Star Trek: Into Darkness

  • Title:  Star Trek:  Into Darkness
  • Director:  JJ Abrams
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“…You misunderstand, it is true I choose not to feel anything as my own life was ending.  As Admiral Pike was dying I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of his passing:  anger, confusion, loneliness, fear – I had experienced those feelings before, multiplied exponentially on the day my planet was destroyed.  Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again.” — Spock

“Don’t agree with me Spock, it makes me very uncomfortable.”  — McCoy

The opening vignette of Star Trek Into Darkness has Kirk and McCoy disguised on a red Class M planet.  Kirk holds a scroll and is running away.  The Natives follow, throw spears at him and at McCoy, as well. However, Kirk’s actions had been a distraction, so the Enterprise‘s shuttle can drop Spock, in a fire suit  to drop a cold fusion device into the active and ready to erupt volcano to prevent the eruption and save the indigenous life on the planet.  Kirk and McCoy dive into the water to escape the natives, and board the Enterprise.  However, Spock is in trouble and could be killed.  Kirk and the Enterprise save Spock, but incur Star Fleet’s wrath at the flagrant disregard for the Prime Directive.

A mysterious man (Benedict Cumberbatch) offers to cure the ill daughter of a Star Fleet officer.  The officer soon discovers the price as he has to blow-up a Star Fleet Archive building.

Pike finds Kirk in a bar, and brings him back to Starfleet.  He asks Kirk to be his first officer, Kirk accepts, and Pike takes him to a gathering of all Starfleet’s captains and first officers to discuss the destruction of the Archive and Starfleet’s response to the terror attack.  Kirk, wonders, however, why anyone would destroy an archive, especially when the information held there is public record.  Just as Admiral Marcus, Pike, and Kirk are realising that protocol for an attack calls for just this occurrance – all the captains and first officers in one room, the room is attacked by a helicopter-like gunship.  (Because apparently Starfleet never heard the old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket.)  Pike’s killed.

Admiral Marcus calls Kirk and Spock into his office, he offers Kirk the Enterprise again, and Kirk asks for, and is granted, Spock as his first officer.  But Marcus’s plan is chilling – not only does he want Kirk to track down “John Harrison” the ex-Starfleet officer responsible for the attack – he wants Kirk to kill him. Specifically, even though Harrison is hiding on the Klingon home world and an attack on the home world would lead to all-out war, he wants Kirk to hide in the Neutral Zone and fire a new long-range photon torpedo at the uninhabited province where Harrison is hiding and obliterate him.

Scotty quits when the torpedoes are loaded on the Enterprise, and the security detail with them refuses to tell him what the payload is.  Scotty fears an interaction with the warp core. Kirk accepts Scotty’s resignation.

During the trip to the Neutral Zone, however, Kirk has second thoughts (helped by his conversation with Scotty, and additional conversations with McCoy and Spock) about blindly following the orders of Admiral Marcus to kill Harrison rather than capture him.

Kirk decides rather than killing Harrison outright, Kirk decides to capture Harrison.  He will take a landing party, and using the transport vessel from “the Mudd incident” will land on the Klingon home world, capture Harrison, and return him to Earth.  Kirk, Spock, Uhura and a guard take the shuttle down.  Uhura attempts to reach an agreement with the Klingons who attack their ship and force it down.  She’s doing OK, when they are attacked.  The fire fight is chaotic, but a mysterious man rescues them.

Kirk brings this man, Harrison, to the Enterprise and locks him in the brig.  However, he soon learns from the man, that, as Admiral Marcus had pointed out, the Archive that was destroyed wasn’t an archive or library – it was Section 31 HQ, home to Starfleet’s secret military and spy organization.  Moreover, Harrison wasn’t simply an agent there as Marcus said.  Harrison is Khan, a genetically engineered superhuman, who, with 72 other similar super humans was sent from Earth many years ago.  Marcus found his ship, kept the crew in cryo-suspension, but revived Khan.  Seeing Khan as the brilliant warrior he needed, he gave him a new identity (John Harrison) and set him to work developing weapons for Starfleet.  Khan tells Kirk, he had no choice, Marcus held his crew hostage.  However, he rebelled against being forced to make weapons and to create a “militarized Starfleet” – which was Marcus’s dream.

