Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Batman Unlimited Animal Instincts Review

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It’s been a while since DC has been able to deliver a good movie, but I had high hopes for this one after seeing the trailer. It would get away from the excessive violence and bring us the classic Superfriends atmosphere that we had been waiting for. As expected, the film was fun and lived up to my expectations. I could have done with some more hand to hand action towards the second half, but it managed to avoid having many negatives and as the film is quite short, it is something that I could definitely recommend to others as a quick superhero watch.

Mysterious animal related crimes have been surfacing in Gotham City so Batman and his comrades decide to check it out. Batman is evaded in his fight and Cheetah manages to defeat Nightwing with the help of Killer Croc, despite the Flash coming in to help out. The heroes are systematically defeated at each and every turn so Batman decides to take the initiative. Meanwhile, the Penguin decides to make a new building and it ends up being the tallest in the city. Could he have some kind of plan to go alongside this or is he just trying to have fun? The heroes will have to try their best if they want to stand a chance here!

All right, let’s quickly talk about the technical aspects first. The soundtrack was surprisingly good and fast paced. It really fit quite well with the action scenes. I think that the music could have been a little more pronounced though so you could really feel the action, but it was still better than expected. The writing was also pretty solid as you would expect from a Superfriends inspired product. Keeping in this atmosphere for future films would be great!

As for the animation, Batman Unlimited looks good. I doubt anyone will be making a case for it looking great, but it can hold his own when necessary. The opening action scenes actually looked quite good and that’s a plus of being so modern. Even relatively low budget films can still look quite good. One thing that I noticed was that the film would use a longer roll animation than necessary so every time the character hit the ground, they would keep on rolling and rolling. It’s not bad though, just something to notice. The night scenes ere all handled quite well.

That being said, I didn’t care for most of the character designs. I really liked Batman’s costume, but that’s about it. The hair styles of the various characters were just off and the Flash looked really odd the whole time. It reminded me of Superman and the Elite to an extent. Good animation can help to negate the character designs, but it was still very iffy. Nightwing’s hair probably stuck out the most to me. Luckily, the voices also helped to mitigate these losses as Nightwing’s was perfect for his character and Red Robin also got a really good one. DC really pulled out the stops for this one.

All right, for a negative, I’d say that the Flash looked really bad. It goes beyond simply plot hax as he is made to be a bit of a joke here. It’s similar to the treatment that Green Lantern got in Justice League War, which I still find to be quite sad. Flash gets tripped by Cheetah here and Man Bat takes him out in a single blow. His high speed punches also have absolutely no effect on Killer Croc, which was just embarrassing. He was treated as a bit of a rookie here and even if this is Wally West, that’s still a bit much. Red Robin was the main comic relief for the film, but he was handled well. What he lacks in hand to hand combat, he makes up for with his intense one liners. I order Sliders from Buffalo Wild Wings myself so I can see why Red Robin was in the mood for it.

Nightwing certainly looked good here. He was on point the whole time and never lost sight of the mission. He felt like a mini Batman and you can be sure that the Dark Knight is pleased with his progress. He may have lost to the villains the first time, but those guys managed to make all of the heroes look bad on several occasions so it certainly wasn’t his fault. Green Arrow also looks good and we get to see him relatively early in his career I’d say because he was still waiting on the patent for one of his inventions. Green Arrow looked good and while he still seems like a bit of a second rate Batman, he isn’t a bad character.

Naturally, Batman looks the best from the group and whenever he decides to take charge, you know that the heroes are about to do well. I don’t care for his Space Dandy design, but this is a Batman who knows what he is doing and that’s always a good thing. He knew how to make a cure for Man Bat and he figured out how to track the villains right away. Batman doesn’t get to look much better than this, his portrayal was spot on.

As you may expect from the film’s short run time, it’s essentially just a compilation of action scenes. There is always some kind of action going on. It can get a little repetitive to see the villains escape the heroes so often though as that really shouldn’t be happening. The heroes had the villains outmatched the instant that Flash appeared. Without him, it would actually be an interesting fight, but I can’t ignore the presence of such a heavy weight. The film probably could have used a better array of villains, although it was a fairly decent team. Cheetah makes for a decent threat, Killer Croc is tough, and the robot Ape wasn’t bad. Man-Bat and Penguin could have been more interesting or imposing though. I’ve never been a fan of those two.

