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Comics Television

Young Justice Phantoms: “Involuntary” Review

Young Justice Season 4 continues as the drama on Mars heats up, literally and figuratively, and there’s one hell of a shocking conclusion that Dan and Ethan are still trying to come to terms with. So let’s dig in, but first, some non-spoiler thoughts.

Ethan: We’re back and wow, this season of Young Justice is off to a hell of a start huh? We’re only 4 episodes in but even with just that we’ve had some of the best character work the show has ever delivered. I’m excited to dig into this episode, especially the final few minutes. Dan, what did you think of this week’s episode?

Dan: Another week of world-building on Mars!!! I really love how they are fleshing out this story, its characters, and world. I love seeing the growth of all of these characters we have known for so long as well!

If you haven’t watched this episode yet, stop here before you hit the spoilers!

Detective Comics Comics TV

Dan: Young Justice is constantly pulling from its own history in storylines and character elements. Everything feels connected without many threads trailing off to nowhere. It feels like every arc we have seen in previous seasons has been building to something. Different elements are continuously introduced but older ones are not forgotten. For example, the attack in this episode was brought to you in part by Apoklips for M’comm’s role in things that happened on New Genesis in the previous season. 

The show has been building its own unique version of the DC universe and making it completely its own. It’s so interesting to see it on such a large scale. We had some elements of it in Justice League Unlimited but this feels like the evolution of that with a lot more going on thematically. Characters grow and change like they do in the comics. It all keeps me very connected to it. What’re your thoughts on it as compared to DC Comics?

Ethan: The evolution of Justice League Unlimited is the perfect way of describing this, and something I’ve long thought to be true since YJ’s original run. Getting to see everything play out and build on itself is a delight. The fact that we can trace back a lot of what we see in Martian society this episode to Season 1 is wild. Even wilder is that it’s consistent. There aren’t glaring continuity issues like you may see in the actual comics. This is definitely a positive to having a guiding voice, in this case, Greg Wiseman, be at the forefront throughout the show’s run.

Can we talk about Apokoliptian Tech for a Moment?

Dan: There is a major weapon in the episode that is derived from Apokiliptian Tech. I feel like there are so many stories about Apokoliptian tech in comics and especially DC Cartoons. It’s a phrase that is just stuck in my head and I want to paint you a mental picture. Darkseid, ol’ fire and brimstone, spends most of his time standing on his balcony above the fire stacks just being ominous right? Now, the suggestion that Apok Tech is super-advanced insinuates that there is an Apokolips silicon valley. There are Apokiliptian tech bros out there setting up start-ups on that hell planet. Their offices, much like Earth’s tech start-up scene, are full of pompous sociopathic leaders who offer “benefits” in lieu of proper pay and the promises of a “positive company culture” that is as toxic as one of Granny Goodness’s training seminars.

Ethan: Umm, you good Dan? That was an odd tangent to go on. I can’t believe you photoshopped something based on a start-up joke you came up with in the moment. Anyway, Apokiliptian Tech? Very cool, hoping we get some *PING*’s from the Mother Boxes soon. That would be dope.

Chasing Shadows

Ethan: So… Did not see that coming. While the various castes of Martian society gather to celebrate Prince J’emm J’axx’s birthday, Conner, M’gann, and Gar continue their investigation into the King’s murder. They discover that the Sorceress-Priestess S’yraa S’mitt (who was to officiate Conner and M’gann’s wedding) is responsible. With her now arrested, the celebrations continue, until Conner, thanks to his super-hearing, picks up something happening below the auditorium the crowds are gathered at.

And this is where the shock of the episode is delivered. Being planted beneath the celebration by a still unknown person is the Apokiliptian bomb designed to kill the Red and Green Martians that was given to M’comm by DeSaad. With no way to disarm it, Conner instead breaks through to the lava flowing below the auditorium, where he safely burns away the virus within the bomb. But, also within were trace samples of Kryptonite, and Conner falls into the lava. M’gann can’t pick up his psychic trace. It seems as if Superboy is dead.

Now, first off, I can’t say for definite I believe that Conner is dead. Young Justice is a show built on twists and turns, so there’s a chance he’ll be back somehow. Maybe this is all a ruse, maybe he’ll be magically resurrected (perhaps with a mullet?), maybe the Legion members who have been trying to avert some tragedy will save him. I don’t know, but what I do know is that in the moment, seeing M’gann’s reaction, it hurts. If this is for definite, the rest of the season is gonna have a hole in its center as one of its best characters is no more.

What were your thoughts on this shocking conclusion, Dan?

Dan: Well after I went into detail about how much I love this relationship, my thoughts are really just a lot of screaming. I cannot believe what happened and was just taken aback. I do love that Young Justice never throws its punches lightly. Wally died early on in the show and has not been brought back, so clearly, the creative team doesn’t play games.

What was even more interesting is that when Superman came to help, he was weakened because there was kryptonite in the air. It’s clear that Apokolips is looking to help take as many players off the map as possible to clear the way for whatever they are planning. 

