Sunday, August 17, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is not a "movie." Originally, it was intended to be the first several episodes of the upcoming TV series of the same name. However, due to various reasons, these episodes were edited together into a "movie," and released in theaters.
God help us all.

One thing that is immediately obvious is the fact that The Clone Wars is very kid-oriented. Instead of the dramatic Star Wars logo and the opening crawl sequence, the film begins with the Clone Wars logo, and has no crawl. Instead, what would have been the text of the crawl is actually the spoken dialogue of a narrator. It sounds somewhat like the narrator of the old WWII propaganda movies, and works on some level. However, I honestly hate the fact that Lucasfilm feels the need to talk down to me. I could have read the opening crawls just fine when I was four years old, and I don't need it to be read to me now. Just let me read it for myself and let my imagination do the work.

This "movie" does not have spectacular animation by film standards. In fact, visually, it's rather sub-par compared to virtually any other CG animated movie in theaters. However, for a TV series, it will be easily one of the most visually stunning shows on TV, if not
the most. To quote, the characters are rendered with a style reminiscent of "hand-painted maquettes". It's a very interesting style, though in motion much of it seems strange. George Lucas apparently told the animators to make the motions of the characters stiffer and more exaggerated, rather than smooth and lifelike. This is an interesting move, though it doesn't always pay off. Many of the character movements just look awkward or illogical, rather than stylistically interesting. The battle scenes are spectacular to be sure, but they lack a certain style. They don't have the sharp style and pacing of the previous animated Clone Wars series, and aren't realistic enough to be anywhere near as good as what was seen in the live-action films. What's left is something in-between that isn't as good as either, and falls short of nearly every mark.

The two main flaws of the film are the dialogue and the pacing. Throughout the film, there is no pause. The entire movie is one quick sequence after another, filled with poorly-written and acted dialogue. This may not be the fault of the voice actors, however, as the animation for the film was done at least a year ago, and the voice actors may have had to lip-sync to the animation, causing the lines to sound odd or ill-timed. Additionally, the "squeezing" of the already-made episodes into a film under two hours may have left the editors with nothing left to do but make every shot in the film as short as possible.
I honestly cannot describe how fast the film moves. It's like watching a schizophrenic on caffeine (my apologies to any schizophrenics whom I just mentally compared to this film. You're much better than that).
There is no room for drama or a quiet moment. The film just keeps on running, never taking a break. This makes the action scenes seem no more exciting than the [very few] non-action scenes, and the dialogue less and less important. Rather than allowing for the dialogue to have any timing or depth, the film abruptly jams lines together, making it seem as though the movie's editors were having Mountain Dew pumped into their veins.

Please understand; I love Star Wars. I own at least three dozen Star Wars novels, not counting my many guidebooks, my favorite of which is titled
Jedi vs Sith: The Essential Guide to The Force. I own at least fifteen Star Wars video games, and there are very few who dare to challenge me at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. Heck, I even own a Master Replicas Force FX Luke Skywalker Episode IV Electronic Lightsaber.
She's my baby. ^-^

I literally do not understand how anyone could not like Star Wars; it's a completely alien concept to my mind. I love everything that makes up the universe of The Clone Wars. Despite this, I can't simply accept Clone Wars as a film. The upcoming TV series will probably succeed where the movie failed, but that's not good enough. Clone Wars is one of the most poorly-executed films that I have seen in recent memory. It's worse than Tomb Raider 2, The Mummy 3, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. I feel as if George Lucas himself has tortured me for two painful hours of my life.

They didn't even ask me any questions...

Do yourself a MASSIVE favor and DO NOT SEE THIS FILM. It's not worth your time or your childrens'. Instead of paying for a movie ticket, go buy an action figure from the movie; you'll have more fun with that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Justice League: The New Frontier

Yet another "DC Universe Original Animated Movie," Justice League: The New Frontier is an adaptation of the graphic novel DC: The New Frontier.

This film is made for the fans. It makes very little effort to explain the DC Universe, and assumes that the viewer already knows the basics of all the characters. If you didn't know that Wonder Woman had an invisible jet, you're in trouble.
The film, while faithful to the original comic, shows different parts of the story, while still telling the same tale. However, like the original story, it shows many seemingly unrelated stories that ultimately meet in one final battle.

Set in the 1950s era of comics, there are two main conflicts in New Frontier. First of all is the battle against "The Center," an unknown malevolent being of immense power. The second conflict revolves around politics, and the ramifications of superheroes being present in the Cold War.

If there is a main character in New Frontier, it is Hal Jordan, who is destined to become the Green Lantern. His origin story is very compelling, and serves as an excellent overall character arc, giving a sense of completeness to this otherwise jumbled story.

The artistic style of this film is amazing. The way in which 1950s comic book art has been merged with modern animation is astounding. Even the voice acting fits the setting perfectly. Superman's New Frontier voice would sound odd in today's era, but for the Cold War era it fits perfectly.

There are some elements of New Frontier that don't work as well, such as the shallow look at the political elements of the story. Additionally, the sheer number of storylines keeps many of them down to a reduced screen time that does not allow for them to be fully developed. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Martian Manhunter all have storylines in addition to Hal Jordan's. While it could be said that the story would be better off without the "baggage" of the extra storylines, I believe that they add a great deal, showing how the events of the world are affecting everyone from small-time vigilantes to the greatest heroes of all time.

In the end, Justice League: The New Frontier is jumbled, yet still enjoyable, and great fun for comics fans. The artistic style alone is enough to make it worth watching, and I have to say that I'm very glad to have it in my DVD collection.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Superman: Doomsday

Superman: Doomsday was the first in a new line of direct-to-DVD animated films by DC Comics. It takes place in its own fictional universe, having no relation to the previous animated DC stories.
These new DC animated films have been purposely made for a PG-13 audience, containing blood, mild adult themes, and some language. Of course, there's nothing sensationalistic about the new, more mature content. It's all only there to tell a deeper story.

Superman: Doomsday is an animated "adaptation" of the Death and Return of Superman story from the early 90s. As the best-selling comic book story of all time, expectations were very high for this film, especially considering the fact that it was being directed by Bruce Timm, the director of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Justice League. Superman: Doomsday is essentially the hybrid child of Superman: The Animated Series and The Death and Return of Superman, but it sadly fails to live up to either tale.

The Death and Return of Superman (hereafter referred to as DRS) was set in the mainstream DC Comics Universe, where every other DC superhero lived alongside Superman in the same fictional world. Throughout the dramatic story, it was clearly shown that no other hero was equipped to stop the rampage of Doomsday, the seemingly indestructible monster that only favored death and destruction. After leaving a path of destruction and beating the Justice League to a bloody pulp, Doomsday continued on towards Metropolis, engaging with Superman in a battle that ended in both their deaths. Superman's memorial was perhaps the most emotionally powerful element of DRS, as it showed virtually every superhero in existence honoring the death of their greatest friend and ally. That scene was a universal acknowledgement that Superman was and is the greatest hero that ever lived.
Of course, Superman, being the Christ-like figure that he is, was resurrected. It has been strongly hinted that he will never truly die, and will always fight for the cause of good.

The most interesting point of this story is that it highlights the fact that Superman is the ultimate hero. Throughout DRS, it is shown that although not everyone is fond of Superman, ultimately they need him. Superman represents the goodness and hope of the world, and, for the sake of mankind, he must persist.

Superman: Doomsday does a poor job of illustrating this point. No mention is made of Superman's iconic significance, and only those close to him are shown mourning. Furtermore, the entire film seems rushed, making the scenes that should seem dramatic become less than satisfactory, and often boring.

Unlike Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Doomsday does not have the kind of pacing that serves an animated dramatic tale. Its short running time keeps the immensity of the subject matter crammed into a quick, unsatisfying story.

The choice of voice actors is not particularly pleasing. While Lex Luthor sounds pleasantly slimy and serpentlike, Superman himself sounds very raspy and rough, far from his calm-and-welcoming-yet-commanding voice from Superman: The Animated Series. If the voice cast from the previous Superman iterations had been kept, it might have made the film a bit better.

Another odd choice was the decision to alter so much of the story. While the basic facts are the same (Superman fights Doomsday, dies, and returns), the other major details are left out. The mourning of the Justice League is omitted (as is their very presence in the film's universe), and other major storyline developments are oversimplified. While some of these choices make sense, others are rather odd.

The action in the film is not amazing or terribly clever, but it is generally good, and enjoyable.

Honestly, this film has enough good qualities that, with the right overall plot development, it could have been an overall positive viewing experience. However, with the complete lack of emotional impact that Superman: Doomsday delivers, I can't recommend it.