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Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics

Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD
Home Video Release Date: October 25th, 2013

Synopsis: The Joker, Lex Luthor, Catwoman, Doomsday, Bane. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics’ hallowed Rogues’ Gallery of infamous evildoers. Narrated by esteemed film villain Christopher Lee,examines the tortured psyches of your favorite animation, comic book, game, TV and feature film baddies – both from the past and into the future – against the backdrop of culture, history and society. Insights from famed creators and storytellers, including Zack Snyder, Guillermo del Toro, Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, shine a fascinating light on those malevolent, charismatic characters who thrive in the dark. Prepare for diabolical delight!

Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics Review
By James Harvey

Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics presents a basic overview of the dark underbelly of the DC Universe. Spotlights fall on a host of villains, with assorted creators and entertainment types discussing motivations and themes of their favorite. While viewers will be treated to some amusing insight and genuinely cool anecdotes, the admittedly entertaining documentary does somewhat come up short for the long-time DC Comics fan. What could have been a bit more in-depth and investigative, instead the documentary feels glossy and something akin to an extended EPK featurette. But still, the feature shouldn't be completely written-off as there's some good that comes out of this bad guy rundown.

Thankfully, Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics is a genuinely interesting piece of work despite its' superficial leanings. While we don't get too deep into the origins of these villains, the documentary mainly touches upon the interesting themes they represent and how these fearsome foes remain relevant to modern society. Granted, a lot of what we hear is nothing news - how these villains are the perfect antithesis of their respective heroic counterparts, how a hero can only be as good as their villain (Superman disagrees there...), and so forth. There's nothing wrong with that, even though I don't exactly agree, but it feels like that's just the tip of what could be an actual deeper discussion. So much is made about the connection between the hero and his/her villain, but they also touch upon the idea of redemption (particularly when it comes to Parallex and Hal Jordan) and how some villains have made it to the side of angels on occasion.

Many classic stories are referenced, artwork shown, and there's even some nice discussion on said tales, but it remains far too brief at times. The overall message is pretty obvious from the get-go - how the bond between good and evil cannot be broken no matter what - but the documentary never really digs deep and explores all the facets offered up. There are a handful of times when we dive into backstory of these crooks, from a behind-the-scenes/professional standpoint, and that, to me, is when it gets pretty enthralling. Len Wein, for example, gets a host of great talking bits as he discusses some of his favorites bad guy moments. Ditto with Neal Adams. Adams in particular goes on at length about Ra's Al Ghul and Man-Bat, resulting in some of the most interesting factoids to come out of Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics.

We get the usual focus on the big brand heroes at DC - like Batman and Superman - but it was great seeing Wonder Woman and Green Lantern's foes getting a fair shake. Heck, The Flash gets a great amount of screentime, but part of me thinks it has something to do with Geoff John's prominent role in The Flash's creative ressurection over the last decade coupled with John's position within the DC corporate family.

In terms of interview subjects, this documentary does present quite a list. The vast majority of faces shoudl be familiar to readers, with perhaps a handful of unknowns. Dan Didio, Jim Lee, Paul Dini, James Robinson, among other DC Comics creators, are given heavy rotation here, along with entertainment notables like Zack Snyder, Paul Dini, Kevin Conroy, and Andrea Romano. Everything is tied together by Christopher Lee's narration and a host of video clips from assorted DC Comics entertainment properties (shows, movies, games, etc.). Frankly, the amount of talent on display is really impressive and worth noting, adding some gravitas to the documentary.

And given the amount of interviewees, which I think actually tallies somewhere around 30 - 40 participants in total, fans won't get bored. A vast amount of folks chime in on the topics but, because of that, particular discussion topics can get a little shortchanged. As opposed to one or two people talking for five minutes about on specific topic, we instead have about 15 talking for ten. Granted, this does keep the documentary from getting stale, but it also prevents some deep villains discussions. Still, it's worth mentioning that by collecting such a large amount of articulate subjects to discuss comics, it does provide a casual fan with perhaps an understanding of who these characters are and why they have such lasting appeal. In all honesty, not all of these bad guys are household names, so this could actually help bridge that gap a little for the newbies and casual viewers.

In fact, Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics would work great as a bonus feature for one of the DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles or even a big-screen theatrical release like Man of Steel. The fact that it's included with the Collector's Edition of the Batman: Arkham Origins video game gives a bit of an idea of the purpose this documentary is meant to serve ... and that's kinda what we get as a final product. What could have been an investigate look into the villains of DC Comics, we instead just get a basic overview of the themes they represent and some enjoyable anecdotes. It's a fine watch, thankfully, but perhaps a bit of a missed opportunitiy.

In terms of the documentary's home video release, Warner Home Video has given the flick a barebones release. Save for some pre-menu trailers, there is no additional content to be found. Why not toss on some episodes of some DC Comics-based animated or live-action programs? Batman: The Animated Series revolutionized more than a few bad guys - why not give those a closer look? Young Justice and Justice League gave us some pretty good tales wrapped around some B-list baddies - what about those? In terms of presentation, the video is very sharp and of top quality, though the audio is merely serviceable. The stereo mix does a good job, everything is perfectly loud and clear, but I'm surprised there's no DTS-HD track.

Overall, Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics is a fine documentary, but it might be hard to justify the purchase for anything above $20US/CAN. If you're a diehard DC Comics fan, you might get a buzz out of seeing the talent involved discussing some of the biggest baddies in comic book history, but you won't learn anything new nor is there any real rewatchability. For the casual viewer, it is a fine introduction into the DC Comics universe and does provide some insight into why these bad guys are so beloved by readers. It's a very showy piece that lightly touches upon a host of themes, but neglects to go deep into the history of these prolific protagonists (yes, "protagonists" is in there in reference to the bad guys). If you can nab it for a good price, then go for it. Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics is Recommended, as it is actually enjoyable to watch, but you'll need to consider what you'll get out of it before deciding whether or not to add it to your collection.

Packaging and Media

Home Video Package Artwork

Trailer #1 -- Introduction #1

Quicktime Clip #1 -- Quicktime Clip #2

Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Home Video. Also available for purchase is the Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics trade paperback comic book collection from DC Comics.


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