Harley Quinn: Season 2 Retrospect

Prime Video: Harley Quinn - Season 2

“Harley Quinn” season 2 is not as strong as season 1 as it brings in pacing issues and a bit too much meta and 4th wall breaking humor but the core relationships that drive the story are still strong. I am excited for the eventual season 3. This season grows the show and I like how it continues to change the status quo for characters and organizations in this universe. So without getting into spoilers, this is one I do recommend again.

The story follows Gotham after it has been destroyed as different powers vie for control of it as the Injustice League is formed and Harley (Kaley Cuoco) vows to take them down after being betrayed.


The Pros:

The Premise – This story pulls a lot from the “No Man’s Land” story from the comics and it is a lot of fun. Penguin, Riddler, Bane, Mr. Freeze and Two-Face are the survivors with the largest gangs and are a great threat for Harley and her crew to face.

The Comedy – The comedy again is largely successful. Where it doesn’t work is some of the 4th wall and meta-humor jokes that usually happen at the beginning or end of episodes. I can see the intent but they are mostly just distracting from the main narrative.

The Characters – The characters are once again the strongest element of this show. We even get to see more heroes in action (Alfred and Batgirl) so seeing them interact and shape the story is a lot of fun. I enjoyed where the arc went.

Barbara Gordon / Batgirl – Batgirl is introduced in this as a college student trying to takedown Riddler when Riddler creates Riddler University and her working with Harley and Ivy inspires her to become Batgirl. After this she is Batman’s main ally besides Jim Gordon to takeout the gangs who have taken control of the city.

The Injustice League – The Injustice League are the primary villains this season and they are a lot of fun. Seeing their dynamic with each other and how they each get taken down leads to a lot of interesting stories. Each of them has different threats and motivation and their distinct looks work really well. Plus it helps that Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Bane and the Riddler are some of the best rogues in DC.

Mr. Freeze – Mr. Freeze is the most sympathetic members of the Injustice League who in the end gives his life to save his wife as his blood is changed into her same type for a blood infusion and cure that Ivy comes up with it. Alfred Molina is once again a wonderful character.

Riddler – Jim Rash from “Community” as the Dean is finally given his chance to shine. In this he is the one to take all power in destroyed Gotham and even when he is captured uses when he is trapped to get physically strong. I think he escapes at the end too. He becomes Dr. Psycho’s minion briefly but he is also a step ahead of Riddler on more than one occasion.

Bane – Bane continues to be my favorite part of the series. In this we see him standing up to Two-Face and from he does get what he wants. We also see his idealism too. At the end of the day Bane wants to help people and his prison Pit is entirely built around helping people face their trauma and to heal and grow. I’m glad he like Riddler survives. He continues to be one of the best characters on this show.

Two-Face – Two-Face is one of the main masterminds of the series as he is the last Injustice League member standing and has complete control of Gotham at one point. We see that his two-faced ambition existed before he became Two-Face as well in a flashback and in the end he escapes and is likely to rise in power again as he made a deal with Jim Gordon to help him become Mayor of Gotham.

Harley and the Squad – Harley and the Squad continue to be fun with Dr. Psycho becoming a secondary villain who is eventually back in Gotham. Clayface is shown to be able to become a giant kaiju sized clay monster and he’s gotten better at shapeshifting. Sy Borgman becomes an A.I. when he sacrifices himself to save Harley and I’ll get into the others below.

King Shark – King Shark is a great member of the squad and in this we get his backstory. We see why he left home but also that he is willing to work with his dad so that their can be peace in the Shark clan through marriage. He like Bane in the Injustice League is the kindest member of the crew unless he sees blood.

Kiteman – We learn this season Kiteman was born to parents with powers so they always looked down on him and this season is him realizing that Ivy doesn’t love him in the same he loves her. It is a really good arc as you see him finally find confidence in himself and his own value. I’m curious if he’ll be back next season as a potential antagonist.

Harley and Ivy – Harley and Ivy and their relationship that evolves from best friends to romantic is the heart of season 2 and I appreciated how messy it was as the two of them learn more about what they want and who they are. These two are amazing and I’m glad they are the heart of the show. Ivy brings a cool demeanor but is driven by idealism and Harley is quick to anger but also extremely sensitive. They are complicated and I loved that they ended up together as a couple in the end.

Love and the Work of Growth – We see through this show love both for self but also for the people you care about and putting in the work to grow. Jim Gordon stops being an alcoholic for his daughter Barbara, Harley stops being a villain for Ivy (world conquest type villain), and characters like Harley, Ivy and Kiteman come to see their own value through the work of self-discovery.

The Cons:

Pacing – This season does have a few pacing issues. Everything related to the B-Plot of Kiteman and Poison Ivy’s wedding has some scenes that go on too long and this also applies to the 4th wall breaking humor and jokes that were put at the beginning and end of the episodes.

Some Jokes Drag – There are a few jokes that go on too long this season. This is something I didn’t notice last season so maybe the show could have still pulled out the story with less episodes.

Breaking the 4th Wall and Meta Humor – At one point we start getting people and characters talking about watching the show and giving rundowns of what happened in the show. This was fine at first but even the first time was distracting. I hope season 3 gets away from this.

