Tag Archives: batman

Man Of Steel Review

man_of_steel_dc_comics_superhero-wideWith the Dark Knight trilogy over, the disasters that were Green Lantern and Superman Returns, and the desire for Warner Bros. to get a Justice League movie off the ground, to say that there is a lot of pressure on Man of Steel is a bit of an understatement. Fortunately for the WB, Man of Steel rights all of the wrongs of the last Superman movie, and creates a world worth building around for future installments.

The first thing I noticed while watching the movie is how good it looks. From Krypton to Metropolis it is a very beautiful film. Colors are vibrant and is it just shot well. In some parts I was reminded of Thor’s design, but it adds a depth that is all its own. I would not recommend the 3D version though, as it seemed to have very little impact or immersion.

More than any Superman movie before it, Man of Steel is a true origin story of not only Superman, but Clark Kent as well. Using flashbacks throughout the first half of the film, we see how Clark made his way to the Kent house in Kansas, the scrutiny and hardships he went through while discovering and learning to control his powers, and deciding the type of man he wants to become.

That last part is especially key, as Superman is constantly faced with moral choices from his Earth dad, his Kryptonian dad, his enemies and the world around him. The way he comes to these decisions gives us a clear vision into not just what makes Superman so good and pure, but how he got this mind state in the first place. In this way, Man of Steel is more about Clark than it is about Superman.

Russell Crowe is very good as Superman’s biological father from Krypton, Jor-El. He urges Superman to be something great, and is believable in everything that he says,which isn’t easy considering some of the plot points he has to deliver, and makes you care for people you know are doomed. The opening of the movie could have been a movie on it’s own (hello prequel!) as we see what makes Superman (Cal-El) so special in a Krypton that we get to see (albeit briefly) as a vibrant world that is on the way to self destruction. There are a couple of scenes where Jor-El overstays his welcome, being extremely important to the plot even after his death, but he does push things along. He is critical in grounding this movie in any sort of believability. Meanwhile, Kevin Costner is practically typecast as the farmer Jonathan Kent, who wants to protect Clark from the world by having him hide his powers. The way both Jonathan and Jor-El affect who Clark is with similar yet totally different ideals is very interesting, despite Costner’s presence being much less felt than Crowe’s.

At the heart of the conflict is General Zod. Zod leads an army of banished Kryptonians to earth in order to find Superman and used him (dead or alive) to help save the Kryptonian species by destroying and recreating Earth as the new Krypton. Zod is well represented by Michael Shannon, who gives us a Zod that can be related to in some aspects. He’s not just out to kill Superman. Instead he is looking to save his people’s existence in the only way he knows how. This makes his dialogue with Superman even more compelling as Supes is forced to choose between the planet he’s from and the planet he’s lives on (it reminds me of the Transformers episode “The Ultimate Doom” where Optimus Prime has to choose between Earth and Cybertron). The confrontations between Superman and Zod bring all of the movie’s themes to the forefront.

Speaking of confrontations, remember how Superman Returns has no real enemy for Superman to face? Well forget that. Man of Steel knew it had to make a big impact and it did, taking perhaps the most famous formidable enemies that can physically challenge Superman and created some fantastic fight scenes and other action sequences. A fight against a couple of Zod’s top soldiers was specifically entertaining, while the final fight between Superman and Zod ended things with a flourish, ending in a way I definitely did not expect, showing once and for all how far Superman is willing to go in order to save lives.

With most of the supporting cast out of the way, I’ll bring up now the fact that Henry Cavill is a pretty damn convincing Superman. He certainly looks the part physically, and while he’s is all action for the fight scenes, he also shows a gentle nature that is just as big of a part of Superman’s character as flying is. His emotional vulnerability is on display as he travels the country tying to help people the best way he feels he can, hiding in obscurity whenever his deeds are noticed by too many. He is truly a Superman in training.

On the other end of the spectrum is Lois Lane, which I feel Amy Adam’s just wasn’t right for. She plays Lois tough, but somehow she comes off as too sweet to me. She is just missing a certain edge. I did however appreciate the liberties taken with Lois trying to find this mystery hero, instead of Clark just starting at the Daily Planet for no reason. No complaints from the rest of the cast, as Lawrence Fishburn (Perry White) and Rebecca Buller (Jenny, yes JENNY Olsen) are mostly just window dressing but do provide a human element that is needed when watching alien gods duke it out.

