Property review: Spider-Man 3

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Spider-Man 3

Columbia Pictures, 2007

Webcrawler stumbles a third time

Let’s get something straight from the beginning: Tobey Maguire, in no way, failed the Spider-Man franchise. There’s plenty of blame to go around outside of the cast of the once-juggernaut film property featuring everyone’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, but none of it needs to ensnare Maguire in its web. No, the blame game needs to be played like a who’s who gathering of spin the terrible film bottle with Sam Raimi and whoever was his casting director.

Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 had quite a bit going for each film, especially the first film. But by the time the third film rolls around, there isn’t much here to be seen that hasn’t been done before. That is the unfortunate nature of a trilogy.

There’s Peter Parker, Maguire’s lovable underdog that has as much rooting power and likability to carry a film from start to finish. Then there’s Mary Jane Watson, the heroine. While Kirsten Dunst does an admirable job of being the redheaded damsel in distress that is early Watson, she was kind of playing it by the numbers by the time the final piece of the puzzle was in place. For some reason, Bryce Dallas Howard is thrown in as longtime Spider-Man girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and James Franco round out the villainy, which is a rather numerous rogue gallery.

The fact that we’ve just typed three names in one sentence to describe the lineup of villains is a major problem and, quite frankly, the worst issue with the film. The story is fine and we like the origin story told here for Venom. The problem is there isn’t enough time to showcase Venom’s story properly. The reason? Too many villains. We’ve said it time and again: Too many foes for the protagonist can and will ruin a film. Spider-Man 3 is easily the worst offender of this practice.

The film feels overly long and bloated to start with, but when Sandman turns into New Goblin who turns into Venom, it’s just too much to deal with. The pacing suffers immediately after New Goblin makes his first appearance, and once Eddie Brock takes on the symbiote/“black suit,” the film swiftly devolves into unmitigated chaos.

Another problem was the terrible effect of dragging in villains for the sake of having a villain. Venom immediately suffers the brunt of the pain here and it’s appalling what’s done to the character. First of all, in the comics, a pumpkin bomb from the New Goblin does not kill Venom; cancer eventually does the job. Second of all, if you’re going to bother doing Venom at all, do him justice and get it right. Venom is arguably Spider-Man’s most lethal and engaging foe, a lot like the Joker is to Batman or Lex Luthor is to Superman. Venom deserved his own film, and pairing him up to fight the wall-crawler is an immediate injustice to the character’s history. Venom doesn’t need anyone else to carry his movie if done right. Finally, Venom looked terrible. The character CGI was awful and looked cheap. If this is the reason why it took so long to get Venom in a film against Spidey, they could have kept him and saved him for the eventual reboot we all knew was coming.

And that reboot? It was apparent with the rote aura surrounding the film long before its release. What is especially angering is the dumbed-down approach to the film itself. In the months leading up to the film, the mainstream appeal to the basic filmgoer was pandering at best, highly insulting at worst. Seriously? The advertising and trailer appeal of a “black suit” that makes Peter Parker flip out was terrible. Trust us when we say the average movie viewer had no idea what the alien symbiote was about let alone cared. So when the comic knowledgeable saw that, it caused a chuckle for what it was worth. Spider-Man had become a “movie event of the year” type of thing, and indeed, his cash sense was probably tingling. Too bad he had to sacrifice quality to do it.

Terrible pacing, too many villains, a tired subplot and an overall lackadaisical feel? Thanks but no thanks. The spider had done all that a spider can and it was well past time for him to move on.

Like the comics?: 7

Casting: 7

Plot: 5

Overall score: 19 out of 30 or 6

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman movie villains

Joker comboThe Joker

You knew he was going to make the list. How could he not with at least two movie outings devoted to the clown prince of crime, both played by different actors that received rave reviews for their performances? The Joker is Batman’s arch-nemesis and thus deserves his own movies, which he gets to the delight of Batman fans. If you can posthumously win an Oscar for your performance as the Joker (Heath Ledger) or have your performance talked about for decades afterward as the standard bearer for psychotic criminal masterminds (Jack Nicholson), you’ve done something right as a character.

