Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
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"Look, Up in the Sky" starts off with the classic John Williams theme, as any Superman feature should, and zips through as many incarnations of Superman as possible in a brief amount of time. Right from the start, you see a focus on the film and television versions of Superman, rather than the comic book version. This theme carries throughout the film.
After this short introduction, we are treated with the voice of Lex Luthor from "Superman Returns", Kevin Spacey, as narrator. His narration is pleasant and never overbearing, allowing the material to shine through over the celebrity.
Some time is spent on Shuster and Siegel's humble beginnings and dreams of becoming comic book artists. Samples of their other early works are very interesting and the information moves very quickly, as to never bore you with small details. The film continues to speed through Superman's comic book life until we come to the Superman Movie Serials.
Now the film starts to slow down. One by one, each person shares their memory of Superman when they were younger. Be it, George Reeves or otherwise. Even Gene Simmons is included, and noted, as everyone else in the film as: Comic Book Fan. Almost every person who was on screen is noted at one point as that. It should go without saying.
We skim through some history of Superman during World War II, with explanations on why Superman didn't win the war by himself. The reasoning actually lends itself to the new DC universe more than people will be willing to admit.
Then we quickly return to Superman on screen. This time with Christopher Reeve. We spend the majority of the film discussing Superman's move to the silver screen and how it rapidly declined with each sequel. Skim over the failures of "Supergirl" and the "Superboy" TV show and we get the biggest downplay of the film.
No mention of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" during this film, but they do mention Superman's reinvention, however breifly. It is said that the new Superman's hulking stature is to mirror action stars like Arnold, which is used as a segue to get back to the screen.
"Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" is mentioned, as well as the marriage of the character's in the comic book. But before they get to that, they speak about the biggest DC event before "Infinite Crisis", the Death of Superman. Saying that it was a lesson to show how things could be without Superman, and how the real world reacted that way that the characters did in the DC universe.
That's the last we hear about the comic book hero until the recap at the end of the film. This is the part of the film that starts to feel like a commercial. "Smallville" and "Superman Returns" are covered. Sadly, not much outside of the recently released trailer is shown, except for a couple of shots.
Concepts with Tim Burton are discussed, but nothing about Nicolas Cage, Kevin Smith or any others who attempted to revive the franchise. Praise for Bryan Singer, who is co-producer of the doc, calling him "A sigh of relief for Superman fans" seems kind of pompus, but thankfully that's as far as it went.
However, it does seem they want this documentary to last, referring to "Superman Returns" in the past tense. "It was released on June 30th". In the end, the only downside is that the film-makers moved away from the comic books as quick as possible and harped on the screen renditions for much too long. The stock footage that would have never been seen otherwise, like the pilot for "Superpup", a universe of housepets as the cast of Superman, makes the focus on films more bareable and interesting. There are some facts that may suprise, such as Superman was originally a telepathic villain, and others that won't, but I do suggest watching this documentary as a Superman fan, or anyone interested in popular cutlure.
4 out of 5