Tag Archives: DC Universe(s)

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

Hey, a cowboy actor made it. Why not Ol' Bald n' Evil?As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, my personal political views fall somewhere to the left of Mikhail Bakunin. So, as you’d expect, I experienced quite the nerdgasam back in the year 2000 when (through a convoluted story line tonight’s film rightly jettisons without the slightest nod) Lex Luthor became President of the D.C. Universe’s United States. Finally, I said to no one in particular, given that at the time I had no friends, someone in comics understands the f-ed up mess we’re in.

But all good things must come to an end, and since this is D.C. Comics, that “end” must engulf the entire world in some form of world-engulfing peril, preferably one stolen from the plot of a popular summer sci-fi/action movie. Because you can’t throw D.C.’s most insanely-powerful superheroes at just any-old idiotic inhabitant of the White House.

Or can you…? Here again, the Justice League TV series captured my heart by daring to actually ask this question several times to continually ass-kicking effect, only chickening out when it looked like their show might be canceled, necessitating the Climactic Battle restore the status quo. I’ve waited three years for a cartoon that dares to look into the actual nuts and bolts of superheroing during the Luthor Administration. All I can say is, I’m still waiting. In the meantime, at least we’ve got Public Enemies. {More}

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

He's a saa-aad Batman...The day I discovered NOVA’s The Elegant Universe was a grand day at around this old Batcave o’ mine. I rejoiced that physicists had finally figured out what we comic book nerds have known for over fifty years: our world is but one of an infinity of universes, operating on parallel levels of what we so blithely call reality. Bully for you, Science. Welcome to the party.

As with so much else, superheroes had a large part in popularizing what was once the esoteric pipe dream of clever sci-fi authors. The Justice League first met their “evil” dopplegangers, the Crime Syndicate of America, back in 1964. And while those original Silver Age comics have…shall we say…mellowed…in their old age, I still respect the CSA’s original motivation for jumping dimensions: sheer boredom at the ease with which they’d conquered their own world. (with the exception of one Alexander “Lex” Luthor). The Justice League cartoon series updated and expanded up this plot to great effect in its second season two-parter “A Better World.” And while this Justice League cartoon was originally meant to be a transition into the series’ third season, life, and a tight production schedule, intervened. It still works as such, but feels oddly out of place coming so far down stream, after I (for one) thought Warner’s Animation department had run this idea into the ground. {More}

Watchmen (2009)

Don't worry, be bloody...As if anyone doesn’t already know, Watchmen is an award-winning, twelve-issue comic book created by the writer/magician Alan Moore and the artist Dave Gibbons, originally published by DC Comics in that dark and distant year of your lord, 1986. Steeped in Reagan-era pessimism and dreams of nuclear holocaust, the book did more for superhero storytelling than all Frank Miller’s work combined. It dragged the genre, kicking and screaming, into the late twentieth century, disguising its social relevance with a baroque self-reflexiveness now recognized as the hallmark of comic’s Iron Age.

It is also, now, with the release of the extra-super-duper-special Ultimate Edition, a three and a half hour, suburban sprawl of a film, directed by MTV alum Zack Snyder. Reviewers love to crow about Watchmen‘s pivotal nature, seeing its reconstruction into a can’t-help-but-call-it-“epic” film as a watershed moment for superherodom. These contentions are as accurate as they are illiterate, removing the story from its proper place and time. An intelligent critique of this film has not and (I’ll obviously argue) cannot be written without a true understanding of the context that birthed Watchmen in the first place. {More}

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins initially disappointed me. All cinematic legends of the Dark Knight inevitably do, save those told by Paul Dini and Co.. I can remember leaving the theater in late 2005 with my Ambassador on my arm. She turned to me and said, “Somebody forgot to tell them they weren’t making Spider-Man.”

Our Hero, in jail.

Looking back now (after the abysmal failure of Spider-Man 3, the X-Men and Hulk sequels, and the endless parade of second rate cartoons Marvel’s churned out over the years) I realize how unfair this was to director Christopher (Memento) Noland, writer David S. (Blade) Goyer, and even Our Hero, Christian Bale. All did the best they could, and a much better job than anyone had any right to expect given the Bat’s long, largely-depressing, big screen history. This movie went through all eight levels of Development Hell, its makers fighting wars and rumors of wars that no doubt weighted on my mind as I stepped into the the theater, clouding judgment already hustled by my twenty years of comic-reading. I would’ve found fault with the best Bat-picture in the world and Batman Begins is far from that. It is, however, the second best Batman film in thirty years, easily surpassing Tim Burton’s efforts. {More}

Superman Returns (2006)

"Nope, sorry. We're full up on codpieces today. Some other time."I’ve never been happy with the Man of Steel’s celluloid incarnations for the same reason cited by all the comics industry pros: the damn Boy Scout is a real chore to write, and a stone cold bitch to write well. Years of previous (mis)conceptions about just who and what he is don’t help. Neither does the fact that his world (by which I mean the 1930s) has moved on.

