Sunday, July 29, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Nightwing #11 and Red Hood & The Outlaws #11

After this blog, I will finally be caught up on everything! WOOO!

But, yeah, I have been excited to read these two books ever since I saw the cover, so let's get to the issues:

Nightwing #11

This book certainly did not disappoint, and in fact exceeded the expectations I had for it.

I was a little concerned with what this Republic of Tomorrow was going to turn out to be, but it's a really good idea, actually. It's basically a group of people who have indirectly been negatively affected by the Bat-family's efforts, and their mission is to take out the Family because they are causing more harm than good.

It's a very nice concept that gets visited sometimes but not so often that it's stale: Do these heroes stop insane crimes from happening, or are these crimes being drawn to Gotham because of them?

The group is very clearly a bunch of actual people, as opposed to the generic "Mastermind and his stable of Lackeys" format. Each person is established as having a reason to go against Nightwing and the others here, and they even question those motivations as being worth it after Nightwing thrashes them and their leader blows up a clock tower to get away.

This is a textbook case of taking a motivation to an obscene level, and it's quite enjoyable. I also love the motivation that Detective Nie has for trying to hunt Nightwing. Without going into a sociological tangent, I will say that it was a great idea, and it was interesting to see that this tied all the way back to the first issue.

The tie-ins did get annoying after a while, and though I love that Nightwing's writers were nice enough to plug Batman and Robin in their story, the tie-ins did take up more space than normal.

Even so, the Damian-Dick exchange and the alternation of scenes from Nightwing's story to Detective Nie's story was well-done.

The story did feel like it dragged at times, but overall, it's a good story. I am interested to see where Dick's story with Tony Zucco's daughter goes, and hopefully that continues to develop in the next few months.

I would definitely recommend picking it up because the next installment is set up well, so it's kind of the jumping-on point now.

Red Hood and The Outlaws #11

I was a little thrown off by the cold opening to the book, but geez, did this book get good!

Eventually, it is understood that the story will be told in flashback, and the fact that Roy knows so much about what is happening feels a little omnipotent, but it's not out of the question that he was present for these scenes.

Isabel is quickly becoming a character I want to see more of, so I'm genuinely hoping they don't match her up with the alien who clearly wanted him some.

Jason's role in this story is pretty minimal (which is odd for this book), but it's kind of welcome, as Starfire gets a great deal of focus and her backstory is revealed. I'm glad it's not super-different from the original, but Starfire clearly was made as an angrier being post-Flashpoint. Not necessarily bad, but definitely a contrast from what people are used to from the Wolfman-Perez Teen Titans and the show based off of it.

But despite how Starfire drives the plot, Roy steals the show. His relationship with Starfire leads to one of the best scenes in the book, and his little commentaries that you know his captors are hearing are just hilarious. The guard who literally asks him why he should care about his nonsensical monologue has been the most memorable line I've seen in a comic in months.

I quote it quite often.

But yeah, I highly recommend this book for purchase. It's a great jumping-on point, and more importantly, the ending of the main story sets up something that will excite anyone who has been a Starfire fan in the past.

I almost forgot, though. There is a side story with Essence while she continues her hunt. It's not too bad, and I'm sure it's setting up for something.

That said, I was so enthralled in the main story that it kind of felt like an add-on. It's good, but it can't match up to the main story. I'd advise skipping to the Essence story first, reading it, and then going to the main story.

Come back in two weeks for more Batman and Batman & Robin!

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Initial viewing thoughts for The Dark Knight Rises

Before I begin my thoughts on this film, I want to wish my prayers up to the victims in Colorado. Having seen this film at a midnight showing, this news hit my brother and I hard when we woke up the next morning. It really shows how quickly life can be taken away.

I wish those recovering all the best when healing; I wish the families of those affected many condolences. I will not give the offender the pleasure of his name being on another page, and outside of this wish that justice will be served for the victims, I won't make even another mention.

Now, to the film at hand, as the film is still very early in its run in theaters, I will not be giving much of a plot synopsis here. More importantly, I won't be rating the film until I've seen it a second time because I've viewed each of the other films at least twice.

I feel that a film can't be judged until the second viewing because the second time is when you see the movie knowing what is coming.

That said, after attending the midnight showing at Reading Cinemas in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter (beautiful old-school theater, by the way), I was blown away.

I was taken on an emotional ride throughout the first act, as Bruce's dynamic with Alfred reaches its boiling point.

This film is very depressing, as Commissioner Gordon's living a lie thanks to Batman and Harvey Dent, and this has caused him to lose his family. Bruce is basically Howard Hughes with lethal capabilities, and basically all the people we've been invested in have just awful lives.

Death becomes a long-running theme that goes through all the storylines, actually. I will say that the second act felt like it dragged (and again, was really depressing), but the third act of this film may be the best 45 minutes to an hour of any action film EVER.

I love how this film tied not only itself to the two preceding films, but also tied the first two together. The issue there, though, is that it will be hard to rate the film on its own because it basically requires further viewing in order to get the full emotional range of the story.

Overall, this trilogy goes beautifully and has an ending that I can be satisfied with. I love all the fan service that was casually thrown in and how I could easily pinpoint no fewer than seven comic book storylines.

As far as how it rates, I'd say (after only one viewing, note) that as a standalone movie it's probably a little weaker than Begins and TDK; however, in terms of its relation to the trilogy and as someone who knows the other two films as backstory, this is the best of the three.

This hearkens to a theory that I have about shows and movies that build off of a continuity and have a set end point planned: When the series is of a good quality and planned out, the final installment is generally the best.

My belief is that this is due to the fact that everything in the shows/movies builds up to one or two major climaxes, and they are what defines the program. Everything that was good about prior installments gets tied into the climax, so the final installment draws not only off of its own merit, but all the strong installments that preceded it.

Here is a good example: The two moments that almost any Dragon Ball Z fan will mention immediately as a legendary moment in the series are Goku's SSJ transformation against Frieza and Gohan's SSJ2 transformation against Cell.

This is because so much of the arcs had been built toward those moments. Goku had his Saiyan heritage story, the Frieza fight, parallels with his Spirit Bomb attack, as well as Guru and Vegeta's romancing of the Super Saiyan converging to add to how monumental the transformation was.

Gohan's transformation was a culmination of years of finding more and more power, plus everyone's desire to ascend past base Super Saiyan, among many other storylines.

TDKR is a representation of why I consider plot-based programming like DBZ and Avatar: The Last Airbender to have an inherent advantage over show-by-show programming like Spongebob and Family Guy. While individual episodes can be good and characters can become iconic through an aggregation of signiature moments, only in plot-built shows can so much be tied into a single moment.

