The Dark Knight (2008): A Masterpiece That Explores Virtue, Liberty and the Nature of Humanity

The Dark Knight

    “The Dark Knight” is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. It is more than just a great Batman film, it is a classic that illustrates just how great the medium of storytelling can be through the use of film. The best films can capture the best and worst of humanity and ask us questions about what it means to be ourselves. The best films challenge are assumptions and “The Dark Knight” is one of those films. This is also the Batman film with two of my favorite Batman villains. Both the Joker and Two-Face are two of the more complex Batman Rogues of all time and most of the stories that explore them are at least good.

     The film was directed, written and produced by Christopher Nolan who wrote it along with Jonathan Nolan. The film was produced by Emma Thomas and Charles Roven.

   The story involves Batman (Christian Bale) a year into his time protecting Gotham and explores the rise of the Joker (Heath Ledger) who escalates the war as Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) target the Mob with Batman and James Gordon (Gary Oldman) leading to the mob putting their fate in the Joker’s hands.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is the best it’s ever been in the “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” The contrasts of light and dark are best illustrated in the transformation of Harvey Dent and Two-Face and the scenes involving the Joker or Batman and the Joker together. This is a story of contrasts and the cinematography captures it beautifully. Wally Pfister once again did a great job.

The Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard created their best soundtrack thus far as we get the haunting theme of the Joker mixed with rising tension intermixed throughout the score. The story feels on edge because of how the music weaves so seamlessly with the plot. The aura of terror never goes away.

The Writing – The Nolan Brothers when they write together are better than when one of them teams up with Goyer. I think this is probably due to them understanding each other better which in turn allows them to explore the characters better and work the themes in without having what little fat there was in “Batman Begins.” The fact that it takes inspiration from “The Killing Joke” and “The Long Halloween” (two of my favorite “Batman” comics) is part of what gives the writing so much power. It pulls from great stories.

The World – The World is rich and feels lived in. From Sal Maroni taking over the Mob, the politics and corruption within both the District Attorney’s office and the Police and the politics between them. Batman is the one who holds this brittle vase together but the Joker gives it the push that makes it all fall apart.

The Characters – The characters are amazing in this. From the minor characters who were once faceless antagonists, to the large characters who express the themes of the story. The characters in this are a lot better than I realized until my most recent viewing.

Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow – He has a small role and is taken out early by Batman. The fact that he survived for so long is to his credit. He’s pretty minor compared to Joker and Two-Face is what the film shows as well as that he and Batman are both fit for Arkham.

Commissioner Loeb – Loeb actually gets exploration in this! We see all he’s doing to take out the mob and the consequences he takes for it, like his heavy drinking which makes it easier for the Joker to kill him. I like that we actually get to know the character this time.

Mayor Garcia – The Mayor is pretty great in this too as we see his courage in how he goes forward with the parade to honor Loeb and to give Harvey Dent the power he needs to go after the mob. I liked this character and wanted to get to know him more. His “real talk” with Harvey Dent is a powerful scene as it illustrates the growing war as the Joker’s victim is hanging at the Mayor’s window after the talk.

Detective Ramirez – Ramirez is a great character. She’s flawed as she’s looking out for her mother and this leads to her being in with the mob. We see that she isn’t all bad though she’s just ruled by fear which leads to her getting Gordon’s family to Two-Face. She is the symbol of the broken system.

Lau – Lau is a great character. The fact that he saves the Mob’s money on his own is great and he would have won if not for Batman ignoring international borders (one reason I don’t believe the 8 years or Retirement in “The Dark Knight Rises”). He ends up being burned alive on a pile of money buy the joker showing his role reversed as in the mob he was the most powerful person for protecting the money, but in the Joker’s city money means nothing.

Sal Maroni – Sal is great, he has a young arrogance about him that makes him fun anytime he’s on screen. He’s also a guy who can’t see all that long term as he is the one lets the Joker run havoc all over Gotham and in turn he can’t even escape because of it as Two-Face is waiting for him, changed by the Joker and with it Sal’s choice comes back to end him. In that way, he’s tragic in his own way.

Lucius Fox – Freeman gets more exploration in this as we see his ideals are strong on the side of personal liberty (one reason he might like Batman as an individual under no one) and when he stand against Batman’s NSA Spying Machine we see that it doesn’t matter how much he likes Bruce, he won’t let him become the Emperor of Gotham. No individual in Gotham should have all the power and Lucius stands by this even as he uses the machine once to help catch the Joker.

James Gordon – Gordon’s story in this is a tragedy. We see his distrust of Harvey Dent yet his belief in him too and how all of that is lost when the Joker breaks Harvey and James in unable to save Rachel Dawes. He is promoted to Commissioner when Loeb is murdered and never catches a break after that. For much of the film he is trying to save people from the Joker as the Joker is always one step ahead and the war against the Mob that he was working on with Batman and Harvey becomes nothing. In the end the war nearly costs him the life of his son though it does cost the life of Harvey Dent, which is something he is never able to live down as he embraces the lie that Batman killed Harvey Dent and hiding Dent becoming Two-Face.

