Superman/Batman: Apocalypse [2010]

Not sure what to think about Superman/Batman: Apocalypse?  Enjoy the characters but getting confused by all the varied releases, alternate timelines and ever changing voices?  Well you are not alone!  Let the Fortress help you out.

Batman outfit number 3000: The bat wetsuit.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is what most casual fans would call “normal”.  It is not set in 1957 -or 1987 for that matter.  There are no strange costume variants; Superman is not a whiny kid in a hoodie.  In addition, the classic voices are back.  Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, and Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman.  Just listening to them is like sipping hot chocolate next to a fireplace on a cold winter day.  (Never mind that it is always winter at the Fortress.)

We liked the art direction on Wonder Woman, but what is she doing there on the left? Starting a 1950's drag race?

New voice additions fit well including Summer Glau as Supergirl  and …Ed Asner as Granny Goodness?  Uhh, you just have to know the franchise for that one.  Andre Braugher weighs in as the deep gravelly voiced Darkseid.  It is pretty good, although we think it could have used a little audio manipulation to make it extra deep.  More like Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget.

Granny Goodness and her mysterious friend. She even looks a little like Ed Asner

The depiction of Darkseid was one of the better we have seen since the 1985 Saturday morning series “The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians”.  Darkseid has these awesome eyebeams, okay “Omega Beams”.  They do not travel in a straight line.  That old series handled them well and S/B:A followed suit there and with his voice.  Check out the original at 3:35 in this clip!

The plot in a sentence:  Superman’s cousin Kara Zor El crashes to Earth as a well constructed 19 year old with lots of super powers, little clothing and teen-aged attitude which gets beat out of her by concerned Amazons and caring (sort of) Darkseid culminating in an exploding, thunderous super-slugfest at the Kent farm …while along the way Batman does his usual cunning thing somehow hanging with the big boys.

Two questions: Are there any unfit Kryptonians? Why does this animator avoid drawing feet?

The animation quality is good and the battles are choreographed well.  It takes a lot to challenge Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman in hand to hand combat.  So some of the battles are a little contrived to do just that.  So what if Darkseid sends a couple hundred “Doomsdays” to keep Supes and company busy.  Its all in a days work.

He's a real "bad-axe".

Someone with an "S" on their costume should have thought of this earlier.

Perhaps that is the problem with the “super-heavyweight” class in which characters like Superman and Darkseid reside.  After you pass a certain invulnerability level, getting punched so hard that you actually achieve orbit is still not enough.  There is a massive slugfest at the end between Supes, Supergirl and Darkseid that pretty much tears up Smallville and creates ginormous craters.

However it loses satisfaction when you realize that these incredible hits and resulting explosive landings are really not accomplishing anything.  These combatants just seem to shake off the most impressive impacts in a few seconds and come back for more.

Blue eyes for everyone!

The one most satisfying part of this fight occurs when Supes goes a little buckwheat.  He creates this awesome tornado-like whirlwind around Darkseid pummeling him with blows faster than the eye can see.  Then he adds in heat vision!  Darkseid looks to be finally receiving real damage.  Then he shakes it off and grabs Supes face.  Huh?  The fact Bats was able to hang with these guys at all is a tribute to his brains.

This feature was good looking and fun.  It’s worth watching despite the occasional drawbacks, some stock plot elements and an ending that was a little saccharin. If you like these classic heroes check out this direct-release feature which treats them all with respect.

"And if you order today we'll also include eye-beams! Don't be the only person in this feature without them!"

Our Take on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies  [2009]

Check Out Our Takes on Other

DC Comics Superhero Related Media

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman [2003]

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths [2010]

Justice League: The New Frontier [2008]

Batman: Under the Red Hood [2010]

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

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Thundarr the Barbarian [1980-1982] 2 Seasons. 21 Episodes

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Thundar the Barbarian (TtB) was a welcome breath of fresh air – read action packed – in an era of tamed – read beaten down by the PC police – Saturday morning fare.  The lack of action forced on kids of that era by shows like The Smurfs repressed their verve. It may not have had its welcome release until the soon-to-follow animation boom of the 1980’s with shows like G.I.Joe and Transformers.

Ariel may also have been a source of verve.

Ariel may also have been a source of verve for some.

Even looked at through today’s eyes, we are amazed at the grim world depicted in TtB and the dire straights in which humanity found itself.  Here is the Fortress one sentence synopsis:  A runaway planet’s near miss devastates Earth’s civilization and over the course of the next two thousand years gives rise to wizards and warlords who enslave the now primitive populace hoping for freedom to come in the form of the wizard fighting barbarian Thundarr and his two companions.

Count the Star Wars "homages" in this picture:  A smart mouthed princess?  Check.  A "wookie"?  Check.  A "lightsaber"?  Check.

Count the Star Wars "homages" in this picture: A smart mouthed princess? Check. A "wookie"? Check. A "lightsaber"? Check.

Each week Thundarr would find himself in different devastated, ruins-filled cities in which the watching kids may actually have lived (Atlanta, San Francisco, etc.). There he would battle mutants and wizards preying on the still surprisingly defenseless and hapless locals.

The devastation was especially hard on Carnival Cruise Lines.

The devastation was especially hard on Carnival Cruise Lines.

The legendary comic artist Jack Kirby contributed greatly to the character designs.  It is most evident in the wizards, especially our favorite Gemini – the only recurring wizard and arguably Thundarr’s arch enemy.  Gemini was a lot of fun.  He had two polar opposite faces on his head which would unmask and rotate to the front depending on Gemini’s mood.

gemini_6

Thundarr’s female companion was Princess Ariel (not the mermaid).  She was an educated sorceress and often provided context to Thundarr (and the viewers) about locations and what a “train” or “movie” was (since these things were now mostly destroyed).  She was also sarcastic and provided the high-brow one liners.

Ariel was sweet on Thundarr but he was too busy stomping wizards and crushing mutants to notice.  Even 2000 years in the future some things never change.

Ariel was sweet on Thundarr but he was too busy stomping wizards and crushing mutants to notice. Even 2000 years in the future some things never change.

thundarr032The other companion was Ookla the “mok”.  He was an acknowledged wookie wanna-be playing off the popularity of Star Wars.  He provided the slapstick humor.  Alas he was not the only element inspired by Star Wars.  Thundarr wielded a “sunsword”.  It was a one-handed hilt he wore strapped to his forearm until needed, then it would extend a flaming energy blade.  Where have I seen that before?

Still there was not a kid who watched that show that did not love the sunsword along with its distinctive swinging sound.  Even though the kids waited every week for Thundarr to slice up a bad guy he usually ended up halving robot henchmen, vehicles, and the environment.  It WAS Saturday morning.

I was always convenient (and fun) when Thundarr found out the henchmen were "machines".

It was always convenient (and fun) when Thundarr found out the henchmen were "machines".

The voice work was well done.  It was not of the coming 1980’s voice talent stable, and provided a unique sound never duplicated.  Some of the unusual contributors were Key Luke, Joan Van Ark and Stacy Keach Sr.  If you ever hear Henry Corden’s voicing of Gemini -both his condescending evil side and his angry evil side – you will remember it.

He sounded grat AND knew how to make an entrance; gliding in on a lightnig spewing thundercloud with energy blazing fromhis eyes.  The forecast for tonight is stormy.

Gemini sounded great AND knew how to make an entrance; gliding in on a lightning spewing thundercloud with energy blazing from his eyes. The forecast for tonight is stormy.

In one surprisingly gruesome episode, “Stalker from the Stars” Thundarr battles an Alien [1979] inspired creature who cocoons his prey and stores them for later feeding!  How did that one fly under the era’s radar? In another episode Ariel gets the life sucked out of her and she is pruned to the point of death before restoration.  That was shocking.

In one early scene the alien wraps up an old man and Thundarr is powerless to dave him.  His yells are still wrenching to this day, "Your sword.  Freeee meeee!"

In one early scene the alien wraps up and takes a village elder while Thundarr is powerless to stop him. The old man's yells are still haunting to this day, "Your sword... freeee meeee!"

Thundarr had a memorable albeit somewhat limited soundtrack.  It is a world of “savagery, super-science and sorcery” that is still quite watchable.  The episodes misery to comeuppance ratio is pretty good.  You will leave each episode believing that Thundarr is changing the Earth for the better, one city at a time.

Watchmen [2009]

It may have a name, but most of you will just remember it as the "NiteOwlMobile".

It may have a name, but most of you will just remember it as the "NiteOwlMobile".

One of Watchmen's happier moments.

One of Watchmen's happier moments.

Fortress Takes is not afraid to go against the trend.  In fact we enjoy being an outlet for those who want a confirmation of their against-the-grain opinions.  We thought our take on Watchmen was going to be counter-trend, but as of this writing it is only hovering at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes.  So it seems a number of others felt as we did (or the local CVS pharmacy was out of Prozac).

Watchmen is not a superhero movie.  It is gritty political satire in an alternate world with super-powered people.  In fact it is satire wrapped in sarcasm tied with a bow of cynicism.  The layers of overlapping symbolism grew so deep that at times you might wonder what message the filmmakers were trying to send.  “Okay, so this guy who you thought was bad might be good for the alternate America.”  Later, “No wait he is bad.”  Later still, “Huh?  Wait a minute, now we are supposed to think he is good again?  &%#@*!”

Watchmen

Americans should not feel too bad about the anti-American bent to the satire, because beyond that there was an anti-human message.  Yes, one key message with which you can easily walk out of the theatre is “humanity is horrible”.  Disgusting, warlike, deviant, perverted wretches living in constantly rain soaked squalor.  Nihilism.  Look it up.  That was the un-fun message.

However when making an interminably long and self-serious movie (2 hours 43 minutes) with characters that have potential you are bound to entertain in at least a few scenes.  When Batman, er Night Owl and Silk Stalkings, er Spectre fight their way down that prison corridor, it was fun.  When they destroyed those predatory thugs in the alley you appreciated the irony.  Unfortunately these scenes were too few and far between.

Hawkman and Black Canary are a devastating team...

Hawkman and Black Canary are a devastating team...

One character the movie goes to great lengths to get you to behind is Rorschach.  (Yes, he is over the top and crosses the line against bad guys.)  As the narrator of the film when it was trying to be noir-ish, you followed him as he investigated his unlikely but true conspiracy therory. When unmasked and alone in prison, you wanted the little guy to survive against the criminal vermin.

Half noir detective, half Punisher, and... ahh, half Batman.

Rorschach: Half noir detective, half Punisher, and... ahh, half Batman.

He was uncompromising regarding the truth.  That is why we suppose the completely unsympathetic character Doctor Manhattan explodes him in the film’s second to last minute.  “Huh?  Did that just happen?”  Oh do not worry.  After 2 hours and 42 minutes of holding that existing social and political institutions must be destroyed in order to clear the way for a new state of society, we get 1 minute of saccharin.  Yup, that fake, out of place, sunny-for-once moment is supposed to somehow overpower the sour taste in your mouth.

Additionally, at the risk of being puerile:  We know Doctor Manhattan has become a (boring) energy being and has indifference for all things human, including the quaint notion of clothes.  But still, he did occasionally wear a little black speedo for the sake of others.  Sadly it was only occasionally.  Some of us got tired of seeing his glowing blue dork in many a scene.

There were some decent special effects, but not extraordinary.  The costume designs were inconsistent in quality.  Watchmen is not terrible, but know what you are getting into.  Readers of the graphic novel knew; the rest voted on Rotten Tomatoes.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold [2008-2009] Season 1. Episodes 1-13

Batman_alternate_costume_owlman

We liked where the art direction for Batman ended up by the end of the Bruce Timm era.  We are talking about the final season of Justice League Unlimited.  The long ears, dark cape-cloak, and the streamlined color scheme.  We especially liked Kevin Conroy’s voice work.  The Batman came out very soon afterward on Saturday mornings and we were not quite ready for a Batman reboot. Though that show self-admittedly evolved too over its five seasons to bring Batman more into his square-jawed dark knight mode.

Batman as his evil parallel universe doppleganger, Owlman. "I know Owlman. Owlman is a friend of mine. You're no Owlman."

Batman's evil parallel universe doppleganger, Owlman. "I know Owlman. Owlman is a friend of mine. You're no Owlman."

Batman: The Brave and the Bold seemed like a radical departure from both previous series.  At first it seemed more a homage to the 1960’s live action show than anything else.  (While we do like the 1960’s show, we probably do so in a whole different section of our brains.)  However B: TBATB quickly became a whole lot more.  If you get past the initial culture shock  you will be treated to episodes with ever increasing intensity.

Batman powered up in magical armor by Morgain le Fey.  (Also seen in World of Warcraft.)

Batman powered up in magical armor by Morgain le Fey. (Also seen in World of Warcraft.)

The season starts out with a third tier rogue’s gallery exemplified by the likes of Clock King and Gentleman Ghost!  Batman is also joined by B-list heroes like Blue Beetle and Red Tornado.   We are wondering what we are doing wandering the disused file cabinets in DC’s basement.  However we will also be the first to say that some of the lesser know villains and even heroes can be quite interesting.  (More so the crazy villains in our opinion, but we digress.)

batman_brave_bold_morgan_armor

While the intensity and pacing increases episode by episode the show is not afraid to poke fun at itself (sorry Plastic Man), take famous quotes from old political debates and allow Batman a good number of dry-humor witticisms.  It is solid entertainment from each episode’s Bond-like opening scene to end credits.  By mid-season we were won over, and by the last epic two-parter we were big fans.

Alternate universe Batman, Owlman impersonates Batman. Confused?

Alternate universe Batman, Owlman impersonates Batman. Confused?

That last arc involved the thorn in DC Comic’s side, parallel Earths.  (Remember how Crisis on Infinite Earths was supposed to end that?)  It was quite interesting to see bad versions of the seasons heroes and good versions of some villains.  There are some twists and turns.  The finale will not disappoint.  Also, you may have waited the whole season to see him, and by the end you indeed will.  We are talking about Batman’s arch enemy.  But the encounter will not be straightforward!

Batman even sports Green Lantern armor in episode 10. "In brightest day, in blackest night; No evil shall escape my sight; Let those who worship evil's might; Beware my power... Batman's light!?"

Batman even sports Green Lantern armor in episode 10. "In brightest day, in blackest night; No evil shall escape my sight; Let those who worship evil's might; Beware my power... the Dark Knight's light!?"

The art direction subtlety evolved over the course of the 13 episodes in our opinion.  It got a little darker.  The dutch angles and other dramatic camera work were great homage and effective.  You will see Batman wear more costumes this season than you could throw a bat-a-rang at.  You will smirk when you see the “evil” Batman turning good Batman’s costume into something very much like the last season of Justice League!  Ha.

batman_brave_bold_aquaman_black_manta

Some notable appearances:  Hal Jordan as Green Lantern; the classic returns.  Black Manta; we remember the ancient Aquaman show, and have always liked Manta’s creepy voice.  Well it is indeed back.  How about a pre-evil Sinestro?  Yes, before he became the ultimate Green Lantern villain.  And hey, a shout out to Doctor Polaris.  Who?  Nevermind.  But his costume is almost as cool as his name.

Menacing Black Manta with a sinister modulated voice brimming with attitude. Plus look at the dutch angle. He MUST be a bad guy!

Menacing Black Manta with a sinister modulated voice brimming with attitude. Plus look at the dutch angle. He MUST be a bad guy!

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 1 part 1

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 1 part 2

Batman: The Brave and the Bold  Season 2

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 3

Check out our other Batman takes:

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse [2010]

Batman: Under the Red Hood [2010]

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman [2003]

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies [2009]