I do have a few issues with the story. Lois and Superman’s eventual relationship got going a little too quickly for my taste. The plan to save the world seems a little corny and it was pretty heavy for a Superman movie. A little more levity could have gone a long way. I’m also curious how Clark was able to keep faking his resume to get jobs under false names. Also, this movie was so big that I worry about leaving little room for sequels. Metropolis has already been torn apart once so doing it again wouldn’t be as menacing. If it is indeed Lex Luthor in the opposing corner, it could be a more psychological move that this one (just spitballing). This is nitpicking though in what is easily the best Superman movie in over 30 years. It had action, drama, character development, and just enough easter eggs to satisfy nerds and give us an essence of what could be on the way if they continue with this series (which I fully expect).

By the way, I’ll save you the trouble and let you know now that there is no post credits scene.

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The Dark Knight Returns, Pt 2 Panel Highlights (NYCC)

I attended the panel for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 at the New York Comic Con with executive producer Bruce Timm and dialogue director Andrea Romano. Together they have basically built the entire animated universe and have done an outstanding job in doing so.

The panel led off with the trailer for the movie. A sequel to the Dark Knight Rises, Part 1 (obviously) it picks up right where the first left off. Batman is back, the Joker wants a piece of him, as does the Gotham Police Department. The government is against Batman as well, which is why they put Superman (who is basically the President’s lackey) into action to stop him. Check it out for yourself:

When talking about the decision to make this story into two separate movies, Bruce Timm said that there was no way this could ever be done right as one film. Furthermore, both movies had to be green-lit at the same time. He didn’t want to make the first part and see how it did before working on the second. It was all or nothing and thankfully the studio agreed to produce both movies at the same time.

Three addition scenes were shown during the panel. The first showed Batman attacking the Gotham Police on the rooftop. The music was top-notch, although to me the action seemed slightly off. Up close all the hits had impact and looked great, when they broadened the shot however the movements and speed just didn’t click for me. Next was Batman rallying his troops to not use guns, fighting with their fists and minds instead. It was referred to as the “Braveheart” speech. When you see it you’ll know why. The final clip was of the talk show scene where Joker is interviewed by David Endocrine. Endocrine is played pretty well by Conan O’Brien of all people. Romano said that he nailed getting affected by the Joker’s laugh gas in one take. What we were shown was a very tense scene that got creepier and creepier until the Joker finally went into action.

Timm noted that while he could have cast Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to reprise their famous roles as Batman and Joker, he knew that this was a much different type of film and that he needed to reflect that tone in the voices. Peter Weller (Robocop) was an absolutely perfect fit for Batman. He was also fond of Michael Emerson’s (Lost) work as Joker. He said he doesn’t sound anything like Hamill, or Jack Nicholson, or even John Di Maggio. Romano was also impressed with his ability to do his performance through Skype, as conflicting schedules made it impossible for him to record in studio.

A couple of other notes from the panel:

-Bruce Timm revealed that Jim Gordon chews nicotine gum instead of smoking cigars because smoking in cartoons equals an automatic R rating (film is PG-13). Interestingly, swastika’s on naked women do not have the same impact (you know where I’m going if you read the comic).

-Timm also hinted at working on some films based on Grant Morrison’s work. Could this mean Arkham Asylum? R.I.P? Final Crisis?

-The first thing actually seen in the panel was the trailer for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes United. It’s essentially Joker and Lex Luthor getting all the villains together while Batman and Superman do the same with the Justice League. The trailer was legitimately funny and will appeal to both adult comic book fans and their children. The Justice League they assemble is the New 52 version and it will be released sometime in the spring of 2013.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is set to be released in the winter of 2013.