This season is really good and has quite a few arcs that I’d like to see expanded on further. Darkseid has threatened to return to terraform Earth, Two-Face is free (and likely to team up with Jim Gordon) and the Gotham Police are hunting Harley and Ivy who are now officially a couple. There is a lot that can be explored here and I hope we see Harley and Ivy getting the crew back together at some point. This show isn’t as strong as the first season but it carries on so much that works and grew this amazing world.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Harley Quinn: Season 1 Retrospect

Watch Harley Quinn: Season 1 | Prime Video

“Harley Quinn” is the best animated show to come out of DC since Bruce Timm’s “Batman: The Animated Series” and the “Justice League.” The film is hilarious, has an emotional core, great characters and I can’t wait to see where the story goes. This is one I show I highly recommend. The closest comparison I can make in tone is to a show like “The Venture Bros.” which is a favorite of show of mine as well.

The series is written and produced by Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker and Dean Lorey.

The story follows Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) after Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) breaks her out of Arkham after the Joker (Alan Tudyk) has once again abandoned her. From here she must face her trauma as she seeks to make a name for herself in Gotham.


The Pros:

This Version of the DC Universe – This version of the DC universe is much more bloody than Bruce Timm’s early outings (The show is TV-MA for a reason) while also having more jokes as well. The jokes aren’t 4th wall breaking and come from the characters and their relationships, which makes things a lot of fun.

The Animation – The animation is some of the best I have seen come out of DC as larger landscapes and cityscapes give the painted city feel while you still the details and action in brutal fights. The animators like the writers clearly had a lot of fun with this show.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is so much fun. Jefferson Friedman chose the songs that fit the tone of each story really well. There is a fun and dangerous feel to it which fits the feel of the story being driven by Harley and her crew.

The Characters – Villains drive the story and the heroes are broken, so we are very much in Gotham City. The “heroes” work in this universe too and I’ll get into why they and the others do as well. The comedy works so well because of these characters.

Jim Gordon – This is the most pitiful Jim Gordon put to screen. He’s an alcoholic in a failing marriage who sees Batman as his only friend. It is only through making friends with Clayface’s hand that he and Batman repair their friendship enough for Jim to be functioning again. In the end he is captured in Joker’s rise but freed after Joker’s defeat by Harley and left in a destroyed Gotham, setting up next season.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Batman is distant in this but you see that at his core he does care. We see this in how he shows empathy for Harley and sees how bad her relationship is with the Joker and he calls out Joker’s psychoses after he is captured as well. The season ends with it being unknown if he is dead or alive after Joker destroys Joker Tower setting off the earthquake that destroys Gotham.

Kiteman – Kiteman is a D List villain and Ivy’s love interest. He’s a loveable doof in how genuine his emotions are and how awkward he is with his jokes and presentation. He’s an ally to Harley and her squad as well and his kite comes in handy on more than one occasion.

The Legion of Doom – The Legion of Doom is a lot of fun. Giancarlo Esposito’s Lex Luthor is reminiscent of the one from Bruce Timm’s universe and is great in how smart, threatening and manipulative he is though the Gotham villains are really the standouts. I wish we could have spent more time here as all the classic DC villains make this place their home from Cheetah to Sinestro. They mostly just show up though.

Scarecrow – This version of Scarecrow is smooth and scary. He and the Queen of Fables are the ones who team together to destroy the Legion of Doom Headquarters and it is Scarecrow who takes Ivy’s blood to make uncontrollable demon trees. He is a good threat and one of the more competent versions of this character. The only reason he doesn’t survive is his pisses of Joker when he takes of Batman’s mask and is killed because of it.

Joker – Alan Tudyk is such an amazing voice actor. He also voices Clayface in this but Clayface isn’t all that complicated of a character and mostly just a fun member of Harley’s squad. Joker on the other hand is a great villain whose ego leads to him escalating any plan he puts into motion. Harley is the first person to tell him no and manages to upend his plans a few times ending with him losing all memory of who he is when what he planned to do Harley happens to him (erasing memories in acid).

Bane – Bane is my favorite character on the show. The guy is a wonderful villain cinnamon roll who is sensitive but quick to anger as he wants to blow up whatever displeases him. He’s a mixture of classic Bane with Tom Hardy’s voice and it is a running joke that Legion of Doom doesn’t respect him. I really like this version of Bane as he is given nuance and is one of the few good bad guys.

Harley Quinn and her Squad – Harley Quinn and her Squad are the ones who drive the show as she recruits those who the Legion ignores, be they sexist like Dr. Psycho, obsessed actors like Clayface, and outsiders like King Shark. She also has Ivy and Ivy’s former CIA agent landlord Sy Borgman helping out and basically members of the Squad.

King Shark – Ron Funches is great as King Shark. King Shark loves technology and is the one to first help Harley’s social media image. He’s also the strongest member of the group and is still clearly a shark as he has no issue eating people. We also see a hint at his history to come when Aquaman mentions his dad. These were all nice touches that made the character entertaining.

Poison Ivy – Lake Bell plays Poison Ivy so well. This version of Ivy is full eco-terrorist mode with an understanding of the glass ceiling that women supervillains face (Legion of Doom is overwhelmingly men) and she is great at seeing through toxic people and organizations. She is the one who helps Harley realize how abusive the Joker is and their friendship is what drives the story as you see why they are best friends and all the drama and healing that comes through that journey.

Exploration of Trust, Identity and Trauma – The main theme of the show is the exploration of trust and trauma and how it relates to a person’s identity. This is core with Harley as we see her abusive parents were what to lead to her abusive relationship with the Joker and it is in facing the Joker and her parents that she is freed from them and realizes who her family (The Squad) really are. Ivy also goes through this as well as we see how Harley was the only person who was ever kind to her and seeing Harley repeating the abuse cycle with the Joker leads to her not trusting Harley. The two of them love each other so much and it is the powerful core of the story as they discover more about who they are.

