Amphibia: One of Gravity Falls’ Proud Progeny – Disney+ Review

Disney is getting some real talent on their shows.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

Anne Boonchuy (Brenda Song) and her best friends Sasha Waybright (Anna Akana) and Marcy Wu (Haley Tju) steal a music box from an antique store. When they open it, they are sucked through and end up in the land of Amphibia, a world populated by sentient frogs, toads, and newts. Separated from the others, Anne meets the Plantar family, a trio of frog farmers living in the small town of Wartwood: Anne’s best friend and partner-in-crime Sprig (Justin Felbinger), Sprig’s pollywog sister Polly (Amanda Leighton), and their grandfather Hopediah AKA “Hop Pop.” Anne, who is perceived as a freak by the population, eventually grows to be liked by the people of Wartwood, only for it to be revealed that Sasha has become the chief lieutenant of Captain Grime (Troy Baker), the vicious head of Toad Tower that controls the region of Amphibia that includes Wartwood. After Anne and Sasha fight and the tower is destroyed, they end up separated again. Now, the Plantars and Anne set off for the capital, Newtopia, to find something that may help Anne get back home… and maybe to find Marcy.

Renewed for Season 3.

END SUMMARY

I have made at least a dozen statements on this blog about my absolute love of Gravity Falls. I think that, in many ways, it’s one of the most impressive shows ever made, managing to make a kid-friendly version of Twin Peaks while also creating some of the most memorable characters and most powerful scenes of emotion you can get in an animated show. One of the episodes even was added to my 100 Best Episodes of Television and I genuinely considered adding another. The creator of this show, Matt Braly, was not only a director of 8 episodes of Gravity Falls, but was the Key Animator of “Not What He Seems,” the episode that I consider the peak of that show. Whatever experience he got on Gravity Falls clearly helped shape this show, because Amphibia manages to push many of the same boundaries of television that Gravity Falls did while also delivering the kind of show that can be loved and enjoyed by people of any age. It’s a show that families can watch together, something that I think we really need more of. Along with The Owl House and The Mitchells vs. The Machines, there’s a whole generation of great talent making animated shows.

Show knows how to design a city.

Part of what makes this show successful is that the characters are all likably flawed. Anne has more issues than almost any protagonist you could have on a kids show, but she does always keep trying to do the right thing. More than that, she learns from her mistakes and, while she ends up making more, there’s never a doubt that she’ll get better. She has very different relationships with all three of the Plantars: She’s Sprig’s emotional confidant and closest friend, she’s Polly’s source of both femininity and also athleticism, and she’s both Hop Pop’s surrogate daughter and, occasionally, the one who bonds with him over the childish behavior of the younger Plantars. All of the relationships feel natural and they keep the show fresh because there’s always more to mine as the characters grow. 

It also has TROGDOR!! The Burninator.

The setting of the show manages to be completely alien and yet familiar. Everything in Amphibia is just a bit off from Earth, but you can still find common ground with it. That particularly applies to the citizens of Wartwood, which include the corrupt politician Mayor (Stephen Root), his well-named yes-man Toadie (Jack McBrayer), and local weirdo Wally (James Patrick Stuart). The technology is a bit irregular, with most of society being at Feudalism, but other aspects being in the 1930s or even 50s. The old-timey society makes it more understandable when there are monsters or cannibals (seriously) or other crazy things populating the area. I think they honestly get away with some of these horror figures only because most of the characters are frogs and therefore less “real.”

There’s a lot of diversity among amphibians.

Overall, the show just really gets a lot of stuff right. I really recommend it, particularly if you liked Gravity Falls (which does get a tribute episode).

Stan Ponds. Perfect.

****SPOILERS FOR SEASON 2 FINALE****

So, you may have seen this show trending a month or so ago. That’s because Disney ended up cancelling the finale of Season 2 shortly before it aired. So shortly, in fact, that the episode ended up being available on iTunes for a few hours before it could be pulled. Fans, as well as the creators and their fellow people in the animated series industry, rioted, because this was done without any real explanation. Having now seen the finale, I notice two things: 1) They put a warning before the episode about its potential impact on small children and 2) they made the actual broadcast of the finale be followed up by a sample of season 3’s opening. I think they had to do this because the second season finale of Amphibia was one of the most shocking things I have ever seen, completely destroying what I thought Disney’s standards and practices would allow. While the show regularly puts members of the cast in mortal danger, it’s still a kids show, so you would not expect them to, hypothetically, violently impale a character with a sword and then end a season. But they did. I think they made them air the season 3 opening just because it reveals that the character is still alive (albeit in a tube). I am actually a little sad that they weren’t willing to perma-kill a character, but it is a character I really like, so… I’m torn. In any case, I still think they shouldn’t have delayed the finale, but I do understand it.

Young Justice: Outsiders (Season 3) : A Bit Too Much For a Season – HBO Max Review

Since DC Universe folded, I can finally see how Young Justice continued.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Two years after the events of Season Two, trafficking in metahumans (people with superpowers) has started to expand beyond just the Earth. The Justice League, unfortunately, is now under the control of the United Nations and their Secretary General, Lex Luthor (Mark Rolston). Finding the organization essentially depowered, Batman and Green Arrow (Bruce Greenwood and Alan Tudyk) resign along with all of their associates, aiming to go back to vigilantism. At the same time, Superboy, Tigress, Miss Martian, and Nightwing (Nolan North, Stephanie Lemelin, Danica McKellar, and Jesse McCartney) restart their covert team and infiltrate the country of Markovia, leading them to find two new superheroes in Prince Brion (Troy Baker) and the mysterious Halo (Zehra Fazal).  At the same time, the supervillain group The Light is enacting another plan to take over the world while the evil Darkseid (Michael-Leon Wooley) plots to take over the universe. 

We eventually get a team called the Outsiders, after a while.

END SUMMARY

So, while I appreciated the first two seasons of Young Justice for being very broad series depicting a large-scale DC comics universe, I appreciated that most of the episodes actually felt fairly self-contained and had a fairly focused main cast. This season threw that out the window. There are so many characters and plotlines going on and characters jumping between them that, by the start of the second half, there are three different superhero teams containing members of the original lineup, plus two different villain groups, plus a number of episode-based groups, plus a number of extras. A lot of the time, you just have to accept things like “this is a new female Green Arrow” or an extra Green Lantern and remember to look it up later. 

So. Many. Characters. And these are just the famous ones.

The number of plot threads can be a bit overwhelming because there are a lot of villains who are all attempting various plots in various ways and sometimes the heroes end up thwarting one plot as part of attempting to thwart an entirely separate one. I admit that it’s probably more accurate to how the DC universe works when you take all of the different comics into account, but it does sometimes make it a little harder to keep track of who started what and who is behind which evil deed. It doesn’t help that a lot of the plot threads kind of end up resolving in ways that just indicate they’re going to be continued in Season 4. I will admit that I appreciate the show’s ambition, I just worry that it limits the audience a bit.

There’s a big thing about Black Lightning being the only one with integrity.

The voice acting is amazing. It contains a number of seasoned voice actors, including some people who voice the characters in multiple incarnations (notably Greg Cipes, who voices Beast Boy, also plays him in Teen Titans). Sometimes they use this heavily to their advantage, such as having an episode that takes place in a Teen Titans Go! version of the Doom Patrol which uses the voice actors from Teen Titans. Many play multiple characters and you would have difficulty telling if it wasn’t made explicit. The animation is the same dark style as the first two seasons, but they have a number of more colorful characters in this season and it helps to make it seem a little less emo.

Like Halo, who literally glows.

Overall, if you liked the first two seasons, you should probably watch this one. Thankfully, it’s no longer on DC Universe so you can actually probably find someone with an HBO Max subscription to borrow. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: My Childhood Dream is Real (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

The Dark Knight meets the Heroes on the Half-Shell and it’s just a great time all around.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Leonardo: Eric Bauza, Raphael: Darren Criss, Donatello: Baron Vaughn, Michelangelo: Kyle Mooney) come to Gotham City after they find out that their nemesis the Shredder (Andrew Kishino) and his army of foot ninjas have set up shop in the city. Batman (Troy Baker) discovers that high-tech thefts have been occurring involving ninjas all around the city. Batgirl (Rachel “Yes, that Rachel Bloom” Bloom) witnesses one of these thefts, but believes that the TMNT, who were there to stop it, are the culprits. Batman and the Turtles fight, then they unite to take down the Foot Clan and Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery. 

BatmanTMNT - 1Lineup
If this came out in 1994, it would have broken reality.

END SUMMARY

Crossovers aren’t new. They’ve been happening since Apollonius Rhodius decided to get an audience by going “hey, did you guys know there’s a story where Hercules, Orpheus, the Gemini twins, Achilles’ dad, some flying brothers, and a bunch of other heroes all went on a quest together?” The Argonauts were just the Avengers of Ancient Greece. I’d say Justice League, but I’m still smarting from that movie. 

BatmanTMNT - 2Steppenwolf
The villains in this animated movie look more convincing.

Crossovers are common in animation (Scooby-Doo has met just about everyone at some point) and in comic books (Archie has met the Punisher, the Predator, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Harley Quinn, and Vampirella), so this particular one was basically inevitable. Hell, apparently there have now been 3 different comic crossovers between these properties, including the one that forms the basis of this film. So, the team pretty much just had to deliver everything that’s good about Batman with everything that’s good about the Ninja Turtles. Since both of them have had SO MANY adaptations, they could reasonably give the two properties any number of qualities and they would still probably feel true to the source. 

BatmanTMNT - 3Crossover
I admit that I like the comic art much more.

Well, good news, the movie definitely gets across versions of both franchises. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this movie is no more and no less than what it promised in the title. 

Here are the good parts:

The fight scenes in the film are pretty creative and they do manage to demonstrate the abilities of all of the parties involved. Special credit goes to the Shredder v. Batman fight, because it’s everything I wanted and more. It’s one of the few moments in the film where I was genuinely surprised at the quality. The fight between Batman and the TMNT is, likewise, awesome.

BatmanTMNT - 4Shredder
Seriously, this is one of the best fight sequences ever animated. 

The voice casting in the movie is amazing. I particularly like that Troy Baker voices both Batman and the Joker, giving the characters an appropriate level of mirroring that isn’t usually present. I also loved Rachel Bloom as Batgirl, though that might be because I just love Rachel Bloom. Each of the turtles has an appropriately distinct voice that lends itself to their personality, just like in most of the adaptations. 

BatmanTMNT - 5Batgirl
This movie almost makes up for Batgirl’s terrible Killing Joke animated prologue. Almost.

The writing is pretty good. Definitely more effort than you’d usually get from a direct-to-video film like this. Is it going to match something like Into the Spider-verse or The Lego Movie? No, but it does a good job not distracting you from the action sequences. Also, they definitely manage to get in almost all the cameos and interactions that you wanted from a movie like this without most of them feeling insanely contrived. 

BatmanTMNT - 6Penguin
Somehow this fight isn’t over in 2 seconds.

This film is one of the few to actually make use of a PG-13 rating. This movie is violent, far more so than most adaptations of Batman or the TMNT, harkening back to the roots of both series. 

BatmanTMNT - 7BW.jpg
Like how the turtles offered Shredder the opportunity to KILL HIMSELF.

The bad stuff:

Look, it’s a superhero crossover and those have certain things that have to happen. The heroes have to fight each other and then team up to fight the actual bad guy. It’s such a cliché that Watchmen mentioned it as something that typically happens in hero interactions back in 1985. The upside is that the film gets most of the adversarial stuff out of the way pretty early, so it’s not that big of a drain. The plot is meandering and kind of unfocused, but not distractingly so. 

BatmanTMNT - 8Mikey
The fight is entertainingly brutal and quick.

The art style is obviously subjective, but I didn’t like it. The turtles to me didn’t resemble any of their incarnations very well and Batman’s color scheme was closer to the one from Adam West than Tim Burton, which didn’t feel appropriate for a version with this much violence and death. Most of the villains, aside from Shredder, felt way too subdued until after *SPOILER* they get mutated. *END SPOILER*  It just never worked for me. 

Overall, though, it was a pretty fun movie that hit most of the notes that I would want for this kind of film.  If you like either of these franchises, this is a must-see. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.