Ghostbusters Goggles And More From Mattel (NYCC)

For the second straight year Mattel had a lot to show off at the New York Comic Con. Among their usual assortment of figurines and show exclusives was a peak of the latest addition to their collection of Ghostbusters equipment. To go along with the PKE meter and  ghost trap, you will soon be able to get your hands on the  goggles from the movie! Mattel did another great job recreating the classic look and you can expect to see them available sometime next year.

Here are some more pictures from Mattel’s display including DC, WWE, Masters of the Universe, Ghostbusters and the hoverboard from Back to the Future 2:

The Character/Writer Comic Conundrum

Rick Remender’s run writing Venom came to an end this week with issue #22. It has been one of the surprise series of the last couple of years, bringing back a character that was left behind in the 90’s and remade him into a modern anti-hero that was interesting and fun to follow. Eddie Brock was fine, but Flash Thompson? Back from war without his legs and now he’s a military styled Venom clouded with guilt and rage? Loved the idea from the start. When I started getting back into comics Venom was one of the series that kept up with and it was well worth the ride thanks in large part to Remender’s vision.

But now Remender is leaving Venom for greener pastures and it brings up an interesting question. Do I still follow the same books with a different writer at the helm?

What’s more important? The character…

Back in the day this would have been a non issue. As a young reader I was drawn to the characters and the action. The art was more important to me and I wasn’t smart enough to know if what I was reading had any depth to it. All I knew is that Spider-Man kicking Vulture in the face was awesome! But I need more than that now. Yes the artwork is very important, as it often can make or break a book. However I need that writing to draw me in. This is especially the case as I get into more dramatic book, that are more about espionage and emotion than explosions and fight sequences. I love the current Venom character, but I specifically love Rick Remender’s writing of the character. Would you read a Harry Potter novel if it wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling? Of course you wouldn’t. That might as well just be considered fan fiction.

Remender is still working on X-Force, Captain America and Secret Avengers (which has Venom!). The Dark Phoenix Saga was amazing and the others have been good as well. Would I be best served leaving Venom behind and just following around writers that I like? Could the same go for artists? What if Remender takes on something like the Fantastic Four, which I’ve never been interested in?

Naturally a lot of this also depends on who takes over Venom.

…or the man writing the character?

People will always buy Batman and X-Men and Spider-Man. They are so popular that even if you mess them up badly you will still get at least some people who just need their Batman fix (of course Scott Snyder is doing a great job with Bats and that helps too). But Venom is a little bit more of a niche character. He is still a work in progress that can go either way. Mark Waid has done similar work in remaking Daredevil into a fantastic read again but he did have more to work with. The better comparison might be what Geoff Johns has managed to do with Aquaman. Did anyone thing he would ever be cool again? Will he remain as cool if someone else takes over writing him? Like the King of the 7 Seas, Venom can lose its audience a little more easily. Cullen Bunn is taking over for Remender full time with issue #23. He had been co-writing this recent arc with Rick and has been very busy doing work on Captain America and a miniseries, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, which all point in the right direction for what would make a good Venom book. The other books circulating are getting mixed reviews, but thanks to the run so far I am emotionally invested in this symbiote wielding maniac. Can I just drop it because I don’t like the current author? I guess I’ll just have to read it and find out for myself.

What do you think? How much does the writer influence what you buy? Am I a fool for thinking of ditching a book just because it’s being written by someone else? Sound off in the comments below.

Read comics!

Warner Bros Animation Does the DC Universe Right

While misguided attempts at putting the Justice League in theaters and a Superman reboot cautiously on the way, Warner Bros. Animation has been producing classing stories from DC Comics time and time again. If the trailer is any indication, The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1 won’t be any different. If nothing else it has Peter “Robocop” Weller as Batman! Your move creep! Check it out:

Looks amazing right? This is nothing new for Warner Bros. Animation as they have been doing this for decades now (if you count Batman: The Animated Series). They have succeeded in all of the areas they have failed with their big budget action movies (except Batman of course because anything Batman is good). They take chances and stretch their wings. Different animation styles, different voices to fit those styles, and most importantly they tell the stories we want to see.

