Monday, September 17, 2018

The Death of Superman

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Did Millennials kill Superman too?  Is nothing safe from the vengeful wrath of Millennials?



The Death of Superman – 4 out of 5

When Superman died in the early 90s in the comics, it blew my damn mind.  Being a comic geek, I’m no stranger to seeing beloved characters dying but nothing remains dead in this fictional world but seeing the Big Blue Boy Scout meet his end somehow felt very different.  Granted, Superman did make his predictable return but I'll never forget that image of Lois cradling a dead Superman in her arms after an epic battle against the monster Doomsday.  Since then, DC has shown us this death in an animated form with the amazing Superman:  Doomsday and then in live-action format in Batman v Superman.  Well, DC decided to pull from this well again and show Superman die at the hands of Doomsday all over again but this time it is for their cohesive animated universe.  Despite the fact I have seen him die so many times (including reading the comic over and over again) this new adaptation doesn’t feel like a re-tread and it might be one of the more emotional animated films DC and Warner Bros. has developed.

He's just hanging his cape out to dry, right?  RIGHT?!?

As Superman (Jerry O’Connell) remains a hero to the citizens of Metropolis and the world, he is loathed by Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson).  While Luthor secretly works on ways to rid the world of what he perceives as an “alien menace,” Superman’s alter-ego; Clark Kent, struggles with his relationship with Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn).  As he reveals his true self to Lane, a meteorite appears through a boomtube and crash into the ocean.  Inside the meteor lives an unstoppable monster called Doomsday and it escapes its prison and weaves a path of destruction towards Metropolis.  The Justice League; Batman (Jason O'Mara), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), The Flash (Christopher Gorham), Aquaman (Matt Lanter), Cyborg (Shemar Moore), Martian Manhunter (Nyambi Nyambi) and Hawkman, attempt to stop the creature but are easily defeated.  It’s now up to Superman to take on this raw form of anger and power but it will take everything within the hero to stop it.

Does he get his eye beams from the same dimension that Cyclops gets his?
(Google it, seriously)

A nice little nod and wink to the comic with Lex Luthor
in that ridiculous wig and chinstrap beard.  Also, I gotta
say that Rainn Wilson was a great Luthor.
The Death of Superman could have easily been an exhausted ride since we already seen this story adapted before—although not as exhausting as the number of times we’ve had to see Thomas and Martha Wayne (Martha?!?  Why did you say that name?) get gunned down.  I’ve seen them die so many times that the trauma almost makes me want to become Batman myself.  However, the film is able to keep the familiar story fresh enough as it takes from both the comics, the previous animated adaptation and the live-action DCEU feature and mashes them all up into a story that fits with this New 52 inspired animated universe.  It’s exciting, action-packed and even works the emotional level perfectly in order to create a story that stands out among the rest of the animated library.

Punch Doomsday in the crotch, Supes!!!

On the weaker side of things, this film does have some problems with its character animations.  Too often characters and their facial reactions are very static and it’s hard to connect emotionally with them.  Yes, I did say this was the most emotional of the DC animated films but it only accomplishes this towards the end of the feature and this is mostly done thanks to the score and the story’s ending.  Most of the time, the characters either have blank looks or fighting faces.  There isn’t much nuance to the character animations and this is something I’m really starting to notice in DC’s animated films.  Finally, and this was a complaint in my last DC animated film review, character action and environments don’t seem to be moving at the same pace.  For example, characters will be moving but the background and surrounding environments (like the floor) seem to be moving differently from them and the imbalance makes the animation look awkward.  Ultimately, this imbalance and lack of emoting from the cartoon characters is easy to overlook but not impossible to ignore.

For context, Lois here is supposed to be distraught but looks bored.

This shaky quality is just a minor speed bump in The Death of Superman.  I really liked the adjustments made to the story so that it fits with the current continuity.  The voice acting is fantastic and I especially felt that Jerry O’Connell was doing a tremendous job as Superman.  Finally, the action is huge and exciting as hell.  They really captured the power that both Superman and Doomsday have.  Thankfully, DC didn’t bother to include some of their more problematic issues like their underlying sexism and I’m glad they weren’t trying to force an R-rating—instead, they just worked on telling a good story.  Granted, this film isn’t as cinematic or as dynamic as Superman:  Doomsday and it feels really flat when the two are compared but as the great battle between hero and villain progresses, the film starts to take some chances and really push the way they are showcasing the fight.  Overall, The Death of Superman is able to tell the iconic comic storyline and tell it in a new way that doesn’t feel too different but doesn’t feel too similar either.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! What's the conversion of Hell to US Currency?



