Random Thoughts on The Dark Knight Returns Part I

Based on one of the most critically acclaimed Batman stories of all time, The Dark Knight Returns Part I is the latest in a long line of high-quality animated features from DC Comics. Animating a beloved and respected book like The Dark Knight Returns was a huge risk. No matter what, some comic book fans will have a problem with the adaptation. Fanboys are just wired that way. While it’s not perfect, The Dark Knight Returns Part I is a superior animated movie that succeeds more than it fails. Here are some random thoughts on the latest Bats Blu-ray.

Story: For the most part, Frank Miller’s grim-and-gritty story is intact. This is a dark tale of an over-the-hill Batman that comes out of retirement. The world has changed and he’s unsure if his methods are still effective. The script does a good job at creating a bleak (bleaker?) Gotham City and showing Batman’s vulnerabilities. Of course some liberties were taken in translating it to an animated feature. The tone is all there and some parts of the narrative actually work better. The clips from the newscasts and talk shows are much more vibrant. They felt too static to me in print and are much more effective with voice acting.

Speaking of which, the voice acting is quality and helps bring the story to life. Some fans will have an issue with Robocop Peter Weller playing Batman, simply because he’s not Kevin Conroy. If you can get past that then you’ll enjoy a good portrayal of Batman. The supporting cast is great too. I enjoyed the actors that played Carrie Kelly/Robin, Alfred Pennyworth, and Commissioner Jim Gordon.

As a big fan of the book, I’m happy with the script for The Dark Knight Returns Part I.

Animation: It took a while for me to get used to the movie’s art style. Frank Miller’s pencils and Klaus Janson’s inks gave the book a distinct look. It felt artistically dirty, if that makes any sense. The movie looks a bit too clean and loses the semi-abstract feel of the comics. The lines are too straight and everything feels a bit too bright. It’s technically well done, but very different from the source material. After 20 minutes or so, I got used to the art style and appreciated it, but wasn’t completely sold on it.

On the plus side, the animation does a great job of showing how brutal and intimidating Batman can be. The fight scenes are excellent. You really get a feel of the bone-crushing impact of the punches thrown. You can almost taste the fear villains have for Batman.

The mutants, especially the leader, benefitted from the translation to animation. In the comics, they always looked borderline silly to me. In animated form, they looked more intimidating and less ridiculous.

While the art was good, I wanted something grungier, though I understand that the masses probably prefer the techniques used in the movie.

Value: With a run time of 76 minutes, The Dark Knight Returns Part I is inline with other DC animated features. However, I would have preferred getting the whole thing at once. I understand the economics of it all, but from a storytelling standpoint it would have been more enjoyable as a whole. As it stands, the cliffhanger isn’t that dramatic, though I wonder if newcomers will feel that way. As a fan of the comics, I was all, “Wait…I want the rest of it!” which is both good and bad. I’m looking forward to the next installment, but feel somewhat shortchanged by this one.

Conclusion: The Dark Knight Returns Part I is true to the source material in terms of story and a bit different in terms of art style. I was mostly happy with the movie, putting it up there with my favorite comic-book animated-features, though behind the outstanding Batman: Under the Red Hood. I recommend it, but caution fans of the comics to be prepared for the visual changes.

I know that some of you have watched this movie. Kindly share your thoughts on The Dark Knight Returns Part I in the comments section.

The Hobbit Trailer #2

Here’s the second trailer for The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson. The clips looks beautiful, supporting the theory that sorcery exists in New Zealand. The brief action sequences look epic. The characterization appears charming, blending old favorites from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and new (old?) characters.

Are you ready for another jaunt in Middle-earth? Check out the trailer and let me know what you think (please!). Are you excited for The Hobbit?

Amazon Adds Epix to Prime Instant Video

Amazon has announced that it has inked a deal with Epix to more than double the amount of choices on Prime Instant Video. The streaming-video service is part of Amazon Prime, which gives customers free two-day shipping and reduced rates on express shipping. The videos are available for viewing on PCs, videogame consoles, mobile phones, and tablets. Epix’s studio partners include Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, and Lionsgate. Confirmed additions include The AvengersThe Hunger Games, and Transformers Dark of the Moon. Here’s a clip from the press release:

This agreement between Amazon and EPIX will add new releases such as The Avengers, Iron Man 2, The Hunger Games, Transformers Dark of the Moon, Thor and Rango as well as popular favorites such as Kick Ass, Paranormal Activity 2, True Grit, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Justin Bieber Never Say Never. EPIX also brings original programming including comedy specials and concerts such as Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell and Usher: Live from London.

It’s awesome to see Amazon beefing up the content for Prime Instant Video. I’ve been a Prime member since the program’s inception, which was before streaming movies and television were offered, so the video content was always the cherry on top of the sweet shipping savings. The video component of Prime started off as lame sauce, but now it’s a viable alternative to streaming competitors Hulu and Netflix.

