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Now that Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness have been released, the next big movie that has fans clambering to see is Warner Bros. Man of Steel. We’ve been treated to images, TV spots and trailers for the film so far. But today we got a trailer that far surpasses the others seen so far. An action packed, one minute and forty-six second clip that opens with General Zod (Michael Shannon) giving the people of Earth and Kal-El/Superman (Henry Cavill) an ultimatum…surrender within 24 hours or perish.
Personally I have been dying to see this movie and this trailer now makes the urge practically unbearable. June 14th cannot get here soon enough. If what we’ve seen so far is any indication, it looks like we’re in for one hell of a ride. DC Comics and Warner Bros. have a lot riding on this film. It’s failure or success will undoubtedly decided the fate of any future DC character films, most notably the long awaited Justice League movie. Warner Bros. execs have all but come out and said that everything hinges on Man of Steel.
Check out the trailer below.
From Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures comes “Man of Steel,” starring Henry Cavill (Immortals,TV’s The Tudors) in the role of Clark Kent/Superman, under the direction of Zack Snyder (300,Watchmen).
A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
The film also stars four-time Oscar® nominee Amy Adams (The Master) as Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane, and Oscar® nominee Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do with It) as her editor-in-chief, Perry White. Starring as Clark Kent’s adoptive parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent, are Oscar® nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful) and Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves).
Squaring off against the superhero are two other surviving Kryptonians, the villainous General Zod, played by Oscar® nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road), and Faora, Zod’s evil partner, played by Antje Traue (upcoming The Seventh Son). Also from Superman’s native Krypton are Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s mother, played by Ayelet Zurer (Angels and Demons), and Superman’s father, Jor-El, portrayed by Academy Award® winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator).
Rounding out the cast are Christopher Meloni (42) as U.S. military man Colonel Hardy, Harry Lennix (State of Play) as General Swanwick, Michael Kelly (The Adjustment Bureau) as Steve Lombard, and Richard Schiff (TV’s The West Wing) as Dr. Emil Hamilton.
Nerd Byte: J.J. Abrams recently announced that John Williams, who composed the music for all six previous Star Wars Movies will do the same for Episode VII. Williams also composed the music for such classics as Superman, Jaws, the Indiana Jones films, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, and the first three Harry Potter films. As you can tell from this list, Williams is the king of setting the mood with music. Music in movies can often be overlooked, but who could ever forget the iconic music from the movies on the previous list?
Nerd Byte: It has been reported in several places that Iron Man 3 may well be Robert Downey, Jr.‘s last run as the enigmatic Tony Stark. What would that mean for Avengers 2? I personally have a hard time picturing anyone playing the millionaire playboy turned superhero besides Downey, Jr. In my opinion, we won’t have to. Downey, Jr. recently appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. When asked about his future at Marvel he answered, “I don’t know… I had a long contract with them, and now we’re gonna renegotiate.” Iron Man may well have put Marvel movies back on the map, time to pay the man!
Nerd Byte: Coming off of the Star Wars celebration weekend, “May the Fourth” be with you too, our friends at Stunt People have made a sequel to their Darth Vader point of view (POV) Lightsaber battle called Vader Strikes Back. It stars Eric Jacobus, Alain Bloch, and Gary Ripper.
Nerd Byte: I’m not sure which part of this story is most interesting. The fact that Allison Williams, of HBO’s Girls, is up for a role in Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, or the fact that people are this far into the discussions about making another Fantastic Four Movie. While the last offering, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, wasn’t bad enough to never release, like Roger Corman’s version, it certainly wasn’t good enough to warrant a third film. Now, five years and several great Marvel movies later, we’re talking Fantastic Four again. There is no word yet if Allison Williams is being considered for Sue Storm, or another character, but the talk itself is heartening for FF fans.
Nerd Byte: The San Diego Comic Con is coming up this July 18-21 and there will be guests aplenty. Among the creators, actors, celebrities, and pop-culture icons will be a special exclusive guest…an action figure of Boba Fett. It will be a highly detailed 6-inch Boba Fett action figure from the new Star Wars Black Series. If that’s not enough for you, it also comes packaged with two weapons, his iconic jet pack and the ultimate accessory: Han Solo frozen in carbonite. This Special Edition will be available at the HASBRO booth for $44.99.
Nerd Byte: Man of Steel may be one of the most anticipated movies since, well, Avengers. Granted, its success could make or break the future of DC Comics based movies including The Justice League. Speculation has been the game so far, but now we have our first actual review! This reviewer may be a bit biased, but I don’t think anyone doubts the credibility of DC Comics Artist and Executive Jim Lee. While promoting Free Comic Book Day, he told several networks, “It’s epic. It’s got a lot of heart. But one of the things that was missing from the last Superman movie was the action and this movie has it in spades. It is a visual thrill ride. It is amazing. You get to see all the powers of Superman in all its glory and I think people are going to be blown away.” Wow, a Superman movie where the best fight scene isn’t against a 747? That might just be worth seeing.
