It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the DC Super Hero Girls line of products, including the web series (available on YouTube – go subscribe). I’ve watched all those web episodes and look forward to each new offering. I also managed to get hold of the half hour TV special to watch. I’d seen that there was a feature-length adventure lined up and was happy to see it available on Amazon in the UK a week or so after it’s US release. Having hit the “pre-order” button, I began to wonder if the format could hold me for that length in one sitting. A few days after it arrived – Damn you Real Life! – I sat down to watch it. Here’s what I thought.
It’s time for the annual Hero of the Year ceremony and the students of Super Hero High compete for the top prize. But the festivities take a turn when Dark Opal targets the heroes and steals some of their most valued possessions to form the ultimate weapon! It’s up to the students at Super Hero High to spring into action! But can Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl and Bumblebee stop Dark Opal and his mysterious partner-in-crime to save the day
Hero of the Year is very much a follow-up to the aforementioned TV special episode, in which both Supergirl and Batgirl become enrolled at Super Hero High school. During the course of the special, Super Hero High was attacked by Granny Goodness and the Female Furies of Apocalypse. At the end of the show, Big Barda showed interest in becoming a student. As Hero of the Year opens, Barda has been accepted by principal Waller into the school. While that’s useful to know for the continuity-conscious, new viewers shouldn’t become overly confused by the setup.
One thing that I’ve loved about Shea Fontana’s writing in DC Super Hero Girls in general – whether the web series, television special, comic books or Hero of the Year, is how inclusive she manages to make the productions. By that I mean that non-DC fans should get as much enjoyment out of the movie (and other products) as the DC fans. Children of all kinds will love the smart dialogue which manages to convey each character’s personality, even when that character has only a single line or two of dialogue. Adults watching along with their kids – or in the case of my wife and I – without our daughter on first viewing (stop judging me) – will find a delightfully amusing story with just the right amount of adventure and peril thrown in.
Of course, fans of DC’s other output – especially other animated shows – will get more from Hero of the Year than those who aren’t fans but I genuinely think this range is a good way of getting into the wider worlds of the DC universe. Especially for the target audience.
The plot works well, managing to bring action into the school environment in a way that isn’t too forced. The villains are deliciously villainous while retaining a sense of fun. The choice of villains to pair makes sense, and their background and presentation fits in with the DC Super Hero Girls vibe. I’ll be honest – I had to look up who one of them was, but that’s no bad thing. As I said – this is a good entry point to the wider DC universe!
The voice cast are brilliant. Each voice is distinctive and filled with personality. Anais Fairweather and Mae Whitman (Supergirl and Batgirl respectively) are particularly brilliant. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but they just seem perfect for the characters. Having seen them become best friends in the television special, the continued relationship here is a joy to behold. In Hero of the Year, a new friendship is formed between two characters who start out a little at odds. This could have felt a bit forced but somehow the writing and the voice acting pull it off. Yes, there’s an element of cheesiness to the whole thing, but that’s part of the charm of the show in my book.
Something I’ve liked about the web series which carries over in this film is the fact that the cast is made up of familiar voices to any-one who has watched Teen Titans (or Teen Titans Go!) or played a DC based video game. The fact that those characters retain their same personalities and vocal traits goes a long way to helping that entry-point feel to the range. I don’t watch much Titans, but even I smiled at Starfire’s (Hynden Walch) characteristic speech pattern, Cyborg’s enthusiasm and Beastboy’s wackiness (Khary Payton and Greg Cipes respectively).
Add to that ex-Superman Dean Cain and ex-Supergirl Helen Slater turn up as Supergirl’s Earth family (mirroring Supergirl), Yvette Nicole Smith as a firm but fair Amanda Waller and Tara Strong bringing her usual A-Game as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and the voice cast is pretty much impeccable.
If I have a complaint it is with the extras included on the disc. Included are a few episodes of the web series – which is great if you haven’t seen them, but they are freely available on the website and YouTube channel. I would have liked a couple of featurettes about the brand itself and its future development, interviews with the cast and crew and the like. Of course, I am a grown man-child who has an interest in such things. Hero of the Year is not primarily intended for my consumption …
I highly recommend Hero of the Year to any parent for their kids. It’s brilliantly pitched with a good mix of characters and a genuinely fun watch. I am definitely not the primary target audience for this film. But I enjoyed the hell out of it. Especially for £6.99.
Title: DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year
Writer: Shea Fontana
Director: Cecilia Aranovich
Starring: Grey Griffin, Anais Fairweather, Mae Whitman, Tara Strong, Teala Dunn, Stephanie Sheh
Rating: 4.5 / 5