 Tom Hardy-Bane

Bane

Bane has so many quotable lines in “The Dark Knight Rises” that it almost makes up for the weak way he gets bumped off (spoiler alert: Bane dies). Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane was intense and satisfying, making the film a must-see just from the trailer alone. If you didn’t care about Batman after Heath Ledger stole the show from Christian Bale, you cared when Hardy uttered the infamous “Gotham’s reckoning” line. Oh, and we only count Dark Knight Rises’ version of Bane. The mockery that was in Batman and Robin is best forgotten, much like the rest of the movie.

 Two Face combo

Harvey Dent/Two Face

Another villain that gets two outings in the franchise, the first time around for Mr. D.A. was campy yet fun. You learned the crazy that was Dent in a slightly lighthearted-yet-dark way that only Tommy Lee Jones could provide in Batman Forever. Contrast that with Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal in The Dark Knight, where he’s a tragic figure caught in the crossfire of Batman and the Joker’s battle. Dent made you understand where he was coming from and sympathize greatly. You could sort of understand why he lost his mind. Oh, and that makeup job as Two Face was so well done, we can’t picture Eckhart without it now.

 Catwoman combo

Catwoman

The sly kitty lady shows up twice in the franchise as well, and boy is she awesome both times. Michelle Pfieffer and Anne Hathaway give new meaning to the term minx. And, any time a woman can look fierce in 4-inch heels while attacking people and holding her own in a fight alongside Batman, she has our vote as a credible character. She’s credible as a villain as well because, let’s face it, Catwoman is not exactly helpful to Batman any time you see her. In fact, every time you do so, it means trouble. That’s a troublesome minx for you.

 Jim Carrey-Riddler

The Riddler

OK, so the surrounding movie wasn’t all that great. But, truth be told, Jim Carrey actually kind of stole the show with his over-the-top portrayal of the man in green. Carrey is the kind of comedian that you know what you’re going to get when you go see a film he’s in: He’s going to be ridiculous and he’s going to ham it up. And the Riddler was the perfect vehicle for that. He made a complete mockery of Batman’s detective skills and somehow managed to elevate the crazy past Tommy Lee Jones’ weird Two Face (see above). Hell, he even managed to make Val Kilmer’s disappointing turn in the tights slightly watchable. You’re a good villain when you can manage that feat.

Property review: Batman Returns

Batman Returns 01
Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Batman Returns

Warner Bros., 1992

Batman returns with a little fanfare, but too many enemies

Batman Returns is solid, no doubt about it. Sure, it has some stumbles and could use a little polishing in the finer points, but like most Tim Burton-directed pieces, the Batman’s second outing on the big screen is an enjoyable cinematic set piece designed to bring the malevolence, sexual tension and tortured soul platitudes that can be mustered from Batman’s arsenal.

What we love the most about Batman Returns is the comfort zone it presents. It’s directed as if it knows its Batman in the second round of the fight, and it’s OK with being Batman. There’s no fussiness with establishing who Batman is and why he does what he does; the viewer already knows that — it’s already banking on the fact that you’ve seen the first film.

Batman succeeds here with the brashness expected of a box office experienced sequel. Burton pulls no punches letting you know that Bruce Wayne is a man used to getting his way and he will work as either the Caped Crusader or Wayne to achieve his goals. And this is where Michael Keaton succeeds once again. His Wayne is more self-assured, more confident in his approach to playing the dual role required. Michelle Pfeiffer is deliciously decadent as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, though we never once bought the “Kyle is a meek woman” act at all. Whatever Pfeiffer managed to build, she wonderfully and masterfully destroys with a simple meow to a stunned Batman and Penguin. Her Catwoman is a master class in movie sexiness. And all that needs to be said about Danny DeVito as the Penguin? He was born to play the role. And along with Christopher Walken, he manages to steal the film.

