The purpose of “Secret Origins” is two fold. What with DC Comics finally putting their characters on the fast track to big budget films in the box office, this ninety minute documentary is meant to school new audiences that might be interested in learning about characters they’re only vaguely familiar with. If you’ll notice, the only characters spotlighted in this documentary are those that have had movies in theaters or have big budget movies coming to them, thus we get to explore Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Watchmen and The Flash, all the while this is meant as a promotional tool for the magic and wonder that is DC Comics. The documentary is really just a recounting of the creations of classic iconic superheroes from their company and there’s never really an exploration in to the darker side of the company.
We watch talking heads for ninety minutes intercut with fancy montages of comic book scenes harping on the influence of these characters and how they have managed to live on in American culture, and there’s never really anything beyond the relentless boasting about the awe and wonder of the company and the characters within the company. I’m all for celebrating the mythology of comic books so “Secret Origins” isn’t a waste of time, but it’s good to know that this is more an infomercial for the glorious DC Comics company and what they’re going to do for the big screen and you than it is an honest look at the company and its practices. You really will not learn anything new with “Secret Origins” if you’re the typical comic book fan boy.
Superman was invented by two Jewish immigrants who were turned down by companies when they pitched the idea, Batman was invented by Bob Kane (really Bill Finger, FYI), Wonder Woman was an icon for feminism and invented by a man who had a most unique sex life, and Shazam! managed to outsell Superman upon its original release in newsstands. The latter is a fact mentioned and then quickly undermined once the documentary jumps back on to the glory of Superman and his power over the youth. All of which is narrated by Ryan Reynolds (The star of the upcoming “The Green Lantern” adaptation, shocking enough), who conducts his reading with a rather lethargic and sardonic tone, never quite mustering up enough excitement to soak us in to the documentary.
All the while there is just an utterly rapid fire barrage of factoids any self respecting comic book geek will know already. Suffice it to say “Secret Origin” is a title pretty exaggerated as a means of summing up DC’s origin. If I had been twelve this documentary would have been amazing, but as it stands it’s merely just okay for what it promises as a promotional tool and somewhat glorified DVD special feature. As mentioned, the only heroes spotlighted in this documentary are those with potential film opportunities or films currently being made, so Shazam!, Plastic Man, Aquaman, Green Arrow, they’re all considerably glossed over and just footnotes mentioned only to favor the bigger superheroes the doc tries to push on us.
However I do give the doc a point for mentioning how DC inspired Marvel to create their own properties while also dwarfing them in sales. “Secret Origin” is an entertaining enough refresher course, but as it stands is not the best comic book documentary ever released. In the end “Secret Origin” is what it’s supposed to be. It’s a promotional tool for DC and Warner as well as a refresher course to inject these superheroes back in to the minds of respective consumers all of whom may not yet be aware Green Lantern and the Flash have films in the works as we speak. I’d highly suggest the potential consumer wait until it’s re-released with a bigger DC/Warner home DVD release as an add-on special feature.