“Loki” Season 1 – Time, Destiny and Choice Explored But Lacks Impact

“Loki” was a good show that had the potential to be great, and still does depending on how next season goes. This is a fun series that explores ideas of time, choice and destiny and has some great leads. I wish certain characters had been explored better though and the ending needed to do a lot more than it did. Still, Marvel did it again and this show is worth your time.

Michael Waldron is the creator of the show.

The story follows a Loki Variant from “Endgame” (Tom Hiddleston) who is recruited by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) by Mobius (Owen Wilson) to hunt another Loki Variant who is trying to take down the TVA.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is cool as we mess with timelines, time travel and the corruption of the Terry Gilliamesque organization of the TVA. Who is in charge of them and what the Lokis will do is compelling. You have a recipe for lots of drama and chaos.

The Time Variance Authority (TVA) – The TVA is a fascinating organization as they prune variants to keep the timeline as one “Sacred timeline” and we don’t learn why until the end. We learn all of the people are variants with their memories wiped and the truth of why they exist and the complete chaos they truly do hold at bay. Hunter B-15 and Renslayer are alright characters as B-15 rebels while Renslayer believes even after learning the truth but both needed more exploration.

Miss Minutes – Tara Strong is amazing as the A.I. Miss Minutes who knows the truth of the TVA and keeps it from all members. She idealizes her creator and has a kind but threatening demeanor in how she acts around others. I’m curious to see how season 2 uses her given the information she gives Renslayer at the end.

Mobius – Owen Wilson is fantastic as Mobius, he is the handler of the Variant Loki who later becomes his friend. He goes from a believer to rebel against the TVA but loses his memory of his time with the Lokis after Renslayer goes back in time. So I’m curious to see what next season brings. He has yet to ride the jetski like he always wanted. So hoping that still happens.

The Loki Variants – The Lokis are the best part of “Loki.” The least explored are Boastful Loki who betrays Kid, Alligator, Classic and Endgame Loki. Kid Loki killed Thor and that was why he was pruned from his timeline but we never learn why. I’ll list the best Loki’s below. Also President Loki was a lot of fun. They are all in the Void after being pruned by the TVA and facing off against the treats of the Void and the beast Alioth.

Alligator Loki – Alligator Loki is best Loki. He’s an alligator with Loki’s helmet and he is sassy to the other Loki Variants. He also bites off President Loki’s hand. I hope we see him again and get his story. He was so much fun.

Classic Loki – Richard E. Grant plays Classic Loki who is in his classic comic yellow garb. He is an old and sad Loki who finds his reason to be to help Endgame Loki and Sylvie enchant Alioth to reach what it is beyond the void. He does this by recreating an illusion of Asgard. It is a powerful scene and awesome death.

Sylvie – Sophia Di Martino is great as Sylvie. She is the female Loki who has been on the run since escaping the TVA as a kid. She doesn’t trust anyone but comes to love Endgame Loki. She kills “He Who Remains” in the end as revenge wins out over her love of Endgame Loki so curious where her story will go now that she is now the only one at the castle.

Endgame / Variant Loki – Endgame Loki’s arc is learning how to love and trust as Sylvie and Mobius become his friends. He has truly become the closest he can be to a hero by the end and when Sylvie pushes him back into the TVA them not knowing who he is sad. Tom Hiddleston is again amazing as the main Loki and plays the complex protagonist extremely well. I loved seeing his arc over the course of the show.

Destiny and Choice – A major theme is destiny versus choice. The TVA exists to enforce destiny while the Loki’s represent choice and this clash happens throughout the show with “He Who Remains” and the Lokis as that final exploration of it. Now to see where full reign of choice leads after Sylvie killed “He Who Remains.”

Okay:

Lamentis – For Sylvie and Loki having a lot of time together we don’t get much about what she’s learned or how Endgame Loki has changed. The world looked cool but there was no depth or exploration of it. Like the Lokis it felt like it was just existing.

He Who Remains / Kang – “He Who Remains” is Kang and we learn that he founded the TVA to stop other versions of himself from making war. Jonathan Majors does a good job but it was hard to take him seriously with how jokey he was. I also would have liked him to reveal more knowledge about the Lokis but he doesn’t beyond what they are going to say. Like Lamentis, a missed opportunity to setup a bigger threat. I liked the sadness of the character at least. He saw everything as inevitable and that made him interesting.

The Cons:

Cliffhanger Ending – The cliffhanger ending was a bit annoying as we are left with more questions. I mentioned Renslayer changing the past but I could be wrong. This could be a whole new timeline Endgame Loki was thrown into. The cliffhanger ending felt like it was going more for shock than giving a rewarding finale.

