Archive for Bruce Wayne

Batman vs. Robin

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

When Batman finds himself under attack by his own son, Damian (Robin), he at first suspects the hand of Ra’s Al Ghul behind the treachery, but then comes to see that the boy may be controlled by a mysterious and murderous society known as the Court of Owls.

What people are saying:

“More a mash-up of two of the most highly regarded Batman stories in the last 20 years than its title implies it stands alongside the best efforts of Warner Bros. Animated.” 4 1/2 stars

“This could of been the next red hood movie, if they would of stuck to just one story, but instead they shove all these storys all together instead of focusing on batman and the owls. Court of owls /night of the owls was a great stoty and would of been fine on its own, but they just shoved all these other plots in and it just didn’t work. They even took some of the best scenes from the book and cheapened them, like making that intense amazing maze part of the story and turning into a quick drugged dream thing.” 1 star

“The story itself was good, not the best but not the worst I’ve seen. The kid was just annoying at first, but it got better as the story progressed. I do think it could have been a lot better, the storyline they used had more potential but it wasn’t bad. As far as content. Definitely not for kids, I wouldn’t even say 13 and up, i’d say older. Lots of blood, violence, even a straight up massacre. Some of the language and the sexual content was unnecessary so be aware of that if you are looking at this for children. ” 3 stars

“The anticipation of the eventual fight between Batman and Robin is palpable. With all the talented voice actors bringing in realism of the character’s conflicts, it’s hard not to enjoy.” 4 stars

“Not good, this is actually a terrible adaptation of the court of owls comic storyline. The way they reworked it with Damian Wayne was just terrible, and the story line goes out of its way to make batman seem incompetent. It would have been better if they had just straight up done a court of owls animated movie and skipped out the son of batman stuff for two reasons. The first being the aforementioned batman incompetence like batman sending a ten year old boy into the wilderness on his own, stupid, or robin solving the doll maker crime before batman, lame. Then of course the second being that Damien is the most annoyingly pig headed, and truly unsavory robins ever created, plainly put he’s just unlikable and really petulant through the whole film. Spent the hour and twenty minutes on count down waiting for the torture to end.” 1 star

Advertisements

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, pt. I

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a dystopian near-future version of Gotham City, 55-year-old Bruce Wayne has retired from being Batman following the death of his former sidekick, Jason Todd. Criminals now run amok and the city is constantly terrorized by a gang known as the Mutants. Bruce Wayne is now something of a recluse, despite his continuous philanthropic endeavors and friendship with Commissioner James Gordon (who now knows Bruce’s former identity as Batman).

The escalating brutality of the Mutants prompts Bruce to take up the mantle of Batman again, but the public opinion over Batman and his methods is sharply divided. While the public generally approve of Batman’s return, richer and more powerful people such as the unnamed Mayor of Gotham City and Dr. Bartholomew Wolper (head psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum) brand Batman as a fascist. Bruce’s old friend Harvey Dent (formerly Two-Face) undergoes plastic surgery and his face is repaired but at the high cost of eradicating Dent’s good side forever. Batman confronts Two-Face and stops him from holding the city ransom with a bomb.

Inspired by Batman’s actions, 13-year-old girl Carrie Kelley buys herself a Robin costume and searches for Batman to aid him. She finds him at the city dump where the Mutant gang is gathering. Onboard a tank-like Batmobile, Batman defeats most of the gang (shooting them with rubber bullets) before confronting the Mutant Leader in hand to hand combat where he is overpowered, but Kelley distracts the Leader long enough for Batman to subdue him. She then rescues the injured Batman and tends to his wounds as the vehicle drives toward the Batcave while the Mutant Leader is apprehended by the police. Once home, Batman takes Carrie on as the new Robin despite the objections of his butler Alfred Pennyworth. Batman instructs Carrie to disguise herself as a Mutant and spread the word of a meeting at Gotham Pipe starting with Mutant members Rob and Don. Batman also arranges the Mutant Leader’s escape from Gotham City Police Headquarters.

At Gotham City Police Headquarters, the Mayor attempts to negotiate with the Mutant Leader in his cell, but the Mutant Leader brutally mauls him to death. Gordon then “accidentally” allows the Leader out of his cell and he makes his way through the ventilation system leading him to Gotham Pipe where he finds his entire army waiting. Batman appears and engages the Mutant Leader in battle again. Only this time, Batman manages to outsmart the Leader’s moves and eventually subdues him, breaking several of his bones in front of his army. Accepting defeat, the Mutants disband where some of them form smaller gangs while the others were arrested by the police. One gang in particular operates under the name of “The Sons of Batman” where they work to purge Gotham of crime with questionable methods.

Batman’s return and victory over the Mutants becomes public news. Following the death of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor Stevenson has been sworn in as the new Mayor of Gotham City. Nearing retirement, Gordon meets with his successor Police Captain Ellen Yindel who also voices her doubts over Batman’s methods. Meanwhile in Arkham Asylum, a catatonic patient sees a report about Batman on the news and gives off a disturbing grin

REVIEW:

Batman has long been portrayed as a dark, brooding antihero, with the exception of the time of the Dick Grayson Robin. Have you ever wondered what it would be like in the future when Batman was a bitter, old man and crime in Gotham City and crime had taken a new form of criminal? Well, that is what Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, pt. I brings to the table.

What is this about?

