Teen Titans Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Teen Titans
  • Season: 2
  • Date:  2004
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast: Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Ashley Johnson, Ron Perlman
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers Animation

The second season of Teen Titans consists of two discs that have very different attitudes to the story presentation. Disc 1 has the characters one at a time dealing with typical teenaged stuff: fitting in with others, being themselves, teenaged bodily changes, finding time for friends, etc. Killer Moth even threatens the Teen Titans unless Robin brings his bratty daughter, Kitten, to her Junior Prom (only for everyone to discover the spider-headed villain the Titans were fighting at the beginning of the episode is her boyfriend). The style of these episodes is also very much like traditional cartoons, rather than realistic animation – when characters are surprised their eyes literally bug out, a character in love has hearts in his eyes, confused characters have question marks over their heads, etc. And every episode has a major fight scene.

The second disc is done in a more realistic animation style, and in general the stories are more serious, or not focused on teen issues for the most part. The series introduces Terra, the ill-fated teen hero who can manipulate the Earth. When she arrives Terra is not in control of her powers, however, the Titans aren’t quick enough to offer to help her – and she leaves. Terra falls under the influence of Deathstroke who teaches her to control her powers. When Terra returns she quickly becomes friends with the Titans – especially Beast Boy who falls in love with her. In the season finale, though, she proves to be working with Deathstroke and gets the Titans to separate (they go after various villains who have appeared before and whom she and Deathstroke released) so she can defeat them. The Titans know Deathstroke is controlling Terra but in a bit of a double-standard, only Beast Boy believes they should help her anyway, after all the same thing happened to Robin the previous year. The rest of the Titans feel too betrayed to trust Terra and to try to help her.

In the end, the Titans work together to defeat Deathstroke. They convince Terra to come back to them. But as the fight in Deathstroke’s underground liar has stirred up a volcano – Terra stays behind to stop it. She’s turned into a stone statute. The Titans vow to find a way to release her from her stone prison and lay a stone at her feet calling her a true Titan and a true friend.

The scenes of Deathstroke controlling Terra are actually truly terrible though: he offers her something she truly wants – to learn to control her powers. But he also continuously tells her she has no friends, that no one cares about her, that she’s alone – and only Deathstroke would even dare to work with her. His manipulation is very abusive. He also constantly tells her the Titans aren’t her friends and don’t care about her. Deathstroke isolates Terra – then tells her no one wants her. He’s the classic abusive “boyfriend”. And he uses her power for his own gains. Deathstroke even electronically controls her “Slade suit” and has her wear an earpiece to be in her ear and her head all the time. The manipulation and abuse is terrifying.

Overall, even with the inconsistencies, Teen Titans Season 2 is pretty good. There are some interesting concepts and episodes (I loved the green, alien, talking dog). Recommended.

Please read my Teen Titans Season 1 Review.


Green Lantern the Animated Series

  • Series Title: Green Lantern:  The Animated Series
  • Season:  1 (Complete Series)
  • Date:  2011 -2013
  • Episodes:  26
  • Discs:  2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast:  Josh Keaton, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jason Spisak, Grey Griffin
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers Animation 

In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight…

Green Lantern:  The Animated Series is animated using CGI, which frankly took me awhile to get used to when I originally saw this show on Cartoon Network in 2011. Even re-watching the show now, it still took me several episodes to get used to the animation style. To me, it was like watching moving action figures – everything, especially the people, was just too smooth. However, that isn’t to say the animation is bad – it’s just different than traditional animation, and for me, it took me awhile to get used to it.

However, this series is really good – and I wish it had lasted more than a season. The first half of the series, which is conveniently all on Disc One in the Blu-Ray set, has Hal Jordon and Drill Sergeant Kilowog, borrowing the Guardians of Oa’s new spaceship The Intercepter, and speeding off to Frontier Space to confront the Red Lantern Corps who have been killing Frontier Green Lanterns at will. The Interceptor has an artificial intelligence at its core, which Hal quickly names Aya. Razor, a former Red Lantern, who – appalled at the destruction he’s caused at the behast of the Red Lantern dictator Atrocitus, joins Hal and Kilowog as the Interceptor’s crew. Aya also constructs a robot self, so she can physically move around.

Hal, Kilowog, Razor, and Aya meet the Star Sapphires, the Blue Lantern, St. Walker, Mogo, and have adventures in Frontier Space. However, the majority of the continuing plotline for the first half of the season is the confrontation with the Red Lanterns and Atrocitus.

