Showing posts with label comic book movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comic book movies. Show all posts

SDCC 2015: Thoughts on the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer

As expected, a new Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer debuted at San Diego Comic-Con. Almost 4 minutes long, this video shows off a ton of new footage, dropping not only more of the conflict between Batman and Superman, but also revealing a whole bunch of new teasers. Based on what I've seen so far, it looks like a good percentage of fans enjoy the trailer just as much as I do, but if it's cool with you, I'm going to take a moment or two to explain why I'm so excited for this film.

First and foremost, I love how DC and Warner Bros. is using the Battle of Metropolis from Man of Steel to construct its new cinematic universe. What occurred in MoS is a big deal and it should have enormous ramifications. Far too often movie franchises will have surreal events occur and then they're glossed over. "Yay! The day is saved! Now, what's the next global threat?" Instead of racing forward and focusing on the future, DC and WB seems to be taking this big event and giving it so much more weight.
Just imagine if what went down in Metropolis actually happened in one of our cities. Aliens make a very public arrival with a clear warning - which would be startling enough - and then they begin to terraform the Earth, killing thousands in the process. Pretty terrifying up, yes? As if that wasn't shocking and frightening enough, it's revealed one of those absurdly powerful aliens - too formidable to be defeated and/or restrained by our militaries - has been living on the planet the entire time. Once the dust settles and the villainous aliens are defeated, this titan who has been hiding on our planet still remains. How do you know you can trust him, especially when the devastating battle killed so many innocents? Sure, a vast majority of the deaths came from the World Engine, but as viewers, we were given a much clearer picture of what really happened in the fight. To top it off, this person saved the day by snapping his enemy's neck. Now he's just roaming around the planet and we have to take his word that he's never going to flip out and destroy us all. Naturally, the word would have mixed responses to this seemingly invincible being. Some would think he's here to save us from every little problem and he'll always be there to help, no matter what. Others may loathe him. Many will be afraid of him. There would undoubtedly be plenty of polarizing coverage as talking heads influence people to either love or loathe Superman. This plot point is huge and it's so refreshing to see a majority of this follow-up movie is playing off of that tragic event (and in a remotely "realistic" way, too) instead of just reducing it to a few references and then moving forward with a totally different narrative.
Seeing how the Battle of Metropolis impacted Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne - the trailer reveals he's a man who has already endured great loss - was surprisingly powerful. The way he runs towards the destruction as everyone else flees it is a reminder of just what kind of man he is. How many close friends (and maybe even a loved one?) did he just lose as his building collapsed? Then the way he grips a child as he looks towards the sky - presumably watching Superman and Zod fighting or just gazing at the destruction they've left behind -  is powerful stuff. From his view, he can't tell it's Zod who's blasting apart the building with heat vision. He just knows Superman can do that, and that's a major problem to him. Even though we know they two heroes will end up as allies and they should solve their differences with their words, this trailer makes us really appreciate where Batman's determination is coming from. Plus, we all know Lex Luthor is going to be pulling some strings, right?

Superman is now thrown into the spotlight - something he tried to avoid for years and years - and based on the drastic reactions he's receiving, it's easy to understand Jonathan Kent's concerns that the world isn't ready for someone like Superman. Despite a noteworthy percentage of the world throwing nothing but vitriol his way and an overwhelming amount of darkness and tragedies occurring across the globe, the trailer shows Superman isn't shying away from doing what must be done. When politicians point the finger at him, he's willing to meet them head-on about it. Now, what he says has yet to be revealed, but showing him going out of his way to save others (he saves astronauts from a failed rocket launch, goes to what appears to be a ginormous flood to aid people, and he is spotted saving someone else from a fire) you can see he isn't turning his back on this world, despite it throwing so much hate his way.
We didn't see much of Wonder Woman, but the little we did see leaves me feeling confident that she'll be an impressive powerhouse in the movie. It looks like at least twice she's hit quite hard (the first shot shows her in front of a damaged Batmobile with a trail, so it seems like she was knocked into it) and then she recovers like it's nothing. I mean, the look on her face after she takes a hit? If that's not an "oh, it's on" face then I just don't know what is. It's clear they make a point to hide from us who Wonder Woman is battling and, thanks to some editing, they make it seem like Superman's the one blasting heat vision at an armorless Batman. However, I think they're fighting whatever the big bad is in those scenes - presumably a twisted, reincarnated version of Zod. This could make him a new version of Bizarro (I could picture Lex saying the being is "bizarre") or Doomsday. Maybe even Cyborg Superman or Metallo with Lex Luthor involved! The brief shot of the Batwing reveals a devastated landscape, so I'm guessing that's thanks to Superman and Wonder Woman battling this big bad. Or perhaps it's just a trail of destruction left by this new foe. Either way, it looks like these three are definitely teaming-up to take on whatever Lex Luthor creates. And based on this small sample of footage, I'm stoked. Then again, it could just be Wonder Woman and Batman battling a somewhat mind-controlled Superman (if Lex Luthor has Zod's body, he's studied Kryptonian physiology), but I really hope that's not the case. The whole "heroes fighting because of mind-control" plot device has been used so many times before; I'd much rather see them unite against one powerful enemy.

