Lucien’s Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

batman-the-killing-jokeOne of the biggest comics of all time has finally been made into a movie.  I’m honestly surprised it took this long.  It’s probably the most well-known of Alan Moore’s comics, and for good reason.  The visuals, the incredibly dark story, and the cryptic ending that a lot of people have had some very interesting discussions about.  It’s all very cool, and while I’m not a comic book person, even I have to respect the classics such as that.  This film was created in the vein of the best of that.  At least, when it was telling the story of the comic.  When it wasn’t, this movie has one of the most surreal subplots that goes from 0-60 in a nanosecond.  It was seriously so jarring that I was given whiplash.  I don’t get how this movie was able to do this.  They could have easily followed the plot of the comic and it would have been a short but sweet film.  Most of my review, in fact, is going to focus on that subplot, because it is such a problem.  But let’s get down to the nit and grit first.

I won’t give a plot summary.  If you know anything about Batman comics, you already know what it is.  Joker is getting his dander up about fucking with Batman’s day, by putting a bullet into Barbara Gordon’s back and terrorizing her father.  That should have been all of the plot, but nope!  Still not where I want to be to talk about the biggest flaw in this movie, so let’s get some other stuff out of the way.

The animation of this movie isn’t superb, which is a little strange.  I may not always like the movies from WB Animation, but I have always seen their animation as spot-on.  It’s really something.  Especially the action sequences.  For the flaws of the films from this studio, the slick action has always been something that I have enjoyed.  And to this movie’s credit, when it wants to shine, it does.  But it’s just so ho-hum the rest of the time.  It’s kind of like a typical episode of Batman: The Animated Series.  My biggest problem with this episode takes pretty much the runtime of an average episode of that series, so maybe it fits.

When it comes to the acting, we got some of the best.  We got Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their iconic roles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The girl who played Batgirl is also pretty good.  I think they even got the butler from The Animated Series too..  That was a nice touch.

But now we get to the part that I want to talk about.  This isn’t really one movie.  It’s a movie and an episode of The Animated Series.  The first 28 minutes of this film is literally some other movie.  It has absolutely ZERO connection to the events that follow it.  None.  It tells the story of a case surrounding a man who has a creepy obsession with Batgirl.  This plot has zero relevance to what happens later.  Absolute zero.  You could cut it out of the film and it wouldn’t hurt a thing.  I am just trying to understand why it is in here.  For real, why?  I’m about to spoil this subplot, but since it does absolutely zip to affect the rest of the film, that doesn’t do any damage.

What’s more, it’s a strange as fuck subplot too.  You have this guy who is obsessed with Batgirl.  Okay.  You have Batgirl and Batman investigating, and there being some tension between the two.  Okay.  Then you find out from Barbara talking to her gay friend that she is into some guy who is an authority figure in her life.  Gee, I wonder who that is.  Okay.  This is the kind of stuff that really should have been spaced out more.  You have what would be two or three episodes worth of personal exploration in the series that this animation is riffing on condensed into 15 minutes of plot.  The pacing of this little “episode” is just nuts!  There is something about how Batgirl won’t know what it is to be in her position unless she goes to the edge.  Alright.  Then sex!  Wait, what?  As I said, 0-60 in a nanosecond.

The choices done in making this part of the film just baffles me.  Why do this?  The plot of “The Killing Joke” is all you need.  For real, that’s it.  All you’d have to do is have that plot.  The movie would be half an hour shorter, sure, but whatever.  Why add this on when it literally goes nowhere and once it’s done you are basically told to forget about it.  Hell, the movie even tells you to forget about it.  With some stupid narration that opens and closes the “episode,” you as an audience member are told to forget about it.  It is impossible for me to fathom why this choice was made.  It brings the pace of this movie to a grinding halt and leaves you feeling like your time was wasted because the film even tells you that it was meaningless.  I don’t get this.  It’s pissing me off.  Part of me wishes that there was some whole other movie made to explain this, because you are basically force-fed through exposition that Barbara is into Batman.  Where did this come from?

This has NOTHING to do with the whole “bat-sex” thing that so many critics like Angry Joe got on.  I don’t care about that.  If B-man and B-girl want to get their freak on, that’s fine.  But I need to care about it.  I need to care about why this is happening.  But I don’t.  It’s packed into another movie that has NOTHING to do with this plot.  That’s my problem here.

All in all, this isn’t a bad movie.  For real, when we get to the part that is the namesake of this movie, it’s actually pretty good.  However, to get there, we have to wade through a subplot that is like a drive-by episode of The Animated Series.  After a year of bad DC films, I was really hoping that this would be the one to make it all better.  But nope.  It was just another so-so movie to add to the pile.  And all thanks to that retarded subplot.  What a shame.

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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Top 10 Batman: Arkham Series Boss Battles

Among the series that have had the best boss battles, near the top is the Batman: Arkham franchise.  Aside from the most recent (and shitty) entry in the franchise, they all have had some phenomenal boss battles.  Whether they be unique, challenging, or straight-up fun, some of these boss battles are the most fun I have had in years.  It really is a pity that the third game decided to suck so bad in this regard.  But I guess they had more important things to do.  Like focus on that STUPID bat-tank nonsense.  I really do hate that game so much.  It was the most disappointing game I have ever played.  Objectively, it isn’t bad, but I was so disappointed.  That game is boring.  The worst offense.  Wow, got off-topic.  Here is a list of the top 10 bosses in a franchise that could have rewritten the rules for superhero games forever.  If only it had ended on a higher note.

