‘Beware the Batman’ S01E02 ‘Secrets’

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E02 ‘Secrets’

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E02 ‘Secrets’

It’s Magpie’s turn to step in to the spotlight in strong second episode to new Batman series.

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E02 ‘Secrets’
‘Beware the Batman’ S01E02 ‘Secrets’

Directed by Rick Morales

Written by Mitch Watson

Watch it on Cartoon Network USA @ 10:00 Saturdays!

Beware of spoilers!

Its week two in the world of CGI Batman and this week he’s facing off with a villainess who starts out struggling to step out from the shadow of Catwoman to make a name for herself.

I had the pleasure of being able to watch this episode live on TV in America as I was away on holiday for the original airdate. It was nice to be able to see the story unfold on screen before being able to be spoiled by the world of twitter.

As I have already covered some of the production aspects of this show in my review of episode one for this episode I will focus more on the story.

For a cartoon aimed at a young audience it is brilliant to see that storyline follow on directly from the conclusion of episode one. Scenes with Bruce, Alfred and Tatsu pick up immediately where they left off and events from that previous episode continue to have consequences here. The writers could easily have time jumped the show to a point where Alfred’s leg had healed from his injuries sustained at the hands of Pyg and Toad or could have dropped them completely as this isn’t an unknown tactic in children’s TV.

The continuing story will hopefully also apply to a bigger arc featuring Batman and the villains of the show as I think this would really help to set the show apart from previous versions of Batman on TV. The style of storytelling is reminiscent of recent DC animated shows like Young Justice and is a welcome addition to older viewers who will always undoubtedly tune in to this type of show.

This week’s villain is Magpie played by Grey DeLisle who is well known in the DC animation universe for appearing in many shows, DTV movies and also the recent Injustice: Gods Amongst Us video game. Just like Pyg and Toad I know very little about her history as a character and after her initial appearance on screen I struggled to set her apart from a clone of Catwoman but as the story progresses her insanity sets her apart from the the end she has carved herself a niche in this universe. Her character has enough personality and on-screen presence that she could easily slot in amongst some of the A-list villains that this show could pull out of its bag in the future.

It’s worth noting that after his brief appearance on the news in episode one Lt Gordon has a much beefed up role here and there’s even a surprise appearance by teenage daughter Barbara who is already showing an interest in the escapades of Batman. In a post BTAS world I’ve often felt that Gordon, along with other supporting players in the Batman world, hasn’t been portrayed well. The exception to that statement being Barbara’s recurring role in ‘The Batman’ season 3.

Those who felt that episode two was lacking some of Batman’s trademark detective skills will be happy to see that unlike the straight-up kidnapping in ‘Hunted’ there is an unmasking mystery at the heart of ‘Secrets’ which requires both Bruce and Batman to be on the ball. We’re seeing three different sides to the character being depicted in this show: the public side of Bruce Wayne; the real Bruce and Batman. Each has a distinctive tone to set them apart from the rest and here it continue to provide great material for Anthony Ruivivar to work with.

This series is shaping up to be a solid entry in to the animated Batman world and I’m looking forward to seeing the introduction of Anarchy in the next episode.

7/10

‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ cover art

FILM REVIEW: ‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’

Based on the hit comic mini-series a ripple in time caused by The Flash creates an alternative future with dire consequences.

‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ cover art
‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ cover art

Directed by Jay Oliva

Written by James Krieg

Based on story by Geoff Johns and Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Purchase your copy @ Amazon.co.uk now

Beware of spoilers!
‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ is the next in the line of DC animated movies to be released directly to home video. The last being ‘Superman: Unbound’ released earlier in 2013.

The film boasts an all star cast from the DCAU including Kevin Conroy (BTAS); Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern: Emerald Knights), Grey DeLisle (Beware the Batman) and Dana Delany (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm). Sadly absent here is Tim Daly as Superman although he is appropriately replaced by his son Sam Daly.

I have to admit that at this stage I have not read the Flashpoint comics that this film is based upon… I know… I should be ashamed. They are currently winging their way to me as we speak so that I can properly check out the source material. That being said I want to review this as a film without said source material informing my impressions.

Let’s start by saying: this film is brilliant! The voice casting is absolutely perfect as any DCAU fan would come to expect from Andrea Romano. The DCAU would not have the reputation it has today if it wasn’t for the years of hard graft that she has put in to cultivating returning actors to these various roles.

As a fan of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ it took me a little whilst to settling in to hearing Justin Chambers play The Flash/Barry Allen yet surprisingly I instantly took to Kevin McKidd as Alternate Batman/Thomas Wayne. Chambers is new to the DCAU but given time to settle in he fits in perfectly with the crowd and carries the film with ease.

