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.








Batman 3 thoughts: new villains, Christopher Nolan’s involvement, and the late Heath Ledger

I guess since watching and reviewing all the Batman films recently, I just couldn’t get bats out of my brain. My thoughts always go to Batman 3. I think there’s a 2012 release date, but nothing else to go on. No definitie story, or actors, just that release date. And I wonder how they’re going to do, especially after the exceptional The Dark Knight. There’s rumours and everything, I’ve heard The Riddler may be in the next one, and even that there’s talks of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role. The Riddler seems like a logical next step, and Levitt is a great actor, and could surely pull it off.

But when I hear all these villain names being dropped, whether it’s Catwoman, The Penguin, or The Riddler, I feel a little underwhelmed. If this is going to be a trilogy, I’d like it all to go down on a more exciting note; it should have a finality to it, and shouldn’t start feeling episodic, which is the very feeling I get when I hear all those villains mentioned. Batman Begins was a great movie, and somehow, The Dark Knight topped it. I’d hate to think that The Dark Knight would be the high point in the trilogy and that the third one would be calming the waters. But The Joker is the absolute most popular villain in Batman’s rogues gallery, and seemingly his greatest challenge, so how could they possibly top the second movie?

You know who I’d like to see in part 3? Bane.

Obviously, the Knightfall story comes much later in the Batman mythology, but this could be easily overlooked and forgiven if done right. Nolan’s films never word-for-word, point-for-point followed the comics anyway, but rather just kept their spirit. If they could effectively work in Bane, I’d be one happy Batman fan, especially since the character was done such an injustice in the Schumacher film that dare not speak its name.

In my opinion, the only villain that even comes close to The Joker is Bane. He’s also an equal to Batman. He was born in prison, he spent years training his body and his mind. He’s just as smart and clever as he is incredibly strong. He defeated and humiliated Batman, leaving him crippled. Now there’s an interesting story.

There are other aspects of the Knightfall storyline that could be explored, like Jean-Paul Valley taking on the role of Batman as Bruce Wayne recuperates, and breaks Wayne’s rules by killing. It would make sense thematically, and further test Bruce Wayne in his crusade for Gotham. I’m not saying he should be in a damn wheelchair for the entire movie, but there’s something about Batman’s physical limits being found, and having to sit by powerless as his image is further tarnished that I find compelling. And Valley refusing to step down, and Bruce’s retraining, and their final battle would be very, very cool to see, and perhaps a very appropriate end to it all. Maybe.

I’d like to see other villains such as Catwoman or The Riddler included, too. It just doesn’t have to be Bane and Valley. The only problem, I suppose, would be casting Bane. Who the hell could do that? It’d have to be someone pretty built. I’d say Mickey Rourke would have been a good choice if he didn’t already do Iron Man 2. I don’t think he’d need to be cartoonishly muscly though. I can see the character being more raw and realistic, just like The Joker. Maybe it would be best to cast an unknown, and have the bigger name stars take on the Catwoman and Riddler roles. Then again, maybe…just maybe…Javier Bardem would work.

And no Robin. Who the fuck cares about Robin?

Of course, these are just my thoughts as a fan. Everyone has their own opinion and their own hopes of what to see in the next Batman film. My primary hope, above everything else, is that Christopher Nolan returns to write and direct it. Only he can do it justice at this point. I’ve heard many things about his involvement with Batman 3. I’ve heard he’s not all too anxious to do it anymore. I’ve heard since day one he’s conceptualized it as a trilogy, and that The Joker was very much planned to be a key part in the last film. Heath Ledger is gone from this world and now things are uncertain. But if this truly is Nolan’s last Batman film, and if The Joker truly is a necessary part, maybe they should do the unthinkable and recast the role. I loved Ledger as the character, he brought The Joker to life perfectly, and in new and exciting ways that I never could have possibly imagined, and in my opinion it will go down in history as one of the greatest performances on film, but it can’t possibly begin and end with Ledger. He’s not the first actor to portray him and there’s no way he’ll be the last, regardless of his popularity. Just like Batman and all the other characters in that universe, the character will always be bigger than the actor, and will live on forever.

The only question is, who would want to take on that role? Who would want to fill those incredibly daunting shoes? Some say maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt could do it, seeing as how he is also a very talented young star and has some similar facial features to Ledger. Maybe Johnny Depp could do it. I know a lot of people have brought up his name as a possibility. Yes, Depp is much older than Ledger, but the makeup could easily hide that. The best thing about Heath Ledger’s incarnation of The Joker is that he seemed to be an indeterminate age, there’s no way you could tell that it was a 28-year-old playing him. Ledger played it far beyond the limits of his youth, displaying ageless talent. Many of Ledger’s closest friends and family members described him as an old soul. In a perfect world, Heath Ledger would still be alive. His career would have reached a point where he could do any project he desired, he would have been on that stage to accept his Academy Award for The Dark Knight, and he would have been ready and willing to play The Joker once again. But this is not a perfect world. It’s depressingly unfair. There are tragedies and heartbreaks beyond all eloquence, and there are voids that can never be filled no matter how much time passes. But we need to accept this, and keep fighting on. If the Batman movies have taught us anything, it’s that.

That’s why Nolan’s involvement for a third film is so crucial. His films are more than just fun comic book adventures. They’re morality plays in the guise of super hero stories. There are values to take out of them. They’re important. Art is important. And Nolan’s films have proven that these illustrated stories featuring a man dressing up as a bat can be seen as legitimate art. Tim Burton’s films were a step in the right direction. Joel Schumacher’s films, though entertaining and appropriate for all ages, were mostly a step back. Either knowingly or unknowingly, Christopher Nolan has sparked a revolution of the genre, and his films have set the standard by which all others will be judged. Maybe some people feel his Batman movies are overrated, and that as a director, Nolan himself is overrated, but I don’t think so. I think he and his films deserve every bit of praise they have received. Not unlike Batman, Nolan has moved forward with unflinching courage and determination in spite of impossible obstacles, and has become a figure we, as fans, can believe in. He faces more obstacles now more than ever. But our faith in Nolan as an artist has been richly rewarded so far, and I’m not alone in believing that all the faith may fade if Nolan steps down from doing the third Batman. Nolan understands the source material and has given us two great films, and even if the most talented of directors become attached it just wouldn’t be the same. After his takes on Batman, how can we accept anything less? How can we go back to anything without him? There’s no going back. He’s changed things. Forever.

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