Infallible Fish Reviews: Batman Hush Review

Blog Batman Hush Review Title

Hush Batman. Hush

Okay, this is one of those reviews where I don’t quite know where to start, or how personal I should get. I have a lot of mixed feelings regarding the source material of this adaptation, but at the same time a movie should really stand by itself and be entertaining without any prior knowledge. So here’s what I’m going to do, the first part of this review I’m going to try to review the movie just as a movie and keep my opinions of the comic out of it, then I’ll look at this as an adaptation afterwards. That’s the fairest way I can think to do this so let’s get on with it.

Batman Hush is the latest of the DC Universe animated films, it’s set in the same continuity as the Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen films (there’s even a few cute little nods to those films), and, overall, it’s an enjoyable action romp. There’s plenty of fights, by which I mean the film is mostly combat, the story has a large cast and the majority of them get to show off just how good they are at fisticuffs at one point or another. Also, while the animation is DC’s usual standard and house style for these movies, I was impressed by how well choreographed a lot of the fights were. I wish this film had a bigger budget to make some of these scenes more epic, but damn some of these fights were worth the price of admission alone.

That being said, I feel the action is a detriment to this film at times. The story isn’t that complex, it’s basically about a  mysterious villain who knows who Batman is, manipulates various members of the rogues gallery into striking at the Caped Crusader in both physical and emotional ways, until the big reveal when he takes on Batman himself. As I mentioned though, there is a large cast to this film and there are a lot of set pieces that it needs to get through and, with as short as these DC movies often are, that’s going to have an impact on the pacing. Some moments are perfect, while others aren’t exactly rushed, all the necessary elements are there, they just needed an extra moment or two to properly breathe and build the right atmosphere.

That builds into another problem for the film and that’s our main villain, Hush himself. Now I’m not going into spoilers (I’ll save that for the adaptation portion), but he is kinda lacklustre in this film. He spends so much of the film as a figure in the shadows, manipulating events from the sidelines, and as a result we never really get to know him or to gauge how much of a threat he himself is. Sure the villains he throws towards Batman are well established, we know what they can do and how they can hurt the Dark Knight, Hush not so much. Then you get to the actual reveal of who Hush is and my reaction was ‘oh, it’s that guy’. I like the idea of who Hush is in this film, but with the execution, I never found him a threat, which is a problem when he’s meant to be our master villain.

Let’s end this section on a positive though, the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. A large chunk of this film is dedicated to developing their relationship, we see them grow closer, open up to one another and there’s the moment where you think that this time, this one time, we’ll get a happy ending. Then of course it all comes crashing down because Batman is a tragic hero and that ain’t ever going to change (especially not with the cyclical nature of comics). All of that is handled really well by the film and if you’re a Bat/Cat shipper then this film is for you. There’s a lot of great scenes between the pair and this film really is about their love story before anything else.

That brings me to the adaptation side of things. Batman Hush, the comic, is one of those seminal comics that I’ve seen on a lot of people’s ‘Best Batman Stories’ or ‘Batman Comics You Must Read’ lists, it’s well regarded and well loved. I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone complain about the story before, which makes me nervous because I do have complaints. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I love about Batman Hush, Jeph Loeb writes a fantastic Batman and Jim is nothing short of phenomenal on art. There are plenty of big blockbuster moments that I adore and, as a popcorn read, I adore Hush. However the comic is trying to be more than that, it’s trying to have a compelling mystery and it falls into a trap that a lot of mysteries do. The villain’s scheme is so far reaching, so perfect and detailed that there is no way anyone could ever pull it off without the writer twisting the narrative into some really convoluted shapes. The last few issues of this story break my suspension of disbelief into tiny pieces and throw them to the wind, because nobody would be able to get away or set up all the stuff that Hush does and a lot of the explanations come right the hell out of nowhere.

Thankfully that’s something this adaptation fixes. The story is greatly streamlined, with several characters that would take too much time to explain exercised from the story (sorry Jason Todd fans) and many of the more convoluted plot elements either cut or changed to make more sense (a lot of my issues with the ending of the comic are fixed in this version). The stuff it does keep is very accurate to the comic, some shots directly copying panels, though they lack the impact of Jim Lee’s artwork, and there are numerous lines lifted wholesale and put into the dialogue, which I enjoyed. Of course there are some changes, a lot of the smaller ones I’m perfectly okay with. Swapping out Huntress for Batgirl makes sense, she is the more recognisable hero. Swapping out Killer Croc for Bane I’m less sure of, but I guess it’s for the same reason.

