Batman and Harley Quinn Review

by Andrew Kiess

Many Batman fans are in agreement that Batman: The Animated Series is among the greatest comic book adaptations out there. For many of us, it has defined the character of Batman and his supporting cast. So, when co-creator Bruce Timm returns to the style and characters that first captured our imaginations, only greatness can happen, right?

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Batman and Harley Quinn is the latest DC animated feature film to get the one-night only theater treatment before being released on demand, following the success of The Killing Joke and Return of the Caped Crusaders. While I enjoyed Crusaders, neither of these one-night only showings featured what I considered to be the “best” of the recent animated films (I thought Judas Contract and Justice League Dark were fantastic), I was still excited to see what looked to be a long lost episode of The New Batman Adventures. What I got fell short of my expectations.

The opening few scenes of the films did not help my perception of the project overall. The animation looked cheap and the characters inconsistent. As the movie went on, the animation improved, but that’s when the story developed.

The plot of the film centers around Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) plotting to recreate the event that turned Alec Holland into Swamp Thing on a global scale, transforming all humanity into The Green. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) enlist the help of a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to track down Ivy and save the world.

On the surface, this still feels like a new episode of Batman. But as has been the case with many of the latest DC animated film, there seemed to be an imperative to “adult it up.” In theory, I don’t think this is necessarily a good or bad thing. It worked extraordinarily well in both The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark, but failed miserably with movies like The Killing Joke and Assault on Arkham. Harley Quinn is no stranger to being sexualized, and when done right it can create empathy for the character as someone who has overcome objectification. When done wrong, it just feeds into the objectification that the character (and, let’s face it, the comic book industry as a whole) has been fighting against.

We meet Harley working as a risqué waitress, where she beats up a customer for attempting to grope her. When Nightwing later questions her about it, she explains that it’s the only job she can get due to her past with The Joker being on her record. Instead of this being a moment to create empathy, it is followed up by a ridiculous scene where it is not-so-subtly implied that her an Nightwing, to quote Marv from Sin City, “do the nasty.” From the way the scene is drawn to the absolute lack of any reason for this to be in the film completely disservice the character, and is, in one man’s opinion, the opposite of “adult”. It is pure adolescent fantasy, with no real appreciation for storytelling.

To make matters worse, the rest of the humor in the film is bizarrely sophomoric. There is not much I can write that would fully explain just how off-putting a fart joke is in a movie that is trying to convince me that it is an “adult comedy.” A ten minute scene in a karaoke bar with ridiculous dancing and singing did nothing but add to the ever-changing tone. The story progresses to an inevitable appearance by Alec Holland himself, which was simply the final disappointment in a long line of disappointments.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I have seen several positive reactions and some middle of the road reactions from many outlets online. But for me, Batman and Harley Quinn was a failure on every level and never engaged me for a single moment. As always, I would recommend you judge for yourself if you are interested in seeing it, but I think this will join The Killing Joke as the second of the DC animated films to not have a home on my shelf.

 

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Batman: The Enemy Within Episode One Review

By Andrew Kiess

”The Enigma”

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Telltale introduced me to my second-favorite (behind comics) form for telling Batman stories. Put me inside of a comic book and let me define the type of character my hero will be. Season One of Batman: The Telltale Series was a spectacular display of just that. The game creators present you with a story that is not afraid to go off script in order to make you feel uneasy in your judgments, forcing you to question who you should allow as allies and who you should treat as potential enemies. Season One’s five episode arc did not disappoint me and kept me fully engaged to the end, and so I have been waiting impatiently for Season Two to get underway, and this month, it did just that.

“The Enigma” opens with the reappearance of a figure from Gotham’s past. Edward Nygma, also known as The Riddler, who we learn once terrorized Gotham long before Bruce Wayne took up the cowl. Bruce, while investigating a casino owner for potential illegal arms deal, witnesses the return of The Riddler and immediately steps into “Batman mode”. With the assistance of the newly-appointed Commissioner James Gordon, Riddler is stopped from killing his target, but escapes before he can be brought in. As it turns out, ARGUS is critical of GCPD’s supposed failure as Amanda Waller has taken a special interest in Nygma’s case.

This conflict is the central decision of “The Enigma”. Do you stick up for Gordon or do you side with Waller? And when you do choose a side, just how much information do you share with them? Unlike the first season, where your decisions were simply noted as “remembered” or “noticed”, your decisions in this game can change the relationship you have with other characters, as opposed to simply triggering different conversations later in the game. This nuance adds a little more weight to subtle differences in responses.