In this animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 55-year-old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to protect Gotham and face both the Joker and a battalion of new foes. But does he still have what it takes to be the Caped Crusader?

What did I like?

Show some love. While watching this, I could really see and feel that the artists and animators really had some love for the source material. In many other comic adaptations, so much is changed that one can hardly tell that it is the same story anymore. The fact that they chose to keep it as close to the source material as possible earns major kudos from me and I hope that future comic book films, both animated and live-action, take note.

Ratchet. I won’t lie and say this film is nothing but action from start to finish. As a matter of fact, there are more scenes on non-action, but when we do get some kick butt scenes, it is totally worth it. This group of animators make it feel like a live action film, which is something that we really haven’t seen in this medium, to date.

Robin. Think about all the Robins we have seen in every incarnation of Batman. Obviously, there is the Dick Grayson Robin, occasionally we get the Tim Drake Robin, and I think there are a one or two versions that actually use Jason Todd, but when have we seen the female Robin? Sure she isn’t the most popular character, but in this day when heaven forbid there not be a strong female influence, it is good to see her.

What didn’t I like?

Animation. I cannot say that I was a fan of the way these characters were animated. It isn’t as if they were bad, but rather not my cup of tea. I long for the days of the immaculate animation of Batman: The Animated Series. Back then everything was hand drawn and not so reliant on computers. There are moments in this flick that are obviously done strictly by computers which, at least for me, is offensive. Can no one draw by hand anymore?!?

Voice acting. Let’s get this out of the way right now. No one is going to live up to Kevin Conroy’s Batman. There is a reason they brought him back from the latest video games. Peter Weller didn’t sell Batman for me. I actually felt he was more human back in his Robocop days, which is pretty sad when you think about it.

Spirit. While this flick does manage to stick as close to the source material as possible, I didn’t feel it conveyed the different tone of this alternate future. It definitely didn’t portray the mutants as a major threat, as they actually are, save for the leader, and even that was nothing more than a way to justify breaking this up into two films.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, pt. I is just another dark Batman flick that, personally, I am growing weary of. It has plenty of moments that are worth watching, but I’m not so sure it would be worth buying, let alone justifying that this had to be split up into two films. I guess that is a query that will be answered next year when part 2 is released. In the meantime, check this out if you’re a Batman fan.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

 

The Dark Knight Rises

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City is in a state of peace. Under powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner James Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organized crime. However, he still feels guilty about the cover-up of Harvey Dent’s crimes. He plans to admit to the conspiracy at a function celebrating Dent, but decides that the city is not ready to hear the truth. While following a lead in the abduction of a congressman from the function, Gordon’s speech falls into the hands of Bane. Gordon is shot in the process, and he promotes patrol officer John Blake to detective, allowing Blake to report directly to him.

As Batman has disappeared from Gotham City, so too has Bruce Wayne, locking himself inside Wayne Manor. Wayne Enterprises is crumbling after he invested in a clean energy project designed to harness fusion power, but shut the project down after learning that the core could be modified to become a nuclear weapon. Both Blake — who has deduced Batman’s identity — and Gordon implore Bruce to return as Batman, but Alfred Pennyworth objects out of concern for Bruce’s future and resigns in a failed attempt to dissuade him.

Bane stages an attack on the stock exchange and uses a stolen set of Bruce’s fingerprints to place a number of risky investments in his name, bankrupting Bruce and forcing him to relinquish control of Wayne Enterprises. Correctly suspecting that his business rival, John Daggett, has employed Bane to aid in this aggressive take-over of his company, Bruce entrusts businesswoman Miranda Tate to keep full control out of Daggett’s hands. Bane, however, has other plans, and kills Daggett to take control of his infrastructure.

Following a trail left by cat burglar Selina Kyle, Batman confronts Bane, who says that he has assumed the leadership of the League of Shadows following the death of Ra’s al Ghul. Bane reveals that he was using Daggett’s construction firms to stage a heist on Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Science Division. He steals three Tumblers before crippling Batman and detaining him in a prison from which escape is virtually impossible. The other inmates relate the story of the only person to ever successfully escape from the prison: a child driven by necessity and the sheer force of will, said to be the child of Ra’s al Ghul, leading Batman to believe that this child became Bane.

Bane lures the vast majority of Gotham’s police force underground and sets off a chain of explosions across the city, trapping the officers and turning Gotham City into an isolated city-state. Any attempt to leave the city will result in the detonation of the Wayne Enterprises fusion core, which has been converted into a bomb. Bane publicly reveals the cover-up of Dent’s death, and releases the prisoners locked up under the Dent Act. The rich and powerful are dragged from their homes and put before a show trial presided over by Jonathan Crane. After an attempt to sneak Special Forces soldiers into the city fails, the government blockades Gotham and the city further regresses into a state of anarchy.

Meanwhile, Bruce recovers from his injuries and retrains himself to be Batman. He successfully escapes Bane’s prison to return to Gotham, enlisting Selina, Blake, Miranda, Gordon and Lucius Fox to help liberate the city and stop the fusion bomb before it grows too unstable and explodes. Batman confronts and subdues Bane, but is betrayed and stabbed by Miranda as she reveals herself to be Talia al Ghul. It was she who escaped the prison as a child, before returning with her father and the League of Shadows to rescue Bane, the one person who aided her escape. Talia plans to complete her father’s work in destroying Gotham, while exacting personal vengeance against Bruce for Ra’s death.