That brings me on to the big change though, and that’s the identity of Hush. Spoiler coming in three…two…one…Thomas Elliot is not the bandaged bad guy in this film, which plays into the lacklustre reveal of who it actually is for this film. Like I said, I like the idea of Hush in this film, but we don’t get enough time with the guy for the moment to have the impact it needs to. In the comic, though Hush’s identity wasn’t revealed until the very end (which did make the finale a bit anticlimactic as he was bumped off as soon as we learn who was under the bandages), we did spend a lot of time with Thomas. We saw him interacting with Bruce, there were numerous flashbacks of their childhood together, letting us know who this guy was. Hush in this film? Not so much. I think it really comes down to a change in focus decided upon by the creators. Clearly they wanted the focus to be more on the Bat/Cat relationship, which left little time to explore Hush. It does mean the film loses a whole load of adaptation points, but if you like the Batman/Catwoman relationship I think you’ll like this film fine. Comic book purists not so much.

In the end, Batman Hush is a fun, action adventure with plenty of action and a good exploration of the Batman/Catwoman romance. If either of those things sounds to your liking then check this film out. If you’re after a comic book accurate adaptation or a deep exploration of our titular villain, then you’re going to be disappointed. I’d suggest looking up the ‘Heart of Hush’ comic as that’s my favourite Hush comic.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Infallible Fish Review: Justice League vs. The Fatal Five Review

Blog Justice League Fatal Five Review Title

Bravery is not the absence of fear, but acting despite it.

As much as Marvel deserves every accolade going for its cinematic universe (seriously Endgame was such a perfect culmination of the whole Infinity Saga and I’ve never had quite a cinema experience like it and maybe never will again), but it’s not the first company to put together a connected superhero universe outside of the comics. Let’s talk about the DCAU (DC Animated Universe), spanning across Batman the animated series, Superman the animated series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (I get iffy with whether the Teen Titans should be included since it had a different style to it and they never got to do any crossovers with the other shows so I’ll leave them off the list for now), but the DCAU is the reason I love superheroes. The shows it encompasses were my introduction to superheroes and while I also watched all of the Marvel cartoons as well, these are the ones I keep coming back to (and the reason I’m a DC fanboy). Why am I rambling on about this instead of the movie I’m meant to be reviewing? Well, because to me, this film feels like a lost episode of Justice League Unlimited (with added swearing and a fair amount of blood, but I’ll come back to that) and I feel that was very much the intention.

The nostalgia is certainly strong with this one, outside of the fact that the art style is that of the DCAU with classic Bruce Timm designs, we’ve also got Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg and George Newbern reprising their roles as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman respectively. Add on to that the soundtrack, which either outright plays the old themes or comes up with new arrangements of the classics, and I was a kid again, watching a brand new episode of Justice League Unlimited and I loved it. Seriously, after Batman the animated series, Justice League Unlimited was my favourite cartoon of the DCAU (the Cadmus arc is one of the finest story arcs in cartoon history as far as I’m concerned), with Batman Beyond and Static Shock close behind it. This film also follows in the spirit of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon and introduces us to a whole host of new heroes (some of whom I’ve never met before and am definitely going to look into more after watching this).

I suppose it’s about time I talked about the actual plot though and, as I mentioned it covers several areas of DC that I’m not that familiar with so forgive me if I get stuff wrong (I’m a DC fanboy but there’s only so much trivia I can store in my head, at least until I upload my consciousness to a supercomputer and absorb the internet and you will all bow before me! Sorry, went a bit super villain there, not sure why.) Anyway, we start off in the 31st century, where three members of the Fatal Five (including a guy who disintegrates everything he touches with his hand, a guy with an axe that can cut through anything and someone I have mentally dubbed ‘half-Metallo’) break into the headquarters of the Legion of Superheroes and steal a time machine. Luckily one of the Legionnaires, Star Boy, tags along for the ride and manages to seal the Fatal Five inside the time machine, on the downside, he’s now stuck in the past, a past that doesn’t have the medicine he uses to keep himself mentally stable. Oops. Luckily Star Boy runs into Batman. Unluckily he’s naked and going on about how he’s from the future, so he’s shipped straight to Arkham.

That brings us to our other starring hero, Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern. Now I’ll hold my hands up here and say that I know very little of Jessica Cruz, the fact that she’s a Green Lantern is about as far as my knowledge of her goes, I’ve never read a comic that features her before and after watching this movie, that feels like an oversight on my part. I have no idea how accurate the movie’s origin is for her, but the Jessica Cruz we get in this film is dealing with a whole heap of trauma and anxiety and it not only makes her a very sympathetic character, but it’s always good when mental health issues get talked about, we need more of this. Anyway, back to the plot, the Justice League accidentally releases the trapped Fatal Five, Oops, and they go after Jessica, wanting to use her to free the remaining two members of the Five, with Star Boy breaking out of Arkham to try to warn/help Jessica and convince her that, despite what she thinks of herself, she is quite possibly the bravest lantern going.

There’s a lot to love with this film for a DC fan like me, the animation is great, the characters are all on point and a lot of fun and the action is fantastic, however, that brings me to the problems with this film and, honestly, they’re the same problems that I have with the majority of DC’s original animated movies. One, it’s too short. I get these are done on a budget and it takes a lot of time and effort to animate stuff, but would an extra ten to twenty minutes really kill DC? Everything is there in the film, we see the bond develop between Jessica and Star Boy and they get a few minutes to mull over their issues, but that’s it. I just fell like the film needs a few extra minutes to breathe, to show us more of how Jessica and Star Boy cope, and it would make those moments were they shine all the more powerful.

Two, violence and language, now this film is by no way the worst offender, there’s only a couple of swear words and some of the more violent deaths are often quick or quickly moved off screen, but they are there (we see Superman lying in his own pool of blood). I’d be okay with this if it was necessary for the plot, but it’s not, so much of this film is trying to feel like the Justice League Unlimited cartoon and then Jessica will say s**t and I’m completely snapped out of the moment. Just because the main audience for this film is going to be fanboys like me who grew up on the cartoon doesn’t mean you need to insert blood and swearing to any decree, we get it, we’re an adult audience now, but inserting that stuff doesn’t make your product more adult, it makes it juvenile and frankly insulting so DC (and I know you’re reading this), stop it, just, stop it.

All in all though, I did enjoy Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, my small complaints about the language and violence aside, this film has been a great nostalgia trip for a fanboy. I’ve got to hang out with old friends I adore and got to meet some new icons who I hope to get to know better. If you’re a fan of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon or just fancy getting to meet a wider range of DC heroes then check this out.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Infallible Fish Reviews: Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

Blog Batman vs TMNT Review Title

Ninja…Turtles?

Okay, I’ve talked about my love of Batman before on this blog (he is my favourite superhero and I devoted a whole month to him a few years back), but in the almost five years of writing this blog, I’ve never talked about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which this movie finally gives me a chance to rectify. I fell in love with the Heroes in a Half Shell when I was a kid, their original cartoon was one of the tent poles of my childhood. There was so much to adore, cool character designs, comedy and ninjutsu action, not to mention that I’m pretty sure the TMNT is where my love of pizza started. Now putting fun-loving giant turtles into the same film as the grim Dark Knight may sound odd at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense.

Not only are there multiple, successful, mini-series that crossover these two beloved franchises, but I think they actually fit together rather well. I mean on the surface there’s the fact that both sets of characters have been trained by ninja masters so that gives you plenty of epic martial arts fights, but on a deeper level both franchises are chameleons. What I mean by that is you can take a character like Batman and drop him into a noir-soaked detective story or a globe-trotting adventure, he can fight demons and aliens and be back in time to punch a gangster. Batman can adapt to any situation and the TMNT can do the same. You can play them as goofy and silly, or dark and serious (just take a look at some of the comics for some of the more mature storylines), the franchise has been going for a long time now, with multiple iterations, each with their own style. Both of these franchises can adapt and survive to anything you throw at them and that makes them perfect for one another.

On to the movie though, and I suppose the best place to start is with the story that brings our favourite characters together. It’s a very simple story and, honestly, that’s exactly what it needed to be. Shredder and the Foot clan have come to Gotham for a secret deal, stealing experimental technology from across the city. Of course this brings them into conflict with Batman and when the Dark Knight hears about four mutant turtles running amok in his city, well, he’s not going to stand for that either. One major shell-whooping later and the turtles and the Caped Crusafer are ready to team up and take on the combined forces of Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul as they transform the inmates of Arkham into mutated monsters and plan to tear the whole city apart, because that’s what Ra’s does. It’s a simple, easy narrative, but that leaves room for all the great interactions and moments we as the audience want to see, which is the key to any good crossover. Whether its fights like Batman vs. Shredder or watching Donnie and Batgirl debate whether to refer to the green goop as mutagen or ooze, this film is packed with everything I wanted to see upon hearing the title.

