DC Entertainment may be just getting their film universe off the ground running but one place they have shined now for 10 years is with their direct to video animated films. The first film was released in September 2007 and now 10 years later they are still going strong. They are now known as the DC Animated Universe with some of the films having a loosely shared continuity. The films range from original stories to adaptions of popular comic book story lines. They have been a huge success and well received by fans. Let's take a look back at the history of the DC Animated films so far and even pick our 3 favorite ones!
The very first DC Animated Film was released on September 18, 2007 and it was called Superman: Doomsday. From the beginning DC made it clear that these films would be a little more adult with the majority of them getting PG-13 ratings. That was evident in this loose adaption of The Death Of Superman story line from the comics in which Superman and Doomsday brutally battle it out to the death. It's tough to contain two years of a comic book story line into an 80-minute feature but for a kick off to a new series of animated films, Superman: Doomsday does a lot right. It establishes strong action sequences, fantastic animation, and that DC is taking these films seriously. It's not perfect but it was a good start to their DC Animated Films. They would continue with an adaption for their next film with Justice League: The New Frontier. Based on the graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke, the film is a retro style origin story of the Justice League and a vast improvement over Superman: Doomsday. It seems that just two films in they were beginning to find their footing and not surprising really as they had produced the excellent Batman and Justice League animated series just in the years before. Justice League: The new Frontier is still amongst the best entries in the DC Animated Universe to this day and if you haven't read the graphic novel make sure you do so as it is excellent as well.
Next up they would do their first original film and they chose their most popular character to do it with but the results are a mixed bag. Batman: Gotham Night was a tie in with the release of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. The idea was to have several short stories that took place in between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Each story was animated in different styles and in the end it just didn't work. A couple of the shorts had their moments but mostly it was just a confusing mess of an anthology and even Batman couldn't save it.
2009 saw the DC Animated Films produce two very good origin stories and an adaption that should have been left as a comic book story. Wonder Woman is one of the best of all the DC animated Films and this story does a fantastic job of telling her origins 8 years before we got to see her in live action. The film is loosely based on George Perez's "Gods and Monsters" story from the Wonder Woman books which is a good thing because it's one of the better Wonder Woman stories of the last several years. DC just re-released this on Blu-Ray this past summer which is a good thing because the original copies were out of print. The other origin film in 2009 was Green Lantern: First Flight. This is of course the origin of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern and while it may not be among the best of the DC Animated Films, it's still really solid and tells a great version of the Hal Jordan story and sets up Sinestro as a villain very well along with the Yellow Corps. Now if we can just get that rumored Sinestro Corps War animated film to happen one day! The 3rd film released that year was Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. This was taken directly from the comic book story of the same name and while not a bad film, it can actually be fun, it's just a way over the top story that doesn't translate completely well to animation. That's why it was a comic book story to begin with. But it's Batman and Superman with animation based on Ed McGuiness' art style so the film has it's fans.
In 2010 we would get a couple of decent entries and possibly one of the best of all of them. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths starts the year off with an adaption based on Grant Morrison's JLA: Earth 2. Of all the DC Animated Films this is one I seem to remember the least. I know Earth-2 was involved and the Crime Syndicate of that Earth battled the Justice League. Just not one of the more memorable entries in the animated universe one can suppose. Next up we had Batman: Under The Red Hood. This is one of the best of all of them and just may be in our top 3 at the end here. Based on the comic book story line, it improves the comic greatly and tells a fantastic story of Jason Todd returning from the grave and going after the Joker who put him there in the first place. Great animation, great voice work, and a solid story with fantastic action sequences make this film not just a great Batman film, but one of the best of the DC Animated Films. After it's release we got Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. Another solid entry in the animated releases this one is based on another comic book story line and sees Darkseid trying to make Supergirl into a Female Fury and of course Batman and Superman have to stop him. Once again top notch animation, action sequences, and voice work make this another top choice in the line of DC Animated Films. 2010 would also see the release of Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam which would feature a short with the two heroes as well as the other previously released shorts from other DVD releases. A fun release with some very cool short tales.