Man-Bat10. Man-Bat
Arkham Knight
Well, if the game has to eschew bosses in the name of bat-tank stuff, one of the few bosses it does have might as well be cool.  And this boss was cool.  Very, very cool.  Not only does it come right the fuck out of nowhere, but there is a pretty depressing story connected to it.  You get to go through the history of this villain and discover that it was just a deaf man trying to regain his hearing.  To do so, he became a monster and murdered the love of his life.  Fighting this guy was tricky.  You had to find him whenever he would show up, and then get on his back.  Easier said than done.  A fight with all kinds of presence and one of the best jump-scares I’ve had in a while.  Much fun.

Firefly9. Firefly
Arkham Origins
No, we’re not talking about the version in Arkham Knight.  That was more boredom involving the Bat-tank.  God I hate that vehicle and everything associated with it.  However, the version in Arkham Origins is just awesome.  Not only is this fight challenging, but it is intense!  You have this guy burning everything around him.  He cooks an entire bridge to get what he wants.  After you dodge him and hit him with projectiles, then you have to hang on for dear life as he flies away.  This fight is all about adrenaline, and I kinda like that.  Arkham Origins might have been a bit copy-past from Arkham City, but the boss fights in this game make it all worth it.  As you’ll see further up the list.

Poison Ivy8. Poison Ivy
Arkham Asylum
Everything building to this fight is just awesome.  You first go into Ivy’s greenhouse and it’s pretty standard.  The place is overrun with plants, but that’s to be expected.  However, all hell breaks loose when Joker hits Ivy with the TITAN formula.  Then the growth goes out of control.  In order to stop it, you gotta cut off the source.  But Ivy isn’t about to let you damage her plants.  Now you gotta beat her and the plant life down.  It’s a fight where you are not only fighting her plants, spores, and mind-controlled minions, but the lady herself is protected within her plants.  As the prelude to the final act of the game, it’s a pretty awesome fight.  A pity that the final boss was so dull.  Oh well.  You win some, you lose some.

Solomon Grundy7. Solomon Grundy
Arkham City
Everything leading to this fight is just great.  As is the case in all the boss battles in Arkham City.  You are finally taking Penguin down.  It’s pretty cathartic.  But just as you are wrapping things up, the bird has one last surprise.  Deep within the bowels of his club, there is the immortal, unkillable monster Solomon Grundy.  This guy is tough!  There is no way to face him head on.  All you can do is cut off his power source, then bring on the hurt.  But be careful.  Along the way, he will be working to beat your ass down.  And even once you finally put him in his place, the monster then tries to use the power source itself to kill you.  Guy does not go down without a serious fight.

Killer Croc6. Killer Croc
Arkham Asylum
If there is a fight where you have to constantly be keeping an eye on your surroundings, it’s the one against Killer Croc.  You are locked into a sewer with him.  Your only means of getting around is via boardwalks above.  But if you walk too fast on them, you will alert Croc to your presence.  When he does come at you, all you can do is hit his shock collar with a batarang before he gets to you.  Once he closes the distance, it’s all over.  What’s more, you aren’t even in his lair to fight him.  You’re there to collect spores.  So you are having to constantly keep your eye out, in more ways than one.  Intense is the word for this fight!

Ra's al Ghul5. Ra’s al Ghul
Arkham City
I find it kind of interesting that this entire battle is a battle where the goal is for nobody to die.  Only Batman can make a statement about how nobody will die sound badass.  That’s kind of awesome.  But this is an awesome fight.  You go between the world of Batman’s delusion that is being supplied by the Blood of the Demon, and the real world.  Part of me wonders if he is fighting nothing for extended periods of time and Ra’s and Talia are just standing there dumbfounded.  That would be kind of funny.  But then Ra’s jumps in and Bruce’s sense of presence makes him defend himself.  Whatever the case, it is an awesome fight, and a very cool way to close out the second act of the game.

Scarecrow4. Scarecrow
Arkham Asylum
The thing about this fight is the fact that it is so involved.  The lead-in is awesome.  You are first in the morgue, and see Bruce’s dead parents.  Then there is a scene where it looks like the game is broken, and you start over.  But the Asylum is different.  Each fear cutscene leads into an instance where you have to hide from Scarecrow’s eyes.  The moment he sees you, you die.  The only way you can escape from his nightmares is to get to the bat-signal and shine it at him.  It is probably the most indirect boss fight in the series, but it is still awesome.

Deathstroke3. Deathstroke
Arkham Origins
As I said, whatever the flaws of this game, it was totally worth it for the boss fights.  This is the most adrenaline-fueled of all the boss fights.  It is also the closest I have ever been in a game to feeling like it’s a true fight between two skilled martial-artists.  Deathstroke is an awesome fighter, and so is Batman.  The two are mono-e-mono, and all you can do is beat down Slade’s defenses until you finally best him.  On the higher difficulties, any mistake can be your last.  It’s so intense!  That’s kind of awesome.  I want more boss fights like this.  It could only happen in a game where it is mostly about countering mechanics.

Mr. Freeze2. Mr. Freeze
Arkham City
From the stance of pure inventiveness, this boss fight is probably the best that has ever been made.  It’s a fight where you are constantly having to think.  Since you can’t take Freeze head-on, you have to do battle with him covertly.  But there’s a catch.  Every time you attack him from a certain vantage point, like from a ledge or a grate, he will then eliminate that method of attack.  Like he will freeze ledges so you can’t climb on them, or electronic generators that can suck him in when magnetized.  The sheer level of place and having to think on your feet makes this fight totally worth it.  It would be at the top of the list, were it not for one special boss, that most of you probably see coming, given another list I have done.  This was an awesome fight, in the best game in the franchise.  What more do you need?

