2010-10-28

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #21


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#(21): Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Before I go into the actual review I feel compelled to give you a complete understanding of one of the key characters in this movie. One of the most troublesome characters for DC Comics of late was one that they had pretty much written off for several years before finally killing her.

Supergirl really didn’t have too much of an appeal as her cousin Superman did. She was sexy and powerful, but not as much as Wonder Woman. Superman could save the world three times a day and in five different comic series, while Supergirl mostly worried about her love life, her friendship with Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), her parents in the bottled Kandor City, and keeping her identity secret.

Her greatest hurrah came during the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, where whole multiple universes were eliminated, and Kara Zor-El dramatically gave her life to save her world and deal a mortal blow to the Anti-Monitor. The event was a shocking turn in the story that would galvanize Superman’s resolve to see the Anti-Monitor destroyed by any means necessary.

And then… she was forgotten. She was written out of the DC Universe, because the new One Earth Only canon dictated that Kal-El of Krypton was the ONLY survivor of that planet.

There were a few attempts to fill the gap, though. Fan-favorite Power Girl still existed as a member of the Justice Society, but her history was retconned a few times so she wouldn’t be an Earth-2 refugee and alternate-universe cousin to Superman, but rather she was a time-lost survivor of Atlantis. She became a Justice League member, and sadly reduced to being an emotional time bomb. She was the foul-tempered “Hot Lips Houlihan” to the “Hawkeye and Trapper” comedy team of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. She would finally get her respect, and her history, but not before leaving the Justice League and going back to the Justice Society. But even then she could not fill the gap of Supergirl. She was her own woman - with the emphasis on WOMAN - and with the cleavage-showing costume to prove it.

DC tried to bring Supergirl back as an alternate-universe creation using the same plot hole they used to justify having Superboy (another casualty of the Crisis retcon) still serve as the inspiration to the Legion of Super-Heroes. This Supergirl existed in a “pocket universe” in which their Superboy was killed. Soon after, that universe’s Lex Luthor (who didn’t go bald or bad) accidentally released three criminals from the Phantom Zone… yes, Zod, Ursa, and Non… who take over the world. Grief-stricken, Lex creates a “protomater matrix” being (later known as “Matrix”) first to replace Lana Lang (one of the first victims of the Kryptonians) and then later gives her powers so she could become a symbol of the resistance. She would end up being the last survivor of that universe, rescued only by Superman of the “normal” universe. DC allowed her to mature into her own character as Supergirl and played a key role in the “Doomsday” and “World Without A Superman” storylines. Eventually, though, the writers decided to mess with her some more, merging her with a human named Linda Danvers so she could have a human family, giving her a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse hooker costume (to match the one in the animated TV series) making her a fire-powered angel, and eventually really messing things up by switching places with the Pre-Crisis Supergirl, falling in love with Pre-Crisis Superman and having their lovechild, and then finally just becoming a full-blown fallen angel before falling into storyline limbo never to be seen again.

A second attempt to bring Supergirl back involved a future-born daughter of Superman and Lois Lane sent to the past to stop Brainiac-13 from taking over. The storyline was so badly convoluted that getting rid of her was actually a godsend.

Finally we get to THIS incarnation of Supergirl, whose origin became the second storyline in the “Superman/Batman” comic series, and the basis for this current review.

“Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” was released by Warner Brothers as a direct-to-video movie in 2010 and serves as the follow-up to Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The movie features returning voice actors Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy playing Superman and Batman, along with “Justice League” actress Susan Eisenberg returning as Wonder Woman, “Serenity/Firefly” actress Summer Glau, Andre Braugher, and Ed Asner returning from “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League Unlimited” to play Granny Goodness (and, no, that is NOT a mistake).

We start the movie with a quick reference to the events in “Public Enemies”, how ex-President Lex Luthor was awaiting his criminal trial, and that the last remnants of the monstrous Kryptonite meteor were falling but thankfully the world was saved by Superman and Batman. As we hear that, a large chunk of K-rock falls into Gotham Harbor.

Batman (Conroy) investigates the impact to discover there was a spaceship in the meteor, and that it was already opened. Meanwhile, a nude woman (conveniently hidden in shadows of course) steals the Bat-Boat and crashes it on shore. She walks into the streets of Gotham, getting an overcoat from a dock worker to cover herself up before encountering Gotham police officers. She (Glau) speaks a strange language before being whisked skyward by her own uncontrolled power. She encounters Batman, who subdues her with a piece of the Kryptonite rock he fished from the harbor. Taken to the Bat-cave, she meets Superman (Daly) and discovers that he is her cousin from Krypton.

