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: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Blog Teen Titans Judas Review Title

Pain is what makes a hero.

Okay, I have to just take a moment and give thanks once again to Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (see my review here) for renewing my optimism about the DC original animated movies because without that I never would have seen this film. So many of the recent DC animated movies just mire themselves in darkness, whether that’s through excessive violence or even a dark and muted colour pallet ‘cause they think that’s what people want. Newsflash! Not everybody wants that! These are super heroes, you’re allowed to let a little light into proceedings. That’s not to say that Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is in any way kid-friendly, it’s not. Leaving aside some of the subject matter of this film for a minute, it has a pretty high body count and there’s a couple of gruesome deaths, though in most cases we’re spared some of the graphicness of the deaths by either only seeing the result or it happening so quickly that we don’t focus on it. Also the language in some scenes, but then again considering the characters involved and the situations, some of the language feels entirely appropriate.

What stops me getting annoyed at graphicness in this film as opposed to other DC films is that this film has a better balance. It’s very much just something in the background and isn’t rammed down your throat like other films. Instead the focus of this film is exactly where it should be, on the characters and the story, which is what I’m so thankful for. On the character side of things, I haven’t gotten around to seeing the previous film Justice League vs. Teen Titans, yet, but this group of Titans very much feels like a team.

Robin (Damian Wayne) is still surly and way too full of himself, but he’s calmed down a bit since his earlier film appearances and he actually compliments people and offers support to his team mates, even if he does do it in his own special way. Beast Boy is the joker of the pack and way too obsessed with social media (which I can completely see happening to the character). I also would like to commend his voice actor. The scene between him and Terra on the beach and that ending monologue, just damn, unless Kevin Conray and the rest of the old DCAU voice actors are in the mix I don’t normally expect that level of punch to the voice work in these movies. Blue Beetle is struggling with the alien scarab that has attached itself to his back and has a tendency to attack anyone that comes within three feet of him, but also manages to find a way to be a hero without his powers. Starfire is now the leader of the Titans and I have to say that’s not something I’ve seen before, but it really works for the character. It makes me wish this was a TV series and not a movie so I could see more of her in this role. I also like that we get to see a stable, loving relationship between her and Nightwing which is something we don’t see often enough in superhero shows and films in my opinion. Then there’s Raven who, while she’s perfectly serviceable in the film, doesn’t really get much to do. I’ll get to Terra, the new girl, in a minute.

All of the characters interact well and while I would have liked a few more scenes of them all just interacting so we could really see how they play off of one another, I’ll take what I can get. Also it’s good to seem them working as an effective fighting force. There are plenty of action scenes for the team to show their stuff, but the action is mostly there to keep the pace going, a lot of this film is about character. Every member, aside from Raven, gets something to do. Robin gets to have a few choice words with Deathstroke when he turns up. Starfire and Nightwing get to further their relationship while also working out how to lead the team without stepping on one another’s toes. Blue Beetle tries to find a way to get his scarab more accustomed to being around humans so that he can actually see his family in person. These little arcs that run through the story help to humanise the characters and are handled in a pretty mature way, there’s no conflict for the sake of conflict, every problem feels like a natural one that would come out of the situation. I only wish the film had another ten minutes or so, so that we could explore them a bit more because outside of character work they don’t really have that much affect on the main plot.

Speaking of which, Terra. She’s new to the Titans and is a trouble kid with, literally, earth-shaking powers. Now I’m going to try avoiding the plot twist with her character, even though it does come fairly quickly in the film and it’s pretty much famous for comic fans, but I won’t say specifically what it is, but if you want to avoid even a hint of spoilers skip to the next paragraph. There are two ways to do Terra’s character, in the comics she was a complete and total psychopath and in the original Teen Titans cartoon she was more of a tragic figure. Here the film tries to go for somewhere in the middle, though leaning more towards the cartoon version and honestly I think that’s for the best. Terra is an incredibly damaged character, we get flashbacks to her back-story and it is messed up to say the least (and part of the reason this film is not kid-friendly). You can’t help but want the Titans to get through to her, but in the end her pain is just too much and it buries her. Also I just want to applaud Terra’s voice actress. Not only does she give one of the best performances throughout, but those painful, anguish-filled screams at the end, dear lord they were good. I’m surprised the actress has any voice left after that.

When it comes down to it, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, isn’t perfect, but it is good. The main plot of the film is rather generic, evil cultist wants to capture the Titans so he can absorb all their powers, but it’s the characters, the acting and the writing that save this film. The Titans work as a team while also dealing with their own personal problems. The main arc of the story though comes down to Terra’s and it’s a wonderful exploration of a damaged character struggling to overcome the pain of her past. As Beast Boy says, pain can make a hero, like pressuring creating a diamond, or it could just grind you into dust (seriously go watch the beach scene with Terra and that ending, both are worth it.) Also it helps that all of the fight scenes are punchy and energetic. I enjoyed this so much more than I was expecting and you might too so go check it 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: Gotham by Gaslight

Blog Gotham by Gaslight Review Title

Wait, it was him?!