And the best boss fight in the Arkham franchise is….

Clayface1. Clayface
Arkham City
This boss fight is not only my favorite boss in this franchise, it’s one of my favorite final bosses of all time.  It has everything going for it.  All the twists and turns of this game all culminate here.  You learn that Joker was manipulating everything in this game up to this point.  You have the love of Bruce’s life getting shot and killed in front of him.  You learn that Clayface was Joker’s stand-in, and was there so that he could have the ultimate role to play.  It all comes to a head, when you have to use every trick you have to take down this clay monsters.  After you beat him down to a certain point, Joker blows up the floor and you’re in the room with the Lazarus Pit.  Clayface dispatches clay minions to attack you, and you get to employ Talia’s sword to take them down.  Finally, you get the cure out of Clayface, and the fight ends in one of the greatest ending sequences of all time.  This game is so awesome, and I love this final boss fight so much.  Kills me that the ending to the entire series couldn’t be so good.  But I guess they needed more bat-tank stuff.  Fuck that game.

What are your favorite boss fights in this franchise?  Let me know down in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“You weren’t even supposed to be in  here, Karlov.  Why sign on with Joker?” -Batman
“Easy.  For the role of a lifetime!”  -Clayface, Batman: Arkham City

Peace out,

Maverick

I Think Your Love of Batman Has Clouded Your Vision (A response to Shaun Joy)

Another instance where I am about to show that I can have a civil discussion with someone whose work I have a very massive disagreement with.  I am friends with Shaun on Twitter, and we have had some good discussions about games and various elements in games for some time.  However, I haven’t always agreed with him, and there are times when I have enjoyed some civil disagreement.  I am about to do that here.  See, I think that Tech Raptor’s writer, Shaun Joy, has become blinded by his love of the character of Batman to see the truth about this character, and why I find him fascinating.  In a recent article, there was a case made that Batman is truly separate from the Joker because of his refusal to kill.  I am not going to respond to this article point by point, as I have with others.  Instead, I shall give you a link to the article, and talk about it as a whole.

I make no secret of my disappointment in Arkham Knight.  Not only do I consider it a poor ending to the franchise, but I also think that it took a LOT of steps backwards in the way they were portraying this character up til now. So, instead of looking at this game, let’s rewind to the last one – Arkham City.  I don’t count Arkham Origins, because initially, Rocksteady said that they didn’t count it as part of their saga.  I guess WB got some pressure on them.  A dick move, but what can ya do?  But yeah, that game aside, let’s look at the last entry in the franchise.

See, I don’t see Batman as a hero.  I see him as something of an anti-hero..  There’s a reason for this.  Shaun makes the point that killing is utterly against Batman’s code, but the way I see it, that doesn’t make him a hero.  Arkham Asylum was an excellent game, but it was very standard hero fare.  You have a villain, the hero swoops in and saves the day.  Yay!  But Arkham City went a little deeper.  They actually examined the very violent side of Batman that has always fascinated me.  The thing is – killing people is the ONLY thing that Batman won’t do.  That’s how he justifies the awful things he does.  It’s an easy out that he has to not feel like a murderer.  He will bust bones, destroy bodies and threaten everything up to death.  If you ask me, the reason that he doesn’t kill is because of the other thing that I believe is so powerful with him.

While I am remiss to agree with Ben Kuchera on anything, I will give that I believe that Batman and the Joker are a lot closer than one would think.  I think the Joker was on to something when he brings up in the church tower that there may come a point where one of them is staring down at the dead body of the other and wondering what to do next.  I think that Batman needed him.  I think that the Joker represented a reason for his actions.  See, Batman does terrible things.  He abuses his power with absolute abandon.  He views violence as the first and only solution to any situation.  He will beat anyone.  There was a great point made in an article where the fact that Harley’s pregnancy tests come back negative is a result of Batman throwing her against a wall.  If it was any other studio, I would think that it was just a false positive (it happens more than you think, with take-home pregnancy tests), but this is Rocksteady.  They know what they’re doing.  Violence is the first, last, and ONLY thing he uses to solve his problems.  There never comes a point where he doesn’t see it as a means to an end.  Never does he moralize that he might be on the wrong side of the law.  In his mind, his crazed violent abandon is for the greater good.

But what is this greater good?  That’s easy – the Joker.  That unrestrained psychopath is the reason that his violence is given necessity.  All the more poignant, considering that Batman made him.  The Arkham games follow the Red Hood origin for the character.  He made this monster.  His need for violence made him.  A need that he vaguely was able to justify by using the death of his parents.  That was his ability to give himself an excuse.  But then comes the Joker.  A monster who views killing as the solution, even when there is no problem.  His chaos says to kill people.  Why?  Reasons.  Reasons that nobody understands.

There is even a moment in Arkham City where Batman actually starts to hash this out.  He is staring at the cure, knowing for a fact that giving it to the clown will only cause more violence and death.  Everything tells him that the greater good would be served by letting him die.  But he can’t stop himself.  That makes it so telling how, in the Joker’s final moments, the two actually do share a genuinely human moment together.  He tells the clown a joke, and they get to have some emotional connection.  This monster, that he should absolutely hate, is the closest thing that he has to an emotional connection.  Look at the other person he connects with – Talia al Ghul.  She’s a daughter of a criminal mastermind.  Bruce Wayne is only able to truly connect with the monsters in his double-life.

