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Comics Review TV

Batman: The Animated Series – Robin’s Reckoning

Batman: The Animated Series was an amazing show, and there are a bunch of episodes that frequently adorn “Top x B:TAS Episodes” lists.  Robin’s Reckoning (in two parts) often rates highly on those lists, and on the 24th anniversary of the primetime premier of part 1, I’d like to take a deeper look.

Viewing the series now, as an adult, one of my favorite things is how they dealt with Robin.  Rather than show him as a kid, he’s a young man, college age, who is beginning to grow out of the ‘sidekick’ role.  Dick has his own opinions and life on B:TAS, and it provides a complexity and depth to the Bruce/Dick relationship you hadn’t seen in the non-comic book Batman adaptations to that point.

This was never more apparent than with the two-part episode Robin’s Reckoning, which premiered in prime time on February 7th and 14th, 1993.  Batman and Robin are busting up an extortion ring, but things get weird when Batman gets the boss’s name and quickly sidelines Robin.  Alfred and Dick search the name (Billy Marin) and discover that it’s an alias for Tony Zucco, the man who killed Dick’s parents.  From here on, the remainder of the episodes intersperse scenes from the past showing Robin’s origin (adapted from Detective Comics 38) and both Bruce and an enraged Dick hunting Zucco separately.

Much like how Heart of Ice redefined Mr. Freeze for the modern era, Robin’s Reckoning brings a then-40 year old origin up to date.  Bruce takes in this damaged kid, but doesn’t just start training him to fight.  It only happens when Bruce, who had been distant from his young ward while hunting Zucco as Batman, realizes that Dick Grayson has the same drive to do SOMETHING about the injustices life has dealt him.  It’s less “hey, kid sidekicks sell, amirite?” and more “here’s a young man who needs to channel these feelings in a better direction”.  You could actually imagine a kid sidekick working like this (though I hope Robin got a few years of training in before hitting the streets).

The episode finishes with one of Robin’s best moments in the whole series.  Batman is hurting, but just before Zucco can finish him off, Dick bursts onto the scene on his motorcycle, grabs Zucco and drags him to the harbor, ready to drop him to his death.  Bruce tries to talk him down:

Batman:  Robin! That’s enough, Robin!  You can’t allow your personal feelings to guide your actions.
Robin:  Stuff you, Batman!  You and your stone-cold heart!  You don’t know how I feel!  How could you…?

In one of the best moments in the series, Bruce doesn’t answer.  Dick realizes what he’s said and let’s the police take Zucco.  It’s a surprisingly emotional moment for a “kid’s cartoon”, one of many that elevated Batman: The Animated Series above its contemporaries.  Which says a LOT considering there were quite a few good cartoons in the early 90s.  Strong direction from Dick Sebast, great writing from Randy Rogel (who also contributed heavily to the Animaniacs, including many of the memorable songs), and of course outstanding voicework from Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester and the rest of the cast.  If you haven’t seen B:TAS in a while, today’s a great day to revisit it by watching it on Amazon Prime.  If you need a 30-day trial for Prime, click here.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The elephant in the room, right?  Yes, I saw BvS: DoJ.  I don’t hate it, but there hasn’t been a comic book movie that’s ever elicited a wider range of reactions from me.  For every cool moment or visual, there are long stretches where my only reaction is a sigh or eyeroll or double facepalm.  Let me break down what I loved and hated with the film.

Loved:

  • Ben Affleck as Batman – For all the doubters, he actually makes a fine Batman.  Handles the fight scenes well, and can pull off Bruce Wayne as well.
  • Jeremy Irons as Alfred – The grumpy voice of reason in Bruce’s ear.  Not sure why he couldn’t still be the butler but he works.
  • Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman – So stunning and fierce.  Loved that they worked in both the wristbands and the lasso.  Can’t wait to see her movie, especially since it’s away from Zack Snyder’s influence and we may get some compassion from Diana.
  • Solid action and effects – Love Batman’s fights, though the actual Batman v Superman part may be the weakest.
  • The music – I’m not music critic, but it was good.  Not distracting and fit the scenes.

Hated:

  • Batman sure dreams a lot – Not only does the death of the Waynes shown at the beginning of the film segue into some weird dream where young Bruce falls into the future Batcave, and get lifted out by flying bats (really), but he has a nightmare about totalitarian Superman later too.  These may be related to the Flash’s attempt to time travel with some dire warning for Bruce but even that is hard to understand.
  • Plot holes – Every comic book has plot holes, and so do their movies.  Most can be overlooked or explained away fairly easy, but there’s one here that still bugs me, and it’s something a lot of other Batman movies screw up.  At one point during Bruce’s investigations, he uncovers a link to Lex Luthor via what he thinks is a person referred to as the “White Portuguese”.  It turns out the White Portuguese is actually a ship.  Not a secret ship, or a renamed ship, it’s got that name on the side in 15 foot high letters.  Does the Batcave not have Google?  Even the little pissant ships that come to Buffalo to the grain silos have webpages dedicated to them.  Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, star of Detective Comics.  UGH.
  • Lex Luthor – I get it, they wanted to do something a little different with Lex.  I’d even agree that a young Lex/old Bruce dynamic where they are known to each other as business rivals could work.  But the weird mincing and preening mannerisms, the barefoot genius act (oh, basketball in the lobby of his headquarters), all it does it manage to take his few menacing moments and offset them with the dumb.
  • Doubling down on what we hated in Man of Steel – Really, Zack, we didn’t need another of Clark’s parents telling him to maybe not be a hero.  If you are going to play up the dead parent angst with Bruce, why Superman too?  Instead of letting us move on and forget about the whole “maybe you shouldn’t help people Clark” they bring it up again.  Same thing with the destruction angle.  In no less than three places during fights Snyder goes out of his way to have someone mention ‘that place is deserted’, ‘the business district is empty now’, what have you.  It misses the point that those of us who complained about the death and destruction were making.  It’s not that it was happening, it’s that the film didn’t show Superman trying to stop it.  It would’ve been much better to still have people there, but show Clark saving some of them.  Zod smashes a building, Clark holds it up long enough for those trapped to get out, or he takes an extra beating to distract the Kryptonians so a bus can get off a bridge.  The way it’s handled here feels like Snyder and the writers saying “SEE, I SAID THERE’S NO PEOPLE TO GET KILLED THERE, SATISFIED???”.
  • We meet the Justice League via email? – Bruce hacks Lexcorp and finds information on other ‘metahumans’ and sends it to Diana.  We are literally shown Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman via video clips embedded in an email.  At least Cyborg and Aquaman look cool.
  • Doomsday still dumb – Doomsday was a dumb villain when he ‘killed’ Superman in the comics, still dumb now.  Guessing they didn’t want to do Luthor in a powersuit battling directly since they already put Batman in a suit like that to fight Superman.
  • Super Slo-Mo – A Snyder staple, overused here to ridiculous levels.  Particularly egregious during the death of the Waynes.
  • Speaking of the Waynes dying – Snyder’s version of the scene is particularly painful.  By having Thomas Wayne fight back, it changes the whole dynamic…who knows if he even gets shot without it?  The pearls snapped by the gun so they could drop to the ground, an excuse to show pearls fall to the ground in slow motion.  Compare it to Batman Begins where it all happens so fast, it feels like a real robbery gone wrong.  AND it introduces us to Gordon, the one good cop in Gotham.  It had meaning to the movie and the future of Batman.  Here, it means nothing except setting up Bruce and Clark bonding over having mothers named MARTHAAAAAAAA.

Now that sounds like a lot of negatives, but I did like parts of the film.  Cut out the dream sequences, and the needless Lois in peril subplot and you’d have a solid 1hr 45min superhero movie.  Not great but a better base to work from.  The idea that they want to ADD 30 minutes to this is mind-boggling.

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Comics Movies TV

Stop making Batman v Superman about Marvel versus DC

If there’s a thing in comics fandom I hate right now it’s this adversarial tone a lot of the chatter takes on nowadays.  A spirited debate is fun, no doubt, but this isn’t that, it’s just angry people shouting at each other.  It’s there in sports now, video games, even politics.  There are certain groups who cling desperately to their ‘thing’, and that other ‘thing’?  You’re the most vile piece of trash not fit for life for liking it!  UGH.  And some of the media outlets support this sort of binary thinking – they encourage it, basking in the clicks and not caring that they make discourse demonstrably worse.  Take this article in the NY Post that made the rounds yesterday, provocatively titled ‘Batman v Superman’ is too smart for Marvel fans.  In it, Kyle “Women are not capable of understanding Goodfellas” Smith posits that Marvel fans’ intelligence levels are low:

This dimension lends the film a gravity and level of interest that places it at the opposite end of the spectrum from such sophomoric Marvel movies as “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Deadpool.” All three feature brainless, low-stakes action that’s as interesting as watching a waiter fall down the stairs while carrying a tray of dishes;

While I love a good pratfall (Pratt-fall?) as much as the next guy, you’ll notice he singles out a couple of things from the Marvel canon, as if only Guardians and AoU represent the MCU.  As I read that, I pictured Mr. Smith as Anton Ego in Ratatouille, sitting in his coffin-shaped room, ready to eviscerate Marvel for releasing a movie that has the audacity to be ‘fun’.  Where is The Winter Soldier on his ‘spectrum’?  TWS may be the perfect comic book movie in that it isn’t really a comic book movie.  It’s a spy thriller that just happens to star Cap, Natasha and Nick Fury.  The first Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Jessica Jones, Daredevil…none of those represent Marvel, because it doesn’t fit Smith’s ‘us versus them’ narrative.

