Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Movie Corner: Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

Hey new and loyal readers!  I'm here today to share my thoughts on the latest DC animated film, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.  This is my first time doing something like this for a film, animated or otherwise so this is a little different for me.  As with my Video Game and Book reviews, I won't be leaving a numerical, lettered, or star based score but I'll instead list some positive and negative aspects of the film and my thoughts on those.  So let's get right to it!
Much improved over Justice League War.
Overall I'd say that I liked Throne of Atlantis but it did a lot of things wrong.  It was a huge improvement over Justice League War and Son of Batman but still carried some of those movies flaws.  I'll do a good point, bad point sandwich to keep this interesting.

Good Point #1: The plot was pretty epic.
We've seen Aquaman's throne story retold many times in the comics and the animated series.  Seems his brother is always trying to usurp him somehow.  But now this one is effectively Aquaman's origin story and it's really good.  Aquaman is now trapped between two worlds.  He's a surface dweller with an Atlantean mother.  There is a shadowy plot brewing in Atlantis and the queen (Aquaman's mother, of course) is trying to keep aggressions between the surface and her kingdom from boiling over while two others are trying to undermine her and start a war on the surface.  In order to keep a lasting peace the queen has sent out her loyal servant Mera to find her son Arthur to rule Atlantis and bridge the gap between the two worlds.  All the while we learn that the Justice League are not team players as Cyborg tries to assemble the crew to investigate what's causing military submersibles to disappear.  Eventually everything comes to a head and Arthur is in the middle of a huge war between the U.S. military, the Justice League, and Atlantis.

Now to counter that we have...

Bad Point #1: Too many events, too many characters, too little time.
How do you make 8 Justice League members look cool and useful in an hour long movie?
Short answer: You don't.
This movie is most likely following events of the comic.  I haven't read this New 52 arc yet but I assume this to be the case, correct me if I'm wrong.  Because of that they are cramming a lot of content into just over an hour.  You don't really grow an overwhelming attachment to anyone because of this.  It just feels like a movie filled with disjointed vignettes.  Aquaman, Orm, and Cyborg come out of this with the strongest characterizations and it looks like they try the same with Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship but that falls flat and feels like wasted footage.  Everyone's kind of just there even in the fight scenes where they'll do an attack and then it cuts to another League member doing an attack and then the next just to give everyone screen time which I applaud.  I just wish that we got more screen time and a purpose for these characters while they were there.  Just one of them could accomplish what it takes all of them to do.  Even Aquaman's story feels abridged here to give the other characters some screen time.  Oh and the ending was way too short.  The way that the villain loses after such a tremendous showing of power will have you rolling your eyes.  It's like they didn't quality test this last part.

Good Point #2: Kickass action scenes and animation.
The bar fight with drunken Aquaman comes to mind here as well as Mera's fight with the Atlantean assassins which reminded me of both Avatar the Last Airbender and Mortal Kombat. They put a lot of work in to make these smooth and it really shows.  DC animation and their overseas team deserves a lot of praise here.


Finish Him!

Bad Point #2: Everyone's always posing.
Whenever the characters aren't in action they just look awkward, stiff, and overly muscled.  Everyone's always in a fighting pose especially the guys whenever they're just standing around.

Okay that was a frivolous point so I'll instead go with...

Bad Point #2: Flat Dialogue.
There was very little charm in this script and almost no wit to speak of.  It was very by the numbers and actually pretty juvenile but not even close to as bad as Justice League War.  Because of this I only found a few of the characters likable like Aquaman, Mera, and Cyborg.  Actually Orm was interesting with his over the top haughty way of talking.  I was reminded of Loki from the Marvel movies and that's funny because Aquaman seemed a little like Thor here.

Good Point #3: The women in this movie kick major butt.
Mera steals the show here in terms of action.  She is a highly trained Atlantean soldier or sorceress or something and uses water and some Atlantean martial arts to make quick work of the bad guys.  She is initially even more effective at fighting than Aquaman who fights like a brute, a drunken brute, even when he's sober.  She and Wonder Woman get some really cool scenes to show off in.  **Side note, I can't be the only one that noticed that she borrowed this outfit from Street Fighter Alpha's Chun Li.
Cosplay is the sincerest form of flattery eh, Mera?

Maybe Green can be my Player 2 outfit?

Bad Point #3: Green Lantern, Flash, and Shazam seemed mostly useless here and unnecessary.
Green Lantern and Shazam were also barely funny.  I like Green Lantern but I'm not the president of his fan club and even I can see that he is handled in a way that makes him completely unlikable in these movies.  He has hardly any redeeming traits and that's a shame considering that Hal Jordan is actually a really cool and interesting character but every chance DC gets they like to crap all over him in these team movies and wonder why his solo stuff doesn't do as well.

Continuing that point, what's up with Green Lantern and Shazam's humor?  It's so immature and tactless.  I can understand this with Shazam I suppose since he's technically a child still but did we really need two of these characters?  Is this a movie for kids or adults?  I think that was forgotten as they were writing it since there's a nice amount of profanity in it.  Oh and Green Lantern's constructs are so lame here only doing further injustice to the character.
Really!?  A giant vacuum cleaner?

