Wednesday, February 27, 2013


"Tonight, I am going to maintain order in Gotham City. You are going to help me."

If you haven't read my review of The Dark Knight Returns, pt. 1, you can find it here.

After the defeat of the Mutant gang leader at the hands of Batman, many of the former members have splintered off to form new gangs. Among them is one calling themselves the "Sons of the Batman", a vigilante group who hunts down and slaughters any street criminals they come across. Although it may seem as though crime has been contained in Gotham City, extensive press coverage of Batman's return has re-awoken one of the worst plagues to have ever befallen the city: The Joker!

Meanwhile, President Reagan is doing his best to instill a false sense of security among U.S. citizens while the military is fighting the Soviet Union for control over the island nation of Corto Maltese. At the same time, the press is putting pressure on him to figure out a solution to the Batman "problem", so he sends the most powerful man on his payroll, Clark Kent, to Gotham to try to calm the storm.

I said in my write-up of the first movie that aside from the absence of the main characters' internal monologues, there were no noticeable differences between Frank Miller's original story and this adaptation. For the most part, that's still true, but I was able to recall a couple scenes that had been removed for part two that I believe created a stronger emotional impact in the graphic novel. The one that stuck out most to me was when the Joker was shown applying his mind-control lipstick before appearing on TV, and he doesn't make any use of it. The scene that was cut out was one that I felt not only helped give the audience a chance to guess what the Joker's horrible new weapon could do, but also demonstrated how insane he'd become after ten years of catatonia. It's a deeply disturbing scene that I wish would have been left intact.

Unfortunately, I felt this adaptation was really dragged down by its portrayal of Clark Kent. I said in my review of the first part that the internal monologues from the comic weren't really necessary here, as enough of the exposition and emotion was plainly visible through the animation and acting. That's not the case with Clark, as all we're shown is that he now takes direct orders from the president, and will obey them all. This makes him seem very callous, out of character, and sometimes even a little sinister. In print, Clark is definitely an antagonist, but through his thoughts, we're able to discover that he's very reluctant to take orders from Reagan and only does it so he can continue saving lives while remaining within the government's favor. A little bit of that does shine through in the movie, but not until about halfway through his fight with Bruce during the climax.

The acting remains tight, with all of the actors from the previous part reprising their respective roles. I was especially pleased with Ariel Winter's performance as Carrie Kelly/Robin this time around, since she got to show a greater range of emotion. New cast members include Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) as the Joker, and Mark Valley (ER, Boston Legal) as Clark Kent. Emerson was absolutely perfect as the Joker, and while I could say the same about Valley's portrayal of Clark, the issues I mentioned earlier with the script really detract from what could have been an amazing performance.

This is a very well-done, though flawed conclusion to what started as a nearly perfect adaptation of one of the most important comic book stories ever published. If you've already watched the first half, you owe it to yourself to see how it all ends. For all the other Superman fans out there: don't fret, we're getting a new live-action movie and a new animated movie later this year.

The Dark Knight Returns, pt. 2 adapts the final two chapters of Frank Miller's ground-breaking graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

BATMUNK (1990)

"There ain't no Batmunk, you bozo! He's just a toy!"

When Bat-Mania was in full swing during the late '80s/early 90s, thanks to Tim Burton's highly successful cinematic take on the caped crusader, everybody wanted a piece of the action. Officially-licensed Batman merchandise of all kinds could be readily found at any store, attempts were made to cross the character into even more visual media than merely comic books and film (among them, a certain ground-breaking animated series), and the movie was being parodied everywhere, in every possible way. One such parody that I can recall from those days was the Alvin and the Chipmunks TV episode, Batmunk.

The episode opens up on a foggy night in an unnamed city, where three clowns are robbing a toy store owned by billionaire Brice Wayne (Simon). As they're finishing the job, they debate the existence of Batmunk, afraid that they might be caught. Before they can make their getaway, they are chased down by a dark blue jet, piloted by the high-pitched vigilante they feared. After catching the crooks, Batmunk returns to his mansion, where he and his butler, Happy (Theodore), settle in for the night.

However, it doesn't take long before the three thieves are bailed out of prison by their boss, The Jokester (Alvin). Before they're even given a chance to express their gratitude, he expresses his outrage over how Wayne's Batmunk toys outsell his own Jokester toys. The Jokester then vows to steal Brice Wayne's newest toy idea, and to defeat Batmunk once and for all.

Despite the fact that this short was based on the first Tim Burton Batman movie, it has almost nothing in common with it, story-wise. While Burton's movie was about two flamboyant psychopaths, molded by each other's past actions, fighting over a woman, Batmunk is about two flamboyant rodents of unknown origin fighting over a toy. This has led me to believe that Batmunk wasn't so much parodying the movie, itself, as it was parodying the rampant merchandising campaign that surrounded it for the years that it was still fresh in the public's eye. Considering there were entire documentaries made that were solely about the hype generated by Hollywood leading up to the film's premiere, I don't think this is implausible.

As for the short, itself, there's not really a whole lot to it. The art and animation that don't do very much to distinguish it from other Saturday morning cartoons at the time, and there's a paper-thin plot that recycled a couple ideas from Batman without taking them in any new directions. The one thing I feel that Batmunk has going for it is a short musical montage near the beginning, where the as-of-yet unseen squeaky crusader is chasing the three clowns through the city in his jet while the Chipmunks are singing Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone". The way Batmunk is portrayed onscreen during this segment reminds me of why I originally fell in love with Batman when I was a little kid in the first place: he's a mysterious, intimidating stalker of the night who isn't afraid of anything and will do whatever it takes to snuff out evildoers.

Batmunk hasn't stood the test of time well, and a lot of what's going on will probably be lost on the younger set of Batman fans who got into the character through the newer Chris Nolan movies. However, if you're looking for a quick little trip back to that era of Bat-history, then it's probably worth the twenty minute run time.

Batmunk is the fourth episode of The Chipmunks Go to the Movies, the re-branded eighth season of Alvin and the Chipmunks.