Archive for June, 2013

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I know, I know — yesterday I said I was done with “motion comics,” cold turkey. It was over. Finished. No looking back. I’d had my fill and generally walked away feeling pretty let down by most of them.

So what do I do? I sit down last night and watch Shout! Factory’s 2011 Marvel Knights Animation release (again, DVD-only as far as I’m aware) Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers, adapted from writer Robert Rodi and artist Esad Ribic’s highly-popular late-’90s four-part Loki miniseries (it was re-titled upon release in both collected form and on DVD in order to cash in on the hype then surrounding the pre-release of Kenneth Branagh’s highly-anticipated, big-budget Thor movie). My expectations weren’t high, having been worn down by a steady diet of lackluster stuff over the past few nights, culminating in the really rather atrocious Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D. But hey, my wife was at work, there was nothing on TV, I was feeling too lazy to read, and the unique occult combination of all these factors led me to give in and give this thing a go.

And boy, am I glad I did, because Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers is everything you could ask for in a “motion comic” and then some.

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First off, the story’s simple, yet highly effective and tremendously involving : Loki, lord of mischief and misrule, gets his wish and finally takes over the mystical kingdom of Asgard. He defeats his brother, Thor, and lays waste to all that his mightier and more famous sibling holds dear. He holds the iron fist of power over all those who previously shunned him. and settles scores with both his families, natural and adoptive. He’s in charge. He’s The Man. Things are definitely looking good for the guy in the golden horned helmet.

And yet — he’s vaguely dissatisfied. He can’t bring himself to just be rid of Thor once and for all and finds that he still needs the love/hate relationship they’ve fostered over the centuries to serve as his primary motivating force in life. Hell, one even gets the sense that he’s done all this conquering and what have you just to impress the more legendary and heroic member of his family. And that love and acceptance he’s longed for his whole life? It still ain’t comin’. Thor still feels nothing but a strange mix of pity and anger toward this black sheep of his family.

And it’s in that emotional complexity — that exploration of why these two disparate figures fear and despise, but also love and even need each other, that Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers shines as a piece of psychologically compelling modern comics storytelling. This is a tale of ageless gods with powers beyond comprehension that somehow all of us mere mortals can still relate to. My heartiest congratulations, Mr. Rodi, on a job very well done.

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But hey, “motion comics” are still comics (at least of a sort), right? So all that high-fallutin’ story stuff doesn’t matter a whit (well, okay, it still matters, but not as much) if the art sucks. Fortunately, Esad Ribic’s highly-stylized, exquisitely-detailed renderings are flat-out awesome, and Shout! Factory does a superb job breathing life into them via the use of complex, highly-intricate 3-D computer animation techniques that do more than just provide “motion,” they also breathe additional life and depth (both genuine and metaphorical) into the art and draw the reader into the physically and emotionally cold world of Loki’s Asgard by dint of their expressive power and sheer ingenuity. In other words, this is one awesomely cool film to look at.

Continuing down the technical rabbit hole, the disc also features a pristine widescreen image, well-realized and nicely-mixed 5.1 sound, two superb “making-of” featurettes (one concentrating on the creation of the original comic, the other on its translation into this new format), and some trailers for other titles in this series that by and large make them look better than they really are. The main feature itself may clock in at only 74 minutes, but this is definitely a package that gives you value for dollar.

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So I guess when it comes to “motion comics,” I’m feeling a bit like Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part III : “just when I thought I was out — they pull me back in!!!!!!!!!!!!” But for the time being, at least, I’m damn glad to be back. Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers is a darkly majestic work that balances its contradictory-on-their-surface epic and intimate themes with grace, precision, care, and a heck of a lot of style. It’s this reviewer’s opinion that it represents the apex of achievement in the still-nascent field of “motion comics” to date. It’s compelling, chilling, accessible, gorgeous, complex, and even breathtaking at times.

It gave me a much softer and more pleasant landing than I probably deserved for falling off the “motion comics” wagon so quickly. And you ,dear reader, should see it immediately.

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Try as I might, I just can’t seem to quit crack. I know, I know — I’m trapped in a dead-end spiral, chasing after that first initial rush of euphoric coolness over and over again, but these days it almost never equals the highs of that introductory experience, and even if it does the feeling fades pretty quickly and I’m just left wanting more than it seems capable of delivering. Plus, if I’m honest, the first time wasn’t even that great. It just seemed like it would be, and I’m stuck forever pursuing a promise of bliss that was never delivered upon, hoping against hope that each next “score” will be The One. The Ultimate. The Best.

Whoops, did I say crack? I meant “motion comics.”  But hey — the same sentiments apply.

Still, I think I’ve finally found the one that will help me kick the habit for good, and for that I’m grateful. It’s not that 2009’s Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D (so titled in official parlance even though it appears to be exactly the reverse on the DVD cover packaging)., part of Shout! Factory’s “Marvel Knights Animation” line.  left me feeling so awesomely elated that I know it can never be equaled, much less topped. Quite the reverse. It was such a complete waste of time that it may — at least should — be enough to sour me on the whole notion of “motion comics” for good.

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Which is kind of a shame, really, since this does have some things going for it. First off, it’s the first original  “motion comic,” with the DVD (again, no Blu-Ray exists for this that I’m aware of, not that it particularly matters) coming out in advance of its printed-copy counterpart. Secondly, unlike with many of these things, Shout! Factory has included a pretty generous sampling of extra features with this one, including as 30-minute “making-of ” featurette that looks at the whole “motion comic” concept in general rather than this specific title per se, some reasonably cool promo material for other releases in this series, a brief visual history of the Spider-Woman character throughout the years, and a tangentially-related-to-the-proceedings music video. Granted, a cynic might say that’s the least they can do since the main “feature” runs a paltry 54 minutes, but still — I appreciated it. On the technical front, the widescreen picture and 5.1 sound are both fairly well flawless, and the musical score accompanying the —errmmm — “movie” proper is probably the best I’ve ever heard for one of these releases.

Unfortunately, everything else sucks. It’s not that Alex Maleev’s art is “bad” — in fact it’s pretty good by any standard — but it makes for a lousy “motion comic” because, while it’s quite expressionistic and noir-ish, it’s pretty static and suggest very little actual, ya know, motion. Also, Shout! Factory has done next to nothing to add any of said element to the mix via their process of what passes for animation, just rotating angles every so often and giving us the occasional panning shot of the scenery here and there. Apart from that, the whole thing plays out more or less like a slide show you could easily title “What I Did During The Alien Invasion.”

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Which brings us to Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.‘s biggest problem, and it’s a real doozy — fan-favorite writer Brian Michael Bendis’ script is just a fucking mess. Apparently, Spider-Woman’s civilian identity of private eye Jessica Drew was compromised/impersonated by the shape-changing Skrull Queen during said evil moarch’s last attempt to take over Earth, so our heroine’s got a big beef with these ugly green dopplegangers. Unfortunately, we’re just spoon-fed this knowledge via clumsy “info-dump” dialogue, so unless you’re intimately familiar with the Spider-Woman character’s backstory circa the early-to-mid-2000s, you’re not gonna really identify with the pain, anguish, and rage that Bendis is trying (and largely failing) to imbue her with. Still, given her bad personal history with the space invaders in question, it only makes sense that S.W.O.R.D., apparently a S.H.I.E.L.D.-type organization tasked specifically with fighting off menaces from other worlds, would bring her in (mostly in the capacity of  her aforementioned civilian identity — we actually get to see very little of Ms. Drew in her skin-tight leotard, which is kind of a bummer) when they get word that the Skrulls are giving the whole infiltration of our planet idea another go.

