Thoughts On Justice League

JL Film PosterIt’s been years since I’ve written a review of anything, but after seeing Justice League on opening day, I’ve had some thoughts percolating in my mind.

First up, I’m a big Justice League fan. I’ve always been a DC Comics diehard and have been devouring comics since before puberty, so I have thirty years of minutiae stored up in my brain to “impress” my friends and answer the occasional quiz question. When DC rebooted their entire line with the New 52 initiative, I pretty quickly stopped feasting on superhero comics, but I do enjoy the occasional nibble.

In short, I was disappointed with the JL film. Yes, there were some good things about it, and there was some serious behind the scenes issues that led the film to not being all it should’ve been, but with that in mind, here are a few bullet points.

I like Ben Affleck. He’s a great actor and director, and is actually a pretty good choice to play an older Batman. However, just because he has pointy ears and a gruff voice doesn’t make him the Dark Knight. When asked what his superpowers are, Batman answers, “I’m rich.” That’s not something Batman would say. That’s a Tony Stark line. It doesn’t belong here. With the Flash and Cyborg, the film has enough humour. Don’t drag Batman in to it too. Let him be Batman. Not everyone needs to be witty.

The first scene is all about how Superman inspires people, and how his death at the hands of Doomsday at Batman v Superman has united the world in a sense of loss. In the two Superman films we’ve seen starring Henry Cavill prior to this, there’s nothing inspiring about him. He doesn’t inspire. He terrifies! He’s not warm, and smiling. Thor has taken the role that Superman should have. If you ask anyone (kids or adults), who’d they’d love to hang out with, I’d imagine most would easily choose the happy god of thunder over the glowering, morose Man of Steel. This is a Superman who allowed his earthly Dad to die, caused massive property damage and killed Zod infront of a traumatised family, when he had so many other options available. (Fly him up to space! spin him round so he loses consciousness! even break his limbs! anything but neck snapping!). The Superman who has existed for almost a century in pop culture, and who will outlast all film makers, is someone who cherishes life and only takes it as an absolute last resort. The last time Superman was properly portrayed was in the 1980s with the maginificent Christopher Reeve. Who else could say, “I like pink very much Lois,” with a straight face, let alone with gravitas and sincerity? The world would not mourn the death of this version of Superman. They barely knew him, let alone embraced him.

There was a cleaner who showed up briefly at STAR Labs. They could’ve made him Rudy Jones, who becomes the Parasite, and as Kevin Smith pointed out – even the thief at the start of the film could’ve been a DC character, rather than a generic bad guy. Again, the terrorists who Wonder Woman stops could’ve been anyone from DC’s rich history, like Cheetah, or the Royal Flush Gang, or even someone linked to Steppenwolf, to give the villain  much needed dramatic weight. Speaking of which…

Steppenwolf had no visible motivation. A scene where he’s speaking to a hidden Darkseid would’ve helped tremendously. Perhaps he could be sent off to earth amidst cheering crowds from Apokolips, or he’s failed to conquer other planets before and this is his last attempt before Darkseid executes him in dishonour, and he thinks earth will be an uneasy target. As it is, Steppenwolf just shows up to cause havoc and..be bad.

There was no need for the jokes at Aquaman and the approach they took to make him the tough guy was desperate. I can imagine the writers thinking, “Quick! Let’s make fun of Aquaman before the audience does, and then we’ll show how grumpy and angry he really is. That’ll shut them up!” Aquaman is a great character, as Peter David has shown with his tremendous run on the comics. When your film stars apologizing for a great character, it’s not off to a good start. The acting here is great though, and Jason Momoa, like his castmates does a great job with these versions of the characters.

The Russian family at the final battle was odd. Perhaps it was meant to be a microcosm of the potentail destruction the rest of the world would face, like the family at the end of Batman v Superman was.

Okay, now the good points….

It was pretty awesome to see Superman unleashed and take on the whole League single-handedly. Oh yeah.

The humour generally works, with the scene with Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s lasso a nice touch.

The Mother Box battle/Amazonian escape was thrilling.

Both end credits scenes are great, and even the actual credits thanked comics creators such as Jack Kirby, and I noticed Detective Crispus Allen, who eventually becomes The Spectre, listed as a character. Nice.

DC’s animated films have a much better track record of their live action output, barring the last two (The Killing Joke, Batman and Harley Quinn) and I’m excited to see the two Death and Return of Superman animated films that kick off next year.

Geoff Johns is a legend and super talented writer, so his continued involvement in any live action DC films is a huge step in the right direction. I am cautiously optimistic about what DC has planned next, and the Wonder Woman film showed that they can get it right. Come on DC. You can do it!

DC’s Animated Shared Universe

Thanks to what Marvel Studios have been doing with their films since Iron Man debuted on the silver screen, the concept of a “shared universe,” is now in fans’ minds. Of course, comics have been doing that for decades, and it’s called “continuity. It’s a lot harder to do on film though, and now that with the Man of Steel sequel and its myriad DC Comics character cameos is underway, they can focus on unifying the animated films.

Since Warner Bros./DC Comics released their first animated film based on their massive library of comics tales in 2007 focused on The Death of Superman tale, they’ve been producing about two such films a year. They have varied greatly in terms of tone and cast, but with Justice League: War and the upcoming Son of Batman, that looks set to change.

“This will definitely be the first salvo in doing new movies that are in continuity with each other,” producer James Tucker told Comic Book Resources. “Our next movie is going to be Son of Batman, and that Batman will be the same Batman that you see in Justice League: War. Basically, we’ll have two concurrent series of Justice League movies and Batman movies, and they’ll be in continuity with each other. So it’s kind of world-building.”

The new continuity will not be limited to adapting storylines from the current New 52 line of DC superhero books, according to Justice League: Wardirector Jay Oliva. “We can do original content, we can do New 52 stuff,” he said. Indeed, Oliva’s next animated project will be Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the successful Batman: Arkham video games.

Warner Bros. plans to put out two home releases each year based in this shared continuity, with an additional DC animated project every year as a stand-alone, continuity-free project (Batman: Arkham fills that spot for 2014), although Tucker told CBR that such plans are “always subject to change.”

You can read the whole story at The Hollywood Reporter, and below is the Sneak Peek from Justice League: War showing a glimpse at the epic Son of Batman film.

Justice League: War Clip

DC Comics/ Warner Bros. have been making great animated films for the last few years, at the rate of about two a year it seems. These are always accessible to those new to comics, and are always based on some classic and recent tales, and come with entertaining and informative bonus features. Since DC have a hit (Young Justice, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and miss (quickly cancelled Beware the Batman!) ratio when it comes to their cartoons on TV, these animated films are a much safer bet.

Their next one is called Justice League: War and is based on the first few issues of the 2011 comics tale told by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee about how the League first met. Below is the first official clip, which seems to follow the comic pretty closely, and a description.

When the powerful Darkseid and his massive, relentless forces invade Earth, a group of previously unaligned super heroes – misunderstood and, in some cases, hunted by the authorities – discover the only way to fend off the attack will be to work together as a cohesive unit. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Shazam and, in his origin story, Cyborg combine their respective talents in an all-out battle to save the planet. Based on the 2012 graphic novel, “Justice League: Origin,” by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee, Justice League: War provides a glance into the world before the Justice League was created, and offers the initial animated incarnation of DC Entertainment’s “The New 52.”

“Justice League: War” arrives via Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digitial HD on February 4, 2014from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

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Brave and the Bold Season 1 and JL: War

Finally! There’s no mention of any special features, and putting B’wana Beast on the cover seems an odd choice, but one of the funnest and funniest animated shows of recent years is now on Blu-ray. Official details below.

