First Impressions: Superman Batman Public Enemies

DC’s latest direct-to-DVD animated feature Superman Batman: Public Enemies hits the store shelves today. I’m looking forward to this one. I’ve have a full review posted to the site this weekend.

Review - Green Lantern: First Flight

As I mentioned in my Hulk Vs review earlier this year, I’ve enjoyed the Marvel and DC series of direct-to-DVD animated films.  DC’s most recent entry is Green Lantern: First Flight released earlier this summer.  I expected a straight forward origin story for Earth’s most famous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan.  His origin had been told in the film adaption of Justice League: The New Frontier.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself getting wrapped up First Flight which turned out to be an intergalactic version of Training Day.  It became an origin story of sorts for Hal Jordon’s nemesis, Sinestro.

My previous exposure to the Green Lantern mythos was the aforementioned Justice League: The New Frontier; the excellent Justice League animated series; and the character’s appearances in the old Super Friends Saturday morning shows.  I’ve never read the comics.  The film opens with a dying member of the Green Lantern Corp, Abin Sur, crash landing on Earth.  His ring seeks out and literally brings the alien’s replacement, someone worthy of becoming a green lantern, to the crash site.  Hal Jordan, a test pilot, is given this gift.  A short time later, members of the Green Lantern Corp, an interplanetary police force of aliens from across the galaxy, arrive on Earth to confront the new lantern.  Hal is taken to Oa where he meets the Guardians.  Long ago the Guardians harnessed the “green element”, source of the Corp’s power.  These founders of the Green Lantern Corp allow Hal to begin his training under the Corp’s most ambitious member, Sinestro.  Their first mission together is to find the being responsible for Abin Sur’s death.

But it seems that there is corruption even in the noblest of organizations.  In a series of scenes similar to any “good cop gone wrong” movie, Sinestro reveals his true motivations and even frames Hal for the death of a suspect under investigation.  Power corrupts and “yellow” power corrupts absolutely.  As I said, this isn’t really a Hal Jordan origin story.  His back story is over and done with in the first ten minutes of the film.   Hal is the rookie.  The young detective on his first assignment, he spends much of his screen time reacting to what’s going on around him.  Fortunately he gets to be proactive during the film’s climax.  But having said that, Sinestro is the driving force of this film.

I liked this movie.  The voice work and dialogue of these DC animated films continue to be first rate.  As for its content in comparison to the comic book’s mythos, I can’t speak for its accuracy or faithfulness to the source material.  There is no mention of the emotional connections the rings have to their wielders.  Green for willpower.  Yellow for fear.  None of that.   I’d be interested to know what a hardcore Lanetern fan thought of the film.  I think most superhero fans will enjoy the Green Lantern’s first solo adventure.

Studio: DC Comics / Warner Bros. Animation
U.S. Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Composer: Robert Kral
Release: 2009
Rating: PG-13
Length: 75 minutes
Audience: super heroes, science fiction
Official Site: Green Lantern DVD

Disney to purchase Marvel for $4 Billion

The Mouse wants to own the House of Ideas. On Monday the Walt Disney Company announced a deal to purchase Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. If approved, Marvel would benefit from Disney’s extensive distribution network and Disney would have access to Marvel’s iconic characters and more importantly a venue to attract
more men and boys to its brand. Both corporate leader said glowing things about the deal. Reaction on the internet is mixed.

Fears of Marvel being “Disney-fied” seems to be the loudest concern from fans. Marvel already has deals in place with various Hollywood and video game studios. So the effects
of this purchase will not immediately be felt by movie goers and gamers. I’m less certain about Universal Studios (and its Marvel attractions) and the Disney parks (visit The Coaster Critics site for more info). But if you think about it, Marvel has made recent moves in the kid-friendly direction. On the big screen, Wolverine is a PG-13 hero and much less the gritty, brooding, loner from the comics.
The latest animated series, Spectacular Spider-Man and the Iron Man Adventures, are younger versions of their comic book counterparts. It makes sense from a business point of view as Marvel tries to lock in the next generation of boys.

Longtime fans like myself can only hope that Marvel doesn’t forget about us. The direct-to-video Marvel animated movies, The Wolverine and the X-Men animated series, and the upcoming Wolverine and Iron Man anime series in Japan tell me that they won’t. But we will see.

First Impressions: Halo Legends

The trailer for the upcoming animated anthology Halo Legends debuted earlier this summer at Comic Con. Microsoft Studios will oversee story lines for the seven short films while five anime studios will produce the visuals. The anime studios include BONES (Fullmetal Alchemist and Sword of the Stranger), Productions I.G (Ghost in the Shell and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade), Studio 4*C (Tekkonkinkreet and The Animatrix), Toei Animation (Dragon Ball and One Piece), and Casio Entertainment whose works I’m unfamiliar with. Anime directors Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) and Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) are also involved in this project. Halo Legends will cover different aspects of the Halo universe from the video game franchise and its associated novels. One of the segments will be a two-part origin story of the Halo universe while another is a non-cannon parody of the franchise.

It will be interesting to see how this anthology is received by Master Chief’s minions. The negative feedback I read on the internet from Batman Gotham Knight was not entirely unexpected. These views mostly came from people who don’t like anime or don’t grasp the concept of an anthology. I expect similar reactions to Halo Legends from some hardcore fans, even with Microsoft overseeing the project. Hopefully, most casual fans will give this project a chance.

For more information visit Anime News Network’s article. An official press release from Microsoft is located here.

Halo Legends will be previewed this fall on Xbox Live and a home video release will follow in 2010.

Lost in Adaptation - Astro Boy Trailer

I recently watched the latest trailer for the upcoming CG film Astro Boy. Based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka, it’s the latest big screen adaptation of a Japanese anime or manga property. Recent attempts have not fared well at the box office including Speed Racer (2008) and Dragonball Evolution (2009). Maybe Imagi Animation Studios can break this streak of box office duds. The studio’s previous work was TMNT (2007) which vastly out performed Speed Racer and Dragonball Evolution. More than likely this was due to the Ninja Turtles being better known to western audiences. So here we go again. The trailer looks like it has all of the ingredients that western audiences gravitate for big screen animation. Humor. Action. A kid who saves the day. Big special effects. Celebrity voice actors. But will Astro Boy soar big or fail to launch? Tetsuwan Atomu a.k.a. Astro Boy lands in theaters on October 23, 2009.