Bruce Wayne

September 24, 2014

Simply TV: Gotham (Pilot Episode)

BURN

Gotham – Burn

How can you go wrong with a show that takes in a universe in which Batman exists? There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that……right? Well, how about a universe in which Batman MIGHT exist one day, but in order to get to that one day you have to reside in a universe where you get to follow around a young Jim Gordon, his wise-cracking partner Harvey Bullock, and a bunch of villains who are either not yet the villains you know and love yet, and a female gangster named Fish Mooney. It will clearly be a slow burn for Fox’s “Gotham;” the newest take on the Gotham City and it’s residents. This opening is not meant to bash the show, it’s to clearly state what you are getting into when you prepare to dedicate multiple seasons to a show where you will follow around a young Jim Gordon who is likely not going to fight any “big” villains from Batman’s rogue’s gallery, but hey, I could be wrong.

So “Gotham” or at least the pilot episode, opens with that fateful night; the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents to a mugger’s bullet. The added wrinkle in this origin story is that the murder is witnessed by a young girl who has the slightest resemblance to a cat. Of course we know who she will become, but it’s never mentioned. Moving from Crime Alley, to the GCPD, we meet Jim Gordon and his new partner Bullock. The two couldn’t be less alike, classic case of good cop, bad cop. We also discover that Jim’s father was the former DA of Gotham City. Bullock and Gordon arrive at the scene of the Wayne family murder and while Gordon comforts Bruce, Bullock is trying to find a way to dump the case since he knows something is rotten in Denmark. As the show progresses we meet Renee Montoya, who works for the Major Crimes Unit, Jim’s girlfriend, Barbara Kean, and I might add those two have somewhat of a history, and it’s leaning on the lesbian side, which I can appreciate for obvious male-pig reasons. Along the way we also meet a young Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Nygma, and finally Carmine Falcone, played by “The Wire” alum, John Doman. In my haste we also meet the new Alfred Pennyworth, who delivers one of the funnier lines in the episode as well.

If it seems my synopsis is all over the place, well, that’s because the episode is all over the place. While it’s a slow burn, it’s also a pretty messy burn. There seem to be a few things that you are going to have to get over if you are going to enjoy “Gotham.” One, give up on seeing Batman anytime soon. Unless the show begins to rely on flash-forwards, or skips into the future after the first season, or two, there will be no Batman. And yes, I get it, the show is called “Gotham,” not “Batman” but when one thinks of Gotham City, there is really only one person you think of, but yeah, I get it.

Two, “Gotham” feels like something that could have been called “Gotham High.” Seeing villains like The Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman as younger versions of their selves just seems odd, and wrong. Of course, this is all based on a pilot where things can change drastically and could improve, but I’m not into it as much as I feel like I should be. While I don’t agree with the direction of Penguin, I have to admit I like how he is being portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. It’s quite a departure from what I’m used to in my Penguin character, from Danny DeVito’s take in “Batman Returns” to even the comic books, but building up Penguin as a big bad for the future is ballsy, albeit, a slow burn.

Three, I really hope they change how they use Harvey Bullock. Bullock was one of my favorite characters from “Batman: The Animated Series,” and the crooked-cop take on his character, at least to me, is a little too cliched. You’re always going to have one of this bad cop-types characters in a show, but why make Bullock that character? Donal Logue, who I think is vastly underrated in anything he acts in, gives Bullock a certain attitude that I appreciated, but I want the slovenly, fat, fast food eating Bullock, not this Bullock. Again, I like Logue, but I’m trying to figure out this take on the character. Of course, I’m sure there will be an arc where Bullock has to make a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, possibly during the season finale, where he will become the Bullock I’ve come to know and love.

To finish up the rants, some of the music and camera work and simply weird. I can’t help but think when I’m watching something in the Batman universe, I imagine listening to either Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer; Graeme Revell isn’t who I would expect to score the “Gotham” TV show. And nothing again Revell, I loved his portion of the score for “Sin City” and if we got more of that in “Gotham” I would have no complaints, but alas. It just doesn’t seem like the score reflects what I would expect from a pseudo-gritty take on the history of Gotham City.

