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

Batman: Bad Blood (2016) – The Cast is Great but not the Execution

Batman Bad Blood

    “Batman: Bad Blood” shows both the strength and weaknesses in full degree of these Damian films (I don’t really consider them Batman films, he’s a support character like in the Justice League “New 52” films). The large cast manages to help this film over some of the others though as Nightwing and Batwoman are amazing characters who really help carry the film through the Damian and villain drag that occurs sometimes during the film.

   The film was directed by Jay Oliva and written by J. M. DeMatteis and produced by James Tucker.

   The films involves a group of villains capturing Batman leading to Batwoman and Batwing teaming up with Nightwing and Robin to figure out who did it and stopping their evil plan and figure out who the mysterious Heretic is who leads them.

The Pros: The Animation – WB and DC animation continues to be stellar but that is kind of a given at this point. The dark tone of the film is captured in the animation and it is great at flowing with the action.

The Soundtrack – Wiedmann once again creates a fantastic soundtrack. I can see why they chose him to make the music for these films. His Bear McCreary feel he brings to it all compliments the Universe.

The Action – The action is the one good thing I’ll say about the “New 52,” the fights have consequences that often in death (which even the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems unable to pull off) and I like that death is permanent, with a few exceptions like the character I’ll be going into next.

The Mad Hatter – This guy is a great villain! With Talia he manages to control Bruce Wayne and take control of the World Leaders in the process. He nearly wins too until Alfred explodes his head when he fighting another person in the same room. I wish he’d survived.

Heretic – Heretic is a Damian Clone and is awesome. He bests everyone he fights and only dies because Talia is stupid and would rather destroy a good weapon than use it for the final fight. I wanted more of this character. His attachment to Damian was cool and he showed what Batman would look and act like had he stayed with the League.

The Bat Famiy – The Bat Family is the best part of this film. Everyone has their moments and I like how expansive it is.

Lucius Fox – Lucius Fox gets shot but we see how he is in the adoptive family of Batman. He is there through it all and seeing him torn about his son going to war when there is war at home plus wanting to protect him is handled really well.

Alfred – Alfred shows that he shouldn’t be underestimated as he saves Bruce Wayne from the villains and shows how great he is in a fight as well his counseling of Nightwing when Nightwing becomes Batman.

Luke Fox / Batwing – This is a great idea. Lucius has always been an honorary member of the Bat Family (given Grayson isn’t a Wayne and is the first Robin) and this makes things official. He reminds me of Iron Man and Falcon and is the confident guy who embraces his role as the air support in any fight. He needed more exploration beyond a injured father. Seriously, this character has so much potential to be a favorite in the Bat Family!

Dick Grayson / Nightwing / Batman – Maher owns this role and now he finally gets to do something beyond babysit Damian! In this he’s Batman when Batman is kidnapped and does a great job in the role. This is probably my favorite version of Grayson, so there is that. Even in “Batman: The Animated Series,” I never really like Robin until he became Nightwing and developed an identity beyond sidekick.

Kate Cane / Batwoman – Thank you DC for not messing up the fact that she’s a lesbian! Kate is an amazing character who we never get to see really go over the edge in fighting villains like the traditional Kate Cane was, but she’s great as the answer of the character going rogue inspired by Batman but not in his shadow as much. Really liked what they did with her character. Her arc is one of healing.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Bruce Wayne is mind controlled for most of this but you see how he hasn’t been good at dealing with trauma as he has traumatized others. Bruce Wayne is someone who is trying his best but is flawed in ways that really put him next to the League of Shadows, Jason Todd as Red Hood exists for a reason and this story explores why. He’s controlling but isn’t good at setting limitations. He goes to extremes and it alienates others and it makes him human.

Barbara Gordon / Batgirl Cameo – Barbara appears in the end it is amazing! She was one of the best parts of “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Batman Beyond.” Barbara is a character who is the character who knows vigilante and the law and seeing her get started in this universe is wonderful.

Okay: Damian Wayne / Robin – Less of a Mary Sue / Gary Stu but still that. Talia apparently had no influence on him as he’s not even tempted and and he again wins every fight that isn’t against his older self.

Talia Al Ghul – So we see Batman help after Ra’s dies and now she does this? More that this is in her nature and her whole plan all along would have helped strengthen this. She also maybe dies at the end but that doesn’t matter as much as we never knew her motivations fully at that well anyway…

The Cons: Disposable Villains – Killer Moth, Firefly, Electutioner, etc. Who cared about these folks? They are minions and even their design ins’t all that memorable. C-List and never rise beyond it. Someone needs to give these characters a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film to redeem this crap.

Lack of Talia Setup for Betrayal – I brought it up before but Talia deserves

   This was one of the better films out of the “New 52” Batman films but still suffers from those same problems. The Al Ghuls just can’t be written right, whether they are Damian or Talia they never rise above okay as with Talia the motivations are never fully explored prior…she exists to be Ra’s daughter and that’s it. Damian has the same problem in the other direction…he’s untouchable and a Gary Stu/Mary Sue…so at least in this one it took the Team to take the bad guys down and that is what helps it rise above the others to really good. Definitely worth checking out for Nightwing and Batwoman.

