Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn Review (2017, directed by Sam Liu)

Welcome to my review of the newest animated movie from DC called Batman and Harley Quinn. It was directed by Sam Liu, who made previous DC animated films Justice League: Gods and Monsters and the controversial Killing Joke adaptation.

Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I wasn’t really a big fan of this one, with my main complaint being the tone. It’s very comedic and silly, which in of itself isn’t a problem, as I’ve enjoyed Batman being portrayed that way in stuff like the 1960s Adam West show and the animated series Batman The Brave and the Bold.

But those were more innocent, whereas this has much more ostensibly adult content like a bit of violence, but mostly just sexual humor and explicit language. So it’s not really a tone that I’ve personally seen in Batman media. It kind of goes overboard in the risque material and is far from subtle. They also oversexualize the female characters to a ridiculous and juvenile degree.

As you may expect given the title, Harley Quinn plays a huge role in this movie to the point of basically being the main character. She has never been one of my favorite Batman characters, but this actually wasn’t that bad of a portrayal of her as her personality isn’t quite as over the top as it sometimes is. Usually, Harley comes as a package with the Joker, but he’s only referenced and doesn’t appear.

I don’t claim to be a Batman expert, but I’ve read my fair share of comics, watched the shows, and seen all the movies, and not once have I encountered a fart joke. Not only does this movie have one, but it goes on for a long time and isn’t particularly funny or clever.

There’s also part of the plot that’s been very controversial and it happens near the beginning so I don’t consider it a spoiler. That’s the fact that Harley Quinn and Nightwing hook up, which is played for laughs and doesn’t really have an effect on the story.

Batman and Nightwing and made to look a little too incompetent for my tastes in order to make Harley Quinn look better. Having an odd tone is one thing, but going against the essence of the characters is much less forgivable to me.

The voice acting is one of the strengths of Batman and Harley Quinn and that starts with the legendary Kevin Conroy as Batman, who is great as always. Loren Lester also reprises his role as Nightwing, but I thought his performance was mediocre.

Instead of Arleen Sorkin, the most popular Harley Quinn voice actor, she was played by Melissa Rauch from the Big Bang Theory. Even though a lot of people have been complaining, I found her version less annoying and silly than how she often sounds.

The art style is highly reminiscent of Batman The Animated Series, which makes sense as Bruce Timm was an executive producer, one of the writers, and makes a quick cameo as Booster Gold. The animation may nostalgic for those who watched the cartoon, but this isn’t nearly enough to cancel out the negatives about this film.

The story is serviceable but generic and involves Poison Ivy trying to turn anyone into plants. She has help from a pretty obscure villain that I had never heard of called Floronic Man.

The plot ends in an incredibly abrupt and anticlimactic matter that borders on insulting the audience.

Some of the dialogue is pretty cringy with Nightwing actually using the term “BFF” and lines like “Human won’t give a crap unless we force them to.”

There’s even an extended musical number that goes on for two whole songs. It’s mildly amusing at times but doesn’t deserve this much time devoted to it. It’s sort of just filler to pad out the runtime.

In conclusion, I’ll give this movie a 4 out of 10. There were a few fun aspects but not nearly enough to outweigh the glaring flaws.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Science Fiction Films of 1971

Science fiction films finally made it big in the 1950s but weren't that popular in the 1960s. They started to creep back in the early 1970s with several successful dystopian movies and 1971 has multiple big examples.

The most significant sci-fi movie of the year was definitely dystopian but didn't feel much like other films in the genre, and that's Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Kubrick is considered by many to be the best director of all-time, making classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, and Dr. Strangelove.

This was an adaptation of a well-received novel by English author Anthony Burgess written in 1962. The book is excellent and Kubrick's movie is pretty faithful to it, especially compared to some of his other literary translations, such as The Shining, which Stephen King, the author of the source material, wasn't a fan of.

A Clockwork Orange has been discussed to death so I won't spend too much time gushing over it but suffice to say, it's an absolute masterclass in cinematography, editing, and acting.

It qualifies as science fiction in my mind as it's set in the future, but it forgoes most of the tropes most commonly associated with SF such as aliens or time travel.

It doesn't show or focus much on advanced technology and someone is even shown using a typewriter. There are some tiny futuristic cassette tapes, but they're not fundamentally different from what was available at the time.

However, society is definitely different from the 1970s, especially in terms of fashion, interior design and the slang argot called Nadsat created specifically for the book and utilized heavily in the film.