Blade Runner 2049” (2017) is largely an exercise in returning to the world of “Blade Runner” rather than significantly expanding the narrative. No surprise then that the three short prequel films – which can be found on YouTube – have the same philosophy. Narratively, the more things change, the more they stay the same in the “BR” world: Nexus designations may change, the conflict between humans and replicants may flare and fizzle, but the problems remain.
Who needs “Jurassic World: Dominion”? (Well, actually, I could use a little “Jurassic World: Dominion.” Or any big franchise movie. But that’s not to be in 2020. So the sixth “Jurassic Park” movie is now slated for 2022.) But helping tide us over rather nicely is the animated “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” (September, Netflix) (no, not “Camp Crustacean” … dumb autocorrect). This eight-episode season (with a second season already announced) is nominally aimed at children but will also appeal to some of us who got hooked on this franchise 30 years ago with Michael Crichton’s novel.
With many shows releasing entire seasons at once nowadays, I haven’t had time to watch full seasons yet, but I have checked out some first episodes and wanted to weigh in on them. Even with the pandemic limiting the number of new fall shows, there are still more than any one TV geek can watch, so here are my first-episode impressions of four September launches:
In retrospect, “The Dark Knight” (2008) perhaps didn’t need much of a promotional boost; it was one of those movies that came out at the right time, en route to box-office records. Nonetheless, it did have a neat little tie-in “movie,” the Eastern-style animated “Batman: Gotham Knight.” Much like “The Animatrix,” this is a series of short segments – six of them, totaling 75 minutes – that purports to flesh out the larger universe.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993), like most animated films based on properties best known for live action, made only a blip at the box office. (See also 2008’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” movie.) It was released on Christmas Day 1993 to tide Bat-fans over between 1992’s “Batman Returns” and 1995’s “Batman Forever,” and it’s regarded by many as being better than all of the 1990s live-action entries.
Even fairly serious “Terminator” fans might not know about this oddity: There was a prequel movie to “Salvation” – sort of. “Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series” (2009) is a six-episode web series with video-game animation that functions as a 75-minute movie. Thankfully, it’s not like watching someone play a video game. It’s driven by Resistance pilot Blair Williams (voiced by Moon Bloodgood) and hacker Laz Howard, a.k.a. Ghost (voiced by Cam Clarke), who can disrupt communications signals with a secret code.
Although “Big Mouth” Season 3 (October, Netflix) ultimately delivers enough good episodes that I give it a soft recommend, it is a clear step back from its first two seasons. In the worst episodes, the writers get so caught up in their timely messages about sexual identity, dress codes and objectification of women that they forget to make those episodes funny.
Writer-director Richard Linklater lovingly adapts “A Scanner Darkly” – Philip K. Dick’s 1977 classic about drug use and the drug war set amid a future drug-producing spy state – but the 2006 film is also an example of how movies can play flatter than the novel even when faithfully translated. The film is also notable for using interpolated rotoscoping, in which live-action frames are given an animated look, a technique also used in this fall’s Amazon Prime TV series “Undone.”
Released between the two sequels in the summer of 2003, “The Animatrix” – a 100-minute DVD collection of animated shorts – fills in some gaps and gives us a fuller picture of the “Matrix” mythology. The storytelling is sharp, some written by the Wachowskis or based on a story by them, and the animation is consistently beautiful while running a gamut of styles. It’s not for fans strictly into the kung-fu fights or the main characters (who only make cameo appearances), but it’s a treasure trove for those who want new angles into the material and fewer gaps in the narrative.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) is a typical, solid animated kids’ movie about teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) learning how to be Spider-Man, but on my home viewing I got the sense that it’s mostly supposed to be a visual spectacle. Many action sequences are tailored to theatrical 3D, and some frames look like when you remove your 3D glasses and peek at the screen. My Cold Bananas colleague Shaune tells me this isn’t lazy 2D conversion, but rather a mimicking of old-school comic-book printing, with colors bleeding together. I might’ve enjoyed the visuals more with that perspective.