Episode One: The Enigma
How do you tick off The Joker? Well make a casino in his image. When a business tycoon does that just because the construction of the casino bankrupted him, he gets what he wanted and then some. This episode is mostly told from The Joker’s point of view as he learns about the new casino while in the recreation room in Arkham Asylum. Watching the debut of the casino on television, one which Bruce Wayne is conveniently featured and subsequently irritated after the debut, and becoming incised when someone is clearly using his likeness for profit. So escaping from Arkham and heading straight to the casino to kill the owner and destroy the casino.
The Joker immediately heads to the casino and is able to blend right in considering all the dealers are dressed like him. This leads into an interesting dual between Bruce Wayne (who of course is able to recognize The Joker and his distinguished laugh) and The Joker in a game of poker. The Joker was immediately cheating in the group before but Bruce knows what he is up to and able to best. The dialogue between them is interesting because The Joker claims to recognize him and is hinted that he knows Bruce and Batman are one in the same before conceding that he’s just Bruce Wayne. Bruce is not so subtly insulting The Joker and throwing him off his game. You can widely perceive that this is the first meeting between Bruce Wayne and The Joker.
Of course it does not take long for Bruce to suit up as Batman and discover that the whole casino is a insurance fraud. The casino construction bankrupted the owner and he was counting on The Joker to destroy it to collect the insurance. So it becomes a game of Batman trying to stop The Joker while also trying to stop the casino owner from executing his plan. In fact, Batman even informs The Joker what the owner is up to and while The Joker is upset, he just changes his plan to not blowing up the casino and just kill the owner.
There is nothing really special about the episode. But it is the perfect mix of humor with the serious once again. The humor comes from everyone’s various interactions with the casino. Bruce clearly on edge as his greatest enemy is all in his face at every turn. Also keenly aware that The Joker will strike. Though he doesn’t actually kill anyone in the episode, you always have a hint of unease about The Joker. We see just how smart and resourceful he is when he puts his mind to something. Immediately after seeing the casino, he breaks out and that hints that he could do it at any moment but chooses to stay at Arkham for whatever reason.
We also go to see more of Batman not just punching his way out of a situation. Here we get to see Batman being the detective. Wanting to know the exact reason why the owner made the casino in The Joker’s image. It’s another episode that shows that not all villains come with fancy costumes in gimmicks. Something that ran throughout Batman: The Animated Series was the white collar criminals that Batman has to contend with as well. While the super villains may cause wanton destruction, it is these criminals that keep the city down.
It’s also just a fun one off episode. Sometimes that’s needed.
It is titled, The Enemy Within and features my favorite Batman villain (after The Joker)
- The Joker – The Clown Prince of Crime
- Lex Luthor – The Smartest Man in the world
- Darkseid – The God of Evil
- Sinestro – The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions
- Deathstroke – The World’s Deadliest Soldier
- Brainiac – The Collector of Worlds
- Gorilla Grodd – A Talking and Telepathic Gorilla
- Black Manta – The Man On A Mission
- Vandal Savage – The Caveman
- Reverse Flash – The World’s Fastest Sociopath
Batman: The Animated Series was a popular show in the early 90’s. So it came as no surprise that a movie based on the show was released. First it was considered a direct to video movie but eventually became a theatrically released movie. Not doing well at the box office but found an audience when released on home video. Continuing the standard set by the television series but able to go further due to not being restrained by standards and practices. The movie is a tale of Batman as he deals with a new enemy Phantasm as ghosts from Bruce Wayne’s past reemerge.
A new villain, The Phantasm, is taking out the mob bosses of Gotham City. Due to the villain’s MO and Batman just being a presence, he is blamed for the killings. So while Batman is dealing with this, Bruce Wayne has his own issues. His old girlfriend Andrea Beaumont has returned to Gotham City. She was not just a fling but someone Bruce was actually giving up being Batman for. So you can say that his plate is full.
The animated series rarely brought up Bruce Wayne’s past. The few instances we saw mostly dealt with his training to become Batman. This shows his personal life. We see a 20 something Bruce Wayne who is known around campus as brooding. While visiting his parents’ grave, he meets Andrea who is visiting her mothers’ grave. The two instantly spark a connection and fall in love with one another. But Andrea’s father has connections to the mafia and eventually has to end things with Bruce. Heartbroken this is the final push to Bruce becoming Batman.
In the present, Batman is dealing with being a wanted man and the killings of the mob bosses. When Andrea comes back, old wounds become fresh once again. In a rather interesting case, he actually stalks her as Batman to see what she is up to. It is clear that the two still love one another and in fact Bruce once again considers quitting being Batman to be with her. The last remaining Mafioso becomes so desperate for help that he enlists none other than The Joker for help.
Why is The Joker involved? Because he is the man who killed Andrea’s father. Throughout the flashbacks there is one silent figure with a distinctive long nose. While the Tom Burton linked Batman and Joker as Joker being the one who killed Bruce’s parents in a frankly ham fisted way. This was much more subtle in linking the two arch enemies together. Both met one another before they established their alter egos. If the pre Joker did not kill Andrea’s father, Bruce may never have become Batman and thus Batman may never have incidentally caused the incident that created The Joker. In fact The Joker figures out who the Phantasm actually is…Andrea.
The flashbacks are poignant for many reasons. We see Bruce trying to become a vigilante but he doesn’t know what to do. His first instance is of him barely getting away with his life and injured in the process. Noting to Alfred as to how the criminals are not afraid of him. In another moment, while on a date with Andrea, he sees a group of hoodlums harassing someone and he is fixated on it like a deer in headlights. Talking to his parents’ grave about he never planned on being happy. It really shows how dedicated and ultimately sad Bruce Wayne is. This will have echoes in future series such as Batman Beyond where he notes how while he does not regret his actions as Batman, he does have some personal regrets.
The whole movie is one about tragedy. We see Bruce at various emotional lows. He loses the woman that he loves twice. Each time Alfred is there. The first time, doing nothing to stop him from becoming Batman. The second reaffirming that he is glad that Bruce never succumbed to the darkness. Also pointedly he just calls him “Bruce” instead of “Master Bruce” showing more fatherly concern than usual. Eventually the story ends with Andrea alone on a boat to who knows where. Bruce as Batman mourns in the night before being called into action. Because despite his own personal pain ad sacrifice, Gotham City still needs saving and that’s what Batman a tragic hero but hero nonetheless.
This movie was not so much an extended episode of the animated series. Instead it took what was great about the series and spun it off into its own thing. The movie handles much more mature themes that could only be touched upon in the series. We actively see Joker kill people with his unique Joker gas. Instead we would usually see the victim in the laughing throws but instead we see a corpse with a bomb attached to it.The emotional aspect is played up that probably wouldn’t fly in a cartoon show. Showing that all relationships do not work out despite the two people loving one another. That heartbreak is inevitable in some cases and that shapes us in the future. Any Batman fan show check out this film as it really goes unappreciated when it comes to Batman films.
During the second season of Superman: The Animated Series, Superman had already met The Flash earlier in the season. So many suspected that it was only a matter of time before Batman himself guest starred. Lo and behold, a few episodes later and viewers were treated to the three part episode, “The World’s Finest”. The title is based off of the old team up book between Superman and Batman. It was only fitting as this would be the name of the episode marking the first meeting between the two. This also establishes that Batman: The Animated Series was in the same universe as this series where there were a couple of throwaway gags in earlier episodes that hinted that they might be.