Even GL is unimpressed.

Final Thoughts
This was a cool Aquaman movie with some Justice League parts shoehorned in.  All the stuff with Aquaman was really cool and I would've enjoyed seeing more of his training, adjustment to Atlantis, and reluctance to take the throne.  This could've been done better without the League in it but it was cool seeing them there too.  Overall I liked it and I hope that DC's movies continue to improve, if not then I'm signing every petition that I can find to reinstate Bruce Timm at the helm of these projects.  By Zeus' beard that man is a genius!  If for whatever reason you still think Aquaman's a joke (probably because you're a pop culture drone) then this is the movie that proves he's not which I'm sick of saying because Aquaman hasn't been a joke since Super Friends went off the air and let me remind you that everyone was a joke in Super Friends.

Abridged version below:

+Great Plot.
+Superb animation, except when heroes are just standing in stiff poses.
+Great Action.
+Kickass women especially Mera.
+Some standout voice work like Cyborg.

-Too many characters too little time.
-Superman, Wonder Woman, and Lois Lane situation seemed shoehorned.
-Green Lantern, Flash, and Shazam seemed mostly useless here and unnecessary.
-Lantern's constructs are lame and don't give any sense of his coolness.
-Shazam and Lantern are supposed to be comic relief but neither are very funny in this with their middle school humor.  Is this movie for kids or adults?
-Stiff poses.
-Some poor dialogue and sometimes spotty voice work.
-I still don’t like Batman’s new voice, from Jason O’ Mara.  Bruce Greenwood from Under the Red Hood and Young Justice should’ve inherited the role after Kevin Conroy.  Greenwood provides the intimidation that O’Mara is missing.
-Many moments are rushed such as Aquaman's introduction in Atlantis, the final fight of Arthur and Orm.

=Chun-li suit for Mera

Opinions of DC Animation

I'm a huge fan of DC Superheroes, especially animated shows and movies based off of them.  I've been the biggest fan of Batman and his animated showings since I could remember.  Ever since I read a few JLA comics and saw their portrayals on Bruce Timm's animated Justice League series I've grown to really like characters like The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and of course Superman.  Then I read more DC comics and watched the fascinating Justice League Unlimited, read character wiki's, and really learned a lot about the DC history and mythos.  To step into the dangerous world of comic book wars I'll venture to say that DC has always held the advantage over Marvel in terms of animation.  The only thing that came close was Spider-Man's 90's cartoon.

Now I say all that because I'm not the biggest fan of the direction that DC animation is going in now.  Instead of original content they've instead settled for making abridged versions of existing comics storylines except with some tweaks both minor and major.  This isn't always a bad thing as many of these adaptations were really good: Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2, Batman Year One, Under the Red Hood, Justice League the New Frontier, and Flashpoint Paradox are just a few that come to mind.  I didn't like Justice League War or Son of Batman very much because of the poor characterizations for characters like Deathstroke, Wonder Woman, and Darkseid.  Shortcuts were taken to make these movies short and it shows.  The problem with War was that every single one of the characters was boring or annoying.  The dialogue lacked wit or charm and just felt flat.  The dialogue seemed immature and yet the action was bloody and there was a large body count.  So it was trapped between two worlds not sure who it wanted its target audience to be.  It could've bridged that gap a lot better like Under the Red Hood, Mask of the Phantasm, or Batman Beyond return of the Joker.  Throne of Atlantis suffers from a few of the same problems only it’s mostly a huge improvement.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Indie Book Corner: Eyes of the Sun, by Christina McMullen

Free Today 3/8/2015 and Typically On Sale Often

A science fiction take on vampirism more akin to (the good) Blade movies than Nosferatu.

I liked this book, a lot!  It has a lot going for it.  Interesting characters, check.  Engaging dialogue, check.  Likable main character, check.  Cool premise, check.  A sense of humor, check.  Does it stand out from the crowd of other vampire fiction, triple check!  Eyes of the Sun hits every point on my like-o-meter and then some.

So vampires are a thing here, yes, but they are not at all what you think they are.  I'll leave the explanation to the author.  But it's interesting because it's all influenced by biology and evolution.  Run of the mill humans are more similar to vampires than one would think.  Some humans have even evolved an enzyme inside of their blood that can prove harmful or even fatal to vampires as a biological deterrent to getting preyed upon.  So when they're getting the life drained out of them by one of the bloodsuckers they can pull a Call of Duty 'Martyrdom' type move and drop the proverbial grenade on their vampiric foes to get the last laugh.  Vampires also come in different breeds here.  Some have been genetically modified to possess stronger vampire traits and some, the highest in the social order, are inbred from ancient families to achieve a purity in their bloodlines.  Whatever form of vampire you have they're all stronger, faster, and more agile than humans.


The humans have technology.
That reminds me of the awesome F2P multiplayer game Nosgoth which is based around this very concept.  Vamps have the powers but humans have the tools.  The humans in question here are members of the EJC, which I'll admit is a slight spoiler for like the first three chapters.  Anyway the EJC seems like an ordinary research company to the uninitiated but is actually a tight nit group of very dedicated men and women who take to the streets at night to combat these vampires.  They use technology developed in-house and have been specifically trained for the eradication of the vampires preying on people on the city streets.  The EJC's technology is much improved over what we use today but it's not too far removed.  It seems that to be a member you have to have the enzyme that proves fatal to vampires in your blood, I'm not sure if I misremembered that or not.  They have a complex system of hunters, scientists, doctors, watchers, and a...makeup artist to aid in their goal of protection of the human race.

It has...

Moral Complexity.
Is killing the vampires right?  Do they deserve punishment?  It's not so cut and dry of an answer just like real life.

Social issues aren't shied away from.
What happens when you pair a gay, anti-religious, anti-war vampire hunter with a huge, religious, military veteran vampire hunter?  Well hilarious needling for one.  But also an actual conversation about these issues straight up.  Nothing preachy but it is addressed as Lucy tries to figure out just how these two haven't destroyed each other yet.

Which leads to...

A likable, funny, tough, and complex cast.
Every time I was introduced to a new character I found something fascinating about them or just found them enjoyable.  Just like real life, these fictional characters are complex and multifaceted.  Even if you don't like something about them you may find a trait about them that you do like.  The dialogue was snappy and filled with wit and the character interactions were just equal parts hilarious and heartfelt.  You really get the feeling by the end of this that the EJC was like one big family.  It's really fun getting to know everyone.

There is romance and it's done really well.
Not much to say here without spoiling stuff.  I'll just say that it's obvious who gets together.  The author even hints at it through palm reading before we meet the love interest.  The joy here is in the journey, not the outcome and what a sexy journey it was.

The main character.
Lucy is pretty cool.  She's whip smart and mostly normal but has a nerdy streak.  She is educated, has a bit of a chip on her shoulders, and is quite used to losing family.  She starts this book alone in a new city with only two close friends, who it turns out she knows nothing about.  Lucy is naturally inquisitive and observant which are both good and bad traits in the world of vampire hunting and survival.  Another good and bad trait that's strong in her is her stubborn streak.  She just does not give up and when she feels a certain way it’s hard for her to simply 'go with the flow.'  She'll speak up and she'll make some changes before she accepts something she isn't comfortable with and *spoiler ahead* this makes her a very unorthodox yet effective vampire hunter.  Her reckless fighting style is actually pretty cool and makes sense for her in the beginning.  And *huge spoiler ahead* her blood, which is a combination of modified vampire and hunter, which is an incredibly rare mix may at first glance seem Mary Sue-ish but it's actually handled quite well and never makes Lucy boring or overpowered as many like to complain of characters with special traits like this.  The training here accounts for a lot and there was never a scene when I saw Lucy engage with a vampire that I didn't feel like she might just lose and lose badly.

The action is awesome.
It's fast paced, grounded, clever, and very descriptive.  No detail was missed here and the environment was used really well in all scenes.  Each fight feels very distinct because of this.  Because of my slight sexism I hadn't expected this from a female writer.  That was only a partial joke by the way and yes, I give you permission to hate me.

I said so much already that I feel the need to wrap this up.  So nothing is perfect and that brings me to...

What I didn't like.
The first few chapters felt rushed, specifically a big part of chapter 1 and some parts of chapter 2.  There was a big wall of info on Lucy's past on the second and third page at a moment when I couldn't care less about who Lucy was.  There's also a huge mistake that chapter 2 Lucy makes that the Lucy I've come to know didn't seem like she would have made but this I can forgive since the thought of love makes us all do crazy things.

Only one other small thing bothered me and it's so trivial that it doesn't really matter.  It's the retractable fangs.  I'm bothered by these, not because they exist but because they weren't given a contemporary scientific explanation like everything else.  I'll admit that there's a huge chance that I might've glossed over it but it seems strange that it's just part of the package like the rest since this vampirism isn't like 'normal' vampirism.  It just feels like a genre holdover but you know what?  How freaking' weird would a vampire with flat teeth be?  Answer: really freaking weird!  So I'll wrap this up by saying some questions don't need to be answered and some traditions must never die.

Now here's that summary of points that I know the abridgers like so well.

The Good
+Science Fiction Edge
+Smart Ideas
+Witty Dialogue
+Sexy Moments
+Lucy is Likeable and Competent
+Cast is Likeable, Funny, Tough, and Complex
+It's Fun Getting to Know Everyone
+Author Has the Courage to Talk About a Few Social Issues
+The Structure of the Organization is Clever and Interesting
+Dress Up Stuff is Cool, Fun, and Makes Sense

The Bad
-First Chapter Seems Rushed as a Lot of Info is Quickly Given on Lucy
-The Lucy I've Come to Know Doesn't Seem Like She'd Make the Same Stupid Mistakes That She Did With Tim at the Beginning

The Trivial
-Unexplained Retractable Fangs

Find it at

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eyes-Sun-Book-ebook/dp/B00A7L7GJ0
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17984582-the-eyes-of-the-sun
Author's Blog: http://mcmullenwrites.blogspot.com/

Check out my review of the book's sequel: Blackbeard's Children