Disc Two starts with Hal returning to Earth. There, he discovers his girlfriend, Carol Ferris, has moved on, even giving away his job as a test pilot at Ferris Air. During a disaster, Hal meets the new Green Lantern of Earth, Guy Garner. Returning to Oa, Hal is promoted to the Green Lantern Corps Honor Guard. He meets other Corps members including Chip (the Chipmunk Lantern), Tomar-Re, Chaselon, and others. Tomar-Re begins to train Hal in his new duties, when a new crisis occurs – the Rise of the Manhunters. Created by the Guardians as their first attempt at an inter-galactic police force, the Manhunters originally went rogue and destroyed many worlds in Frontier Space after deciding all creatures with emotions must be killed. It was the Manhunter destruction that caused Atrocitus to form the Red Lanterns to destroy the Green Lanterns and Oa. Hal rescues Aya from a Guardian science cell with help from Chip, and Hal and Kilowog set off to try to stop the Manhunters. They find Razor studying with St. Walker and they are off.

I liked the second half of the season better, though there are a couple of episodes in the first half that are favorites, notably the episode that introduces Mogo and St. Walker. Overall, GL:TAS is an enjoyable, action-filled series. The majority of it takes place in space, and introduces a number of people, species, planets, and situations. This show draws from the rich history of the classic Green Lantern Corps of DC Comics. It’s well-worth watching. The Blu-ray package, although it lacks special features, is much more convenient than the previous DVD release which broke the series into multiple releases.

Recommended, especially to DC comics fans.

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 DVD Reviews (General – from 2009)

Originally published on Live Journal:  13 March 2009

Note, these are some older reviews, originally published exactly as below in a single post.  Please note that the post below is from 2009, so some of the information is out of date and/or has been supplemented with more recent info.  I have reviewed the DCAU Batman movies that I own (well, I’m working on The Dark Knight Returns, which was awesome).  I’ve also now read most of DC’s Final Crisis series of Graphic Novels, but very little of The New 52.  So, I’m a bit more familiar now with Tim Drake than when I wrote the series of reviews below.  And I must say, as Tim got older and started working with Dick Grayson, I liked him better.  Thinking about it… I’m only going to correct typos below, and leave the out-of-date information.  Enjoy!

Oh, and yes… this previously appeared on my Live Journal, which is under a different name.

Batman DVD Reviews  (Minor Spoilers)

Batman Overload (DVD Reviews)

Well, I kinda’ stocked up on Batman DVDs and now that I’ve watched everything I’m a bit overloaded – tho’ I still need to track down the DC Animated Universe movies.
Anyway here’s what I now have:

Batman: The Animated Series Vol. 4 (DVD set) (aka “Gotham Knights”)
I was a bit dubious about this collection, because I much, much prefer a solo Batman, than a Batman-with-a-family. However, this collection is better than I expected. First, tho’ Robin is now Tim Drake and Dick Grayson has moved on to become Nightwing — the production crew gave Tim Jason Todd’s personality and backstory. This fits better than Tim Drake, who with his “Oh gee whiz” personality reminded me of Beaver from Leave It to Beaver and drove me nuts! (Mind you, I’ve only encountered Tim Drake in the graphic novel “A Lonely Place of Dying” where he’s introduced — and he may have been toned down later.) Jason Todd, OTOH, was a street-wise kid famous mostly for his end (see the wonderful graphic novel “A Death in the Family”). Batgirl is also present in this collection. However, there are several solo Batman adventures that at least feel like the classic Batman the Animated Series program. Overall, I liked it and it finishes off the B:TAS DVD collection nicely. (I have all three previous volumes)

I also bought Batman: The Dark Knight on sale at Target (more about why it was on sale in a moment) for $10.00. ‘Course, that meant I had to see Batman Begins and Batman Gotham Knight first. I checked Amazon, decided I didn’t want to wait (especially with my trip to Florida with Mom to think about) and bought both at Best Buy.

Batman Begins was awesome! In some ways, I liked it better than The Dark Knight and I really liked Dark Knight. I’d somehow managed to miss all the announcements for casting, so besides those from Batman The Dark Knight that I really liked (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman) – I was pleasantly surprised to see Liam Neeson! I must admit tho’ — as good as the training scenes between him and Christian Bale were — I half expected him to say “You must learn to use the force, young Padewan.” And so much of what he said sounded like it should have come from a script for a Star Wars movie. I also was very surprised by his return at the end of the movie (and it explained why Wayne Manor was a burnt cinder in “The Dark Knight” – something that confused me).
Again – Chicago was the setting for Gotham City – which was awesome! As I had when I first saw The Dark Knight in the movie theater – I recognized parts of the Loop and the Chicago River area. But I loved the way the movie used the back story lore of Batman — Bruce’s fall into the well, and the death of his parents. The kid playing young Bruce did an excellent job! I also really liked Bruce’s father — too often there just isn’t any information about him, yet Bruce seems to dedicate everything he does to his parents’ memory (including as CEO of Wayne Enterprises). I also liked Christian Bale better as Batman in this film — I really didn’t like the “motorized”-sounding voice in the second movie (oh, Kevin Conroy, where are you?) – Bale did a better job playing both Batman and Bruce Wayne and I liked seeing Bruce’s journey into becoming Batman.