Every character gets a moment to shine and, almost as importantly, a moment to interact with one another. I never knew I needed a scene of Mikey in the Batmobile, but my life is more complete now because I have it (then again, Mikey’s reaction to first seeing the Batmobile is priceless “What do you think something like that costs?” “My soul probably, since I’d pay that.” We all would Mikey, we all would). That’s something else I wanted to bring up with this film, and probably my favourite aspect of it, the dialogue. This is a really witty, funny script and none of the jokes feel forced, every line is just a natural zinger, whether it’s Commissioner Gordon longing for his retirement to literally anything that comes out of Mikey’s mouth. (The line that gets me the most though comes from two unnamed background characters as Mikey bursts into a pizza place and we overhear the conversation “I think we should see other people.” “But I don’t like other people.” I don’t know what it is about that line, but it had me in hysterics. Also I promise I’m going to stop quoting the film now, because I could seriously do that all day there’s so many lines I love). Also credit to a really terrific voice cast, well, except for the voice for Robin, but that’s only because that’s not the voice I’ve ever pictured Robin having. I get what they were going for, it just took a lot of getting used to.

Speaking of getting used to things, let’s talk animation. When I first saw the trailers for this film I was worried about the art style, it’s very reminiscent of The Batman cartoon and I thought it’d take me a while to get used, but surprisingly I adapt fast. I love the use of colour in this film, especially when the characters are just a silhouette with a single highlight colour, but the best of this film from a visual standpoint is the fights. The fight choreography in this film is the best I’ve seen in along while, you feel the weight of every hit and I’ve already mentioned the Batman vs. Shredder fight, which is amazing, both times, but every fight is great.

I could talk about this film all day, but it’s just going to be me gushing more and more and then I’ll start quoting it again so maybe it’s best I leave it here. If you’re a fan of Batman or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you need to see this film. It’s everything I wanted from a crossover, its witty, smart and immensely enjoyable. It has every moment and interaction you could hope for and I completely forgot to mention how much I love the soundtrack. This is not only the best batman film that DC has put out in a while, but one of the best DC Universe films I’ve seen in a long time. Cowabunga dudes!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Infallible Fish Reviews: Reign of the Supermen Review

Blog Reign of the Supermen Review Title

Superman Lives!

You know, it feels good to get excited for DC’s original animated films again. Heck, it feels good to be excited about all their movies, but we’ll stick to their animated stuff for now. Reign of the Supermen is the DC Universe’s latest offering and is a follow on to The Death of Superman (you can read my review of that film HERE). Can Reign stand in the same spot as its predecessor? Can it climb to the same highs that had me calling Death one of my favourite DC films in recent memory? No, not a chance, but it gives it a darn good try and I appreciate that. Considering the storyline and all the elements that this film had to juggle, this could have ended a lot worse than it actually did and I had a lot of fun with this film. It’s still going on my list of favourite DC animated films, just nowhere near as high as The Death of Superman.

Let’s break this down though and the best place I can think to start with is the story, so what is it? The film starts six months after The Death of Superman (and you should really watch that film before watching this one) and while a lot of people are still mourning Superman, as well as the ‘missing’ Clark Kent, life goes on. Also four new ‘Supermen’ have turned up to try and fill the void left by the Big Blue Boy Scott. We’ve got Superboy, a genetic clone of Superman, and others, that while strong is also way too cocky and with a bit of an ego problem (not surprising when you consider who his other ‘dad’ is). Next is Steel, an ordinary man who wears a robotic suit with a rocket-propelled hammer (I don’t care what anyone says, ever since I saw Alita rocket propelled hammers are the coolest weapons in existence to me). Then there’s the Eradicator, a strange being with all the power of Superman, but who’s a little overzealous when it comes to dispensing justice, let’s just say ‘resistant’ needs adding to his dictionary. Finally we have Cyborg Superman, a man who claims to be Superman and he certainly says all the right things, but he’s not all that he seems.

That brings me to this films biggest problem – it has too many characters. Don’t get me wrong, it does the absolute best it can with the run time it has, but this film really needed to be two hours or something to pack in the story arcs for each of these characters. You get the sense of who these people are, but you never really get to know them. Take Steel for example, I can tell you that he’s a good man, trying to live up to the legacy of a man he admired, but I feel like I’ve just read a character summary and don’t really know what makes him tick. Why did he decide to build his suit? Did he just come up with the idea, or has been working on it for a while? Does his boss know he’s probably using STAR labs equipment and materials to build his super suit? Did he learn to shut the bathroom window to stop people sneaking into his lair? I don’t know. I have similar issues with the Eradicator. He’s there to protect Kal-El and anything Kryptonian, okay, why is he going after Luthor and Intergang then? Why does he feel the need to get involved at all? Surely he should just standby in the Fortress, but no. I could understand him going after Superboy, seeing as he’s a clone and Kryptonians have a dodgy history there, but that’s never brought up.

