Advance Movie Review: DC Showcase: The Spectre

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Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on February 23, 2010.  Included on the disc is a bonus animated short featuring The Spectre, that kicks off a brand new series of shorts from DC. How well does it work?

Here’s a hint: we’re reviewing it before the feature film.

The Spectre
Executive Producers: Sam Register, Bruce Timm
Producer: Bobbie Page
Co-Producer: Alan Burnett
Casting and Voice Direction: Jamie Thomason
Writer: Steve Niles
Producer and Director: Joaquim Dos Santos

Even though we receive a lot of publicity information about Warner Home Video’s releases, I had little information about the core story going on in this feature. When it opened with a ‘70s action film soundtrack (think the first Dirty Harry film) I immediately took notice.  No, it’s not some gimmick, the story is indeed set during the time period, and the creators went the extra step to make the animated film look like a product of the time, including a scratchy film effect applied to the top of the entire film.

But it isn’t just music and effects, everything about the film reminds one of the by-gone days of film making, and includes the cheesy zoom to reveal a bomb, and the shots and angles typically found in films of the era.  From the cinematic standpoint The Spectre knocks this film right out of the ballpark from frame one.

Rating: ★★★★★

And the mood continues in the story telling as the viewer is presented the mystery of the death of a famous movie producer, and the detective who does things his own way in order to solve the crime.  As one might expect, Jim Corrigan gets involved, and before too long, the suspects start dropping like flies.  We all know the Spectre and how the Spirit of Vengeance exacts justice appropriate for the person who committed the crime.  In the case of this story, viewers see three moments, each more interesting than the next.

DC makes a point in making this movie a PG-13 one, as there is a lot of violence that pushes the limit of being bumped to an R rating.  That being said, the violence in the movie is appropriate and not graphic for graphic sake.  It’s not something for the kids, but if you are a horror genre fan, you’ll like this story.
The pacing works really well, but if I had one gripe it would be in how the first two suspects are brought to justice.  I would much rather have preferred a bit more build up for two of the criminals so we could learn what motivated them a bit more.

Rating: ★★★★½

Gary Cole plays Jim Corrigan, and nails the character in a way that I had never thought about while reading the comics.  He’s the best bits of Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and James Garner.  His voiceover propels the story, and when he switches between Jim and the Spectre there’s a definite change in his acting.

The other actors also bring their A-Game to the film including Alyssa Milano as the daughter of the murdered producer, and Jon Plito as the stereotypical police captain who’s always angered by the words coming out of Corrigan’s mouth.  Because this is a backup short, I have a feeling many might miss these performances, because they are exceptionally done.

Rating: ★★★★★

From the animation standpoint, I can see the Anime influence throughout the piece.  It isn’t overbearing like some of the segments from the Batman: Gotham Knight animated movie, but it’s there just enough to make you notice.  And a quick scan of the credits will back up the influence.  Still, the animation is stunning, the colors and character designs are exceptional, and if you like good girl art, you’ll really notice it in the way the animators created Alyssa Milano’s character, Aimee Brenner.

Rating: ★★★★½

If you are going to pick up Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths when it arrives, then you owe it to yourself to sit down and watch The Spectre bonus movie.  While I have really liked most of the direct to DVD movies Warner Home Video has published these last couple of years, it’s The Spectre piece that will stick in my memory the longest.  It’s too bad that this is just a short, because I would really liked to have seen what would happen with a feature length Spectre story.  Even though there are already a series of other DC Showcase shorts in production, I hope we get to see another tale of The Spectre very soon.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★