Gordon successfully cuts off the bomb’s ability to be remotely detonated while Selina kills Bane, allowing Batman to chase Talia. He tries to force her to take the bomb to the fusion chamber where it can be stabilized, but she remotely floods the chamber. Batman shoots her truck off the road and Talia dies in the resulting crash, confident that the bomb cannot be stopped. Using a helicopter developed by Fox, Batman hauls the bomb beyond the city limits, where it detonates over the ocean and presumably kills him.

In the aftermath of the explosion, Batman is praised as a sacrificial hero and Bruce is believed dead as a casualty of riots. As his estate is divided up, Lucius is shown completing work on the Bat, realizing that Batman may have escaped the detonation after all due to the fact the autopilot was fixed by Bruce many months before. Alfred is also shown holidaying in Italy, where he sees Bruce and Selina having coffee together at a nearby table. It is also revealed that Blake’s legal first name is Robin (comics), as he inherits the Batcave

REVIEW:

When The Dark Knight came out a few years back, everyone seemed to all but bow down and worship it because it was supposedly the best film ever made. I was one of the handful of people who didn’t seem to see it that way. A few friends have wondered if I am going into The Dark Knight Rises with similar disdain. The answer is no, but I do have my reservations.

Before I go any further, I feel I should make a statement about the tragedy that has befallen the small town of Aurora, CO, following the shooting. For those that don’t know, a gunman went in the theater to see this film, and opened fire, effectively killing and wounding quite a few people. I don’t know if this film had anything to do with this happening, but it truly is a shame that it happened. My heart is heavy and mourning for those affected by this tragedy.

So, what did I like?

3D. Or should I say lack of 3D? With seemingly every film released these days being released, made, and/or post converted to 3D, for the sole purpose of making more money, not a better film, mind you, I tip my hat to Christopher Nolan and his decision to not film this in 3D, nor did he cave in and convert it. There are plenty of scenes that may have looked great in 3D, but, at least for me, there hasn’t been anything to justify making that switch. I really can’t tell the difference, other than paying for some rented sunglasses!

Tone. I had one major complaint with the last film, and that it was a little too dark and serious for my taste, which is kind of ironic, since they used the Joker as the main villain. This film, though, lightens things up, and actually feels like a comic book film. Yes, it has moments that are dark, but as a whole, this is a more pleasant viewing experience.

Continuity. Film series these days seem to think about moving forward and making more and more money, but not many of them seem to remember things that went on in their universe. So, you can imagine my delight to see some moments from the previous films as the trilogy comes to climactic conclusion.

Cerebral. Christopher Nolan is no dummy, and neither are his films. He brings this level of cerebral thinking to a villain that, for the most part, isn’t really known for his brains, Bane. The complex plots he hatches are impressive, to say the least, just watch the opening scenes and you’ll be more than aware of what this guy can do.

Bane. Speaking of Bane,  I remember when he debuted in the comics and broke Batman’s back, which led to a replacement Batman for a while, but that’s neither here nor there. I was wondering if they were going to use that in the film, and they sort of did, but not to the full extent, I would have liked, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least it was in there, unlike the venom that pumps him up, for instance.

Catwoman. I love Anne Hathway. I have since the first time I saw her in The Princess Diaries. However, I”m not quite sure  she works as Catwoman. That being said, I give her all the credit in the world for making this her own character and not trying to be Julie Newmar, Halle Berry, Lee Meriwether Michelle Pfeiffer, or Eartha Kitt. While this may not be the most memorable Catwoman, she is the closest to the source material in the Nolan universe.

Talia. Marion Cotillard is a vision of loveliness and if you ever seen Talia al Ghul in the comics, then it isn’t very hard to see why she was chosen to play her. I’m not too crazy about how little she was used, but the misdirection was quite impressive. It sure had me fooled!

Action. The action in the flick is awesome, if I do say so myself. They really upped the ante. I literally got goosebumps when they are driving though the tunnel and all of a sudden the light go out and Batman takes out the crooks one by one. The fight with Bane, the chase scenes, oh…and the scene at the stadium. Awesometacular, but the final fight, that was a thing of beauty!

What didn’t I like?

Voices. First we have Christian Bale doing that raspy thing. It didn’t work in the last film, what the hell possessed him to think it would work this time? He really should have gotten the memo. Also in the category of bad voicing is Tom Hardy’s Bane. When the first trailer was released his voice was a raspy and a little hard to understand, but it worked. For some reason, someone decided to change it and give him this Sean Connery-type voice that doesn’t really work. It comes off as cartoonish as Batman’s voice did annoying.

Batsuit. We’re in the third film, you’d think by now the Batsuit would look like something more than some kind of exoskeleton by now. The part that sticks out to me the most, though, is the next. Something didn’t quite look right, I think it was something to do with the neck piece and the way the cowl is made. It gives the illusion that Batman is a sort of bobblehead.

Alfred. He’s only in about 10% of the film, but that whole time he’s bitching and moaning about how he doesn’t want Bruce to be Batman anymore, and then leaves. WTF?!? Why in tarnation did the decide to make Alfred such a whiny little bitch? He’s never been one of those characters that kicks some ass, obviously, but he’s loyal and unquestioning. This just goes against everything Alfred stands for!

Too much Wayne. So, it is eight years after the events of the last film, and Bruce Wayne has hung up the cape and cowl. That’s fine, he has to get back to being Batman. Bane breaks him…same kind of thing. Somewhere in there, though, shouldn’t someone have thought there was a little bit too much Bruce Wayne? No one is interested in Batman because of Bruce Wayne. We got his story in Batman Begins, and that was enough. While I’m thinking about it, how is it that he can grow a fully stylized beard in a desert prison, yet it wasn’t that long ago, when he was in Tibet, that he had a full on, scruffy, shaggy beard.

Villains. In all the Batman films, there has been at least one villain that is a strong presence, be it the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Ra’s al Ghul, Mr. Freeze, etc. However, I found that Bane, while physically imposing and such, he just didn’t come off as strong enough to carry the film. Catwoman and Talia were nothing more than villainesses with a purpose, but nothing more. Considering how much they shoved Catwoman down our throats during the whole marketing campaign, I was expecting more.

Ending. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but there is a character reference that just makes you wonder, wouldn’t it have been better to have it happen earlier on in the film, or maybe even at the end of the last film, rather than the last thing you see before the credits roll.

The Dark Knight Rises has apparently pissed some people off that have said anything negative about it. Why else would Rotten Tomatoes have shut down the comment section of their review of this film. Luckily, I don’t have much negative to say about this film. All my complaints are minor. I really did enjoy this film and think it may very well be the best Batman film since Batman (1989). Definitely a fitting end to the trilogy. Sure, some people are going to be disappointed, but that’s because they hold the last film to such impossibly, unwarranted high standards. I highly recommend this film and think you should get off that couch right now and go see it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Batman: Year One

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Bruce Wayne returns home to Gotham City from training abroad in martial arts, man-hunting, and science for the past 12 years, and James Gordon moves to Gotham with his wife, Barbara, after a transfer from Chicago. Both are swiftly acquainted with the corruption and violence of Gotham City, with Gordon witnessing his partner Detective Flass assaulting a teen for fun.

On a surveillance mission in the seedy East End, a disguised Bruce is propositioned by teenaged prostitute Holly Robinson. He is drawn into a brawl with her pimp and is attacked by several prostitutes, including dominatrix Selina Kyle. One of the two reporting police officers shoot and take him in their squad car, but a dazed and bleeding Bruce maneuvers his handcuffed hands in front of himself, and demands the police get out. The cops try to subdue him, but the ensuing struggle causes the police car to careen out of control, and flips. Bruce flees, but not before dragging the police to a safe distance. He reaches Wayne Manor barely alive and sits before his father’s bust, requesting guidance in his war on crime. A bat crashes through a window and settles on the bust, giving him inspiration.

Gordon works to rid corruption from the force, but on orders from Commissioner Gillian Loeb, several officers attack him, including Flass, who threatens Gordon’s pregnant wife. In revenge, Gordon tracks Flass down, beats and humiliates him, leaving him naked and handcuffed in the snow.

As Gordon becomes a minor celebrity for several brave acts, Batman strikes for the first time, attacking a group of thieves. Batman soon works up the ladder, even attacking Flass while he was accepting a bribe. After Batman interrupts a dinner party attended by many of Gotham’s corrupt politicians and crime bosses, including Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, Loeb orders Gordon to bring him in by any means necessary.

As Gordon tries in vain to catch him, Batman attacks Falcone, stripping him naked and tying him up in his bed after dumping his car in the river. Assistant district attorney Harvey Dent becomes Batman’s first ally, while Detective Sarah Essen and Gordon, after Essen suggested Bruce Wayne as a Batman suspect, witness Batman save an old woman from a runaway truck. Essen holds Batman at gunpoint, but Batman disarms her and flees to an abandoned building.

Claiming the building has been scheduled for demolition, Loeb orders a bomb dropped on it, forcing Batman into the fortified basement. A trigger-happy SWAT team led by Branden is sent in, whom Batman attempts to trap in the basement. They soon escape and, after tranquilizing Branden, Batman dodges as the rest open fire, barely managing to survive two bullet wounds. Enraged as the team’s careless gunfire injures several people outside, Batman beats the team into submission and, after using a device to attract the bats of his cave, escapes amid the chaos. Selina Kyle, after witnessing him in action, dons a costume of her own to begin the life as costumed thief Catwoman.

Gordon has a brief affair with Essen, while Batman intimidates a drug dealer for information. The dealer comes to Gordon to testify against Flass, who is brought up on charges. Loeb blackmails Gordon against pressing charges with proof of his affair. After bringing Barbara with him to interview Bruce Wayne, investigating his connection to Batman, Gordon confesses the affair to her.

Batman sneaks into Falcone’s manor, overhearing a plan against Gordon, but is interrupted when Catwoman, hoping to build a reputation after her robberies were pinned on Batman, attacks Falcone and his bodyguards, aided by Batman. Identifying Falcone’s plan as the morning comes, the uncostumed Bruce leaves to help.

Gordon tries to rebuild the relationships with his family after Essen leaves Gotham. While leaving home, Gordon spots a motorcyclist enter his garage. Suspicious, Gordon enters to see Johnny Vitti, Falcone’s nephew, and his thugs holding his family hostage. Gordon shoots the thugs and chases Vitti, who has fled with the baby. Bruce Wayne, on a motorcycle, also rushes to chase Vitti. Gordon blows out Vitti’s car tire on a bridge and the two fight, with Gordon losing his glasses, before Vitti and James Gordon Jr. fall over the side. Bruce leaps over the railing and saves the baby. Gordon realizes that he is standing before an unmasked Batman, but says that he is “practically blind without [his] glasses,” and lets Bruce go.

Gordon ends with a final monologue: “It turns out that Flass had more evidence than we could keep track of. If there’s one good thing Flass ever did, its put Loeb behind bars. Now, I have been promoted to captain. This guy just threatened to poison the reservoir. Calls himself ‘The Joker’. Got a friend coming over to help. Should be here any minute.” Gordon is standing on a rooftop in the final two sentences, implying that his “friend” is Batman.

REVIEW:

For those of you not familiar with the Batman mythos, Batman: Year One was a graphic novel that told the story of what it was like in that first year as the bat. If I’m not mistaken, elements of that book were used in or as the basis for Batman Begins.

No, this is not an origin story. As a matter of fact, the film starts with Bruce Wayne returning from his 12 yr absence from Gotham City. If you must call this an origin story, it does seem to center on James Gordon, but he only goes from Lt. to Capt., still  a ways from commissioner.

I have to say that I like the animation style they used for this film. It is reminiscent of the 90s Batman cartoon. Actually, now that I think about it, it might be closer to The Batman which aired in the middle part of the last decade.

While I liked the animation, I do have one qualm. Where was the color in the eyes? What I mean by that is each of the characters seemed to have flesh colors corneas. I can live with this, but at the same time, it sort of seemed as if the ink and paint department ran out of white or something.

The story is a little watered down from the pages of the book, which is fine. I mean, this is supposed to be a bit more “universally friendly” than the dark, violent version that can be found in the original format (which you should check out if you get the chance). Did this dilute the impact this film should have had? I don’t really think so. The parts that were taken out and/or changed to appeal to a broader audience. As one review stated, “a stellar adaptation…almost verbatim at times”.

I read somewhere that this was a very violent adaptation. Truth be told, I think the 90s animated series was more violent. That being said, I think this is probably the darkest animated version of the bat to date that I’ve seen (I hear Gotham Knights is pretty close to the Christopher Nolan version, though).

The voice casting is ok, but I wasn’t impressed. I guess I’m just spoiled with Kevin Conroy as Batman, but at least Benjamin McKenzie didn’t feel the need to do the Christian Bale thing with his voice.

It has been some time since I’ve read this, but I don’t particularly remember the Catwoman angle being such a major part of it. I guess they figured it would be something viewers would want to see more of. Having said that, her short (a special feature on the DVD) isn’t half bad, though it doesn’t quite have the same punch as some of the other DC animated shorts.

So, chances are, unless you’re a fan of comic book films, you couldn’t give a flip about this. That point aside, you might want to check this out. You’d be surprised at the depth of these characters and the story, as well. Batman: Year One is actually a damn good animated flick. It isn’t perfect, but it is worth watching!

4 out of 5 stars

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

During a conference of crime bosses held in a Gotham City skyscraper, gangster Chuckie Sol is killed by a mysterious cloaked figure shortly after Batman bursts in on the meeting. Batman is blamed for the death. Councilman Arthur Reeves tells the media that Batman is an irresponsible menace, then attends a party at the mansion of billionaire Bruce Wayne, Batman’s alter ego. Reeves jokingly taunts Bruce for his bad luck with women and for having allowed an old girlfriend, Andrea Beaumont, to get away.

In a flashback to Bruce’s college days, we see him meet Andrea in a cemetery while visiting his parents’ grave. Bruce has vowed to avenge his parents’ murder by dedicating his life to fighting crime. He dons a mask and black ninja-styled outfit and foils an armored car robbery, but is discouraged that the criminals do not fear him. Around the same time, he begins a romance with Andrea. Eventually, Bruce decides to quit his plan on becoming a crime-fighter and proposes marriage to Andrea. Andrea mysteriously leaves Gotham with her father, ending her engagement to Bruce in a Dear John letter. Believing that he has lost his only chance of having a normal life, Bruce finally dons the mask of Batman.

In the present, the killer finds and kills another gangster, Buzz Bronski. Batman discovers evidence linking Andrea’s father with a number of organized crime figures. The killer later targets Salvatore Valestra, the mob boss for whom both Sol and Bronski once worked as enforcers, but is beaten to the punch by the Joker, whom Valestra had foolishly consulted for help; Batman is blamed again and has a close call with the police after a brief confrontation with the killer. Rescuing Batman in her car, Andrea explains that she and her father had been hiding in Europe, from the Valestra mob, to whom he owed a lot of money. Carl Beaumont eventually repaid them, but that did not satisfy them. Batman believes that Andrea’s father may be the killer, until he learns from Reeves (who now knows Batman is innocent) that Beaumont was murdered some time before.

In a tussle with the Joker, the killer is revealed to be Andrea herself, intent on avenging her father’s death by killing the mobsters to whom he owed money and whom ordered Beaumont murdered. The Joker is also revealed to be the last surviving member of the Valestra mob: an unnamed hitman who personally murdered Beaumont for Valestra. During the course of their struggle, Batman arrives. Bruce begs Andrea to give up her desire for revenge but she refuses stating that they ruined her chances with Bruce and that he himself is constantly fighting for revenge. Andrea vanishes and Batman battles with the Joker in a miniaturized replica of Gotham City. After a protracted battle, both the Joker and Andrea vanish in the confusion of fire and smoke, with Batman barely escaping into a waterway before a series of rigged explosions.