If you ask me, Arkham City was a critique of this character, and to be honest, it was rather scathing.  It made a character who is supposed to be a great hero out to be a violent thug, who has a need for violence.  He is willing to let all the criminals in Arkham City die in order to save the only other person he shares a connection with.  That’s what makes the final scene in the game so powerful.  Was he carrying Talia out of the theater?  No.  He was carrying the Joker.  The only person that he genuinely had a connection with.  I love that game because it didn’t shy away from the darkness of its premise, and took it to the next level.  It’s the thing that bothered me so much about Arkham Knight.  It’s like Warner Brothers took Rocksteady aside and said, “yeah, we can’t have you going too dark.  Make sure you tell the audience repeatedly about how Batman doesn’t kill, and how he is such a great guy.  Make sure that we know how wonderful the guy is, and take away all that moral uncertainty.  Gamers just want a hero fantasy.”  And we got it.  We got to “Be the Bat.”  Because hard moral questions about uncomfortable characters are too difficult for us, apparently.

Maybe I carried on my pretentious rant a bit long.  But it was an interesting article of Shaun’s, and I hope that he can take this with the same grain of salt that I took his work.  I look forward to any potential discussion.

Until next time, a quote,

“Confusing, isn’t it?  I know I’d want to know just what the hell is going on if I were you.  Let’s just say, at times like these, it’s best to keep up appearances.  But first, if you would be so kind – hand over my cure!”  -The Joker, Batman: Arkham City

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Jared Leto’s Joker

When I saw that DC is trying to follow in Marvel’s footsteps with their own cinematic universe, I was skeptical.  Partly because I think that they are a little late to the party, and partly because I think that the new Superman was boring and Ben Affleck’s Batman will be sup-par.  The new trailer for Batman vs. Superman didn’t help.

When I heard they were making a live action movie based on the Suicide Squad plot, that got me thinking that there might be hope.  Because I just saw a rather enjoyable animated version of the same thing.  Of course, that film had Troy Baker’s absolutely stunning Joker.  For real, he was able to take the reigns from Mark Hamill in a way that I wouldn’t have imagined.  But then, it’s Troy Baker.  If anyone can do it, it’s him.  He’s arguably the best voice actor working today.

When I heard that Jared Leto would be taking the role of the Joker, I was…unsure.  I mean, he’s not really been in anything.  At first, I confused him with the sexiness that was the guy who played the Winter Soldier, but that’s Sebastian Stan.  Yum.  In any case, I didn’t know what to think about this character.  Then they released an image of what he’s going to look like…

Jared Leto JokerBefore we get to talking about this, let me preface what I am about to say by saying that there are plenty of Joker iterations that are unique.  A lot of people gave Troy Baker’s Joker in Arkham Origins shit because they had the Joker in a leather coat was a bad call.  I don’t.  Mostly because, again, Troy Baker.  For real, this guy is just awesome.  But this Joker doesn’t look the part.  AT ALL!

I mean, am I the only person who thinks that those tattoos are just totally unsubtle?  I mean, “damaged”?  Really?  Yeah, that totally isn’t overkill.  Then there’s all the “Ha”s on him.  It’s all so lacking in naunce or uniqueness.  I am cool with the Joker having ink.  No joke, that part doesn’t bother me one bit.  But there are so many unique tattoos to work with!  The Joker is complicated.  He’s strange.  He doesn’t do things for reasons people understand.  If the Joker gets a tat, I always saw it as something absurd, for no reason.  Like Rainbow Dash with her head shoved up her ass or something like that.  Something where you are left wondering why, and then you realize – asking why is not the thing to do.  There is no why.  Then you see a tattoo of Tweety Bird or something.  Just a bunch of absurdity that you can’t help but be amazed and confused by.  That’s the Joker!  Not some skull with a jester hat.  That feels like it was decided by executives who sat around asking – what’s popular with the kids these days?

Then, there’s the fact that this Joker looks like a juggalo.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why this bothers me.  Those guys are about as subtle as a brick being dropped on your foot!  Part of what made the Joker such a cool character is the fact that you could never tell what he was thinking.  When he was dangerous, he was really dangerous, but you didn’t see it coming.  You never knew how to feel.  He could sing love songs to Batman, like in this video here.

And then kill people.  No rhyme, no reason.  By the way, the dude who is sporting the look in that short fan film has it down to a fault.  No joke, I’m impressed.  And whoever did the singing voice, you sir, need more work.

All of this being said, let me make one thing clear – I am totally open to Jared Leto blowing us out of the park with an amazing performance.  If he makes a new version of the Joker, then I think it could work.  Plenty of versions have worked.  From the campy Romero Joker, to the mixture of funny and deranged Nicholson Joker, to the quirky violent charm of Hamill’s Joker, and the terrifying darkness of Ledger’s Joker.  All of these are good and different.  If Leto knocks this out of the park, then you know what – I’m happy.  But this look doesn’t impress me.  And if the Joker is sporing the Juggalo look, then I have worries about what Harley’s look is going to be.  If I see Juggalo Harley, I’m done.  No joke, I’m done with this movie.

Your move, DC.

Initial Verdict
4 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

How the Story Should End (where it began)

The drive felt so much longer than it should have.  Where once he had made this trip without a moment’s hesitation, now it felt like he was a tiger, walking the path on his way to the end.  The bridge was faded and cracked, it hadn’t been used in so long.  The gate hung open.  The old sign was taken down, replaced by TYGER.  They had taken ownership of the island, after the incident, all those years ago.  It was where they launched their helicopters, to patrol the super-prison that looked a lot like this place.
The sign on the gate was still there.  Arkham Asylum.  It felt like an eternity since he had made this drive.  The last time, the Joker was in the passenger side of his vehicle, babbling to himself.  The memory flashed in front of him as he stopped in front of Intensive Treatment Center.  The long-dead roots of Ivy’s plants were still there.  The place looked like a rotting wound.  No light but moonlight.  He walked inside, and it was like he could see the memories coming back.  The Joker’s escape, him giving chase.
A voice could suddenly be heard.  “Does it bring back memories, Batman?  How many times did you come through here, condemning people to a life of torture and misery?  This was not a place of healing.  It was a house for the truly mad, where even the guards were deranged.  No one who came in here left better for the experience.”
He looked around, but the voice was on the radio.  That was when he noticed a series of lights.  They were leading him somewhere.  Through the halls he walked, following the lights.  The voice was right.  There were so many memories.  So many times when he had taken in prisoners.  After Strange was killed, files were given to the press.  The voice was right.  The Asylum was not a place of healing.  It was a place of pain.  What had been done here, who could have imagined?  The nightmares that so many must have endured, it defied comprehension.  Had he been an accomplice in this?  No, he was just trying to keep the streets of Gotham safe.  Right?  This nagging doubt had been at him for years, following the death of the Joker.  A doubt that he couldn’t quite describe.  Like he felt he had done something, and now there was no going back.  Why did the voice know this?

Eventually, the lights got him back outside.  He walked down more paths.  He looked over toward the Gardens, seeing the windows busted in and most everything that once grew was dead.  The rain was starting again, yet the clouds didn’t cover the moon.  It was almost surreal.  Like a wonderland of lights.  Then he caught sight of where he was being led to – the Visitor’s Center.  The place where his final confrontation of the Joker took place.  There were no fireworks, this time.  There were no thugs to greet him.  In fact, everything was so quiet, save the rain.  The memories all came back.  The most insane patients, attacking him.  Ivy’s pods, throwing spores at him.  The dead guards, left in the dirt to rot.  This place was like a grim memorial.
The Visitor’s Center hung open like a rotting wound.  There was the faded wooden planks, where there was still some of the Joker’s face painted on.  Had it been so long, since he had been here?  Seven years.  It felt like an eternity.  Walking inside, the lights led him further in.  He knew where the voice wanted him to go – to the place of the final battle.  Why?
He walked in to the large room.  The grim alter where the Joker’s throne sat was still there.  The hole in the ceiling had rain pouring in.  On the throne, there was the voice.  At long last, he was facing him.  The Arkham Knight.
“So, you finally arrived.  I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”
A dark anger came back.  “It’s over, Arkham Knight.  I stopped Scarecrow’s bombs.  I’ve stopped all your accomplices.  Whatever you were planning, it’s done now.  Now I’ve come for you.”
There was a cold laugh.  “Oh, all of that was just window dressing.  I needed their help to get my plan into action.  I won’t deny, part of me wanted to see you fail.  But I always knew that you wouldn’t.  It’s in your blood.  You never give up.  You never give in.  You always keep going, even if you know that what you’re doing is wrong.  And it’s fitting, that it all ends here.  Here is where it all started.  Here is where all of this truly began.  I could have taken you to Crime Alley.  I could have gone back to The Monarch, but in reality, it all truly began here, so many years ago.”
Something about how specific all those examples were alarmed and confused the Dark Knight.  “What are you talking about?”
“Time and time again, you have come to this place.  Dropping off monsters who repeatedly broke out.  Who could never be cured by this place’s madness.  Who had no hope of getting better.  You kept bringing them here.  The alternative was so obvious, so simple.  If there wasn’t a prison that could hold them, or a way to make them better, what else could you do?  You weren’t able to bring yourself to do what needed to be done.  You weren’t able to bring yourself to do what must be done.  You weren’t man enough to end them, once and for all.”
The doubt came back.  There was a dark thought in his mind, that he couldn’t quite understand.  He shook his head, trying to clear it.  “I’m not a murderer!  I’m not like the people here.  I have a code!”
Another cold laugh.  “A code?!  Don’t make me laugh!  The truth is, your code is the only thing that keeps you from turning in to one of these people!”  He hopped down from the throne.  “The truth is, your code is just an illusion, to convince you of something that we both know is true – you belong here, Bruce!”
There was a feeling of shock.  “How do you know who I am?!”
“Oh, I know all sorts of things about you, Bruce.  I know that you watched your parents die in front of you.  I know that you became deranged by the experience, to the point where you had to get revenge, in the only way that made you feel good – with force.  You trained yourself, to the point where your body couldn’t take anymore.  Then, you took all the wealth and power that you have and, instead of actually helping the people of Gotham, you decided to dress up like a bat and put all that training to work, beating and brutalizing anyone who you could justify attacking.  You used force as your first and only solution.  You should have been sent to prison by now, except that Gordon is a soft-hearted fool.  He didn’t see the truth that is so clear – that you belong here in Arkham, surrounded by the monsters that you created.  In all reality, it is because of you that this city suffers.  It’s all your fault, for each and every person that the lunatic you fought in this room has killed everyone he killed.”
He let each word wash over him.  The Arkham Knight was wrong.  He was protecting the people of Gotham.  Then there was that doubt again.  How many of the people he fought did he make?  Wouldn’t it have been better to kill them?  Would Harvey have turned out how he did if he had just killed Falcone?  Then there was the memory that was bothering him most – the night the Joker died.
Back at the theater, he held the vial with the cure for their affliction in his hand.  He took half of it, cured.  He looked down at the other half, and remembered…

‘Quick, give me the cure!  What are you waiting for?  Come on!  I killed your girlfriend, poisoned half of Gotham and hell, it’s not even breakfast.  But so what?  We all know you’ll save me.’
He stared down at the vial.  ‘Every decision you’ve ever made ends with death and misery.  People die, I stop you.  You’ll just break out and do it again.’

Why did he do it?  Why did he keep saving him?  Why on Earth would have save a person that deranged?  What was it?  As the Joker died, he told him a joke.  In that last moment, the two shared a genuinely human moment together.  Part of him felt like he also died in the theater that night.  He told himself that he blamed himself for not being able to save the Joker.  But that never felt right.  It felt like he had lost something.  Something he would never get back.  Why would the Arkham Knight bring that up?
The Bat looked up at him.  “Who are you?”
Reaching back, the Knight tapped something on his mask.  He reached up and pulled it off.  It was almost surreal.  He could have been a carbon-copy of Bruce Wayne, albeit much younger, and a little more tan.  “My name is Damian.  Damian Wayne.  Although, I guess that using your last time is a bit presumptuous.  After all, you were never married to mother.  So then, I guess it’s Damian Al Ghul.”
“No…”
He smiled at him.  “That’s right?  Remember that night you spent with mother in Metropolis, so many years ago?  Born a rich boy, but you never thought to wear a condom?  Well, I guess love makes people do stupid things.”
The Dark Knight was in shock.  “Why did she never tell me?!”
A darker look came.  “She meant to, after you took your place with her as the head of the League of Assassins.  But we all know how that turned out, didn’t it?  You killed grand-father and then let the Joker kill her.  Just to make it better, you destroyed the Lazarus Pit, so they couldn’t be revived.  Both of them remained dead, and I had to grow up alone.  All of Grandfather’s wealth came to me, and I used all of it to become the perfect warrior, as you had done.  I learned from the greatest teachers, and then former my own organization, all for one purpose – destroying you.  It took me years, but I finally got everything in place, for tonight!  When I could finally face you, and I would be able to destroy the legendary Batman!”
As he listened, he felt something get even more numb inside him.  He reached back behind his mask as well, undoing the bindings.  He took it off, throwing it to the ground.  “So, now I’m going to have to fight you.  Fight my own son.  I’m going to have to fight it out with you.  With the League’s connections, you would be out of jail in under an hour.  So what – we keep doing this until one of us is dead?”
Damian took his sidearm and raised it.  “That’s about the big and small of it.”
Bruce shook his head.  “No.  I’m not doing this.  I’m not fighting my own flesh and blood until either he or I is dead.  You’re right, Talia’s death is my fault.  I can’t apologize for that, so you know what, do it.  Take your revenge, right here.  End this pathetic game, and then maybe all of this madness will stop.”
His son lowered his weapon, almost in shock.  “You would do that?  You would just lay down and die?!”  Anger was bubbling up.  “You dare just let me take your life?!  You would dare try and justify this as noble?!  To Hell with you!  I won’t let it end this way!  You went on and on about how what you were doing was the right thing.  Now defend it!  Fight, until the bitter end!  Let me earn my place as the one who killed-!”
There was a loud crack.  It came from the door behind Bruce.  He turned and saw Harley Quinn standing there, .45 in hand.
“If anyone’s going to kill B-Man, it’s going to be me!”
Damian fell to his knees, then falling to his face.
She turned the gun on Bruce.  “Yeah, like that?  I offed your little boy right in front of you!  Just like how you hauled out Mr. J in front of me!  Does it feel good, B-Man!  This is all your fault!”  Her voice was a combination of rage and sobs.  “Now you get to live knowing that the only person you really had is dead!  I fucking hate you!  The only perk is that I’ll get to tell Mr. J that I got you for him.  See you in Hell, B-Man!”  She turned the gun on herself and fired.  There was a burst of steam from where a hole now was in her head.  Quinn crumpled to the floor, and Bruce was left in there, with two dead bodies.
He fell to his knees, letting out a scream of rage and pain.  In that moment, he felt all the dedication and drive shrivel up and fall away.  He picked up his mask and walked off, back toward his vehicle.

When he returned to the cave, he saw Barbara waiting for him.
“Bruce…” she breathed, seeming to not know what to say.
He took off the pieces of the Batsuit, putting them all back in their proper place.  As he did so, he walked over to the Batcomputer.  There was a special code, one that existed for if the Batcave was ever compromised.  He entered it.
Barbara looked up in shock.  “What are you doing?!”
The entire system started going haywire, then went black.
Bruce looked at her, and for the first time, she saw tears on his face.  Never, in their entire working relationship, had he ever cried.  Ever.  He was always a rock.
“I’m done, Barbara.  I can’t do this anymore.  Let someone else take over.  Anyone.  I don’t care.  Alfred passed away.  Dick is in New York.  Tim is dead.  I just watched my son die in front of me, killed by the only person who ever truly understood me.  I don’t care what happens to Gotham.  I’m done.”  He headed for the stairs.  “Batman is no more.  You should go home.  Be with your father.”  Most of the room went dark.
For the last time, Barbara stared at the cave.  It was several hours before she wheeled out, heading home.

Until next time, a quote,

“Is it possible that the two of us, you and I, have grown so old and so inflexible that we have outlived our usefulness?  Would that constitute a joke?”  -Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Batman: Assault on Arkham

Batman Assault on ArkhamThis is the second film by Warner Bros. Animation studio that I have seen.  And, just like the last one, it has a lot of very admirable qualities, and a lot of really dull ones that make this film excellent for a night with popcorn, but not a movie that we will be revisiting in the future.  Made me think of Pacific Rim, which is another film with that quality.  That’s not to say that it’s a bad movie.  It really isn’t.  But I doubt that I’ll ever watch it again.  Still, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Let’s talk about the film, first, then we’ll go into its flaws.

Set in the same universe as Rocksteady’s Arkham franchise, this happens somewhere before the first game.  They don’t say where, specifically, it is, but you don’t really need to know.  The story begins with a woman who works for the US government in cahoots with the Riddler.  She tries to double-cross him after he double-crosses her.  When Batman interferes, she forms a squad of some of the deadliest and worst criminals she can find.  With each of them having a bomb implanted inside them, they are tasked with breaking into Arkham and getting the data that Riddler has back.  It’s a suicide mission, in every sense of the word.  Meanwhile, the Bat has his own objective and time is of the essence.  Especially once the biggest of Arkham’s residents gets involved.

Now, talking about the elements of the film, much like the last film from this studio that I watched, the fight sequences are buttery-smooth.  For real, nobody can make action scenes with animation like these people.  Well, with the possible exception of Madhouse.  But these people know their stuff when it comes to making a fight scene that is great to watch.  This film was almost wall-to-wall action and it made the most of every frame of that.  Despite this studio’s shortcomings in terms of story and character, it can do action like nobody else.

Then there is the characters.  The suicide squad can be loads of fun.  There are a couple characters who just tickle me pink.  There is the always-fun Harley Quinn, who is voiced by the same woman who did the character in Arkham City.  Then there is a woman named Frost, who is voiced by one of my favorite voice-actresses – Jennifer Hale.  For real, everything she voices is instantly gold.  The woman has a gift.  She is paired up with a monster called Killer Shark, which is clearly a riff on Killer Croc.  Still, the little bond that forms between Shark and Frost is fun to watch.  Then there is my favorite element – Troy Baker’s Joker!  Troy Baker is back, doing the voice of the best of Batman’s rogue gallery.  He is an awesome replacement for Mark Hamill, and he does great here.  Kevin Conroy is doing his gig as Batman, but he is in this movie for so little an amount of time that it almost doesn’t matter.

Which brings me to the film’s shortcomings.  Like the last film from this studio that I watched, Son of Batman, this movie is WAY too short.  You have almost no time to care about the characters.  You get a little bit of a chummy and adversarial bond that forms between certain members, but it never really goes anywhere.  Then you have the plot, which is bare-bones.  This is especially annoying, given how this should have been a lot darker.  They could have spent some time at the Asylum and really gotten us a look at things there, in a more typical capacity.  Maybe show some more of the rogues gallery.  But no, it’s short, direct, to-the-point and over way too fast.  This studio seems to have a real problem with taking a break and developing character.  It’s like they expect us to just know these people and not ask questions.  That’s almost never a good sign.

All things considered, this movie is a fun ride, but it’s not a ride that I am going to want to take over again.  It got me where I wanted to go and was a nice time, but that’s it.  Too bad, because this film could have been so much more.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Villains I Hope to See in Batman: Arkham Knight

So, the last game in the Arkham franchise is coming.  Rocksteady has said that this is going to be their last game and that they are hoping to close it out with a bang.  I appreciate that they know to do that.  SO many game franchises just don’t know when to quit.  I’m looking at you, Uncharted! (I love the Uncharted games, but after how many great emotional strides they made with The Last of Us, this feels like a step backwards) In any case, I’m not going to put up villains who we already know are in the game, such as Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn or Scarecrow.  I am also putting out there that my theory as to who the Arkham Knight is is Damian Wayne.  I know I’m not alone in this.  That said, I hope to see some more of the Bat’s rogues gallery before the end of the franchise, so here we go.

Baby Doll10. Babydoll
One of the most under-appreciated villains of the franchise, Babydoll was an actress who was born with a peculiar disability.  She had a disease that prevented her body from looking older, though she did age.  She was permanently a child.  She was on a TV show where she was known was Babydoll.  After the show ended, she tried to make it as a serious actress, but nobody took her seriously, due to how young she looked.  Inevitably, it made her snap.  The Arkham series of games has always been very raw and gritty.  That’s one of the things I like about it.  Both Arkham City and Origins ended on a bittersweet note, which was kind of nice.  It would be cool if the final adventure of the Bat had him confronting some of the more emotionally harsh villains he’s come across.  But that’s just me.

Great White Shark9. The Great White Shark
This is one of those villains who hasn’t been in a lot of stuff outside of the comics.  He wasn’t in the Animated Series, and I can’t think of anything where he’s been in.  I really want to see this former loan shark (get it?  He was a loan shark?) in action.  It would be cool if he was in this game.  Now, on the one hand, we already have a villain who has giant teeth and a freaky look – Killer Croc.  But with Great White Shark, we could have a much more interesting villain.  I always saw it as he is a kind of informant to the Bat, though he has to be given a little incentive first.  I realize that a boss fight with him wouldn’t be especially long, but still, if nothing else, I’d just love to see this freaky bastard fucking with the Bat.  That would be awesome.

Man-Bat8. Man-Bat
Now, with this villain, I want him in the game for one specific reason – the boss fight!  The potential of a fight with this animal is just so high.  The Man-Bat is just that – a man and a bat.  Can you just imagine the fun that could be had with this?  Especially if he took to the wing and you had to follow him.  A fight of aerial proportions.  People are talking about new things being in this franchise, well this is just what the doctor ordered.  The Arkham franchise has been rather consistent on having awesome boss fights, and I can see a lot of potential in this.  Or maybe having a few of them.  Harassing the bat, with the man himself being the leader.  Maybe I’m alone on this, but that sounds kinda sick.

Killer Moth7. Killer Moth
You can never have enough deranged mercenaries, can you?  This villain’s look was kind of ridiculous until the Prime Earth comics, which made him kind of awesome.  A villain who has something of a love for noxious chemicals and guns, that would make a fun combination.  This isn’t a very complicated villain, but I can still see the potential of it.  There is this image in my head of the Bat fighting him, having to avoid clouds of poisonous gas and silently hunt him.  It would be better if the Moth could see through the clouds and be a crack-shot, that way Batman has to stalk him.  It would be one of those unbelievably-frustrating boss fights where people would just wish you could attack him.  Big on giving people rage.

Maxie Zeus6. Maxie Zeus
In Arkham City, one of the landmarks you can scan is Maxie Zeus’ club.  They talk about how Zeus was suspected of being brain-dead after WAY too many shock therapies.  However, since his club is still running, many people suspected that he didn’t go very far.  After how boring the Electrocutioner fight was in Arkham Origins, we need a really good fight with someone who has electricity.  Zeus was one of those villains who was so ridiculous that you couldn’t help but find him interesting.  He’s a strange guy.  Still, we need some lightning-bolt villains.

Circus of Strange5. Circus of Strange
It’s something that we got more and more of as the Batman franchise went on – villains who scare the fuck out of you.  The early days of Batman were campy and whatnot, but the later villains are fucking creepy!  Case and point – these five loony-tunes.  Headed by a man who calls himself Professor Pyg, the Circus of Strange was a crew who was part of a circus and then got closed down.  Unable to blend into normal society, they kind of lost it, with Professor Pyg being the craziest of the bunch.  He wants to make people perfect, with knives and saws.  I kind of like the idea of these villains being part of an unbelievably gruesome side-quest where you have to go into the abandoned circus and stop them.  Maybe as DLC or something.  You could have lots of scanable stuff that tells the gruesome tale of this bunch of psychos, along with some cool boss fights with the lot of them.

Ventriloquist4. Ventriloquist
One of the most wonderfully-unappreciated villains of the Batman franchise was this guy.  A mobster who had a thing for a puppet, the puppet eventually takes over his personality and the puppet becomes his darker side.  I have been wanting to see him in the Arkham franchise for some time, and now would be the best time for it.  It would be kind of awesome of this boss fight was one of being misled.  Like, because the guy can throw his voice, he would throw his voice around an area and you would be trying to figure out where he is.  The punishment for being wrong is getting shot at.  Like most of the boss fights I have on my list, it is an indirect rage-fest.

Anarky3. Anarky
One of my favorite villains from the Arkham franchise was Anarky. A young man who wanted to take matters into his own hands, I kind of liked the various tags of his and getting to hear his opinion about stuff.  It would be kind of nice if Anarky got one last shot at trying to clean up the city, his way.  It would be kind of neat if he were working with the Arkham Knight.  Both of them do seem to have similar views.  It would be nice to see what age has brought to this warrior for the people.

Hush2. Hush
A villain who I have been noticing hasn’t been talked about is Hush.  In Arkham City, you find out that he was killing people and cutting off chunks of their faces in order to make a face that looks exactly like Bruce Wayne’s, albeit kind of messed up.  His plan was to ruin Bruce Wayne by taking over his identity.  It was one of the darker aspects of Arkham City that really got us wondering what happened next.  It would be fun if there wasn’t some big boss fight, but a mission to clear your name.  Maybe tie that in to the Arkham Knight who, if my suspicion is correction, would know who Batman really was.  Getting rid of his enemy by using his alter-ego against him.  It sounds kinda cool.

And the villain I hope to see most is…

Clock King1. The Clock King
One of the most woefully under-appreciated villains, the Clock King was REALLY cool.  My favorite version of him is in The Animated Series, where his vast knowledge of when everything in the city happens to fuck with the Bat.  He had studied Batman and all of his gadgets and had used his ability to measure time to get precise measures of how and when to strike at the caped crusader.  It made for an impressive villain who could use his lack of stature to his advantage with careful planning and strategy.  It would be kind of nice to have a chase boss fight.  Where you are having to think carefully and move quickly in order to catch him, in addition to him being able to use Batman’s own technique of reading people’s moves against him.  Plus, we need a smarmy and egotistical voice to go with it.  Again, think The Animated Series.

So, who are you hoping to see in the final iteration of the Arkham franchise?  I get the feeling that this game is going to be quite something.  Here’s hoping it delivers.

Until next time, a quote,

“A pity, I don’t know what to tell you, Batman.  Except, perhaps that the 9:15 is always six minutes early.”  -Clock King, Batman: The Animated Series

Peace out,

Maverick