Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Also known as: Arkham, Gotham, Batman 3 (working titles), Magnus Rex (fake working title), TDKR (informal short title)
Release Date: July 16th, 2012 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Juno Temple, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Nestor Carbonell, Desmond Harrington, Thomas Lennon

DC Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 164 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” – Selina Kyle

Where I’ve seen the first two films in this trilogy at least a dozen times each, I’ve only seen this one once: in the theater. If I’m being honest, I didn’t have much urge to see it again after my initial experience. But I’ll explain why as I roll on and review it.

I was pretty excited for this film but I also knew that it would be damn hard to top The Dark Knight or to try and replicate its greatness. Well, I wasn’t wrong. And while this isn’t a bad movie, it’s certainly the weakest of the trilogy and just falls flat when compared to the other two pictures.

To start, I was a bit perplexed when I first heard that Bane was going to be the big bad of the movie. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Bane but after following The Joker and Two-Face, I felt like the third film should’ve featured more of the old school villains, as opposed to bringing in a more modern one that is kind of boring by comparison. I mean, a Christopher Nolan movie featuring The Riddler, The Penguin or hell, even The Mad Hatter, could’ve been really intriguing.

What we got instead was pretty much a rehash of the threat and the plot of the first movie: Batman Begins. In fact, in this film, Bane is even tied to the same villainous organization of that film. We also get a curveball where we find out he really isn’t the big bad but that just kind of makes the overall story even more redundant.

I guess I understand why Nolan chose Bane, as he wanted to try and keep his Batman films grounded in reality as much as one can with a comic book property but seeing a secret Illuminati-type group descend upon Gotham City with the hopes of using a superweapon to destroy it is derivative of the director’s own work.

Now we do get Catwoman in the film but she is written to be the most sterile and boring version of the character I’ve ever seen. Sure, Anne Hathaway is stunning but for whatever reason, Catwoman just doesn’t feel sexy or believable as someone that can ensnare Bruce Wayne/Batman. She just isn’t interesting and it’s hard to imagine her as someone that could pull Bruce’s heart out of the pain it still feels, eight years after the death of Rachel.

Hell, Bruce’s little romantic moments with Miranda/Talia seem more genuine and their relationship isn’t supposed to be the one the audience is pulling for even before the big plot twist reveals itself.

The film’s overall story is trying to be as good of a thriller as the previous two. It just isn’t and that’s the real issue with it. While I do want to see the heroes beat the baddies and win out in the end, the film just comes off as repetitive and dull. It feels like a weak copy of the first two pictures with a much slower pace and a broken back side quest that slows the movie to a halt. I just can’t get as into it as I did the other movies.

Now I get that “breaking the Bat” and dropping him into a hole was about building him back up to make him stronger and that we needed to get him out of Gotham so that Bane could grow his power but it’s a half-assed recreation of the Knightfall plot. This story also only seems to borrow from it because it was Bane’s most iconic moment and biggest temporary victory in the comics. And with Batman overcoming his incredible injury and then climbing out of a hole deemed “impossible” to escape, it all kind of wrecks Nolan’s strive for realism. You can’t simply punch a popped disc back into someone’s spine.

I also hated the film’s ending but I think I’m done harping on the negatives, as I probably sound like I dislike this quite a bit, when I actually don’t.

The film is well-acted and that’s what really makes this work where it does.

I really dug Tom Hardy as Bane, even if his voice has become a social meme. I also just loved seeing the regular cast get back together for one more adventure. Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are all so great in these roles and I loved the final act of the film where we get to see Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon get very involved. My only complaint about Caine’s Alfred is I didn’t like how Bruce pushed him away and left him without much to do in the second half of the film.

Additionally, I really enjoyed Marion Cotillard as the character who would reveal herself as Talia al Ghul. I only wish that we would have gotten to see her be more of a badass but her big reveal comes at the end of the movie and she’s not around much longer after that. Not having a Talia versus Selina fight was a missed opportunity.

