DC Universe finally brings Captain Marvel into its animation fold with The Return of Black Adam, albeit in an extended short that pairs him with Superman against the eponymous super-villain, and bolsters the whole thing with … see full wiki
Fact: Captain Marvel in Whiz Comics used to outsell Superman in Action Comics back in the golden age of comics until DC (known as National comics publications then) sued the company (Fawcett Publications) for infringement. This lawsuit was a sham. Fact: DC Comics used to publish “DC Showcase” in the 70’s. Opinion: Bruce Timm and company is about to do another money-grab for a less than stellar dvd release. Statement: It is amazing that the supporting 12-15 minute shorts prove a lot better than the main attraction.
“Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam” is a direct-to dvd short film (24 minutes) that is released along with three animated shorts (previously released in other dvds): Green Arrow, The Spectre and Jonah Hex. In the main attraction, Billy Batson is an orphaned teen trying to keep his nose clean and his butt out of trouble while he tries to make ends meet. Sometimes, Billy gets a helping hand from Clark Kent (George Newbern), who, unknown to young Billy is also “Superman”. Now, a mysterious powerful figure called Black Adam (Arnold Vosloo) is after young Billy, this villainous man has powers that rival that of the man of steel. During the ensuing struggle, Billy is transported to the chamber where the wizard Shazam (James Garner) resides. Shazam magically grants Billy the power of the gods and the power to stop Black Adam…the battle is about to be joined!
I suppose It would be wise to be blunt, “Superman/Shazam” wasn’t horrible but it was certainly better suited maybe as an episode in a series or as a short trailer. I know what you’re saying, the film was intended to be short but hey the other re-released supposed ‘extended’ short films such as Green Arrow, Jonah Hex and most notably “The Spectre” had more depth and personality even though they were about 12-15 minutes shorter. With the “Return of Black Adam”, I felt like I was watching an insignificant episode in the cartoon network; it even strayed from the origins of the characters in the comic books, and what made it worst the direction and script had no creative ways to portray the powers of Shazam and Supes. They all felt redundant and unimpressive. But hey, this is a short right?
The film also telegraphs all its punches and you know exactly how things are going to turn up. Batson and his heart of gold and courage, the untrained kid with enormous power, and the theme of “power corrupts absolutely” is rampant throughout the movie. The short film is pretty generic as well as the clichés when one does these super-hero fights. There’s the broken properties and the endangered human, other staplings such as the Adam crushing a water dam to show how despicably vile he is felt so cheap. I didn’t feel one iota of excitement when they engaged Black Adam in combat. I knew who was going to win, it was just a matter of time. The animation was good, this collection was rendered by Korean anime artists and it shows in their style. The blacks are solid and the action bone-breaking; it was pretty fluid and smooth actually, and it can prove to be quite entertaining in a visual point of view. It was curious that the rendition of Supes looked like Brandon Routh in some ways. The voice acting was a mixed bag. I did feel that some parts felt a little too mechanical, but perhaps it was merely due to the lack of depth in its dialogue.
Maybe I’ve just seen so many of these short movies, and honestly, an episode of “Ben 10” or even the much debated “Adventures of Superman” had more character than this one. Bruce Timm just wanted to cash in I suppose. “Return of Black Adam” scores a weak “Rental“ rating.
Jonah Hex is the same short (but somewhat extended from “Under the Red Hood”). The short has all the personality of a spaghetti western with some horror elements. The Vertigo comic line of this titular character is darker and more brutal, but I think this was an intended promo for the Jonah Hex live action movie at the time of its first release.
“Green Arrow” is tough, gritty and has a heart; it clocks in under 13 minutes. Oliver Queen in combat with his old nemesis Merlyn to save a young queen. There is no cheesy glove or eight ball arrow in this short; it is pretty straight-forward in what it wanted to do. I liked the action though it was pretty generic. One thing it did right, it made me root for the hero since Neal McDonough was charming as Oliver Queen.
“The Spectre” is the best out of the four short films. It exudes that pure 70’s grind house atmosphere and may well be a tribute to the 70’s horror movies we’ve grown to love. It is a tale of an angry vengeful ghost and so it is about a wrathful angry ghost; it has a considerable body count. I loved the way the Spectre dispatches the baddies, they were all clever and a homage to classic horror films. It sure helps when the show’s film had that grainy, scratched out look.
Though Jonah Hex, The Spectre (especially!) and Green Arrow were the main reasons why I didn’t hate this release, I guess if I was a kid (and not the comic book fanatic I am now), I may learn to appreciate “The Return of Black Adam”. This was a short that would’ve benefited if it was longer with better direction and fleshed out story, but Timm and company opted for a quick money grab. I bet in a few months, there will be extended version of “Return of Black Adam”….yeah, complete with new shorts. Let's hope next time that the main attractions would be better than the supporting undercard.