Sunday, July 20, 2008

dragging on and on and on and on and on and on...

The GOOD animated Batman (& friends)...

Last post I mentioned the new Batman- Gotham Knight cartoon (or original animated feature, or whatever) that DC/WB have put out in conjunction with the new live-action fiasco that came out this weekend, and how it features Deadshot as a villain in one of the segments. I got the DVD of this from Netflix this weekend and, I dunno, it's not that bad...I mean, I dunno, it's not as good as "Batman- the Animated Series" from the 1990s (my favorite non-comic book adaptation of the character), but it's certainly decently more enjoyable than most of the movies in the franchise, and I'm included the last joyless Christopher Nolan entry (I haven't seen the new one yet, and honestly don't really care that much). At least the animation medium gives a sense of color, kineticism, if not fun (definitely not fun), then at least...spirit (speaking of which, don't get me started on the film adaptation of Will Eisner's "the Spirit" that's coming out, it looks like an idiotic piece of shit, and will no doubt lack all of the wit, humanity and insight of the original comics, what with it being directed by creepy libertarian ass fetishist Frank Miller) or something...I dunno, it's not so great either, and manages to make a mere hour and fifteen minutes feel like much, much longer. Well, it does sometimes, but, well, whatever, the segments are as follows...

The REAL live-action Batman, motherfucker...

The first segment is a direct rip off one of the best episodes of the animated series (which may or may not have been based on a comic, I'm not sure) which has a bunch of kids recounting their different interpretations of their encounters with the Batman. In the original, these visions are cleverly adaptation from different incarnations of the Batman comic, including the good natured 1950s version, and Miller's dystopian "Batman- the Dark Knight Returns." In this new version, Batman is seen as a shadow creature, a Man-Bat and a robot. It's padded out with skateboarding and were it not for the very unique and attractive animation by Shoji Nishimi, of Tekonkinkreet, it'd be pretty lame. Script, oddly enough, by Josh Olson, who wrote Cronenberg's "History of Violence."

The second section is even more pointless, I suppose attempting to show the Gotham Police department's resentment of Batman. The only thing that I found really interesting is that one of the cops was Crispus Allen, a character from the comics (who has now become the new Spectre- I guess the use of a comic book character in this one would make sense since it's written by Greg Rucka). Animation on this one by Futoshi Higashide.

The third section is genuinely kind of boring. Bruce Wayne goes to visit his weapon's supplier, Lucious Fox, then spends a long time playing golf with some other rich guy. I think ultimate it was supposed to be about Batman learning to use his gear and stuff but I totally lost interest long before he showed up in costume. How come nobody ever makes use of Batman's utility belt anymore? That's always been one of the coolest things about the character, sort of a technological manifestation of his resourcefulness, but the movies and stuff are all about the car and kung-fu. Lame. He's got a whole belt full of neat stuff. Anyway, I think my opening critique of this project overall was a bit overly generous. Animation here by Hiroshi Morioka (Tsubasa Chronicle).

"In Darkness Dwells," the next segment, has a script by David Goyer who wrote both of the new Batman films, as well as the "Blade" films and the awful tv movie version "Nick Fury- Agent of SHIELD," with animation by Yasuro Aoki. It's the first section to feature recognizable villains- Scarecrow and Killer Croc. It also features Batman in the ugly all-black movie-style costume. Croc had a lot of personality in the original animated series (and in the comics), here he's more of a monster. Another thing I don't like about the newer non-comics incarnations of Batman is that they never really dig that the character is supposed to me like a master detective. Instead of detectiving, they always just have him fighting and kung-fu'ing. I've been hearing alot of people call these films, especially the new "Dark Knight," intelligent, but when you take away the most intellectual aspect of the character and replace it with some paper thin goth-emo posturing and loads of fisticuffs, isn't it really being dumbed down from the comics? Also, Batman's grappling gun in this section looks like a dildo.

The next entry is written by overrated comics writer Brian Azzarello, whose 2002 adults only Luke Cage series for Marvel I found to be genuinely kind of racist. He's the kind of writer that aims to "push buttons" but does so in the most obviously, adolescent kind of way. I think he also might have given my the finger at the last New York Comic Con. Anyway, as to be expected, this is among the bloodier episodes. It covers Batman's experiences abroad that helped him become super badass fighter paintaker dude. Yawn. Again, minimal utility belt, no detecting, just fighting and being all pained and dark and tortured and shit. Animation by video game creator Toshiyuki Kubooka.

Finally, after all of it, we get to "Deadshot," by "Spiral Zone" (!) animated Jong-Sik Nam, written by Alan Burnett, the only writer in the bunch to have worked on "Batman- the Animated Series" (as well as "Superman- the Animated Series," "Batman Beyond," "Static Shock" and even "Superfriends"), as such this is easily the best of the bunch, or at least the most recognizably Batman-like. Deadshot is hired to go to Gotham and assassinate Commissioner Gordon, Batman tries to stop him and they fight. Because it's mostly chase and combat, Deadshot doesn't really get much of a chance to shine, character-wise, he comes off pretty generic ("Alright," he says before an assassination attempt," It's showtime!"- really? that's the best you could come up with, guys?). They kind of mess up his costume too, instead of cool like in the comics it looks pretty klunky and just...ugly. I preferred Deadshot's brief appearances on the "Justice League Unlimited" show.

Deadshot, to the extreme, dude...(ugh)

Overall, pretty lame. It may try to do new things with the character, but it does so at the expense of the elements that make Batman most interesting. At the same time, these "new" elements aren't really that new. This is sort of the equivalent of the early-to-mid 1990s when all the comic book companies were angling to make all their characters bigger and badder and darker and more stylish, but stylish in a very transitory, not at all timeless, way. I did enjoy hearing "Batman- the Animated Series" star Kevin Conroy voicing the character once again, but really it wasn't enough to make this a satisfying experience. I worry now that mainstream cinema has gotten hold of comics as a profitable enterprise that we're going to see more and more stuff like this, just totally drained of any and all flavor, devoid of originality and even worse, devoid of any sense of historocity in regards to what makes this genre work. In that respect, I'd really much prefer the campy and supposedly therefore inferior 1960's Adam West version to something like this, because at least that series had a sense of attempting to be a living comic book, and sort of reveled in elements of the medium and genre, and opposed to taking the character and trying to conform it to lame cinematic action-movie standards. On the upside, the DVD has a preview documentary of a new animated Wonder Woman movie that looks more in tune with DC's better animation projects, with a great voice cast including Keri Russell as Wonder Woman, Serenity's Nathan Fillion, Rosario Dawson, Virginia Madsen and Alfred Molina, by "Superman- Doomsday" (which was decent) director Lauren Montgomery...

Well, what would life be without constant dissatisfaction and disappointment? Livable, maybe? I'll never know...

Ooh, he's all fucking tortured and shit. I hear Oscar buzz...

No comments: