Posts Tagged ‘Robin’

REVIEW – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (Spoiler-Free!)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Dark Knight Returns

It’s not every day that I get nice things. That changed when my friend won VIP tickets to an advanced screening at the Paley Center in NYC last Thursday. Warner Animation and DC have been doing this lately with their animated showings to get the hype going. And for me to see the 16th in DC’s collection of great animated movies and the most anticipated of the batch is the greatest honor.

For us Batfans, we all know how this goes. This is re-telling the Frank Miller story that not only changed the direction of a famed character to a more darker setting, but helped set that same mood and tone for future stories and characters to come. You can say that DC is still trying to relive that aura with all of their books in the New 52 (almost to a fault perhaps), but the industry itself has been greatly affected by what Dark Knights Returns was able to achieve.

Part 1 gave us the first two books in the saga with Bruce Wayne making his way back to the cowl to face the threat of Two-Face and the Mutants. He picked up a new Robin along the way. Saw the Commissioner hang it up. And Joker woke up.

No question that this was the one long-time fans wanted to see. Joker returning to his sadistic roots and the government lackey Superman will do that for you. What really set this adaptation going was that same mood and tone we got from the comic. This just went to darker places that even I didn’t think DC and Warner would have the guts to do even given the material they were working with. You felt it particularly with Joker’s appearances, which should be no surprise to anybody especially if you’re been reading Scott Snyder’s recent take on the character. I’m surprised the R rating wasn’t considered – guess I’ll see when my Blu-Ray copy arrives.

Speaking of the Clown Prince, give it up for Michael Emerson for giving me terrible nightmares. Something about the character just makes the actor playing him – to borrow a line from the flick – “lose control”. Anybody who’s seen Emerson play Ben on “Lost” can see that manipulative and sadistic side that works well with this character. It’s basically “Dark Knight” Joker times 11 – if that is even possible.

And then we have Mark Valley, fresh off a shortened stint on Human Target, taking on the Lackey of Steel. A fine performance where you didn’t expect much of the character to do much other than be the foil for Bruce that represents what he isn’t. He’s not likable here but yet wants to be because of the choices he made. Even though we know the outcome, it makes the final battle between these long-time friends/adversaries all the more sweeter.

Let’s not forget our regulars from the first showing – Peter Weller keeps the gritty going with a man who knows he’s coming to his end soon. I felt he brought a lot more to this than what was complained about in part 1 regarding his monotone interpretation of his lines. I could have used more “oomph” from his rally speech midway through the film, but it gets the job done. Ariel Winter kept providing some spunk to her Robin character, which was a nice contrast to the grim and gritty mentor she followed.

Sixteen movies done with these adaptations and DC and Warner seem to keep getting better when it comes to animation and fight sequences. They somehow have managed to master the pacing of the 75-minute movie and made it feel like it was more. Say what you will about a Batman in his 50s moving as fast as he does, but it sure makes for some well-choreographed battles.

I’m still conflicted on this and Under the Red Hood as my favorites of the batch. The latter still stays close to me because of how it unhinged itself from the source material (Infinite Crisis was prominent during the comic’s run) and made the story arc even better. But this is the granddaddy that the tone of all Bat books is based off for the last 25 years. It’d be hard not to celebrate it as one of the best. I’ll leave it open and say kudos to DC for once again reminding us for why we became fans.

CBF Graphic Chat #2 : Batgirl Year One

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

I’ve loved every Year One series that’s come out so far for the Batman family, but I was a bit skeptical about what the reviews on Amazon were saying about Batgirl : Year One. Not as compelling at Batman, lame villains, too chaotic in plotting, etc.

Blah, blah, blah…

I enjoyed the heck out of this graphic novel and I owe it to Chuck Dixon, who had a great run with Robin and Nightwing back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and Scott Beatty for highlighting the beginning year of a fan favorite in Barbara Gordon. Juggling her own career path, dealing with her father who refuses her joining the force with him, pushing away annoying flirting from Dick Grayson – it’s everything you’d want from a book about a girl fulfilling her own destiny and not letting the angst of life get in the way. The visuals as well have that Bruce Timm look that you’d love if you’re a fan of the animated shows.

Hands down great job and definitely worth a read for those who want to see what life was like before Oracle came along. If you want to catch up on more Batgirl goodness today, you should get the current run going on with Stephanie Brown.

CBF Quick Picks #24 : Batgirl #11 / Secret Six #22

Friday, June 11th, 2010

With the majority of comic book events taking a break this week, it was good to spend some time talking about some sleeper hits under most people’s radars. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of Stephanie Brown’s take as Batgirl and has made me really appreciate her growth as a character since her days as the Spoiler. Having Oracle along for the ride doesn’t hurt either.

But what really takes the cake is what Gail Simone has been bringing to the Secret Six. Unbelievably brutal in both its characterization and in its violence, it makes you laugh and yet cringe at the same time at this rag-tag band of anti-heroes and villains (who really are quite charming and makes you want to go out to a picnic and hold hands with them). As of late, this has been the book about Catman and it has made him one of the more compelling characters as of late for DC. Hit the Play button and you’ll know why.

CBF Thoughts – Captain America Done Right

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

So it’s official – Chris Evans puts on the star-spangled costume in 2011, finally helping to get the ball rolling for the new Captain America movie. I’m sure Marvel is pretty ecstatic to finally get some movement going for the last of the Big Three that will comprise the core of the Avengers movie in 2012. The question now remains is will we get the right Captain America movie when it hits theaters.