And that belies the problem with the film. For all of its panache and star casting, Batman doesn’t get enough screen time to justify calling it a return. Keaton isn’t on screen nearly enough because there’s basically three villains all chewing scenery at once. Returns falls prey to — and is the progenitor of — the concept of “Too Many Villains Syndrome.” When Batman’s attention is split that many ways, the story’s focus suffers. It’s hard to wrap up Returns and it’s pretty obvious in a specific scene: Batman chases the Penguin and Catwoman after Shreck’s Department Store blows up and each fly off in a different direction. Batman winds up not catching either one because he really can’t figure out how to catch one over the other first. That is not the dilemma your hero should have.

Batman Returns still remains one of our favorite Batman tales and favorite movies, in general. It’s got the dark, gritty atmosphere that we’ve come to love from Burton, and it remains the last real, viable and serious Batman film until the Christopher Nolan trilogy of films were launched. Returns still provides a good return investment if you’re into the origin of Batman’s silver screen outings.

Like the comics?: 3

Casting: 10

Plot: 8

Overall score: 21 out of 30 or 7

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Strip Talk #16: Too many villains plague some comic films

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineNearly every year that I’ve been alive and conscious enough to know what’s going on in the world, there’s been a comic book movie released. And I take great pride in having seen the majority of the offerings out there. Sure, there’s some modern stuff that I haven’t watched, but that’s mostly because I’m on a journalist’s salary and one can’t just blow into a movie theater on that kind of cash. Made of money, I ain’t. But when I do manage to watch a comic book-based property, I look for a few things. The first and foremost is the ratio of villains to heroes. Some of my least favorite films have fallen prey to the darker and over-numerical side of things.

The first film that I can recall where I fell in love with the concept of hero/villain balance is Batman Returns. I was a lad, no more than 11, dying to go with the grown folks (read: an older cousin and my older brother) to see the sequel to Batman’s big screen outing. I was a child in love with Michael Keaton, and I was especially excited because 1. Tim Burton was at the helm of everything; and 2. I was allowed to stay out extra late with older folks related to me who understood my love of movies.

Mr. Burton, whose style I still love to this day, didn’t disappoint in the aesthetics department. But where I found fault a little later after some discussion with my fellow movie-goers and genius parent was the fact that Batman played second fiddle to just about everyone and everything. Make no mistake, I loved the Penguin and Catwoman. Michelle Pfeiffer was and still is iconic in the role of one Ms. Selina Kyle. But, seriously? Did we really need that many villains? And let me point something out here: Keaton is badass and will always be Batman for me. But the man was severely shortchanged in his screen time as the Bat. Despite the immersion in the world of Gotham, I felt the pangs of longing for every moment that Batman wasn’t on screen yet dealt with three villains. Burton could have killed off Christopher Walken’s Max Schreck and we would have all been OK.

Let’s skip a few years and come upon my time as an adult moviegoer. My dollars are more precious — now on that aforementioned journalist’s salary — and my time a little more wisely spent paying attention to story and plot connectivity to the comic book the movie’s going to be based on. Spider-Man had become a major player in the comic movie world, and Tobey MacGuire’s adorable take on the friendly neighborhood wallcrawler was particularly decent at drawing in the must-see crowd. But you see, even the most adorable Peter Parker couldn’t save the particularly mundane and not-quite-up-to-par third outing for Spider-Man. Why? Because he had too many foes just waiting to make that spider sense tingle. Spider-Man 3 suffered from the same problem that Batman Returns encountered: too many villains. There was absolutely no need to have Harry Osbourne (Hobgoblin), Sandman AND Venom. And to make matters far worse than Batman Returns, Venom was poorly done. That was a blow to my heart as a Venom fan. His origin is handled correctly, but his overall look is terrible. Also, as a matter of record, Venom deserves his own movie as a major Spider-Man foe. It was obvious that Venom’s resolution was crammed in at the last moment, and the film suffered mightily for it.