Courtesy of Warner Archive comes the complete first season of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” on Blu-ray this Tuesday, November 5. This 2-Disc, 26-Episode collection presents the series’ inaugural season in all its crisp and clear 1080p High Definition, as it was meant to be enjoyed.  A galaxy of Bat-tastic team-ups await as they face any peril including other heroes OUTRAGEOUSLY stealing the show ­in their relentless pursuit of justice. And fun.
Under the aegis of producer James Tucker, Batman: The Brave and the Bold” bravely challenged modern fan conceptions of The Dark Knight while boldly utilizing the richness of the entire DC Comics universe. The result is a sly and skillful blend of Dick Sprang’s Batman, TV’s timeless 1966 incarnation, Bruce Timm’s animated series and scores of others which creates a unique show that appeals to fans both new and old. Lead voice actor Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show, Office Space) uses his crack comic skills to channel Kevin Conroy’s Caped Crusader, making his Bats the ultimate straight man in the world’s funnest cape cartoon. And he’s aided by a legion of vocal acting titans (and directed by legendary voice director Andrea Romano) that includes John DiMaggio (Aquaman), Paul Reubens (Bat-Mite), James Arnold Taylor (Green Arrow), Will Friedle (Blue Beetle), Tom Kenny (Plastic Man), Grey Delisle (Black Canary) and Neil Patrick Harris (The Music Meister).
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In related DC Comics animated news, the trailer for the latest film, Justice League: War has been released. It’s based on the first few issues of the title’s relaunch in 2011, and features Wonder Woman in an unpleasing costume, and the first meeting of the JLA. It’s also the first animated film of the New 52 approach, but I hope we still get pre-New 52 films in the future. DC/Warner Bros. have a great success rate in their frequent animated films, and with all their bonus features, they serve as a great entryway to the DC Universe. Official details, trailer and box art below.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will distribute JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR as a Bu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and for Digital Download on February 4, 2013.When the powerful Darkseid and his massive, relentless forces invade Earth, a group of previously unaligned super heroes – misunderstood and, in some cases, hunted by the authorities – discover the only way to fend off the attack will be to work together as a cohesive unit. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Shazam and, in his origin story, Cyborg combine their respective talents in an all-out battle to save the planet. Based on the 2012 graphic novel, “JusticeLeague: Origin,” by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee, JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR provides a glance into the world before the Justice League was created, and offers the initial animated incarnation of DC Entertainment’s “The New 52.”

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR features the voices of Jason O’Mara (Vegas, Terra Nova), Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs), Justin Kirk (Weeds), Alan Tudyk (Suburgatory), Serenity, Firefly), Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible III), Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds), Sean Astin (LOTR films), Bruce Thomas (Army of Darkness) and Steve Blum (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox). Producer is James Tucker and director is Jay Oliva from a script by Heath Corson.

 
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Justice League: Doom Review

I was very impressed with DC/Warner Bros’ latest animated film, based on the classic Tower of Babel story from the comics, in which Batman inadvertently betrays his fellow Leaguers.

Check out my review here.

Tim Daly Interview for Justice League: Doom

On Feb 16 the West Coast Premiere at the Paley Centre takes place, but on Feb 28, Justice League: Doom, the latest animated DC Comics film, will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray. Below is an interview conducted by Warner Bros. with regular Superman voice actor Tim Daly.

The quintessential voice of the Man of Steel – primetime television star Tim Daly – once again returns to his original animated role of Superman in JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies.

Daly set the standard as the voice behind the world’s ultimate super hero for Superman: The Animated Series as well as in several animated movies and video games. While fanboys hail his vocal performance as their point of recognition, the Emmy nominated actor is known well throughout the world for his primetime television series roles, including eight seasons on Wings, an intense recurring role on The Sopranos, a memorable turn on HBO’s landmark mini-series From The Earth To The Moon, and his current ABC hit series, Private Practice.

QUESTION: What’s the crux of JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM from Superman’s perspective?

