5 Best and Worst Disney Twist Villains

For around a decade now Disney Animation has made twist villains part of their style.  This has been very divisive among fans, so I looked at the full list (posted at the bottom) to make my best and worst list.

5th Worst- Evelyn (The Incredibles II)

 Did it fool me? Yes
 Was I spoiled? No

Most fans says he was obvious, but I was convinced she was the red herring, because her brother is basically the villain in Cars 3.  Her non-evil scenes are her best parts making me dissapointed when she was revealed to be a villain, and Screen Slaver is a dull villain with a counterproductive plan.

5th Best- Charles Muntz (Up)

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This fight is too funny.
Did it fool me?  No
 Was I spoiled? No

A great example of the villain mirroring the hero, threatening, scary, smart, murderous, funny, and unique.  Just a great example of a villain.  He is not higher since the twist is very quick, and part of the ranking is the twist in addition to the villain.

4th Worst- Shego (Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time

Did it fool me?  No
Was I spoiled?  No

Foreshadowed way too much, and it was still made out to be a big deal.  Future Shego was very dull compared to all her minions (especially Drakken), and she is just the weakest element of the movie.

4th Best- Lotso (Toy Story 3)

Did it fool me?  I think it would have
Was I spoiled?  Yes

If not for spoilers I would have thought Ken was the main villain. It really is a terrifying scene when he reveals his true nature and mind controls Buzz, and his back story adds so much to his evil actions and nice guy facade.  Overall he is an even better version of Prospector.

3rd Worst- Bellweather (Zootopia)

Did it fool me?  Would not have
Was I spoiled?  Yes

She is not threatening at all, and her plan is way too complex.  I also view it as the movie betraying its message by making all the villains sheep, as if they are genetically evil.

3rd Best- Turbo (Wreck-It-Ralph)

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Did it fool me?  Yes
Was I spoiled?  No

Yikes!  This design and animation are just amazing in addition to his sadistic dialogue.  His earlier actions fit so well with his sadistic personality he unleashes later.  It helps him to stick out that he did not pretend to be a nice guy but a punch clock villain with another villain being the expected main villain.  The back story was well interwoven as commentary on Ralph’s issues that I did not connect the dots.  His well intended idiot facade lets him add some terrifying internal conflict to the heroes.

2nd Worst- Ralph (Ralph Breaks the Internet

Did it fool me?  Yes
Was I spoiled?  Yes

How is one franchise on both lists?  On paper this works.  It is unexpected, and again the design and animation are amazing.  The problem is this was character assassination.  I think Vanellope being the giant monster would have been better.

2nd Best- Ernesto (Coco)

Did it fool me?  No
Was I spoiled?  No

Due to the length of the movie, missing the first act, and the picture having no face I knew he was not the Great-Great-Grandfather.  What I did not expect was him representing the betrayal of an ideal.  What really sold me on the movie is when he said “you must do whatever it takes to ‘seize the moment.'”  I do find the idea of a childhood hero and everythign he stands for being evil very scary, and he is so hateable.  I also find hsi clues like putting his real life treachery in the movies in character, as he is very egotistical.

Worst- Sterling (Cars 3)

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Dull design with a  dull reaction to a dull scene.  A perfect representation of this dull movie.
Did it fool me?  Would not have
Was I spoiled?  Yes

This is the worst Pixar movie, and a major part is this horrible villain.  He is constantly acting without any forethought and just makes stupid and self defeating choices for the sake of adding conflict to a dull story.

Best- Mr. Waternoose (Monsters Inc.) 

Did it fool me?  Yes
Was I spoiled?  No

This blew me away when I was 5, this grandfatherly evil character who legitimately views himself as a hero.  His plan is logical and the result of years of desperation.  There is plenty of great foreshadowing and red herrings.  His design works as a twist and a villain.

Just for fun here is the full list.  Asterisk means it is debatable.

 

Sword in the Stone

Aristocats*

Atlantis

Treasure Planet (g)

Meet the Robinsons (g)

Bolt* (g)

Wreck-it-Ralph (g)

Frozen

Big Hero 6

Zootopia (b)

Moana*

Ralph Breaks the Internet (6 in a row) (b)

 

Pixar

Toy Story 2

Monsters Inc (g)

Finding Nemo*

The Incredibles (g)

Up (g)

Toy Story 3 (g)

The Good Dinosaur (g)

Cars 3 (b)

Coco (g)

Home release

Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time

That was a fun and quick write up.  Since last review I did a movie that broke the tier chart by being over a 5 it is time to review one that breaks it in the opposite directio…

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What the Hell have I just promised?

 

Coming June 9th the worst animated movie ever.  Hopefully (I think this will be really hard to write).

The Dark Knight Returns as an Adaptation

The Early films in the DC Animated Original Movies lineup are known for being very faithful adaptations, and this is no exception.  They adapted the comic very well with most of the changes being minor subtractions for the new medium or changes to fit the subtractions better.

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Not going to discuss the changes I described in the main reviews.

Not going to discuss the changes I described in the main reviews.  

Modern Day

Likely the biggest change is the setting is ironically the same, the 1980s.  The comic, published in 1986, distinctly took place in the then present.  Arguably that means Obama should have been the president, Green Arrow replaced by Green Lantern, Soviets replaced by terrorists, Robin’s computer expertise replaced by outdoor skills or something, and cold war paranoia replaced by Civil War paranoia.  I cannot blame them for sticking to a direct adaptation, as that is what the lineup specialized in.

Internal Monologue

The other notable change is the omission of internal monologue (except in one scene).  I was going to criticize this until I saw the sister film, Batman Year One, which in a similar movie kept the monologue, and I think it failed there.  In these films a few key elements are lost, but for the most part they kept the feelings by either converting it to dialogue or with facial and body language.

Monologue in the dump

Here is the part I found lacking in Part 1.  In the comic Batman through internal monologue was talking to the empty seat besides him pretending Dick was there.  It showed his declining mental health from loneliness  It was all internal, but when blacking out against the Mutant Leader he begged Dick for help out loud.  When Carrie came to his rescue he called her “Dick” once.  He is lucky she did not leave right there.

Robin or Carrie

In the movies Batman never calls her “Carrie.”  In the comic he called her “Carrie” once.  When recovering in the Bat-cave Alfred called him delirious and was thinking Batman still thought of her as Dick.  When Batman for the only time used her real name it confirms that his head is now clear enough to know she is not Dick, he is not young again, and he still want her to be his sidekick.  Since the context was removed it makes sense to remove this word.  Of note is Bats calls Dick “Dick” and Carrie “Robin” in his monologues.

Robin and Batman’s first meeting

The film added the struggle of Robin carrying Batman up the hill (she has to be really jacked), and her jumping in immediately after Alfred said to run home.  The film also added her using what looks like an important pipe to make the sling, as in the comic she made it off panel.  I prefer the shorter comic version here.  In the Bat-cave they removed Robin looking with an open mouth at the Bat-cave having an unheard conversation with Alfred, and cut down on Bats’s conversation with the bat.  Again a net loss.  When discussing Robin with Alfred among Bats’s compliments was “young”.”  He is seeing if she will be his successor.

Robin mistaken for a boy

Since 1940 there have been plenty of jokes that the Robin suit, name, and idea is better for a girl and women have played Robin in plays.  As a joke on that Robin here is a girl regularly mistaken for a  boy.  They consonantly see her and think “Boy Wonder.”  It makes sense with the short hair and that comic Robin is much less endowed than her film counterpart.  With those glasses on for both school and crime fighting this is how she keeps a secret identity.  I think Alfred and selina are the only ones who call her a girl.  In the films she is never mistaken for a boy and Clark calls her “young lady.”  I think the creators were worried it would be taken as commentary on transgender or something.

Whole scene missing

This takes place after Superman first shows up.  Batman and Robin go to Abner’s place to find potential leads on Joker, and the entire focus is on Batman and Robin’s then struggling mentor-student relationship, and this is where she gets fired.  Bats is mad at he for getting spotted, and for the second time threatens to fire her (rule of 3 in comic and 2 in film).  It is clear that he is getting frustrated with her.    When they arrive at Abner’s home Robin disobeys and impatiently throws caution to the wind and jumps in.  Batman has to pull her out before the doll explodes barely saving her and blowing up her glasses.  In those thirteen seconds of hordes of material in the film the lines are directly from the comic, but they lost one of the meanings.  He was rehiring her after one night with no given reason.  I think he was both lonely and tired of Alfred not supporting him, wanting some support.  Not an important scene to keep, but very weird to read knowing it has no film counterpart.

Police shoot Batman

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Fly Robin or you’re fired.

When getting the information form Yindel about Selina like in the film Bats fled to the Batcycle, but again the film removed the second of a rule of three.  In the comic Bats tells Robin to hang on (After she called him “boss” for the very first time), and it looks to be a happy, funny scene where she is hanging on for dear life.

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Next panel Yindel shoots him in the shoulder to Robin’s horror.  Bats insists it is nothing but next scene he is leaning on Robin, and insists she does the lock picking now.  A further sign that he is declining.  He is weakening much more in the comic than film so makes sense to cut it if they cut most of the context.

Robin and Bruno

In the comic Robin does not make noise giving her position away.  She instead visibly makes Bruno bleed, and Bruno spots her going for another shot, being too slow.  Robin does not use her slingshot as a trick but just hides with a door in front of her, and this fools Bruno.

Robin as a fighter

As I said in my review of Part 1 film Robin is beefed up.  She wins fights, which comic Robin never did until the sequel.  She takes down the bomb in one shot, while in the comic she missed and hit a boy on the head first.  She is also shown struggling to jump on rooftops from time to time.  The gymnastics medals were film only, and immediately foreshadowed her needing less training.

Robin’s obedience arc

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I would probably have ignored this, except it got the last liens of dialogue in the comic.  Robin is rebellious, and her obedience is symbolized by Bats telling her to sit up straight.  In the Batcopter when he first told her this (After he rehired her) she spites him by putting her head all the way down with a smile.  She is more obedient when he is in danger, all the time after that.  Afterwards she always obeys him, and at the very end Bats is giving instructions to the SOBs.  He then stops in the middle of a sentence and tells her to sit up straight, and she immediately obeys.  It indicates that in his new army she is his favorite.  In the film this was shown with the last image being their shared smile.

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This image is not in the comic, but I think the message it alludes to was in the internal monologue.

Media and the Nuke

In the comic the reporter, Lola Chang, told everyone that if the nuke was detonated over the desert it would be harmless. She said this while an astronaut kept trying to tell everyone that was not true, but she kept talking about unrelated stuff and cutting him off.  Clark was listening and believed her resulting in him detonating it there and causing the blackout.  The astronaut wrote his last thoughts on the end of the world, as he awaited his inevitable death.  He was never seen again.  I think this is a great scene that the movie cut for time lengths.   The film does tone down just how terrible the media is.

Crime Reports

There are hordes of media reports on crimes throughout all four issues that did not make it (would have been a disaster for a movie medium).  They are all about death and mutilation from the Mutants, random citizens who are losing it, the SOBs, or other splinter groups.  In Issue 2 one is different.  A store owner is inspired by Batman to rescue a woman from ta mugger.  Since nobody was hurt this did not make the news (ironically this made the news in the movie).  I think the context would not have worked without the other news reports, so the change makes sense.  Most of the reports really are well written and frightening, but I do not think the film medium works well for constantly changing the setting like that.

Joker’s bigger role

In the comic Joker awakened almost as soon as Batman did.  He has a few scenes where he plans his escape, and he gets Abner to make Two-Face’s bombs and set them to explode early.  On a related note the President and Clark talking about taking down Batman happened right after the Mutant leader battle putting more emphasis on why Clark was not there to save Gotham.  Since these were moved to Part 2 a few parts had to be removed.

Wolper’s death

The film’s best improvement.  In the film the doll just snapped his neck and it is blink and you miss it.  The film made Joker kill him, and it put the needed emphasis on killing someone so important.  The whole scene is much better.  On a related note Wolper got a Hitler-stache for issue 3.

Moving things Around

One way to change a scene is not to cut or add stuff but just move it around.  In the film this is the sequence of events.  Robin and Batman deduce Joker is going to the fairground.  -> Batman tells Robin to bring in the Batcopter.  -> Selina tells Bats to not bring Robin.  -> Batman kiss her.  -> Cops arrive.  This shows Batman as caring for Selina and that they still have a spark of romance.  In the comic the order is different.  Robin and Batman deduce Joker is going to the fairground.  -> Batman kiss Selina.  -> Selina tells Bats to not bring Robin.  ->  Batman tells Robin to bring in the Batcopter, both ignoreSelina.  -> Cops arrive.  This makes it clear that Bats is giving an affectionate good-bye, as their romance and his interest in her is gone.  Robin’s clear lack of interest in Selina makes it hard to believe she is trying to imitate her in the first sequel comic.

Added scene with general

In the film Bats talks with the general supplying the mutants and gives him the suicide gun.  In the comic the news reports why he armed the mutants, and Batman is just shown carrying his corpse after the suicide.  I much prefer comic version.

Two of my favorite things removed.

As I said in my review of Part 1 they removed my favorite joke and image.  After Robin saves Batman it shows the smoke around her parents and one asks “Honey, didn’t we have a kid.”  No wonder she is trying to please a man dressing as Dracula for 30 years.  My favorite image comes from the Bat-cave scene which is much slower in the comic and Bats is much bloodier.  When he shows he will live Robin is more joyful.

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Robin scenes changed

Two of her scenes were changed, yet the message and tone were kept.  In her first crime fighting in the film she challenged a purse snatcher and he did not feel like making a scene fighting her.  In the comic she went after a card scam and placed a small fire cracker in the scammer’s pocket and ran off with a great big smile.  I prefer the comic scene for being more unique.

The other major change was at the fair.  In the comic her loss of innocence was seeing the cub scouts Joker and Abner poisoned.  Abner died by no fault of hers.  In the film the loss of innocence was that she kicked Abner off her, and that resulted in his death.  Here I think the film has it better.  She is now responsible for her own loss of innocence, and it ironically makes Batman the only superhero without a kill count.

On a related note in the comic she grabbed Batman’s hand when seeing the bodies.  That was a callback to the death of Thomas Wayne, as he grabbed Bruce during his loss of innocence.

Batman and Clark’s meeting

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I love the meeting in the film where they converted internal monologues from all over the third issue into dialogue, and this required some changes.  In the comic the monologues are how they actually think, but the dialogue is different.  They are trying to reconnect, but inside they both know it is not happening.  In the film they accept they will come into conflict and are trying to intimidate the other one.

Green Arrow and the soldiers

In the film Green Arrow got spotted when he saved Bats from a sniper.  In the comic to Bats’s annoyance he just started killing soldiers nearly getting Batman killed by wasting time.  I prefer comic.

Robin and Computers

The film foreshadows it more before the second rescue, while the film is more subtle.  In her opening scene her friend says Carrie is failing chemistry but acing computer class.  In issue 3 she begs Bats to teach her the controls, and points out various abilities the Batcopter has by looking at it.  The film foreshadows it in two ways.  One was her trying to hack the Bat-computer (poor).  The other was her carefully watching Batman control the Batcopter trying to figure it out.  I think the film was too subtle.

