By Michael Kaye, Contributing Writer - @CaptainKaye42
The Batman Superman Movie: World Finest (Review)
Welcome to my miniseries of DC movie reviews, in honor of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice! In this little retrospective, I'm going to be reviewing a selection of films that I feel will best prepare you for one of the most anticipated movies of 2016. To kick things off, we're taking a trip down memory lane, to one of my first exposures to the DC Universe, The Batman Superman Movie: World's Finest.
Here's the story. Joker goes to Metropolis with an offer and plan to kill Superman for Lex Luthor while Batman pursues the clown to Superman's turf.
Growing up, I absolutely adored this movie! It originally aired on Kids WB in 1998 as 3-part crossover episode of Superman: The Animated Series, until it was later packed as a direct to video feature film. Watching it as an adult, I may not think it's as perfect as I remember, but man it sure is a lot of fun! Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the voice cast is incredible! I worship the ground that voice director Andrea Romano walks on. She's been in this business for a very long time, and has worked with a plethora of great talent, but her crowning achievement is grabbing the DEFINITIVE versions of these beloved characters! Kevin Conroy, since the first episode of Batman: The Animated Series, has only gotten better and better at playing the Caped Crusader, and this was around the time when he really settled into a nice rhythm. As for Superman, Tim Daly does a fine job in the role, but I'm usually of the small minority that prefers his Justice League voice actor George Newborn a hair more. Now, I can't speak for everyone, but I'll bet the main reason people initially were unhappy with Jesse Eisenberg's casting as Lex Luthor in BvS is because they're too used to the deep, booming presence of Clancy Brown, and I'd be lying if I said I disagreed. But of course, the ones that steal the show (among other things) are by far Mark Hamill's Joker and Arleen Sorkin's Harley Quinn!
The story, written by the legendary Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, is a perfect way to bring these two heroes together. Before the infamous Comic Con announcement back in 2013, I've always felt that this movie would make a great template to build a live action cinematic universe off of, and based on what I know about BvS so far, my position still hasn't changed. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Chris Terrio didn't at least borrow some story beats from the animated movie and make them his own in live action. As far as this movie is concerned, I like how the Joker is so chaotic that not even Lex Luthor can control him, no matter how much he thinks he has the upper hand. Seeing the Joker interact with any villains is always fun to watch, because nobody except for Harley actually enjoys his company. This provides a worthy challenge for our dynamic duo, as they'll need to settle their differences and work together in order to foil Joker's dastardly plan.
The animation still holds up after all these years. It may not be exactly theatrical quality, but it's still Bruce Timm's old school style, and it kicks ass! I have to give credit where credit is due to TMS Entertainment, a Japanese animation studio that contributed to a lot of TV series in the 90's, including DuckTales, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and of course, the Batman and Superman animated series. Where the animation really shines are in the action sequences, especially the climax!
Finally, the music by Shirley Walker is great! It's a shame that she's no longer with us, 'cause she did such an incredible job composing both Batman and Superman's themes, which were inspired by the likes of John Williams and Danny Elfman. You know, Warner Bros. sure is lucky to have had a slew of great composers working on their DC properties, and I can't wait to hear what Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer have come up with for Batman v Superman!
Now, as much as I love this movie, I do have a few gripes with it.
First off, I wish the movie was longer. This isn't a real fault with the movie, I'm just spoiled by the fact that I'm living in the golden age of superheroes, which has led to shows like Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow! Not only are those a worthy successor to the DC Animated Universe, but because they're aimed at a slightly older demographic, the run-times are longer, meaning more time to spend with these characters. Keep that in mind when you're watching this movie.
The other problem I have is simply one that carries over from the infamous 4th season of Batman: The Animated Series, a.k.a. "The New Batman Adventures," and that's the abysmal redesign of the Joker. Over 20 years later and I still have no clue that the hell the people at Warner Animation were thinking tampering with the Clown Prince of Crime! If he's supposed to look more intimidating then that's an epic fail. Luckily, starting with the direct to video movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, they undo the damage and restore him somewhat to his original look.
Aside from those minor nitpicks, I still enjoyed The Batman Superman Movie: World's Finest! If I had more time on my hands I would have loved to discuss the entirety of the DC Animated Universe, but this small serving size will have to do. I have this movie to thank for introducing me to some of the greatest superheroes of all time, as well as comic books in general, and in just over a week I'll finally see the movie I've been dreaming about for ages! But this is only the beginning; stay tuned for my next review, where I tackle the Ultimate cut of Zack Snyder's magnum opus Watchmen!