Additionally, this version of Batman looks like he's going to be pure fan service. There's a little nod to the iconic The Dark Knight Returns lightning cover (2:56), and seeing him use his grappling gun and briefly fight goons was totally thrilling. I appreciate Nolan's trilogy, but this version of Batman looks epic. Not only will he be a brilliant inventor and tactician, but from the looks of things, he's also going to have some serious combat skill.
One scene brings up some questions: "desert" Batman fighting soldiers with the Superman logo. The most common and logical theory is those troops are the cinematic version of The Dark Knight Returns' vigilante group called the Sons of Batman. It seems these rogue soldiers worship the Man of Steel and kill people in his name (they're seen executing helpless people). I'm thinking that the "Batman" they're fighting isn't Bruce (it's worth noting the chin looks different), but instead a man who's inspired by Batman as the Dark Knight stands up to the unstoppable God called Superman. It's tough to tell for certain, but if so, that could mean as a human dares to oppose the all-mighty alien, regular humans will rise against this group of soldiers who are sporting Superman's symbol. One can only assume that Batman and Superman will eventually find a way to put an end to that senseless and bloody madness. Or, this could simply be Batman trying to stop them and he's captured. (Possibly on purpose since he's crafty like that and knows it would bring Superman right to him.) If so, that could explain the shot of Superman going to their base. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Holy teasers and fan service, Batman! The Robin costume immediately has me - and a gazillion other people - wondering if the first Batman spinoff will be inspired by Under the Red Hood. Seeing as that movie has the potential to look into the past (new mythos building, people!) and also offer an action-packed and compelling story in the present, that's an approach I'd love to see adapted for the big screen... especially if Ben Affleck is directing! Yeah, people still love ripping on him for his older work like Daredevil and Gigli, but his latest work is excellent (The Town, Argo, Gone Girl) and that's what matters. I was already sold on him as Batman, but this trailer further boosts my faith in his performance.
I'm not here to make you change your feelings about this upcoming movie. Man of Steel was polarizing and if you still feel skeptical about Batman v Superman, so be it. Only time will tell whether or not the movie will live up to the hype, after all. But me? I can't help but support what I love. And this new trailer? Yeah, I definitely love it.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens March 25, 2016.

The first announced Batman v Superman Wonder Woman figure is a Barbie. Really?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's opening weekend is quickly approaching and with San Diego Comic-Con right around the corner (at the time of writing this), it's obvious Warner Bros' big DC movie is going to have quite a presence at the event. We're all anxious to see what'll be revealed during WB's Hall H presentation - last year they showed footage and finally revealed Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman costume - but there's obviously going to be plenty of merchandise as well. Funko has revealed its adorable versions of Ben Affleck's Batman and Henry Cavill's Superman - which I would totally want to buy if I was going to the convention - and now Mattel has revealed some of its BvS collectibles.

There's a two-pack of Batman and Superman action figures, two Hot Wheels vehicles, and the very first Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Wonder Woman figure! Did she also get an action figure so fans could pose her with the two other DC heroes or pretend to have her fight Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent? Nope, she gets a Barbie. Why? Because apparently girls don't collect action figures?

On one hand, having a Wonder Woman Barbie figure out there is pretty awesome (and it sounds like a Batman and Superman one are on the way). There's a zero percent chance I'd ever buy it, but this gives young fans - and some older collectors - the chance to have an especially strong and inspiring Barbie. Hopefully, it gets them into the DC heroine - you know, even though Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice looks like it's aiming to be a more "mature" comic book movie. Still, there's many other Wonder Woman things kids can enjoy, like the comics and the Justice League animated show. Anyway, there's countless Dark Knight and Man of Steel collectibles available, so the chance to get even more people interested in Diana is of course a good thing. That said, I can't help but find this choice to be pretty ridiculous. Why do Batman and Superman get action figures and Wonder Woman's instead turned into a Barbie? Yeah, Batman and Superman are the main characters in the movie, but stereotyping much? This is DC's trinity, people! Young and old fans should be able to have all three of them together - something which paints Wonder Woman as their equal instead of pandering and thinking the only way young girls would want a Diana figure is if it's a Barbie.


