Batman and Harley Quinn

  • Title: Batman and Harley Quinn
  • Director: Sam Liu
  • Date:  2017
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Comedy, Fantasy
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster, Kevin Michael Richardson, John DiMaggio, Robin Atkin Downes, Rob Paulsen
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Nuh-uh, I’m done with capes and tights and masks.” – Harley Quinn

“I’m not saying I don’t want to, ’cause that could be nice. All sorts of wrong, but nice.” – Nightwing

“Like you’ve never made out with a super-villain.” – Nightwing, under his breath to Batman

I really enjoyed this animated movie, in part because it is very humorous. It’s funny and makes for a nice break from the more serious animated and live action Batman films. This also seems to be set in the Batman: The Animated Series universe bringing back Kevin Conroy as Batman, Loren Lester as Nightwing, and with Melissa Rauch doing a good version of Arleen Sorkin’s Harley (additionally she’s in her B: TAS costume).

The story opens with a break-in at Star Labs, Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man are attempting to steal some information. Ivy downloads a file about Dr. Alec Holland. Batman investigates later and discovers the theft of information. He sends Nightwing to find Harley Quinn, hoping she will lead them to Poison Ivy. Batman notes that Harley went off the grid after being released on parole and that it’s rumored she “went straight”. Meanwhile, Batman heads to ARGUS where he finds out that a scientist who’s an expert in bio-weapons has disappeared.

Nightwing finds Harley at “Super Babes” a Hooters-style restaurant with the waitresses in skimpy superheroine and female supervillain inspired uniforms. They serve superhero or villain inspired food as well. When a customer grabs Harley’s butt, she smacks him down, hard. When he complains that “the broad broke my frickin’ arm”, the manager points to a sign that says: “Look all you want but don’t touch”. Nightwing then follows Harley home. He tries to convince her to help, but Harley fights him and fights well. She finally knocks him out with “low-grade Joker venom”.

Nightwing wakes tied to Harley’s bed. When Nightwing wonders why she’s working at Superbabes, Harley points out she can’t get a job as a therapist or anything else because of her nefarious history. Harley puts the moves on Nightwing. Later the two are caught by Batman.

Batman explains in the Batmobile to Harley and Nightwing that Ivy and the Floronic Man are working together to turn all people to hybrid plant/animal people. He tells them about the kidnapped scientist. After a chase scene where Harley goes after Bobby Liebowitz who made her mother cry, where Batman stops Harley from beating him too badly, Harley returns to the Batmobile to help out. She has them take the expressway towards Blüdhaven. They arrive at the henchmen’s club. Harley talks to Shruby then tells Batman she has to do something. She then goes to the stage and belts out Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone” to thunderous applause. During her number a Cat Man does the Batusi behind Batman’s back, Batman knocks him out with one distracted punch. Nightwing dances with one of the many women in the club. Harley drops the mic after her number. The room erupts in applause. Harley gets the information from Shruby and tells Batman and Nightwing. It looks like the henchmen won’t let them leave but in a shot from outside we see words briefly describing the fight, then Batman, Nightwing, and Harley in the Batmobile again.

The Batphone rings in the car, it’s Booster Gold who explains the heavy hitters are busy and most of the rest of the heroes are “at that Christening at Aquaman’s place” but Booster could send some truly C-list heroes. Batman and Nightwing tell him they’ll handle it and then fake the call dropping, which Booster notices.

Batman, Nightwing, and Harley make it to the place where Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man are holding the scientist hostage. Ivy is using her pheromones to control the scientist. There’s a fight, and then a fire breaks out. Nightwing and Batman barely survive the fire and find Harley with the scientist. He’s dying, and Harley is comforting him. He tells them that Ivy and the Floronic Man were heading to Louisiana because they need the exact water that created Swamp Thing for their plans.

The Floronic Man has Ivy eat a tuber that came from Swamp Thing – this connects them to The Green and they are able to travel to Louisiana via the Green. Meanwhile, Batman wants to leave Harley and only take Nightwing with him to Louisiana. Harley flips out but convinces them they need her. The three take the Batwing to Louisiana. There, they are joined by troops of some kind.