How many origin stories can there be? Instead of taking up and entire film introducing every single DC character, they are getting straight into the good stuff with the comics that we love. Doomsday, Red Hood, Tower of Babel, they’ve all been done and done mostly well in these movies. WB tapped into a market of real comic book fans and knows that they are the main audience of these animated features. It’s not like the major films that have to pander to everyone. Marvel took a gamble on giving everyone an origin story and if they didn’t luck out with Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark I’m not sure any of the last few years of success actually happen. Green Lantern tried to do the same thing, but Ryan Reynolds can only take you so far and unfortunately their were so many plot holes and other story issues that the most realistic looking live action take on the Green Lantern and Oa that I could have asked for got completely wasted.

Green Lantern done right

I have seen the Green Lantern movie that works though. Check out Green Lantern: First Flight, the animated feature that came to Blu-ray and DVD two years before the failure in theaters. It’s very similar in theme and hits a lot of the same notes. Hal Jordan gets the ring from a fallen Lantern and has to learn how to be a better man while the universe is in jeopardy and so on. Yet it does it so much better. First of all thanks to it being animated, most of it takes place in space, which is where he belongs. Second, Hal gets his training on the job throughout the entire movie instead of a five minute sequence followed by a bunch of crap. Third, instead of pacing it so poorly because they want to save Sinestro for a sequel, they throw the kitchen sink out there at once. The lack of limitations and big names make it so that there are just some things you can do with animation that you can’t attempt with a blockbuster movie. Want to see how a Wonder Woman movie should be made?  Go to WB Animation again. Don’t even get me started on Jonah Hex. The characters we know less about get their due, while the ones we already know (Superman/Batman) get spared of introductions and instead we get their best stories shown as we know and love them.

As far as films go this is the one area that DC clearly trumps Marvel. Marvel Animation does what they can, but it just isn’t on the same level as DC. They do a fair job, specifically with Hulk vs, but the overall quality and quantity just isn’t there. Eight films in six years, along with some poorly received anime just aren’t going to cut it. Not when DC has almost doubled their production and done so with such high quality. All this while making Justice League and Young Justice TV series that have critical acclaim as well.

DC has plenty of very good movies aside from the Dark Knight trilogy. They are just being shown on the wrong screen. Hell they even nailed it with The Flaming C!

“The Dark Knight Rises” Review

Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy comes to a close with The Dark Knight Rises, and while it may not surpass the masterpiece that was The Dark Knight, it is still a pretty fantastic movie and a fitting end to a memorable saga.

Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham is enjoying a state of peace due to the Dent Act as we find Bruce Wayne staying out of the public eye, retired as Batman and watching Wayne Industries endure money struggles. All of this begins to change of course as Bane comes in to restore his brand of order to Gotham, as well as break the Batman in both body and soul.

It’s that last part that sets the movie apart. Where Joker and Scarecrow and Two Face either wanted to kill Batman or drive him crazy, Bane is out to break his spirit. He is Batman’s physical superior and can not be taken down with any of the old tricks we’ve seen. At the same time he is cold and ruthless and most importantly smart, making Batman seem as weak as he has ever looked before. We get a very desperate Batman. Tom Hardy does a fantastic job making Bane every bit the badass he is supposed to be (once they fixed the voice issue) and makes it believable and emotional watching him strip Bruce Wayne of everything he knows and loves, which is where the “Rise” part of the movie kicks in. It is the theme of the movie and is taken both literally and figuratively, as each character has their own demons and challenges the must rise above. They lay this theme on very thick. Almost too much so.

Better than Batman and Robin

In this age of cinema you can’t increase the stakes and the scope (and the budget) without  increasing the number of characters too, and Nolan obliges with a number of additional characters. At the forefront is Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, who is never referred to as Catwoman (good move), and does well in playing the anti-hero. She has good chemistry with Bale and is played very close to the Year One version of the character. Her acrobatics are sometimes a little too flashy and once you start getting her, Batman and Bane on screen at the same time it’s starts to get very comic book-ey. Not to ruin the final act for you, but it’s kind of like this. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does counter what Nolan had been working toward this whole time by grounding Batman into reality. This also applies to the heavily promoted “Bat” flying vehicle which, while it is awesome to see in action, takes reality to the limits.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard also do well as John Blake and Miranda Tate respectively, but the talk about their roles was never about how they would perform, but who they’re characters were supposed to be. ***SPOILER ALERT: To put it mildly all of the rumors we heard about them and the how the movie ends turn out to be true and if you know they are coming you see it from a mile away. However they wait as long as possible to actually confirm everything and do it in such a way that it doesn’t really matter that you know in the first place. A great job in dealing with such a difficult task.***