Alfred – Alfred is great in this as Caine gives the mentor role power again. In this he illustrates how much it takes to defeat some enemies as we learn that Alfred was a pretty terrible person in Burma as he burned down an entire forest to catch one thief. This metaphor leads Batman to creating his NSA spying device showing that Batman did learn from Alfred and embraced the worst aspects of the fascist state that Alfred had once worked for. Luckily they both move on from that, but it shows how far both of them will go, in a way proving the Joker’s point about people.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – This is the film that tests the limits of Batman’s code as we see him fighting a losing war against the Joker when the Mob unleashes him when Batman, Gordon and Dent have almost defeated them. He never leaves his ideals of not killing in this but we see how far he’s willing to go as he metaphorically burns the forest of Gotham by spying on everyone to catch the Joker. It’s powerful and shows that Batman is willing to become a villain to stop a villain. In that way he is the Emperor of Gotham as the narrative of the Emperor being chosen in times of trial in Rome to protect the populace and how it lead to it becoming a permanent position. Batman not only loses his love in this and the respect of the city, but he loses his purpose as well as the Joker is proven right in many ways with the “Tragedy of Harvey Dent.”

Dark Knight Joker

The Joker – The Joker is an anarchist who lives to upset the status quo. He loves playing with people’s mind and comes up with different stories related to his scars to get into the heads of whoever his enemy is. Heath Ledger’s performance is one of the best villain performances of all times and is a classic for a reason. There is a reason you see at least one his Joker’s on Halloween or Comic Cons. His point is that humanity is just animals and civilization is a lie, so the only way to live is to live uninhibited by rules and he does this by destroying powerful figures or breaking them to make his points true. it is enough to turn Harvey Dent into Two-Face even if his “Prison Experiment” using the ferries doesn’t work. He doesn’t care about his life (as seen when he lets Harvey Dent flip the coin on his life) and lives purely for his ideals. For him the ideals are enough (like Batman) and like Batman it gives him power and makes him a symbol that can never fully be defeated. Even though Batman physically defeats him at the end (but is unable to kill him). R.I.P. Heath Ledger, you not only changed cinema forever but the culture with the character you played.

Dark Knight Two-Face

Harvey Dent / Two-Face – Harvey Dent is the idealist who in many ways represents humanity’s potential to rise to ideals and to fall into despair. His fall into Two-Face happens when he realizes all his plans to stop the mob are falling apart and his allies can’t even save the woman he loves. This makes him easy prey for the Joker who turns him into Two-Face leading to him embracing chance as his code of justice as he saw the law was unable to trap and prosecute the Joker, stop the Mob or save Rachel. In the end Two-Face is despair and in becoming a “Punisher” like vigilante proves the Joker’s point about how anyone can become a killer after a really bad day.

Liberty v. Security – Liberty v. Security is a major theme in this as we see Batman impeding on Liberty to stop the Joker when he taps into everyone’s cell phones. His very existence is an infringement upon Liberty too in a way as he is above the law yet enforces them. The Joker is one of the answers to this as is Lucius Fox who show that becoming a Dictator isn’t the answer.

Does Vigilantism Help? – Does becoming a vigilante help? We see in this that it probably doesn’t. From inexperienced look alikes who dress up like Batman and put themselves and others at risk and in turn lead to the rise of the Joker, who was never on the scene until Batman appeared. The question is never fully answered as Batman does capture the Joker, but since he might have helped create the Joker in the first place…does Batman’s existence help or hinder more in the end?

Fascism v. Anarchy – The main theme is one of fascism versus Anarchy. Batman is fascism incarnate as he is above the police and the law and enforces his own brand of justice that is everything but killing. In answer to that there is the Joker who seeks to destroy all systems that uphold the law so the people can do whatever they want and become their base selves. While Batman seeks to scare others into becoming their best selves.

Codes – The Joker’s code is that a person should live how they want and that life itself doesn’t matter, what is important is tearing down structures of power to get people back to their basic selves. Batman doesn’t kill because he sees the good in people and sees Batman as the hope that can inspire that. Harvey’s ideal at first is to the law and using it to stop corruption. It isn’t until he loses everything that his ideal becomes chance as he blames chance and entropy on all his sorrow.

The Nature of Humanity – Is humanity good or bad at it’s base? The Joker would say bad as shown by how the city turned on itself when he caused fear and terror while Batman who believes that humans are good as shown by the Ferry Experiment where the prisoners and civilians don’t kill each other…showing that humans can rise above their fears like he did. Who is right? That’s really up to you as throughout human history you will find proof of both, though I think there is more on the Joker’s side…humans have historically been far more cruel and selfish than good and giving.