Only in plot-based programming can a great installment rise to a legendary level and become an icon.

A legend did rise with TDKR, and this trilogy's mark has been forever left on the comic book movie industry - and the movie industry in general.

I cannot recommend this movie enough.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #11 and Batman and Robin #11

Between my recent Batman-a-thon, family stuff and new job, my time has been crazy.

Thankfully, I can finally review the comics that I should have a while ago - most notably the end of the Court of Owls saga.

Batman #11

Let's be frank about this one: if you didn't follow this arc, you are going to be a deer in the headlights.

The next three issues will be great jump-on points, with them being a one-shot, a #0 issue and the start of a new arc, respectively. But for this month, all that matters is how the arc that took up 11 issues, an annual and crossed into 11 different Bat-books.

This issue can pretty much be broken down into three parts: the fight between Batman and Lincoln March/(maybe) Thomas Wayne Jr./Owlman, the resolution conversation between Bruce and Dick, and the side story of Jarvis Pennyworth.

I'll start with the first part: It is EPIC. Batman and Lincoln's fight is action-packed and the art is unreal.

I am mixed on the dialogue. Not because it wasn't good - it was what was needed. But because they jumped right into the fighting, the long-winded talk distracted from the fight. Be sure to save an extra 5-10 minutes for reading this to take in everything.

One complaint I've seen over the past couple weeks is how the dialogue is unrealistic when the fight goes to the jet engine - in that they could understand each other over the noise. All I can say is... Really? There are men dressed like a bat and owl fighting in the air with weaponry that would shame the military, and your critique is THAT is not realistic?

With the technology present here, I don't doubt that the equipment is designed to cancel other sounds besides voices. Take a moment to realize what is being read here.

Anyway, I do like that the potential brother identity is left ambiguous, though I think it would be far more fun to have him not be related and just be crazy. There are some interesting ways to take that.

The second part is an excellent way to wind down the story, and so much dialogue is in this book, it's hard to believe it all fit into the normal length of the book. It sets a good break-off point and allows the readers to be able to relax for Issue #12.

The final part is the Pennyworth story, and it is interesting to see how close Alfred came to not working for Bruce. Additionally, it provides a degree of comfort to Bruce when Alfred points out that it really doesn't matter one way or another if Lincoln is his brother.

Either way, he's still a psycho.

Kind of dark, but a good point from Alfred. I can honestly say I have enjoyed the ride of this book completely.

Batman and Robin #11

The story here is pretty good, but the villain is still given very little background. I have no idea what crazy skin-melting disease this guy has, but I am getting bored with it.

I'd rather have the villain be an absent mystery and just have a legion of vigilantes mocking Batman's ways than know who he is and yet have no idea of what is going on. This is supposed to lead into a mega-story for this book, so in trade form, it will probably be better. For now, though, not so much.

What makes this book important and fun is Damian's mission to one-up the past Robins. This issue, Damian goes against Jason Todd.

I enjoyed the close-range fighting and the way Damian acts is absolutely hilarious.

This book should be focused on Damian, in all honesty. With Batman getting the focus in three (really four) books, this is the best chance to develop Damian.

Overall, this is a good issue to have for later on in the arc, but it isn't a priority. I'd say it's worth a buy simply because the "Damian VS" mini-arc is very entertaining.

I'll post Nightwing and Red Hood's reviews as soon as I'm caught up on the reading. See you later this week!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Batman-a-thon Part 8: Batman Awards

[Note: These links will be available as the reviews are posted: Batman (1966)/Batman Prime, Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman and Robin (1997), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008)]
It's hard to believe it, but FINALLY! The Batman has come BACK to the BIG SCREEN!

The final leg of the Dark Knight trilogy ends in The Dark Knight Rises, and I'll be going over brief thoughts over the weekend. However, I won't be rating it until I've had time to let the emotion of it wash over, so wait about a week or two for that one.

While we all wait the last day, though, I've got a final piece for you: The Batman Movie Awards!

For those who need the reviews, all the live-action film reviews are at the top of this article. Let's begin to go over the legacies of all these Batmen.

Best Batman: Michael Keaton (Batman + Returns)
(Christian Bale 2nd, Adam West 3rd, Val Kilmer 4th, George Clooney 5th)

I judged this category strictly on the performance of the Batman character - not Bruce Wayne. Keaton, for all his screw ups as Bruce, was an iconic Batman. His words were kept brief but completely in line with Batman's words and he was legitimately fear-striking.

Bale does an excellent job, and he wasn't psychotic like Keaton in Returns, but where Bale's voice seemed off its game at times, Keaton's matched his look perfectly. And he knew when to be silent when he needed to be.

West was an ideal Silver Age Batman. His script wasn't great and people will laugh out loud at much of his performance, but he played it true to the Batman of the time and is fun to watch.

Kilmer did a serviceable Batman job, but the writing was bad and many mannerisms were just too out of character. And Clooney, well, the less said about the man who tried to play a Silver Age script with dark undertones with almost total apathy, the better.

Best Bruce Wayne: Val Kilmer (Forever)
(Christian Bale 2nd, Adam West 3rd, Michael Keaton 4th, George Clooney 5th)

It's unsurprising that Kilmer wins Best Bruce Wayne because his movie was the only one that really locked into Bruce Wayne. Bale's films did a lot, but it's very clear that Bruce becomes the background.
Kilmer made Bruce come alive as a being in his own right, and he took the character to a level not often seen. He plays Batman in a way that he grows up, and this is the only film where Bruce grows beyond the basics of his origin.

West, Keaton and West are very close, but the key is that Keaton's performance in Returns was far too good to go under Clooney, while his performance in Batman was not good enough to put him above West. It's a law of averages.

Best Villain Movie Team: Batman Prime
(2nd-7th: TDK, Begins, Batman, Forever, Returns, Robin)

The original Batman film from 1966 had something that no other of the films had: four Batman rogues being played accurately to the era, sitting on equal footing with each other, and acting as legitimate threats.

Throughout the film, I was captivated and entertained by all four villains. Penguin clearly was the man with the plan and is played beautifully by Burgess Meredith; Lee Meriweather plays the femme fatale Catwoman brilliantly, though still not up to Julie Newmar's level; Frank Gorshin's Riddler was well within his character and his actions were well-timed; and Cesar Romero's Joker played the clown portion of his character well while still being threatening within the level of the film.

TDK and Begins had about equal villains in caliber, but I put TDK ahead because the names Joker and Two-Face are more iconic and of the four rogues, Heath Ledger's performance was probably strongest.

