Review: “DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games” and “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” Season 3 Blu-ray
The DC Super Hero Girls franchise is something that I wish wasn’t necessary while also recognizing that there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of customizing for an audience. There’s lots and lots of ways to be a superhero, and the perspective given by DC Super Hero Girls is as valid as any other. The latest DVD, DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games, pushes the heroes of Super Hero High to a bigger plot that unfortunately tends to get in its own way more often than it really should.
DC Super Hero Girls centers on the life at Super Hero High, where DC Comics superheroes (and more than a few supervillains, since women are thin in the roster at both big American superhero comic book companies) are learning the ropes of the trade while also learning the three “R”s. The title event of Intergalactic Games is an inter-school championship between Super Hero High and Korugar Academy, but the games themselves are little more than a framework the movie’s multiple sub-plots. Wonder Woman is organizing the games and trying to impress the arrogant Ambassador Bek so she can score a spot in a diplomatic conference. Starfire is trying to impress her estranged sister Blackfire, who is competing for Korugar Academy. The nasty Granny Goodness is up to no good by infiltrating her Female Furies into the games to steal something from Super Hero High, while also trying to lure back her star-pupil-turned-hero Big Barda. And Super Hero High’s new IT support person Lena Thurol sure seems to have something extra-curricular going on, too…
All these plots bounce off each other noisily until the big climactic finish, where every hero gets their little moment to shine, some characters are redeemed while others are proven to be as unworthy as they first appeared, and everything gets tied up in a nice candy-colored bow. None of this is bad, per se, but I think there’s just a little bit too much of it that feels repetitive or redundant. There’s also just a little bit too much plot for this 76-minute movie to contain comfortably, with the big third-act twist ending up as only a pre-cursor for a FOURTH-act twist that introduces yet another character and another sub-plot that ends up resolved almost as fast as it comes up. The jam-packed plot also means that nearly everyone in Super Hero High doesn’t get much more than a generic, nice personality. Other than the powers and outfits, all these girls are pretty much interchangeable, which compares very unfavorably to something like the six main characters of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic or even DC’s earlier Super Best Friends Forever (both of which I cannot fail to note came from the mind of Lauren Faust, who has joined up with DC Super Hero Girls for its upcoming season). The only characters who are more than generic-nice are Starfire (where Hynden Walch does her usual job of being innocent but not naive and sweet but not saccharine) and supporting character Harley Quinn (who is an uninhibited goofball, serving as a newscaster/Greek chorus alongside Beast Boy).
I suspect some of these problems really come from stretching the Super Hero Girls to feature-length, since the 7 shorts that come with the DVD are much more successful in distinguishing the Super Hero Girls from each other. The shorter run time of each also means that the stories must be much more focused. There’s simple, silly fun (“Batgirl vs. Supergirl” and “Dude, Where’s My Invisible Jet?”), alongside interesting balances of high-school life and superheroics (“Doubles Trouble”), and even some interesting examinations on what it means to be the odd-one out (“Quinn-tessential Harley” and “Franken-Ivy”). If you’ve got kids who are already fans of this franchise, they’ll find a lot to like here; I suspect it might even make a decent introduction to the series, although I’d suggest running the shorts first before the feature.
The note above that there’s lots of ways to be a superhero got its best demonstration in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which ought to win some kind of award for being able to encompass so many different aspects of Batman in the same show. The release of the third season on Blu-ray via the Warner Archive is a perfect excuse to catch-up and reminisce a little bit about this thoroughly enjoyable show, even if its swan song doesn’t often present the best that the series was capable of.
This new Blu-ray set collects the last 13 episodes of the series. The show always mined great variety out of the premise of “Batman teams up with another superhero,” but these last episodes push the boundaries even further afield. Admittedly, some of the experiments don’t quite work as well one might hope; even though it would seem like a no-brainer, the Justice League International episodes of Brave and the Bold never quite worked for me, and “Scorn of the Star Sapphire!” (guest starring Green Lantern and the title super-villain) is surprisingly conventional. “Joker: The Vile and the Villainous!” attempts to reverse the formula, centering on the Joker instead of Batman, but despite a guest appearance by Tim Conway, the episode never really quite clicks the way it should in theory.
However, there are more than enough episodes on this disc that hold up well next to the best that the series had to offer. “Battle of the Superheroes!” brings in Superman and happily plays around with multiple Superman and Batman tropes, mixing and matching them with abandon and neatly pulling off the grand trick of making all of it work together. “Sword of the Atom!” is a nice little tribute to the Atom comic book story arc of the same name, while also giving a firmer establishment to the latest Atom Ryan Choi. “Four Star Spectacular!” goes smaller, featuring four shorter stories where Batman is decidedly second fiddle to players like Adam Strange, the Flash, and even ‘Mazing Man (and one wonders if the teaser to “Bold Beginnings!” where Batman teams with the classic Space Ghost and his teenaged sidekicks might fit better in this episode than the one it’s in). Finally, the series finale “Mitefall!” is a classic case of the show eating its cake and having it too, fooling around with the meta-fiction that Brave and the Bold is just a TV show, while allowing all the cast members to treat the ridiculous scenario with deadly seriousness right before a genuine wrap-up and farewell to its audience.
As with the prior two season sets, the Batman: The Brave and the Bold season 3 Blu-ray doesn’t include any special features beyond the episodes themselves in high-definition. To be sure, that by itself is plenty. Batman: The Brave and the Bold remains one of the top Batman TV series of the modern era, and it’s a real blast to revisit it again on Blu-ray.