I’m a purist at heart, so when I sit through your overlong film and I walk away thinking there wasn’t enough of the hero, there’s a problem. Two villains are enough for the protagonist — and the viewing audience — to handle. Movie directors should take a cue from doctors on too many villains syndrome: Physicians heal thy self.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

 

PlayPlay

Property review: Afro Samurai

Afro Samurai screengrabAfro Samurai

Funimation Entertainment, 2007

Afro Samurai is a concerto of high-quality hack and slash

There were never that many black samurai in history. Save for their fictional counterparts, let’s just say diversity wasn’t the thing in ancient Japan. But for all of that lack of attention to historical detail, Afro Samurai manages to evoke sympathy and more than enough interest with its protagonist and story.

One of the things we’ve come to love about Afro Samurai in the years since its first release and airing are the characters.

True, Afro doesn’t say too much but Ninja Ninja more than makes up for that. Afro is your Afro Samurai coverclassically stoic protagonist who doesn’t say much and chooses to let his actions speak louder than his words ever could. Ninja Ninja is — spoiler alert! — his consciousness, saying the things he wishes he could say out loud and looking like a smaller, more cool version of himself. The dynamic between the two characters, both voiced by the incomparable Samuel L. Jackson, is the meat of the plot and carries the story, though Afro’s quest to own the No. 1 headband and be the No. 1 fighter in the world is important as well.

Make no mistake, though, the duo roaming around chopping people to death in that quest is the draw of the story.

And while the characters are interesting, it’s their stories and history that make the show. How exactly Afro comes into possession of the No. 2 headband and his quest to run from his past of violence and death is riveting. Within five episodes the Empty Seven Clan is introduced and the fights for the No. 2 headband are detailed. The art style of the fights is gorgeous and the soundtrack, composed by the RZA, is worth replaying. Though everything isn’t wrapped up nicely and neatly, the five episodes tell the story at a nice pace and put the action at the forefront where it should be.

We even appreciate the naturally developed ending, which leads to Afro Samurai Resurrection, though it isn’t quite as good as the original. But with a stellar voice cast, beautiful animation and a pretty good plot and soundtrack, Afro Samurai is worth starting from the beginning.

Plot: 10

Animation quality: 10

Casting: 10

Score: 30 out of 30 or 10

HOW WE GRADE

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 and 30 overall.

Property review: Watchmen (film)

WATCHMEN

Warner Bros., 2009

Who watched the Watchmen? Sadly, not many

When you have a successful and highly regarded graphic novel as a basis for a movie, there shouldn’t be problems with the resulting product. And yet, Watchmen didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Maybe the movie-going public is or was tired of superhero flicks at the time, but “Watchmen” should have done better at the box office because it’s a fantastically made film.

The color choice and set pieces are amazing, and the atmosphere of slowed violence in motion will make your jaw drop. It’s visually striking in just about every take and coupled with smart, tight writing, the movie moves along at a decent clip. It is slightly too long but at least the story told within will more than keep your interest. This is a film that needed to be experienced on the big screen, and thankfully, that’s how we learned about it.

The tale of an alternate timeline of costumed superheroes, the continued Cold War and Richard Nixon managing the White House through the ’80s is a fantastic one, and we couldn’t help go in curious as to how it would all work. Having never read the original Watchmen graphic novel, we reserved judgment until after reading it and seeing the movie. It’s easily become one of our favorite comics since and with good reason: It’s smart, it’s gorgeous and it’s believable. The movie continues in the same vein and had most of the tools to succeed such as recognizable names attached to the project and established story.

The acting and casting isn’t necessarily the draw here but it’s serviceable. Everyone gives the same vibe off: They know their character and how that person or being fits into the larger scheme of storytelling. In particular, we salute the acting chops of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played The Comedian, for his ability to steal the scene in all of his appearances. He is one of the true draws here, and he gives you your money’s worth and then some.

There’s several minute changes overall that mostly the diehard fans will immediately notice, but to the standard moviegoer, it’s nothing that will make you stop watching. If you know nothing about the graphic novel, the movie will, if anything, create some curiosity for the original. Much like it’s earlier-reviewed brethren “300,” “Watchmen” lifts nearly every scene directly from its source material.

