Monday, April 19, 2010

Marvel vs. DC: Animated Movies

Marvel and DC have both been releasing a lot of direct-to-DVD animated movies over the last few years, and most of them have been really good. But the ultimate question of course is which are better; Marvel or DC? So I’ve put together a little breakdown with some mini-reviews so I can decide for myself. Since I haven’t read any of the comics that these movies are based on (apart from a few issues of The Ultimates), I’ll be judging these movies on their own merits and not based on their source material.


Ultimate Avengers:

Based on the comic “The Ultimates”, a gritty reboot of the Avengers, this feature may not be as gritty as the comic but it gets the job done. We get the conflict between the team members, reluctant to work together but forced to because of a threat too big for any of them to face alone. The action is good. I wasn’t that impressed with the animation but that could just be because I’m so used to the Timm-verse style of the DC movies and television series. But all in all I thought it was well done, four stars.

The Invincible Iron Man:

During an excavation to unearth an ancient Chinese city, Tony Stark digs up far more than he bargained for. The animation gets a real upgrade for this feature, as a lot of elements are done in 3D, specifically the elemental spirits that Iron Man has to fight. The story is fun, the voice work is good, and the action is great. All in all, the perfect appetizer for the first live action movie and probably the best of the Marvel efforts thus far. Four stars.

Doctor Strange:

Doctor Strange is one of those characters that I always thought was cool even though I didn’t know much about him. The thing that struck me most about this movie was its similarity to The Matrix. Our protagonist, gifted in his field, feels like there is something missing in his life, stumbles upon a secret war, joins a group of warriors, learns that he has a special destiny, is betrayed by one of his fellow warriors, and in the end he defeats the evil that is threatening them. The animation and voice work was good, the story and the action was great. Four stars.

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow:

Of all of the movies listed here, this is the only one that felt to me like it was geared toward a younger audience. It was essentially “Jim Henson’s Avengers’ Babies”. The premise is interesting, that the Avengers are all killed by Ultron and that their children are raised and protected by Iron Man until they finally have to stand up and fight for themselves. The whole thing just felt a little too Saturday morning for me. Three stars.

Hulk Vs.:

This one is a double feature, “Hulk vs. Thor” and “Hulk vs. Wolverine”. Ultimately I think the goal with these was to let the Hulk let loose. He’s the most powerful creature in he Marvel universe, but rarely do we really get to see the violence that he’s capable of. The action is pretty good, but I think the story lacked in a few placed. The Wolverine one had better action and the Thor feature had a better story, but together they average out to be…well, average. Three stars.

Planet Hulk:

Every Hulk story that I’ve ever read or seen before, the character focus was always on Banner. The Hulk represented something that was happening to Banner, or at most a side of Banner, but as a character in and of himself, not so much. The Hulk was a force, a creature of pure rage and little else. But Planet Hulk turned all that on its ear. For the first time (to my knowledge) the Hulk has a character arc. He has wants and needs, lessons to learn, decisions to make. And in the end, he even gets the girl. I thought this was a great story, with good action and genuine character drama. Four stars.


Superman: Doomsday:

Based of course on the famous Superman run in which the man of steel is killed by the titular Doomsday, this movie was the first direct-to-DVD title that DC put out after Justice League Unlimited ended in 2006. DC set the bar here with what they wanted these features to be; more mature, more violent, closer related to the comics. And Doomsday doesn’t pull any punches, from the violence of Superman’s death, to the menacing evil of Lex Luthor and the creepiness of Toyman. I have to say that when I first saw the voice cast, I was dubious. I was used to the way the characters were drawn and voiced on JLU, and change can be scary. I’m not too fond of Superman’s character design in this, his jaw line and chin dimple are bordering on ridiculous. But the voice cast does an excellent job here, especially James Marsters. His portrayal of Luthor is quieter and colder then Clancy Brown’s, but it’s no less powerful. Four stars.

Justice League: The New Frontier:

Based on the graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke, New Frontier takes place in the 1950’s, in between the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. It’s an interesting time in the DC universe that isn’t often explored. The government doesn’t trust these heroes, but they’re forced to work together against a common threat. We get origin stories for Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, we get to see some cool retro costumes, and we get a great voice cast ranging from David Boreanaz as Hal Jordan to Neil Patrick Harris as The Flash. One of my favorites of the DC movies. Four Stars.

