Infallible Fish Reviews: Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep

“It’s a sonic screwdriver. Never fails.”

What’s the Story?

The TARDIS lands the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria off the coast of England, where the ESGO complex is drawing natural gas from under the North Sea via a huge network of pipes and off-shore rigs. However something is interfering with the gas flow and there’s a strange sound, pulsating like a heartbeat, inside the pipes. Something ancient has awoken in the sea and this time the Doctor may not be able to stop it, but perhaps Victoria can? Regardless, soon the TARDIS team will be facing the fury from the deep!

The Review:

Season 5 of the classic era is one of my personal favourites in the show’s long history. Not only does it feature a TARDIS team quite close to my heart, with Patrick Troughton’s mischievous Doctor paired up with the ever-loyal Jamie and the sweet Victoria, but it also happens to be the ‘Base Under Siege’ season. Now a ‘Base Under Siege’ is a story archetype found throughout Doctor Who and it’s fairly self explanatory, the Doctor and co find themselves in some sort of facility or structure, a base if you will, and it’s under siege from some invading force. The majority of Season 5 is made up of stories like this and while they can be a little formulaic , they can also be the best of Doctor Who. They’re perfect for that teatime terror the show is so good at, throwing the characters into a pressure cooker and turning up the tension and unease.

Fury from the Deep is one such story, and it’s married with another of Doctor Who’s favourite tricks, taking something innocuous and making it creepy. In this case simple seaweed and foam suddenly turns into a writhing monster that could doom the whole human race! (Have I mentioned how much I love this show enough yet?). This story also gets points for being the first time that the Doctor uses his signature tool, the Sonic Screwdriver, and he uses it to actually unscrew something!

Before we get into the story though, let’s talk about the animation. We get a change in art style with this release and I’m not the biggest fan. It might just be a case of taking some time to get used to it, there’s nothing really that bad about designs themselves but the arms really bug me. They’re too long and thin, in some shots they look alright, but in others they look really exaggerated and off putting. Add on to that a couple of awkward movements and some shots were characters are a little too still as they stand around and it feels like the quality’s regressed. I’ve no doubt that this being made during the pandemic has impacted it, so I’m willing to cut it some slack, but it’s still a little disappointing.  

That brings me to the story itself and while it sticks pretty closely to the formula of a base under siege, it’s well written with a good escalation of the tension and some nice bits of character and dialogue throughout. There are also some nice little inversions to keep things fresh. For example we’ve got Robson, the man in charge who trusts in his own practical experience, to point where he blatantly ignores anything else. I’m so used to seeing some by-the-book snob in charge who refuses to listen to anything practical that it’s nice to see it the other way around for once. It’s also nice that the story clearly shows that Robson does know what he’s doing under normal circumstances and he has the respect of his employees. The problem is that this is an entirely new situation and his blinkered, narrow-minded way of looking at things can’t bend enough to be able to cope. It’s little wonder that he starts ranting like a lunatic.

Let’s get to the TARDIS team though and out of all of Patrick Troughton’s run, his adventures with Jamie and Victoria have always been my favourite. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, the very first black and white Doctor Who story I ever saw was Tomb of the Cybermen featuring these three, but I love their dynamic. The gentle way that the Doctor and Victoria interact, and the unspoken romantic tension between Victoria and Jamie, there’s a lot that can be gotten out of this team and Fury from the Deep does its best to show that. The best scenes in this release are the quieter moments with Victoria. She’s tired of the endless danger and adventure that the Doctor and Jamie get so much of a kick out of. You can tell it’s not an easy thing for Victoria to admit, she loves the Doctor and Jamie, but she wants something else and it’s a great performance by Deborah Watling.

All in all it’s a really well done companion exit, unlike the Faceless Ones where we only got a goodbye scene with Ben and Polly, here there are moments throughout the story where we see Victoria coming to the conclusion to leave. I genuinely wish more companion exits had been handled like this where they get more focus throughout the story rather than just at the end. Also bonus points for not just introducing some guy for her to settle down with as often happened to female companions in Classic Who, instead Victoria gets a place where she can have some peace with a welcoming couple. Extra special bonus points are also earned for taking the stereotype of the screaming female companion and using it against the monster. Victoria isn’t the most egregious example of the trope, but she can sometimes fall into it. By the time the last set of credits roll I’m sad to see Victoria go, but I’m glad she got such a good story to exit on.

The Verdict:

In the end, Fury from the Deep, is a classic episode for many reasons. Not only does it introduce the sonic screwdriver, but we see a companion depart and a showcase of one of the series’ core story archetypes, a base under siege. Dark corridors and creepy tendrils of seaweed evoke an eerie atmosphere and when matched with the quieter, more characterful moments it makes an effective story. This story has been missing from the archives for more than half a century and, while the animation may not stand up to other releases, I’m still overjoyed that these episodes are back for people to see at last. After all, that’s the whole point of these recreations.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas so far, thank you for taking the time to read this silly little review. Here’s to the New Year, may it be everything we need after the disaster that was 2020. Merry Christmas.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Infallible Fish Reviews: Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones

“It’s a flying beastie!”

What’s the Story?

The Doctor and his friends, Ben, Polly and Jamie land at Gatwick airport, right in the middle of a runway! Immediately on the run from airport security, the gang soon find themselves stumbling into a sinister plot when Polly witnesses a man being murdered by a strange weapon. Something is happening at Chameleon Tours and it may just be connected to the recent rash of missing teenagers. As the Doctor tries to convince the Commandant of the seriousness of the threat he’s facing, he finds some of his friends suddenly don’t recognise him and there’s very few people he can trust. The Faceless Ones are here and it won’t be long before they get exactly what they want.