Batman Gotham Knight was an interesting experiment. I liked having Kevin Conroy back as the voice of Batman (and Bruce Wayne). Conroy really is my Batman in a sense, and since I started watching B:TAS about a year or two ago — he’s now the voice I hear in my head when reading the graphic novels (even re-reading ones with a distinct style like Frank Miller’s classic “The Dark Knight Returns”). David McCallum does a good job as Alfred, tho’ I was a bit disappointed with the writing for Alfred. Michael Caine played the part perfectly in the two new movies; and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., did an excellent job in Batman: The Animated Series. Both actors gave Alfred that nice, dry, sense of humor, but also showed his caring for Bruce – the man he raised. Actually, I really like Efrem Zimbalist Jr., because he managed to put across both his understanding of why Bruce has to go out each night as Batman, and his concern for Bruce’s physical and mental well-being. Michael Caine has his moments as well – in both movies, encouraging Bruce, as well as doing the “Alfred-thing” of reminding Batman of his obligations as Bruce Wayne – something that Batman tends to forget. (It’s complicated).
What I didn’t like about Batman Gotham Knight was the animation style. Sorry – but Japanese Animé style just doesn’t work for Batman – a quintessential American hero. Even in the better stories of the six – the Japanese Animé style was distracting (especially the way Bruce Wayne was drawn – he looked like he stepped out of Star Blazers (aka Space Battleship Yamato) and into a business suit). In terms of stories, the quality varied. The first one, with three street kids telling their own stories about Batman was a direct copy of two B:TAS episodes — I didn’t really like them in B:TAS, and a third go was totally pointless. The remaining five stories are better, with each getting better as it goes on. I was probably most excited to see another take on Bane – but that “part” felt a bit flat. In fact the whole movie, with its six inter-related parts felt kinda’ flat. It also didn’t really seem to do what it needed to (or stated it would) do, which was link Batman Begins with Batman the Dark Knight.
Batman The Dark Knight of course is an awesome movie. In many ways, the villains, Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, and The Joker (often named Jack Napier in the comics, but not in this movie) steal the show. Also, Batman’s costume seems to be a step backwards — less flexible and with the annoying voice-changing box, that I didn’t like. I DID like the movie tho — great cast: Christian Bale (who does do a very, very good Bruce Wayne — I especially liked the bit where he smashes his Porsche to save Dent then claims he didn’t do it on purpose), Michael Caine (excellent as Alfred), Morgan Freeman (as Lucius Fox – so nice to even see the character – sorta’ a “business” Alfred for Bruce), Heath Ledger of course (fantastic as the Joker), Anthony Michael Hall (as the reporter who keeps showing up – I kept expecting him to have visions! Yep, he was in the TV version of “The Dead Zone”), Gary Oldman again as Jim Gordon (and doing a darn good job!), and even Keith Szarabajka (Chicago native and of The Equalizer), oh – and Eric Roberts was in one of the movies as a mob boss. Again – nice to see Chicago playing the part of Gotham City.   (To quote The Blues Brothers, “This is definitely Lower Wacker Drive!” – what the movie identified as “Lower 5th”).  And the real Chicago PD Pipes and Drums band playing for the funeral.
But yeah, Batman Dark Knight — awesome.
But about the sale part — yep, it’s widescreen, but the disc has no special features, not even a commentary, I’d have to “trade-up” to the “Deluxe” edition to get any special features — and I hate buying something twice.
But, despite all the Batman stuff – I still want to find the two Batman “TV” movies (DC Animated), and perhaps Batman Beyond on DVD. (I’d like to SEE Batman Beyond first to find out if I like it!).
If you haven’t seen Batman Begins /  The Dark Knight – I highly recommend them.

