David Sanberg makes the leap from solid horror chillers to blockbusters with what is surprisingly one of DC/Warner’s most modest superhero movie to date. While “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” had massive epic plots about world wars and societies in peril, “Shazam!” is a more personal and down to Earth tale with very relevant overtones about bullies and the damage they can inflict on the people they victimize, as well as the environment around them. Sure, “Shazam!” is a superhero movie, but it’s also one worth watching for its positive ideas, and fantastic energy.
I think one of the two reasons why Bruce Timm’s iteration of Batman continues to be such a celebrated staple of animation is that Timm didn’t just take Batman seriously, he took his audience seriously. Before then, if you wanted to see an animated version of Batman, you had to watch “The Super Friends,” “Scooby Doo Movies,” or the Filmation series. “Batman: The Animated Series” stands on its own in the annals of 90’s animation and is still considered the gold standard by fans, right down to the voice actors.
With the end of Batman: the Animated Series, the DC Comics/Warner Bros. animation golden boy of the 90s, Bruce Timm, was called upon once again to create another hit Saturday morning series. This time it would a series geared to a much younger audience, full of futuristic technology and action packed, and it would be called Batman Beyond. The show wasn’t a pandering, youth-oriented take with no substance (I’m looking at you Spider-Man Unlimited) either; it was a dark, complex, and very unique spin on the Batman lore.
While comic book movies are almost always a guaranteed money maker, it’s quite a shock to many that one of the highest grossing comic book movies of all time is a movie about Aquaman. After spending decades being a basic punch line for all of pop culture, Aquaman swoops in and basically has changed the course of how we think of the character and DC’s Comic book movies. All it took was a skilled director like James Wan, and the undeniable charisma of Jason Momoa.
As a Superman fanatic it’s been a tough road as I’m still getting over the stinks of “Smallville” and “Batman v Superman,” so when Syfy proposed its own Superman series that side stepped Superman altogether, I was very skeptical. Suffice to say, “Krypton: The Complete First Season” isn’t always a great show, but appreciated as its own attempt to ambitiously tackle the back drop of the Kryptonian Lore, it’s not a bad time spent. At ten episodes total for the first season, there are a lot worse things you can do as a Superman fan. Watching “Superman IV,” for instance. I digress.
One of most controversial and divisive story arcs of the nineties is brought to the small screen in an epic fashion, and DC and Warner manage to adapt the final half of the “Death of Superman” storyline for a broader audience. While nineties kids will love to see the whole mystery of the Four Supermen once again, DC works within the limitations of the characters they’re allowed to use, and re-imagines most of the storyline of the Reign of the Supermen, right down the primary antagonist working behind the scenes.
With the success of his iconic adaptation, “Batman: The Animated Series” behind him, creator Bruce Timm was asked by Warner Bros. in 1996 to produce a companion series to the darker crime drama. The natural jumping off point from Batman was, of course, Superman, the equally recognizable and ever immortal character from DC Comics. With “Batman: The Animated Series” ensuring the success of DC translating in to the animated medium, Superman was a welcome change of pace for the medium Timm had helped innovate for the decade. It was also a welcome reboot for Superman fans who wanted the Man of Steel brought in to the decade.
Adapting the entirety of the arc of the Death, Reign and Return of Superman was always a heavy ambition for DC and it’s a shame that they never quite get it just right when it comes to putting it on the small screen. I loved “The Death of Superman.” And while I thought “Reign of the Supermen” was a pretty damn good movie all in all, it suffers from a lot of the major flaws most DC animated movies do. It rushes through so much important exposition, and doesn’t give its four main characters enough screen time to warrant caring a lot about them, or even rooting for them for that matter. When all is said and done, “Reign of the Supermen” is a very good follow up to “The Death of Superman” with some great action set pieces, and wonderful animation.