She is taken to the Fortress of Solitude, where Batman still has his suspicions of her. Even Krypto doesn’t like Kara Zor-El, wherein Batman comments that the dog is a good judge of character. Superman takes Kara shopping in his disguise as Clark Kent (BIIIIIG mistake, Clark - you should have let Lois do it) and enjoys a hot dog (yes with all of the usual jokes about the food). But this time together is short-lived as Wonder Woman (Eisenberg) and a team of Amazon warriors kidnap Kara and bring her to Paradise Island for training. This was Batman’s idea, of course, as it would teach Kara to fight and to control her abilities. Superman, of course, doesn’t approve.

Meanwhile, Granny Goodness (Asner) oversees the training of her Female Furies when she is interrupted by Darkseid (Braugher). Darkseid knows that Kal-El’s cousin has appeared and he wants Granny’s furies to bring her to him.

Kara makes friends with Lyla - whom comic fans will remember as Harbinger from “Crisis on Infinite Earths” - although Lyla is plagued with visions of Superman fishing out a blond girl’s dead body from the water. She keeps the visions to herself… and to Batman and Wonder Woman… as she enjoys her time with Kara.

Suddenly, a Boom Tube from Apocalypse appears, bringing forth… Doomsday, the only creature that could (and once did) kill Superman. Then we see a whole ARMY of Doomsday clones. Wonder Woman rallies the Amazons together to fight the monsters, but they are clearly overpowered until Superman unleashed his heat vision and vaporizes the clones. Batman realizes that this was only a diversion, and we find that Lyla’s vision has come true.

At this point I’m going to have to stop the recap because I don’t want to give too much away. Sufficient to say we see the “Big Trinity” of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman recruiting Big Barda so they could travel to Apocalypse to face Darkseid, but saying anything more would be too much of a spoiler.

The overall story suffers on a few points, and - as usual - the biggest ones are at the end. This is another movie where the story starts off GREAT and then they have to struggle to keep it going to the end. The story fails to fully use the cast of characters seen in “Public Enemies” and instead only gives lip service to the previous movie at the very beginning and then forgetting about it completely. Introducing Barda into the mix was another refreshing step, especially seeing her team up with Wonder Woman in the big battle on Apocalypse. And while the final battle was somewhat refreshing, even the ending came up short.

The animation falls flat in several areas. Where “Public Enemies” had hints of anime (especially with Power Girl), “Apocalypse” goes all-out, with a look that is more “Cowboy Bebop” and “Samurai Champloo” than anything resembling a Bruce Timm production. Here’s a hint for DC producers: next time you want to emulate anime, think more Kenichi Sonoda than ShinichirĊ Watanabe. This is especially true with the portrayal of Darkseid.

The only positive point here is the vocal talent, and even that has one sore spot. I’m sorry, but Andre Braugher does NOT do a good Darkeid. Just like only Mark Hamill can do the voice of Joker, only Michael Ironside can do the voice of Darkseid. On the other hand, Summer Glau does an excellent Kara, and the vocal combination of Daley, Conroy, and Eisenberg did not fail. And Ed Asner does Granny so well you really wouldn’t know it was a man until you saw the credits.

The follow-up to this movie is a DC Spotlight mini-movie featuring Green Arrow. As with the “Spectre” mini-movie, this story works within the DC Universe and stars Neil McDonough as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and Malcom McDowell as Merlyn. The movie has a look and feel of “Die Hard 2”, with Oliver trying to save a young visiting queen from being taken by Merlyn and Count Vertigo in the middle of a busy airport. This was actually a much better production than the main feature, both in story and quality. In fact the people behind this mini-movie should be the ones in charge of future productions provided they can carry the same quality on through.

Bonus features (if you spring for the $19 2-disc special edition) include the “Little Girl Lost” story from “Superman: The Animated Series” and a look back at the history of Supergirl, but if you aren’t interested in either, you can always get the regular DVD.

In short, “Apocalypse” was not necessarily a “Superman/Batman” story as it was a “Superman” story, and that pretty much summed up the rest of the main feature. It has potential, but it still fell short in too many ways.

Capes: Despite having the “DC Trinity”, it only gets four out of five capes.
Cheese: Thankfully just Swiss Cheese (1).

Books: Unlike “Public Enemies”, which started strong and ended weak, there was weakness all around, which kept the story only at three out of five books.

2010-10-23

Important News from Vanguard!

The following message was sent to the Chronicles from the Herald division of Vanguard:

Vanguard intelligence warns that the Rikti high command is preparing to unleash a new wave of attacks on Earth. Dark Watcher believes the new wave of incursions should start on Thursday, November 4th, and last until Sunday, November 7th.

