Monday was big day for this particular super-hero fan, as I took in not one but two DC-related movies. Obviously, I, like so many others over the past few days, hit the local movie theatre (with my wife in tow) to catch the big-screen incarnation of Watchmen. Upon our return home, there was nothing on TV and my attempts to engage my better half in conversation about the movie failed. So I booted up my computer and popped in a DVD I’d rented: Warner Bros. Animation’s latest DC Universe, direct-to-video release, Wonder Woman.
Hulk Vs. direct-to-video animation
Directors: Sam Lui (Thor)/Frank Paur (Wolverine)
Writers: Christopher Yost & Craig Kyle
Studio: Lionsgate Films/Marvel Animation
My wife and I were at Blockbuster a short while ago, looking for a flick to kill an evening. While she was off picking something out for the both of us, I happened upon this DVD, and I decided to give it a look (figuring I’d watch it on my PC while my better half immersed herself in one of those History Channel shows I find so tedious). The animation for both short films is sharp, and it seems to be somewhat in keeping with the house style for the new Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon. It’s obvious this DVD is intended more as a marketing tool for forthcoming big-screen films featuring Marvel properties (this summer’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the in-production Thor flick), and I went in with that in mind, eyes wide open. With the two short animated films, Hulk Vs. offers up a mixed bag. There’s a nice introduction to the players and Asgardian culture one needs to appreciate Thor, but the Wolverine short is awful, its gratuitousness matched only by the completely ineffectual nature of its script.
Superman: Doomsday direct-to-video animated movie
Voice actors: Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, Adam Wylie, Ray Wise, Swoozie Kurtz, Cree Summer, John Dimaggio & Tom Kenny
Directors: Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery & Brandon Vietti
Writers: Bruce Timm & Duane Capizzi
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Ads for this DVD billed it as an adaptation of the original 1992-1993 comic-book storyline, but the writers and producers have diverged significantly from the source material. While it’s definitely inspired by “The Death of Superman” and takes a few cues from it, it’s really an original plot. I was surprised, but after a while, I was taken in by the new story. The 75-minute feature moves along at a brisk pace, never letting go of the audience’s attention. The animation is slick and polished. The only real disappointments to be found with this feature is that it’s perhaps too much of a pared-down version of the original story, but more importantly, the climactic confrontation between good and evil is perhaps the least compelling scene in the movie. It’s the one predictable sequence in the film, but given the nature of the plot and genre, that’s certainly to be expected to some extent.
Justice League Unlimited Season 2 DVD box set
Writers: Dwayne McDuffie, J.M. DeMatteis, Matt Wayne, Paul Dini, Geoff Johns,
Directors: Joaquim dos Santos & Dan Riba
Producers: McDuffie, Bruce Timm & James Tucker
Publisher: Warner Home Video
When Justice League Unlimited first aired, I didn’t catch it on a regular basis. I don’t get the Cartoon Network in my cable package, and here in Canada, the show aired on YTV. The schedule was rather sporadic and choppy, though, and I’d miss several episodes in a row. It was frustrating, but as the Justice League and JLU shows were being released, the age of DVD releases of TV shows was upon us. I felt confident I’d get my chance to see every episode, and I was right. I’ve picked up every set, and I was eager to see the series wrap up with this final 13-episode run. The producers and writers have clearly opted to take a more traditional approach to super-hero storytelling, making for a season that’s more appropriate for all ages. The second season of Unlimited continues with efforts to include a diverse array of second-tier and even obscure DC characters, and it’s even more satisfying that the first season in that regard. These cartoons are a delight, full of fun and energy, serving as a celebration of the wonder and fantasy the genre has offered over the past seven decades.
300 the movie
Actors: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Rodrigo Santoro & Andrew Tiernan
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Snyder. Kurt Johnstad & Michael Gordon
Studios: Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures/Virtual Studio
Like many filmgoers in the west this weekend, my girlfriend and I attended a screening of 300, the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic-book series of the same name (most have been referring to the original work as a graphic novel, but they seem to have forgotten it was released in an episodic format initially). The historical epic is surprisingly accessible for the masses, and it’s been long enough since I read Miller’s original work that the story offered a couple of surprises along the way. Obviously, the greatest appeal of the movie is the never-ending array of visual delights, from stunning special effects to Miller’s dazzling character designs. In fact, one’s initial impression of this film is that its appeal rests entirely in the visual experience, that storytelling and characterization are barely secondary concerns. But that’s really not the case. The actors’ charisma — especially that of star Gerard Butler — keeps the audience involved in the plot even when alien and monsters visions aren’t filling the big screen.