The Review:

I debated for a long time whether I was going to review this story or the animated recreation of Shada for this theme month. On the one hand I have this unwritten rule that this blog is purely for reviews of animated projects, tag posts and shameless plugging not withstanding. I don’t review live action stuff here and Shada does use live action footage as part of its reconstruction. On the other hand Shada is so much the better story, I mean it’s Douglas Adams writing Doctor Who , what more could you want from this world? Look, it’s not that The Faceless Ones is a bad story, all told it’s decidedly decent, it’s just overly long with a rushed, confusing ending. There is a small part of me that wonders if my real problem with this story is just that I seem to be the only one who doesn’t like it. Every review I’ve ever seen of this story is fairly positive, no one is shouting from the rooftops about it or anything, but people do seem to like it. That’s really why I’ve decided to review this story, I just need to get this stuff off my chest so bear with me.

Let’s start with some positives. The first few episodes of the story are surprisingly effective, the mystery of what exactly is happening with Chameleon Tours builds a great deal of tension. Also you’ve got to remember that stories set in the present day were a rare thing back in the early days of Doctor Who. Prior to this there was only the very first episode and The War Machines (where the Doctor took on Skynet 20 years before The Terminater came into being). Seeing alien body snatchers on the loose in a well-known public place would have been quiet the frightening story in the 60s. Unfortunately this plot has been done rather a lot since then and that does blunt it’s impact somewhat for a modern viewer.

Getting back to positives, let’s talk about the Doctor. The wandering Time Lord does get plenty of great moments throughout, whether it’s arguing with the close-minded Commandant, outwitting the Chameleons or just keeping ahead of the authorities, the Doctor is on top form. As for his companions, Jamie gets some highlight moments. Not only showing off the great performance chemistry that Frazer Hines and Patrick Troughton share, but also demonstrating that he can easily take charge when his character is left to his own devices. There’s a reason Jamie is one of the best companions in classic Who and these episodes are a good example of why. Jamie is forever loyal and brave, with his own kind of intelligence on clear display.

Unfortunately the same level of attention isn’t given to the Doctor’s other companions, Ben and Polly. What makes this doubly sad is the fact that this also happens to be their last story and they disappear halfway through only to turn back up for the final few minutes of the last episode. I know why it happened, the contract for Ben’s actor was coming to an end and the higher ups didn’t want to renew it (after all they’d been struggling with three companions in the TARDIS, a lesson I wish the current production would have paid attention to). Polly’s actress wanted to show solidarity and she left too. At least we got a goodbye scene filmed, which is more than some companions got when their contracts ran out midway through a story. Dodo famously left off screen in the aforementioned War Machines.

Let’s get to the real problems of this story though, it really shouldn’t be six episodes long, that’s just too much. The mystery of Chameleon Tours has some good build up in the first few episodes, but the tension it manages to build starts to wear thin as it drags and drags on. It doesn’t help that the number of locations in the story is limited, the amount of times someone decides to go back to the Chameleon Tours warehouse is extraordinary, every five seconds it feels like someone is suggesting they go back to it. Just look around and get what you need, stop going there and coming back over and over again! When we get to the later half and see the reveal of the Chameleon’s space station I should be excited, instead I’m too zoned out because I’m just so done with this story.

The final nail in the coffin comes with the conclusion of the story, so spoilers ahead. First we’ve got the explanation of why the Chameleons are doing this and, okay I’ve watched this story three times now and I still don’t understand it. There was some sort of explosion and this robbed them of their faces and all memories of who they were. So they steal the appearances and identities of young people. Err…okay so they now no longer look like mouldy cabbages, but how exactly does that solve their problem? They still have no idea who they were or what happened, stealing other people’s memories and faces doesn’t change that in anyway. In fact it creates a new problem in that their lives are in immediate danger the second someone interferes with their body-snatching equipment. Also they chose to hide their victims in the airport car park, did they really think no one was going to notice dozens of parked cars with bodies inside? Eventually someone is going to notice that and I remind you that if someone interferes with the equipment on the bodies they all die!

The Verdict:

In the end The Faceless Ones is a pretty frustrating story for me. It starts off well and the Doctor and Jamie get some good moments, but the story is overly long and the conclusion is not only rushed, it’s confusing. The animation is of the same quality as the previous The Macra Terror, if not slightly more refined and there’s the usual eerie soundscape that comes with classic Doctor Who. I won’t personally recommend this story, but there are plenty of people who do like and I can kind of see why so feel free to check it out. Maybe then someone can explain that ending to me.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Infallible Fish Reviews: Doctor Who: The Macra Terror

“There’s no such thing as Macra! Macra do not exist! There are no Macra!”

What’s the Story?

The Doctor and his companions, Ben, Polly and Jamie, land in the far future, at an Earth colony where everyone is as happy as can be, possibly a little too happy. Oh they have parades and the music is ever so cheery, making the colonists just that bit more willing to work under the watchful eyes of the Controller, but what exactly are they working towards? There are mines were they extract a deadly gas, but no one can seem to say what for, just that the colony depends on it. There are also rumours of strange, crab-like creatures roaming the colony at night, and as the Doctor and co are soon to find out, where the Macra roam, terror is sure to follow.

