Revisiting Batman Begins

Batman-Begins

Batman is one of the most iconic figures in popular culture. He first appeared in 1939, making him one of the earliest comic book characters. He has starred in numerous other media – from the campy, but beloved Adam West 1966 series, to 2017’s Justice League film. At this point, Batman may be the most popular comic book character. People always look forward to films with him in it. In 1989, Director Tim Burton gave Batman a new film for the big screen, which was arguably the turning point in the general public’s perception of the character. Keep in mind that the general audience at that point knew Batman from the 66 series – something not to be taken seriously. That changed in Burton’s Batman. Burton delivered a serious story, with a good take on the Joker. But, things went wrong two films later.

Batman Forever introduced campy elements into what was a serious film series. Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the Riddler was a joke, and don’t get me started on Two-Face in that film. Next, Batman and Robin needs no introduction, but that is the film that killed Batman’s film career for awhile. I don’t personally hate Batman and Robin – I think it’s a superior film to Forever. But, it’s easy to see why Batman and Robin is despised. That film had ice puns, and a generally silly feel. It was in stark contrast to the 1989 film. From 1997 to 2005, there was no Batman film on the big screen.

In 2005, Batman Begins released to critical acclaim. Director Christopher Nolan has remained one of the most passionate of directors, and it shows in Begins. The quality of the writing, and directing, is evident throughout. This film isn’t perfect – it’s a little choppy during the beginning and Christian Bale is at times a mediocre Bruce Wayne. But, everything comes together so well for such a thrilling climax. Batman Begins remains a very important film, and an excellent start to a fantastic trilogy.

The film’s first act is interesting, as it shows Bruce Wayne in a foreign prison camp. We don’t know too much of who he is, or what’s going on. His history is told through flashbacks. Here, I need to make mention that Linus Roache did such a great job portraying Thomas Wayne. There are many notable quotes in this film, and one of the best was Thomas telling Bruce, “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Thomas was a man striving to do the right thing, someone a son could look up to. That’s why when Rachel later says, “Your father would be ashamed of you,” it hits home.

The opening act is a little choppy with its editing between present day and flashbacks. I think if the film had begun using all the flashback footage, and then cutting to Bruce at the prison camp, it would have been more effective. With that said, most of the film is excellent. Bruce’s training with Henri Ducard (who later reveals himself to be the true Ra’s al Ghul) was great, and Bruce’s assault on the temple was appropriately intense, as many scenes in this movie are.

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Upon my latest viewing of this film, I realized just how great of a character Ra’s al Ghul was. Liam Neeson delivers a perfect portrayal, delivering someone whom is passionate about his ideals, yet not overly eccentric, but subdued. Neeson is always calm, delivering fantastic dialogue. When facing Batman on the train, Bruce has the villain at knife point with a batarang. Ra’s calmly says, “Have you finally learned to do what is necessary?” Ra’s commands every scene he’s in. One of the best scenes in the entire film is when he reveals himself to Bruce at the latter’s mansion. Dialogue is brilliantly said again: “If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them… and stab them in the heart.” It’s a shame that Neeson’s portrayal of Ra’s al Ghul isn’t that discussed today. It’s probably because Heath Ledger’s Joker overshadowed him when The Dark Knight released. The Joker was excellent as well. But, Neeson’s portrayal should not be forgotten; he is easily one of the best villains of the 2000s. No version of Ra’s al Ghul has come close in quality to the one featured in Batman Begins.

Christian Bale is a good Batman, but sometimes a mediocre Bruce Wayne here. A rather odd scene is when Bruce is talking to Rachel at the hotel gathering. The dialogue, “It’s– not me. It’s… Inside, I am…I am more.” just seemed off and poorly said. As for Batman, it’s easy to forget that while serious, he does have some funny moments here. When breaking through the asylum, he tells the two inmates, “Excuse me.” In one not funny, but sweet scene, he gives his periscope to a little boy, because the other kids doesn’t believe him about Batman. All in all, Batman is an effective character in the film. I won’t lie though; him saying, “I’m Batman” was executed in a cheesy way.

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I really enjoyed Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Johnathan Crane/Scarecrow. The first scuffle between him and Batman was brilliantly choreographed. Later, the scene with Crane saying, “He’s here.” “The Batman.” was also well done. Overall, Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman’s rogues’ gallery has proved fascinating. In the trilogy, we had Scarecrow, Ra’s al Ghul, Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman, Talia al Ghul, and Bane. It would have been great to see more films from the director. I would have loved to see Nolan’s take on the Riddler, or Mr. Freeze. One more villainous character deserves mention in Batman Begins: Carmine Falcone. One really great scene was when Bruce confronted Falcone at the latter’s pub. Tom Wilkinson as the crime boss delivered such great dialogue; it’s almost a shame that Scarecrow put him out of commission later in the story. (Then again, Crane frightening Falcone was such a great scene.)

Alfred, James Gordon, and Lucius Fox all contribute to the story. These characters are portrayed by skillful actors. Morgan Freeman has a commanding presence as Lucius Fox, and knows how to deliver humorous remarks subtly. It’s hard to say which version of Alfred is the definitive one, but one can make the case that Michael Caine’s is. As for Rachel, she was an enjoyable character who stood up for what’s right. She had good dialogue, such as “Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about you making yourself feel better. Which is why we have an impartial system.” The scene where she held the little boy while holding a gun to inmates walking toward her was compelling. As for the soundtrack, Batman’s iconic theme comes from this film. It is powerful, and one of the best themes ever put on film. Though, one might say that the music themes are very similar to each other. I listened to the whole soundtrack as I wrote this review, and most of the music sounded the same. It’s not a terrible thing since the music is commanding. But, it should be noted that the soundtrack is not very diverse.

The action in this movie is brilliant. Every action scene is wonderfully directed. From Batman’s scuffle with Scarecrow, to the final battle in the train, this film has excellent, intense action. The climax is still one of the most thrilling in any comic book film 13 years later. Batman Begins, simply put, is a great movie. The battle against fear is a theme that is prevalent throughout the story. By the end, Bruce has fought his fear, and channeled it so he can bring hope into the streets of Gotham. Some films age well, others do not. 25 years from now, Batman Begins will still be a great watch.

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Justice League Review

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You can’t save the world alone.

DC Comics has some of the most iconic characters of all time. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have been around since the early 20th century. Seeing the three together in a film was but a dream until last year with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. With that film, the idea of the Justice League forming on the big screen started to become a reality. The DC film universe started with the fantastic Man of Steel, and then we got Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman. These films, aside from Wonder Woman, have proved controversial in reviews, especially BvS (the theatrical version isn’t terrible, but the Ultimate Edition propels it into being a stellar film). Justice League brings the light of Wonder Woman into the darker world of BvS. Zack Snyder’s style has proved decisive with many. I think his work is underrated, and honestly his films have delivered some of the best action scenes. Justice League lacks the deepness of BvS/Man of Steel, and doesn’t have the great writing of Wonder Woman. It is however an extremely enjoyable story of heroes coming together.

The core story of Justice League is Batman realizing there’s a grave threat on Earth, and only a combination of special people can stop it. Meanwhile, the death of Superman continues to be felt throughout Metropolis, and the rest of the world. I particularly liked the opening scene, which was a flashback of Superman talking to kids after a small disaster. It was brief, but it reminded viewers what kind of a hero Superman is. The tone, scenery, and music in the montage scene afterward show the effect of Superman’s death. There’s a genuine sadness as a great hero is no longer among the people.

Superman returns toward the latter half of the middle act. Since I just brought him up, let’s discuss the iconic hero. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the character has been met with positive reception in previous films, though fault has been placed with the directing for making Superman a “brooding” character. This is mainly felt in Batman v Superman, where it’s hard to find him smiling at all. After watching the Ultimate Edition and thinking back on Man of Steel,  it’s easy to see what Zack Snyder was going for. He didn’t make Superman automatically the hero we’ve come to know and love from the comics. Rather, there’s a journey that takes place and eventually culminates in the hero’s death. Now in Justice League, Superman is a man reborn and the result is the hero we know.

When Superman tells Steppenwolf that he’s a fan of justice, the viewer knows things are about to get good. Henry Cavill delivers the definitive Man of Steel. His dialogue is reminiscent of the Superman from The Animated Series. Superman appears the least of all the heroes, but his presence is felt the greatest. It’s a little sad also because the viewer begins to think how much more exciting the film could have been from the start if Superman wasn’t saved for over halfway through.