Nicholson single-handedly makes his film fourth. Jim Carrey and Michelle Pfeiffer were great, but were dragged down by Tommy Lee Jones and Danny DeVito. And again...

Best individual villain: Heath Ledger (Joker, TDK)
(2nd-16th: Burgess Meredith - Penguin, Prime; Liam Neeson - R'as al'Ghul, Begins; Jack Nicholson - Joker, Batman; Aaron Eckhart - Two-Face, TDK; Cillian Murphy - Scarecrow, Begins; (Tie) Michelle Pfeiffer - Catwoman, Returns/Jim Carrey - Riddler, Forever; Lee Meriweather - Catwoman, Prime; Frank Gorshin - Riddler, Prime; Cesar Romero - Joker, Prime; Uma Thruman - Poison Ivy, Robin; Tommy Lee Jones - Two-Face, Forever; Danny DeVito - Penguin, Returns; Arnold Swarzenegger - Mr. Freeze, Robin; Jeep Swenson - Bane, Robin)

OK, so there's not much else I can say about Ledger's performance, so let me touch on some other things.

Burgess Meredith IS the Penguin in my view. He's a little goofy, but even in the Silver Age, the man was a threat and his plans, even in the 60s, were well thought out.

Eckhart narrowly beats Murphy because of the alter egos - Eckhart's Harvey Dent beats Murphy's Jonathan Crane.

Though many of the Prime villains are pretty far down, it's not a knock on them. The first 11 are all at least good. The four villains in Prime as a collective beat the others, and it's that chemistry that makes them the best movie villain unit, but individually, they don't match up.

Uma Thurman was serviceable. Jones was grating but inoffensive. DeVito started poor but got decent by the end (not enough to make up for miserable writing, though).

Best supporting cast member: Michael Gough (Alfred, Batman thru Robin)
(2nd: Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon, Dark Knight trilogy); 3rd: Michael Caine (Alfred, Dark Knight trilogy)

Most non-hero, non-villain, non-love interest characters are lacking in these films, but I wanted to pay homage to the job Gough played in the original Batman series. No matter what craziness was happening, he played the wise-cracking straight man well and was the only thing redeemable about Batman and Robin. Oldman and Caine also deserve credit, but this was a point to give props to Gough.

Best Love Interest: Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian, Forever)
(2nd-7th: Michelle Pfeiffer - Selina Kyle, Returns); Katie Holmes - Rachel Dawes, Begins; Lee Meriweather - Miss Kitka, Prime; Kim Basinger - Vicki Vale, Batman; Maggie Gyllenhal - Rachel Dawes, TDK; Elle Macpherson - Julie Madison, Robin)

As I've said before, Batman Forever had the best human characters in this entire set of fims. I actually bought into the romance here and her ability to analyze helped to drive the plot. She was a damsel in distress, but then again, so were all of them. Pfeiffer's romance with Keaton was expertly navigated and even more intensified by the femme fatale aspect.

Three through six are all really close, but Holmes did well despite looking WAY too young, Kitka's romance was ultimately insincere and it showed when she was exposed. It's the only time when I was taken out of her character. Basinger did great, but to do well, she had to bounce off Keaton, who again is too subtle and bland for his own good. And Gyllenhal did well but was made so much like a martyr that we lose a sense of who Dawes was in the first film.

I can't say much about Macpherson because she's in only two scenes and doesn't do a freaking thing.

And, finally, the overall awards...

Best Overall Sampling of the Batman Comic Mythos: Batman Prime
(2nd-7th: Begins, Forever, TDK, Batman, Robin, Returns)

I've harped on this point, but here it is one more time: the 60s Batmand film is a direct take from the Silver Age background and dialogue. This story could have easily been a story during the era. It is exactly what a movie adaptation of a comic would have been at the time, and it deserves to be rewarded.

Begins is a great take on Year One, but even with its long time had to alter the story slightly. Forever played the Robin origin well as well as Nygma's portrayal, but it loses points for Two-Face's lack of good coin use. TDK does great with Joker and Two-Face, but the bipolar element was gone from Two-Face and although Batman might be willing to take the blame for murders, it goes against his code, which is well understood in the comics.

The others all take penalties: Batman for the circular Batman-Joker relationship, Robin for its poor execution, and Returns for bad backstories and the fact that Batman ACTUALLY MURDERS PEOPLE.

Best Overall Representation of Batman's Full Range of Character: Batman Forever
(2nd-7th: Batman, TDK, Prime, Begins, Robin, Returns)

Batman Forever was able to hit a middle ground no other film could. It gave a good show of Bruce as well as Batman. It gave both villains equal time and status (for better or worse). It mixed the dark/brooding with the extravagant/campy. And it showed Bruce growing up as a new tragedy began.

It's the only Batman story that went so deep into so much of all of Batman and showed both the lighter Batman of the early days and the darker Batman of the more recent era.

Batman in 1989 was very dark, but the film tried to show its lighter side with the Joker's portrayal and over-the-top scenes. TDK had a little more lightness in its less brooding moments, which overall showed how far along he was as Batman. Prime and Robin were too campy without seriousness, and Begins by its nature was going to only show the darkness because he was still in a dark place. Returns showed a range, but it was either too light or too deranged for Batman, missing the mark completely.

Best Overall Film: The Dark Knight
(1A: Begins; 3-7: Forever, Prime, Batman, Returns, Robin)

I consider both of Nolan's films to be on the same level, but TDK for its legendary status picks up a tiebreaker.

Otherwise, you can read the reviews to understand the rest.

It isn't really surprising, but I have great respect for the Batman mythos, and I consider all of these to be entertaining... even Batman and Robin, if for no other reason than to mock it.

Well, that's all I have. Have fun with The Dark Knight Rises! Read my thoughts after my first viewing of the film here.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Batman-a-thon Part 7: The Dark Knight (2008)

[Note: These links will be available as the reviews are posted: Batman (1966)/Batman Prime, Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman and Robin (1997), Batman Begins (2005), Batman Awards Blog]
Following the incredible success of Batman Begins, Warner Bros. knew a sequel involving the Joker had to be done. As such, three years later, The Dark Knight premiered, and it has in many ways altered the way the superhero movie is done.

Not necessarily because it's a gross change from Begins, but because of the incredible levels of commercial success it had. It garnered the third-highest domestic gross of all time until The Avengers' movie passed it. Likewise, it was in the top 10 of worldwide grosses when it left theaters.

I said the quality of Begins should have warranted more critical acclaim and money than it did. Did TDK get too much? Absolutely not - Christopher Nolan may be a Batman genius because much like the predecessor, this was brilliant.

The film doesn't bother to show a backstory because, in all honesty, the Joker doesn't need a backstory. He exists because of Batman. This is very much how he's portrayed in the comics and especially in The Dark Knight Returns. It seems very clear to me that Nolan took much of his Batman knowledge from Frank Miller's two legendary works.

Joker robs a bank, which allows him to gain funding for his next stage of planning: Convincing the mob to hand over the reigns to him to get Batman.

In both his scene with the mob and his robbery, you can tell the Joker is a master planner who plans everything out miles in advance. He lacks the more extreme elements of his character and they are replaced with subdued cunning and rage, but it makes sense for this universe. It's clear that this world is meant to be like our own, so other DC heroes probably don't exist, and being able to act less as a cariacature would help in this world.

If you can't tell, I am a huge fan of the Heath Ledger Joker. Do I consider him the best Joker of all time? Well, no. I'd probably go with the Animated Series' Joker (Mark Hammil) for that one. But Ledger is probably the only man who could have carried out a Joker for this style of Bat-world, and boy, did he.

While all this is happening, Bruce is watching as Rachel Dawes (now played by Maggie Gyllenhal) falls in love with Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart.

Eckhart is absolutely brilliant in this film, and is a total step up from Tommy Lee Jones in Forever. He's a genuinely likeable guy throughout the first part of the film, and that makes it all the more tragic when he breaks and becomes Two-Face.

That said, Two-Face's changes to character are iffy. I prefer when he has an inherently split personality because he's always fighting and that makes it more tragic when he inevitably loses the fight. Here, he doesn't seem to want to live for Rachel and is completely selfish, which is a blind shift from the man who was willing to sacrifice himself potentially to catch the Joker.

It's kind of foreshadowed that he has to remain a White Knight by the mayor, but that's more to do with the arc as to giving people hope. It's not completely unbelieveable, but it certainly could have been done better.

As for Gyllenhal, I can't help but feel that she got this part because she's related to Jake Gyllenhal and he was in Brokeback Mountain with Ledger. She's serviceable, but she's a complete damsel-in-distress here. I only care about her because Dent and Wayne care about her. Her personality is kind of grating, weakening the 'stand-on-my-own-power' approach Katie Holmes had, and if it wouldn't spark major events, her death actually makes the film more enjoyable.

The romance between Bruce and Rachel also weakens for it. For the weaknesses of that romance, when Holmes said she'd wait for Batman, I believed it. I don't know how much time passed in between, but it seems like she's given up on it here.

And again, she acts as a romantic interest to Dent but also as a mother figure when she tries to talk him down before the bomb goes off. And she doesn't act as tough or carry a stun gun anymore (Think that would have worked against Joker?), so she lost what made her a decent character to begin with.

Going back to Bale, though, he did an excellent job transitioning into a non-origin film and is right on par with his prior performance. Wayne is portrayed as a billionaire playboy who has no regard for other people, and while it's not as good as, say, Val Kilmer, it's a nice portrayal, especially when you see how competant he really is.

His Batman voice is more annoying here, and you have to try to make sure you understand what he's saying, but his Batman overall is really good. He's every bit the hero he should be.

Alfred's monologues are even more long-winded and distracting this time around, but he's also just as witty as before and had one of the best exchanges with Bruce when he's about to reveal who he is. It's fatherly but also humorous by the end of it - very endearing.

Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox is excellent and it's fun to see him become directly part of a Batman plan at the end. And Gary Oldman's performance was great as the eventual commissioner, as he's so clearly a good cop and is seen as the perfect vehicle to help Batman carry out his goals.

I'm not going through the story in chronological order as much here because it's the most recent and would need the least refreshing, but I'll hit the major points.

Joker trying to get Batman's identity at the expense of the murder of other people is a good, basic concept, and it's made even greater when he realizes what a threat men like Dent can be as well by acting right in the face of adversity. I'm not sure if his plan changed when it was revealed Dent was not Batman or not, but that is the fun of the Joker.

I also love that Joker switched the locations of Dent and Rachel because he anticipated he'd lose Dent if he was honest. Very well played on Joker's part.

Every plan that Joker had had multiple layers to it and I love that he's a criminal mastermind here.

Ultimately, this was about Batman being more of a hero than any other hero - he in effect follows a Christ-like story where he takes up the crimes of Dent. In that sense, he is what Gotham deserves, but they don't need him - they need a visible hero who works within the law to serve as an example.

Meanwhile, Dent represents the fall from grace that Joker tried to get out of Gordon in The Killing Joke. It's a small take from what is my favorite Batman graphic novel, but I love the reference.

Overall, this is, like its predecessor, one of the best of all time. Of course, it will get more credit, but both should be seen as equally legendary.

As such, this film gets 4 stars out of 4 and 9.3 out of 10.

Don't think this is over yet! Tomorrow, I post a blog where I pick my favorite villains, Batmen, movie, etc. Be ready!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Batman-a-thon Part 6: Batman Begins (2005)

[Note: These links will be available as the reviews are posted: Batman (1966)/Batman Prime, Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman and Robin (1997), The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Awards Blog]

Following the rousing aneurism that Batman and Robin provided and the director even acknowledging the film sucked, Warner Bros decided that trying to redeem the four-film series might be wasted effort.

Because of this, the proposed Batman Triumphant was scrapped, a sea of proposals were heard, and ultimately, the decision was made to let Christopher Nolan, a British film director, and his fellow countryman Christian Bale give their take on the Batman world.

What came from it was a loose retelling of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, starring Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Liam Neeson as the main villain, R’as al’Ghul.

This film, much like Superman: The Movie, proves that doing an origin film for a character works when effort is put into it, especially if you take from one of the best retellings of the origin in the comic world.

But this film doesn’t just draw from Year One. It takes from some of DC’s best Scarecrow and R’as stories.

The film starts much like flashbacks in Batman Forever. Bruce as a boy falls down a hole into a long-standing cave under Wayne Manor, and he comes across the bats that made him feel such fear.

From there, the film throws the audience into unfamiliar territory. Bruce is in the midst of traveling the world, training and trying to understand the criminal mind. This is the only film that has ever shown the training that went into becoming Batman, and it really gave the gritty feel of an international underworld.

Here, he meets Henri Ducard, who turns out to be R’as al’Ghul using the alter ego. People have used this as a point to complain because Ducard was one of Bruce’s actual trainers, and making him an alter ego cheapened the character. I disagree.

Neeson played the part of Ducard faithfully the entire time. The transition to R’as was done, albeit as a copout, but it was because R’as is the philosophical warrior who shows just how much of a line Batman treads between hero and executioner. Ducard really isn’t an A-list rogue and couldn’t carry out a plan the way the League of Assassins (Shadows in the film) could.