Okay, I’ll admit I’ve been staying away from the DC universe animated movies of late. They seem to have lost something recently, I keep seeing clips and sneak peeks and my interest just isn’t there. There’s either an overabundance of darkness and violence where it isn’t needed (Batman: Bad Blood, I did not need to see a guy’s head explode thank you very much) or they just get terrible reviews (Batman and Harley Quinn). Gotham by Gaslight though, that had my attention and yes I know I just complained about excessive darkness, and this film gets incredibly dark, but if there’s any place that that kind of thing feels appropriate it’s a story about Batman taking on Jack the Ripper. Batman can fit into almost any setting, but a Victorian one feels more appropriate than most. It adds to his gothic appeal, those smog covered streets, that architecture against a moonlit night, I don’t know why this sort of thing doesn’t turn up more.

Now, this movie is based on a comic, which I have never read. So speaking to this film’s adaptation is kind of out of the window (I will get round to the comic eventually it’s on a very, very long list of comics, books, films and TV shows that I must own at some point). However, this film gives me pretty much everything I’d ask for from the concept. A host of characters reimagined in this new period? Check. Steampunk gadgets for our caped crusader? Check. Rooftop chases, contests of strength and intelligence as well as some detective work (i.e. the stuff Batman is really good at)? Check. Mystery and drama as our hero hunts through the back alleys of Gotham all leading to an epic final confrontation? Check. Could there have been more characters and namedrops, more gadgets and such? Sure, but I think they would have probably cluttered up the film too much if you tried to cram absolutely everything in. This is a pretty simple film with a simple story, it’s really an introduction to a world similar to the one we’re all familiar with, but not entirely (I’ll come back to this).

Characterwise Batman is Batman, obviously. Bruce Greenwood puts in a really good performance as a dark knight who’s just starting out. He’s guarded and clinically minded, but still makes mistakes and has a ways to go in the brawling department, which I appreciate. I like a Batman that hasn’t evolved into the Bat-God yet. Also the film makes use of his detective and observation skills, which I always appreciate. The other characters all feel like themselves too, even if on the outside they’re wildly different. Such as the street urchins that are Dick, Jason and Tim (the robins to those that don’t know) and the two-faced Harvey who shows his ugly side without the need of getting half his face burnt off among others. Though if I can take a moment, and please excuse the language, but…you bastards! Not only do you give my Ivy precious little screen time, but you let the Butcher have her! How dare you! I’ll…(Sound effect: being restrained and sedated.)

I’m back. Sorry, I…I…have a thing. I’m better now. Anyway, my favourite character has to be Selina. She’s smart, intelligent and won’t take any nonsense off of anyone; you feel the chemistry between her and Batman. She’s his equal and that’s the way Catwoman should be.

I suppose that brings me to Jack himself and while I’ll try not to spoil it I do want to talk about it. So, if you want to go in completely blank about the Ripper, skip this paragraph. So, Jack, I can see the reveal upsetting a fair few people. Like I said before I’ve never read the comic, so I don’t know if it was the same there, but damn you’ve got some balls. It takes one of the fundamental pillars of the Batman mythos, a character that should be unshakable, and twisted them into a completely new direction. It’s just…It’s…I don’t have the words. My jaw hit the floor when they did the reveal. “You can’t do that!” I cried and yet it made perfect sense. It fit this version of the character and that’s the thing. These are not the characters we all know and love, they may be similar, so very similar, but this is not the canon DC Universe. This is a different world and here there are no rules. There are no characters that are untouchable and I admire this film so much for taking something I thought to be fundamental and smashing my expectations into pieces with it. If the rest of this film was as daring as this reveal I think we’d have a classic on our hands.

On the animation front I like the style they’ve gone for. It’s clean and simple and allows the focus to be on the action and the performances. I also really like the designs of all the characters, simple, but effective. The action is great with lots of fast motion and heavy blows, I especially like the fight between Batman and Jack on the blimp. Though this film isn’t entirely action, it also does a good job of building tension, giving a real feel for this gas lit world.

When it comes down to it Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is a short and sweet story, giving us a glimpse of a world very similar to the one we know, but not quite. It’s driven by good performances, good writing and good animation, and while I don’t think it’s going to change anybody’s world, I’m glad I saw it. I’d love to spend more time in this world with these characters. I’m hopeful for the DC Universe movies again and, strangely, that’s the note the film leaves on too. Despite the horror that came before, there is hope for the future, a chance to build something better.

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