There are some other nit-picks through the pilot, but as a hopeful viewer, I think some of these things should get addressed. I still don’t buy Ben McKenzie, or Detective O.C., as Jim Gordon, but he has shown he’s got the chops, see “Southland” as a good example. I really hope the show doesn’t push a Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne teen romance angle, that would just come off as needlessly cheesy. Finally, don’t create and add characters just to create and add characters. If the show is really going to push the “Rise of the Penguin” and Carmine Falcone/Fish Mooney angle, let those angles flesh out and concentrate on making that the best plot line you can make.

Overall, like “Arrow” and I’m sure “The Flash,” “Gotham” will go through it’s growing pains, similar to Bruce Wayne. The biggest thing for “Gotham” is that when you hear Gotham, you think Batman. But how long will that last with audiences who want to see the Dark Knight, not the Adventures of Jim Gordon vs. Fish Mooney. Name recognition is the biggest thing the show has going for it right now, and the fact it’s on Fox, a network notorious for axing shows if they don’t perform up to snuff, it will be interesting to see how long of a leash “Gotham” will have.

Fun Fact: Before he was hitting the street as Gordon, McKenzie was behind the cowl, voicing the Dark Knight in the animated feature, “Batman: Year One.”

April 24, 2014

Simply Animated: Son of Batman

LACKING

Son of Batman – Lacking

When it comes to Batman animated films, there have been three ages, if you will. The first one started with “Mask of the Phantasm” in 1993, the second age includes classics like “Batman: Under the Red Hood” and “Justice League: Doom.” That brings me to the third age, and so far it hasn’t been pretty. Sure, we got “Flashpoint Paradox” but recently comic book fans had to sit through “Justice League: War” and the less than stellar “Batman: Year One” and the uneven “The Dark Knight Returns.” To say the least it’s been a bit rocky lately for The Dark Knight. Hopefully things have bottomed out with 2014’s “Son of Batman,” an animated feature lacking anything close to what made earlier films featuring Batman so memorable.

“Son” is the story of Damian Wayne, the child of Talia al Ghul and Batman, who seeks vengeance for the murder of his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul by Deathstroke and a squad of renegade League of Assassin members. On the run, Talia decides it is time for Damian to meet his real father; Bruce Wayne, aka, The Batman. The film also has cameos by Commissioner Gordon, Killer Croc, and Nightwing. “Son” is based on the “Batman and Son” comic run written by Grant Morrison.

My main issue, and there are many, is Damian Wayne. I simply don’t like the character. I didn’t like the character in the comics (spoilers, he dies), and this animated representation doesn’t help the cause for me. He’s a spoiled brat, and while that is exactly who he was in the books, just seeing it on screen and hearing an annoying preteen tell Batman, or should I say, order Batman, what to do, is extremely irritating.

Speaking of Batman, hopefully this will be Jason O’Mara’s last film as the voice of The Batman. It makes me yearn for the likes of Ben McKenzie and William Baldwin’s vocal interpretations. O’Mara, who I’m sure is a fine human being, just doesn’t have the chops to voice the Bat. It all sounds like a bad rendition of Christian Bale’s “gruff” Batman voice in the Christopher Nolan films. There will always only be one Batman voice, and that is Kevin Conroy, who is thankfully coming back for the upcoming “Batman: Assault on Arkham.”

I will say that the storyline is at least coherent enough to be followed. Unlike “Justice League: War” the story is streamlined and not too chaotic. And if you happen to be a Damian Wayne fan I’m sure you’ll enjoy his hijinks as he tries to walk the line between justice and revenge. I also enjoyed the Anime-inspired animation and the amount of violence that “Son” included. Normally. most DC Animated fare is reasonable tame, but it seems since Christopher Nolan’s Bat-films, the cartoons have followed suit in terms of tone.

Overall, “Son” is simply a ho-hum animated feature with a few decent set-pieces, but substandard voice acting. Of course this could all be coming from my overall dislike of the Damian Wayne character, but I just feel like DC Animation is going in a direction that I don’t find too interesting. If you want to do a kick ass Batman flick, choose to adapt “The Court of Owls” storyline or hey, dig in the vault and finally decide to adapt “The Killing Joke.” Be edgy for goodness sake, shake things up and create something truly epic. One can dream, can’t they?

Fun Fact: The first reference to Damian Wayne was in 1987’s “Batman” Son of the Demon.”

November 13, 2012

Double-ovember: Skyfall (DJ’s Take)

STIRRING
See what I did there?  But no, my above one word review of Skyfall is not a joke.  Well, maybe a little bit.  Bond 23 is easily the most dramatic Bond film of the franchise.  It finishes an origin trilogy of Bond, M, MI6, Q branch and many other elements of Ian Fleming’s universe.  Yes, a nutshell synopsis of Skyfall has fairly been labeled, “What If Bond, Not Batman, Had To Stop The Joker?”  I personally think that concept is an interesting one.  The events of The Dark Knight and Skyfall are similar.  However, the two heroes in it are not.  Bruce Wayne is not James Bond.  Bruce is a bit of a softer character than Bond.  That doesn’t make Bruce weak by any means.  That just shows you how hardened Bond actually is.  Where Bruce’s childhood trauma made him somewhat bipolar, Bond’s made him somewhat sociopathic.  He is way closer to the line than Bruce.  So much so, that his constant defiance is the only thing that keeps him from crossing it.  That dynamic is what differentiates the two films. 
It is a pleasure to see such an accomplished director like Sam Mendes and a living legend cinematographer like Roger Deakins take on James Bond.  This is a franchise that thrives on creativity and style.  Something that is totally brought to the table here.  Both men show off how excellent action scenes and films can be when they are put in capable hands.  Deakins displays such a mastery of composition, color, and shadows, you’ll want to gorge yourself on each well painted frame.  That is a little too technical for a film review, so let me just say your eyes experience is all the better for having this duo at the helm. 
I sort of guessed beforehand as to the ultimate role of Naomie Harris in Skyfall.  However, she still makes her part feel surprising and memorable.  Her chemistry with Craig is great and provides some of the lighter moments of the film.  The other buxom Bond girl, Sévérine, does not make that great an impact unfortunately.  Her story, though interesting, is rushed.  This was assuredly done to make room for the biggest Bond girl narrative of Skyfall.  That is the M, played by Dame Judi Dench.  I may just be showing my bias toward the franchise here, but I wish people could recognize the absolutely perfect performances Dench has been delivering as M since Goldeneye for crying out loud.  This is the heaviest lifting she’s had since her arrival and she does not disappoint.  I would bet green money there was a hesitation at first to focus a large part of the film around M.  A hesitation quickly followed by the chuckling realization that M wasn’t being played by some minor character actor, but Dame Judi f*#king Dench!  Casting  a women as M was unheard of back when Goldeneye came out.  Now her presence is as comforting as a warm blanket.  
This brings me to the Joker of this picture, Raoul Silva.  Javier Bardem needs to do another comedy immediately.  If he continues to convincingly play these raving psychotics, he’ll be typecast forever.  Silva is easily the best villain Craig’s Bond has faced and possibly one of the creepiest Bond has ever faced.  His path, his plan, his will is frighteningly focused.  Bardem’s choice to make Silva always appear friendly on the outside while hinting at the extensive damage underneath is terrific.  Unpredictability is the ultimate foil for any hero.  
Some critics have also been wary of the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw.  Mainly, because he is younger than Bond.  However, I think it represents the new generational dichotomy of modern technology.  In the 60s and 70s technology was stereotypically run by the old and lost on the young.  Nowadays it is the complete opposite.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your parents to input their name and number into your smart phone.  As long as Bond has zero respect for the effort Q puts into his work, the age swap doesn’t matter.  And besides, Whishaw is great in the role.  His lecturing of Bond feels just as natural as when Desmond Llewelyn did it. 
Skyfall will critically be a victim of its own hype.  It will be harshly judged because of its 300 commercials a day, its 10 beer related contests, and bold claim to be the best Bond ever.  Resentment towards hype should not influence what you see in Skyfall.  It is action packed, surprisingly moving, franchise faithful, and most of all, fun.  Renew your license to kill…sing along with Adele the song that is a lock for a Best Original Song Oscar nod…take the bloody shot….watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.   

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