Tag Archives: batman

Gotham – Season 3

gs3coverI’ve written about my fascination for all things Batman before. I’ve reviewed seasons one and two of controversial show Gotham, praising it for its different take on the Bat. But this third season is teetering dangerously close to how much I can take…

I still liked it, mind you. It’s just…  I frowned more than once during my viewing. There were strange things going on. Inconsistencies with the established comic universe. normally, I’m all for that. New writers, new takes on characters, origins, etc. I get it. People don’t want to see the same things over and over. But some things shouldn’t be messed with.

Take James Gordon for example. The archetypical cop with a heart. Turning bounty hunter this season? Really? Someone with that much respect for the law starting to operate on the fringe of it? Frown n. 1.

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On to frown n. 2 and 3. I know it’s not unusual for soaps to resurrect the dead, but I didn’t expect it from a show like Gotham. Yet it happens. Twice. I won’t spoil who gets to be alive again this season, but from where things ended for them last season, I was pretty sure at least one of these characters was smoked permanently…

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Frown n. 4 (and this is the last one, I promise) has to do with some of the forced entries. I’ve had this with seasons one and two as well, but less so. Some of the villains, or supporting characters just seem forced into the plot, just so writers can make a nod to future bad guys or comic plots. It’s not necessary to add all of Batman’s opponents to the storyline, but the writers do seem intent on trying.

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But enough with the frowns. I’ve had my fun watching season 3. Acting still is spot on. In particular from Ben McKenzie (Gordon) and Robin Lord Taylor (Penguin). The overall tone of the series plot has also become darker. Who would’ve thought that was possible?

All in all, a still very much enjoyable series. It has a few flaws, which I hope will be adressed for season 4.

Jan

Batman and Harley Quinn

bmanh“What? Another Batman animated movie?”

Yes, another Batman animated movie. A very good one. One that has virtually everything: violence, humour, Harley Quinn in a lead role, Nightwing, song and dance (the Batuzi!), Swamp Thing, blood, sex, fart jokes,… Batman and Harley Quinn is one of the best in not the best Batman animated feature I’ve reviewed to date!

Extradimensional dryad Jason Woodrue partners with Poison Ivy. The green team plans on releasing a virus on the world that would turn all animal and human life into plants. Believing it’s the only way to save the earth from destruction, they go on a trek to find Swamp Things original bayou, as water from there will perfect the virus. Batman and Nightwing are desperate for help and enlist Ivy’s former partner and best friend Harley Quinn. Now a reformed citizen, Harley works shifts at the Superbabes restaurant, but is silently itching for action.

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While the green warriors crusade to protect the earth is a somewhat clichéd given for them, the idea of a reformed Harley Quinn now helping the Caped Crusader is one I hadn’t seen before. And oddly enough, it works. While I thought Harley needed the Joker to be a character that works, she does pretty well on her own.

Storywise, I can’t say I was blown away by the main premise. As I said above, Woodrue’s and Ivy’s plan seems like a thing they always do. Babble about earth and nature’s dying, blame humans and then having some sort of ultimate solution for it all. Mostly a virus, or a pathogen of some sort.
Yawn.
What does work however, is the dynamic between Batman and Harley. Both are believeable as characters and are written really well.

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What also works is the return to the Bruce Timm style of animation. Something I’ve always longed for. While not as dark as the original Timm cartoons, Batman and Harley Quinn really copies well. It even adds blood and some fatalities to the mix, so you might consider it a tad darker in tone.

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So yes. I’m a fan. And I hope Batman and Harley Quinn is the precursor to a whole lot of animated Batmen in this style!

Jan

Gotham Season 2

boxHow do I review the second season of a show I already reviewed the first season of? Do I repeat myself and again talk at length about the show’s strong points? Do I tell people about the ongoing storyline, thus potentially spoiling everyone? Should I talk about the nice extras, of which there are many included on this boxset?

These are questions I asked myself repeatedly over the course of watching the second season of Gotham.

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So what do I actually do? I could point out that the show’s lack of actual Batman is its strongest point. It still is a treat to see a Gotham pre-Batman. Streets rife with crime. A thriving mobscene. A young Bruce Wayne, still struggling with the loss of his parents, yet somehow coping. Jim Gordon, still a detective, rising among the ranks of Gotham’s finest. It’s all very well written, and fits into existing Batman continuity.