I'm sure we'll eventually see Wonder Woman action figures, but why didn't Mattel instead just make that two-pack a three-pack, especially since EW's latest cover implies Wonder Woman will play a noteworthy role in the movie and we know she has her own spinoff in a few years? It currently costs $30 ($15 for each figure, which seems overpriced based on the quality seen in those images), so if they included her, they could bump it to $45 or even $40, just so it seems more affordable. Doing so absolutely would not prevent many, many people from buying it. Maybe this Barbie will create a new generation of Wonder Woman fans and maybe it'll motivate others to get more into the character. Maybe I'm overreacting here, but I can't help but feel like Wonder Woman - who's a ridiculously skilled and powerful warrior - not getting her own action figure (just yet?) along with Superman and Batman is pretty messed up.

Source: USA Today

Man of Steel vs. Avengers: Age of Ultron - Let's talk about the destruction

Avengers: Age of Ultron is finally in U.S. theaters and comparisons to Man of Steel have already begun. In Joss Whedon's sequel to The Avengers, an especially big focus is placed on the Avengers doing everything they can to make sure innocent people aren't harmed during their explosive and crazy battles. Obviously, this is pretty different from Superman's struggle with Kryptonian forces who sought to terraform Earth -- a process that would kill every single human on the planet. Do I think Superman could have done more in his conflict and he made a few foolish decisions? Absolutely. However, I do think the handling of destruction was used to illustrate different points in both movies. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's there to remind us that being a hero is all about saving people. In Man of Steel, it's all about showing the seemingly unbelievable nightmare Kal-El had to overcome in his very first conflict as a superhero.
First and foremost, I feel obligated to point out differences that should be obvious. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the team is mostly full of experienced characters who have worked together and they follow Captain America, a guy who's just oozing hope and he makes you want to be a better person. When a train is speeding through a crowded area, would Quicksilver have saved civilians if Captain America hadn't given the order? If it wasn't for the super-soldier, would the speedster have focused on grabbing his sister, Scarlet Witch, and raced both of them to safety, only to then feel heartbreak as he realizes how many people were killed by that swift decision? With everything happening so quickly, I'd say it's a possibility and it's one worth thinking about. That just goes to show the influence Steve Rogers can have on even an inexperienced individual. In addition to being an experienced team led by a tactical genius with a heart of gold, it's worth noting the Marvel team had prep time and way more resources. As a battle with Baron von Stucker sent explosives into a city, Tony Stark had the means to order robots into the city and had them warn the people to evacuate. They don't listen to Stark's technology, but hey, A for effort, right? In the final conflict, the Avengers had time to warn the authorities about what's coming their way and did everything they can to help people evacuate. And then when everything did hit the fan, they still tried to save people while fighting plenty of Ultron robots. Each of them had their own task and they were often spread out. For many, the balancing act of saving people and defeating the immediate threats was fairly doable. They have experience in the field, many teammates, a whole lot of resources, and they even had time to prepare. DC's powerful hero didn't have any of those luxuries.

It's a pretty common misconception that Superman destroyed most of Metropolis. While Superman does make some errors in his fights -- don't worry, I'll address those in a bit -- it's the World Engine that's responsible for a vast majority of the destruction in the city. Some people called Zack Snyder's handling of those sequences "disaster porn." All of the violent madness didn't have me cheering or exclaiming "awesome!" It's not there to enthrall you; it's there to shock you. To me, it shows just how ridiculously formidable Superman's first challenge is. How can anyone hope to overcome something so disastrous? The movie didn't pull any punches; it showed us Zod's forces are heartless and they had no problem slaughtering humanity. They viewed us as ants and had no hesitation whatsoever crushing us under their absurdly strong and durable feet. This wasn't a threat that had me saying, "Yeah, Superman will obviously win and all will be well." It's a threat that had me thinking, "Superman needs to stop this right away because this is freaking insane and humanity has no chance stopping it on their own."
I would have loved to see a more inspiring big screen version of Superman, but instead what we did receive is one that I believe feels more appropriate for the DC Cinematic Universe's "realistic" tone. They're going for something different and, so far, I'm liking it. Clark spent his entire life holding back and avoiding conflicts. Now, his first day as a superhero is against characters who are just as powerful as he is and they're more experienced in combat. With civilians out of the way in the Smallville battle -- a luxury the Avengers didn't have -- this novice hero still attempted to move the fight twice (he failed both times as his enemies grabbed him). Even though the odds aren't in his favor, he's still able to save a few troops who are unlucky enough to be in the war zone. He obviously can't save everyone when two powerhouses are on top of him, but you can't really say he didn't try to, either.

