Alright, we are pretty much up to the years where I started legitimately watching and buying these films regularly. Boy, were these fun films, I loved most of them and even the ones I didn’t totally love, I still really liked. It was also around this time that DC started attaching animated short films to their DVD and Blu Ray releases. These were called DC Showcase, they ranged from really small relatively unknown characters like The Spectre to very well known characters like Catwoman. These shorts normally last for ten minutes and it is a really cool way to see an animated version of characters who otherwise would not have a shot at their own animated feature. DC Showcase also came out with a short film called Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam. This was significantly longer than the previous showcase shorts, with a running time of 25 minutes. The other things that appeared on this Blu Ray were the previous short films from the other movies, making at least the length of a normal release. The Superman/Shazam short is one of the best, it is essentially the origin story for the character Shazam and I think they pulled it off wonderfully. I did not know much about the character until I had seen this, and it made me a fan of the character. On some DVDs and Blu Rays they also put out two to four episodes of Batman the Animated Series, Superman the Animated Series or Justice League. The episode will normally parallel what is in the movie, or at least have a similar character in there.
Now, with those little tidbits out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. First up is Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009). This was based off of Jeph Loeb’s comic book series Superman/Batman: World’s Finest. It is set in a time when Lex Luthor was the president of the United States (crazy, I know). Through deceit and trickery, he frames Superman and Batman while he tries to solve the problem of the Kryptonite comet that might destroy the earth. This was definitely a crazy story, but it had some genuinely fun moments to it. I could really feel that there was at least some shred of friendship between Supes and Bats. The animation was pretty good and I really enjoyed the cameos from other superheroes like Hawkman, Power Girl, and Captain Marvel. This marks the return of Kevin Conroy to the role of Batman (reprising his role from Batman: the Animated Series). It was great to hear my generation’s Batman; it brought a sense of familiarity. While I did have a lot of fun, it still seemed there could have been a little more effort put into the story because it felt very cliche. It wasn’t any better that the episodes of Justice League they showed with the film were similar.
Ah, what can be said about this next movie: Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths (2010)? I am not exactly sure what comic they were using for the basis of this film. The word “crisis” leads me to believe that they wanted to base it on Crisis on Infinite Earths, which had some similar characters in it such as Ultraman and Owlman. But it doesn’t really follow anything else. A “crisis” in the DC universe is a ussually a big company crossover that infers a major change to the status quo of the comic books. Crisis on Infinite Earths (the first crisis) combined all the universes in DC into one single universe, combining things from different parts and creating an actual story behind a revamp, rather than just doing it and hoping people like it. (Looking at you Marvel NOW). Rumors have it that the script of this film was from an unused story arc from Justice League animated series, which would bridge Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. If so, it really shows. There just is not much substance to this film and it feels like a pilot for a TV series, especially in the last few minutes of the film. Overall, another well animated peice but it just doesn’t feel right for some reason.
Ok folks, sit down and buckle your seat belts we are about to take a look at probably one of the greatest Batman animated movies since Mask of the Phantasm (sans The Dark Knight Returns films). That’s right, the one and only Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010). I fell in love with this film, it was fantastic, it had drama, a little bit of comedy, a great voice cast, and it utilized its PG-13 rating very well. The movie is based off of two Batman stories, one from the 1980s, A Death in the Family, and one that was out only a few years ago, Under the Hood. It tells the story of Bruce Wayne trying to deal with the death of his latest Robin, Jason Todd, and also dealing with a violent new vigilante who criminals call “Batman who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.” He takes up Joker’s old mantle, “The Red Hood,” the famed costume he wore before falling into the vat of acid that made him go crazy. This felt like a movie to me, not just an episode or couple of episodes of tv series like some of them did. This film feels like it legitimized Batman animated films, and if they were to come out with one in theaters now that had the feel of this film, it would do incredibly well. But then again Mask of the Phantasm did extremely poorly, but who knows. Batman is the in thing now. I will say this much, I do not like this film as much as another Batman Animated film in this line, but I will get to that in the next part.
The next film is the first sequel that this line of films has ever had: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. This film is of course a sequel to the previous Superman/Batman film, Public Enemies. It retells the story of Supergirl coming to earth and learning about her Kryptonian heritage. She is abducted by Darksied, and Superman and Batman must travel to Apokolips to save her. This film was absolutely beautiful, the animation was very bright and calming. The voice cast from the previous film returned with Conroy once again voicing Bats. The story was alright, there was scene where Superman and Batman fought an entire horde of Doomsday clones, which was really weird, especially since they took them down so easily, how the hell did one Doomsday kill Supes, but multiple ones are easy? It is certain things like that that make me not enjoy this film as much as I could have.
Sadly Part 2 is ending, friends, but it ends on a movie that I really enjoyed. After learning to appreciate Superman with Superman: Doomsday, I decided to go ahead and pick up the series All Star Superman, a book written by Grant Morrison that pays tribute to the Silver Age of Superman comics. It was wacky and fun and made me think, “Hey, maybe Superman isn’t that much of a jerk.” So when I heard they were making an animated version of it, I was excited. Unfortunately, the comic book is 12 issues long and the running time for these movies are only an hour and seventeen minutes. So a lot of the comic was cut out for the movie. But regardless of the changes, it still felt like a complete movie. Each issue of the comic book was a separate story that had its own things going on it while the having a connecting plot line. Superman has been exposed to the sun too much and now his cells are bursting and he is dying so a lab is working on something that should help Superman, or replace him if he should die. Once again, the animation is spot on and is beautiful to look at and really captures the essence of classic Superman, the bright hero who fights for truth, justice and the American way. While I wish they had been able to include stuff about Bizzaro Superman (one of my favorite goofy villains), it still felt as faithful to the comic as it could be.
Well ladies and gents so concludes part two of my epic retrospective of these wonderful DC animated films. Next time we will explore the five most recent movies to come out of this line, until then my friends keep on watching them they will keep on making them.