Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019): A Worthy Adaptation of the Comic

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This was a solid adaptation of the comic. The comic is better, but this was DC Animation showing that they know what to do with their stories. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman teaming up is such a camp concept and I have so much joy over the fact that the concept works. Comics are so supposed to be creative and think outside of the box and the comic and film both do this.

The film was directed by Jake Castoreno and written by Marly Halpern-Graser.

The story follows Batman as he investigates mysterious robberies of Wayne Industries Technology by mutant beings. Batman than investigates congruently with Batgirl and Robin to unravel the mystery.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action in this film is quite enjoyable. We get some good face-offs with characters and who they team up with. For example at one point we have Michelangelo loving Mr. Freeze while Damian is more serious, Batgirl and Donatello team up and Leonardo and Batman. We also get to see Batman face off against Shredder a few times and the team against Joker and Harley Quinn. This was easily the thing that kept me drawn into the movie the most and I’m glad the action meant something.

The World – This is the multi-verse world where the Shredder and his Foot Clan are in Gotham stealing technology and where Batman where Batgirl as Barbara Gordon and a Damian Robin are Batman’s team. It is a fascinating place to explore as from the team-up you expect a more grittier era but the world is balanced because there exist mutant turtles hunting down an evil ninja clan. Gotham and the world of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” work really together and I think that is due to both having gritty initial roots but having so much camp and crazy exist as well. This whole idea wouldn’t exist without being open to possibilities.

The Turtles – The Turtles are great and aren’t overused. Donatello forms a friendship with Batgirl, Raphael forms a friendship with Robin and a respect for Batman and Michelangelo grows into a greater hero with Batman’s help. The dynamic between them is classic with Raphael wanting to go rogue and I do love this version of Donatello, which plays up his smarts. Michelangelo even has moments of heroism and is the key to the story, which is rare in most “TMNT” stories I’ve watched.

Batman and Team – Troy Baker does an excellent job voicing both Batman and the Joker in this. He’s voiced the Joker before in “Arkham Origins” and this film really shows just how much range he has. The Batman is the perspective we first see and in a way they drive the story as the action largely takes place in Gotham.

The Ooze and Gotham – The Ooze is used after Ra’s al Ghul and Shredder team up and the inmates of Arkham Asylum are transformed into animal forms. We have Baine as a Jaguar, Mr. Freeze as a Polar Bear, Scarecrow as a crow, Harley as a Hyena (Voiced by the amazing Tara Strong!) and the Joker as a Cobra. In the comics there are more rogues transformed (also honorable mentions to Two-Face as Two-Faced cat and Poison Ivy as a Venus Fly Trap) but the core fights are the ones mentioned first. The ooze drives the story (as it is what turned the turtles into mutants) and at one point Batman is changed into a mutant bat that is against all things. It is only Michelangelo who saves him with the cure. This whole sequence was solid action and I liked that Batman needed help and also the fact it was the most underrated Ninja Turtle helped. Michelangelo saves Batman after he is transformed. It was a moment you rarely see in most Turtle films as Mikey is usually there only for comedic relief. Also major props to Troy Baker for voicing both Batman and the Joker beautifully.

Shredder – Shredder is really the guy in charge this time around. Ra’s al Ghul does ally with him and uses infecting the inmates of Gotham as a distraction but Shredder double crosses him and admits he plans to invade this universe and conquer it with his Foot Clan. He never stops being a threat and Batman is fought to a draw with him quite a few times before he is finally beat. The cool thing is his story doesn’t end there as the Ooze mixed with Joker Venom infects him and he transforms into Joker Shredder setting up a sequel. Giving they did this it better payoff.

Okay:

The Animation – The animation flows but you can also see how it is working with a budget. The comic has a level of detail that this animated feature simply does not have. It isn’t bad animation but the simplification hurts when the turtles are on screen as they feel less realized than the detail that was put into any human character on screen. Again, it wasn’t bad but I cannot put it as a pro.

