Batman vs. Two-Face: Review – Fitting Farewell To Adam West

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This may fly past many fans of the Dark Knight (or possibly even most casual viewers) but it takes some effort to make a movie like this. When producing something entirely new, one can always throw caution to the wind and unleash his/her creativity. However, works such as Adam West’s Batman from the 60s is another story. Being faithful to the source material is a must for most fans especially when it is something that you grew up with. One has to be careful while re-creating a work like this while adding a fresh take on it. Take a few wrong turns and you can end up with a monumental disaster or have the fans claiming ‘Blasphemy !! Blasphemy !!’.

It is one thing to succeed in such an experiment the first time around; but to do so twice with aplomb…Have to hand it to the creators !! Michael Jelenic and James Tucker have once again come up with a great concept; not to mention Rick Morales whose direction has been top notch.

Return of the Caped Crusaders

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Adam West, Burt Ward & Julie Newmar Return (Source: Blu-Ray Digest)

The first installment in this Adam West Batman homage, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was terrific. It re-captured the classic self-aware campiness of the original series and still managed to add a clever plot with a darker tone. Batman vs. Two-Face manages to retain the best elements of the source material while going for a still darker tone than the first movie. William Shatner as Two-Face is a welcome addition to this series. His dual voice as Harvey Dent and Two-Face is great and adds an extra dimension. Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar once again reprise their roles from the series and are fantastic. On to the plot…

The Premise & Tone

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William Shatner as Two-Face (Source: WB Animation)

Where both these ‘Homage’ movies really succeed is that they both manage to weave intrigue & mystery into a relatively over the top story line. Personally, I felt that Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was great in the camp and homage departments. What I didn’t see coming though, was the surprise twist. The manner in which they conceal the more serious surprise element while being generous with the cheese factor is what comes through for the movie. Batman vs. Two Face on the other hand goes for a darker tone from the get go.

Hugo Strange

Hugo Strange (Source: WB Animation)

The film starts off with Professor Hugo Strange giving a private demonstration of his new invention called ‘The Evil Extractor’. He claims that his invention is capable of reforming all criminals and can render the police, batman and all forms of crime fighting obsolete. Among the attendees are Batman, Robin and Harvey Dent. Of course the experiment goes wrong with the ‘Extracted Evil’ overloading the device and the subsequent explosion disfiguring Harvey Dent and creating Two-Face. From here on, follows a very interesting plot that involves two-face being cured of his split personality and then mysteriously re-appearing. (No Spoilers)

Breakdown

What I really like about this movie is their decision to go with a darker tone. The cheese made the first movie unique in that most people have by now become used to seeing a dark gritty batman on screen. Introducing modern audiences to Adam West’s portrayal of the caped crusader in the 60s added a fresh perspective to a formula that has become commonplace today. The last time DC tried to mix self-aware camp with more serious undertones was in Batman: The Brave and The Bold. Despite a lack of promotion, the show combined both these aspects brilliantly. Guess who was involved ? That’s right, Michael Jelenic & James Tucker again !!

Yet, following the same formula twice in a row is usually a recipe for mediocrity. To their credit, the writers managed to keep the movie fresh by changing things up a bit. The introduction of Two-face as a primary antagonist of this movie holds a lot of significance as Two-Face strangely never appeared in the original series. As with the first movie, there are several references to the 60s show throughout with characters such as King Tut & Book Worm making appearances. Other Easter eggs are also thrown in such as an appearance by Harley Quinn. Interestingly enough, her future romance with the Joker is also alluded to.

Conclusion

Batman vs. Two-Face is definitely a worthy successor to Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader despite not being as good as its predecessor. That said, Jelenic and Tucker’s clever writing do complete justice to the source material while staying true to the Dark Knight’s (Bright Knight ?) roots. For all the old-timers, this movie marks the end of an era. Most fans today are now used to serious depictions of the Caped Crusader on the screen but Adam West in a very unique way kick-started Batman’s popularity on Television. As the Bat-Mite explains in Batman: The Brave and The Bold, the dark knight has a rich history and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways with each interpretation being no less than the other.

The Batman from the 60s is often the subject of many jokes today but the very fact that it is still remembered fondly is testament to the iconic & charming Adam West. Going forward, it is hard to see DC producing more content set in this continuity given West’s sad demise. Of course, if rumours are to be believed, Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame was set to make a cameo in this movie. So there may yet be something in the offing although replacing Adam West will be a near impossible task. All said, this movie is a fitting swan song to the man who shot to fame as Batman and ended a glorious career just the same. Rest Well Old Chum aka The Bright Knight aka The Gray Ghost.

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Teen Titans: Series Review – A Cult Success with a Lasting Legacy

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Teen Titans premiered in 2003 when the DC Animated Universe was still going strong with the Justice League. In Sam Register’s (Current President of Warner Bros Animation) words, the show was initially conceived as a children oriented show; primarily targeted at 7 and 8 year olds. The show however, evolved into so much more than that. So much so that, in spite of Teen Titans Go’s recent success, die-hard fans of the original series are still clamouring for a revival.

So what made fans fall in love with this show ? After all, this was a Warner Bros and DC property that aired on TV when the DCAU was still in its prime.

Murakanime  

Glen Murakami

Glen Murakami (Source: Louiedelcarmen.com)

Based on the New Teen Titans comics created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the 80s, the show retains the original team (Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Cyborg). An interesting aspect of the show is that its creator Glen Murakami (who also worked on Batman Beyond), decided to use a lot of anime-inspired gags in the show. This can be seen whenever the characters are sharing an over-the-top light hearted moment. The characters are usually shown in their chibi form (small cute form) during these moments. The anime influence on the show has since been affectionately labelled Murakanime style by the fans.

Teen Titans Chibi

Teen Titans in Chibi Form (Source: Youtube)

Of course, there is a lot more to the show than just a smattering of anime influences.

Different from DCAU

Although initially targeted at younger audiences, the series delved into more mature themes as it progressed. In the process, the targeted demographic of the series expanded way beyond what it had initially bargained for. In my opinion, what really endeared this show to the fans (Myself Included) is its character development and character centric stories. While these aspects were not new to DC Animation, the way in which these aspects are addressed in this show are a little different from its DCAU predecessors.

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In Batman’s Shadow ? Maybe not… (Source: Teen Titans Wikia)

The juggernaut that started it all, Batman: TAS, was noted for its psychological themes and for really exploring the psyche of all its characters. Some of these aspects can also be seen in Teen Titans as each of the titans has an episode or a story arc that focuses on them. However, there is also a lot of focus on how each titan evolves as a person through their friendships and as a team. It is this main aspect that separates it from the rest of the DCAU.

Justice League

Justice League (Source: io9 Gizmodo)

Looking back at the different DCAU shows, super hero team ups were usually portrayed as a temporary thing. Hence, there is no real chance to get to know the characters on a deeper and continuous basis. Now, you might be wondering if I’ve totally ignored the Justice League. Yes, it is true that the team members of the Justice League have fought many battles together. Team members such as the Martian Manhunter often spend a lot of time in the Watchtower.

Green Lantern Hawkgirl

Green Lantern and Hawkgirl (Source: io9 Gizmodo)

There is also the romantic relationship that develops between John Stewart (Green Lantern) and Shayera Hol (Hawkgirl) as a result of being on the team and spending a lot of time together (And a few other relationships). Yet, it feels almost as if the team members are working for a company and any character or relationship development that takes place is more co-incidental than anything else.

Titans Tower

Titans Tower (Source: Comic Vine Gamespot)

All the titans share a very close bond each with other in contrast and basically live together at the Titan Tower. While, it is never clear what the titans do for a living (or otherwise !!) aside from fighting crime, they usually don’t take life too seriously. It’s this fun aspect that really comes through in the show’s favour and gives it a unique flavour especially in the show’s lighter episodes.

Stories and Themes

Just like the comics, the titans are based in Jump City and live together in the T-Shaped titan tower. The show ran for 5 seasons and altogether totalled 65 episodes. Each season usually had an overarching story arc in addition to several standalone episodes. The tone of episodes would range from funny to absolutely ridiculous to super-gritty and intense.

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Slade (Source: Teen Titans Wikia)

One of the show’s strongest points was the titans’ greatest foe, Slade (aka Deathstroke). Interestingly, the name Deathstroke was never mentioned at any point during the show’s run. The reason given is that the network felt that the name Deathstroke would be too dark for a children’s show. His name notwithstanding, Slade’s sociopathic and manipulative ways often made for some riveting story-telling.

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The Apprentice (Source: Toonbites)

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Haunted (Source: Teen Titans Wikia)

Also noteworthy are the constant mind-games that Slade plays with Robin. Both view each other as equals. Yet at the same time, Robin feels that he is the only one who can truly stop Slade and he often obsesses over Slade. This theme is explored beautifully in the 2-part season 1 episode ‘Apprentice’ and the Season 3 standalone episode ‘Haunted’. Despite being a standalone episode, Haunted is arguably my favourite episode of the whole series. There are some dark themes in this episode that make this possibly the most psychologically intense episode of the series (Note: The mysterious ending of this episode could have been explored further).

The famous Judas Contract storyline from the comics involving Slade, Terra and the titans is also explored; and serves as the main story arc of season 2 (The best season in my opinion). Other foes serving as the main antagonists of a season include Brother Blood & The H.I.V.E Academy (Season 3), Trigon (Season 4) and Madame Rouge & The Brotherhood Of Evil (Season 5). All these villains definitely added to the variety and evolution of the show and its main characters.

The varied and contrasting personalities of the titans make them very relatable and lovable as this slightly motley crew. Robin is the leader of the titans and cares very deeply about the other team members. Yet Robin can be impulsive at times and his obsession with Slade is sometimes to the detriment of the team.

Starfire

Raging Starfire (Source: Giant in the Playground)

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Trouble in Tokyo ? Looks like something else (Source: loveinterest.wikia.com)

Starfire is portrayed as a very naive, happy and affectionate person. However, she can really let lose when angry. A potential romantic relationship between her and Robin is always teased but is never explicitly shown in the series. It isn’t until the series’ follow-up movie Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo that they finally confess their feelings to each other.

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Cyborg, Beast Boy & Raven (Source: Teen Titans Wikia)

Beast Boy and Cyborg are the comedic duo in the team and are constantly playing video games, eating junk food or playing pranks on each other. Despite their generally fun nature, their issues and darker sides serve as the main plot of some episodes (The Beast Within and Only Human are prime examples); thus really adding to their character depth. Finally, Raven is always shown to be this gothic-emo and reserved empath with mystic abilities. The season 4 arc involving her character evolution and her demonic father Trigon was great fun to watch. It’s also interesting to note that her relationship with Beast Boy from the comics is never really touched upon in the series.

Conclusion & Future

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Teen Titans Go: The Way Forward (Source: Teen Titans Go Wikia)

The show ended on a strange note (With some loose ends till left to be tied). Apparently, these loose ends were supposed to be tied in the planned follow-up season (Which of course never happened). The show did get a spin-off movie Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo which was reasonably entertaining but no attempt was made to resolve the loose ends of the show. That said, the enduring popularity and fan-base of the show have time and gain teased a potential series revival over the years. After several years, the show has finally been revived in the form of Teen Titans Go. This show is much light-hearted in tone than the original series and focuses on what the titans do when not fighting crime. Despite much criticism from the fans of the original series, Teen Titans Go has proved to be extremely popular with younger audiences (Review for a later post). A spin-off movie has also been slated for a theatrical release in the summer of 2018.

With the live action Titans series set to release soon, it is unlikely that the teen titans will be revived in its original form anytime soon. It is interesting to note that there are several references to the original teen titans series in Teen Titans Go (One notably makes fun of how bad teen titans go is compared to the original). All said and done, it is hard to say whether a series revival is on the cards or not in the foreseeable future.

The voice actors of all the titans (Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Khary Payton, Tara Strong & Greg Cipes) are terrific and continue to reprise their roles in Teen Titans Go. Ron Perlman is phenomenal as Slade and really adds an extra layer of depth to his character. The English and Japanese intros for the series are performed by the Japanese pop-rock band Puffy AmiYumi. This ties in very well to the anime influences in the show and is one of the memorable aspects of the show.

Teen Titans was one of the best animated action series during its run and its strong fan base today is testament to that. Despite its strong run, the ending of the show left me with a somewhat empty feeling (The mystery of Terra and possibly Slade unresolved). If anything, I personally feel that the show deserves a 6th season to tie up these loose ends (Maybe even revisit the mysterious Red X character). Another possibility would be a movie, considering that DC is very interested in revisiting the DCAU (Read Batman & Harley Quinn). With the revival of Young Justice, I wouldn’t bet against it !

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Young Justice to Titans: So you think you can get a series revival ? (Source: IGN.com)

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Robin to Young Justice: Boom !! (Source: Teen Titans Go Wikia)

 

The Return of La Furia Roja

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Recently, the Santiago Bernabeau bore witness to an absolute footballing exhibition as Spain tore apart Italy 3-0. Interestingly, Spain played without any strikers in this game with coach Julen Lopetegui opting for a 4-6-0 formation. It’s not as if Spain hasn’t done this before. Under Vicente Del Bosque, this idea was used to great effect; especially during Euro 2012 where Fabregas played as a false striker. That Spain though was different. Continue reading

Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker – Review: Two Words…Terry McGinnis

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I remember first watching Batman Beyond somewhere around 2001. Back then, the digital era was in its infancy and the Toonami programming block had just been introduced to Cartoon Network. Episode/s would release just once a week on the weekends. There was a special feeling to this airing schedule as you waited all week just for that 1 episode. No YouTube, no Netflix back then and episode re-runs would air at odd times which made it impossible to catch otherwise. Oh and boy was Batman Beyond worth that wait. Continue reading

The Sacking of Roelant Oltmans – Indian Hockey’s Never Never Land

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I really didn’t want to be the one writing this piece but the apathy, chaos and politics that has plagued Indian Hockey over the last…. (Forever) years; has forced my hand. The first ever hockey tournament that I witnessed as a kid was the Champions Trophy in 2003. The Indian team were a talented bunch and there were some memorable games. The one where they conceded 4 goals in the last 5 minutes against the Dutch after leading 3-0 stands out (Not the best memory, I know). However, the day I truly fell in love with the Indian National Team was its memorable comeback against Pakistan. After being down 4-2, they pumped in 5 goals in the last 20 minutes to win 7-4. I can never forget Gagan Ajit Singh’s effortless brilliance in that game. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Continue reading

Batman and Harley Quinn – Review: A Fun-Filled Nostalgic Thrill Ride

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When Batman: The Animated Series (B: TAS) premiered way back in 92, it was quite unlike any other cartoon or batman show of its time…. or before. The dark feel, the very 40s-esque art deco look and mature story-telling set a precedent; which to this day (In my opinion and many others) has yet to be surpassed. Of course, there have been fantastic depictions of the caped crusader on the big screen. Tim Burton and Nolan especially have really provided the audiences with some of the grittiest batman-stories ever seen. Animation however, is an entirely different story. Continue reading

Zidane – The Hero that Real Madrid deserves and the one that they need

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What can I say about Zizou that hasn’t already been said? Was there ever doubting this man when he took over the managerial reins at Los Blancos ? The enigma that is Zidane always seems to answer all our questions in a manner that belies his quiet personality.

Continue reading