The first half of the film centers on Batman and Wonder Woman, then together they get the team going. Ben Affleck delivers another great portrayal of the Dark Knight. It’s interesting because we see Bruce Wayne as a man changed because of his encounter with Superman in Dawn of Justice. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman continues to shine. One of the most fun scenes was her rescuing the hostages at a bank. (We get to see her reflect bullets in a scene straight out of a comic book.) Wonder Woman’s inspiring persona returns as well, as evidenced in her conversation with Cyborg. Batman and Wonder Woman work well together, and their dialogue is always fun to hear.

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The big three – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – all look great. It’s the other members that are a bit more mixed. The problem with a team movie like this is that there wasn’t other movies to develop the characters. The Avengers worked because audiences were already familiar with the members. Here, the story has to fully introduce Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. There’s just not enough time, especially in Aquaman’s case. I’m not faulting Jason Momoa’s portrayal, but the writing doesn’t give viewers many reasons to care about Aquaman. There’s a scene later in the film with Steppenwolf attacking Atlantis and Mera. Aquaman arrives, and Mera gives some expository backstory. The scene came off as forced exposition to make up for a lack of Aquaman development.

Cyborg however was a surprise hit. His story is very interesting, and the scenes with his father are engaging. Ray Fisher perfectly portrays the conflicted, yet sternly heroic character. It was a little hard to buy into Cyborg being part of the Justice League in the comics when The New 52 launched. In this film, it works. Flash is probably the most mixed of the characters. Justice League separates itself from Batman v Superman in that it has a lighter tone. Barry is a contributing factor to that tone, as he serves as the group’s comic relief. Sometimes it worked, and his scenes with his incarcerated father were genuinely emotional. But sometimes Barry is a bit much – a lot of his dialogue just doesn’t seem like what a real person would say. Barry isn’t a bad character, he’s still fun to have around most of the time.

Steppenwolf is the antagonist, and a notable one. There’s something grand to his character and dialogue. He’s not a multilayered character like the Joker from The Dark Knight, but he hardly comes off as one-note. He works as an engaging, otherworldly threat. His objective in aligning the three Mother Boxes was exciting to watch. The battle scenes against him were excellent. As I said, Zack Snyder has delivered the best action scenes in comic book films, and that continues here. The early battle with Steppenwolf plowing through the Amazons as Hippolyta attempts to race away with the Mother Box was amazingly done. The middle act battle with Steppenwolf taking on the League was also a lot of fun. And of course, the climax is exciting. Justice League does not disappoint in the action department.

There’s fun character moments throughout the film. Wonder Woman saying, “I’m old fashioned that way” to Cyborg for a face to face meeting is one example. Another example is Aquaman’s honesty to the team on the plane (the reason for that happening is too good to spoil). So, the film is fun. But it’s not a superbly written film like The Dark Knight or Logan. It’s also not as consistently good as this year’s Thor: Ragnarok. The first half is fun because of the characters and action, but there’s a lack of stellar writing. The story could have used an additional half hour to develop the members. The soundtrack is exciting, featuring the iconic Wonder Woman theme among other engaging tunes.

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Overall, Justice League is an enjoyable film. It doesn’t have the substance of Zack Snyder’s previous DC films, but it’s a fun story. That’s not to say the film is devoid of meaning – the viewer sees that Superman is the missing element, and the world feels it too. Superman is excellent, and his appearance makes the viewer greatly anticipate the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. Batman and Wonder Woman are engaging as well. Aquaman suffers from lackluster development, but Cyborg was very good. Barry is funny, but sometimes borders on being over the top. Two other characters that deserve mention are James Gordon and Alfred, both of which add to the story. (This is the definitive version of Alfred.) Also, Amy Adams delivers a genuinely emotional performance as Lois Lane. It seems there was behind the scenes changes with Justice League, which is a shame. I believe if Zack Snyder did his full vision for the movie, we could have gotten something amazing. As it stands, Justice League is far from mediocre and does the iconic comic book team justice.

8/10

Suicide Squad Review

Ten years ago the thought of a Suicide Squad movie would have been almost unheard of. Today we live in a cinematic world where almost anything is possible. If Marvel can turn Guardians of the Galaxy into a triple a property, there’s no reason why DC couldn’t do the same with another lesser known team. This group of of villains have been around since the late 80’s, but it wasn’t until recent years that they started to become more mainstream. How did that happen? It’s tough to say. Somethings in comic world just happen gradually for no real reason in particular. The Squad film has been garnering a large amount of hype. In fact, many people I’ve talked to in the past seemed to have been looking forward more to it than Batman V Superman. The reasons for that could be an article for another day. For now, the big question is whether or not Squad is the big jump-start for the DCEU and a quality film in its own right. What we have is something that is never boring but often lacks in writing.

