The DC Universe Animated Original Movies or: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love These Bombs.

Posted: July 8, 2014 in Comics, Movies

By Andrew Fleet

Hello Dear Reader,

Welcome and thank you for joining me this fine day. Today I intend to examine the DC Universe Animated Original Movies (henceforth referred to as DCUAOM for the sake of saving space). The DCUAOM exploded onto video in 2007 with their first direct-to-video film Superman: Doomsday. Boasting twenty films currently in circulation, with a new one due out in August, DC has established itself as a creator of enjoyable and frequent animated films which are based in their expansive superhero universe. I can easily say I’ve watched them all, with some being a yearly viewing on my screen, but recently I’ve started to be a bit more analytical when watching them. Call it fan-gone-wrong or whatever you want, but these are a few of the things I’ve noticed in my recent viewings.

These films are primarily aimed to target an older audience, mostly those who have grown up reading comics or those who are at least familiar enough with them to purchase the film. If you think about it, considering who they are marketing these films to, is it that much of a stretch to assume that they might know the original storyline? Even so, assuming these people are not familiar with it, why the need to alter large elements of character plot, story and development simply to add a small amount of tension. It’s not as though they know what would have happened, for instance I’ll give an example:

(Please stop reading if you are concerned with spoilers for Son of Batman).

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Within the first ten minutes of the film, we have several established protagonists and antagonists, with the main villain being shown to be Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator. He’s being a typical bad guy, blowing stuff up, stabbing people, you know; being a jerk. His killing spree is ended when Damian, the grandson of Ra’s Al Ghul, manages to gain the advantage and basically cut out his eye. Now, if you’re at all familiar with either of these characters, you’d have had a similar reaction like I did: confusion and dismissal, a trend I would later find myself experiencing throughout many parts of these films.

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Now, like I said before, this animated film is directed towards an adult audience, so there is a fair amount of blood and violence, but the most tragic event for me, was this loss of Slade’s eye. I fail to see any purpose behind this outside of using to establish a weak motive for Damian and Slade to fight again (which I feel they did when Slade, oh I don’t know, blew up and killed nearly everyone Damian knew). The second problem with this is that once the viewer of the film is finished, if they enjoyed it enough, they most likely will look for similar material, i.e. the comics. Won’t the individual find it confusing when the source material is different from the film? If the purpose of these films is to increase awareness of DC characters and make money, I feel as though by changing these plot elements ultimately undermines the enjoyment that cross-platform viewers might find when recognizing scenes they’d already seen on the big screen. I refuse to believe that these changes are primarily to create new developments or twists for the viewer. I feel as though since the average viewer doesn’t know about it, and the loyal viewer knows what’s coming, wouldn’t it be a better suited plan to cater to the returning loyal customer? By changing these parts of the stories it begs to question on how confident they were in the original story, since presumably the stories are picked due to their popularity as a comic book. If it the comic did well, it isn’t hard to imagine that people liked the story as it was.

The last thing I’d like to look at is the voice actors. While I understand that when it comes to filming and creating a movie many schedules need to be altered and shifted to fit certain deadlines. But isn’t one of the major assets of animated films the fact that there are no sets, no makeup appointments and no costume fittings. I find it difficult to imagine that there isn’t a way to make it work with the voice actors so there is some consistency with who is playing who. I mean, if the whole purpose of these films it to appeal to your target demographic, wouldn’t you want to maximize the appeal to your audience, the young adults who grew up watching the shows and reading the comics? These adults were teenagers or kids during the DCAU block, featuring programs such as Batman the Animated Series, Superman the Animated Series, Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited. They grew up knowing Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, Tim Daly / George Newbern as Superman, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. These actors and their respective voices are widely considered to be “the voice” of their characters, and as such are a huge draw for these films. To the casual viewer, it doesn’t matter that in the twelve films that feature Batman he is played by six different voice actors. However, if you were to ask the viewers who grew up with these shows, knowing that Kevin Conroy is playing Batman in the upcoming Assault on Arkham, that alone can often be enough to draw in their attention and money.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love comic books, I love movies based on comic books and anything superhero related. I’ve rented or bought every film that the DCUAOM team has released, but these are little things that have popped up while I’ve watched the films that I’ve noticed. I’m not a movie producer, film writer or even an animator. I am not privy to the inner workings of how these get made. But as a fan, these are issues that have struck a chord with me, for better or worse. They’re not huge issues or problems, and they certainly haven’t prevented me from watching them; they’re just one person’s thoughts on ways he thinks they could be improved.

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Comments
  1. […] And don’t forget to check out Andrew’s first article with us here! […]

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