Make no mistake about it, this is definitely the end of the Bale/Nolan Batman saga and they tie a nice and neat bow on everything to make sure there is nowhere else to take it. Everything that is promised through the trailers and throughout the movie is delivered and done so in spectacular fashion. The movie takes the trilogy full circle, taking you through very similar progressions and set pieces as Batman Begins. The difference is that it does all of these much bigger, and in some cases better. No, this isn’t as good as The Dark Knight, but it is an intense movie with huge set pieces that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end and puts a fine cap on the mother of all blockbuster comic book trilogies.

Free Comic Book Day Q&A with Joe Field

Christmas is great, but if you’re looking for a present now know this: Free Comic Book Day is just days upon us. The annual event is exactly what it sounds like. Comic book stores around the world give away comics to anyone that walks in. This year it is this Saturday, May 5th. Yes, that’s the day after The Avengers hits theaters. In honor of the best idea since pizza Fridays at school, I spoke to Joe Field, the founder of Free Comic Book Day, about the comic book industry.

-What inspired you to come up with Free Comic Book Day?
The business of comics had come through a tumultuous time in the late ’90s. When things started turning around, I saw a need for a massive invitation for everyone to check out what’s going on weekly in their local comic shop. I wrote a column for a trade magazine, outlining Free Comic Book Day and suggesting it be modeled after other “free” events. The column was met with enthusiasm!

-What went into getting all of the other comic book stores involved?
I knew that I couldn’t coordinate the event, so I turned to the dominant distributor of comics in the English-speaking world, Diamond Comic Distributors. Their team has regular contact with all comic book stores on a regular basis, so I was confident they could do the job— and they’ve done it exceedingly well for these last 11 years.

-Was there any suggestion by the comic book industry to have The Avengers movie come out on the same weekend as Free Comic Book Day?
Free Comic Book Day  has been the “first Saturday in May” for 10 of its 11 years. In most cases, there has been a comics-related movie attached to the same weekend. I choose to look at it as Hollywood coming to comics, rather than comics being a barnacle on the Good-Ship Hollywood.

-Do you think the industry is taking enough advantage of the comic book movie franchises and their popularity?
Movies are passive entertainment. You pay for your ticket, then sit in your seat and watch. The reading of comics and graphic novels is a much more involved experience. There’s reading the words, interpreting the art, filling in the time between panels ans scenes. In short, there’s more required of a comic book reader than there is of a movie watcher.

Really, I think the movies have been a great calling card for comic books. I honestly hope that more movie-goers will want to check out the source material for all these comics-based movies!

-What do you think of the current state of comic book stores?
With some 2500 comic shops in the U.S. and Canada, I don’t think there is one “current state.” Many retailers are thriving and some are having a tough time paying the bills. That’s just like any other business segment these days.

As the current president of ComicsPRO, the only retailer trade association of comic book specialty retailers, the trends look good right now. More people are reading comics, other media are getting some of their biggest ideas from comics and comic retailers seem to be better prepared and more professionally adept than at any time since I got into the business 25 years ago.

-Are digital comics helping or hurting business?
I have seen no indication that digital comics are putting a dent into print comics. Every other print media would love to have the conditions that are current in comics— handling growth rather than managing a slow steep decline, new ideas, formats and ways of doing business, rather than the same old reliance on advertising to drive the editorial.

Make no mistake, digital comics are a growing segment of the overall comics business, but so are print comics.

-How difficult is it to maintain a store these days?
Owning any small business has a multitude of challenges.  I discovered a long time ago that I had a difficult time have anyone as my boss. Now that I am my own boss, I find the pressure much more significant, but also much more satisfying.

-Do you see this event growing more in the upcoming years?
Free Comic Book Day has been growing for the last ten years and it sure looks like there’s a lot of life in it! This year, events will take place in 2000 stores in nearly 50 countries, with more than 3.5 million comics available to be given away.

-Are there any changes you think should be made with stores or the industry itself?
The most significant thing to come out of the success of Free Comic Book Day , in my estimation, is that it has led to many retailers working much more effectively on reaching outside of their stores to find new customers, to do more events, to really integrate their comics’ businesses in with the overall business of entertainment.

-Anything else you would like to add?
Comics are a lot more than just being about whatever the latest super-hero movie is. If you like to read, if you enjoy reading novels or you enjoy going to art galleries, if you enjoy any of the visual arts, then I maintain that regularly visiting a well-stocked comic book specialty store is definitely worth outing on your “to do” list. Comic books and graphic novels are the white-hot core of visual entertainment!

Every Batman Comic is the Same – Why Doesn’t It Matter?

I just finished reading the newest of “Batman” and like the previous 5 issues before it, is top notch. The entire story arc has shown Batman at his most vulnerable, most insane and most beaten, yet somehow he fights through and wins anyway just because he can’t allow himself to ever fail at anything.

That is all fine and good, however isn’t that like almost every other Batman story (and most other comics while we’re at it)?  Batman had his back broken by Bane. Came back and beat him. He’s been drugged an left for dead by the Black Glove. Nothing a mind trip to bring out the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh can’t fix. He’s even come back from the past after being blown away by Darkseid. I recently reread an old comic that I had found. “Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight” #34 from 1992. It’s the concluding issue to a story where Batman has become increasingly ill and weak while in pursuit of a criminal. Alfred tries to get him to rest. Batman’s mind keeps moving as he dreams about his parents being killed and he is eventually able to overcome his physical issues to defeat the bad guy. Sound familiar? Check out this except from that now 20 year old issue:

I'm so defeated right now

“Can’t think about how I feel. Focus…my vision doubling…blurring…can’t let it — Can’t think about — Have to move. Move”

Now here is a section from “Batman” #6 that came out Wednesday:

“No…no strength left. Blood f-filling the wrong…all the wrong places. Whole body…every bone…saying let go. Let go…and let them take you. Let it end. The pain. The fight. Become a ghost, a face behind the glass. A face…his face…Alan Wayne. His face…so scared. Begging…calling out for someone. Someone to help him…to help him stop…them. Enough. ENOUGH!”

While the writing is certainly a bit more detailed, the theme remains the same. Somewhere in every Batman comic you will find something to the extent of “So much pain…can’t breath…can’t move. Have to move. Good, I’m moving” followed by Batman then beating the tar out of whoever pummeled him in the first place. It’s the comic book version of Hulk Hogan “Hulking up” and no selling at the end of every match to win. Now I’m not trying to pick out a flaw with Batman here. Like I said before, pretty much every comic book, and when you think about it every action movie as well, hits the same point. Hero gets damaged seemingly beyond repair, yet fights the odds to succeed anyway. Heard it a million times. What I am asking though is why doesn’t it matter with Batman? Other comics go through similar motions yet the quality waivers. Daredevil and Spider-Man for example go through periods of pour reviews only to return to our good graces without changing too much of the general tone. Every Batman issue isn’t considered a masterpiece, but they do seem to be held above anyone else.

Sweet! I can totally move again!

You could say the writing and production is just better. It would certainly make sense that the biggest brand would get the best staff to work on it so naturally the final product is better. If that is it then DC must really hate Superman. You can also argue that since he has no powers he is more relatable to the readers. Wouldn’t that make Punisher more popular too? A case could also be made that Batman’s rogues gallery add something different than any other book. Each villain attacks him from a different angle. Sure they all attack him physically, but Joker goes after his sanity, Scarecrow goes after his fears, Two-Face on his own duality and so on. The Court of Owls now moves in on what he thought he knew about his family and city, taking away his security. It’s never a question of can Batman beat someone in a fight. It’s usually more about dealing with the stress each battle puts on his mind. Is there a villain Wolverine has faced that doesn’t want to just punch him in the face?

I like to think that that’s the reason Batman is different. But at this point it could just be because he’s Batman, and we know him. By now we’ve had 8 movies, a ton of TV shows, and countless epic comic book adventures. We know what Batman is about. As long as the new books continue with the formula of him being smarter, tougher and better than everyone else at everything, will any of us complain? Maybe Batman gets away with repeating same formula because he did it first, and he did it best. It may not be much of an answer, but maybe we keep buying the same stories over an over just because he’s the goddamn Batman.

Uncharted 3 Proves Boss Fights Aren’t Everything

****MINOR SPOILERS****

Before I even say anything else, YES I AM INCREDIBLY LATE TO THE PARTY ON UNCHARTED 3. I guess that’s just what happens when you can’t afford to buy all of the major Christmas titles at the same time.

To be honest I also just wasn’t that exited for Uncharted 3. I loved Uncharted 2 but saw the third installment as being more of the same. Platform, solve puzzles, shoot and cover, lose a friend, get back with Elena and so on. Still fun, great story, amazing set pieces, cinematic visual quality, but nothing I couldn’t wait to spend money on. Hell, one of the main features they advertised was realistic sand! Big whoop.

Now that I’ve gone through Arkham City and the other games I deemed more important, I can say that Uncharted 3 made one major stride in gaming that other big developers should pay attention to. Boss fights, specifically end bosses, are no longer necessary.

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Just about every action game since the beginning of time has ended every level with a boss fight. Mario had to fight Bowser, Batman takes on someone from his rogues gallery, and even Nathan Drake in Uncharted 2 went against a helicopter, a beefy dude that for some reason is impervious to bullets, and in the end a superpowered mega-boss. In the old days when everything was about platforming a boss fight was necessary to provide a fitting end to a level. However in today’s ultra realistic, 3-D rendered, next gen era, the major boss fight doesn’t always need to be there. Everyone loved Arkham Asylum, but everyone hated that after going through the gauntlet of villains and getting sucked into an accurate portrayal of the Bat-universe, only to end with a Batman vs Super Joker end boss that a) would never happen, b) felt tacked on, and c) did not play well. If the game would have ended with the previous mass thug fight and lead to a final cut scene hitting essentially the same points they hit but without an actual Joker fight, it would have made much more sense and there would be a lot less complaining. Arkham City still ended with a big boss but it was having Clayface do the dirty work, which makes much more sense.

Uncharted 3 lets the situations direct the action and not try to shoehorn boss fights into a loaded story. When Drake is trying to escape a burning building filled with enemies, you do have to take care of everyone in the room before you can advance, but that’s only because they are trying to kill you. There isn’t a 7 foot tall man in a flame resistant suit at the front door keeping you from getting out. It actually makes sense. In today’s gaming world not every stage has to end with you being locked in a room with an seemingly unbeatable foe. If you’re in a burning building, sinking ship or crumbling city, why shoot the bad guys? Get out of there and let them burn!

No boss necessary

The end of the game really showcases this. After spending 20 minutes clumsily shooting blue exploding trees at the end of Uncharted 2, I fully expected a flying old lady with laser eyes to fight at the end of Uncharted 3. However after going through a demon filled dream sequence (slightly frustrated) and a baddie filled bridge, I watched the master plan be foiled via cut scene (a little annoyed I wasn’t able to take the shots), and watched the main villain die without having to lift a finger. After that it was one fist fight (hardly a boss), one shot, one great escape and roll credits. The closest thing to a real boss fight during the whole final stage was the dream sequence where heavy artillery was needed to take down the demons. Did I feel cheated? Hell no! It was a thrilling end to a thrilling game and I’ll be playing it again to relive it.

God of War 3 took the first step toward this with the final big fight only being a part of the overall ending, sending you through Kratos’ own subconscious before wrapping everything up. Uncharted 3 goes one step further. When an entire level is so entertaining and challenging, why throw in a boss fight just because that’s what we all expect? When video games are capable of such impressive cinematic experiences to go along with great game play, story matters. Thankfully Naughty Dog didn’t let old video game staples get in the way of that with Uncharted 3. Now if we can just do something about the Liquid Ocelot fight at the end of MGS4.