I like how Ducard and R’as both came out in this film. Would it be better if Ducard was an equal-level person teaming with R’as under a different name? Perhaps, but it didn’t add an unnecessarily convoluted element into the hero-villain dynamic like Tim Burton did to the Batman-Joker relationship. I like the move.

Another complaint is that the training takes too long and distracts from the film. Again, I don’t agree at all. The training introduced key points: Needing to be more than a man to be a symbol, smoke balls to escape, fear-inducing plants that will make up the Scarecrow’s gas, etc. And unlike Returns, which dwelled in two origin stories that REALLY don’t are not that complicated in the comics, the whole setup for the film comes from here and it’s done in an exciting manner.

I really feel the relationship between Bruce and Ducard, and it’s clear later on in the film that they have respect for each other despite falling on different sides of the issue of killing.

After Bruce refuses to kill, and the Assassins annihilate their base during the fight, Bruce finally calls up Alfred and is taken back to a world that had long pronounced him dead. Again, I like that little touch because in real life, if a billionaire travels the world, paparazzi aren’t far behind. It makes more sense for Bruce to be considered dead during his training.

By the way, throughout the origin, I felt like everyone was playing their part brilliantly. Thomas and Martha Wayne, young Jim Gordon and Alfred all play their parts to perfection. Alfred kind of irks me with monologues later on, but it’s not as bad as the next film and none of it I would consider bad.

Upon his return, he comes to realize that the man who had run the company in the Waynes’ absence wants to move away from their vision and has begun strong-arming the Waynes’ supporters and piecing the company off for sale. Once again, a good showing of middle ground in the world – he’s not really breaking major laws, he’s just a jerk, and jerks are a part of life too.

By this point in the story, it is clear that the Mob has pretty much won in Gotham. They have corrupt individuals in the police and justice system. As such, people like Gordon (played by Gary Oldman) and Rachel Dawes (played by Katie Holmes) are simply fighting to make sure innocents aren’t killed by the madness.

The Mob here is supplying drugs, which are getting mixed with fear toxin, and selling them to Scarecrow, who works as an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist. He is working with R’as, he believes, to hold the city hostage by threatening to use the gas, but R’as actually plans to use it to level Gotham and its corruption.

Needless to say, this is not a kid-friendly Batman film. But it provides a world in which it feels like a Bat-Man could actually exist. That was very much the way Frank Miller tried to portray the world in Year One, but he did it more by making the heroic figures as flawed as the villains, just through less egregious problems.

By this point, Wayne finally gets the equipment he will need from Lucius Fox, including some kind of insane tanker that is supposed to be the original Batmobile. The tank looks awesome, but one issue I have with it it’s too extreme. It’s by far the craziest thing in the film and it probably eliminates most people from being Batman right there.

Well, Batman makes an impact, taking out the mob boss, Falcone, and saving Rachel. I will say about Bruce and Rachel’s relationship: It plays much better in the flashbacks. That may be the intent because of his extended stay away, but it wasn’t amazing. Holmes played Rachel passably – it’s not great, but it beats the hell out of her replacement.

I haven’t talked about Scarecrow yet, but he is incredibly menacing. It is absolutely awesome to see the character on the big screen and made as a threat. I’m good with him being an unassuming, non-threatening man, but he is a little disappointing when translated into the movie.

He succeeds at poisoning the water supply, drives Falcone insane and nearly kills both Bruce and Rachel in separate instances. All the while, Fox is able to create an antidote, and Gordon becomes Batman’s ally at a time when the current commissioner doesn’t want vigilantism. (He should be more concerned about corruption, but whatever.)

The scene with the Batmobile is, again, unrealistic, but it’s beyond awesome. I gladly suspended my disbelief for that.

Finally, R’as shows up and burns down Wayne Manor, leading to the final fight, where Bruce learns there’s a difference between not killing and not saving. Rachel decides she can’t be with Bruce because Batman is the dominant personality, and she will wait for Batman to fix the city, just in time for a tease of the Joker.

I absolutely love this film. It was a unique idea to try to embrace Batman as the only superhero with a tie in realism and make the film the way that they did. This movie serves as proof that the origin can be one of the most fun stories if done well.

It’s a unique take on the universe and has set up for a legendary trilogy. It is exactly why I don’t knock Spider-Man for its reboot.

Bruce Wayne is portrayed well during his training, and his weak portrayal of a playboy can be attributed to the fact that he’s getting used to the role. His Batman voice is also pretty good here, though it’s a little off-putting.

This film is actually better than I remembered and somehow is underrated despite its brilliance. I am going to give it 4 out of 4 stars and 9.3 out of 10.

The big dog is tomorrow – The Dark Knight. Be ready.
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Batman-a-thon Part 5: Batman and Robin (1997)

[Note: These links will be available as the reviews are posted: Batman (1966)/Batman Prime, Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Awards Blog]

I could just avoid this, you know. I don't have to review this.

I could just as easily post this old review of Batman and Robin:
Or this review from the Nostalgia Critic:
Or even this run of cold puns!
But this is my gimmick, so I will review Batman and Robin.

The film begins with the Dynamic Duo getting dressed for action, and immediately it's clear that the changing of suits in Batman Forever has not only become permanent, but the crew has gone from making the suit a kind-of cool escalation in the fight against crime to a completely bizarre embarrassment that is only remembered for its Bat-nipples.

Robin's suit is no better, shifting from an armored version of the original Robin design, to something that I feel was meant to be like Nightwing but just winds up looking like a modern camp design, as if they were trying to channel the 1960s series.

And in many ways, this was a rehashing of the Silver Age show. Now, don't get me wrong, I have said through this review marathon that I do love the Silver Age and respect the stories.

However, this is a continuation of a trilogy that had been, while at many times ridiculous, pretty serious and dark. Suddenly going into a mode where the stories become completely unbelievable is bad form and it botches the film from the start.

After Robin calls back to the same stupid "Chicks love the car" line from the last movie, they go to a museum and fight Mr. Freeze, who is played by Arnold Swarzenegger.

The third video tells you all you need to about Freeze in this movie. It's not that he looks bad (the costume is actually really good), but it's that everything he says makes it impossible to make me feel bad for his backstory.

The tragedy of Mr. Freeze is Batman legend, and yet this movie is the only instance where the story is done to the letter, but comes up mostly flat because of dialogue and execution that makes it feel like Kindergarten Cop.