The Review:

The second fully animated Doctor Who reconstruction to be released and one that I utterly adore. The Power of the Daleks is by all merits a better story and I knew I was going to love it the moment I first read what it was about. The Macra Terror on the other hand is one I’ve always had very little interest in, I mean on paper it sounds incredibly goofy and I suppose it is, but there’s such a sinister tone to the execution that it makes the whole thing work. Without this release I never would have given this story the time of day and I can’t help feeling a little guilty about that.

Before we get into the story itself though, first I want to take the time to talk about something I skipped over in my last review, and that’s Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Everyone has their own favourite incarnation of the Doctor, and mine is Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor. As I mentioned before I grew up with the likes of Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy, but to me Patrick Troughton is the quintessential Doctor. He’s a guileful trickster, playing the clown and the fool, but all the while you can see the cogs turning behind his eyes. He’ll prod and he’ll probe until he’s found his enemy’s weakness and then he’ll go right for it and this story is a perfect example of that. Asking questions, pointing out the flaws in logic and all the while manoeuvring to expose what’s really going on. It’s brilliant to watch and it’s just a shame that we don’t have the original footage because no one does a facial expression like Patrick Troughton.

Speaking of facial expressions, let’s talk about the animation. My one real complaint about Power of the Daleks was the humanoid character animation and thankfully this release is a huge improvement. The animation is so much more fluid and expressive, add on the fact that we can now see it in colour and the improved effects and lighting and this whole release is a treat for the eyes. I also get a kick out of the backgrounds which look like they’re straight out of a 60s comic strip. That brings me to the Macra themselves and, much like Power of the Daleks, the animation on the monster is the best of all. These huge, lumbering crabs are quite terrifying as they stomp their way towards our protagonists, though it does bring up an interesting question.

You see I’ve seen the original Macra props and they’re, well, pretty rubbish. A wheelie bin looks more realistic and menacing, but that’s not a restriction the animators had to stick to and they didn’t. The animated Macra are far better looking, which raises the question of should these reconstructions stick to the original as much as possible, or should they make improvements where they can? Honestly, when it comes to the Macra I’m all for it, even if Who purists want to sting me up for such a sentiment.

Let’s get on to the story itself though and that is where I think The Macra Terror shines brightest. On paper it’s incredibly goofy, a colony full of happy-go-lucky people, filled with jaunty music and forced smiles secretly being run by giant crab-monsters? That’s so 60s an idea I want to hug it. Yet its the sinister edge to everything that makes this so good. The cheery singing voices telling people to obey, the almost order-like way they’re told ‘it will be fun!’, the hypnosis machines, the correction facilities. Everyone looks so happy, but it makes your skin crawl with how wrong it is. We get to see all this play out on a personal level when one of the companions, Ben, becomes indoctrinated into the colony. Suddenly he’s turning in the Doctor and telling everyone to obey the rules, even when a Macra is stopping it’s way towards him he refuses to accept its existence because he’s been told they don’t exist. In fact it’s only Polly’s life being in danger that snaps him out of it, but as soon as the threat is over the conditioning kicks back in and he’s a loyal drone once more. Ben isn’t my favourite companion, but he’s not a bad one either and it’s genuinely heartbreaking to see him struggle against the mind control.

As for the Macra there isn’t much to them outside of their threatening appearance and the horrifying society they’ve put in place and yet I can’t really dislike them. What’s so wrong with great shadowy evil controlling society being something like a giant crab-monster? It’s goofy, but I love it. That and the mad hysteria that creeps into the Controllers voice when he goes on about there being no Macra.

The Verdict:

The Macra Terror is a joy from beginning to end, taking such a goofy concept and twisting it into a sinister nightmare. The Doctor is at his best, poking holes and beguiling the opposition as he gets closer and closer to the truth. Add on Ben’s own personal struggle as he falls victim to and then tries to fight against the colony’s mind control and you have a great story from Troughton’s era. The animation is much improved from the previous release and having the option to view it in colour is a real treat. I thoroughly recommend it.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Infallible Fish Reviews: Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks

“Life depends on change and renewal.”

What’s the Story?

Having bested the Cybermen and saved the Earth yet again, the Doctor finds his body wearing a bit thin and it’s time for a change. Regenerating into a new, younger form, the Doctor is quite literally a new man, but while his companions Ben and Polly struggle to come to terms with that fact, on the planet Vulcan a strange capsule has been found in the mercury swamps. While tensions rise amongst the colonists and plots for power are put into motion, the Daleks bide their time. They may be weak now, having to play at servants, but before long the colonists will be facing the true power of the Daleks!

The Review:

First broadcast on November 1966, this is probably one of the most important episodes in the show’s long, long history. This is the very first regeneration story for Doctor Who, the changing of the guard from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton, setting the precedent that would allow the show to replace its lead actor for decades to come. If this had failed then the show would have most likely ended in the 60s. Thankfully that’s not the case and outside of its historic significance, this also happens to be one of the best Dalek stories put to screen. It breaks my heart that the chances of ever finding the original episodes is remote at best, but that’s what these animated episodes are for, to give us a way to experience this story in as close to all its glory as we can get. I’ll warn you all now this is going to be a heavily biased, heavily gushing review so be prepared.  

First though, let’s talk about the structure of classic Doctor Who, this is one story, but it’s comprised of six episodes, each roughly 30 minutes long. I suppose nowadays with more serialised shows its less of a shock to the system than it used to be, but it can take a moment to become accustomed to the style of Classic Who for all those who are interested. Just bare that in mind if you’re planning on using this as your first step into classic Doctor Who. It’s not as pacey as modern stuff, which does give more time to explore a location and characters, which I greatly enjoy.