Residents of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles should be on alert for the warning signs and take shelter when they hear the sirens.

There is no word as to whether or not this also applies to Praetoria, as it is not known if the Rikti are aware of that universe.

Halloween Event 2010

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

While that may seem a bit premature, it's actually a little late for Paragon City and the Rogue Isles.

The 2010 Halloween Event is now upon us, and for the first time it affects the Praetorian Universe.

From October 21st until early November 1st, Paragon City, the Rogue Isles, and Praetoria will be in 24-hour darkness. Mystical forces will keep all three areas in perpetual night (except for Cimerora, The Hive and The Abyss), allowing heroes, villains, rogues, and vigilantes to take part in all of the strange and mysterious things that will occur.

Trick-Or-Treating: This is one of the most popular features. Knock on any door... ANY door... and you can either get a treat (random rare goodies) or tricks (Halloween-themed monsters that will kick your butt). You can also get special costumes (for a limited period only) and if you collect enough of them you get special badges.

Zombie Apocalypse: At random times during this period, you will have to deal with a Zombie Apocalypse... which means the skies turn blood red (which is more profound since we're dealing with 24-hour night) and the dead crawl up from the ground and go after anyone living. This is NOT a time to be standing around, unless you're next to an automated sentry unit. The longer you still live, the more zombies that will come after you. And they WILL get stronger and tougher and more powerful as time goes by. Like dealing with the Rikti, you need to team up, and preferably the maximum size possible. Kick enough undead butt and you'll get a special Pumpkinhead helmet that you can use at any time of the year.

Deadly Apocalypse: Think the zombies were bad enough? At random times during this period, you will also have to deal with the Deadly Apocalypse, which means the sky gets foggy (which doesn't mean much since you're already in darkness) and four mystical banners appear in your zone. Each banner is defended by different monsters based on the nature of the banner (and you can see where these banners are on the map). The hard part is that you have to defeat the monsters watching the banner before you can attack the banner, and you have to destroy ALL FOUR BANNERS in order to win. Note: this is impossible to do! Several members of the Guardians of the Dawn have tried repeatedly last year to take part in this challenge and no matter how many people take part in this challenge, they have been unable to destroy ALL FOUR banners in the time allowed. Good luck for those of you who want to try.

Giant Monsters: Oh, you think we're done with the misery? THINK AGAIN! Eochi and Jack-in-Irons are back to randomly terrorize the zones, and they don't show up alone. If you decide to take them on (like Galatea Powers and Lyon Powers did last year) make sure you're not alone either.

And now with the launch of Going Rogue and the new Tip Mission system, we have a special Whispered Rumored Tip Mission which will give you an opportunity to get different badges depending on how you handle this mission. (It's a little complicated, so please take advantage of these hyperlinks to give you more information.)

That's a lot of stuff to deal with. Oh, and Praetoria will have a new witch that will help you with the BEST part of Halloween Event... the Halloween Masks! Unlock that extra costume slot if you can get four Halloween Masks! Just be aware that doing so WILL trigger a new Zombie Apocalypse. The good news is that this feature carries through even when the Halloween Event ends, so you don't have to panic if you don't have all four masks right away. (And FORGET trying to buy one unless you literally have MILLIONS of Inf in your account. Wait until after the event if you want to go that route.)

And just think... once this is through, the Winter Event is just a few weeks away.

2010-10-13

Is THIS The Coming Storm?

City of Heroes is getting ready to release Issue 19: Alpha Strike, the first post-Going Rogue update in the City of Heroes universe.

With it, we see the debut of a character that was previously only seen in the comics: Apex.

Yes, the star of the original "City of Heroes" comic series is back, and just in time as Tyrant has launched his new campaign to take over the Paraverse!



Will the evil version of Statesman succeed? That's up to the heroes. And is THIS what Mender Silos warned was the "Coming Storm"? We'll just have to find out.

There will be a few more things with the update... such as the merging of transport systems, so you can use one subway or one ferry to go anywhere. Speaking of transports, if you have Going Rogue, your non-Praetorian characters WILL be able to access that universe through Pocket D.

Plus, the Fitness Power Pool will now become an inherent power pool. SO if you've already loaded up on heath, stamina, speed, and leaping, you'll probably have to shuffle things around again. Good thing you have those Respecs, right?

AND Issue 19 will be the start of a new level of play... with the first step in becoming an INCARNATE!

Oh, and should I also mention that Halloween is approaching? Get your days in the sun out of the way, because on October 21st, it'll go dark and stay dark until November 1st.