The Cons:

Robin / Damian Wayne – Robin is really annoying. This version is supposed to be Damian but this version has none of the raised by the League of Shadow intensity and it mostly played as a joke. The thing is as a joke he just isn’t that funny and the show could remove him completely and be better for it.

Legion of Doom Screentime – We see so many members of the Legion of Doom and not many of them have much to do if they aren’t Gotham based or Lex Luthor. Given that the crew and Harley were living at Headquarters for a while, this was a missed opportunity.

This is a great show and I can’t wait to watch “Season 2.” This certainly follows the pattern of DC being better at animation and television than they have been with their films and for shows this I would say is the gold standard. Every episode advances the plot, the animation and soundtrack are fantastic and these versions of the characters have arcs and are compelling. This is probably my favorite thing DC has put out in a long time and it is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020) – So What Happens Now?

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (Video 2020) - IMDb

      This is a film that brings an end to the ongoing films in this Franchise. This is a Franchise that includes all the Batman stories with Damian Wayne, the different Justice League films, the Teen Titans films and Justice League Dark. So, how does it stick to landing? Without going into spoilers I liked a fair amount of the world that we see and the character dynamics but some bad performances and the ending ruin what could have been a dark ending with hope. In the end, this is not a film I’d recommend as I feel the ending cancels out all the choices that were made over the course of the film.

The film was directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta and written by Mairghread Scott.

The story follows the Justice League as they plan an attack on Darkseid’s world of Apokolips in order to prevent an invasion of Earth.


The Pros:

The Failed Attack on Darkseid – I like how our heroes attacking Darkseid fails and we see through him hacking Cyborg and seeing the invasion plans that it was doomed from the start. The rest of the story is us dealing with the fallout as he dominates Superman and makes the rest of the Justice League he caught into Cyborgs under his control. When Darkseid wins he really wins and the failed invasion sets the tone for the rest of the story. We learn the reason for his victory lies in his Paradooms. Parademons with Superman’s DNA, making them a mixture of Parademon and Doomsday. They are an awesome threat and win any battle they are in.

Earth’s Resistance – Earth’s resistance of Darkseid’s rule includes Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Raven primarily with Etrigan and Constantine until they are pulled in as well. From here we have the League of Shadows and the Suicide Squad join forces and eventually Lex Luthor himself changing sides to fight Darkseid. They are fighting a losing battle on occupied Earth and come up with a last ditch plan to rescue Batman and stop Darkseid. The resistance has a wonderful dynamic to them as the Suicide Squad controls the prison, which is one of the safest places in the world under the occupation and Clark Kent and Raven are the wanderers recruiting the last remaining heroes.

Clark Kent / Superman – Superman is defeated by Darkseid who decides his punishment will be to pump him full of liquid kryptonite, neutralizing him and after returning him to Earth. It is well done as we see that Clark Kent never stops fighting and is willing to risk it all to save the world. His power doesn’t define him, which is the kind of Superman story I enjoy. Besides Constantine and Raven, Clark’s is the main perspective that drives the narrative. The plan is eventually a success and in the Superman fights Darkseid once again after Trigun is purged from his body and in turn the liquid Kryptonite is too.

Lois Lane – Rebecca Romijin (Mystique and Number 1) voices Lois Lane and I got to say I like this version of Lois Lane. She is a military brat who has learned how to fight and clearly trained with Superman. She is the one who defeats Harley Quinn in a brawl that convinces Harley to give them control of the Suicide Squad. She is one of the faces of the resistance and I love how she drives the story. In the end she dies with Lex and the Suicide Squad to prevent the Paradooms from returning to Apokolips.

John Constantine – Matt Ryan continues to be the voice of Constantine and he is great in this. In this film we have a Constantine wracked with guilt as he ran from battle during the assault on Apokolips. His story arc is facing that guilt and loss of his love Zatanna as it is his final acts that help prevent Darkseid’s plans for Earth. We also see his pansexuality as we learn he and King Shark were once together. Sadly though, he is also behind one of the stupidest part of the film as he convinces Barry Allen to reboot this entire universe in another Flashpoint.  We also learn he ran away because Zatanna cast a spell when they talk in heaven together.


Damian Wayne – I didn’t hate Damian Wayne in this film. It is still annoying how he doesn’t immediately help Clark Kent and the resistance, but his relationship with Batman is really well done as you see how much they care for each other. It is Damian’s risking of his life that frees Batman from Darkseid’s control.


Raven – Raven is so bland in this film. She spends most of the story reacting to Trigun wanting to be freed and her only act of agency is bringing Damian back to life after he is killed. She is central to the story but it doesn’t feel that way. Trigun feels like a much bigger part and he is only a voice for the majority of the film.

The Flash – Flash is super bland in this and is captured and used by Darkseid after the failed assault on Apokolips. He reboots this entire film but he isn’t even a POV character, all he is is a plot device. I wasn’t a fan of the voice acting as he sounded bored and tired. Christopher Gorham was fine in the other animated films so I’m not sure what was going on here. His act of rebooting the universe is the final act of the film and it feels tacked on, like his role in this story.

