Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020) – So What Happens Now?

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (Video 2020) - IMDb

      This is a film that brings an end to the ongoing films in this Franchise. This is a Franchise that includes all the Batman stories with Damian Wayne, the different Justice League films, the Teen Titans films and Justice League Dark. So, how does it stick to landing? Without going into spoilers I liked a fair amount of the world that we see and the character dynamics but some bad performances and the ending ruin what could have been a dark ending with hope. In the end, this is not a film I’d recommend as I feel the ending cancels out all the choices that were made over the course of the film.

The film was directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta and written by Mairghread Scott.

The story follows the Justice League as they plan an attack on Darkseid’s world of Apokolips in order to prevent an invasion of Earth.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Failed Attack on Darkseid – I like how our heroes attacking Darkseid fails and we see through him hacking Cyborg and seeing the invasion plans that it was doomed from the start. The rest of the story is us dealing with the fallout as he dominates Superman and makes the rest of the Justice League he caught into Cyborgs under his control. When Darkseid wins he really wins and the failed invasion sets the tone for the rest of the story. We learn the reason for his victory lies in his Paradooms. Parademons with Superman’s DNA, making them a mixture of Parademon and Doomsday. They are an awesome threat and win any battle they are in.

Earth’s Resistance – Earth’s resistance of Darkseid’s rule includes Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Raven primarily with Etrigan and Constantine until they are pulled in as well. From here we have the League of Shadows and the Suicide Squad join forces and eventually Lex Luthor himself changing sides to fight Darkseid. They are fighting a losing battle on occupied Earth and come up with a last ditch plan to rescue Batman and stop Darkseid. The resistance has a wonderful dynamic to them as the Suicide Squad controls the prison, which is one of the safest places in the world under the occupation and Clark Kent and Raven are the wanderers recruiting the last remaining heroes.

Clark Kent / Superman – Superman is defeated by Darkseid who decides his punishment will be to pump him full of liquid kryptonite, neutralizing him and after returning him to Earth. It is well done as we see that Clark Kent never stops fighting and is willing to risk it all to save the world. His power doesn’t define him, which is the kind of Superman story I enjoy. Besides Constantine and Raven, Clark’s is the main perspective that drives the narrative. The plan is eventually a success and in the Superman fights Darkseid once again after Trigun is purged from his body and in turn the liquid Kryptonite is too.

Lois Lane – Rebecca Romijin (Mystique and Number 1) voices Lois Lane and I got to say I like this version of Lois Lane. She is a military brat who has learned how to fight and clearly trained with Superman. She is the one who defeats Harley Quinn in a brawl that convinces Harley to give them control of the Suicide Squad. She is one of the faces of the resistance and I love how she drives the story. In the end she dies with Lex and the Suicide Squad to prevent the Paradooms from returning to Apokolips.

John Constantine – Matt Ryan continues to be the voice of Constantine and he is great in this. In this film we have a Constantine wracked with guilt as he ran from battle during the assault on Apokolips. His story arc is facing that guilt and loss of his love Zatanna as it is his final acts that help prevent Darkseid’s plans for Earth. We also see his pansexuality as we learn he and King Shark were once together. Sadly though, he is also behind one of the stupidest part of the film as he convinces Barry Allen to reboot this entire universe in another Flashpoint.  We also learn he ran away because Zatanna cast a spell when they talk in heaven together.

Okay:

Damian Wayne – I didn’t hate Damian Wayne in this film. It is still annoying how he doesn’t immediately help Clark Kent and the resistance, but his relationship with Batman is really well done as you see how much they care for each other. It is Damian’s risking of his life that frees Batman from Darkseid’s control.

Cons:

Raven – Raven is so bland in this film. She spends most of the story reacting to Trigun wanting to be freed and her only act of agency is bringing Damian back to life after he is killed. She is central to the story but it doesn’t feel that way. Trigun feels like a much bigger part and he is only a voice for the majority of the film.

The Flash – Flash is super bland in this and is captured and used by Darkseid after the failed assault on Apokolips. He reboots this entire film but he isn’t even a POV character, all he is is a plot device. I wasn’t a fan of the voice acting as he sounded bored and tired. Christopher Gorham was fine in the other animated films so I’m not sure what was going on here. His act of rebooting the universe is the final act of the film and it feels tacked on, like his role in this story.

When in Doubt, Reboot – I hate that this film ends in a reboot. A world rebuilding with cyborg heroes freed from Apokolips seeking to save the world from destruction could still be an awesome story. Instead all the growth and development we get of these heroes means nothing. I’ll still probably watch whatever the reboot is, but the fact that they thought the reboot was how to end this story really shows how little confidence they had in the world they’d made.

This is a film that I’d only recommend to those who have been watching the DC animated films in this continuity up to this point. If you want to see Darkseid as a threat and some good Clark Kent and Constantine work you will find things to enjoy. Sadly you can’t hang a story on that and if you reboot the story the audience is left wondering what the point of telling the story was in the first place. I wouldn’t recommend this film to any fans of the animated films and the ending ruins the potential for a lot of great stories that could have come out of the story this film tells.

Final Score:

6 / 10 Giving some points for telling a story with consequences but penalizing it for the reboot that potentially do away with those consequences.

Superman: Red Son (2020) – A Great Adaptation That Captures the Heart of the Comic

Image result for Superman red son poster

     Superman: Red Son is one of my favorite comics from back in college. I’ve always liked the Elseworld alternate world ideas where the characters we know are put in situations that shape them along different paths. “Red Son” is in both the comics and film, a great example of this for the heroes and villains within the DC Universe. This adaptation is great. It isn’t exactly like the comics, but I overall was a fan of the choices they made.

The film was directed by Sam Liu and written by J. M. DeMatteis based off the comic of the same name by Mark Millar.