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What makes a little less sense is why the hell Norman Osborn’s privately-funded super-team, the Thunderbolts, show up later (until a fairly limp “explanation” is provided), why the supposed “tension” between the various Skrull-hunting factions seems so forced yet still ends up falling flat, and why Bendis does , by and large, nothing to give any of the various characters much of an individual personality or perspective. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that different actors and actresses (a collection of no-names who generally do the best they can with such weak material) were delivering the lines, I’d be hard-pressed to tell exactly who in tarnation was talking.

The amazingly uneven length of the various “chapters” doesn’t help matters much (some run 15 minutes, some run five), and all in all you’re left with a story that feels like it was written as a “rush job” in one afternoon and (barely) animated later that night. There’s just no disguising it — Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.  feels like a mess from top to bottom because it is a mess from top to bottom.

Yup, I think I can safely rid myself of this whole “motion comics” habit cold turkey.

At least until tomorrow.

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Maybe I’m just showing my age here, but the fact that we now seem to be entering into a phase where Marvel’s short-lived, ostensibly “mature” “Marvel Knights” imprint is looked back on with some sort of warm, nostalgic glow surprises me a bit. Not because the books that comprised the line were lousy (although some of them were), but because, well — it just doesn’t seem like they came out all that long ago.

Of course, for Marvel and their new corporate parent, Disney, it may as well have been a lifetime ago, as the current situation at the self-appointed “House Of Ideas” bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to the circumstances that prevailed back in the late 90s/early 2000s, when most of the “Knights” titles were released. Back then, Marvel was  just emerging from a richly-deserved bankruptcy and looking for any sort of toehold to remain relevant in the comics market. In short, they were throwing a lot of shit at the wall to see what would stick. Today, they’re primarily an instant-blockbuster-producing movie studio that keeps one finger in the comic pie just in case some hot new IP turns up there that they can screw its gullible, 25-year-old creators out of, but by and large there’s not much new happening on that front and they’re just continuing to strip-mine the wealth of characters and concepts created by Jack Kirby (like those we’re here to talk about today, The Inhumans — which were supposedly the brainchild of both Jack and Stan Lee, but you know who really did all the work and who filled in the largely-written-in-advance-by-the-artists word balloons) back in the 1960s for all they’re worth. “Marvel Knights” gave way to the so-called “Ultimate Universe,” which has in turn given way to “Marvel Now!,” but no matter how many times they re-launch and re-brand their line, the game remains the same — throw a slew of new “first issues” out there, wait a few years until sales numbers drop back to their previous levels, then reload and do it all over again.

Still, once in awhile a genuinely good comic does manage to sneak under the metaphorical lines set up by Marvel’s editorial department, and in 1998-99 writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jae Lee delivered one such product with their 12-issue Inhumans mini-series (note that I said “good,” not “great,” because this is a work that really does have some serious flaws, most noticeable of which is its full-time sullen attitude), which has now been semi-animated into the so-called “motion comics” format by Shout! Factory and released on DVD (although not, apparently, Blu-Ray, not that it would make much difference with a product of this nature) as part of their “Marvel Knights Animation” series. Even though it’s not, strictly, speaking, fully animated. But I digress.

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For those unfamiliar with the characters, which were developed as a race of super-being foils to occasionally interact ,as either friends and foes depending on the situation, with the Fantastic Four (although Kirby always had plans to  put them in a book of their own that he was going to write and draw, and those pipe dreams were scuttled at every turn), The Inhumans are a race of genetic mutations who all exhibit very unique and different powers and who live in isolation from the rest of humanity in their domed (and apparently mobile, as it’s managed to shuffle around to a lot of spots over the years, including an extended stay on the moon) city of Attilan. They’re led by their all-powerful king, Black Bolt, who remains silent by choice because one word from his mouth can literally destroy, apparently, all of creation, and he is, in turn, joined at the top of their society’s feudal power pyramid by his wife, Medusa, who has long, flowing manes of super-hair that move around of their own volition (typically used to snare bad guys, naturally); her sister, Crystal, who I think is some sort of telepath or other; an aloof “deep-thinker” type named Karnak, who serves as royal adviser; top military commander/general bad-ass Gorgon; a green, amphibious Merman named Triton; and Lockjaw, the royal family’s gigantic St. Bernard who’s gifted with the power of teleportation. Really.

Generally a fun and admittedly hokey bunch of cool Kirby characters, Jenkins’ script takes things in a considerably darker direction that exposes the ugly genetic caste system that prevails in Attilan (apparently at puberty all “gifted” teens are exposed to something called the Terrigen Mists, which function as something of a high-tech cocoon, unlocking and  enhancing their mutations and turning them into “new and improved” beings that are completely unrecognizable when compared to their “former” selves once they come out the other end, and those who turn out ugly or end up being endowed with abilities deemed rather limp by the more powerful and beautiful are immediately shunned) on the one hand  while testing the royal family’s leadership abilities on a couple of fronts, both from the “have-nots” within their own society who are burning with the fires of rebellion,  and from  the humans outside their dome who are shelling Attilan with every type of ordnance they’ve got, on the other. Both situations have been engineered, and are being manipulated by, Black Bolt’s evil brother, Maximus, who has designs on the throne he believes to rightly be his, but at his society’s hour of greatest peril, the king seems to be suffering from — how ’bout this — some sort of mid-life crisis. Which is kinda strange since it’s strongly hinted that he might very well be immortal, but there you have it.

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Jae Lee’s art is pretty cool in an angular, stylized sort of way — at this stage in his career he hadn’t yet developed the unbearably stiff and lifeless look that he employs today  and he wasn’t yet too lazy to draw backgrounds — and makes the transition to barely-animated form well, but the paucity of dialogue in Jenkins’ for-the-most-part-pretty-interesting script results in a choppy viewing experience, with most of the story’s 12 “chapters” running no more than 10 or 12 minutes before  we have to sit through the next set of closing-followed-by-opening credits all over again. The whole thing is barely over two hours long, so why they felt the need to segment it like this simply in order to strictly adhere to the comic’s format consisting of 12 separate issues is beyond me.

On the plus side, Shout! Factory has employed several different actors —of both genders — to voice the different parts (none of whom you’ve ever heard of, trust me, but that doesn’t matter much and most do a perfectly serviceable job), so unlike the Watchmen motion comic we took a look at on these virtual pages yesterday, you’re not stuck with one guy voicing every single character, even the women. This was released just this year while Watchmen was translated into “motion” almost five years ago, so I guess things have progressed somewhat. The widescreen picture and 5.1 sound are both terrific, as well, but be forewarned — turn your volume down about eight notches from its usual setting, because the sound levels on this thing are loud as fuck.

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The package is rounded off with a pretty solid little 30-minute “making of” featurette that splits its attention between Paul Jenkins talking about this series specifically and Marvel head honcho Joe Quesada talking about the inception of the entire “Knights” line in more general terms, but relevant  and interesting as this is, it’s admittedly not something that anything other than hard-core comics fans will probably find very involving. Which is fine, I guess, since hard-core fans are obviously the only people that are going to bother with the whole notion of “motion comics” in the first place. All in all, it’s fair to say that the same final verdict applies to Inhumans as it does to all these things — if you liked the book, you’ll like this fine, despite some hiccups in the translation to a new format, but you certainly don’t need to watch it — and if you’re unfamiliar with the so-called “source material,” then the — let’s face it — pointlessness of essentially shuffling the comic panels in a slide show in front of your face, while the story is read  aloud, is only amplified and echoed.

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Now that I think about it, maybe this isn’t right at all. Maybe I should reserve the “Animation Sidebar” series — which is anything but a “sidebar” at this point, for which I must sincerely apologize to grindhouse and exploitation fans out there who read, or at the very least check in on things at, this site, either religiously or occasionally, but rest assured I’ll return to treading more familiar territory  in the very near future — should be reserved solely for flicks that are, well, animated. Which this isn’t — not fully, at any rate.

