DC Animated Movies Part One: Mini Reviews

Warner Brothers Animation and DC Comics began producing direct to DVD, PG-13 rated, animated movies at the end of 2007, and are planning on releasing two to three films per year.  To date they have released five movies with a sixth slated to be released on September 29th, here is a quick look at what they have done so far.

“Superman: Doomsday” started the series with an adaptation of the “Death of Superman” storyline that ran in the comics during the early 1990’s.

The animation style was similar to several recent DC cartoon series that had been produced for television, but maybe a tad bit more polished.

The story was a blending of past Superman cartoons shows, and the comic book tale featuring the monster called “Doomsday”. There were a number of significant changes, and the story was condensed quite a bit from the many issues chronicling Superman’s death and return. The changes and story consolidation are by no means negative criticisms as far as I’m concerned, but I’m sure some fan boys were displeased.

For the first PG-13 direct to DVD movie, I would say this was an excellent start, and there is a powerful scene between Lois Lane and Martha Kent that might just move you to tears.

“Justice League: The New Frontier” was the amazing next installment. Based on the graphic novel “The New Frontier”, by Darwyn Cooke, this movie really showcased the great potential these films could obtain.

The Justice League members of this movie, although familiar in appearances and names, are quite different from incarnations we have seen on screen previously. The characterizations are all an homage to the “silver age” of comic books, with the action set is the mid 1950’s to early 1960’s. It’s interesting how the public’s reaction to superheroes in this story, mirror real world sentiments towards superhero comic books of that time, and how the monstrous creature they fight is the living embodiment of cold war hysteria.

The animation is like watching Darwyn Cooke’s art come to life, and for any fan of the graphic novel, or fan of DC Comic’s silver age, this is a must see.

“Batman: Gotham Knight” is my least favorite entry for many reasons, and overkill would be reason number one. Over the past 40 years Batman has had the most animated screen time of any DC superhero, with seven television series of his own, a central character in seven other series, a full length theatrical film, and three direct to DVD movies prior to this “DC Universe” series.

This “movie” is not a single story, but rather six “shorts” designed as a tie-in to the live action films of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”. Each segment was done in the format of Japanese “Anime” with a different creative team putting their own unique style to the mix, in story and in art.

If you are a completest, you’ll want to add this to your Batman collection, or to complete this series of DC movies. Some of the segments aren’t bad, but overall I was disappointed.

“Wonder Woman” puts the spot light onto a character that deserves far more attention outside of the pages of DC Comics then she is given. Wonder Woman is one of DC’s “Big Three”. However, unlike Superman and Batman that have had numerous multimedia outings, Wonder Woman can only claim one live-action television series from the 1970’s. Yes she has been part of all but one animated interpretation of the Justice League, and has been a guest on other cartoons, but nothing to claim as her own until now.

The movie does a good job of capturing the essence of the character, and adapting close to 70 years worth of comic book history. An element I would preferred they left out is the invisible jet. It feels out of place with everything else presented about the Amazons in this movie. Over the years the extent to which Diana can “fly” has varied greatly, and the invisible jet is seldomly seen these days. (pun intended)

This was a strong redemption from “Batman: Gotham Knight”, and hopefully it will help pave the way for a live-action theatrical film which is decades overdue. At they very least she deserves a new (live or cartoon) series for TV, she is a princess after all.

“Green Lantern: First Flight” tells the story of Hal Jordon’s induction into the greatest interstellar police organization the DC Universe has ever known. “Justice League: The New Frontier” centered heavily around Hal Jordon’s origin, so I was surprised that Hal Jordon was picked as the focus of this movie.

This of course is a contemporary telling, and completely unrelated to the silver age tale of “The New Frontier” .  Also unlike that story, after Hal receives his ring, the action moves very quickly to a galactic setting. Again the producers did an excellent job of taking the character’s rich comic book history, and offering up an entertaining yarn that new and old fans can enjoy.

I was delighted that Hal Jordon was in the spotlight, since he was the Green Lantern I grew up with, and he’d been absent from recent animated television productions. I was also delighted that we got to hear the classic Green Lantern Oath at the end, which made the movie just about perfect in my book.

Click here to read DC ANIMATED MOVIES PART TWO: THE WISH LIST“.

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