The story follows Superman if he crashed within the Soviet Union. From here he must face his power versus the responsibility he feels to others, the State and himself while facing off against Luthor and the United States.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – DC Animation has once again crafted a beautiful film. The colors and details in the scenes and faces bring the story to life. We also have Soviet Style Propaganda in the opening credits that are wonderfully crafted and brought me into the film really well.

Lex Luthor’s United States – Lex Luthor rises in power in the United States as he is the only one who has plans and inventions to deal with the threat of Superman. Like in the comics, most of the challenges he sends to Superman are ones he made…with the exception of Brainiac, who is his own power in this and not ever in an alliance with Luthor, unlike the comics. The United States that is presented isn’t stable and is true to the historical United States. The oppression through the 40s and 60s is talked about on screen which is where you can see overall where Superman’s perspective is to fix things. Luthor doesn’t see anyone outside of himself until the end, which is meant to mirror the United States as it grow’s in it’s relationship to the world.

Diana  / Wonder Woman – Diana in the comic goes from admiring Superman to having their friendship end in them as enemies. Over the course of the film we see her lose faith in man’s world and agrees with her mother as their nation once more goes into hiding. This is the first turning point for Superman in the film, where he begins to question his actions. It isn’t enough at this point but her arc of losing faith in Superman is powerful as she saves his life but Batman’s killing himself and the breaking her Lasso of Truth helps her realize the dictator Superman has become.

Superman’s Corruption Arc – Superman’s arc of power corrupting is realistic. We see him go from a tool of Stalin, find the Gulagz and his childhood friend dying and this leads him taking control of the Soviet Union. From here expands Soviet Power to end oppression of workers around the world. As Lex Luthor sends Superior Man, and Brianiac attacks we see Superman lose his ability to trust others. He uses Brainiac to mind control dissenters (he does in the comics as well) and each attack against him makes him more certain in his revolution. It is very well done and I like how the film captures those key turning point, and with it his disconnect from humanity.

The Freedom to Choose and Superman’s Return – The turning point for Superman, when he realizes people should be able to choose their own future is after Wonder Woman leaves and First Lady Lois Lane brings him Stalingrad, the city that Brainiac had shrunk into a bottle in his initial attack. It is after this Brainiac reveals his true intentions to conquer and it is only through Luthor and Superman working together that he is finally stopped for good. It is after Superman’s “death” that we see him return in the classic Clark Kent gear to watch Luthor’s resignation as Luthor also realizes his own obsession has hurt others as Superman’s did.

Okay:

Brainiac -In the comics he uses both Lex and Superman and I think it is stronger having him use both of them at different points. He just shows up in the film, which is fine but we never really see what the overall goal of Brainiac is. He is still a good threat but his presentation and arc is only okay.

Lex’s Arc With Lois – Lex’s arc with Lois is how his obsession with destroying Superman feeds his ambition and leads to him not being aware in his relationship at all. We can see hints of how he’s changing, such as when he kills Superior Man and Lois is disgusted by him…but we don’t see the next steps. It is only when he shows up to save Lois at the end and ally with Superman that we see a changed man. There needed to be another step inbetween for this to be a pro. It wasn’t badly done, but it needed more.

The Cons:

Svetlana – Svetlana shows up at the beginning as Superman’s childhood friend and is the one who tells him he should give his power to the State. She is later dies in the Gulag because she knew who Superman was before he was Superman, so had to die. She could have been a Lois Lane type character but the relationship between her childhood and death didn’t exist and that is really the only con. She is important but isn’t given enough scenes for how much she inspires Superman in her life and death.

This was a great DC Animated film of one of my favorite comics. If you are a fan of DC, animation or the original comic…this is a film well worth your time. The biggest comic has a huge twist that I will not spoil here, really you should read the comic, it is amazing.  This is a film that could have been longer and it would have worked and that in the end is the only real con against it. There were certain characters and plots that deserved more development. I highly recommend this film and the comic.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Brightburn (2019): An Enjoyable Horror Take on “Superman”

Image result for brightburn poster

    “Brightburn” was a film I enjoyed. It is good but it could have been great if it had been willing to explore the deconstruction of Superman and Smallville further. This is clearly what it takes inspiration from and gives us a horror alien invasion story in the process.

The film was directed by David Yarovesky and written by Brian and Mark Gunn.

The story follows the Breyer family after a mysterious ship crashes near their farm carrying a mysterious child they name Brandon. This dream soon finds itself becoming a nightmare as Brandon begins to discover he has powers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Family – The family is the best exploration within this premise. We see a mother who hasn’t been able to have kids now having a son she loves and a dad who wants to be a father too. Elizabeth Banks is great as Tori Breyer and David Denham (Pam’s former fiance from “The Office”) does the distrusting anything new as a threat really well. There isn’t a happy ending for either of htem but the fact that this is a horror movie, I’m not going to spoil it. Watch their relationship with Brandon, which is the best part of the film.

The Horror of Power – We see Brandon go from someone who hurts people for revenge and to cover up things, to killing the ones he loves. This arc for his character made sense given the alien technology telling him to take over. It isn’t good in regards to “Superman” mythos, but I can see where they were taking that mythos when they were making this horror film. I might look more fondly on this film I enjoyed, depending on where they take a potential sequel.

Okay:

The “Kryptonite” – The one thing that is implied to be able to hurt Brandon Breyer is metal from the ship he came on. We never fully see this though and the reason why this is, isn’t explored. This was a major loss. This was originally going to be a con, but there are enough implications that the parents know it hurts him in how they act around him in relationship to the ship. This isn’t great but it isn’t a total loss of developing Brandon’s “kryptonite.”