The film also boasts great cinematography but why would anyone expect any less from Nolan at this point? I liked the brighter look of the town, especially in the third act, and how a lot of the film happens in daylight.

The final act, which sees Batman and the GCPD bring the fight to the League of Shadows in the streets was superb and chilling. Watching Batman and the cops take it to the villainous terrorists head-on was incredible and the best moment in the film. Watching Batman and Bane fight in a sea of people was also damn spectacular.

All in all, this is still one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It just happens to be the worst of its trilogy and if I’m being honest, it felt like Christopher Nolan and the writers were just tired and wanted to move on to the next phase of their lives.

However, even if someone else would have to step in and do it, I’d rather see this film series continue, as opposed to seeing Warner Bros. keep trying to reboot Batman. Just let Nolan produce and pick the best creative team to help build off of his vision. I mean, a Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nightwing movie in this cinematic universe would certainly get my money.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Comic Review: Gotham City Sirens: Book One

Published: October 28th, 2014
Written by: Paul Dini
Art by: Guillem March

DC Comics, 314 Pages

Review:

I didn’t know much about this series but I really like Paul Dini’s Batman work, especially what he did on the near perfect Batman: The Animated Series. I also like how he wrote Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy on that show and thought that Dini gave them a fantastic dynamic, as well as superb chemistry.

This series adds Catwoman to that mix and since Dini did well with her character on that animated show, it just seemed like another reason to give this a shot.

Even though I anticipated liking this, I was still surprised by how good it is!

This brings the three women together as roommates, as they try and keep each other on the straight and narrow path, trying to be reformed criminals doing a little good in the world. Of course, things can’t be that simple.

The Riddler also plays a big role in this, as he helps the women where he can. That is, until he feels betrayed and personally hurt by them towards the end of this volume.

This is a pretty thick collection of stories, as it includes the first thirteen issues of the ongoing series. Within that, it features several story arcs, all of which are pretty good. There isn’t a dull moment in this run of issues and I actually really liked the standalone Christmas story that saw Harley return to see her family.

Dini gives us a lot of info on the backstory of all these characters and shows how some of their stories had some overlap at different times, whether they knew that then or not. For instance, the moment Harley met Ivy, she also met The Joker. Both characters would have an immense effect on her life.

So much happens in this and all of it is good. I dug the hell out of it much more than I thought I would. I’m sure I’ll read and review the second volume in the very near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Paul Dini Batman-related comics.

Comic Review: Red Hood: The Lost Days

Published: June 28th, 2011
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Jeremy Haun, Pablo Raimondi

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

I went into this with zero expectations but I’ve got to say, I was pretty enthralled with the story and it didn’t just fill-in the blanks between Jason Todd’s death and his reappearance as Red Hood but it gave so much extra context and meaning to the character.

Additionally, I loved how this tied into the Hush story arc and serves to set the stage for that epic tale while also leading into the Under the Hood plot, which saw Jason Todd come back into Batman’s life in a pretty badass way.

I wouldn’t read this story first, though. I’d save it for last because even if it is a prequel, I think it’ll read better with the knowledge obtained from the other two stories. Also, this might spoil those stories if you haven’t read them.

From  beginning to end, this was really engaging and it added new layers to Jason Todd’s redemption arc. It shows how he struggles with his new reality and how he is used and exploited in an effort to become a weapon against Batman. However, it also shows how well the character can adapt and how he doesn’t follow the paths that others have tried to lay our for him.

Additionally, the art in this was really good and it just added an extra sizzle to this already wonderful steak.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other early Red Hood stories, as well as his solo titles of the last few years.

Comic Review: Batman: The Complete Hush

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Jim Lee

DC Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

Batman: Hush is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories of its era and honestly, it doesn’t disappoint. I hadn’t read it for over ten years but after recently watching the animated film adaptation, I wanted to give the source material a read again.

I’m happy to say that this lived up to my memories of it, as it’s just a great, well-layered story, where even if you figure out the big mystery, it doesn’t wreck the plot because there are so many surprises still woven in.