When in Doubt, Reboot – I hate that this film ends in a reboot. A world rebuilding with cyborg heroes freed from Apokolips seeking to save the world from destruction could still be an awesome story. Instead all the growth and development we get of these heroes means nothing. I’ll still probably watch whatever the reboot is, but the fact that they thought the reboot was how to end this story really shows how little confidence they had in the world they’d made.

This is a film that I’d only recommend to those who have been watching the DC animated films in this continuity up to this point. If you want to see Darkseid as a threat and some good Clark Kent and Constantine work you will find things to enjoy. Sadly you can’t hang a story on that and if you reboot the story the audience is left wondering what the point of telling the story was in the first place. I wouldn’t recommend this film to any fans of the animated films and the ending ruins the potential for a lot of great stories that could have come out of the story this film tells.

Final Score:

6 / 10 Giving some points for telling a story with consequences but penalizing it for the reboot that potentially do away with those consequences.

Batman: Hush (2019) – Missing the Point of the Comic

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This is a film that had the potential to say so much more in adaptation, but wasn’t willing to take that chance. Maybe it was because they knew kids might check this out or maybe it was just wanting to play it safe…but I appreciate the comic so much more after. This is a film that captures the base events of the comics (minus one major one) but isn’t willing to go deeper. Without giving away spoilers that is all I’m going to say. If you are fan of DC animation it is worth watching for the animation and the voice actors as always do a great job, but if you read the comic I think you should skip this and save yourself the disappointment. I really enjoy DC animation and as someone who liked the comic but didn’t think it was good or great. This film did nothing to improve on a great premise.

The film was directed by Justin Copeland and written by Ernie Altbacker.

The story follows Batman as he faces a new enemy named Hush, who knows all his secrets and seeks to unravel his life.


The Pros:

Animation – The animation flows and is beautiful…I just wish there’d been a better script. I’ll get into cons below but this a very well animated film, as can be said for most DC Animated films. The action is seamless, emotion is well portrayed in facial expressions and the colors make each scene stand out.

The Bat Family Moments – There are some good moments with Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne and Barbara Gordon. In each case you see why Bruce is fighting for them and why he trusts them. They are all small moments. It is a check-in or a training, but you see how much he cares. I appreciated this and as it was here we had a bit of levity the film needed.

The Selena Kyle Romance – This romance was handled better than expected. Batman saves her from Poison Ivy’s control and she saves his life at the end. In-between they date but it doesn’t lead anywhere due to Batman’s baggage. He does reveal his secret identity, like in the comics so I appreciated that. It made their more have more even if the film failed to grow on that. I think the film wanted this to be the focus but missed so much. We needed more with Selena or the Bat Family and their thoughts on one another. We got base happy for Bruce or distrust of Selena but nothing deeper. That was a disservice to all the characters.


The Rogues – The rogues are underused. You have Batman and Catwoman fighting a Poison Ivy controlled Superman and Batman going to Lex Luthor and it not meaning anything. I’d say that is a theme. Thomas Elliot is used and unless you’ve read the comic or other sources just how important he is. Here he is an underutilized puzzle piece that leads to the function of advancing another’s plot. We fight Bane, Scarecrow, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Joker and Poison Ivy but in the original where Killer Croc was the the kidnapper not Bane who sparked everything off, it meant more. The villains are here to show up. Beyond the Joker scene which is lessened because of how Thomas Elliot is used we get an empty hate scene of Batman punching him. I get he was meant to kill him here like in the comics, but everything that happens after makes this moment mean nothing. In the comic it was still horrifying but at least Batman’s rage was understandable.

The Riddler – The Riddler is the big bad. He is saved in a Lazarus pit as he was dying and from it realizes that Batman is Bruce Wayne. This is true to the comics but unlike the comics where Thomas Elliot is a serial killer who functions as his hand (who is a famous surgeon so he can become Jason Todd and others due to plastic surgery). Riddler he is revealed and he falls into fire. If he lives I’m asking how as Catwoman saves Batman to stop him from saving Batman and that is why they break-up. The core of the comics was Bruce’s obsession but here it is over the top. There is no nuance’s to Bruce Wayne’s rule and that is the ending we get.

The Cons:

The Use of Hush – In this case I’m referring to Thomas Elliot. This film uses him as another friend to use not as another sociopathic killer who wanted Bruce’s life like in the comic. He is a plot device and nothing more. This is a shame as Hush is a great villain. This film does him wrong. He isn’t even Elliot, in the end the Riddler is behind the bandages which makes him look silly and bald with a scar of a question mark. It is all the gritty and edgy with none of the point. Elliot in the comics was set up leading up to his rivalry with Wayne and him being used by the Riddler made sense. Making him the Riddler is just a waste.

The Point is Weaker Than the Comics – The point of the comics that I got is that is that obsession can lead to self-destruction. We see this in how Thomas Elliot kills his parents to be like Bruce Wayne, The Riddler setting up everything to destroy Bruce Wayne’s life just to know knowing his identity means nothing and Bruce Wayne loses the relationships he’s developed with Selena Kyle. The film does the third point and that is it. I get animation can be expensive but making Riddler Hush is stupid for multiple reasons. We never get Riddler’s backstory in this for one and Elliot exists only for another person for Bruce to lose. This means nothing. There is no Hush as Jason Todd. This film made me appreciate the comic so much more. What a waste.

