Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) – An Enjoyable Animated Adventure in the 1960’s Batman Series

  Adam West is a man who has left quite a legacy on the world. I knew primarily as the neighbor of Quahog on “Family Guy,” but got an appreciation for him when I reviewed the film that came out of the  Batman 60’s TV show, which I’ll post later in the review. The longer I’ve been with dark and gritty Batman the more I’ve come to appreciate the anti-fascist Batman. The one who is a public servant and at the end of the day is honorable, rather than the sometime psychopath of the modern incarnation that has existed since at least Burton’s Batman. West is a man who is going to be missed and this review is in honor of him.

“Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” was directed by Rick Morales and written by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker.

The story takes place within the same universe as the 1960’s tv show as Batman and Robin face off against Catwoman, The Riddler, Penguin and the Joker as they come up with a plan to turn Batman evil in order to pull of an devious heist and steal a powerful device.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Writing – The writing is clever, from Robin’s word play and the articulation of Adam West to the many visual and verbal puns that cover this film like music…I really enjoyed the dialogue in this film and it is a big part of what kept me watching.

Batman and Robin – The dynamic duo are the only competent ones in Gotham as the Police Chief and Commissioner Gordon don’t know how to do anything but call Batman and Robin for help. I really like the duo, they have a great mentor/student and father/son relationship that is only further developed over the course of the film such as when Robin has to save Batman and we see Batman take his crime fighting to a fascist degree after he gets infected by Catwoman’s concoction. West’s Batman is wonderful in this as he always appeals to the villains’ better natures before fighting them. Like how Superman once was in film, he appeals to the good in people and Robin is the one striving to do the same. This innocence and lack of cynicism really lends power, especially in all the crap going on currently.

A Stand Against Vigilantism and Fascism – When Batman gets infected her turns into a dictator and takes over every role in Gotham City with the Replicator gun. He arrests everyone or takes their jobs and makes everything about him and his great nobility. It is a great critique of the Batman who does this and is rewarded for it…the Nolan, Snyder and Burton Batmans at the end of the day are not public servants…they are vigilantes that have no regard for the law outside of what they get out of it. This makes Batman an anti-hero, which isn’t bad but I hardly consider him a hero anymore…even though he is one of my favorite comic book characters. This Batman is an actual hero and his corruption to becoming like modern day Batman illustrates the flaws in the ideology of the current incarnations of the Dark Knight.

Okay: The Villains and their Plan – The villains just want to steal art…that is it and there is Penguin creeping on Catwoman. They are okay in that Joker just wants to have a good laugh and the Riddler needs clever Riddlers but they never become more than the one note villains which was a waste. I enjoyed when other classic villains from the show face off against them (an early Mr. Freeze!) as they each had potentially a bit more going on, given they were working with Catwoman and Robin to defeat the evil Batmen.

The Cons: Catwoman and Sexism – Catwoman pretty much only uses her sex appeal and the heroes’ chivalry as a weapon. This was a shame as her master plan to turn Batman evil is successful though she switches sides after being betrayed and again randomly wants to kill Robin and run away with Batman, implying she never changed before killing one of her lives? She is the only woman in the film and she is entirely defined by the male gaze, whether it is Batman or Penguin. This was a damn shame given how central she is the story. I really was hoping for better from her character and it was this issue that kept the film from being good, even though I found it enjoyable.

The film was a lot of fun and a lot better than the 1960’s film, which in many ways had camp that didn’t quite work and was really unfocused (https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/batman-1966-fun-camp-that-doesnt-quite-work/). This one was self aware but wasn’t insulting as I could tell how much passion was put into this project. I really hope that “Batman: The Caped Crusaders vs. Two-Face” which has Shatner playing a 60’s Two-Face. I really enjoy this Batman now and plan on checking out the show as whole, knowing that I’ll probably being seeing more of the sexism in regards to Catwoman, but I’ll also see Eartha Kitt who is one of the people I highly admire and of course Adam West in one of his most iconic roles. R.I.P. Adam West, may the good always defeat evil.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

 

The Lego Batman Movie (2017): A Wonderful Satire and Celebration of Batman

    “The Lego Batman” movie is hilarious, a great satire and celebration of Batman and a great addition to the Batmanverse if you are any sort of fan of the character. This is a film that finally makes Batman fun again and brings in just how important the Bat Family is, which is something many of the live action films have forgotten. Before I get into story spoilers, I highly recommend this film. Much like the “Lego Movie,” it never stops being fun.

    The film was directed by Chris McKay, written by Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Seth Grahame-Smith, Jared Stern and John Wittington while being produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

   The story involves Batman who after defeating Joker and his Rogues Gallery once again is alone but finds his life changed when Jim Gordon (Hector Elizondo) retires and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) takes his place and wants to work with Batman (Will Arnett). Dick Grayson (Mchael Cera) is also accidentally adopted by Batman who must now deal with caring for others again as Joker sets a plan in motion to reach the enemies in the Phantom Zone, as he’s hurt that Batman doesn’t see him as his nemesis.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of Batman is fascinating and Lego’s take on it adds a lot of much needed humor as well as a recognition of the campy roots that have always been a part of Batman to some degree. We see a diverse array of Rogues, the Justice League of course the people of Gotham.