Some people have an issue with that, as it doesn’t exactly inspire creativity on the part of the director, but we disagree. This is one of the few instances where we’d rather have the graphic novel told directly with little to no changes than the translation screwed up (see: most video game movies).

If you’re looking for something a little different than the Dark Knight or mutants solving world crises, we suggest looking at the tale of non super-powered heroes who are just fighting for the right to exist. This one’s a gem.

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 8/10

Plot: 9.5/10

Like the comics?: 9.5/10

Overall rating: 27/30 or 9.0

 

Top 5 list: Worst comic book movies

Chances are, if you’re comic book fanatics like we are at Gaming Insurrection, you’ve seen one of the movies on this list. If you soak up overacting, tired drama and nonsensical plots with hamfisted writing, you’ve seen everything on this list and probably have them memorized. These are five of the worst comic book movies ever made. This list is also not definitive because there are more where these came from.

 

Vincent Perez and Mia Kirschner star in The Crow: City of Angels.

The Crow: City of Angels (1996)

You know how the first Crow movie was awesome because Brandon Lee was in it and seemed to embody Eric? Unfortunately, someone thought making a second movie and continuing the franchise after the death of the star was a good idea. It wasn’t. Not only did the filmmakers manage to besmirch the memory of Lee with a terrible, unattached story, but they also made a mockery of the original screenplay and concept, which came from the pain of a tragic event in author James O’Barr’s life. And don’t get us started on the ridiculous acting from Vincent Perez, who has managed to ruin another favorite series of ours, too: Queen of the Damned.

 

Alicia Silverstone, George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell star in Batman & Robin.

Batman & Robin (1997)

The fourth Batman movie is among the list of the worst movies overall ever made. Nothing makes sense about the movie. Between Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger overacting and George Clooney underacting, nothing works. Even though we’re fans of Alicia Silverstone, an “it girl” of the day, she really didn’t do much for the film, either. Most tellingly, Clooney is NOT Batman. He’s not Batman material, and he never will be. As a matter of fact, we’d venture to say that this is the reason for the Batman reboot with Christian Bale. Clooney, an OK actor otherwise, will forever be known as the man who ran Batman into the ground.

 

Jennifer Garner stars in Elektra.

Elektra (2005)

If you can watch a trailer and nothing in those 30 seconds makes you want to watch a movie, you know it’s doomed to fail before it even gets started. That’s the case with Elektra. Jennifer Garner can’t act. That’s a fact, plain and simple, and she looks nothing like the Marvel character whatsoever. So, Elektra was a waste. And you know Hollywood knows it because there hasn’t been a sequel. At least she and her husband, Ben Affleck, have something in common: Both starred in bad comic movies.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 was released in 1992.

TMNT 3 (1992)

We’ve covered extensively why this movie was a failure on all fronts, but it bears repeating: The movie sucks. It has nothing to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in any way, shape or form. Lyndsey really did sit through the movie in theaters in 1992 when it was released and at no point in the first 20 minutes did she think she was in the correct movie. While we’re delighted with the return of Casey Jones in the film — after he was strangely missing in the second movie — there should have been something better for him to return to.

 

Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellan star in X-Men: The Last Stand.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Gaming Insurrection as a whole doesn’t get mad at movies often, but X3 managed that feat about half the way through. Nonsensical plot points, altered established canon, blink-and-you-missed-it character cameos and a disjointed focus make for one of the worst comic book films ever. We’re not asking for much, but DO NOT change character backstory for the sake of a lead actor. That is a cardinal rule for movies based on established properties, and the X-Men have a well-discussed history that should not be changed in a penultimate film. We love Hugh Jackman, but no. Double no for making a relationship that never happened in the comics a prominent focus of your film. And triple no for screwing over Professor X. Director Brett Ratner should be left atop an ant mound covered in sugar for the travesty that is X3.