Becoming the mask

Robin’s real identity is the mask even more than Batman.  This is illustrated by the costume.  In the comic after she is rehired she is never seen without it or another disguise until the sequel to the sequel.  The film had a shot of her and Batman outside of the costumes.  I find this out of place as a big fan of the second sequel.

Robin vs Yindel: Affirmative Action

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They are counterparts and look very similar.  In the comic a key part of this is Miller’s commentary on affirmative action.  They are both replacing a much older man in a dangerous job, but they got the job differently.  Yindel was recruited by a man appointed by the mayor.  The mayor and him discussed it and the mayor’s first choice was because “he is available, and he is black.”  Nothing about qualifications.  His subordinate who appointed Yindel did it for the PR points of hiring a woman.  That is all the media talk about, and only two characters talk about her actual qualifications, Yindel and Gordon.  Gordon always praises her record ad brings it up to he public to make them respect her as a cop, not see her a political tool.  Yindel knows she got the job for being a woman, and she is too aggressive in trying to to prove herself..  Comic Yindel is more likable.  She is aware of her faults, shown to care for the other cops, has sympathetic scenes where she resorts back to smoking, and at he end removes the hunt for Batman.  It was a swat officer in the comic who said to shoot anyone who is not a cop.

Robin meanwhile got the job by being the best and only fit.  She is a better Robin than Dick or Jason, thus unlike Yindel she has no issues with her qualifications.  Miller wrote that affirmative action makes the supposed beneficiaries paranoid and disrespected, and they are perfectly capable of succeeding in a meritocracy.

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Kryptonite

I often wonder where the genuine kryptonite went i this world.  In the film only Batman asks Clark who the government sends after him.  I think that means in the film they are stockpiling it to kill Clark if they need to.

“…A joke…”

In the climatic battle of titans Bats tells Clark he “…has become a joke.”  This was removed due to it either being deemed too mean at Superman or that it is an accurate description of Frank Miller in his later years.  Even worse it is accurate for Bruce Timm and the DC Animated Original Movies lineup since The Killing Joke.  If they kept the line I am sure internet critics would have constantly used the clip to joke about all of them.

Dent and the media

In the film everyone but Gordon supports Dent going back to society.  In the comic the media and spectators are scared and skeptical.  Only Wolper, the surgeon, and Bruce support him.  Especially as his last crime was killing only one Siamese Twin.

Robin and Trauma

In the Comic the fair traumatizes Robin way more.  She only smiles twice afterwards.  In the film she is still regularly smiling and making jokes.  I do not know which one I prefer but I like the change for clearly being based off the comic but keeping each version different.

Mutant Leader as a human

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He is already ambiguously human, but I think he is less likely one in the comic. For one Batman tells imaginary Dick that he is not human, and the way he is drawn.  His mouth is so unnaturally round for a human.

“Old Friend”

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This line is completely different.  In the film Gordon and Superman debate with each other if they were ever really old friends with Batman.  In the comic to show Batman’s recovering sanity and people skills he talks to Gordon before the second battle with the Mutant Leader.  He asks for his helps and calls him “Old Friend.”  I do not know which one I prefer but I like the change for clearly being based off the comic but keeping each version different.

Winterized costume

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More dialogue about how Bats views her as the next Batman.

This is just a piece of realism I really like.  For the nuclear winter Robin is clearly seen using her cape as a blanket.  Later she is wearing a winterized version of the costume that she either made (my theory) or was one of Dick or Jason’s old suits.

Bullet Dodging

There is so much of this in the films.  In the comics this is the case for Robin, but it is toned way down for Bats.  He almost always disarms them first.  With the cops one time it is clear they are trying to take him alive unlike the film where they fired on him after he froze.  Another time they hold their fire (except for Yindel), as they do not want to shoot the kid with him.

 

Overall this is a wonderful adaptation.  It keeps the feelings of the comic and the changes just adapt it to the medium.  Several changes are great and work better.  Most of the removals are about Robin.  This probably means the creators wanted to keep the focus on Batman.  Almost everything above is a minor change, and that is why these movies are so great.

 

Next time on May 26th.  4 of these 5 posts were incredibly fun to make, but they were exhausting.  I need something much easier, so I am doing something all animation fans are passionate about, Disney twist villains.

 

 

 

DTV Wonders: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

Is this the second half of a movie or is it a full movie.  I say full movie, as each part has its own climax and themes.  Like the comic by Frank Miller this part is more debated than the first, as it is either a disappointment compared to the first, the bad sequel, or the bigger and better sequel.  Since I had it on DVD first and watched it first I get to judge it as a sequel and a stand alone movie.

The movie and comic issues have much debate about their morals.  I have heard accepting both sides (Bruce Wayne here) or casting aside your weaker half and fully becoming the greater part, order vs disorder, surrogate family, fallen hero, Romanticism vs Enlightenment, superhero deconstruction, and superhero reconstruction.  Personally I saw something different, deontology (ethics based on duty) vs consequentialism (morality based off consequences) with deontology winning.  Deontology won, as it makes heroes become even stronger during the tough times, while consequentialism forces them away.

I know I rarely talk about the commercials anymore, but I find it funny how it starts with a dark and beautiful commercial for Man of steel and then for the clips of Lego Batman 2 (videogame).  They fit together so weird, yet it serves as dark foreshadowing of how Clark and his relationship with Batman is nearly ruined in their old age.

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Any sequel even if called “Part 2” has to reintroduce the world in the opening scene, while still serving the other purposes of an introduction, setting the tone, establish the characters, be eye catching, and several others.  Here they start with a fast, sensational news report.  Ironically, It is much more efficient than the actual news.  It gives the recap of Batman’s triumph, reemergence  and previous retirement (helped me know he why he has gray hair), the President feels Batman is a threat to his administration, and the only part that confused me, “The Sons of Batman” gang (Miller abbreviated them as “SOBs”) that brutalized criminals.

In the middle it cuts to Joker (Michael Emerson) and Dr. Wolper (Mr. Green himself, Mike McKean) where the doctor falls for Joker’s crocodile tears and puts him on a nighttime talk show.  Emerson is the creepiest Joker I have ever heard, which is shown right away when he romantically states he now has “a reason to go on.”  Miller’s Joker is clearly homosexual and in love with Batman, and the film never hides it.

Next scene introduces future antagonists, The President, Clearly Reagan, and Clark.  The President is senile and tells Clark to talk to Bats and try to reason with him, as Clark agrees.  One thing I noticed is that in neither the film nor comic is he ever called “Superman.”  More on that later.

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I love how bored he looks. I then realized this is like Tuesday for him.

The opening action scene has a liquor store being robbed by a splinter of The Mutants, two men, and their swastika clad leader.  While robbing the man an old woman whines about the prices and then starts beating the three criminals up resulting in the men being down, and the Woman, Bruno, taking off.  The store owner pulls out a gun and puts it at the frightened teenager’s head only for Batman, still in his disguise to tell the owner “pull that trigger and I’ll be be back for you.”  An awesome introduction to Peter Weller’s Batman voice for newcomers.  A perfect opening right there (more specifically that line) for establishing this world to newcomers, telling previous viewers how this movie is different from the last, and how Batman has changed since he got Robin.  The world is established as crime filled and kill-or-be-killed where life means nothing.  Batman refuses this and still refuses to kill unlike everyone else.  He has changed with the times, but he has kept the principles that make him Batman.  For previous viewers they will notice that the plot and tone are now weirder, as the world is becoming dominated by the living legend of a man dressed as Dracula fighting crime and trying to save the criminals from themselves.  A major change is Batman is still brutal but nowhere near the level of last movie (with a major exception later).  He is now likely to punch a criminal unconscious instead of impaling them with batarangs.  An important part is where Batman is saved by a gun not working.  It keeps him vulnerable and gives him more reason to trust his fists over them.

This Robin and Batman have a surrogate father-daughter relationship.  Batman as always is desperate to be a part of a family even if he has to make and recruit it, while Robin has neglectful parents leading to her idolizing a strong, protective, sacrificial, and larger than life man.  Before this all Robins were males and recruited by Batman.  Batman recruited both of the former Robins, but Carrie came to him (a model all future Robins follow to my knowledge), and Batman knows that makes her more reckless than Dick was.  This leads to Batman using her in more secretive roles that try to keep her away from direct fights.  She is only thirteen, thus Batman keeps her out of harms way with much more success than Dick and Jason.

To get the needed help catching Bruno (younger and probably faster than Batman) he tells her over a device to get Bruno to an alley without being seen.  If spotted she is fired (he told her that past movie too).  Like in the comics most of Robin’s trademarks in this world do not show up until here like calling Batman “Boss,” rebelling against his authority, and her slingshot.  She slings a rock right into Bruno’s forehead and responds with poise and dignity…

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Or acts like a talkative 13 year old giving her position away.  She dodge’s Bruno’s bullets like Batman will later (there is a reason Miller never claimed to be realistic).  She escapes by throwing her slingshot at a door and hides in a fire escape (At this rate she will be save by a fire escape 5 times these movies), and Bruno sees the slingshot and walks through the door as Batman comes.  Again this is a great character introduction, a big smile, clear vulnerability mixed with capability, and trouble following orders.

Meanwhile a man is knocked into the way of a locomotive to his certain death until a super fast force stops is and continues on showing Clark still is motivated by saving people.  Batman is trying to beat information on Joker’s plans out of her only for Clark to show up.  He wipes out Bruno and like in the comic he stays in the shadows the entire time, while Batman stays in the light.  This shows how old age has changed them, as now Clark is distant to the normal person, while Batman is something they all know.  He demands an audience with Bats, and then flies through a roof nearly killing Robin to Bats’s annoyance, and Robin’s fear to his reaction.

Next news report reveals that the Cold War is heating up over the island of Corto Maltese and all pledge full military intervention.  Meanwhile the press bring up that superheroes were outlawed ten years ago, and ask what the President thinks of Batman (he does have Clark in his pocket hypocritically) and he defers to the governor who defers to the mayor who defers to new commissioner Yindel.  When sworn in her first act is issuing a warrant for Batman’s arrest.  Could he get around it by re-branding himself as “Flying Rodent Man” or something?

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This scene really sticks out due to how bright and colorful it is.  Like the comic it initially feels part of a different story.  Clark and Batman are with Bats’s various animals trying to reconnect but both realizing it will not happen.  It has Superman showing off his physique trying to intimidate Batman.  This fails, as Batman is a deontologist, not focused on consequences like losing.  Earlier the translation of internal monologue from comic to film has been inconsistent, but it changes here, where it is seamlessly moved to dialogue with parts of various settings moved around, and transitional dialogue added in, and the tone is changed to fit the new mood created by them openly sharing their feelings.  The writer, Bob Goodman, was very passionate about the comic and writing the movie, and I imagine he spent years thinking of how to move the monologues into dialogue like this.  Clark appeals to his friendships with other heroes at first pointing out that Green Lantern and a few others retired only for Batman pointing out that Oliver’s retirement was not voluntary making  Clark declare that “he made it necessary.”  A  showing of consequentialism, trying to focus on results even if it means making betrayals of friends or ideals.

Their verbal fight is great, and it ends with Clark being called by the President to fight in Corto Maltese.  A few scenes show Clark battling, and he is now clearly killing soldiers.  This shows why Robin, by far the youngest of the key characters, is scared of Clark and why he is never called Superman.  His moral compromises have changed him away from being super.  He now has a high death count, and this is certainly what the news focuses on, and was been this way since Robin was around 3.  My  earliest memory of Superman was him rescuing a plane from a terrorist, while in this world it would be of him killing the president’s enemies, and this is why everyone dislikes Clark except the elders who remember his glory days.  It is left to the imagination what brought him down this path.

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Bats gathers his weapons and pills for the upcoming battle with Joker.  Despite her obedience issues he tells Alfred to get Robin, and Alfred tries to talk him out of it only for Bats to smile and declare “There is nothing better.  So much to say about these thirteen seconds.  Batman gives a smile to show that he does love having her around and give him some rounded character, reestablish the dynamic that for once Alfred is against there being a kid sidekick, Batman’s acceptance of his weaker body in old age with needing both the pills and Robin, Batman’s continued faith in her, and his deontological values that doing the right thing, defeating criminals, is worth the potential consequence of dying for it.

To let the audience catch their breath next is a few slow seconds of Joker’s one loyal henchmen making sentient flying dolls to do their dirty work.  His name is… In the comic it is Abner, in the film he is unnamed but credited as Humpy Dumpty.  I will just call him Abner.  Yindel has the cops at the TV station knowing Joker will try to escape and Batman will try to capture him so ideally they capture both.  Joker creepily puts on the lipstick Abner gave him that has mind control properties while Wolper is so oblivious, and Abner tells the plan to the dolls.  They call him “Uncle Joker” like he is a cult leader.

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Batman and Robin come in the Batcopter, and Bats is still moderately mad at her previous moderate failure ans declares this an observational job for her only and and any actions will get her fired (rule of three).  Despite his constant scowls Robin is mostly silent, always smiling except some parts where he looks away, excited to be working for Batman, and she is mostly interested in trying to figure out how the technology works.  She also uses the slang word “figure” resulting in Batman staring her down trying to figure out what she means (she was happily insulting his ability to determine the skill sets of others while disguising it as self-deprecation).  This scene is the first time she calls him “Boss,” one of her trademarks that separate her from the other Robins.  It shows that despite her more rebellious attitude she is much more respectful to Bats than Dick ever was.

Despite scenes like this where they are tense they never fight or raise their voices.  I found it odd until I thought more about it.  They are both constantly fighting for their lives this movie, and neither want to keep fighting with their real friend, especially as they are both growing increasingly distant from their old friends.  They both know Batman can fire her or Robin can quit, and neither want that.

Joker’s suit is not much purple, but white.  The first three villains all have white as their most notable color (and Clark used it earlier).  It is not colorful, often represents purity of motive (like evil), and symbolizes death.  Fitting for all three of them.  It also represents Joker’s public lie that he is really a good man with an evil side created by Batman, and underneath it is his classic Joker purple showing he is still the same.

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Next two scenes take place at the same time.  One is on the David Endochrine show (voiced by Conan O’Brien doing a great job clearly ad libbing some lines).  Between the three there is plenty of funny banter, but during it Joker pushes Wolper’s arm off his shoulder to his annoyance and declares he will kill everyone in the room.  Wolper then attacks Batman calling him responsible for Joker’s evil and attacks his character.  Joker slices his throat to everyone’s horror.  Then the dolls break in and fill the room with laughing gas.

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We later hear how Bats sees this.

Time to discuss the ultimate Joker weapon.  Before The Animated series laughing Gas meant certain death and never made appearances on TV.  The show found a way around it by giving Batman an antidote allowing it to be used but lessening its impact making several fans not know it brings a painful death.  This brings it back to its old self in all its horror. To add to it is Emerson’s performance and the body language.  It is just so casual as he kills his biggest supporter for a death count of 206.  I know I am not supposed to say this, but this whole scene is much superior to its comic counterpart.  Similar to how issue 2 is the best comic and worst movie half; issue 3 is the fourth best comic and best movie half.

