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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beast from “X-Men: First Class” looks suspiciously like Chopper Dave from “Sealab 2021”

The trailer for X-Men: First Class hit the web today. It’s a prequel or something. It should have mutants and extremely, extremely subtle social commentary. But anyway something that caught my attention was one shot of Beast, since it looks so much like our beloved Chopper Dave character from the Adult Swim cartoon “Sealab 2021,” but you can judge for yourself:

uh-oh!

A British actor has been cast as Superman which is probably a sign of the apocalypse.

Jazz and comic books. Two forms of art that have the distinction of originating in America. Maybe jazz is a little out of date and only enjoyed by pretentious D-bags but those comic book things are still huge, particularly the film adaptations.

Now, if the fat cats in the United States want to outsource their already wealthy, profitable corporations just to make an extra billion here and there and damn the lower-class working stiffs, that’s fine, but outsourcing your super heroes is one step too far.

Batman, Wolverine, and the new Spider-Man are not played by Americans. It was never that big of a deal, it was forgivable, “the best man for the job,” you may say, but the news has come out today that the new Superman will be played by Henry Cavill, a British actor. That just doesn’t sit right, does it?

But why is it that it’s not that big of a deal when Brits play other super heroes? I could do my homework and write a long winded essay about how Superman was on the scene long before Spidey or Bats ever showed their sorry asses and he became a symbol of hope during World War II, or that his motto is standing for “truth, justice, and the American way,” or that his very origin story is an allegory for the American dream. But I won’t. I’m too lazy to write it and you’re too lazy to read it. Short paragraphs work so much better for both of us.

Richard Donner’s 1978 film, a spectacular classic, was wise enough to embrace all of the Americana associated with Superman. Maybe that’s why his film is the only Superman adaptation to date to be considered a great work of filmmaking.

Why is it cool to not care? I’m Canadian (Superman is a half-Canadian invention by the way), but if I were American I think I’d boycott the movie. Where’s the patriotism? If they got an American to play James Bond I’m sure people would be pissed off, so why not for Superman? Why do people want to insist it isn’t an issue? It is.

But hey, it’s fine if a Brit plays Superman, it’s fine if all the companies move to India, whatever, it’s all good, as long as I have my I-Phone. It’s cool to be open to anything because I’m just so awesome.

Anyway, I think this casting is distracting from the big picture anyway, and that’s that the movie can’t possibly be any good anyway. Zack Snyder is directing it, after all. How good could it possibly be. I liked Watchmen and everything but if ever there was a “style over substance” director it’s Snyder. Seriously, since when did he become the go-to guy for comic book adaptations? I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw the Watchmen trailer and laughed so hard I peed a little when he was described as a “visionary director.”

And that got me thinking. Zack Snyder is an American, I wonder if it crossed his mind if it would be a good idea to cast a non-American for the role. I wonder if he considered whether orĀ  not it may upset people. I’m sure he’ll give some interviews in the future to explain himself. But if he sees it as a non-issue, I can’t imagine the guy having a firm grasp on the character.

Ultimately I think it’s far more ignorant to act like it isn’t an issue at all than to at least acknowledge it. You can agree with this blog or not, but just don’t pretend it isn’t an issue and that anybody feeling uncomfortable about the casting is totally out of line. That’s like saying “When I see a person, I don’t see race or colour, I just see a person.” Yes, that seems all nice and everything but that’s one of the worst things someone can say. It’s our diversities that make us unique and every race, colour, creed, and nationality has its own rich history and ignoring Superman’s impact on American culture is pretty close-minded.

I can’t speak for Americans but if they cast anyone other than a Canadian to play Captain Canuck, I wouldn’t think twice about skipping it.

Movie Review: Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass is more grim of a movie than I thought it would be, and not as much of a laugh-riot satire that I expected. It has the teenage situations, potty mouth, and pop-culture references of something like Superbad, but gradually takes a nose-dive into the morose, blood-lusting atmosphere of The Punisher.

Two stories collide in the movie. One is that of the title character, Kick-Ass, who doesn’t like the wrong that’s going on in the world and is tired of being passive, and being a comic-book geek, naturally his logical solution is to become a super hero himself. I liked this half of the story. It was unique, and very funny. The other half of the story, with heroes Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, is the typical self-righteous hero getting revenge on a mob boss plot. Can you really call them super heroes at that point? How about just murderers in capes? They’re not fighting any crime per se, just doing everything possible to make this mob boss’ life miserable. Killing everyone on his payroll. Burning down warehouses. Crushing a defenseless henchman in junk compacter. You know, the average super hero stuff. If they’re going through all this trouble, why not just skip all the theatrics and sneak into the mob boss’ house and slit his throat while he’s sitting on the john? Sometimes you gotta ask yourself: what would Batman do? Batman would not be happy with these guys.

And that really brings us to one undeniable fact: any movie released after 2008 that is even remotely related to super heroes will no doubt be compared to the quality of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. When one comic book adaptation does everything so well, naturally you’re going notice glaring flaws in other comic book adaptations. One huge flaw in the movie, to me personally, were the villains. Mob bosses? Really? The Super hero chain of challenge usually goes from petty thieves, to professional thieves (the mob), to super villains. I can understand that. It’s practically sacred scripture. But seriously, the main villain played by Mark Strong is not compelling whatsoever. The role is so undemanding it could have been played by a cardboard cut-out. Hell, that goddamn, greasy Russian in The Dark Knight had more personality than any villains in Kick-Ass! The entire rogues gallery in this movie is about one step away from being the type that trips over wacky traps set up by Macaulay Culkin. When the most intriguing bad guy is played by McLovin, you know you have a problem.

But relax, the movie is still pretty good. Despite all of its flaws, it works. And the characters are a hell of a lot more likable than they have the right to be. The acting is good too, particularly Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass and Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl. Consider Kick-Ass the revelations of these two actors, who will surely have great careers ahead of them in hopefully better movies. Nicolas Cage and his wacky Adam West impression are a welcome addition to the movie as well, and rest assured: Cage was able to work in some hilarious, hammy screaming scenes. “SWITCH TO KRYPTONIIITTTTTEEEEE!!!!”

I liked Kick-Ass. But I didn’t love it. The plot is a little stupid but it at least tries to give new twists on old ideas, but the main reason to see the movie is the action. I suppose I liked the icing better than the cake itself. The action scenes rock, especially when you see Hit-Girl kicking some serious ass. It’s absurd, hilarious, and just awesome. I predict that when the movie hits home video there will be a lot of chapter skipping just to the action scenes.

Kick-Ass finds itself somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to super hero movies/comic book adaptations. There are better ones out there, but there are also much much worse ones, and the fact that Kick-Ass is so un-apologetically off-the-wall with its violence and bad language is something to celebrate. It’s a wild ride. It’s funny, action packed, and features an 11-year-old girl mercilessly slaughtering bad guys. Fun for the whole family!

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