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The DC Animated Universe has found its 14th original film in ‘Superman vs. the Elite’, which was released this past Tuesday, June 12, 2012. As reviews for the movie begin pouring in from excited fans and critics alike, it would be a good idea to take the time to look back at the films before it. Of the fourteen DC Universe Animated Originals, Toonari Post submits the Top 5 Favorites to honor the stories of heroes who have continued to surpass our expectations as they fight to keep the world safe.
5. Justice League: Doom (2012). As mentioned in our full review, ‘Justice League: Doom’ tells the tale of power hungry immortal Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) stealing encrypted files from the supercomputer of Batman that contain contingency plans for neutralizing each member of the Justice League if they ever went rogue. It is also noteworthy for being the unofficial Justice League reunion, as most of the voice actors from ‘Justice League’ (2001), including Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Michael Rosenbaum, and Carl Lumbly are in the film. It also included the voice talents of geek god Nathan Fillion and newcomer Bumper Robinson.
‘Doom’ is one of the most action packed films in the franchise, but it is also one of the most emotional because the heroes deal with their anger at Batman for betraying them. Over the years, the League members have become good friends and thus cannot believe that Batman would even consider having a plan to neutralize them. The voice work is simply stunning, combining all of the familiarity from ‘Justice League’ with a new, brutal storyline. ‘Doom’ proved that heroes can indeed be broken, but what does not kill them only makes them stronger.
4. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009). ‘Public Enemies’ is based on the comic book of the same name and once again employs the voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Tim Daly as Superman. The story centers around a giant meteor hurtling towards the Earth, threatening to destroy a large portion of the world’s population. Lex Luthor, currently President of the United States, finds out that the meteor is largely composed of Kryptonite and claims it is causing Superman to act irrationally. Therefore, he places a huge bounty on Superman’s head, which means all kinds of villains come out of the woodwork to claim it. Batman partners up with Superman to find a way to stop the meteor after Luthor’s attempts to stop it fail, all while fighting off both of their Rogues Gallery.
‘Public Enemies’ shows off the best of the dynamic between Batman and Superman. Both men are smart, dedicated, and heroic, but the differences in their personalities are delightful to watch. It is a heartwarming, amusing friendship that has evolved over the years to be one fans love.
3. Batman: Gotham Knight (2008). ‘Gotham Knight’ is a tie in with Christopher Nolan’s masterful ‘Batman Begins’ that includes six short vignette-style films put together by different writers and animators. However, instead of Christian Bale, Kevin Conroy reprises his role as the Dark Knight as he continues learning how to deal with the violent criminals plaguing Gotham City. The stories vary from humorous to spiritual to emotional and all of them show Bruce Wayne coming into his own as a new hero. They also include familiar faces from Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery like Killer Croc, the Scarecrow, and Deadshot, to name a few.
The unique animation styles and fast-paced plotlines tie in well with Conroy’s solid voice acting. The end result is an exhilarating experience that does justice to both the animated myths of Batman as well as the Batman that Nolan envisioned.
2. Wonder Woman (2009). ‘Wonder Woman’ is one of the most unique films in the original movie lineup because of its mythological setting as well as its perfect infusion of humor and action. It tells the story of Diana of Themyscira (Keri Russell) from birth to adulthood in the midst of a war between the gods and mankind. A handsome, lecherous pilot named Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) accidentally stumbles onto Themyscira, Diana’s home island where no men are allowed, and she decides to escort him back to America and research how to stop Ares (Alfred Molina), the God of War, from getting his powers back and conquering the world.
The selling point of this film is the dynamic between Diana and Steve. Steve is smitten with Diana on sight, but she refuses his advances because she has been taught that men cannot be trusted. However, as they fight together, she learns that her perceptions of men are inaccurate because he is kind, brave, and determined to help her on her quest. Furthermore, the fight sequences are breathtaking and should not be missed.
1. Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010). ‘Red Hood’ is a fantastic film based on the comic book written by Judd Winick. It recounts the story of a new criminal named the Red Hood (Jensen Ackles) taking over the criminal underbelly of Gotham. However, he is unlike any other villain Batman (Bruce Greenwood) has faced because he seems to have a disturbing knowledge of Batman’s fighting styles and methods of operation. Furthermore, Red Hood’s presence in Gotham has stirred up trouble with crime boss Black Mask (Wade Williams) and the Joker (John DiMaggio).
‘Red Hood’ can be considered the best of the DC Universe’s original animated films because of the exceptional voice work, the gorgeous animation, the compelling storyline, and the brutal emotional implications between the characters. Once the face behind the Red Hood is revealed, the stakes become so much more important than simply stopping a new threat in Gotham. It affects Batman on a level he has never encountered before and makes him question whether his actions have done more good or harm for the city and its people.
Each of these films does something stunning and worthwhile within the original animated franchise. Be sure to check them out.