"Why couldn't he fly Zod out of the city?" That's a question I often hear. It's just a one-on-one brawl, right? Well, I imagine it's for the very same reason that Iron Man couldn't take Hulk away from a populated region. Clark spends much of the skirmish getting handled; he's still new to using his powers against others and he's spent his entire life trying not to get into fights. He's the one who's knocked into orbit! During that encounter, much of the damage is caused by Zod's attacks. I'm not saying Superman didn't cause any damage, but it always baffles me how someone can watch the Battle of Metropolis with an open mind and say, "Yeah, Superman destroyed most of the city." When Zod throws Superman through multiple buildings, are we really blaming Big Blue for that destruction? Or what about when Zod takes down a building with heat vision? Or all of the damage the World Engine unleashed? When Superman does briefly have the edge, he's punching Zod between and around buildings. He's not smashing the villain through anything and everything he can -- a tactic that Zod used just moments later against the hero.

Look, I'm not saying Superman's actions are without blame. Stuff like his punch after the "you die or I do" line is obviously a big mistake. Part of me wonders whether that building was already empty. Seeing as that takes place quite some time after an alien ship started attacking the city, you would imagine most people have fled the buildings in that region. The first building the two go crashing into -- the one that Zod destroys with heat vision -- appears to be empty, after all. Honestly, it probably wasn't completely empty, though. Aside from that punch and Superman smashing Zod's face against glass (which is pretty minor damage compared to what we regularly see in comics), I think a huge portion of the damage done in that encounter is because of Zod's actions, and with the alien general being on top of him, Superman doesn't exactly have time to fly around and pull everyone out of the rubble.
When the LexCorp truck hits a parking garage and blows up, Superman is left gazing at the chaos. I'd say there's two possible reasons for this. The first: the dude is simply staring at the blast and would probably love Michael Bay's movies. The second: he's looking in the structure to see if anyone needs help. I'd like to believe it's the latter and it seems safe to assume so, but seeing as Zod comes rushing in, there's no way to tell for sure. That said, I absolutely think Clark's responsible for taking at least a few lives in the Smallville fight. I mean, I do get what Snyder was going for when Clark lashed out. The hero spent decades holding back, but now, someone who can withstand his punches has crossed a line by attacking his mother. After years of attempting to keep it cool, Clark finally unleashes. He tackles Zod all the way through what appears to be power plants and they eventually plow through a gas station and the location explodes. There was at least one car at a pump and you know there's at least one employee in there. So, Clark snapping (I swear that pun is unintentional) absolutely resulted in killing at least two innocent people in that scene.

While I do think Clark made a few mistakes, it's important to remember this is his journey to becoming Superman and the guy just learned how to fly -- that really goes to show just how new he is to all of this. To top it off, he's on his own against overwhelming odds. I view it as someone doing everything they can to stand up against the ultimate threat and they'll push themselves as hard as they can to make sure the villain doesn't succeed. It may not be a "cheerworthy" action sequence, but that's also kind of why I love it; it's offering something different. He may not feel like the comic book Superman many have come to know and expect, but he held his own against a threat that seemed impossible to overcome. He didn't destroy the city. Because of his actions, much of Metropolis is still standing. (There's several shots that reveal just how vast the city is.) You may not like how he saved the day, but in the end, he did indeed save the entire planet and there were certainly more than a few instances of him putting himself in danger to save others throughout the movie. So, I still view Man of Steel as Clark's path to becoming Superman. Now that he's made his debut and protected Earth from its first alien threat, here's hoping the dude shows more of the qualities you'd expect from him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first trailer shows how the world is reacting to him, but we've yet to see how he's responding to all of the praise and hatred. This will be a critical movie for the character.
If there's one thing both movies are guilty of, it's glossing over the ramifications of the destruction. In Avengers, the Battle of New York receives a little bit of follow-up, but it's mostly there to quickly say how the world feels about the team and then goes to offering more humor. In Age of Ultron, we see a statue is built that honors the humans who did what they could to protect each other on that day, but aside from a body count and talk of construction in Daredevil, the Battle of New York is basically forgotten before another large city (and in turn, the world) is put in danger. Tony Stark says he sends aid to the city ravaged by his fight with the Hulk and, in the big finale, the Avengers are able to get a majority of a city's population to safety. However, once the day is saved, it rushes to teasing the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future. We can assume Stark will once again send aid, but I imagine many people are now left without homes. A huge portion of the country was removed, after all. It would be fitting to see something like Stark saying he'll dedicate some of his resources to creating housing complexes and what not. You'd think he would feel a little guilty after his weapons previously caused so much pain and suffering to those people and now so many of them have lost everything they own.