How do you feel about these additions to Prime Instant Video? Are you more likely to subscribe to Prime

R.I.P. Michael Clarke Duncan

I was sad to hear that Michael Clarke Duncan passed away at age 54. He’s best known for The Green Mile, but nerds will remember him for playing Kingpin in Daredevil and voicing Kilowog in Green Lantern. In both those cases, he was one of the few great parts of otherwise bad movies. While many moviegoers enjoyed his performances as a gentle giant or a menacing brute, he was lots of fun in comedic roles too. I loved him in Talladega Nights and The Whole Nine Yards. Most will remember his moving performance in The Green Mile, but I’ll remember him for cracking me up in comedies.

What are some of your favorite Michael Clarke Duncan performances?

Today’s Poll: The Metal Gear Solid Movie and You

My fine friend Mark was at the Metal Gear Solid 25th anniversary jammie and tweeted that Avi Arad will be producing a Metal Gear Solid movie with Columbia Pictures. Is this something you’d be interested in? Obviously the Metal Gear Solid franchise is tremendously popular and has a global appeal. There are certainly many gamers that would love to see MGS: The Movie. MGS detractors ding the games for their lengthy cutscenes and will say that designer Hideo Kojima has already made several movies through his games.

What say you?!? Please vote in today’s poll and explain yourself in the comments section!

[poll id=”161″]

Justice League Movie: No Affleck, Yes Wachowskis?

Looks like we dodged a bullet there, fellow comic-book fanboys. io9 has reported that Ben Affleck is definitely not directing the Justice League movie. Many JLA fans feel that his strengths aren’t suited to a spandex superhero movie, while others simply hate him for Daredevil. Either way, he claims that he was never in the running. Most would agree that Affleck not directing this movie is good news. The arguable news/rumor is that the Wachowski…uh…siblings are the leading candidates for the job. While many comic-book nerds loved The Matrix, opinions were split on the two sequels and most people hated the Wachowskis’ take on Speed Racer.

Personally, I’m intrigued but not yet sold. I loved The Matrix and enjoyed parts of the two sequels. I actually didn’t mind Speed Racer either. Having said that, I acknowledge that the Wachowkis are maddeningly inconsistent. They have the potential to make a killer Justice League film, but they also have the potential to make a disappointing one.

What do you think of the possibility of a Justice League movie directed by the Wachowskis?


ECW Documentary Needs Kickstarter Help

John Philapavage is putting together a documentary about Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and is seeking funding on Kickstarter. For most of the organization’s existence, it was a small, regional wrestling promotion with limited television exposure. However, the workers had a passion that connected with the fans in a unique way. Much of what made ECW different and popular was later mimicked by WWE and WCW. The group helped one of the biggest pro-wrestling stars of all time — “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — find his voice. It gave many North American wrestling fans their first looks at Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and many other fantastic wrestlers. For a small promotion, ECW’s contributions to the wrestling business were huge.

Check out the video below to learn more about Philapavage’s ECW documentary:

Here’s an excerpt from the Kickstarter page that lists the talent involved:

Our approach to telling the story of Extreme Championship Wrestling and giving you proper context has been holistic in nature. We’ve interviewed journalists, wrestlers, referees, ring announcers, security staff, company staff and production, all the way to fans and fan organizers. The wrestlers range from mainstays like Sandman, Raven, Shane Douglas, Balls Mahoney, Axl Rotten, New Jack, Mikey Whipwreck, The Blue Meanie, Stevie Richards, Nova, Ted Petty, and Johnny Grunge, to wrestlers from later years like Jerry Lynn, Angel and Devito of Da Baldies, Chris Chetti, Danny Doring, and Steve Corino.

I loved ECW back in the day. It was just different and refreshing. It had a mix of crazy hardcore action, edgy storylines, and outstanding technical wrestling. Allowing fans to bring weapons for wrestlers to use was an awesome touch. I fondly remember watching a show where a SNES was used as a “foreign” object.

I’m going to try to contribute to this Kickstarter project when I have some extra money. Any of you interested in backing this ECW documentary?

Captain Planet Live Action Trailer

No, this isn’t the hilarious Funnie or Die clip starring Don Cheadle. This is an honest to goodness live-action (fan-made) trailer for a Captain Planet movie! The quality is pretty high for a fan-made video. Highlights include Wheeler (fire) dealing with alcoholism and Ma-Ti’s powers (heart) still sucking. Kwame (earth) seems to be the best actor of the bunch and he helps compensate for Linka’s (wind) lack of a comedically overdone Russian accent. Sadly, Captain Planet’s trademark mullet is nowhere to be found. I’m pretty sure 78 percent of his powers came from his mullet. Bummer.

Anyway, check out the trailer and let me know what you think (please!).

Caroll Spinney (Big Bird, Oscar) Documentary Seeks Kickstarter Funds

Millions of people have been influenced and entertained by Caroll Spinney, the man that has provided the voices of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street since 1969. Spinney is the last of the original Sesame Street puppeteers and Copper Pot Pictures thought it would be a fine idea to make a documentary about the man. The film will be called I Am Big Bird. The company has reached its Kickstarter goal of $100,000, but there’s still time to contribute to the film.

Unlike an upstart Android console or an LGBT gamer conference, there shouldn’t be any debate about this Kickstarter project. Spinney is an awesome man that has voiced two of the most iconic characters in the history of children’s television. He has spent most of his life making children of all ages happy. A documentary about him and his work on Sesame Street sounds wonderful! Check out the video below for more details on I Am Big Bird.