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.
The Smallville season five DVD has a similar feel and quality to the previous four releases, with one notable exception. More STUFF. Just generally more stuff. It's got more and better deleted scenes, a documentary you really, really enjoy, the best since the Lois Lane one, and just generally, it's a great presentation. It's also a similar presentation to the other four, so it's nothing incredibly new, but it's probably my favorite so far.
Deleted Scenes - 4 of 5: The deleted scenes show some nice depth to character that was lacking, but it's not really anything that explains away a lot of the inconsistencies involved in the episodes. There's a scene with Arthur Curry and Lois breaking up that plays well. There are a few scenes from "Thirst" that don't alleviate the rubbish that was the episode, but a tender moment with Lex and Chloe is strong.
My favorite is probably the "Fanatic" set, which involves a Jonathan and Martha foreshadowing fight that's touching and well acted, and a scene where Lois staples over Lex's posters and Clark calls her on being unsportsmanlike. I just giggled at that.
There's a freaky burning scarecrow effigy Jonathan sees in "Fanatic" that's chilling. Another scene shows Clark listening, and then busts out with the RAIMI CAM! Good times there. The camera weaves through people and jumps a window to find a particular cell phone. I wish they hadn't cut it.
The much-requested scene where Clark lays his father on the altar and tries to bring him back, the one that was leaked onto the internet close to "Reckoning", is strong, but not as epic as it should have been. I had hoped for more. The reason they cut it was for redundancy, as I recall, but it's a good scene.
Lois has a scene with a new sheriff where he essentially flirts with her and discusses the fact that she finds a body, something that the show tends to often gloss over, all those bodies and break-ins and etcetera. Sadly, the scene falls flat and comes off as lechery. Good call deleting it.
The scenes from "Hypnotic" aren't much better. Just Simone and her pendant goofing around and showing how villainous her one-dimensional butt is.
There's a scene with Lionel making sandwiches in the Kent kitchen, where Clark catches him and they banter. Tense, but like the other scenes throughout the season, not so great when you realize the context of the scene.
There's a slew of Martha and Lois scenes that got cut from the episode where she thinks the gangster is a nice guy and falls for him. The heart is there, but given that it's out of character, they fall just as flat as the rest of the scenes in that episode in a similar vein do when you realize that firstly, Lois isn't irresponsible or stupid like that, they just MADE her that for this episode, and secondly, the whole scene with her saying that she has no fashion sense is about the most hokey thing to put on a show where all the clothes are designer and accentuated to show off just what Erica has. It does have this weird quality to it where the two gals are almost hitting on each other, I'll give it that.
There's a neat scene of Lex pulling out of a chrysalis of some kind talking to Fine, the one that was shown in the preview but never in the episode. It's neat, but also hilarious when you see Rosenbaum struggling and you expect a fart.
Vengeance Chronicles - 2 of 5: The Vengeance Chronicles are included. They were lame online, and they're lame here. Very cheesy, if a bit into the extended continuity. In a show with continuity like this one's, however, that's not incredibly appealing, especially when you know it won't carry into the show.
100th Episode - 5 of 5: The documentary on the 100th episode is great. A lot of the shooting stuff is standard fare, but the look into the sound, the editing, the stunts, and in particular the visual correction is intriguing even for a film geek, and almost makes the set. John Schneider's little soliloquy in the middle is enough to make you remember what made you start loving this show in the first place.
Another oddity, you see the people who actually LIVE in the Kent house. There are people living there. Crazy, huh?
Thirst - 5 of 5: The commentaries are not as cool as in the previous episodes, but there's a definite twist to these. One stinks, and the one that doesn't stink spends a long time riffing off why the episode in question stinks.
The Thirst commentary starts off with an apology from AlMiles for the episode, saying they know the episode flopped, and then they begin to explain why, because they hadn't done that on a set yet. Plus five for humility.
I'd say, however, that I can't accept the apology, because it doesn't get me my twelve hours back, but hey, it was fun to rip the episode apart. I appreciate the gesture, guys. It might be enough for those of you who just watched the dang thing.
They explain that the network pushed two themed holiday episodes on them last year. They explain that the budget makes it hard to fit certain things in, and that sacrifices had to be made, explaining that x-ray vision is expensive, but the hearing effect is cheap, which is why instead of looking with x-ray vision into the sorority bureau (a point I made in my review) Clark instead rifles through underwear like a letch.
My response? Neat to know, but then, why not rewrite and/or get more money? If the show is short-changed on cash, the alternative is to make a bad plot or improve the one you have instead of accepting such failures. All apologies, yes, and good, but where is the sense of "we tried to fix this and didn't" over, "Well, that stinks, we couldn't fix it in time, sorry. Working on Iron Man and all that." They didn't say the Iron Man part, but that's what I think when I hear that attitude about it.