“Loki” season 1 is still worth checking out, though I would consider it the weakest MCU show so far. It felt afraid to fully explore Sylvie and her motivations or “He Who Remains” and why he decides what he does. The cast and concepts carry this show though and I can’t wait to see what season 2 explores and what it will bring to the amazing MCU multiverse.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Good but very flawed.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition – Great Story and Gameplay for the DC Universe

Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition

“Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition” is a great story and game to come out of the DC Universe. This is a universe that gives us a compelling conflict, characters and story and uses the framing of a fighting game to do so. Fighting games in my experience haven’t been good at doing this but this one had one of the best story modes I’ve experienced in any games. WB Games and NetherRealm Studios really made something amazing. After “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” I’ve been seeking versions of the Justice League to see how they compare and both the Injustice version and the prime universe versions in this game are some fantastic versions of these compelling characters.

The game was published by WB Games and deveopled by NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Games and Armature Studio.

The story follows the Justice League when they and their Joker are pulled into a universe where Superman rules a fascist regime over the population of Earth after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois and his unborn child as well as the Joker’s destroying of Metropolis which leads to Superman killing the Joker and establishing the One Earth Regime.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Diversity of Game Modes – There are a lot of games modes in this edition so chances are you will not get board playing. You have a few Arcade modes, with Classic being my favorite, single battles, missions from S.T.A.R. Labs and of course the campaign. This alone is better than my experience with the “Soul Calibur” and “Edge” series and is an example of what fighting games should strive for.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is fun as the different modes provide a great array of challenges. The powerful combos you can do can be canceled out to and aren’t gamebreakers but when they are successful still do enough damage to mean something. Each character fights in a unique way as characters like Deathstroke and Aquaman have reach through their weapons while others like Harley Quinn, the Joker and Lobo use guns. Some like Wonder Woman can alternate between styles too making the game even more fun to pickup in regards to the learning curve and power moves. I haven’t had this much fun playing a fighting game in a long time.

The Campaign – The campaign is great. The stakes are established from the get-go when members of the Justice League and Joker are transported to the Injustice Universe and from here have to separate friend from foe. The framing works really well as characters who distrust one another in the main universe establish rapport with the Injustice alternates. The action is handled well too as we have action that rises at a great rate before Injustice Superman goes full crazy and forces our heroes to up the stakes on their own missions as well.

Campaign Presentation – There are 12 chapters with main universe Batman as the first chapter and introduces us to the Injustice World. 2nd Green Lantern establishes minions of the One Earth Regime. 3rd chapter is Aquaman and establishes that Atlantis is about to fall under Superman. 4th is the Joker and establishes the Insurgency and Injustice Harley as an ally and the One Regime’s capture of Batman. 5th is Green Arrow and is helping Injustice Batman get a weapon to defeat Injustice Superman. 6th is Cyborg and bringing the fight to the One Earth Regime forces. 7th is Injustice Deathstroke and destruction of the Injustice Watchtower. 8th is Injustice Batman and freeing Batman from Injustice Superman. 9th is Injustice Lex Luthor and ends with his death and the populace turning against Injustice Superman. 10th is Injustice Flash and him turning against the Regime after Injustice Superman murders Shazam. It ends with him warning the insurgency about Injustice Superman’s plan to destroy Gotham and Metropolis. 11th is Wonder Woman who recruits the Amazons against Injustice Superman and stops Injustice Wonder Woman and 12th is Superman and his defeat of Injustice Superman’s generals, Injustice Doomsday and Injustice Superman himself. It is a rewarding end and so much fun to play. The story presentation is fantastic in the rising action and I loved these characters.

The Injustice Characters – The Injustice universe characters are compelling and I like how they have unique organizations like the One Earth Regime and The Insurgency. Both the main universe versions and Injustice universe characters mostly work and I’ll get into why. I’ll go into Injustice Superman and Joker at the end as I feel within the narrative they are bigger bads beyond the organizations at play.

One Earth Regime – The One Earth Regime is Injustice Superman’s fascist regime and it is a great threat. Sinestro has a huge army of faceless soldiers he leads and we learn Injustice Black Adam’s ancient regime inspired the creation of this one. Injustice Cyborg and Injustice Hawkgirl aren’t fully explored in regards to if they were indoctrinated or not and Injustice Raven only supports the regime so she can use it to bring about Trigun into the world. Injustice Superman also has a version of Doomsday he controls and has Solomon Grundy and Killer Frost as minions as well.

Injustice Wonder Woman – Injustice Wonder Woman believes that the only way to fix man’s world is through embracing of destruction and emotion until it is gone. Injustice Wonder Woman is Injustice Superman’s lover and his second-in-command and co-founder of the regime. She is a consistent threat throughout the story and it was rewarding to beat her as Wonder Woman.

Injustice Flash – Injustice Flash comes to realize he is backing the wrong side after Injustice Shazam is murdered by Injustice Superman. We see his seeds of doubt before Injustice Deathstroke destroys the Watchtower and the death of Injustice Shazam is the last straw. I found this version of the Flash compelling and he goes to prison for the part he played in the regime too.

The Insurgency – The Insurgency is our heroic organization fighting against the One Earth Regime. This group is handled well and we learn that before the Justice League was pulled into this universe by Injustice Batman that Injustice Green Arrow was murdered by Injustice Superman. This is an organization that has lost most members and is suffering for it.

Injustice Aries – Injustice Aries helps the Insurgency because the One Earth Regime has so thoroughly ended conflict that his power is weak. This takes time but he does eventually convince Aquaman and Wonder Woman that he is right. He is still a villain but his helping the good guys makes sense and it was great seeing him in this role.

Injustice Deathstroke – For this version of Deathstroke the Insurgency is personal as the One Earth Regime tortured him and removed his eye. As revenge he destroys the Watchtower and over the course of his and Cyborg’s Chapter we see respect is built between them. J.G. Hertzler (Martok from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) voices him and Aries and does an amazing job at both roles! This is one of my favorite Deathstrokes and was so much fun to play.

Injustice Harley Quinn – Injustice Harley Quinn runs a Joker cult and are part of the Insurgency against Injustice Superman. She even has Injustice Batman on speed-dial. Her arc is realizing how abusive Joker is when main universe Joker uses her and plans to murder her until Injustice Lex Luthor stops him. This leads to her going independent and finding identity outside of the Joker. It is a great arc and I hope “Injustice 2” doesn’t ruin it. Harley is free, let her be her own force of nature. Tara Strong owns this role as she did in prior versions like “Batman: The Animated Series.” She is such a great voice actor and I’m glad she got to do this game.

Injustice Lex Luthor – Injustice Lex Luthor is Injustice Superman’s friend until the regime is established. At that point he works with the Insurgency and we see how well he is doing it as he does give the regime information just not anything that will change the state of the war. In the end he is murdered by Injustice Superman after Injustice Shazam saves Injustice Superman’s life. It is a powerful scene and we see in this murder just how insane Injustice Superman has become. I also really liked playing as him. For being in a big giant Anti-Superman suit he has a variety of moves and is surprisingly nimble for being so bulky.

Injustice Batman – Kevin Conroy voices both versions of Batman and is amazing in the role as always! Injustice Batman is the one who brings the Justice League over but comes to regret it after Injustice Lex Luthor is killed as he feels like everything he does just leads to the death of people. His arc is finding hope again as Batman from the main universe convinces him to bring over his Superman so that Injustice Superman can finally be defeated. We see his heart is in the right place too as he empowers the populace to make sure another Injustice Superman will not rise again at the end.

The Justice League and Core Universe Characters – The core universe folks are voiced by people in the Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe and it works so well! The characters aren’t exactly the same (They are their own thing) but them voicing them lends power to the actions and world they inhabit.

Aquaman – Aquaman is amazing in this. In this arc he realizes that the Injustice version of his character is submitting to Injustice Superman and he stands against it. Throughout all of this game we see how powerful he is as calls a deep sea creature army against Injustice Superman’s forces so they can save Batman. He is also one of the most fun characters to play as his trident has reach and he is a good damage dealer.

Cyborg – Khary Payton of the classic animated “Teen Titans” fame voices Cyborg again and he is wonderful. This version of the character is quick to action leading to misunderstanding when he fights Injustice Luthor and Deathstroke but after he comes around to respect this version of Deathstroke. I liked that as well as that he looked up the file on Injustice Deathstroke and his reason for not trusting him made sense as Injustice Deathstroke had still fought the Teen Titans. He is the most light hearted of the characters, which was needed in this heavy game.

Green Arrow – Green Arrow like Aquaman was one of the most fun to play. He is one of the more light-hearted characters like Cyborg as he is a joker and adds a lot of humor to what is going on. I liked this and his sarcasm as it was a nice way to critique the Injustice Fascist characters. He also was a lot of fun to play though not a favorite.

Wonder Woman – Susan Eisenberg of Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” and “Unlimited” is wonderful as both versions of her character. In this she is the one who reminds the Amazons that they are there to bring humanity to the good and that having men give into their passions and rage is what had got this world to the brink. Her speech is awesome and I loved her talk with Injustice Aries and how quickly she realized the stakes.

