MOVIE REVIEW – Batman: Hush

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the direct to Blu-Ray and Digital DC Animated Movies. There’ve been some real classics to come out of these projects. Movies like Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns: The Deluxe Edition, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and Batman: Under The Red Hood, just to name a few. While there have been some enjoyable standouts, there hasn’t been a real homerun from these films in a while. Though Batman: Hush may not knock it out of the park, it comes damn near close. Based on the classic Batman run by writer Jeph Loeb (Batman: The Long Halloween) with art by the legendary Jim Lee (Justice League, X-Men), Batman: Hush does a great job of adapting this seminal Batman tale while still fitting the movie into the animated continuity (or DCAU) that DC created beginning with Justice League: War. The result is a pretty damn good movie that is less of a mystery and more of a tragic romance. Which may irk some fans, but I’ll get into more of that in a moment.

  I’ve heard some people complain about the animation in these films lately. Critics say that copying the general aesthetic of The New 52 and attempting to adhere to a visual continuity, makes each of these movies feel overly similar and blocky. Well, that issue isn’t completely absent from this film, but there are some notable efforts to step up to quality of the animation. Some shots feature fantastic little details that immediately draw your eyes. How someone’s eyes and face move before something dramatic is about to happen, the way a fight move is pulled off, small moments scattered throughout the film that make it feel as if the animators were going the extra mile and it shows.

   The real highlight of the movie is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. It’s so rare to see Batman in a successful and a functioning relationship. I should mention that Selina doesn’t know that Bruce is Batman at the beginning of the story.

It’s only when things begin to get serious that he reveals himself to be Bruce Wayne. In fact, there is a funny scene when he brings her to the Batcave for the first time and she’s enthusiastically greeted by Dick in the Nightwing uniform without his mask and Alfred attempting to serve her tea. When she‘s surprised to realize that Dick and Alfred know that she’s Selina Kyle. She even half jokingly asks “Does everyone know who I am?“ Dick blurts out “No, just us and Damian.” Selena asks “Who’s Damian?”, “Oh he’s Bruce’s son… He’s Robin.” Replies Dick with an awkward look on his face. It’s easy to see how being an intimate part of Bruce’s life isn’t so simple, which is why he and Selena are so perfect for one another. He is drawn to Selina as both Batman and Bruce Wayne and that’s where the key to their success of the relationship lies. 

     If Bruce and Selina are out on a date and The Bat Signal appears in the sky, Bruce doesn’t have to make up some bullshit excuse. She’s more than capable of coming along with him to stop whatever threat he’s facing and it even feels like a natural part of their “date night” that they both seem to get off on. Catwoman may have been staying on the straight and narrow, but she loves this world, she loves being part of a good fight. In fact, I think if she was dating Bruce and he didn’t have the Batman aspect to his life, the relationship wouldn’t work. Selina needs those kind of thrills.The film is mature enough to acknowledge that this relationship wouldn’t have worked if it began when they were younger. Maybe there would’ve been an intense fling, but nothing more. They’ve both matured, changed, and they both want different things than they did years before. It’s at this point in their lives that they’re ready to be together as both Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman.

   When comparing the graphic novel to the film, it’s important to remember that the  Batman: Hush graphic novel is a mystery at it’s heart. Who is Hush? Why are they doing this? Well the movie managed to do a great job with staying relatively faithful to the source material, while still managing to surprising fans of the graphic novel. Love it or hate it. Many of the iconic moments from the comic book are present in the film. Some are even slightly improved upon. However, there is one classic scene from Batman: Hush that was adapted to the film, but (without going into SPOILERS) the scene felt like it needed to be a little bit longer. I was impressed how Hush managed to both surprise those of us who’ve read the comic book, while still being faithful to the source material in a unique way. To say much more would be a SPOILER, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. You may think you know where the story is going, you may think you know the identity of Hush (and maybe you’re right), but things play out just different enough to make things fun, interesting, and surprising.

