Warner Bros. // 2013 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // November 1st, 2013
"O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables -- meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain."
In September of this year, DC Comics celebrated "Villains Month" -- the regular titles were replaced with 52 one-shot issues featuring some of the most infamous villains in the DC universe, along with some of the lesser known baddies. At the same time, a new title, Forever Evil debuted -- a title that posited the ultimate triumph of the super villains. In terms of sales, it was a massive success, and in conjunction with that, DC decided to bring forth a documentary on their own little hive of scum and villainy.
You'd think that a documentary about comic books villains would be a slam dunk -- fiendish felons, murderous monsters, masters of disaster...which is one of the reasons its surprising that Warner Bros' Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (Blu-ray) is such a tepid affair. The movie focuses almost exclusively on the general observation rather than specific analysis, and consequently offers little of real substance.
To its credit, the film avoids the obvious pitfalls, which would be to focus on a few bad guys who have had major screen success to bolster the film with clips. There are a few clips, to be sure, but the restraint is admirable. The problem is that the film never quite gets off the ground. The film has several different sections examining different aspects of villainy. However, multiple villains appear in multiple sections, resulting in scattershot (at best) development of that villain -- even with a 99 minute runtime. Occasionally you get some insight into a particular villain -- there are some nice sections regarding Green Lantern's nemesis Sinestro, for instance, as well as a discussion of the nature of Lex Luthor's obsession with Superman (interestingly, a key scene described from the comics was used in the pilot episode of Lois and Clark). Some of the talking heads are more articulate than others; DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns provides the most in depth discussion, while others are somewhat disjointed, as though they were given a talking point 30 minutes ago and still haven't quite figured out what they want to say.
Interestingly, no real distinction is made between comics, movies, cartoons, or even video games. If it's a representation of a DC villain, it's fair game. Of course, that can be confusing if you're not paying attention. One of the other things that can be confusing is the dread beast continuity. DC relaunched all their titles a few years ago in yet another attempt to clean up continuity -- the documentary assumes that you know this -- otherwise, when they start talking about Green Arrow killing someone for the first time and the psychological toll it took on him, you just might go "WTH? Green Arrow killed people back in the '80s, in Mike Grell's The Longbow Hunters," or even, "Hell, Green Arrow doesn't think twice about killing people on TV."
The AVC encoded video is solid; you'll be able to appreciate every line, every pore on the various talking heads' faces. There are several instances in which the documentary uses animated clips from standard definition sources, resulting in some fairly jagged images. The packaging claims the audio is DTS-HD, but the actual disc menu says it's Dolby 2.0 Stereo. This is a bunch of talking heads, so it's not like we're being shortchanged. The audio is crisp and clear, and the depth is sufficient for the deep, sonorous tones of narrator Christopher Lee -- himself no stranger to villainy. Hell, the disc is almost worth it just to listen to Lee's narration.
Who exactly is the audience for Necessary Evil? I can't help but think that question was never really considered by the production team. Die hard comic fans already know most of this stuff, and would want more in depth analysis, while the scattershot construction would likely be offputting to most neophytes. The idea is laudable, but overall, the documentary does supervillainy an injustice.
Ironic, or appropriate? You make the call!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Digital Copy
* UltraViolet Download
* DC Comics