Not that it’s not good — it is. in fact, it’s really good. But then, so is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original Watchmen comic, and that’s pretty much exactly what this is. Only it’s narrate. And the pictures move — a little — courtesy of an animation studio called Juice Films, who pretty much took Gibbons’ art “as is,” threw in a few motion effects here and there, and called it a day. All of which is my by-now-traditionally roundabout way of saying that even if you love the book on which this — errmmm (sorry, Rorschach) — “film” is based, you might not actually need to ever watch, much less own or rent, this so-called “motion comic.”

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Don’t get me wrong — it’s cool to see Rorschach’s mask moving and shit, but beyond that there’s really nothing about watching a semi-animated Watchmen that reading the printed Watchmen doesn’t offer. In fact, it gets a little weird in that actor Tom Stechschulte, who provides the narration, voices all the characters, and while that’s gotta be something of a tall order and he does the best he can to differentiate them in ways both subtle and obvious, he really doesn’t pull of Silk Spectre very convincingly because, well, he’s a guy and she’s (obviously) not.

Still, if even Zack Snyder’s celluloid riff on Watchmen didn’t hew close enough to its source to satisfy you, there’s no doubt that this will, because it’s not so much an “adaptation” as it is a beat-for-beat, note-for-note, word-for-word, image-for-image translation of said source into a new medium. And that’s pretty cool — even if the novelty wears off , for the most part, after a handful of its 20-or-so-minute “chapters.”

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If it’s all the same to you, dear reader, I’m not gonna bother with a plot recap or anything like that here, not so much out of laziness as because I covered Watchmen so extensively when it came out in theaters (and later on DVD and Blu-Ray), and because most of you are probably so familiar with the story already, that there’s just not much point.

I won’t skimp  on the background info, though,how does that sound? This was released in a two-disc DVD set and as a single-disc Blu-Ray by Warner Premier in late 2008 as part of the promotional run-up to the at-the-time-still-forthcoming Watchmen movie. I’ve seen bits and parts of it on both formats, and for the life of me can’t really tell the difference between them apart from the fact that the Blu-Ray crams it all onto one disc. Widescreen picture and 5.1 sound for both are outstanding. Neither iteration features any extras, and in fact this was included as an extra with both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the Watchmen : The Ultimate Cut package, and that might be the most natural home, all told, for material of this nature.

Oh, and it’s worth pointing out that even this was too “Hollywood” for Alan Moore and he asked to have his name removed from the credits for it, as is generally his custom these days. Love him or hate him (you know where I stand, the guy’s an absolute genius in my book), you have to admit there’s absolutely  no slack in his act.

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Inna final analysis, then,  as the news vendor in Watchmen would say, this is an interesting and cool thing to watch through at last once, I suppose, but only if you’re a die-hard fan of the original work — and only then if you’re feeling too lazy to pick it up and actually read it.

My look at the seriously disturbed — and disturbing — “Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda” TV special for Through The Shattered Lens website.

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Okay, I’m gonna step waaaaaayyyy out of my usual “comfort zone” as a self-appointed critic here — and probably step in it, quite literally, with some points I’m going to make about what the over-two-hours-in-length self-promotional, self-congratulatory pablum I just watched on the Discovery Channel, Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda — says about our society in general and our collective taste in television programming, but what the hell? I’m in the mood to piss off a lot of folks who deserve to have their delicate sensibilities prodded at worst, completely shattered at best, so here we go.

First off, Nik Wallenda , an umpteenth-generation daredevil and great-grandson of the legendary Karl Wallenda, has balls of brass. He just walked across a 1,400-foot gorge  that’s over 1,500 feet high on a fucking cable. It was incredible. It was an amazing feat I couldn’t undertake if the lives of myself and…

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Some stories — whether we’re about talking movies, comics, novels, novellas, short stories, TV shows, you name it — are so dependent on one single,solitary plot twist and/or revelation for more or less all of their dramatic impact that, if you’ve had said twist/revelation “spoiled” for you going in, there’s really not much point in watching or reading the actual work itself. I believe it’s called “putting all your eggs in one basket” or, if you’re feeling a bit more vulgar, “shooting your whole load at once.”