Harley does “betray” Batman, knocking him off a short tree bridge into the water. But she goes to Poison Ivy and tries to talk her out of her plan. Harley then releases Nightwing and Batman who have been tied up. Batman and Nightwing fight the Floronic Man while Harley fights Poison Ivy. This doesn’t go well. Finally, Harley goes to Ivy and tells her she’s going to use the “nuclear option”, she takes off her mask and makeup – and cries. Ivy is convinced. But the Floronic Man grabs the formula that Ivy has perfected. The Floronic Man and Poison Ivy fight each other. Floronic Man knocks out Ivy, but just as he’s about to release the formula – Swamp Thing arrives with quite a flourish. He simply threatens the Floronic Man telling him he’s endangering the balance of The Green, then he disappears. As Harley says, “That was a whole lot of nothing”.

Batman, Nightwing, Ivy, and several troops are still wondering what to do – when Harley asks for a match. The end credits include a scene of the Floronic Man with his bottom on fire.

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s lots of fun. There is a lot of visual humor – such as the scene at Super Babes and all the henchmen hanging out at the nightclub where Harley takes Batman and Nightwing. I also really liked how Harley is treated in this story. She is attempting to “go straight”. Because of her record, she can’t get a real job despite her psychiatrist training. Yet throughout the film, Harley is actually helping. We even see her treating the scientist with compassion when he’s dying. And when she does “betray” Batman it’s more because she wants to give her friend Ivy a chance to change her mind about her horrible plan, which could destroy all life on Earth if it went wrong. Harley’s performance at the club is also great. Yes, it’s “sexy” but she’s in complete control of her sexiness and clearly enjoying it. The movie also shows and has her talk about to Nightwing, how much she doesn’t enjoy being ogled, pinched, slapped, and goosed at Super Babes. Overall, it’s a fun film and I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Recommendation: See it, especially if you are a fan of lighter Batman.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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The Lego Batman Movie

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title: The Lego Batman Movie
  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Date:  2017
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri, Conan O’Brien, Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Izzard, Channing Tatum, Mariah Carey
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music – edgy, scary music, that would make a parent or studio executive nervous. And logos, really long and dramatic logos.” – Batman

“Whoa. Let me tell you something, J-bird. Batman doesn’t do ‘ships.” – Batman
“What?” – Joker
“As in ‘relationships’. There is no ‘us’. Batman and Joker are not a thing. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone. You mean nothing to me. No one does.” – Batman

“Sir, if you don’t mind my saying, I’m a little concerned. I’ve seen you go through similar phases in 2016, and 2012, and 2008, and 2005, and 1997, and 1995, and 1992, and 1989, and that weird one in 1966. Do you want to talk about how you are feeling right now?” – Alfred
“I don’t talk about feelings, Alfred. I don’t have any. I’ve never seen one. I’m a night-stalking, crime-fighting vigilante, and a heavy metal rapping machine.” – Bruce Wayne

The Lego Batman Movie is one of the best Batman movies ever made because it gets to the core of the Batman character, and it revolves around both as a plot point and as the emotional core of the movie the fatal flaw in Batman’s character. The film is also a ton of fun, funny, packed with action, full of references to every previous version of Batman and quite a lot else besides, and one of those movies that one can enjoy over and over again. The Lego Batman Movie is funny and colorful but it is not a parody of Batman, something that also makes it a great Batman film.

The film opens with “McGuffin Airlines” flying over Gotham City in a plane loaded with a ton of weapons and bombs. Joker attacks the plane, and plants bombs that will blow-up an energy plant causing Gotham City to fall into an endless abyss. The attack itself resembles the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, while Bane’s later plan results in something akin to the No Man’s Land storyline from the comics. But Joker also, in a conversation with Batman, references the two boats from The Dark Knight and the “parade with Prince music” from Tim Burton’s Batman. In other words, within a few minutes, this movie is acknowledging its predecessors. Joker also isn’t working alone, he has a number of B-grade Batman villains, all of whom did appear in the comics at some point, and Harley Quinn helping him. Yet when Batman catches Joker he has to let him go – so he can stop the bomb Joker and his gang planted earlier. It’s when Batman catches then releases Joker that we get their conversation with Joker insisting he is Batman’s Greatest Enemy and Batman insisting he doesn’t do ‘ships with anyone.

Once he releases Joker, stops the bomb and celebrates his win, Bruce heads home. He changes into a comfy robe, eats a meal made by Alfred and heated-up in the microwave, and then watches a sad, romantic movie in his home theater. He is very alone. Bruce stands before the picture of himself with his parents at the theater and asks if they would be proud of him. At this point, Alfred arrives. Alfred is worried about Bruce, stating he’s gone through these stages before. But Bruce insists he doesn’t talk about feelings. Alfred then reminds Bruce he’s to attend a gala retirement party for Police Commissioner James Gordon. Bruce objects, but finally reluctantly agrees.

