The Other Side of Animation 237: Maya and The Three

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Jorge Gutierrez is one of the most visually distinct artists in the animation scene. His distinct Hispanic/Lantinx inspiration has made him a fan-favorite artist for his work on El Tigre and 2014’s The Book of Life, to name a few of his incredible works. When we talk about artists with visually distinct styles, he is one to be on the lookout for. There is something so incredibly charming and appealing about his work, and hearing that he was one of the original artists picked up to make something original for Netflix was thrilling to hear. Luckily, his newest project, Maya and The Three, a nine-part limited event series, is quite possibly his best work and one of the best new shows/event series of 2021. 

The story revolves around a young lass named Maya, voiced by Zoe Saldaña. She lives with her family who are mighty warriors that include her father King and queen Teca, voiced by real-life couple and creators of the show Jorge R. Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua. On her 15th birthday, the underworld gods tell her that she must come with them to pay for her sins and past actions made by her family. To try and prevent her fate, Maya goes on an adventure to try and uphold the prophecy that her parents told her, about how a mighty eagle warrior and her allies will take down the God of War and save their people. 

The best part about this limited series is how well it fleshes out its characters. The creators tend to take an admirable amount of time to set everything up, and it never feels awkward or unnatural for the plot to snap back from giving each of the backstories of our characters to going back to the main plot of the episode. It’s a straightforward story as Maya encounters her three allies while taking on Gods of all shapes and sizes. It makes for a fun watch that never skips on what needs to be told and the stellar action sequences. While there are goofy and silly elements to the overarching story, it’s one that can get dark, and there will be character deaths. It’s a tale that has themes of death, dealing with loss, family, discrimination, and dealing with legacy. You may assume this is for kids only, but be ready to turn into an emotional messy blob with how difficult the story beats will impact you in the feels. If you have loved the stories from films like Kubo and the Two Strings, then you will feel right at home with this show’s tone. There are some that may say it would have been cool to see as a movie, but the nine-episode runtime gives everything enough room to develop. Sure, there could be some downtime for the characters to breathe, but it’s a show that knows where it wants to go with its story. 

One of the goals for this show from Jorge and Sandra was to make Maya a series with a theatrical look and budget, and boy howdy, they got it down. This is one of the best-looking tv/event series you could find on the streaming service. The CGI is top quality from the animation studio Tangent Animation, Mexopolis, Maya Entertainment, and Netflix Animation. The designs carry Jorge and Sandra’s iconic visual flair with the designs with Jorge translating extremely well into CGI. Characters have a ton of detail to them, but it never feels too busy. You can tell what kind of character each individual is by the look of their designs. They even throw in some 2D sequences to add a little flair to the overall polished package. The world they craft is so creative. Rooster-shaped magic schools, lunar moon islands, mist-covered temples, colossal golems, neon speed lines, upside-down pyramids, gods that can cause tornadoes, gator-headed gods, and you get the idea. They went all out to make a fantastic world in which everyone thrives. 

The voice cast is fantastic, with a Hispanic/Latinx cast that has a ton of amazing actors and some of them get to play against type, which is really refreshing to see when you sometimes only see these actors play one type of character. You, of course, have the incredible  Zoe Saldaña who is fantastic as our lead heroine. You also have Diego Luna, Stephanie Beatriz, Gabriel Iglesias, Alfred Molina, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Trejo, Allen Maldonado, Cheech Marin, Rosie Perez, Wyclef Jean, Queen Latifah, Carlos Alazraqui, Eric Bauza, Joaquin Cosio, Isabela Merced, Rita Moreno, and other incredible voices. They put out some of their best work as these characters, and the voice acting is matched by an incredible score composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed the music for The Last of Us series, Brokeback Mountain, The Book of Life, and Narcos: Mexico. Tim Davies, who also helped with music for Darksiders, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Batman: Arkham City, The Simpsons Movie, Ant-Man, Crimson Peak, Frozen II, and many other shows, films, and games also composed the show’s score.