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

Green Lantern Emerald Knights

  • Title: Green Lantern Emerald Knights
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2011
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, SF
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Jason Isaacs, Elisabeth Moss, Henry Rollins, Arnold Vosloo
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“He held the first construct, no longer a scribe, now a warrior, the First Lantern.”— Hal Jordan, Narrating

“When you shape the light of your ring, you walk in the footsteps of the First Lantern.”— Hal Jordan, Narrating

Emerald Knights is really six short stories interwoven into an arc-plot. Each of the separate stories are written and directed by different people, though this is part of the DC Animated Universe, so Bruce Timm produces and Andrea Romano is the voice director for the entire thing. The stories are pulled directly from the DC’s Green Lantern Corps comic books. I loved the movie. In many ways, I liked it better than the live-action Green Lantern movie, which was only so-so. This film really showcased the rich history of the Green Lanterns, bringing in several characters and plot lines. And because Hal is telling these tales to Arisia, a new Green Lantern recruit, it’s like he’s explaining the history to the audience. Nathan Fillion does an excellent job of playing an older, more experienced, Hal — who still remembers his younger days and wishes to help a fellow recruit get her feet under her.

The six stories are:

  • The First Lantern
  • Kilowog (based on “New Blood”)
  • Mogo Doesn’t Socialize
  • Abin Sur (based on “Tygers”)
  • Emerald Knights
  • Laira (based on “What Price Honor?”

My favorite in terms of pure story was “The First Lantern”, just because it was so awesome to see how the Lanterns first came to be — and I love how Avro wasn’t willing to give up, and thus figured out how the rings were supposed to be used. I also loved the visual image used to show the first Lantern’s ring being handed down from Lantern to Lantern throughout the centuries, and finally to Abin Sur and from him to Hal. That was awesome!

“Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” was amusing. It’s a great story, and probably would have had more impact if I hadn’t had it spoiled for me.

“Kilowog” gives background and a bit more of a human side to the Lanterns’ drill sergeant by showing us his own drill sergeant. Still, it’s the same old “new recruit is terrorized by the drill sergeant but learns to love the tough love approach” story we’ve seen many times before.

“Abin Sur” is weird because it shows he and Sinestro working together, and also the criminal that Abin Sur arrests and jails makes several predictions, which I’m guessing come true in the GL continuity. Abin Sur, of course, doesn’t believe the predictions, especially of Sinestro, his dear friend, going rogue.

“Laira” is probably the darkest of the stories — but it’s fascinating and highly, highly enjoyable. I really liked that one too.

Finally, “Emerald Knights” is the name of the wrap-around story and the finale. Yes, it’s excellent. The entire film is extremely well done, enjoyable, and I just loved it. I highly, highly recommend this movie.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Green Lantern First Flight

  • Title: Green Lantern First Flight
  • Director: Lauren Montgomery
  • Date: 2009
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: SF, Action, Animation
  • Cast: Christopher Meloni, Tricia Helfer, John Larroquette, William Schallert
  • Format: Widescreen Color Animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

Another excellent movie in the DC Animated Universe series. This one gives us Hal Jordan’s origin story and the betrayal of the Green Lantern Corps by Sinestro in one fell swoop. And it’s Sinestro who initially takes Hal under his wing and starts his training. But Hal, especially after being set up by Sinestro realizes he’s not the “super-cop” or in this case “super Lantern” everyone thinks he is. So Hal is learning about the corps, learning to use his powers, and yet still smart enough to realize when something just isn’t right. I also liked Hal’s constructs — witty, useful, and showing us Hal’s personality in glowing green light. This is Hal Jordan.

The story is also very dark at times. Sinestro kills Keja Ro — whom he’s secretly been working with to find the Yellow Element and construct (or have constructed for him) the Great Weapon. He then frames Hal Jordan for the crime, getting the newest Lantern thrown out of the Corps. But Hal isn’t willing to go quietly. When Sinestro shows up on Oa with the Yellow Battery (the Great Weapon) he does considerable damage, killing countless Lanterns. One of the most impressive scenes, in terms of “wow” factor is after Sinestro destroys the Green Power Battery on Oa, a few minutes later, it rains green rings — the “sky” is filled with countless rings. Sinestro explains they are from all the Lanterns in space, unprotected, once the power of the battery was shut off. The shear size of Sinestro’s crime is almost unimaginable.

Hal, however, tries to help and fight back, and finally a Guardian gets him his ring, Hal charges it through a crack in the Power Battery, then goes after Sinestro — and what a fight! These guys are throwing planets around.

By the way — a lot of members of Green Lantern Corps make their appearances: Sinestro, Kilowog, Bodica, Tamor-Re, even Chip and it’s great to see them. Un-named alien Corps members are also seen in various crowd shots. It was nice to see they paid attention to the rich Green Lantern history from DC Comics.

Overall, an impressive movie, I recommend it.

Recommendation: See It
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars