Monday, October 29, 2012

Media Monday: DC Showcase: Green Arrow Animated Short

While Warner Bros. has been woefully inadequate--financially negligent, I might argue--at producing live action movies based on DC Comics properties, their animation studios have been consistently churning out quality cartoons and animated movies for over twenty years now.

For the last couple years, DC Animation has released a couple direct-to-video animated films a year.  A few are original stories, but most of the movies are adaptations of acclaimed stories like The Death of Superman, Batman: Year One, and The New Frontier.  Also, for some reason, they adapted a couple of Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman stories that are... well, they are.  For a while, though, these seventy-minute movies featured ten minute animated shorts under the DC Showcase banner, giving fans of the A-list heroes like Batman and Green Lantern and chance to see characters like The Spectre and Jonah Hex.

They only produced five of these shorts, which sucks because they were some of the best work DC Animation has ever produced.  Four of the stories are available in the Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam Blu-Ray/DVD; the Superman and Captain Marvel adventure counts as a short as it's only about twenty minutes; also included are the aforementioned Jonah Hex and the Spectre showcases, as well as a Green Arrow story I'll be reviewing today.  The fifth short, featuring Catwoman, is available on the Batman: Year One movie.

I would review all of these short films, but only one features a cameo from Black Canary, so that's the one I'll review here.

DC Showcase: Green Arrow originally appeared with the Superman/Batman: Apocalypse DVD, which was an adaptation of the "Supergirl" story arc from the Superman/Batman series written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by the late Michael Turner.  They story had a few good moments, but it wasn't anything really special and the adaptation isn't much better.  I wouldn't have gotten this if I knew the Green Arrow short would be included with another movie.

The story opens with Oliver Queen stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at Star City airport where his longtime girlfriend Dinah is set to arrive.  Those in the know are aware that Ollie is the costumed adventurer and Justice League member, Green Arrow, and Dinah is none other than Black Canary.  Ollie has an engagement ring for Dinah, but worries she'll be too disappointed in his lateness to accept.

When he finally finds a parking spot, Ollie discovers that the heavy traffic backup is due to the increased security surrounding the arrival of Princess Perdita of the Eastern European nation of Vlatava.    Ollie also recognizes a familiar face getting out of a taxi.  Using a handy Justice League app in his smartphone, Ollie identifies the man as Merlyn, one of Green Arrow's rogues.

Inside the airport terminal, the ten-year-old Princess Perdita's security detail is ambushed and slaughtered by mercenaries posing as paparazzi.  The mercs close in on the princess, ready to execute her when...

Green Arrow unloads smoke-grenade arrows and other non-lethal trick arrows to confuse the mercenaries.

From here we get seven minutes of fast-paced and truly fun action and marksmanship.  Ollie evades ambush after ambush, engages in a duelist-style bow-and-arrow shootout with Merlyn, and discovers exactly why the princess has been targeted for assassination.

Of course, there is one final ambush--one final dastardly villain, revealed to be the mastermind behind the princess' assassination.  And our heroic archer is taken out, helpless.  But not alone.  Remember why Ollie went to the airport in the first place?

Black Canary shows up to save the day.  Figuring that there's no bigger turn on for women than having to save her man from international terrorists, Ollie chooses that moment to pop the question and give Dinah the engagement ring.  With a little encouragement from the ten-year-old Perdita, Dinah accepts.

This is a really fun little short movie.  It's not a complex story or layered character piece.  It's an extended chase scene.  It's a ten-minute action scene, and it's done incredibly well.  Did it leave me with a deeper appreciation for Green Arrow?  No, but it entertained me, and if this had been my introduction to the character, I would want to learn more about him.

The animation is tight, blending the DCAU house style with a kind of dark manga fluidity, and fast, making every punch, bullet or arrow seem as dangerous as it should.  The script, for as simple a story as it is, is funny and full of gems that create a medieval adventure motif.  From the obvious comparison of Green Arrow to Robin Hood, to him rescuing a princess, to the villainous archer named Merlyn, to the final beat about queens needing consorts--and Green Arrow being a Queen, after all--there's enough of subtext to give this straight action adventure to give it a fantasy element.

This is certainly not a Black Canary story.  Her's is a cameo, really, but it's a nice one.  She gets to save the day by showing off her sonic scream Canary Cry for any viewers who might not know her.  We see just how important she is to Green Arrow ("I couldn't live with out you," he says, "literally.")  And she looks really, really damn good.

DC Showcase: Green Arrow is

  • Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos
  • Written by Greg Weisman
And features the voice talents of
  • Neal McDonough as Green Arrow/Oliver Queen
  • Malcolm McDowell as Merlyn the Magnificent
  • Ariel Winter as Princess Perdita
  • Steven Blum as Count Vertigo
  • John DiMaggio as Merc #1
  • Grey DeLisle as Black Canary
I highly recommend this animated short as a terrific Green Arrow story and a fun Black Canary cameo!

1 comment:

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