While misguided attempts at putting the Justice League in theaters and a Superman reboot cautiously on the way, Warner Bros. Animation has been producing classing stories from DC Comics time and time again. If the trailer is any indication, The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1 won’t be any different. If nothing else it has Peter “Robocop” Weller as Batman! Your move creep! Check it out:
Looks amazing right? This is nothing new for Warner Bros. Animation as they have been doing this for decades now (if you count Batman: The Animated Series). They have succeeded in all of the areas they have failed with their big budget action movies (except Batman of course because anything Batman is good). They take chances and stretch their wings. Different animation styles, different voices to fit those styles, and most importantly they tell the stories we want to see.
How many origin stories can there be? Instead of taking up and entire film introducing every single DC character, they are getting straight into the good stuff with the comics that we love. Doomsday, Red Hood, Tower of Babel, they’ve all been done and done mostly well in these movies. WB tapped into a market of real comic book fans and knows that they are the main audience of these animated features. It’s not like the major films that have to pander to everyone. Marvel took a gamble on giving everyone an origin story and if they didn’t luck out with Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark I’m not sure any of the last few years of success actually happen. Green Lantern tried to do the same thing, but Ryan Reynolds can only take you so far and unfortunately their were so many plot holes and other story issues that the most realistic looking live action take on the Green Lantern and Oa that I could have asked for got completely wasted.
I have seen the Green Lantern movie that works though. Check out Green Lantern: First Flight, the animated feature that came to Blu-ray and DVD two years before the failure in theaters. It’s very similar in theme and hits a lot of the same notes. Hal Jordan gets the ring from a fallen Lantern and has to learn how to be a better man while the universe is in jeopardy and so on. Yet it does it so much better. First of all thanks to it being animated, most of it takes place in space, which is where he belongs. Second, Hal gets his training on the job throughout the entire movie instead of a five minute sequence followed by a bunch of crap. Third, instead of pacing it so poorly because they want to save Sinestro for a sequel, they throw the kitchen sink out there at once. The lack of limitations and big names make it so that there are just some things you can do with animation that you can’t attempt with a blockbuster movie. Want to see how a Wonder Woman movie should be made? Go to WB Animation again. Don’t even get me started on Jonah Hex. The characters we know less about get their due, while the ones we already know (Superman/Batman) get spared of introductions and instead we get their best stories shown as we know and love them.
As far as films go this is the one area that DC clearly trumps Marvel. Marvel Animation does what they can, but it just isn’t on the same level as DC. They do a fair job, specifically with Hulk vs, but the overall quality and quantity just isn’t there. Eight films in six years, along with some poorly received anime just aren’t going to cut it. Not when DC has almost doubled their production and done so with such high quality. All this while making Justice League and Young Justice TV series that have critical acclaim as well.
DC has plenty of very good movies aside from the Dark Knight trilogy. They are just being shown on the wrong screen. Hell they even nailed it with The Flaming C!