Ra’s al Ghul – Ra’s al Ghul is not as compelling as the Shredder in this. The biggest reason is he is introduced late and we never have any worthy face-offs with Batman. In the first volume of the comic was far more compelling and essential. I like him facing off against Michelangelo but he never becomes a great villain. If anything he would have fit sticking around to fight in Arkham Asylum as it would have made him facing off against Damian and Batman mean more and give more power to Shredder’s inevitable betrayal.

The Cons:

Not A Complete Story – Volume 1 of “Batman vs. TMNT” was a complete story that did not need a sequel. This one is setting up a sequel, which is cool but I’ve seen enough shows and films crash and burn to know how arrogant that is. I loved that Shredder transformed but I hate the assumption that there will be a sequel when that is never a given.

If you like DC Animation, of which I am a fan this is a film well worth your time. It isn’t as great as the comic which I’d argue is a near perfect adaptation of the premise. This is film with decent animation and action with a compelling overall story. It i is overall faithful to the original comic while focusing in on the core fights. Initially this did annoy me but I like how it lead to the bonds forming between Batgirl, Robin and the Turtles. This is also an acquired taste. For me it was solidly good cause I like both of these universes, but for others it might be a bit more out of the bag. Regardless this film was so much fun.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solid adaptation that could have been great.

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Everybody Wants Some!! (2016): A Beautiful Exploration of Groups, Sexuality and Purpose

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    “Everybody Wants Some!!” might end up being my favorite movie of the year. This is a film that never stops being fun and brings depth to the purpose of being alive, group dynamics and the different parts of the self people reveal depending on who they are with and also a pretty real take on sexuality and some of the many expressions of it. I’ll get into greater details in the review, suffice to say on my non-spoiler thoughts…this film is one of the best out there.

     The film was written, directed and produced by Richard Linklater and also produced by Ginger Sledge and Megan Ellison.

    The films involves newly arrived Freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) who is part of College Baseball and is staying at the Baseball House since it is a legacy in relation to the College. There are a few days left until College starts and the drama and adventures he and his teammates have is explored.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic and manages to transport us back in time to 1980 where it takes place and from there we get to visit so many different environments and groups…from disco clubs, rock concert, country bar, the baseball team and theatre crowd…and none of them exist as stereotypes, they are fully fleshed out characters and it makes the world real.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and captures the adventure and different environments and situations so well. If a character feels isolated you are in it, if the environment is big and large and the full ensemble is present…you get to see snapshots of all of them. Shane F. Kelly really did a fantastic job.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is awesome and is a fantastic blend of 80’s and 70’s songs that capture the different environments really well as well as the youthful energy of the young unknown cast, who I hope to see more of in the future.

The Writing – The writing is amazing! This is a film of show rather than tell as any good movie should be. We see characters ego and empathy and how none of them are simple caricatures. Characters may claim not to think but demonstrate just how much they think about things the less minute, characters can be jerks but the next moment they are backing up a character they put through Hell. The script is dynamic and shows what great writing actually means. Linklater truly nailed this film.

The Characters – The characters are complex and the actors are great. I didn’t really have a favorite and loved most of them, like I said in the writing…none of them are simple, each of them has a depth that is revealed over the course of conversations and the events of the film.

Group Mentality – Group mentality is something that’s analyzed in this whether it is the pro of people who have your back but at the same time can be cruel when you are the outsider becoming part of the group. This dynamic comes up countless times throughout the film as well as the core competition of the group given how serious being part of the Baseball team is shown to be. The group can the biggest troll or the greatest protector.

Humans and Sex – It is normal for people to want to have sex and this film embraces this. Whether it is a one night stand or a serious relationship sex is such a part of what makes us humans as well as our desire for it that this film cannot escape it, so it embraces it and shows all the different motivations for sex or mistakes that can happen during it. It truly is beautifully explored in this.

Of Faces and Identities – There are some great conversations in this, largely from Finn and how is is natural to shapeshift given we are animals and adapt to meet desires (in his context sex) or what it means to fit in and be your best self as Jake and his girlfriend Beverly discuss as so much of what drives them is their identity and how for them it is tied to motivation, dreams and as expressed in their relationship, the intellect and connection. The characters of this film where many faces and I found it a true expression of humanity and not just group pressure, people want to fit in or to shape a group and we see that here as ego and relationships are constantly in play.