The first part immediately starts with The Joker stealing a “jade” dragon statue. The scene quickly shifts into something many Batman fans are familiar with. We see Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock investigating when Batman makes his entrance. Returning to the cave and noting that the jade is not actually jade but kryptonite, Batman notes to Alfred that he needs to take an “overdue” trip to Metropolis. In Metropolis we are also introduced to a familiar scenario as Lois Lane is in a precarious situation and Superman has to save her. The attraction between the two is noted but Superman quickly leaves the scene before he and Lois can talk about their connection with one another. These two scenes highlight the differences between Batman and Superman. Batman deals with much more intimate crimes while Superman deals with a terrorist hijacking of a plane.
Clark Kent and Lois Lane are at the airport to meet Bruce Wayne who is arriving in Metropolis. The cover story is that Bruce Wayne is there to meet with Lex Luthor about a joint venture. Immediately Bruce Wayne is somewhat standoffish to Clark Kent while developing an instant attraction with Lois Lane. This obviously sparks a jealousy in Clark as Bruce and Lois begin dating one another. The two ultimately meet again later in the superhero identities. After a tense standoff that is ultimately a bit of a pissing contest between the two, Superman discovers who Batman really is and Batman returns the favor.
Meanwhile, The Joker and Harley Quinn meet with Lex Luthor and Mercy Graves. Joker agrees to kill Lex Luthor for a fortune and Lex is skeptical but agrees because this is something that cannot be traced back to him. It is interesting to note that during the scene with Batman interrogating the local thugs, everyone is scared of The Joker. Not Lex Luthor. He is his calm and collected self during the entire exchange between them. They also note how they think of each other’s archenemies as a joke. There is no doubt that there is something wrong with The Joker but this scene solidifies that there is something wrong about Lex. While he may appear to be “normal” there is something wrong with him. It’s also interesting to note how the feud between Superman and Luthor is private but The Joker seems to know about it.
Batman and Superman’s interactions are tense but filled with a growing respect with one another. Batman is no match for the ingenuity and pure power of Lex Luthor’s devices while Superman is not used to the unpredictability of The Joker. The biggest divide between the two is Lois Lane. Batman notes that Lois loves Bruce Wayne but hates Batman and likes Clark Kent but loves Superman. This all comes to a head when Lois discovers who Batman actually is and the two agree to go their separate ways. Clark and Bruce also go their separate ways but the respect between the two is there. Both men were standoffish in their first meeting but by the end they were coming to each other’s aids and noting how the other worked best. There is also a beat where they say that they shouldn’t team up on regular basis. Well we all know how that is going to turn out.
The partnership between Luthor and Joker slowly falls apart. As Joker is not prepared to deal with Superman and Luthor is not prepared for Batman, they slowly crack under the pressure. It eventually turns into Joker betraying Lex, stealing one of his latest military prototypes and going on a killing spree. In the end, Joker is “killed” in a plane crash and Lex once again escapes jail time as he has plausible deniability. Though things ended on a sour note between the two, this would not be the last time that these two teamed up with one another either.
This event is noteworthy for many things. The biggest is that it avoids the hero versus hero cliche. Batman and Superman only have one skirmish and it’s clear that Batman is no match. It’s never touched up on again. The true conflict lies within their egos and learning to work together. Sure there is the whole love triangle element but even then neither hero uses Lois Lane as a tool. The two started off wary of one another and by the end it is obvious that they will be teammates in the future.
This three part crossover is a definite must see for any fan of Batman and Superman. It really highlights the differences between the two. But also highlighting why these two together are pretty much unstoppable. It also lays the foundation for the future Justice League animated series.
Fun note: look up the fight between Harley Quinn and Mercy Graves. Both characters were created for the animated series and are the women sidekicks of The Joker and Harley Quinn. It is a hilarious background event.
“Is the Suicide Squad right for this mission? Not really”
Suicide Squad is the third entry in the DC Extended Universe. This film is unique as not only because it is the third film in a growing franchise but also the first superhero film to star the super villains. Task Force X aka the Suicide Squad is a unique unit made up of villains that populate the DC Universe. The team is composed of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Diablo, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang and Slipknot as the criminals. Then there is Katana who is there on her voilition and the unit is led by Col. Rick Flagg. The entire operation is being headed by the shady Amanda Waller. Together they have to stop a new threat while also contending with the x-factor that is The Joker.