On that note, let’s start with my one and only real gripe with this production, the animation, specifically the humanoid character animation. Look, I know this project was rushed out by the BBC for one reason or another. In a way it’s very in keeping with the production of classic Doctor Who, done on a meagre budget with extreme time constraints. On the other hand though, these episodes have been missing for more than 50 years, what exactly is the rush to have them produced now? Why not give the animators the time to make this look as good as it possibly can? It’s not as if the animation is terrible, there are some nice movements, but more often than not the humanoid characters move really awkwardly and there’s no nuance whatsoever. Take the scene where the Doctor is supposed to be studying Bragen’s expressions, he’s meant to be subtly watching him, but the animation has the characters stood right on top of one another with the Doctor being as obvious as possible. He might as well be wearing a flashing neon sign that says ‘I’m watching you’. Thankfully this improves with later releases, but I’ll get to that next week.

The animation is much more successful when it comes to the Daleks, they move and look exactly like classic Daleks, rolling around with all the menace the metal pepper pots can bring to bear. There are also a number of shots that the original production would have struggled with, like when the camera pulls back to reveal a room filled with newly built Daleks, or their gruesome production line. The original production had only a handful of Dalek props to hand so, yeah, this time a point goes to the animation for making those scenes as good as they are.

But let’s talk about the real strength of these episodes, the story. David Whitaker knows how to write Classic Who, he’s one of my favourite writers of the era because he knows how to write interesting characters. This may be a Dalek story, but it’s also a story of the people on Vulcan (no, not that one). Whether it’s Lesterson tinkering away with the capsule in his lab and not caring about much else, Bragen plotting to take power by any means necessary or the governor who has no idea about the death and destruction that’s about to befall his colony. All these people have their own motives and plans and they all think they can use the Daleks for their own ends, not realising the danger.

Personal opinion time, for me, the Daleks are at their best when they’re on the back foot. Seeing an army of murder-crazy killing machines is terrifying in its own right, but its the creeping dread of this story that makes them genuinely scary here. If you’re a Who fan you know what the Daleks are capable of, so to see all these people squabbling over petty things while the Daleks are getting stronger and stronger. It puts you in the same position as the Doctor, screaming at everyone to just listen and understand how much danger they’re in. The colonists are so convinced that they’re differences are worth fighting for, that they can use the Daleks to achieve their ends, but how does that all end? With slow panning shots of dead bodies filling the corridors. To the Daleks the differences don’t matter, we’re not Daleks and that’s all the reason they need to kill us. When a Dalek asks Bragen why humans kill other humans it’s chilling because, in truth, a Dalek would never kill another Dalek.

I suppose I should put some words towards talking about the Doctor in this review of Doctor Who. I love Patrick Troughton and he gives a fantastic performance here, but while this is a regeneration story, it’s not a story about regeneration. The first episode is really where the Doctor gets the most focus through his interactions with Ben and Polly and their trying to come to terms with his change. Regeneration is given a simple and effective explanation, with enough vagueness to it so it can be expanded on later. The rest of the time is just the Doctor acting strange while his new personality settles in, though there’s also the suggestion that the Doctor is doing a lot of this to only appear the fool (Sylvester McCoy isn’t the only chess master persona). Of course he’s there to stop the Daleks and prophecies the deaths to come, but really this is a story of Vulcan and the Daleks.

The Verdict:

The Power of the Daleks is a seminal story in Doctor Who’s history, the beginning of the second Doctor’s adventures, the very first regeneration and a terrific Dalek story to boot. For any Classic Who fan this is a must see and I’d recommend it to anyone else as well, though it might be an idea to watch a few other stories first, just to become acclimatised to the style. The animation of the humanoid characters is the one weak point in the production, but the soundscape, the writing and the Daleks themselves more than make up for that.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Cartoon Corner: The Owl House Review

“This is clearly not the PG fantasy world I always dreamed about.”

What’s the Story?

Luz is a self-assured teen just bursting with imagination and creativity, unfortunately that often gets her into trouble. Her latest stunt, a book report involving live snakes, is about to get her sent to summer camp to learn to curb her wild behaviour, that is until a tiny owl steals one of her fantasy books! Giving chase, Luz finds herself transported to a strange, and often grotesque, world, the Boiling Isles! There she is taken in by rogue witch Eda and her adorable demonic partner, King. This may not be the kind of fantasy adventure that Luz has always dreamed about, but it could be just the one she needs. Who needs summer camp when you can instead become an apprentice witch!

The Review

One last stop on the Disney train for this year (they’ll be more next year. Sorry, not sorry. The last couple of weeks have really put me in the mood and there’s a couple of shows that I should have talked about before. So look forward to them!) Anyway, let’s talk about The Owl House. I have been dying to watch this series ever since I saw the promotional images for it last year, it’s first season has finally dropped on Disney+ (part of the reason I even signed up to that service) and it is pretty much everything I wanted. Now I’m not going to claim it’s the ‘Greatest Thing Eva!’, it’s only a first season after all and it’s still got plenty of potential it can grow into, but at the same time I had a lot of fun with this show. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the current tend of fantasy cartoons with an often hinted at mystery in the background and The Owl House handles all of those elements really well. I like the Boiling Isles as a setting, the series has a great colour palette and I love the grotesque-without-being-gross designs of the locations and inhabitants. What’s really hooked me in though is the humour and the characters.

