Wednesday, June 12, 2019

DC Superhero Girls #FightAtTheMuseum

I have been pleasantly pleased with the new DC Superhero Girls under the direction of Lauren Faust. As I have said before, this is a wonderful mix of empowering messages, superheroics, and looney tunes action. As someone who lived through the reinvigoration of the My Little Pony franchise under Faust's direction, I feel this show has that same elan. It just checks off all the boxes. I can only hope that it catches fire the way MLP did.

On top of the story, I have also applauded the visual direction of the show with wonderful perspective shots and direction that just elevates it. There is this wonderful energy to the show, a concoction of mature cinematography telling a superhero story.

And I really have been tickled pink by the Supergirl on the show. This Kara is brash, a bit of a hothead, punching first and asking questions later. She is the rebel, the iconoclast throwing shade on Superman. While I am routinely against this persona in the DC continuity, in a side project team show like this, where everyone has a personality trait to demonstrate, I don't mind it. Welcome to the complex personality of this Supergirl fan. Nicole Sullivan does such wonderful voice work, bringing a little conceit, a little snark to the proceedings. And Supergirl has really been showcased. If I recall, Faust said Supergirl was her favorite when she was making Super Best Friends Forever. And this Kara is basically that Kara.

One thing I do know I like about Supergirl as a character is that she is a young hero, on the journey, and learning.

The title of  this episode is #FightAtTheMuseum, I suppose a riff on the Night At The Museum movies. Supergirl has to learn the lesson that might doesn't always make right. She also learns that she can't just punch every problem away. Get ready!

The villain in the episode is Catwoman, recently moved to Metropolis from Gotham and finding the scores much easier to accomplish.

I love that Catwoman is clearly modeled after the Earth Kitt Catwoman from Batman '66. Even the slinky voice work by Cree Summer mimics the intonations perfectly.

But in the light of day, the Superhero Girls have bigger fish to fry.

A giant Bigfoot like creature is tromping through the town.

Diana is just about to yell out battle instructions when ...

Supergirl gives out a throaty 'Supergirl!' yell and flies into action, bashing it into orbit.

I love the action. The show has become known (at least to me) for these perspective shots of the heroes flying to the camera. And the action shot of Kara laying the left hook is spectacularly powerful.

That Supergirl yell is just so wonderful ... a mix of confidence, joy, and strength.

Some time later, a giant robot is threatening the town. Again the girls are mobilized. Once again, Diana is ready to lead the entire team into action.

But Kara cracks her knuckles, saying they are overthinking things.

Once again, letting out that Viking-like 'Supergirl' scream, she flies into action.

With one punch, she sends to robot soaring.

While the battle is over, something is missing.

You know, like letting your friends feel useful.

I suppose this is the problem with having someone like Superman or Supergirl on a team. They could solve most any problem quickly. What is Batgirl honestly going to do here?

But this is a team. These are friends. And Supergirl can't do everything as we'll see.

This annoyed group shot is precious.

Back at Sweet Justice, Kara happily fires down a sundae while her friends sulk a bit.

Diana tries to tell Kara that not every fight is won with a simple punch. True heroes need to think of strategy and teamwork. To show how anticipation and planning help, Diana wipes Supergirl out in a game of chess. But Supergirl isn't hearing it.

While there, we learn that the Science Museum is about to show gems from outer space. And who should overhear it, but Catwoman in her Selina Kyle identity.

That night, walking out of the club, Kara hears someone breaking into the museum.

Nice rendering of the super-hearing power, sort of the 'voo-voo-voo' Aquaman circles.

She briefly thinks about calling in her super-friends but decide that they'll only 'overthink' things again.

Instead, we get a classic shirt rip as she flies into solo action.

She stumbles upon the roof window smashed open. That should give the viewer pause since we saw Catwoman carefully cut out the jewelry store roof window earlier.

When Supergirl calls out for the thief to give up, Catwoman razzes her saying she is glad that only one superhero girl came, the dumb one.

Of course, this is a bit bullying. And I wonder if this is to show us what Supergirl is overcompensating for. Maybe she uses her strength to cover up a concern that she isn't smart enough?

Anyways, what happens next is a string of gags in the museum of Catwoman keeping Supergirl at bay by using the Kryptonian's strength against herself.

First Catwoman cuts all the planets in the Solar System room from their suspensions, causing Kara to catch them all. Next, she flummoxes her in the taxidermy room by having Kara mistake all the stuffed cats for Catwoman.

Love these flying scenes.

Of course, Supergirl is used to just punching something once and ending a fight.

A true game of cat and mouse? She isn't ready for that.

Perplexed, we get a sight gag of her looking like a caveman. It gives Catwoman another reason to make fun of Supergirl's intelligence.

With each failed room and with each insult, Kara gets angrier and sloppier in her approach.

She gets zapped by a Tesla coil in the electricity room. She has her voice changed by gases in the chemical room, ultimately blowing the room up by blasting her heat vision against a mirror and exploding gas-filled balloons.

Supergirl finally and completely loses her temper, cornering Catwoman in the gem room.

Again, we see that cinematography shine here. Sure, there is an explosion from the chemical room behind her. But this demonic picture really shows just how angry and unhinged Kara is. She can't even think of cat puns.

This sort of use of fire as a symbol of anger or hate has been used forever. But in a kid's cartoon? Brilliant.

She pounces on Catwoman who is hiding behind a safe, smashing the safe and sending Catwoman sprawling.

That is one scary Supergirl, showing just what happens when you lose your temper and don't use strategy.

Worse than that, we learn that all of this was strategy and anticipation by Catwoman. She wanted Supergirl to come alone. She smashed that window to lure her there. She knew she could goad Supergirl into flying into this room and smash the lead safe there. And Catwoman knew Kryptonite was in there, the perfect tool for her to use to escape with the space gems.

That's right, Supergirl doubly learned this lesson. She knows now she can't punch everything. And she sees how effective it can be to think ahead.

Interesting that Kara has never experienced or even heard of Kryptonite in this universe.

Trapped under the green K and dying, Supergirl musters up a way to have her cellphone thrown back to her so she can call her friends. It had been snatched by Catwoman and left out of reach.

I really love Supergirl's dialogue. And Sullivan really gives it so much depth. You sense the emotion here as Kara deals with pain for the first time.

But with her phone she is able to call her friends.

We get a rooftop showdown.

And an apology by Supergirl, one quickly accepted by her friends. I love this shot. Friends should forgive quickly and easily.

But Catwoman proves too slippery. While the jewels are recovered, Catwoman escapes vowing to find new friends in her new town.

So another great episode. The museum room fights, with Kara always humiliated, ramp up the WB cartoon fun. The message is clear but not told in a ham-fisted or sappy way. And we get great Supergirl moments. I love the 'Supergirl' yell as she speeds into a fight.

Hope everyone gets a chance to see these. I love them.


Nutation said...

This episode and the museum contained a thoughtful collection of simple science tidbits, including the tesla coil, really powerful magnets, helium and SF6 gases, and so on. The kryptonite reveal was nicely telegraphed by the "Minerals from Space" collection and the incongruous locked box.

This show has a bit of a continuity problem, I've noticed. We got the origin of Giganta after the Beeline episode she appeared in. Not a big problem, although both episodes taught Bumblebee essentially the same lesson. Here, we have a kryptonite reveal after the episode that referenced Metallo. Does Kara not know why she got sick after that fight? Has Superman never described kryptonite to his cousin?

The episode still completely works if Supergirl knows kryptonite and was simply too heedless to recognize the warning signs. It might even be better.

Anyway, it's not a traditional portrayal of the character, but it's a good one and much better than the go-to "angry Kara".

Anonymous said...

YOU WOULD THINK, that Kal El would climb down off his high horse (and a very High Horse, Indeed) long enough to tell his spunky aspirational cousin words to the effect "Say there is this green glowing meteorite fragment that can kill us both dead, nasty stuff, its called kryptonite, they keep it under glass at the Museum, to be careful on Field Trips!".



Anonymous said...

Somebody on a cartoon team has to be the dumb-strong-hothead to go along with the leader (Diana), the smart one (Barbara), and so forth. They’re doing a good job of it, and these episodes are often quite funny, so that makes up for the stereotype team dynamic.

Anj said...

Great point about Metallo and Kryptonite playing a big role in a prior episode.

And good point about Giganta.

And the end of this episode is Catwoman talking about needing new friends after the episode where she fights along side the new friends.

I wonder if ther has been some numbering snafu?

William Ashley Vaughan said...

"This show has a bit of a continuity problem, I've noticed."

I think Cartoon Network is broadcasting the episodes out of order. This wouldn't be the first time they've messed with a superhero cartoon. Beware the Batman being put on hiatus after only six episodes and the rest of the episodes being burned off unannounced in late night timeslots comes to mind.