Kirk isn’t sure how much of this he buys, but he’s keeping an open mind, deciding to bring Harrison/Khan to Earth to tell his tale.

It’s easier said than done, when two problems occur:  first, the Enterprise Engine Core leak, that had stranded the ship short of it’s warp point goal, is getting much worse, threatening the entire ship.  And second, Admiral Marcus has arrived and is he pissed off that Kirk hasn’t killed Harrison/Khan, talked to Khan, and might believe Khan.

From what Marcus says, it’s clear that at least some of what Khan has said is true.

However, Marcus beams his daughter Carol from the Enterprise to his own dreadnought-class ship  then attacks the Enterprise.  Kirk, who’s also heard from Scotty, who checked on some co-ordinates Khan gave him.  Khan convinces Kirk the only way to defeat the dreadnought is from within.  Scotty has hidden aboard the ship.  Kirk and Khan space jump to the other ship, using jets to maneuver.  During the jump, Khan saves Kirk’s life.  Scotty lets them in.

But on the bridge, Khan shows his true colors.  He wants revenge on Marcus.  Kirk tries to arrest Marcus. Khan kills him.  Kirk, Carol, and Scotty are transported to the Enterprise brig.  Spock had transported the torpedoes to the dreadnought.  However, the torpedoes were primed and blow the ship.  Khan escapes. Khan’s crew, the 72 cryo tubes are in sickbay on the Enterprise.

However, the Enterprise is in trouble – the damage to the warp core is so bad the ship is dying and about to crash into Earth.  Kirk and Scotty try to fix the ship, but the engine core is mis-aligned, and can’t be fixed because of the radiation in the compartment.  Kirk goes into the compartment to fix it.  He succeeds and saves the ship but is dying from radiation poisoning.  Spock pulls the ship out of it’s dive.  Scotty calls him and asks him to come down. He goes, and in a reverse of Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, it’s Kirk who dies and Spock who must watch. Their fingers even touch on the glass separating them.  Spock screams, “Khan!”.

Khan, meanwhile tries to crash his ship into Starfleet HQ and misses (He does destroy the Great Fire Memorial in San Francisco though.)  Spock chases down Khan, ready to kill him for killing Kirk.  Uhura stops him – McCoy’s realised that Khan’s blood can save Kirk, because of it’s regenerative abilities.

This works, and Kirk Lives.  One year later, Kirk re-dedicates the new Enterprise, reciting “the Captain’s Oath”, which we know as the opening to classic Star Trek.

JJ Abrams directs Star Trek:  Into Darkness at a breakneck speed.  The film moves, extremely fast – so fast, it’s hard to keep up with it at times.  However, the film also has it’s moments.  Harrison, as played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, is brilliant, from lone terrorist, to scientist who’s work is poached for weapons, to revenge-seeking madman, each of Khan’s roles is well played.  I avoided all spoilers when this movie came out last year, even the name of Cumberbatch’s character – so I was surprised to find out that “Harrison” was Khan. I enjoyed the film in the theater and enjoyed watching it again yesterday.  The film is fun, and the cast is excellent.  I really do like Pine, Quinto, and Urban.  And Cumberbatch played a multi-faceted villain with relish and even, at times, compassion.  Peter Weller was scary-good as the villainous Admiral Marcus.

Though not too much – because even if Marcus had cold-bloodily killed Khan’s crew, Khan’s attacks would have been over-kill.  The film, like the best Star Trek episodes and films raises questions. Questions about the power of the military, questions about the ability for news events to be shaped, and public opinion to be manipulated.  And it’s Kirk’s noted ability to stand against the rules and go with his gut that save him and his crew.  Kirk is willing to follow rules and regulations as needed, but he won’t stand by and watch a planet die because of them – nor will he kill a criminal who should rather be put on trial.  It’s a enjoyable rollar-coaster of a film, with a bit more to it, and I liked it.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country

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Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (Spoilers)

