The first time I ever saw “Mortal Kombat” was in 1992 when I stopped by a grocery store on the way to school and saw a pair of guys battling one another on the arcade cabinet. Though “Street Fighter 2” was huge, “Mortal Kombat” made its own waves by realistic character models and some of the most vicious video game violence ever conceived in its era. So came the 1995 movie where not even then was there this much babbling about supernatural forces, and tournaments. “The Journey Begins” works overtime to build a mythology from this simple video game, and fails big time. It feels like someone at Threshold Studios were alerted about the upcoming movie and only had about two weeks to build a respectable animated tie-in.
Setting aside that DC pretty much slaps Batman in to their newest film, “Justice League Dark” is actually a fun celebration of the supernatural element from DC Comics. Taking a much needed peek in to the darker universe from DC, “Justice League Dark” is an adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel, involving supernatural characters from DC who team up to take on a threat beyond the capabilities of Superman and Wonder Woman. “Justice League Dark” is a fairly well realized horror take on the DC universe that suffers, sadly, from a short run time. With a group of characters filled with such immense, and complex back stories and amazing powers, it’s sad “Justice League Dark” is only allotted a scant eighty minute run time. John Constantine alone deserves a thirty minute introduction.
I’m still not sure why DC commits to creating new branches of their animated universe with only a little under eighty minutes to spare. I think it wouldn’t hurt if something like “Justice League Dark” was given two hours to tell its story. Instead it rushes through just about everything possible, from prologue, set up, character introductions, villain introduction, villain back story, and the final showdown. And there’s no guarantee we’ll see a sequel any time soon, since DC and Warner are planning a live action version. So unless you’re a hardcore DC fan, you won’t get to learn a lot about folks like the Demon Etrigan or Zatanna, since we speed right through their characterizations.
It just serves to prove my theory that bad animated movies can be excused since they’re “for kids” is a cheap cop out meant to let crap pass by us. Animation studios are providing amazing kids fare, including Laika who seemingly snuck out of nowhere to deliver yet another stop motion children’s masterpiece. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is probably their great animated stop motion achievement to date. It’s an immense, epic, and heartfelt ode to the art of storytelling and the power of memories. It’s teeming with fantastic Asian folklore offering a very respectful view of its characters, and creates a wonderful hero who is capable of defeating evil not with his fists or guns, but with magic and his ability to think outside the box.
I freely admit that I was skeptical until the very end that comic book fans would ever get a good or respectable movie about “Doctor Strange.” Some comics just don’t translate at all to the cinematic medium. Thankfully, director Scott Derrickson proves me wrong, providing a cinematic adaptation of “Doctor Strange” that’s very much its own superhero tale while also embedding itself as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marvel spirit is in full force here, but the movie does take the source material seriously while subtly injecting a sense of whimsy here and there. “Doctor Strange” comes during a good time where movie audiences like some magic with their adventures, and Doctor Strange is that kind of fantasy movie for comic book fans that they’ve always wanted.
You can’t get anymore Halloween than teaming up Marvel’s monstrous Hulk alongside the Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange. On Halloween Night, demons begin wreaking havoc in New York City, prompting Doctor Strange to do everything he can to slay them and bring them in to his holding cell in his temple. Thankfully he calls upon the Incredible Hulk to help him, and Hulk is more than happy to oblige in stomping some demons. Little does Hulk know that the demons are manifestations of human victims that are being held hostage by the villainous Nightmare who has kept them held in their own dream plains. Strange ventures in to the dream dimension to save Bruce Banner when Nightmare begins using the Hulk to hurt Strange.
The 1978 TV movie “Dr. Strange” is one of the many failed pilots for a potential series based on a Marvel comic. This is yet another of the many seventies pilot movies that didn’t just misunderstand the source material, but didn’t have enough of a budget to realize the concept of its characters. Dr. Strange is a man who battles demons and monsters, and uses his will to use magic. “Dr. Strange” looks like a supernatural version of “Quincy M.E,” following a Dr. Stephen Strange as he focuses his efforts on troubled patients in his hospital while accidentally entering in to the magical arts. The movie even goes so far as setting up the entire series with the beautiful Jessica Walter as the series’ primary antagonist, but the storyline is a big hint at a sequel that would never come. It’s probably a good thing since the pilot movie is ninety minutes and we only get to see Dr. Strange in full garb in the final half hour.
“All Hallow’s Eve” is the fiftieth movie involving Halloween in the last five years named “All Hallow’s Eve” but this time it’s more of a low budget Disney-lite family film. Its Harry Potter meets “Halloweentown” in one of the more painfully derivative and hokey attempts to build a franchise around a teen witch in a long time. It’s not to say “All Hallow’s Eve” is terrible, but it’s a movie that has way too many ideas and not enough of a budget or script to help realize them. So characters spend a lot of time sitting around and explaining things, rather than allowing us to bask in the awe of magic and fantasy. In “All Hallow’s Eve,” Lexi Giovagnoli plays Eve Hallow. No seriously.