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Bats leaves the Batcopter to get Joker (before he has killed anyone yet) only for the police to surround him.  Batman uses smoke screens to hide his movements, which also makes the setting look different from last fight.  Batman is then wiping out the cops until Yindel has the helicopters blow the smoke away.  They tell Batman to freeze, he does, and Yindel shoots at him.  I am not a lawyer, but I presume that is unconstitutional.  Robin sees this from the Batcopter, and she hacks into the command systems (foreshadowed more in the comic).  She rescues Batman by getting the Batcopter really close, and they hear on the radio that Joker has escaped and killed everyone.  Batman sadly tries to find out the exact number of dead, as Robin is having trouble taking into account what it means.  Batman is able to smile when telling her she is not fired for saving him, an affection I doubt he would share with Dick all those years ago.

Next scene is more of Clark in Corto Maltese, as he kills a few thousand Soviets in a few seconds.  Less than thirty minutes and the death count is on pace to be at least 20,000.

Next few scenes are slower and give the audience some time to breathe good air.  Joker goes to Selina Kyle, former Catwoman, now running an escort business.  He mind controls her with his lipstick, possibly rapes her, off screen puts her in a Wonder Woman outfit, and gets her to mind control to a congressman into committing suicide in a public spectacle.  Batman finds out Selina was involved, while Yindel finds out Batman is going there resulting in every key character rushing from or to there.  Everyone but Clark who is busy fighting a war instead of coming to save everyone.

That is the irony of the deal he made.  By being the government’s puppet it allows him to legally be the hero, but he has to be their hero and only their hero.  Following their orders made him abandon what made him Superman, betray his friends, and never be there when needed.  Where was he last movie?  The Mutant Leader would not have lasted one punch against him.

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Batman and Robin arrive first.  This image shows the major contrast in their colors.  I am used to adaptations where half of Robin’s cape is made black, but here it is still all yellow keeping the contrast.  When I pay attention to their expressions as they look at Joker’s mess I see a contrast to their expressions. Bats has seen this before and is directly looking for Selina.  Robin is taking it all in losing her childlike innocence.  Ironically when trying to get away from it she finds the cotton candy making them realize Joker is going to the fairgrounds.  Selina begs Bats to quit bringing children for his holy war only for Batman to calm down his old flame with a kiss.  The cops come in forcing Batman and Robin to flee.  This results in the scene that made me realize how special this work is.

Robin’s strap breaks resulting in a dramatic scene where she nearly falls to her death.  She grabs Batman’s cape at the last second.  This is why superheros need capes Edna.  They are something to grab on to when falling to Hades.  Instead of scolding her Batman holds her tight, and they share a tender hug.  He then comforts her by giving her the same praise he gave Jason last movie.  It is such a sweet scene amidst all the darkness and never clashes with the tone.

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Too bad her ear is off scale this shot.

They arrive at the fair in time to see Joker and Abner happily poisoning children, and Joker romantically says “him” when spotting Bats.

It then breaks into two simultaneous parts, one with Robin vs. Abner and one with Bats vs. Joker.  I just noticed how similar Robin and Abner are.  They are both very happy to be sidekicks, call their leader “Boss,” serve someone who just came back after years of absence, are technology geniuses, and are always happy to rescue their leader, and seem to have no need for public recognition.  One of the dolls is going to blow up a roller coaster until Robin slingshots it away, but then Abner starts choking her.  Robin kicks him off, but to her horror his coat gets stuck on a roller coaster chain.

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It changes several details from the comic, but it keeps the entire point of the sequence, Robin’s loss of innocence, and again I prefer the film version.  It is much more powerful when Robin is the one who killed someone even if accidentally.  It also leaves Batman as the only key character who never kills anyone.

Joker and Batman are actually very similar.  They are both older men who have made their huge comebacks, and are relying on a younger sidekick for technology help, and they are still the muscle.  Most importantly they both are not focused on consequences, but on methods and means.  Joker has no care for what evil gets him, but in doing the evil thing because it is the evil thing (the opposite of Deontology, doing the right thing because it is the right thing).  This is how he gets into Batman’s emotions in a way nobody else can.  He starts beating on everyone until the more brutal Batman of PArt 1 is back.

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Joker at first hates this pain, until he starts having fun seeing Batman lose it.  Joker is in phenomenal shape for a guy who has been a vegetable for ten years, and he is the only person in all of Gotham who can shoot straight.  He gets Batman right in the chest.  I completely lost track of how many people he shot and stabbed, as Batman stops to count the bodies before moving on.  He chases Joker to the Tunnel of Love where the happy pink glow quickly becomes a creepy purple.  Joker shoots one person per couple, and happily shoots one bullet at every couple laughing all the way, until Batman finally catches him, and again the internal monologue is masterfully turned to dialogue.  This scene uses dialogue from all over Issue 3 resulting in this great exchange.

“All the people I’ve murdered by letting you live.”

“I never kept count.”

“I did.”

“I know, and I love you for it.”

The real reason right there that batman retired.  Not just Jason, but he could only see everyone he failed to save instead of everyone he did save.  It is also why he has always needed a Robin around, as he/she reminds him of the good he has done for others.  Now she is away, and Batman is losing it.

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Joker starts stabbing him, and the sound effects make me feel everything.  Normally these movies have inferior music to the DCAU, but Chris Drake did a great job here, and this movie is considered his best work (besides possibly The Killing Joke).  Bats tries a losing battle to push Joker back, but he is blacking out.  He then snaps Joker’s neck as the few remaining civilians scream and flee.  Then Joker gets up and mocks Bats for not having it in him to finish him, but it does not matter.  He won, as Bats started to kill him, and he will now be hunted down.  He promises to see the love of his life again in Hell, and finishes snapping his neck.  Bats and the screen then black out ending the best Joker death.  Again this is an improvement over the comic due to the sound effects, music, monologue to dialogue translation, and it just has a much better pace.

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In the comic this is where Issue 4 begins, making it the weirdest one, and it starts with a dying old man  fleeing the cops.  The honeymoon phase is now a distant memory.  Bats is blacking out, struggling to walk, leaving a literal blood trail, and struggling to to see, as his much younger sidekick has to save him.  Unlike the last two times there is no sense of triumph or happiness in Batman when it happens.  This time she has to grapple him, which clearly hurts him more.  The scene has problems like Robin lifting him too easily and the cops being way too slow, but it has some great moments too.

It is important to remember that the cops are just doing their job to hunt a vigilante who is now wanted for murder like when Yindel orders them “If it isn’t a cop shoot it.”

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No wonder the city ha so many crime problems.  I am going assume they shot living romantic partners who fled the crime scene.

The plot from here is slower and more somber.  At the Batcave Alfred with some help from Robin sews him up in probably the only scene he is happy with her presence.  Alfred is used to this, while Robin is worried about watching someone else die, and likely aware she will have to do the doctor work when Alfred is gone.  I think Alfred is around 85 now, while Batman now probably has the body of a 70 year old man.

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The President faces the nation  and basically says, “Victory.  Oh, and those Commie losers rage quit and launched a nuke at us but that is not important.  Do not panic in spite of my suit and whereabouts.”  Never before has nuclear annihilation been so funny.  I often hear that The Dark Knight Returns does not understand Superman, but this next scene is my evidence to the contrary.  Clark grabs the missile, looks at the city of people, visually struggles with it (a key part of Superman so many creators miss), takes the full force by moving it to space, and then the lore gets deconstructed.  The entire nation loses power, as Batman later explains it was a special type of missile the Soviets had been making knowing Superman would take it to space, and Clark never bothered to listen about his warnings of a counter for him.  I wish this was foreshadowed, but as it is foreshadowing of later events, and it does quickly move the story along.  To make it worse a jet crashes int the cities bringing fires everywhere (this comic had a real knack for predicting 9/11), and various gangs form for battle.  The riots awaken Batman who gets himself and Robin on his herd of horses to stop it.  I count the kid has gotten 3 hours of sleep at most since this movie began (2 nights and 1 day so far).  Who am I to judge?  I slept three hours in the last 29.

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Never bring a gun to a bat-fight,

The next few scenes work much better after watching part 1.  When I first watched them I knew I was missing something, as all of it was built up in part 1, and many lines are direct call backs.  The SOBs are forming to conqueror Gotham until Batman impales their leader with batarangs, and snaps his gun like a twig.  Batman has been using the old methods to deal with the changed Gotham but between a different world and a very different body, he now fully accepts his need to change by becoming more authoritarian and deciding it is time the hero has his own army of foot soldiers.  He gathers them up, removes the guns, and they break up every gang fight in Gotham, recruiting anyone who wants to help save the city and tying up the trouble makers for now.  I think this is a logical next step for Batman.  He always recruited children, so now an army of teenagers, and he will be their guiding light to fixing their big issues.  Their old role model, The Mutant Leader, has been replaced with the man who has never killed, and already saved thousands of lives in this comic alone.

In the meantime Jim Gordon leads other civilians in saving the city, and these scenes appeal to me as a Louisianian.  In 2016 we had huge internal issues due to the Alton Sterling shootings, and then came the “once in 500 years” flood.  It ended all the fighting, and brought us all together as “The Cajun Navy.”  It reminds me of that example of terrible times bringing out the best in people.

The third and briefest plot in this time is with Clark to illustrate consequentialism.  He falls to Earth and is looking like a dead Bizzaro.  He then grabs some sunflowers and soaks the solar radiation out of them killing every plant around.  The world around him looks dead, as Clark then is restored and flies off to save the world by destroying a smaller part of it.  It is much nicer to consequentialism than the next several scenes, and it shows Clark as a hero who does what is needed.

Next scene is the news exposition.  Remember last post where I said that the heat symbolized crime?  Now it is the coldest day of the year due to nuclear winter, and Gotham is now the greatest city in America.  Everywhere else has descended into mass anarchy, rioting, and looting in spite of the President declaring martial law, but Batman has kept Gotham safe, and the cops are now refusing to hunt him due to Yindel finally seeing the light.  That or she is too busy shooting everyone who is not a cop.  The President’s administration is embarrassed by a vigilante doing it better than them, and now it is on a national scale.  He tells Clark it is time to bring their “other little problem” in, and he obeys while stoically stating that Bats will never surrender alive.  Like the comic it is ambiguous how he really feels.

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Next scene introduces us to the last key character, Green Arrow.  For those who do not know (never stated in movie or comic) Green Arrow is the arch liberal of the DC Heroes in contrast to Green Lantern and The Question for the Right.  Green Arrow typically wants to revolutionize the system.  Now in Reagan’s era and with superheroes being banned he is an anarchist.  He tells Bats he has to learn to lay low and hide from the government, like he has.  Take advantage of their egos getting in the way.  The camera then reveals the archer is missing his shooting arm, and he wants payback on Clark.  I often wonder if it was intentional or an accident by Clark.

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Clark challenges by again acting like he is about to kill Robin, morally permissible by consequentialism (wrong action to get one or both of them to quit) but not by deontology.  Batman picks Crime Alley, where his parents died and when Bruce Wayne became Batman.  A fitting place to die where he was born, as he seems to go back into death wish mode.  Alfred has hardly been in this part, and he is certain of defeat and the disaster of his part, but he does it, because “It does fall within my duties.”  He is overall a consequentialist, but is showing some deontological values.  Like most people he switches based on the scenario and current mood.

Bats now dons a suit of armor instead of the tights, a symbol of him further evolving himself to fit the times while still clearly being Batman.  This is one of the big changes that became practically permanent, as I can name no live action Batmen who wore something besides armor.  He explains to Robin that the nuke and son have weakened him to an unknown degree, and his traps should reveal how much, and this results in my favorite Robin-centric scene in any form.  She finally asks if he is going to die, and for the only time in the film or comic Bats uses the slang, “Figure I will.”  It shows he has figured it out.  It makes Robin know that he plans on living through this, and it plays mind games with Clark.  It makes him think he wants to die and will not have hordes of traps.  For Robin it shows how she has come to think of him as a man instead of the unstoppable hero, and this has made her lose no respect for him.

Here begins the absolute signature scene, and the one I saw first.  My brother found it on youtube and demanded I watch it, and based on the hordes of videos there with millions of views I think many fans had similar experiences.  This movie has so many stand out moments, and they are so different.  The settings are different, which makes them stick out.  Recruiting the SOBs and battling Joker have such different tones, and this battle with Clark has much lighter colors.

Battle begins with Clark and the military flying in to trace Batman, but Clark’s X-Ray vision activates missiles (if it works like that can Clark give cancer with his X-Ray vision?) and this confirms to Bats that his flight is limited as the missiles hit him.  Then the Batmobile blasts him with more missiles and Bats smiles like a proud father at Robin’s work.

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I cannot blame her for enjoying this but the shot looks familiar.

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It illustrates that she is becoming more and more like Batman (you might already know one of her future hundreds of super hero names).  Clark rips open the Batmobile hoping to find Bats and instead finds…

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Such a  great way to add some humor before the battle of former best friends, give the impression Robin has her own death wish, and Clark’s comically serious statement that it is a school night showing how out of touch he has become.  Bats calls Superman away leading to the clash of Titans.  Alternatively Superman backed up by the US military vs a man who struggles with street thugs in a walking hospital bed backed up by an old one armed archer and a 13 year old.  I instead view it a battle of deontology vs consequentialism, and it starts exactly as it should.  They stare each other down and have this talk.

Clark (sadly): We Don’t have to do this.

Batman (angrily): Sure we do.  (immediately pulls out a sound weapon to use against Clark’s super hearing.

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He bleeds.

What i love about this fight is how neither want to kill the other, and both are holding back.  It is obviously more clear with Clark, but that is changing.  Throughout the fight he grows angrier and angrier making him more and more ruthless.  Bats fights dirty with acid and fighting when Clark tries to reason with him.  As Clark is morally very different from the other antagonists he is the only climatic antagonist to not wear white, as he still has the iconic suit.

Again the internal monologue is changed to dialogue with more changes.  When I read the comic for the third time I realized I had been subconsciously filling in the blanks with lines from the movie.  I cannot praise Chris Drake’s score enough.  It is very ’80s, and epic during the brawling, yet soft and dramatic for the slower scenes where they are shown to be in visible pain over the fight or the emotional conflict.  It also seamlessly changes for the other scenes at the same time with Green Arrow, Robin, and Alfred.  Robin has the most simple scene.  The army is certain Clark has this in the bag, and they are trying to capture the Batmobile.  Batman’s voice in a recording tells her the real plan, as Clark should be too angry to listen now.  This relates to Green arrows’s scene where he flees some soldiers and gets shot in the crotch.  He is able to fire an arrow at Clark and then gets rescued by Robin in the Batmobile.

Alfred gets the saddest scene where he puts the mansion on self-destruct mode, sadly looks at photos of his surrogate son, and then dies in the snow.

With Clark vs. Batman the scene is amazing, and really feels like its own thing from the comic.  It uses the same bat traps, but the images, and pacing is longer and more epic, and the words have the same meaning but are very different.  It really does feel like a perfect adaptation and simultaneously its own thing.  You will forget it is between a man suffering from radiation poisoning and a critically injured old man.  Clark rips off Bats’s mask trying to appeal to his perceived human side, which fails, and he catches the arrow.  Only for his anger to blind him to it being a trick arrow which dowses him with synthetic kryptonite gas.  Some fans are mad that Batman no longer mocks Superman directly for losing, but I prefer here how he says he was holding back against the Man of Steel by using less potency than he could have.  Bats then suffers a heart attack resulting in Clark’s Superman side reemerging.

