In Memoriam | Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

Please allow me a moment to join the legions who are sharing their thoughts and feelings about the passing of Mr. Gene Wilder.

I debated doing a full review of one of his classics, Blazing Saddles? Young Frankenstein? Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory? All of them so powerful and make up so much of who I am today. This is the comedian I grew up with. Young Frankenstein is one of my earliest movie memories in the comic genre. Blazing Saddles a close second. There’s few children of the 80s who don’t know Willy Wonka. My facebook wall is filled with lyrics from Pure Imagination.

Just yesterday on my way to Suicide Squad with some friends, one of them said “the suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts.” My life back in Maryland, you couldn’t go a week without “Put the Candle back.”  In Jacksonville? “Look at my hand. Steady as  rock.  Yeah but I shoot with this hand.” The lines though that define me? That mean the most to me…

“*We* are the music makers… and *we* are the dreamers of dreams”

“Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.”

There are movies, moments in time, and lines that stick with you for your life from the moment you hear them. Let it Go of course is one, but these are the ones that defined who I became. Why I believe in a world where we never stop dreaming. A world in which we question things. Because of the passion this man put into his craft and to this film.

What passion? Well this article from 4 years ago for example: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/06/part-of-this-world-part-of-another.html

This is a man who knows his craft, who understands what goes into making a character. As a result, and this is hard to argue, he has brought to life one of the most iconic and memorable characters to ever grace the screen. The lines before from Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, sure they are good, but they are made great by Wilder.  He could be anything; a nightmare in human shape, a clown, a scientist, manic, serene, charming, and sublime. I’ve long said the comedic actors do the best in serious films, but Wilder easily did his best in comedy and brought (at times) a level of depth to them that so very few now can even comprehend. He stopped his career when he didn’t see projects he wanted to be associated with. He knew who and what he was and believed in and didn’t go in for the paycheck.

The man behind the camera was just as passionate. When Gilda Radner a righteous powerhouse comedienne in her own right, who also happened to be his wife, died of cancer. What did he do? He went to Congress. He testified and set up a foundation to help make sure no one else went through what she did. Not for him, but for her and the people like her who weren’t getting diagnosed properly. Who weren’t getting treatment.

….sorry had to take my glasses off. They weren’t doing well with the tears. Pardon any typo’s.

2016 has taken more legends from my life than most years I can recall. More people that hit me like a gunshot when I heard the news. Clearly the grisly reaper is mowing.

I know Jim said he was always wanted to go nowhere special, but Gene – you deserve the special. You deserve all the special and I hope that you and Gilda are curled up on a couch somewhere tonight telling stories of the last 27 years to each other.

Know that we loved you Mr. Wilder. Your legacy will never be forgotten. A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men, making you and your work some of the wisest we have.

Thank you for all the joy you brought to the world.

We will miss you.

GeneWilder

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Darke Reviews | The Mechanic: Resurrection (2016)

I checked in on my phone at the theatre a few hours before seeing this one as I did a double feature tonight. On my facebook page, I asked “why does this exist?” In the realm of sequels out there, there are ones we deserve, ones we want, ones we earn, and ones we go – how did this even happen? The remake of the Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent classic hitman caper debuted in January of 2011; with a production budget of $40 million and a total domestic haul of $29 million ($62 worldwide). It didn’t do much better in DVD sails with a mediocre $17 million total. Yet…here we have a sequel. We have a sequel to this thing when Ghostbusters (2016); which has earned $208 million on it’s $144 million budget and is still showing is being lambasted as a “flop” and sequel plans cancelled.  So 5 years later, we get this film, but Jason Statham is usually good for an action sequence.

The question is should the Mechanic have been resurrected?

The story and screenplay are brought to you by Philip Shelby (Survivor)  and Brian Pittman (A Haunting At Silver Falls, Dawn Patrol), with screenplay by Shelby and Tony Mosher (just this..); I am left wondering if they know how to tell a cohesive narrative. They introduce points that mean nothing, jump locations as if they are nothing, fail to create dramatic tension, and quite honestly just get to the edge of farcical but take themselves too seriously to let the audience feel comfortable to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I feel like there may have been a man with a gun in the writing room waiting for the first draft and taking that as the final copy despite protests to the contrary. There are leaps of logic, decision making, and plot points that left me scratching my head and scrunching my face in confusion.

