Tag Archives: gotham

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.

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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.

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.