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He gets furious at the soldiers and just tries to comfort his old friend in his dying moments, as the scene changes to Batman’s funeral.  I heard plenty of fake spoilers that this ended with Bat’s death, and I bought it.  It is an else world story, which allows for permanent death, and it was built up so well, and I can see how this inspired The Death of Superman.  It has some great silent moments with Superman feeling guilty, and he is the second to last to leave (Robin in disguise) until he hears a heartbeat.  At first I thought it was Robin’s heart beat worried that Clark would kill her until it goes on enough that I realized it was Bat’s heartbeat and he faked his death with the pill he took earlier.  Superman sees Robin has a shovel.  Robin looks scared at Clark until Supes blinks at her and walks away.  This is why I always think Miller was trolling when he claims he hates Superman.  Robins starts to dig him up meaning Batman and Robin rescued each other 4 times each (granted two of Batman’s should only be technical).

The camera pans underground to show the Sons of Batman, Green arrow, Robin, and out of costume Batman digging their way to the Bat Cave to restart their vigilantism in a more mysterious way.  Bats declares he had been searching for a good death, but this will be a good life.

I have heard plenty of debate why he is not dressed like a bat, finally accepting his Bruce side, or that he has cast it aside completely even when not in costume.  I go with the second theory, as he has been acting like Batman without he costume the entire time.

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Unlike Part 1 I prefer Part 2 to the last two issues of the comic.  Animation is the best medium for superheroes (comics are ahead of live-action, which is best for campy super heroes).  The pacing is faster when it need to be (Joker’s death) and slower when it needs to be (the funeral), and the dialogue is so great to match Miller’s internal monologue.  It is one of only six movies I can name that I rank as six tree star movies.  It brought me out of my unemployment slump, where I found an essential job (fittingly a night job).  It got me to decide on deontology, which has been a major influence on refusing to take time off during the pandemic.  If I ever remake my top  Non-Disney animated movies list this is number 3.

It also restored my love for direct-to-video movies, which is why I have been watching and reviewing so many lately.  There is no way this would have ever been released to general audiences in theaters after the Aurora shootings.

On Tuesday May 12 is the conclusion to the Bat-Marathon where I start a new series, reviews of animated movies as adaptations starting with The Dark Knight Returns.  I am not finished with it, and it is not finished with me.

Second longest post I ever made.  “thanks for staying “til the end.”

 

 

DTV Wonders: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

It is the year 2012 and Bruce Timm is preparing for his final movies before he steps down as head of the DC Animated Original Movies lineup, so it is time to make a very special movie, an adaptation of arguably the greatest comic book of all time.  Frank Miller wrote and drew The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 by making it take place in the present day while simultaneously taking place 26 years in the future.  It may sound contradictory but it actually makes sense as the public perception of Batman was stuck in the 1960s.  At the time Batman was canonically always 29 years old and not allowed to grow older.  This made 29 year old Miller scared, as he was about to become older than his hero and perceived father figure (this makes me wonder what his childhood was like).  His dad was 55, so he made a story about 55 year old Batman living in the 1980s.  The book was instrumental in turning Batman into the most popular superhero in the world, and created the iron age of comic books much to Miller’s horror.  Many of its elseworld’s elements were put in the main continuity most notably the death of Jason Todd (second Robin) two years before A Death in the Family did it.  Timm decided to adapt this for his magnum opus. It is four issues long, and I mean long issues.  I can normally read an issue in around 20 minutes, but his take up 40.  To make this into a problem all the DCAOMs are only around 75 minutes, but they had a simple solution, make it two movies.

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His life literally in flames.

It begins with a scene Cars 3 ripped off where gray haired and mustached Bruce Wayne is in a street race in a car designed to look like the Batmobile and a helmet designed to look like his mask.  Great way to keep the secret identity until I recently realized he is fine with being discovered and killed.  It becomes apparent later that he has a death wish.  Part of what I love about these movies and comics are that every time I read or watch them I notice all these new details and interpretations, and one is that the race represents the race of life.  Bruce is trying to rush to the finish line (death) in a fun last moment.  His coach tells him he is pushing the car too hard for his own safety and manually overrides him only for Bruce to grab the controls to destroy them giving him back control of the car.  He wants his death to be on his terms and to his satisfaction.  The coach asks if he is trying to die only for Bruce to ask himself “hmmm?” contemplating if this is a good enough death.  He decides no and ejects at the last second, as his car spins out of control and blows up.  He tells himself he wants death, but in reality he still has some purpose to go on buried inside.

Like the comic the movie regularly has news reports that offer exposition, set the mood with their sensationalism, and (to a much lesser extent than the comic) commentate on the news’s unfortunate biases and unreliability.  They quickly explain that Commissioner Gordon is facing mandatory retirement soon at age 70, and he has been a frequent target by the new gang, The Mutants.  In addition Gotham is dealing with record breaking heat (symbolizing the crime wave), and it has been ten years since the last sightings of Batman, now considered a myth by many high school aged children.

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This is the first showing of Bruce Wayne’s face.  He now has gray hair and is clearly much older.  Hus mustache hides his famous jaw line he showed as Batman, and he is drinking his problems away.  He shares an uneasy evening with Gordon who makes him mad by bringing up both of his old Robins, Dick (left 7 years ago) and Jason (died ten years ago with no details ever given).  He is trying to get Bruce to reconnect with one of his old friends whether it is himself or Dick, but this makes Bruce upset and leave.

During Gordon and Bruce’s talk Gordon gives an important piece of information he news neglected, that the Mutants are not hardened criminals but children who are losing their humanity in this dark world.  Batman says he has seen the Mutants’ lack of humanity before, and it is left ambiguous who he means.  It can mean Joker (my guess), the man without empathy, it can mean Clark, the alien, it can mean himself, or it could mean them all.

When walking home he goes through Crime Alley, and he sees a newspaper clipping discussing the murdered parents by The Mutants.  This gives him flashbacks to his parents’ deaths, and then two mutants talk about killing him in the new dialect that Bruce is unfamiliar with.  This is the part where the movie normally shows off what the hero can do in an exciting sequence, and Bruce gets ready fro a fight.  Instead this scares the mutants off much to Bruce’s disappointment as he breaths heavily realizing he will not die there, and remembering that he is too old for this.

Peter Weller voices Batman, and he is likely the most love him or hate him Batman voice ever.  Every review either praises him as an all time great or all time worst.  He uses the same voice as Batman and Bruce Wayne, which I think fits this characterization.  His voice is also softer than the comic, but talking that loud would mean Batman is laryngitis-man.  He has a booming powerful voice that captures the fear of killing criminals yet the thrill of defeating them, which is why I think he is on par with Michael Keaton.

In the middle of the night he looks at the Robin costume to remind himself of a promise he made ten years ago to never be Batman again.  He then learns he shaved without knowing it showing he is coming closer and closer to breaking it without realizing.

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At Arkham Bruce funded the healing surgery of his former best friend, Harvey dent resulting in psychiatrist Dr. Wolper and a plastic surgeon fixing his face to remove Two-Face.  To Bruce’s support and Gordon’s anger he is released, but Harvey instead disappears.  This results in the best scene is the movie and probably the whole lineup.  Bruce watches the news, which is nothing but doom and gloom (like today) channel surfing just to hear about murdered children and other disasters until he finds the movie he watched right before his parents’ murder.  He sees it for the thousandth time in slow motion,a s the weather man says a storm is about to hit like the wrath of God on Gotham.  HE runs to the window and hears the one time the movie uses internal monologue.  Batman tells Bruce it is time to stop being a hollow shell and let the other man run things now.  I do not know why this makes it better but the movie’s sounds goes mute for one second right before this.

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Can the Waynes not afford sturdier glass?

This opening is amazing.  It is only 14 minutes long, but it feels like so much more has happened.  It is not rushed, introduces the most important character as a man with split identities suffering to cope with this harsher world, introduces the third most important character Gordon.  Gives plenty of mystery and story motivations for the two villains, Harvey and The Mutant Leader leaving Carrie as the only key character not introduced.  It sets the dark tone perfectly, and gives plenty of great images.

This leads to Batman’s introduction where he is kept in the shadows and the viewers get to slowly see more and more of him, as he saves various civilians from members of the Mutants with methods like turning bribery money into confetti, breaking their hands, and impaling their arms with batarangs.

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This makes him drop the tough guy accent and sound like a scared child.

The last one  blew me away the first time.  In addition some more new slang is used by the Mutants and some 13 year old girls Batman saves.  I have heard that it was a secret language made by Miller’s brother-in-laws, but Miller’s wife and colorist, Lynn Varley cracked their code, got it incorporated, and got Miller to put her brothers in as members of The Mutants who constantly get beaten up and insulted.  I think I have figured it all out, but the most important part is to remember that “figure” is a mark of sarcasm or contradiction.

Next scene has Batman making the full reveal in front of a young and an old cop, while chasing down some of two-face’s men.  This results in a terrific and chilling fight.  There is no internal monologue so there a few ways the movie makes up for it.  One method is cutting it out like they did with the iconic baptized in the rain speech.  Another way is having them just talk out loud.  A difficult but rewarding method is to convert it to dialogue, and here they use facial expressions.  For example Batman in the comic has brief narration that illustrates the earlier honeymoon time of becoming Batman again is already ending.  He is making too much noise by walking now, which is shown by the goons trying to trace him with all the noise.  The other way is Batman’s reaction to realizing he can no longer climb the rope with just his hands.

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He then uses his feet to slowly climb the rope, and he struggles greatly in taking down the criminals, but he succeeded due to his ability to terrify them and by nearly crippling one of them.  He later traces that one down and interrogates him until he reveals where Two-Face is hiding.

Like Batman vs. Robin Jay Oliva is the director, and this does a much better job as showing his strengths, fight scenes.  At the same time it hides his weakness, talking scenes.  Many directors who used Miller’s work like Robert Rodriguez described Miller’s work as cinematic and very easy to adapt to film, which results in much better shot scenes.  Since the comic is known for its pacing as well due to its panels per page layout, this also makes it easier for Oliva to get this right.

Dr. Wolper on the news defends Harvey claiming Batman made him like all of his other villains.  Every time he says the words Batman a piece of Joker’s catatonic body moves coming back to life.

His batsuit is the same one Adam West wore.  It is has some color in it, but it only ads a little to the neutral colored city with all the shadows.

In another scene Alfred is massaging batman due to the pains of his old age, as Alfred gets some great lines in trying to get his boss to do the other type of permanent retiring and asking if he is still the sole beneficiary of his will.  Meanwhile Gordon calls “Wayne infirmary” using the red Adam West Batphone.  Gordon lights the batsignal, much to the happiness of Carrie, one of the girls Batman rescued earlier, and it gives her a break from her parents agreeing with he news.  Gordon reveals Two-Face has stolen two helicopters and trade the clues making them realize he is about to attack Gotham tower, and he has used the coin again.

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He is now covered in white bandages and scratching both sides of the coin making them worried he is now scarred on both sides.  Two-Face hacks on to the news to reveal his demands of 10 million dollars or he blows the building and thousands of people up.  Thinking of everyone in it Batman surprisingly grabs a gun, and then uses it to set up a rope to run on.  As Batman normally has guns on the Batmobile I buy this, especially as Miller’s Batman is more hating bullets than guns.  He defeats the goons only to find that to the surprise of one goon that the bomb is set to go off killing Two-Face, the goons, and thousands of people.

Batman realizes he is not the only one with a death wish and defuses it.  Two-face then shoots him in the body armor, but he bends out of the helicopter really far like he wants to die resulting in him falling to the street until Bats swings in and saves him.  He removes the bandages and to his horror he sees the regular face of Harvey Dent realizing an interpretation of two-Face that has become common since the comic and originated there, that the scarred side is the good side and the handsome side is the evil mobster side.  This brings Batman to depression as the first half ends.

It helps divide it that the comics were actually written under the assumption that some readers could not just get all four issues.  Many comic story lines just end issues, which is why it took me so long to get into them.  I could only find a few at a time, and none of them had real endings.  In The dark Knight Returns each issue has their own climax in a different environment, their own villain, and even their own theme.  The theme of part one is about self rediscovery, where Batman becomes the great hero again, but his best friend’s failure to do the same brings him to his darkest point.  It goes well with the next part about facing the Mutant gang and overcoming a death wish.  The adaptation and presentation of part one are both amazing, and the first half is incredibly entertaining and inspiring.  Issue two meanwhile is the best in the comic, but unfortunately the worst part of either movie.

Another news interview shows up again commentating on a major problem that is more prevalent today than it was then, using the ad hominem fallacy to call everyone on the other side of a political discussion a fascist.

Next Gordon is nearly killed by a Mutant, but he successfully fires first.  After reporting that councils are demanding the hunting of Batman they report that Gordon was killed then that he shot and killed the 17 year old Mutant.  They give no context on why it happened resulting Carrie’s parents angrily blaming Gordon oblivious to the detail that their daughter has bought a Robin costume put it on, snuck out the window, and nearly fell to her death.

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Fans are divided on her design.  I hear a wonderfully colorful and unique design that perfectly contrasts the dominantly neutral colors or just Velma in a Robin costume.

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Velma has reddish brown hair to Carrie’s brownish red hair. Velma has blue glasses that are sometimes green. Carrie has green glasses that are sometimes blue. Mostly the same.

I say both, as the design is very different from most superheroes and all female superheroes.  There is no way the glasses are practical, but as a man can dodge bullets it is the emotions that are meant to be taken seriously not so much the fights.  We glasses wearers have to stick together so the costume is perfect.   She tries to climb the window ledge, and it goes around as well as any 13 year old would pull it off, the structure is falling apart, and she only survives by falling on a fire escape ledge.  This is a call forward to the prequel comic/prelude movie Year One where Batman made his first appearance on a fire escape.

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Next is one of the most iconic and debated Batman scenes of all time.  Three mutants have kidnapped a toddler, heir to a fortune, and are holding him for ransom with he intention of killing him after they got the money (it was on the news that they already did this with another toddler).  I know how baby kidnapping works in real life, and that kid is sadly lucky to be alive instead of peeing on The Mutants. Batman releases a giant bat on them and puts a batarang through Spot’s hand and the main mutant gets frustrated at Spot’s shouting and shoots him dead and then blames Spot for it.  Batman then busts through he wall and takes out main mutant, but then girl mutant threatens to shoot the kid.  Batman desperately points the gun at her and non lethally shoots her in the hand.  For the first time the kid stops crying when Batman picks him up.

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The comic scene is debated about Batman shooting a real gun.  I think it works perfectly due to the context.  It represents that as Batman’s death wish grows he is coming closer and closer to breaking his greatest rule.  Some are also mad at the adaptation changes when I think there are only two.  Main mutant in film shows at least some remorse for killing Spot, and Batman shoots the hand instead of the shoulder.  I do not feel this is much of a change at all, and fit with how Batman normally goes for the hand.  I love this scene of a desperate Batman, the fighting visuals, and how Batman is with children.

Still angry at murderous Mutant the screen goes black (always makes me wonder if my TV is failing), as he interrogates him by holding him upside down over a busy street on the top of Gotham’s highest peak.  With the information he finds the prestigious general who has been finding them enough firearms to fight a war in return for the money to fund his dying wive’s operation she needs to live.  Batman leaves him a gun for suicide and walks off casually.  That is something I am bothered by especially if he planned this out, as he just had a gun in his cape.