In Man of Steel, we go from one of the most powerful scenes to a more lighthearted sequence. A major U.S. city just suffered a devastating attack and there's no follow-up whatsoever. There's no talk of Superman helping to search for people in the rubble or him helping them rebuild. It just jumps to business as usual. People are back in the city like nothing has changed! It's an odd move seeing as the world just witnessed such a colossal tragedy. Thankfully, it looks like the Battle of Metropolis will play a key role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's story. Better late than never, yeah?

Watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and then saying that's how the destruction should have been handled in MoS just isn't an opinion I agree with. They're totally different situations with totally different tones. I do understand why someone would feel that way, though. Could Superman have made a few smarter decisions? Absolutely. Do I think the handling in AoU is more inspiring? For sure. But to me, the horrifying and shocking way the destruction is handled in Man of Steel fits the story's tone. It goes to show just how staggering the alien invasion is and illustrates just how far Superman must go to save humanity. It's a movie that shows us how just one man stands against a devastating, overwhelming, and terrifying alien invasion. If people that powerful are going to clash in a populated area and it's taking a more "grounded" approach, the battle's going to be devastating no matter how much the hero tries to contain the damage.

Avengers: Age of Ultron reminds me why Captain America and his allies are heroes that deserve our admiration. As the world around them crumbles, they want to make sure they use their abilities to protect the people who are trapped in the middle of all the craziness. Man of Steel reminds me that Kal-El went through a ridiculously daunting and frightening experience to save humanity from his very own people. Both movies involve a whole lot of destruction, and both involve heroes doing everything they can to prevent the death of more innocent people. They just go about presenting it in completely different ways.

'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Teaser: Yeah, I'm Excited!

*Click here if you haven't watched the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice video or if you just want to watch it yet again.*
We live in an era that's all about building the hype for a movie. No longer are exciting trailers simply an awesome surprise. Now, the arrival of a trailer is its own event, one that is built-up by announcing when it'll be available and then teased multiple times. If the movie's big enough, the trailer may receive multiple teasers -- videos that are basically very, very short sizzle reels -- before the full trailer is ours to watch. By the time a movie opens in theaters, so many moviegoers already have firm opinions about the movie. We should always go into a movie with an open mind, but when we've already seen so many trailers and clips and have strong opinions about the cast and crews' previous work, it's tough not to form at least a few opinions about the feature. You know, despite seeing all of these clips and moments totally out of context and hearing God knows how many rumors. So, as you can tell by this intro, I'm not the biggest fan of how trailers get so much hype. I get why studios do it -- they want to make sure their big movie is catching our attention -- but I guess I'm just old and grumpy; I miss seeing a trailer in a movie theater for the very first time. Anyway, I think the whole "teaser for a teaser trailer" method has been pretty ridiculous at times, but for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it's kind of silly just how excited I am about this simple 21 second teaser.
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I love Man of Steel. That means you're either going to disregard everything I'm about to type, or you'll be on a similar page. Man of Steel was such a polarizing movie, so it's understandable. Now, there's several reasons why I don't mind the fact DC and WB released a teaser for a trailer. Firstly, this is an enormous movie for them. Man of Steel technically marked the beginning of the DC Cinematic Universe, but this will be the one that expands it in a huge way. If people are going to stick around for what's to come, this movie really needs to win them over. Plus, it's the first time the Dark Knight and Superman will share the big screen! Secondly, they're building the hype for the movie's first trailer and we're talking about a movie that has been anticipated by many for quite some time now. Aside from the SDCC teaser (which wasn't released outside of the event... officially, that is), we've only seen pictures of actors in costume and a few other things. This is going to be the very first big trailer for this movie, so I'd say its arrival is worth promoting. Even if you're skeptical about the movie, odds are it at least has your attention. Thirdly, not only is this teasing the arrival of the debut trailer, but it's also promoting an upcoming fan event. (And yes, I was able to get tickets to it!) Unless you were at SDCC (or watched a low quality version of the video), you haven't seen any footage from the movie; just officially released pictures and maybe some set photos. So yeah, the release of the first trailer is, as Ron Burgundy would say, kind of a big deal.