Okay: Rachel Dawes – Rachel Dawes is an idea and never gets beyond that. For Harvey she’s the thing worth living for that feeds his idealism and keeps him strong, for Bruce Wayne she’s the way out of him being Batman and having a normal life. For both she is an escape and her death triggers the change in both our characters. She’s a plot device so never becomes great. She always is just okay.

Pacing – The pacing is alright but doesn’t quite work. There are many times where the film feels like the climax has happened but before you know 3 more climactic events have happened. This is the only real downside the film has besides Rachel Dawes.

    “The Dark Knight” manages to make even it’s minor characters compelling, even as the main drama goes down between Gordon, Dent, the Joker and Batman through whose perspectives we explore the ideas and get the drama. This film isn’t afraid to tackle big ideas and the possible consequences of those ideas. Not only that we get to see it through the eyes of fascinating villains or compelling heroes we care about. This gives power to the consequences are characters make that illustrate the ideas the film explores. These deeper ideas and complex characters keep me coming back and this is a film I will never grow tired of. It is always worth a second look as he each time the ideas are explored by the characters it gives a chance to explore one’s own thoughts on the answers to the questions. This film is one of the greatest films of all time.

Final Score: 10 / 10

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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” 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 57, 58 – Shadow of the Bat – The Beginning of Batgirl

Shadow_of_the_Bat-Title_Card

 

“Shadow of the Bat,” is a Two Parter that explores the beginning of Batgirl and her welcome into the Bat Family. The premise of the Episode is Commissioner Gordon gets framed after Rupert Thorne is taken down by a mysterious benefactor in relation to the rise of a new detective named Gil Mason. After Commissioner Gordon is framed Barbara takes on the mantle of the bat to defend him to the public and find the perpetrator. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Rupert Thorne – He is only in the first 10 minutes of the episode before he is a plot device for the main baddie but he reeks havoc before he is caught. You see him fight every step of the way before finally being brought in.

Commissioner Gordon – Is great as the father to Barbara and the man who comes to sympathize with the plight of criminals after being in prison. He makes a comment about changing the food they’ll receive after this time in there.

Harvey Bullock – Bullock is great as the unswerving friend who believes in the Commissioner. You see him keep faith even after Gordon is being framed before his eyes.

Gil Mason – Is a sociopathic sicko. He is ambitious and will work with anyone to get the power he desires. Commissioner Gordon makes a comment on how the real baddie is one he has more respect for because he is at least honest about what he has become.

Two-Face – Two-Face ascended is the story for most of this episode…and I wish he’d gotten away. He traps Batman, Batgirl and Robin in the subway and even has a clue on who Batman is after while in disguise Batman gives himself away when he warns Robin. He takes out the man who scarred him in the first place (Rupert Thorne) and the cops who had caused him so much pain. He almost wins it all this episode. Two-Face has won and Harvey Dent is dead at this point in the story.

Robin – I almost put him in the okay or con area but decided against it due to him coming to respect Batgirl in the end. He is the Boy Wonder for much of the episode and it is annoying…but he does come through and manages to help save Batman and treat Batgirl like part of the team and family.

Batman – Comes around to treating Batgirl as an equal much sooner in regards to when he’s met her and when she becomes part of the team. He does a good job figuring everything out and he actually gets caught and almost discovered showing that he does in fact make mistakes in the field.

Batgirl – This is Batgirl’s episode and it is a good introduction. We see how her gymnastics are used when she is fighting crime and the process of her learning how to be a vigilante is great…as well as all the effort put in to saving Batman, Robin and her father.

Okay: The Music – The music is forgettable, which is a shame. Batgirl could have received a great theme this episode.

Two-Face Caught – He should have escaped. It would have made the threat of him complete and completed his revenge. Right now no one controls the gangs leaving a power vacuum that is never addressed.

Because of the power vacuum with the gang, the capture of Two-Face can’t give this episode full points. It is still a favorite and one I would recommend though.

Final score is 9 / 10.

 

 

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 46 – Almost Got ‘Im – A Meeting of the Rogues or So Close to Victory

Almost Got Im

“Almost Got ‘Im,” is one of the best exploration of Batman’s rogues gallery. We get to see their moments of near triumph and see that they have a working relationships and a near comradery that almost borders on friendship…all because of Batman. It begins with them all meeting and playing cards as they share their stories…from their the story unfolds.

Here is my assessment of the episode:

Pros: The Dynamic –  The Dynamic between the villains is extremely well done. Past history is referenced (Poison Ivy saying that her and Harvey Dent were in a relationship…which they were). There is a playfulness, especially in how Killer Croc is ignored as the dolt and Joker owns the arena.