The Action – The action is fantastic, with my favorite parts being the opening fight where Batman faces off against his Rogues and the Phantom Zone enemies invading and pretty much destroying Gotham. The action is fluid and quick and remains focused even with so much going on.

The Joker – Zach Galifianakis was brilliant casting as the Joker. He brings so much snide and emotion to the role and I loved how he had a co-dependent relationship with Batman where all he wanted was to be the most hated and Batman’s nemesis aka have a special relationship. His Joker isn’t all bad either as at the end he helps save Gotham and in the Phantom Zone is freaked out by the mentality some of the villains have.

The Bat Family – The Bat Family is wonderful as see Alfred is Bruce’s surrogate father just as he becomes Dick Grayson’s (Michael Cera doing some great comedy) surrogate Dad. Batgirl (Rosario Dawson is once again fantastic) is the one who sees the big picture of them working together and that it is needed and Batman is the inventor whose inventions help save the day. It is Alfred calling Bruce to action that helps him grow (Fiennes does a wonderful job as the character), Robin’s usefulness, innocence and admiration and Batgirl’s accountability that help him complete his arc and finally grow out of the fear that was with him on the day his parent’s died.

Satire of Batman – Batman is trapped as a perpetual child who plays rock and roll is an ungrateful narcissist and this on display, from tantrums (a good satire of Bale and Affleck’s Batman at his most extreme), his strange villains from his early run (Condiment King, etc.) his strange rivalry with Superman (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Returns) and how a lot of it comes from Batman’s childish need to one up and be extreme, and his isolation and just lonely that really is. The great thing is, a character arc comes out of it!

Batman’s Character Arc – In the end this satire is a celebration of the character because his anger and rage is mocked but it is also explored and it goes somewhere. Batman grows up and realizes he isn’t alone. Besides “Dark Knight Rises” I can’t think of a film that has really done this well (“Batman Returns” did it but not well).

 Okay: Batman’s Rogues – Batman’s rogues don’t much besides being minions of the Joker and function as one entity (which was a shame) some of the references are funny though, from Condiment King (actual rogue) to Bane having Tom Hardy’s Bane’s voice. As jokes and references they are fine but they don’t exist as characters, which would have raised this film higher.

The Phantom Zone Villains – Gremlins, The Eye of Sauron, King Kong and Lord Voldemort are some of the baddies in the Phantom Zone. They also largely exist as references too and as villains so powerful Batman’s Rogues and the Bat Family have to team up to defeat them.

The Cons: The Legoverse – Gotham is built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone has a talking Lego that sounds like a kid. I didn’t like either of these things. I get it is the Legoverse but these things took me out of the great Batman story that was taking place and was the worst part of the film and only real con.

   This was a film that was amazing as a Batman film, but brought down by the ties to the Legoverse. It was that aspect that took me out of the great Batman story that was being told. There is fantastic character arc that takes place with Batman finally growing up, from Gotham being built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone talking lego…I still highly recommend this film and consider it a favorite. I’m curious to see what the Lego Team comes up with next and hope that DC can take note of the fact that Batman can’t remain static. The great movies have him grow and change, it is when that is forgotten we are given the dramatic child who Will Arnett satires beautifully.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Batman vs. Robin (2015): Fascinating Villains But Execution Doesn’t Quite Work

Batman vs Robin

    This was a film that was enjoyable but didn’t quite work. Like the rest of the Damian Wayne stories, Damian is still way too overpowered and Nightwing is still nearly invisible but is gold in any scene he’s in. If anything this made me want to read the comics that inspired the film, “Batman: The Court of Owls” as the Court is a pretty awesome villain group and I like the way they do things. I want to learn more about them thanks to this film.

     “Batman vs. Robin” was directed by Jay Oliva, written by J. M. DeMatteis and produced by James Tucker. It is the sequel to “Son of Batman” and based off the comic “Batman: The Court of Owls” by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion.

     The story involves Damian having issues with Bruce’s killing policy as Batman learns more about the reason for his parents getting killed when a mysterious legend when he becomes aware of The Court of Owls who try to get Bruce Wayne to join them and to turn Damian Wayne into a weapon for them.

The Pros: The Animation – WB and DC animation continues to be beautiful. I don’t like a lot of things about this New 52 Universe but the animation is still one of the best parts and something DC has always been better at than Marvel.

The Action – The fight scenes are awesome as the Court of Owls send agents who actually feel like a threat anytime Batman or the Bat Family takes them on. You feel the stakes and it lends power to each scene.

The Soundtrack – Wiedmann continues to create a great soundtrack that captures the mystery of these films and the antagonists and heroes within them.

Dollmaker – Weird Al plays this guy and he is messed up. He turns children into feral dolls and his getting killed by Talon was one of the best parts of the film. Great and creepy enemy…

Dick Grayson / Nightwing – Sean Maher really owns this role and I hate that he hardly ever gets any screen time or is relegated to Damian’s babysitter. This is a character who was Robin, why isn’t more done with that? He continues to be one of the highlights of every film he’s in but is never given much to do. At least we get to see him fight the Court of Owls and Damian.

Alfred – Alfred is the father figure who helps Bruce learn how to be a dad and Damian to feel loved. I like how he is the warmth in the Bat Family and brings out the better nature of our characters.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Bruce is overcontrolling in this and it blows up in his face, we see him learning how to be a dad in this and it is great seeing that arc. I just wish more could have been done with Bruce and Samantha as well as The Court of Owls and Bruce. Damian steals the storyline that should have belonged to Bruce Wayne.

The Court of Owls – These guys set everything in motion for the Wayne’s to die so that they could control the city. They are a great puppeteer organization and I wish we could have seen more of what they do as there are many members and they are all the rich of Gotham and around the world.

Talon – Talon becomes Damian’s mentor and the anti-Batman as he kills murders and the corrupt. He is also insane too as he called the cops on his dad leading to his dad getting killed and slaughtered the Court of Owls in Gotham to take control of it.

Okay/Con: The Writing – The dialogue is a bit stilted at times and could have done with more showing rather than telling.

Damian Wayne – Damian continues to be one of the weakest parts of these films. He beats everyone he fights so there are never any stakes and he continues to be a jerk or cross the line that Batman lays down so he just stays static. I was so happy when he left Wayne Manor at the end.

The Cons: Damian’s Plot Armor – Damian defeats Talon, Nightwing and even Batman to some degree at different points throughout the film. Seriously, he has no weaknesses or very good plot armor. It is annoying because he isn’t even noble and his plot armor and overuse just brings down the story.

  This was a story that could have worked better if Damian wasn’t such a Mary Sue/Gary Stu and actually had vulnerability and could lose some of the fights he gets into, and if the story hadn’t been all about him. Nightwing appears and he is great in all his scenes but he is so underutilized and ends up being Damian’s punching bag most of the time. The motivations of the Court of Owls were also never fully explained which hurt the story. I didn’t know what they wanted in the end or what their vision for Gotham was outside of power for the families controlling it. These are the things that kept it from being good and kept the film in the realm of enjoyable.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016): Honoring the Old “Teen Titans” Show and Creating a Great Original Story

Justice League vs Teen Titans poster

    “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” is a lot of fun. As someone who grew up on Bruce Timm’s justice league and the old original animesque “Teen Titans,” this is the first time with these films I’ve felt the spirit of both really captured, while still remaining true to “The New 52” tone they’ve had going on in all these films. The Teen Titans are really who carry the film and this is there story and it is their development and actions that end up making this a favorite film for me.

     The film was directed by Sam Liu, written by Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett and produced by James Tucker.

SPOILERS ahead

     The story involves Trigon’s (Jon Burnthal) attempt to return to Earth to destroy it and to use his daughter Raven (Taissa Farmiga) as the way to do so. When the Justice League investigates he takes control of a few members leaving the Teen Titans to team to together to stop him and save the Justice League.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack at moments reminded me of Bear McCreary which added a lot to the haunting nature of Trigon and the pasts of Raven and Damian. Frederik Wiedmann once again did a fantastic job.

The Animation – WB and DC continue to put out great animated films and this one is no different. The world is dark but beautiful and feels epic in feel.

The World – The world is rich as we get an appearance of Trigon, the Legion of Doom, the Justice League and Teen Titans. This world is huge and still gives room to explore many of the characters within it.

The Characters – The characters are what carry this film and the reason to see it. Whether it is certain Justice League members or the Teen Titans as a whole, these are the folks who make this film fun.

Batman / Bruce Wayne – Batman is the only Justice League member not to get possessed and it is thanks to him that Cyborg is saved and later the rest of the Justice League. He risks himself in the process though and is out of it until the end.

Barry Allen / The Flash – Flash appears briefly but his comedic antics and comedic villains are both on display, even at the end. I like the Flash a lot now as he adds much needed levity to the super seriousness of “The New 52.”

Oliver Stone / Cyborg – Cyborg gets to be both Justice League and Teen Titans and brings pizza at the end as a callback to the show! He is great and we see that he is the leader when Batman is out of commission. He is pretty much a Teen Titans member and co-leader with Starfire over the course of saving Raven and getting to the final fight.

Dick Grayson / Nightwing – Grayson should have been in the final fight. I don’t know why he wasn’t as he’s pretty much Damian’s babysitter until Damian is dropped off at the Justice League. Maher is once again wonderful and brings charm to the awkward flirting that Starfire and He do with one another. We needed more of this character.

Trigon – Jon Bernthal is fantastic as the monster and power that is Trigon. I wanted to see more of this character and his influence on the world beyond just trying to enter it and sending his sons out. He still felt like a threat though, even though the final battle with him was kind of stupid.

Teen Titans – The Teen Titans are the best part of this film and really the main reason to watch this. I didn’t see “Teen Titans Go” and don’t plan on it, so this is the best version of them since that past 2003 show.

Koriand’r / Starfire – Starfire is the leader and she feels like an alien in this but also the idealist we saw from when she was in the show. Her dynamic with everyone is great as she is the glue and the one who helps Damian open up.

