Friday, October 30, 2009

Public Enemies DVD: The Bored & The Bland

Making a trio out of my two posts this week, one Superman themed, one Batman themed, here's one for BOTH. Back in 2003, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness started a spectacular comic with a simple premise- get the World's Finest back together in a buddy-superhero comic for the 21st century. The resulting first six issues became the trade collection Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
And is it very good.
I am not here to bash it.
Jeph Loeb may have written for Smallville but he also wrote Teen Wolf, Red Hulk, and S/B, so we're going to forgive him (by we I mean me, and by extension, you).
I am here primarily to bash (and not very hard mind you, I'm very tired) Superman/Batman: Public Enemies The Animated Movie.
Anyone who read my post/freakout over 'Green Lantern: First Flight' will know- I am not a patient man-child. I rushed out and bought it... and I felt ripped off.
I can't believe I did it again! I held off a month, but I went and bought this one, too.
Sight unseen.
I mean, it's based on a comic I really liked! It's from DC Animated universe producer Bruce Timm, and stars Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, and CCH Pounder in their DCAU roles! That's gonna be worth it, right?
It's in the eye of the beholder, buuut... not exactly.
I dug the music. It's bombastic, exciting, great stuff. This is also a VERY well animated movie. They clearly worked their Korean fingers and computers down to the bone... and wires.
This is an action-packed movie.
But I am a very picky monkey.
I've watched it twice, re-read the source matierial, and I would say my biggest difficulty is
that Stan Berkowitz is given a writing credit.
Perhaps I would buy... editor? I mean, the plot is a pared-down version of the comic, the visuals and characters are from the comic, and when the dialogue is only occasionally memorable it is ONLY when it is a DIRECT QUOTE from the comic.
One of my favorite inspired gimmicks in the comic is the internal monologues of Bats (done in somber blue) and Supes (done in sunny yellow). They are buds, but they leave a lot unspoken, and what impressed me most was what Jeph figured they were thinking about each other- the good and bad, the misgivings and the gratefulness. Essentially the WHY of their friendship.
Totally excised! I was expecting at the very least a voice-over here and there to express that stuff... but as my pal Ron (who came up with this blog title, by the by) pointed out- the first thing to get cut in an action movie is the thinky stuff, the motivation, the chattery bits.
Damn you, Berkowitz! You did the same 'writing' on Darwyn Cooke's Justice League: New Frontier adaptation. That is- cutting stuff out and moving things around slightly, presumably so Cooke and Loeb didn't need to be paid as much??
It's not even Berk's fault. He worked on the 94 Spidey cartoon, Supes and Bats animated, Justice League, Legion of Superheroes, etc., etc.- and they ARE all very passable episodes. Run-of-the-mill stuff. Average stuff I didn't have to shell out 22 bucks for!
I really wanted to say good things about the voice cast: they do a credible job with nothing memorable to say. I REALLY wanted to like the supporting cast: Power Girl, Starfire, Black Lightning, CAPTAIN MARVEL for Shazam's sake!
But, for example, John C. McGinley, great actor, plays Metallo: HE ONLY HAS 3 LINES!
Since the Metallo-may-have-killed-the-Waynes sub-plot was excised along with the time-travel sub-plot, the Apokolips sub-plot, the motivations of the heroes Luthor has co-opted, Lois' interview, and dozens of minor characters it... (sigh) it all seems so trimmed that there's nothing left.
You just can't cut that much plot from a six-issue comic book!
On the flip side Black Lightning actually has 6 MORE words than he did in the comic. Instead of "ON IT!" he now shouts "I think I can put up a forcefield!" I didn't know that was Jefferson's power, but thanks for playing, LeVar Burton!
When Superman asks Captain Marvel "Would Solomon have gone to work for Luthor?" we are forced to remember that Billy a) WASN'T with Luthor in the comic and b) Would only work for Luthor if he had the Worm with the Mind of Hitler living in his ear! Geez! And just for the subtitle people: Captain Marvel does not say 'Shizam!'.
Don't worry about it. He's only been a cultural icon for almost a century.
Lastly, Allison Mack as Power Girl. Sweet Mosby. (Sigh) Look, I've got nothing against Smallville's Chloe. She has done the ABSOLUTE BEST WORK a human can do when asked to look small and sad for TEN YEARS!
Why would you make Power Girl, the most brassy, gutsy, bombastic, BIG (yes, those, too) supergal of the DC realm into a mopey indecisive milksop? They actually had to ADD dialogue to make her seem more fretful and cautious. In the comic, she takes absolutely ZERO convincing to quit drug-addled, purple-armor clad President Luthor for our daring duo.
Would YOU need convincing?
This dialogue- when Luthor snarls "I'm the president!" Supes 'quips' "Consider yourself (pause)"
My wife and I look at each other and chorus:
"...Impeached!" Punch.
Very Schwarzenegger.
This is not an awful movie. It is, however, mercilessly uninspired and unworthy of the source material, which, let's face it, was a popcorn comic in the first place.
Somehow I will find the strength to go on.
Mostly by looking forward to next week- my self-imposed Legion of Super-Heroes Klordny Week festival!!!

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