  • Title:   Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2
  • Director:  Jay Olivia
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, Michael Emerson, David Seltz, Mark Valley, Robin Atkin Downes, Maurice LaMarche, Michael McKean, Conan O’Brien, Rob Paulsen, Frank Welker, Tara Strong
  • Format:  Windscreen, Color Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC
“Look, either shut it down, or one of these days someone with authority is going to tell me to come stop you.  And when that happens…” — Clark
“When that happens may the best man win.” – Bruce
 
“Come on, finish me…. Doesn’t matter, I win, I made you lose control … and they’ll kill you for it.” — Joker
 
“Tonight, I am going to maintain order in Gotham City, you’re going to help me!  But not with these [guns]!  These are loud and clumsy!  These are the weapons of cowards!  Our weapons are precise and quiet!  In time, I will teach them to you.  But for tonight, you will rely on your brains and your fists.  Tonight we are the law!  Tonight I am the law!”  — Batman
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is a classic graphic novel that’s been in print since it’s original publication in 1986.  It’s excellent, and truly raised the bar for graphic story-telling and changed comics forever.  It’s the first graphic novel I ever read and one I occasionally re-read.  I’m very glad Warner’s allowed two movies to be made from this big and complicated graphic novel.  I was worried though that Warners would “wimp out” with the more controversial aspects of the story.  I’m happy to report they did not.  The political aspects of the storyline are here in full.  Hazzah!
Whereas the first part (film) focuses on Bruce putting the Batsuit on again and Two Face and the Mutant gang Leader as villains, the second part focuses almost exclusively on The Joker as primary villain, though there is still a lot going on.  Even more than Part 1, television newscasts are used as a narrative device in Part 2.
In Part 2, the remainder of  the Mutant Gang has split into various groups.  The Sons of Batman, with their blue face paint, declare Batman as their leader, and attempt to save Gotham City from other criminals – violently.  The Nixons, with their tall blonde female leader, “Bruno”, rob and steal without remorse.  Bruno has red swastikas painted on her breasts.  Batman sets up a sting to catch her, and succeeds. Superman arrives in Gotham and saves a blind man who’s fallen into a subway track in the path of an on-coming train.  But the reason he’s there is to encourage Bruce to hang-up the cape again.  However, the majority of the film concerns Joker.
Jim Gordon retires.  The new police commissioner, Ellen Yindel, as her first act as Comissioner, issues a warrant for Batman’s arrest.  When Clark and Bruce talk, Clark has a bald eagle on his arm, and Bruce pets Clark’s white dog — which is a great image!
Joker is in an asylum, being treated by Dr. Wolper.  He manipulates Wolper to get him a pass and an interview on the Dave Endocrine Show.  Wolper does this, and soon Joker is free.   He kills Wolper with a coffee cup during the show’s taping, as well as Endocrine and his audience with his deadly Joker gas. Batman and Robin (Carrie) had gone to the show’s taping to try to stop Joker, but Yindel’s police attack Batman.  The police spend so much time trying to catch Batman that they fail to stop Joker.
After escaping the chaos at the television studio, Joker finds Selina Kyle, and uses hallucinogenic lipstick to control her mind, as well as one of her girls.  The girl gets a Congressman to declare the country should declare open war on the Soviets before falling to his death (while wrapped in an American flag).
The president announces on TV that American troops are battling Soviet troops in the South American Island country of “Corto Maltese”.  As in the graphic novel, the president looks like Reagan, and he’s voiced in the animated film to sound like Ronald Reagan, including his “folksy wisdom”.  He announces a war by saying, “Now those Soviets would like to see us turn tail and run, but we’ve got to protect our interests, I mean, stand up for freedom and the good people of Corto Maltese.  So don’t fret… we’ve got God on our side.”  This political conflict forms the backdrop of the entire film.  News is blacked out “due to severe weather”.
Batman finds out about the connection to Kyle Escorts.  He finds Selina, dressed like Wonder Woman, and tied-up.  She tells him about Joker and the mind-control lipstick.  Batman is too late to save the Congressman.
Batman also finds out Joker’s next target is the local amusement park, which is just opening.  Batman and Joker fight in the house of mirrors, where Joker shoots Batman in the shoulder.  Joker escapes into the tunnel of love, and he and Batman fight again.  Joker knifes Batman across the stomach and stabs him several times.  Batman beats Joker, who finally collapses against a wall.  Joker taunts Batman, then breaks his own neck.  Batman passes out.  Later, Batman awakes.  He places incindiaries on Joker’s body and disappears, as Yindel’s police troops close in.  Joker’s body burns and the entire tunnel blows up.
Carrie rescues Batman and takes him to the Cave where Alfred does surgery.
Reagan announces from an “undisclosed location” via television special report, American troops won in Corto Maltese, but the Soviets are “poor sports” as a missile’s been sent towards the Island nation.  Superman deflects the missile and it blows up over Gotham City.  Superman is irradiated, crash lands, and kills everything he touches — flowers, trees, grass, etc.
Gotham is blacked out and everyone panics.  Bruce realizes it was an EMP blast.  Batman and Robin ride on horseback into Gotham.  Batman rallies the Sons of Batman, and later citizens and even former members of the Mutant Gang into keeping order in the city.  Meanwhile, Jim Gordon, organizes people in his own neighborhood to put out fires.
The country is buried under a cloud of smoke and ash.  In Gotham, there is no sun, but electricity is slowly coming back on.  Gotham is the only city not torn apart by crime, rioting and looting.
The president (still Reagan) enforces martial law, and sends a recovering Superman after Batman. Batman works with Carrie, Oliver Queen (formerly the Green Arrow), and Alfred on a plan.  He fights Superman in Crime Alley, distracting him until Queen can fire a Kryptonite arrow at Superman.  The arrow doesn’t kill Superman outright, but weakens him.  Batman somewhat defeats Superman, but then he falls victim to a heart attack.  Superman, Diana (once, but no longer, Wonder Woman), Selina, and Jim Gordon attend the funeral.  At the end, Carrie, heavily veiled, is the last to stand by Bruce Wayne’s grave.
Wayne Manor has burned to the ground, after Alfred, following Bruce’s instructions, hit the self-destruct.  Alfred escapes the house but dies of a massive stroke.
There’s a cut to the sound of a heart monitor.  Then, Oliver Queen begins to instruct the Sons of  Batman in cleaning up the Bat Cave.  Bruce arrives and states he will instruct the Sons of Batman (as well as former Mutants and other citizens who joined him the first night after the missile fell).  They are now Bruce’s army.
I liked Part 1 slightly better; Part 2 seems like more of a slug-fest.  However, kudos to Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Warner Brothers Animation, and DC Premiere for not shying away from the darker and more political aspects of  Frank Miller’s classic book.  The second half of Part 2 works really well.  In the first half,  Batman’s final confrontation with Joker seems almost anti-climatic.  However, though the film is dark and violent, it is also really good — with an adult story, and incredible animation that evokes the art of Miller’s classic.  Recommended.
Recommendation:  See it!  (Though not for young children)
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Third Man

Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

  • Title:  Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
  • Director:  Jay Olivia
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2012
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Action, Animation
  • Cast:  Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams, Maurice LaMarche, Michael McKean, Rob Paulsen, Tara Strong, Frank Welker
  • Format:  Widescreen Color Animation
  • DVD Format:  R 1, NTSC

“We must believe we can all defeat our own private demons.” — Bruce Wayne, during press conference

“Two abducted children were found alive in a riverside warehouse along with six critically injured members of the mutant gang.  The children describe the gang’s attacker as, ‘a man dressed as Dracula.’ “– Female Newscaster

“If it’s suicide you’re after, I have an old family recipe.  It’s slow and painful — you’d like it.” — Alfred, to Bruce

“I played along as long as I could, while you and the docs had your joke.  You got everyone to smile and keep their lunches down when they looked at me, pretending I looked normal. … Just look at me and have your laugh.  Get it over with.  At least both sides match now, right?  Look at me, and have your laugh.” — Harvey Dent

Batman The Dark Knight Returns is based on Frank Miller’s incomparable graphic novel of the same name. Miller’s work changed comics for a decade, and it’s effects are still being felt.  The animated film starts quickly, with no credits (they will appear at the end).  Commissioner Gordon is weeks from retirement, and the Batman hasn’t been seen in Gotham City for ten years.  The city is in a grip of a crime wave, mostly caused by the Mutants, a gang dedicated to horrific violence even more than crime.  Bruce Wayne and James Gordon are having dinner.  Gordon lightly inquires about Batman, and then brings up Dick and Jason. Bruce insists he’s given up his old life fighting crime, but isn’t happy that Gordon’s brought up the Robins.