Some of that blame might go to director Dennis Gansel, who provided me one of my favourite vampire films in the past few years We Are The Night (look for a review in October). He failed on this one and failed big, I can see all the marks of the European shooting style and sensibilities in how many of the shots were blocked, how the camera was used, and actors positioned. But he, or someone in the production, should have watched the dailies and realized something wasn’t working. Ok…nothing was working. Chemistry, the Camera, the action, none of it worked.

Jason Statham clearly was in it for a paycheck and must have been doing this while rehearsing for Fast 8. His attention isn’t here nor is any of the charm he can manage. This is just generic Statham. A generic movie with him that I think they rewrote to make it a sequel to the Mechanic because they couldn’t do anything else with the concept to make an attempt to sell it. I spoke of chemistry and there is none. If someone buys the relationship and so called emotions between Jessica Alba’s Gina, and his Arthur Bishop tell me what I missed. There’s precisely one scene where they are drinking beer together that I bought and I think it’s because both actors realized the mistake they made signing this and needed the drink. Alba emotes with all the force of Jai Courtney in this movie. The writers didn’t do her any favors when they tell me she’s supposed to be ex-military and she’s entirely relegated to damsel. I am not even bothering to talk about the villains; there isn’t a point – much like this movie.

I may have cared more if I could see a shot. Some shots linger too long or have no point. I mean Jessica has a lovely body, always has, but there’s really no point to watching her dolphin kick in the lovely blue waters of Thailand for 30 seconds. Other shots cut so quickly from one angle to the other I think there may have been two editors playing a nasty game of tug of war with the audiences attention span as the flag in the middle of the rope; and we suffer for it. It’s so choppy and bouncing (not quite shaky) that a love scene in the film comes across as two blocks of wood trying to figure out how this kissing thing and sex thing work. They even kept a shot of Alba laughing in the scene, not a smile, I mean a laugh. It is not good to have the lady love laugh during sex. Just sayin’. The kills are patently ridiculous…beyond the pale.

Oh and I get you are on a budget. I totally do. You could try just a bit…bit harder to make me not realize you are on a set and the image is composite. Maybe make the lighting look less like a studio? Maybe not use something that’s obviously a miniature. There’s even a scene near the beginning where Statham is in a small boat and you can *tell* it isn’t on the water. It looks like a students first film and I expected to see someone’s hand moving the underside of the boat. You can almost..almost see someone throw water in the air as he ‘jumps in’. It’s THAT bad.

TL;DR?

This is bad.

That’s it. Just bad. You can’t even MST3K it because it’s that bad. There are absolutely no stakes. No concern. No real threat. Plot armor of the gods.  The action is mediocre and nothing new. This is like bad fanfic (and there’s a lot of good fanfic, this isn’t it!)

Should you see it?

Really, you need to ask? No. No you shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have either, but I have to live with that choice. You don’t.

Will you buy it on…?

Stop. I am done writing about this. It isn’t worth a single other word.

Fin.

Darke Reviews | Don’t Breathe (2016)

I don’t see as many horror movies as I once used to, I just don’t find the concepts that riveting. I don’t see how many Paranormal Activities, Purges, or Haunting of , Exorcism of before it’s the same thing over and over with different casts, or even sometimes the same cast. How and why folks find some of these enjoyable in repetition I do not fully understand but I commend them. Then again I am the girl who watches all of the Underworld films so…who am I to judge?

So tonight I took the opportunity to watch Don’t Breathe. Should I have held my breath and waited for different movie?

Directed by Fede Alvarez, best known for his critical and financially successful remake of the Evil Dead; it tells the story of a group of Detroit street kids who dream of a better life for themselves and see home invasion and robbery as the only way to achieve that dream. They go looking for one big score and decide to pick the house of a blind man as their prey. Of course it wouldn’t be a horror movie if the tables didn’t turn on them.

The script was penned by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, who worked on Evil Dead as well. I am going to tell you the story concept is interesting. The idea of dealing with a blind target who then uses the dark as a weapon is an interesting one. It just is never fully realized. On paper this should have worked as the tension building for Act I and Act II delivers nicely, if not getting a bit repetitive at times. Act III takes you to a place where Fede y Royo control the horizontal and the vertical and left me going “is that really where you are going with it?” Then it continues to drag on….and on.