I knew this series and I were going to get along with the very first joke, in which we see a typical fantasy witch confronting a snake monster and declaring that she’s a ‘warrior of peace’. Then she screams ‘Now eat this sucka!’, turns her staff into a bazooka and just blasts the monster. ‘My only weakness! Dying!’ I could quote the jokes of this series all day long and never get tired of it. That’s not to say the series is wall-to-wall jokes, some of my favourite moments are actually some of the more quieter, characterful ones, like when Luz admits to Amity that she’s not a witch, but she’s training hard to be one (that scene breaks my heart every time).

Let’s talk about the series’ two best girls for a second (Yes I’m a Lumity shipper, what of it?). Luz is energetic and impetuous, which often gets her into trouble even though she has the best of intentions. The series is very obvious with it’s themes of Individuality VS. Conformity and Luz is right in the middle of that. She has her own way of seeing and doing things and the series is very much on her side when it comes to her expressing herself as she wants to, as the show says “Us weirdos have to stick together”. Yet, at the same time, it’s not completely dismissive about joining in with the group either. There are benefits to being in a group, not least surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Eda may gripe about the series’ coven system that locks you into one way of magic, but it’s pointed out a couple of times that Luz has to make up her own mind. Conforming without compromising your individuality, that’s a more nuanced lesson that I’m glad this show is putting forward. Plus Luz is an adorable dork that I just can’t help but root for, watching her learn magic in her own way is a joy across the season.

Now let’s talk about Amity, who may just be the most well-developed character in this series. When we first meet her it looks like she’s going to be the typical school bully character, picking on a fellow classmate for being weaker at magic than her. Yet with each episode she appears in we learn a little bit more about her, and why she’s the way she is. From her overbearing parents to her tormenting siblings, Amity strives for perfection and doesn’t believe she can show any weakness. Yet each time she comes in contact with Luz, her character grows, adapting to this strange new person in her life and pretty soon Amity has evolved from the bully into a potential love interest. (On a side note, check out the song ‘Little Miss Perfect’ on the Write Out Loud youtube channel, it perfectly sums up Amity and has been embraced by us Lumity shippers as our national anthem.) I’m really looking forward to where the show is going to go next with her character and what more we’ll learn about her history.

As for the rest of the characters, Eda, King and Hooty probably take my third, fourth and fifth favourite spots, in that order. They’re all really fun and the banter that they share always brings a smile to my face. Before I wrap this up though, there’s one last aspect of this show that I really want to talk about, the animation. Disney always has quality animation, even when it’s stuck with a TV budget, but there are some spectacular moments throughout this series. The duels between Eda and Lilith and Luz and Amity’s dance magic combo in the Grom night episode being my particular highlights. The animation just flows so beautifully I couldn’t help but be carried away by it.

The Verdict

The Owl House is a good show and a great starting point with a lot of potential going forward. The characters are all funny and likeable, each in their own adorkable way, and they continue to grow and change across the season. There’s a strong theme of Individually vs. Conformity, with a more nuanced answer than I was initially expecting. If you’re after a fun fantasy adventure and don’t mind some grotesque character designs and setting, then I’d definitely recommend this. I can’t wait to see what season 2 has in store for us!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

Cartoon Corner: Tangled the Series/Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure Review

Plus Est En Vous!

What’s the Story?

Freed from the tower and the clutches of her kidnapper/abusive parental figure, Mother Gothel, it looks like Rapunzel finally has her happily ever after. She’s reunited with her real parents, has the man that she loves, Eugene, in her life and the whole kingdom of Corona to welcome her home, what more could she possibly want? Whatever it is that’s missing it’s enough to convince her to take a late-night trip out beyond the walls with her new handmaiden, Cassandra, to where the Sundrop Flower once grew. Now there are indestructible black rocks growing out of the ground where the Sundrop fell, and when Rapunzel touches one they suddenly begin to grow. That’s not the only effect though as the magic inside Rapunzel is reawakened, giving her back her incredibly long golden hair and brand new magical abilities. Adventure is calling for Rapunzel, it will take her to the Dark Kingdom and back, test her closest friendships and even see her facing a near-immortal evil from Corona’s past. Nobody said being a princess was easy…

The Review

I love Disney, always have always will. Doesn’t mean I won’t make fun of them or call out the machinations of our corporate overlords, but when the business suits get put away and the creators and talent working behind the scenes can just do their thing, Disney produces some of the best in the business. That brings me to Tangled the Series (also known as Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure from the second season onwards). I’ve talked about this show a couple of times before on this blog, which you can check out HERE and HERE, and I am very much in love. Is it the greatest cartoon that Disney has ever produced? No, that’s a three-way death match between Gargoyles, Gravity Falls and the latest DuckTales cartoon (potentially the Owl House, but we’ll talk more about that next week). That being said, Tangled the Series genuinely inspires me as anyone who’s ever visited the Disney folder on my Deviantart account will probably be able to tell. (In fact, to save you the trip I’ve put some of my favourite pieces throughout this post!)

This show is proof that it doesn’t matter what your idea is, what matters is how you do it. I have no idea how this series got the initial green light. You want to make a series following on from Tangled? A film that pretty succinctly wrapped up its plot, has no dangling plot threads left over and even has a short to give us all the wedding scene we wanted. Also you want to set the series in-between the film and said short so we know for certain nothing is going to happen to any of the characters that appear in the short, because they have to be there. What are you supposed to do with that? If it was me I’d have thrown my hands up in defeat at the first script writing session, but luckily I wasn’t on staff for this series because they did have a plan. Not only that, they pulled out literally all the stops, bringing back Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi to voice their characters again and putting Alan frickin’ Menken on music. Tangled the Series is what happens when you take an idea and pour as much talent and passion into it as possible.