At the party, he meets Dick Grayson but doesn’t really pay much attention to the young orphan, as he also sees Barbara Gordon and has one of those “love at first sight” moments. Barbara is the new police commissioner, having already cleaned-up Gotham’s “sister-city” of Blüdhaven (and graduated from “Harvard for Police”). Barbara’s plan for Gotham? It takes a village, not a Batman, to truly reduce and eliminate crime. But Barbara also wants there to be a partnership between the police and Batman. Bruce isn’t having the no Batman idea, though he’s intrigued by Barbara. Still, Bruce, being distracted at the time, agrees to adopt young Dick Grayson, as we find out later.

Joker hangs out with Harley Quinn and his B-grade villain friends, plus a few well-known ones like Bane, Clayface, and Scarecrow. He sees a TV interview with Superman, where he’s talking about banishing Zod to the Phantom Zone. The Joker gets an idea and he and the other villains attack Gordon’s party. But once chased back outside, they all surrender. Every one of them, including Joker. Batman is confused – without crime, what is he to do? Barbara and her police department organize arresting everyone and taking them to the prison.

Batman then gets the idea of using the Phantom Zone projector to send Joker to the Phantom Zone. But when he returns to the Batcave he finds a parental lock on his computer. Alfred, who is reading, Setting Limits for Your Out-of-Control Child, tells Bruce he must raise Dick, whom he adopted last week at the orphanage. Alfred shows clear affection for Dick already and tells Bruce that he and Dick have a lot in common. But Bruce cruelly tells Alfred he “knows nothing about raising a surrogate son”. So Alfred lets Dick into the Batcave. In what becomes a running joke, Dick says, “Wow, Batman lives in Bruce Wayne’s basement?” Bruce points out that Bruce lives in Batman’s attic. But with the parental lock released, Batman makes a plan to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone projector, and he takes Dick along because he’s perfect for getting through the death traps protecting the projector that Batman himself would never be able to negotiate alone.

They arrive at the Fortress of Solitude, Batman tells Dick that all superheroes are brooding, serious people who need a quiet place of reflection and solitude, then rings the doorbell – which plays the theme to Richard Donner’s Superman film. Superman sticks his head out of the crack of the door and reluctantly lets Batman in. There is literally a party going on. The entire extended Justice League is there, celebrating the 73rd anniversary of the Justice League. Superman pretends Batman’s invitation was lost in the mail. While Batman encounters the Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, and many others in the League and gives instructions to Dick Grayson over a communicator, Dick negotiates a series of intricate death traps and successfully borrows the Phantom Zone projector. Then he and Batman leave the Fortress of Solitude for Gotham.

Batman and Dick attempt to sneak the projector into the prison and Batman, after getting caught, manages to obtain the Phantom Zone projector and use it on Joker. Barbara, very disappointed in Batman, arrests him and Dick for what they did. Meanwhile, Joker ends up in the Phantom Zone, is greeted by Phyllis the brick, and starts to prepare a long speech to the villains in the Zone about getting out to wreak havoc. The villains don’t even let him finish his speech, before agreeing. The villains include: Daleks, Sauron, Voldemort, the Wicked Witch of the West, a shark, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, those guys from The Matrix, King Kong, Medusa, Godzilla, etc. Joker releases them all after Harley Quinn gets Joker out.

The villains and Joker attack Wayne Manor and they take over the Batcave (he also assumes Bruce Wayne is Batman’s roommate).

Barbara releases Batman and Robin, and the three work together with Alfred. At Arkham, the B-class villains who are still incarcerated offer help to Batman, Robin, Barbara, and Alfred (in a 60s Batman outfit). This allows Batman to remark on the “stupidity” of the idea of getting criminals together to fight criminals. Joker turns Wayne Manor/Island into “Joker Island”.

Batman, Alfred, Robin, and Barbara are squeezed into the Batwing, but one by one their engines fail. Batman goes to the outside of the plane to fix the engines and is joined by Dick and Alfred. Flying monkeys attack and Dick falls off the plane and through the sky. Batman barely rescues him, but Alfred falls. Bruce is really upset and freaking out when Barbara flies the Batwing and rescues Alfred. Batman realizes he would have lost Alfred without Barbara and the four begin to work together. They defeat Sauron, and Godzilla leaves. The Batwing lands. But when Robin takes a picture of everyone together to celebrate, Batman looks at it and is reminded of the picture of himself with his parents when he is younger. He tricks everyone else into getting into the Scuddler and sends them off to get burritos on the edge of town. Now he is doing this to protect them, but at the same time, his friends don’t want to be “protected” they want to help. Once more, Batman wants to work alone.

Batman arrives at “Joker Island” and confronts Joker, who again brings up their “relationship”, including a heartfelt, “I hate you”, before sending Batman to the Phantom Zone. In the Phantom Zone, he meets Phyllis (the brick) who thinks he’s a villain. There’s a series of flashbacks, showing Batman in his worse light, hurting others. He agrees that if Phyllis releases him for 24 hours, he will bring back all the villains. Phyllis agrees – and emphasizes that Batman must return all the villains.

Batman gets back just in time to rescue Alfred, Barbara, and Dick – but they are all angry at him for sending them away in the first place. Batman admits he was afraid and even says he’s sorry (barely). He then shows the Babs-signal, as well as signals for Robin and Alfred to Barbara and everyone. They agree to work together again and even go to Arkham to release all the B-villains to get them to help in rounding up the villains from the Phantom Zone as well as Joker.

There’s a massive, complex, fight scene between the Gotham family and the Evil Army. At one point, Batman tells Robin, “Okay Robin, together we’re going to punch these guys so hard words describing the impact are going to spontaneously materialize out of thin air!”, which they do, in true 60s-Batman style. Voldemort is sent to the Phantom Zone. Other bad guys are sent to the Phantom Zone. Robin actually uses the shark repellant which came up earlier (another 60s reference as well). But the bombs that Joker and his evil gang have placed around Gotham City go off and, as mentioned earlier the city is cut off and heading for the abyss.

The only way to save Gotham is to “stick together using [their] heads”, they build a bridge. Batman admits his connection to Joker to save Gotham and they stick together creating a bridge. With a click, everything comes together. Citizen bridges, um, bridge the other gaps, and again with a click – Gotham is saved. Batman tells Joker, with a sunset behind them, “I hate you, Joker.”

Batman gets ready to go to the Phantom Zone. He lets Dick call him Dad and, and reveals he is Bruce Wayne. Bruce talks about what he’s learned. Bruce and Dick even hug. But when Bruce tries to send himself to the Phantom Zone he hits a wall and bounces back. Phyllis points out that Batman has changed for the better. The movie ends with a white screen (and a montage of Bruce with his new family).

The Lego Batman Movie is a great film. Yes, it’s funny and smart and references all the previous Batman films. Yes, the idea of Batman and company fighting famous movie (and television) villains from Voldemort to “British Robots” as the Daleks are called is amusing. But what makes the movie re-watchable is that it tells a very moving story. That story is of a man, finally, facing his demons and moving on. It’s a story of a man putting aside his loneliness and creating a new family. Dick Grayson is central to this story. And in the comics, Dick was introduced for three main reasons. First, narrative necessity – giving Batman a partner gives him someone to talk to, this improves the story because it becomes reliant on dialogue instead of the main character’s monologue. As well as someone to talk to, a sidekick, partner, or companion also gives the main character someone to worry about and rescue when they get in trouble, this, in turn, humanizes the main character. Second, Robin was a lighter character. After Robin was introduced in 1940, Batman introduced his famous “no kill” rule, and Robin’s Joie de Vire lightened up the Batman comic books considerably. Finally, Robin as a young character was meant to give the children reading the Batman books a character they could identify with who was their own age. In many ways, by introducing Robin, The Lego Batman Movie is the first time we’ve seen this transition in Batman on the screen. Yes, we don’t see the dark, brooding, willing to kill, stalker vigilante of circa 1938 Batman or solo adventures like Dark Victory, but by constantly referencing the entire Batman canon, The Lego Batman Movie is using a shorthand that both trusts the audience hasn’t been living in a cave for the last ten or twenty years and that they know who the Dark Knight is or was. Additionally, the film itself shows you the lonely, desperate for approval Bruce Wayne in the scenes in his mansion where he heats up the dinner Alfred made in the microwave and watches sad movies – alone.

Needless to say, The Lego Batman Movie, is one of the best Batman films ever made and I highly recommend it. And, there is a considerable about of action and humor too. It’s not grim. It just gets to the core of just who Bruce Wayne and Batman is, alongside his Bat-family of Alfred, Dick Grayson, and Barbara Gordon.

Recommendation: A must see!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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.

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