Then come a few Carrie scenes, and they begin to illustrate the problem with adapting issue 2, the internal monologues.  Each part gets progressively farther from reality.  Issue is very grounded for a Batman comic where a guy can just doge bullets, thus it is not that hard to translate it to expressions.  Here Carrie talks to herself out loud too frequently.  Her crime fighting scene is very different from the comic, but gathers the same feelings.  Instead of scaring crime she faces it like the kid she is. She does it with a great big smile and makes a want to be mugger just leave out of pure cringe, and it offers some comic relief after Batman helped a guy commit suicide.  She also overhears some Mutants say they have a meeting with their leader at the dump, and she hitches a ride there apparently deciding she is now ready for the big leagues.

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This will be a good death.

Then comes a giant tank with Batman piloting with a giant, scary smile.  The Mutant Leader is giving a speech, and Batman listens.  He gets cheers when he talks of conquering Gotham, and beheading Gordon.  This last part enrages Batman, and… starts shooting them all.  I will never forget the first time I saw this.  Meanwhile Carrie defeats several Mutants rather easily, but normally in comics all it takes is a few gymnastics lessons to do this like in the comic where… Actually she never won a fight in the comic.  Movie Carrie is beefed up  from her comic counterpart.  One complaint for the adaptation is Batman is clearly taking pleasure in hurting criminals in the comic and most of that is removed from the movie, but this scene really shows him enjoying it.

Unfortunately the internal monologue was so great in the comic and would not have been possible to translate without talking to himself, so the scene is much weaker here.  The Mutant Leader makes a discovery that changes everything.

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No one is dead just injured, and this enrages him.  He gets right in front of the giant tank and challenges Bats to face him, and calls him a spineless boring old man, and Batman turns everything off to Alfred’s frustration.  Batman responds while leaving the Batmobile “It’s the only way I know.”  A perfect line describing his current attitude.

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Stealing his vampire impression.

Batman starts smiling and winning with Carrie happily watching until the Mutant Leader uses his superior speed to get some big hits and bites Bats in the neck.  To this fight’s credit the comic kept that image off panel.  Batman responds by breaking his nose only for his opponent to literally laugh it off, and force Batman into shock.  He then breaks Bats’s arm and pins him down.

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Anyone else think he looks like Lucario?

After that he pulls out a crowbar (again, A Death in the Family was doing a homage to this, not the other way around), and continually whacks him in the back of the head.  Then Carrie jumps on the Mutant Leader’s head, and Petrie style tries to remove his eyes.  He responds by removing her and beginning to crush her skull.  Saving her rejuvenates Batman and he pulls out a device that chokes his opponent into unconsciousness, as Batman stays down near dead.  Unfortunately it lingers on some panel recreations too long hurting the pacing.

For all the complaining I did, as this scene is nowhere near as good as the comic; I still love it.

This leads to Carrie trying to drag this giant man uphill to the Batmobile, and then disobeying Alfred when he tells her over the radio to run off now by jumping in.  In the Batmobile she splints his arm (using potentially important pipes) and calls herself “Carrie Kelley” looks away like she is ashamed of it (with her forgetful parents probably for good reason) and reintroduces herself as “Robin.”  Like in the comic it is with a very quiet voice, due to her being startstuck.  Batman then calls himself Bruce much to Alfred’s anger.  Alfred insists they go to a hospital and end Batman’s secret, but Bats insists they go to the cave and take “Robin” with them.  In both movies he never once calls her “Carrie,” as she now has a new identity and life.  In a nice touch when preparing to face death he grips her hand the same way he gripped his dying father’s hand.

Unfortunately most of the next few scenes drag.  The cave scene omits key emotional moments and ads a weird scene with Robin trying to access the Batcomputer to Alfred’s annoyance.  Meanwhile Dr. Wolper continues to argue that Batman creates villains and disorder, while Lana Lang argues he is an inspiration for good.  Batman leaves Robin and Alfred where he sees his parents’ deaths gain and realizes this is the chance for him to be a better father figure than before, and he looks at the bat and decides they are not finished, as he knows he still has a purpose with he living now.

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From left to right, Yindel, Mayor, Deputy Mayor.

The mayor then reveals that he has appointed Ellen Yindel to be his next police commissioner and blames the entire Mutant fiasco on Gordon and declares that he will try to personally negotiate with their leader.  He mainly picked her for the PR points of appointing a woman.  Like in the comic she looks like an older version of Robin.

The Mutants have other ideas as their captured leader and non-captured members put on the news that they will bust him out, kill Gordon, and raze Gotham.  Gordon escorts the scared mayor to the cell, and the mayor makes it clear he is only doing it because the polls want him to.  It takes three seconds for the Mutant leader to start eating him alive resulting in the deputy mayor (voice by Frank Welker using his Mystey Incorporated voice) to take over and beg the Mutants to accept further negotiations.  Like real life the politicians really stink at their job.

At the cave Robin hides and listens, as Bats and Alfred discuss her.  Alfred says Batman was delirious for bringing her, while Bats deems her a perfect new sidekick, and then to Robin’s fear (Possibly of death and possibly of being fired) Alfred brings up Jason.  Batman responds that Jason was a good soldier and the war goes on.  He immediately calls Robin knowing she was listening this whole time and tells her if she alters his orders in any way she is fired.  She takes this with a smile.  She might have a bigger death wish than him now.

He puts on his new, darker suit with the larger emblem.  No more deceiving himself into thinking he is the same guy from the 1960s.  He is now fully accepting that he is an old man and has to fight like one now.

He has Robin disguise herself as a Mutant and tell every Mutant that they have a mandatory meeting at the docks, but sadly it is not an exciting scene.  Afterwards Yindel and Gordon discuss Batman.  While Batman is motivated by duty Gordon is motivated by the consequences.  He tells Yindel that Batman is too big and important for the city for him to judge to Yindel’s confusion.  She admires him deeply and wants to honor him despite their big disagreements on Batman.  Then Batman makes the plan known to Gordon, humiliate the Mutant Leader, as that will break up the entire gang.

The mutant Leader keeps asking his guards about his children and wife sounding like a very proud pedophile.  A very menacing and creepy performance by Gary Anthony Williams.  Gordon then relieves him and just leaves him alone to the Mutant’s surprise.  He escapes through a drain pipe only to be pushed through the other end into the mud where all his gang watches.

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They have their famed battle in the mud making them both slow removing the younger things’s speed advantage.  Batman now fights like a man who wants to live no longer trying to match him in brutality but hurt him in the joints and face.  He makes him bleed above the eyes blinding him with his own blood.  I have been cut there, and I can say from personal experience it is terrible.  I could barely see, and it felt like I was crying blood.  He then disables his arm by hitting the key nerves.  Finally Batman brings him down and declares the mudhole to be an operating table, “…And I’m the surgeon.”  In front of the gang Batman breaks all of their leader’s limbs and knocks him unconscious.  The group then splinters, but many form the “new law.”  They are the Sons of Batman, and they target Gotham’s criminals but with the same methods.

That fight was just amazing.  Makes sense as Miller and Timm are both known for making fight scenes, and this is some of their best work.  It is even better when watched in slowed down speed.

One piece of significance is that both Robin and the Mutants watched their heroes battle but only one helped while the others stood and watched.  This illustrates what inspired them, as the mutants followed him simply as they worshiped his might.  When that illusion was gone their loyalty was also gone and for many ti switched to batman.  In contrast when Robin saw her hero beaten badly she ran into what was most likely going to be her death, as she saw a heroic fatherly figure.  Only one of them inspired true loyalty.

In the wrapping actions Gordon leaves the office to face mandatory retirement, and Dr. Wolper is on the news declaring the Sons of Batman as proof Bats has corrupted the youth, while Lana points out they are now attacking criminals instead of everyone else, and many citizens are now inspired and defending their streets.  All of this makes Joker tell the audience to be pumped for the next movie.

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“B-b-b-Batman…Darling.”

Despite some flaws in the second half I really love this movie due to its memorable designs, near perfect first half, reconstruction of the superhero, interesting elseworld, terrific fights, quick exposition, usage of comic relief by Alfred and Robin, and strong themes.  Sure I prefer the first two issues of the comic, but is it a shame to say it is inferior to possibly the best comic ever?

It is better before I read the comic where it is easier to see the ambiguity, but that does not hurt it much.  Sure they cut my favorite image and favorite joke, but they kept the majority of what made it great.

A clear five tree star movie that I have now seen four times since I first saw it 7 months ago (not counting the hordes of times I re-watched scenes on youtube, as I have probably seen Batman beat the Mutant leader 25 times).

Next time is the much more debated second part.

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Coming Tuesday April 28th.

 

My second longest post I ever wrote and it shattered the record for longest review, and I think the next one will be even longer (I have been planning this for 7 months giving me hordes to write).  Thanks for staying ’til the end.

 

 

 

 

 

DTV Wonders: Batman Vs. Robin

This is film number 4 (or five by some lists) on The Animated New 52 Movies DC Animated Movie Universe. As of when I write this it contains 14 out of 38 movies in the “DC Animated Original Movies” lineup, and for a while almost every new film in the line was part of one continuity. In recent years they have made more movies outside of the lineup, often elseworlds that could never be part of the lineup (Superman Red Son), part of the different continuity of the DCAU (Justice League vs the Fatal Five), or The Killing Joke.

It should be noted that is started with the lineup changing head producers. For the first 16 movies (up to The Dark Knight Returns Part II) Bruce Timm was in charge but starting with Superman Unbound James Tucker took over. I could not find the video interview where I previously read this but it captures both of their strengths and why the two of them are a terrific team (they were both crucial to the DCAU and early movies where Timm was in charge with Tucker being one of his crucial workers) when they both made Superman the Animated Series Tucker came up with an idea that has become a permanent change in the Superman lure, Brainiac is now a Kryptonian computer and is at least partially responsible for the destruction of Krypton. This was received to universal acclaim, and Timm fought it for not being true to the comics. This shows Tucker’s strength of making new additions to the story. In addition it shows that Timm is great at following the beloved stories, but also why he is a great leader. He may fight them, but he does listen to new ideas, and he is normally persuaded to accept the best ones resulting in many great comic book TV shows and movies as head creator.

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It should be noted that this came right after their acclaimed two film adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns and Tucker said in an interview before making a single film in the lineup. from here

“I can’t think of any other classic DC stories that I want to adapt, and I’m not big on adapting stuff anyway. Once you’ve done Dark Knight Returns, that’s the ultimate DC adaptation. So my attitude is, ‘OK, this leaves me open to doing interpretations of characters and stories…’ There won’t be as many literal adaptations. That’s a step in the right direction..”

Bruce Timm is in my personal big three of animation creators along with Don Bluth (no surprise to any regular readers) and John Lasseter (I miss when it was fun talking about him), so I am disappointed he stepped down, and Tucker stepped away from a movie format I love so much. On the other hand I respect him for not resting on his laurels and remembering “you can’t top pigs with pigs.” -Walt Disney

There is a new writer and director. The writer is a comic book veteran, and the director is Jay Oliva. Oliva is known for being great at action scenes and weak at non-action scenes.

The first thing I notice is the execution of many things is much improved. The fights are much better, the comedy is better, Jason O’Mara’s acting is much better, and Stuart Allan’s acting has much better range. Sure it is is still always angry, but at least it is now different forms of angry so no more “Damian-Bot jokes.”

Damian is investigating some place… I think a few children are missing so he noticed they buy toys from one factory… It is an excuse to have him drive the Batmobile to a place where Toyman The Doll Maker is and unfortunately he has the same arc as last movie, learn “justice not Vengeance.” This is one reason I hate cinematic movie universes.

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Then we get a perfect example of why not to read the cast list before watching a movie. The villainous Doll Maker’s actor is the best in the movie with his chilling performance and unrelenting justifications for using children as child bodyguards, and he is voiced by Weird Al showing that most actors actually have versatility.

Batman arrives resulting in a very good fight, and we get a nice image of Batman being hugged by one of the children he rescues, and some actual two dimensional characterization for Damian where he refuses to kill Doll Maker only for some other vigilante to literally rip his heart out.

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“Don’t doubt your instincts.”

His voice is so much better than Deathstroke’s. It is the same basic voice except this time it comes off as natural. Then the movie starts going of the rails only a few minutes in by revealing the biggest problem, and ironically last movie’s biggest strength, Batman. The world’s greatest detective sees a batarang with no blood in a fight full of blood and accuses Damian of killing him. For once I am on Damian’s side. Batman finds an owl feather revealing this is an adaptation of the beloved “Court of Owls” story line. I have never read it (more on that later) but I keep hearing this is a terrible adaptation.

After that and a really boring speech by Batman about…zzz… it is back to a surprisingly good father and son moment. They bond over their love of Charles Dickens, and Batman shows him a movie (I am going to guess Dick did this in the comic, since he is the movie fan) with extra butter. How do you think he stays so fit? They do lampshade it, and present it as actually relaxing with his son by choosing to be his father rather than mentor here. Then it is a messy transition to Damian trying to escape and being caught.

Part of Batman’s unlikability is his failure to connect at the beginning. He tried playing good parent by watching the movie and cheating on his diet. When Damian still snuck out he felt that was a failure and doubled on being a disciplinarian. It makes sense as an arc, except he it is too extreme for the majority of the movie. To make it worse this does not seem like a real father-son relationship. A major part of them is the father has all the power, so the son has to be sneaky and subtle to get his way and insults in, and Batman is way to fine with Damian not being subtle.

Granted this is a love it or hate it movie. The love it crowd cite these father-son interactions as why they love it, and that is why I still recommend this movie I hate to Batman fans, as I think the chance is worth it.v5

Batman leaves Dick to babysit Damian and here leads to another problem. In the comics Dick and Damian are known for having a great and interesting relationship. I think the writers were hoping comic fans would fill in the blanks because here it is just a dull case of younger sibling being jealous of older sibling. They do a practice fight that is pretty good until Damian again just becomes stronger than his much bigger opponent and wins by out muscling him. Will somebody just beat him already? This is presented as as reasonable because he is the blood son, despite skills not being hereditary. The real problem is Damian wins the same way too often. At least they both have some good lines this fight.

Next scene has Batman looking at an owl museum and remembering a story his parents told him about The Court of Owls, a secret and evil society who control everything. Why would you tell your young child that as a bedtime story. Were you trying to make him into a vigilante? In a nice touch Kevin Conroy voices Thomas Wayne, but it just makes me wish he was voicing Batman too. When his parents died young Bruce suspected the court killed them, so he found a cute mother owl guarding her nest and kills her. I love birds, and I am really hating this guy. How is it I refuse to hate Batman in several comics where I am supposed to hate him and only hate him here when I am supposed to root for Bats. He then angrily looks at a model owl that is supposed to scare us.

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It looks adorable instead.

Batman then gets ambushed and stabbed by many Talons in full suits. How have they remained secretive with those giant suits that make them stick out. The key to a secret society is to blend in. Thankfully this is partially explained later, as they plan on revealing themselves soon to take over. Batman is only saved by the Talons turning to liquid.

Then it is a painful scene of Dick flirting with Starfire on the phone until Alfred tells him he needs to save Batman.

Robin saves a woman from a rapist by brute out muscling him until Talon, the killer from earlier, shows up telling him to just kill them. Talon would be scary except for that tiny beak in his mask. It really ruins terror. He tells Damian they must cross lines Batman refuses to due to a misguided moral code, eradicate crime permanently. I love consequentialism vs. Deontology, so I am happy with this. Damian sees this as a sign of trust that Batman does not give him.

