Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

Had the pleasure of watching Black Adam yesterday.  Good Lord that was terrible.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

Watching Marvel's WHAT IF? with the full motion animation, lush and dense environments, smooth camerawork, hyperkinetic editing, compelling shot composition, immersive soundscape, high energy voice acting -- and I have to wonder, why exactly are those DC Universe Original Animated movies still being made? They look stiff and immobile compared to WHAT IF?

The original BATMAN and SUPERMAN WB animated cartoons used simple character designs for smooth animation on a TV schedule and budget, but the DC Original Animated Features choose a mid-point of realistic designs, a moderate level of motion, and as recently as CATWOMAN: HUNTED, the overall effect is stiff cardboard cutouts moving back and forth on a two dimensional plane. There's never the sense that the actors are in the same room; they feel like they were recorded on separate dimensions of existence

The DC Universe Original Animated features look like amateur student films. They diminish the DC brand as cheap and rushed. I don't think it's due to any lack of talent; the movies are probably being made in too little time with too few resources. I don't understand why they're allowed to exist. They can't be that profitable and they're at best average.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

ireactions wrote:

Watching Marvel's WHAT IF? with the full motion animation, lush and dense environments, smooth camerawork, hyperkinetic editing, compelling shot composition, immersive soundscape, high energy voice acting -- and I have to wonder, why exactly are those DC Universe Original Animated movies still being made? They look stiff and immobile compared to WHAT IF?

I'm pretty sure the new DCU is ending the unrelated animated movies (at least the constant stream of them).  And unlike What If...?*, future DCU animated films will be entirely voice-acted by the original live action voices.

* Just needed to mention that smile

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

While the recasting for WHAT IF is mostly fine, it's certainly preferable to have the performer who originated the live action role continue in the animated tie-in. The contracts for WHAT IF weren't in place, but they sound like they will be on James Gunn's animated films for DC.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

Yeah Gunn is doing it the right way, and Marvel couldn't have anticipated something like this at the time.  As I said in the other thread, I don't really fault What If.  It'll just be fun to have that level of continuity in the DCU.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

ireactions wrote:

Watching Marvel's WHAT IF? with the full motion animation, lush and dense environments, smooth camerawork, hyperkinetic editing, compelling shot composition, immersive soundscape, high energy voice acting -- and I have to wonder, why exactly are those DC Universe Original Animated movies still being made? They look stiff and immobile compared to WHAT IF?

I said that the DC Universe Original Animated features all looked cheap and amateur. However, I have to say, that was a generalization and there is a more nuanced opinion to be had. There have been a number of standouts: the JUSTICE LEAGUE NEW FRONTIER feature had a slick, simple set of character designs with smooth animation. GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT looked very nice, probably because being set in space meant the artists didn't have to do too many characters or cityscapes. GOTHAM KNIGHTS was beautiful, probably because the format of short stories suited the budget of these projects.

However, for every NEW FRONTIER, there seem to be four or five mediocrities like SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW, a strangely inanimate feature that lacks music and motion and has a tedious visual presentation of Superman's feats. And this cheap looking film was meant to be the debut of the new run of DC animated films.

I note that RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADER and BATMAN VS. TWO FACE, both recent animated sequels to the 60s BATMAN show from Warner Bros. Animation, look beautiful. While not at the full motion level of WHAT IF where the camera can move through the environment, these two films clearly had fight choreography and a sense of visual intensity that is not to be found in SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE. And I notice that the BATMAN: HUSH feature is very close to the same level of RETURN and TWO FACE, but CATWOMAN: HUNTED is stiff and lifeless.

Another thing I noticed is that a lot of the poorer films like SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW, SON OF BATMAN, BATMAN VS. ROBIN, BAD BLOOD, and CATWOMAN: HUNTED have strangely stilted voice editing. A character says a line, there's a half-second to a full second pause, and then another character voices their response. There is a conspicuous lack of conversational interaction and pacing. It's very obvious the voice actors didn't record together. But then in GREEN LANTERN:  FIRST FLIGHT, BATMAN: HUSH and the two 60s films, there's overlap and reaction in the performances even though it's likely those actors didn't record together either.