This features a lot of characters from both sides of the law but it doesn’t become bogged down by it and everyone truly serves a purpose with how they’re all tied to the main plot.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is good, simply because Jeph Loeb wrote it and he teamed up with the great Jim Lee, who provided some of the best and most iconic art of his career for this tale.

Hush is a solid comic book on every level. Saying too much about the plot might ruin things and this is a book that I definitely recommend. I’d rather people read it and discover its greatness for themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other major Batman story arcs from the late ’90s and early-to-mid ’00s.

Comic Review: The Silencer, Vol. 2: Leviathan Civil War

Published: July 25th, 2018 – January 2nd, 2019
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: various

DC Comics, 176 Pages

Review:

This is the second story arc of The Silencer comic series, which debuted at the beginning of 2018, as part of DC Comics’ New Age of Heroes line.

This covers issue numbers 7 through 12, as well as the first annual, which awesomely featured Batman and the Silencer meeting for the first time.

Some of this is absolutely superb and some of it is just okay. The first issue collected here deals with The Silencer getting into a huge fight on a commercial flight. While this is happening, her husband and son are on board and still have no idea that she is The Silencer and once lived a double life that she is trying to distance herself from. This single issue was one of the best comics I read in all of 2018.

After that we get The Silencer and family going to a superhero theme park. Shit hits the fan, she gets into more action and the park is actually attacked by a kaiju. While I love kaiju, this section of the plot was a bit weird and dragged on for too many issues.

Also, there was an even weirder bit over the course of a few issues that saw The Silencer body swapped with a cyborg gangster. While I like how the story wrapped up and how the two body swapped characters came to trust one another, despite being enemies, it just felt like a bad ’90s plot wedged into a comic that has had much better writing than that.

Towards the end of the arc, The Silencer finally gets to confront Talia Al Ghul, which is why she went on this theme park trip to begin with. She has a small window of time to kill Talia, while her family is distracted from the monster attack at the theme park.

I think that the final two issues were a strong conclusion to a story that started with a bang and then completely fell flat in the middle. This collection of issues has really turbulent and inconsistent but hopefully the last two issues were there to set up something bigger, better and more in tune to the best bits I’ve come to love with this series.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the previous volume of The Silencer, as well as other recent DC Comics titles like Nightwing, Deathstroke and Red Hood: Outlaw.

Comic Review: Deathstroke Vs. Batman

Published: April 4th, 2018 – September 5th, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Jeremy Cox, various

DC Comics, 166 Pages

Review:

I was really looking forward to this six issue story arc that ran from Deathstroke issues 30 through 35. I have been reading Deathstroke since this current series started and have loved the writing of Christopher Priest.

Being that I really wanted to immerse myself in this story and wanted to binge it in one go, I didn’t read each issue, as they came out. Instead, I waiting till all six were in my hands and then sat down and made an evening out of it.

While I did enjoy the story, it also didn’t live up to the hype I gave it in my mind. Maybe the slow burn of the long wait was responsible for that but anytime Deathstroke and Batman share the same space, the ante has been upped for both characters.

The premise has to deal with who is the true biological father of Damian Wayne, the current Robin. This was a scheme used to pit Batman and Deathstroke against one another and I’m not going to spoil the reveal but it wasn’t as big of a deal as the setup made it to be. Also, some of the covers are a bit misleading, especially issue 33. But covers don’t really mean much as far as the actual story, they’re just a hook to lure you in.

Anyway, I loved the exploration of Deathstroke and Batman’s roles as fathers in the past. I also love how this really puts some focus on Damian Wayne and uses that to delve back into the tragedy of Tim Drake and the life of Jericho. There were a lot of cool parallels made between several characters all sharing the same theme.

Ultimately, this was still a good, solid read. I like where it takes Batman, Deathstroke and Damian.

I also really enjoyed the art but all the Priest Deathstroke stories have been top notch in both writing and art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Deathstroke: Defiance and earlier Deathstroke stuff by Christopher Priest.