You really have no reason to watch this. Go watch the fights on youtube. This story could have made Thomas Elliot more complex, gone more into the Riddler, Selena Kyle or even Bruce Wayne. We got less than the comics. This movie is a waste and not worth your time. Just get the comic on comixology. You’ll get a story that actually means something and not something pretty that means so much less. This is a DC animation film that isn’t worth it. I’m sorry to all the voice actors and animators. Check out their better stuff. They deserved a better story.

Final Score: 6 / 10

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) – An Underutilized Waller and Suicide Squad

Assault on Arkham

    So many of these DC films have potential. The “Arkham” Games are a great series that manage to explore the Universe in such a way that villains feel respected and like a threat versus in this they feel mostly small time or not wholly their own characters and underutilized, which is shame as this is a Suicide Squad film, one of the most fascinating groups in the DC Universe in one of the greatest Game Universes. This film still manages to be alright, but Amanda Waller and her threat feels like missed potential, you have a problem.

     “Batman: Assault on Arkham” was directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding and written by Heath Corson and produced by James Tucker.

    The films involves Amanda Waller (C.C.H. Pounder) bringing together the Suicide Squad to infiltrate Arkham Asylum to get information held in the Riddler’s Staff. The team must deal with the threats of each other and Batman (Kevin Conroy) who is tracking them.

The Pros: The Animation – WB and DC animation do a good job with this. It captures some of the feel of the games, even if the animation is a bit more like that of the other current DC Animated films, but it still has enough character for me to make it a pro.

The Suicide Squad – They are underutilized overall but I like the idea and how some of the characters are handled.

King Shark – This guy is the Killer Croc of the team and is a lot of fun! He’s a cannibal but he falls in love with Killer Frost and she kind of does too, their relationship is adorable as this is the guy who wants to eat any enemies he comes into contact with. His design is funny and threatening too as he has a bit fin on his head and a metal mouth.

Killer Frost – Killer Frost is Waller’s agent who was sent to kill the Riddler since he broke away from Waller’s control. She never stops serving Waller and has good moments with the characters given that none of them can trust her.

Harley Quinn – Harley is very much the Harley of the games and sadly has an identity only as the Joker’s girlfriend in the end. She sleeps with Deadshot and tries to kill the Joker once before becoming old Harley again. I was hoping they’d do something more with her character but since this is a prequel and in the games she’s weak, of course they went this way. She’s still a pro though since it is great seeing Harley even if she isn’t used fully, in action.

The Riddler – Riddler is small character but his conversations with Waller and Killer Frost are great. This is a character who is all about the puzzles and they capture that decently here.

Amanda Waller – Waller should have been so much more badass. She was voiced by the actress whose voiced her in the Justice League (C.C.H. Pounder) and she’s amazing. Sadly here all her plans don’t end up going well and she isn’t shown to be a good villain this is a shame as she starts strong by killing KGBeast and Frost’s betrayal.

Joker – Joker breaks out during the Suicide Squad assault when Harley tries to kill him but it makes it so he can escape. He’s good but doesn’t do anything super memorable. He survives the impossible but his plan isn’t all that deep or funny…so he was good but not great.

Batman – Kevin Conroy voices Batman! To me he’ll always be the best Batman (the one in Season 1 of “Batman: The Animated Series,” and in this we see his detective work as he figures out where Joker’s bomb is and what the Suicide Squad and Waller are up too. He solves everything so it is good Batman, though I wish he’d lost this one.

Okay: Black Spider – Ninja on Suicide Squad who dies fast, at least his clash with Deadshot was interesting but brief.

Deadshot – The guy has a daughter and is presented as a rogue Mercenary. He wins every situation though and is the main character of everything. He was the definition of a Gary Stu/Mary Sue. He had no real weaknesses. He was okay at least, but not good.

The Cons: kGBeast – Waller blows off his head. He is just kind of there.

Boomerang – This guy is annoying, he seems to only exist to clash with Deadshot and is a punk. So surprised this guy wasn’t the one they chose to kill off. He seems to only exist to make Deadshot look good by comparison.

The Ending – Waller doesn’t win and Deadshot is targeting her with his Sniper Rifle…I never wanted to root for Deadshot, i was rooting for Waller and Harley…this was annoying and ruined what could have been a great dark film showing the danger of Waller.

    For a film that features the Suicide Squad I was hoping they’d actually win. It is okay for Batman to lose sometimes but it implies he doesn’t since Deadshot does what Batman can’t and even if he doesn’t kill Amanda Waller, at least defangs her a for a while. This is a shame as even within the games her organization was a perpetual threat behind the scenes, it is hard to take the threat seriously after this, Batman will just solve it on his own. There were some good things in this though…Harley Quinn and the Joker for one as well as C.C.H. Pounder returning to voice Waller, she had some great moments in the beginning even if they failed to have it payoff.

Final Score: 7.6 / 10

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): A Fantastic Film Exploring the Power of Ideas, Consequences of Lies and Finding Resolution

The Dark Knight Rises

     “The Dark Knight Rises” is the most controversial of “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” This is both because of how people see the villain and some of the story choices that were made in regards to the timeline leading up to the film and some story choices during the film. This is a movie that you’ll enjoy more if you fill in the blanks and take it from the logic of the past films. For this reason for me it is a favorite, though I understand why people hate it, while for me…I enjoy it more than “Batman Begins” as I found the structure for this a lot better and the emotional payoff much more rewarding. This is an ending and a great ending is hard to pull off and I believe this film does it, and I’m also biased in that I loved Bane as a villain…which I know many people did not. This film is about bringing some of the character arcs we have followed the last 2 films to a close and first and foremost it does that, and it does it well, even with all the flaws.