Otaku #06: Robotech

Mech drama in space brings back memories

Brandon Beatty, contributing editor

I decided to follow in my GI comrades’ footsteps and begin a new segment where I review animated properties, but with a little anime flavor. While I will continue to review great manga that reaches our shores, I hope that all of you will like this new addition to Otaku. For now, I give a big hearty welcome to Otaku Corner Theater where the motto is “reviewing great anime for, by, and worthy of the otaku.” (patent pending).

To celebrate OCT’s grand opening, I’m starting off with a legendary anime series that is undisputedly considered not only as essential to an otaku’s collection, but also a required piece to introduce those who are new to the wonderful world of anime. This series has not only launched the careers of well-known voice acting veterans in the anime industry, but also is well known among sci-fi anime series such as “Starblazers” and “Mobile Suit Gundam.” It’s none other than “Robotech” from ADV films.

For those who are unfamiliar with this series, a bit of background information is in order. “Robotech” is an 85-episode series produced in the 1980s by Harmony Gold USA and Tasunoko Productions, also known for Karas, G-Force, Tasunoko All-Stars vs. Capcom.

Consisting of a rich story that spans three generations, “Robotech” has mankind engaged in battle with alien space forces for control of the “Protoculture,” a mysterious and powerful energy source. The first chapter of the series focuses on the “Macross Saga,” in which Earth, recovering from a brutal global civil war finds in its possession a highly advanced warship called the SDF-I, sent from space. Upon finding the SDF-I, humanity must defend its self from the Zentradi, a warlike race whose main goal to reclaim said ship by using SDF-I’s advanced technology. In addition to this great space opera, you are introduced to the exploits of amateur pilot Rick Hunter and his mentor Roy Fokker as they and the rest of the SDF-I’s human crew battle the Zentradi through space to protect the restored battleship, but also its innocent inhabitants and Earth itself.

As an anime fan growing up in the ’80s, “Robotech” met my needs for any great space-based anime. It had heroic characters and cunning villains, and it was the first, in my opinion, to boldly fuse concept designs of vehicles and mecha. For instance, the SDF-I and Veritech fighter jets took on actual designs of a naval carrier and its fighter jets and combined them with the designs of a fighting mecha, resulting in futuristic war machines of which my favorite hero Juggie would give his “custom made” seal of approval. The Zentradi’s ship design, also impressive despite their cucumber-shaped look, displays incredible speed and firepower that is also reflected through their “battle pods” design, which consists of a cross between a metal ostrich and a gattling gun.

While ADV and Harmony Gold did do a outstanding job in remastering this series, they do deserve credit for retaining renowned voice actors. Tony Oliver and Dan Woren to reprise their original roles as Rick and Roy, respectively. I also give ADV and Harmony Gold credit for not only keeping the storyline intact, but also keeping the original music and sound effects refreshed using Dolby Digital. There’s also unseen bonus footage, ensuring that “Robotech” stands the test of time as an anime series. This means a lot to me because during my first time viewing Robotech when it was released on VHS, the tape cut off mid-play, leaving me with unanswered questions about the SDF-I and how Earth played a critical part in regard to Protoculture. However, watching Robotech Vol. 1 got me caught up, and I give ADV and Harmony Gold my highest praise for doing so. Although the “Shadow Chronicles” saga has revived “Robotech” for a new generation of otaku, the original will show its viewers how the saga started and, without fail, show the brilliance of a world-renowned animation studio.

If you would like more info on Robotech, visit the official website at www.robotech.com.

Brandon Beatty is the contributing editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Animated property review: X-Men The Animated Series

X-Men the Animated Series Vol. 1  |  Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2009

X-Men origins told correctly

If there ever was a quintessential property in the 1990s of comic book origin, it’s X-Men the Animated Series. The Fox staple in the early part of the decade was a great excuse to get up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons. It also was a great learning tool for those who didn’t know much about the X-Men and wanted an introductory course to the famous mutants.

What we love about the series is the fact that it takes itself seriously. It told stories just as the comic book version told them 10 years before, and it’s pretty close to the origin stories with only minor changes. Our only gripe with some of the episodes in the first volume is the brevity of the story arcs. Sagas such as Days of Future Past and The Cure are told in one or two episodes, something that isn’t normally be done in the comics. However, some are revisited in later seasons of the show, so that can be forgiven.

The production values of the Animated Series, for its time, were top-notch. The writing was superb, and the coloring and drawing were extraordinary for a cartoon production. Few series, with the exception of fellow Fox production Spider-Man, could match what the Animated Series brought to the table in terms of visuals and storytelling. The first volume sets the pace with Night of the Sentinels, and it’s obvious that care is taken with characters and their backgrounds. Most characters are true to their history and those who have been re-established for the Animated Series are well done and not out of place (i.e. Morph).

The voice acting is another standout established within the first volume. The characters all sound like they should, and it is this first set of episodes that established the standard for future X-Men voice acting projects for the next 17 years. The best example: All X-Men characters used in Capcom’s versus series through Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were voiced by their Animated Series actors.

The first volume of the Animated Series hit DVD in 2009, a welcome addition to any X-Men fan’s collection. The first 16 episodes encompass the two-disc set and were only $20 at the time of purchase. That’s a bargain for well-crafted X-Men stories in a series known for its technical prowess that seemed to take forever to come to DVD.

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Voice acting: 10/10

Plots: 8/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 26/30 or 8.6

Strip Talk #06: A few things I need from comic book flicks

Lyndsey Mosley, editor-in-chief

There are a few things I need from my comic book and cartoon-adapted movies. Without them, the movie’s not going to work and it won’t be worth the film it’s recorded on. These are my pet peeves when it comes to retelling the story of an established property. Producers, please take heed. If I can’t watch it, chances are the other average Jane Blows of the world can’t, either.

An undercooked plot: I’d love it if my characters have a purpose for what they’re doing. Give me a reason why the hero is doing what he’s doing and the villain’s main point early in the movie, hit plot points with decent pacing and wrap it up. Throw in special effects if you have to but make it secondary to the central plot.

Changed plot points: Writers need to read this bullet point, especially. The properties that were entrusted to you have been so for a reason. They were made famous enough to make a movie based on them for a reason. Let it be and work with what you’ve got. Do not change the reason for a villain’s established motive for revenge. It will not work. Very few comics have been able to do this and get away with it. If you can’t come up with a good reason to change the character’s purpose, don’t make the change.

Character appropriate actors: Casting is an important part of making a movie work. Do not choose an actor who has no resemblance to the established character. For instance, Thomas Jane was a poor choice for the Punisher but Ray Stevenson was excellent. Why? Because Stevenson looked like someone who would do the things Frank Castle was pushed to do. Tobey Maguire worked as Peter Parker/Spider-Man because he had the earnestness of Parker and the quick wit of Spider-Man down to a science. The actor or actress need to be believable in a movie that works on a property that requires you to suspend disbelief the entire time.

Tell the tale with enough villains: I can’t stress enough that villains need to be kept at a minimum to preserve story integrity. If they aren’t, you start running into the problem of too many villains, or what I like to refer to as “’Batman Returns syndrome.” Too many villains screw up the pacing of the film. Inevitably, there will be too many big names scratching for screen time and someone, probably the hero, will get the short end of the stick.

“Spider-Man 3” had this problem, and it’s one of the few times that I can’t say I enjoyed a film featuring my favorite villain: Venom. A flick that stands as a shining example of how to do multiple villains correctly is “Dark Knight.” The Joker and Harvey Dent/Two Face work well, and I loved how the pacing was handled. That’s how you introduce villains effectively and tell their stories.

If you’re going to make a successful film based off of established properties, at least take the time to care about the produced final product. It means the difference between a poor adaptation — “Elektra,” “Daredevil,” “Punisher” we’re looking at you — and something spectacular that stays at the forefront of the genre. “Dark Knight,” we salute you.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

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