2011 would see three more films released in DC's Animated Universe. The most anticipated of these was Batman: Year One, an adaption of the classic comic book from Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli. While the story is scaled down to fit into a 75 minute animated adaption it does have it's moments including Bryan Cranston as the voice of Jim Gordon. If anything the film version brought attention to people who for some reason may have never read the classic retelling of Batman's origin and at least got the book int heir hands. The year would also see the anthology film Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. This film tells several short stories set in the Green Lantern universe and unlike Batman: Gotham Knight, this is actually very well done and a must watch for any Green Lantern fan. The other film released in 2011 was All Star Superman. Not a favorite among us at Trust Me I'm A Jedi but the film has it's fans. It's an adaption of the comic book story line in which Superman is dying and realizes he can't save himself. As a comic book the story works on many levels and even emotionally. It should have stayed a comic because as a movie it's just kind of a boring story to tell.
2012 would bring us Justice League: Doom which would also reunite much of the cast of the Justice League animated series, This may be a better film than a lot of people give it credit for. It's an exciting story and full of action and is loosely based on the popular "Tower Of Babel" story line from the comics. It features a plot in which Vandal Savage uses counter measures put into place to take down the Justice League if they ever became a "problem", counter measures which we later find out were placed there by Batman. This doesn't make the league to happy but at the end of the day they defeat Vandal Savage and all is good in the world. Definitely one of the more entertaining DC Animated films. The next film in 2012 was Superman Vs. The Elite. This might be the weirdest of the all the film's released as it's just not a typical Superman story but at the same time that may may be why this film is also kind of cool. Basically Superman battles a group of anti heroes called the Elite who just start killing all the villains. Superman then decides to put a stop to it by showing he could kill all of them if he wanted but he of course doesn't. It's just a bizarre over the top story that isn't the typical Superman story people may be accustom to but it isn't bad either, just different.
Later 2012 saw the first of the two part adaption of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Part 2 came out in early 2013 but it's essentially one movie. People groaned when they heard this was being adapted but it's a really good solid adaption which makes it difficult to really hate on it at all. Peter Weller does a fantastic job voicing Batman and the film adapts the comics almost perfectly with a few minor changes here and there. If every DC Animated adaption of source material could be as good as this we would be happy fans. This is how you adapt a story. In fact 2013's track record for DC Animated films continued to be pretty good after this. Superman: Unbound would adapt the Geoff John and Gary Frank's comic in which Superman meets Brainiac just before DC's The New 52. While the movie is loosely based on the source material, the movie itself is pretty entertaining with some great action sequences as Superman faces a formidable villain. After this we would get Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, one of, if not the best DC Animated film to date. It adapts the popular Flashpoint story as The Flash decides to change the past by saving his mother and basically screws up the timeline big time. This leads him and Thomas Wayne as Batman the ones to fix the timeline leading to "flashpoint" in which the DC Universe is reset and we get the world of The New 52.
2014 would kick off with Justice League: War. This was where the movies began to have a loose continuity between them except for special releases such as a direct adaption like Batman: The Killing Joke. The film introduces elements of The New 52 universe reflecting what was going on in the DC Comic book universe at the time. Justice League: War essentially adapts the first comic story arc from the new 52 and does a decent job of doing so. It would be followed up with Son Of Batman. Overall this is a solid Batman film and it introduces Damian Wayne as Robin into the animated universe. Deathstroke being part of the League Of Assassins doesn't really make sense and is a change from the comics in which this movie is based but maybe the film makers were just trying to use someone different than the usual Batman villains. Either way the film has some great action sequences even if the plot is a bit weaker than some Batman films. The final film of 2014 was the film that didn't tie into the new "Animated universe" but instead was loosely tied in with the Batman Arkham video game series.. Batman: Assault On Arkham is basically a Suicide Squad movie with Harley Quinn and the gang stealing something and a lot of action and mayhem occurs. The film is basically an action piece from beginning to end and one of the more violent entries in the DC Animated film world.
