The Dark Knight III: The Master Race

Note: The below article is one that I intended to upload to comicommand back in March. Since comicommand is not being updated for the moment (but will be soon), I have decided to post this article on my site instead.

I heard mixed things about The Dark Knight: Master Race but my love of Batman eventually persuaded me to check out Frank Miller’s latest foray into the character’s mythos. This series is also co-written by Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and follows three years after The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

In this continuity, Ray Palmer (The Atom) is successfully able to free the inhabitants of the miniaturized, bottled Kryptonian city Kandor. Not only does he free them, but he also returns them to full size. Once free, these new inhabitants set out to create a society where the strongest, their own people, rule.

Although I also have mixed thoughts about this series, which shifts from amazing to mediocre within one issue, its exploration of Superman and his people is enough to keep me reading.

One of my biggest issues with the new 52, at least as portrayed in animated films like Justice League: War, was the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman. When together, they are like the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader. Lois Lane wasn’t just a love interest to me. She was one of the key figures, along with Superman’s adoptive parents, that literally and figuratively kept Superman grounded. While Superman was more physically separated from his parents, Lois was a constant thread that enabled him to value human life. Growing up among humans also developed Superman’s respect for them.

In contrast, the daughter that he had with Wonder Woman grew up among Amazons and sees humans as “ants”. When the inhabitants of Kandor make their intentions clear, Lara is eager to follow them and shun her father, who she sees as a traitor to his people. She has grown up with the power granted by two of the world’s greatest heroes, along with the isolationist mindset of the Amazons.

The Kandorian leader, Quar, is a twisted version of what Superman could have been. While enemies like Zod desired the annihilation of humans, Quar expresses a paternalistic mindset that undermines human agency. In his own view, humans need to be ruled. They are the savage slaves that he wishes to civilize. Superman recognizes his power, and the advantages it gives him over the people of Earth, but he also recognizes the strength and free will of its people. Although he is better than Quar in many ways, he is not far removed from him.

 

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Review

It is an understatement of epic proportions to say that the post-Flashpoint DC Animated Films have not lived up to their predecessors. Flashpoint, my favourite DC Animated film, was followed by Warwhich had very little going for it. Weak voice acting from a lot of the cast, weak dialogue, terrible characterizations for some characters (Wonder Woman especially) etc. The list of negatives goes on and the subsequent films did little to raise my hopes. Batman v Robin and Gods and Monsters were bright spots, which gave me hope that DC were climbing the ladder back to greatness. Then Justice League vs. Teen Titans came along, and sent my hopes spiralling into the abyss. The Killing Joke was a little disappointing, and could have cut the batgirl prelude, but was a pretty good film overall. Then we got a pretty forgettable Justice League Dark, not terrible, but nothing special earlier compared to works like Under The Red HoodSuperman vs The Elite, First Flight or even Assault on Arkham.

All of that to say, I made sure not to get my hopes up about this film.The Judas Contract (TJC) is an adaptation of the comic storyline of the same name, which I have not read. I can’t judge the film based on it’s accuracy to the comic since I have not read the comic yet and don’t want to simply Google comparisons since they’ll contain spoilers for the comics.

Overall, the film is a definite improvement over JL vs Teen Titans and War. Since the latter two films are my most hated DC animated films to date, that compliment isn’t saying much.

The most notable improvement in this film was the handling of Damian Wayne’s character. Since his introduction in Son of Batman Damian Wayne has been abrasive, stubborn, arrogant…in short, bratty. In Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin and Bad Blood his more undesirable characteristics were also balanced out to create an anti-hero that was annoying at times, but not insufferable. Then JL vs Teen Titans undid any development the character previously received and pretty much made him Bart Simpson in a Robin suit. All improvements in terms of social skills, self-awareness, respect etc. were gone.

Spoiler: I was happy when Blue Beetle nearly killed him.

In TJC Damian is still a loner who is adjusting to working well with a team, just like his dad. He still has an attitude problem but he also looks out for his team and isn’t the petulant child we last saw in JL vs Teen Titans.

Damian, along with Beast Boy are the highlights among the Titans, with their dialogue and voice actors bringing the most life to their roles. Nightwing, one of my favourite characters, also gets to shine. We get to learn more about Starfire’s background, although she still just comes across as a two-dimension princess kindness for the most part.

The newest member, Terra, plays a pivotal role in the story and her story arc demonstrates how seemingly unsympathetic characters can still gain our sympathy. However, there is a birthday scene that was truly cringeworthy and reminded me of the DDR scene in JL vs Teen Titans.

I have to say that Deathstroke was the biggest highlight of the film. Aside from being one of my favourite DC villains, Miguel Ferrer does an amazing job as the villain. Deathstroke doesn’t have that many lines compared to some of the other characters, and his character mainly relies on charisma for the role. Ferrer brings that in spades and makes me overlook some of the weaker dialogue and relatively little screen time.

The other villians were somewhat forgettable in my opinion, and the final fight actually proves to be one of the duller ones. Bigger is not always better.

Overall, The Judas Contract was a decent way to pass the time, but still makes me miss the older DC films even more.

Superman and The Old School

As I was scrolling through Twitter this morning and came across this gem:

I knew I had to talk about it, even if only briefly, because it captures an argument I have made time and time again. So @CaptainMarvelTalk hates the art on the right (which is just fan art if I’m not mistaken) because it makes Superman too “dark”, “gritty”, “intimidating”.

I have previously noticed that people tend to have very static fews of certain characters. Superman does typically have a boy scout persona, the typical nice guy. Does that mean every single piece of art has to depict him smiling and happy? He can’t look intimidating in a single art piece?

When I raised this point to @CaptainMarvelTalk he said that intimidation is out of character for Superman.

I then responded with this:

An iconic scene from Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come where Superman angrily bursts into a political meeting. Of course, he doesn’t kill anyone, but he is undoubtedly intimidating here. Then @CaptainMarvelTalk argues that Superman is “angry” here, not intimidating. The two can obviously overlap, and are clearly affected by audience interpretation. In the original fan art, and in Kingdom Come, Superman is floating with his eyes glowing red. If the fan art counts as intimidating, the Kingdom Come piece undoubtedly does too.

Clearly, @CaptainMarvelTalk just hates newer artistic interpretations of Superman, in favour of the old school. Instead of saying that, he nitpicks and shuts out common sense and reasoning, contradicting himself time after time during our debate. I think this is a solid example of the bias that also fuels the Marvel v DC debate and the never-ending debate about how DC is “too dark” and doesn’t have enough “fun”.

 

Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer Thoughts

I initially avoided watching this trailer because I was worried it would give too much away. Overall, my wariness appears to be justified.

Tom Holland was a highlight of Captain America: Civil War, even though the character was clearly rushed into the film after Marvel obtained the rights (or technically leased them from Sony). Although I have previously ranted about the MCU obsession with light-heartedness and fun, I wasn’t as worried about that obsession ruining a Spider-Man film. Peter Parker’s wisecracking is a key part of the character and Holland mastered that element, as well as capturing a more serious moment when he referenced Uncle Ben’s death with Tony Stark.

Although plenty of people saw The Amazing Spider-Man series as being too dark, the tone wasn’t an issue for me. With that said, the second films as bogged down with two many villains and some pretty hammy performances from the likes of Paul Giamatti and Dane Dehaan.

Since Spider-Man is one of my favourite comic book characters, probably just behind Batman, Wolverine and The Punisher, I was excited for Homecoming.

Now…this trailer. The YouTube comments make it clear a lot of people disagree, but I think I have Tony Stark fatigue.  However, there is a silver lining. It looks like Stark steps back from supporting Peter after the incident on the ship, leaving the film to hopefully focus on our favourite wall crawler.

I am just worried the film might reach this point halfway through, which is too late in my opinion. The character of Peter Parker got anchored to Stark due to his rushed introduction in Civil War, and now the writers are doing their best to keep that thread alive and also find a coherent reason to cut it. Meanwhile, marketers are also pimping Tony Stark out to the audience.

The high school setting for Spider-Man worked surprisingly well in The Spectacular Spider-Man, since the show avoided becoming 90210 featuring Spider-Man. I am hoping this film has a good balance as well. Zendaya’s one line in this trailer already leaves me worried about her acting skills. She says “my friends are up there” with the same enthusiasm she would say “I broke a nail”.

On a positive note, the trailer doesn’t spoil too much of Michael Keaton as The Vulture. So far, he seems the best kept secret and also seems like he may be a highlight of the film. The new costume is awesome and I have renewed faith in Keaton after watching Birdman and Spotlight.

Additionally, a lot of the humour in this trailer was actually good. My favourite parts were the interactions between Peter and his friend. My least favourite ones, you guessed it, anything with Tony Stark.

What are your thoughts on the new Spider-Man Homecoming trailer?

Logan Review

Entertainment Value: 10.10

Critical Value: 7.5/10

It is the end of an era. After 17 years, Hugh Jackman presents us with his last outing as Wolverine. After the first two Wolverine films many fans, myself included, initially approached another one with a healthy dose of skepticism. Then the first trailer dropped and skepticism gave way to hype for many people.

Then the second trailer dropped, confirming that Dafne Keen would be playing X-23. The film was flooded with good reviews from Rotten Tomatoes and one of my favourite YouTube reviewers also gave the film his highest rating. Needless to say, I expected a lot from this film, and for the most part, it delivered. I won’t say that the film is on the same level as The Dark Knight (it got a lot of comparisons to it) but it is undoubtedly the best Wolverine film and one of the best films in the X-Men Universe.

Logan introduces us to a bleak(er) future where most mutants are now dead. Twenty five years have passed without a mutant birth, most of the X-Men are dead, and Logan is slowly dying as his healing factor burns out. He is aging more noticeably, healing slower and the adamantium in his body is now poisoning him. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier is suffering from a mental disorder. Early plot summaries said the disease was Alzheimer’s but it is never actually confirmed in the film. Either way, he is prone to fits of dementia and seizures, which have devastating effects on the people around him.

Logan now works as a chauffeur and is content to save money so that he and Charles can buy a boat and live on the sea. Logan is tracked by a Mexican nurse who eventually convinces him to escort Laura Kinney (X23) to a mutant safe haven and evade The Reavers, cycber-netically enhanced soldiers tasked with bringing X23 back.  Firstly, I have to say that X23 was insanely badass in this film, showcasing an agile fighting style that is in contrast to the brute force on display from Wolverine. Although Wolverine is feral in his own way, Laura shows us what could have become of him if he was raised as a weapon. Dafne Keen doesn’t have many lines for most of the film, relying on facial expressions and body language to create the character.

The makeup department did a great job in creating a weathered Logan, whose body tells it own story. Jackman is able to exude anger, coldness,sensitivity, love and caring seamlessly. Although his character seems to shy from caring or helping others, it is easy to see that he is only putting up a wall to protect himself from the pain of losing more people he cares about.

Charles Stewart brings us a different version of Charles Xavier. Although Charles still houses some of the wisdom we associate with the character, his disease has resulted in forced isolation. We see a Charles who knows his time is coming and is eager to enjoy the rest of his time, coming across as more carefree than any other version of Xavier we’ve seen on screen. The closest comparison is to his younger, broken self in Days of Future Past. 

Jackman, Stewart and Keene are the film’s center and their scenes stand out as my favourite emotional moments. At its core, the film is about family and it great to see the family grow stronger as the film progresses. Although he is not necessarily a part of the family, Caliban (Stephen Merchant) assists Wolverine in taking care of Xavier and his performance is another stand out in the film. He has a relatively small role but succeeds in picking away at Logan to reveal his mindset as they try to navigate the dangerous world they live in.

Needless to say, the action is amazing, giving us the R-Rated glory we’ve been waiting to see for a while. People don’t just fall down when Wolverine swings his arms, they die in spectacular, gory fashion. There were many scenes that genuinely gave me chills. The film does feature some spotty CGI in parts. Fortunately, most of the effects are practical.

One of the weakest parts of the films, in my opinion, are the villains. Don’t get me wrong, Boyd Holbrook was enthralling as Donald Pierce. The issue is that it felt like he had little screen time. He and the man he answers to, were not developed very well in contrast to the other characters. There is one interesting goon that adds a new level of threat to the film, and the goon’s introduction is one of the most memorable in the film. However, I feel as if this mute goon could have been substituted for a stronger Donald Pierce.