Nerd Byte: You don’t have to raise a superhero to be an awesome Mom. My mother loved and nurtured me, but also gave me the common sense to make it in a world that can be cruel and unforgiving at times. I don’t live near her these days, but I treasure the times that we talk and can spend time together. On behalf of my Mom, I thank all of you great Moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day! Now get on the phone and give yours a call!
After the events of Death of the Family, the dynamic duo of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo brings us a simple story involving one of Batman’s most persistent enemies, Clayface. While nothing really new has been brought to the table as far as the villain is concerned, it’s actually the fallout of Bruce’s recent loss that makes this story so compelling.
Clayface’s motivations are pretty standard supervillain fare. It’s never really stated exactly what Clayface needs the money for, but Basil Karlo has never been that complex of a villain. Suffice it to say, all that needs to be known for this tale is that Clayface’s plan is to lure Batman out to finally get rid of him once and for all. This issue is probably the closest he’s come to doing just that, but we should know by now that Batman is much too smart for the one-time-actor. For a more intelligent person with Clayface’s abilities, Batman would probably have much more trouble defeating him, since Clayface can transform himself into just about anyone, right down to their DNA. Fortunately, Karlo is no match for Batman’s mind.
Most of the story takes place in the Wayne Enterprises R&D department, where Bruce Wayne works on his Batman Inc. tech, such as the Bat-Bots or “RoBats,” which were pretty much all destroyed in Batman Inc. #10. The whole Batman Inc. concept has been a bit controversial amongst fans, with many feeling that it puts Bruce’s secret identity in jeopardy. This issue hardly does anything to prove the detractors wrong, since Clayface was able to find his lab so easily. As mentioned earlier, however, it’s a good thing Clayface isn’t exactly intelligent enough to connect the dots. Many fans have also pointed out that there should be more villains targeting Bruce, since he is Batman’s benefactor. Others have countered that argument by surmising that most of Batman’s enemies might fear retaliation from their foe, as Batman is the last person to be trifled with.
Regardless of any problems one might have with the simplicity of this story or the logic problems within (why didn’t Clayface practice more subtlety?), it’s still a great read. Particularly, during a certain part of the story where Clayface gets a bit too personal regarding the loss of Bruce Wayne’s son. The reader feels the punch in the gut about the same time Bruce does after Clayface’s crass remarks and wants nothing more than to see Batman tear him apart. Snyder does a great job in manipulating the readers’ emotions concerning young Damian’s death, as well as showing a rare side of the (usually) cool, calm, and collected Batman.
By now, it should be no secret that Greg Capullo’s art is nothing short of stellar. This issue is no different. His renderings of Bruce’s determined face and Clayface’s grotesque transformations are just perfect, bringing an almost Manga-like quality to the title. He’s easily taken his place as one of the best Batman artists of all time, right alongside the greats. He compliments Snyder’s storytelling the same way Neal Adams complimented Denny O’Neil or Norm Breyfogle to Alan Grant.
James Tynion and Alex Maleev’s backup story is pretty terrific, as well, if a bit short and maybe just a bit too easily resolved. However, it’s the depiction of the relationship between Batman and Superman that makes it so enjoyable. In recent years before The New 52, the duo often found themselves to be at odds. Here in The New 52, however, they are once again more of the World’s Finest team they were decades ago. Batman actually referring to Superman as one of his best friends in this story just might make your heart smile a little. Next month begins Zero Year, which promises to add a whole new spin to Batman’s origins that we’ve never quite seen before, according to Snyder. That’s where this particular title will be for the next 11 months. Until then, enjoy this simple, but fun, two-parter. Things may not be so simple again for a while.
If you’ve followed Word of the Nerd for very long you’ve probably picked up that I am a huge fan of DC’s line of animated films. Although I have been critical of some, as a whole the entire line of films have set a standard in comic book adaptations that is hard to surpass. It has been often said by many of the writers here that if Warner Bros. could put that kind of quality film making into their live action comic book movies, they would be beating Marvel Entertainment by leaps and bounds. Sadly, that’s not how it is and the true upside is that twice a year we are treated to at least two new animated films from DC. So now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the real meat and potatoes of this review.
As a rule so far, the Superman films have not been my favorites, with the exception of All Star Superman, I found them to be lacking quite a bit. It seems that only when paired with Batman or teamed up with the Justice League does Superman really have a chance to shine. There is a new exception to that…Superman Unbound. Although far from perfect, Superman Unbound does score quite high on my personal list of best DC animated films. And even though I was not a fan of the animation style I saw in the trailer, it did not matter to me in the end.
The story was based on a 2008 story arc written by Geoff Johns; Superman: Brainiac. If you are a fan of DC Comics, you know that Johns can tell a story and it comes through perfectly. The script written by Bob Goodman adapts Johns’ original story quite nicely particularly the portrayal of Brainiac, voiced by Fringe star John Noble. Animated to look almost Borg-like in appearance, along with Noble’s voice acting, the character of Brainiac was truly sinister and frightening, a true match for Superman and a far departure from the Brainiac we’ve seen in Superman The Animated Series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. The cold and calculating machine is replaced with a fearsome human quality that Noble performs perfectly.