Suicide Squad:  Hell to Pay – 4 out of 5

Task Force X’s time in the world outside of comic books has been mixed at best.  I liked how they were handled on Arrow, the first animated film was okay and the live-action adventure for the DCEU definitely has its problems but, overall, I will admit I enjoyed the feature.  Well, the Suicide Squad is back for another deadly mission in the DC animated universe with Hell to Pay and, despite some very noticeable hiccups, I definitely find this one to be a better mission than their first animated film.

"Okay, everyone just stand together for the promotional material...aaaaand
off you go on your suicide mission."

It's quite an achievement that DC made an animated
movie with Harley Quinn and didn't use the story to
get her naked or put most of her emphasis on sex.
Amanda Waller (Vanessa Williams) is diagnosed with a terminal illness and quickly assembles Task Force X.  Under the leadership of Deadshot (Christian Slater), she instructs the team to find a man by the name of Steel Maxum (Greg Grunberg) and retrieve a mysterious and mystical black card that he is in possession of.  Deadshot leads Bronze Tiger (Billy Brown), Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer van Straten), Copperhead (Gideon Emery), Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre) and Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), and together they set out to find this black card.  They soon learn that this card maybe Waller’s ticket to avoiding the darker aspects of the afterlife but they also discover that they aren’t the only one seeking the card as it seems that Zoom (C. Thomas Howell) is hot on their tails.

Running super fast apparently gives you a ridiculously small waist.

Hell to Pay hits all the things that DC’s animated films are doing right and only gives glancing blows to the things it habitually gets wrong…and then seems to lean into some new and awkward bad things that aren’t usually noticed in their films.  As a whole, however, the film is done fairly well and offers up a nice story that connects to one of DC’s best animated films and is able to balance that line of being dark and gritty without feeling like it is doing so in a transparent way of getting an R-rating.

Bronze Tiger is definitely one of the highlights of this film and Billy Brown voiced
the character excellently.

Seriously, Urbaniak's voice felt just right as Pyg.
Like most of DC’s animated library, Hell to Pay has a fantastic voice acting cast.  All the members of Task Force X are cast exceptionally well—I particularly liked Vanessa Williams as Waller and I really loved how badass Billy Brown made every line from Bronze Tiger feel.  I also felt that casting James Urbaniak as Professor Pyg is about as perfect casting as one can get.  I was also really happy to see that this was an R-rated animated feature that felt like the story warranted the rating and not the rating warranting the story—which happens too often with DC.  Finally, I really enjoyed how tight the story was and how nothing about it felt overstuffed or like it had a rushing plot.  Sadly, one thing that did disappoint me was some of its technical aspects, specifically when it concerns character animation and its use of integrating 2-D and 3-D animation.

I gotta say, I'm very surprised with you, DC.  You are being sexually gratuitous
with a male character for a change.  That's progress.  At least for you.

There’s a very distinct style to DC’s animated films.  It’s not a bad look but it is amazingly uniform and it results in character designs that all look painfully similar.  I’ve said before that it might be nice to see DC get a little more experimental and try out some new animated looks (why not?  There are different artists for all different comic books) but the real killer for the animation here is some truly awful 3-D animation and some awkward character animation.  There were many times, especially during action scenes, where characters weren’t moving in concert with the backgrounds and it made viewing a little jarring.  For example, the floor is moving slower than a character is walking and such.  However, the worst part was seeing 3-D animation that looked like it was lifted from the late-90s being integrated into the film.  There is no way around saying it but this 3-D animation just looked crummy and didn’t fit with the rest of the animated style.  It was incredibly distracting.

The still doesn't do it justice but those 3-D backgrounds didn't blend with the
2-D characters.

Even with its animation issues, Suicide Squad:  Hell to Pay delivers a compelling and exciting DC story.  The mature content and darker action never feels gratuitous like so many other DC animated features, the story is solid and flows well and the voice acting is exceptional.  Overall, though, the aspect I enjoyed the most was how this film so tightly connected to another film in the DC animated universe.  Essentially, all these films are connected in the same universe and they can often be seen continuing threads but they rarely ever reference one another as this one does and I really enjoyed that.