While the film was not perfect, or as even as I would have liked, it was a solid end to Wolverine’s story. The ending, for lack of a better world, is poetic. Jackman has implied that he would be open to playing the role again if it existed in a different universe e.g. the MCU. However, he has also said that “This is it. This is the last one.

It is sad to see Hugh Jackman end the role, but I am happy that this is the film he did it with.

Edit: After more thought, had to bump up my ranking of Logan.

X Men Universe Film Rankings

Days of Future Past

X2

Logan

Deadpool

First Class

X-Men 1

Apocalypse

X3

The Wolverine

Origins

Matt Reeves To Direct The Batman

Note: For an abridged version of this post, check out my YouTube video.

About a month ago, Ben Affleck stepped down from directing The Batman, which does not yet have a release date. Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) was circling the role for a few weeks and it is now confirmed that he will direct, using a script from Chris Terrio. There  were reports that Geoff Johns and Affleck wrote the script but there has been no mention of that in recent reports concerning Reeves. However, Affleck and the studio apparently approved Terrio’s script. The new script is likely a composite of Johns, Affleck and Terrio’s work.

Ben Affleck made it no secret that he detested all the questions he received about The Batman while promoting other films, such as Live By Night. There was a lot of speculation that he would leave the directing role, and his role as Batman due to the pressure to please a horde of nitpicking comic book fans. For now, Affleck is still signed on to produce and act, and I hope it stays that way. Some reviews of Live By Night say that the film suffered from Affleck trying to do too much as an actor, writer and director. I can’t help but notice his original decision to step down coincided with the flood of negative reviews for Live By Night. Hopefully stepping down from directing The Batman as a move that is meant to alleviate some stress, but also ensure a better film.

The Batman is still my most anticipated DC solo film, and I hope it delivers the quality film that DC fans have been waiting for. Hopefully some of the other projects deliver that prior to The Batman as well. Man of Steel was decent, and BatmanvSuperman had the potential to be amazing. Instead, we get a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a rushed version of Doomsday. Suicide Squad gave us some things to love, like Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and a lot to hate as well. I’m looking at you Enchantress, Incubus, most of the third act etc. Each film had great moments, and even stretches of excellence, that couldn’t elevate the entire film.

One of my favourite scenes from BatmanvSuperman

As I’ve said many times before, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has issues, but the tone of their films is not one of them.  Reeves last few films demonstrate that he knows how to handle a dark tone. People can complain about the need for more “fun” in the DC Universe, thanks Dwayne Johnson, but I think we can all agree that darkness fits a batman film. Aside from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Reeves also masterfully wrote and directed Let Me In (2010). The film is based on a revered book, but we have all seen great source material turned into subpar films. While Apes was also amazing, I think Let Me In is a better example of Reeve’s creative skill since it addresses a big issue I have had with some DC films and films as a whole.

When a great director creates a poor film people are quick to argue that the director was hampered by a poor script. From what I understand, the director can override the writer. The director shouldn’t be a drone mindlessly translating a script to film. he is supposed to utilize his own discretion to oversee what he films. Zack Snyder has numerous “story by” credits on IMDB, which is the same credit given to Christopher Nolan for Man of Steel. From what I have researched, “story by” is just a credit given to someone who came up with the basic plot of the film:

Superman’s fight with Zod makes people distrust and fear him, including Batman. Batman then forms a plan to take him out, but Lex Luthor has his own plans as well.

This basic plot could be conveyed in some form other than the screenplay, such as a “treatment” or short story.

In comparison, the screenplay credit goes to the person who actually crafts the dialogue and fleshes out the characters. Snyder’s only two “screenplay” credits are for Sucker Punch (2011) and  300: Rise of an Empire (2014). I tried watching Sucker Punch, I couldn’t finish it and I have consistently heard that Rise of an Empire is dramatically inferior to the original film. I don’t like to base my opinions solely on the opinions of others, since I would have avoided BatmanvSuperman like the plague if I did. If you believe that I am mistaken about Rise of an Empire, let me know. My point, is that a director who is also a strong writer should be able to expertly exercise his own discretion with the material he is given in order to create a great film.

While the director can override the writer, the studio can override the director. This has already happened with Bvs and Suicide Squad. The uncut version of BvS helps to flesh out Clark and Bruce more, while also clearing up some elements of the plot that didn’t make as much sense in the theatrical film. Meanwhile, the abusive Joker and Harley relationship was removed from Suicide Squad because the studio was worried it made things too dark (among other changes). The films aren’t perfect without these changes, but they are definitely better.

I am hoping that Reeves was able to negotiate for creative control over this project, so that the real filmmakers can craft something for the big screen that DC fans can be truly proud of. There are several other projects I am excited for in the meantime, especially Aquaman and I hope that The Batman doesn’t end up being one of the last hopes for a consistent and well crafted DCEU film.

The Walking Dead- Midseason Premiere Thoughts

Season 7 was of The Walking Dead was originally one of my most anticipated since it would focus on Negan, one of my favourite comic book villains and the best villain that The Walking Dead comics have had to date. Season 6 introduced Negan and ended with a money-grubbing tease that left a bad taste in my mouth and made me skeptical of what season 7 would offer.

The season 7 premiere featured a drawn out encounter with Negan that was obviously done to pad screen time, but I was willing to overlook it for the first episode. Then the second and third episode focused on The Hilltop and The Saviours respectively. It has always bothered me when The Walking Dead does this, instead of cutting between the different stories. Shows like Game of Thrones have far more characters and locations to deal with and do a better job of giving each party their necessary time. I have no problems with Tara and Heath as characters, but giving them an entire episode was ridiculous.

Some may argue that focusing on one location gives more opportunity for character development and builds anticipation for other story arcs. In this case, I beg to differ. Cutting between different stories during an episode forces writers to be more concise with their storytelling, so that an entire episode doesn’t end up serving as filler. Instead of 40 minutes (without commercials), writers are forced to use tighter writing to express the same story in 20. Or they can possibly stretch the different stories over multiple episodes.

The way it stands, the eventual conflict with Negan gets dragged out to episode 9 since three episodes didn’t show Rick and Alexandria at all. Since The Walking Dead is sticking to longer seasons (the past few have been 16) it seems the desire to reach a certain amount of episodes, instead of just telling a story naturally, interferes with the storytelling. The Marvel Netflix shows have a similar issue, since Marvel makes them all thirteen episodes. I felt like Luke Cage, in particular, could have been shortened. The midseason break also seems like a move designed to keep The Walking Dead on air as long as possible, especially now that other AMC hits like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have completed their runs.

I never considered The Walking Dead one of the best shows out there, especially since the acting is inconsistent at best. It ranges from great (Lincoln), mediocre (Serratos) to awful (Riggs). With all that said, I was not that excited for the mid-season premiere.

Firstly, I am sure that Gabriel didn’t actually betray Rick since it would derail his entire arc as a more committed member of Alexandria. When he is driving away in the car, I thought I was seeing things, but online articles have confirmed that someone else emerges in the passenger seat. Earlier in the season, we saw someone spying on Gabriel at the wall and on Rick and Aaron at the boat. It appears that person reached out to Gabriel, and is probably aligned with the community that confronts Rick’s group at the end of the episode. I loved Rick’s smile; the look of a man who has found his army.

I thought the group might be Oceanside, but Oceanside was previously introduced as a female-only group. In the comics, the group is co-ed and Michonne joins them for a while. Unless they’ve added men since their last appearance in the show, this appears to be a brand new group that was never shown in the comics. If they are a new group, it almost comes across as a deus-ex machina, but I’ll reserve judgment until the next episode. The show better not focus on another group for the entirety of the next episode.

Some fans have had a hard time grasping why Rick’s group didn’t want to fight back earlier. Hopefully this episode makes it clear they were worried about their lack of numbers, relative to The Saviours.  Additionally, Negan has made sure to consistently put Rick in a bind by making the lives of others tied to his. Yes, Rick could have beaten Negan to death with Lucille when Negan visited Alexandria, but then The Saviours would slaughter everyone.

Like the comics, Gregory is content to stick his head in the sand and submit to Negan’s rule. Xander Berkeley chewed some scenery in this episode, and hopefully we won’t see too much of that in the rest of the season. If his arc follows the arc from the comics, we’ll be seeing him around more and this show doesn’t need more weak acting.

While Ezekiel is happy to join Rick’s alliance in the comics, he is hesitant here due to the risk of losing everything they’ve built. It is a fear that Rick had as well, and it is likely Ezekiel will change his mind. Ezekiel’s refusal also brings up another issue. In the comics, Dwight is actually a double agent who is working with Ezekiel to take Negan out. The show has already hinted at Dwight’s animosity towards Negan, for taking his wife and burning his face. We know that his motives for wanting Negan gone are there, but it looks like he may not be a double agent in the show. This doesn’t bother me too much, since his reveal seemed like a last minute decision in the comics. If Dwight was a double agent the whole time, why did he kill Abraham if he didn’t really have to?

Morgan reunites with Rick for the first time since Carol’s disappearance from Alexandria, and his own hesitation to go to war seems to have impacted Ezekiel’s decision. Although Morgan is willing to kill in self-defence, it seems the fear of all the lives that will be lost in the war makes him hesitate to join an all out war. The only positive thing to come out the meeting with Ezekiel is his offer of asylum for Daryl. This episode also made me wonder if Daryl will find Carol and convince her and Ezekiel to join the war.

While Rick doesn’t get what he wants from Ezekiel, he does came across explosives that he plans to put to good use against The Saviours. Rosita appears to have learned some valuable things from Eugene, and this appears to be the start of an arc that is meant to make us root for her character more. However, I still despise her character. Her sheer stupidity in trying to kill Negan with only one bullet got someone else killed and got Eugene taken away. Her attitude to Sasha also fails to make her endearing. Also, there’s the fact that she was in a relationship with Spencer of all people. The girl’s got poor taste.

Have to say I am more excited for issue #165 of The Walking Dead comic, than the next episode of this show.

Outcast

I’ll be back to writing for comicommand soon, and should have an article for them around January 15. My first piece for the new year will be a piece on Ed Brubaker’s Kill or Be Killed. Until then, I wanted to share some thoughts on another ongoing series that I’m reading.

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is undoubtedly the comic that turned me into a serious comic book reader. It started with Rick Grimes, then moved on to Spider Jerusalem, Jesse Custer, Billy The Butcher, Mark Grayson, and now Kyle Barnes.

After binging on Invincible and then having to wait until February for the next issue, I eagerly sought out Kirkman’s latest series. After giving us a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, and then a superhero story, Kirkman delves into demonic possession.

Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose life is plagued with demonic possession and who is ostracized in his hometown after allegedly hurting his wife and daughter. While Kyle knows something changed his wife, making her attack their daughter, no one else believes him. As he returns home, Reverend Anderson helps to open his eyes to the truth of demonic possession.

Although I have not seen many films related to possession, I have always been interested in the subject. Firstly, Paul Azaceta’s artwork truly helps to bring the story to life from the first frame onward. The style is somewhat simple, compared to works like Punisher: Max, but is reminiscent of Invincible. Azaceta fits the comic’s atmosphere of horror by seamlessly transitioning from relatively simple frames, to ones that are genuinely unsettling.

 

Kirkman is also able to explore a religious theme, without creating a story that is pro or anti-Christian. Kyle represents the skeptic, while Reverend Anderson is the holy man who slowly makes Kyle accept the truth of exorcism. The story could come across as formulaic with this set up, but Anderson is a layered character who believes in the Lord, while also having his own doubts about institutionalized religion and God. Anderson’s thoughts are some of the most interesting parts of the story.

Kirkman also adds interesting modifications to the exorcism mythos, which are slowly explained as we get further into the series. In some ways, the exorcism links to several other issues in Kyle’s life. His mother abused him due to her possession and his wife abused their daughter. Both of these periods have significantly affected Kyle’s psyche, which leaves him in a dark place that aligns with the overall tone of the comic. Every triumph that Kyle faces is followed by another revelation that causes more pain or a setback from the forces that are working against him.

With each issue, we learn more about the possessed and the overarching conflict continues to build with Issue #24, which was released today.

Like The Walking Dead, Outcast currently has its own television show as well. One season is complete, and it has been renewed for another. Clearly, it isn’t the phenomenon The Walking Dead is, but maybe the show isn’t as hampered by filler. That’s a post for another day.

The Killing Joke Review

the-killing-joke

While DC is struggling to get critical approval with its live-action films, as the (partly) undeserved roasting of BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad demonstrate, they have an impressive record of success with their animated features. In my opinion, the quality of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies (DCUAOM) has declined in recent years with Justice League: War and Son of Batman. However, there have been some bright spots such as Gods and Monsters, Assault on Arkham and Batman vs. Robin. I was hoping that The Killing Joke would continue that trend. It isn’t a bad film, but as a whole, it does not measure up to some of the aforementioned bright spots.

As a spoiler- free summary, this story involves The Joker escaping from Arkham Asylum and kidnapping Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). There will be some relatively minor spoilers throughout this review. I haven’t read the graphic novel in years and I wanted to do so before seeing this film. However, I ended up rushing ahead and watching the film first. For that reason, I won’t be able to compare this film to the finer details of the comic.

I was told by friends that the film added a prelude that explained more of Barbara Gordon’s backstory, prior to her kidnapping. A little research online also showed that this section also resulted in most of the criticism for the film. I tried to ignore these critiques and form my own opinions so that I wouldn’t unfairly bash the film. I have to say that some of the criticism is justified.

The most valuable insights that come from this prelude are:

  • Barbara still views crime-fighting as a thrill, not an unhealthy obsession the way Batman does
  • Conflict over this issue is what led to Barbara ending her role as Batgirl

These two insights are valuable, but my issue is some of the execution. The Batgirl prelude centers around a single criminal, Paris Franz, who becomes obsessed with Batgirl. However, Franz’s obsession is more like a delusional and arrogant fanboy, as opposed to the twisted dependency we see with The Joker and Batman. Franz ends up being a very forgettable villain and the writing for his character is mainly what makes the prelude unwelcome.

batman-and-batgirl

Another issue, is the infamous sex scene. Sorry if it is a spoiler but it is a part of the story that I can’t review this film without mentioning. If I simply said there is a sex scene, then it would still be pretty easy to figure out which characters I am referring to. Although I am not personally a fan of a Batman/Batgirl relationship, I know it exists in some of the comics. What annoys me most about the sex scene isn’t the fact that a relationship I like to think of as father-daughter is changed; I just hated the fact that it was precipitated by a slap-slap-kiss trope. I didn’t even know that this was a trope until a year ago, but seeing it time after time led me to believe that other people must have noticed how often it pops up in romantic situations. Two people are fighting; they often start pushing or come to blows. Then they suddenly stop, stare into each other’s eyes, and kiss. It is hack writing at its best.

With that said, the rest of The Killing Joke is much better. Firstly, we have a better villain. Mark Hamill plays The Prince of Crime, and also plays The Joker in flashbacks that reveal how he became The Joker. The graphic novel is famous partly for introducing a tragic Joker origin story and the transformation from Jack Napier to the Prince of Crime is one of the film’s most haunting.

the-killing-joke-2

The Joker’s actions in this film make you hate him, but you also can’t deny his charisma and his skills as a wordsmith. I enjoyed John DiMaggio as The Joker in Under the Red Hood but it is great to have Hamill back for this role, alongside Kevin Conroy. One of my favourite parts of the film is a Batman monologue near the beginning. While Conroy is famous for portraying Batman’s menace, his ability to convey the character’s (often hidden) warmth was also a treat to watch.

Joker’s kidnapping of Barbara is the central crux of the story, and the scene is a tough one to watch. The animation, the music (or lack thereof) and the voice acting make it one of my favourite scenes among all the DC animated films. Hamill brings a blend of menace and humour to the role, while navigating his way through one of the most pivotal moments in Batman’s history.

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The kidnapping also represents a high-point in the film, which is followed by the final showdown between Batman and The Joker. From what I remember, the kidnapping of Commissioner Gordon was more enthralling in the graphic novel. Here, the voice acting from Gordon and Joker’s gang of freaks brought this section of the film down.

Overall, I enjoyed The Killing Joke. However, the faults I’ve mentioned prevent it from being among the top-tier of the DCUAOM films. As it stands, it is a decent entry that had a lot of potential.