Steven Lang (Avatar) services well with his physique and physicality as The Blind Man, and does feel like a threat through the movie. Jane Levy (Evil Dead, Suburgatory) turns in decent performance as Rocky, one of the would be robbers; as does Dylan Minnette (Let Me In, Goosebumps). Their characters are pretty typical and about as thin as typical horror fare. The performances are fine, but everything you’ve seen before.

From a production standpoint, the editing is ok, but the use of sound is near perfect. It’s clearly shot on a tight budget and very little is wasted. There’s some fetishistic aspects that are clearly coming from Alvarez that I have to wonder about, but don’t particularly take away from the film. That being said the blocking and character movement makes me think at least someone can Bamf from place to place. Then there’s the final act which not only did I think it, I quite literally said “Seriously?”. Then it just…would …not….end. For no reason I could find. It didn’t add tension because at that point I didn’t care.

TL;DR?

The movie started out with promise and then the first jump scare annoyed me. The movie did recover, but then entirely lost me with the final beats. It is a satisfactory movie in that it is at least original, but giving us no one to really root for (The Robbers or the Deranged?) left you not caring. The final climax of the film and I once again asked “why do I care?”.

The opening shot also takes a deal of tension from the move because you spend the rest of the time waiting for it to happen, since you know it has to.

Should you watch it?

If you are drunk and have an extra 10 bucks and have nothing better to do with 90 minutes of your time. You might get something out of it.

Will you buy it though?

No. No I will not.

Anything else?

There were like 7 trailers in front of it? I guess to pad the theatre time. It’s also not good when you have a 90 minute movie and the last 20 feel like 30 or more.

G058r

 

I go out of my way to avoid other reviews prior to writing my own. Since I wrote this a few hours ago, I happened to see some comments online. This is currently trending at 89% on RT with 87% audience likes. I am reviewing some of these comments and what I am taking as eye rollingly painful others are enjoying. I didn’t feel the suspense. I don’t feel that the imagery is *that claustrophobic* nor particularly tension building. I may not be cut out for movies like this…or they aren’t cut out for me.

Darke Reviews | Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

It’s no secret August is the month where studios send movies they aren’t sure about to die. Sometimes they are surprised, Guardians of The Galaxy but usually they hold true. Even Suicide Squad is a victim of this, though they were really trying to capitalize on the GotG effect to….mixed success. This time through the end of September only gets worse the longer it goes. Which surprises me each year as Laika Animation releases their films in this period, with Coraline (2009) being the only February release – which is also the highest grossing at $75 million. This is the same studio who gave us Tim Burtons the Corpse Bride (2005), The Boxtrolls (2014), and the criminally under rated ParaNorman in 2012. They more or less break even domestically with each film running in the $60 million range each, and getting close to that domestic with a world wide total usually breaking it.

So why do they keep making movies? How do they keep making movies, and more importantly should you see this one?

For those unfamiliar, allow me a trailer.

 

The trailers for this looked amazing, but I have a weakness for good animation and stories that feel like myths and legends. Hell, the stories I want to write and lean into have that feeling. So how did they do on it?

The movie starts off in the dog house with the three writer rule, but seems to be an exception. The story is by Marc Haimes (a studio exec on films like Transformers, and Collateral) and Shannon Tindle (a character designer for multiple smaller films, and Coraline) . It was migrated from story to screenplay by Haimes and Chris Butler (Paranorman). So based on this, none of them have any writing experience. The movie isn’t based on *anything* and it doesn’t even have beats that are – “oh they got this from that”. This is a completely original property by people with no published writing work in the industry.

Maybe this should happen more often? The story here is tight. It is original. Very little is wasted, some things are telegraphed but you don’t care because it is earned. These three people need to become consultants for the rest of Hollywood as the movie spends a lot of its time in the “Show don’t tell” school of storytelling. They don’t over explain and don’t treat the audience like idiots. They expect you to either figure it out on your own or otherwise accept the world they’ve created. You can do this. They made it accessible. It’s endearing, and even surprising at times.

Please Hollywood take note of good, even if it is basic, storytelling and how it works. These guys did it right.

To pull the words off the page, you need a man with a vision and that man is Travis Knight, who served as lead animator on Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls. This is first time in the directors chair; which isn’t bad for the guy who is CEO of Laika. Between that dual position and the indicators from the writers. This is a project of passion. So to answer the question from earlier of why? They love it. This is what they do and they do it well. The love and passion for this kind of film making is evident as the movie really does have soul.

You have writers, a director, a talented staff of animators, but now you need to give your characters a voice. Charlize Theron voices Monkey, with Art Parkinson (San Andreas and Rickon Stark from Got) as Kubo. Matthew McConaughey is Beetle. They and the rest of the voice cast complete the work. They breath the final bits of life into these characters and make them more. Not surprisingly they deliver.

From a technical standpoint the stop motion is best in the game. There are some interesting flaws in it, but I have a feeling this is an aesthetic choice or purely a stylistic one that they accepted as part of their designs. Just consider for everything you see move, someone had to make it move. Take a picture, move it again and take another picture. It really is impressive and seeing a shot of how they did a fight in the post credits was even more so. It is cut near perfectly with a pacing that is just right. Musically it is powerful thanks to Dario Marianelli’s score.

TL;DR?

I really love this movie. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. It avoided a lot of potential tropes and pitfalls with the grace of a crane. It is everything *not* wrong with Hollywood today. It is everything it should be. I really, desperately wish the other executives would visit Focus Pictures, or Laika Animation in Oregon and ask them how they got it so right.

It absolutely captures the largeness of what a legend in the making should be, but makes it a very small personal story at the same time. It has the grandeur of myth but there’s something so tangible and good in it that it wraps you up comfortably for the two hour run time.

Should you see it?

Yes.

Wait..thats it?

No. I just wanted to be clear. You should see it. I debated about the kids aspect, but I remember I grew up with The Black Cauldron and I turned out ok. It does have some ‘scarier’ moments for the really young, but nothing too terribly intense. There’s a lot for adults to appreciate in this  in craftsmanship alone.

I saw it in 2-D but if you can handle 3-D I think it might be better.

Buying it Blu-Ray?

When can I preorder? Think Laika would send me a copy?

Anything else?

I really want this movie to do good this weekend. I want this studio to succeed and be appreciated. I want this film to be appreciated. Yes, this might be one of the best movies of summer in the all around competition.

Darke Reviews | Suicide Squad (2016)

To say I have been harsh to the DC Cinematic Universe would be like saying summers in Arizona are a touch warm. Now, I can lay down geek cred pretty well with my comic collection – which does include one of the earlier runs with the Suicide Squad with friggin Catman (yes..Cat) as the lead with Deadshot also on the team. I grew up without Harley Quinn until the amazing and legendary Batman the Animated series invented her (all praise to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini). I’ve watched how the character has evolved and changed over time, some good, some bad – recently very good. So on the eve of her 25th birthday as a character (September next year) she gets her first cinematic appearance alongside a bunch of bad guys not a lot of folks have heard of outside of the comic scene or DCAU scene. DCAU gave us Assault on Arkham, a Suicide Squad story, two years ago and I keep a digital copy on most of my devices because it is one of the best of the DCAU. That said….

Should she and the others be thrown in a hole and then forget the hole or do we need more?

Let’s talk first about an uncredited writer, John Ostrander (who has a lovely tribute in the movie) who created the Suicide Squad back in 1987, and also created “Oracle” from the ashes of Barbara Gordon. Just a small thanks to him for creating the idea of villains working for good and being one of the team who also gave us Amanda Waller (with John Byrne and Len Wein). Thank you Mr Ostrander. The movie itself was written and directed by David Ayer, who also directed the disturbing war movie Fury, as well as End of Watch; and was the writer of the original The Fast and the Furious. He does great street level films and gritty films, and I could even say I would want to see what he would do with an Escape From New York or Dirty Dozen remake if someone were to deign to do such a thing. Here’s why…

This is what a director should do!

