October 12, 2009
SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES (2009, Blu-ray released September 29, 2009 - MSRP $29.99)
You know I've got a soft spot for these DC Comics animated adaptations. I've given fairly positive reviews to the two previous efforts in the series - Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight. So you're probably expecting more of the same from my review of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies on Blu-ray disc. And you'd be right! In fact, I think it might be the best of the bunch!
From what I can tell, that's probably not the popular opinion. I got my copy of the Blu-ray disc quite late and so had the opportunity to browse other reviews kicking around internets. While the disc itself would be constantly highly rated, reviewers seemed unanimous in slamming the simplistic story. I felt like the simplicity really worked in this case!
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is essentially a one-hour fight scene. There isn't much character or story. But plenty of excitement. And, at the end of the day, isn't excitement what draws us to a superhero adventure? Here's the setup, in a nutshell - Lex Luthor has swindled his way into becoming the president of the US and declares Superman and Batman public enemies. Villains and heroes alike hunt them down and try to beat the crap out of them. Awesome! That's pretty much all there is to it. But you know what? With such a a short runtime, that's okay. What drags the production down for me is the character designs. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is an adaptation of a DC Comics miniseries (I didn't read it so I can't comment on how faithful the script is to the original Jeph Loeb story.) As such, the filmmakers attempted to mimic the character designs of the comics' artist, Ed McGuinness. To the productions detriment, if you ask me. The designs, while looking a whole hell-of-a-lot like McGuinness' are too chunky and muscled and despite some champion work by Lotto Animation, the characters don't animate very well. Give me the old, simplified Bruce Timm models any day!
The Blu-ray looks fantastic! Really well done. Probably the best looking disc of all the DC Comics adaptations that Warner has released thus far. And, despite the lack of an uncompressed soundtrack, it sounds strong and pretty dynamic! Where the Blu-ray fails for me is in the bonus feature department. Aside from the requisite collection of trailers and six Bruce Timm best-of-Justice-League episode picks (all looking better than ever compressed with the VC-1 codec, I might add), the only extra materials on the disc are a short featurette exploring the relationship between Superman and Batman, and a sit-down dinner with the actor who performs the voice of Batman. Don't get me wrong, what we're given is pretty cool. I can take or leave the featurette but the dinner chat, running almost an hour long, is really great. Just like the Green Lantern: First Flight disc, however, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is sorely lacking in any detail on the production itself! One again, we're robbed of a commentary track, or making-of featurette. Come on, guys! As cool as it is to hear Kevin Conroy chat about his almost twenty years voicing Batman, I'd rather know something specific about the film I just watched. How about an interview with Sam Liu? If this Newsarama interview with the director is any indication, he has a lot to say about the production. What about Stan Berkowitz? Having adapted the comics to screen, he most likely has a few insights to share. Urgh...It's so frustrating to feel like nobody at the studio cares about this end of things anymore. Here's hoping they rethink their position of avoiding production docs and commentaries for next years Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray Disc release.
Also on The Bllu-ray Blog: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Blu-ray Disc review
July 27, 2009
GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT (2009, Blu-ray released July 28, 2009 - MSRP $29.99)
I couldn't help but think of Law and Order: SVU while watching Green Lantern: First Flight. And not just because the lead character is voiced by Chris Meloni, one of the cops on the hit NBC show. But because the take on the character and the group he belongs to is such that we're meant to perceive them as being an intergalactic police force, patrolling the cosmos and protecting life from galaxy to galaxy. Cool concept. And it works.
Green Lantern: First Flight comes to us as the newest DC Comics/Warner direct-to-video animated feature. And it's another in their long line of success stories, following hot on the heels of Wonder Woman and the anime-styled anthology Batman: Gotham Knight. With the understanding that these projects suffer from massive time and budget restraints, the quality that producer Bruce Timm and his teams are able to achieve is simply astounding. Yet still, writer Alan Burnett faced impossible odds, having to shoe-horn poor, old Hal Jordan's origin story into the first ten minutes of the film - ten minutes comprised of a five minute opening titles sequence (Hey guys, how 'bout we drop that from the runtime next time in favour of a little more story?) The upcoming live-action Green Lantern film, directed by Martin Campbell and starring Ryan Reynolds will no doubt make two hours out of that same story material, glossed over here. But while things feel a bit rushed out of the gate, Burnett is soon allowed to settle into a nice rhythm with his script, exploring the relationship of Hal as rookie space-cop in the Green Lantern Corps, being trained to use his new-found magical-ring powers by seasoned vet of the force, Sinestro (Victor Garber). This is Training Day in space!
We get a few scenes that are meant to give us that "cop show" vibe before the story thrusts us into superhero-epic territory, where the film ultimately feels more at home (Was it just me, or did it feel like they were always trying too hard to remind us that the Green Lanterns are cops?) There's a grand, exciting and extremely well animated climax sequence that's worth the price of the disc alone. This is the kind of action you hope to see in a Green Lantern film! Martin Campbell has a lot to live up to now.
I have to give credit to the design team on this film. Wow. Incredible work. Green Lantern: First Flight looks wholly original, with designs more inspired by anime than by North American comics. And man, do they work in this context. In fact, the Japanese influence can perhaps be felt a touch too strongly in one particular instance. It was pointed out to me by nerd-blogger extraordinaire, Rob at Topless Robot, that Green Lantern's initial transformation into the superhero we know and love is almost identical to that of Sailor Moon. Compare the two and see for yourself!
The first five minutes of Green Lantern: First Flight:
And a Sailor Moon transformation:
Pretty similar, huh?! Nevertheless, the animation comes off well, with the character designs rarely falling too off model and the more nuanced and intricate movement being saved for the action sequences. Well done.
The Blu-ray looks great, as well. I can't get enough of 2-D animation in high-def. From Disney classics to Persepolis, I think I could just spend every day watching nothing but old school animation on my PS3. And the audio is no sloutch here either. All in all, a great presentation!
My only real complaint with the Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray is directed at the bonus features. While this disc may be packed with extras (including five episodes of Justice League and a Duck Dodgers cartoon!) it doesn't offer a single glimpse behind the curtain. I want to know how this thing was made! We aren't even offered a commentary track this time. At least the Wonder Woman disc gave us that. And what about that early promo featurette? You know the one, showing us Meloni and Garber in the studio, recording their lines. Where is that little piece of film? Urgh...After watching all the little docs that they do offer us, I feel like it's all just a promotion for writer Geoff Johns and his upcoming comic books stories. A shame that Timm, director Lauren Montgomery, Burnett and the team had to be short-changed to shill some comics. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the upcoming Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Blu-ray disc will see fit to show us how the Warner animation magic is made!
Via: The Blu-ray Blog
March 13, 2009
AintItCool.com just got the scoop on the follow up to WHV and DC Comics' Green Lantern: First Flight. Harry Knowles claims the above is the logo for the fall release of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, an adaptation of the Jeph Loeb story of the same name. Click over to AintItCool.com for a plot synopsis.