As I’ve noted before in this very series, the idea of alternate timelines and universes and all their attendant paradoxes is largely what has prohibited me from becoming what one might describe as a “fan” of comic books, which some would consider a rather egregious oversight given my line of work. When I reviewed Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, another direct-to-DVD feature courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC, which also concerned a superhero team who ventured into a mirrored dimension to battle their doppelgangers, I expressed concerns about the futility of the endeavour, which I still hold. That movie surprised me, though, and it must be said that this one, which is based on the 2011 comic book crossover event “Flashpoint”, by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, surprised me just as much, if not more so.
A couple of reasons. The first, rather obvious one is that a standalone feature-film is a very different proposition from a concerted effort to mangle and merge a dozen characters’ established continuities. In comic books, these events are permanent – until, that is, the next one happens, or the whole line is arbitrarily rebooted, though even then the ostensibly clean slate still contains the sticky residue of versions past. It’s a nightmare. Something like Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has the distinct advantage of having no obligation to a broader continuity. You can enjoy its hypothetical rearranging of DC’s stalwarts secure in the knowledge that by the time the credits roll, none of it will have mattered.
The second reason is that, unwieldy title notwithstanding, it isn’t a movie about the Justice League.
Continue reading Review – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
If you need me to tell you, there’s a strong chance you and I won’t get on. Still, allow me to direct you to my review of the first half of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which contains all the blathering about artwork, animation and voice acting that you could ever hope to read. All that stuff’s more or less the same in this half, so I won’t bother reiterating the points. Much more to discuss, this time, including old Miller’s unsurprisingly simplistic view of America’s Cold War foreign policy.
All in good time, folks. Until then, the story so far: Batman’s using his state pension to fund a return to vigilantism, despite the national government having implemented a ban on such activity. In Part 1, he wrested control of Gotham City back from a gang of studded, visor-clad street-punks known as “the Mutants”, mostly by tricking their leader into a muddy puddle and punching him repeatedly. Here, in Part 2, Miller’s story is irradiated by the fallout from Batman’s resurgence, and starts to sprout new, unexpected appendages. A previously-institutionalized Joker (Michael Emerson), Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, has joined the media circus, using the pretence of a talk show to butcher the host and the entire studio audience; the Sons of Batman, a well-meaning unofficial fan club, have taken up arms to help clear Gotham of its criminal dregs; and in the Oval Office, a satirised Ronald Reagan despatches his pet steroidal Superman (Mark Valley) to bring Batman to justice.
Continue reading Review – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
Another delve into the addled imagination of Frank Miller, whose definitive Batman origin story, Year One, I recently declared one of the worst adaptations to yet be churned out by DC’s generally-excellent collaboration with Warner Bros.
Well… I guess we’re off to an awkward start.
Fear not, though, because Miller didn’t just reimagine Batman’s beginning, but also his end; The Dark Knight Returns is another iconic, seminal work in Batman’s long and storied history, and the first part of it, directed by Jay Oliva and adapted for the screen by Bob Goodman, is easily the best Batman story since Under the Red Hood, and stands alongside that movie, Wonder Woman and Superman vs. The Elite as some of the best superheroic shenanigans yet committed to film.
Hold on… part 1?
Yes, indeed. It seems that the original story’s vaunted place in the comic-book pantheon didn’t lend itself well to an abridgement. For the first time, instead of trying to compress a multi-issue arc into a single, short movie, DC and Warner have taken the scalpel to the source material and delivered two feature-length halves of Miller’s four-part classic.
Continue reading Review – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1
The motion picture version of Mark Waid’s Justice League of America arc, JLA: Tower of Babel, from 2000, adapted for the screen by the late Dwayne McDuffie, who died shortly after finishing the script. It’s also a sort-of sequel to the rather good Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, retaining the same character designs, being set, I think, in the same universe, and providing another iteration of the tried-and-true team vs. team structure.
It is, I guess, but if Justice League: Doom accomplishes something tangible among the usual large-scale action these films are known for, it’s a darker treatment of the Justice League that pushes each member to their physical and emotional limits (and the film to the very brink of its PG-13 classification.) Ever wanted to see Batman get buried alive with his father’s bones, or Martian Manhunter perpetually immolate as he sweats flaming magnesium? Well, this is the movie for you.
Continue reading Review – Justice League: Doom
The animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal Year One, the four-issue 1987 arc that has since come to more or less completely define our current understanding of Batman, Gotham City, and their various stories. This is the work – a grim, nihilistic noir detective thriller – that spawned countless classic Batman tales, and planted the seeds which eventually grew into Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.
What’s it about?
The first year of Batman’s crime-fighting career, which just so happens to coincide with Jim Gordon’s first year at the GCPD; here, a nakedly corrupt institution nestled firmly within the pockets of local mobster Carmine Falcone. As inextricably tied to the character as Year One is, this is far from a typical Batman outing. There are no colourful super-villains or fancy, high-tech gadgetry, just two idealistic men wading through the cesspool of a city whose citizens need a reason to hope again.
Continue reading Review – Batman: Year One
The Lego games would typically be outside of my usual remit, but I’ve somehow managed to dip my toes into both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones incarnations without even realising it. The former was a nice go-to game when I was weirdly, worryingly into Xbox Live Achievements (even though I don’t remember playing it for long), and the latter came with my replacement Xbox when I somehow fucked the first up beyond repair (and I hated it). So, Lego Batman was a weird one for me; something I played out of general curiosity to see how DC’s most beloved hero would receive the shiny plastic treatment.
I honestly don’t have too much to say about the game. The Lego series has always been the quintessential casual game: easy to pick up and play, charming, fun, and ideal for short ten to fifteen minute sessions. Lego Batman is all of that, plus and minus a few quirks.
Continue reading Review – Lego Batman
[As this is an analysis post, please be aware that this will contain spoilers. If you have not watched the film, and you do not want to know what happens in the story, then please do not continue reading.]
Christopher Nolan spoiled us with his take on Batman. Throughout the Dark Knight trilogy, the public was provided with clear character development, a complex but deep narrative, and a story worth caring about. I think that’s where the problem stems.
As soon as BvS DoJ rolls, you are given a rushed introduction into how Batman came to be. The rest of the film clearly shows an older, bitter and tired Bruce Wayne. Was the start necessary? I felt the young Bruce Wayne was entirely irrelevant to this story. The story is years ahead of that time. Bruce has grown up, took on Gotham, experienced failure and success. Why try merging the two together? Oh yes, I guess his mother’s name does play a part, but I’m highlighting the problem of this film right from the start, and it felt disjointed immediately.
Continue reading Analysis – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice