The Other Side of Animation 155: Justice League vs. The Fatal Five 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!)

Recently, in terms of quality, the DC brand has made a sudden course move to much better pastures. Sure, Aquaman is a bloated mess that felt like two movies in one, but it was such a blast to watch, and then Shazam! came out of nowhere, and was just an incredible movie. It’s easily my favorite superhero movie of 2019 so far, and I’m typing this as Avengers: Endgame comes out, so we will see how that ends up. Anyway, I’m happy that the company is doing a better job with its features, and I’m seeing some slight improvement in the animation department as well. While some of the films from last year were still okay at best, Batman Ninja was such an entertaining ride. It seems like whenever DC goes off the beaten path of something that’s not working correctly for them, they tend to get better results. For example, let’s see how Justice League vs. The Fatal Five does. Directed by Sam Liu, we see the return of not only Sam Liu as the director, but Bruce Timm as executive producer, and his designs take over the art direction of the film. This was also touted as the first DC-animated feature to deal with not only the Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, but also will be tackling characters with mental health challenges. So, how does it work juggling all of that? Well, let’s get started!

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The story sets us up in the future with the Legion of Superheroes, a “Justice League” of the future, to put it shortly. They are being attacked by three of a villain group known as The Fatal Five. The three members include Mano, voiced by Philip Anthony-Rodriguez, The Persuader, voiced by Matthew Yang King, and Tharok, voiced by Peter Jessop. So, what are they after? They are after a time machine to go into the past to get something. They get past Legion member Saturn Girl, voiced by Tara Strong, and Star Boy, voiced by Elyes Gabel. Fortunately, Star Boy ends up screwing up the three baddies’ plans, and ends up going into the past with them. Along the way, he encounters the current day’s Justice League members Batman, voiced by Kevin Conroy, Superman, voiced by George Newbern, Wonder Woman, voiced by Susan Eisenberg, Mr. Terrific, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, and young hopeful Miss Martian,  voiced by Daniela Bobadilla. Another side of the story has a unknown player in the overall plot with Jessica Cruz, the current Earth’s Green Lantern, voiced by Diane Guerrero. Will the Justice League be able to stop three of the Fatal Five members while dealing with the mystery of Star Boy and Jessica Cruz’s connection?

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So, how about we talk about the elephant in the room? This film deals with two characters who have mental health issues. Star Boy has a drug in the future that he takes to prevent some kind of mental breakdown, which the film describes as  paranoid schizophrenic, but even then, it’s a doctor from the past that describes it, so who knows if that’s really what it is. They don’t say what Jessica Cruz suffers from, and I want to take a guess, but I don’t want to mislabel it. That’s a big risk to have a film that tackles those types of issues. You have to be respectful about it, and tread lightly with making sure these disorders or issues are treated with delicate hands. For the most part, I think they do handle their struggles with the proper weight of said challenges. They aren’t just added in for no reason to give the story some kind of artificial struggle. Jessica Cruz, after surviving a pretty traumatic experience, struggles with getting up and socializing with the rest of the world. I could see how going through what happened would close one’s self away from the world. While they don’t really go into full detail as to what exactly happened with Star Boy, he’s more interesting as a character with his struggle to be helpful. He also realizes how crippling his issues are that could hinder the League’s attempts to stop the Fatal Five. You get a lot of quiet moments between Star Boy, Jessica Cruz, and the other characters. It might be fairly action-packed, but it does pull back to let the characters talk. Speaking of the action, while it might seem kind of busted for two of the villains seen for most of the film being a cyborg and a guy with a sharp axe, the action is pretty good! It’s nice to see the Fatal Five, for the most part, treated as major threats, which usually doesn’t happen a lot with most superhero films. Granted, I have some issues with the villains, but we will save that for a later part of the review. Even someone who I was very afraid would get the short stick, in terms of being important to the plot, Mr. Terrific, gets some great lines and action beats.

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Animation-wise, this is becoming the most boring part to talk about with these DC-animated films. Not that it’s badly animated, but it’s like talking about the LEGO games from Travelers Tales; it’s pretty much on-par with the other films recently released by DC and Warner Bros. When the action kicks in, the animation is great! You can still tell where they lessen the frames of animation, and some very minute parts feel like they slowed-down the footage, but it’s all on par for these animated features. It doesn’t hurt that the Bruce Timm designs are still very iconic. The voice cast is also stellar. While it could be seen as fanservicey to bring back Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg, and George Newbern as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, I am always happy to hear those voices. The rest of the cast also pulls their weight, with newcomers Elyes Gabel and Diane Guerrero doing splendid jobs as Star Boy and Green Lantern Jessica Cruz. The villains are also threatening with Peter Jessop, Matthew Yang King, and Philip Anthony-Rodruiguez’s performances. It’s always nice to see Kevin Michael Richardson, and I would totally watch a Mr. Terrific TV series or DC-animated film with Kevin Michael Richardson as the lead voice actor.

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So, where does this film fall flat? It’s funny how many people complain about the third act in Marvel films, and while some of them are definitely not handled the best, I would take the least liked third act of any of the Marvel films over the wonky and surprisingly sloppy third act of this movie. The plans the villains follow at first is pretty great as you find out why the Fatal Five went back in time, but then you find out about the actual plan, and it’s really stupid. I want to really talk about it, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. My opinion on the overall third act had me asking too many questions, and maybe some of it is my lack of knowledge of certain characters, but I just couldn’t fully get into it outside of the ending.  I also wish Miss Martian was not in the film. It’s not that she isn’t entertaining, voiced well, and so on, but she felt out of place with the other characters. I don’t know, maybe I’m too caught up with how Young Justice handles her character on that show.

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Still, despite my gripe with the third act, I did find myself enjoying Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. It’s a film I can see myself rewatching more than other DC-animated features and other animated features overall. It also makes me wish they would reboot and make a new League of Superheroes show or series of films. It’s a cool premise, and the original series was pretty decent. Maybe we will see more of these futuristic heroes in the future, but for now, I recommend Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. Now then, we shall move from superheroes dealing with complex issues, to a film about a brand of toys that haven’t been popular in years. Next time, we dive into the world of the UglyDolls movie. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go see it!

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Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 2

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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 editorial!)

Here we are with part two! If you haven’t checked out part 1, then you should, since I may or may not reference the previous films on this list. Here is the link to see part 1, and once you are done reading that list, you can go to this list. These films are the middle ground/”I wouldn’t want to watch again” films with the exception of the 11th film. Let’s begin!

18. The Croods

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Oh my golly gee, two DreamWorks films are in the middle of the list? Yeah, this is easily one of their worst years in terms of movies. The Croods definitely has more to it than Turbo, with some interesting concepts, like the old dealing with the new, adaptation, and evolution via the family and the evolved male they meet. The film also has some amazing visuals that are definitely more…Avatar-inspired, with lush vibrant plant life and animals. However, it unfortunately sticks into the “just okay” category of films, due to how it has some interesting ideas, but goes for a more generic tone of the father vs. the guy who’s crushing on his daughter, and becomes a mostly macho competition as they all avoid the danger of their ever-shifting earth. Some of the designs are neat, but they really oversexualized the daughter in this movie. Like, it’s trying so hard to be pleasing to the eye that it does the opposite. It’s a film that also falls under “great ideas and concept, but bad execution” category, which is something this year’s list of animated films are good at.

17. Alois Nebel

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This is easily one of the more visually impressive films from 2013. Alois Nebel is a Czech drama based on a graphic novel about a train dispatcher in the 1980s. He begins to deal with memories of when he was a young boy during World War II, as well as the problems of today after meeting a mute man at the station where he works. Its rotoscope animation and comic book art style definitely brings a personality to this morose story. It’s an ambitious film that’s unfortunately bogged down by a very slow pace. It can be very atmospheric and touching at times, but those parts are few and far between, due to how “plotless” the story can feel. It also has a bit of cultural history behind it, due to this period of time when this film takes place and the point of the WWII flashbacks. It’s not going to be for everyone, and I honestly had a hard time sitting through this film from beginning to end, but I respect it for doing something different than what we normally get with animation. It might be flawed, but it stands out among the 2013 animated films. Definitely get a copy of this, if it is your type of film.

16. Epic

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This film is infuriating, because there is a good dark fantasy film hidden somewhere in this inconsistently toned “epic” adventure. They didn’t need to make a Ferngully-style story, they should have taken out the stunt casting of Beyonce and Pit Bull since they had no reason to be there, a lot of the modern dialogue was distracting, and the comedy relief was grating. The only stunt casting I didn’t mind was Steven Tyler, and that was because he had some of the better lines in the overarching story. If they had just made it its own dark fantasy adventure film, with a more timeless script, mature story, kept the modern elements out, recast some of the stunt casting, and gotten a director like the Russo Brothers or J.J. Abrams, this would have been easily one of Blue Sky Studios’ best movies. It has a solid script (minus the distracting elements), beautiful animation, and some good action. Sadly, it’s a bunch of wasted potential, with villains with no reason to do what they are doing, and in the end giving the movie-goers a very forgettable time. I can understand why some people like it, but it’s more so a very expensive tech demo to show off how good they have gotten with their designs and animation than anything else.

15. Monster’s University

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Even though I already said this about a lot of films on this list, Monster’s University encapsulates the entire “studio mandated/pointless sequel/prequel/cash grab/wasted potential”-style movie perfectly. Yes, there are touching moments, yes, the voice work is entertaining, yes the moral at the end is rather well done, and yes, seeing the different elements of ‘scaring’ broken down into different categories is creative. However, it’s a purely inconsequential movie. We know what’s going to happen in the end, the characters are forgettable, the jokes were either decent or flat, and it’s yet another college frat movie that you saw a million times during the late 70s early 80s, like Animal House. I would have been fine with this film if they either did something clever, or made fun of those college comedies. There is a reason why I call this film the “film that forced Pixar to take a break”, since they didn’t release a film until 2015’s Inside Out, due to their string of failed movies including Cars 2, Brave, and Monster’s University. It’s harmless, but there could have been much more to this film, but Pixar decided to sleepwalk on it.

14. Superman Unbound

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While I don’t hate Superman, I never found him interesting as a character. This movie, Superman Unbound doesn’t really help the case. My overall thought on the movie is that it’s okay. It has some great action, a cool design for Brainiac, and the overall story is told decently, but the art style is very distracting. Superman, Lois Lane, and a lot of the characters don’t look great, and have these weird body types. Even Brainiac ended up being a bit of an idiot, which is always funny when even with how smart characters can be, they can still make some pretty big mistakes, and I don’t know whether it was intentional or not. Still, it was a decent action movie romp, but I would definitely skip this one, and move onto something like Superman vs. The Elite or Superman: Doomsday.

13. The Rabbi’s Cat

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I also reviewed this one in one of my earliest reviews, but I still stand by what I said about it being one of the more interesting, weird movies that I have seen. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable French animated film based off a graphic novel series about a cat that gains the ability to speak like a human after eating a parrot. It’s a slice-of-life-style film, where it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but the dialogue interactions of the characters keep it interesting. I also enjoyed hearing the characters talk about Judaism and their points of view on it. The ending is definitely underwhelming, and the story can be a bit unfocused, but if you are up for something that has a unique art style and a different kind of personality to it, then definitely check this out.

12. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

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This is definitely a great and epic way to end one of the better animated comic book adaptations. I still don’t think that The Dark Knight Returns needed to be two parts, since I would rather judge it as a whole, and I don’t like the fact that DC keeps only making 75 minute-long films, but I digress. The second part of the overall story was dark in all the correct ways, I was glued to the screen watching how the story progressed, and while Superman and Batman are definitely older, the fight sequence between the two was intense and epic. I kind of call a stack of bologna on the ending, but it’s comic book stuff. Even then, it’s a great movie. Just try to find a way to get both parts in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition.

 

Stay tuned for the Part 3 of this list!