Bruce leaves his meeting with Gordon and walks through Crime Alley, there he is reminded of his parents’ deaths and his one-time vow to stop crime.  Some Mutants approach to attack Bruce, but he frightens them off.  That night, he dreams about his experiences.  He remembers falling down a well, and being scared by bats.  Unable to sleep, Bruce goes to the Batcave and stares at Robin’s shrine.  Alfred arrives, concerned.  To Bruce’s own surprise, he has shaved off his mustache.

Meanwhile, at the Arkham Home, a Dr. Wolper (Michael McKean) works with Harvey Dent, to rehabilitate the criminal once known as Two-Face.  Joker is also in Arkham, but completely comatose.  Harvey, his face  restored, and supposedly cured of  his criminal bent, is released, but then disappears.

Meanwhile, back at his manor, Bruce Wayne is flipping TV channels in the middle of  the night.  He keeps finding news reports of Gotham’s escalating violence.  But he also comes across a late night showing of The Mark of Zorro, the film he saw with his parents That Fateful Night.  The film brings back bad memories of his trauma.  But even as he tries to escape his memories by flipping channels, he only hears more bad news of crime and violence.  Even the weather report of the on-coming storm seems dire.  Bruce’s memories mix with the Voice of the Bat, calling him to return.  A bat breaks through his window.

Meanwhile, Carrie and her friend Michelle have taken a short cut through The Arcade to escape the rain.  Michelle is nervous because she has heard it’s a Mutant Gang hideout.  Carrie pooh-poohs her fears.  Then the lights go out and Mutants attack.  Batman confronts the Mutants and rescues the girls.

He also catches an armed robber the cops are chasing.  TV news clips and reports are soon covering the story of  the return of  Batman from a number of perspectives.  Even Carrie and Michelle are interviewed.

Alfred helps Bruce with his physical injuries, and chides him that he really is getting too old for this kind of thing.

The next day, one of the thugs Batman had captured and beaten up is in Gordon’s office with his lawyer, claiming “police brutality”.  Gordon simply releases the guy.  This turns out to be Batman’s plan, who follows him and tortures him to get information on Two-Face.

Meanwhile, Carrie listens to her parents whining and gets sick of  it, she sees the Batman symbol on a building and is heartened.

Gordon meanwhile has contacted Batman.  He tells Batman two helicopters were stolen the previous night.  Batman responses he didn’t get much out of Two-Face’s lackey,  just that the crime was going down the next day.  Gordon responds that it makes sense, since it’s Tuesday and the second of  the month.  Then Two Face breaks into the television signal of a news report.  He claims to have two bombs and he will destroy the Gotham Life Building (which has two towers) unless he’s paid off with Twenty-two million dollars, and he gives the citizens of Gotham twenty-two minutes to comply.

Batman defuses one bomb, but he’s attacked when he tries to cross on a line to the other tower.  Harvey Dent (Two Face) and Batman crash through a window into the other building.  There Batman pulls off Harvey’s bandages, but he looks normal.  Harvey, however, is delusional, and thinks that both sides of  his face are horribly disfigured and scarred.

On TV, a point-to-point debate pits pro Batman Daily Planet managing editor, Lana Lang, against anti-Batman author Dr. Wolper.  More news clips follow the rising debate.

Carrie dresses as Robin.

A newscaster reports that James Gordon has been killed, then admits she “read it wrong”, James Gordon killed a Mutant gang member.

Carrie tries out being Robin, and discovers her fear of  heights, but slowly she starts to get it.

The Mutants kidnap a wealthy family’s two-year-old heir; Batman rescues the child and defeats the Mutants.

The screen goes completely dark as Batman questions a suspect, eventually he takes his hand away from the man’s eyes, and reveals he’s holding him over the Gotham city streets far below.

Carrie stops a purse snatching.

Batman confronts the general who sold military-grade arms to the Mutants.