Let’s talk about the animation, which is another highlight of this series for me. I’ll admit it took me a few minutes to get used to it, but now I’m fully onboard. Disney’s been trying out this style in some of their shorts for several years now, it’s this weird mix of 2D and 3D where I’m not sure if it’s 3D models textured in such a way that they look 2D, or if it’s 2D characters somehow ported into a 3D space, or a mix of the two. Whatever it is it really works, even on a meagre TV budget. There are certainly some shots where you can tell that something is off, but then there are other times when the animation is free to dive into these big sweeping shots that just take your breath away. Add on the utterly gorgeous backgrounds and the storybook look to everything and it’s like you’ve stepped into a Mary Blair sketchbook. (FYI, Mary Blair was an artist/animator who worked for Disney back in the early days, think Sleeping Beauty and you’ll get the look I’m talking about. Also, check out her concept art because it’s all gorgeous). When I’m in love with a series’ art style I often say I want to take each frame of animation and hang them up on my wall, well, for this series I want to cover every wall of my house with frames from this show. I love it and, honestly, I’m praying that Disney will try this style with a big budget film some day.

What about the story though? It’s all well and good bringing in all these talented people and making everything look really, really pretty, but it’ll all fall flat without some substance behind it. Thankfully I love the story of this series as much as I do the artwork. What took me by surprise the most was the attention to character detail. Admittedly I was just expecting this series to be silly princess hijinks in the capital, which is how the series starts, but there’re little bits that show just how much the creators get these characters. Rapunzel’s reaction to returning to the tower for the first time, her dad waking up in the middle of the night, terrified that he’ll lose his daughter again and the things that fear makes him do… all of it is spot on.  Rapunzel is by far the most interesting Disney princess to me, she’s spent her whole life trapped in a tower, she knows nothing of the outside world and is probably the most child-like princess in the Disney canon. She’s never had to make difficult choices, she’s never had responsibility, but now she does and we follow her as she struggles along that journey. Honestly it’s been a joy to watch her grow up as she’s tackled everything from friends betraying her to ancient evils and shocking revelations about those around her.

That’s something else I have to give this series credit for. It effortlessly adds and expands on the mythos of the film, turning it from a fairy tale story about a flower with healing properties into a grand adventurous epic. I mean I never expected ancient wizards, goat-headed demons and alchemists’ robots to turn up in a Disney princess story, but somehow it all works. The only real complaint I have about the story is the amount of filler episodes it has. Tangled the Series works very much on the tent pole format, where there are several episodes in each season that progress the series’ arc and need to be seen, but all the ones in-between just tend to maintain the status quo and keep things chugging along. The tent pole episodes themselves are all fantastic, and I love them, but the filler are a bit more hit and miss. Don’t get me wrong, some of the filler episodes are my favourites in the series, but others are very much just padding. Fun padding, but also obviously padding. It’ll probably be less of a problem on a binge watch, but watching it week to week it can wear you out waiting for the story to get properly going again. It’s not a major problem though and I do enjoy if not outright adore 99.9% of this series.

On a final note, I can’t leave this review without mentioning the music of the series. As I mentioned earlier they got Alan Menken back and I am so glad that they did. The songs of this series, in my opinion, are actually better than the movie’s. Nothing against Tangled’s songs, I do have a great deal of fun with them, but nine times out of ten, the ones in this series pack so much more of a punch. From the sheer joy of songs like ‘Wind in My Hair’ and ‘The View from Up Here’, to the heartbreak of ‘Waiting in the Wings’, the Broadway power of ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ and the epicness of ‘Ready As I’ll Ever Be’. These songs are scattered throughout the series, mostly in tent pole episodes and the majority of them knock it out of the park, especially the villain songs (though personally I think of them as ‘antagonist songs’, but I can’t talk about that without spoilers so I won’t). Just go listen to them, you won’t be disappointed, though some songs may come with spoilers so be warned.

The Verdict

All in all, Tangled the Series/Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure is a fantastic series and a true testament of what you can do when you put talent and passion into your idea. Combing a clear understanding of the characters with a dramatic storyline, expanding mythology, breath-taking art style and some toe-tapping songs, it’s been a joy to watch. I’m still sad that this series has ended now after three brilliant seasons, but I’m also incredibly grateful that I’ve gotten to go on this journey with these characters in the first place. It’s not perfect, but this is the series that cemented Rapunzel as my favourite Disney princess, potentially my favourite Disney character period. Check it out, maybe you’ll have had as much fun as I did.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

There’s one last stop for the Disney train this year as we take a look at one of Disney’s latest productions, Next Week…

Take a trip to the Boiling Isles!

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Frozen 2

Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from. All he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.

And he did! For 6 glorious years he gushed over the exquisite and bemoaned the dull and infuriating. He tried genres he’d previously shied away from, found new favourites, made friends, and celebrated classics and unsung greats alike. Yet there was a foe waiting for him on his 6th anniversary. The first foe. The Frozen Foe. It is time to close the circle. It is time to review…

Water has memory, apparently.

What’s the Story?