In 2015 we would get the same formula from the year before. A Justice League film, Batman film, and an original film. The first was Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis. Essentially this is as close as we may get to an Aquaman animated film as it adapts the first Aquaman story from the new 52 and combines it the the Justice League crossover of the same title as the film. The results are a pretty action packed kick ass film. One of the better entries int he series from the last couple of years and again pretty violent for an animated film. Great action sequences in this film as well. Next we got Batman Vs. Robin. A loose adaption of the "Court Of Owls" story from the comics and that is probably the film's biggest flaw. It tries to do way to much in a short time. The comics story was bigger than an 80-minute movie and while the film is still pretty good, it just tries to do to much. The next film in 2015 was an original story called Justice League: Gods And Monsters. this is kind of like an Elseworlds story in a sense as it features an alternate take on the Justice League and the results are actually really good. It's not your typical Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc but it's a solid story and good fun.
2016 was a tough year for DC Films it would seem. Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice would open up to mixed reviews and the state of the live action DC Film universe was in trouble it would seem. Lucky for them the animated universe was going strong or was it. This year was a bit weaker for the series all though it started out strong with Batman: Bad Blood. Mostly an original story but very loosely based on a Batman Inc. story line where Bruce Wayne is presumed dead and Dick Grayson dons the cape and cowl. We get appearances from Batwoman, Batwing, and some great scenes between Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. Overall this is a solid Batman film and the best of the three releases in 2016. The next film was Justice League Vs. Teen Titans and while not terrible it is simply a forgettable entry in the DC Animated movies. There's a weird musical interlude int eh film and it just all seems forced to introduce the Teen Titans into the animated universe. Not great but not the worst either. The lat film released in 2016 was the highly anticipated Batman: The Killing Joke. The film caused controversy by adding a prologue to the film in which it attempts to expand the relationship of Batman and Batgirl so that when the Joker traumatizes her, you feel it more. The problem with the prologue is that it simply wasn't needed. After it's done though we get a straight forward adaption of the comic book story line with great vice performances from Mark Hamil as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. The film has divided Batman fans but this writer actually liked the film version so to each their own.
2017 has been a good year for DC Animated films by starting out strong with Justice League Dark. We get a really cool story where Batman teams up with Constantine and other dark characters from the DC Universe as they band together to save the world from Dr. Destiny. The film is really well done and a lot of fun and not just because it's different than the previous array of Justice League and Batman films, it's just really good. Next up we got Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Funny that this movie was suppose to have been made much sooner in the DC Animated Universe world back in 2008 but it never happened. This is much stronger Teen Titans movie than Justice League Vs. Teen Titans and due to better writing, strong action sequences, and a great story to adapt to screen even if loosely. A solid outing and we can hope their are more Teen Titans films in the future. Lastly this year we got an original story titled Batman & Harley Quinn. Everyone was excited for this one since it came from Paul Dini but most felt it was a big disappointment. It's somewhere in the middle for us as it could have been a lot better but also a lot worse.
The DC Universe Animated films have made it 10 years strong and look to continue. The next three have been announced with the first being an animated adaption of the classic 1989 graphic novel Batman: Gotham By Gaslight in which the Victorian era Batman goes after Jack the Ripper. This will be followed up with Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay and then a two-part adaption of The Death Of Superman. This will directly adapt the classic comic book story in which the Man Of Steel dies and then returns. The second chapter will be Reign Of The Supermen detailing the story in which four Supermen take the Man Of Steel's place before Kal-El returns as his rightful place as the Superman. From there we don't know what animated adaptions may come our way next. An adaption of Superman: Birthright? Maybe Batman: Hush? What about Green Lantern: Blackest Night? Whichever they are we will continue to enjoy these animated tales just as much as we have over the last ten years. Also if you are curious this is our Top 3 favorite DC Animated films:
1) Batman: Under The Red Hood
2) Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox
3) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns