Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths — Part One

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/23/24;
Warner;
Animated;
$29.98 Blu-ray, $47.99 UHD Steelbook;
Rated ‘PG’ for action/violence throughout and brief language.
Voices of Matt Bomer, Darren Criss, Stana Katic, Jensen Ackles, Meg Donnelly, Jimmi Simpson, Zachary Quinto, Jonathan Adams, Ike Amadi, Geoffrey Arend, Zack Callison, Alexandra Daddario, Matt Lanter, Aldis Hodge, Nolan North, Lou Diamond Phillips, Ashleigh LaThrop.

The first indication that this newest DC Universe animated adventure strays from the norm comes right off the bat, as Matt Bomer is the only credited cast member in the opening titles.

Bomer plays The Flash in this film and its precursors in the cycle of continuity that began with 2020’s Superman: Man of Tomorrow, and thus has been dubbed the “Tomorrowverse.”

The opening chapter of what is being presented as a Crisis trilogy is the eighth movie in the Tomorrowverse, and adapts the famed 1985-86 “Crisis on Infinite Earths” comic book crossover published by DC in which pretty much all of its characters battled a universe-destroying force.

Though most of the voice cast from the earlier films also return for this team-up adventure, that Bomer’s is the only one credited up front really speaks to how much this first installment has been crafted as a story centered on The Flash, a character whose fate was also closely intertwined with the plot of the original comics.

The film begins with The Flash, aka Barry Allen, zipping back and forth through time to key moments in his life, from the lab accident that bestowed upon him the powers of super-speed, to forming the Justice League with his fellow heroes, to meeting and marrying Iris West (Ashleigh LaThrop). The reason for his time jumps is tied to an evil force that threatens the multiverse — a wave of anti-matter energy is destroying parallel realities, and The Flash is transported to one where Earth is ruled by evil versions of his superhero pals.

His inability to save that reality gives him greater insight into the bigger threat when he is summoned to a space station where heroes from across the multiverse are being gathered to combat the problem.

Their plan is to build towers on each Earth that will be connected to a central device where The Flash can use his super-speed to vibrate all the Earths fast enough so that the antimatter will pass through them without doing any damage.

While the film is unavoidably loaded with familiar superhero tropes, it keeps viewers guessing with some interesting plot twists that effectively ground the action as essentially a love story between Barry and Iris. In this regard it strays a bit from the source material in order to give The Flash an even more integral role in the plot. The flashbacks also revisit some key moments from the earlier films while answering a few dangling questions about how certain events actually unfolded.

What’s also nice about the structure of the film is that the filmmakers haven’t just made an ambitious four-hour epic split up by the studio into three chunks for distribution. The first Crisis film tells a complete and satisfying story on its own while also laying the groundwork for the direction of the next sequel.

The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs include two featurettes. The first is called “Crisis Prime(r),” a name that suggests it might be about the source material to help give viewers context as to the slew of new characters that arrive. However, the 10-minute video turns out to be just the filmmakers recapping the previous seven movies to point out how they were planned to lead into this one.

A discussion of the source material does occur in the eight-minute “Selfless Speedster,” which delves into how the filmmakers deconstructed the original comic storyline in order to put The Flash front and center in the first of the three “Crisis” movies.

Justice League: Warworld

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 7/25/23;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some bloody violence.
Voices of Jensen Ackles, Darren Criss, Stana Katic, Ike Amadi, Troy Baker, Matt Bomer, Roger R. Cross, Brett Dalton, John DiMaggio, Robin Atkin Downes, Frank Grillo, Rachel Kimsey, Damian O’Hare, Teddy Sears.

The latest DC animated movie strays a bit from the typical superhero formula but should please fans of the classic trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

The film begins with a bit of an Elseworlds vibe, thrusting audiences into a Wild West adventure with Wonder Woman as a mysterious stranger riding into town to take on the unscrupulous Jonah Hex (which at first blush raises the question of if the filmmakers were doing “Warworld” or “Westworld”). Then, we are presented with Batman transformed into a Conan the Barbarian-type of character in the middle of a power struggle in a swords-and-sorcery setting. From there, the story shifts to a black-and-white 1950s-style ‘B’ movie about an alien invasion, with Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne and Diana cast as government agents sent to stop it.

The movie seems more invested in these vignettes than whatever story might be suggested by the film’s title. In the comics, War World is an intergalactic gladiatorial arena, a concept that has become something of a cliché in superhero movies by now. The film reimagines War World to suit its needs, but it still takes about an hour before letting the audience in on what might be going on with regards to why these heroes are in the situation they’re in. At nearly 90 minutes, Warworld is still one of the longest standalone movies in the DC animated canon, and it puts that extended time to good use with an action-packed climactic battle. On the other hand, as fun as it is to see many of the characters put into the situations they are in, the film ultimately feels more like a mashup of various ideas the filmmakers were interested in seeing on screen that weren’t a good fit anywhere else, strung together with a plot developed just enough to justify its existence before setting up the next movie with an abrupt cliffhanger ending that literally flies in out of nowhere.