There was an animated film that came out two years ago called Batman: Assault on Arkham. Even though it was titled ‘Batman,’ it was really a Suicide Squad film. It is very similar to the live action one in many ways, and better. I don’t think Squad should be a copy of Arkham, but should have definitely taken more cues. For one thing, the Enchantress is an incredibly generic villain and seems out of place for the tone the film was striving for. Just about all her dialogue is pretty standard. Meanwhile the Joker is on the flip side, completely unique and commands a presence every time he’s on screen. The entire Enchantress angle wasn’t particularly engaging while the Joker in his low screen time was very good.

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It’s always a tricky endeavor when a film stars a bunch of characters. Squad manages to semi-avoid feeling overloaded. It introduces the characters one-by-one via flashbacks said by Amanda Waller. The style works for this type of film. Of course, it really depends on the quality of said flashbacks. First up is Deadshot’s. Seeing Batman was definitely a great moment and it’s very cool how the films can have things like that as one connected world. Now, the problem with the flashback here is the writing. It’s established that all Deadshot truly cares about is his daughter. The dialogue between them is extremely mechanical. It seemed like his daughter was just reading lines off a script. There was zero emotion invoked, which is a problem when the film wants the viewer to sympathize with a serial killer.

The rest of the flashbacks are simple and to the point. Harley Quinn’s of course is the best, giving the viewer insight into how she became the deranged person she is. Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Joker is the best character here, giving us a familiar yet different version of the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a good tease when we see the Batmobile go after him and Quinn. It makes the viewer really want to see this Joker go up against Batman in a future film. Harley’s entire flashback would make for an excellent movie in its own right, and not to mention there’s some awesome references to the 90’s Animated Series and this famous picture. Since we’re on the subject of these two, first Margot Robbie as Harley was definitely a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing her again in a future installment.

Jared Leto as the Joker was one of the most hyped aspects of the film. As stated earlier, he is a presence stealer and should have been written as the main antagonist over the painfully generic Enchantress. This version doesn’t seem to be the anarchist from The Dark Knight nor the comedian from Batman 89. What we have is a unique take on the character, whom is criminally underused in the film. Sadly it’s hard to write too much about this incarnation because he simply isn’t given much to do. It remains to be seen what kind of mark this version of Batman’s greatest nemesis will leave on the cinematic world.

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As for the other members of the team, Captain Boomerang doesn’t really add anything to the story. In fact, he could be cut out entirely and it wouldn’t have mattered. Killer Croc isn’t bad, but is only memorable for having a monstrous appearance. Just about all of Croc’s lines were, as a viewer next to me called them, “Corny.” He talked little and was given a very small amount of backstory. He was pretty much just the “grunt” of the team, and nothing more. A surprise highlight was El Diablo. Jay Hernandez portrayed a man whom regrets his past and doesn’t want to use his power anymore. His mini-character arc was one of the best. Katana was fun to have around, but appeared out of nowhere and never got adequate backstory. How is the viewer supposed to accept that her sword can apparently hold souls, in just one sentence without further clarifying?

The team forms kind of suddenly by the middle act. This isn’t the problem however. The problem is some of the dialogue in the middle to last act. Just about all these characters are hardened criminals, yet later they open up like old friends. The dialogue here just wasn’t organic. The biggest culprit is the bar scene. First, the scene is very poorly placed. As the world is about to be taken over we see the characters hop into the bar to reflect. This scene just didn’t make sense at that point and felt thrown in out of nowhere. What’s worst is Flag, the army official in charge of enforcing the team, joins them. He has been their enemy all this time, and just like that he’s their buddy as well? He even says, “I need your help Deadshot” as if the latter would sympathize with him. (After all, Flag just a day ago was threatening the latter.)

Even though the writing could have been better, the team is still fun to watch together. There’s solid chemistry, it’s there, but sometimes the film tries too hard to establish a friendship between them. Harley Quinn stating “You hurt my friends” before attacking the Enchantress was supposed to be a hardcore moment, but the viewer just can’t take it seriously because the friendship just wasn’t established properly. (Not only that, but it’s apparent that she would leave them to be with Joker.)