   The final fight between Batman and Hush is particularly well animated, well choreographed, and thrilling. The animation of the fight has a very dynamic quality. Batman employs one of my favorite tactics of his, that we’ve seen in animation and comics many times, but almost never in live-action: He gets in the villains head to gain the upper hand. He plays mind games with his opponents and that’s used here to great effect. Batman use his genius, his ability to manipulate the psychosis of the villain he’s facing, to exploit their fears, insecurities, and weaknesses to give him that extra edge for the win. Batman’s greatest weapon is his intellect. 

       The combination of the surprising reveal of Hush’s identity, the fantastic animation, and Batman using his intellect to exploit the mental and emotional weaknesses of his opponent, make this for a pretty memorable final battle.

   It should be noted that Selina Kyle/Catwoman is a notorious criminal and accomplished superhero in her own right. However, Batman can be such a larger than life figure, that it would be easy to make even the strongest of women look like a damsel in distress in one of his stories. The film does a great job of avoiding problems like this. Selina is her own woman. Her choices are not defined by Bruce’s choices. She doesn’t necessarily need his help to get out of some of the most serious jams she finds herself in throughout the movie. Particularly in the climax of the film, Selina finds herself in a very precarious life and death situation. I’m fairly certain she would’ve been fine, whether Batman showed up or not. The storytellers did a phenomenal job making her an interesting capable character.

    At the end of the day this is still a love story between Batman and Catwoman. The sad realization of how, at least in this point in their lives, that love story is also a tragedy. Bruce lets Selina in, in a way we rarely see from this character. There comes a point in the story, when Bruce makes a decision that looks like madness to Selina. In fact, it would look like madness too many of us in the audience. Once the threat has been neutralized and the villain dealt with, Selina has an epiphany. She realizes that no matter how much she loves Bruce, no matter how much she changes for him, no matter how much more she’s willingto change for him, he won’t change himself.

     There are things he will not become. There are lines he cannot cross. Because of that Selina will always come in second place to Bruce. She willing to let herself evolve with this relationship, but she realizes that in the end, Bruce is an immovable object she’ll break herself against. It’s profound, it’s sad, and it’s veryBatman.

  Batman: Hush is a flawed, but solid Batman mystery/adventure with a fantastic romance story, great fight scenes, some stand out bits of animation, and some surprisingly thought-provoking character and story elements. Some things land better than others and I think the film may have benefited from another 20 minutes or so of storytelling to help flesh out some of it’s more interesting ideas. The climax in particular feels like it comes out of nowhere, when there should’ve been a bit more tension and build up to Batman‘s final confrontation with Hush. Whether you’ve read the original graphic novel or not, this movie will still keep you guessing. 

      While not the complete return to form I was hoping for from Warner Bros/DC Animation after the strong combination of The Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen, I’d say this is still a MUST WATCH for any Batman fan!

Thanks for reading!

Batman: Hush – 8/10

Reviewed by Paul J. Wright

MUST WATCH: Titans

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

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I have some pretty surprising news to share with you good folks today, Titans, on the DC UNIVERSE streaming service, is pretty fucking great. Of course, like many of you, I was skeptical going into this show. It seemed like the negative buzz began when the first trailer dropped (I kind of dug it). I really don’t mind dark and gritty, I also know that you can’t judge a project by it’s trailer. So, a lot of people hated this show before it even premiered, based on what they saw in promotional material and trailers. Many felt it seemed reminiscent of the overly serious and violent DCEU, excuse me, The Worlds of DC (good luck getting that to stick). Personally, I don’t dislike the recent DC superhero films nearly as much as most fans do. Besides their only real critical and commercial success, Wonder Woman, I really like Man of Steel and though it’s hugely flawed, I kind of love Batman V Superman.

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Dick Grayson AKA Robin/Nightwing

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Rachel AKA Raven

           So why was I skeptical about the Titans series? Despite my excitement at the prospect of an adult oriented live action Titans series, the word behind the scenes was that the show wasn’t very good. Then there were the costumes. If you’re a comic book fan and you’ve ever read Teen Titans, you would know that they have very distinct styles, with colorful and bright costumes. Some of the set photos had leaked online and the pictures I saw of Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy in costume looked absolutely horrendous. Especially Starfire, who is one of my favorite Titans. The pictures of her costume made her like a hooker from the 1970’s. With all of that in mind, things didn’t look good for Titans.

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Beast Boy

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Starfire

Now Robin, on the other hand, was a different story. I love the Robin costume on this series. It isn’t an easy superhero uniform to pull off in live action. Just look at Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Besides the atrocious version of Robin played by Chris O’Donnell in those films, this is the first time we’ve really seen Robin on screen in the golden age of superhero storytelling. It looked like Titans nailed the Robin uniform in my opinion. It looked functional, not too bright, not too dark, and frankly it was just cool. Plus, I thought Brenton Thwaites was a perfect pick for Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing. At the very least I liked what I’d seen from Dick Grayson in the show’s trailers. Which was a big deal for me because Dick has always been one of my favorite superheroes. So I was still holding out some hope that Titans could be a great show.

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  It certainly didn’t help that when I signed up for a 15 month subscription to the DC UNIVERSE streaming service, the app was terrible. It felt like it wasn’t nearly ready to be launched. I couldn’t log into my account, there wasn’t nearly enough content, the whole thing was a shit show. Even now, months later, I can’t log into DC UNIVERSE on any other device except for my tablet. That’s a big problem. I had to contact the team that handles customer service multiple times. As much as I hated the app, I still really wanted to see Titans. More importantly, Young Justice Season 3 premieres early next year on DC UNIVERSE after Titans Season 1 wraps up.

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  In spite of all the problems, I enjoyed the first episode of Titans. It didn’t blow me away, but I liked it. It certainly is not your classic version of the Teen Titans by any means, but it had enough going on to keep me interested. 

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Dick just beat the living hell out of these guys

   The over arcing story of the season is about the Titans coming together to protect Raven from a cult, that is trying to unleash her demon father, Trigon, upon the Earth. The Raven stuff, especially in the early episodes, had a real Rosemary’s Baby/The Exorcist kind of vibe that worked really well. Raven is the character that really brings the team together in the story.

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Raven in full demon mode

  In the series, Dick Grayson left Gotham City to become a cop in Detroit after a massive falling out with Batman. The show manages to explore Dick‘s complicated relationship with Bruce Wayne, without actually having Batman present as a character. Seeing why Dick went out on his own and his character arc in general is by far my favorite part of the show. 

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    You see how Batman was an incredibly violent and negative influence on Dick. Early on some people were concerned that the show seemed needlessly graphic. While Titans is an extremely brutal show, arguably even more so than something like Daredevil, the violence isn’t gratuitously used for shock value or edginess. The brutality is important to Dick Grayson’s story arc because you see just how close he came to losing himself under Bruce’s influence. Being Batman’s Robin brought out all of his worst instincts. This is most apparent in episode 6, “Jason Todd”, fittingly where we’re introduced to the new Robin, Jason Todd. 

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Dick meets his replacement, the new Robin: Jason Todd

 

 

   At this point, Dick certainly doesn’t have a very high opinion of Bruce. He more or less feels like Bruce Wayne just used him as a weapon, or tool in his war on crime. Meeting Jason just seems to confirm those beliefs. Despite the amount of time that’s passed, it’s still very raw emotionally for Dick. You can tell he hasn’t gotten over his issues from his time working with Batman. Meeting his replacement certainly doesn’t help. It’s one of several great passive aggressive “fuck you”s Batman throws at Dick. Which is impressive considering, again, we don’t actually see Batman. Brenton Thwaites is damn near perfect casting. Thwaites is very believable both physically and in the more dramatic aspects of the performance. Though Raven is the big through line of the season, Dick is really the main character. As a long time fan, it’s a lot of fun seeing how well Dick Grayson is handled.

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Jason and Dick

   Episode 6, “Jason Todd”, is also a good example of how the season has been structured. One episode will serve to further the main story and continue to build up the Titans coming together as team, while the next episode shifts the focus to showcasing and introducing new DC Comics characters into the narrative. The episodes switch from one to the other each week. For example, so far we’ve had episodes featuring Hawk and Dove, Doom Patrol, Jason Todd, and Donna Troy AKA Wonder Girl. The DC character episodes tend to be the stronger ones because so far each new character introduced from the DC cannon have been really fun and interesting.

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Things get a little intense when Dick realizes that Jason, the new Robin, is kind of a fucking psycho

   I spent the bulk of this article talking about Dick Grayson, mainly because I like the character so much and he’s the most well developed on the show. I like the other Titans well enough. Certainly more than I thought I would when the series began. Starfire or Kory as she’s referred to on the show, has really grown on me. Even with very little time being given to her backstory, she’s probably my second favorite Titan so far. She’s basically an exiled alien princess, but the show hasn’t taken the time to get into any of that yet and it remains to be seen how the series will tie her origin into the Raven storyline.

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Unless you’re a hardcore comic book fan like me, there isn’t a lot of incentive for even a moderate comic book fan or superhero geek to subscribe to DC UNIVERSE. Which is a shame because Titans is turning out to be a fun and unique look at the DC Comics Universe. I’ve heard rumors that eventually the show will become available on Netflix, but it’s not clear when that would happen. Regardless, if and when you have the opportunity to watch Titans, I highly recommended giving this series a shot. The show has already been renewed for Season 2 and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the show wraps up it’s first season. 

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    Titans is by no means a perfect show, but there’s some great stuff in here despite it’s flaws. The big thing the show has going for it is that even with all the superhero movies and TV shows out there, Titans is showcasing characters and stories that have never been seen in live action. Although I’m sure very few of you are running out to subscribe to DC UNIVERSE, Titans is definitely a show to keep on your radar. If you go into it with your expectations in check, you may be surprised how much you enjoy this fun, new series.

Thanks for reading!

-Paul

 

New Pictures From Avengers 4 and DC’s Titans!

Hey Everybody,

Some really cool concept art from upcoming superhero projects has hit the internet today. Including our best looks at Captain Marvel and Robin from DC’s Titans. Most of this I found over at CBR.com, but first is the concept art that looks like it’s from the upcoming Captain Marvel film. The big giveaway being the look at a young Nick Fury, which is very cool. Check it out:

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Then we have a few cool concept art images that are definitely from Avengers 4…

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A few things to point out here include, Hawkeye is finally back (Yay!), Hulk seems to have a costume of some sort. Does this help regulate his transformation from Banner to Hulk and vice versa? Consider they had performance issues in Infinity War that could be a factor. This image of Thanos is interesting because he’s armored up and he has a gun. Why does he need all that if he has the Infinity Gauntlet? Is it working properly? Or did he blow its load killing half the Universe? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!!!

Finally, moving from Marvel over to DC, we have our best look yet at Dick Grayson Robin from Titans, the new series from the upcoming DC streaming service, DC UNIVERSE. Take a look…

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Cool stuff, huh? Anyway thanks for checking us out as always!

-Paul

Blu-Ray Review: Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero

 

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Remembering Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero

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When fans look back at the Batman movies that took place in the same universe as the wonderful Batman: The Animated Series, they most likely remember the fantastic Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker or the classic Batman: Mask of The Phantasm. As of last summer, we can add 2017’s Batman and Harley Quinn to the list, but unfortunately that movie sucks.

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However, there’s a hidden gem that a lot of people forget about; Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero. This was a direct to video animated film taking in the BTAS Universe that came out in 1998. No doubt hoping to capitalize on the Mr. Freeze buzz in that was in the air after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heartbreaking, Oscar winning performance in the critical darling and mega hit, Batman & Robin. Oh wait, I forgot the movie was explosive diarrhea and killed the Batman live action film franchise for nearly a decade. I’m sure there’s an alternate reality out there where it was The Dark Knight of it’s day.

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But I think that was definitely the intention. Animation takes longer than live action to produce especially in the 90’s. Even though this came out in 1998, it must have started production a few years earlier. So Warner Bros. probably thought Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero would tie in to what they believed would be another hit Batman movie. It really feels like somewhere around 95’or 96’, Warner Bros. told Bruce Timm and his crew that if we let you do another Batman Animated movie, it better be about Mr. Freeze. Of course, Batman & Robin was such a piece of shit, people eventually put it out of their minds after the film bombed. Unfortunately I think Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero was forgotten a little as well.

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Which is a shame because it’s a hell of a little flick. Nowhere near as good as Mask of The Phantasm or Return of The Joker, but still solid as fuck. It’s certainly about one thousand times better than Batman & Robin, it feels wrong to even compare the two. The movie plays like a darker, longer episode of the show. But at only 66 minuets, it still feels like a movie with a 3 act structure as opposed to a multi part episode of the series.

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Basically at some point during Batman: The Animated Series, Freeze found out his wife Nora was actually still alive and being kept in cryogenic stasis. They’re living a peaceful life in the arctic with Freeze’s 2 pet Polar Bears and an Inuit boy that Freeze rescued and adopted after his parents died. There’s an accident involving some poor bastards who stumble onto this little family (it doesn’t end well for them), Nora’s medical equipment is damaged and her condition deteriorates rapidly. Freeze and the whole Fam (including the fucking polar bears) head to Gotham where Freeze meets up with his old colleague, Dr. Benson another expert in cryogenics who’s a massive piece of shit with serious financial debt. Benson tells Freeze that the only way to save his wife is an organ transplant. Nora has a rare blood type so they need to kidnap some who’s alive, kill them, and harvest their organs. Benson the medical professional that he is, gets on board right away when Freeze drops a lump of gold the size of football on his desk and tells him it’s from a mine he discovered in the arctic, which is Benson’s if he successfully helps Freeze. And wouldn’t you know it? The perfect match: Barbara Gordon. Batgirl. Commission Gordons’s daughter and the love of Dick Grayson’s (Robin) life.

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There are some great action sequences including the scene kidnapping Barbara while she’s out to dinner with Dick at upscale nightclub, which starts with Freeze coming for Barbara in the club, polar bears and all, and ends with Dick in badass motorcycle chase. The film’s finale on an oil rig that going up in flames is exciting and genuinely edge of your seat tense.

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This is some FUCKED. UP. SHIT.  They’re trying to hold her down so they can straight up murder her to give Freeze’s wife an organ transplant. That’s fucking dark.

This is also arguably the darkest we see Freeze, who’s always been one of the most sympathetic members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery. Killing a man out of revenge for murdering your wife and destroying your life is one thing, but butchering an innocent young woman to harvest an organ is pretty fucking dark. Especially considering she was basically already dead and the procedure did not seem to have a high likelihood of success when it’s being performed on an abandoned oil rig by a criminally negligent doctor who hasn’t changed his clothes in days and is solely motivated by paying off his shady debts. We do see glimmers of the honorable man that still exists somewhere deep beneath the ice of Freeze, but his main mission here is kind of unforgivable. And those polar bears aren’t fucking around either!

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I rewatched this because it just came out on Blu-ray, which includes all the other Mr. Freeze episodes in the Batman: The Animated series Universe (including Batman Beyond), and I found myself thinking it was kind of underrated. This movie is also notable because it came out in the time betweeen the original Batman: The Animated series ended and The New Batman/Superman Adventures began. It was the same show, same continuity, but there was a big character redesign. Also, there are some big character developments that happen between the change over on the show and this movie hints at some of those upcoming character developments.

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This is a good example of the character design changed between seasons.

I definitely recommend picking up Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero, I know I did. Especially if you have the other animated movies on Blu-Ray. It’s very good Batman movie and the Blu-Ray transfer looks good on the traditional animation. They experimented with some computer animation for certain shots and vehicles, that don’t work and look super dated. Other than that, this gets a big thumbs up from me. Give it a watch!

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In the end they managed to save his wife without kidnapping and murdering a 20  year old girl and that’s all that really matters.

-Paul

Oh FUCK! I forget about Batman: Mystery of The Batwoman! That’s one of the movies too..

 

You can pick up the Blu-Ray through our Amazon Affilliate link here:

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