Thursday, February 6, 2014

Recap/Review: DC Showcase "The Spectre"

Now, Marvel might be monopolizing the superhero film genre with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is one area that DC has been routinely kicking Marvel's butt for a while: Animation.

DC has been coming out with animated films for a while now. They started with the lackluster Superman: Doomsday and worked their way up, creating numerous masterpieces like Crisis on Two Earths and Superman vs. the Elite. Alongside these, DC's been packaging shorter works featuring other characters, similar to the teasers in Batman: the Brave and the Bold, which would often test the waters to see if certain characters could prove successful. Today, I'll be taking a look at the very first of these short adventures,
DC Showcase: The Spectre.

James Bond, Dungeons and Dragons, that one movie with John Hurt, there's too many possible references.
The adventure opens on a shot of Hollywood, California. The city of sun, sweat, and stars. Los Angeles, if you want to be pedantic. The camera closes in on a mansion, where a Hollywood producer prepares to dive into his swimming pool. As he gets ready, we see that there's a ticking bomb attached to the underside of the diving board. He dives, it explodes. Actually, the exploding mansion is giving me Iron Man 3 flashbacks. And now I want to watch Iron Man 3 again.

Distracting me from this thought is a film noir-esque voice over.

Voice: "When most people think of LA, they think of the bright lights and glamour of Hollywood. But those lights cast dark shadows."

We see the cops set up the crime scene as our narrating protagonist arrives: Detective Jim Corrigan. He drives up to the scene.

Corrigan: "I'm a cop. And I have a few secrets of my own."
  • Secret # 1: Huge Brony. Applejack/Celestia shipper.
  • Secret # 2: Has never actually seen The Godfather, despite what he tells friends.
  • Secret # 3: Has an autographed standee of Justin Bieber.
Secret #4: Stole his haircut from Jason Blood.
He enters the mansion and surveys the exploded pool. Another officer asks Corrigan why he's here, because he wasn't assigned to this case. Corrigan replies that he got a call from a friend, and said friend (a woman) rushes up to him and throws her arms around him. This is Aimee Brenner, the daughter of the exploded man, Foster Brenner. She turns up no leads, so he talks to the butler. No go there, but the butler takes Corrigan to see the security tapes. Corrigan asks some routine questions as he goes over them, seeing that the people who set up the bomb apparently knew the code for the alarms. It also seems that the dead guy produced a movie recently, but he left out a few people who wanted in on the project. Corrigan asks for names.

Later, we cut to a Drew Flynn, Hollywood monster maker extraordinaire, working at a monster shop, making movie monsters. It's dark. He's alone. There's a strange rattling, startling the man. Suddenly, what appears to be Jimmy Olsen as a ventriloquist's dummy's head rattles around, knocking the dummy off of its shelf and breaking. Well, hopefully that means Slappy's finally dead.

From the pages of RL Stine to your nightmares!
The man grabs a pipe to defend himself, and runs into... the ghost of Foster Brenner. After being accused by the ghost, Drew admits to the job in disbelief, and Foster transforms into a pale man with a green cloak.

Cloaked Figure: "I am Vengeance. I am..."

The night? I am Batman?

Cloaked Figure: "The Spectre."


Spirit of Vengeance: Capes are a must, shirts are optional.
The Spectre disappates into mist and delivers Drew's punishment; the surrounding costumes and dummies come to life and attack him. He fights them off, but one of the mannequins crab-walks over to him and tackles him. Well, I'm not sleeping tonight. He manages to run away, but trips down some stairs before beign chases by his creations. He escapes onto one of the stages, but in the darkness is attacked by a King Kong prop. Outside, the Spectre watches. If I remember the rulebook correctly, Drew will now become an undead minion in 1d4 rounds.

The next day, the stereotypical police chief yells at Corrigan about working the Brennan murder just because he knows the guy's daughter. I'd rattle off a list of cliches, but I already made that joke when I recapped "Broken." The chief tells Corrigan about the suspect that got offed last night in his own studio, and Corrigan says he'll look into it.

Later that night, a man loads up his car with a single suitcase and flees to the highway. After hours of driving, close to Mexico, he suddenly sees a green cloak in the middle of the road. He swerves to miss it, but can't find it agains after his car skids to a stop. The man grabs a gun and continures to drive, with the Spectre following from above.

Spectre: "Peter McCoy.... Only a guilty man flees, Peter."

I've gotta disagree with you there. If I saw the Spirit of Vengeance chase after me, whether it be the Spectre or Ghost Rider, I would run.
Only a guilty man would try to get away from this!
Peter fires a few rounds after being hit by the Spectre's 1d8 damage plus energy drain. What with this being close-quarters combat, this does precisely squat against the Spectre's 15 AC, and he simply demands the Spectre get away from him. He complies. Peter drives off, but the car keeps speeding up... and it won't stop. He passes the Spectre standing on the side of the road before the car leaps off of the sudden slope in the road that wasn't there before.

He and his car hit the ground in brutal fashion, and he gets thrown clear like every seatbelt-conspiracy theorist claims happens if you don't wear one, and miraculously survives. So does his car. And it wants revenge! The glass reforms, the tires reinflate, the engine revs up. Oh, God, it's Christine! Or quite possibly a Were-Car. Did it have Knight Rider's windshield wipers? It chases after Peter wherever he goes, until it finally crushes him. The thousands of dollars Peter had in his briefcase fly off into the night.

Later, Aimee does her makeup back at home when Corrigan shows up. He asks why she called him her, and she kisses him. She flirts, but he remains aloof. She asks him to run off with her, but he tells her that the jig's up. He reveals that he knows that she gave the killers the building security code and provides the briefcase that Peter had. All new bills, easily traced back to her account.

Thinking quickly, she pulls a gun as he refuse her bribe. She takes aim.

Amy: "I could have given you the world."
Corrigan: "I left this world a long time ago."

She fires, but the bullets just pass through him. Like a ghost. Or, dare I say it? A... phantom! Quite possibly an apparition. The gun passes through him too, after she throws it at him.

Corrigan: "You can't kill a dead man."

Yes, Jim Corrigan is Deadman! I mean, the Spectre. 
He tells her that she must be punished as he transforms into the Spectre. She flees, but the money quickly flies around her, flaying her until she drops to the ground, dead. The cops arrive, and he ghosts through them unseen. Corrigan gets in his car and drives away.

Corrigan: "It's hard watching talented, beautiful people throw their lives away for nothing."

I felt the same way when I read who the cast and writers of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. were.

Corrigan: "But this is a town where fame and fortune too easily bring out the worst in people. When that happens, I'm here to avenge. That's my secret. I am the Spectre."

And so it ends.

This was a good short. It's a nicely basic police story, with a classic (if sometimes predictable) feel to it. And the supernaturality of the Spectre keeps the whole thing from getting dull. It's a nice throwback to the crime stories from the old pulp comics. Also, the supernatural bits come with a nice tone shift to pure horror, without being gory. It's nice that the art of suspense isn't a lost art.

The only problem is that the twist at the end only works if you don't know anything about the Spectre beforehand. Other than that, this is a solid short. It's a good warm up to the main feature, which was Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths in this case.

Hmmm.... mayhaps I'll review that sometime. As for now, I'll probably work my way through the rest of the DC Showcase shorts!

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