Thoroughly Animated: A DC Animated Films Retrospective- Part 1

DCWhen it comes to live action films, Marvel has dominated, now more than ever. Unfortunately, DC has only managed to release a few good films, mainly consisting of Batman films, with an okay Superman flick.  Other than that, no other character in their mainstream universe seems to work well on screen (or they just refuse to put them up there). However, DC does have a one-up on Marvel when it comes to animation. And for the past six years, they have been releasing quality animated films.

My history when it comes to these films dates back to 2010. As you know, I hated Superman with the intensity of a thousand suns. However, when I had heard there was a movie called Superman: Doomsday, I got interested. I did some research and found out it was about Superman being killed. I thought this was fascinating. Superman dying? It’s like a dream come true. So I decided to check it out. I really enjoyed the film, and oddly enough it made me “appreciate” the character. I wouldn’t actually start to like him until Superman: Earth One. Upon seeing this, I did some more research and found out there were more animated films like this, so I started buying them up left and right. I was addicted (editor’s note: I can vouch for this. It’s terrible, really. –L)

The line of “DC Universe Animated Original Movies” came about when Bruce Timm (creator of such fantastic animated shows such as Batman the Animated Series and the Justice League animated series) and DC thought up the idea to create animated films based or loosely based off of famous story arcs or graphic novels. The first one, Superman: Doomsday (2008,) was loosely based off the infamous Death of Superman story arc from the early 90’s. The only problem is that the original story line lasted for a year. That’s a 12 issue series condensed into an hour and 17 minutes (the usual running time for one of these movies). Many fans decried the film due to it leaving out many important elements of the original story and changing most of the story and who the character “Doomsday” was. Regardless of the fans reactions, the film grossed a little over 9 million dollars on the direct to video market. So the company continued to produce films.

justice league new frotier.

The trend with these animated films is that they come out seasonally; there is normally a spring/summer/fall schedule that they follow. And thank god for that. I have to count the days till the next DC animated film comes out, I am THAT addicted. The next film to be released from them was Justice League: The New Frontier (2008), based on the out-of-continity graphic novel DC: The New Frontier. Oh my god, this is one of the company’s greatest. It is so much fun, yet has very serious themes included in it. The art is fantastic. They modeled it after a Darwyn Cooke’s art from the comic book and it is very reminiscent of classic 40’s and 50’s comic book art work, which serves it well since it is based around that time. I fell in love with this film, and it is hard not to. The cast was brilliant and the visuals were stunning; I felt like the company could do no wrong, nor could they get any better. I was wrong on both accounts.

The next film was…interesting, to say the least. It wasn’t really based off of any story from a DC comic book; rather it was a film to bridge Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.  Technically speaking, this was the first movie in the line I had ever watched. I rented it when I saw the commercials because The Dark Knight was my most highly anticipated film that summer. The film was…ok. It was a series of different stories about Batman done by different animators (most of them were in anime style, which I am not too fond of). However, the stories didn’t really fit into Nolan’s universe. Many of them were really out there, such as the Killer Croc one, and the fact that Scarecrow was in full costume rather than just his mask and a suit. The only story that really jumped out at me was the one that had the children telling different stories about their experiences with the Batman. They each describe him differently: one describes him as a robot, another as a terrifying Man-Bat like creature, and so on. While it is one of the more creative out of this line of films, it just didn’t blow me away like New Frontier did.


The next movie is one I didn’t think I would see, and that’s Wonder Woman (2009). This movie was the first to have Wonder Woman as the main character and it wasn’t that bad. It tells of Wonder Woman’s origins and her trying to fit in in a world she doesn’t know. She also has to face the evil Ares, who’s trying to conquer Earth. This movie was the lowest selling animated film in this line, and though it was well recieved critically, this pushed Warner Brothers to stop making animated films with female superheroes. I thought that was the most idiotic thing I had ever heard. The fact that she was a woman was not the reason that the film did not sell well. Previously, there had only been films based on the most well known characters such as Batman, Superman and the Justice League as a whole. A reason they give is that it didn’t sell as quickly as the other ones. Even though eventually it grossed more than New Frontier. I don’t understand it, the amount of money these films make decreases with every single film, yet Batman movies and Superman movies and Justice League movies are still being made. Regardless, the film was still visually stunning and very fun to watch. I hope in the future we get more female animated films, of course that is once DC/WB realize that women are not the problem.

I actually caught the next film on Cartoon Network back when they were premiering it. Green Lantern: First Flight (2009) was my introduction to the character. I had heard of him before, but he didn’t really interest me. I knew his origin and that’s about it. This movie was fantastic. It was fun, it gave a solid origin to Green Lantern without keeping it on Earth for a majority of the film. The only thing that really sucks about this movie is how it was so much better the 2011 Green Lantern film with Ryan Reynolds. It did more for me in an hour and seventeen minutes than the two hours that the live action film did. It gets straight to the point about who Hal is, who the Green Lanterns are and how he received his powers. As good as I thought the film was, there was one moment during it where I could not stop laughing. When Hal first puts on the ring and says the oath, he transforms into the Green Lantern, however, the way they decided to show it was through a cheesy rip off of Sailor Moon’s transformation. I kept wanting to sing the theme song as I was watching it. Once again, Bruce Timm and his team nailed the animation and the voice actors were spot on. I just really hate that this was so much better than the live action film. I mean, what the hell guys, why don’t you just turn the live action department over to Bruce Timm, he will give you a freaking cinematic universe that would be out of this world.

Well, since there are 15 films in this line, I will stop here. In part 2 we explore the years where I actually started buying these regularly.  Until next time, my friends!


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