Jaime Reyes / Blue Beetle – Blue Beetle is cool and doesn’t put up with Damian’s crap. He is very much the Cyborg of the group (and not just because he is pretty much a cyborg from the alien tech melded to his body) as his personality is big, leading him to fight with Damian. I like how he doesn’t know the suit’s power…he reminds me of some of Venom’s hosts that way.

Damian Wayne / Robin – Finally Robin isn’t perfect (sort of)! We see his anger come out and how he was raised by sociopaths and it does make an impact on how he interacts with others when he invades the Teen Titans security, eggs Blue Beetle on and nearly dies because of it and confronts a demon taking the form of Ra’s Al Ghul, giving him the chance to face his past trauma and see how alike he and Raven are. Both having fathers out to destroy the world. His friendship with Raven is one of the best parts of the film. Loved that he neutralized Superman with kryptonite and later puts it back in his pouch as Superman frowns.

Garfield Logan / Beast Boy – Brandon Soo Hoo’s performance reminded me of classic Beast Boy from the 2003 “Teen Titans” show. He’s funny and his wit and humor make him gold in every scene. I love how he fights too and moves between small and large creatures to have the largest impact in a fight, and he does it a comedic way.

Okay: Wonder Woman – She like Superman feels a little too alien and even though she’s played by Rosario Dawson, I never got her character fully. I’m also biased against her design and miss the classic design, but that would be made up if she had a bit more development and motivations…she isn’t as bad as Superman at least.

Okay / Con – Justice League Development – We see them fight Lex Luthor and some folks at the beginning in the Legion of Doom but it never goes anywhere and the villains never feel like a threat. It’s cool to see Lex Luthor at least.

The Teams Working Together in the Final Fight – The fight in Trigon’s realm is cool, Superman’s fight against the Justice League and Flash, Wonder Woman and Superman against Trigon is just weak…so it ends up being an okay/con.

The Cons: Superman – This guy is alien, distant a jerk and has zero chemistry with any of the characters, and he’s supposed to be in love and dating Wonder Woman. I never got that and his presentation in this new 52 Universe feels off. I miss the Bruce Timm Superman, he felt like a real character at least.

Superman Stops Evil Justice League Alone – Cyborg and the Teen Titans are trying to get the crystal for Raven to trap Trigon in it again but they feel useless as Superman stops both the Flash and Wonder Woman who are also possessed before they even reach the portal. Seriously, the Teen Titans and Cyborg weren’t even needed, it’s implied through how easy he saved the other two Justice League members that Superman could have done it all himself.

     The only real downside to this was lack of development for the Justice League, which made sense given this was about the Teen Titans, and Superman being so overpowered everyone being there felt unnecessary. I hate this version of Superman, he’s distant and treats everyone around him like crap besides Diana and even their relationship doesn’t really work because we never see it develop so I didn’t feel chemistry in that relationship. Seriously, I look forward to when one of these films eventually kills Superman off. Besides that, the Teen Titans are awesome and the best I’ve seen the characters since the show that aired in 2003. This managed to capture that same spirit and be it’s own thing, which is the best that could have been hoped for.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10. A favorite and worth checking out.

Son of Batman (2014): A Decent Telling of Damian Wayne’s Origin Story

Son of Gotham poster

    “Son of Batman” is alright. At times this film has moments of greatness only for it to be shot down by bad writing and not developing some of the intriguing characters more. This is a story that really deserved more time than the running time of an hour, which really brings it down the most it in the end. This is a film that is the origin story of Damian Wayne, but in many ways he is the least interesting character in this, and that isn’t completely is his fault, it is the fault of the writers, which I’ll get into deeper into the review.

     The film was directed by Ethan Spaulding and written by Joe R. Lansdale and produced by James Tucker and based on the story “Batman and Son” by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert.

    The story involves the assassination of Ra’s Al Ghul by his former heir Deathstroke forcing Talia to take her son, who is the son of Bruce Wayne to Gotham City and Batman to escape. It is here Batman must deal with the reality of being a father and Damian must face a world outside of League of Assassins.

The Pros: The Animation – DC animation continues to put out beautiful looking work, and this is no exception. I’d almost say it is worth it just for the character designs as you make take inspiration for your own character work if you are comic artist.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is haunting and beautiful and reminded me of McCreary’s “Battlestar Galactica” soundtrack. Fredrick Weidmann did a great job.

The World – The world is cool but underdeveloped. The League of Assassins is huge and going through a civil war between the Ghul’s and Deathstroke and we even get glimpses of this Gotham and Batman.

The Characters – The characters who receive development are pretty great or okay. Sadly not all of them got development but the ones who did are a pro for me.

Slade Wilson / Deathstroke – The apprentice abandoned by his master out for revenge…this is Slade’s arc and it is great as he schools anyone he faces until the very end when he loses to Batman easily and just loses to Damian. I wanted more of this character and why Ra’s didn’t choose him to lead. Thomas Gibson did a great voice acting job.