I’m sure you’re curious now as to what I feel is the right Captain America movie. I don’t think it needs to be too complex – what’s so complicated about a guy picking up a shield and fighting Nazis – but it at least needs to hit these core values:

1) Stick to the WWII time frame – for a lot of introductory superhero movies and shows nowadays, it’s been very difficult to stick to the origin story and come up with something unique and make them stand out. Cap stands out right away because this will be Marvel’s chance to really tell a great WWII superhero story. Does it not sound awesome to see Cap charging with shield in front into a whole Nazi platoon?

Granted, we will eventually need to transition this into the 21st century if we want to know why a WWII veteran is leading a superhero team and somehow can keep his face fresh without botox, but it need not be the core of this origin story.

2) Don’t get a cameo addiction – the one thing you can definitely say that made X-Men 3 and Wolverine stink badly was trying to fit way too many characters into short time frames. While X-Men 3 can be somewhat forgiveable knowing that they wanted to end the trilogy with a cameo bang, that was not forgiveable for what was supposed to be the definitive origin story of one of Marvel’s signature characters. Captain America cannot fall into that trap – this is Cap’s story through and through and the supporting characters need to be key in building that story instead of bringing it down into the eternal abyss. They cannot be just there for the sake of being there.

3) Keep the politics out – IGN Comics made a good point about this in their feature of making the perfect Captain America movie. If we know the character well, it’s that he is loyal to the American Dream, not the government or military. He will fight for them as long as they are true to the Dream as well, but he won’t think twice about turning his back to them if it means the Dream is in jeopardy. The best example of this was in Civil War – he made you feel conflicted when reading the series because while you would think Cap would side with the pro-registration community, he actually does the opposite because he believed that all Americans’ personal liberties and privileges were about to be taken away.

I, like IGN, make this point because it’s no secret that America doesn’t have the greatest reputation with some countries around the world. To make this movie all about how great America’s government is would make people question what this movie is trying to get across to us – is it about making a political statement or about a man fighting for his people and their futures?

4) Bucky WILL actually help the movie – The one thing I’ve loved about the recent Batman movies so far is that Robin has been kept on the sidelines. That’s not to say I don’t like the character – Robin just does not fit with Christopher Nolan’s vision for the franchise. And that works fine with me – this trilogy is all about exploring Batman’s rise to glory and how his city reacts. With Cap, everybody that knows his origin story in the books knows Bucky is key to Cap’s WWII roots and his presumed death is what drives Cap to lead the Avengers upon coming out of his frozen state and assure that he will never leave a partner behind ever again. The best part will be, should we get sequels, that Bucky has more to offer should Marvel go the route of Ed Brubaker’s run on the book so far. I’m personally excited to see that should that be the case.

What are your thoughts? Any potential pitfalls that could derail the flick? Or will we get the definitive Cap story we always wanted?

Anatomy of the Comic Book: The Dark Knight Returns

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Re-boots seems to be all the craze nowadays in movies. Batman was brought back to audiences four years ago and showed what the character and his universe was really made of (Heath Ledger would have something to do with that in the sequel). I also recently saw Star Trek, which refreshed a franchise in dire need of  new direction and yet still honored the spirit of the franchise.

It’s only fitting then that I start off my blog series about relevant comic books with a re-boot that brought the Batman of the comic books out of the campy terrain:

Dark Knight Returns
Dark Knight Returns

Before this book hit the stands, Batman was all about Adam West and the Bat-Tusi in the 60’s.  The campy nature of the show became a hit, but at the same time, it made the character one not to be taken too seriously in the books.  Rotating writers in the 70’s and early 80’s made efforts to bring the character back to his dark roots, but it was 1986 that saw Frank Miller put Batman back on top of the food chain.

Comic book enthusiasts know Miller well from bringing a similar darker edge back to Daredevil and Wolverine around the same time frame.  His independent work on Sin City and 300 would become feature films as well.  This dark, edgy style was the kind of boost Batman needed and would help remind us who he is and why he is the way he is.

Dark Knight Returns gives us a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne long retired from the crime-fighting business, but seeing his city still crumbling under the might of old and new villains.  Not one able to enjoy retirement for too long, he dons the cowl once more and revamps his tactics to take on this new, violent society.  The book is renowned for helping to bring more adult-oriented storytelling to the books and put characters in new lights (a female Robin, a government puppet in Superman, Joker just an unfunny psycho, etc.).  It also (like Watchmen) spoke of a society in the Cold War going to actual war and what its characters’ values spoke of those events.

I also take personal satisfaction in the last issue when Batman must confront a Superman that has to bring him in.  Say what you want about all the help he needed; the sight of Batman kicking the Man of Steel to the floor is a sight that won’t leave me.

What’s interesting about this book is that it speaks volumes as to what Mike and I spoke about in our last podcast regarding Neil Gaiman’s ‘Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?‘.  Batman is a character that is relentless in his quest to put fear into the criminal element.  The only way he can ever see himself out of the game is if he was dead.  No amount of golf or emptying the family wine coolers would bring satisfaction.  It’s a sad story to see, but it brings the kind of depth to a character that can be difficult to replicate at times.

This darker edge has resulted in many superb stories from The Killing Joke to Knightfall. It transferred over into the animated and movie realms and the rest is history.  Read  Dark Knight Returns and tell us what you think.