      The film was directed by Christopher Nolan who also wrote and produced it. Jonathan Nolan was one of the co-writers and the other producers were Emma Thomas and Charles Roven.

     The story takes place 8 years after the events of “The Dark Knight” and organized crime has been taken down by Batman (Bruce Wayne) and the Police Department through the Dent Act, formed after Harvey Dent’s death. A lie hides over the city though as the truth behind what Harvey became is hidden by retiring Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) as Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives in Gotham to destroy it forcing Batman out of hiding as he must deal with this new threat and others.

The Pros: Cinematography – Wally Pfister is once again great in casting shots. From the fights with Bane that contrast his strength and power, to the shadows that Batman fights from and Gotham Occupied with the snow showing us a dead city devoid of hope and embracing despair.

The Soundtrack – Zimmer once again creates an amazing score! From the chants of Bane’s theme to the beautiful piano piece for Catwoman that shows the mystery of the character. His score has always succeeded in elevating the story and this is no different as we see Bruce Wayne go from his lowest point of despair to rising beyond the identity of Batman.

Narrative and Pacing – Narrative and pacing are the best they have ever been in the Trilogy. The story never drags and there is a clear ending rather than a bunch of climaxes. The clear beginning, middle and end compliment the story and characters and create a fantastic resolution to the story.

The World – The World is fantastic! This is a world where I don’t believe Batman ever really fully retired…as long as organized crime was around he was fighting and he had to give something for the police to chase at the end of “The Dark Knight.” Just like the League of Shadows will never ever fully go away, neither will Batman as a character or identity others can adopt. Both of these things are ideas and this movie fully captures that. Any person can adopt ideas greater than themselves and use it for good (John Blake taking up the mantel of the Bat) or Bad (Talia and Bane seeking to destroy Gotham to end it’s corruption).

The Characters – The characters continue to be one of the richest parts of the series and what will keep me coming back and even finding inspiration in them for my own writing.

Daggett and Stryver – These two were meant to show the corrupt Business world and that even without organized crime that is with the black market and drugs, Gotham is still just as corrupt…it has just become White Collar. They are fun and they clearly had fun being bad guys and in these roles who were presented as mini-bosses but were just Bane’s patsies as he was the one with the real power all along. They were the ones rules by fear and money.

Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow – Crane is back and when Gotham breaks everyone out of Gotham and Arkham he becomes one of the judges in the Kangaroo Court. This guy is awesome and there is even the chance he escaped in the end. This character is a survivor who embraces the madness in himself and around him.

Lucius Fox – Freeman continues to own this role and is there to help Bruce Wayne heal, from his coming back as Batman to helping Batman save Gotham and giving him hints he survived at the end. Lucius is the stalwart ally who is always there and is the only person not to betray Bruce’s trust.

Alfred – Alfred loses Bruce and learns how important it is to face the truth. He shouldn’t have burned Rachel’s letter about her marrying Harvey Dent as it hit Bruce in the worst place, leading to his being asked to leave…only to return believing Bruce Wayne to be dead. Luckily he finds that Bruce does grow beyond his role as Batman which is what he always wanted. Michael Caine does a great job once again.

Miranda Tate / Talia Al Ghul – Marion Collitard does a good job as Talia. Bane is the great villain (Talia is just good) and I think this is largely because she is too much of the classic League of Shadows. She uses a clean energy generator as a weapon which has bringing people back to their base nature and back to nature…calling back to the eco-terrorist roots of Ra’s Al Ghul and his League. She breaks Batman’s heart too and we learn that she could have truly been a friend and lover and been changed had they met much before this movie. It is the death of her father and his rejection of Bane that inspire her quest and identity as Bane and her had been shown the worst of humanity and saw that in Gotham. It was the pit that needed to be cleaned.

James Gordon – Gordon like Alfred deals with the consequences of the lie in “The Dark Knight.” He loses the trust of his only ally on the police force (Blake) when it is revealed and we see that. He became corrupt and the consequence was Bane faced no resistance from the populace and the populace embraced his revolution to take Gotham apart. He finds resolution though when he learns that he inspired Bruce to become Batman and helped Bruce to heal when he needed it most. We also see him becoming a healer again at the end as he is one of the few leaders left in a city torn apart by war. Gary Oldman truly inhabited this role.

The Dark Knight Rises Catwoman

Selina Kyle / Catwoman – Hathaway is fantastic and is my favorite Catwoman! She is a character who does what she wants but also seeks to become more as she wants freedom which we see she never had due to her financial state and being trapped where she lived and in how she dealt with it by becoming  a thief. She shows virtue though as she comes back to save Gotham and saves Batman from Bane before Bane kills Batman. It is partially thanks to her that Gotham is saved. She becomes a hero and in it finds freedom.

The Dark Knight Rises Bane

Bane – Tom Hardy is awesome in this role! Bane is one of my favorite villains in this series along with Two-Face, the Joker and Scarecrow. He is threatening in both body and how he carries himself and psychologically. His arc is showing his ideals are true, that humanity will destroy itself and to fulfill the League’s quest to destroy Gotham. He gets this perspective from his time in prison and the price that was taken on him for saving Talia from the mob who killed her mother. He loses everything and is stronger for it as all he has to live for is Talia and the ideals of power. It takes Catwoman shooting him with the Batpod. I wanted to spend more time with this character. There is so much depth and threat to this guy and so much unknown, even with all we learn. Like the Joker there is mystery there…and it lends power to the character.

John Blake / Robin – John Blake is my favorite Robin (Robin is actually in his full birth name) he is the orphan who discovers Bruce Wayne is Batman when Bruce visits his orphanage as a kid. This inspires him to become a cop and we see that he is the one with Gordon fighting against the occupation by Bane and having the most success. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is awesome in this role and if more films had been made of him in the role as Batman or Nightwing working with Batman I’d have been there, or read them had they made comics about it. This character has depth and isn’t a punk but an idealist who loses the idealism and goes his own way, becoming the new Batman.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Bruce Wayne’s arc is moving on from the loss of his parents and Rachel as the truth of both when he loses everything (his company, identity as Batman and being unstoppable, Alfred and Gotham) and after losing everything he finds Bruce again and is able to transcend the Batman identity and grow. Bane breaks him and it is in the breaking that he can heal from the scars he never addressed. The Pit is as much in his mind as it is a physical Pit and it is only in rising from both that he manages to save Gotham and himself. This is Christian Bale at his best as we see his full range of anger, despair, hope and content. This film is the much deserved resolution Bruce has been seeking since he lost his parents so long ago. Now he can be Batman and Bruce Wayne. The world is his and whatever he chooses to do it will no doubt be to help others as before but as a truly healed person, not the broken vigilante he was before.

The Breaking of Batman – This scene is powerful as Bane shows that he inhabits the idea of the League of Shadows and Batman better than Batman. He is the manipulator from the shadows who fights psychologically and physically. He breaks Batman totally and leaves him to suffer while Gotham is destroyed. It is powerful scene as he knows how small Bruce Wayne is in his identity in the end.

Climbing the Pit – The Pit is there to remind Bruce Wayne that he is more than Batman. He had gotten beyond fear and in doing so had nothing to live. In becoming an ideal he had trapped himself inside the ideal. It is only when he leaves room for fear to fail that he rises about it and finds Bruce Wayne again, which is the identity he lost the moment his parents were shot. Climbing the pit is healing both physically and mentally and becoming more than he ever was before.

What Desperation Can Breed / Revolution – Gotham is separated between the extreme rich and extreme poor. This leads to the revolution that Bane incites that leads to the easy occupation of the city and letting the city eat itself before it’s inevitable destruction.

The Cost of Batman’s Victory in “The Dark Knight” – The cost of victory is the occupation and death of Gotham. The mayor and all areas of authority get destroyed over the course of the war. Even though the city is saved from the bomb, the scars Bane left on the city will probably never be healed…which I think is something both Blake, Bruce and Selina realize, which is why they’ll be around to help. They have left the city, but everyone returns to Gotham.

Importance of Truth – Bane is able to so thoroughly break Batman and the city by revealing the truth of Harvey Dent which riles up the city against the rich and authority. There is only a small resistance and the mob turns on itself showing that the lie to save Gotham did nothing as eventually the city did turn on itself. The city’s base self was laid bare.

The Ending / The Power of Ideas and Growing Beyond Self – I felt this was done beautifully. Gordon realizes the child he comforted whose parents were shot (Bruce Wayne) became Batman, his friend and ally. Blake becomes the new Batman as he realizes the structures of Gotham are ones he can’t work with and he sees the corruption that Gordon saw but chose to work within to change and Selina and Bruce transcend their past identities becoming fully free…off the radar and the map and free to be whatever they want to be. Batman becomes Bruce Wayne which can hold both identities and more. Alfred get’s his happy ending finding that Bruce found happiness too.

Okay: The Writing – There are awkward dialogue moments and some extremes that shouldn’t have been in here (Batman having no cartilage in his legs, and his “retirement”), but the strengths of the characters and other moments like any moment with Alfred or the fight with Bane elevate it. So I’m putting it as okay.

The Cons: Talia’s Death – This wasn’t done well. She didn’t have to say anything…we knew her father’s dream was done if the bomb went off.

Dialogue Moments – There are some awkward dialogue moments in this…for example in the finale fight as Batman and Bane stare awkwardly at each other. It is stilted, but once they get fighting it is fine. There are other moments of wooden dialogue too, luckily they are only moments and not consistent.

   This is a film that ends the Trilogy really well. Batman moves on and at the very least becomes International. This film captures the idea behind “Batman Inc.” in many ways as we see him abroad but setting things up for Blake to inherent the mantel of the Bat. Bruce Wayne is both Batman (fixing the Bat Light) and Bruce Wayne (his living openly abroad). This is something he never had in any of the past films. Bruce Wayne was only Batman in the past films as he was unable to live beyond his obsession. It is only in realizing that Gotham will always have problems and need protecting but that can happen and he can live too. He takes Alfred’s advice and stays true to himself. In that way Batman dies so that Bruce Wayne who inhabits both identities can rise and there is something beautiful in that. I get why people hate it, but our heroes shouldn’t stay static. Let Bruce Wayne grow as all characters should so he can be more than just the traumatized child lost in fear. Bruce Wayne deserves better than that and this Trilogy is his story, his growth, his rising.

Final Score: 9.9 / 10

“Batman” in Film – Upcoming Reviews

Batman Symbol

     After the “Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure” I figured it was time to return back to DC and to visit the area of DC Comics where the greatest amount of live action films have been good…so Batman, which seems to be the only thing that DC live action can seem to get right some of the time versus their other heroes which have either not been tackled beyond television (Flash, Green Arrow) or have even more bad films to their name (Green Lantern, Superman). Batman is the only one has enough live action films to really show a range in quality that can give a full illustration of what keeps bringing us back to this amazing character.