Batman: Gotham Knight:

Much in the same style as The Animatrix, Gotham Knight is an anthology of six short anime-style stories loosely woven together, taking place in the new movie universe after the events in “Batman Begins”. Each story is done by a different director with a different animation style. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as the Dark Knight in each of the six features. In my opinion, Conroy is the quintessential Batman, and he lends a lot of credibility to the movie. It’s a style that fans may not be used to, but Conroy reminds the viewers that this is still our Batman. I’d have to say that this one is my favorite of the modern DC movies. The animation is beautiful to look at, the stories good, and the voice cast does a great job. Four stars.

Green Lantern: First Flight:

Along with Gotham Knight, this was the only other DC movie not directly based on a specific comic. The animation and the action was good, I’ve always liked the Green Lanterns. As an origin story though, it felt rushed. They stuffed so many story elements into such a small space, I think it all came out a little jumbled. But ultimately, it was still a fun movie and I liked it. The voice cast was good, though I have to say that I liked David Boreanaz in New Frontier better as Hal Jordan. But Michael Madsen as Kilowog was good casting. Three stars.

Superman / Batman: Public Enemies:

“Lex Luthor's attempt to win the presidency the old-fashioned way... by buying it, seems to be picking up steam. New poles show that 22% of Americans now support his third party bid. In a completely unrelated story, 22% of Americans now indicate a preference for getting [beep]-ed in the [beep] with a red hot poker!”

One of the things that I liked most about this movie was the more mature humor that was sprinkled without, complete with PG-13 style cursing. And of course, the fact that they got the original voice cast back again. Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy and Clancy Brown all reprise their roles from the DCAU, making this feature feel like an old friend. The story is fun, the cameos are plentiful, and the action is great, but what really makes this movie for me is the friendship between Batman and Superman. Two characters who by all accounts shouldn’t like each other as much as they do. Daly and Conroy make it feel real, and it lends real weight to the climax of the film. Plus Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor going batshit crazy at the end, what’s not to love about that. Four stars.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths:

Again, when I saw the voice cast for this I was dubious. This time I’d say they’re batting around .500. William Baldwin, James Woods and Gina Torres were all great. Mark Harmon and Chris Noth, not so much. It’s hard to be overly harsh on Chris Noth as Lex Luthor, since he’s an alternate universe Luthor, and therefore who’s to judge what could be out of character. But still I found the performance kind of flat. And Mark Harmon just didn’t feel right as Superman to me. As for the story, I loved it. Ask anyone, I’m a sucker for alternate realities. There were some out-of-characters moments for Batman I thought, lying to Johnny Quick to get him to sacrifice himself, but ultimately I liked the climax with him and Owlman. And the Owlman character was extremely interesting I thought, and well voiced by James Woods. The Martian Manhunter/President’s daughter storyline I could have done without, but all in all I liked the movie a lot. Four stars.

The winner: DC! The animation and voice work is consistently better, and the stories are generally better as well. Maybe I’m being influenced by the DCAU, which I believe has also been consistently better then most of the animated series that Marvel has put out over the years. But still, I have to call this one for the Distinguished Competition. So what do you, the viewers at home, think?


  1. What, no Wonder Woman? I had that movie forever before I watched it because, well, it's Wonder Woman. But it's good. Lots of action, zombies take over Washington, and Nathan Fillion plays Steve Trevor.

    JL: Crisis was written by Dwayne McDuffie, who wrote a good chunk of JL/JLU episodes. In fact, Crisis was supposed to be the movie that bridged the gap between JL and JLU, explaining why the League recruited all those members and where WW got her invisible jet. The wiki entry on Crisis has more detail.

    I really liked Dr. Strange, but I thought Iron Man dragged a lot.

    On more Marvel Animation news, both Spec Spidey and Wolverine and the X-Men have been canceled, despite good reviews and ratings.


  2. Yeah, I never got around to seeing Wonder Woman or Ult Avengers 2. Maybe I'll check them out.

    That's interesting about Crisis, I didn't know that. Makes sense though. Did you see the First Look at "Batman: Under the Red Hood" on the Crisis DVD? Looks really good. Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing. I'm excited for that one.

  3. if this movie is make it, I gonna buy all the tickets in theater I wanna see this movie alone, just think in watch superman vs thor, or batman vs iron man, men these is a real fight, only in America you can see this and of course in viagra online also this fight can be real.

  4. In a knockdown, drag out fight to the death between Marvel universe and Dc universe, who would win? This is one of the oldest unanswered questions around. Most people pick their favorite characters and side with them; others actually use statistics when coming to their own personal conclusions. The fact is because of a number of reasons this fight of a life time could go either way. For example, Marvel’s numbers could easily be enough to win. On the other hand the fact that ninety nine percent of marvel characters are human is enough to lose.