Archive for the Reviews Category

Mirror’s Edge

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2008 by B33

“Parkour” is a particular subject not fully explored in the realm of gaming, although there have been a few “explorations” into the unfamiliar territory. The most recent title that comes to mind is Assassins Creed, which to the game’s credit, was rather fluid and intuitive, albeit a bit clunky and repetitive from time to time. Now, we have Mirror’s Edge which is attempting to further plunge into the free-running style of gameplay by placing the player in the shoes of “Faith,” a runner who “lives on the edge” of a city run by a fascist government (which is strangely never fully elaborated upon). The plot really isn’t anything noteworthy, as it often takes mediocre twists and turns with characters that are rather forgettable. In the end, it’s all about successfully getting from point A to point B in one piece and any amount of drivel poured out to you in the noticeably cheaply animated cinematics isn’t going to drive the point any further, especially due to the sporadic nature of the story, to begin with.

With the abysmal state of the plot, one would hope that the gameplay would at least fair well. Fortunately, Mirror’s Edge does boast solid gameplay mechanics, at its core. The free-running aspect of the controls are rather tight and intuitive and once the title gets going, it’s fun and provides a unique experience unlike anything I’ve ever played before. However, the flow of the title often comes to a halt due to the “trial and error” nature of the gameplay. In a game that declares itself as a “free roaming” first person platformer, you’d think the general direction and objective would be clear and the flow would continue at a constant speed. I often found myself ramping up speed and beginning to feel immersed in the experience until I ultimately died over and over again until I figured out the procedural and “correct” method to completing a puzzle. This is mainly due to the inconsistency of the “Runner’s Vision” feature which serves as the essential guideline throughout each level by highlighting various objects the player may traverse at a rather sloppy rate.

The primary concept to Mirror’s Edge is to provide the feeling of “freedom” and allow the player to freely traverse the environment utilizing any particular method or pathway. This might have been a bit ambitious on Dice’s part since the “freedom” aspect of the title is merely an illusion that gives way to fairly linear gameplay. The game encourages experimentation, albeit to discover the particular solution to each puzzle, which as I have mentioned before ultimately breaks the flow of gameplay and defeats the purpose of a game that claims to root itself in the realm of a supposed “free roaming” mechanic. Combat is often discouraged the developers purposely “optimized” the gameplay to reflect as much. Faith has a very small amount of health, her attacks are weak, and the overall state of the combat is sloppy and unrefined. This wouldn’t be an issue if the developers stuck to the concept of running rather than fighting, but you’ll find yourself placed in moments of the game that force you to take on opponents with the lackluster combat system that often leads to frustratingly cheap deaths. To further add fuel to the proverbial “fire,” playing a platform oriented title from the first person perspective also reduces the judgment of various jumps and often leads to obscured vision and “leap of faith” moments that deliver the frustrating impact of death over and over again.

The visual style to Mirror’s Edge is rather intriguing, as it chooses to rely on a lighter blend of colors rather than the typical bleak and “drained of color” type of visuals we’ve grown accustomed to in a fair share of games throughout this current generation of gaming. The character animations are rather fluid and run fine, albeit with little variety to the actual enemies you’ll encounter. The framerate runs at a solid speed and the lack of a cluttered HUD gives the player a better feel for the environment and sense of realism. One of my primary concerns with the title upon its unveiling was the possibility of motion sickness due to the nature of “free running” in the first person perspective. However, the developers clearly put a decent amount of thought and polish into the visuals, as I had no feelings of nausea or issues with the overall flow in which the game displays movement.

Mirror’s Edge is ultimately a title that attempts a rather ambitious leap, but ultimately falls short and fails to reach its goal due to the numerous design flaws present. The few positive aspects of the game aren’t enough to warrant a purchase and even a rental is questionable depending upon your tolerance and personal taste. Fortunately, the title is very short (even by today’s standards) and the nearly endless string of frustrating “trial and error” gameplay segments and half baked cinematics only needs to be endured for a few hours until it abruptly ends. While it’s refreshing to see a new IP in the sea of sequels and remakes that typically saturate the industry; the numerous flaws ultimately prevent this “experiment” from succeeding.

Pros: Ambitious concept, unique blend of visuals, and it’s quite fun when the flow of gameplay isn’t constantly broken.

Cons: Multiple collision problems in regards to the controls, combat is sloppy and unintuitive, the design of the title is inconsistent and schizophrenic in nature, the plot is poorly crafted and forgettable, and the characters are shallow and unlikeable.

Conclusion: An intriguing concept ultimately foiled by poor design decisions, numerous collisions issues, a terribly shallow campaign, and forgetful plotline. Does not warrant a purchase, much less a rental; pending upon your level of tolerance and personal taste.


The Simpsons Ride

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on August 25, 2008 by B33

Theme parks have always been a enjoy/hate affair in my eyes. Yes, I enjoy the attractions and atmosphere the park delivers upon; but yet I detest the crowds, the corporate affairs that affect the quality present, and insanely high prices littered throughout the parks. Out of the vast amount of theme parks out there, I personally enjoy visiting Universal Orlando Resort for various reasons. I enjoy the atmosphere and scenery, the rides, and the core message the park is based upon (“experience the movies”) even if that message has been skewed to a certain extent since the park first opened in 1990. One of the classic staples to the park has been the Back to the Future Ride which ultimately met it’s demise on March 30th, 2007 thanks to the ride being fairly dated and it’s appeal fading amongst this newer generation of the public (read: the wait times were becoming fairly low) despite the film being regarded as a timeless classic. Being that I’m a rather extensive fan to the Back to the Future Trilogy and enjoyed the ride and surrounding area as a decent tribute to the classic; I held the notion of trashing the concept in low regard and was even more displeased by what was rumored to be the new replacement to the attraction.

The two more prominent rumors that swirled amongst the Universal fanbase was the notion of a loose spin off to the “Fast and Furious” films or an attraction based upon The Simpsons television show. Being the admittedly extensive Groening fan I am (both The Simpsons and Futurama are deemed as classics in my book); I immediately thought of The Simpsons as a better concept than The Fast and the Furious as the show holds a more “timeless” appeal than the Fast and Furious could ever have (the films are already well forgotten). I still held a general distaste for the upcoming attraction at first and doubted it could very well surpass Back the the Future. Gradually, the attraction developed and construction began and ultimately transformed the building into something much more elaborate that magnifies the lack of complexity and flaws with the Back to the Future attraction’s original design.

As one can clearly see the entire building and surrounding area has received a complete overhaul between what was once the Back to the Future attraction and now The Simpsons Ride. The redesign to the building’s appearance really does liven it up in a better way and reflects more upon the The Simpsons as a whole. The general idea is for the ride to be a visit to Krustyland (run by Krusty the Clown) which is essentially a rather humorous parody with multiple jabs on the various theme parks around the world. The view from the outside of the building appears much more busy and while it’s a bit over the line in terms of overkill; it’s suitable for the concept and ultimately lives up to grabbing one’s own attention and drawing crowds in. The queue (line) to The Simpsons is rather impressive as it has been reworked a bit with better intentions in mind as well as providing a visually intriguing experience through the design and what is on display. The outside of the queue features numerous humorous clips from various episodes within The Simpsons television series as well as recently produced material that features The Simpsons reflecting the guests by waiting in line and parodying the different aspects of theme parks in general while doing so. As guests transcend the ramps and move to the queue within the actual attraction, much more detail and laughs are granted. There’s quite a bit to see and multiple walkthroughs are required to catch everything.

After guests wait in the inner queue for an particular amount of time (varies pending on the crowds) they are then asked to enter the pre-show chamber and view the video displayed on the television screen featured. The general idea is as follows; Sideshow Bob is on the loose as Krusty The Clown opens his latest attraction and The Simpsons family are picked (with the help of Bob himself) as the first family to ride it. As pre-show ends, guests are then ushered into the chamber that features the motion based simulator attraction. The Simpsons family are thrown through another adventure as you loop, dive, and crash through Krustyland. New and rather convincing effects are added to further sell the simulated experience and are rather impressive. Aesthetically, The Simpsons Ride is enjoyable from the newly implemented technology present and re-designed queue and external area as well. Furthermore, the Kwik-e-Mart created from the remains of BTTF’s gift shop is well crafted and one will more than likely feel a sudden state of nostalgia wipe over them at the sight and ultimate walkthrough of the store.

Though as fresh as the new technology present happens to be; the attraction lacks a particular aspect that Back to the Future genuinely had. Take note of the blatantly disparate state the animation between the actual video within the ride and the art style found throughout the queue, store, and park; which stems from the actual animation style featured on the television series. It was rather jarring and, in the end, disheartening growing up with the animation of The Simpsons and seeing it’s likeness sprawled throughout everything encompassing the ride; except the actual ride itself. To the Computer Generated Imagery style of animation’s credit, it still retains a few cartoon style traits to it; although animating the Simpsons in a 3D style rather than 2D ultimately appears awkward and unfamiliar. Hence why I think BTTF contained more of a genuine amount of spirit and integrity rather than skewing itself from the source material due to production costs, time constraints, etc.

Despite the ride’s flaws; the attraction still manages to be engaging and fun. Multiple viewings of the attraction itself and queue are encouraged as guests will more than likely not catch every little detail throughout their first outing. While it’s always a shame to witness an attraction be disassembled for another; The Simpsons is suitable enough to be an acceptable replacement for the once classic Back to the Future Ride. Hardcore and casual Simpsons fans will get a kick out of the attraction while those who hold disdain for the series won’t be coverted nor swayed by it. It’s an enjoyable experience that’s indeed flawed, though ultimately still accomplishes the task of providing a fun excursion through a familiar town that has become a staple to the television industry and has been enjoyed by fans for nearly twenty years now with plenty more to transpire.

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).