That’s why the sequel looks like it could end up being even better than this film, although I’m being cautious for now. I was pleasantly surprised with some of the fight scenes after all and the film was just enjoyable to watch through and through. This is why Batman Meets the Green Hornet needs to be adapted into a film like this one. I have a feeling that it would prove to be quite the entertaining movie!

Overall, Batman Unlimited was a fun little film. There’s certainly not a whole lot of depth to it and you won’t be forced to ask yourself the tough questions, but it’s a really fun superhero film that will remind you of the good old days. This is certainly the best animated comic book film in a while and it felt like DC’s answer to the Marvel’s Heroes United Run. I’d say that DC took the win here as expected. In the sequel, I want Superman to be added to the roster! I saw the trailer a while back, but that was quite a while ago so I forgot most of it. I’ll be sure to check it out again soon. Let me know what you thought of this film once you see it!

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Justice League Throne of Atlantis Review

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Well, the sequel to Justice League War has finally arrived. I was not thrilled with the shift into the New 52 lineup from the start and this title definitely doesn’t help. It’s easily the worst Justice League film to date and that’s a pretty sad title to achieve. With such a great cast, it isn’t hard to make any Justice League film an elite, but this just shows how important a good writing staff/director is. All right, let’s look at why this film didn’t succeed.

A submarine is travelling through the waters when the crew is murdered by several underwater beings. The missiles are stolen so the Justice League is brought in to investigate. Meanwhile, Prince Orm is riling up Atlantis to go and face the surface dwellers. The Queen is keeping him in check, but for how long? Aquaman must leave the life that he has led on the surface to realize his destiny as an Atlantean. The players are all moving towards the climax where a confrontation shall be had!

For this review, I’m going to do some damage control before I get into the many negatives. One positive is that Batman doesn’t get hit during the film. He may as well be invincible since nobody can stop him. The flip side to this is that Batman never even gets to throw a punch this time. He’s basically in this film for star power since he doesn’t really have a role. He looks pretty good in his scenes, which is a plus. He gives up a little quickly on the flooding issue, but that just shows how dicey the situation was.

Another positive for the film is the animation. It still looks pretty good like in Justice League War. The battle scenes all flow pretty smoothly and there isn’t really anything negative to say about the animation. The character designs are another matter. They all look below average to be honest and it’s like they aren’t even trying in the New 52. Superman’s is probably the worst, but there’s something about GL’s that just isn’t appealing. At least, compared to his real uniform. Aquaman looks good, but he doesn’t have much of a costume to change here.

Are there more positives? Well, I’m sure we’ll find some as we go through the negatives. It’s time for some real talk folks so strap yourselves in because this roller coaster is about to begin its free fall! It’s hard to know where to start, but let’s begin with the romance section. Having Wonder Woman and Superman get together is completely pointless and it’s insulting to the fans. I grew up with the classic days where Superman made sure to keep everyone in the friend zone. He was firm about this so that villains couldn’t use his friends as targets. That was the Superman that I know. His pairing with Wonder Woman is wince worthy at best and it makes both of the characters look pretty awful here. More on that during their individual sections. Cyborg randomly gets a pairing as well and it’s just as sad. Superheroes don’t need rushed romances to keep the audience engaged and it just makes things sadder for us…the fans!

DC’s decided that their new films are going to be a lot more violent than the older ones. This started out with Flashpoint and I’m sure that we all remember the films that came afterwards. Well, Throne of Atlantis tries to compete with those as the blood runs like water here. The fight scenes will make you think that you’re watching Mortal Kombat considering how many beheadings and diemembering appear in the film. Everyone gets stabbed at some point. Superman begins to bleed for no real reason when he gets zapped by the staff and let’s not forget the hand to hand scenes. The film adds some noises like the sound of a jaw breaking to make the scenes more “intense.” Aquaman really beats up on the normal joes and it’s the kind of fight scene that could easily be done without the extra effects. DC says gritty and I say unnecessary. The overload of violence is just distracting and it really takes away from the film. It definitely makes the title unsuitable for kids and it is definitely a very strong PG 13 so you’ll want to be careful with your teenagers as well. It’s probably not the most violent DC film to date, but it certainly tries hard to achieve that spot. So, the fights are pretty streamlined and flashy, but the violence hurts them pretty badly. They may be trying to send a message to Marvel’s animated features, but this blurs that message.

The writers also seemed to want to suck the philosophical questions that the comic had so they made Prince Orm a one dimensional villain. He is not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination and he’s just your average super villain who wants to destroy everything. Once he gets the staff of power, he just goes around beating everyone up. His design also looks pretty fake as if the film is adding insult to injury. You’ll probably want to boo him off the stage since he’s so generic and not very intimidating.

Black Manta is also here, but he doesn’t serve much of a purpose either. He gets a brief fight with Aquaman, but he is humiliated and we remember that the Aquaman hype train will not be derailed until the next film. for quite a while. I’m fine with it since that’s handled pretty well, but Black Manta should have known that he was outmatched. He was just very sub par here.

That transitions into another area where the film needed some help. The writing. We’ve got violence, but that doesn’t make the film gritty enough right? Time to throw in some language! There aren’t many big swears, but the ones that are there were definitely added to show how edgy the villains are. Black Manta and a throwaway villain in Gotham just use the word for no discernible reason. They’re just using it because they can and I always attribute that to bad writing. The writers of today sometimes realize that they can’t match the ones from the Bogart and Bacall days so they don’t even bother. Adding in swear words is one of the ultimate cop outs.

The movie is definitely a lot different from the original comic and unfortunately, it is much worse. We don’t really get any action scenes since most of the “fights” just result in the Leaguers decimating hundreds of mindless monsters or watching the flip side of that. The only real fight for the League is at the end against Ocean Master and that one’s wince worthy due to plot hax. The movie also takes away any sense of danger since they erase the flood scene. It’s odd because it’s hyped up as the villains bring a giant tsunami towards Metropolis, but then they just part the waves dramatically and decide to attack the city on foot. It’s probably one of the most foolish decisions that I have ever seen in a film and it’s embarrassing for them. There is literally no point to using such a tactic and you’re basically giving the heroes a chance to fight back this way. Batman’s big “People are going to die” moment from the comic just doesn’t work this time since only a few soldiers are taken out during the battle. Not quite the amount of casualties that we were expecting huh? Cyborg’s drama about going through with the operation to replace his lung? It’s taken out here as he just says yeah from the start. The film wanted to speed along through everything.

The pacing is very quick, but a little too much so this time. The film is barely over an hour so it rushes through Aquaman’s origin so that they can have Ocean Master take the stage. This results in every area of the film feeling rushed since nothing is developed so that they can go to the next scene. The Justice League get the shaft at times because of this and you’ll find yourself just waiting for them to come back. The longest draught is when Batman and Superman leave to investigate. They don’t appear again for what feels like 10-15 minutes since it’s time for Aquaman’s subplot. This is the kind of film that should have easily been 2 hours and I think that it would have helped the film tremendously.

One of the biggest problems is the power level issues that are found here. Wonder Woman lands a direct punch on Ocean Master and it does virtually no damage while Aquaman is able to land some killer blows. Wonder Woman is stronger than Aquaman and the opening scene of the film practically proves this. Aquaman has trouble with random grunts and that’s pretty sad. They land a lot of hits and they don’t defeat Aquaman, but he certainly doesn’t look as strong as Wonder Woman or Superman. Superman looks particularly terrible as he is beaten down two times without doing any real damage. The first time, he grabs Ocean Master’s scepter….big mistake. He is quickly zapped and loses in a single blow. I think we can all agree that Superman doesn’t go down with one shot and especially not to someone like this. The Flash is naturally tripped and that sidelines him for the rest of the film. A random trip…he didn’t even get zapped! Green Lantern is swamped by minions like in War and when he breaks out he is quickly taken out with a zap. Cyborg is stabbed because he was too slow to dodge and Shazam gets one shotted by the lightning as well. (Shazam’s lightning did no damage of course) Aquaman gets in more hits than the rest of the Leaguers, but he is also stabbed and taken out of action.

