Ok, we started Kickstarter Highlights to shine a light on smaller or lesser known projects that we wanted to see shine, or managed by people we love, but occasionally we like to talk about projects that we love that really don’t need the help. Case in point, Critical Role, the series that broke MCM London, a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors who play Dungeons & Dragons live on the internet for a few hours every week and draw massive viewership and crowds, and have been partially responsible to the exponential boom in popularity of the hobby!
I’ve talked about them before. They’re a good – if inaccurate – representation of the hobby, vastly more entertaining to watch as it’s being played by actual performers, voice actors who know about taking turns when talking so that there’s no cross-talking, who can totally immerse themselves in their character so deeply that we can more clearly envision the action, and who get visibly emotional about the narrative, reacting appropriately to every moment of drama and capable of deftly improvising moments of their own.
So it makes sense for a bunch of actors with characters that they love and live, with connections in the industry who also love D&D, to club together and make a cartoon! One to go alongside the comics written by Matt Colville, and all of the other products, the books, the art, the live appearances… you get the idea they’re doing well.
The project will be supported by the studio Titmouse Inc, famous for shows like Metalocalypse, Venture Bros., Tigtone that I put on my to-do list lately, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, alongside a host of other major projects, so the animation will be in excellent hands. The cast will be played by themselves, with Matt Mercer serving the bulk of the NPCs… or rather those characters who are not the protagonists.
The test will be how well a D&D style narrative can be translated into a linear format, as it rarely crosses well into other formats – at least those that endeavour to capture the spirit of tabletop RP. As this project is dedicating itself more to existent characters and a well developed and explored world, things could be very different.
So, to the campaign itself. The target is $750,000 to fund the actual animation to a high standard, with a projected release of late 2020. Backer rewards do not include access to a digital stream or download of the final result, rather heavily implying that the final product will be available for everyone to enjoy, likely via their (newly independent of Geek & Sundry) YouTube channel and probably Twitch as it is their principle platform.
The rewards backers receive are instead encouraged to pledge for loot, some digital downloads of music uniquely composed for Critical Role, including a piece written and (partially) performed by the cast. Dice, sticker packs, art prints, cuddly toys, accessories for roleplay and memorabilia, and of course the upper echelons include personalised artwork by Titmouse, producer credits, and when you hit a five figure sum you get a studio tour and more.
Those upper echelon rewards? All gone. I would not be surprised to find a lot of D&D executives towards the top of that list, and possibly Matt Colville himself. The campaign? When I started writing it was at about $2.1 million, it’s now approaching $2.4M, and the campaign started less than five hours ago. IGN managed to squeeze out an article last night a few minutes after the project passed $1M, and I won’t be publishing this for another ten hours, who knows how much money might have poured into the pot. Stretch goals are disappearing, and the twenty-two minute animated short will be treble the length before I go to bed, and will be a feature length film by morning unless pledges slow down.
Sam Riegel and Travis Willingham have apparently been talking to producers for a while, and the attachment of the hobby still makes studios reluctant to engage with projects, presumably offers may have been made with limitations or changes. Crowd funding may lack security for the consumer… fairly certain the same group have ripped me off twice now… but it does put creativity in the hands of those passionate about a project. The CR team have proven time and time again that they are capable of producing high quality content. Here’s to another one.
Oh… there goes $2.5 million!
Side note…! Hot damn, 514% funding on Lasers and Liches!! Go check out this awesome project blending sci-fi and D&D, and adds bonus dinosaurs, perfect for anyone wanting to RP their way through Kung Fury or a Shadowrun Rave. You still have a week to get involved, and there are still stretch goals left to reach.
~Text message from Tim~
What do you mean it was made by a “different Chris”?
My stance on DC over the last few years has been pretty unwavering. Their efforts on the big screen have been laughable, as evidenced by the sheer amount of derision slung its way; television productions have been split down the middle, with the Flash and Arrow bringing some exceptional quality that has not been reflected in Legends or Super-Girl, with Constantine being cancelled, and Gotham falling short of its promise; and finally the creations of the animation studios.
So far the DC Animated Universe has presented a mixture of animated epics, at worst suffering a flaw or two large enough to mar complete enjoyment. For example, the Killing Joke’s padding-arc irritated a lot of comic fans, and I found the plot of Judas Contract rather bland. Never the less, every film so far has been a joy to watch, and certainly if one were to look for things to complain about there are better places to look – such is the critics burden. (more…)
Having only reviewed Justice League Dark last week, I’d intended to leave my review for Judas Contract for a little while, and then I watched it. I have mentioned a couple of times how much I enjoy the animated DC films, but one of the more pleasant surprises for me has been the Teen Titans, a super team who might actually be more fun to watch than the Avengers. The Judas Contract is their second outing in the series, following on from the team of teens taking down the Justice League, but that doesn’t make this adventure a down-grade.
The young and the superpowered work together under the tutelage of the alien princess Starfire and the first Robin turned Nightwing, Dick Grayson. Amongst their number you have Raven, a young girl who bears a crystal that imprisons her demonic father; Blue Beetle, a boy whose symbiotic relationship with an ancient egyptian killing machine is still unexplored; current Robin and recovering assassin Damien Wayne; Terra, a girl with personality problems and the power to move mountains, and Beastboy… who will probably be fine.
The Spoiler Free Bit
One thing I must credit the animated films with is not wasting time on origin stories because they know their market. We receive just enough to get us kicked off and from there we’re thrust into narrative. It’s something that Jessica Jones probably did best, leaving the history to unravel a little more organically throughout the narrative through little expositional moments that lend a great deal of texture to each character. For the more knowledgeable fans it gets you straight through all of the boring “we know already” moments and to business, but even as someone whose knowledge is limited there’s a lot gained from this approach, you’re already engaged enough to want to learn more about who you’re watching.