They acknowledge that Brainiac was the best part of the episode, while the rest was sub-par, a point I tended to continue to make all season with B plots, which leads me to re-assert the conclusion I made in my reviews. They KNOW certain plots suck, but they run with them anyway, which can only be a product of greed, to me. They either want to make more episodes to make more money or to fill an obligation to the company (both of which involve artistic compromise) or they go into it with good intentions and, when things are stinking, don't pull the plug or rearrange. Say all you want for the delays of The Sopranos (or the like, All-Star Superman) I have more respect for something I have to wait for that rocks (even though that annoys me) than pulp that knows it is pulp and comes out on time.
But soapbox aside, the commentary is really pretty good. They mention (to my titter) that Kristin loved the episode. Oy.
They explain that there was a scene which explained why Lana was so amazing to the sorority girls. I'm glad it wasn't put in, because it would have had to span 450 minutes of screen time and involved completely ret-conning continuity, and I just don't have time for another eighteen disks.
They also reveal that the Lana lesbian kiss was with a double. LAME. I mean, not just because I like lesbian vampire kisses, but because as an actor, you should take those risks. I mean, would I kiss a dude if I were an actor? Probably out of respect. But that's one of the reasons I'm not an actor. I like hiding behind a keyboard. And girls! Zing!
They poke fun at the Lana and Clark relationship and the coughs and hiccups to its finale, but INSIST that it's over now. I buy that. You want some of my dehydrated water, guys? But if so, good.
There is a long attack/debate on why people have an issue with the freak of the week format, comparing Smallville to the format of other tv shows, and saying that without the freaks, the show would be boring, I mean, what's exciting about a kid in a small town?
My response is the same as it is in my reviews...EVERYTHING. This kid can crack the earth in two, spit fire from his eyes, hear things a mile away, and you think he needs one-dimensional villainy to be interesting? HAH!
It's what I call the House vs. Smallville plot dichotomy. In the show House, now my favorite show of all time (and a show which, if you question, I will find you with Hugh Laurie and beat you with a cane), House has the freak of the week formula, and it's just fine. Someone drops into a coma/pain/vomiting/malady and in the hospital, House tries to find out what it is, through Sherlock Holmes style detective work, forensics, and biting, horrible, awful evil sarcasm in incredible character work. You never really learn a stinking thing about any of the characters around him beyond the cursory because it's just such a great thing to watch this madman work and develop.
This works fine because the focus is NOT these patients. They are backdrops for watching House work.
In Smallville, every week someone becomes a freak and starts tangling with Clark. They focus on the freak and try to characterize them and get you to empathize with why they're villains, which only works with Lex. That time is wasted, and Clark is then relegated to the guy who can throw things around, instead of focusing on why or how he deals with the burden of who he is, like House does.
One is the wrong way to do a repeat plot, the other way is the right, and I assure you, Al and Miles, that no one would EVER care about the backdrop of the FOTW if you were properly characterizing, in a compelling way, Clark, Lex, Lana, and Chloe.
So that's why.
They note their messy continuity, and the Lex security again, and the distance from Metropolis to Smallville. On one hand, you har har, because it's fun to see people be self-deprecating, and it is a recurring failure to poke fun at. Until you realize they're laughing about something that pulls you out of the story. Something you'd bust @$$ on personally as an artist if you got the chance to create something like Smallville. Not naming any names, but me. Makes you a bit resentful.
All in all though, they're showmen, and the commentary is enlightening, crazy, and worthy of debate.
Splinter - 2 of 5: This commentary doesn't really offer up much of anything in the way of tidbits or trivia. It's just the creators essentially thanking everyone they worked with, tossing out props, and saying how great the show is, when there are obvious flaws.
As much as I'll pound Al and Miles for the failures, they're owning them in the last commentary.
This one is a bunch of self-congratulation... for instance, they say (seriously) that the Smallville trailers are the best on TV, and the one for "Splinter" is the best one ever.
The misleading, crappy Smallville trailers? You kidding me?
What's better, being delusional about perfection, or knowing there are flaws and not doing anything about it? Not sure, but this commentary is not really that great.
Overall - 4 of 5: Great transfer, decent extras, and a season that in retrospect is growing on me. I wasn't going to buy this set, but it wasn't because it looked like it sucked, but rather financial conditions. Steve asked if I wanted to do a review, and twist my arm, I got it, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. You can buy it cheap, and it's a great set, I'd go for it.
Heck, if you want to help support the Superman Homepage buy it HERE.
But all in all, wherever you get it, I think you'll enjoy this one. I'm pleased.
If you guys have reactions, or reactions to my reactions, feel free to shoot me a line about it, and I'll put it in the letter column of the first review if you put "okay to publish". I'm well aware that a lot of you guys wrote me last spring and I have yet to respond to personal letter about the whole Smallville reviews. I apologize for that. I got a poetry book deal that's killing me, and the credit situation of writing without pay is catching up with me, so I have to finish renovating my house before the credit guys break my legs... response is slow. So in other words, quick response will occur with a letter to the Smallville review, otherwise, thanks for your patience, and hope you liked the review!