The Corruption of Brandon Breyer / Brightburn – Brandon Beyer’s corruption is shown in two ways. The first is when he realizes he can’t get hurt after putting his hand in the blade of the lawnmower after throwing it, and the second are the visions of an alien voice telling him to “Take control.” The idea of him becoming a bully because of his power is far more developed than the alien side of his story. It is in the way he uses his ability to not get hurt to hurt and kill others once he realizes he can. The alien side needed to be developed more. It is clearly something driving him but we never get the purpose behind it. The alien side calling him to take control simply exists, which is why I only rate his corruption as okay.

The Cons:

Developing the World – The small town and characters overall feel underdeveloped. They experience events but we never get their deeper thoughts on things. In this way like “Us” this works almost better as an episode in a show. This is what makes it a con. I had no favorite character in this film but I did find the idea of the film appealing. There is potential in this world but beyond Michael Rooker appearing as a paranoid tv announcer talking about other superhumans who are causing problems elsewhere. I loved that bit of world building, but Brightburn needed to feel more lived in, and it didn’t. Same with the alien species that Brandon Breyer came from. We know nothing about them beyond Brandon’s desire to take control. This was an easy chance at world building that should have been explored more.

This is a film worth checking out, if you were a fan of super hero films or horror films. The film isn’t great but it is enjoyable. Even with the story needing to be longer and more developed it still kept me drawn to the screen through the run. If they make sequels I would most likely see if they keep this quality, though I hope they can be better. This is a premise that deserves to be more and if has sequels, there is the chance to do so. As someone who only got into horror films in the last few years, I saw this as promising.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

Shazam! (2019): A Beautiful Tale on What it Means to Have Family

New Shazam Poster Reminds You the Movie Is Fun | Collider

    “Shazam!” is easily the best film so far in the DC Cinematic Universe. I’m speaking as someone who thought “Wonder Woman” was great and enjoyed “Aquaman” and “Man of Steel.” This film is better than all of those and is the most fun I’ve had in a DC film since “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’m glad they got this win. “Shazam!” captures what makes super heroes and comics books so enjoyable and fun in the first place. This is a film that never stops being fun. For non-spoiler thoughts, it is worth seeing for that reason alone. This film is comedic, dark, adventurous and explores the concept of a family better than so many films that say that is their theme. Not only that, the film looks great and has a fantastic soundtrack.

The film was directed by David F. Sandberg with screenplay by Henry Gayden and produced by Peter Safran.

The story follows foster boy Billy Batson as he is given to the last foster family who will give him a chance, as he has ran away from all those prior. Left with the choice as he searches for his missing mother other threats are plot and act as Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) is empowered by an evil and only the wizard Shazam can empower someone pure of heart who can stop him in his quest of destruction.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – Finally the DCCU works. This film calls upon classic “Shazam!” villains who were part of his universe before Faucet Comics were bought out by DC and when he was Captain Marvel. The villain is Dr. Sivana who is a classic foe who DC brought into their universe. As someone who loves the rich lore of comics this was a movie that hit me on so many levels. There is more related to the lore that I’ll get into later in the review, but this is a world that doesn’t need the rest of the DC universe to be good but enriches it by existing.

The Action and Cinematography – The action is visceral, colorful and feels like it has been pulled from the pages of a comic. It isn’t the same beautiful the way “Spider-Verse” did it with it’s animation (blending anime, modern, noir, etc.) but it does it using the dark and light in the character’s abilities and where they choose to shoot the fights. For example, the final fight takes place in a carnival. This use of the dark and light contrast makes the fight sequences stand out and when they happen (because when they happen they matter) it adds to the narrative and is a brilliant use of storytelling.

The Characters – The characters and their relationships are what makes this movie work in this end. I would have rated this movie as at least very good if all I had to go on where performances and the character relationships, and this film delivers on those in spades. The relationships are a big reason I want to go back as I think I’ll notice more in the rewatch as far as how the characters see one another and what that means in the finale.

Billy Batson – Billy Batson / Shazam / Captain Marvel is the main character, who as the foster kid is seeking his mother. He is a kid who only looks out for himself and tells his foster family as much. He does grow more attached to them over the course of the film, which is part of his essential arc. When he becomes the Champion empowered by Wizard we see Billy’s arc go from selfish kid seeking his mother to hero who has found his true family. Both Zachary Levi as Shazam and Asher Angel as Billy give so much depth to the role.

Freddy – Freddy is one of Billy’s foster siblings and the closest thing he has to a friend. He’s also a huge comic book nerd and becomes Billy’s mentor on how to become a hero when he becomes the Champion / Shazam. At first they are both really selfish but Freddy figures out the bigger picture first and calls out Billy for how he has become a selfish bully with his abilities. Freddy does have his arc payoff though, but I’m not revealing what that is, since it is one of the best parts of the film.

Shazam Family – Billy’s adopted family becomes the Shazam Family at the end to fight the Seven Deadly Sins and it is awesome! Each of them is a hero as strong as Billy and together they face off against the Sins. How it happens is fascinating too as it Billy realizing that he needs to open his heart to find his true power and it is in sharing power, not taking it (like Dr. Sivana) where true power lies. Each of the family members has distinct personalities contrasted by their grown up identity and I can’t wait to see them further. I won’t describe more as the seeing their story payoff is one of the best parts of the film.

Dr. Sivana – Dr. Sivana was one of the people chosen by the wizard a long time ago to be the hero but failed because of the temptations from the Demons who are the Seven Deadly Sins. From that point on he seeks out the Sins and frees them before seeking out the hero who he envies for having the great power that is only capable of defeating him. We see why he is this way too as he comes from an abusive family and power was the only thing his dad and brother ever respected. What innocence and pure of heart that he needed to be the Champion was stamped out a long time ago.