     I’ll be staring with the Adam West “Batman” from 1966, going through Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” as well as doing “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin” before I get to Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy.” I’ve already reviewed “Batman v. Superman” but will include it when I get to rating the different takes on Batman and rating all of the Batman films as a whole from Worst to Best.

    This is going to be quite an adventure and also a change of pace, which should be good. Batman is one of my favorite parts of the DC Universe and I can’t wait to see the Affleck’s solo flick if it comes together. This is a character who speaks to human vulnerability and strength better than nearly any hero in comics, which is why there has been so many films made about him.

   Many of these films are my favorite and some are some of the worst to come out of cinema. Suffice to say this is going to be a fun reviewing adventure and I look forward to hearing your own thoughts on the films that are reviewed and the final ratings at the end.

Bronson (2008): A Surreal Trip into the Mind of a Criminal Psychopath



This movie was twisted and a lot of fun. I want to check out more by Nicolas Winding Refn after this, as he was the director and one of the writers who created this story. This is also the film that showed why Nolan chose to cast Tom Hardy as Bane. He owns it as a dangerous psychopath with a twisted mind in this.

Bronson is based off some of the events in the life of Michael Gordon Peterson, who took the name Charles Bronson after getting out of prison and doing fights. The film takes the idea that it is a separate identity that consumes him…or may be the true him that was there all along. I’ll go into more details in the assessment.

The film was produced by Rupert Preston and Danny Hansford, and Brock Norman Brock was the other writer along with the writer and director Nicolas Winding Refn who created the screenplay.

The story begins with Bronson performing before an audience and giving his backstory. We learn how he sees himself as having a normal life but began fights and robbing at an early age, and was how he met his first wife, but that his life really took off after he robbed a Post Office and was sent to prison. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Music – The music in this is amazing! At times it’s electronic, at times it’s classical and other times there is song. One thing they all have in common though is they reflect different parts of how Bronson sees himself. It captures his insanity, aggression and calm before he does something else stupid. Johnny Jewel really did a fantastic job with this music.

The Cinematography – This movie is beautifully filmed. We get him under red light in solitary and the feeling of trapped, we get his moments of calm meditation as he plans to fight and we see his insanity as he sees his life as a performance before the audience and that with them he is popular and loved and truly just a clown. In this way he is a lot like Goose in “A Clockwork Orange” though not as psychotic…

Bronson’s Performance – What I’m referring to here is his telling of events before the audience. We see his false guilt he feels when he is crying in a scene and on stage he is wearing stage make-up. This interior performance shows that Bronson was always the core of his personality and how much of a joke human relationships are to him.

A Code of Justice – One thing about Bronson that put’s him above Goose is he does have some sense of justice. He will not fight a person who doesn’t want to fight if they show themselves to be kind and he tries to kill a pedophile who confesses that they are the same. This showed a dimension to his aggression beyond just an adrenaline rush and wanting of attention. He does have a code.

Paul Daniels – This is the one character besides the Prison artist Phil Danielson who sees the potential in Bronson. Daniels is respected more but he is also much more detached, which makes him an interesting character. He is the one person we meet who doesn’t praise or threaten Bronson, which makes me think he was one of the few people this psychopath considered equals. He meets Paul in prison and after becomes a fighter for him when they are out of prison, it is Paul who proposes Peterson change his name to Bronson since it will be easier to sell. After Bronson goes back to prison though, we never see him again. Matt King is great as the cool confident character.

Phil Danielson – James Lance is good in this role. He helps Bronson find a way for him to express himself through art and it looks like he’s succeeding until he mentions them as “we” and it looks like he’s using Bronson for attention. This is what sets Bronson on edge and leads him to getting naked and paints his face and puts an apple in Phil’s mouth while music is played.

Bronson/Peterson – Tom Hardy truly owns this role and I’m glad that probably because of this he was chose to be Bane, who is one of my favorite baddies in the Batman Nolanverse. We see a guy who does care to some degree even if he does everything to separate himself from those who try to help him. He’s a broken and psychotic character who isn’t a hero, and he isn’t presented as one. It makes him an intriguing character. He also loves his form as he gets naked when he fights the guards in prison.

Okay: The Side Characters – From his wife, girlfriend, to every prison warden we meet…these characters are side characters who don’t get much development or have much influence in the end on the story. It’s almost like they are pieces of Bronson’s psyche which is why I can’t put this as a con…I do wish their motivations had been developed more. The characters listed above are the only ones whose motivations aren’t tied to Bronson fully. The rest are reactions to the things he does and don’t feel fully fleshed out for that reason.

The Cons: Presentation of Women – Most women in this that aren’t his mother are pole dancers or prostitutes and are only their to be used. This was a shame since even some of the prison guards had more agency than that. They at least got to react to Bronson in some way beyond submission.

Would I recommend this movie? If you don’t mind violence and nudity (which I didn’t, Tom Hardy is attractive) I would say go for it. It is a brilliant exploration of a character, even if the side characters are most there to put him in situations to react to or react to his situations. This is the exploration of Bronson’s psyche and showing the depths of his insanity and how he sees himself was genius. A psychopath for whom life is a stage, but still has something of a code. Definitely a favorite after today.

Final Score is 9.2 / 10