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I can also geek out over the numerous references to Bat-lore in the show. There’s an abundance of easter eggs ranging from the obvious “Oh look, this character’s going to become (insert villain name here) in later life” to the more hidden blink and you’ll miss it shout-outs to the comics.

Perhaps I should point out the actors as well? Maybe say a word or two about how well they’re doing their jobs? There was a time when comic book movies or series had to be acted tongue-in-cheeck (you haven’t seen camp till you’ve seen the 1960’s Batman show), but not here. Here’s a real gritty crime drama, that happens to be set in a comic universe.

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So there you go. I’ve repeated myself. Want a more original review? Go read the review I did for the first season. Everything I said there, still stands for season two. How’s that for original?

-Wait a minute, that isn’t original at all… (reader)
-Quiet you! (editor)

Jan

Batman: The Telltale Series (PS4)

bmaSeems there’s a bit of a Bat-bonanza going on these last reviews. First Batman v Superman, then The Killing Joke and now Batman: The Telltale series.

Ever since Telltale announced they’d be adapting the Bat to their gamestyle, I’ve been on board. Some cool adventuring starring  the Caped Crusader himself? Yes please! I simply adored Telltale’s take on the Walking Dead universe, and I expected no less from them taking on Gotham.

And they really outdid themselves for this one. The art is really nice.  Made me feel like walking around in a living Batman-comic. The story is, as expected, very well written. The adventuring takes me back to the age of point and click adventures and the sparse action is fastpaced and really cool.

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The game will be released in five episodes, as is custom with Telltale series, and focus on Bruce Wayne in at a point where’s he’s only been The Batman for a few years. Wayne discovers a mercenary group at play in Gotham. They seem to be connected to gangboss Falcone and to the not-so-clean mayor of Gotham. While trying to get to the bottom of things, Wayne also supports close friend Harvey Dent in his electorial campaign, crosses swords with Catwoman, meets childhood friend Oswald Cobblepot and discovers some dark secrets about his parents.

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As in all Telltale games, most choices you make, be it dialogue wise or action wise, will reflect upon later gameplay. Characters you interact with will remember certain things you say or do and will change their behavior to you accordingly. What makes things a bit different in The Batman series, is the introduction of crowd play. Players can now involve friends in the game. These friends can watch them play, and when it’s time to make a decision, they can cast a vote via a web-enabled device. The game then show you what choices were most popular and lets you decide which to follow. More trusting (or daring) players can let the game choose the most popular option automatically.

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Action is controlled through quicktime events, and they are implemented nicely.  Not once did I get the feeling I was playing a game. I was so much into it, controls came naturally. And when the action slows, and Batman switches to detective mode, controls are just as intuitive as before.

I really enjoyed this first episode, and I can’t wait for the next one to roll in.

Jan

The Killing Joke

killingcoverThere a few Batman comics as iconic as Alan Moore and Brian Bollands’ Killing Joke. This is the comic where the Joker got a real story.  One that would stick out from the many others that he got, and that somehow always had some of its elements borrowed for those other origin stories. Killing Joke shows the Clown Prince of crime at his most brutal and his most cunning.  It shows us the end of Batgirl and the origin of Oracle.  It shows us Batman laughing out loud.  Needless to say, this is my favourite Batman comic.
Scratch that: it’s my favourite comic. Period.

So when Warner Animation announced its intent to translate the comic into an animated movie, my feelings were mixed.  I was excited at seeing the comic come alive, yet wary of them screwing up a classic.  Turns out, both feelings were right.

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Let’s first get my gripes off my chest.  The one major thing that struck a wrong chord was the quality of the animation. Or lack thereof.  Sure, it was okay, but just okay doesn’t really do Bolland’s art justice.  The comic is a masterpiece. Its translation to the big screen is stuck on mediocre. Watchable and enjoyable, but nowhere near as nice as Bolland.killing3

Then there’s the first part of the movie.  A prologue, as told from Batgirl’s perspective. While it’s a nice little short story on its own, it feels forced and tacked on to the big story, leading away attention from the main theme: the Joker.

 

And boy, what a Joker we get!  Mark Hamill reprises the role beautifully.  As does Kevin Conroy. Batman never sounded as grim opposite Joker’s maniacal cackling.

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So should you get The Killing Joke?  I think you should.  But get the graphic novel first, and watch the movie afterwards.  Because,while not as great as the original, it’s still pretty awesome.