Dick Grayson / Nightwing – Sean Maher (Dr. Simon from “Firefly”) is my favorite character in this. He has depth and reason for what he does and you get him moving on from Batman. He is a warning and promise for what his future may hold. I like how he clashes with both Batman and Damian too.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Jason O’Mara is okay but his Batman is like a softer spoken Val Kilmer. I like Val Kilmer but most Batman are a lot better and same goes here. He is good but doesn’t even touch great. I wanted more of his relationship to Talia and further development with Damian, sadly we didn’t get that.

Okay: Ra’s Al Ghul – Ra’s is around for a little bit and dies. We see how much of a zealot he is and also how he is a caring Grandfather but that is about it. He dies way too early and his legacy is never fully explored.

Talia Al Ghul – Talia seeks revenge and gets easily beat by Deathstroke. Wasn’t impressed at all with that, though her relationship to Damian feels real as well as her love for Bruce Wayne. Morena Baccarin does a good job with what little she’s given.

Damian Wayne – Damian is a little too perfect. He hacks Batman’s computer, beats Slade in the final fight and gets over his anger way too quickly. For a guy raised in trauma he’s surprisingly well put together, which just made him feel like a Gary Stu/Mary Sue. He’s the core character and the driver of the narrative so I expected more.

The Cons: Killer Croc – Guy is just a giant monster and gets zero development. Great design but that means nothing when there is zero character behind it.

Doctor Langstrom – Beyond caring for his family we get none of the mad scientist tendencies. Why was he working for Ra’s prior? This is never answered, or how he got connected to Killer Croc. This was a shame as they are both Batman rogues, but this connection never went anywhere.

Deathstroke’s Plan – An army of Man-Bat’s…really? Batman defeated these guys so easily, you think the military is going to be that unprepared that they wouldn’t have some kind of sonar weapon. It was a stupid plan when Ra’s made it and Deathstroke continuing it was a shortfall on his part.

   This was an okay film. It strikes for good but never fully reaches there largely because so many of the characters that would be great in different contexts don’t get the agency and development they deserve. This film aimed high as it was giving us the origins of the one of the most famous Robins, yet I didn’t care about him. He was overpowered and seemed to have no flaws beyond anger that we never got to see him fully face. He was the definition of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu and it took away from the story. I wanted to know more about Deathstroke, Talia and Ra’s but an hour was not long enough to do so and the overall narrative suffered because of it. This is what made the film okay in the end…lack of development, too short of time and Damian’s too perfect tendencies as well as the main’s outside of him not being enough to carry the story. If you like Batman, check it out for sure. DC Animation hasn’t made any bad films I’ve seen yet, but this could have been so much more.

Final Score: 7.4 / 10

Batman Forever (1995): A Bit Too Campy, A Cluttered Cast and Moments of Good

Batman Forever

   “Batman Forever” is okay. At moments it is fun and looks as if it could be more (whether fully embracing the dark or fully embracing the camp) but since it can’t really decide on what it wants to be it never becomes better than okay and never reaches good. One thing this film showed as well is doing Robin in a Batman Film is hard. Batman has always been the more interesting character and it is a difficult thing to write a good sidekick, especially when you only have a running time of 2 hours. So without further ado, here is the review.

     The film was directed by Joel Shumacher and written by Lee and Janet Scott Bachler along with Akiva Goldsman and was produced by Tim Burton and Peter MacGregor-Scott.

     The story involves the escape of Two-Face (Tommy Lee-Jones) from Arkham, the rise of the Riddler (Jim Carrey) and what Batman (Val Kilmer) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell) who is made an orphan by Two-Face do to stop them.

The Pros: The Color Contrasts – I like the use of color in this film. At times it feels like it was filmed in a comic book even though the cinematography isn’t great. The use of color worked despite the cinematography.

Two-Faces’s Goons – Black and Red masks…these guys look awesome and actually manage to be a threat sometimes, not many Rogues Goons can say that in any Batman film.

Alfred – Michael Gough owns this role and is great being the father figure to DIck Grayson and Bruce Wayne. I can see why they kept him around for so long. He really inhabits this role really well.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Val Kilmer is a pro, and was a safe choice for Batman. He was a major action star at the time so choosing him to feel this role made sense. He bring humanity to the character even if doesn’t really elevate Bruce Wayne or Batman to great the way future and past actors did.

The Message – Batman heals beyond his trauma and chooses to be Batman because he wants to be, not because he has to be. This is really awesome and could have been presented a lot better.

Okay: Dr. Chase – I like the idea of the character (her being a Doctor and trying to help Bruce Wayne) but her execution ends up being nothing more than a love interest to be saved, even though she’s presented as being able to take care of herself. Nicole Kidman was a waste of talent.

Edward Nygma / The Riddler – Jim Carrey works at times when he isn’t over the top, but other times he is just too campy…and I didn’t get the character. He came off as trying to hard but he had moments of brilliance inbetween the ham, which is why I’m not putting him down as a con. He was alright but not good.

Harvey Dent / Two-Face – We never get to know what lead to Two-Face snapping beyond the acid on the face and I never believed in his friendship with Bruce Wayne (they seem to imply it existed but we never see Harvey recognize Bruce at all). This was a missed opportunity and could have made this character good. Instead he is okay. He like the Riddler could have been so much more, just like this film.

Cinematography – The color contrasts are great but their are no unique shots in this. Nothing stood out and nothing really unique was presented. It was safe, so just ended up being mediocre.

The Cons: Dick Grayson / Robin – This Robin is a punk and there is nothing likable about him. He steals from the person who took him and doesn’t respect the wishes of the person who is caring for him and steals his stuff. This was the first film where Robin didn’t work. At least in the Adam West show he worked as the Wonder Boy on some strange level.

The Riddler Plot – Stealing everyone’s intelligence through television…it feels like it is trying to be smart but just comes off as stupid.

To Kill – Batman seems to not want Robin to get revenge against Two-Face but ends up killing him anyway…sure Batman, what were you trying to teach Robin exactly? That you get the kill?

The Soundtrack – Elliot Goldenthal is awful. This film feels half assed and stolen from the old Adam West show while at the same time trying to be Burton and failing at both. Seriously, I don’t want to hear anymore of this music.

The Writing – This script has some of the most terrible and wooden dialogue in any comic book film. Fingers on a chalkboard would be an apt comparison.

Tone – This is a film that doesn’t know if it wasn’t to be  camp and fun or dark…at times we have old 60’s sound affects, which the score doesn’t help, yet we have Two-Face or Riddler murdering someone in the next scene. What exactly did the movie want the audience to feel?

   This film didn’t have many pros because so much of it was safe. I think this was largely a reaction to the sexuality and maturity in the past Burton films so the studio wanted to play it safe, which is probably why Shumacher was chosen, as he’s never been a good director. This also explains the need for 3 writers as it gives a written by committee feel to the film. This is a film that can’t find it’s soul or tone and suffers for it. It isn’t a terrible film, but mediocre is not exactly an endorsement. This is a film that could have been so much more given how great of villains Two-Face and the Riddler are and the possibilities in any Dick Grayon story.

Final Score: 7.2 / 10

Batman (1966): Fun Camp That Doesn’t Quite Work

Batman (1966)

     An important thing to remember in regards to “Batman” is he hasn’t always been the grim Dark Knight. For much of his history he’s actually been the one popularized by the live action show that brought about this movie where he was pretty much a mortal good guy with a side kick who used gadgets to solve issues and had a colorful collection of rogues. I’m going to state up front, I have a bias against the camp of this era. I grew up on Burton’s 1989 “Batman” and “Batman: The Animated Series” that came out of it, which in turn introduced me to “The Dark Knight Returns,” “The Long Halloween” and “The Killing Joke” all of which are some of my favorite Batman stories. I’ve always been a fan of noir and the early camp Batman had none of that noir feel to it.

     Given my bias, I am going to judge this film on it’s own merits though, even if due to the nature of my bias I did not enjoy it as much as the Burton or Nolan films, this is a film that can still compete against “Batman and Robin” and “Batman Forever.”

    “Batman” was directed by Leslie H. Martinson and written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and produced by William Dozier.

The Pros: Bat and Penguin Gadgets – This is one bit of comedy that I actually enjoyed. Penguin has Rocket Umbrellas that the Rogues fly on, Batman has Bat Repellent and the list goes on. The list of gadgets was rather inventive and I like how it was this era of comics that inspired the Monarch and the gadgets in “The Venture Bros.”

The Rogues – The Rogues all have distinct personalities and work sort of…The Penguin and Catwoman are the only competent ones though. The Riddler and Joker could have been replaced by Pirate thugs and the story wouldn’t have changed at all.

Catwoman – Lee Meriwether is great as Catwoman as she is the one who actually manages to infiltrate and hurt Batman as a secret identity she takes is one Batman falls in love with and when he learns they are the same person it breaks his heart, which is sadly the only real damage anyone faces in this film. So she gets point for that. She clearly had fun in this role too.

The Penguin – The Penguin is all about the gadgets and they are fun! He also manages to infiltrate the Batcave too. Seriously, the Joker and the Riddler weren’t needed at all. The Penguin on his own manages to be the greatest threat of the bunch in regards to the capture of the device and turning the world leaders into dust (don’t worry, they are turned back). Burgess Meredith is fantastic.

Batman – Adam West makes a great Batman. He has charm and is easily the best part of this film besides Catwoman and the Penguin. Seeing him as Bruce Wayne is fun too as he goes through convoluted means to keep his identity secret.

Okay: Camp – The camp doesn’t always work. When it does (Penguin’s vehicles, Batman’s devices, etc.) When it doesn’t it is bad…from the Riddler ruining plans to our heroes being really really stupid.

Joker – The Joker has a great design but he basically functions as a minion. There is nothing he did in this film that couldn’t have been done by one of the pirate minions. He is a useless character in this.

Riddler – Like the Joker he has a great design but he spends most of the film sabotaging the Villains plans because of his need for riddles, making him also a useless figure in regards to the story. He isn’t a threat or is no more a threat than Penguin’s hired muscle.

The Humor – The humor is hit and miss…I liked all the Bat devices and Penguin devices as well as the Penguin’s submarine, but besides that it felt too forced. If it had been a funnier film I would have rated it higher.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is standard camp and isn’t anything I’d listen to again.