Let’s talk about Superboy, him and Cyborg Superman are the two Super-Replacements we get to know best. Their arcs are squeezed in amongst all the other characters and action scenes, but we at least get a sense of who these people are. I like Superboy’s arc, starting out as a cocky little gremlin but slowly having that knocked out of him over the course of the film, he’s a good kid deep down, he just needs to let go of his arrogance and I like that it’s Lois that recognises that. As for Cyborg Superman, I can’t really talk about him without going into spoilers and the fact that a lot of his core motivation is saved up for the reveal of who, and what, he really is, but he makes for a great end boss. His motivations are understandable, if completely crazy.

Let’s talk about the other characters though. Lex is a little too petulant for my tastes, but everyone else does well with the brief bits their given. The Justice League scenes are still my favourite as I love the banter and the sense of camaraderie I get from them. However it’s Lois that steals the show for me. I wish more time was given to her investigation into the ‘Supermen’ and her interviewing them, or just a couple more scenes of her dealing with or pushing aside her grief. Her scene with Wonder Woman is another favourite of mine. I think it comes back to this film’s central flaw, it pushes character too much to one side in favour of plot and action. The action scenes are great, but there are a lot of them. Whereas The Death of Superman was a slow build to a final confrontation, this is more of a high-speed race as we go from one confrontation to another. Frankly I think it’s amazing that the film feels as cohesive as it does considering all the story elements, but the action and breakneck plot rob the story of the emotions it needs to really knock this story out of the park.

All in all I like Reign of the Supermen, but I don’t love it as much as it’s predecessor. It lacks the emotion and heart that the previous film had, replacing it instead with action, however good the action scenes are. That being said this is a very enjoyable film, the plot never really slows down, but it doesn’t feel rushed either. It gives you the information that it wants to give you and then moves on. The fights are epic, the banter is witty and there’s some really nicely animated sequences in here. My only wish with this film is that there was another twenty minutes or so that it could use to really dig into its story, but as it is, this is a fun film and a decent follow up to The Death of Superman.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Infallible Fish Reviews: The Death of Superman Review

Blog Death of Superman Review Title

“I’m just a guy from a small town who tries to do the right thing.”

Superman! I have to admit I wasn’t all that enthused when I heard DC were adapting the Death of Superman into one of their original animated movies (again), for several reasons. Don’t get me wrong the Death of Superman storyline in the comics is one of the classics (that I’ve never read. I feel like when I admit that there should be a knock at the door with some cloaked figure asking me to hand in my ‘DC Fanboy’ card, but it’s true.) There are a couple of reasons that I’ve never read it, one I’ve already seen a million adaptations of it (from the ‘you’re doing this way too early’ of Batman V Superman to the heartfelt of the Justice League cartoon’s ‘Hereafter’ two-parter. As a side note go watch those episodes, crazy Vandal Savage is the best Vandal Savage). Two, it basically boils down to a big fight, Doomsday is an unstoppable killing machine and that’s it, he’s a threat not a character and I’m really not interested in him in the slightest. No matter the incarnation the fight is always suitably epic, and however much I love a good fight, it takes more than that to make an interesting story.

That brings me to point three, Superman. Again I’m waiting for the knock at the door, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of Superman. I certainly like him a lot more than when I was a kid. Back then he was one of my least favourite superheroes, he was just a goody two-shoes with every superpower going, I was way more into heroes like Batman and Spider-Man. Flawed characters that I could relate to (and obviously I had a lot in common with a traumatised billionaire and science genius with the worst luck ever). It was only when I started getting into comics properly when I was in college that I came to appreciate Superman more. It’s not about his powers, but his personality. To paraphrase the Richard Donner Superman film, he is the light to show the way and I get that now. Heck we can use all the hope and optimism we can get nowadays. Why am I rambling on about all this and not getting to the actual movie, well, this movie actually means a lot to me now that I’ve seen it and I’m going to say something at the end of the review that I want to give proper context for. Enough blathering on though, let’s get to the movie.

The Death of Superman is DC’s second attempt at making this story into an original animated movie (Are they called DC Universe movies now?), the first being Superman: Doomsday which tried to cram two major story arcs into a 72 minute film so you can guess how well that went. This version is focused purely on the titular death and it is so much the better for that (the other arc is getting its own film in Reign of the Supermen, but I’ll come to that once I’ve seen it). Where this film excels is in its writing and it’s almost like getting a comic book writer (who is familiar with all of the characters) to write a comic book movie was a good idea. The pacing of this film is excellence, its starts out slow, but it uses that time to build character and the importance of what’s about to happen. We see how much Superman means to Metropolis, all the people who cheer for him, or stop to take a photograph or even those who worship him, you get a real sense of what he means to this city.

Also the writing gives us a great deal of warmth and wit to each and every character. Everybody talks like a normal person, or at least a relatable person, you get so much of people’s relationships just from the way they interact, Lois bemoaning Cat trying to get the scoop on her love life to Flash making fun of Batman going to a parent-teacher evening. You get the sense that these are actual people with lives all their own and that’s something that’s been missing from DC films, well except for Wonder Woman and Shazam so far. What this adds to the film is that you feel genuinely involved when all these people you’ve come to know over the short run time suddenly get their backsides handed to them by a monster like Doomsday and when Superman eventually steps into the fight, you know what it means to the people of this city to see their hero, their icon, batted and bloody fighting this thing.

Okay let’s talk about Doomsday. I still don’t think he’s an interesting character, but if you’re going to use an unstoppable killing machine as your main antagonist then this film is a blueprint for how you use him. Again it’s the slow build as Doomsday works his way up the ladder, starting by taking out grunts and civilians before mowing his way through the Justice League up to that final fight with Superman. Unstoppable is the best word for Doomsday; it’s hard to watch all these seasoned heroes getting utterly hammered by this monster, constantly building the threat so that when he does get to Superman you are worried. That final fight is brutal too, you see Superman bloody and bruised, his costume torn up and staggering all over the place, just trying to find a way to stop this monster that only seems to get stronger. A lot of the best action and animation is saved for the final fight and it’s really worth it.

Let’s talk about the animation for a second, when it comes to the action this is a pretty great film. It’s DC’s usual standard when it comes to these films, and I like all of the character models and designs. The only slight gripe I have is when it comes to more static or background shots. That’s where I feel a bit of the budget was saved, which is understandable, these films don’t have infinite budgets. There’s just a couple of awkward shots when characters are far off or standing still for a long time, not to mention all the empty streets. When it counts though this film is really good looking.

The central pillar of this film is really the relationship between Lois and Clark, as it should be. They have great chemistry and banter in this film (again I really like the writing in this film). It’s been done several times, but I like seeing how Clark struggles with revealing his secret to Lois (and the eventual reveal is both heart-warming and hilarious). This film never forgets Clark’s human side and that he’s Clark first, Superman second, that’s something writers forget at times.

In the end The Death of Superman is one of the best Superman, no, scratch that, one of the best DC films I have seen in recent memory. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s knows it’s characters and has some really great writing. If you’re going to watch any Superman film, make it this one (as well as, you know, the two Richard Donner Superman movies).

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Blog Spider Verse Review Title

“I’m from another dimension…another, another dimension.”

The best Spider-Man movie ever! I’m not even joking with that. Now I know I’m meant to be reviewing an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man today, but I’ve seen this film and people need to go see it, right this instant. As such Spider-Month is now going to be a Spider-Month and a half, I’ll get to Ultimate next week. So, back to this being the best Spider-Man film ever made, because while there are parts I love about all the previous Spider-Man films (Except Spider-Man 3, no, I tell a lie, I do like the Sandman stuff in that film, shame that’s pretty much the only part of that film I like, but anyway), all the previous Spider-Man films have their flaws. The Raimi films are incredibly corny in retrospect and Toby McGuire takes being a dweeb to a whole new level. The Marc Webb films are just, well I feel like apologising ‘cause they could have been great, they had so much potential and then it all got squandered. Homecoming is probably the most fun Spider-Man film, but it’s hamstrung by the fact that it removes nearly all of Peter’s core motivation of his Uncle Ben except for one brief mention. Into the Spider-Verse though? It doesn’t put a single foot wrong, beginning to end, I love every single second of this film.

This film understands it’s characters down to a cellular level, and considering the amount of Spider-Characters in this one that is a real achievement (See DC, this is how you do a team movie with no build up!). You get to understand each and every one of the characters, even if they don’t get much time in the spotlight, though everyone gets a least one moment to truly shine. Every character, from the heroes to the supporting to the villains gets something to show you what’s going on inside their heads and it’s a glory to behold. From Miles feeling the weight of the expectations on top of him, to Peter B struggling to find his way back to the man he used to be and even Gwen’s crushing guilt. I love each and every person in this film and is it too early to start petitioning Sony to give each of them their own film or should I wait five minutes?

As for the story, it’s pretty simple, but then it needs to be to fit everything in and that doesn’t mean the emotional and comedic moments hit any less hard. Our story starts with Miles, an ordinary kid struggling between the expectation of his police officer father and the elite school he’s found himself attending. One night while he’s out with his Uncle Aaron, putting his artistic talents to use, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and wakes up with his trousers suddenly a size too small and incredibly sticky fingers (Ouch, sorry Gwen, that had to hurt). Tracking down the spider that bit him, Miles comes across the one and only Spider-Man, whose in the middle of a fight with Green Goblin, Prowler and Kingpin, the later about to turn on a Super Collider that, as per sci-fi law, will destroy New York if left on for too long. The Collidor gets turned on, there’s an explosion and Spider-Man gives the key to destroying the Collidor to Miles, making him promise that he’ll destroy this place. Then Kingpin kills Spider-Man (spoiler). Miles does try to be Spider-Man, but he’s not very good at it and when he goes to Spider-Man’s grave, he finds another Spider-Man, Peter B Parker, from another universe.

See when the Collider turned on all sorts of dimensions were opened up and Spider-heroes from across the universes were pulled into Miles’ world. There is Spider-Gwen, from the universe where Gwen Stay (Peter’s first love) got bitten by the spider rather than Peter. Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage in the role he was born for) a Peter from a dark and gritty world where he’s a dark and gritty private eye, he becomes fascinated by a rubik’s cube and this whole colour thing. We also have Peni Parker who is psychically linked to a spider (who’s her best friend forever) and they fight together in a giant robot. Then there’s Spider-Ham from a universe of talking cartoon animals (and quite a bit of Looney Tunes inspiration). Now the Spider-heroes can’t stay in Miles’ universe (it’s literally killing them), they need to use the Collider to get back home and then destroy it before the whole of New York becomes an Escher sketch.

Now of the many things that makes this film great is the way it can balance both its comedy and its drama. On the one hand this film is hilarious, there are so many quick, sharp and just plain witty jokes, there were times I was struggling to breathe I was laughing so hard (the end credits scene is the funniest end credits I have ever seen). Also can I just take a moment to just say it feels like forever since I’ve seen some really good slapstick. The slapstick in this film is spot on, from the timing to the exaggeration to everything about the execution, I definitely have the feeling that the people behind this film were Looney Tunes fans. There’s also a plethora of funny lines and I need to see this film again just to hear all of Nicolas Cage’s lines. However this film can also which from comedy to drama and it does it perfectly. Whether its Gwen talking about not wanting ‘friends’ anymore or Kingpin remembering his family or Miles with his Uncle, you feel the pain and struggles of these characters. There’s a beautiful moment where Miles has just lost someone important and complains that the others can’t possibly understand and Gwen just reminds him that they’re probably the only people who could.

Now, let’s talk about the animation. Even if you’re not a Spider-Man fan, even if you aren’t interested in comic books in any shape or form, if you love animation you need to see this film. The style and artistry in this film is beyond anything, this may just be the best-animated film I have seen all year. The use of colour is breath taking, the speed with which it moves and the way it can switch from broody and sombre to bright and vibrant. Each character gets their own style and the way they blend seamlessly together. I…I don’t have the words, you have to see this film. So stop reading this and go, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is quite possibly the best Spider-Man film made so far. It’s smart, it’s funny and heartfelt. It understands all of it’s characters and gives each of them the chance to shine. Go see this film!

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

The Infallible Fish: Kubo and the Two Strings Review

Blog Kubo Review Title

“If I’m Beetle, and you’re Monkey, why isn’t he called Boy?”

If you ever need proof that animation is not only art, but one of this world’s greatest forms of magic, then look no further than the dark masters that reside within studio Laika. What they manage to put on the screen is nothing less than a miracle, how they blend computers and stop-motion animation can only be done by magic. I mean at the best of times stop-motion animation is a trade for either the most dedicated soul or a masochist (possibly both) and across all four of their films so far this studio has managed to create some of the most beautiful, jaw-dropping animation I have ever seen. One of the best parts of each film is in the end credits where we get to see all the machinery and time put into making the models move.