Aside from John Noble the other voice talent in this film, which the producers have a knack of bringing a unique list of talent to all of the films, is surprisingly well done. Matt Bomer (White Collar) and Stana Katic (Castle) do justice to the characters of Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane. Although I was not all that pleased with the appearance of Lois Lane. Though she was voiced beautifully by Katic, her look reminded me of a woman trying to look much younger than she is. Whether intentional or not, the psuedo-goth look Lois was sporting wasn’t at all like Lois Lane, but more like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For me it was Molly Quinn‘s (Castle) portrayal of Kara Zor-El/Supergirl that was really excellent in the film. For that matter, Supergirl’s entire presence made me enjoy this film so much.
Quinn’s Supergirl was neither as shy nor as innocent as you would think her to be. Supergirl takes on the role of badass superhero and a darker shadow to her cousin Superman quite well. Her introduction in the opening sequence of the film was pure magic and actually had me talking to the screen more than once. I know for certain that I let slip a “oh no, now you’re in for it” when the bad guys try to flee from a determined Supergirl. A teenage girl with angst and superpowers is not to be trifled with.
Overall this was another feather in the cap of DC and Warner Bros. I was skeptical at first due to my disappointment in past solo Superman films, but I found myself enjoying it immensely and would definitely recommend it to the uninitiated. In writing this review I realized that Superman Unbound is the 16th in the series of stand alone films with hopefully no end in sight anytime soon. Additional voice talent includes Frances Conroy, Wade Williams, Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root and Alexander Gould.
The Nerd gives Superman Unbound – 4 out of 5
Nerd Byte: 5/4/13 was Free Comic Book day, as if you didn’t know. Eleven years to the day after the inaugural event in 2002, which was one day after the opening of the first Spider-Man movie. It was intended to be a day for retailers to draw in new customers, especially the kids who will drive the industry into the future. It’s also a chance to give a little something back to the customers who show loyalty throughout the year.
It was a fun and festive day at my local comic shop, Comic Relief in Flint, Michigan. Lou, Wayne and Dale showcased many talented artists and guests like Gabriel Cantu, Justin Faber, Jim Frankenstin, Brian Germain, Brian Hackney, Erik Hodson, Alexandra Keaton, William Messner-Loebs, Adam Lockwood Morgan, Geary Roe, and Nicole Stevens. Other guests included Ginger Kewl and Carey Torrice. Wayne Luck told me that the place was pretty packed all day. They thought they had ordered enough of everything, but by the time I got there (around 5:00pm) there were some holes in the racks to attest to the turnout. Wayne also said that he was impressed by the number of parents who brought their kids throughout the day. That is good news for their business and the comic industry in general. Many wonder if digital comics will eventually replace paper. I, for one, hope not. I am a comic nerd at heart, but a collector as well. I need something to put my hands on. I love the smell of the paper and the ink, as I’m reading. Hopefully, Free Comic Book Day went a long way toward building that future. Thanks Comic Relief, and every other retailer who participated in the festivities. See you guys on Wednesday!
Nerd Byte: It’s official X-Factor will come to an end with issue 262 in September. Peter David will write the group out with a six issue story arc entitled “The End Of X-Factor.” The book started 10 years ago with the cast of the Original X-Men stepping into the public and fighting crime out in the open. It ends with a quirky ensemble cast of seeming misfits solving mutant crimes and mysteries. David used characters that had fallen off the grid like Rictor, Monet, Longshot and Multiple Man. He made them interesting again. I’ll be sorry to see them go, but very interested in how it all ends.
Nerd Byte: Joss Whedon has been hinting that the Avengers showdown with Thanos might not happen in Avengers 2 as many believed. He recently intimated that the ultimate face-off with Thanos would be saved for the climactic finale. Whedon stated, “Thanos is more powerful. He’s not someone you just trot out and punch him. Like you did in the comics, you want him to be threading through the universe and to save the big finale for the big finale. He’s definitely a part of what I’ve got going on. The thing about The Avengers is, that they are very powerful, but they aren’t very stable. There’ll definitely be some people who are gonna shake them up in the next installment!”
Nerd Byte: Rumors continue to swirl around the Man of Steel. The latest has the Martian Manhunter showing up in the film. It’s unclear, as yet, if it’s true. If it is, there is plenty of speculation as to what J’onn J’onnz will be doing in the movie. Photos have emerged depicting Harry Lennix, who is listed as playing General Stanwick, in a CGI suit that bears an odd resemblance to the uniform of the Martian Manhunter. My guess is that the Manhunter is on a recon mission. He will likely remain in the background watching as things develop with Superman. His scenes will likely be in the General Stanwick persona, with a few glimpses at his powers, which obviously include shape-shifting. The character’s appearance would certainly make sense since the Man of Steel‘s success has been reported to be the lynch-pin of the future of the DC Universe in movies. Let’s hope Man of Steel lives up to the hype, otherwise we may never see the Justice League movie we are all waiting to see.
