Friday, December 23, 2011

Renaldo's Animated Reviews Part 1

Ranaldo Matadeen drops by and lets us know his thoughts on the Batman Year One animated movie as well as the G.I. Joe Resolute, Thundercats and Young Justice cartoons.

Batman Year One (film/comic) -
Well it's not hard to differentiate between both...a film review suffices for the comic. Both are identical and tightly knit...99% the same. It's a tale of a brooding Jim Gordon as he adapts to the corrupt city of Gotham, and of Bruce Wayne, broken down to his most humanistic element as he searches for inspiration to become the symbol to cleanse the city. The nihilistic views of Gotham are rampant here. The antics and wily attitude of Gordon match the cavalier nature of his portrayals by Oldman on-screen, and Nolan's films do take severe influence from this series. The realistic feel of Bruce as the Caped Crusader fighting crime to purge the city is also remarkably intact with the Nolan Vision. The comics are gritty, unbridled and raw passion with intensity, catharsis and emotional duress as both men endure tragedy, visceral trials, tribulations...and personal conflict to trudge on to the mission's end. Perseverance and determination pay off with some misgivings and even some sins attributed to these heroes. The comics proved essential to me as a Batman fan, but I don't know why DC ANIMATION basically put exactly the same thing on screen...especially after Nolan, it seems redundant. Why not do a Flash or Aquaman film for an hour via animation? We all know the origins and darkness of Batman's origins...and while this is more a Jim Gordon story to me, it's still not called for, not when we have other animation-calls for other heroes by long-time comic fans. The crime bosses, corrupt cops and feline interests are all fun in the book, but repeating this on screen is a bit tardy and tedious. DC ANIMATION tasks itself onto JLA: Doom, and I'm sure more Superman and Batman tales...look for Kelly's THE ELITE soon...and after Emerald Knights, I ask...why not take these shorts such as Green Arrow etc and make full length features. More Shazam or JSA or the Legion perhaps? Maybe...TEEN TITANS: JUDAS CONTRACT should be looked at again?
They have the amazing animation format, great writers and brilliant production units, so forget the big guns...forget repeating BATMAN YEAR ONE comic (even though it was an adult and well-done film) and jump onto the 'peasant characters' and expose them a bit more to viewers...that's what this new 52 is about right? Accessibility! So make it count on-screen also. The Year One film is magnificently done with its adult theme and majestic voice casting, but we've gotten this serious tone and grave injection of Batman already. Give us something more...something new please.
GI JOE Resolute proves one of the finest animation blends in a while as it merges anime influences with North American animation culture in an all-out gritty and unbridled scheme of warfare, wanton violence and terrorism perpetrated by a ruthless, yet not-to0-conniving COBRA COMMANDER. Cobra as an organization proved cutthroat but not as intelligent as past iterations. This leads to them and their henchmen being overpowered in many situations a bit too easily. Warren Ellis coaxed himself into rebooting the franchise where no one could escape death, and as he's new to the JOE tale, he started of with Bludd and a special casualties. These fatalities were part of Cobra's attempt at world dominance via holding the U.N. HOSTAGE with a new found tech, deployed first as a fatal blow to Moscow...showing nothing would be held back and no punches pulled, as Cobra wanted a stranglehold on the world.

Cobra was nefarious as can be and with Duke, Flint and Scarlet doing their part to defuse the situation, the hour-long collective could only allow so much air-time to various characters. It was condensed an effort but the one that got intensive focus and scrutiny was the fan-fave feud of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. This manifested from a perfect depiction of their young days and Arashikage history, thrown in with a Cobra sniper twist amid a Kill Bill martial arts vibe. I must mention the real-time gunplay that cultivated within the show, as they mixed the real world in with anime tech quite splendidly. The candor and levity of JOES past were left in the 80s and 90s. It's quite intuitive to see the climax of the Snake Eyes battle with his rival, akin to a Kenshi flick. Shadow is cunning and villainous and post-credits, he leaves us with a pleasant surprise.

With parity regained and the field leveled, Snake Eyes dons himself onto the disparaging onslaught spelled the way of Duke and his team as the squad attempts to disengage Cobra in the finale. This is where it gets slightly muddled and the plot breaks down with an elementary ending that falls a bit flat as it shows the lack of contingency planning on behalf of a gung-ho's kinda dumb in layman's terms. That aside, the overall feel of the show is bomby and the best manner without overspilling too much. The film's crescendo is a bit bogus and you feel a bit robbed but despite missing the final ingredient, the overall gist is's badass and raw. The fast pace and riveting action make for fun time but perhaps a 30 min series or a 90 min film of this caliber would better grasp our minds. Still, at the end of the's an 8.5 outta 10 and chock full of pleasant surprises. It's grappling with retcons and making amends to flaws of past JOES...and just doesn't suck like the new GI JOE RENEGADES or that Sommers/Tatum mess. Those tanked but...this rocks...and note, it isn't the GI JOE of your mom and dad...this is rehashed, revamped...and in your face.
Thundercats reboot reminds me of TOON's recent He-Man in 2006, which was marvelous in its own essence with an adult feel and updated incandescence. The cadence of this T-CATS reboot is floored with a newfound animation, which is poppy, anime yet action packed at's smooth, unique and segues well into adult themes - romance, sibling rivalry, action and coming-of-age.

This tale is about Lion-O growing into his role as his father's NEW THUNDERA kingdom falls into rubble and ash under treacherous terms and rites of betrayal. Lion-O ascends rapidly as the new king, to the chagrin of many, and sets out charting courses to find the Book of Omens. He learns his path with guidance from Jaga, but not as much as the old show, and this is well-worked as the rash, hotheaded and impetuous cub finds his own path to succeeding King Claudus and making himself a true, deserving heir and king to his people on THIRD EARTH. It's magnificent how the writers blend myth and fable, magic and tech, war and usurped we get our fill of Lion-O's new clan. The talented warrior Cheetarah proves instrumental a love interest as well as a battle-torn cleric that balances the jovial mood of Snarf and the twins...which rides the wave of a key pivot in Tigra. The love triangle here is remarkable but so is the rivalry between Tigra, adopted brother to Lion-O, who falls jealous of many things that his King possesses. This plays on the cadre of Grune and the macabre hue of a revamped Mumm-ra (a la MK's DRAGON KING!). Both don't hog the limelight and while we get a lot of intro in origins, backdrops and character developments, these characters fuse together well and mesh with immense proportions of scathing slyness - they're downright thirsty for blood and power. Berbils and mutants feature well in the proceedings but it's predominantly a Lion-O story...and it's best as it can be. Revelations about the T-CATS before they maned onto THIRD EARTH are well done with some retcons proving much obliged. There's a hardcore vibe brought by the war-vet in Panthro, who adds a loyal and ferocious element to the setup...more so with Grune. Their climax is one of astral bliss and when viewed, you'd know what I mean.

Lion-O's lessons and teaching are well drawn out by discoveries he makes of himself along the way...but his entire clan goes through this process and steep learning curve. They're inclined to unlocking the secret of the BOOK AND SWORD...but the sight, friendships...and leadership brought with the sword lead to Lion-O nurturing himself as a King...with a quest for stones of power being the thing that turns the tide...into a race with Mumm-ra.

Tiger Sharks, Silverhawks and many other cameos (Lynx-0) pop up to tease what should be a resounding second season, and the final scene of episode 13 is what adds fuel to the fire. There's much more untapped potential here with Mumm-Ra's devious nature and the tension within Lion-O's posse. All that seems set to come to a head in season 2 after the cliffhanger of season 1. Heart get broken...villains are assumed dead...quests are unfulfilled... relationships forged are broken, or vice versa...and there's a kingdom in need of their sire...It's a hell of a ride thus far...and as a fan of the old lore and comics/ seems set to get even better! Take this or old a won't regret it I assure you!
Young Justice is one of those shows benefiting from the pristine sequences and stages of action representative of DCU ANIMATION. Their movies have been animated successes and their series have also been top notch, and despite the passing of McDuffie, a man who much is owed to by this industry, the likes of Romano and Timm have a stellar production unit behind this series. Not getting too in depth into this, it must be noted that while varying vastly from the comics by Peter David, the changes and retcons from the books have been adapted to seemingly better the show as it hinges on coming-of-age, adolescence (indicative of the TOON network stance and ratings for certain group ages and demographics), while maintaining a training feel and clandestine vibe for the roster. PAD still contributes stories for the series so the covert episodes are still in tandem with an original creators' vision, and while everything from the roster to the plots differ from the original comics, DCU have integrated the best of their arsenal...stemming from their visions on JL-UNLIMITED.

One key tool from their armory is the plethora of characters and cameos we see. This series boasts many villains and heroes popping up that usually don't get airplay but it still manages to throw in some big fish. We see the JLA, Lex, Ra's etc but Cap Marvel, Sportsmaster, Red Tornado get a fair share of screen time. The story hinges on the roster of Grayson, Aqualad (Kal-Dur), Wally, Miss Martian, Superboy and Artemis as the JLA have them in training and under supervision as a secret operative unit to investigate what the league cannot. Red Arrow features prominently along with Cheshire in a topsy turvy season thus far, focusing on teasing old hardcore comic r'ships and arcs, as the team find themselves in the distinct cross-hairs of THE LIGHT, a secret organization, fronted for by the Injustice League. The revelations of this dark society comes abound a bunch of successful missions, botched screw-ups, satisfactory teamwork as they seek a proper vice grip and handle on things...and basically...the trials and tribulations of battle chemistry and team romance. It's full-on teenage drama as the YJ team navigates the catacombs of working together while straddling a skillful but doubt-filled leader in Aqualad, a genius but over-exuberant Robin, a brash impetuous horny Kid Flash...and of course, a brooding and newborn Superboy, clamoring for the approval of an uncharacteristic Kal. Throw in a clumsy, bumbling yet powerful Miss Martian that fuels romantic fires and sparks the alpha male leadership spheres/races...and you have something of a volatile recipe. Incompetence is not running amok but while not prevalent, it rears its head as the team works their balance out, which is thrown offkey by the arrival of Artemis, one of the most suspicious articles of the season, and with good reason as later revealed. Also, there is an underlying duplicity that secretes well into the responsibility given to the team by Batman, chairing their tutelage. They aren't babysat all the time and are given key missions, but trust and lack of faith seeps in...with a struggle for acceptance and a need to be recognized as running with the big dogs. Each episode, even with nonchalance, segues well into the overall bigger picture and end-game.

There are loads of action packed episodes, romantic and sometimes annoying fodder, but overall it's a blissful comic feel where every episode hangs on a cliffhanger and ties in nicely to the overall storyline of the hidden LIGHT. It's an underlying caption and hidden overtone that the YJ may be in over their head, but so may be the JLA, making the youths more important as ever...a genius masterstroke by the creators. Even if standalone, and for 1 or 2 episodes, sometimes the tie in seems forced, but usually, there's cohesion to the season and this dread is well felt over the canvas of each episode as not even the JLA can deduce the true IDs of the Light. With so many cameos and supporting roles in each episode by heroes and villains alike, it's a DC comickers fantasy what they see in the series, with some amazing easter eggs to top it.

The voice direction matches each character in the riveting ongoing plot quite nicely to full effect and everyone gets balanced chance to shine in the limelight, with proper backdrop, character development and an overall succinct, precise role-playing scenario carried out. The aura and synchronization of the team chemistry is flawed and this work in progress makes for fun eps, and it's proper evolution of the unit. The progression made by this series is akin to the's building to something huge...and the ride so far is provocative. Nothing's perfect, but such a fun and unpredictable wild ride with each mission is well received...especially considering the malicious threat waiting behind the curtain...that not even the badass JLA can assess. Seems that the YJ team may be more mature and more important than everyone first assumed. Even if I'm wrong, it's still fun to see their haphazard yet effective manner of kicking ass while themes of secrecy, endearment and woe are embedded into each Fri night episode. Here's to seeing the remaining episodes kick just as much ass.

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