It seems to me like everyone involved is very talented, but Warner Bros. wants a certain number of features each year and allocates time and budget based on predicted unit sales. A sequel to the 60s BATMAN TV show featuring Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar and William Shatner will sell better than a SUPERMAN feature. My guess would be that the Adam West project gets a larger budget for animation and a lengthier schedule, not only for visual quality, but so that the editors can edit and mix together the voice tracks to create reactions, interruptions, overlapping dialogue and other elements of natural conversation.

Meanwhile, SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW gets less money and a shorter schedule, and less time to create the illusion of conversation in the sound editing process. There are probably any number of these animated films that, due to the release schedule, didn't get the refinement and care they needed.

A lot of these projects seem to have had a lot of time and money put into the box art and into booking 'name' actors for a few days of recording, but significantly less put into scripting, animating, recording and editing. I hope that under James Gunn, DC animated projects will find a way to achieve a higher level of artistry and quality.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

Having made a general claim about the low production quality of the DC Universe Original Animated Features movies, I felt compelled to interrogate that by watching some more of them.

I watched BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT, a vision of Batman where he adopts his superhero identity in the late 19th century as Gotham is menaced by a serial killer targeting prostitutes. The script is an extremely strong piece of work, the acting is compelling, the voice mixing is solid and avoids the detached quality of SON OF BATMAN and BATMAN VS. ROBIN where it never sounded like the actors were in the same room or even in the same dimension.

But the animation! I was astonished that in 2018, Warner Bros. released an animated feature where the animation looked like stop motion that was missing a few frames. A shot of Pamela Isley walking down a street looked more like she was teleporting for each step. The animation was so bad that I was compelled to do the previously unthinkable: I broke into my sister's apartment. I forced the lock, cut the alarm, went to the fridge, helped myself to a soda, activated her popcorn maker, then sat down at her living room TV to watch GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT.

Her TV has a motion smoothing feature that mine doesn't, while she's turned it off (I've taught her well), I turned it back on to watch GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT. I was impressed to see that raising the 23.97FPS to 60FPS smoothed out all the animated movements and GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT suddenly seemed several notches more capable. The strangely abrupt movements of the film now looked fluid and flowing. It still wasn't a Disney cinematic feature because the designs and surroundings still had the sparseness of a TV budget project, but it looked like a professional project instead of a student film animatic.

Motion smoothing is quite rightly loathed for making live action film and TV look like videotape, but non-CG animation as a medium of illustrative reality where movement is approximated. Motion smoothing augments the approximation and makes it more vivid. I know motion interpolation, as pneumatic explained it in the SLIDERS DVD thread, is not truly 60fps and there can be all sorts of artifacts and distortions. But I can't help but think Warner Bros. Animation could've made their the lower budgeted movies look better just by running the final cut through motion interpolation to up the frame rate.

It wouldn't have any effect on the lousy voice mixing or lack of music or dull scripting in some of the weaker installments, of course. And a lot of the better-animated films wouldn't gain much: NEW FRONTIER, GOTHAM KNIGHTS, BATMAN: NINJA and the Adam West features already looked smooth. But GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT deserved better, HUSH would have benefitted from a better frame rate, and I think I'd like to watch SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW with motion smoothing and try to give it another chance.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

I'm watching THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN (2018) and REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN (2019). It's not great, a passable but never phenomenal adaptation of the storyline. It's unfortunately sabotaged by the DC animated films before it, and, strangely, Jerry O'Connell, whom I'd forgotten had been voicing Superman.

This run of films, called the DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU), was established in JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX (2013) where the Flash's time travel antics create this DC timeline that served as an ongoing continuity for most of the animated films from 2014 - 2020. The first installment was JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR in which Superman was voiced by Alan Tudyk and Jerry didn't even play Superman until the DCAMU's Superman's second appearance in THRONE OF ATLANTIS.

The DCAMU team seems to have little enthusiasm for Superman. Jerry's Superman debuts in February 2014 in the Justice League ensemble and isn't Jerry; he doesn't appear again until January 2015's THRONE OF ATLANTIS and is finally Jerry; Jerry's Superman has small roles in JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS and JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK; he doesn't get a movie of his own until July 2018 and it's THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN, which kills him off.

In addition, THRONE established that Superman and Wonder Woman were dating; DEATH OF SUPERMAN refers to an offscreen breakup and Clark is now dating Lois, and has to establish the Clark/Lois relationship in the very same movie where Clark dies. We have spent so little time with Jerry O'Connell's Superman that his death means very, very little.

Jerry is... peculiar. His voice doesn't have the natural authority and confidence that I associate with Superman; it has a comedically unsteady, dramatically uncertain quality to it. He doesn't instantly convince as Superman. In addition, Jerry's Superman is written as so uncertain and self-doubting that Jerry only gets a few instances to play the confident, self-assured Superman.

When Jerry is called upon to play Superman as more like Tyler Hoechlin than Quinn Mallory, Jerry excels... but his hyperconfident Superman voice sounds so little like his unsure Superman voice that it almost feels like a different actor, and Jerry doesn't do particularly well at combining these two sides of Superman into a unified character. The problem may not even be Jerry, but whatever circumstances in which he recorded his dialogue and the direction that he received. Certainly, the script is not on his side.

Very, very strange. THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN and REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN again seem like two cheap animated films where more time and effort was spent designing the blu-ray box art than making the films.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

I watched JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS... and I was struck by how even the least heroic Titans in this 2016 animated feature were more heroic than the live action team in TITANS.

The plot of JLVTT is that 14 year old Damian, a reckless loose canon of a superhero, the current Robin and the son of Batman, is sent to spend time with the Teen Titans to learn how to work with others. Damian is an arrogant loudmouth who needs to prove himself better than everyone else on the team and assumes he can't be beaten even when he can; he's not a hero as much as a braggart who needs to prove himself the equal of his heroic father; he cares more about being superior than being a hero.

At the midpoint, the Teen Titan named Raven is attacked by her father's demons. Damian barely knows Raven and has treated her with contempt; he instantly rises to the challenge of defending her against a demon army, against the Justice League when they come to take custody of her, and even the Justice League when they are possessed by demonic forces. The rest of the Titans find Damian obnoxious and arrogant and frightening and immediately rally behind Damian as he defends their friend.

It occurred to me when watching it that Damian is a borderline sociopathic bully who only doesn't qualify as a bully because he barely acknowledges his peers, and yet, he's more heroic than the entire live action cast of TITANS put together. On TITANS, Dick Grayson was keen to leave Raven to her troubles. In the second season, Rose Wilson approached the Titans for help as she was being hunted by Deathstroke; the 'team' immediately began debating how to abandon Rose and declaring how they didn't consider her their problem. In contrast, JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS doesn't seem to have any trouble making Damian a hero and Damian is hilariously loathsome.

JLVTT is a passably mediocre movie. It's written by Bryan Q. Miller of SMALLVILLE fame (who also wrote the Season 11 comics for SMALLVILLE). The script is solid, but executed in a visually undistinguished way. There's a sequence where Damian and Beast Boy compete in playing the game Dance Dance Revolution.

As someone with little enthusiasm for dance, I can say right away that the characters of Damian and Beast Boy would each demonstrate a different dance language: Damian would be all precision and endurance and technically proficient but stiffly militaristic because he's afraid of losing his dignity; Beast Boy would be expressive and chameleonic and joyful and with no concern for how he appears to others when dancing. However, the movie just shows completely generic dancing for both characters because DC Universe Original Animated Features don't have the budget for anything more complex.

And yet, the visual lack of merits aside, the Teen Titans of this exercise in pedestrian production have the benefit of actually being heroic, which is something a lot of grimdark DC productions can't seem to pull off consistently.

Re: DC Superheroes in Film (Theatrical and Streaming)

I started watching JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. Then I remembered: I'd seen half of the movie with my niece a few years ago, but then we got distracted by her mother coming home from the airport with luggage and we turned the TV off to help her unpack. And then...

IB: "What were we doing before your mother came home?"

LAUREN: "Were we watching CONSTANTINE?"

IB: "No, it was a cartoon."

LAUREN: "Oh, right! We were watching a DC animated movie where Matt Ryan is the voice of Constantine. Should we finish it?"

IB: "I think we got to the part where the villain shows up and the villain's either Dr. Fu Manchu or a racist Chinese caricature that's as racist as Dr. Fu Manchu."

LAUREN: "I don't think we need to finish watching that."