Nerd Byte: In a recent interview Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige commented on the possibility of a stand-alone superhero movie featuring one of Marvel’s many strong female characters. There has been talk at Marvel Studios regarding characters from the roster of female superheroes, but no names were mentioned. Feige said, “We have a number of candidates from the comics and from the movies we’ve already made. It’s just a matter of finding the right story line, the right filmmaker, the right time.” Odds would be good on Black Widow being the first, and with the Guardians of the Galaxy movie expanding the Marvel Universe into space, Captain Marvel could be on the horizon.
Nerd Byte: If you can get enough of zombies in film, then this news is for you. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a parody novel by Seth Grahame-Smith and a graphic novel by Tony Lee. It has been bouncing around Hollywood with names like David O Russel and Natalie Portman attached. Most recently according to a Variety report there’s still life in the project about the lifeless. New director Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, Charlie St. Cloud) has come aboard. Lily Collins (Mortal Instruments) is reportedly in final talks to play the female lead.
Nerd Byte: The battle between the television providers and the streaming movie sites (like Netflix) has taken a brief cease fire in order for the streamers to take a few potshots at each other. Approximately 1800 titles were recently dropped from the Netflix streaming service. According to The Huffington Post, titles from Warner Bros., MGM, and United Artists were pulled from the instant stream Netflix line up. Warner’s launch of an exclusive streaming site is likely the reason behind this drastic action. Netflix assured it’s subscribers that they will be adding around 500 titles today and that the “ebb and flow” happens often. I’m not surprised at the move, I’m just surprised at the timing.
Nerd Byte: Pictures are emerging from the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Anthony Mackie, playing Cap’s long-time partner, The Falcon, is putting his flight apparatus through it’s paces. I hope that’s not his actual uniform for scenes as The Falcon, but judging from Marvels propensity for black leather, I may be disappointed. The story is rumored to be based around Cap’s struggle to embrace his role in the modern America. Played again by Chris Evans, Cap teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Mackie), and S.H.I.E.L.D. to battle a powerful yet shadowy enemy in present-day Washington, D.C. Sounds a lot like a certain Avengers Comic story called “Red Zone.” Geoff Johns penned the tale based on Red Skull’s infiltration of the U.S. Government as Dell Rusk and his attack and murder of thousands of people with a strange red mist. It was the best arc of Johns’ short time as The Avengers scribe. It’s certainly powerful enough for a movie translation and would explain the Falcon’s prominent role. He was instrumental in stopping Red Skull’s plot. It would not, however, explain the subtitle “Winter Soldier.” That’s a whole different can of worms.
Until next week, Stay Nerdy!
The hits just keep coming for Superman fans as reports of changes to the established mythos in Man of Steel have them all a twitter, literally. It started months ago as rumors started escape the studio from various outlets.
We heard reports that the actor playing Superman is British. He is a Brit! Henry Cavill was born May 5, 1983 in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK. So what?! Superman is not American, he’s an alien, so get over it. The next story was about how changes to his uniform (no red underwear, odd texture and belt) had traditionalists upset. Ok, I can relate to this one a bit. I’m not adverse to change, just have a reason. Tell me why his original uniform doesn’t make sense in today’s world and you might convince me, but I have yet to hear any reason. Next, we heard that kryptonite will not appear, or play a part, in the film. Great! Finally! In almost every TV or movie appearance, kryptonite has been used to weaken Superman so that he could be challenged by normal humans. I am sooooo tired of that story. Leave the kryptonite out and let him face some real challenges from superhuman opponents. If I want to watch a movie about a regular guy getting kicked around by other regular guys, until he finally tricks them and emerges victorious, I’ll watch Die Hard! So lets check the score. Three rumors, and so far, I’m not all that disturbed, but that’s about to change.
It was recently reported that the Man of Steel story will reveal that Krypton wasn’t destroyed! While this would explain the lack of kryptonite I am dumbfounded. Rumors are flying around that Kal-El’s parents shuttle him to Earth for a variety of possible reasons. One such explanation has Jor-El sending him Earthward to save him from a civil war. Another, has his parents sending him away to save him from persecution due to the fact that he was born via natural birth, not genetically engineered like all other Kryptonians. What is the point? Is this drastic story change just pure EGO? Do David Goyer, Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, and whoever else is making these decisions, really believe that their need for creative license trumps 75 years of history? I hope not. I really respect the body of work from all of those creators. Maybe Warner Bros. is forcing the issue just so they can say that they have an exclusive version of Superman. I don’t really know, but change just for change’s sake makes you no better than Michael Bay (ie: Teenage ALIEN Ninja Turtles).
Part of the heroic identity of Superman is that he is alone, the last of his kind, and yet he chooses to defend Earth. How will that change? I hope, in the long run, it won’t. Maybe the movie makers involved just want to destroy Krypton for themselves to finish the Man of Steel Trilogy in a few years. In my opinion, changing something this critical to the history of the very first and most iconic superhero, is simply hubris. But, I guess to be a true creator you have to believe that your vision is right. So many such creators have failed to capture what makes Superman, well, super. Let’s hope that Man of Steel doesn’t just become another in a long line of comic book movies that I will see once, and only once. I’m talking to you Superman Returns.
Is DC setting themselves up for more continuity challenges in the New 52 universe? As if they aren’t already boggling the minds of longtime DC Comics readers, there is a new rumor in the air. Bob Harras, Editor In Chief at DC Comics, teased the possibility of a Cyborg Superman in the New 52. He stated, “As I’ve been telling you, all bets are off. Everything’s on the table.”
Such a general statement could mean just about anything. For example, it could mean that continuity is now irrelevant. This would allow DC writers to run wild without concern for past stories. It could also mean that the power brokers at DC are hurriedly trying to shore up continuity gaffs. They may be trying to reintroduce fan favorite characters, or even crucial story lines to their confusing pantheon.
The original Cyborg Superman, then known as Hank Henshaw, was introduced in Superman #42. He was part of an ill-fated NASA space flight where his human body died, but he was able to save his consciousness in a LexCorp mainframe. He used it to create a new cyborg body, left Earth, and didn’t return until after Superman died at the hands of Doomsday. Convinced Superman was involved in the destruction of his body, he decided to become the new Superman when he supposedly died. The Eradicator, however, challenged him for the title of the new Superman, so Cyborg Superman decided to destroy Coast City and frame Eradicator. This plot resulted in both the death of Eradicator and the restoration of the original Superman’s powers.
These story lines were epic and critical to the old continuity of the DC Universe. They were also thrown away as if they had never happened when DC launched The New 52. While I’m certain that the residents of Coast City appreciate the reprieve, fans of Superboy, Eradicator, and dare I say… Cyborg Superman, might disagree. I’m not sure how the brilliant minds at DC will attack this continuity problem. As a longtime fan of comics, I have one simple request: Do not simply retell the original story to bring the continuity into the New 52. Be original. Be brilliant. Make history.
One of the problems with superhero movies is the penchant for writers, directors, and producers to put too much into a movie because they want to appease the fan base more than they want to tell a good story. Comic book characters have long, rich histories making it impossible to include every single thing about them in one movie. But logic be damned, we’ve got to put butts in seats, so put ALL THE THINGS into the movie! It’s why superhero movie sequels tend to suffer the most. There’s always more heroes to add, more villains to add, but little in the way of story or character development. The Batman movies (including Christopher Nolan’s trilogy), the Spider-Man movies, and the X-Men franchise have all suffered from this. In my opinion, the X-Men movies, particularly X-3, are the worst offenders. Way too many mutants for the sake of having too many mutants. Psylocke has like a three second cameo. Psylocke, for crying out loud!
That being said, there are certain features of a character that we associate with them specifically. Case in point, if you were to describe the essential components of Superman’s history and background one of the primary features is kryptonite. Yes, this irradiated hunk of Clark’s home planet that’s poisonous to the big guy (the green version, at least) is so ingrained in our culture that kryptonite is basically synonymous with an Achille’s heel – a weakness. It’s been the means by which any number of villains have managed to damage Superman – a lot of kryptonite bullets out there – and it comes in a wide variety of colors that affect Clark differently. It’s been a primary plot device in the comics, television shows, and the movies since its “official” introduction in the The Adventures of Superman radio show that ran from 1943 to 1951. So of course, with the upcoming Man of Steel set for release in June, there might have been an assumption on the part of fans that kryptonite would be a featured element in the movie.
Not so, says Zack Snyder. In the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, Snyder was questioned about Superman’s ultimate weakness (other than Lois Lane), to which he remarked:
“I’ll be honest with you, there’s no Kryptonite in the movie,” Snyder said. Man of Steel hopes to humanize Superman, but by giving him new flaws and vulnerabilities. Superman actor Henry Cavill said, “Although he is not susceptible to the frailties of mankind, he is definitely susceptible to the emotional frailties.” (Source: Entertainment Weekly)
This, I think, is a good thing. Even though kryptonite is part and parcel of the Superman mythos, the inclusion of it would just add more to a movie that’s already jam-packed with enough Superman-ness to satisfy casual viewers and fanboys alike.
First of all, Man of Steel already has a lot going for it in the way of plot and character beats that it has to hit if the movie is going to serve not only as an origin story, but as a launching point for the DC Cinematic Universe. We’ve all seen the trailer of young Clark struggling with his abilities, the parenting skills of Jonathan and Martha Kent, the military’s suspicions of him, and the threat of General Zod and his ilk. That’s a lot of stuff in one movie, so throwing kryptonite in there because it’s associated with Superman doesn’t make sense. Secondly, his antagonists are Kryptonians! If kryptonite harms Superman because it’s a radioactive piece of his destroyed home world, why would other Kryptonians use it as a weapon against him? How do you win that fight when everyone is lying on the ground in pain? Makes things easier for the military at least.
In fact, the exclusion of kryptonite gives Clark greater odds to beat because he basically has to go punch for punch with a seasoned and experience warrior who intends to conquer Earth. It amps up the action and highlights the emotional stakes of this movie. This is the story of a man making a choice about who and what he is to his adopted planet. Is it worth sacrificing the lives of others to keep your powers a secret out of fear of discovery? Where do you draw the line between being helpful and doing harm? Can you trust yourself to hold back and show mercy instead of going for the easy route of destruction? These are the questions Clark has to answer, the questions that make him into the hero we’ll most likely see at the end of the film. Forcing him to go up against Zod on equal footing pushes these issues to the forefront. Imagine Clark getting the upper hand and just starting to pummel Zod, over and over again. He’s a superpowered being and he’s angry; at Zod, at the military, maybe at his father(s) and he’s just about to give him the final blow when…he stops. He realizes what he’s doing, where that leads, and who he’ll become if he follows through. That’s your movie. That’s Man of Steel. There’s no room for kryptonite. It’s unnecessary and it’s a smart decision not to include it just because.
That’s not to say kryptonite won’t show up. That’s the beauty of sequels (should there be any). And nothing screams “sequel bait” more than an end-credit scene featuring a cameo by Lex Luthor grumbling over the appearance of Superman while being presented with a hunk of glowing green rock. It gives you a glimpse of the next villain and the weapon he could potentially wield against his soon-to-be arch nemesis.
In short, I’m not worried about a lack of kryptonite and neither should you. From what I’ve seen on the internet we’re, again, divided over interpretation and adaptation. The only thing to do about it is to go see Man of Steel in June!
Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these, right? I’d give you an excuse, but…meh. Anyway, with the reduction of cartoons on television to write about (that I enjoy), I thought I’d do what I promised back in my last Animation Celebration and take a look at the one thing DC and Warner Bros. do better than Marvel: direct to DVD animated movies.
Think of this as an In Memorium to Green Lantern and Young Justice as well as a tribute to the maestro of the DCAU, Bruce Timm, who’ll be stepping down as the Supervising Producer of WB Animation to work on other projects. Timm’s successor, James Tucker, has worked as a director and producer on other DC animated projects such as Batman: Brave and The Bold and the upcoming Superman: Unbound. Though WB assures that Timm will be back, Tucker seems to have some interesting ideas for where to steer the DCAU. Let’s just say you don’t throw around a name like “Oracle” lightly.
For the purposes of this article, however, we’re going to look at the DC Animated movies and shorts produced under Timm’s supervision. Technically, I’m starting from the first “official” DCAU movie under Warner Bros. Animation, Superman: Doomsday, in 2007 when WB made the distinction of producing the movies and shorts under Warner Premiere and labeled them DC Universe Animated Original Movies. One could easily make the argument that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and the other Batman: The Animated Series tie-in movies, plus Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker count, but that just adds more to the pile, so we’ll save those for another day. Realistically, any one of these gems of animation could fill an entire article, so I’m going to arrange them by character or group, pick my personal favorite, and tell you why. Sound good? Okay, let’s begin!
While I’m not a big Superman fan (no reason really, just…meh, hey, Batman!), I can at least appreciate the character for what he stands for and the myriad writers who have painstakingly tried to reinvigorate the first superhero over and over again. What always distinguishes and sometimes alienates Superman from other heroes is his consistent boy scout mentality. Superman believes in the good in others and he’s usually the first to offer his hand in friendship instead of throwing the first punch. And despite their differences, Supes and Bats share a similar “no kill” policy that often clashes with popular opinion of how criminals should be punished.
That’s why I really enjoyed Superman vs. The Elite. Based on Action Comics #775, ”What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” by Joe Kelly, the comic was a response to groups like The Authority, published through DC’s imprint Wildstorm, who were praised for their ultra-violent methods and moral ambiguity, which was becoming more popular in mainstream comics.
In the adaptation, as in the comic, Superman (played by George Newbern from Justice League) befriends The Elite, a group of superpowered beings led by Manchester Black. Teaming up during an international crisis, Superman begins to notice the brutal nature of The Elite that clashes with his own “out-of-date” philosophy. Instead of being shocked at their behavior, people are rooting for The Elite, believing their approach to be more effective and proactive. Forced to reexamine his place in this new world of heroes, Superman confronts The Elite on their own terms and shows us all why Superman is the ultimate superhero.
It’s by no means a perfect adaptation. The animation is rough, but that was probably intentional since they were trying to make the movie reflect the influences of British and 80′s punk. The opening credits sequence is a feast for punk-ish eyes as bright colors, words, and cut-outs of old Superman comics flash on screen. Not my favorite animation style, but it’s totally worth it for the final act of the movie. Other than Supes vs. Darkseid in Justice League, I don’t think I’ve ever rooted more for Superman or been more freaked out by a morally apathetic Man of Steel.
Honestly, I could have picked any of these movies and made a case for them. Batman’s a character that continues to fascinate readers to this day. It’s not just that he’s a mortal, vulnerable man avenging the death of his parents or that he’s got a lot of cool toys and trained himself, physically and mentally, to prepare for all manner of scenarios in fighting crime. Batman’s greatest appeal is his psychological profile. Whether you think he’s as crazy as the villains he’s put in Arkham Asylum, or a man who’s working out his issues by dressing up like a demonic bat every night, there’s a reason why some of the best Batman stories try to tackle the mind of Bruce Wayne.
The reason Gotham Knight wins out over the other films, for me at least, is the experimental nature of the project. Like The Animatrix, Gotham Knight is technically a bridge-film between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Told through six separate, yet somewhat connected, stories and directed by six well-known anime directors, Gotham Knight takes the idea of Batman and showcases how versatile the character can be not only in how he’s animated, but how he’s perceived by the denizens of Gotham City and by himself. Though the stories all have different writers, there’s never a sense of the tone or voice of the characters changing. It also doesn’t hurt that Kevin Conroy voices Batman and Bruce Wayne through the whole movie, grounding the film with the character’s most beloved voice actor.
It’s because those familiar aspects are there that the directors and animators take chances with how Batman is depicted. From the urban legend of “Have I Got A Story For You” to the intimidating figure in “Deadshot,” the look of Batman from a cross-cultural perspective is a thing of beauty. And it is gorgeous, probably the most beautifully animated of all the DCAU films, hands down. My favorite of the six stories is, without a doubt,”Working Through Pain” if only for the final shot of Batman holding a bunch of guns, staring up at Alfred, unable to let them go. Good stuff.
Based on the rules that I placed on myself for this article, you’d think I’d pick one of these, right? Yes and no. I like and dislike both movies for different reasons. The common threads of adapting the films from the popular books written by Jeph Loeb and bringing back Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly to reprise their roles as Batman and Supeman respectively are definite positives, but I feel like both suffer from stories that end up being light on substance compared to the source material. I’m also not that big of a fan of Public Enemies animation style. I know they were trying to use Ed McGuiness’s style from the comics, but I don’t think I’ve seen so many muscles in places were it seems like muscles don’t belong. How Clark or Bruce could even turn their heads is a mystery that’s never solved.
I’ll admit that Apocalypse ranks slightly higher for me because of my love for all things related to The New Gods and Darkseid. Plus, there’s a fight between Wonder Woman and Big Barda vs. The Female Furies that’s just made of awesome! Unfortunately, Supergirl, or Kara Zor-El, who was the main focus of the comic from which this film was adapted, never feels like a character. She’s passed around from Batman and Superman to Wonder Woman to Darkseid, acting more like an objective for others instead of really doing anything for herself. And don’t get me started on the shopping montage!
Overall, both are fun enough. They’ve got plenty of humor and action, but when put up against each other, it’s hard to say if one is better than the other. Watch them both and you’re still guaranteed to have a good time.
Well…that makes things easy, right? Yeah, it’s a little depressing that there’s only one Wonder Woman film, but we can take comfort that it does a good job of hitting the right notes and doing right by the character. While most of Hollywood seems to be scratching their heads over what makes a good Wonder Woman film, the DCAU understands that Diana is defined by her compassion, kindness, and her duty to defend the helpless. That she’s a woman, and an Amazon endowed with powers and gifts from the Greek pantheon, becomes the hangup of others as this origin story balances the power dichotomy of men and women with themes of war and peace.
Keri Russell does a great job of bringing out all of Diana’s qualities without trying too hard to be the “strong, female character.” Diana’s curiosity about the world of men, her determination and defiance, her compassion, and her disillusionment all play out through the movie. Russell manages to keep Wonder Woman relatable without alienating her as she grows into the heroine we know and love. Nathan Fillion also does a fantastic job playing Steve Trevor. He’s brash, sarcastic, and of course a ladies man, but he likable enough that we, and Diana, don’t outright hate him for being a sexist pig. The scene where he tries to out drink her in a bar is perfectly hilarious. The movie boasts an impressive supporting cast as well and it’s a shame that since the release of Wonder Woman we’ve only ever seen her in Justice League movies since. There’s got to be another Wonder Woman story out there worth telling, right?
While Emerald Knights tried to follow a similar formula to Gotham Knight by telling a series of standalone stories narrated by Hal Jordan (played by Nathan Fillion), I actually prefer First Flight because, like other films in the DCAU, it took the source material and went much further than I expected. The origin story of Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni), First Flight presents a cocky yet likable Hal who doesn’t seem all that phased by the idea of being an intergalactic cop. As part of his training, he’s paired with Sinestro (Victor Garber) who shows him the ropes and introduces him to the seedy underbelly of the Green Lantern universe. It’s a buddy cop movie ala Training Day. Sinestro’s disdain for the Guardians pushes every decision he makes, even going so far as to vouch for Hal because he believes that since Hal is human, a species not entirely desired by the Guardians to take up the green, he’ll understand what he’s trying to accomplish. Of course, Hal’s not so easily manipulated.
This movie stands out from Emerald Knights for another reason: it’s dark. Like, really dark in terms of its tone and imagery. Though the animation takes some getting used to (it grew on me by the end), how the creators show Sinestro’s pragmatic cruelty is instantly upsetting yet entirely true to the character. Add to that the death of a character depicted in fairly graphic detail and this movie definitely earned its PG-13 rating. I remember watching it for the first time and being genuinely shocked with what they were able to show in a movie that was generally being marketed to kids. I don’t necessarily mind it – I rather like darker toned superhero movies – but I couldn’t help wondering what some parents might think when they popped this DVD in for their little ones.