First there’s the Conflict Problem, both Internal and External. Superman’s external conflicts are often hilariously one-sided, while his internal ones have none of Batman’s brooding insanity, none of Peter Parker’s conflicting loyalties…he can’t even match Tony Stark’s problem with intimacy, since it’s not like Supes doesn’t have plenty of opportunities to get some. He appears, or is often written to appear, as a whole and hearty individual in-and-of himself, apart and above the other tortured souls populating his multiverse. And that seems to be okay for everyone involved with creating his adventures, including Bryan Singer. {More}

Justice League (2001)

Strike a pose.The Justice League of America, in its most rarefied form, represents a powerhouse of D.C. comics heaviest hitters, originally created as a marketing gimmick in 1960 by that great creator of gimmicks and Godhead of the silver age, the comics writer Gardner Fox. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

With the success The Batman/Superman Adventures in the late ’90s, and the continued dumbing down of Batman Beyond, the production team of Rich Fogel, Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini set to do the Next Logical Thing: get the fuck off the WB (sure didn’t do Buffy any harm) and throw wide the golden gates of their superhero universe. After all, if two heroes could make such a splash in the admittedly-small pond of American-produced superhero animation, think of what seven might do for the network lucky enough to carry it? {More}

Supergirl (1984)

"I just don't know...you sure you're not staring at my 'S'?"Both comic book and movie begin with Argo City, a civic center blown free from the planet Krypton with its gravity and atmosphere completely intact (take that, laws of physics). I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that the Action Comics team threw in a few pictures with this story. Not so here. Opening with a “bang” is one of the first things to go out the window, despite this film’s nominal connection with the wider Superman franchise. After all, why show us something we can just talk about it? And have Peter O’Toole stand around, waving his magic wand?

O’Toole is Zaltar, Argo City’s apparent savior. See, in this version of the story, Krypton’s death blasted Argo into a funky, negative universe called “innerspace” (narrated by William Shatner). Zaltar’s the guy who figured out how to keep the air in and everyone’s feet on the ground. How? Magic of course, with a little help from the film’s MacGuffin: a shinny pokeball called “the omegahedron.”

More than a miniature Unicron, the omegahedron can “create the illusion of life,” power the entire city, provide oxygen and (we assume) nourishment for its numerous inhabitants, and do all of this from the palm of Peter O’Toole’s hand.

Wait. What is this thing (so vital to the city’s basic survival) doing in the palm of Zaltar’s hand, anyway? Oh, he “borrowed” it. I see. Wonderful. This can only end well. {More}

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

It's the shadow of the Bat.
It's the shadow of the Bat.

This is more than a good movie: it’s the movie I watch at least once a year to remind myself why I watch movies. Produced by the same writers, directors, composers and cast as Batman: The Animated Series, Mask of the Phantasm is not only the best superhero movie of the 1990s, its easily the gold standard by which to judge all subsequent  superhero films.

Shame the thing isn’t better-known outside of the fan community. It’s unique among superhero movies of its age, both for its faithful importation of material already present in Batman comics and for its deft incorporation of new story elements that add depth and meaning to the source, reinforcing key themes without hitting the audience in the face with some overriding Message or a lot of heavy Exposition. Arguably the most mature American cartoon feature to date, it deals with grand questions of fate, free will and the psychological cost of living in the shadow of one’s past. Plus…it’s frickin’ Batman. Honestly, what’s not to love? Continue reading Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Batman and Robin (1997)

Joel Schumacher shows what he really thinks of us.So here it is: the final nail in the coffin, the death knell of the Golden Age of superhero movies. As with any artistic Age, it’s boundaries are plastic and open for debate, should any nerd care to distract him- (or her-) self. But you’d be hard pressed to find a nerd who doesn’t view this movie for exactly what it is: the lowest of the low, the scum of the fucking earth, the most useless, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat out of Hollywood, a town ruled by effete assholes who see not at all wrong with dumping toxic, imaginative waste straight into their target audience’s eyes, so long as there are as many eyes as possible.

Sorry. Channeled Trainspotting there for a moment. Where were we? Ah, yes…we were marveling at Joel Schumacher’s continued slide into camp and self-parodying idiocy. All in the name of keeping this franchise “family friendly.” In practice, you and I both know this means, “so dumb your trailer-trash, hick cousins from Possumscrotum, Texas, will beg, cry, scream and, eventually, drag their parents into theaters. We’ve spent the last six months stoking their little, ADD-addled minds with trailers and toy commercials. If we don’t get their butts in those seats, our Japanese masters stand to lose hundreds of billions of yen! We can’t allow that!” {More}