Purpose – Purpose is another theme of the film, “What’s your focus in college?” as one of those questions, with others discussing the purpose of sex, dressing up, reality and even the purpose of the Baseball Team and one’s place on the Team either as outsider or something else. The answers are up to interpretation and that is where a lot of the power in this film lies.

   There weren’t any issues I had with this film, it is a film that when I saw the trailer for it I thought it was just be a stupid party movie, this was so much more. This was a film that tackled all the different aspects of what makes us human and life worth it. It is hard to choose any favorite character since this is an ensemble cast where each character is shown to have at least more than one face or layer that helps define who they are. This is a fun adventure that manages to be so much more than that and this is a film that could easily be my favorite film for 2016.

Final Score: 10 / 10 One of the few perfect films.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Season 1, Episode 16 – “The Sorrowful Battle” – A Reason to Live

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“The Sorrowful Battle” is a tale of broken soldiers. It is here we learn more of Zechs’s motivation and what drives him and that he is just as invested in any cause he takes up as the Gundam pilots. It is for this reason his fight with Heero is so illuminating for him. For many facing Heero is how they discover their own reasons for living or fighting.

The episode was directed by Kunihiro Mori and Nobuyoshi Nishimura and written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa.

The episode begins with Zechs meeting Noin, Trowa and Heero and treating them kindly before it all agreed upon that they need to fight. They can only see that they are on opposing sides and the fight is all they have to live for. What changes things though is the arrival of Relena who is connected to them both and when Noin reveals the truth of Zechs’s relationship to her the story unfolds.

The Pros: Relena – She takes action and prevents Zechs and Heero from destroying each other. Relena sees the big picture and that OZ and the Romafeller Organization are the true enemies of peace and that the pilots are just tools but moral tools. It is the willingness to end Zechs to do so that leads to Noin confessing her love for Zechs to Relena and to Zechs switching sides and fighting OZ for all the colonies. Relena points out to Noin that she is on the wrong side too and makes Noin realize that she is following Zechs truly, not OZ. Best Relena episode so far.

Noin – Respects Zechs’s choice to fight and defend them all and helps him find his reason to fight again. She is great too and helps make peace between Relena and Zechs as well as giving the information of them being siblings and the pain behind Zechs’s backstory and why he felt lost after the horrors that OZ began committing that were counter to his Sanc ideals.

Trowa and Heero – Trowa upgrades Heavyarms for Heero and helps him fight against Zechs making them evenly matched. You can tell how much their friendship has grown at this point and there are a lot of subtle moments of affection between them. They also make the escape with Noin when Zechs promises to fight Heero later and goes to face the army of OZ for the colonies.

Zechs and Heero – Zechs and Heero are two soldiers so filled with guilt from the blood on their hands they just want to die. It takes Relena’s arrival and the letter for Heero to change his mind and to gives Zechs reason to fight for Relena as she fights for the colonies and peace. It’s a powerful scene as he leaves in Tallgeese to take on the OZ invasion force.

To Defend Another – Zechs’s character arc in this episode is his becoming a knight. Before he was nothing more than an OZ mercenary he realizes, especially as the Romafeller ideals run counter to Sanc ideals. This leads to his changing sides at the end and defending the Gundam Pilots, his lover Noin and his sister Relena. Zechs becomes the Knight and finds his purpose again.

This was a great action episode and had some of the best Gundam action in the series. It also had a great character arc for Zechs and Heero and gave them a chance to grow beyond their brokenness as others had forgiven them and wanted to give them a reason to fight for peace. In that way the episode is akin to a beautiful and sad waltz between Zechs and Heero as they learn the greater purpose of the dance they have all been apart of.

Final Score: 10 / 10. The Perfect Gundam Wing episode.

Gargoyles – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Reawakening” – The Purpose of a Gargoyle

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We end Season 1 of Gargoyles with the 13th and Final Episode of the season, “Reawakening.” This is a great episode for many reasons, as it brings together the loose threads from a few of the stories, gives a hint of things to come and establishes a higher purpose and point. Suffice to say it is amazing and a favorite. Also, Michael Dorn (Worf from “Star Trek”) guest stars in this as Coldstone.

“Reawakening” was written by Brynne Chandler Reaves and directed by Saburo Hashimoto and Kazuo Terada.

The story is that Demona uses magic and Xanatos uses technology to ressurect Coldstone into a cyborg gargoyle body. From here they use him as Demona blames Goliath for the extinction of the Wyvern Clan from the vikings. Ashamed of his form and feeling hatred Coldstone joins with them as they target Goliath and the Manhattan Clan in a final showdown. From here the story unfolds.

Gargoyles Reawakening

Here is the assessment of the Season 1 Finale:

The Pros: Coldstone – Michael Dorn is an amazing actor and voice actor and he has the chance to play a complex gargoyle who was once Goliath’s Rookery Brother. You see how conflicted he is after Demona gives him the half-truth of the Vikings killing of him being Goliath’s doing and we see him choose to live rather than survive when he finds that all Demona is offering him is survival, which is no way for a gargoyle to be. We understand his distrust of humans too as the Sorcerer runs in fear of them from the castle tower in the flashback.

Demona – We see that hatred once again dominates her feelings as she shoots to kill at all times, even when Xanatos tells her he wants the Gargoyles alive. We also see her influence as she easily makes Coldstone their pawn when the episode begins. She would have killed more people too if Xanatos hadn’t used the rocket pack in the Red Steel Clan suit to run off with her after the battle. She shoots Coldstone and feels nothing, showing just how far gone she’s become.

Brooklyn – We see his hatred for Demona here for being used as a incapacitates her at the beginning of the fight, but still sees the bigger picture as he and Lexington save Broadway from the Steel Clan.

Lexington – Manages to take out two Steel Clan members through his wits and teams up to save Broadway from Xanatos. He is finding his confidence and how to use his small size to his advantage.

Elisa Maza – Grabs Hudson and Bronx and turns the tied against Demona and Xanatos, forcing them to run away. She also helps Goliath and the Gargoyles find their purpose once more as defenders once more.

Xanatos – Xanatos changes in this episode as he sees that he is working with someone he shouldn’t be as she doesn’t listen and is only after retribution where he is thinking long term. It’s powerful when he surrenders and reveals himself beneath the Red Steel Clan helmet as the Gargoyles didn’t know he’d been fighting with his robots and when he makes the escape rather than standing and fighting you see in his eyes him rethinking the whole of the situation. He also has a comedic laughing moment where he says “It’s alive! It’s alive!” When they ressurect Coldstone, which was something he always wanted to say.

Goliath – Goliath expresses the purpose for the Gargoyles as he is the one who reminds Coldstone of his, that there are things more important than survival or only caring for your own. He learns from from Elisa Maza and he and the Gargoyles swear to protect Manhattan, which in a way is when they officially become the Manhattan Clan. Manhattan is now their castle. It is powerful and we see how much Goliath has grown versus the lack of growth from Demona. Also a cute romantic moment at the end when he tells Elisa Maza. “All I need is a Detective.”

The Message – Look beyond yourself and look out for other people, do not hate those who are different but strive always for good. Protect. This the gargoyle way and is expressed fully in this episode.

Okay: Broadway and Hudson – They are there in the final battle, but Broadway needs to be saved and Hudson tells us what we already learned from Detective Maza. They aren’t bad, just redundant as all needed rescuing at one time or another and Detective Maza already gave us the message much better than Hudson.

This is an amazing episode, the only thing that is left in the air is if Coldstone is now undead so cannot die, what do Xanatos and Demona plan to do now? Where is Macbeth? These questions leave so much open for Season 2, which I remember Season 2 exploring quite well. Will see first hand when I get to it, for now we’re taking a break from “Gargoyles” and ending on a high note, as this season did. What compelling villains and characters and what great stories and messages…These are the things that made this show memorable beyond the premise, art and voice actors. This is a season I plan to watch again, as these stories are timeless. Timeless, as Gargoyles made of stone.

Final Score for the Finale: 10 / 10. I just wish it had been longer and been a two-parter to give us more time with Coldstone and more development for Broadway and Hudson.

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