5 DC Animated Films That Stayed True To The Comics (& 5 That Changed The Material Drastically)
Adaptations are easy to make yet easy to mess up. Taking something from the source is an easy task on its own, as most creators simply take the ideas and concepts from the material they wish to adapt and use it as a base layer, and usually, this method works.
However, creators, more than often animation creators, tend to ignore the base material altogether and try to create something new to varying results, with the DC animated films serving as a key example. Over the years, there have been scores of DC animated movies but while some have become renowned by fans and critics alike, others have fallen short of the mark.
Stayed True: The Flashpoint Paradox
Over the years, the flashpoint universe has been visited, used, and done time and time again, in comics, tv shows, and, of course, animated films. The universe, full of rich potential, has been used both correctly and incorrectly, with either too much or too little being used.
In The Flashpoint Paradox, a movie considered to be the starting point for a new DCAU manages to keep the same feel of the comics, keeping the material in view while changing just enough so as to intrigue and not confuse newcomers.
Changed Drastically: Superman: Red Son
Without a doubt, one of DC’s most intriguing universes and worlds to explore is the realm of Elseworlds. Full of twists on popular characters, the Elseworlds have been seen many times in comics and animated form.
However, when DC made Superman: Red Son, a “poster child” of the Elseworlds universe, into an animated feature, there was a lot riding on the film, and unfortunately, from the story changes to some unnecessary bits such as the final fight between Superman, Lex Luthor, and Brainiac that made the film simply miss the mark.
Stayed True: The Death Of Superman
Now, years before, DC had tried to adapt the iconic story of the Man of Steels’ death in Superman: Doomsday. However, the film, although impressive, didn’t have the same effect as other Superman films or the essence that made the comic so intriguing, brutal, and a worthy read.
Then, years later, DC tried again, with the Death Of Superman. Instead of a brief fight between Superman and Doomsday, fans were treated to an intense battle between the Justice League and Doomsday that culminated in the Man of Steel facing down his foe in one amazing film.
Changed Drastically: Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis
Every now and then, there are times when diverting from the source material actually helps the film. Of course, this comes with the risk of going too far, like so many other films, and yet, there are a few that succeed.
While Throne Of Atlantis wasn’t anything like the comic, that followed an almost mystery genre and saw the Justice League and Aquaman face down each other and Atlantis, the Throne of Atlantis still manages to make the most of the source while also doing something new.
Stayed True: The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2
Splitting a comic book adaptation into two parts doesn’t sound like much of an improvement. If anything, it may give way to bloated plots and far too much comic instead of just letting the story happen naturally.
Yet, with The Dark Knight Returns, the epic story of an old Bruce Wayne shines through in an amazing two-part animated film that stays true to the comics while adding just enough to elevate the source to its full potential. If anything, this method of making animated films is something more should follow.
Changed Drastically: The Killing Joke
An unfortunate truth regarding many comic adaptations, specifically animated ones, is that there really isn’t that much to draw from. While most adaptations are from comic arcs ranging between six to twelve issues, some are a mere forty-eight pages stuffed into an hour and a half film.
The Killing Joke is a victim of such a tragedy, with what has become considered to be one of Batman’s darkest comics being overshadowed by a far too long Batgirl segment that focused on her and Batman’s relationship(almost too much focus) rather than the Joker’s and Batman’s.
Stayed True: Batman: Under The Red Hood
For one reason or another, Batman’s story arcs have been adapted the most into animated films, to usually postive results. From epic mystery stories to Elseworlds tales, Batman has seen it all over the years but none as intriguing and intense as Batman: Under The Red Hood.
Detailing the return and vengeance of Batman’s second Robin, Jason Todd, Under The Red Hood is a dark, gritty take on a story that many have come to love. Boosted by wonderful animation, great performances, epic action pieces, and a story that stays mostly true to the source.
Changed Drastically: Batman: Hush
While sometimes animated films don’t have enough material to adapt into a feature film, every now and then, the opposite ends up being true. A twelve chapter storyline can be difficult to make into a single animated film, especially one as intricate as Batman: Hush.
If anything, Batman: Hush, could have benefitted from being a two-part film. Instead, the once mysterious and epic saga full of twists turns, and appearances from Batman’s rogue’s gallery lost sight of the original and failed to be as good as its source.
Stayed True: Justice League: War
Origin stories have been done to death. It’s a fact of the climate for Hollywood today, given the amount of good and bad superhero flicks that have been done over the years, origin stories are as common as flowers in a field, and yet, Justice League: War creates a unique origin.
Based upon Geoff Johns New 52 JL run, War sees the Justice League come together for the first time. Ironically, the animated version of the Justice Leagues origin ended up being better than the live-action attempt, to many fans delight.
Changed Drastically: Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
The words “loosely based” aren’t always the best to hear when creating an adaptation of the source material. Granted, it means there’s more creative freedom with the characters and story and yet, that’s not always a good thing, such as with Apokolips War.
Very loosely based on the now-classic “Darkseid War” arc, Apokolips War overlooked the story and themes that made “Darkseid War” such an intriguing read, instead opting for a brutal and bloody tale that simply couldn’t capture the source due to being “loosely based” on it.