Mr. Mind – This is a classic villain for the Fawcett comics who DC brought back when they revamped the character. He is this caterpillar looking worm who is a genius. He meets up with Dr. Sivana in prison and tells him there are more ways to power than simply magic. It is a great set-up for future films as Mr. Mind is a villain unlike anything we’ve seen so far in Marvel or DC.

Okay:

The Foster Parents – The Foster Parents are kind but kind of generic. We get glimpses of their past but never in relation to their kids, only in relation to one another. They both grew up in the Foster system so I’m not saying it is a negative but them opening up to any of their foster kids about their past would have added a layer of depth the story wasn’t able to do. Not entirely a con but definitely the weakest part of the film.

This is a great film. Shazam is such a fun hero and I can’t wait to see how Mr. Mind and Shazam and his foster family are used in later films. In both there is so much potential there to be explored. This was also a film that doesn’t need an expanded universe to work. Billy’s relationship to his foster family and his biological mother give this film more than enough heart to make this film wholly great on it’s own merits. If you are looking for a film that has a deeper point while still managing to be a hilarious comedy, you will probably love this film as much as I did. It is definitely one of my favorite films.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

I Walked Out of “Justice League”

      I walked out of “Justice League.” This is a film that I will go back and review because I am a completionist but it has been a long time since I’ve been so disappointed in a film that I walked out ($10.75 for a ticket was also a major waste). What didn’t help is it was late and so my patience was much thinner and I needed to at least be entertained, and for a few scenes I was…but after an hour I was so bored and disappointed in this film that I could only think of better uses of my time.  In the end the three factors that pulled me out of this film were the Bad CGI, uninterested actors and how false some of the characterizations felt in regards to the characters.

First I want to mention some things I enjoyed in that hour. Everything with Diana was awesome. Seriously, Wonder Woman is the best part of this universe and she’s why I’ll be giving this film another chance and doing a full review in the future, even if I don’t do it this year. I also continue to enjoy Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Cyborg had potential, he was one of the few characters who felt fully realized in his portrayal.

Now for the bad, Steppenwolf and the battles he takes place in look worse than “The Fellowship of the Ring.” The closest comparison I can think of is “The Mummy Returns” in regards to how the CGI of him and his minions looks. For a movie this expensive it should have looked at least as good as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” This also applies to the CGI on Cavill’s face to hide his mustache. He is in a shot at the beginning where kids are recording him and it feels off and weird. I think this Superman has trouble smiling in general (which feels antithetical to the character) but in this scene it really showed. This is consistent through the hour of film I saw and it took me out of it. Every Super Hero film this year looked so much better and “Wonder Woman” was made by the same studio. How could it go so wrong?

The second factor were the uninterested actors. Ben Affleck sounds bored the entire time and his inflection never changes. This also applies to Cavill’s Superman in that scene on the phone meant to humanize him. He just looked out of it and bored and sounded like it too. These guys are two of three in DC’s Trinity. I can understand now why Affleck is getting recast. His heart isn’t in this if the best takes they could get from him were what I saw in the film. He clearly doesn’t want to be there.

The final factor was characters and how they acted unlike themselves. This was the last straw as I felt when Steppenwolf was attacking Atlantis. Aquaman comes off like a human douchebro and not like an alien from Earth. Based off his performance I have no idea how Atlanteans are different from humans minus them living underwater. This is not the Aquaman I knew from the comics or DC animated films….which is a shame because Momoa can be a great actor, I loved him in “Stargate: Atlantis” and “Game of Thrones.” A major reason I left was this was the second time that Batman’s secret identity meant nothing to civilians. First a criminal he is threatening hear’s him call his butler Alfred (so much for secrecy) and second Aquaman calls him Bruce Wayne and Batman in front of a crowd of people. First off Affleck doesn’t react at all in either scenes (he doesn’t take in the criminal, he ignores Aquaman, etc.). Barry Allen / The Flash is also a rich drifter for some reason so how he has all that money for his computers when he see him having no basis of income is kind of crazy.

In the end these factors were too much for me to sit through another hour. This was bad and dissapointing enough as I grew up with these characters. I was DC long before I was Marvel as Bruce Timm’s “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League” got me into these characters in the first place. I can’t recommend this film and the only reason I want to watch it at this point is for Wonder Woman and so I can complete it and give it a score. At this point I can only tell you why I walked out. This film isn’t worth your time. Check it out when it comes to Netflix or streaming, these characters deserved better.

“Supergirl” Season 2 – Good but Brought Down by Shipping and Lack of Focus

     I really like “Supergirl,” after this season I still don’t feel comfortable calling it a great show, though if you are on the CW you probably aren’t a great show (experts of average or decent in their programming) but I am looking forward to next season and plan on coming back. In a nutshell, this was a season that needed a lot more focus and a lot less shipping as both these things held it back from being the great season it could have been.

    The premise of this season involves Kara/Supergirl dealing with the threat of Cadmus (who wishes to destroy aliens on Earth) the Daxams and her new relationships with Lena Luthor (Lex’s sister) and Mon-El of Daxam.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Martian Arc – Martian Manhunter has an amazing arc where he hooks up with Miss Martian who is a White Martian who fights against her species who exterminated Martian Manhunter’s people. She takes their look and her arc is going back to find others to fight the fascist members of her people. She after returns with those allies in the finale to fight. The main arc for Manhunter is overcoming prejudice, and they handle that really well.

Superman – Superman is in the show this season and he is fantastic! He clashes with Martian Manhunter, he remembers to smile and is both charming and awkward and is used as an ally and threat to equal degree. I really liked Tyler Hoechlin’s portrayal of him and hope he is used again in this and other series.

James and the Guardian – After Kara breaks up with James at the beginning of the Season and Cat hands him Catco he realizes that being a superhero is what he missed in his life and he becomes the Guardian, a Batmanesque protector of the city. The arc isn’t done yet as Kara wants him to stop being this character, but he saves so many people and shows that a person can live in both worlds, even if they aren’t Kryptonian.

The Crossover Episodes – Supergirl is in 2 Crossover events, the first involves all the DC CW shows and the Dominator invasion, which is fantastic as Supergirl is a weapon at first and after has to pull back so she isn’t used against the team but still helps defeat the aliens and later in the episode where the Music Meister (a Q, God like being) helps The Flash and Supergirl face their relationship and heal the bonds with their partners. Both are a lot of fun and the second is a musical episode (in which all can sing well!) and were some of the best parts of this season.

The Daxamite Invasion – The finale is the Daxamite invasion as Mon-El rejects his parents and his mother in turn kills his father so that she can conquer Earth and get her son back. We see the Daxamites are warriors and Mon-El their prince rejected his culture. In the end he has to leave Earth as Supergirl, with Cadmus releases a small dose of lead into the atmosphere which can kill Daxamites, leading to their retreat and Supergirl’s good-bye to the man she came to love. The Fleet is still around as a potential threat though, even if they can’t attack Earth.

Okay: Cadmus – Cadmus has Kara and Alex’s father and he is used against them, Lena’s mother also run’s the organization. Early on Superman and the others are facing off against Metallo’s that were created by Cadmus to kill Kryptonians. Team Work defeats them and the organization is overall feckless. They attempt alien genocide a few times and fail. I like the idea of the organization but hate the execution.

The Cons: Lack of Focus – Cadmus, the Martian Arc, Winn’s alien relationship, James and the Guardian, the Crossover event, the Danvers and their father and the Daxamite you are given a cluttered season where none of these except the Bottle arcs really play out to their greatest potential.

Everybody Gets a Relationship aka Too Much Shipping – Alex hooks up, Kara hooks up, Winn hooks up and even Martian Manhunter hooks up…and so many arcs revolve around these dramas. This really took away from the story as these should have been happening in the background, not front in center…since making it front and center just made the show feel all about shipping characters.

   The things that worked this season really worked. The Flash and Supergirl worked really well together and I loved seeing the CW Justice League, Martian Manhunter getting explored was wonderful (he is a favorite in most things I’ve seen this character in) and the finale was fantastic. If the show had only been these things it would be a great show, but too much shipping (everyone does not need to be hitched), Cadmus not really paying off and the lack of focus brought the show down to good. I would still recommend it for those who enjoyed Season 1 and I can’t wait for Season 3!

Final Score: 8 / 10

The Lego Batman Movie (2017): A Wonderful Satire and Celebration of Batman

    “The Lego Batman” movie is hilarious, a great satire and celebration of Batman and a great addition to the Batmanverse if you are any sort of fan of the character. This is a film that finally makes Batman fun again and brings in just how important the Bat Family is, which is something many of the live action films have forgotten. Before I get into story spoilers, I highly recommend this film. Much like the “Lego Movie,” it never stops being fun.

    The film was directed by Chris McKay, written by Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Seth Grahame-Smith, Jared Stern and John Wittington while being produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

   The story involves Batman who after defeating Joker and his Rogues Gallery once again is alone but finds his life changed when Jim Gordon (Hector Elizondo) retires and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) takes his place and wants to work with Batman (Will Arnett). Dick Grayson (Mchael Cera) is also accidentally adopted by Batman who must now deal with caring for others again as Joker sets a plan in motion to reach the enemies in the Phantom Zone, as he’s hurt that Batman doesn’t see him as his nemesis.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of Batman is fascinating and Lego’s take on it adds a lot of much needed humor as well as a recognition of the campy roots that have always been a part of Batman to some degree. We see a diverse array of Rogues, the Justice League of course the people of Gotham.

The Action – The action is fantastic, with my favorite parts being the opening fight where Batman faces off against his Rogues and the Phantom Zone enemies invading and pretty much destroying Gotham. The action is fluid and quick and remains focused even with so much going on.

The Joker – Zach Galifianakis was brilliant casting as the Joker. He brings so much snide and emotion to the role and I loved how he had a co-dependent relationship with Batman where all he wanted was to be the most hated and Batman’s nemesis aka have a special relationship. His Joker isn’t all bad either as at the end he helps save Gotham and in the Phantom Zone is freaked out by the mentality some of the villains have.

The Bat Family – The Bat Family is wonderful as see Alfred is Bruce’s surrogate father just as he becomes Dick Grayson’s (Michael Cera doing some great comedy) surrogate Dad. Batgirl (Rosario Dawson is once again fantastic) is the one who sees the big picture of them working together and that it is needed and Batman is the inventor whose inventions help save the day. It is Alfred calling Bruce to action that helps him grow (Fiennes does a wonderful job as the character), Robin’s usefulness, innocence and admiration and Batgirl’s accountability that help him complete his arc and finally grow out of the fear that was with him on the day his parent’s died.

Satire of Batman – Batman is trapped as a perpetual child who plays rock and roll is an ungrateful narcissist and this on display, from tantrums (a good satire of Bale and Affleck’s Batman at his most extreme), his strange villains from his early run (Condiment King, etc.) his strange rivalry with Superman (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Returns) and how a lot of it comes from Batman’s childish need to one up and be extreme, and his isolation and just lonely that really is. The great thing is, a character arc comes out of it!

Batman’s Character Arc – In the end this satire is a celebration of the character because his anger and rage is mocked but it is also explored and it goes somewhere. Batman grows up and realizes he isn’t alone. Besides “Dark Knight Rises” I can’t think of a film that has really done this well (“Batman Returns” did it but not well).

 Okay: Batman’s Rogues – Batman’s rogues don’t much besides being minions of the Joker and function as one entity (which was a shame) some of the references are funny though, from Condiment King (actual rogue) to Bane having Tom Hardy’s Bane’s voice. As jokes and references they are fine but they don’t exist as characters, which would have raised this film higher.

The Phantom Zone Villains – Gremlins, The Eye of Sauron, King Kong and Lord Voldemort are some of the baddies in the Phantom Zone. They also largely exist as references too and as villains so powerful Batman’s Rogues and the Bat Family have to team up to defeat them.

The Cons: The Legoverse – Gotham is built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone has a talking Lego that sounds like a kid. I didn’t like either of these things. I get it is the Legoverse but these things took me out of the great Batman story that was taking place and was the worst part of the film and only real con.

   This was a film that was amazing as a Batman film, but brought down by the ties to the Legoverse. It was that aspect that took me out of the great Batman story that was being told. There is fantastic character arc that takes place with Batman finally growing up, from Gotham being built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone talking lego…I still highly recommend this film and consider it a favorite. I’m curious to see what the Lego Team comes up with next and hope that DC can take note of the fact that Batman can’t remain static. The great movies have him grow and change, it is when that is forgotten we are given the dramatic child who Will Arnett satires beautifully.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

“Supergirl” Season 1 – How Superman as a Character Can Work

supergirl

   “Supergirl” is one of the most underrated shows on television. After watching “Season 1” I can’t believe it took the CW to save the show given that the writing on this show runs laps around “Arrow” and is even comparable to the best of “The Flash” and “The Defenders.” This is a show that gets the Superman mythos and does some amazing things with it.

    The show was developed by Ali Adler, Greg Berltani and Andrew Kreisberg.

    The premise of the show is Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) was sent from Krypton to look after Superman but due to mishap she knocks Fort Rozz (an alien prison) out of the Phantom Zone and arrives after Superman has already grown up. She is adopted by the Danvers family but after having a normal life starts something more as new threats arise tied to her past on Krypton.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The DC Universe is a great world and this is coming from a guy who was only really a fan of Superman as he related to Bruce Timm’s Justice League and JLU or Batman: The Animated Series. This Universe goes in depth and makes it count and honestly made me want to seek out the best Supergirl and Superman comics.

The Action – The action is solid. There is a lot of stuntwork and for a show with a limited budget every death and hit counts. That is saying a lot given “Supernatural” and to some degree “Marvel” have been slinking away from this.

The Characters – The characters were the strongest part of thsi series and drove the action since a lot of the villians were very much “villain of the week” even if they directly related to the plot (with a few exceptions). I cared about the main cast and all of them grew on me.

Indigo – This is the “Supergirl” Brainiac and she is great for what she is. She revels in extinction and manages to be one of the greatest threats in the last half of the series.

Astra – Astra was fantastic and the actress Laura Benati does an amazing job in the role as both her and Supergirl’s biological mother. Astra is complex, she was right about the destruction of Krypton her approach of mind control is just wrong and even she realizes that at the end. I really wanted her to be the final boss, but Alex killing her complicates her and Supergirl’s relationship is a fascinating way.

Cat Grant – Cat is wonderful, she is quite narcissistic and she uses her podium to advocate for others while still trying to remain fair. She is someone using the pulpit of the talking head for better and I really like how she helps Supergirl grow. We also see her step out from under her mother’s foot and fully become empowered. She is a feminist, CEO, advocate and all around fantastic character who Calista Flockhart does wonderfully.

Maxwell Lord – This character is the Lex Luthor to Supergirl except rather than being a villain all the time he buys into her hope. He is portrayed as a self serving objectivst through most of the series but changes in the end when Cat Grant and Supergirl show him that people can be better. I really liked this character and hope he appears in “Season 2.”

James Olsen – I didn’t care about Jimmy Olsen until this series. He dies in “BvS” I heard but honestly…I don’t know the character. This series showed me what he means. He is Superman and Supergirl’s tie to the life of normal and what you can accomplish just by living. He is my favorite character at this point and Mechad Brooks is an actor I’d love to meet someday.

Winn – Winn is the brains that every series like this has. Sisko is it in on “The Flash,” Willow on “Buffy,” etc. He works and it great and I like that he is the Toymaker’s son…but his whole crush on Supergirl was awkward, though I’m still counting him a plus.

Martian Manhunter -J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter is my favorite character on the show. He’s a survivor who learns to trust a bit more and mercy over the course of the show from “Supergirl.” Can’t wait to see what they do with him in “Season 2.” He was one of my favorites in the original Bruce Timm “Justice League” along with that versions “Green Lantern” and obviously “Batman.” This one is more fleshed out though and more relateable which is only a plus. Seriosuly, watch the show to see his reveal.

Alex Danvers – Kara’s sister Alex is pretty fantastic. She’s a protector who can see the bigger picture and helps Kara grow through the show. She is truly both sister and mentor and I really love their relationship.

Supergirl – Kara Danvers is a wonderful character, she is the refugee trying to fit in and at the same protect her adopted world even though so much is out of her control. What she wants is what “Man of Steel” missed the point of. Superman is one of us both because he has to be and wants to be and their is even more responsiblity in that. Kara Danvers aka Supergirl captures that beautifully and watching “Season 2” now I hope for many more seasons. She shows us the dilemma of being different but a part of a community but also the power of hope. We can inspire in our actions and she does with mess ups and learning throughout the show.  Melissa Benoist rules in this role. She’s the first character of this type I’ve actually cared about…even Thor I could care less about as she captures the role of power and responsibility so much better.

Getting the Archetype of “Superman” Right – Superman should inspire us to be our better selves. As Clark Kent he is meant to be us and show us that the impossible can relate to the daily struggle and Kara in her job captures that so well. Even in classic “Superman” I didn’t feel this or animated Superman, but I got it with “Supergirl.” For once the narrative was captured perfectly on screen on my Superman is so iconic and it was in the amazing Supergirl who is everything in her own right using those archetypes.

Okay: Non – Non was an unformed idea. He wasn’t Zod but he wasn’t Astra. He should have been full Green Peace or full Dictator but instead we got the inbetween and that just hurt the narrative. He was okay and wasn’t bad but he wasn’t good.

The Final – Myriad controls Superman forcing Supergirl to work with her allies (Martian Manhunter and Alex her sister) to solve it. They do but I never got Non’s aim. He never felt wholly formed like Astra and that hurt the overall narrative.

Monster of the Week – There are a few “Monsters of the Week” like Red Tornado and Livewire that could have been more and they worked but it showed the show playing it safe. Which is why I only rated it as okay.

  This is a series that was severly unnderated. Kara Danvers in her arc is sympathetic and I got a lot of Buffy from “Buffy” vibes from her. She’s doing her best in the circumstances she’s in and at the end of the day want’s to succeed but also be more. She’s human but has all the abilities to accomplish more in the saving from disasters and there is power in that. That is the core of the Superman mythos. If you have the power to make a difference in another way, do so. That in and of itself is empowering and this show knows that way more than “The Flash” which in way embraces the alien part more so (Flash being a Meta-Human) than Supergirl. I highly recommend this series. It is well worth your time and CBS just gave up a gem to the CW.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015) – This Aquaman Kind of Works

Justice League Throne of Atlantis Poster

 Aquaman has always been a Justice League member I’ve cared the least about. When it comes to the alien perspective, give me Martian Manhunter or for nobility and royalty give me Wonder Woman…Aquaman was always just kind of there, the noble who works with the Justice League. Given these facts, Aquaman atually works in regards to this film, the villains are the ones who don’t.

      “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis” was directed by Ethan Spaulding and written by Heath Corson and produced by James Tucker.

     The story involves the Justice League being pulled together when forces in Atlantis begin to act against the surface world. It is up to them to find out the reasons why and the heir to the throne Arthur Curry / Aquaman to stop the war and save the world.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Wiedmann is part of what makes these movies great. His soundtrack gives power to the action and the scenes and gives the world an epic feel.

The Animation – WB Animation is truly awesome. This is one thing DC is continuing to do right post Bruce Timm so I salute their studio. It’s a shame they can’t pull this off with their live action films.

The Action – The action is fantastic and the fight scenes between the people of Atlantis and the surface world is handled really well.

The Justice League – The Justice League is really fun, minus Superman and Wonder Woman who don’t feel like characters, just concepts and whose romance feels contrived…but minus them I like the rest of the team.

Hal Jordan / Green Lantern – Nathan Fillion really owns this role. His relationship with Batman is fun as we see he is the guy with good intentions but can’t see the bigger picture. He has a great moment in the final battle where he uses his ring to make a giant mecha suit. He plays off the rest of the League really well.

Barry Allen / The Flash – Barry doesn’t do as much as he could have done but for what time he appears he bring lightness to the brooding of this Universe.

Victor Stone / Cyborg – Cyborg is the heart of the team and the one always looking out for Earth. He is the one who pulls everyone together to solve the mystery of the submarine and discover Black Manta’s and Orm’s plan.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Batman is great in this and the only one who Orm doesn’t completely defeat at the end. He stays out of the fight and figures out how to defeat Orm’s trident leading up to Aquaman claiming the throne. It is Batman with Cyborg who reveal Orm’s killing of the Queen to the world.

Arthur Curry / Aquaman – Aquaman reminds me of Thor and Hercules. He is half-Atlantean and his arc is discovering and claiming his birthright. There are elements of “Lion King” to it as well as his brother Orm is the one he is stopping when Orm kills his mother. For what it’s worth I liked the character and he worked in this film, which is good given this film is about him.

Okay: Queen Atlanna – We never get why she is so focused on peace with the surface world or her relationship to her possible warrior husband who died. She is a mystery and because of it her motivations are never fully known. She wasn’t bad but she was missed opportunity.

Mera – Mera is okay, but her romance with Aquaman is contrived, there is no leadup to them being attracted and liking one another it just kind of happens. She’s a great fighter at least.

The Cons: Diana Prince / Wonder Woman – She is there to motivate Superman and that is it. She’s a plot device and it sucks. She is Superman’s romantic partner and that is it.

Clark Kent / Superman – Way too overpowered and may cheating on Lois Lane? Seriously, was is the deal with Superman in “The New 52?” He is just an all around overpowered dick. He’s everything wrong with Damian Wayne tenfold.

Black Manta – This guy also is just evil and has unexplored reasons for the things he’s doing besides the desire for power. He has a cool design but he is just wasted as a character and never felt like a threat.

Orm – He’s blatantly evil (kills his own mother) his motivations are never fully explored and he has no redeeming qualities. Seriously, this guy is a terrible villain and his design is awful too. He looks like bad cosplay of an orc when he wears his mask.

   This was an enjoyable film and better than the “New 52” Batman films (seriously Damian brings those films down). I like this new Justice League minus how unrelatable Wonder Woman and Superman feel. Neither feel fully fleshed out as characters and Superman is the Damian Wayne of the Justice League. He is way too overpowered so whenever he is free the fight has no stakes. I’m surprised he didn’t defeat Orm honestly, and I’m glad he didn’t…Aquaman had to win something and his entire arc was reclaiming his birthright “Lion King” style. So I would recommend this film, it isn’t a favorite, but it is good.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016): Honoring the Old “Teen Titans” Show and Creating a Great Original Story

Justice League vs Teen Titans poster

    “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” is a lot of fun. As someone who grew up on Bruce Timm’s justice league and the old original animesque “Teen Titans,” this is the first time with these films I’ve felt the spirit of both really captured, while still remaining true to “The New 52” tone they’ve had going on in all these films. The Teen Titans are really who carry the film and this is there story and it is their development and actions that end up making this a favorite film for me.

     The film was directed by Sam Liu, written by Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett and produced by James Tucker.

SPOILERS ahead

     The story involves Trigon’s (Jon Burnthal) attempt to return to Earth to destroy it and to use his daughter Raven (Taissa Farmiga) as the way to do so. When the Justice League investigates he takes control of a few members leaving the Teen Titans to team to together to stop him and save the Justice League.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack at moments reminded me of Bear McCreary which added a lot to the haunting nature of Trigon and the pasts of Raven and Damian. Frederik Wiedmann once again did a fantastic job.

The Animation – WB and DC continue to put out great animated films and this one is no different. The world is dark but beautiful and feels epic in feel.

The World – The world is rich as we get an appearance of Trigon, the Legion of Doom, the Justice League and Teen Titans. This world is huge and still gives room to explore many of the characters within it.

The Characters – The characters are what carry this film and the reason to see it. Whether it is certain Justice League members or the Teen Titans as a whole, these are the folks who make this film fun.

Batman / Bruce Wayne – Batman is the only Justice League member not to get possessed and it is thanks to him that Cyborg is saved and later the rest of the Justice League. He risks himself in the process though and is out of it until the end.

Barry Allen / The Flash – Flash appears briefly but his comedic antics and comedic villains are both on display, even at the end. I like the Flash a lot now as he adds much needed levity to the super seriousness of “The New 52.”

Oliver Stone / Cyborg – Cyborg gets to be both Justice League and Teen Titans and brings pizza at the end as a callback to the show! He is great and we see that he is the leader when Batman is out of commission. He is pretty much a Teen Titans member and co-leader with Starfire over the course of saving Raven and getting to the final fight.

Dick Grayson / Nightwing – Grayson should have been in the final fight. I don’t know why he wasn’t as he’s pretty much Damian’s babysitter until Damian is dropped off at the Justice League. Maher is once again wonderful and brings charm to the awkward flirting that Starfire and He do with one another. We needed more of this character.

Trigon – Jon Bernthal is fantastic as the monster and power that is Trigon. I wanted to see more of this character and his influence on the world beyond just trying to enter it and sending his sons out. He still felt like a threat though, even though the final battle with him was kind of stupid.

Teen Titans – The Teen Titans are the best part of this film and really the main reason to watch this. I didn’t see “Teen Titans Go” and don’t plan on it, so this is the best version of them since that past 2003 show.

Koriand’r / Starfire – Starfire is the leader and she feels like an alien in this but also the idealist we saw from when she was in the show. Her dynamic with everyone is great as she is the glue and the one who helps Damian open up.

Jaime Reyes / Blue Beetle – Blue Beetle is cool and doesn’t put up with Damian’s crap. He is very much the Cyborg of the group (and not just because he is pretty much a cyborg from the alien tech melded to his body) as his personality is big, leading him to fight with Damian. I like how he doesn’t know the suit’s power…he reminds me of some of Venom’s hosts that way.

Damian Wayne / Robin – Finally Robin isn’t perfect (sort of)! We see his anger come out and how he was raised by sociopaths and it does make an impact on how he interacts with others when he invades the Teen Titans security, eggs Blue Beetle on and nearly dies because of it and confronts a demon taking the form of Ra’s Al Ghul, giving him the chance to face his past trauma and see how alike he and Raven are. Both having fathers out to destroy the world. His friendship with Raven is one of the best parts of the film. Loved that he neutralized Superman with kryptonite and later puts it back in his pouch as Superman frowns.

Garfield Logan / Beast Boy – Brandon Soo Hoo’s performance reminded me of classic Beast Boy from the 2003 “Teen Titans” show. He’s funny and his wit and humor make him gold in every scene. I love how he fights too and moves between small and large creatures to have the largest impact in a fight, and he does it a comedic way.

Okay: Wonder Woman – She like Superman feels a little too alien and even though she’s played by Rosario Dawson, I never got her character fully. I’m also biased against her design and miss the classic design, but that would be made up if she had a bit more development and motivations…she isn’t as bad as Superman at least.

Okay / Con – Justice League Development – We see them fight Lex Luthor and some folks at the beginning in the Legion of Doom but it never goes anywhere and the villains never feel like a threat. It’s cool to see Lex Luthor at least.

The Teams Working Together in the Final Fight – The fight in Trigon’s realm is cool, Superman’s fight against the Justice League and Flash, Wonder Woman and Superman against Trigon is just weak…so it ends up being an okay/con.

The Cons: Superman – This guy is alien, distant a jerk and has zero chemistry with any of the characters, and he’s supposed to be in love and dating Wonder Woman. I never got that and his presentation in this new 52 Universe feels off. I miss the Bruce Timm Superman, he felt like a real character at least.

Superman Stops Evil Justice League Alone – Cyborg and the Teen Titans are trying to get the crystal for Raven to trap Trigon in it again but they feel useless as Superman stops both the Flash and Wonder Woman who are also possessed before they even reach the portal. Seriously, the Teen Titans and Cyborg weren’t even needed, it’s implied through how easy he saved the other two Justice League members that Superman could have done it all himself.

     The only real downside to this was lack of development for the Justice League, which made sense given this was about the Teen Titans, and Superman being so overpowered everyone being there felt unnecessary. I hate this version of Superman, he’s distant and treats everyone around him like crap besides Diana and even their relationship doesn’t really work because we never see it develop so I didn’t feel chemistry in that relationship. Seriously, I look forward to when one of these films eventually kills Superman off. Besides that, the Teen Titans are awesome and the best I’ve seen the characters since the show that aired in 2003. This managed to capture that same spirit and be it’s own thing, which is the best that could have been hoped for.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10. A favorite and worth checking out.