At least that’s what you think is the plot going into the movie. The Joker is basically a nonentity in this movie. If you removed him from the movie, there would be little to no changes to the actual plot. The plot is arguably the weakest part of the movie. The villain of the piece is the definition of generic. There is no connection to their plight and the villain army is bland and not memorable. The latter half of the third act has its moment but it does turn into a CGI mess. The entire premise of why Task Force X exists is compelling itself but the mission they are on does not really necessitate them being there. This is backed up by the fact that they are constantly surrounded by Special Ops soldiers who are doing the exact same thing they are doing. Since this is a big budget movie, it seemed like the writers were forced to have a bigger mission when it seems like the mission should have been smaller.
The Squad themselves help the movie not fall into bad territory. The three primary focuses are on Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Rick Flagg. The others are there and serve their more supporting roles. Diablo is one that stands out the most as he is the one who is most hesitant to be a villain. Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang both get their moments. The only one who seems short shifted was Katana. Since this was a large ensemble cast, it was expected that not everyone would get their time to shine.
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is probably the true standout. The government official who creates Task Force X all in the name of the “greater good”. Though one does not doubt her statements on how she wants to do good, she is no angel. One could argue that she is probably the true villain of the movie. Waller is cold and calculating and despite being confronted by crocodile men and killer clowns, she never flinches. If anyone has the biggest potential in the DC Extended Universe, it is her and a certain post credits scene confirms this.
You may have noticed that Jared Leto as The Joker has hardly come up. That is because The Joker is hardly in the movie. So if you’re going into the movie expecting to see Jared Leto, you should not. His scenes are sparse and spread throughout. There were even times that I forgot that he was an entity within the movie. It’s hard to gauge his performance. Leto is charismatic as a more mob boss type of Joker but there is not much to chew It certainly was not boring but it feels like his role should have been only relegated to flashbacks. But since this is The Joker and played by an Academy Award winning actor, he will no doubt appear more in future movies.
There is a controversy surrounding the movie about how much studio interference is present. It is easy to see that there was something off about the film. There were certain editing choices that completely threw me off. Certain characters can be in one setting in one scene and then in a completely different one in the next scene. No way of knowing as to how they got there. There are scenes like that throughout the movie to the movie’s detriment. The soundtrack is a whole other issue. Popular songs play throughout and while some work, others do not. If there are validations to those rumors, these are the elements that people can point to.
Suicide Squad is a flawed film. There is no way of getting around that at all. Did I leave disappointed? Yes. Did I still enjoy the film? Also yes. The cast of the Suicide Squad itself kept the movie entertaining. If there are more films, it would be refreshing to see the core cast of the team return. They definitely bring their own uniqueness to it and help save the film. If you are interested in seeing where the DC Extended Universe is going, it’s worth checking out. If you’re not, I can’t see why you would be interested in this movie.
Let me start right off the bat (no pun intended) and say that I am not a fan of The Killing Joke. I recognize it’s importance and artistic value but it is something I have never loved. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it but it’s not one of my favorites. With all of that out of the way, when The Killing Joke was announced as being an animated movie with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as Bruce Wayne/Batman and The Joker respectively, I was excited to see the movie. So how did I ultimately like it?
It was entertaining but I cannot say that I loved it. Going into the movie, you would be surprised that The Killing Joke proper doesn’t start until about a third of the way into the movie. Instead we get an original story detailing the relationship between Batman and Batgirl and what made her decide to get being a superhero. This is highly controversial element as this movie establishes Batman and Batgirl having a sexual encounter…costumed at that. The producers have said that this is used to further fuel Batman’s desire to bring The Joker to justice later but it is head scratching. I can see why Batgirl is included more. The original story she is hardly in it and if one is unfamiliar with who Commissioner Gordon’s daughter is, you probably won’t think much of the young woman The Joker shoots. There is something very odd about making Batman and Batgirl lovers but the segment does tie into the larger story. Batgirl has a criminal who is obsessed with her and Batman knows a thing or two about an obsessed villain.