Ratatouille coffin

We need to stop letting the media gleefully hammer on the wedges that are splitting us apart.  There’s no reason we can’t like BOTH The Avengers and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  But even if you don’t like a thing, it doesn’t make the people who DO like it stupid.  Let’s be better than that.  Comic book fans were marginalized, looked down upon for so long, now that we are finally getting our day in the pop culture spotlight we shouldn’t turn on each other, we should be celebrating.  DC fans, you are FINALLY getting your Justice League movie!  Marvel fans, you get the freaking Infinity Gauntlet!  Don’t stomp on something just because it’s too dark/gritty/goofy/noisy or whatever.  We can be better than this.  Build, don’t tear down.

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Featured Movies

The Top 10 Superhero Movies Of All Time

I got to thinking about this thanks to a forum post at one of the sites I frequent.  Someone said there hadn’t BEEN ten good ones, which just seemed silly, so I quickly banged out my list.  But there are so many more movies, I know you guys will differ!  So I present to you, the poll for your top 10 Superhero movies:

Top 10 Superhero Movies Of All Time

  • The Dark Knight (18%, 12 Votes)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (15%, 10 Votes)
  • The Avengers (14%, 9 Votes)
  • X-Men: First Class (6%, 4 Votes)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (6%, 4 Votes)
  • The Incredibles (5%, 3 Votes)
  • Iron Man (5%, 3 Votes)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (5%, 3 Votes)
  • Batman Begins (3%, 2 Votes)
  • X-Men (3%, 2 Votes)
  • X2: X-Men United (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Iron Man 2 (3%, 2 Votes)
  • The Crow (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Hellboy (2%, 1 Votes)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Batman (Burton) (2%, 1 Votes)
  • The Watchmen (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Kick-Ass (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Superman (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Mystery Men (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Judge Dredd (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jonah Hex (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Blade 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spider-Man (Raimi) (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Batman Returns (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spawn (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spider-Man 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Hancock (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Blade (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fantastic Four (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Blade: Trinity (0%, 0 Votes)
  • The Incredible Hulk (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Thor (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Superman Returns (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Green Lantern (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Superman 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Spider-Man 3 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • The Spirit (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 31

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A few notes…this is semi-complete as I left off some of the lesser-known options (and of course ones I didn’t think of).  If you are missing a top choice, let me know and I can add it, but I think I’ve got the ones that will be on most of your lists.  The choices aren’t ranked in the poll, just put your 10 best (use the comments if you want to post a ranking) and I’ll see which moves get the most votes.

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Featured Media Movies Review

The Dark Knight Rises

Spoilers, in case you still haven’t seen it yet.

I’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises twice now, and my head is still swirling.  After the first time, I agreed with the prevailing sentiment that it was a good finish to the trilogy, but The Dark Knight was better on its own, and left it at that.  But it kept popping up in my mind, making me think over the parts that worked and didn’t work, and I finally decided to see it again yesterday on the spur of the moment.  I might’ve enjoyed it more, then, especially since I was seeing it fresh vicariously through the people sitting behind me.  They’d obviously only seen the previous 2 movies and didn’t know much about Batman outside of that, as every new twist brought forth a gasp or an “oh SHIT” reaction.  I’d grin to myself as I knew one was coming (spoilers:  Bane breaking Batman’s back, Ra’s al Ghul’s “appearance”,  Talia knifing Batman, Bruce Wayne appearing at the end).  I also teared up a bit more, and the replaying of the scene of young Jim Gordon wrapping his coat around little Bruce Wayne slayed me.  The first time, only Alfred at the graves got me that hard.

I really enjoyed the way fear has been used as a theme through the trilogy.  Bruce learns to conquer fear itself and use it against his enemies, but finds that without the fear of dying, you lose the strength that comes from adrenaline, that gives even us normal, non-League of Shadows trained folks the ability to perform amazing feats when our lives depend on it.  It’s an interesting twist, to me, the idea that a crimefighter who is usually outnumbered and outgunned would actually NEED fear.

Unlike some, I loved many of the fan shout-outs (some mentioned above) and would swoon if they could somehow convince DC/WB/whoever to make a Batman Beyond-ish movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a new Batman, and Bruce Wayne in a mentor role.  But that’ll never happen, no matter how well they set it up.  Does anyone know if JGL can do a raspy voice?

Hey, Catwoman.  I’m surprised I got this far without mentioning her.  I thought Anne Hathaway did a fine job, and the counterpoint of someone trying to escape the coming danger versus someone who runs headlong into it (after she pushes his buttons with the heist) was quite interesting.

Let’s discuss this, guys.  I feel like I have a lot of thoughts just below the surface, waiting to come out.

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Media

Why…so…SERIOUS?

As you might guess from the title, I saw The Dark Knight. I managed to stay remarkably spoiler-free beforehand, so there were some twists I was NOT expecting. Great movie, but I’ll keep the real details for after the jump (to help keep others unspoiled)…