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.

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence and language.
Voices of Jack Dylan Glazer, Jack Griffo, Troy Baker, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Darin De Paul, Tom Kenny, Zeno Robinson, Nolan North, Myrna Velasco.

Taking the role of the superhero sidekick to the next level, Battle of the Super Sons delves into the family lives of Batman and Superman to present an entertaining, though somewhat derivative, adventure.

The story focuses mostly on Jonathan Kent, the pre-teen son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane who is being raised by his parents in Smallville. When he starts developing powers such as heat vision and super strength, Jonathan’s father reveals his true identity as the son of Superman, and takes him to meet Batman to test the extent of his Kryptonian abilities.

In the Batcave, Jonathan meets Damian Wayne, the current Robin who is the son of Batman and Talia, daughter of the supervillain Ra’s al Ghul.

Soon enough, Batman and Superman are called away to deal with a Justice League crisis involving Starro, the mind-controlling starfish alien who has made its way to Earth and begins possessing the population.

With Batman, Superman and other members of the Justice League infected, Jonathan and Damien must team up to free them from Starro’s control.

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The concept of Batman and Superman having children who team up is hardly a new one, first presented in the comics in alternate reality stories in the 1960s and 1970s. Those tales weren’t much of a stretch from a creative standpoint, with the sons named Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. and basically serving as mini-me versions of their fathers.

It wasn’t until the past decade or so that Batman and Superman gained true sons in the main DC continuity, paving the way for a revival of the Super Sons concept using Damien and Jonathan. And really, the idea of pairing a variation of Superboy with Robin is just a fun team-up.

Battle of the Super Sons is purportedly the first of the DC Universe animated movies to fully use CGI for its animation, and the results are pretty good. The style is evocative of traditional 2D animation with some anime influences for the action. Colors are bright and vivid, and the story lends itself to bold action sequences.

While the story works to translate the Super Sons concept from page to screen, it does feel a lot like a mash-up of popular trends in comic adaptations and some wish fulfillment on the part of the writers. Starro, who was actually the original foe of the Justice League back in the 1960s before being sidelined as somewhat goofy, has become a bit of a trendy villain of late thanks to being featured in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. But the mind-control element does let the writers have some fun with letting Damien and Jonathan fight some members of the Justice League, including their own fathers.

Meanwhile, the notion of Superman and Lois having kids and moving to Smallville is the premise of the TV series “Superman and Lois.”

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The whole history of the Super Sons concept, how it shines light on some of our favorite characters, and the effort it took to make a movie out of it is covered in the 15-minute featurette “Rival Sons: Jonathan and Damian.”

The Blu-ray also includes bonus episodes from “Batman: The Animated Series” in the form of “The Demon’s Quest” two-parter, a story arc in which Ra’s al Ghul kidnaps Robin (the original, Dick Grayson) in an effort to get Batman to take his place. These episodes were probably chosen because they deal with the Batman/Talia relationship and thus connect to Damien’s history.

 

 

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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