We then get more angry and untrusting Batman. There is way too much of this guy in the movie. He is constantly furious at Damian, Dick, and even Alfred. This leads Damian to go straight back to Talon.

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The Court of Owls wants Bruce Wayne to join them so they go to kidnap him by slamming their cars into him at highway speeds. I think they ware making this up as they go along.

Owl 1: Time to kill Mr. Wayne.

Owl 2: He is somehow still alive from all these car accidents we should be causing.

Owl 1: Wow, maybe we should see if he will join us. A man with his toughness could come in handy.

Owl 2: Okay, what is the plan again?

Owl 3: Good thing the cops in this town are stupid and ignoring this obvious murder/kidnapping attempt of their top financial backer.

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That scene is where the movie really goes off the rails into stupid mean spirited.

The Court is masked and all few hundred of them ask Bruce to join them saying they used to be powerful, but are now trying to regain that power. They also are the elite of Gotham making me realize Gotham has way too many rich people. No wonder no one can pin Batman’s identity based on his wealth, there are hordes of candidates. Their motivation is to gain even more power. I keep hearing the court is one of the best Batman villains, but this version is just to generic except for their Illuminati like atmosphere.

If this is intentional then the creators did their research. Contrary to popular belief the Illuminati’s symbol is not the eye, but the owl of Minerva.

They knock Bruce out again giving him some time to think their offer of joining through. I like how the Grandmaster can tell Bruce is just an act for a darker man who wants to make the city safe.

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They have an army of undead that die outside of their chambers after 24 hours. They plan on putting talon in there to be their leader. He is unhappy declaring it to be fake immortality, while the others claim to envy him, an obvious lie, as they could go in themselves. With this undead army they will conqueror Gotham.

Talon and Robin face a drug lord (one of the most likable characters in the movie) only for Robin to refuse to kill him. Talon tells him the story of how he was the apprentice to a thief that constantly beat him. Eventual Talon had enough and called the cops on him, and then the court recruited him.

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Batman arrives leading to the titular fight. Both Batman and Talon insist Damian pick a side making them seem to similar, while Damian accuses Batman of thinking of nothing but himself (ignoring all the people he has saved like Damian’s mother). Damian covers Talon’s retreat by attacking Batman, and this fight is bad.

Damian grunts the entire fight again, and again I am just tired of hearing his voice. Batman is way to offensive against his son, and it always looks like he is going for the joints.

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How to beat Damian.

Eventually Damian wins, and there is an annoyingly long, long scene where the audience is supposed to wonder if Damian killed Batman. Unlike one Batman movie I am never in doubt that Batman will live, making it just slow.

Then… This movie is so hard to track. Batman finds the court of owls who use a ripoff off Scarecrow’s fear toxin to give Batman a nightmare involving owl fountains (not scary), his own monotone voice, and Damian becoming Flashpoint batman and killing his grandparents. That or he thinks he has green eyes, as imagined adult Damian looks identical to Bruce. It all just seems forced. Again someone says Dick saved Batman off screen. How about showing this once in a while?

Back to scenes of actual importance Talon brings Damian to be inducted into the court of owls only for the grandmaster to demand he take of the mask, which results in Damian taking it off, him being recognized, them deducing Bruce is Batman, and changing all plans.

How could they not already tell. That mask hardly hides everything, and this movie is taking itself very seriously. It does not make Bruce Batman, as he could be an accomplice to Batman or have no idea what Batman is doing to his “ward.”

Anyway they order Damian imprisoned to get to Batman resulting in talon screaming out loud in front of Damian for no reason that Damian was supposed to take his place in the ritual making Damian turn on him.

Then the court releases Damian so Talon can kill him. Here we go again Damian out mus… Talon clobbers him? By this point I am just so happy to see Wonder Boy lose.

Talon then sees himself in Damian literally and kills the entire court meaning next morning Gotham will find that Bruce Wayne is the only rich man left in Gotham. He also kills the grandmaster who was this highly built up love interest of Bruce Wayne and Talon, but she was completely unimportant.

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Talon removes his mask making for a much scarier image and assumes command of the Court’s resources. He knocks out Damian again (yes), and puts him in the chamber to make him an undead owl or something. He releases the rest on the Batcave where Batman is more concerned with assaulting Alfred’s trustworthiness than being attacked. That is it I am rooting for Talon.

They then battle the owls in the mansion where Batman is fine but Dick gets cut up. Meanwhile Talon did not disarm Damian, and he cuts his way out of the chamber.

Talon battles Dick and easily crushes him and pins him to the wall.

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Wuss. we all know Damian would have broken out through the blades.

I think the writers hate Dick considering Alfred is way better at fighting than him which results in the owls being defeated and only Batman and Talon left standing. They fight and Talon wins surprisingly easily and Damian has to come save Batman. Last time Talon easily beat Damian so he has the edge. This time Damian wins in what is a surprisingly good fight where Damian uses his small size. Unfortunately the guy I am rooting for loses and then kills himself to Robin’s horror.

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They still have not saved him.

Batman and Robin have a long talk about Robin’s future.

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Guys, do not hurry on my account. Seriously quit having a heart to heart and save me.

It ends with Damian going to a monastery to find out who he is (you are Robin, it is not that hard), while they talk about how great he is because he is Batman’s son.

I hate these movies. I have not given up on the universe, as I do like some of the other films, but I am done with the Batman films in them and never plan on watching the other two. I am sick of the message that skills are hereditary instead of having to be earned. I am sick of O’Mare and Stuart’s performances. Will this Batman just stop killing everything with wings, as that has made enough problems lately in the real world. I hate that this movie has a great opening and some great ideas and squanders them.

I have no idea which of these I call the worst film. the first one has worse execution, while this one has better acting and fights but a worse story.

Is this overall faithful to the comics about Damian. I have no idea because these movies are the reason I have not read them. I was interested in the idea of Batman’s son being like this, but these movies ruined my interest. I am much more of a movie watcher than a comic reader.

I know these films are not generally well received. Thankfully this universe got much better in 2018, but it had a terrible beginning and shows how bad Batman movies can be.

Next time on April 14th you are in for a treat that night, as I got a movie that shows how great Batman can be.

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“I love my job.”

DTV Wonders: Son of Batman

I started this review well before most of the world started hording toilet paper and dairy supplies due to a an unexpected potential apocalypse.  My advice is to remember to clean your electronics. Now, back to your escapist fantasies.

Since this is a Robin movie and the 80th birth month of the character time to give a brief history of the character and what each member is most famous for.

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Upcoming 80th Anniversary Cover by Yasmine Putria caption

Dick Grayson first appeared in 1940 meaning he has been in the Batman lore for longer than Alfred and every major Batman villain.  Most polls I have seen list him as the third most popular Detective Comics Comics superhero, and he has a major role in countless iconic story lines.  His life seems to be as good as any major superhero’s life, and he is most famous for saying “holy” puns.  Seems like Putting a kid in a brightly colored costume to battle murders is a great idea.  He was so popular he left Batman to play with his hordes of other friends meaning a replacement Robin was needed.

In 1983 Jason Todd became the new Robin, and as Robin it was a complete disaster.  The writers went back and forth on whether he was a clone of Dick or a troubled young man with major anger issues making him hard to define, and fans were mad at him for replacing Dick.  The head of Batman stories, Denny O’Neil admitted he was not working and saw all the letters criticizing him.  It seems the only writer who liked him was Frank Miller.  Miller wrote an elseworlds story, The Dark Knight Returns, where Batman likes Jason over Dick but Jason was killed (all details are left to the imagination).  His death devastates Batman, and the boy’s death causes the whole world to turn on superheroes.  This was incredibly profitable for DC and is often ranked as the greatest comic book of all time, meaning, that much to Miller’s anger, Jason was killed off in canon only five years after he became Robin. Worse off everyone seems to really quickly move on like nothing happened in the main timeline.  He is by leaps and bounds best known for dying.

In The Dark Knight Returns Batman rescues a thirteen year old named Carrie who makes   a Robin costume and starts trying to fight crime, and becomes Batman’s new sidekick.  This is instrumental in Batman getting over Jason’s death, his own death wish, and his victory against the President of the United States.  She does so well that she becomes the new bearer of many old superhero names (including Batman) and she does great, other than getting raped, having every bone in her body broken at various times, and getting shot in the head in a period of less than fifteen issues.  Still an incredible influence on Batman and she is best remembered for saving Batman on many occasions making her another point for recruiting children to fight murders.

The fourth Robin is now the forgettable middle child of the family, Tim Drake, and he had the title for 20 years making him the second longest acting Robin (in Comic book time Carrie or Damian has the role of Batman’s sidekick the longest).  He was a return to form with Dick’s example except for being a worse fighter but better detective.  Oddly for such a popular character his most remembered role is in Batman: The Animated Series where as I said before he is actually Jason there with Tim’s name.  That is his major problem with being remembered.  So many different writers have used him for what they think Robin should be like that he has no character consistency.  He is best remembered for a story where he is portrayed like Jason. Meaning he is brainwashed and emotionally scarred into leaving Batman and despising his time as Robin and devastating Batman.  Another reason not to use children for a holy war against crime. At least he has many, many fans.

During his run he got his girlfriend, Stephanie, to become Robin for four issues.  It was very brief ,and all I know about it is Batman hated working with her and she is by far best remembered for dying in a very tragic way. See a pattern yet?

Robin number six is the protagonist of Son of Batman Damian Wayne, easily the most love or hate of the group.  He is also best remembered for dying in a gruesome way.

So half of the Robins are best remembered for dying, and another for being brainwashed.  Being Robin is probably the most dangerous superhero job there is.

There are some big names on the credits like James Tucker (Producer of Justice League) and Ethan Spaulding (Director of Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Phantosaur), but disappointingly Bruce Timm was not involved.  This one of the earliest films in a period where DC was making almost all their animated movies one continuity.

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Distractingly Rhas looks like Master Splinter.

It starts with the League of Assassins mostly several minions, Rhas al Ghul (It is pronounced similar to “Racial Ghul” according to his creator), his daughter Talia, and her son, Damian Wayne.  They are attacked, and now we get to see those amazing DC animated movie fights… the fights in this movie are sadly lacking.  There is too much gun beats sword except for catapults beating helicopters (that was cool).  Rhas’s forces are getting crushed, and he eventually faces the man who betrayed him, Deathstroke.  I keep hearing that Deathstroke is a terrific villain, yet every time he is used I keep hearing he is wasted and sucks, and this is the biggest example. He is just a dull guy who kills people with swords, a perfect mirror for our protagonist.  He kills Rhas making Damian mad. I then lose all suspension of disbelief when it is revealed Ubu betrayed Rhas.  I can take a guy dressing in a rodent playsuit to fight a 600 year old man but not Ubu, a character only known for his loyalty, becoming a traitor.

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Damian

This intro sucks.  The fight is poor, and everyone who does not know who Rhas, Ubu, and Damian are will just be lost. Worst of all this is a horrible set up for everything except plot. It has no Batman or reveal about Damian’s personality.  No motivation for the villain, and it is much more serious than the rather comedic mood the movie has.  This should have been a flashback later.

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Thankfully this next scene is much improved. Batman finds a steroid-ed version of The Lizard Killer Croc stealing drugs. Batman uses intelligence to battle him with construction vehicles… Until he decides to just melee him and gets clobbered until Talia saves him.  That scene was cool, and it shows the movie has potential.

Then Batman and Talia have wine, while Talia wears a ridiculously distracting dress.  I normally think of her as more professional, while they reveal to the audience that Talia raped him in the past explaining that Damian is their son.  She says Deathstroke is trying to kill her and Damian so she leaves to face him and leaves Damian in Batman’s care.  Damian was transparently just standing behind a curtain listening to his mom explain how she raped his father, as his mom knows he is there. And they say Miller’s Batman is dark.

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Batman is uncomfortably silent, while Damian just seems bored and emotionless.  Batman is motivated to keep him away from the villains raising him, as for once everyone will agree the man-child in a playsuit crying out to mommy is the better role model for the kid.  Meanwhile Kirk Langstrom (Man-Bat) is captured by Deathstroke. He must make him an army of man-bats or his family is dead.

Unfortunately the chemistry between the two leads is very bad. Jason O’Mara is Batman, and he is good when talking to his peers like in Justice League War and The Death of Superman.  When talking to his son he just sounds nasally and overly stoic. Damian’s actor (Stuart Allen) just sounds moderately grumpy all the time. By the middle of the movie I am just sick of hearing the protagonist’s voice. It is no wonder all my favorite scenes do not have him in them.

We thankfully get to the best character, Alfred. He gets some funny lines, and he actually makes Damian-bot show emotions like anger and confusion.  Alfred’s condensing and rude attitude is the best part.

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I do not know why, but I do not like the out of costume character designs (they are identical to the ones in Justice League: Doom). Thankfully we get some good comedy like Damian beheading the shrubs to Alfred’s annoyance.  Damian hacks the information on Ubu from the Batcomputer, since he is the world’s greatest hacker, and he tries to convince Batman to go kill him.

Meanwhile Talia’s ninjas find Deathstroke’s hideout and walk straight through the front door.  Predictably, her men are easily killed and she is captured. Rhas sucks at training.

Then comes the best scene in the movie.  At Arkham Croc is coughing up hordes of blood, shedding scales, and is painfully going berserk.  No one will medicate him.  Batman comes and offers to help in return for knowledge about the drugs.  This shows O’mara’s potential acting ability with the right supporting cast, and Batman’s compassion.  Batman follows the lead and finds animal hybrids including a winged gorilla that tries to kill him until Batman knocks him out with electricity.  He checks for a pulse, but an airstrike destroys the building. Batman blows up a water tower to put out the fire.  Scenes like this are what the movie needs more of.

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Now we get to one of the two infamous scenes, Damian vs Ubu.  Just read the youtube comments on this fight or find any videos and it seems everyone hates it at worst or at best finds it laughably bad.  Damian breaks through the sky roof to fight Ubu (take careful notes Talia) and avoids breaking his ankles from this fall.  As shown by the picture Ubu is way bigger so surely Damian will use superior technique or use his size to his advantage.  Nope, he just launches himself and is clearly way, way stronger than Ubu if this is working, as he easily wins.  You making the comedy, Harley Quinn, look even more serious.  To make the fight worse Damian grunts like Serena Williams the whole time, and I am just tired of hearing his voice already.  At least it is kind of funny when this giant man runs full of fear from this tiny child. Predictably Damian then slices and dices him until Nightwing shows up to save Ubu.

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As I said earlier Nightwing is the third most popular DC hero, so how does this movie universe use him? As their universal punching bag.  He actually beats Damian (off screen until the end credits), so he should probably just be glad he got a win.  At the Batcave Dick is mad at Batman and Damian, and Alfred for some reason is mad at him for nearly cursing.  Damian then clearly wants the Robin suit, when I have trouble seeing him wanting to be any type of legacy character.  When Damian expresses disappointment Ubu is still alive Batman loses it and expresses the Deontological viewpoint that you do the right thing (not killing) because it is the right thing.

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Where did his mouth go?