Let the Credits Roll

In which Dan and Ethan discuss the small character moments that play over the end credits.

Dan: I need to be alone right now.

Ethan: PAAAAAIIIIIIIINNNNNN.

Categories
Television

Star Trek: Prodigy Gives a Spectacular Entry Point for New Fans

Growing up, I was an angry young man. I can admit that now as my entire worldview has changed. Star Trek was always a series I couldn’t be bothered with in the slightest because it was Star Wars or nothing. That is until I had the series gate crashed on my own podcast. Now, I am proud to call myself a Trekkie. I think a huge component of my inability to get into a Trek show was that there was never one aimed at younger audiences. They always felt boring as a kid and that cemented the view in my young mind. That has changed now as Star Trek: Prodigy is the ultimate gateway into the Star Trek universe for young viewers! Star Trek: Prodigy has a crew of outsiders and off-beat weirdos trying to find their place in the universe which instantly captured my heart. 

Star Trek: Prodigy was developed by the Emmy Award winners Kevin and Dan Hageman who worked on one of my favorite shows, Trollhunters. This is the first Star Trek show aimed at younger audiences and the crew reflects that as we follow 6 young alien outcasts as they journey through the galaxy. Another fun twist on the Star Trek formula that Prodigy brings is that they know NOTHING about their ship. The only other show even close to having a crew being so unfamiliar with their main base of operations is Deep Space Nine.

Pictured: Brett Gray as Dal of the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Prodigy. Photo Cr: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ ©2021, All Rights Reserved.

The one-hour premiere “Lost and Found” follows Dal as he tries to escape imprisonment and meets the people who will end up becoming his crew. Each character is completely unique with their own wants, needs, and fears. For me, what made me love the entire crew was that they were all weirdos. There was no typical “Captain” character with Dal just making things up as he goes along. The closest thing they have to guidance is Captain Janeway, with Kate Mulgrew reprising her role. This inclusion will be a plus for older fans of the show who can now enjoy Trek with their children.

Pictured: Brett Gray as Dal of the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Prodigy. Photo Cr: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ ©2021, All Rights Reserved.

With the show being CGI rather than live-action, they are able to pull off some much larger scale actions scenes along with a much heavier emphasis on aliens. Having a full cast of aliens in a live-action show would be a nightmare for the cast but in animation, it soars. The look of the show is unique amongst other Star Trek shows and it really makes the experience of the show that much stronger.

While the show is meant for younger audiences, I had a blast watching it as a new fan of Trek because it feels like I have my own crew now. Characters who I can watch develop, change, and grow over time as I have done since letting Star Trek into my heart. I have the highest hopes that this show is going to fill hearts with wonder, hope, and a sense of discovery.

Pictured: Rylee Alazraqui as Rok-Tahk of the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Prodigy. Photo Cr: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ ©2021, All Rights Reserved.

One final note, Rok-Tahk is the most wonderful thing that has been created for Star Trek since Quark.

Categories
Film

Reagan’s Recs: Animation (May 2021)

Beyond the heavy hitters of Pixar and Disney lies a diverse world of animation that oftentimes remains unexplored by the general public. Movies like Perfect Blue, one of Satoshi Kon’s masterpieces, can become massive influences to Hollywood films (Black Swan being an example in the case of Perfect Blue), and go unseen by so many. So, in an effort to introduce some of my favourite animated movies to more people and to just get a chance to talk more about some well-known movies that I love, I’ve chosen to make this month’s theme Animation, and I’ve made the deliberate choice to include movies from multiple countries and time-periods. 

Sidenote: I am not trying to say that these are lesser-known movies. They aren’t and that is perfectly fine. I’m just telling you all to watch them. 

The Last Unicorn (1982), dir. Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass, United States

Based on Peter S. Beagle’s novel of the same name and directed by Rankin and Bass with a screenplay by Beagle, The Last Unicorn is the story of the titular last unicorn as she attempts to discover where the rest of her kind has gone. 

The Last Unicorn was animated by Topcraft, a now-defunct Japanese animation studio that would eventually become Studio Ghibli and it shows. The backgrounds are gorgeous and vibrant and aside from Eyvind Earle’s work on Sleeping Beauty (1959), are my favourite backgrounds in any movie. Interestingly enough, the unicorn tapestries that the opening credits of The Last Unicorn take their inspiration from were also a massive influence on Sleeping Beauty (a little bit more on that movie later). I’m so glad that Topcraft’s work continued even after it ceased existence. 

Aside from the animation, The Last Unicorn’s soundtrack is great and if you somehow haven’t heard the title song yet please listen to it with the understanding that I spent many a day yelling it at the top of my lungs as a child no doubt causing quite a few headaches for my parents. 

I was a unicorn kid growing up and I still adore this movie. To be perfectly honest, I still love unicorns, they’re great. 