Okay, now that my little moment of worship is over (seriously, I’m considering making a shrine at this point), let’s talk about the actual film. Like I said before this is Laika’s fourth animated film and one of the aspects I love so much about this studio is that each film is completely different to the ones that came before. We’ve got a dark fairy tale in Coraline, a poignant story about differences and misperception in ParaNorman and a charming and funny little story about trolls wearing boxes in The Boxtrolls. Now we have a classic Japanese quest in Kubo and the Two Strings. Which is best? I honestly couldn’t say, it depends on personal preference and what you’re in the mood for. ParaNorman probably has one of the most heart-rending and powerful thirds acts I’ve seen in a film, but then again Coraline is definitely more my cup of tea (it’s a dark fairy tale and based on a Neil Gaiman story, what more could I ask for?) Kubo though, I think Kubo is definitely the best all-rounder of the Laika films.

Kubo has pretty much everything you could want in a family film, action, adventure, comedy and a whole lot of heart. It’s also outstandingly beautiful. With this film Laika have built a world that is brimming with fantastical things, from ancient caverns and mythical monsters, our heroes will have to cross snow-covered mountain, explore gloomy caves and find battle-scarred fortresses, and every single second of it shall be gorgeous. Enough gushing though, what’s the story?

Kubo is a storyteller with a very special talent (outside of being pretty darn good at his occupation), you see Kubo can make origami (you know, the folding paper thing) move with his mind! He puts this talent to use in his shows and everyone loves them, the only real problem though is that Kubo’s stories go on for a very long time and he never quite managers to finish one before the town bell rings for the drawing night. You see Kubo’s mother has warned him never to stay out past dark. The Moon King, his grandfather, is out to steal Kubo’s remaining eye (lovely family there, plucking out eyeballs, though at least it gives the kid a badass eyepatch), and if he’s ever out past dark than the Moon King and Kubo’s aunts will see him.

Then, one day, Kubo stays out past dark (oh come on, we all knew it was going to happen, at least the kid has an excuse, he just wants to talk to the spirit of his dead dada). Thus, his aunts find him and Kubo’s mother sacrifices herself so that Kubo can escape. Kubo wakes up on a snowy mountain in the company of a very serious monkey that used to be the figurine his mother always made him carry (wait for it, this film gets weirder, yes weirder than a moon king for a relative and living origami). So the quest begins, Kubo must gather up the three pieces of magical armour that his father once sought in order to face and defeat the Moon King. Along the way he’s companied by Monkey, the monkey, a little paper solider that points the way and may just hold the spirit of his father and a samurai cursed into the form of a giant beetle. They’ll battle a giant skeleton with swords in its head, a hypnotising sea monster and of course the evil aunts before Kubo finally comes face to face with the Moon King to avenge this family.

Okay, so this film is pretty much your standard quest, find mcguffin, face big bad at the end and avenge family (well, actually no, I’m not going to spoil the ending, it’s too beautiful to put into words). What makes this story stand out though, outside of the breath-taking visuals and great acting, is the characters and the imagination put into it. Kubo and the rest of the characters feel like real people, Kubo is just a kid and acts accordingly, being rebellious and joyful in equal measure, despite how hard life has been on him. He never knew his father, he’s had to take care of his mother since he was little, before finally losing her and then the rest of the family is out to steal his remaining eye (the kid has a right to be seething with anger, but he never gives in, more on that in a minute). The rest of cast could so easily have been stereotypes, but they’re filled with so much personality and emotion that you can’t help but care for them, there are some truly touching and beautiful scenes throughout this film, you feel all of their sorrow and their joy.

Heck, even the villains have the feels, they could so easily just have been 2-dimensial evil, but instead they have so much emotion, so much bitterness and anger. From their point of view they’re doing something good (as all great villains believe they are). Hey the good guys aren’t always right, they let their anger blind them and give in on occasion to same kind of bitterness that is driving the bad guys. In the end though, anger is not the solution and I’m not going to tell you what the actual solution is, you’ll have to see the film for that.

I also have to mention the fight scenes in this film, now I’ve seen Laika do astounding things with animation before and they certainly know how to do action, but it’s just the choreography and speed with the characters move that raised things to another level. My favourite has to be the fight between Monkey and one of the aunts, fighting on the ship made out of leaves that’s slowly sinking (I mentioned this film was imaginative right?)

I will shout the praises of Laika until I can’t speak any more, they are a studio that produces wonders and Kubo and the Two Strings is no different. It’s a film filled with beauty and imagination that has something for everyone to enjoy. It also has a heart as big as they come, Kubo is a hero to be admired, despite all the tragedy in his life, despite all that has been taken from him, he can still be kind and smile. This is a film about humanity, about it’s strength and how, if you can remember someone, they’re never really gone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some tissues and cry.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.