Final Score: 8.2 / 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: War (2014) – Moments of Charm But “The New 52” Brooding Brings Down

Justice League War

      Outside of “Batman: Under the Red Hood” I haven’t really checked out much of the DC Animated Universe outside of the Bruce Timm Universe which is one of my favorite animated universes and is truly the best of the DC Universe outside of the Batman Nolanverse. This a film with “New 52” vibes as all the characters are amped up and they are in a universe that isn’t a fan of them…so from the beginning it is starting out dark, which has been the whole theme of the new DC run of “The New 52.” There are some good moments in this, but the grim dark really brings it down.

     The film was directed Jay Oliva and written by Heath Corson and produced by Sam Register, James Tucker and Alan Burnett and based off the comic series “Justice League: Origin” by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams.

    The story involves the Justice League coming together as they face off against one another to face the greater threat of Darkseid and his alien invasion.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is beautiful and is one of the best parts of the film. The animation flows, tonally it keeps the dark and shadows of this new universe  and the action is great.

The Action – The action is also one of the best parts of this film. The fights between our heroes and against the alien invasion flow nicely and you feel the punches and destruction on the screen.

Green Lantern – Hal Jordan is likable in this as Batman is his mentor figure as he learns to rise to leadership among the rag tag group of outcasts. He’s a great character and I liked that he felt so weak around the others and kept trying to make up for it by jumping into battle. His dynamic with Batman is really what made him enjoyable though.

Batman – Batman is the cool head in this who knows who all of the Justice League are and helps Hal Jordan rise to the challenge and begin working with the others on the team. In this his lack of super-humanity is played up and he wins through dialogue most of the time. He’s also pretty respectful too. The one thing that felt off is when he says his name and motivations (I became Batman to avenge my murdered parents) to Hal, if I was Hal that wouldn’t make me feel any less comfortable with him being “Mr. Spooky.”

Okay/Pro: The Flash – The Flash is alright but it feels like a lot of his positive and snark were picked up by Hal Jordan instead, so he is never allowed to become the full person he is on a team in other versions of the character. I like that we see his life as a civilian though and the fact that Batman respects his work and vise versa.

Cyclops – Cyclops is the superhero who never chose to be one as it was in a fit of anger that he is warped by technology his father is studying. He is the closest thing to a main character the movie has but he still feels underdeveloped. Beyond impressing his father, he doesn’t really have a motivation.

The Cons: Shazam – Shazam is a little kid who turns into a superhero who idealizes Cyclops from when he was a football star and now that he’s a superhero. His character creeps on Wonder Woman and as a kid he’s just annoying. Seriously, I really hope this character doesn’t get his own film.

Darkseid – Darkseid is weak. The Justice League takes out his eyes and knocks him back into his portal. Most of his power is from his alien army and outside of that he’s pretty forgettable. Never felt like he’d be all that much of threat given he’d been handled better in Bruce Timm’s DCAU and the comics.

Wonder Woman – This film plays up Wonder Woman being a woman out of time (kind of a Thor like character) but never fully explores it. I felt like we never got to fully know her character and motivations beyond her feeling like she’s fighting among the gods. What doesn’t help is how most of the male superheroes objectify her.

Superman – The guys a creep who doesn’t care about controlling his power. Seriously, this version of him is a douchebro. He’s creepy and eyeing Wonder Woman, he’s beating on the other heroes because he can…I really hate this version of him. Seriously, give me the Bruce Timm one or one who still remembers who the ideal hero is.

Every Guy Wants to be with Wonder Woman – This is a Justice League Team with 6 men and 1 women, at least 5 of the men want to be with Wonder Woman…what the hell? You don’t even know her. This was really annoying and I hated how each was either trying to impress her or act like they owned her feelings (Superman, seriously screw that guy). It was uncomfortable and it was hard to believe they’d ever become a team with them already objectifying one of their Team Members during an alien invasion.

The Dialogue – The dialogue is really stilted and took me out of the film on more than one occasions. There are often awkward pauses and some things people say don’t feel natural at all.

This was a film that okay in the end. When it managed to give time to develop it’s heroes I felt like I could appreciate what it was trying to do. Sadly the eyeing of Wonder Woman (almost as if ownership over her (disgusting)) pulled me out of that though. In the end it felt like so many of them were competing and because of this all the civilians dying around them during the invasion were completely forgotten. This also happens when Superman fights Green Lantern and Batman…it’s like he’s out of “Man of Steel” as he cares nothing for the buildings he destroys when fighting people who are just trying to figure out what’s going on, just like him. In the end, it’s up to you if you want to see it. It’s hard to really recommend either way as there is so much to dislike even though some things were done alright.

Final Score: 7 / 10