Batman and separately, Carrie, go to the Gotham dump to confront the Mutants.  Bruce is badly beaten by the Mutant Leader.  Carrie manages to get him inside the Batmobile, which looks like a tank.  Bruce orders the car back to the cave, despite Alfred’s pleas to go to the hospital.  He takes Carrie with him and tells Alfred she will be trained as a Robin.  Alfred isn’t hot on the idea.  Bruce also goes deep into the cave, alone, to confront his demons.  He decides to continue as Batman.  He flashes back to the loss of  his parents.

On TV, again Lana Lang and Dr. Wolper debate about Batman.  Carrie stares at the Robin memorial in the cave.  The mayor appoints a female, anti-Batman police commissioner, Ellen Yindel.  The mayor also offers to meet with the Mutant leader to arrange appeasement.

Alfred tries to talk to Bruce about his plans.  When he doesn’t appear to be getting through, he brings up Jason.  Bruce refers to Jason as a “good soldier” but that the war must go on.  He has Carrie undercover as a Mutant pass along a message for all the Mutant gang members to meet at “the Pipe”.

Gordon talks to Yindel, trying to explain to her why he approves of  the Batman.  When the mayor is killed by the Mutant leader during their “peace treaty”, Gordon agrees with Batman’s plan, and sees to it the Leader is able to escape.

Batman again confronts the Mutant leader.  They fight in the mud by the Pipe, in front of  all the Mutant gang members.  Batman uses his smarts as well as his fighting abilities to defeat the Leader.  As a result, the Mutant gang is broken up.  Gordon’s officers arrest several, others break off  into other splinter gangs.  One gang, the Sons of  Batman, insist on “actions not words” and attack other criminals.

Gordon turns in his badge and gun, retiring.  Ordinary citizens start to stand up to violence, a man stops a mugging in front of his store.  The TV news clips runs other clips, both pro and con Batman and the new reality.

The Joker awakes as he hears the news.

The story will be continued in part 2.

Batman The Dark Knight Returns is awesome!  The story is straight from Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel, and the animated film does not hold back.  This is a dark, and violent story with lots of  blood.  But the animation is also awesome.  Many of the images are truly memorable, and often it is the images that tell the story, especially Bruce Wayne’s flashbacks to his parents’ murder and becoming Batman.

Meanwhile, Gotham City is a mess — without Batman, violence, especially gang violence, has taken over the streets and ordinary people have no hope.  The constant TV news cashes in on the violence and “bad news”, offering no reprieve from the sense of  gloom and hopelessness.

The film realistically portrays an older Bruce Wayne, with lined face, who groans and creaks when he returns to the life of  Batman.  Commissioner James Gordon is also considerably older, and ready to retire.

Television news dominates the lives of  everyone in Gotham, and even Carrie gets on TV to tell the story of how she was rescued in the Arcade (by a man — seven feet tall!).  Like the graphic novel, much of the structure of the actual story is told in the comments of  the newscasters, and people they interview.  Much of this is also full of  irony and dark humor, such as the man who advises that criminals need to be rehabilitated back into society — then acknowledges that he “doesn’t live in the city”.

The animation in the film is incredible!  Not only is it very real-looking, but it’s dark and has the slightly “washed” look of the original graphic novel.  Great images abound, as well as novel things such as a scene that’s completely black, with only audio to tell you what Batman’s doing.  Uses of flashes of  lightning or gunshots or other bright, sudden sources of  light are also used in other scenes.  The over-all effect is of watching a moving graphic novel.

The plot of  the film is an excellent adaptation of the graphic novel.  Not only is Batman brought back after a gap of ten years, but he confronts two main villains beyond his own age:  The Mutant gang, notably their leader, and Two Face (Harvey Dent).  Both these villains are psychologically interesting and complex. The Mutants look like punks, and act like them too — committing horrible acts of  violence not for money or to survive, but because they can.  In other words, they are bullies – pure and simple.  And like any bully, when Batman defeats their leader in front of the entire gang, the gang itself falls apart.  And, some members of  the gang decide to follow Batman instead.  The other villain is Harvey Dent.  This film doesn’t go into too much detail about Harvey’s backstory, however, Bruce Wayne has personally paid for Harvey’s rehabilitation.  Harvey’s face is rebuilt, and a “psycholisgist” is employed to help re-build Harvey’s broken psyche.  Yet when he’s released from Arkham, Harvey goes straight back to his life of crime.  When Batman catches up to him, Harvey is completely delusional – convinced his face is now horribly scarred on both sides, and that’s how it was made to “match”.  Bruce is crushed – in a way he’s sympathetic, because he also can only see himself  as  Batman.