Comic Review: The Silencer, Vol. 1: Code of Honor

Published: January 31st, 2018
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: John Romita Jr., Sandra Hope, Dean V. White, various

DC Comics, 159 Pages

Review:

I’m just going to put this out there to start this review: I was blown away by this story and this is one of the greatest comics I have read in the last several years.

That being said, it only takes one mediocre writer to completely screw this thing up and apparently, this comic is getting a new writer starting at issue number 8. But I will cross that bridge when I get to it, even though it’s only about a month away.

This review covers the first six issues, which will be collected and sold as Code of Honor in a month or two or however long it takes for trade paperbacks to come out these days. I read this story arc by picking up the single issues, as I heard this was great and I didn’t want to wait. Plus, this doesn’t sell that well and tracking down all the issues was rather easy. This should sell well though, it’s certainly better than 99.9 percent of the bullshit on the stands, right now.

The story has a Kill Bill vibe to it. The main character, who goes by the name Honor Guest, is an ex-assassin that used to do dirt for Talia al Ghul (Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter). Everyone in the underworld knows her as the Silencer but she’s been out for several years and has since lived a normal life, got married and had a kid. But her past comes knocking on her door and before she’s even ready, she’s suited up, guns blazing, trying to protect her new life and family.

This isn’t a typical superhero comic. Although it is cool that it is directly tied to characters we know like Talia al Ghul and Deathstroke, who is also flung into this situation.

Jon Romita Jr.’s art is top notch and I love his style. This has a gritty pulp feel and it doesn’t look like a typical DC book but it also isn’t so far outside of the box that it doesn’t fit in well with their current general style.

Dan Abnett has done a stupendous job writing this book. I’m not happy that he’s going to be replaced by Patrick Zircher, almost immediately after this string of issues but I’ll stick with it unless it really gets terrible. I’m not a big Zircher fan but that doesn’t mean I dislike his writing, it’s just that nothing has jumped out at me yet.

Anyway, looking at this story arc as one body of work, The Silencer: Code of Honor is magnificent.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Recent DC Comics runs on DeathstrokeSuicide Squad and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham City (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2014.

*I played the PlayStation 3 version. The game is also available on Xbox 360, Wii U, Windows and OS X.

It has been a while since I have played the first installment of this series, Arkham Asylum. In fact, I played it when it first came out in 2009. It was an amazing game and I wanted a sequel. Unfortunately, it took me this long to get around to it. In fact, the 4th game is coming out in the near future. That’s actually what motivated me to get into this one, as I realized I was falling behind in video games in general. Life is busy and shit.

Arkham City is a much larger game in scope. Instead of being trapped within the walls of Gotham City’s iconic mental institution, you are now free to roam a section of the city that has been retrofitted as an urban prison for psychos and hard criminals.

Gameplay is virtually the same as the previous installment, the graphics are amazing, the plot is pretty solid and there are enough villains and other characters in this game to make it a who’s who of Batman lore. The main villains who drive the plot are the Joker, Hugo Strange, Ra’s al Ghul, Mr. Freeze and the Penguin. There are side quests and other minor missions that bring in Harley Quinn, the Riddler, Two-Face, the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Bane, Solomon Grundy, Hush, Deadshot, Victor Zsasz, Calendar Man, Black Mask, Killer Croc and Clayface. Batman’s allies throughout the story include Catwoman, Talia al Ghul, Alfred Pennyworth, Oracle, Robin, Commissioner Gordon and after some disagreements, Mr. Freeze. Nightwing also appears as a playable character in bonus content.

There is a lot of meat and potatoes in this game. It is truly a total package of pure awesomeness in that it is a near perfect game play-wise, it does a magnificent job expanding on a fictional universe that has existed for over 75 years and it keeps this world fresh, new and exciting. If you are a Batman fan, this game is an essential experience and must be played – that really goes for this whole series.

I had more fun playing this than most games over the last few years. It is actually hard to try and find any flaws within it. I cannot recommend Arkham City enough. I guess I better go out and pick up Arkham Origins (the third game and prequel to the series).

Rating: 9.25/10