It’s also important not to delude yourself that the Titans are not exactly for kids. Oh sure, they translate easily enough into a kids show style format, Teen Titans Go being the most current incarnation, but do not show the Judas Contract to young ones unless you want to accelerate their education of “the facts of life”. Here’s why:
Our villains are twofold. The grandiose cult leader Brother Blood holds sway over a deeply unpleasant church dedicated entirely to him, a messiah/living god figure who has acquired various forms of longevity and immortality, sustaining himself with blood rituals and draining the vitality of others. After nine centuries of patience he now has access to a machine that will allow him to steal the superpowers of others, along with their lives, but to bring them in he requires help. Enter League of Assassins reject and one of the scariest villains ever to grace the Arrowverse, Deathstroke/Slade Wilson. Hired by blood as a mercenary to keep the Titans at bay until he’s good and ready.
Between Blood literally bathing in the blood of a reporter beneath the freshly drained corpse, the rather “forward” advances of Deathstroke’s young and curvy partner in crime, unapologetic use of bad language and Starfire’s inability to filter comments about her relationship with Dick Grayson, this is not one to sit down to with the kids unless you’re ready to answer some questions. There are a bunch of teens after all, teens dealing with murderers and lunatics but that doesn’t stop puberty happening. This does all mean that the comedy is just perfect, alongside some superb characterisation, perhaps most of all from Beastboy.
Biggest let down is the action, best summarised by a fight against some gun-drones that politely hold their fire while the team dodge and prep their weapons, or demonstrate some classic storm-trooper accuracy. Blue Beetle’s scarab-armour also seems undecided about its own powers, as I feel he should be more than capable of busting loose of his restraints towards the beginning of the final conflict, even if it was debilitated. I also have a monolithic plot hole I’d like to point out, but there’s some spoiler to get through first…
It’s hard not to guess it before the big plot twist about 30 minutes in, but it turns out the new girl, Terra, is a traitor working for Deathstroke, feeding information for a year back to her boss and lover, hence “Judas Contract”. Honestly if you didn’t guess traitor from that you need to read more, maybe watch more films. You’re almost guaranteed to see the double-cross that comes towards the end when Slade sells Terra to Brother Blood along with the rest of the Titans.
So the plot hole. Following an attempt at grabbing a scientist working on Blood’s life-sucking device, the scientist dies but leaves behind a rather conclusive proof of an insider, detailed profiles of the team and candid photographs, in which only one member of the team is conspicuously absent despite having been a member for a full year. And no one even asked the question? Not even Batman-trained Dick Grayson?
That aside, the whole betrayal narrative gives us some great moments of comic-book self awareness. Banter between Slade and Robin points a huge finger at common villain stupidity, although my personal favourite line comes shortly after Terra glibly discusses how the Titans are all about to die, and Deathstroke says “Urgh, no grey areas with this one!”
This is really just a good quality super-hero adventure. Sadly I can’t speak to accuracy to the comics, although based on past performances I’d hazard a guess at “close enough” at least for those more casually inclined toward comics. It’s engaging enough that I find I’m almost as keen to see the next instalment as I am to see the next Marvel blockbuster.
It’s also incredibly gratifying to see a company who aren’t afraid to plunge a group of plucky teens into a very grim story, after all these aren’t average happy teenagers. They’re cursed, burdened, shunned and alone, pledged to save lives at all costs, trained daily to combat terrible evils and the worst of humanity. This is why I found myself most enthralled with the character of Beastboy, despite one rather stupid moment where he’s presented with a “DO NOT PUSH” button. He wears his suffering plainly, but at the same time is unapologetic in embracing life, simultaneously filled with joy and sorrow and willing to share them both with anyone who’ll listen.
Suddenly I feel the need to buy comics.
If you’re at UKGE at the Birmingham NEC this weekend let us know. I’ll be there with catharsisjelly, getting our fill of board games and geekery all the way through ’til Sunday.
Content Warning: For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Killing Joke is one of the grimmest Batman stories ever put to paper, and deals with some hard hitting issues. I will be discussing them. And also spoiling substantial chunks, but this is now an eighteen year old comic… so…
Though DC’s live action films might be fighting a war on two fronts, I’ve grown rather addicted to their recent efforts in animation. Flashpoint Crisis, Gods and Monsters, Assault on Arkham, and a few others that have piqued my interest. It’s been well worth a watch, delving into some of the more complex sides of the DC universe, seeing how they run off their own internal logic, and seeing the interplay of the world’s mightiest heroes. I’d have to say that the Justice League’s inter-personal dynamic is stronger by far than the personalities of any of the individuals, maybe even better than that of the Avengers. (more…)
Media as we know it has changed, for better or for… No, better! The internet has provided us with countless hours of amazing content with flash games and of course our favourite, the animators, who are highly underrated in what they do. Yes, the internet is really, really great – For a lot of things, but this Top 10 isn’t the best things the internet has produced: It’s the best cartoons it’s produced.
So whether you’re sat there spitting out dank memes, or just thinking about how the internet has provided you with some of the most nail-biting, fear-induced sweats you’ve ever had, it’s time to face this week’s list: It’s GeekOut’s Top 10 Internet Cartoons. (more…)
Here’s a story that very nearly passed me by. Sony recently released their current timetable for theatre releases over the next four years! It’s one hell of a mixed bag, and I’m curious to hear your opinions.
I’m on holiday at the moment, so don’t expect me to join the conversation quite so readily as usual, but leave your thoughts and opinions on these upcoming releases down below, and I’ll talk to you all soon! (more…)