2012’s DC Universe direct-to-video animated feature Justice League : Doom is a prime example of what I’m talking about, and since I’d heard about the movie’s supposed “surprise” going in, I was pretty well underwhelmed by the longer-than-these-things-usually-run-for 75 minutes  of the film as a whole, which is probably going to result in me giving it a somewhat more tepid review than perhaps it deserves — unless, of course, it does deserve it precisely because it offers so little apart from the “gotcha!” moment we’re talking about here.

Or not talking about, as the case may be. Unlike the IMDB (whatever you do,  avoid reading their entry on this flick there before seeing it!), I’m not going to blab the nature or details of the surprise just in case you, dear reader, have neither seen it yet nor read the fairly-well-regarded Mark Waid-scripted comics (adapted for the small screen quite adequately by the, sad to say, late Dwayne McDuffie) upon which it’s based (if not, don’t sweat it, you’re going to enjoy this all the more — but again, only if you studiously avoid any and all “spoilers” floating around the internet). That’s just the kinda guy I am, always looking out for my “peeps.”

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So here’s what I can give you as far as plot rundowns go while still preserving the big secret : second-tier villain Vandal Savage (who’s always struck me as being a kind of low-rent Ra’s Al Ghul, only with a name that would make him a better adversary for Conan The Barbarian — voiced here by a guy name Phil Morris who is, I’m assuming, not that Philip Morris) has assembled the ol’ gang of fellow also-ran baddies like Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), Cheetah (Farscape‘s Claudia Black), Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), and Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo) to take on their adversaries in the Justice League (here featuring the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, Michael Rosenbaum as Flash, Bumper Robinson as Cyborg, Carl Lumbly as Martian Manhunter, and Firefly/Castle fan favorite Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern) one last time — and I say “last” because our guy Vandal has finally learned each member’s individual weaknesses and has devised a (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) cunning  master plan to bring ’em all down.

Sound interesting?  That’s the problem — in and of itself, it’s really not. But where and from whom he got all this top-secret info , not to mention why  they even had it in the first place — now, that’s interesting. And that’s  the point at which I dutifully STFU.

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As you can probably tell from the run-down I just gave, voice director Andrea Romano has assembled an intriguing collection of newcomers and returning veterans in these roles (my bad, I forgot to mention frequent DCU voice actor GreyDeLisle turns up here as Lois Lane in my earlier cast run-down, but since she’s neither a hero nor a villain but is, instead, one of the few genuine side characters in this flick, where was I supposed to put her?), and they all do a nice job, as does the film’s director proper, Lauren Montgomery, who keeps things moving along at a brisk little pace, but it’s really not enough to save a milquetoast plot that absolutely hinges on a lone, albeit quite cool, contrivance.

Justice League : Doom is definitely worth a look if you don’t know anything about it going in, and maybe worth at least a disinterested look even if you do, and should you decide to go ahead and do so it’s available on both DVD and Blu-Ray from Warner Premier. I got the DVD from Netflix and found it to be, as is par for the course with these DCU titles, free of extras apart from promo stuff for other movies in the range, but I’m sure the Blu-Ray has a few goodies not found elsewhere. The widescreen picture and 5.1 sound mix are, as always, top-notch.

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So that’s the book on this one, then. Perhaps not the most informative review you’re likely to find about it, but trust me — the less you know, the more you’re apt to like it.

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Yup, the powers that be at Warner Brothers and DC are definitely breathing easier after Man Of Steel‘s runaway box office success, and one reason — among many — is because they’d sunk a lot of pre-release promotional muscle into it, from commercial tie-ins with everything from Norton anti-virus software (“be a hero by protecting your computer from the latest threats we probably invented right here in our office to give you a reason to need our product!”) to the National Guard (“be a hero by risking your ass in a war even its one-time supporters want over with!”), to “cross-pollinated” product like the new  Superman Unchained  monthly comic and the drearily-similarly-titled Superman : Unbound DC Universe direct-to-video animated feature, most copies of which were probably destined to end up in remainder bins both physical and electronic if Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan didn’t hit paydirt with their new celluloid take on Krypton’s last son.

And honestly, that’s probably where this thing belongs, because of all the “DCU” animated product — and this flick is, well and truly, product — that’s come out in the last X-number of years, this is probably the most lifeless, by-the-numbers affair of the bunch. The basics : Superman and yet another new-ish version of Supergirl fight a re-tooled iteration of Brainiac and in the end, they win.

Really. there’s not much more you need to know here. From what i’ve been able to glean from the slim perusals I’ve made in regards to this flick online, fans of the original comic (which I’ve never read) on which it’s based, by popular artist and writer Gary Frank, are pretty disappointed by this one because it essentially bears no resemblance to what transpires on the printed page, but I’ll tell ya what — it sure bears a mighty strong resemblance to any of the literally hundreds of unmemorable, third-tier Superman/Brainiac showdowns that weighed down the various Superman monthlies in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and probably well into the aughts. Once in a great while something slightly different or interesting might come along and throw a wrinkle in things, but by and large these were all pre-determined battles with pre-determined story “beats,” pre-determined characterization, and pre-determined outcomes. I’m not saying your average Superman writer or artist didn’t try to deliver solid work in these issues, just that the whole set-up was so formulaic that it literally didn’t matter how much effort went into many of these rags. Nothing was gonna make any difference.

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Granted, this story features a  much visually cooler version of the “Big B” than we’ve seen in the past, but by and large that’s pretty emblematic of Superman : Unbound (don’t ask me where the colon in the title comes from since it’s nowhere to be found on the packaging, but pretty much every reference to this  movie you’ll find online,  and even its official IMDB entry itself, includes it, so we’ll play along) as a whole — all style ( and angular style at that) and no substance. Shit just kinda happens until the end credits roll.

As tends to be the standard M.O. with these things, director James Tucker at least has a flair for competently-staged animated battle sequences, and those are kinda neat, but you really do have to give a shit about the story in general to derive much excitement or suspense from those, and that’s a pretty tall order when your script is this rote and lifeless. The members of the  voice cast acquit themselves okay — Matt Bomer is perfectly sufficient, if unspectacular, as both Superman and Clark Kent, Castle stars Molly C. Quinn and Stana Katic do what they can with poorly-written takes on Supergirl and Lois Lane, respectively (Clark and Lois are bicker-buddies in this one and that’s about it), and John Noble by and large nails it as Brainiac, but still — there’s just not much here for even the most talented performers to test out their vocal chops on.

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I guess all parties involved can lay claim to some small measure of “success” here given that I stayed awake until the end when that had been looking like an iffy proposition at best for awhile, but I ‘d be lying through my teeth if I said I was ever actually interested in the events playing out on my screen. I just kinda put up with it and kept hoping for a turn for the better that never came.

But hey, if you want to ignore me, it’s easy enough to grab Superman : Unchained on either DVD or Blu-Ray from Warner Premier. I got the DVD from Netflix, so I can’t speak to any particular technical specs or extras as far as the Blu-Ray is concerned, but as you’d expect for a brand new release on DVD, the widescreen picture and 5.1 sound were both absolutely pristine, and,  as is the case with this line in general, there were no legit “bonus” features of any sort included apart from the usual promo stuff for already-released and forthcoming DCU titles. “Nothing special” seems to be a running theme with Superman : Unbound.

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I guess the best I can say for this at the end of the day is that, hey,  it is what it is — but what it is ain’t all that great. Honestly, you’ve got better things to do with your time. At least I hope you do.