The Cons: The Cinematography – The filming looks cheap. This clearly looks like a made for television movie and there isn’t anything unique about it.

Authority Figures Who are Allies – Comissioner Gordon, the President and others appear in this but don’t really do anything but give Batman and Robin their missions. There is nothing unique about any of them, making them cons. Gordon in Burton’s movies had the same problem.

Robin – The wonder kid is just annoying. He is useful at least but he comes off like Wesley Crusher in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He is solving all of Batman’s issues and solving the Riddles when that should be Batman. Robin isn’t needed in this at all.

Don’t Drink and PSAs – I get kids watched this show but this was really annoying. It felt like the IHOP in “Man of Steel.” It wasn’t needed and had no place in the film.

Stupidity of our Heroes – Batman and Robin have to have every clue given to them, usually by the Riddler. Our heroes are not really competent at all, but everyone around them isn’t either so I guess it balances out?

  For what it is worth I did enjoy this film at times, even if at other times I found myself bored or the humor not quite working. Part of the issue was Batman and Robin had to have the answers handed to them in very obvious riddles by the Riddler most of the time and it was impossible to take any threats they made seriously since they took at 5 minutes to do a PSA about not drinking and remembering to stay in school. If this was a satire it would have worked a lot better, but because it was played straight it was brought down some. This was still fun camp and I’d honestly say it is worth checking out. This was Batman’s history for a long time and Adam West manages to be a very charming and corny Batman.

Final Score: 7 / 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.

Top 10 Batman: The Animated Series Episodes (Season 1)

1992-BatmanTheAnimatedSeries-keyart

“Batman: The Animated Series,” is one of my favorite shows and after rewatching Season 1 I can once see why. It has fully fleshed out characters, villains with dimensions and adds so much to the mythos. I’ll be taking a break from Batman for a while but plan on returning to Batman and the DC Animated Universe.

In this post I’ll be going into my top 10, as well as giving a link to each one and the reason why they are where they are. Each was chosen because it was the perfect episode compared to the others. I am going to give an honorary mention to some more of my favorites though: “Harley and Ivy,” “Heart of Steel,” “Shadow of the Bat,” “Curse of the Grey Ghost,” “Day of the Samurai,” “His Silicon Soul,” and “Joker’s Wild.” All of these are worth checking out and worth more than one viewing.

Here are the Top 10:

What is Reality

10th) What is Reality?

“What is Reality?” is not higher on the list because it doesn’t really add more to any of the characters. It is on the list though because it shows the Riddler at his height (wiping all information of his existence away and stealing money and stock via hacking) and it takes Robin and Batman working together and at their best to stop him and save Commissioner Gordon. The Riddler is one of my favorite of Batman’s Rogues and this one captures why that is perfectly.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-48-what-is-reality-the-riddlers-game/

Wayne_and_Batman_fight

9th) Perchance to Dream

“Perchance to Dream,” is the best Mad Hatter episode since he gives Batman a world where Bruce Wayne could function in. Someone else is Batman, his parents are alive and he has a normal life. This is a common trope especially in the DC Animated Universe which is why it isn’t higher on the list, but what sets this one apart is how in the world created a Batman does exist and shows just how much Bruce Wayne needs Batman as an identity to function.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-30-trapped-in-a-dream/

Robin's Reckoning

8th) Robin’s Reckoning

“Robin’s Reckoning,” sold me on the Batman and Robin possible romance in this series. The chemistry and honesty they have with each other is greater than any of the partners they get in this universe and it shows their bond with Batman trying to protect Robin from doing something he’ll regret by killing his parents killer. The killer Tony Zucco is the weakest part of this episode, which is why it isn’t higher on the list.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episodes-32-33-robins-reckoning-how-dick-grayson-became-robin/

Riddler-5

7th) If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?

This is the episode that introduces us to the Riddler and what a great episode it is! It incorporates mythology with the Riddler as the sphinx and Batman and Robin having to save the Riddler’s corrupt boss in a giant maze. This one is great in regards to their team work and shows that Robin is a gamer. The Riddler is also one of the more sympathetic rogues and this is why. He is cheated out of the game he created and fired by his corrupt boss. He could have been an anti-hero if he hadn’t violent too…showing the promise to this version of the Riddler. My hope is that when he returns to the big screen that inspiration will be taken from this Riddler after the horrible execution and choice that was the Jim Carrey Riddler.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-40-if-youre-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich-the-arrival-of-the-riddler/

Joker's Favor

6th) Joker’s Favor

“Joker’s Favor,” is the episode that shows just how petty and cruel the Joker can be. Charlie is a guy having a bad day, he yells at a car that happens to have the Joker in it and he is blackmailed for the rest of his life. The Joker and Harley later use him to almost wipe out the Police Force. Harley Quinn is also the reason this episode is so perfect, given the plan would have have succeeded without her and Charlie. The ending is perfect too and we’re left wondering if Charlie snapped because of everything the Joker put him through…showing us just how deadly the Joker can be to total strangers.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-22-jokers-favor-the-deal-with-the-devil/

two_face_piece

5th) Two-Face

“Two-Face,” is one of the greatest tragedies of this series because in the beginning he was a well intentioned District Attorney who we see as a flawed but good person through his friendship with Bruce Wayne. It makes Rupert Thorne’s blackmail of him all the more powerful since he uses Harvey’s past and vulnerabilities against him, which in turn creates a monster who becomes one of the best of Batman’s Rogues. I always had hope for this Two-Face, it was a shame that the hope was forsaken as Harvey was lost and Two-Face became dominant. Also, my favorite Two-Face is the one from this series.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episodes-10-and-11-two-face-the-tragedy-of-harvey-dent/

Dreams in Darkness

4th) Dreams in Darkness

“Dreams in Darkness,” asks the question of does Batman belong in Arkham Asylum? It is a haunting episode because Batman is someone who is like the crooks he brings in. He has unresolved issues that lead him to dress up like a bat to take out criminals. This is the question dealt with as he tries to convince the doctors that Scarecrow has escaped and is planning to destroy Gotham. This is by far the best of the Scarecrow episodes and well worth a watch due to how it analyzes Batman, shows Scarecrow at his height and how the workers of Gotham are just normal well intentioned doctors.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-28-dreams-in-darkness-batman-in-arkham-asylum/

Heart of Ice

3rd) Heart of Ice

“Heart of Ice,” is one of the most tragic tales of “Batman: The Animated Series,” and by far the best of them. We see a scientist trying to save his wife with experimental technology destroyed by his boss and in the process losing all ability to physically feel. There is a reason this episode has won awards before. It is just that good and Mr. Freeze is one of the more complex rogues who I was always rooting for to get redemption.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-14-heart-of-ice-the-tragedy-of-victor-fries/

The_Man_Who_Killed_Batman-Title_Card

2nd) The Man Who Killed Batman

“The Man Who Killed Batman,” is an episode that explores what Gotham would be like without Batman. It would be first place if it had shown how more of the rogues reacted besides the Joker and how Commissioner Gordon reacted, but it does what it needs to. Sydney the ambitious but stupid and funny thug is believed to have killed Batman and from there he faces the consequences of it as Thorne thinks he is a threat, Joker hates him for stealing his kill and in the end the prison admires him. It is a fun and powerful episode.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-51-the-man-who-killed-batman-a-world-without-batman/

Almost Got Im

1st) Almost Got ‘Im

Told in the style of “The Canterbury Tales,” the villains Two-Face, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Joker and Killer Croc recount their exploits on how they almost killed Batman. It is fun and you see why Penguin, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and the Joker are the strongest of the popular rogues. They dynamic between them all of jealousy, animosity and friendship is fantastic since it was created by Batman bringing them down. There are a few twists and some great jokes and fantastic stories making “Almost Got ‘Im” the best of the “Batman: The Animated Series,” episodes of season 1!

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-46-almost-got-im-a-meeting-of-the-rogues-or-so-close-to-victory/

Next I will be reviewing some animated shows, but someday I will be returning to review Season 2 (and best of Season 2) and the rest of the DC Animated Universe. Bruce Timm helped create something great that stands strong to this day.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 49 – I Am The Night – Is Being Batman Worth the Cost?

I_Am_the_Night-Title_Card

“I Am The Night,” is one of the more reflective Batman episodes that explores the cons of Batman and the guilt that Bruce Wayne lives with everyday. The story’s premise is that Batman is visiting Crime Alley where his parents are killed which leaves Commissioner Gordon in a setup against the Jazzman that leads to him getting mortally wounded…from here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Bullock – Bullock is the voice against Batman. He blames Batman for not showing up (basically admitting the police force hasn’t advanced at all because of it’s dependence on the vigilanty) and that he plans to take Batman on for the injury of Gordon.

Barbara Gordon – Defends Batman and her father from the Jazzman. The set-up to become Batgirl continues.

Robin/Dick Grayson – Is there to remind Bruce Wayne of why he became Batman in the first place. Also is there for Barbara Gordon.

Commissioner Gordon – Explains to Batman how he admires him and would have liked to be him if he was younger. It is a touching scene. “You are already a hero.” Is what Batman tells him.

Batman/Bruce Wayne – Actually postulates some good questions. Why don’t I move on? Am I actually helping this city? Do I do any good in the end? (Paper had Penguin getting free). He brings up how Gotham has become a tourist attraction because of him and in a way that he has inspired some of the way the crazy is expressed in Gotham. In the end it is a “Yes,” because he recognizes the role he plays and how others depend on him (from the small time criminal who reforms after Batman saves him) to the Gordons and Robin.

The Music – Catches the reflectiveness of events since when the drama goes down it is on the anniversary of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ death.

Cons: The Jazzman – He is just a crook with a personal grudge. I’m surprised one of the bigger fish wasn’t used. Like the Joker to do a callback to the 1989 “Batman” movie.

This was a great episode that begins to explore the cons of vigilantism and also personal responsibility. It would have been better with a bigger rogue and more time to explore Batman’s morose but it still works and is a favorite. Definitely recommend this episode.

Final score is 9.75 / 10.