Obviously going into a film like Suicide Squad you know there’s going to be a lot of grit and comedy to go along with it. The film takes it a bit overboard at some points. For one thing, Slipknot when he first appears punches out an officer followed by some supposedly “funny” dialogue. This was a distasteful scene, and it seemed like the film had a very negative outlook on the corrections system since almost all the guards whom appeared were very abusive to the inmates. Next is an Amanda Waller scene. When she first appears the viewer gets a sense that she’s a bit of a shady government individual. But with the dialogue on hypothetically stopping another Superman, you get a sense that she’s bending morality out of a warped sense of keeping the country safe. This a viewer can get behind, but there’s a scene later in the film where she puts bullets in all her officials because they know too much about the operation, or as her dialogue put it, “It’s above their pay grade.” This scene was done to make her even more hardcore, but ended up making her unlikable in a negative way. It was just meaningless deaths and felt empty.

Even though there’s problems with the writing, the film is on some technical aspects better than Batman V Superman. Unlike the latter, the first half is nicely paced with good, stylized action scenes and character interaction. Aside from the abrupt bar scene, the film moves at an excellent pace. The climax unfortunately isn’t particularly that memorable. It’s only slightly better than Fantastic Four’s (2015) final battle, which is mainly due to the characters being fun to watch. The soundtrack is pretty much what one expects from this kind of film. In any other film it would be out of place, but it works here. (Though the lyrics are sometimes too questionable.) The final battle theme, though some might call it standard in comparison to the rest of the film’s music, truly increased the intensity and ended up being one of the best fight themes of the year.

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Overall, there’s definitely quite a few negative things to list about Suicide Squad. This is mainly due to the writing and often choosing style over substance. However, despite these things the film is still very entertaining and the characters are diverse. Even though the dialogue isn’t quite on par with that of say The Dark Knight, one never grows tired of the proceedings. David Ayer directs perhaps the most unique comic book film yet. With better writing, we could have had a truly great film.

6.5/10

Batman: The Killing Joke (Film) Review

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore is called by many the greatest Joker story of them all. It also has the honor of being known as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It has influenced portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime, such as in The Dark Knight. An animated adaption was always highly wanted, and finally this year it has seen release. There are a few things stopping this from being the masterpiece the comic was. Still, while not being a perfect adaption, it’s a very good watch starting after the 30 minute mark.

Apparently, the content in the graphic novel would have translated to a very short film. To compensate for this, the movie added a 31 minute intro starring Batgirl. This unfortunately was the film’s biggest mistake. The intro adds absolutely nothing to the story. About 15 minutes in and the viewer is wondering if he/she is seeing the wrong film. It would have been far better and more powerful for it to start just like how the comic began: with Batman arriving at Arkham Asylum only to discover that his adversary had escaped. By the time we get to that scene the viewer has grown tired of the proceedings.

The main problem is that the intro feels completely disjointed with the rest of the film. (Not to mention it lasts almost half the run-time in a story that’s supposed to be about the Joker.) Paris Franz, a made up character, is given a lot to do and made out to be someone important. After the intro he’s never seen again. What’s worst is the controversial romance between Batman and Batgirl. This comes right out of the blue and is truly unnecessary. They have never been a couple in the comics, (not to mention that Batman’s relationship with her there has always been one of mentor/parental) so I’m not sure why it was added here. Really, most of Batgirl/Barbara’s scenes in the first 30 minutes were painful to get through.

After the beginning is when the story finally starts to adapt the graphic novel. From here the viewer starts to become focused and engaged as Mark Hamill steals the show as Joker. Just about all his lines are lifted straight from the comic, and translate well onto the silver screen. If you’ve read the story, then you know exactly what to expect. The plot here is about the Joker attempting “to prove a point,” and that’s that anyone can go insane like him because of “one bad day.” The dialogue is excellent and provides a nice look into the head of the madman.

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Of course, perhaps the most well known aspect of the graphic novel is that it served as an origin story for the Joker. (Or at the very least, a possible origin.) The flashbacks in the film are lifted straight from the pages. It’s surreal seeing them come to life. They are fascinating to watch, because very few pieces of media have provided a look at the Clown’s past. Most of Batman’s dialogue is lifted straight from the comic as well, so there aren’t really any negatives to be stated here. Like I said earlier, after the intro the story adapts the graphic novel almost word-for-word. Batman’s encounter with Joker in the climax was epically engaging as the two go back and fourth in blows & dialogue. It’s tempting to call this their best encounter in animation, but it very well might be. The soundtrack is pretty standard. There are no qualms about it, nor does it stand out. Maybe that was the point, to make sure the music is in the background so it doesn’t distract from the film.

