthur and his father when Arthur realises he can swim underwater without difficulty and he also sees his mother, the flashbacks explaining the ill-fated romance between the Atlantean Princess Atlanna and Thomas Curry, and my favorite – the scene at the beginning of the film of Arthur pouring out his heart and troubles to a lobster in a tank, then rescuing the lobster.

The Justice League are not the real stars of this film – it’s Aquaman’s movie. But they are all present, and they do have things to do. I also felt each character was in character and their individual tasks and actions suited their characters.

Overall the film was highly enjoyable and it’s highly recommended.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next film:  The Third Man

Justice League War (Origins – New 52)

  • Title:  Justice League War 
  • Director:  Jay Oliva
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2014
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre(s):  Action, Fantasy, Animation
  • Cast:  Sean Astin, Christopher Gorham, Justin Kirk, Michelle Managhan, Shemar Moore, Jason O’Mara, Alan Tudyk, Ioan Gruffudd
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“They don’t like us much!” – Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
“The world’s afraid of us.” – Batman
“You say that like its a good thing.” – Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
“It’s necessary.” – Batman

“Superman’s close, I’ve been tracking his flight path.” -Batman
“Pfft, on what?  Your own satellite?” – Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
[pause, as Batman checks an electronic gadget]
“I was kidding.  You have a satellite?!” –  Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

With Justice League War Warner Brothers Animation moves from creating animated DC Comics films based on classic Silver Age (and early modern age) DC Comics, to making films based on the New 52.  Justice League War is a perfect case in point, as it is based on the graphic novel Justice League Volume 1 Origin (which is, in turn, really just a compilation of issues 1-6), written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Jim Lee, and inked by Scott Williams.

The first time I watched War I was impressed, the animation is good, and I felt the story did what it needed to do – introduce a big enough threat to bring together all seven superheroes who, until that time, had only been working in their own respective cities. These heroes, including new hero, Cyborg (Victor Stone) must over-come their distrust and fear of each other and learn to work together to overcome Darkseid, his Parademons, and his lieutenant, Desaad.

However, the second time I watched this, last night, I was considerably less impressed. Yes, the animation is gorgeous. And it’s nice to see older DC elements, like mother box and boom tubes, brought back. And if one needs a really big threat, it doesn’t get much bigger than Darkseid. Yes, this is essentially a re-boot. And, DC Comics, has rebooted it’s universe before.  They’re somewhat famous for it, actually. Personally, I actually started reading DC Comics when they re-booted the universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths. That was a great time to start reading comics – everything was new, you didn’t need to know the long complicated history, even the books started at number 1. I imagine, now, there are people who did the same thing for New 52 – they started there, and don’t know (or care) about the Silver Age and post-Crisis on Infinite Earths books I read and loved in college (just like when I started reading DC I didn’t care if a story was set on Earth 16 or Earth 2 or whatever). And that is perfectly OK. I see no need to rain on their parade.

But, as a fan of the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths era, I really don’t like New 52. There, I said it, I don’t. Justice League War, especially on repeat viewing, is a perfect example of why I don’t like New 52. War, is, as the title suggests – full of battles and wisecracks. I’ve watched other DC animated films (Justice League:  Doom is a perfect example) where I also felt there was too much of an emphasis on fights and not enough on character – but at least in Doom, there is character. And, it’s the flaws in the characters that are exploited and must be overcome that are central to the plot. That keeps me riveted to the screen. But in Justice League War, not only is the majority of the film fight scene after fight scene, but the characters are pretty much stereotypes – not the DC characters we know and love. Hal Jordan, rather than being a man who knows no fear (and intergalactic police officer for the Green Lantern Corps) is reduced to “the one with the funny quips and lines”. Barry Allen, the Flash, is “the one who’s the nice guy next door”. Wonder Woman is the overly naïve “little girl” type. Superman is “the angry one”; I mean, seriously – Was that even supposed to be Clark Kent? Because he sounds like Young Justice‘s Conner Kent. Billy Batson (Shazam), well, actually, he’s got the same “little kid in a big body” quality he’s always had – but then, that is what he’s supposed to be. Cyborg is”‘the new guy”. And even Batman is “the only one who knows what’s going on / the parent”. These aren’t our much-loved characters – they are stereotypes. Even in the last line of the film, Wonder Woman describes her fellow heroes as iconotypes by comparing them to the Greek gods. (Jung would call these archetypes and it is a fair and valid comparison.) But I found the lack of real character a major disappointment. Creating great characters, not only the major characters, but the minor characters, has always been a strength of DC Comics. I feel New 52 falls short of the mark. Though this is an origin film, and it’s always possible that there will be improvement as the series develops.

Justice League War also cuts frequently from scene to scene as the various heroes fight Parademons in whatever city they happen to be in, before joining together to fight Darkseid, Desaad, and more Parademons. And in fighting together, the seven Justice League (a term never used in the film) founders, do learn to work together. They do learn that cooperation is very important, as is teamwork.  Perhaps the series will improve.

Recommendation:  See it, if you want to stay up to date with New 52
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Prestige

Superman Unbound

  • Title: Superman Unbound
  • Director: James Tucker
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2013
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation
  • Cast: Matt Bomer, John Noble, Stana Katic, Molly Quinn
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Must be awful being you. Most powerful man in the world, and you still can’t control the women in your life.” – Lois to Clark

“I am the knowledge and strength of 10,000 worlds, and flesh and machine. I am becoming everything.” – Brainiac

“I think it’s a bug in his programming, that cyborg core inside him, it wants to know everything there is to know in the Galaxy.” – Jor-El
“So he said.” – Superman
“But that’s impossible, worlds are living things, their knowledge is always growing and changing. So, he has to stop them, turn them into these fake versions instead. You can’t control a living thing without destroying what’s alive about it.” – Jor-El

The animation in Superman Unbound is of very high quality, especially in the space scenes, and it’s much better than the disappointing animation in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. But I was very happy to see quality animation again, after the disappointing Flash film. This film features Supergirl (Kara) Superman’s cousin, as well as Superman, and the villian Brainiac, and is based on the graphic novel, Superman: Brainiac, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.

The film’s opening gambit has Supergirl and Superman rescuing Lois Lane from military kidnappers in black. Lois complains that she has to keep her relationship with Clark Kent a secret.

Then a meteor falls towards Pheonix. However, it isn’t a meteor but a probe, occupied by a killer robot and with an transmitter. Superman defeats the robot, and destroys the transmitter and probe – but brings the robot to his Fortress of Solitude to study. There he runs into Kara, his cousin, aka Supergirl, who is freaked out. She recognizes the robot as having attacked her home city of Kandor on Krypton and causing the city to completely disappear. She tells Superman the villain’s name, Brainiac and that he will do the same to Metropolis on Earth.

Superman leaves Earth to deal with Brainiac before he gets to Earth, and Supergirl deals with issues on Earth, except in Metropolis. Eventually, Lois uses Jimmy’s emergency call watch, and Supergirl arrives. Lois confronts her about avoiding Metropolis, to which Supergirl warns her to get out of the city, visit the Kent’s farm in Smallville – go anywhere, just leave. Lois gets Kara to open up and finds out she’s afraid Brainiac will take Metropolis and destroy Earth, like he did Krypton.

Meanwhile, Superman listens to a recording of a Kryptonian science report on Brainiac and travels to another planet where he’s attacking. Superman helps destroy the robots on the alien planet. However, the planet’s sun explodes and Superman is stunned unconscious and taken aboard Brainiac’s ship. He awakens in a lab and destroys the robots analyzing him. Superman discovers cities in bell jars and “specimens” stored on Brainiac’s ship. He discovers Kandor also in a bottle. Superman runs into Brainiac, fights him, loses because he doesn’t have as much strength away from a yellow sun, and is transported inside Kandor. However, in his scan of Superman’s thoughts, Brainiac learns of Earth and heads his ship (shaped like a giant, black metal skull) there.

Inside Kandor, the micro sized city hasn’t changed in over thirty years, plus it has a red sun, so Superman’s powers are limited. But he discovers Kara’s parents, who fill him in some on Brainiac. He’s a cyborg with cybernetic and computer parts. But, Kor-El believes the system has a “bug” – because Brainiac want’s to know everything – an impossible task in an ever-changing galaxy. So, Brainiac has become an obsessive collector instead, stealing a world’s knowledge, taking a city and it’s inhabitants for his collection, then destroying the world so it cannot change. The city becomes locked in a bell jar, like a preserved butterfly on a board. Superman manages to escape Kandor, but promises to return and rescue the Kryptonian city. Recharged by another yellow sun, Superman picks up the bottle Kandor, and starts destroying Brainiac’s ship, before taking Kandor to his Fortress of Solitude.

Brianiac awakes and repairs his damaged ship.

Superman tells Kara her parents are alive inside Kandor, and he plans to take the city to a habitable planet with a red sun.

Brainiac and his robots attack Earth, and take Metropolis the way he had taken Kandor. Superman and Supergirl fight Brainiac and his robots. Superman defeats Brainiac by flooding him with sensations – sounds, smells, the feel of mud, et cetera. Meanwhile, Supergirl stops the missile that Brainiac had fired from his ship at the sun. Once Brainiac is defeated, Metropolis is returned to it’s normal spot, as is Kandor. Kara is reunited with her parents. At the end, Clark proposes to Lois in the Daily Planet newsroom.

The animation in this film was excellent, and the voice cast did an excellent job. I liked that Brainiac was more of a obsessive collector of cities, intelligent beings, and information, rather than simply knowledge and information. And the plot made it clear, it wasn’t gathering information that was an issue, but how Brainiac went about it. Essentially, Brainiac was like a Victorian natural history student, cataloging, in this case, the galaxy. Though, that plot also reminded me, strongly, of the Doctor Who episode, “Ghost Light”. One thing that concerned me was that Superman seemed to have very little concern for all the other cities on Brainiac’s ship – at one point he tries to destroy the ship, despite all the other cities with presumably living “specimens” inside. Later, Superman mentions resettling all the other cities on habitable planets – but I wondered if he realized what a big job that would be – there were hundreds of bell jars, from hundreds of planets. I wondered why Superman didn’t call in the Green Lantern Corps to help – it’s exactly the sort of thing they are trained for. But still, overall, it’s a good movie with a lot of action and battles. Superman fans will probably really love it.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind