Archive for July, 2008

E3 2008: Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft Press Conferences

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2008 by B33

E3 is typically the time of the year where most developers and publishers attempt to show the best they have to offer in hopes of wowing the press and gamers alike; or at least it was until the annual convention was reformed and ultimately cut down because of the cost, time, and stress it contrived upon those within the industry. Now we’re left with the remnants that are rather lackluster compared to what the event once was. The highlight of the event is typically the press conferences held by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo each year which usually gives room for each respective company to unveil games, hardware, and any other surprise up their sleeve (figuratively speaking)… I was not able to attend the event, nor do I think I ever will at the rate the event’s going and the distance between where I reside and the actual Summit takes place. Thus, I sat at the computer and watched the coverage via live streams and gameplay videos courtesy of a couple media sites on the web… Without further elaboration and extensive rambling, I present my thoughts on each press conference and where I stand on each companies outlook in the industry.

Microsoft was the first to kick off the event with their press conference and the recurring trend I saw throughout each conference began here. The overall idea was features with the introduction of a new dashboard, a avatar system (Think Nintendo Mii but reshaped for the 360), Netflix plug-in, Lips (Reminiscent to Sony’s Singstar), and a push on downloadable content within games. As for the games themselves, Microsoft did not unveil anything new at the conference and instead opted to cover already announced and multiplatform titles as well. Resident Evil 5 and Fallout 3 were shown in a playable form and further cemented the notion that this E3 was essentially all sequels to past titles. Games for a younger audience were showcased by Rare that included Banjo & Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts and Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise which further shows just how out of touch Rare has become from their core ever since they were bought out by Microsoft and forced to develop games only on the Xbox hardware. Fable 2 was showcased, which is the successor to a title I originally found intriguing as a concept, but ultimately riddled with gimmicks and time consuming gameplay that does not deliver. Guitar Hero 4 and Rock Band 2 were shown and ultimately hold little interest to myself as the last Guitar Hero (the third installment developed by Neversoft) ultimately felt devoid of originality and the quality from the first two installments of the series while Rock Band is far too elaborate and expensive. Music games laced with rhythm seem to be the new appeal in the casual crowd of gaming and while I did find it enjoyable at first, their welcome has been wore down and there’s ultimately not much more new ground that could be tread upon without feeling repetitive and the equivalent of a rehashed concept. The one bright point of the conference was new footage from Gears of War 2 which looks like it improves upon the sequel and ultimately brings a few interesting things to the table in terms of gameplay tweaks and enemies. The conference ended with what was perceived as a large bombshell as Square-Enix announcing that they’ve indeed gave in (read: sold out) and will be publishing Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360 in North America and Europe. More power to them, I suppose.

Nintendo was the next company to hold their annual press conference which was more or less a self proclaimed smug fest filled with sales charts, gimmicks, and more sales charts. Nintendo seems relatively pleased that coping out to the mainstream crowd has brought them a lot of success with the Wii and the DS has continued to ramp up in sales as well with the dawning of the hardware revision granted to give it a sleek visual outlook (to compete with the PSP). The big hardware reveal was ultimately the “Wii MotionPlus Accessory” add on that essentially increases the motion sensing capabilities and further inflates the gimmick Nintendo is trying to sell to it’s audience. To accompany this “leap” in hardware, Nintendo also showcased “Wii Sports Resort” which is essentially Wii Sports but with a few more mini games and support for the “Wii MotionPlus” add on. Nintendo also showcased “Animal Crossing: City Folk” which reshaped the series with some new features and shoe horned the new add on called the “WiiSpeak” microphone which allows users in the proximity to talk to others across the network. Nintendo also showed some highlights from third party support that essentially appears to be dumbed down graphics and gameplay laced with gimmicks. And Nintendo ended the press conference with “Wii Music” which essentially gives you over 50 instruments to play via your “imagination” and the Wii controller… Nintendo appears to be aiming solely at the casual crowd and has essentially told their hardcore devoted fanbase to piss off. There’s nothing particularly intriguing coming down the pipeline and the press conference did not change anything.

Sony’s press conference took place shortly after the end of Nintendo’s rather lackluster press conference. The beginning recapped the general history of the Playstation brand and eventually led up to Sony launching a new SKU in the Fall that will align Sony and retailers back to a single SKU environment rather than having multiple units on the market. Sony also announced a brand new addition to the Playstation Network that will serve as a branch that sells various films via digital distribution (which was launched later that evening after the conference). More focus on the Networks digitally distributed titles seems to be at a greater focus as Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty, PixelJunk Eden, Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic, and Fat Princess were a few of the highlights emerging on the network in due time which ultimately feels like a mixed bag. Resistance 2, LittleBigPlanet, inFamous, and Killzone 2 were showcased in a playable form and God of War III and M.A.G. were two games ultimately unveiled for the first time at the conference. Sales charts and figures were briefly mentioned but ultimately shown with a slight twist. Instead of the usual graphs and numbers, Sony had Media Molecule create a level in LittleBigPlanet solely devoted to providing the various sales figures as the developer played through it. Sony also mentioned it’s MMORPG line up as well with DC Universe Online and The Agency. “Life with Playstation” (think Google Earth) was touched upon and Home’s release date was inevitably pushed back with a public beta promised by years end (which has no backbone to begin with).

The big three’s (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) press conferences were ultimately a let down. There were no sudden leaps in hardware or huge surprises that stole the show. Ultimately, features seem to be the key to E3 this year when the focus should be more on the gaming aspect of each console. Sony and Microsoft had a much better showing than Nintendo by far. Yet there was still a overall feeling of mediocrity throughout each conference. It seems the big three are either holding out for future events or there really was not anything in a polished state to showcase(perhaps a little of both). In the end, E3 is not nearly up to the caliber it once was and I doubt we’ll ever see the Media event return to it’s original state due to the many issues surrounding it. The essential take home message is as follows; Nintendo is a sinking ship for hardcore gamers, Microsoft and Sony are implementing features to keep up with one another instead of focusing more upon the games, Third Party Exclusives are essentially dead (with a couple exceptions), Sequels and Remakes appear to be the big selling point at E3 this year, And third party support appears to be quite strong this year in comparison to first party support. Overall, a few bright moments covered in mediocrity and lackluster support.


The End of Bat Week

Posted in General with tags , , on July 20, 2008 by B33

Bat Week has come to it’s end and, in hindsight, could have been executed in a better manner. The overall idea of typing up a in-depth review ever single day for one week is ludicrous and takes a large toll on the mind in the long run. While the Summer has undeniably brought more free time to the table; the idea of sitting down and spending a majority of the time staring at a blank computer screen attempting to come up with descriptive thoughts and witty points is not really a appealing way to waste my time. That said, if I indeed plan on attempting something in the same vein, I’ll put a bit more effort into the actual planning phase. On the topic of The Dark Knight, the film has done exceptionally well and is breaking records left and right at a rather vast rate (you can read more about it here). I suppose it was inevitable since Ledger’s untimely passing brought a lot of extra attention and “Begins” also restored faith in the Batman film fan base as well. A sequel is inevitable, but the exact direction is not entirely known. Regardless, I doubt we’ll see it emerge for roughly another 3 years or so. And until then, I’ll refrain from reaching the territory known as overkill with the overflow of Batman related posts as I’ve done enough damage as it is and will now turn to other topics of interest (such as the recent mediocre E3 showing).

“He’s the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now … And so we’ll hunt him … Because he can take it … Because he’s not a hero… He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector… A Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 18, 2008 by B33

Hype is a powerful entity within this world that can either successfully build a film or destroy it. Batman Begins was greeted with skepticism mainly due to disdain left by the Schumacher films which I hold in a very low regard as being among the worst comic book adapted films of their time. Fortunately, Nolan’s darker and more realistic take on the character soared and the overall reception was very well. Batman Begins served as a reboot to the character that reestablished the core of Batman and brought a darker and more sinister breath of fresh air to the film series nearly killed by Schumacher (a second, but well deserved shot at Schumacher).The ending of Begins pointed in the direction of a even darker plot line that left fans eagerly anticipating the next installment. After three very long years of rumors, speculation, and viral marketing; The Dark Knight has finally hit theaters… And the question of the moment; “Did it live up to the hype?” is the one often pondered by those who have yet to see the film.

I dislike answering a question like the one above simply because one sets their own unique expectations based upon their perception. The satisfaction of one individual may not live up to the other based upon their own taste and interests. While I myself certainly tried to suppress my inner fanboy that seemingly became psyched with the release of each piece of marketing and the various trailers that emerged; I could not help but throw the skepticism aside for a much more optimistic viewpoint of the final verdict of the film. And while I’m on the subject of the marketing; I can safely say that The Dark Knight featured the best marketing campaign I have seen to date. 42 Entertainment blew me away with how detailed their viral marketing campaign turned out to be. Clearly, a lot of thought was put into it with all the meticulous details taken directly from the film and transferred into a ongoing marketing game for the fans (such as the “I Believe in Harvey Dent” campaign or “Citizens for Batman”). The viral marketing kept me hooked and intrigued to the very end and I applaud 42 Entertainment for keeping myself and many other individuals entertained and busy until the film’s release.

The story to The Dark Knight roughly begins not too long after the events within Batman Begins. Wayne Manor is still in the process of being restored and Bruce Wayne and Alfred (both roles reprised by Christian Bale and Michael Caine) must make do with a different home and headquarters for Batman. Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart) has become the new District Attorney and face of Gotham that brings forth hope for a brighter future. Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gylenhal, who replaced Katie Holmes) is working together with Dent to bring down the criminals in Gotham and becomes a love interest that further drives character development and the overall complexity. The film’s center focus is upon the repercussions Gotham faces with Batman stepping in and fighting the corruption and greed that has plagued the city. Batman Begins primary focus was on Bruce Wayne and the development of Batman as not just a human being, but a symbol. In contrast, The Dark Knight’s focus steps back off of Bruce Wayne and more onto Harvey Dent and The Joker. I’ll stop there as I’d rather not spoil the film; but you can be rest assured that there is a lot of development and ties between various characters in Gotham that give breathing room while also still focusing on Batman as well.

The Dark Knight is a much darker film than it’s predecessor and certainly holds a  much more sinister tone than any other previous Batman film to date. The carnage is on a high scale and the sheer chaos displayed is even higher. The film takes a bit of time to ramp up near the beginning; but fortunately speeds up past the first quarter and never stops to take a break. The story is the equivalent of watching a well crafted tragedy unfold with the various twists and turns that take place. Some characters live to see another day and others aren’t as fortunate… The story of Harvey Dent is well developed and is very reminiscent of The Killing Joke (written by Alan Moore) in regards to the Joker’s theory of madness. And while some could say Dent’s alter ego (Two Face) is not used nearly as much as he could be; the development of the character is well played  and there’s a very unique sense of balance present in the film between the main and supporting cast. Christian Bale presents a well balanced portrayal of Batman, Bruce Wayne’s public image, and then the true side to him only a couple individuals truly see. Aaron Eckhart plays a spot on rendition of Dent and captures the character’s essence very well. Maggie Gylenhal does a relatively seamless job at picking up the role of Rachel Dawes and replacing Holmes. Gary Oldman returns as James Gordon and displays a improvement in his portrayal that further sold the character (who has a much greater involvement in the plot this time around). And the supporting roles of Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) provide numerous genuine and clever moments of dialogue that further solidifies one of the great qualities found in Batman Begins (read: the well crafted script).

Though the one role I found to be the most well crafted and truly deserving of stealing the spotlight is the now deceased Heath Ledger as The Joker. Those skeptical about Ledger as The Joker can rest assure that he indeed nailed the role in many aspects… But Ledger did not merely nail the role. He took hold of it and redeveloped it. Ledger made the role his own and brought forth a truly psychotic individual that is likeable just as much as he is despicable. The Joker is a man who holds little regard for money or power. He simply wishes to rattle the cage and watch the chaos ensue. He wishes to send a message and prove a point regarded in his mind. And that message is with a push, madness is just a step away for any individual. The Joker is about the thrill of anarchy and living for the moment. He has no defined origin and there’s multiple stories within his mind made up with the real story never fully being known and it leaves it up to the audience to interpret. The Joker is always one step ahead of the audience and the characters present within Gotham. He’s essentially a force of nature that appears and rips everything apart; then disappears to further ensure another step of the sheer madness of the “plan” laid out within the sick entrails of his twisted mind.

It’s saddening to think Ledger can never reprise his role as The Joker nor ever play another role again due to his untimely and unfortunate departure. Though what I truly find saddening is the notion that he never was able to see the legacy nor impact he left behind. His inclusion sold the film and there’s never been a better rendition of The Joker displayed beforehand. It’s very rare that I find myself looking at a actors performance and truly seeing only the character they portray and nothing else. In a act reminiscent to Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, Ledger thrives and really takes on the threshold of his role. Looking up at the screen, I could only see The Joker and nothing more or less. Ledger became engulfed and lost within the role (read: not recognizable in any shape or form). In the end, his last completed performance was truly his best and will ultimately become the most remarkable and recognized worldwide.

With a sequel comes the inclusion of new gadgets for Batman to utilize. The Batsuit’s revision is the most noticeable and I personally found it to be a welcomed addition. The suit is slimmed down and made to be much more flexible in order to give a better sense of realism and speed to Batman. And it stands as the best rendition of the Batsuit in the film series to date. There’s a much better sense of movement that adds a better sense of realism to the fight scenes and lessens the stiff tone found in the previous visions of the suit in the film medium. Another new gadget found is the Batpod, which I will neglect to state how it ends up in the film due to it sort of being a intriguing surprise at a later segment. It’s inclusion is well played and ties into some intriguing chase sequences as well. There are a few other tools displayed that fans will find as entertaining surprises and thus I’ll allow you to see them for yourself rather than spoil them here.

The score for The Dark Knight is phenomenal and plays upon the chaotic theme found throughout. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard have proven once again that their collaborative efforts are not wasted. The spirit of the score found in Batman Begins is indeed carried over for the sequel, though Zimmer and Howard merely used the previous installment as a means of inspiration rather than simply making variations of already present material. Having listened to the soundtrack beforehand, I was very curious just how well the score would fit in with the film. I can now say that it’s inclusion was indeed well thought out and it further raises the bar in terms of immersion. Every scene present is further amplified with the inclusion of the impressive score and it’s currently one of the only things I listen to with great enjoyment, as of lately.

The cinematography in The Dark Knight is stunning to say the least. Nolan has always had a prestige (natch) focus on the camera in his films and it indeed shows. There were numerous moments where I was literally stunned with what was just displayed onscreen and it met with a similar response to the audience around me (applause and exclamations were the main points of response). Batman Begins had impressive action sequences that were rough around the edges in term of how they were cut. Fortunately, the action is choreographed to a greater extent and it does show. Everything runs smoother and has a overall better flow to it that only amplifies the experience. There’s a certain brilliant undercurrent of cleverness to each sequence that stops your mind in it’s track to think back and realize what you just witnessed which does encourage repeated viewings. Nolan and company did utilize IMAX cameras for a select number of shots that looked great on the screen I was viewing it on and I’m sure would look a hundred times better on an actual IMAX screen (unfortunately, I will not be viewing it on a IMAX screen anytime soon). As for the detective elements that stem from the core of the Batman character; they are included more this time around and the film does blend the super hero and crime drama genre of film together in a intriguing manner that further drives the overall experience.

The Dark Knight is the best Batman film to date and very well might be the best super hero film to date, as well. The film improves upon it’s predecessors in numerous aspects and then delivers much more. There’s really nothing I perceived as negative in the film as I enjoyed every minute of it. Though the two main points of criticism found from a few individuals (critics) is the length and the darker tone. And while I can see where the length could frighten a few as it runs longer than it’s predecessor and the average film; I still did not perceive it as a issue that needed to be addressed. It’s rather doubtful you’ll notice the length as the film’s pacing speeds up roughly a few minutes in and hardly ever lets go. The darker tone depends upon taste. I myself enjoyed it and found The Joker’s psychotic behavior and other dark moments to be among the best segments of the film. In regards to whether it’s suitable for a younger audience; that is up to the parents to decide as every child is different in terms of their perception. There’s a greater amount of death, chaos, and violence present. Which is how it should be given The Joker’s inclusion and should not be a point of criticism.

The title of the film may have a few pondering at it’s inclusion and it is indeed included for a very well thought out plot line that further defines the core of Batman and his overall purpose to Gotham. The ending sequence which ties everything together left the crowd applauding. Batman Begins had a fairly straightforward nod to it’s successor’s storyline. In contrast, The Dark Knight leaves the table more wide open for future events. Certain loose ends are tied up and the film does contain a completed feeling to it that leaves the audience much more content than the previous iterations ending. There is still room for more to be said and I look forward to future installments. And now the fanbase to the film series will be launched into the speculation phase; patiently awaiting for a third film to be confirmed and checking for any update or news regarding it. The Dark Knight is a impressive integration of action, depth, and development that truly makes it must see for any movie goer this Summer and years to come.

Pro’s: Top notch acting, well crafted storyline, many twists and turns to keep the audience engaged, much more complex action sequences that are epic on a grander scale, Ledger’s role as The Joker is one of the most remarkable points within the film,

Con’s: Creative wise, there’s a couple issues such as the inclusion of the Rachel character to begin with and raspy voice Bale dons under the Batman persona.

Conclusion: An improvement upon the first iteration that further drives character development, impressive action sequences, top notch acting, and a well crafted script that sets it’s place as the best Batman film to date and quite possibly the best super hero film to date as well.

Batman Begins

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on July 17, 2008 by B33

The Batman series of films has had a intriguing life span thus far. The Tim Burton films (Batman and Batman Returns) went in the right direction, but were ultimately flawed in a few of the creative choices implemented. Though nothing could have prepared fans for the Schumacher films (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin). The two films did little to keep to the Dark Knight’s roots and took a rather campy and overall lackluster approach to the series that put the Batman film franchise into a hiatus of roughly eight years. There were a few projects commissioned but ultimately never were able to make it past the rough stages of development before Warner Bros pulled the plug. Batman Triumphant, Batman: DarKnight, Batman Beyond, Batman vs Superman, and Batman: Year One were the names of each of the projects tossed around as possible candidates. Ultimately, each was flawed or didn’t agree with the executives at Warner Bros… And the future of the Dark Knight ever rightfully returning to the silver screen seemed unlikely for the time being…

In 2003, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer became attached to a new start to the Batman film franchise. Rather than try to stay in continuity and fix the damage done, it was decided to head in a completely different direction altogether and start from the very beginning. The origins of Batman had never been fully addressed on screen (besides a flashback or brief mentioning) and it was Nolan’s intention to bring the development of the character to life on the big screen. A darker approach with realism and a focus on humanity present was also decided upon as well. As the film’s release date approached, many remained skeptical. With the trailers released and marketing; the general publics interest rose and the fans became intrigued by this new and much darker version of Batman. The inevitable release of the film brought in it’s fair share of theater goer’s and fared much better with both the fans and critics than the previous Batman films.

Batman Begins literally falls in line with the film’s title and starts from the very beginning and explores the origins of Bruce Wayne and explain exactly why he dons the Batsuit and fights the scum and corrupt in Gotham. The story starts with Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) in a prison suspected to be located some where within a particular part of Asia (it’s implied but never actually stated) in which he fights the criminals he is locked up with that essentially chalks up to the “personal journey” he takes away from Gotham that eventually brings him to the Batman persona. After a brief fight scene, Bruce is introduced to Henri Ducard who invites him to become a part of the League of Shadows and become more than merely a man fighting a crime but rather a legend (read: symbol that remains imprinted and lives on). The film then follows into a lengthy exposition regarding Bruce’s training that ultimately reveals his past. The film has a very wholehearted approach to developing Bruce Wayne and focusing upon the dawn of the Dark Knight rather than simply introducing the character and running from there with little consideration for the characters displayed on screen.

In order to fully flesh out the characters on screen; one would hope that clever, intelligent, and overall well flowing dialogue would be implemented to keep things interesting and also allow for more genuine moments on screen. Fortunately, Begins does indeed feature well crafted dialogue to further help drive the story and also contribute to the countless genuine moments featured on screen. The action sequences are also impressive and are blended together with the impressive dialgoue to deliver a experience that can not easily be imitated and differs from all of the past Batman films. There’s a larger sense of scale and focus on the cinematography that can be best summed up as epic, but still flawed. The action sequences worked up until Wayne dons the Batsuit and then they just feel rough around the edges and unnatural to a certain degree. Despite the negative points, you’ll still find some edgy and rather creative sequences that more or less make up for the film’s few shortcomings.

With clever dialogue also comes top notch actors. Christian Bale delivers a interesting take on Bruce Wayne. Essentially, there are three sides to the character. There’s the public image Wayne must rely on to avert suspicion, his true personality that is never showcased to the public, and then the Dark Knight himself. Bale does a very precise job at balancing each persona out in a natural manner. Michael Caine plays Aflred in the best rendition of the character I’ve seen yet in the series of Batman films. Caine and Bale are dynamic in delivering the dialogue provided in a earnest and a manner the delivers a lot of depth. Liam Neeson plays Henri Ducard and does a top notch job in delivering some unforgettable moments within the film. Gary Oldman plays James Gordon and the approach to the character is very reminiscent to Batman: Year One (Frank Millar). There’s a certain connection between Gordon and Batman that developed when he was merely a boy and stuck in the police station after his parents death that further helps drive the character development further. Katie Holmes unfortunately plays the obligatory love interest pasted into the film. Morgan Freeman plays Lucius Fox and does the usual top notch job at delivering memorable moments that played into the gadgets Batman utilizes. And Cillian Murphy tops off the cast list as the frighteningly calm yet psychotic Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow.

The villains featured in Begins are two that have never been featured in a Batman film beforehand and are lesser known amongst the general public yet play much more prominent roles in the graphic novel. This was a aspect I found intriguing about Begins. It’s aim was to bring a more dark and realistic approach to the character and also stay true to the core of the graphic novel (to a certain extent). The Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul are both villains with a lot of potential and possibilities to explore upon. Fortunately, the film makers took the right avenue as the film’s overall purpose tied well into the characters displayed on screen. Both villains are written into the plot in a connecting manner that further drives them down into reality while also keeping that Batman tone and feel found in the graphic novel.

Batman is well know for the various gadgets he utilizes to aid him in his efforts to fight the criminals within Gotham. Begins does a impressive job at providing the various gadgets and further developing what exactly makes up the overall Batsuit and how it functions. Lucius Fox provides Wayne with all he needs and improvisation follows via a division within Wayne Enterprises long since forgotten. It’s a intriguing way to explain how Wayne got his hands on what he needed and further cements the overall tone in a more realistic sort of manner (albeit with some suspended disbelief). The Batsuit finally gives Wayne a neck and more flexibility while the new and redesigned Batmobile (now called “The Tumbler”) gives way to some impressive moments and a overall shift from the usual path taken in the Batman film series. Though long time fans might be a bit disappointed to see the sudden change in Batman’s means of transportation regardless of it’s more realistic approach.

One of the key aspects of Batman Begins that sells the film even further is the impressive orchestrated soundtrack in a collaborative effort by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Begins has a unique tone that reflected a serious side laced with a somber yet soothing portion as well. Words alone can not describe how well the soundtrack to Begins fits within the actual film. It’s a living and breathing aspect that contains a mind of it’s own. I found countless moments within the film that were further amplified and understood through the score. Zimmer and Howard surprised me with the amount of depth and precision delivered. Which ended up providing more entertainment as I checked into the soundtrack and still find myself listening to it up to this day despite the fact it’s been around for nearly three years now. It’s unlike anything heard before and overall leaves a impact as one of the most unqiue impressive scores delivered within the film industry.

Regardless of the praise it receives, Batman Begins is still not without it’s issues. The new Batsuit finally gives Batman the much needed neck and flexibility but still comes off as stiff. And Bale’s raspy voice is a much unwanted addition to the film as it seems out of place and could often obscure Batman’s points of dialogue from time to time. I can understand the intended purpose as a individual attempting to conceal their identity would need to alter their voice in order to do so. But it still doesn’t shake the dismay I have for the voice and wish for it to be downplayed in future installments. The other flaw within the film is the inclusion of the Rachel character. It’s another unwelcome alteration to the Batman universe and overall feels like a cope out to provide a love interest to Wayne and further dramatize things. Holmes’ performance further brings the character down as she seems disconnected from the role and ultimately provides a mediocre performance, thus projecting a disconnected feeling from the character in general.

Despite it’s flaws, Batman Begins is a impressive film that falls under the Super Hero genre of film that succeeds in providing a higher quality. It retains the overall core of the graphic novel by keeping in line with a more gritty, dark, and realistic tone. The script is well crafted and laced with brilliance while the film carries top notch actors that can deliver the script’s strength. The ending of the film leaves a more linear approach to the next one (if you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I mean), but ultimately leaves the audience anxiously looking forward to the future of the film series (I myself walked out of the theater eagerly ready for the next film). A few flaws cripple the film from reaching a higher status and the concept of developing and rebooting the series is not for everyone (as it can be a bit slow paced at times). Yet there’s still quite a bit to enjoy with this new reboot to the character that takes cues from various points of the Dark Knight and mixes together new elements as well to provide a original and overall compelling start to the brand new beginning of Batman.

Pro’s: A darker tone, top notch acting, a grander scale to the action, impressive focus on cinematography, and intelligent and well crafted dialogue.

Con’s: The action is rough around the edges, batsuit is a improvement but could still use some work, the inclusion of the Rachel character is bothersome (on top of Holmes’ iffy performance), and the raspy voice included while Wayne is under the Batman persona feels misplaced.

Conclusion: Despite it’s flaws; the film combines top notch acting, a brilliant script, darker and more realistic tone, and a grander scope cinematography wise to deliver a much needed new beginning to the Dark Knight.

Batman: The Killing Joke

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by B33

Depth is a particular aspect that typically gives more room for characters in a particular medium to become more relatable and generally gives the audience a better idea at the motivation behind their actions. With that said, The Killing Joke (written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland) grants the audience a better perception between Batman and The Joker in terms of just how similar their motivation truly is. Essentially, both characters had one bad day that forever changed their perspective of the world and drove them mad to a certain extent. To cope, both went down separate paths. The Joker took the path of evil, while Batman chose the path of justice and good. The particular idea plays a role in The Joker’s theory of madness expressed more recently in The Dark Knight regarding Dent, but the concept first appeared in The Killing Joke as The Joker plans to drive Police Commissioner James Gordon insane to prove that even the most upstanding citizen of Gotham could go mad after merely one bad day (much like himself).

While the graphic novel is a one-shot (a stand alone story), it’s presence still left a large impact on the DC Universe and the Batman series in particular. It’s dark nature and elements of the graphic novel have been incorporated to other forms of the series and it also gave birth to the Oracle (a retired Batgirl due to injuries sustained by The Joker). The one-shot’s depiction of The Joker is among one of the best renditions to date that has inspired other forms of the character (such as The Joker in The Dark Knight film) and further showed just how deep his insanity is rooted within the entrails and remnants of his once normal mind. There is a origin story present that further details the characters past, though it has been previously said that The Joker has multiple origin stories within his mind. Thus, you can take the one shot’s back story for what it’s worth and whether it’s canny or not is up to the audience to interpret in a ambiguous sort of manner.

There are two editions of the book available to the public as of right now. The original book was inked by John Higgins and ultimately followed a more bright and extensive palette that Brian Bolland admittedly disproved of as he felt it did not match the overall tone of the book. DC decided to republish the book in a hardcover form and Bolland asked to color the entire thing from scratch and ultimately “remaster” it and certain aspects as well. The hardcover edition will be the easiest to obtain as the original comic has been reprinted multiple times but ultimately is difficult to find. And with The Dark Knight, I’d turn to the hardcover edition as the cheaper alternative with the original edition in high demand. Whether you’ll enjoy one over the other really amounts to ones own taste. In the end, the core of the graphic novel is exactly the same with the only difference being the visual perception.

Below follows a comparison between the coloring style of the original edition (first image) of The Killing Joke and the brand new remastered edition (second image below first image).

If you’ve yet to pick up the graphic novel and have a fondness for dark material laced with a intriguing message that plays upon The Joker and Batman; you’ll more than likely enjoy Batman: The Killing Joke. It features well crafted dialogue, a well rounded story that is self contained (yet still leaves a impact), and decent art as well. It’s one of the best one shot stories within the Batman universe that features The Joker and leaves a large impact even after it was first published in 1988.

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Soundtrack

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2008 by B33

One of the key aspects of Batman Begins that sold the film even further was the impressive orchestrated soundtrack in a collaborative effort by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Begins has a unique tone that reflected a serious side laced with a somber yet soothing portion as well. Words alone can not describe how well the soundtrack to Begins fits within the actual film. It’s a living and breathing aspect that contains a mind of it’s own. I found countless moments within the film that were further amplified and understood through the score. Zimmer and Howard surprised me with the amount of depth and precision delivered. If you enjoyed Batman Begins, I can not recommend the soundtrack enough. It’s a calm and creative force that will provide roughly a hour and a half (60:26) of entertainment the first time through and countless amounts of time for further play throughs as well.

With The Dark Knight’s release looming, a new installment to the soundtrack has now hit and is again composed by both Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. The spirit of Batman Begins’ soundtrack indeed is carried over for the sequel, though Zimmer and Howard merely used the previous installment as a means of inspiration rather than simply making variations of already present material. Granted, there are familiar elements present throughout and a few moments that are reminiscent to Begins… But the overall tone to the score has shifted due to the film’s shift in tone. Chaos is the theme this time around and the score certainly amplifies that tone to deliver a great impact. The calming tone throughout Begins is no longer as prevalent this time around. Yet there’s still a uplifting and soothing tone amongst the chaos running amok. The soundtrack’s run time is longer than it’s predecessor (73:24) and also provides countless amounts of time in future play throughs. Both soundtracks are in a league of their own and unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. There’s a intriguing amount of soul and depth to each score as Zimmer and Howard both bring unique points of interest to the table in their collaborative efforts. It’s a enjoyable aspect to the film that further amplifies the overall experience as well as provide entertainment outside the theater.

Pro’s: Well crafted, captures the tone of each film, and further amplifies the experience of viewing the actual film.

Con’s: Shift in tone might disappoint some.

Conclusion: A impressive score that precisely captures the tone and is one of the many enjoyable aspects of the film.

Batman: Gotham Knight

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 14, 2008 by B33

With the release of The Dark Knight looming just over the horizon, DC Animation has decided to release a DVD tie-in entitled “Batman: Gotham Knight” which runs in the same vein as The Animatrix concept. The DVD consists of six short animated segments that all occur within The Gotham City introduced in Batman Begins. Each segment contains a different director and thus has a different overall tone and style to the story and animation featured. Though the level of quality does remain consistent throughout. The overall idea is to witness events that take place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The DVD’s introduction is a impressive sweep across a segment of Gotham City that ultimately leads to the Dark Knight himself as an impressive score plays and the title then makes itself present on the screen. A intriguing method to grab the audience and seamlessly move on to the first segment…

“Have I Got a Story For You” (created by 4 Celsius) is the very first segment featured that ultimately plays upon the “unique perspective” often found when you gather multiple individuals together to state their given story about the same subject (read: the Rashomon effect). It plays upon the idea that Batman is not only a person, but a symbol… The story revolves around 3 teenagers recollecting earlier events of the day that all involved Batman to a friend who had missed out entirely. Each story essentially sums up Batman’s day fighting the same criminal throughout the city and by the end of it, the entire miniature arc within it is cleared up. It’s a intriguing segment but ultimately proves to be unnecessary in many aspects. The segment never follows the perspective of Batman nor provides any vital material to deem it a must watch. The DVD’s purpose is to bridge the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and the first segment did not bode well if the rest featured fell into the same rut and proved to be unnecessary…

The next segment is titled “Crossfire” (created by Production I.G.) and holds the honor of being the least liked segment. “Crossfire” covers the trust between the police force and Batman which feels like it’s retreading old ground and is unnecessary. The voice acting isn’t terrible and the animation is acceptable. But I found the writing to be rather lackluster and the overall logic displayed to be rather perplexing at times, the ending especially. Once all is cleared up and Batman saves the day (spoiler alert: the good guys win) he simply leaves the two detectives he just saved in the middle of the worst part of Gotham. Numerous issues creative wise prevents the segment from being able to stand on it’s own amongst the five others featured. “Field Test” (created by Bee Train) was the next segment featured and it essentially covers the morals Batman faces with the devices and gadgets he wields and the line between risking his own life and the fate of the criminals he faces. Despite a couple odd points of dialogue and logic, it was one of the more enjoyable segments featured.

“In Darkness Dwells” (created by Madhouse) is the segment I genuinely enjoyed the most. The story consists of Batman facing Killer Croc and The Scarecrow as the late Cardinal O’Fallon was kidnapped and sentenced to death while in the middle of a sermon at his Cathedral. The overall flow to the plot is refreshing and the dialogue is surprisingly well crafted as well. In a act of curiosity in regards to the sudden jump in quality in writing, I looked up the writer of “In Darkness Dwells” and at the first sight of the name I instantly knew why. The story was written by none other than David S. Goyer, the same individual who penned the script to Batman Begins. In a intriguing manner, the next segment entitled “Working Through Pain” (created by Studio4°C) continues nearly right where the previous segment leaves off at. The overall idea is to delve into Bruce’s past and his quest to manage his pain. And the last segment featured is “Deadshot” (created by Madhouse) which picks up roughly a few days after the end of “Working through Pain.” It’s a fairly decent way to wrap up the overall package the DVD delivers and serves it’s place in line with the other segments.

Overall, Batman: Gotham Knight is a enjoyable watch for those who are a fan of the character to begin with and are tolerant of the Japanese style of animation. Essentially, there’s nothing featured that is necessary or a must see for those who plan on watching The Dark Knight. The compilation does not particularly deliver upon it’s promise to “bridge the gap” between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The first three segments feel more or less like a random assortment of ideas and overall storyline while the last three tie themselves together in a intriguing and engaging manner. The compilation feels inconsistent in terms of quality yet the animation and setting, in respect to it’s own style, holds up surprisingly well. It’s made rather evident the Gotham City featured reflects that of the Batman Begins Universe which further aids in selling the overall tone throughout. In the end, if your a fan of Batman and the DC Animation division, you’ll enjoy Batman: Gotham Knight. Though I can not honestly recommend it as a must see or a purchase due to it’s flaws and overall lack of purpose. It’s a rental at best and will ultimately hold you over until The Dark Knight. Though it unfortunately does not provide enough replayability value or content to warrant a purchase.

Pro’s: Top notch voice acting, decent score, animation holds up fairly well, and well crafted writing in certain segments.

Con’s: Inconsistent quality, writing is choppy at times, the overall flow does not catch on until the the last three segments, and generally feels more like filler than necessary material.

Conclusion: While the compilation proves to be a enjoyable and intriguing watch for fans, it’s flaws and lack of replay value ultimately prevents the warrant of a purchase (it’s a rental at best).