Everything is just perfect in Arendelle. Since the end of their last adventure, Queen Elsa and Anna have an unbreakable bond, Kristoff is so in love he has marriage on his mind and everyone is just so content and happy, what could possibly change that? How about the strange voices that have been calling to Elsa? Or the four nature spirits that have spent years locked away behind mists, only for Elsa to unleashed them on an unsuspecting Arendelle. To save their home, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven will have to travel beyond the mists and into an enchanted forest. There they will learn the truth of the sister’s heritage and face a potentially destructive choice for their kingdom. Nothing lasts forever and autumn is the season of change…

The Review

I’m 6 years old! Okay, I’m not, I’m five times that age now (physically at least, mentally I’m still in my late teens), but I’ve been writing this little blog o’mine for six whole years and that surprises me more than anyone else. I never really had a plan for this blog, a few stray ideas like the backstory for my character that you saw at the top of this post, but that was it really. I just needed some place to talk about what I wanted to talk about, plus it’s done wonders for my writing and my confidence in my own voice. Honestly I’ve had a blast writing this blog these past six years and I hope to have a blast writing it for the next six years and beyond. If you’ve read even one of my posts, then you have my heartfelt thanks, I hope you’ve enjoyed what I do here and will continue to enjoy it going into the future. Enough preamble though, let’s get down to business. October 31st 2014, I wrote my very first review for the, at the time, latest Disney animated film, Frozen (which you can check out HERE if you’re curious). I had mixed feelings about the film at best and really those feelings were the catalyst for this whole blog. It took me a long time to come to terms with my disappoint in the first film, most of which was really the fault of my own overhyping and expectations clashing with what the film actually was, plus a few minor complaints.

I was nervous coming into this sequel, I mean Disney does not have the best track record with sequels to begin with. Then the first trailer hit and my hype rose to the ceiling. It was so dark and moody, showed a perfectly executed scene and promised exactly what I wanted from the first film. Elsa using her powers in an action sequence for more than five seconds! Hints at where Elsa’s powers come from! Anna wielding a sword like the knight she truly is! Then the film released and the reviews were…middling, which brought my hype right back down and, honestly, that was probably for the best. So what did I think of the film? It’s…okay. It’s not terrible by any stretch, it’s also not going to break into my top 10 Disney films any time soon. It’s just…okay and that’s fine. I did enjoy watching the film, but I can also see its problems pretty clearly and why it didn’t resonate with people as much as the original did.

I think there’s a fair argument to be made that Frozen 2 does improve on its predecessor in some areas, just not all. As the trailer promised, Frozen 2 gave me several things that I’d been crying out for in the original. Elsa is the shining star of this film, she’s throwing her ice powers around like a total badass, taking on all comers, and honestly her fights with the different spirits are probably my favourite parts of the film. The animation is top notch, as I expect from Disney, I mean the whole reason I sold my soul to this company was on the understanding that they consistently produce work from animators and creators at the top of their craft. The textures and the colours are just superb in this film, I mean just watch that cascade of water at the end of the film it is just outstanding from a technical standpoint. Part of my disappointment in the original was from the animation, honestly I think Tangled looked better (yes I’m a Tangled fanboy). The autumnal landscapes of Frozen 2 add that little extra bit of colour that the original was lacking, plus six years of technological development.

Where the original Frozen beats Frozen 2 though, and this is by far the more important area, is in its story. Frozen had a very clear story. Elsa has ice powers, which she is afraid of. She loses control of her powers and runs away, Anna must then travel up the North Mountain to find her sister and help her gain control over herself and her powers. The story is a single straight line, with every element and character playing into that story. Frozen 2 is much more muddled. Everyone has their own separate storyline and they barely intersect at all. Kristoff keeps trying to propose to Anna, and keeps messing it up (also Anna is paying him no attention at all and I think that’s something they need to work on before the idea of marriage comes up). Honestly it’s a one-note joke that has been done better elsewhere, even by Disney cough Rescuers Down Under cough. Olaf has nothing to do whatsoever expect for make bad jokes and it quickly takes him from loveable doofus to the annoying comic relief we all feared he’d be in the first film. Anna’s story is good in concept. After fighting so hard to reconnect with her sister she’d desperate to keep a hold of her, so much so that it’s consuming her and that is a fascinating development for the character. Unfortunately the storyline just doesn’t get the time it needs to develop and the resolution is kinda lacking.

Elsa’s story is the primary focus of this film, delving into where her powers came from, her family history and, really, Elsa discovering who she truly is. That storyline is very well done, the whole ‘Show Yourself’ sequence is probably my highlight of the film, it’s one of the few times where the film actually got an emotional response out of me. That smile as Elsa sings with her mother, truly, finally, understanding who she is was just magnificent. Back to the problem though, because none of the other characters are actually really needed for this plot. Elsa is the only necessary character, potentially Anna as she tries to hold Elsa back, but all the other characters are just kind of there. Honestly it does make me wish that this film was just Anna and Elsa. If it was me I’d just have them encountering wild spirits and dealing with the dangers of the forest, all the while paralleling the first film. This time, instead of chasing after her sister, Anna has to learn to let Elsa go and discover things for herself, and that that doesn’t mean they’ll never see one another again, far from it. It would also mean that we wouldn’t have to include random tribe and random soldiers that are also just kind of there.

I mean, if you do want to introduce this tribe into the lore of the series, as well as these spirits and mythology, as well as giving everyone something to do you’re going to need more than a film’s run time to do it. We really need to get to know these people and this locale if you expect the audience to care and there’s just not enough time or focus to do that here. Maybe if you had like a series worth of episodes you could do it. Nah, that’s silly. I mean what Disney film would get a series expanding its mythology and developing it’s characters. Cough Tangled the Series cough Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure cough. Sorry, I swore I wouldn’t compare this film to Tangled, no, I’ve got a review specifically for that franchise later in the month!