Batman – The main universe Batman like Wonder Woman and Superman is there to remind the Injustice World that hope and the good exists. Kevin Conroy owns this as we see a Batman who will not kill and after undergoing torture from Injustice Superman is still just as strong in his belief. After he helps Injustice Batman find hope again they plan the final attack with Superman as Metropolis and Gotham are under siege from Injustice Superman’s forces.

Superman – George Newbern is another returning voice actor from Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” and “Unlimited.” This Superman is fantastic as we see him trying to reach the Justice League in the Injustice Universe and finally being pulled over himself and taking out Injustice Superman’s generals and Doomsday before Injustice Superman himself. He never stops being good though he admits that if what Injustice Joker did to Injustice Superman also happened to him that he would also be in danger of making the same mistakes. It was great to see him recognize that, which in turn is the greatest way of preventing the same mistake.

The Main Villains – The two main villains of this game I’d argue are Injustice Superman and the One Earth Regime and Joker, who triggered the crossover when he was about the nuke Metropolis in the Main Universe. These two are easily the main ones causing problems through the campaign.

Joker – Joker begins the game ready to nuke Gotham and die with Batman in the blast only to defeat Batman in his chapter but lets him live because he wants their last moments to be better. This game captures that co-dependency the Joker has towards Batman really well. It also captures how evil and awful he is as we see him attempt to kill Harley Quinn for failing him. Luckily she turns against him and gives him to Batman to take back to the main universe.

Injustice Superman – Injustice Superman is a great villain. In the story you can see how awful the fascist world is he has made but also how his mind became so broken too as he killed Lois due to the Joker using Scarecrow fear toxin making him believe Lois was Doomsday. On top of this Metropolis was nuked when she died and after killing the Joker he became the dictator to make sure that would never happen again. We never see him question his mission but we do see his sense of control he tries to show fall over the course of the game. The Watchtower’s destruction was a major event as was Injustice Lex’s betrayal. In the end he is so far gone he plans to conquer other universes after Metropolis and Gotham are made an example. This Superman is terrifying and a great final boss. He was a good fight too and was a well-deserved challenge.

New Characters to Play – Ultimate Edition gives Lobo, Martian Manhunter, Batgirl, Zatanna, Scorpion and Zod. I had the most fun with Batgirl, Zod and Scorpion. These characters were a great addition and their play styles gave the game more replay value.

The Cons:

Both Hal Jordans – Both Hal Jordans are arrogant and uncompelling. The entire time I played as Hal I learned nothing about him and the Yellow Lantern version is nothing more than stupid muscle as he is the first one who Injustice Flash fights when he joins the Insurgency. I would have skipped him to play as one of the other characters given how worthless Green Lantern’s chapter feels in this.

Injustice Damian Wayne – Injustice Damian Wayne sees Injustice Superman as his real dad and it is never explained. He is just angry and anxiety and is the one who killed Dick Grayson and adopted the Nightwing mantle. I hated this character.

This is a game I highly recommend and one I will come back to. This gives us great versions of the Justice League with both the Injustice and main Justice League versions to work with. This is a story with consequences too and though it is extremely dark has a lot of hope and humor as well that doesn’t clash with the narrative. I’m excited to play the campaign in “Injustice 2” as this is a compelling universe and one I think that would work really well in television or film form be it animated or live-action. This is game is a wonderful example of what makes the characters and multi-verses of the DC universe so fascinating and compelling. This is easily one of the best fighting games I’ve played and definitely a favorite.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 This is a great game and a favorite.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) – Classic Rivals and the Timelessness of Batman

Batman Beyond Return of the Joker

   “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” still holds up. It isn’t as good as I remembered it being, but it is still easily a favorite and does some really creative stuff with the Bat Family, seriously…this blows the modern day DC Animated Films out of the water. There simply isn’t a comparison in quality and storytelling and I think most of that credit goes to Bruce Timm who managed to make Superman interesting enough to receive an entire Animated Series and to have created two successful renditions of the Justice League…outside of creating the best Batman on screen.

    The film was directed by Curt Geda and written by Paul Dini (though Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami wrote the story too) and produced by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami.

     The story takes place in the universe of “Batman Beyond” which takes place years into the future where Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) has become an adviser and mentor to the new Batman Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle)  in Future Gotham. When the Joker (Mark Hamill) resurfaces after being dead for 35 years it is up to Terry to solve the mystery and discover the dark secret of why Batman was working alone when he found him.

The Pros: The World – The world of Future Gotham is fantastic! A new Batman, Barbara as the new police commissioner and the use of future tech in gang warfare are fascinating. As much as Gotham has changed, it has also stayed the same…which is fitting.

The Animation – This is WB animation with Bruce Timm at the helm and it rocks! The animation is unique and has a simple yet beautiful style to it. Each character looks distinct and Gotham looks like a true future city.

The Characters – The characters are why we’re here. They drive the story and it is that core drama between Bruce Wayne and the Joker and his drama with the Bat Family old and new. These core relationships drive the story.

The Jokerz – The Jokers are awesome and Dee-Dee are twins that are grandaughters of Harley Quinn, carrying on her legacy in their own way. They have cool look with a ghoul looking guy, a fat clown in a mask, a Scarecrow type and a man with Hyena blood spliced into him.

Harley Quinn – Harley is a messed up character who seems to have grown up by the end. She is one of the tormentors of Robin and takes part in the abuse and torture Joker puts on the populace, but when we see her as an old woman she regrets it all. She’s done and just wants to take care of her family. She healed from the trauma the Joker did to her, which is powerful.

Tim Drake / Robin –  Tim Drake is the last Robin in the Batman Universe and we learn why in this as he is tortured and turned into Little J by the Joker and Harley. After he is rescued and kills the Joker he is left with the trauma and scars that Barbara helps him through. Joker still won to some degree though as the micro-chip the Joker installed on him leads to the Joker taking control of him until Terry McGinnis can rescue him. In the end Bruce reaches out and expresses how lucky he is know Tim.

Barbara Gordon / Batgirl – Barbara is the one taking care of everyone as she is mature enough to deal with her trauma and others’ trauma (unlike Bruce Wayne). It is thanks to her that Terry finds out that Tim is the Joker and from there how to stop him. She really is an awesome character!

The Joker – Hamill is back as the Joker in the past (when he dies) and the future with his technology rebirth! He is such a great villain. He not only broke Harley making her a villain but broke Tim almost making him another villain and breaking him enough that Tim killed him the first time. This isn’t the end though, he destroys the Batcave, Wayne Manor, Laugh Gasses Bruce and a good portion of Gotham with a lazer. Seriously, not a single Joker compares to this besides Ledger’s in “The Dark Knight.”

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Bruce deals with his trauma finally and we see him begin to heal as he faces the fact that he cut himself off from everyone, but thanks to Terry he begins to heal things with Tim and Barbara bringing the Bat Family back together again.

Terry McGinnis / Batman – Terry is the glue and the main driving force as we see him dealing with being both Terry and Batman and in the end finds he is Terry as Batman, not the other way around as he defeats the Joker not by being Bruce but by mocking him  and being himself and forcing the Joker to be stupid and tricking him. Terry is an amazing Batman and I’m glad he’s official canon now. He’s a Batman I’d like to see in live action films. This film shows why. He’s a punk who grew up and now does everything he can to help others.

Tim Drake’s Story and the Death of the Joker – This incident is why Bruce went loner. Tim kills the Joker breaking the rule and lives with the guilt from that only for Joker to win anyway…Not only did Joker destroy the Bat Family, he lived on from the trauma caused by that day. There is reason he is one of the greatest villains of all time.

Timeless Batman – Batman can work in any environment or world and it doesn’t have to be Bruce. This film showed as much, Terry has his own darkness as Bruce does but unlike the Joker it doesn’t define them and it is their classic rivalry against what the Joker represents in chaos that really makes Batman timeless. All of Bruce Timm’s Batman work shows as much as he explores the Batman of the future in Terry McGinnis and in the past in Bruce Wayne. Batman is about overcoming your demons and  using that to help others and that is what they do.

Okay: Side Characters – Dana and Bruce Wayne’s rival and Terry’s family are just kind of there. They exist in relationship to Terry and Bruce and don’t feel like full characters. They are good for their function in the script but could have been more…this movie should have been longer.

The Soundtrack – It is quite at times and besides the Beyond opening theme isn’t all that great. It works but it isn’t a pro.

  This is a film well worth your time if you are a fan of Batman. Bruce Timm and this world were a world I grew up watching and it holds up stronger to this day. Seriously, this film blows all of the “New 52” films out of the water. You get to know the characters, no characters are unstoppable and the flaws of characters are on display always.  The world of Gotham feels lived and there is so much history which you’d come to know from this film even if you’d never watched “Batman: The Animated Series” or “Batman Beyond.” This film stands on its own and is one of the darker films in the Universe that still manages to hold a place for healing and hope for the characters. If you get the chance, check it out!

Final Score: 9.5 / 10