Sometimes teasers for trailers show a little too much. They'll reveal glimpses of really cool shots in the trailer, and honestly, it kind of takes away from seeing those moments when the trailer does drop. The teaser for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is beyond simple and I love it for that. We're talking about a movie that's a year away and no footage -- again, outside of SDCC -- has been officially released. So, instead of showing us a few jaw-droppers from the upcoming trailer, they build the hype in such a simplistic way. We don't even see the actors! Instead, we're treated to some Hans Zimmer music and we receive a look at the two iconic costumes. It's clearly saving the best moments for the trailer, as well as seeing the first footage of Ben Affleck in the signature costume. It's preparing us for what's to come without blatantly spoiling anything. For me, it's putting the word "teaser" to proper use. It's not revealing anything new; it just leaves me wanting more.
Will the first trailer live up to the hype? Maybe, maybe not. I'll attend the IMAX screening this Monday (and hopefully get a good seat!) and assuming this post isn't a total failure, I'll be sure to share my thoughts on the full trailer. In an era that's full of spoiling stuff well in advance, I'm really, really glad this teaser didn't show us any highlights from the upcoming trailer and instead attempted to get us excited in such a simple yet effective way. We live in a time that'll mark the debut of Batman and Superman sharing the big screen and this is the first official teaser for it. It doesn't give us a look at them in action or even a shot of the two heroes standing in the same room. Instead, it just reminds us we're about to get a whole lot of both of them and I'm legitimately thrilled. We're finally going to see Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Wonder Woman in the same movie and it's going to expand the DC Cinematic Universe. I'd say this is an event that's worth teasing and promoting, wouldn't you?

Batman vs. Robin review

I love Damian Wayne. I think the little dude is simply an awesome hero. Quick-witted, hilariously blunt, and surprisingly formidable, he quickly became my favorite Robin. Damian's had some great stories in the comics, but unfortunately, his animated debut in Son of Batman wasn't exactly the strongest feature from the new DC Animated Universe. However, he's getting a second chance in the spotlight with the appropriately titled Batman vs. Robin. Yes, the father and son technically do fight, but the "vs." really applies to their relationship. Can Batman be a father and a hero's mentor? Can Damian earn his father's trust? Does he even want to earn it or will Bruce's methods push him away? This one is all about character, readers. Don't worry, there's plenty of punching and kicking as well!

This animated feature doesn't draw any strong parallels to Grant Morrison's "Batman vs. Robin" storyline (at least none that I recognized) and it instead takes some major inspiration from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Court of Owls" and Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's "Born to Kill." Both are pretty excellent stories ("Born to Kill" is without question one of my favorite New 52 arcs), so it's understandable to go into this movie with some pretty high expectations, even if you weren't a fan of some of the recent animated features. Thankfully, there's a solid creative team behind this movie and it really does show.
Directed by Jay Oliva (The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) and written by J.M. DeMatteis ("Kraven's Last Hunt"), Batman vs. Robin is all about the difficult relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian. If you watched Son of Batman, read the comics, or just quickly googled the character, then you know Damian was raised by Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, and the League of Assassins. Batman is all about solving conflicts with a strict no-kill rule (well, unless they're basically zombies), so that makes their dynamic an interesting one. Damian was raised to believe that killing your foes is the right thing to do, and Batman is doing his best to make his child realize he needs to resist taking fatal measures. Seeing as they've been apart for so long and Damian was raised by villains, there's also a wee bit of a trust issue going on. As if things weren't difficult enough as is, the Court of Owls enters the pictures to make matters far more complicated. In this story, Talon takes Damian under his wing and attempts to tell him that yes, killing bad guys is the right thing to do. Seeing as Damian and Bruce are arguing so much and they're having trouble connecting, Damian isn't exactly opposed to the idea of joining forces with another "hero."  If you've read Snyder and Tomasi's work, you can tell DeMatteis has pretty much given Talon Morgan Ducard's role. If you haven't, well, go read those stories! Seriously, check 'em out.

The story here is solid. Unlike some of the other movies, it doesn't feel like it's rushing through character-driven scenes in order to get to the explosive conclusion. Sure, the action is probably the part that'll really win you over and I'll admit Batman's stubborn attitude can make him frustrating instead of simply seeming unaware about how to properly balance being a father and a hero, but this movie did a good job handling both character and story progress. It really did stand apart from the source material in a creative way, too. It's really cool that Talon is basically Ducard and that brought more way more emotion to the story. Aside from Batman: Assault on Arkham, the latest DC animated movies haven't done a great job selling their villains. Ocean Master and Black Manta didn't receive nearly enough focus; Deathstroke's story felt uninspired and seeing him lose to Damian in an extended fight is tough to swallow; Darkseid was basically there for one big boss battle. That really isn't the case here and they make sure Talon is there for plenty of kick-ass action while also playing a substantial role in the narrative. The twists probably won't drop your jaw, but it all plays out in an entertaining way and there's a legitimately heartwarming moment in the end -- one which is well-earned. It's brief and predictable yet still totally effective. There's no shame in admitting it'll potentially make you tear up. As the overall narrative moves forward, it never loses sight of making sure to focus on its primary theme: the bond between a mentor and their protege. Even during the opening conflict, this theme is front and center... in a very twisted way, though.
When Jay Oliva is directing, you know you're going to get some exciting action sequences. The choreography -- especially during the final fight between Batman and Talon -- is thrilling and there's plenty of amusing shots. The debut fight with the Talons is downright vicious and watching Batman do everything he can against seemingly impossible odds is a blast; I loved seeing Bruce use different pieces of equipment throughout his fight. It's great to see they just didn't have him to go hand-to-hand the whole time since that would have been totally foolish. Dick Grayon fans will probably feel disappointed by the hero's role, but there's a handful of seconds in there of the agile dude unleashing and it's terrific. Short and sweet sure beats nothing at all, right? The crowded battle is a lot of fun and offers a nice amount of variety. From displays of technique to various gear to a spiffy armor that's taken out in such an unexpected way, the big conflict is a really good time. Plus, even Alfred gets in on the chaos. It's nothing spectacular, but it's still pretty entertaining seeing the guy take part.

There's some great melee combat and fun madness in here, but I do have a criticism: the handling of Damian's capabilities in fights. I don't mind making him formidable -- he should be -- but it'll take some serious plot devices for him to give some iconic characters trouble, and the way he took advantage of them didn't really feel justified. I know it's made clear he'd lose against Bruce in an all-out fight, but the fact he's giving him that much trouble without any other factors playing a role is a little baffling. I can't help but feel like Grayson fans will also feel disappointed. It would have been cool if that brawl concluded the same way as Damian's first violent fight with Tim; that way it isn't downplaying Grayson and still gives Damian credit. I also wish Damian's impressive intellect played a bigger role.

As for the performances, I have to say Jason O'Mara has grown on me. I won't say he's my favorite Batman, but I do believe he's come a long way since Justice League: War. Even when enraged or upset, he gives Bruce a more controlled tone, and I think that's fitting for such a brilliant character. Stuart Allan's perfectly fine as Damian and Jeremy Sisto delivers as Talon, yet the real treat is Kevin Conroy returning to the Wayne family. He doesn't have many lines, but making him voice Bruce's father, Thomas, was a nice dose of fan service. I know we've seen the death of Bruce's parents a gazillion times now, but it's appropriate for this story. Thankfully, it doesn't drag out the scene of his parents being gunned down and instead focuses primarily on the follow-up.
I do have some minor and personal criticisms -- many of them really aren't even worth noting -- but one that I do want to mention takes place early on in the movie. It's a minor spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want even a tiny part potentially ruined. If we're dealing with the world's greatest detective, it's tough to believe his reaction when he first sees Damian and Dollmaker out in the snow. If Robin's weapon had blood on it (for example, he could have cut the guy's leg to make the villain trip), the Dark Knight's reaction would be easier to swallow. Instead, I was left feeling like Batman would demand to know what happened instead of immediately blaming his son. I get there's the issue of trust, but after what they went through in Son of Batman and the time they spent together that we haven't seen, it felt like an unnecessarily harsh response. I know the situation was dark and it impacted Damian personally, but it seems like Bruce's interactions with Damian made him surprisingly cold and mean. Even when he's just curious about what his son is reading, he pretty much swipes the book from Damian's hands! I also wish this movie took advantage of some of the story elements that took place towards the end of "Born to Kill," but at the same rate, you have to respect them for doing their own thing with these two story arcs. Oh, and I thought having the owl carrying a bat was a little too blunt. But hey, that's like, a few seconds out of the whole movie. No biggie. 

I know some of you weren't the biggest fans of Son of Batman and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis. Those experiences may have you feeling uninterested in this latest feature and honestly, I wouldn't blame you for feeling that way. I didn't love those two features, either. However, I'm here to tell you that you really shouldn't let those two movies prevent you from watching this one. Batman vs. Robin is pretty awesome and it's definitely worthy of a purchase. While those previous movies disappointed because of lackluster villains or very generic story beats, this one thrives because it has a solid balance of character insight, a fleshed-out bad guy, and excellent action sequences. Batman: Assault on Arkham is still my favorite post-Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox animated movie, but this one absolutely takes second place. Even if you're not a fan of the story, the action is pretty much guaranteed to win you over. (Unless you hate Damian, that is.) Here's hoping the next Batman movie -- you know, if we do get another one -- is every bit as good as this one. And if we do get one, I'm still hoping for "Hush" or maybe even "Knightfall" as a two-parter. A man can dream, yeah?

Oh, and just so you know, there unfortunately isn't a credits scene. Bummer, right? But hey, at least Justice League: Gods and Monsters looks cool. Bruce Timm for the win!



Thoughts on Stephen Amell being cast as Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Well, it looks like Stephen Amell, a.k.a. the brooding vigilante in Arrow, has been cast as Casey Jones in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel. When I saw Variety's headline, the first thing that crossed my mind actually had nothing to do with whether Amell will be a good incarnation of the dude who loves to scream "goongala!" Instead, my first thought was, "good for him." I may have a ton of criticisms about Arrow and to be totally honest there are plenty of moments when his acting isn't the strongest around, but based on the way I've seen Amell interact with fans, I can't help but root for the actor. So, while I'm sure many knee-jerk reactions were either excited, disappointed, or all kinds of neutral, I simply thought, "way to go, man." Now, do I think Amell's the right person for the part? Let's talk about it.

It's obviously worth noting articles like these are 99.9% speculation. We can think someone is horrible for a part and then they'll make us eat our words. Or we can think someone's a perfect fit and they can disappoint. Basically, unless the person has an atrocious resume or if you just don't like them, I think it's important to apply a "wait and see" mentality. But hey, if you don't want to, that's cool as well. You do you, right? Now, this non-casting director is going to react to the casting news.
"The class is Pain 101. Your instructor is Oliver Queen."
When I think of Casey Jones, I think of someone who has an in your face personality and a blunt sense of humor. So yeah, Stephen Amell's work on Arrow doesn't make me immediately think of him having either of those qualities. But just because he hasn't done them doesn't mean he can't do them. Arrow's an overly dramatic show, attempting to constantly establish a dark and serious atmosphere. Obviously, that hasn't given Amell the freedom to goof around very much. I mean, how many times have you even seen the guy smile or crack a joke in the show? It's not very often. 

I'm not saying you need an Oscar winning performance for this movie, but if you're bringing a fan favorite to life, you have to bring the personality. Arrow doesn't give me the most faith around in his ability to pull that off, but it's worth noting he's made significant improvements since the first episode and this role will give him the chance to play a way more entertaining and easy going character. Seeing as he landed the gig, it's safe to say he's capable of embracing the personality -- how well though has yet to be seen. Now it's just a matter of seeing whether he makes the character likable and funny or abrasive and annoying. I'm really curious to see whether he'll have a bit of a New York accent, too. It's not required, but if he can pull it off, I'd love to see that happen.

"Okay, let's give this a try, funkoid!"
The good news is Amell's certainly got the look and physical skill to play as Casey Jones. The man sure can appear imposing, and if someone is going to be crazy enough to fight with these big Ninja Turtles -- well, probably just Raphael -- then yeah, I can picture Amell dressed in some sports attire and doing what he can to land some cheap shots on a sai-wielding Ninja Turtle. Seeing him with long hair or using a New York accent may be odd at first to us Arrow fans, but assuming he gives it his all and does a fine job, I can picture him being an amusing part of the movie.

If you asked me to think of 20 actors who could be Casey Jones in the movie, Amell honestly wouldn't have made the list. But I have to admit, the dude certainly has what it takes to look the part and hold his own in some brawls. That said, one small criticism I have is the guy just doesn't sell pain very well. If Raph is going to slug him across the face or if he's going to battle some Foot Clan ninjas, I really need him to sell that moment when he's the one getting struck. You just know Casey is going to take some hits, so when he does, I don't want it to remind me that he's playing make-believe with some guys in costumes or motion capture outfits. I know it sounds silly (we're talking about mutated turtles who fight crime, after all) and it kind of is, but an unbelievable reaction from an actor can really take you out of the moment and that causes the whole illusion comes crashing down. This happened to me when Flash was landing a gazillion punches on him in the awesome crossover episode and once again when he struggled against Ra's al Ghul. I think Amell is capable of pull off Jones' personality and he probably won't have his emotional range pushed with this role, but it's pretty much guaranteed he's going to be in plenty of action. When he is, I hope he makes getting hit look every bit as good as the ones he's dishing out.

"Hey, what are you, some sort of punker?"
The TL;DR version: Amell has the physique to make the character seem like a boss in fights, but everything else is pretty much "wait and see" since his character in Arrow is nothing like Casey Jones and, when it comes to his abilities as an actor, that's pretty much all I've seen from him. They're both tough, but their personalities are drastically different and that means I haven't seen Amell deliver a more amusing and animated performance. I'm rooting for Amell and I think he obviously has potential to make the role memorable, but I just can't say that with total confidence right now. However, let's be totally honest with ourselves here: even if his performance is pretty bad, I really doubt it'll be the worst part about the movie. Oh, and if an Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak relationship is called "Olicity," I guess that makes one between Casey Jones and April O'Neil "Casil," doesn't it? Although, "Caseil" sounds cooler. Sorry, I couldn't resist going there.