Poison Ivy – Her plan was actually pretty cool. Poisoned pumpkins on Halloween that explode when Batman arrives. She nearly wins except the Batmobile attacks her and gets Batman his mask. This story reveals why Poison Ivy is one of the greatest of the rogues. She shuts down Two-Face pretty thoroughly too. She is captured though at the end of her story.

Two-Face – Two-Face manages to capture Batman with the Two Ton Gang and luckily has his coin end on death which leads to Batman being flipped on a giant coin that he only manages to escape from by using Two-Face’s coin against him to cut the ropes. He is captured by Batman in the end though and is given back his coin.

Killer Croc – Killer Croc throws a rock at Batman and the silence he receives from the other rogues is perfect. He is ignored after that and becomes sad. He is the thug of Batman’s rogues and only really functions as muscle not planner in relation to the others in the room (which becomes a good ploy later for this episode).

Penguin – Penguin manages to be better than all before him in that he poisons Batman, injures Batman and even escapes. His plan is elaborate with poison tipped hummingbirds and a Cassowary (one of my favorite birds). He is the intellectual of the group and Joker asks him to use smaller words. Penguin is also the most polite and respectful.

Joker – Joker’s plan is the best. In his him and Harley Quinn hijack Gotham Live and have Batman trapped in a laugh machine that sends electric currents through his body the more the audience laughs. He nearly succeeds except for the arrival of Catwoman who Harley Quinn manages to capture in the end for Joker to use against Batman in the final plot. He is the best of them all in regards to how close he gets to killing Batman and is by far the greatest threat of the group.

Harley Quinn – Captures Catwoman and saves Joker. This episode is great at establishing her as more than Joker’s flunky. She is threat to be reckoned with by anyone she sets her sight on…especially in regards to the Joker.

Catwoman – She saves Batman and even dreams of a normal life for her and Batman and is saved by Batman in turn. The equal exchange between them rescuing each other was part of what the characters so interesting in the first place. She ends the episode with it’s name saying she, “Almost Got ‘Im.”

Batman – Batman was playing as Killer Croc the entire time. He went undercover to capture the group and find out where Catwoman was. The group gets captured by him and Gordon and after he manages to stop Harley from killing Catwoman.

This is a fantastic story that has a unique narrative style and a great exploration of every character who gets to speak. I highly recommend it. It is one of my favorites and part of the reason the rogues from this show are so memorable and unforgettable.

10 / 10 The perfect episode.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 37 – The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne – Hugo Strange and the Identity of Batman

The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne

“The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne,” introduces us to the villain Hugo Strange. This Strange isn’t the best of the Strange’s but he isn’t as cool or as interesting as the “Arkham City” Hugo Strange. This Dr. Strange’s drive is much more simple which I’ll talk about later.

The premise of the episode is Judge Vargis is blackmailed after visiting an area on vacation owned by Daggett. It turns out that here was she was going to therapy with Doctor Strange. Batman does as well, which leads to Strange finding out the identity of Batman. From here it is Batman trying to find out how Strange did it and stopping him before he can auction off his identity to his Rogues Gallery.

Here is my assessment of the episode:

Pros: Batman/Bruce Wayne – It is here we learn through Hugo Strange’s machine that Batman still feels the guilt over his parents death and how it drove him for his desire to revenge. It is a great scene. After we see is ingenuity when he comes as Batman and Robin pretends to be Bruce Wayne. It is very well done.

Robin – The switch is pretty cool and we saw Robin in a good supporting role in protecting Bruce Wayne’s secret identity.

Batman’s Rogues – Joker, The Penguin and Two-Face have a great dynamic with one another. Penguin is the gentlemen trying to keep peace between the groups and looking at Strange with the best of intentions while Two-Face is erupting in anger and distrust at every opportunity…and of course Joker as chaos playing off of everyone. It is great seeing them work together, which sets the stage for later team ups like in “The Trial,” or when they are all hanging out in, “Almost Got ‘Im,”

Okay: Hugo Strange – It sucks that his only motivation is money. The Strange in the comics and “Arkham City” is motivated by a desire to replace Batman which is much more interesting. He wants to be important and is strong against opposition…in this one he is schooled by everyone, which I think is largely because his motivations are so weak and he’s easily stopped by a switch with the tape he recorded and the destruction of his mind machine (and Robin playing as Bruce Wayne). He isn’t bad (he does manage to capture Alfred), but he is no better than any other minor thug. Finding out Bruce Wayne is Batman should have been a bigger deal and his motivations greater than money.

I’d recommend this episode if only for the fact that you get to see the rogues all interact in a mostly peaceful way with one another, as well as seeing Batman and Robin work together to outsmart Strange even though Strange is just a minor rogue when he could have been major if handled differently. Again, see “Arkham City,” for Strange done right.

My final score for this episode is 9 / 10.