The film is very violent, and there’s just a lot of  blood.  If you’ve read the graphic novel, this isn’t surprising, but if you’re only familiar with the DC animated universe and original films — this one is considerably more adult in tone and imagery.  The rating is PG-13, and it should be at least that, if not limited to 15-year-olds and up.  But overall I highly, highly recommend it.  And if you loved the graphic novel, you will really love this film.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

  • Title:  The Adventures of  Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension
  • Director:  W.D. Richter
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  MGM / Sherwood Productions
  • Cast:  Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum, Rosalind Cash, Robert Ito, Clancy Brown, Vincent Schiavelli, Carl Lumbly
  • Genre:  SF, Adventure, Comedy
  • Format:  Color
  • DVD Formats:  Anamorphic Widescreen, R1, NTSC

“Remember, no matter where you go – there you are.”  — Buckaroo Banzai

“History is made at night, Character is what you are in the dark.”  — Lord John Worphin

This is a movie where I actually owned a copy on VHS tape.  However, it is amazing just how good the DVD looks, especially the anamorphic widescreen.  It is, without a doubt, one of my absolutely favorite movies.  I have seen in many times, and have several of the best lines memorized.

Buckaroo Banzai comes at you all at once and never slows down, producing a wild ride, filled with great lines and snappy dialogue.  However, it also quickly establishes it’s characters, so we come to care about them as people, as the film zips along at warp speed and then some.  If you have never seen this movie before – I highly, highly recommend watching it at least twice in order to figure out what is going on.

The crawl at the beginning of the film attempts to explain part of what’s going on and introduces some of  the humor of the movie, mentioning that Buckaroo, with an American father and Japanese mother — was “brought into life the way he was destined to live it – going several directions at once.”  It also mentions those “hard rocking scientists – the Hong Kong Cavaliers”, Buckaroo’s friends who have just sort of drifted into his circle.  And in the movie – he picks up a couple of new followers.

The opening of the film attempts to introduce the many sides of Buckaroo — brilliant neuro-surgeon (Jeff Goldblum gets some great lines in that scene so watch closely), experimental scientist and physicist, head of a rock band, and founder of the Banzai Institute.  He’s also an incredibly sensitive man, able to pick out a girl crying in a crowded audience while on stage playing jazzy rock music.

However, the majority of the plot involves the 1938 Radio Broadcast of “War of the Worlds” by Orson Welles – the one that panicked the country, when people believed it was real.  This movie posits – What if  it was real?  But the aliens weren’t from Mars, but rather trapped in a prison called the 8th Dimension, an inter-spatial place between the tiny particles of matter.  That is, matter is mostly empty space, so Banzai is attempting to prove it is possible to cross inside it.  An earlier experiment into the 8th Dimension had released several aliens from this prison.  When Banzai’s experiment opens the Dimension again, more aliens from the Planet 10 arrive to cause World War III – if Whorfin (formerly imprisoned in the 8th Dimension) isn’t stopped.

But that really simplifies this brilliant movie.  There are many extremely likable aspects to the film — a brilliant cast; the idea that the film treats it’s audience as intelligent and just drops one into the middle of events, trusting the audience can figure it out without spoon-feeding information; some truly brilliant, funny lines; a rip-roaring, fast-moving fun plot; great characters.  In many ways, it has everything.

By the bye – the sound design in this film is also notable.  Pay attention to the background announcements in the scene when Whorfin escapes from a mental hospital (Whorfin is inhabiting the body of Dr. Emilio Lazardo) or in the scenes at YoYoDyne Propulsion Systems.

Recommendation:  Run don’t walk to the nearest rental store or Netflix and get a copy of the film.
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Adventures of  Robin Hood