These relationships are on full display with both Gordon and Waller, but we get hints that it will play a large role in the development of “John Doe”, who we all know will eventually become The Joker. But, in the meantime, he’s John Doe, a character who seems eager to help, and can prove quite useful as an ally. It becomes interesting as we push our knowledge of the inevitable because of our familiarity with the lore in order to further our agendas as Batman within this alternate canon. What will cause the least amount of problems for Bruce, trusting John Doe or brushing him off? I guess only time will tell.

If it’s not obvious by now, I love this game. From Troy Baker’s performance as Bruce Wayne, to the comic book-like design of the world, this is one of my favorite non-comic Batman stories ever told. It is bold and unafraid to challenge our assumptions as fans to keep us on our toes, and it works for me on every level. If the pattern holds from last season, we should expect season two sometime in late September, so if you haven’t had a chance to play through this series, you have plenty of time to catch up, and I could not recommend it highly enough.

 

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Get Ready for more Wonder Woman

by Drew Kiess

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We all know the success that Wonder Woman is having at the box office. It has crossed $400 million in the States, and is preparing to cross $800 million worldwide, with Japan yet to open the film. With this kind of success, it should comes as know surprise that Warner Bros. will be trying to capitalize on that success and use Diana as a central figure in the DCEU moving forward.

We won’t have to wait long to see Diana on the big screen again with Justice League just a few short months away. We also recently heard that Wonder Woman II is scheduled for a December 2019 release. And now, according to Forbes’ own, and friend of Shanlian on Batman, Mark Hughes that Diana is expected to appear in Flashpoint, which could be hitting theaters in 2020.

This is great news for fans of the great DC event Flashpoint, as it is one step closer to getting the adaptation of the book that we deserve, and until we’re told otherwise, we may be able to assume that the other characters from that book will also be showing up, including Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Thomas Wayne/Batman (please).

My one big question about this news is whether or not general audiences will go along with this elseworlds version of Wonder Woman. This will be a new concept for live action films, and while this would be Gal Gadot’s fifth outing as Wonder Woman, audiences may be a bit taken aback by this character going from the inspiring hero she is known as to the anger-driven warlord of the Flashpoint timeline. I believe such a transition is going to need a masterful director (paging Mr. Zemeckis) and a tight script. This is a powerful story, and if done right, I think audiences will go along with it. But this is an ambitious project, and the creative team is going to be key. Thankfully, it is looking like this will have an amazing cast, and amazing casts attract amazing filmmakers.

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source: Forbes

 

 

Andrea Romano Retires

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By

Drew Kiess

For three decades, fans of DC Comics have been gifted with some amazing performers voicing our favorite characters. One of the primary reason for that has been Andrea Romano, who has announced her retirement from animation.

Romano began her career with a little remembered DC cartoon in 1985 titled The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. She went on in that decade to work on revitalization of classic animations such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear. She also worked on the 80s Smurfs series as the casting director. She would go on to success in the 90s as the casting director of Batman the Animated Series, helping to put in place what would forever be known as the voices of Batman and the Joker in Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. She would also serve as the voiceover director and casting director for most of the DC animated properties moving forward, including Superman, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited¸ and the many movies that spun off from these properties and that also followed.

Romano was also attached to classic Warner Bros. animations such as Tiny Toons and Animaniacs. She also served as casting director for recent favorites such as Ben 10, Voltron, and Ratchet and Clank among many others.

The torch is ready to be passed on at Warner Bros. animation, and I do not envy whoever must stand in her shoes. Romano has certainly left her mark on the popular culture conscious of the last three decades and that work will stand the test of time. It is sad to see Romano leave animation after providing such a stellar body of work, but we wish her happiness in her retirement!  

 

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Justice League Merchandise Arrives!

The countdown to November 17 is continuing to shrink, and we will soon be watching for the first time a live action Justice League! 

As we inch closer, fans will be on the lookout for merchandise hitting stores near them. Well, that time may have already arrived. Apparel showing off the world’s greatest heroes may be for sale at your local Wal-Mart right now.

The next few weeks may see even more merchandise hitting shelves as we rocket towards November, so be sure to keep your eyes open for all the Justice League goodies coming to a store near you!

WB Hall H Comic Con 2017 Live Blog

Keep this post refreshed to receive updates on live action movie news as it breaks throughout today! 

  • Late last night, news broke that Joss Whedon will start work on Batgirl next year. The movie could be ready for a 2019 release.
  • New Justice League poster was just released via Twitter!
  • Ready Player One is the first movie WB is showing off.
  • Blade Runner 2049 hits the stage next.
  • Flashpoint is officially announced!
  • Updated slate includes: Shazam!, Wonder Woman 2, Suicide Squad 2, The Flash, Flashpoint, Justice League Dark, Green Lantern Corps, and The Batman
  • Ben Affleck confirms he’s going to work with Matt Reeves.
  • Justice for all! https://youtu.be/g_6yBZKj-eo

Batfan Begins: How the Dark Knight Trilogy Made Me A Fan

by Drew Kiess

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It’s been five years since Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies came to a close with The Dark Knight Rises. A trilogy that was once thought to be a game changer, proved to be an outlier of what the possibilities were (and still are) for comic book characters on the big screen. For many of us too young to remember the Bat-mania of Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, Nolan’s Batman gave us a fresh, modern window into discovering the greatness of the character behind the cowl.

My history with Batman before Nolan is sketchy. There was the animated series, of course, which I would later come to adore, but my image of Batman was initially created by the Joel Schumacher films. Even as a six-year-old, I knew Batman Forever and Batman and Robin weren’t cool. I very clearly remember having merchandise and toys from various kid’s meals from these movies, but I had no real connection with the characters. I also remember a live performance I saw at Six Flags in Chicago that captured my imagination, but comic books were still foreign to me, whatever enthusiasm I had for the character had nowhere to go. Anything cool Batman did was an outlier in my mind, because those movies were awful.

I became a comic book fan following Raimi’s first Spider-Man in 2002. Ten-year-old me was mesmerized. And two years later, it was followed up by what is still among my favorite movies ever made, Spider-Man 2. This was, for me, akin to people in 1978 believing that a man could fly for the first time. I was in love. I could not get enough of superheroes. I ate it all up. In 2005, I had seen a trailer for a new Batman movie, called Batman Begins. This didn’t look like Batman to me. Where was all the neon? But my curiosity was piqued. Leading up to the movie, my local library had set up copies of classic Batman stories in trade paperbacks. In my memory, there was a spotlight and angels singing as I walked up to grab Frank Miller’s Year One. I read the whole book right there. I had been lied to my entire life. Batman was cool.

Batman Begins may not have been the biggest blockbuster of all time, but it was a lifechanging experience for me seeing it in a movie theater. What resistance I had to being a batfan was now gone—I was all in. This was my fandom now, and I couldn’t get enough of classic DC stories. From The Dark Knight Returns to Man of Steel, to Crisis on Infinite Earths, I built up my knowledge on DC lore. Nolan’s respect for the core of the character bled through every frame, and Christian Bale’s performance of the tortured, unsure Bruce Wayne in the opening hour of the film still stands as some of the best character work in a comic book movie.

Three years later, the rest of the world would join me in my newfound Bat-mania and we would all be asking the same question: “Why so serious?” The Dark Knight took the world by storm, and for good reason. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was in and of itself a phenomenon, winning him a posthumous Oscar for the supporting role. But while everyone was going crazy over The Joker, a story about whether or not the means justify the ends in a time when I was first becoming interested in politics (this was the year of Obama’s first election), I was once again taken aback at the kind of stories a character like Batman

There is not much I can add to the legacy of The Dark Knight. I think it is fairly secure. Year after year, every new comic book movie that people liked is hailed as the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight, before it is forgotten about at the release of the next comic book movie, which is, too, compared to The Dark Knight. It will forever be the gold standard.

When Batman Begins came out, I was in high school, only thirteen years old. The trilogy came to a close in 2012 with The Dark Knight Rises, and I was now in college and a month away from being old enough to drink. The world was different in so many ways. Even just within the geek community, 2012 saw the culmination of Marvel’s Phase One with the Avengers and Sony’s first reboot of Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man. For many, I think this Batman series had grown some rust in the four years it was removed from the spotlight. The Avengers were in, and to this day I wonder if things would have been different had the two films swapped release dates.

The Dark Knight Rises, despite being warmly received by critics, has a reputation in fanboy circles as being “the bad one”. I don’t see it. The Dark Knight Rises continued an upward slope of quality in my opinion that all Nolan films have had, and hosts the greatest Batman moment on film of all time, with Bruce rising from the pit, that was foreshadowed all the way back in Batman Begins. It was a brilliant story about the place Batman has in Gotham after his mission is complete, and a villain who was successful in breaking the body of Batman, taking away the city that he loves. It is a lonely, broken, operatic epic.

Five years removed from these films, I think we can sometimes become critical because of the things that it didn’t do as fanboys. I have been as guilty of this as anybody. Was it accurate to canon? Of course not. Was that voice sometimes a little annoying? Yes it was. Would it have been nice to see more villains? Who knows. But, we received perhaps the most complete superhero story every created in any medium, comics included, with a definitive beginning, middle, and end, that had something of value to say about the culture we live in. Those are the kind of stories that stick with us and matter. My fandom of DC was founded on the foundation of what Nolan did with those three movies, and while there will always be new Batman stories being told, this trilogy will forever stand as a testament of the power of these characters to reflect us, as all mythology is supposed to.

 

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