Back in the Batcave, a heartbroken Bruce receives consolation from Alfred stating that no one could have helped Andrea. Bruce finds the locket with Bruce and Andrea in it in the cave. Meanwhile, Andrea stands on the deck of an ocean liner, alone. The final scene shows Batman now permanently alone standing on top of a building, still in grief. The Bat-Signal emerges in the distance and Batman flies into action to continue his crusade against crime

REVIEW:

 In the early 90s, I was a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series. I vaguley remember this film being released, but can’t remember why it was that I never saw it in the theater.

I’m going to get straight to the point with this one. This film is missing something. I can’t put my finger on it, but there just is something that just isn’t right. I mean, everything is here…action, flashbacks, conflict…even an appearance by the Joker, but there just was something that didn’t quite click.

The story isn’t bad. As a matter of fact, I belive that it was in a comic or graphic novel a few years before it was brought to the animated world. I’m not sure it translated as well as it could have today, though. Obviously, back then, violence could not have been shown as much…or maybe it is today that doesn’t allow as much violence because of overly sensitive parents and whatnot.

As entertaining as this film was, it didn’t really pick up until the Joker showed up. Although he was purposefully not the main villain here, you can’t help bu think they really wanted to use a story more central to him or one of the other key Batman villains such as Pengun, Riddler, Two-Face, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Clayface, etc. The film suffers the most from trying to be too serious and relying too much on heavy drama. I know that the majority of the fanbase for the cartoon was pre-teen males and up, so it brings into question why you would replace adrenaline with drama. That’s a headscratcher, for sure.

The voice casting is superb, as it always was, with Mark Hamill outshining everyone as the Joker.

The animation is, in my opinion, better than even some of the latest animated features. Isn’t it amazing what can actually happen when something is more hand drawn rather than letting a computer do it? Having said that, there is the look of a bad animated film that I didn’t care for, but I believe that had more to do with the screen, rather than the actual film.

Batman has always translated to film well. The problem has been finding good stories. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a valiant attempt, but comes off as nothing more than a glorified, extended episode that was released in theaters. It is good, but not good enough. Sure, I can recommend it, but as nothing more than just to get some memories of the old Batman cartoon.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Some 40 years after Batman: The Animated Series, the Joker, as young as he was in the previous series, has returned and taken over a faction of the Jokerz, a street gang devoted to the Clown Prince of Crime’s image. On his orders, they steal high-tech equipment. One heist coincides with Bruce Wayne’s formal announcement of his return to active leadership of Wayne Enterprises, which reveals the Joker to the world and Bruce in particular. Despite Terry McGinnis’ intervention, the Joker escapes.

Bruce insists that it cannot be the real Joker, whose death he claims to have witnessed decades before, yet all evidence points to him being the genuine article. Terry speculates that Bruce killed the Joker to prevent him from committing a particularly heinous crime. Bruce, unwilling to let Terry face the Joker, demands that he return the Batsuit, to which Terry complies after a heated argument.

Later on, as Terry is dancing with his girlfriend Dana at a nightclub, he is attacked by the Jokerz, who have been sent by the Joker to kill him. At the same time, the Joker himself ambushes and attacks Bruce in the Batcave, leaving him for dead. Dana is injured, but Terry defeats the Jokerz and Dana is taken to Gotham General Hospital. Terry rushes to Wayne Manor, and finds Bruce half-dead from Joker venom. Terry quickly administers an antidote, and tnds to Bruce with the help of Barbara Gordon.

After insisting on being let in on what happened to the Joker, Barbara reluctantly reveals his final criminal act. Many years back, when the Gotham Knights were still active, the Joker and his sidekick, Harley Quinn, kidnapped Tim Drake, the third Robin, and subjected him to brutal physical and psychological torture, bleaching his skin white, dying his hair green, and contorting his lips into a rictus reminiscent of the Joker’s. In the process, Tim revealed Batman’s secret identity. The Joker tried to get the transformed Tim to kill Batman, but he instead turned on the Joker and killed him (how differs between the edited and unedited versions). The Joker’s body was buried beneath Arkham Asylum, while Harley fell into a pit during a battle with Batgirl and was never found. Following the incident, Dr. Leslie Thompkins helped rehabilitate Tim. Bruce forbade Tim from being Robin again, vowing to never put another young partner in danger. Tim eventually settled down with a wife and family, and currently holds a job as a communications engineer.

Terry decides to question Tim, who denies any involvement and expresses resentment about his past life as Robin. Terry then suspects Jordan Price, who would have taken control of Wayne-Powers Enterprises were it not for Bruce’s return. However, Terry finds the Jokerz on Price’s yacht, trying to kill him(during this discussion, it is discovered that Price had hired the Jokerz gang and their leader to assault Wayne at his return banquet). He rescues Price before a satellite laser weapon destroys the boat, then turns him into the police, having recorded an admission of guilt before rescuing him.

Back in the Batcave, Terry’s attention is drawn to Tim’s Robin costume, the only one the Joker apparently went out of his way to destroy. Remembering Tim’s resentment, Terry deduces that Tim must be working with the Joker, especially when Terry discovers that the high-tech equipment the Jokerz have been stealing can be combined to form a satellite jamming station which can take over control of any satellite, thus explaining how the Joker destroyed Price’s yacht. Bruce is skeptical, but nonetheless sends Terry to question Tim again. Terry tries to confront Tim at his job site, but is lured into a trap by the Joker. Escaping in the Batmobile, he is then chased through Gotham by the laser-armed satellite.

When the Joker inexplicably stops trying to kill him, Terry tracks him to an abandoned candy factory. After fighting off the Jokerz, he discovers Tim Drake. Tim initially seems to be confused, but quickly turns on Terry, revealing that he and the Joker are one and the same; as part of Tim’s transformation, the Joker implanted a microchip in Tim carrying his consciousness and personality, allowing him to physically and mentally transform Tim into a clone of himself. Soon, Tim’s transformation into the Joker will be permanent.

The Joker prepares to fire the satellite on Gotham again, targeting Wayne Manor, Dana’s hospital, and Terry’s house, ultimately burning a path of destruction into Gotham City in the shape of a smiley face. Before he can fire, Terry sets Bruce’s guard dog, Ace, on the Joker. The Joker’s deadly joy buzzer is knocked into the controls in the confrontation, destroying the beam’s guidance system and causing it to make a beeline for the factory.

The Joker attempts to escape, but Terry seals the factory, and the two adversaries face off in a final confrontation. Unable to overcome the Joker, who has Tim’s combat training, Terry confronts the Joker on his obsession with Batman and his inability to make the original Batman laugh or respect him, sending him into a crazed fury. An enraged Joker throws a handful of grenades at his opponent, sending Terry crashing to the floor. The Joker pins him to the ground and begins to strangle him. Having retrieved the joy buzzer, Terry uses it to fry the microchip containing the Joker’s consciousness, destorying the last trace of the Joker’s life. Tim reverts to his old self, and Terry escapes with Tim and Ace before the satellite destroys the factory, taking the satellite jammer with it and stopping the beam.

In the city jail, two of the Jokerz, the Dee-Dee twins (Delia and Deidre Dennis), are revealed to be the twin granddaughters of the elderly Harley Quinn (“Nana Harley”), who survived the fall from Arkham. She bails them out while lamenting what disappointments they are. Meanwhile, Terry meets Tim properly in the hospital while Tim is talking with Barbara. Bruce arrives just as Terry leaves, and tells Terry that it is not being Batman that makes him a worthwhile person, but the other way round. Bruce joins Barbara and Tim in the hospital room and they finally restrengthen the bonds of their long-lost friendship. The film ends with Terry donning the Batsuit and flying off into the heart of Gotham City, now with a greater understanding of his responsibilities as wearer of the mask.

REVIEW:

I had almost forgotten about Batman Beyond, but for some reason this film was recommended and all the memories of that underrated BAtman series came flooding back.

In order to fully understand this flick, you have to all but forget everything you know about Batman, except for the basics and remember that this is set in the future. Once you do that, this becomes a very entertaining film complete with all types of twists and turns.

The good..the story. It is well documented that pretty much all the sidekicks and allies Bruce Wayne had are bitter, and this takes that to the next level. On top of that, we get a nice little story involving Batman’s greatest foe, The Joker, and its done with the Joker the way he is meant to be. The animation is stunning, and *GASP* HAND DRAWN!!!!! The voice cast is pretty good, listen for Melissa Joan HArt and Dean Stockwell.

The bad…this is meant for those that are fans with the Batman Beyond cartoon, so if you’re not familiar with the series, then you’re more than likely going to be a little lost, but I think that has more to do with the future setting.

There are very few films I’ve seen that really blow me away, but this one really dis do. What makes that feat more impressive is that there are no fancy gimmicks done with the animation here, just good old-fashioned, HAND DRAWN animation. The mixture of this and a superb story and wholly entertaining film make this a must-see, especially for Batman fans.

5 out of 5 stars

Batman Begins

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Eight-year-old Bruce Wayne falls into a well, where he encounters a swarm of bats. Later, he accompanies his parents to a production of Mefistofele, which features actors dressed as bats. Having developed a fear of bats, he urges his father to leave the opera. Outside the theater, Joe Chill mugs and kills Bruce’s parents. Although Chill is later arrested, Bruce blames himself for his parents’ murders.

Fourteen years later, Bruce returns to Gotham City from Princeton University, intent on killing Chill, whose prison sentence is being suspended in exchange for testifying against mobster Carmine Falcone. Before he can act, however, one of Falcone’s assassins kills Chill. Bruce tells his childhood friend Rachel Dawes about his plan; Appalled, Rachel tells him that his father would be ashamed of him. Bruce confronts Falcone, who tells him that he is ignorant of the nature of crime, so Bruce decides to travel the world to understand the criminal mind. He is detained for theft in a Bhutanese prison, where he meets Henri Ducard. Ducard invites Bruce to join an elite vigilante group, the League of Shadows, led by Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce is freed and travels to a mountaintop to begin his training with the League. Bruce overcomes his childhood fear of bats in the process. When he is ordered to execute a criminal and learns of Ra’s intention to destroy Gotham, he refuses and escapes by lighting the League’s temple on fire, killing Ra’s in the process. Bruce rescues an unconscious Ducard from the wreckage and leaves him at a village.