When The Killing Joke proper starts, it is beat for beat the original story. Not much is changed here in this. This is when the movie starts to shine and crack at the same time. Since it is a straightforward adaptation, there is not much new added to the story. Depending on how you feel about the original comic book, this can be a good thing or bad thing. So you can find yourself not as involved if you are familiar with the story. But if you’re fresh, it can be deeply engaging.
But this is when the voice talent really starts to shine. This is Mark Hamill’s show. He has played The Joker on and off for about twenty five years now and this is the first time where we see a different side of The Joker. Anyone familiar with the story, we see what The Joker was like before he became The Joker. Hamill has to portray an ordinary man who we know is The Joker but not actually The Joker yet. The small differences in his voice are subtle but there. There is an air of normality to his voice but the film switches between then and now and you see the difference a night of tragedy had on this man.
Kevin Conroy is still bright as ever as Batman. His interactions with Mark Hamill are when he shines the most. The final confrontation between the two is one that is heartbreaking and the two convey this perfectly. Just like their characters, Conroy and Hamill have a strong history with one another and it comes out through their performance. If you know the story, you know there is a particular moment that Batman does something that Batman hardly ever does. Even though Conroy has portrayed Batman for as long as Hamill, he still has something new to bring to the role.
The story is still the same and has the same ambiguity that the comic book has as well. The animation is solid if not stunning. The movie is much more psychological so it is okay if there is not much more of pop to the animation. Even though this is not the final performances of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and The Joker, it does work as one. This is the story that the two have been working towards since they started playing the roles. The film is highly enjoyable but I still had the same problems that I had with the original comic book. The Batgirl prologue is interesting but it still does ring of filler so the product as a whole is brought down. So if you’re a fan it can go either way but it still as a whole and one filled with two great performances.
The third trailer for WB’s “Suicide Squad” was released last night and the story of the movie is starting to become more clear. From the get go, it is clear that the movie is set after “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”. Some minor spoilers ahead, during a government briefing Superman is referred to in the past tense. There are also quick images of Viola Davis as Amanda Waller watching the climatic battle from that movie. There were rumors that the movie was supposed to be set in between “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” but that no longer seems to be the case. Though there are hints that there may be some sequences set in the past.
A big question surrounding the movie seems to be who exactly is the villain? Is it The Joker or is it The Enchantress? Is it a mix of the two as there have been precedent for The Joker to hijack another villain’s plot. Or is it someone we haven’t even seen yet? In all the trailers, you can see the Suicide Squad fighting some sort of black creatures. The creatures are never focused on so as there is never a clear shot of them. So what are these things? The Joker and The Enchantress are two heavily featured characters but it is easy to spot that they are not actually members of the team. They are the two unknown factors within the movie and hopefully they remain that way until the actual movie itself is released.
What role does Batman play in the movie? It makes sense that Batman would be a presence in the movie as four of his villains from the comics are in the movie. We also see a chase scene between Batman and The Joker and Harley Quinn. There are rumors that he might be playing a bigger role than a cameo than originally believed. One can hope that he is natural to the movie and not shoehorned in. It is somewhat known that WB can rely too much on Batman and not really give a chance for their other characters to shine. The verdict is still out on how much The Bat is featured.
Finally, it is exciting to see more aspects of the DC Extended Universe being explored. There are talks about Superman and Batman is featured and there are a bevy of villains from the DC Comics universe being featured. Who also knows what characters that are in the movie that we yet do not know of. Though many believe that WB stumbled with “Batman v. Superman” they are still going along and exploring more of their characters and universe that is at their disposal. The DC Extended Universe is alive and seemingly thriving and it is an exciting time.