Batman doesn’t get to fight Ocean Master, which may be a good thing since we can tell that the writers did not know what they were doing. Instead of a satisfying ending where one of the heroes beats Ocean Master, we basically just get a betrayal plot twist. (Not for the fans, but for the Atlanteans) This finishes with a blind side punch from one of the heroes. Now they can all remember how they were crushed but won with a sucker punch. That’s not a good way to end the film and it’s pretty depressing for the heroes. There is an after credit scene that has some potential for a good sequel, but we’ll see what arc this film tries to adapt. If it really is Trinity War, then it will likely be an even looser adaption this time around.

As I mentioned, Batman was kept in character here. Cyborg is still not very likable and he has a new subplot where he’s very cold to people. He’s a machine after all, but he eventually warms up to everyone and gets a romance going. That was pretty terrible. Shazam still looks really bad and his voice is very high pitched. You can’t take him seriously and he doesn’t have the Wisdom of Shazam here. His character just doesn’t make sense as it’s still Billy’s mind just with an adult form. He looks pretty bad and he’s not likable either.

The Flash is basically perfect and it’s too bad that he doesn’t get to have more action scenes. He’s certainly one of the strongest members of the team and there is no opponent that should be confident of his chances against the speedster. Green Lantern is pretty similar to his portrayal in War, but he still seems to be portrayed as one of the weaker links. He doesn’t get beaten up on a lot like in the last film, but he still needs some work if he’s going to be a good hero. It’s sad because he is usually a great character, but I’ll have to say goodbye to that version.

Wonder Woman is technically good, but she really gets 0 character apart from the romance plot. We’re reminded that she is a good warrior when she is slashing away at the villains of course, but that’s about it. I just can’t forget that plot with Superman so she is certainly one of the least likable characters. This applies to Superman as well, who really seems like a shell of his former self. He talks about how he’s going to make one of the villains eat his weapon and it’s lines like that, which makes this new version of Superman hard to identify with. He talks tough, but he’s typically just showing off or getting beaten up. It’s hard to really be a fan of him here and he gets to sink just like Wonder Woman.

Aquaman looks pretty good here, but he does fall into the romance plot with Mera way too quickly. You have to realize that the film mostly takes place over the span of a single day…so that’s a reeeeally rushed romance. Aquaman doesn’t betray the League like he did in the comic so he’s a lot more heroic here. He does what needs to be done and Aquaman turns out to be a good fighter. There’s really nothing negative to say about him aside from the rushed romance. Likewise, Mera is certainly a capable fighter and she does well when needed. Her water abilities are very potent and they make her a lethal fighter to be up against.

Seeing the Justice League get to form for a second time was pretty fun. The film actually started out decently well with this plot since the daily trip to Gotham was pretty intense as per usual. Seeing GL go to fetch Batman was definitely in character since he wasn’t going to let the dark knight skip a meeting this time. Gotham always has a certain edge to it that distinguishes the city from the rest and we also get some of the best animation featured in that moment. Not bad Batman…not bad! It’s a little disappointing to see how irresponsible Superman and Wonder Woman were though. We can naturally understand why Batman and GL didn’t show up at the meeting, but why wouldn’t the power hitters come? You can make the case that they didn’t hear the signal…but that’s highly unlikely. Ah well, more time for those two characteres to sink I suppose.

Lois and Jimmy were two characters who had no purpose in this film, but it’s time for the review to start winding down. Ultimately, the film was just plagued with too many negatives for me to really call it a good film. Take away the Justice League and it’s probably a bad film. The iconic characters are what keeps it afloat,m but the actual handling of this otion picture just wasn’t up to par with what you would expect. The film is also extremely light on meaningful action and I would be disappointed if the upcoming live action film had a similar climax. I’m expecting big things from that title and I don’t want to be disappointed! There isn’t much of a soundtrack to be found here so I’ll skip that.

Overall, Throne of Atlantis is pretty disappointing. These could be dicey times for DC. The box art isn’t very good and it follows that live action feel that I’m not a fan of. The violence is way over the top to try to make the film gritty and I had problems with just about every scene. The final fight must be one of the most inaccurate moments in all of cinema. The animation looks nice and the main characters are mostly all pretty likable, but that’s just not good enough to help the film this time. I recommend just skipping this one and watching Crisis on Two Earths yet again. That film never gets old!

Overall 5/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Batman Mask of the Phantasm Review


It’s time for one of the first great Batman films to finally be reviewed and Mask of the Phantasm was certainly a film that turned the tides for animated superhero films as we know them. This film was in the same continuity as the 90’s Batman TV show so that was definitely a draw for many since it was known as the definitive version of Batman. I can’t argue there and seeing him on the big screen was probably a lot of fun. This is a pretty solid film that also contains the Joker so expectations were certainly high coming into it. I’ve seen it several times at this point and it’s always been one of the better Batman films.

Batman is framed by a new vigilante in Gotham, but this new figure is willing to cross the line. He has already vanquished several members of a mob and he intends to finish off the last survivors. Batman won’t have this and he decides that he’s going to have to take this Phantasm down. Will Batman really have what it takes to pull off such a feat? The film also deals with Batman’s meeting with a lady named Andrea. She has something to do with his past and now she has returned after 10 years…what’s her angle!? The Joker also decides to show himself towards the second half of the film so he adds to the intrigue.

Mask of the Phantasm certainly delivers on the animation front as Batman’s cloak looks very crisp and modern. You would think that this was a high budget episode of Justice League and that’s what I expect from a theatrical film. I think that the beginning of the film certainly got the most attention as it looks considerably better than the rest of the film, but the whole thing still looks really good. For a film, it also makes sense to trow most of your budget into the opening to really hook people in as opposed to a show where you want to put some budget into the beginning, but then you’ll want to save a lot of it for the climax. A good indicator of how good the animation looks here is to look at Batman’s design. The way that they design his cape and cowl are pretty good indicators of if the animation is good or great. Mask of the Phantasm is definitely on the latter side of that.

This film’s soundtrack uses a few tunes from the TV show while also inventing a new theme that plays during the intro and ending. It’s an operatic piece that works pretty well with Batman since it lets you know that something serious is about to happen. It’s more fitting with the ending than the beginning since it highlights a key decision that has now been made. It’s rather dramatic and it works well. You definitely won’t doubt that this is a theater film while you’re listening to the soundtrack.

Batman looks pretty good for the most part although I certainly have some qualms with his portrayal here. It naturally revolves around his scenes with Andrea. Many of the events with them take place 10 years earlier during Batman’s first adventures as a crime fighter. She arrived and he started to consider hanging up the mantle before he had even begun so that he could lead a normal life. It’s not the “I am the night. I am vengeance. I am Batman!!!” character that I remember, but this was fairly early on in his career so I could cut him a tiny bit of slack. Now, what I can’t simply overlook is that 10 years later Batman is once again in shambles because Andrea has returned.

No matter how close they were, there’s no way that anything would cause Batman to hesitate at this point. He’s already decided that being Batman is something that he’s going to do until he’s physically unable to handle the job anymore. He definitely wouldn’t consider stopping now for any reason. So, that subplot was definitely a pretty big stretch and it was a little sad how his secret identity was found out so easily. I don’t think he would typically make the mistake of standing in front of the Wayne’s grave or at least being caught doing so. He just didn’t look too good there and I have warned films about the possible traps involved where romance is concerned. I think it did hurt his portrayal here.

That aside, Batman tended to look pretty good in the fight scenes. It’s safe to say that he had the edge against the Phantasm and he took out the Joker with sufficient strength and finesse. It was only close because Joker had the home field advantage and I can live with that. He is still a tough villain after all so a close fight is to be expected. Batman put together the clues for the mysteries pretty quickly here and he also put Alfred in his place when he started to go a little too far. This is definitely the Batman that I am used too and it will be tough for any continuity to ever surpass the DCAU version of Batman.

The Phantasm is a pretty intense villain. I naturally won’t disclose his secret identity even though the film is so old because spoilers must be protected through thin and thin. So, naturally these lines just pertain to when he is in costume. He’s a pretty intense villain and he seems to show no fear as he hunts down gang boss after gang boss. He is equipped with a pretty sharp gauntlet that can cut through guns without effort and he is quite adept at moving through smoke. I think that some of his feats are certainly a little exaggerated since there is no possible way (Barring supernatural powers) that he can accomplish them. One example is where he throws a smoke bomb and Batman immediately grabs at him, but the Phantasm is gone. It’s pretty spooky, but a little hard to buy.

Andrea is one of the new characters for this film and she’s pretty decent although it can be tough for Batman fans since we don’t like to see him give up like this. Unfortunately, Andrea is in a pretty tricky situation since her father got involved with gangsters so now their lives are in jeopardy. That’s why she ended up leaving Batman 10 years ago and then she returns for this film. She seems nice enough, but also a little too easy and the whole affair with Batman happened way too quickly. Naturally, both of them are to blame for this, but also allowing the flirting by Reeves was a bit much on her part. I probably prefer some of the original characters from the final film in the Batman DCAU trilogy, but Andrea certainly could have been worse. At it stands, Andrea didn’t make the film lose any stars. (A star probably could have been gained without her subplot though)

Joker appears to give the film some star power on the villain front. Admittedly, the film probably wouldn’t have been quite as exciting without him. A super villain is always appreciated and you feel pretty confident that he will be able to stand up to the Phantasm. He is the Joker after all and he’s always prepared for every eventuality. His home base is pretty cool and he’s just a very charismatic character. I always did like him in the DCAU even if he’s not my favorite villain in most of the other forms of media. His fans will certainly be pleased with his portrayal here and he is seen as a pretty big threat from the get go.

Arthur Reeves is one of those guys who likes to be at the top of the Anti Batman game. He appears on TV constantly to remind people that Batman is a menace and you would almost think that he was Harvey Dent at first. It makes you wonder how this guy always manages to get on TV, but he is a politician. Let’s just say that all original characters tend to have something to do with the plot so he’s entangled in the past full of mysteries in this film. He’s definitely not a good character and I wouldn’t have minded if he hadn’t been in it. I guess we do need more villains though and he beats some of the sub villains. He just brings shame to the Arthur name! If it helps….he does have the courage to laugh at the Batman!

You may wonder about a certain figure on a boat as the film ends and what it all means. Well, I like to think that the figure threw another figure away as a certain explosion hit and quickly escaped, which is how the figure is here. That also explains why the other figure continues to appear in future media in this continuity. I think it makes sense, but it also undermines one character’s big moment at the ending. Ah well, at least it means that the character resisted from crossing the line one last time…even if it was accidental. This may sound vague, but you’ll know what I’m talking about as you watch the film.

One scene that may make you wince is when Batman takes on the cops. Typically, that is an easy feat for Batman, but they were probably trying to make it a little more realistic for the casual moviegoers so Batman actually doesn’t look good. We’ve seen him take on a planet full of enemies in the past so no true Batman fan will really be able to buy the scene. It’s also sad since Batman ultimately has to be saved. I think it would have been more appropriate for Alfred to have saved Batman since it would have left the crimefighter with more dignity. As the scene stood, it was a pretty sad moment for the Dark Knight. It also makes Bullock look worse than usual since he just shot someone who has been helping him out since day one. That’s definitely what I call being not grateful to someone.

The main plot is a lot more interesting than the flashbacks, but I did enjoy this rendition of Batman’s origin. It was fun to see his first fights against the hoodlums of Gotham. I just think that it would have been even more fun without the romance in Andrea’s subplot. This film definitely has a lot of romance in it and it’s interesting that the other two Batman films have romance plots involved in some way. It may help the general audience I suppose since they expect that, but you can certainly do a good Batman film without such a subplot. After all…what would the fans have to say about all of this? Batman is the solitary Dark Knight…end of story.

Overall, Batman Mask of the Phantasm is a pretty good way to start off the classic Batman trilogy of animated films in the DCAU continuity. The soundtrack is pretty good and the animation is superb. It tops several of the DC films that have come out in the last few years and that’s no small feat. Batman’s portrayal is hardly perfect, but he still looks smart and tough, which is good. The Phantasm makes for a nice villain and the Joker’s certainly a classic villain to use. The opening action scene is pretty great and you really feel the blows. The film may only be a little over an hour, but there are a lot of danger/combat scenes to help make up for that and the action never get boring. I definitely recommend checking this film out whether you’ve watched the TV show or not. It’s good as a stand alone Batman film no matter how much experience with Batman you have. Even if you’ve never heard of Batman before, (Is that even possible?) this is a pretty good place to start.

Overall 7/10