Batman then puts this murderous psychopath in the Robin suit. Now I have to figure out what to call him based of who he really is. For example Nightwing is Dick, Superman is Clark, Green Lantern is John, Spider-man is Spider-man, Rorschach is Rorschach, Batman II is Terry, and Batman is Batman.  For Damian his Robin identity is just a slightly less murderous version, so I will go with Damian at least for now.

They go to a stadium where Kirk is held hostage, and Damian acts like his mother and just charges in forcing Batman to stop him before intentionally hitting a booby trap.  How horrible is Rhas at training?  These scenes are why I canot take Damian’svictories seriously.  They find Kirk, and Robin immediately starts attacking him to make him talk, and all the noise alerts the guards.  How is he both so overpowered and less than useless at the same time?  It also makes the argument that he uses skill instead of brute strength to win less and less convincing.

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They flee but run into a stadium full of man-bats.  Now these are people, so surely this Batman who cares for Ubu and Killer Croc will escape and focus on saving them, as he has made it clear he is no killer.  Or he could just drop an entire stadium and kill all of them, and he then looks showing no remorse only looking mad.  Damian is making everyone a bloodthirsty monster.  The “Stupid Kid” (Batman’s words not mine) runs off to try to kill Kirk before Bats stops him.  By talking to him Batman figures out where his family and Talia are kept.  They rescue Kirk’s family and his daughter on Deathstroke’s orders delivers a video message to Damian alone saying Damian must come alone to a secret location to rescue Talia.

Batman and Dick discover Damian left and swam fifty miles to get to Deathstroke.  By that point this is just dull, especially with the ridiculous things Damian is mentioned to have done that I skipped to keep this review below 400 words.  Batman chases after them, but he does not arrive until Deathstroke kills Talia.  Bats easily defeats every man-bat making them more pointless to the plot, as he goes to rescue Talia this leaves Damian to fight Dethstroke in the most infamous scene in the movie.

More man-bats die by Batman indirectly killing them, as he uses the Lazarus Pit to heal Talia by …just casually walking through it?  I hate this movie.

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Thankfully Deathstroke easily beats Damian by impaling him through both arms’ bones so surely he will need to rely on his new allies to save him teaching him a lesson in humility and his own limitations…

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He just puled both swords out and is perfectly fine despite the huge blood loss, and the fight just keeps going on and on.  Dumb, dumb, this is dumb. We have Deathstroke trying to hard to sound cool fighting invincible hero, and this stupid sword usage.  Just end already.  At least Damian is dodging and using his size, until he just out-muscles Deathstroke and calls it “skill.” You are just throwing him across the room with brute force. Deathstroke is then dead (I think.  I have seen this movie three times and can never keep paying attention at this time), and Damian is the permanent new Robin.

This movie sucks hard. Sure it has some good parts, but the bad completely overshadow them.  We get a sucky, boring, unlikable, and whiny protagonist, a hypocritical second lead who can interact with everyone but the protagonist well, admittedly good side characters, inconsistent characterization.  The man-bat plot has no real importance (if not for Batman hypocritically slaughtering them I probably would not have even mentioned them), a sucky villain, and bad fights.  This is a clear one Tree Star movie.

In fact I mainly reviewed it just to make sure I did not waste seventy-five minutes by watching it.  It is just pointless set-up with no substance as a movie. Is it a faithful adaptation?  More on that next movie.

In two weeks on the Bat-Marathon on Tuesday March 31st.  As I said earlier there is potential, so time for the next movie in the series, Batman Vs. Robin.

 

 

 

 

The Parents of the Disney Renaissance

I remember a while back I read that the titular characters are consistently stupid trust the villain to much, senile, and bumbling.  Being the animated movie nerd I am it is time to figure out if that is true.

The start of this Disney era is debatable with anywhere from The Great Mouse Detective to Beauty and the Beast.  I put it at Oliver and Company, as this is where the style begins, the big Broadway style musical staring a lead who wants more in life and a union between someone on the top and bottom of society/the social ladder.

Oliver and Company has Jenny’s parents… Actually they are so bad they are absent the entire movie, and Fagin is a terrible father figure who is stupid, got himself in terrible debt, trusts the villain, and is practically useless.  Despite this he means well.

Triton in The Little Mermaid is wrathful, but other than that he is a good father.  He means well, sacrifices himself for his daughter, fights the villain, and is smart. Sure I found hordes of loopholes in the contract he should have been able to exploit with a good lawyer, but he was going through a traumatic experience.  His abilities as a king are questionable, but he is a god yet flawed father.

The Rescuers Down Under is a Dark Age of Animation movie made a few years late. No parents are important in it anyway.

Maurice from Beauty and the Beast is the codifier of parents from this era supposedly.   He trusts the villain, is useless getting into hordes of trouble, and senile. Despite this he means well.

The Sultan from Aladdin is the same character only he is whinier (and funnier).  He has his flaw of trusting the villain to much pushed to 11.

We all know Mufassa is the big exception.

In Pocahontas Powhatan I think is supposed to be a great dad, but he comes of as to controlling and blind to what his daughter needs.  He is great at fighting (an informed ability, as his guys got wrecked), and he is drawn as a strong man.  He does not trust the villain, but he makes many mistakes. However, he does make up for them at the end, and he is portrayed as a moral man.

This seems to be ending until The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The main parental figure is too evil, hates his adopted son, and is sent to Hell at the end.

In Hercules the father is Zeus. He looks and sounds like the great aid to his son, but really he is basically useless. He helps defeat the Titans (after Hercules was wiping them out) and gives directions to a better mentor.  Other than that he is useless. He is a dude in distress who lets the villain into his home, kidnap his child, undo his immortal life’s work, and have complete control of death.  Zeus is the weakest of everyone I have mentioned.

Mulan has a father who is a frail old man, yet he is a realistic example of an elderly father.  His advice is good and not too obvious, and he is very heroic and sacrificial.

Tarzan has the human father, Professor Porter, as another Maurice rip-off.  He is just a skinny version of him.  On the other side Tarzan’s gorilla parents are different.  One is a struggling mother trying to raise an odd child she doe not understand yet loves.  His father is just furious at him.  Half way there.

That puts it at 5.5-4.5 on the bad parent scale, which is really not bad looking.  Time to compare it to other Disney movies.  On the other films form the 80s Widow Tweed, Amos Slade, Dallbern, and Olivia’s father are all god parents in spite of various flaws they have.  In the early 2000s Nani and Milo’s father are good with absentee parents due to death being a theme.

Treasure Planet is a much more complex example with three paternal figures.

Time to check on the whole animated canon.

Great Realistic Incompetent but loving The Villain Multiple
Dumbo

Bambi

Lion King

Mulan

Atlantis

101 Dalmatians

The Black Cauldron

Dinosaur (I hate them)

Meet the Robinsons

Frog

Big Hero 6

 

 

Peter Pan

Pocahontas

Lilo and Stitch

The Jungle Book

The Great Mouse Detective

The Little Mermaid

Chicken Little

Moana

 

Pinocchio

Sleeping Beauty

Oliver and Company

Beauty and the Beast

Aladdin

Hercules

Zootopia

Hunchback

Snow White

Cinderella

Sword in the Stone (downplayed)

 

Tarzan (2 and 3)

Treasure Planet (2 and 4)

The Aristocats (1 and 2)

The Fox and the Hound (2 and 4)

Tangled (1 and 4)

 

Basicaly everyone from the middle is from the Renaissance which indeed confirms to me this was part of their style despite it only being in half of them.

Now to see if this was unique to Disney movies this period. I start the Reinassance with An American Tail and skip some time for everyone else to get into it, as films form 1987 like The Brave Little Toaster are more like the movies from the Dark Age.  Yikes just looking through the list I see Scoby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers is from 1987.  I thought it was way older.

Great Realistic Incompetent but Loving (trusts villain) Villain Multiple
Land Before Time

Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School

Once Upon a Forest

Balto 3

Thumbelina

Anastasia

 

Rockadoodle

The Land Before Time Sequels.

Balto

An American Tail Sequels.

Balto II

A Goofy Movie

Toy Story*

All Dogs go to Heaven 2

 

 

An American Tail

The Brave Little Toaster*

Fievel Goes West

Rover Dangerfield

Batman Mask of the Phantasm

The Thief and the Cobbler

Aladdin 3

Hercules and Xena

Rudolph

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Lion King 2

The Prince of Egypt

Little Nemo Adventures in Slumber Land ( 2 and 3)

Tom and Jerry (3 and 4)

A Bug’s Life* (2 and 3).

* means really a dark age or Pixar age film but made in this period.

Of note is the TV special Frosty Returns which is type 3.

Okay, I did not see this coming, as type 3 is way bigger than I thought. Of note is the beginning of the period had way more type 3s than the rest.

My conclusion is that the incompetent “good” parents who trust the villain to much is a trend that started in Pinocchio in 1940, and its heyday was the Renaissance, more specifically the first half.  The claims that Disney was teaching parents are idiots is false. because it was very common for all animated movies. It seems to have been given new life by An American Tail first.  This trend is more of a feature of the time (specifically from around 1989-1995) than a Disney thing.

For next time I have realized something.  At the pace I am going it will take me until I am 175 years old to review every film in the DC Animated Original Movie lineup, so I better now start reviewing more of them.

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Next Tuesday on March 17th the Bat-Marathon, 4 movies and five reviews begins with Son of Batman.

Who Should be in the Disney Princess Lineup?

I really hope none of my friends ask me what I did today. Normally I can respond with awesome answers like analysis of comics, figuring out who would win in a fight between the Ninja Turtles and The Power Rangers, or wrote a scathing review of The Fox and the Hound 2, but today I am writing about a franchise I have no interest in and the stars of movies that I mostly put at the bottom of my Disney rankings.

The official list is Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Jasmine (Aladdin), Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana (The Princess and the Frog), Rapunzel (Tangled), Merida (Brave), and Moana.  Notably there are way more from 1989 onward than before.

While they are not in the official list all of the merchandise I have sen put Anna and Elsa in the lists too.

Obviously to be in the list they have to be from Disney and be animated, but Disney always misses one thing form the princes lineup, making them princesses.

A few of them are out. Elsa is a queen for almost all of the movie. No need to downgrade her. Mulan is a war hero, not a princess.  I have heard arguments saying that being a war hero counts as royalty.  No, it is a huge downgrade.  Just ask George Washington.  The remaining 13 fit the criteria of princess.  Meanwhile there are several who fit this that are not in the lineup.

If Merida is in then both Dot and Atta (A Bug’s Life) are also in.  If Pixar is included that really means everything with the Disney logo should be allowed (I am not counting stuff from Fox since Disney did not make them) meaning Melody and the three from Mulan 2 are all in, and… Okay Merida is out to keep the list form being full of nobodies plus Atta and Dot.

These from the animated canon should be in, as they are princesses.  Faline (Bambi) mates with a prince, so she is in.  In contrast Nala (The Lion King) is not in, because she went straight from commoner to queen. She is joining Elsa instead. Maid Marian (Robin Hood) is the king’s niece, thus she is in.  Famously Eye-lahn-wee (The Black Cauldron) is in. I can pronounce her name, I cannot spell it.  Sure her kingdom never shows up, but neither does the prince in Snow White.  Kida (Atlantis) is in. Sure she became a queen, but only at the end of the movie.  Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph is easily the most realistic example of a princess, a brat who threatens to execute everyone  who was ever mean to her and breaks the important Turbo rule.

Esmerelda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Tinker Bell (Peter Pan), and Jane (Tarzan) all used to be in the lineup, but their own franchise or poor sales stopped them.  None are princesses, so I agree with them for once.

So the list should be Snow White, Faline, Cinderella, Aurora, Maid Marian, Eye-lahn-wee, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Kida, Tiana, Rapunzel, Vanellope, Anna, and Moana.  All of them are princesses.

On Tuesday March 3rd (have to keep your minds off politics on Super Tuesday somehow) is an analysis of a certain aspect of the Disney Renaissance, the parents. Are they really that terrible?

DTV Wonders: Joseph King of Dreams

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There is a difference between what works in the visual medium of film and the written medium, and this is important when adapting from The Bible. For film it ideally has unity of time, a flawed protagonist, an awesome climax, a clear external villain, and both internal and external conflict.  One story from The Bible should immediately come to mind.

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Moses is an amazing story for film, and it no wonder it has resulted in many successful movies and TV show episodes that are great, yet so different from another.  One story that fails all of these is Joseph.

Joseph is just not good for TV despite making for a great written account, and he never should have been the man to carry Dreamworks’s planned DTV line.  They wanted a DTV sequel to Antz and many other Biblical epics, but the disappointment in sales made them cancel it after one film.  If it was up to me the second movie in the line would be either the story of Joshua and Jericho (beginning with Moses’s death) or my personal favorite Biblical character, David.  Well, now I will be distracted all review trying to come up with a perfect plot for a David movie.

Joseph is (besides the beginning) practically flawless making him uninteresting for the majority of the movie, there is no great villain or climax, and there is no way to tell it with unity of time or find one great area of the story to focus on for an entire movie (David can have a Goliath movie, a David and Saul movie, a Uriah movie, a mighty man movie, a census movie, an Absalom movie, and hordes of others).  Despite being a bad concept this movie is proof that a good script, acting, songs, animation, and adaptation skills can overcome this issue.

I should point out the commercials are bad, and they are a major reason I have not re-watched this in years (and that my family never owned it). I see them every year on my copy of The Land Before Time 7, and they play a very mournful song on a very sad movie.  Despite this the scenes they show are way o happy and feel all wrong for Joseph, a story that can be very depressing.  I am not surprised this unperformed.

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There is no way that is a newborn.

We start with the underappreciated Dreamworks logo before getting to Jacob and his acting oldest son, Judah who is voiced by The Joker himself, Mark Hamill.  Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel was thought to be barren, but she is now pregnant.  As soon as Jacob hears she is giving birth he pushes Judah aside.  Judah looks disappointed but smiles.

We then get to the first song, “Miracle Child,” and it is like a cross between “You’ll be Happy” and “Very Important Creature.”  It really makes you intentionally hate the singers (Joseph and Jacob) due to their great arrogance and favoritism, and at the same time it is just hilarious.  The song is about them singing about how great Joseph (Batman himself, Ben Affleck) is, and the best part is Jacob tells him “you are better than all your brothers,” and they actually seem to be wondering if they are chopped liver.

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The song does a great job at showing one of Joseph’s only two flaws from The Bible, he starts as an insanely arrogant ass singing about how great he is.  The song shows the ten older brothers (where is Dinah) going from wanting to be his favorite and be the protective older brother to despising him.  The only problem is I find the parts showing his many talents to be too much. I also keep thinking of Ross.

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“What about me?  I’m a medical marvel.” (His exact words).

Unfortunately his motives weaken in later scenes where Joseph is now just wanting to be like everybody else, working instead of studying to be in charge.  The next few scenes are not good.  Joseph is too nice later, as he tries to get his brothers to let him work in the fields.  He does this by threatening to tattle on Simeon leaving to see women.  Considering Simeon and Levi slaughtered a whole village I suggest not aggravating him.  They leave him alone, as wolves nearly kill Joseph until Jacob saves him after the wolves kill the Ram just like Joseph’s dream said.

After that Joseph is pressed by his brothers to tell of another dream he had which predicts all of them will bow to him.  This makes them angry, but a deviation from the Bible weakens this.  Joseph had to be pressed, he is no longer happy to declare his lordship over them like he was in The Bible.  Another problem is the animation style.  The brothers look too similar.

