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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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.

 

 

Batman: The Long Halloween — Part One

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$29.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, bloody images, language and some smoking.
Voices of Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Billy Burke, Titus Welliver, David Dastmalchian, Troy Baker, Amy Landecker, Julie Nathanson, Jack Quaid, Fred Tatasciore, Jim Pirri, Alastair Duncan, Naya Rivera.

Originally released in 1996 and 1997 and best known today as a graphic novel collection, the comic book miniseries “Batman: The Long Halloween” is considered one of the seminal works of the Batman canon.

Taking place over the course of a year early in Batman’s career, “The Long Halloween” tells the story of how Gotham City transitioned from gangland violence to being overrun with costumed supervillains, while also tracking the toll it takes on new district attorney Harvey Dent, who eventually becomes the villain Two-Face.

This first half of the two-part animated adaptation (the second half coming in a month) is heavily focused on the mafia side of things, and feels very much like Batman (Jensen Ackles) has been dropped into the plot of The Godfather.

This is a Batman still perfecting his skills as a vigilante. He makes obvious mistakes, isn’t too adept at jumping from roof to roof just yet, and he doesn’t seem interested in being a detective. He forms a pact with Dent (Josh Duhamel) and police Capt. Gordon (Billy Burke) to clean up the gang wars, but this only puts more of a target on Dent’s back, much to the chagrin of his wife. It also opens the door for the costumed crazies that Batman has inspired, such as the Joker (Troy Baker) and Catwoman (voiced by the late Naya Rivera in one of her final roles), as a serial killer begins targeting key mob personnel each month on a festive holiday.

Batman fans already familiar with the “Long Halloween” arc should appreciate the adaptation, which matches the animation style of the earlier Superman: Man of Tomorrow and Justice Society: World War II, potentially putting it in the same shared universe as those adventures. Long Halloween was reportedly intended to kick off this new continuity years ago, but was delayed when it looked as if Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be doing the storyline.

Casual Bat-fans who don’t know the graphic novel will likely recognize many aspects of the story, particularly the troika of Batman, Dent and Gordon, and the focus on Gotham’s mob bosses, from Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, which was heavily influenced by Long Halloween.

The Blu-ray includes a nine-minute preview of the upcoming part two, which delves further into Dent’s transformation into Two-Face.

There are also showcases for previously released Batman animated movies The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and Gotham by Gaslight.

As is customary for these DC Universe releases, the Blu-ray also contains two cartoons from the Warner Bros. catalog that are thematically similar to the movie — in this case, the “Batman: The Animated Series” episodes “Christmas With the Joker” and “It’s Never Too Late.”

Also included is the newest DC Showcase animated short film, the 16-minute The Losers. This one’s about a special forces unit during World War II caught up in a mission on an island overrun by dinosaurs brought from the past by a powerful energy barrier. The premise seems cobbled together from a few familiar sources and as a whole the short doesn’t amount to much, but the implications of some of the plot developments could be intriguing if explored further.

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Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/4/19;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for fantasy violence.
Voices of Troy Baker, Darren Criss, Kyle Mooney, Baron Vaughn, Eric Bauza, Rachel Bloom, John DiMaggio, Tara Strong, Tom Kenny, Carlos Alazraqui, Cas Anvar, Keith Ferguson, Brian George, Ben Giroux, Andrew Kishino, Jim Meskimen.

The popularity of the 2015-16 Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book miniseries made a movie version a no-brainer. Fortunately, respective rights holders Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon agreed to join forces to produce the pleasantly surprising Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bringing the two worlds together is a better fit than one might imagine, as both Batman and TMNT present heroes expertly trained in the martial arts with a vast supporting cast to play off of.

The key team up here, however, is between the villains, as the story brings together like-minded cult leaders Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul in an alliance that forces Batman and the turtles to join forces to stop them.

The film has fun pairing up different members of the supporting casts, and presents some great fight sequences, most notably Batman taking on all four turtles at once, and another of Batman in a brutal one-on-one showdown with Shredder.

The colorful animation style is evocative of the classic designs of many of the characters without looking too cartoony, finding a nice balance between the absurdity of the premise and a story that takes itself seriously but doesn’t forget to keep a tongue in its cheek. Yet it also doesn’t forget the nature of its characters and isn’t afraid to play up the bloody violence of which they’re capable.

The comic book itself a collaboration between two companies, DC Comics and IDW, spawned a second miniseries in 2017 and a third in 2019. So there should be plenty of material for future movies to work with.

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The Blu-ray includes the featurettes “Cowabunga, Batman! When Comic Worlds Collide,” an interesting look at the history of comic book crossovers that runs about 13 minutes, and “Fight Night in Gotham,” an 18-minute video that delves into the animation techniques used to depict the different fight match-ups and the fighting styles of the characters.