Destino (2003), dir. Dominique Monféry, France

Destino began its life in 1945 as a collaboration between Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney. However, due to Walt Disney Studios’ financial troubles in the years surrounding the Second World War, it would not be completed until 2003. After being storyboarded for eight months by Dalí and John Hench, a short animation test was made in the hopes that interest in the project could be rekindled. Instead, it was put on indefinite hiatus. 

It wasn’t until 1999 when Roy E. Disney discovered the project while working on Fantasia 2000 that Destino would get a second chance. Walt Disney Studios Paris would be tasked with completing the project. After deciphering Dalí and Hench’s storyboards, the team of 25 animators led by director Dominique Monféry brought the ill-fated love story of Chronos and a mortal woman named Dahlia to life using a mixture of traditional animation (including Hench’s original animation test) and computer animation. 

Destino is a one-of-a-kind short film that very nearly didn’t exist, it’s one of those rare pieces of media that has a backstory as interesting as the actual plot and very specially in the case of this short film, the imagery. Dalí’s work and influence are plain to see in this. After all, it even has a melting clock. 

Princess Mononoke (1997), dir. Hayao Miyazaki, Japan

Princess Mononoke is one of Miyazaki’s many masterpieces. A nuanced story that explores environmental themes through a story about nature spirits, Princess Mononoke is a must-see. It has the gorgeous art you would expect from a Studio Ghibli movie and more than delivers on the heart aspect. 

The first time I saw Princess Mononoke, all I could do was marvel at the fact that someone was able to just come up with that story. It was (and continues to be) astounding to me that someone had the vision for this movie floating around in their head and was able to bring it from a kernel of an idea to a fully formed plot. Of all of his films, Princess Mononoke is easily Miyazaki’s masterpiece. It’s nuanced and gorgeous and it’s in my favourites on Letterboxd for a reason. 

Also, it features Gillian Anderson as a wolf which is far more than can be said for most other movies. 

Song of the Sea (2014), dir. Tomm Moore, Ireland

Song of the Sea is the equally gorgeous follow up to The Secret of Kells (2009), the first film in director Tomm Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy” which concluded with 2020’s Wolfwalkers.

The film follows Ben, a ten-year-old boy who discovers that his sister Saoirse is a selkie (a mythological being who can change from human to seal by shedding her skin), just like their mother was. Ben is antagonistic to his sister Saorsie, something that is clearly a part of the grief he feels at the loss of his mother, which he feels his younger sister played a part in. At the same time, Ben and Saorsie’s father is grieving the loss of his wife in a way that prevents him from taking proper care of his children, leading their grandmother to take them away to live with her in the city. 

Song of the Sea is a story about grief and how different people process it. Ben aims his anger at his sister, his father Conor shuts down, and the villain Macha decides that perhaps emotions aren’t worth it when they hurt so much. It’s always lovely to see animation tackle complicated themes, and it’s even nicer when those themes are not frequently explored in a realm of filmmaking usually reserved for children’s films. Tomm Moore is a masterful storyteller for being able to fit so much magic and heartfelt emotion into his works and I am so excited to see what he does next. 

Sleeping Beauty (1959), dir. Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, Clyde Geromini, and Les Clark, United States 

When I started this I told myself I would stay away from Disney and yet here I am with two entries by Disney. How the mighty have fallen. 

Sleeping Beauty deserves to be on this list if only because of how gorgeous the art is. Drawing on both medieval art and art deco, Sleeping Beauty is both beautiful and distinctive. Eyvind Earle’s backgrounds are some of my favourite work in any animated film ever and continue to be massively influential (see: The Answer, an episode of Steven Universe). One look and it isn’t hard to see why I love the art as much as I do. 

As well, the music which is heavily based on Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty is phenomenal. George Bruns (One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone) does an incredible job of blending Tchaikovsky’s work with his own and the end result is nothing short of amazing. 

Also, Skumps slaps. 

The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021), dir. Michael Rianda, United States

Look. I know this is a new movie and is also super well-known. Odds are that you’ve seen this one by now which is totally fine, if that is the case then feel free to skip this section and focus on the previous five recommendations.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines was not going to be part of this until almost the last minute but after seeing it last week, I knew I just had to talk about it. I get affected by movies in many ways and this one affected me deeply and made me so happy that kids who are like I was; a bizarre film nerd who’s just discovering her identity as a queer person, will have this movie as they grow up. When I first noticed the writing on Katie’s hands I broke out into a grin because I still almost constantly have notes written on my hand in various colours of ink. Katie is the kind of character that I would never have let go of as a kid.

Beyond Katie, this movie is so heartfelt as it shows us a messy family and the fraught relationship between a father and a daughter who’s on the cusp of adulthood in ways that I’ve never really seen in an animated movie, and to think it does all of this with a robot apocalypse happening. 

Mitchells vs The Machines is just another bit of proof that Sony Animation knows what they’re doing and that Hollywood animation is able to rise to the occasion and deliver some real gems. Please, if you haven’t already taken the time to watch it, do so. 


I’ll be back next month with more recs, but in case you missed the last column, check it out here.