Overall, The Killing Joke adaption isn’t fantastic, but still very good. The beginning sadly takes the viewer out of it with a lot of bad dialogue and a jarring romance between Batman and Batgirl. This wasn’t needed, and I would personally say a shorter movie cutting that out would have been better. The actual adaption of the story is very solid. It isn’t quite as powerful as the source material, but does an admirable job bringing it to life. Unfortunately, the controversial ending is even more confusing than the comic’s and leaves the viewer feeling slightly unfulfilled.

7/10

JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS REVIEW

I’ve always been a big fan of the comic book animated films. Sadly Marvel has seemingly given up on them, but DC has continued consistently. DC has a wide array of installments, some being completely original and others being adaptions. To better align with the comics, starting with Justice League: War the films have adopted The New 52 continuity. From a business standpoint, it made sense. Unfortunately as a viewer the films have been noticeably of lesser quality than pre-52 ones. The actual League is modernized, in a negative way. Is the latest film in this universe an improvement? Interestingly, Justice League vs. Teen Titans focuses as a sequel to both Throne of Atlantis and Batman: Bad Blood. It suffers some of the same ongoing negatives as previous entries but ended up being perhaps the best New 52 film.

We’ll get this out of the way first: Damien is still extremely annoying. Ever since debuting in Son of Batman, DC has been focused on making him a central focus in the films. Why? Who really knows. Surely they can see just about every line he has is terrible. He’s been doing nothing but disobeying orders and being rebellious since his first appearance, which is no different here. At the very least in the climax his character arc comes full circle in an admittedly well written sequence. In theory going forward he will be developed as a character, but time will tell.

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These movies usually start out with a great action sequence, and it’s no different here. We have the League battling the Legion of Doom. The actual fights are well animated, but Lex Luthor is written so cheaply. This wouldn’t be a bad thing too much if not for the fact the after credits sequence for Throne of Atlantis exists. There he apparently was enlisting Ocean Master to join with him in thematic fashion. None of that is mentioned in this film, instead making Luthor cannon fodder. One has to imagine if DC simply abandoned this plot point in favor of moving in another direction. At the very least, the Wonder Woman/Cheetah fight is probably their best encounter in animation.

Obviously the big draw is to see the team battle the Teen Titans. Like the Batman vs. Robin title, it’s a little misleading since the fight isn’t much of a focus at all. This could be a disappointment for those hoping to see a throw-down between the two teams. The next biggest draw then is of course the Titans themselves. This is their first major animation appearance since the show’s incarnation ended in 2006. (The slapstick comedy known as Teen Titans GO! doesn’t count.) It’s interesting seeing Starfire as the leader here, and she does an excellent job of it.

Blue Beetle was a bizarre choice to include. I suppose he was put there to be the Cyborg of the group. Besides rescuing Cyborg, he doesn’t do anything of major importance, but he wasn’t bad either. Beast Boy is pretty much lifted straight from the comics. Aside from one awful line near the end, he’s written as genuinely funny. (Perhaps the best line was when he said “awkward call to Batman” after Damien was literally fried.) Raven was a surprising highlight. One could say the story even revolved around her. Her backstory is somewhat similar to Damien’s, so it was interesting to see how the two connected. Her character arc was great to watch, and she had the best lines showing that she doesn’t have to give into evil. Taissa Farmiga did a terrific job voicing her.

Superman unfortunately spends most of the movie looking like a joke. This is consistent with his previous New 52 film appearances, which is a pale representation of the character we admire. Thankfully, the writing picks up with him in the climax where he actually feels like Superman. Batman is solid throughout, and the dialogue between him and Cyborg was fun to watch. Wonder Woman is very good, with perhaps her best appearance so far in the New 52 series. The League however appears rather unreasonable when they confront the Titans about Raven. Surely at least Flash would have objected to taking her by force.

The film has a few notable plot holes, the main ones which take place in Trigon’s hellish realm. Beast Boy randomly reacts to the environment, but goes back to normal some seconds later. The reason for this isn’t given and came off as rather odd. Another thing is that shouldn’t all these demons be working together? So why were they grabbing away Damien’s opponent when the latter was on the same side as them? This made no sense. Trigon like in his Teen Titans show appearance is a great antagonist to have around. His dialogue is perfect classic overlord fare. As basically the devil of DC, his taunting dialogue to Raven was very good, and of course the latter’s response even better. The climax offers a grand final battle. It’s not that fast-paced due to the large nature of the threat, but still gives a sense of climatic dread since the League members are getting thrown around. The soundtrack isn’t bad, though at the same time a little forgettable.

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Overall, Justice League vs. Teen Titans is a surprisingly solid entry in the DC animated film series. The story progresses nicely with the right amount of dialogue and action. The Titans were very good, (there’s a sense of thematic awe when we see the Tower for the first time) and hopefully they get to appear in another film. (Based on the mid-credits scene, it’s more than likely.) The story at the core however is not a vs, rather about a person defying her evil heritage. Raven was a fantastic focus and easily made the movie. The League mostly is solid this time around. Damien is still unbelievably annoying, and sadly it looks like he isn’t going away anytime soon. Still, if it’s one New 52 film you should check out, it’s this one.

8/10

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE REVIEW

I remember the immense hype at Comic-Con 2013 when they first showed the Batman/Superman logo. The only thing that could match it was the unveiling of the Age of Ultron, but even then BVS completely overtook the film world. The two characters are some of the oldest in comics and two of the greatest heroes in the genre. Both have enjoyed success on the big screen, though Batman more so. The two have united in many cartoons, most notably in the legendary World’s Finest three-parter. (Which was collected as the Batman/Superman Movie, a must have if you haven’t seen it!) A film starring the two had been in development, but eventually fell through. With 2013’s MAN OF STEEL, DC started their version of a cinematic universe. DAWN OF JUSTICE is perhaps the decade’s most awaited film crossover, and rightly so. It’s almost surreal watching the two together on the big screen, but is the story surrounding the encounter good? Well, here’s the thing: it’s not written that well but if you’re a comic fan it’s certainly an event.

We now live in a world where we can see Batman dodging blows from Doomsday on the big screen. Twenty years ago this kind of stuff was the subject of fan fictions. Seeing Batman in his Dark Knight Returns armor throwing Superman around makes the film worth the price of admission alone. The film’s incredible climax however doesn’t negate the mediocre writing found throughout. (Mostly in the first half.) Also all of the trailers and marketing made it seem like that this was going to be an all-out action movie. The film surprisingly doesn’t have any real fight scenes for the first hour & a half. The two characters meet up at the halfway mark in a well written sequence, but the reason why we’re coming down to watch this, as Lex Luthor puts it: “the greatest gladiator match in the history of mankind” doesn’t happen until the climax. The film went the route of having a lot of exposition, and then making the climax one action sequence after another. I think the formula of having a couple of scattered fight scenes and then one big one an the end is better than what Dawn of Justice did.

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Going into the film I thought a probable negative would be that it’s trying to be too many things. On the onset it’s being a Man of Steel sequel, a Batman reboot, and a Justice League setup. The film actually does a good job with these without feeling overloaded. I do think it was a mistake of marketing to announce all the cameos and updates on the League film, because it would have been far better to see them without the prior knowledge in mind. At the core, this is a Batman/Superman story with a cool appearance from Wonder Woman. But as I said, the writing isn’t spectacular, and when compared to a film like THE DARK KNIGHT, it looks pale in comparison.

I thought Henry Cavill was very solid as Clark Kent/Superman in Man of Steel. His appearance here was pretty good, but there are quite a few questionable scenes, which is more due to the writing. For one thing in the India sequence there’s a very empty death and then Superman comes out of nowhere to help Lois. Why couldn’t he have come a few moments earlier? I’m also not a fan of the line, “No one stays good in this world.” These type of lines characters like Captain America and Superman should never be found saying. Another thing is that after a major explosion sequence, Superman disappears, instead of saying something. It’s only natural that the people would assume the worst in this case. Superman’s portrayal wasn’t bad, but certainly could have been a lot better. He is an icon of hope, but the film chose not to utilize this major aspect of the character. Instead it decided to take a more political look at what Superman means to the world at this point in time. I do find this aspect intriguing, and it’s neither overplayed nor underplayed. I just wish the hopeful aspect of his character was a factor, but it’s sadly not. At the very least, Clark Kent’s portrayal was spot on, much like the version from the classic Adventures of Superman days.

The film smartly shows the climatic  Man of Steel fight scene with Superman and Zod from another perspective: Bruce Wayne’s. Not only does this give us our first look at why Batman grows to dislike Superman, but we also see that intense battle from the people’s point of view. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman was a shocking choice for most at first, but by the time the film started to roll around people began to accept it, and even happily anticipate it. Affleck portrayed an older Batman very well, and I’m eager to see him in his own solo film. The reasoning used for Batman’s justification of ending Superman is interesting, (if there’s even a slight chance someone with all that power could turn against us) but can be hypocritical when you consider that there’s at least two instances where Batman himself kills people. With his expertise and gadgets, he could equally be a menace and thus could use his own logic on himself.

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Lex Luthor is no stranger to the live action world, appearing in almost every Superman film to date. Jessie Eisenberg brings something different to the table. He’s definitely a good actor, but as Luthor the writing went a little too crazy. He was basically the only comic relief of the film, but it was more bizarre than genuinely funny. The conversation he had with Finch in his house was so terribly written I had to question what the writers were thinking. A lot of his lines are unrealistic, and there’s this strange scene where he feeds a Jolly Rancher to a senator…and the latter just stands there! The writing then throws us this one-sentence backstory on why he hates Superman, which is out of left field. This version of Luthor is far different than the iconic one we’ve seen in the 90’s Animated Series. I don’t think anyone would dispute that’s the Luthor we would have rather seen. Honestly the best thing about this incarnation was the King Kong shirt he was wearing earlier in the movie.

As expected, Gal Gadot didn’t appear too much as Wonder Woman, but when she did she completely nailed the role. Her big intro scene is one of the film’s highlights.  Amy Adams as Lois Lane wasn’t bad in Man of Steel. What was bad was the completely tacked-on romance at the end. (There was no build up to it at all.) At least here the romance feels organic. Her role as hardcore journalist, damsel, and encourager is identical to the comics, and Amy plays each of these parts well.

Even though the first half has some mediocre writing and odd scenes (the Batman dream sequence was rather long) there’s certainly things to like too. Superman overhearing Bruce’s secret conversation with Alfred was classic comic book fare. The Batmobile sequence was also one of the best car chase scenes in recent history. The references to the Joker were fantastic. Now, obviously the best part of the film is the actual confrontation between the two characters. Director Zack Snyder set a precedent in Man of Steel of how comic book fight scenes with characters like these should be done. As expected, the fight here is more down to earth, but this isn’t a bad thing. The battle is satisfying and the choreography is excellent. One forgets the mediocre writing from here on out until the credits start to roll.

The way the fight scene comes about however is a little questionable. If Superman had revealed right away what was going on, the battle could have been avoided. But predictably Superman doesn’t directly say the reason why he’s there, instead letting the battle happen. Then afterward things turn around unnaturally fast. One of the most unexpected aspects  of the film was throwing in Doomsday. Once again, it was a mistake unveiling him before the film came out. (Imagine being in the theater and hearing the word Doomsday without having the prior knowledge.) The monster made for a nice final conflict. Still, he’s worthy of his own movie, not being thrown into the final 20 minutes of one. The soundtrack is very solid. There are a lot of standout themes, such as the one which played during the Batmobile sequence and Wonder Woman’s emergence. There are some questionable themes however, such as the out of place early Lex Luthor one.

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Overall, DAWN OF JUSTICE is an event film, but not a greatly written one. There are numerous parts of the film that just weren’t done very well. (Keefe not knowing who Luthor is for example was pretty farfetched.) The actual conflict between the two characters doesn’t disappoint however. (There’s even a clear winner.) Zack Snyder still directs the best fight scenes to be put on a comic book book film. Ben Affleck as Batman is definitely a primary highlight, delivering an iconic portrayal of the character. Superman is more on the mixed side. His character was on point in Man of Steel, but seems to have regressed a bit here. The story progression was also better in that film. Here the major confrontation is saved for almost last. It’s an interesting formula, but the questionable writing and the cringe-worthy Lex Luthor takes away from the first half. Even though this paragraph sounds negative, the film is still engaging and despite not having many fight scenes, it’s never actually boring. Wonder Woman was great and the ending was completely shocking. With better handling of the story the film could have been a masterpiece.

7/10