New Frontier holds a very special place in my heart because it was the first trade I picked up when I started getting into comics in college. Yes, you caught me, I was a late bloomer to comics! Anyway, the movie adaptation of New Frontier captured my attention so much that I instantly went out and got the two volumes written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke. And while the book has so much more material, I think the movie does a fantastic job of streamlining the story while keeping a lot of the crazier elements. Cooke’s distinctive pin-up/mod style is kept mostly in tact (he also did storyboards for Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and animated the opening sequence of Batman Beyond) and his story of the Justice League as seen through the lens of Cold War politics warms my history loving heart.
Why this movie works so well is its way of seamlessly weaving in several plot threads while still telling the history of the DC Universe during this brief moment in time. Most notable is Batman’s change from dark avenger to a slightly softer father figure when Robin makes a brief cameo. We still have our major players like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and the Martian Manhunter, but we also get to see lesser known characters like The Atom, the Blackhawks, King Faraday, and Adam Strange. The movie’s Big Bad, The Centre, gives the large cast of characters reason to band together and form what would eventually become The Justice League. There’s also an impressive cast of voices including David Boreanaz, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Sisto, Lucy Lawless, Kyle McLachlan, Neil Patrick Harris, and Miguel Ferrer. Each of them brings their character to life without it being too distracting that you’re basically hearing Xena’s voice coming out of Wonder Woman…which is appropriately awesome!
While all of these shorts are fantastic, The Spectre stands out, again, because of the experimentation. One could easily do a Spectre story set in the present and be done with it, but the short sets the story in the 1970s with Jim Corrigan as an old-school detective solving a murder mystery. It doesn’t hurt that Gary Cole is voicing the guy either. What’s really impressive is how they visualize the punishments doled out by The Spectre to his victims. While he may be the Spirit of Vengeance, this short definitely shows that The Spectre is an anti-hero in the truest sense.
So those are my picks. If you don’t agree, let me know in the comments which films are your favorites and why. Hopefully I’ll be able to make this a monthly thing, so if there’s an animated movie or television show you’d like me to take a look at, let me know as well!
The X-Men and their never-ending time-travel drama continues, the Superman family may or may not experience a life-changing event, Ultron gets an upgrade in threat level, and Dr. Fate gets an upgrade—period—in this week’s 5 Comics Not to Miss This Week.
The adventures of the time-displaced X-Men continue, and things are sure to heat up. When we last left off, young Cyclops met Mystique for the first time, and she was up to her usual manipulative no-good. How will their interaction affect the other X-Men, both young and old? Hard to say, and we may not find out the answers in this issue, as the solicitations tease that the Avengers make a guest appearance in issue #8. How will their involvement change things for our merry, confused, tortured mutants? There’s only one way to find out. Read it!
The new Dr. Fate’s origin will likely come to bear in this issue, and it could be intriguing if writer James Robinson plays his cards right. After all, this is our first real glimpse into the retelling of one of DC’s most famous and powerful magic users. The New 52′s revamp of the Justice Society provides DC’s storytellers with an excellent opportunity to “update” classic characters, like Dr. Fate, who is DC’s version of Dr. Strange. Let’s see what the new, and possibly improved, Dr. Fate will be like.
The “H’El on Earth” crossover concludes this issue, and hopefully, it’ll be worth it. Admittedly, “H’El on Earth” hasn’t been the jaw-dropping, earth-shattering crossover that it could have been for the Superman family. It has spanned the Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy titles for months, and so far, it has seemed pretty… ordinary. So why is its conclusion one of the 5 comics not to miss this week? Because of all the issues in this crossover, the final one is the one that’s most likely to have the storyline’s best scene. Will something happen that shakes the dynamic between Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy to their core? Or will it be a lackluster finale that changes absolutely nothing for any of their characters? Chances are, it will be the former.
What’s the White Event? What’s so special about Captain Universe? How hard sci-fi can series writer Jonathan Hickman take a team like the Avengers in a storyline? And, most importantly, whose food will Spider-Man eat next even though they don’t want him to? All these questions will likely be answered in Avengers #7 this week and in future issues! Hickman’s cerebral take on the team contains a dash of humor and fish-out-of-water interaction as traditional heroes like Spider-Man clash with outsiders like Sunspot and Cannonball. Seeing people who don’t usually communicate band together is a sight to behold, and Hickman’s style of storytelling is interesting and engaging.
Marvel’s next big crossover event starts here. Ultron is one of the Avengers’ deadliest and most persistent adversaries, and now he’s apparently threatening other heroes too, so Marvel’s given him an upgrade, of sorts. It’s kind of a big deal for a villain to jump from being one team’s problem to being a problem for the entire superhero universe that team resides in. Will Age of Ultron be as interesting as Secret Invasion or Civil War? This week, we’ll find out.
Do you disagree with any of our choices? Did something from your pull-list not make it here? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.