The Verdict

In the end, Frozen 2 is a decent film. If you’re an Elsa fan you’ll probably love this as she is the shining star, leaping into the action and finding herself while also finally explaining exactly where her powers come from. If you’re a fan of anyone else however, I’d suggest going back to the first film. The animation is spectacular and more than up to Disney’s usual standard and the songs are all enjoyable. It’s a fun film, treat it as such and you should have a good time, but this is not the start of yet another Disney renaissance (that honour still belongs to Tangled and I will fight anyone who says otherwise).

Thank you again to my wonderful readers, I hope you enjoyed this and will continue to enjoy my work here. Next week we’re back to anime as I have my first impressions of the current season, but after that we’re getting back on the Disney train for the rest of the month as there’s a couple of series I just have to talk about!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Wonder Woman Bloodlines

Blog Wonder Woman Bloodlines Review Title

“If you seek to harm it or my friends, you should have a weapon.”

Well, we’re back to the DC Universe animated movies and, hold on, what’s this? A movie that stars neither Batman, Superman nor does it focus on some variety of Justice League? You mean we’re actually going to give another hero the spotlight all by themselves? Has the world gone mad! I joke, but yes, DC finally got off their backsides and animated another Wonder Woman movie (it only took ten years and the success of a live action film to get them to do it!). I’ll admit that this was a film I had been waiting a long time for, I mean the original animated Wonder Woman movie was a lot of fun and I still adore the live action version (and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel whenever that arrives). Having said that, there’s always been the question of what Wonder Woman story you adapt into a film.

I mean once her origins are out of the way then Wonder Woman really doesn’t have any seminal stories that jump to mind, by which I mean something along the lines of a Dark Knight Returns or Death of Superman level of story. There have been many great Wonder Woman stories told over the decades, but her stories have never quite seeped into popular consciousness like Batman and Superman’s have (admittedly those two have only seeped in because of constant exposure over the years, but the point still stands. Ask Joe Bloggs on the street to name a Wonder Woman story and they will struggle). Wonder Woman Bloodlines chooses to solve this problem by adapting several stories at once and fusing them into one, though I’d say the biggest contributors are the origins of Silver Swan and the ‘Eyes of the Gorgon’ story.

There’re so many little nods and bits of Woman Wonder history tucked away in this film, without it ever feeling like you’re missing out on the joke. If you know who Ferdinand is then that’s great, otherwise you can just sit back and smile at the fact that Diana now has a minotaur chef and who wouldn’t want one of those. There’s almost a whole host of Diana’s greatest enemies here to throw down with her throughout the film, we’ve got Silver Swan, obviously, but we also get Cheetah, Giganta, Dr. Cyber, Dr. Poison and a couple of others I won’t mention for spoilers sake, but if you’re a Wonder Woman fan you’ll know who they are the second certain names are mentioned.

What’s the actual story though? Well, unfortunately, we start off in a familiar place with Wonder Woman’s origin being repeated, yet again (note to DC, and of course I know the higher ups of a giant comic empire are going to read this, please stop rehashing the origins of your most popular heroes, especially when they’ve had a successful film out only recently. You can trust your audience to know who Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman are. If I see Batman’s origin one more time, I swear…). Anyway, the film does claw back some points by making Diana’s origin somewhat relevant to the ongoing plot, namely her feelings of guilt and regret for disobeying her mother, even if it was the right thing to do. With Diana now banished from Themyscira she needs a new place to stay and she finds that with Dr. Julia Kapatelis and her daughter Vanessa.

Julia is fascinated by ancient cultures, especially the Amazons and so lavishes attention on Diana, planting the seeds for a festering jealousy in Vanessa, which will be our central conflict for the film. We’ve also got Dr. Cyber and Dr. Poison working together alongside other noted villains for their own nefarious schemes, drawing Vanessa into their orbit and transforming her into the deadly Silver Swan. If Diana wants to save Vanessa she’ll need to find her way back to Themyscira, battling the likes of Cheetah and Giganta along the way, before a final clash against an enemy she long thought dead.

I enjoyed this film, a lot, but it does have its problems. Pacing has to be the biggest issue, but in an odd way because this film never felt rushed, but there are definitely scenes that went by too quickly while others dragged on for just a little too long. I think it comes down to the fact that this film just tries to pack in too much at once, there’s a lot of action and a great number of characters, so much that the plot is constantly having to keep moving in order to stay ahead of everyone. All those villains I mentioned, it’s great to see them in animated form, but the majority of them are just there. They get cool action scenes, but you never learn what makes them tick. Honestly if it wasn’t for the excellent voice cast I seriously doubt I would have cared as much about the internal struggles of both Diana and the rest as much as I did. There’s a really great, meaty story here, but the pacing just robs it of so much depth.

The film makes up for this though by being incredibly fun. From some great one-liners and witty banter, to the action, which as I mentioned there’s a lot of, but it is so glorious. I love the fights in this film, not only are they brilliantly choreographed, but they’re exactly what a superhero fight should be, witty and exhilarating and, well, fun. That being said, the climatic battle of this film is one of the most brutal fights I have ever seen. I mean I thought Superman vs. Doomsday was a bloody match, this is insane and I wish I could describe it to you, but that would spoil things. Just go see it, please.

All in all, while Wonder Woman Bloodlines is not the best Wonder Woman film, it is still a lot of fun. From the multitude of great action sequences, to witty banter and a chance to see so much lore and villains from Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery finally put up on screen, any fan of Wonder Woman needs to see this film. Heck, if you’re just curious about Wonder Woman and want to see more of her I’d recommend this film. The original animated Wonder Woman is probably just that bit better and the live action one certainly is, but if we get enough people to see this film then maybe, just maybe, we’ll convince DC to keep making more Wonder Woman films, and that is a cause worth fighting for.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

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.