Batman: Year One Review

 

Some time around last winter I made a little vow to myself not to watch anything Batman-related, with the intent of saving all my Batman movies and cartoons for about a month before The Dark Knight Rises’ release to best psych myself up for what is sure to be an unforgettable motion picture event. This of course excluded comic books and video games. Living a life without having played Batman: Arkham Asylum is not something I want to fathom. I broke my little vow by watching Batman: Year One earlier this week.

 

 

It’s a decent animated film. It alternates between focusing on Batman/Bruce Wayne and Lt. James Gordon, it establishes the characters, their personalities, their morals, and the events that lead up to affirming the relationship between the two that we all know and love. There’s a little Catwoman thrown in, too.

 

 

It’s a fair enough adaptation of Frank Miller’s story, an artist to whom many Bat-fans feel indebted, though maybe it doesn’t translate quite perfectly. The foundation of the story is all there, we have the characters we know, we have the elements of corruption in Gotham City and the never-ending battle for justice, but I don’t know, I can’t quite put my finger on it, it just doesn’t flow as naturally and as satisfyingly as it should. Everything here feels included by obligation and not structure. Maybe it just doesn’t translate that well. Nolan’s films took but only hints from Miller’s stories and the end result is infinitely more memorable. Well, duh.

 

But it’s not as if the movie has the mega-budget of a Nolan film, so we have to give it credit in that department. The animation is pretty good. Good, not great. I mean, there’s nothing really wrong with it. But it’s not like “this is the beginning and end of all Batman animation” kind of amazing or anything. The action scenes are pretty cool at least. Hello shaky cam.

 

 

Before watching it I had heard the voice acting wasn’t great. This is a criticism I have to agree with. It’s not that compelling, is it? I have no idea who this Ben McKenzie dude is but his Batman sucks. Really. Deal with it. So much for being constructive.

 

 

With these DC movies I think all you can do is hope for the best, hope for something grand, and at least be willing to compromise when it doesn’t exactly deliver on everything you wanted. There’s nothing at all wrong with Batman: Year One, it indeed gets the job done but running at barely an hour in length it’s not is if there’s all too much detail so you can’t really expect a magnum opus. Keep in mind that cartoons like this have to appeal to kids, too. Though I wonder what kind of kid may love this movie, cheering on Gordon as he deals with domestic issues. Whatever the case that’s probably a pretty awesome kid.

Batman: Arkham City Review

 
I just finished playing this game and I wanted to give some impressions. Well, first and foremost, it is fucking incredibly epically amazing and I love the shit out of it. Okay, we have that out of the way.

The hype was definitely huge for this game, especially after following the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum, which quickly became the definitive Batman game and gave us an experience in gameplay as the universally popular hero that has gone unmatched and thoroughly topped any and all Batman video games that preceded it. Arkham City manages to top it. I can’t express my joy for that.

As with most successful sequels, it brings us elements that we already loved from the original, improves upon what needed improvement, kept what worked just fine, and added on more in terms of story and characters. Arkham City is much more gigantic in its scale: the story, the environments, the gadgets, the fighting moves, the villains, the overall experience is all bigger and better. I have completed the story mode and I’m only at 38% completion. I’ve barely scratched the surface with the side missions, I haven’t touched a single bonus challenge, and I have yet to play as Catwoman. There’s still shitloads more to explore. I have a feeling I will lose plenty more hours than I already have to this game. It’s so detailed in all respects, something as minute as listening in on small-talk between the thugs has great value to it. They complain about their bosses, about the weather, share stories, I recall one goon going off on a story about how his mother murdered her entire graduating class on prom night. I mean, wow.

The story to Batman: Arkham Asylum, though exciting, was fairly straight forward: The Joker has taken over the asylum and it’s up to Batman to stop him. Arkham City has much more villainy to encounter and an evil plot that is infinitely more threatening and goes deeper than you could possibly imagine. The way it weaves its epic plot together involving villains such as The Joker, Hugo Strange, Rhas Al Guhl, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, The Penguin, and (believe me) tons more is nothing short of masterful. It’s not just great fan service to match up against your favourite villains, it is truly put together in such a way that feels completely justified for the story, full of twists and turns and surprises along the way. Any future Batman-screenwriters should take note. This is how it’s fucking done.

Batman: Arkham City isn’t just an amazing and exciting gaming experience, but it is a uniquely great Batman adventure period. I think in the last 10 years or so video games have gotten so good that they can be respected on the same levels as other media such as comic books, novels, books, television, and movies. With that in mind I think Batman: Arkham City is a classic Batman Story. Bravo.