His blocking was spot on most of the time. There is an entire scene in the movie with very little dialogue but the body language and looks of those involved tell you everything you need to know about whats going on. Is the writing and direction perfect? No. I blame Zack “I suck the colour out of everything” Snyder for some of it. Some does go to Ayer, but overall this was a very well written and directed movie. It’s critical to consider that unlike the Snyder films thus far, all of the characters here we get to focus on feel like characters. I don’t just mean they are accurate to their comic characters, which they are, but they are dimensional entities of their own. They have motivations which they hold true to and you understand and care about. They aren’t painted with a thin veneer of character and we’re supposed to believe it. They are something you buy.

That gets some credit to the actors themselves. Will Smith was the classic charismatic Will Smith again. I had doubts after his last round of movies of him playing the Clark Gable inspired Floyd Lawton. These doubts were put to rest quickly and held through the movie. He was Deadshot. Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street, Legend of Tarzan) was a version of Harley Quinn that was an amalgam of several of her more recent incarnations and even outshined Smith in the charisma department. This explains why I liked her so much in Tarzan. She was given the opportunity to show a few facets of Harley people don’t consider and it made me happy to see. Hell she made me happy.  Her and Smith had excellent chemistry which was needed for two of the most likeable villains DC has ever written. Ayer brought that to the fore and you like the villains. You enjoy them…you know you shouldn’t root for them, but you do anyway. That’s the very definition of charisma. I can’t believe I am writing this, but even Jai Courtney (Divergent, Good Day to Die Hard, Terminator Genisys) delivered. I wonder if it is because he got to speak in his natural Australian accent as the rogue Captain Boomerang. I still think Hollywood should stop trying to make him happen, but he was really good and earned more than a few laughs. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Pompeii, Mr. Eko on Lost)  gives us a wonderful Killer Croc, Cara Delevigne (Pan, Anna Karenina) is an amazing and mesmerizing Enchantress, and Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, The Killing) does pretty good as the all american normal guy – Rick Flag.

Smith and Robbie shine, but Jay Hernandez (Max, Nashville, Quarantine) takes someone I’d have trouble classifying even as high as a C lister and makes him understandable, relatable, and kinda awesome. It is the definition of standout performance. Karen Fukuhara is, in her first cinematic role, is absolutely imposing as Katana. Despite being 5’2″ she has a presence on screen and is the bad ass she should be. Oh yeah…so now we have someone else who could have played Major Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. No I am not letting it go. Viola Davis is the Amanda Waller we have all been waiting for. I saw the movie with three friends who friggin adore ‘The Wall’ in both comic and DCAU formats and boy does Davis deliver. When Harley asks if she’s the devil in the trailer, those who knew of Waller before were going “well…” and thats what we get. Amanda Waller is a character who if the Devil showed up she would look him dead in the eye and go “You’re Late” or “Are you finally ready to deal?” without batting an eyelash. That is the Waller we got and Davis is on point.

So what about Leto? I know some of you are waiting for it. This was the Clown Prince of Crime. This was a Joker we had never seen on the big screen,…or any for that matter. My friends and I shivered in one scene going “make him stop”. His costume choices were all from various art and comics over the years. Am I still upset that they lied and said “this isn’t the look” …when it damn well was. Yes. Did it grow on me in the movie? Mostly. I get the no teeth thing the number of times he has crossed The Bat. The ink …eh a bit overdone, but whatever, its aesthetics. Not mine, but it doesn’t detract too badly. Something one of my friends noted was how he interacted with Harley is actually what we should be seeing. It ain’t healthy folks, that might be a bit spoilerish from me – but Joker/Harley *is not healthy*. The movie only begins to hint at it and we are A-OK with that. In short (too late) he was fine.

From a technical perspective, some effects work. Some don’t. Enchantress looks and sounds amazing. It’s also the first introduction of magic and they did it well. The Killer Croc make up was absolutely incredible (thanks KNB/Greg Nicotero) and further proof why you need to go practical more Hollywood. Musically, this is the soundtrack I’ve been missing. I grew up in the 80’s with awesome movie soundtracks and I was thinking the other day how those are missing. Not anymore. It’s all it should be and a bag of chips. The editing….

*sigh*

I can count roughly…15-20 minutes of movie that is missing. I can see the lines of the reshoots. I can see where scenes were cut short, I can see where scenes are even missing. An important lesson Hollywood. Do not focus on scenes in trailers and your production stills if they don’t make it into the movie. Roughly a quarter of material from the trailers is not to be seen. While the editing isn’t as criminally bad as Ghostbusters…it is pretty bad.

TL;DR?

This is the movie I have been dreading and hoping for all summer. The wait is over and I already want a sequel. I really enjoyed the hell out of this. Please for the love of all you hold dear Geoff Johns and the rest of the producers at Warner Bros. learn the *right* lessons from this. This is how you make a superhero (villain?) movie. You gave me a good antagonist, good protagonists, people I cared about and oh yeah real characters. It wasn’t as dark and gloomy as the last two movies and if the reshoots were to thank for that – GOOD! They were worth it. Do not ever give us another BvS when you have this as an option. I am so bloody thankful that they moved away from the grey scale they were teasing us with initially. I don’t think it was planned. I think it was reaction to BvS and it was a good reaction to have.

This felt more to me of the quality of the DC Animated Universe than it did the Cinematic…and it shows as people are you know…enjoying it!

Should you see it?

Like action? Yes. Like comic book movies? Yes. Like a violence? Yes. Like Harley, Deadshot, Waller, Croc, Diablo, Katana, Enchantress? Then Yes. Yes you should see this. They earned the PG-13 Rating and it felt like the PG-13 that I grew up with versus the overly sanitized PG-13s we’ve had of late. Remember when Red Dawn and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom created PG-13…yeah this is right there with them. Thankfully.

Will you buy it?

I am irritated I can’t pre order it. I just checked…

Anything else?

Give us Pamela Isley in the next film so we can see Harley move onto a nice far more stable sociopath.

Uh…

I am probably seeing it again this weekend, or next week…or something. I am still undecided on Pete’s Dragon so may see this again. I didn’t realize how much I needed this in my life until now.

Darke Reviews | Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

When it comes to comic canon and graphic novels there are a handful of seminal works, especially in the past 30 years. If you ask most fans, you will hear the following titles (not in order of importance)

  • Dark Knight Returns
  • Watchmen
  • V for Vendetta
  • Sandman (Preludes and Nocturnes/Season of Mists)
  • The Killing Joke

Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Frank Miller are the men behind those titles. There are other titles that are up there as well, such as Powers, Preacher, Road to Perdition, Superman Red Son, All Star Superman, etc. The ones in the list though, they almost always make everyone’s lists. So when I heard that they were making The Killing Joke into a movie in the DC Animated Universe I was ecstatic. The DCAU has never failed to disappoint me and my regular readers have seen me reference them in multiple other reviews as the writing, animation, and just overall quality of work is impeccable.

So how did they do for this fan girl?

They are adapting the story from the Alan Moore Killing Joke, which pretty much changed the DC comic universe forever. Now, there are challenges here in this review as not everyone read the comic and I don’t want to spoil anything. Which is a challenge for me in this review as much as it was for Brian Azzarello who adapted the source material to screenplay. Azzarello last touched the animated scene with Batman: Gotham Knight (Working through Pain sequence), and beyond that has worked on DC Vertigo comics (same ones who gave us Sandman) and wrote some of the Wonder Woman New 52 run (which as I understand is praised).  You see, up to this point the DCAU hasn’t introduced Barbara Gordon or Batgirl, so in order for this story to work they have to create a first act which focuses on her decisions, challenges, and the life she is living.  This is a requirement as there is a population that has never really met her as they are only aware of what we have in the DCAU.

Do I agree with every decision they made? No. One of them was …ill conceived at best. Do I understand what they were trying to do with that decision? Yes. Overall, I think the first act is solid and if instead of the first act you consider it a ..prologue you will be fine. I understand a lot of reviewers have issues with it, and let’s be fair, I can equally see where they come from. I just disagree with them more than I disagree with Azzarello’s decisions on the screenplay.

Act II and III are the original material from the comic and are pretty much shot for shot and line for line. Director and Art Department Lead/Storyboard Artist Sam Liu made some wise choices in that aspect. You can absolutely tell how meticulously planned this was. Liu is no stranger to the DCAU, with several of the Batman films under his belt, including one of my favorites Assault on Arkham (it’s Suicide Squad just two years ago). You might be mistaken in thinking an animation directors job is easy. Consider that they, like their live action counterparts have to consider blocking, camera angles, how a shot moves. In fact, they have it both easier and harder. Easier in that they are not restricted by what visual effects can do or little things like physics; conversely they have to consider how the background painting, foreground, *and* characters move as they can all move independently of each other to give more motion to the narrative. I think this is one of the reasons the animated verse is so strong as they can tell a story that feels more epic and have to use every single tool at their disposal to the maximum effect, even little things like a squinted eye, a slouch, or putting your hands on another’s shoulders.

Voice acting. I will say this once. There is one Batman. His name is Kevin Conroy. You may think otherwise, but it’s ok to be wrong. You can grow from it. Mark Hamill is also the definitive voice of the Joker. Sure the live performances of Ledger, Nicholson, and Romero are legendary in their own rights, but Hamill just does it. There’s something alien about what his voice does and it lets you know you are in danger when you hear it. Troy Baker and John DiMaggio put their spin on it and do hold their own, but damnit Hamill *is* the Joker. Both he and Conroy have more screen time as their characters than anyone else in history, and likely will be reigning champions for time to come. Both also came out of retirement for the characters just to do *this* picture. That tells you how much it means to them as actors and how much they and the DCAU crew understand what it means to have them. We thank Andrea Romano and her rolodex of voice talent every time one of these comes out and this is no exception. These guys are absolutely on point here and get to share the dialogue and even a laugh that they never really did on Batman the Animated series, or the equally amazing Mask of the Phantasm. The other actors Tara Strong (normally Harley, this time Barbara) is as solid as ever, Ray Wise, John DiMaggio, Robin Atkin Downes, Nolan North, and others are fan favorites even in bit parts here and do what they need to; but once you are through Act I, …it’s Hamill and Conroy and nothing else matters.

TL:DR?

Batman: The Killing Joke is amazing. It is everything I wanted it to be. It does have some flaws in the new material. It also should come with a trigger warning. This absolutely earned it’s R rating and it’s not for actual violence on camera – they’ve done worse. It’s what’s implied. What they don’t show mixed with what they hint at. Much like the original work, this is not for the faint of heart or those who are uncomfortable with certain topics. The movie makes you think, they bring up topics that you should think about when you consider The Batman, The Joker, and Jim Gordon. The utter insanity in the Joker is in full swing and I really question people who idolize him. He is chaos and evil personified.

This is absolutely *not* for children. Do not let a child watch this unless you are willing or want to have that conversation. Just be aware.

I am putting a spoiler section below, as I want to discuss one of the more controversial elements in the new material.

So should I watch it?

Whew…read above. This earned it’s R rating and is not ‘fun’ or ‘light’. I would watch this again and again, but I will need to be in the right mood for it. Like when I am wanting to write something really disturbing.

Will you buy it?

Technically for this one I had to, but I have no regrets not only buying the BluRay but the BluRay special edition.

 

What’s this spoiler?

spoilers

 

Spoiler-Warning

 

Rollover to read….

Alright. So the first act focuses on Bab’s. It has to. Not everyone knows that Babs is Batgirl, or how she became Oracle. Or they only know in passing. The DCAU has barely dealt with her since the Batman Animated series. They have to tell this story to build up an emotional impact when she gets shot. 

Did she have sex with the Bat? Here. Yes. The comic? No. Hell no. She was with Dick Grayson. Do I agree with her and the Bat having sex in this movie? No, but they made it clear it was something she wanted and as an adult it was her agency and her choice. I don’t think the Bat would ever go for it with someone under his wing and I do believe this is a departure from his character. 

The painful and trigger warning part. Did the Joker sexually assault her? It’s up for debate in the comic and movie. It is *heavily* implied. Considering the earlier scenes are about her agency, and this is a violation of that of the worst kind. I know where I land on it. It is absolutely vile. It does remind you that the Joker is never a sympathetic villain, he is a monster of the worst kind. They do a good job in the movie of making the scene dark and yes disturbing without really having to show much of anything.

Is everything in the first act needed? Eh..no.
Is it the catastrophe I keep hearing about? Definitely not.