TIM DALY: Well, as usual, it’s all about saving the planet. But first, the Justice League has to save the Justice League. Batman disappoints his colleagues in the Justice League by having a plan to stop any rogue Justice League member, and by allowing those plans to be stolen. Superman understands Batman, though – he really has created these contingency plans for  a pretty noble reason.  He’s trying to protect the world by inserting some checks and balances into this system, realizing that the Justice League has an incredible amount of power, and he wants to make sure that they always use that power in a way that’s not destructive.

QUESTION: Are you able to turn on and off the Superman voice without hesitation, or is there some sort of warm-up involved – mentally or vocally?

TIM DALY: There’s just a lot of technical things to keep in mind. You get warmed up like you do with anything and, after a little rehearsing, it’s all second nature. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to go back and do a few lines over again – you want these things to be just right. But you don’t necessarily jump straight back in. I mean, it’s not like I walk around being Superman in real life.  But when you read the script and put yourself in the position that Superman is in – I mean, he’s always saving the planet, for God’s sake. When you realize that, it’s not difficult to take the gravitas of the situation and make your voice do what it needs to do.

QUESTION: As well as you know this character after all of these years, are you ever shy to offer suggestions about how certain dialogue might be presented or altered?

TIM DALY: Usually the writing is pretty great, but then again, I can’t keep my mouth shut.  If I think something can be better, I’ll speak up and say so. But I will explain why I’m making the suggestion. I actually find that writers respond very well to being asked questions.  “Why would Superman say that?”  “Would it be better if I said it this way?” You don’t just want to be critical – that doesn’t benefit anyone. The best creative work usually comes from a collaboration.

QUESTION: Have you ever found yourself using the Superman attitude or voice in real life?

TIM DALY: I did a little bit when my kids were young.  And I found that it worked much better on my daughter than my son.  I would say to her, (beefs up his voice), “Stop that right now.” And she would be suitably taken aback. But my son, he didn’t really care.

QUESTION: Has providing the voice of Superman helped you learn anything about yourself or changed you in any way?

TIM DALY: Maybe a little bit.  Maybe some of what gets you through your walks in the world is attitude.  Certainly Superman has a lot of power and he doesn’t have to be showy, rather he carries that confidence quietly.  He knows what he can do. I certainly am not capable of pulling that off in my own life.  But knowing that, I can fake that attitude to help me out now and then.

QUESTION: What Superman memorabilia have you collected over the years?

TIM DALY: I have a beautiful wooden Superman statue with a removable cape – I really love that piece. I have a cel from the original Superman series cartoons.  And I have a gold Superman “S” pin. And then there’s my tights, uh, but don’t tell anymore.

QUESTION: TV and film is usually a one-way experience for you.  You don’t really get to see the final product with an audience very often.  But you’re coming back to the Paley Center in Los Angeles for the premiere of JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM – and this will be your second time seeing one of the DC Universe animated movies alongside the fans. What was your experience like watching Superman/Batman: Apocalypse last time?

TIM DALY: It was really great because the fans were so into it.  Fan reaction is really wonderful to experience in person, especially fans of this genre. They’re so passionate. And it was also fun because it was just my voice and Superman’s image.  Usually when I see myself in a film or on television, there’s about a six-month period where I can’t look at it because all I’ll see are the mistakes. I’m just appalled by the person that I see.  The camera sees me from angles that I’ve never seen myself, so I never think it’s me.  I look at that and I think, “My God, that’s me.” But with these films, I can look up and it is Superman on the screen.  So I don’t have to go through all that. He has no flaws.

QUESTION: What’s the magic of working with dialogue director Andrea Romano?

TIM DALY: The great thing about working with Andrea is that she loves it so much, and she’s so positive about it.  You can’t fake that.  Even after all this time, doing 41 shows at a time, all the series and films, she’s right there with the same enthusiasm and love for the material. I don’t know how she keeps it all straight. Plus, she really loves actors – you always feel like she’s rooting for you.  And that makes it very easy.

 

Justice League: Doom Clip

On February 28 the next animated film to be released is Justice League: Doom, and here’s a new clip from it showing Batman and his buddies fighting the Royal Flush Gang.

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