The fact of the matter is, Maya and the Three is incredible. This is one of those event series that you get hyped for, and the hype is 100% worth it. It’s incredible to see a creator like Jorge and his amazing team put together something truly inspiring, grand, and beautiful. You have one of the best stories told in animation this year, and if you are in the mood for something truly distinct, then you will need to watch this epic series. Now then, I’m going to keep what’s coming next under wraps. You will just have to check in next time to see the next review. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 78: Justice League Dark Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

As we move into 2017, DC is under a microscope in terms of their movies. To be honest, I’m quite looking forward to Wonder Woman, and hope that Justice League Part 1 will blow everyone out of the water. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded that DC went through some rough times in 2016. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to impress everyone, resulting in the film underperforming, and while Suicide Squad was a financial hit, it didn’t fare well with critics and audiences being split with it. Personally, I find both films to just be middle of the road. I’m sure if I thought long and hard, I could explain why they don’t work for me, but this is about animation so how did they do in 2016? Not well either. Besides the amazing Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, their offerings were boring, underwhelming, or terrible. Luckily, if DC’s 2017 offerings are anything like The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, then they are in good hands. Let’s just dive in and see why Justice League Dark is one of the best starts in terms of animated films for 2017.

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All over the world, normal law-abiding citizens are going on murderous rampages killing innocent people in the process. The problem comes into play when the Justice League try to stop them, and they find out the people doing these horrible acts of violence are apparently seeing demons. Batman, voiced by Jason O’Mara, then decides to enlist the help of the more magical/supernatural heroes of the world. These include John Constantine, voiced by Matt Ryan, Zatanna, voiced by Camilla Luddington, Boston Brand a.k.a Deadman, voiced by Nicholas Turturro, Jason Blood/Etrigan the Demon, voiced by Ray Chase, Black Orchid, voiced by Colleen Villard, and Swamp Thing, voiced by Roger Cross. It’s up to them to find out who is exactly causing all this chaos.

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So, what does DC do right in this Jay Oliva-directed animated film? Well, I can tell you one thing that a majority of DC’s film line-ups didn’t have last year, charm. Justice League Dark probably has one of my favorite casts of characters in terms of DC animation. The way they work off one another makes them very likable and endearing to watch. I’m not fully on the DC hate bandwagon, but I’m not going to lie and say I found a lot of their recent iterations of characters in film form interesting or worth liking. Justice League Dark has a great balance of characters who are engaging and worth investing into. I think the best example of this is a scene early on in the film where John Constantine and Jason Blood are playing poker with The Demons Three. This one scene balances out action, comedy, and personality. Outside of that one scene, there are other points in the overall story, where the characters were engaging, and it helped that there was a good mystery of where the paranormal incidences were coming from. I was hooked in terms of what was happening, the villains behind this whole shebang, and let’s not forget how great the action is.

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The animation is fantastic. While it might be straight-to-DVD quality animation that you normally see in terms of DC’s animated features, and yes, there is a tiny bit of stiff movements, it’s definitely easy to tell that this film had a bigger animation budget than, say, The Killing Joke. Due to this being a story that revolves around magic and demons, you not only get great visuals of the spells, but also action that takes advantage of said magic. It’s why animation is such a great form of entertainment. While you do need to create it, you are not limited by real life physics or limitations. Let’s face it; unless you are Game of Thrones, or you get a really good effects team, TV-grade effects are not going to be that impressive. It’s just so satisfying to watch the action in this movie, and see how creative the spells got.

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The voice actors that were chosen were superb. It was a nice touch that they got Matt Ryan, who played John Constantine in the cancelled-too-soon NBC series as well, for this film. It’s like hearing Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop. If it’s not Steve Blum, then it’s not the same character. The other cast members, in addition to the ones I mentioned above, include Alfred Molina as Destiny, Enrico Colantoni as Felix Faust, and Roger Cross as Swamp Thing. They all did a great job at their roles.

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Unfortunately, some of my complaints for this film come from some of the characters. They don’t really do much with Swamp Thing, and he doesn’t appear in the film until the 40-minute mark. He’s not really that interesting, and when he fights the big baddie of the film, he gets taken out rather quickly. I also didn’t care for what they did to Etrigan. Granted, I enjoyed about 80% of his screen-time, but what happens in the last 20% f this film bugs me. I won’t say what happens, but still. Deadman could also get somewhat annoying at times. I get why he couldn’t do much because he’s a soul, but he was very much the comic relief.

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Justice League Dark might be the newest entry in the flawed rebooted DC animated film universe, and it does have its share of problems, but it’s easily the best one since Batman versus Robin. I liked the fighting, the comradery between the characters, the animation, and the story. I wish they were able to flesh out some more characters and not one-shot them, because the team in this film were easily the most endearing and entertaining. If you are a DC fan, and haven’t picked this film up yet, then I highly recommend doing so. Even though it’s early in the year, and I still think after Justice League Dark and The LEGO Batman Movie, this could very well be DC and WB’s year in animation. Well, that was fun, but next time we shall take a look at China’s highest grossing animated film that wasn’t made by other studios with Monkey King: Hero is Back. Yes, it’s spelled like that. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!