So, yeah, the entire fight scene is a slew of terrible dialogue and one-liners, and at one point, Batman slides down a brontosaurus skeleton like he's Fred freaking Flintstone.

Freeze gets away and goes to his "hideout" at a beyond obvious Sno-Cone factory. There he mulls over his wife while he teaches henchmen to sing Snow Miser's song from Year Without a Santa Claus. Who went down on whom to get that awesome Christmas special into this film?

Meanwhile, Pamela Isley works at some weird laboratory for Bruce Wayne where she shares an office with some random guy who turns a skinny Mexican guy into Bane. She sees this, tunes out the scientist's advances, and he tries to kill her.

You know, I keep typing these things and realize just how stupid it sounds.

Well, she rises back up and suddenly can control plants and kill people through venomous kissing.

These villains are botched in every way imaginable. All three were made famous in the darker eras of comic books - Mr. Freeze in the Animated Series, Bane in Knightfall, and Poison Ivy through some weird 70s and 80s storylines where Batman comics had to tread lightly on tentacle vines and sexed-up villainesses.

What comes along here is just awful. They all feel like campy 60s Batman villains. Heck, even 60s Mr. Freeze was more serious than Ah-nold!

Anyway, Bruce turns down Pamela's research ideas on ethical grounds (sound familiar) and she goes nuts. But that's not what is important here. What matters is that Bruce has yet ANOTHER girlfriend.

I get the billionaire playboy thing, but come on! Batman Forever gave all the main characters an arc that made them grow up. By the end of the third film, they were matured individuals. Now, I see that not only was all that good work killed off by this film, but I see a Bruce Wayne that might as well have been gay (and may well have been, if you believe George Clooney).

You can't have Batman portrayed a certain way for three movies and then suddenly throw this characterization at the viewer. It makes no sense!

Incidentally, Clooney plays a serviceable Bruce if you ignore the larger context of the film set, but in no world is this man a good Batman. Adam West would be far more believable today than Clooney was at the time.

Uma Thurman did not do much better as Poison Ivy. Besides the weird sexualized auction where she shows up as a gorilla and starts a bidding war between Robin and Clooney's Bat-Master Card (never leave the Cave without it), the dialogue is just awful.

She did a decent acting job and looked like she was enjoying the role, but no actor/actress could make this film's dialogue not sound idiotic.

Lastly, we are introduced to Barbara, who is Alfred's niece (because Commissioner Gordon in these films is as important as that interviewer b**** who annoys the crap out of me).

As the auction comes to a close, Freeze arrives, steals a diamond to power his suit and draws the attention of Ivy's loins (Warner Bros didn't take this seriously, why should I?). Freeze gets trapped under Batman's cape (somehow) and winds up motionless but apparently conscious. I don't know what happened under that cape, but... eh, enough people have made this joke, just pick one.

Ivy and Bane (oh right, he's here too) break Freeze out of Arkham and Ivy tries to kill Nora Fries. Meanwhile, her femme games keep tearing a rift between Batman and Robin. (If Nightwing was endgame here, this is NOT how you lead into a spin-off series with my favorite superhero!) They chuckle at female anatomy plant puns and reference past films of the series all while introducing us to more stupid devices that will end up being sold in toy stores.

All while this is happening, the film tries to ground itself in a sad story that Alfred is dying of the same illness Nora Fries has. Michael Gough puts on an amazing performance that will be forever overshadowed by the insanity that is this film.

Freeze, in grief over Nora's death, tries to freeze the city so that poison ivy can overrun the world with... I guess plants that have adapted to extreme cold? I don't know. These two do not match up well together.

Batman and Robin are able to overcome their differences and set up a sting for Ivy, but because man-on-woman violence would spike the rating slightly, Barbara finds the Batcave via Alfred's computer with the phone-sex password voice and discovers that he made a Batgirl suit for her (because she has clearly shown skills that make her worthy of the role).

I'm running long, so I'll move to the end. They stop Freeze with a long-winded plan that clearly took more effort than the rest of the script and Freeze reforms at the last second, handing over the cure to Alfred's sickness. I guess he found it for Stage 1 of the sickness, and he keeps the cure in his arm at all times instead of more fuel because... I don't freaking know! This film didn't even try to be coherent.

Alfred is saved, Ivy is Ah-nold's prison b****, Bane goes back to being a skinny Mexican (I almost forgot about him, but so did everyone else), and the Terrific Trio rides off into the sunset.


It basically destroyed all the progress Forever made and created a Batman who is completely unrecognizable from the first film. The saddest thing is that I can see every single progression of the series in a way that leads to this, and that just horrifies me.

I think the reason Forever gets so much flack is because elements introduced in the final few scenes clearly lead into this film. I don't think Val Kilmer could have saved this picture, but I do really wish he and Schumacher got along better so I could have seen what would have happened.

Schumacher is even ashamed of this and apologized for the film. I respect that and actually feel bad for him. He wanted to do a Batman: Year One story, but was forced into this. Sadly, the first film of the reboot, which gets reviewed next, is a Year One adaption. Sorry Joel. At least we have those awesome flashbacks you worked into Forever.

Overall, I give this film a 1 out of 4 star rating and a 3.2 out of 10. This is mostly due to diverging from source material, diverging from the films that preceded it, canceling character development, trying to have "a moment" in a campy film and being an overall insane asylum of a plot. I still have fun watching it because it was the first Batman film I ever saw, but it's now more for humor purposes.

Batman Begins is next up. Stay tuned!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Batman-a-thon Part 4: Batman Forever (1995)

[Note: These links will be available as the reviews are posted: Batman (1966)/Batman Prime, Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman and Robin, Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Awards Blog]

Let's get this out there right now: Batman and Robin will be the lowest movie on the review list. I say that because the next few sentences may upset some who identify Batman as the ultimate in brooding heroism.

Batman Forever is actually a good Batman film. It may be the best of the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series.

Is this movie brighter and lighter in the tone? Yes it is, but let's not pretend that they went into full camp mode on this one.

The film this go-around begins with Tommy Lee Jones playing Two-Face and taking a bunch of people hostage.

This is where I do have a major criticism: Tommy Lee Jones is not a good Two-Face. He starts out serviceable and then goes completely over the top and is absolutely the biggest detraction from the plot.

I'd have preferred if Billy Dee Williams from the 1989 film had gotten the role because I think he'd have played it wisely, but let's just focus on the critiques of Jones. First off, his use of the coin is pointless.

Two-Face's ideology (and Jones even says this in his first lines) is that true justice and fairness can only be found in chance, so the coin represents a 50/50 chance as to whether he should act sadistically or in kindness. Here, he's less bipolar and more OCD - like he knows what he will do but wants the coin's permission before he does it.

This first toss is the first example of it: He tosses, it lands on heads, so he can't kill the hostage. Instead, he ties him up, uses him as bait for Batman, and prepares to burn Batman (and the hostage by circumstantial extension) in acid. Two-Face does NOT act in copouts, and this was insulting to the character.

Anyway, Batman escapes Two-Face's vault trap and defies the laws of physics to return the hostage to safety. (I wasn't a fan of that.) But before all of this, Batman meets Dr. Chase Meridian, played by Nicole Kidman. Chase is quite possibly the best pure love interest in any Batman film. The romance flows fairly naturally and creates the theme of this film that, to me, made the film awesome.

And then we meet the Riddler. Well, Edward Nygma, the man who becomes the Riddler.

He proposes his invention to Bruce Wayne, which alters people's brain waves to make them feel like they're in the TV shows, but is shot down because his work "Just raises too many questions."

OK, I know many liked Michael Keaton because of his awesome job as Batman, but much like how Andrew Garfield is getting overshadowed by his Spidey predecessor, Val Kilmer gets overshadowed by being the best Bruce Wayne EVER. He's able to be brilliant, ethical, and at times a likable billionaire playboy, while at the same time show the dark and brooding nature that lives within the character.

It really makes me wish that he and Schumacher got along better because I think the next film could have been less crap with him in the role.

Anyway, the next scene is of Kilmer as Batman talking with Meridian, who apparently has a Bat-fetish.

The dialogue for Batman is what really is an annoyance in this film. I don't have any issues with it that would detract heavily from enjoying the film, but so many lines felt like Schumacher tried too hard to make Batman a badass. He's Batman! He's already badass - just do enough dialogue to get the point across. Lecturing on how the Bat-signal is not a toy is excessive.

The main theme of this film was that Bruce was having repressed memories of the night his parents died, and this ultimately comes to a head as he ponders whether or not he should continue as Batman.

When Bruce goes to Meridian about this, he invites her to the circus, where the Flying Graysons perform. Two-Face invades and sets up a bomb to kill everyone in the tent. The Graysons try to stop the bomb, and Dick succeeds in throwing it out of the tent, but his family all falls to their deaths.

This is a change from the Tony Zucco story, but I don't really mind it here. The big reason is that it gave the nobility of the Graysons to viewers. They weren't just faceless characters; they were decent people who got caught up in an unfortunate circumstance.

Bruce feels guilty about all this, and he actually has a Freudian slip when he tells Alfred that "he killed them," showing the responsibility he feels not only for Dick's parents but his own. I loved this tacked on bit of cruelty that can only work with Batman.

It's also nice to see the Batman and Robin relationship as it's just starting out. Because the focus is so much on them getting used to each other, that leaves little time for it to become an innuendo festival.

Grayson, played by Chris O'Donnell, is pretty whiny in this film, but it's not constant and it can be understood given the proximity to his family's death. He's focused on killing Two-Face for revenge, but Bruce warns against it, seemingly drawing to his own experiences when the Joker's death gave him no closure (a nice tie-back to the original film).

Two-Face's success at the circus draws the attention of Riddler, who I must say stole the show. Jim Carrey is the focus of almost every scene he's in, and he's so energized that it carries scenes that shouldn't have been good. While over the top at times, he fit the tone of the film and still managed to give an off-putting vibe similar to the Joker. It is a drawback, though, because it becomes very clear that Jones' Two-Face is weak when he's compared against Riddler.

Anyway, Riddler proposes that Two-Face fund his brain wave machine, which happens to also allow him to absorb people's intelligence (discovered just before he killed his old supervisor, a nice bit of darkness to the film). Two-Face then manages to operate his coin toss properly for the only time when he says that Heads means they'll join forces while Tails means, "I blow your head off."

It winds up being Heads, and Nygma gains major success, even greater than Wayne's. At a gala event, Nygma reveals a new invention that will (secretly) map out the human memory bank, as he tells this annoying journalist. I don't know her name, but in both films she's in I want to punch her.

Bruce is smart enough to shut down the machine before examining it, but Nygma outwits him and still gets access to his memories, where he finds he's Batman. I love how smart the Riddler's plans seem to be here, as he is the only villain with comparable intelligence to Batman. The riddles in this film are expertly crafted and it embodies the character perfectly.

Meridian decides to be with Bruce instead of Batman, to his delight, leading to the single-worst moment of Kilmer's Batman. It seriously is my biggest single second of anger at this film:

May it haunt your nightmares for all eternity!

So Bruce gives up being Batman and prepares to tell Meridian the truth, which he unintentionally does through his kiss and what may be one of the best-executed flashbacks in superhero history.

However, it's broken up by Two-Face and Riddler, who have Bruce beaten, but Two-Face restrains at Riddler's request. (Which is STUPID! He didn't even toss the coin to decide. He just decided to be an idiot.) Bruce's Batcave is destroyed in the process, as is the original suit, and it leads to Robin's addition to the final fight and the lead-in to the horrifying Batman and Robin suits.

The duo come full force, but Robin decides not to kill Two-Face, leading to his capture. Riddler then leaves Batman the choice between Chase and Dick. He ultimately destroys the base and is able to outwit the Riddler and snatch up both on the way down the chasm of death.

Finally, he disorients Two-Face, which leads to his death, and Riddler is beaten by Bruce, who decides that he will continue to be Batman not because he must, but because he chooses to. And he chooses that Bruce and Batman are one and the same, not distinct individuals as his mind had long held.

If this film was taken as the final leg of a trilogy, I'd say it actually rounds out Batman nicely. He is no longer a brooding, emotionally stunted man; he is a hero who has come to terms with his past. Robin isn't a vengeful monster; he becomes a moral person who can rise above his pain.

I think this film represents a great closure to Tim Burton's connection to the character, but it gets flack for what it represents. Batman Forever is meant as a conclusion, but when it extended, what had been left was not a strong story. Everyone was in a good place, and Bruce had a strong female relationship that could be ended with.

A fourth film would need a visionary that could take the Batman-Robin dynamic to a new place, maybe even grow Dick into his own hero, Nightwing. (Spin-off anyone?) Instead, more characters were thrown in, Chase Meridian vanished and we get what will be my most rage-filled critique, Batman and Robin.

All of that said, what follows up this film has nothing to do with grading this one, and this one is really good. I hate that Two-Face is so botched, but he had his moments, and Riddler makes up for it. More importantly, the civilian characters feel far more human here and I can sink myself into a story that I wish was done as a focus more often: Bruce struggling with his dual identity.

Yes, Gotham is way brighter than it had been, but it still felt like Gotham. There's a lot of elements that I will criticize next time that were introduced here, but here, they came naturally and were controlled so that I could understand them.

Overall, I give Batman Forever 3 out of 4 stars and 7.7 out of 10. It's got a lot of issues, but what it changes from the comic works (Two-Face excluded) and it got a good balance between kid appeal and mainstream adult appeal by being dark while not terrifying people with disturbing characterizations.

Prepare for insanity tomorrow, because here comes Batman and Robin.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Batman-a-thon Part 3: Batman Returns (1992)

[Note: These links will be available as the reviews are posted: Batman (1966)/Batman Prime, Batman (1989), Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Awards Blog]

[Note 2: Sorry to those readers on the Batman review yesterday if the look of the page isn't as clean. The visual part of blogger that I usually write on was messed up, so I wrote part of it in HTML. I'm pretty sure something is messed up, but I won't know until I have time to compare other posts. Hopefully this one works better.]

I will say this about Batman Returns: It is not boring. It makes no sense much of the time, but it is not boring.

This film is as polarizing in my mind as it is in the fan base. I am simultaneously entertained and horrified at the film. It is both more disturbing and less disturbing than The Dark Knight's universe.

TDK was horrifying because it makes you think. It puts you in situations of warring philosophical ethics. Batman Returns is horrifying because it is actually horrifying and grotesque for the sake of being grotesque.

For the first of only two times, I have to review a Batman film that is an extension of an already-established film, so I'll start with Michael Keaton's performance.

As I said in the last blog, Keaton is by-and-large an excellent Batman. He's got a gravel voice but is completely coherent (looking at you, Bale). He's got the brooding, the action, and when he does speak, the dialogue is well-done.

Where I have a little more issue with his performance (and the film in general) is Batman seemed a lot more sadistic. There is a scene where Batman shoves an active bomb in a henchman's pants and throws him down a hole where he is blown up. I didn't pay super-close attention to the henchmen, so I'm not sure if he's seen again, but Batman had so many potential kill shots that I almost felt like I was reading a Golden Age Bat-book.

Where I killed Keaton before was his Bruce Wayne, but this go-around was far better. I'm not sure I'd call it great, but I bought him more as a person here and he fit the contrast to Batman better.

The good news was that Keaton was a completely well-rounded character who had awesome banter with Alfred. The bad news is that he's not even close to being the focus of a film called "Batman Returns."

This film opened with Oswald Cobblepot being kept in a cage as a baby and ultimately thrown into a river. He is then spouted out to a zoo where he is raised by penguins.

... Ok ....

WHAT. THE. F***?

I'm sorry, but did the Penguin really NEED this rewrite? And why are his hands like flippers? And why did he eat a cat? Who let Tim Burton use this crap?

And HOW is there no "It just raises too many questions" video on YouTube?

But we'll get to Batman Forever tomorrow. For now, we have a Batman film that has 5 minutes of Batman in the first 45 minutes.

This movie epitomizes why origins in film are a challenge to do well. On one hand, there's the Penguin's botched insanity. And then there's Michele Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman.

The early part of this film simply shows one of the most painfully dull human beings on the planet be painfully dull until, inevitably she uncovers an insidious plot of her boss - played by Christopher Walken - who proceeds to shove her out a window.

Apparently, she dies, and a slew of cats bring her back to life... Yeah it didn't make sense in the Catwoman film and it doesn't here either.

Funny thing is, she is actually a compelling character afterwards and was actually an excellent Catwoman. Her relationship to Batman is pretty close to source material and the intervening time where Selina and Bruce are interested in each other is a legitimately interesting romance. I'd even say it's on par with Batman Prime.

Actually, if you can make it through the slew of WTF moments in the first half of the film, it actually becomes a really good storyline - except for the fact that Selina's boss' plan to steal all of Gotham's energy for money is kind of nonsensical. He's freaking rich, there needs to be a greater dimension than pure money.

But it does evolve into a power trip, as he thinks he can use the Penguin becoming mayor to his advantage. However, it is clear that Penguin is really in charge, as once his plan to turn the city against Batman (by auto-piloting his Batmobile into civilians and framing Batman for the murder of the tree-lighting bimbo), he goes all King Ramses on Gotham and threatens to kill the first-born sons of aristocrats.

I haven't yet commented on Danny DeVito's Penguin: He does respectably once he gets into his plans, but his backstory and demeanor is so beyond low-class that he doesn't feel like the true Penguin. Burgess Meredith did a far better job with the character in my view.

Once Penguin is ousted as a psychotic and loses his bid for mayor, he unleashes his plan and mind controls a bunch of penguins into shooting off a bunch of explosives.

Batman stops this and Catwoman tries to kill her old boss. Bruce, who has been exposed as Batman to her by repeating dialogue in both civilian and hero form, appeals to her better nature. This fails, as she goes completely psychotic, takes four gunshots to the body before kissing her boss with a stun gun, killing him.

Penguin by this point is so wounded that he wanders around with black blood coming out of his mouth until he makes a noise and dies. Penguins then walk him to his grave, and Bruce drives off with Alfred as it becomes clear that Catwoman is still alive.

Oh, and on one last note, all of this happened during the Christmas season.

On the whole, I hated the changes to the characters here. What I came to realize is that, Alfred excluded, every character has a serious mental problem. They're either a psychotic murderer or they're dumb as all hell.

It really says something when the second-most normal person in a film is an orphan who dresses like a bat to scare criminals and blows up henchmen with crotch bombs.

At the same time, this film is entertaining from the midway point onward. Keaton was good in both his roles. Pfeiffer was amazing in her role after a dull start, and DeVito did well in his role if you discount the excessive acts of complete disgust.

But that's the problem. In order to get to the great parts of the story, you have to wade through a lot of insanity. And despite being a Batman movie, it's really a story about Penguin and Catwoman. There was no need to plan a Catwoman movie because it already exists here.

(That would have also saved us from seeing that awful Halle Berry abomination.)

Tim Burton went over the top to the point that his film is simultaneously the most disturbing and one of the most unbelievable and goofy in the Batman series. (Batman and Robin's insanity will definitely compete, though.)

Overall, I'd love to score this higher because there was a lot I liked, but I can't give a good score when I disliked half the film. Sorry, Burton, but you'll have to settle for 2.5 out of 4 stars and a 6 out of 10.

It's a passable film, and it's impossible to become bored watching it. But like the kid in school who answers the prompt and gives an apparent argument amid mostly complete nonsense, minimal pass is all I can give.

Get ready for Batman Forever tomorrow!

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