Jan

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

bvscRemember this?

Yeah, me too.  At first I was appaled by Affleck donning the batsuit, but when I saw that picture I thought: “hey, maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”

I eagerly awaited the movie’s release.  I ate up every little tidbit of information that leaked from that set. I read reviews. Bad ones. People calling this a crapfest. People calling for Zack Snyder’s head, or at the very least, his removal from any and all DC licenses, ever. So I went in fearing the worst…

Turns out people on the internet like to make a big deal out of their favourite things.  Who knew? I actually enjoyed the movie. Sure, it took a while to get where it was going, and sure, there are some minor gripes, but a crapfest?  Surely sir, you have watched a different movie than I just did.

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For this one was filled with spectacular fights, cool effects, and general awesomeness. I just watched a moving comic book and by golly, I sat wide-eyed in front of the TVscreen. How cool was Affleck as Batman? That voice modulation, that batmobile, that suit, those moves!  Wow!  And Cavill as Superman?  I was never a huge fan of the redcape, but I might just have to adjust my view of the man of Krypton after this. And all those cameo’s!  Aquaman, Cyborg, the Flash, Wonder Woman…  I love how their snippets set up the stage for the future Justice League movie.

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And let’s not forget Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.  What a performance! Eisenberg plays the part brilliantly.  Never have I seen such a believeable comic book villain. Never over the top, with just the right amount of camp.

I get why people were angry, I really do.  Batman using guns? Luthor with long hair? Snyder dared change their rusted-shut view of their heroes, and he deserved to pay. I get that sentiment. But these are new times, and new times need a new Batman.  Remember the nineties?  Batfans back then were miffed about Burton’s Batman blowing up a clown too. And look were those movies are now: classics.

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After three hours of absolute geek-heaven (I watched the extended cut), I’m already planning to watch the theatrical version next. See what got cut and amp myself up for the Suicide Squad flick.  Times have never been more exciting for Batfans!

 

Batman: Bad Blood

bloodBatman animated movies seem to be cropping up faster than I can review them. The second I’ve reviewed one, another one is lurking around the corner

Not that I’m complaining.  Heck no. I’m enjoying these too much. Wether it’s the crazy antics of Lego B-man, or the darker, mature Batman of the new animated style, I’m always ready for more.

Take Batman: Bad Blood for instance. How can I not love this? The story sees Batman disappeared. Most likely murdered by a new bad guy in Gotham’s menagerie. The hulking mass of muscle calls himself Heretic, dons a cowl not unlike Batman’s and seems to be in cahoots with the League of Shadows. bb3
When I read this, I was already crazy from anticipation.  A new bad guy? Styled on Batman himself? Who knows possibly everything there is to know about Batman? And the League of Shadows is involved? Color me very interested.

In Batman’s absence, the safety of Gotham depends on Nightwing (donning the batsuit) and Damian Wayne (as Robin). I’ve always been a fan of these two as the dynamic duo. The way they constantly bicker and sneer at each other is so…  I dunno…  real.

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If the new dynamic duo is the icing of the proverbial cake, then their unexpected allies are the cherry. Batman and Robin get help from Batwoman and Batwing. And they get to battle the Mad Hatter! Killer Moth! Firefly!

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I do realize that at this point the movie review seems to be a bit fanboyish.  Heck, I’ve been shout-writing character names at you for the past few sentences. But stay with me here. I could go on telling you that voice-acting was great. That the story was even better and that the animation is top notch.  I choose not to do that. Because deep down, I know that any Batman fan already owns this movie.

What? You don’t? Get going!

Jan

Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom

ljlpackWhat do you get when you mix Batman with Lego bricks?
What? Highly enjoyable playtime? Well… yes that too, but what else? A videogame-series? Yes, well… I guess you’re right… But what else? Bat-bricks? Batman with an extremely sore foot?

Let’s just stop it, shall we?

What you get (for the purpose of this review anyway) is an animated feature that had me giggling like a six year-old in a candy store. In Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom, the Lego Justice League faces off against Luthor and his cronies. The league with fresh member Cyborg must try and overcome Luthor’s newest addition to the team: Martian Manhunter.

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When I said I giggled throughout, I was serious. There’s so much humor in this feature. You get the overtly, not-so-subtle jokes aimed at the young target audience obviously, but there are a lot of more subtle jokes, aimed at parents and comic book geeks. What’s not to like here?

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The answer is nothing. The animation couldn’t be better. Writing is great and voiceacting nails it. It’s always fun to hear Mark Hammil speak, even when he’s not being the Joker.

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So would I recommend this one? Abso-brickin’-lutely! Kids will go love it, parents will like it too, and comic book enthousiast will most certainly appreciate this fresh take. Go watch it, now!

Jan

Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem

Batman_Unlimited_Monster_MayhemAs you all may (or to be realistic: won’t) recall: I wasn’t exactly blown away by Batman Unlimited Animal Instincts. I didn’t think it was bad, I was just a bit…  underwhelmed by it. Not one to back out immediately (I was the one guy who watched Lost ‘till the very end, holding on to the belief it would regain its footing in the end…), I decided to give the series a second go with the next installment: Monster Mayhem.

In it, the Joker gangs up with Scarecrow, Silver Banshee, Clayface and Solomon Grundy. His plan is to take over Gotham City by means of an extremely powerful virus that blocks all technology.  It’s once again up to Batman and his band of merry crimefighters to take him out.  The only problem is that good guy Cyborg is infected with the virus as well, and is now under Joker’s control.

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So there.  Pretty straightforward (if not a tad clichéd) plot. Joker happens to be one of my favourite bad guys, so this can’t possibly go wrong. Animation is fine, voiceacting was done well… I like this one better than its predecessor! The fact that there are a bunch of nice extra’s included on the DVD helps things as well.  All in all, I got a good two hours worth of animated fun.

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I still have one gripe with this “Unlimited” series however. During the action sequences, I get the overwhelming feeling I’m watching a commercial for Batman action figures. Joker suddenly gets a souped up motorcycle, with pop-up guns? Batman owning a robotic dog that can change into a motorcycle? Reeks of merchandising to me.  Further on, we even get Batman riding a mecha t-rex into battle. While that’s probably one of the most awesome sights you’ll ever see, it strangely feels out of place. On an aisle in the toy store? Yes. During this movie? Not so much.

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So if you can get over this (very minor) gripe, you actually like toytoons or you’d just like to see Batman on a t-rex, then this is the animated feature you’ve been looking for!

Jan

Edit: See, I knew I was right…

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Son of Batman

sobWhat?  Another Batman-related review?  Yes, you read that title correct dear readers: I’ve watched another animated Batman feature!  And it was Bat-tastic!  It was violent at times, especially during the big battle at the end, but I didn’t bat an eye!  (Allright, that’s enough of that!  No more bat puns. –editor)

Son of Batman is loosely based on the comic book story arc of the same name.  Ra’s Al Ghul is assasinated by an ex-member of the League of Shadows who wants to take over as number one of the League.  The old man’s daughter Talia manages to escape with her son Damian.  She vows revenge on the killer of her father, and in the process wants to retake the League for herself.  Having a little boy around isn’t really handy in a situation like this (even when the kid in question is a trained assassin), so little Damian is dropped of at daddy’s doorstep to be babysitted.  Who’s the dad you ask?  Why Batman of course (as if you couldn’t tell by the movie’s title…)

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Damien proves to be an arrogant little kid, defying Batman’s orders and going after his grandfather’s killer on his own.  He also proves to be very skilled in combat and athletics, something that catches his dad’s eye.  After a brief introductory course to bat-ethics (Absolutely no killing, ever!), Damien takes up the mantle of Robin, and the Bat and Nightwing join him in finding out who killed Ra’s.

It all makes for quite an entertaining Bat-story.  Characters are well developed, voice-acting is decent enough, and the animation looks great.  The only thing that felt a bit misplaced is Deadshot as the central villain.

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Oops, spoiler alert!  I should’ve said that before mentioning Deadshot’s name, right?

Crap.  Sorry.

Anyhoo…  He really feels out of place here in my opinion.  I think it would have been nicer if a new original villain would’ve stepped up to the plate.  But Deadshot is what we get.  Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t ruin the movie.  It just feels a bit…  Lazy.

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Other than that: no complaints.  The Bat kicks ass (as usual), Alfred delivers the best oneliners (as usual) and the budding rivalry/soon to be cameraderie between Robin and Nightwing is nicely handled.  All in all, a pretty nice flick, although I prefer Batman in Gotham fighting crime and more classic villains.

Jan