The Blu-ray includes two featurettes that run just under eight minutes each. “Illusions on Warworld” explores the alternate reality scenarios presented in the film, while “The Heroic, the Horrible and the Hideous” focuses on the characters involved.

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Green Lantern: Beware My Power

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, bloody images and partial nudity.
Voices of Aldis Hodge, Jimmi Simpson, Ike Amadi, Brian Bloom, Jamie Gray Hyder, Nolan North.

Set against the backdrop of an interstellar conflict, Beware My Power is an animated “Green Lantern” movie that puts the focus on the character of John Stewart, one of the first major black superheroes to appear in DC Comics.

The film begins with the mystery of what happened to Hal Jordan, the best-known Green Lantern of Earth. His power ring ends up going to Stewart (voiced by Aldis Hodge), a former Marine sniper.

Searching for answers, he ends up at the headquarters of the Justice League, where Hal’s buddy Green Arrow (Jimmi Simpson) starts showing him the basics of being a Green Lantern. They set off to try to learn what happened to Hal, a quest that puts them at the center of a war between the worlds of Thanagar and Rann.

Beware My Power gets off to a promising start, as Stewart is compelling as a new hero with big shoes to fill, and Green Arrow serving as the primary source of comic relief. However, the story gets very convoluted by the end as the writers start to cram in a number of references to major comic book storylines.

The Blu-ray includes a 31-minute featurette about the history of the John Stewart character, who is marking the 50th anniversary of his debut as one of the secondary Green Lanterns of Earth.

Also included is the “In Blackest Night” two-parter from the 2001 “Justice League” cartoon, where Stewart was presented as the primary Green Lantern.

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Superman: Man of Tomorrow

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/8/20;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, some bloody images, suggestive material, language, smoking and brief partial nudity.
Voices of Darren Criss, Alexandra Daddario, Zachary Quinto, Ike Amadi, Ryan Hurst, Brett Dalton, Neil Flynn, Bellamy Young, Eugene Byrd.

The latest DC Comics animated movie takes a look at young Clark Kent’s early days as Superman as a fresh-faced potential journalist newly arrived in Metropolis.

This version of Clark, while aware of his powers, has no clue about his Kryptonian origins. He begins attracting the attention of the press through a series of heroic deeds, though he has yet to be branded Superman or even don his iconic costume (though his reasons for needing the costume provide one of the film’s biggest laughs)..

However, his exploits also get noticed by the notorious intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo, who comes to Earth looking for a fight. Though Clark finds an ally in the mysterious Martian Manhunter, his battle with Lobo ends up unleashing a deadly creature known as Parasite, who grows stronger by absorbing energy and draining the life force of his victims.

To stop Parasite’s rampage, Clark (voiced by Darren Criss) must enlist the help of Lex Luthor (Zachary Quinto), a man destined to one day become his sworn enemy. But this story occurs before all those pieces fall into place.

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The movie also gives some attention to the young Lois Lane (Alexandra Daddario), a recent graduate looking to establish herself as the top reporter at the Daily Planet, where Clark has been working as an intern bringing everyone their coffee.

The film does a nice job of establishing Clark’s eagerness to fit in. He knows he’s an alien, but isn’t sure from where or who else knows, so he knows his heroic excursions come with an element of risk. In fact, one of the big motifs of the film is finding the humanity in beings who otherwise aren’t human, particularly as Superman tries to re-connect with the man Parasite used to be.

Man of Tomorrow, the 40th entry in the DC Universe series of animated superhero movies, is a standalone film, not connected to the brand’s recent string of interconnected movies, though it could very well prove a good jumping off point for a new continuity.

The animation is crisp and lively, and the colors pop in high-definition. The filmmakers have crafted some exciting action sequences, including the initial all-out brawl between young Clark Kent and Lobo. The third-act battle against Parasite takes on much of the flavor of a typical “Godzilla” movie, but for the most part this is a pretty entertaining Superman adventure. Fans of Lobo should get a kick out of finally seeing him in action in one of these DC movies.

The Blu-ray includes two Lobo-centric episodes from “Superman: The Animated Series,” plus a 10-minute featurette on the history and popularity of Lobo.

There’s also a nine-minute featurette about the legacy of the Martian Manhunter.

Rounding out the extras are a trailer, featurettes for earlier DC animated movies, and a 12-minute preview of the next animated DC movie, a kung-fu-style Batman adventure set in the 1970s.