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“It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

I can recognize Judah from the Joker voice at times, but they look too similar.  Hanna-Barbera solved this by giving them different colored clothes.

Joseph does get angry and call them “half-brother.”  Rachel sings about family, but this song is just boring.   Then the movie picks up again.

Joseph runs to make up with them, but he overhears nine of them calling him a spoiled brat and Simeon saying he can not deal with him being treated like a first born.  He wants to do something about Joseph, and then the other brother (I think it is Dan) finds Joseph and brings the guy who has been threatening to tell Father on them to the rest.  Simeon steals his coat (mark of a first born) and tosses it around until Judah gets it.  He rips it enraging Joseph before telling him “… who says this is a game.”

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While scaring him Joseph falls in, as Judah tries but fails to save him.  The next few seconds show how horrified Joseph is until some Ishmaelites pull him up, and start to prepare him for a slave market.  He desperately calls for his borthers (specifically Judah and the two who slaughtered a village).  When they come he happily runs and hugs Judah only to then see they have sadly sold him for twenty pieces of Silver.  He calls on them one by one, as they all sadly look away until Judah quotes him from earlier “half-brother.”

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This is a great scene, and it makes me surprised that Joseph never begs them for help in The Bible like he does in the adaptations.

He gets sold in slavery to Potiphar, and it becomes clear he has PTSD from the betrayal.  The anger motivates him to do a terrific job where he gets promotion after promotion until Potiphar’s wife accuses him of trying to rape her when she tried to rape him.  Potiphar orders him executed but his wife makes it clear what really happened.  Potiphar looks horrified but to save face orders Joseph sent to prison for life.  My only problem with these scenes that cover a large amount of time very well is the part where Joseph retrieves a run away cat with milk.  Cats are allergic to milk.  The problem that should be a bigger deal is that Joseph is basically now flawless (he had a problem with accepting that the first born is not the chosen leader in The Bible ironically but the film removed it). This is solved by making so many bad things happen to him like in the source material.

In jail we get the iconic scene where he interprets the dreams of the baker and the butler that the baker will be hanged in three days, while the Butler will be released.  Sadly the idiot butler forgets this and does not tell Pharaoh about the great man in the dungeon who did nothing wrong.

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Now alone in prison the guards forget him, as Joseph is alone and starving.  Then after the halfway point his Biblical movie starts to finally discuss God by singing the song from the trailer. “Better than I.”  In the trailer the singer is just trying to sound pretty, but here he is capturing the emotion of hopelessness yet trust that a higher power knows best.  It is the best part of the movie, as Joseph is losing his sanity wondering why he deserves this only to regain it by trusting God and laboring to save a dying tree growing in the jail.

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Nearly dead he is visited by Potiphar who sadly comes to take him to Pharaoh.  The Pharaoh has terrible dreams no one can explain and the butler finally remembered Joseph.  To Potiphar’s shock Joseph has no ill will towards the man who wrongly imprisoned him.  Scenes like this are how Joseph works as a character in spite of being a borderline Mary Sue.

Joseph as he does in The Bible interprets the dreams as meaning seven years of plenty followed by an overwhelming seven years of famine.  Joseph is made the number two person in Egypt in charge of managing the food to last Egypt for all 14 years.  Now he is rich powerful, happily married (she gave him his only food while in prison), and he has two boys.

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While giving out grain his older brothers come helping a pair of small children on the way, and Joseph panics at the sight of them especially when they say they have a younger brother at home.  Furious he arrests Simeon (he later makes sure he is well cared for).  He orders Simeon imprisoned and no food will be sold to them unless they can bring their youngest brother to his wife’s annoyance.   Simeon calls for help with most of the exact words Joseph used in their home.

The older brothers come back with their youngest brother, Benjamin.  He was born after the incident with Joseph, and Rachel died in childbirth giving Benjamin clear survivor’s guilt.  He also reveals that Jacob was told wolves killed Joseph, and the older brothers are ashamed they did not save him when they had the chance.

Joseph then frames Benjamin for robbery and orders him arrested (most likely planning on keeping him as the the other ten will then leave).  To his shock the older ten immediately demand that he take any of them instead.  Judah then begs Joseph to take him, because he will not make his father suffer again.  He then admits to Benjamin what really happened to Joseph.  Joseph forgives them and asks for forgiveness for his past arrogance. Especially for a Biblical movie the message is very subtle.

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Never has a reunion of Joker and Batman been so happy.

The rest of the family is brought over and  Joseph is overjoyed to see his evil father.  In  a nice touch to the stories left out Jacob’s right hand is on Joseph’s youngest son showing how he blessed him over the older one.  They happily go to live in Goshen not knowing they are dooming their descendants to over 400 years of slavery.

In all honesty the last scene with “Better than I” playing is very happy.

The last two reviews have been disappointments.  I thought Secret of NIMH 2 might be so bad it’s good, and I was certain I would praise Aladdin 3. I had no idea how I would feel about this, but I am really glad I re-watched it.  The acting (especially Affleck) is very good, the animation moves well, and the time skips are very well done. Sure Jacob is terrible, and the basic concept is not god for a movie, but the execution overcame these flaws.  Times like these make me glad I have a blog that gets me to re-watch movies like this.

Of note is that practically every scene is better than the last one.

I went back and forth on whether to give this a high 3 or low 4.  I do not think I would have enjoyed this any more at a young age, so a very high 3 Tree Star rating it gets.

In one week I am doing a quick analysis of something that bugs me, to many of them are not princesses.  What should the Disney Princess line-up actually look like? is coming on Tuesday February 18, 2020.

DTV Wonders: Aladdin and the King of Thieves

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This will sound look weird, but I have to write it, I am too young for Aladdin.  The movie came out in 1992, and I was born in 1996.  As a result I still do not understand most of the pop culture jokes in the movie, but the jokes were not a problem.  They were limited to the franchise’s most popular character Genie, and the rest of the comedy still shined brightly.  His dramatic scenes still work, the other comedy worked, and the jokes moved along and gave a natural voice for Genie that was different from everyone else.

In this movie Genie is ironically the great weakness. All the advertising is about one thing, Robin Williams returning.  In fact they gave me the impression Genie was not in The Return of Jafar.  As a kid all I could think was “who is Robin Williams?”  Then I saw the movie, and Genie is useless at best.  Besides turning into a boat at the end to get everyone safe after the climax is over. His comedy is terribly written, and it just goes on and on.  Worst of all he makes hordes of plot holes because he is too powerful.  Unlike last movie where the villain is more powerful there is no reason he should not fix every single external problem immediately.   Sadly that is the biggest impact I could think of for my opening, as this movie, that I picked to be the good movie sandwiched between an average and terrible movie, is so forgettable.

First thing I notice is this movie is 83 minutes. That makes it longer than all but two films in The Land Before Time Franchise and one of the longest DTV films I have reviewed.  This makes me hope for a more complex plot than I remember from when I watched this in 6th grade (I have not seen it since).

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It starts with a guy in a blue cloak sneaking some guys into Agrabah during the wedding of Aladdin and Jasmine. I still do not know why they put that off. Meanwhile they sing “There’s a Party here in Agrabah.”  I am not a fan at all.  So much is Genie referencing TV shows I have never seen, and it is way to repetitive.  The only part I like is when the thieves join in, as their voices synchronize surprisingly well.  Truly they are a tight knit group who will not betray each other.

Meanwhile Aladdin is mourning his deceased father he never met, and wishing he could make the wedding, as he moves up from a street rat to Prince. I think he moved up in the first movie.  Thankfully Iago (still my favorite) tells him to cheer up and stop being such a downer.

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Meanwhile the two main thieves fight. I have no idea what their names actually are but one is voiced by Gimli using the exact same voice and the other clearly wants to be Wolverine, so I will call them Gimli and Huge Ackman respectively.  Gimli wants to grab the Oracle , which he has been failing to find for years. Huge Ackman wants to take over as leader and just rob people blind.  After Genie wastes time with impressions and a painfully slow wedding scene that never even gets finished Gimli tells the hidden thieves “It’s time.”

In a break from the usual Disney sequel formula instead of starting by making our villains look weak and stupid they make our heroes look stupid, as Aladdin tries to battle three theives standing on each other by hitting the legs of middle guy allowing them to dodge it over and over. Just hit the bottom guy.  Genie can easily solve every problem, and he instead goofs around as the citizens get robbed, and the wedding building is destroyed. The only one putting up a real fight is Iago until Aladdin remembers he is an action hero and stops Gimli from taking the Oracle. The fight is fast paced but not well choreographed, and again, the tension is ruined as Genie should be able to stop everything. He finally does and easily scares away the thieves confirming that the villains’ only power over the heroes is the heroes’ incompetence.

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Iago activates the Oracle, which can answer a question, and it prompts Aladdin to ask about his father. When he asks it says he is trapped amongst the forty thieves.  Myself and my three siblings immediately saw that the image of his father is wearing the cloak meaning he is The King of Thieves.  Shocked that his father is alive Aladdin wonders if he is a terrible man, but Jasmine convinces him to go save him. Throughout it he looks at a dagger Gimli gave him, a symbol of his desire to reunite with his father.

Sadly we then get to a huge idiot plot. Genie could just make Gimli show up there away from the forty thieves. He could also rid Agrabah of their crime problem by making them appear in the dungeon. He could also come help after making the new wedding pavilion appear better than before.  Instead he slowly builds it as Aladdin, Abu, Iago, and Carpet leave with only a dagger to face ten to one odds.

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No more complaining about Genie being useless, I promise.  At least Iago then gives the funniest line in the movie. “They are forty thieves.  We are you [Aladdin], a rug, a monkey, and me.  Wait, don’t count me.” This is thankfully a turning point. Like the past Aladdin movie the first 20 minutes (25 here) are very bad, but it then picks up.

Aladdin sees Huge Ackman threatening his father and tackles him telling his father to run (with 38 thieves who could kill them all), and I love his confused reaction.

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He sees the dagger and stops Huge Ackman from killing Aladdin.  The 39 thieves still want him dead, so Gimli in an obvious usage of reverse psychology gets them to instead have an initiation, a fight to the death between Aladdin and a thief, and Huge Ackman volunteers.

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This fight is great.  The choreography needs work, but the intense music and the great lightning are wonderful.   Aladdin kicks Huge Ackman into a watery grave.  He desperately tries to save him and looks mortified when he cannot.  He then is clearly frustrated with the forty thieves for these rules that have no value for human life, as he angrily grabs the dagger.  That was a great scene.

They welcome him with a song, “Welcome to the Forty Thieves.”  The lyrics are dull, but their voices synchronize so well. Aladdin is clearly scared and not interested in anyone except Gimli.

Afterwards we get a good scene with Robin Williams. He comforts Jasmine with a scene that Williams improvised, and it feels so much more genuine than anything from earlier. It is not funny, but it captures the happy feeling of friendship.

Aladdin and Gimli talk, and we get some sadly bad exposition.  Gimli is after The Hand of Midas, which is on an island that never reappears at the same spot.  He left so he could get money to support his family, came back, did not find them, and… He gave up on finding them after some difficulty. No discussed meting place, no continued searching.  I am renaming Gimli to Sucky Bron.  The movie thinks that he is sympathetic and conflicted, but really he clearly just wants money, abandoned his family with minimal effort to reconnect, and he is now just using his son as a means to the end of finding the treasure, and removing his arch enemy.  Aladdin falls for it and invites him to the wedding. Iago and him decide to take the oracle.

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After they leave Huge Ackman kills a shark and tells the guards how to capture the thieves. The 38 thieves see Huge Ackman lock them up (more on that later) and call him out on that.  He is furious that Sucky Bron and Aladdin were not captured and tell the guards about them.  They just wait for Sucky Bron and Iago to try to steal the oracle and arrest them.

The prisoners are taken to the dungeon “for life.” Big mistake in word choice writers.  Last movie had a planned execution, so this movie can do the same. Aladdin goes to break him out while heartbroken… He is safest in the dungeon you idiot.  He will be fine, and you can try to change him in jail and make a great motivation to install a prison reform institution.

He gets caught resulting in Aladdin, Sucky Bron, and Iago running from Agrabah until Aladdin calls him out as a coward.  Sucky Bron does not care much and is fine with him leaving and returning the dagger.  Only Iago is really upset who was hoping to keep them together to reconnect, and is sad when Aladdin compassionately tells him to leave and help Sucky Bron.

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Meanwhile all but 7 thieves are locked up (I guess they escaped off screen), and they are joined by Huge Ackman.  He convinces them that Sucky Bron sold them out even though they earlier saw Huge Ackman lock them up.

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They continue with by far the best song, “In or Out.” The lyrics suck, but their singing voices are so great that I realize they should have just made a theater troupe with Count Olaf.

Then Iago and Sucky Bron arrive to rejoin the thieves, as Sucky Bron claims he is loyal.  Let me think, earlier he admired to hiding everything from them and trying to kill his second in command. This was just made up at the last second by the writers to get him captured.  In the boat Huge Ackman insists Sucky Bron asks the question instead of doing it himself, while Iago escapes and flies for help.

Iago explains the situation, and now Aladdin just wants his father to be killed.  Who kept track of the motivations for this movie? They convince him to save Sucky Bron instead.

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The thieves find the island, in some really good animation. Unfortunately the actual climax is pretty bad.  The villains minus Huge Ackman are easily beaten, and Aladdin switches motivations deciding he now wants the treasure, which they then use to kill Huge Ackman, because he grabs it by the hand instead of the handle. Then Sucky Bron decides he does not really want it, and throws it away killing the remaining thieves that he called his “family.”  This guy is not father material. Him reuniting with Aladdin is not happy, it feels like he is going to be a terrible influence and turn him into a corrupt Sultan.

Sucky Bron then leaves Agrabah and Iago decides to go with him.  I never liked this ending for my favorite character in the franchise.

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AUGH! The character animation is much worse than the background animation.

Thankfully I like the last scene. Jasmine and Aladdin are finally wed after those three days took up way too much time.  The captain of he guard catches the flowers, and the merchant sings “Arabian Knights.”

This is the hardest review I have ever written.  It is just a very bland and forgettable mix between Indiana Jones The Last Crusade and The Great Longneck Migration.  I spent days at work trying to find anything to write about it, and I was going blank.  I sometimes see it on best Disney sequels list, but the writers always imply that they dislike it and all DTV films, which makes me doubt they even watched them, and that is why I made the blog in the first place, to counter the notion that DTV films should be dismissed, but this does not help the case.

Since I spent hours trying to think of something interesting (to no avail) I instead developed a rating system (explained later) from 1-5 with a incredibly rare 6 and 0 tree star ratings as well.  This movie gets two tree stars, as it has some really good scenes, but thy are too few compared to the many poor scenes.

It is a dull film full of idiot plots, useless charactrers I practically never mentioned, bad songs, tons of padding, and terrible motivations.  It is far better than Timmy to the Rescue, but to illustrate that this left no impact right after watching this I found myself still humming “You’ll be Happy” and sometimes other songs from it I do not like.  This is just a blank slate. If I did not promise this last review I would have skipped it, and moved on to next review, another movie I have seen once in Junior High and never since.

Next time on Tuesday February 11.

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Please be better than I remember, and do not make me review three bad films in a row. Please be good Dreamworks to the rescue, not sucky Dreamworks to the electric chair.