After seven years of being abroad, Bruce returns to a Gotham City ruled by Falcone, and plots his war against the city’s corrupt system. He seeks the help of Rachel, now an assistant district attorney, and police sergeant Jim Gordon, who consoled him after his parents’ murder. After reestablishing his connections to Wayne Enterprises, Bruce acquires, with the help of former board member Lucius Fox, a prototype armored car and an experimental armored suit. In his first night, he disrupts a drug shipment, and leaves Falcone tied to a searchlight, forming a makeshift Bat-Signal. He also disrupts an assassination attempt on Rachel, leaving her with evidence against a judge on Falcone’s payroll. While investigating the drugs in the shipment, Batman is stunned by Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist on Falcone’spayroll, who sprays him with a powerful hallucinogen. Bruce’s butler Alfred Pennyworth rescues him, using an anti-toxin developed by Fox to save him. Crane later poisons Rachel after showing her that the toxin, which is lethal in vapor form, is being piped into the city water supply. Batman saves her and attacks Crane with his own poison. When the police arrive at Arkham to arrest Crane, Batman escapes with Rachel in the Batmobile. After administering the antidote to her in the Batcave, he gives her two vials of it for Gordon – one for inoculating himself and the other for mass production.

Later at Wayne Manor, Bruce is confronted at his birthday celebration by a group of League of Shadows ninjas led by Ducard, who reveals himself to be the real Ra’s al Ghul, and that the man killed earlier was a decoy. Ra’s, who had been conspiring with Crane the entire time, plans to destroy Gotham by distributing the toxin via the city’s water supply, and vaporizing it with a microwave-emitter stolen from Wayne Enterprises. Bruce dismisses his guests by insulting them while pretending to be drunk, and fights briefly with Ra’s while the League set fire to the Manor. At the last minute, Bruce escapes the inferno with Alfred’s help. Batman arrives at the Narrows section of Gotham to aid the police in battling psychotic criminals—including Crane, now calling himself “Scarecrow”—whom the League set free. Rachel is briefly confronted by Crane, but quickly wards him off with a taser before being chased by more inmates. After saving her, Batman reveals his identity to her, and leaves Gordon in control of the Batmobileto stop the elevated train used to transport the weapon to the city’s central water-hub at Wayne Tower. Batman battles Ra’s aboard the train, then escapes just as Gordon topples the elevated line using the Batmobile’s autocannons, leaving Ra’s to crash to the ground and perish in the explosion.

Following the battle, Batman becomes a public hero. Bruce Wayne gains control of Wayne Enterprises and installs Fox as the new CEO. However, he is unable to hold onto Rachel, who cannot reconcile her love for Bruce with his dual life as Batman. Newly-promoted Lieutenant Gordon unveils a Bat-Signal for Batman. Gordon mentions that they will have their hands full finding all of the psychopaths released from Arkham by Ra’s, and in particular notes a criminal who also has “a taste for the theatrical” and leaves Joker playing cards at all of his crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate it, and disappears into the night.

REVIEW:

I want to make it perfectly clear that I don’t care for Christian Bale or Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman. Having said that, I am a fan of the bat and keep an open mind. Don’t judge me, I have my opinions, you have yours.

Personal feelings aside, Bale does not do Batman justice. He seems very wooden. As Bruce Wayne he lacks compassion that the character has in the comic. Now, I will say that Bale is good in the action scenes and one-liners, and, unlike in The Dark Knight, he doesn’t go overboard with trying to make Batman’s voice so gravely that it distracts.

Liam Neeson is nearly a dead ringer for Ra’s al Ghul. If he was of Middle Eastern decent, he’s be dead on. Aside from certain deviations from the source material, Neeson does a pretty good job of nailing it on the head. Even going so far as to maintain the respect, contempt, and disdain that Ra’s has for Bruce Wayne.

Katie Holmes had all the freedom in the world with her character since Rachel was created for this film. Unfortunately, she doesn’t make it her own. Like Bale, she is very wooden and the audience can’t connect with her.

Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow would be a much better character if he wasn’t a pawn in Ra’s’ scheme. I read somewhere that Scarecrow was going to be the villain i the next Batman film before they decided to reboot, so there was a bit of faith that he could have carried a film, but I guess Nolan felt he could do more with Ra’s al Ghul.

Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine add some nice support to the cast.

I do not care for the Batmobile. It is too big and tank like. The Batmobile has always been sleek and inconspicuous. Why did Nolan feel the need to bring in a tank? I would like to know.

The water evaporator is a nice plot device, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the dehydrating device from the 1966 Batman.

One thing that I really love about this film is how it goes into the training Bruce received. Most Batman origin stories skip over that or mention it.

There isn’t enough action in the film for my taste. It was bordering on getting too dramatic and preachy when it could have some real action.

For those of you that are into these dark films, this will be a treat for you. For those of us that prefer lighter fare, it’s a bit of torture, though. Yes, its an interesting take on Batman’s origin, but all the fun that the previous films have has been sucked out so that Nolan can make a “real” film. Newsflash, Batman is a comic book superhero! He does not need to be real! If you can get past all that, though, you should enjoy this film. Despite my feelings toward Nolan and Bale, this is a very good film.

4 out of 5 stars