It’s always a great moment when Batman first appears and the voice of Kevin Conroy echoes from your speakers; he only has a short amount of dialogue in this film but as always he makes it count and his few short scenes are standouts around the alternative timeline.

Aside from Chambers most of the film is carried by McKidd who plays an admirable Thomas Wayne with enough conviction that come the end of the film I could have shed a tear much like Bruce. There is also a huge amount of dialogue for Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) as Cyborg. Another newcomer to the DCAU – possibly soon to be entering the Marvel universe if rumours are to be believed – he plays the alternate timeline Cyborg with a balance youthful naivety and dedication to duty that makes his character a standout in this piece.

I can’t comment on the state of the adaptation from the source material but as a stand alone story Flashpoint is a brilliant ‘what-if’ piece about the consequences of altering time. There an emotional gravity to this film which can sometimes be lacking in these types of DTV releases and right from the beginning I couldn’t help but feel a strong connection Barry Allen.

As a life-long fan of Batman I felt the most connection to the story of Thomas Wayne which also touches on some of the story aspects which are from the ‘Batman: Knight of Vengeance’ mini-series. It’s a tragic story and such an original spin on the idea of Batman that I can’t believe it hasn’t been written about much more frequently.

There are a huge amount of secondary characters and cameo appearances in this film to the point where it would be impossible to mention them all but most are carefully crafted to appear true to their comic origins and each is given then own, sometimes brief, moments to shine on screen. If this were a live-action film there would be no way to manage all these characters in a satisfactory manner.

The animation is top-notch as with all the predecessors in this DTV series. The animators go a long way to separating out the two universes using subtle changes in characters costumes; differences in architecture etc… and after only one watch there are probably huge amounts of differences I’ve yet to pick up on.

The scenes are beautifully framed and the action sequences are choreographed perfectly to fit the 2D medium. There is never any confusion as to what is taking place in a scene and at no point did I find myself frantically scanning the frame to take in all the details which can be a hazard with some film whether they are animated or not.

If you are a newcomer to the DTV DC world then this would be a brilliant yet sombre jumping off point for you and I cannot recommend this film enough.

9/10

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E01 ‘Hunted’

TV REVIEW: ‘Beware the Batman’ S01E01 ‘Hunted’

The Dark Knight takes flight in a new CGI animated cartoon series on Cartoon Network.

‘Beware the Batman’ S01E01 ‘Hunted’
‘Beware the Batman’ S01E01 ‘Hunted’

Directed by Sam Liu

Written by Mitch Watson

Watch it on Cartoon Network USA @ 10:00 Saturdays!

Beware of spoilers!

’Beware the Batman’ is the Cartoon Network’s latest Saturday morning incarnation of The Dark Knight and in the Batman timeline it replaces ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’ as the flagship Bat-show.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation in partnership with DC Entertainment the show is executive produced by Sam Register (co-producer of Teen Titans) and produced by Glen Murakami (Batman Beyond, Teen Titans) and Mitch Watson who also serves as the writer on this episode.

The premise of the show ousts the Batman origin – who doesn’t know it by now?! – and instead brings us in to a slightly altered Batman universe that focuses on elements often forgotten in other versions. The most obvious on show here is beefing up the history of Alfred as an ex-secret agent followed by the introduction of Katana.

The first was first announced just over a year ago and little was known about the format aside from sparse comments from the production team and a few images of the animation and I have to admit that in that year I was dubious about the idea of a CGI cartoon based on my favourite hero as I’m generally cautious around any 3D animated TV series.

But thankfully this pilot dispelled most of my fears.

Similar to when ‘The Batman’ first premiered in September 2004 this show is being heavily compared to ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ (hereby BTAS). Unless by some sheer miracle a new version of Batman comes along and de-thrones BTAS  every future cartoon will be unfairly compared to brilliance that was the 1992 show. This is not comparison you will find below… well maybe one reference…

This show has a much darker tone than ‘The Brave and the Bold’ which finds itself more in line with the Nolan movie series of recent years and in that I find this show to be a great return to form. I like ‘The Brave and the Bold’ but I didn’t love it.

There are few daylight scenes in this episode so the colour palette is naturally very dark and as you can see from the above screen-cap Batman’s costume is also in line with the movie universe in that it is almost entirely black.

There’s an interesting mix of modern and classic design which echoes the mashup of modern and art deco which became known as the dark deco of BTAS (there’s your one reference). It’s not a rip-off and looks in no way similar but it works well. I particularly like the design of the Bat-computer with its retro keyboard. Also keep an eye out for the various gadgets from the utility belt which all feature nifty designs.

The voice cast here is well suited. Anthony Ruivivar (Tropic Thunder, Third Watch) is our Batman and at times could be mistaken for Kevin Conroy (okay second reference) but is on his way to finding his individual Batman voice.

The voice which stood out most for me was JB Blanc (The Count of Monte Cristo and PotC: At World’s End) as Alfred. His portrayal is so un-typically Alfred that it takes some getting used to. Other reviewers have referred to this Alfred as a Jason Statham type and I am inclined to agree. His characterisation will take the most time to become accustomed to for many a fan but don’t discredit him; the potential for interesting development is there and waiting to be tapped.

The dialogue is strong and consistent throughout and from the opening scenes each of the characters has their own voice within this world. This Batman is younger and inexperienced and its made clear to us from the outset. We are treated to brief glimpses of Katana who we already know will be important in this world and there is also an introduction to Lt. Gordon.

The animation is also surprisingly strong and I was impressed with the fight choreography. The production team and using the CGI medium to their advantage and for that I am grateful. The texture of Batman’s costume is a little plastic for my liking but it’s a small gripe in a cartoon with wide scope.

I’ve not yet touched on the villains on show here. One major aspect of this series is that the production team plan to focus on lesser villains within the DC mythos. This week: Pyg and Toad. I have to plead ignorance on their histories but the characters here are interesting and have enough weight to carry the episode throughout. They’re not a replacement for Joker or Penguin but having an unknown villain each week adds a level of interest to the show which lacks when we already know our villains intimately.

Overall a good start to the series.

6/10

'Batman '66' #4

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #4

Out with DC² and in with the Penguin in part 1 of ‘Emperor Penguin’. The results? Mixed.

'Batman '66' #4
‘Batman ’66’ #4

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art by Tye Templeton

Coloured by Wes Hartman

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!

After a strong introduction and a brilliant first story arc the reincarnation of Adam West’s Batman takes a knock in week four with a dramatic shift in art design and a lack of the DC² functionality which brought so much fun in previous chapters.

This week kicks off the second story arc of the revived series and brings both Penguin and Mr. Freeze to the forefront. The brilliant Jeff Parker continues to steer the story in new, exciting directions and I love the idea of these two villains teaming up. I don’t want to spoil the story too much here but the reason that these two have come together is original and in no way achievable on the kind of budget that the TV series would have available to it.

Each of the characters maintain their individual voices from both the previous arc and the source material and judging by the art on show here I think that will be a vital aspect in the longevity of this series. This issue is peppered with aptly timed ‘Waaak! Waak! Wak!’ moments which will bring back memories of Penguin capers past and Mr. Freeze maintains the accent to his speech even in print. All this just continues to show the attention to detail that Parker is bringing to the table.

The letdown in this issue is the artwork. It’s not that the art here is bad; I don’t want to criticise Tye Templeton because his work is strong and his representations of both Burgess Meredith and Otto Preminger are undeniably close to photo-realistic although as with the work of Jonathan Case in previous issues it is West and Ward whose faces are a little lost in translation.

What’s missing is the pop art feel of the Riddler arc and although it is referenced on the cover the Lichtenstein-esque artwork inside has been replaced by a straight comic style which, for me, changes the feel of this series completely. Case’s work along with the added animation made this continuation of the series for me whereas this issue feels like a comic adaption. It sounds silly but the missing animation and the change in style do make this more of a generic tie-in.

I don’t want to jump to the conclusion that the DC² aspect of the series has been a significant part of its appeal but the lack of eye-popping Bat-captions and static panels to deduct from my enjoyment of the story.

Chapter 1 of ‘Emperor Penguin’ is still an enjoyable story and leaves the reader on a clever cliffhanger for next week. I can only hope that the artwork improves or may interest may begin to wane.

5/10

‘Batman ’66′ #3

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #3

The exciting conclusion to ‘The Riddlers Ruse’ arrives!

‘Batman ’66′ #3
‘Batman ’66′ #3

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Coloured by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!

Just like the old two-part stories of the first two seasons of the Batman TV show chapter 3 of ‘The Riddler’s Ruse’ picks up directly after the end of chapter 2 with the apparent destruction of the Meow-Wow-Wow club. Only as you would have expected Batman and Robin have survived thanks to a genius last minute plan by Batman.

The jumping off point in this issue is a classic reminder of why the Batman TV series was great and even in comic form it still gets me every time I read this story. The kid inside me is loving this series and after three issues I am genuinely hooked on this reincarnation.

At this stage I’m caring a lot less about the likenesses of the characters as it is clear that this comic is not only paying a strong tribute to the source material but it is actually succeeding in recreating the spirit of the series brilliantly. We even find time in this chapter to a poke a little fun at less-believable elements of the story.

In this chapter the story builds to a ludicrous conclusion in just the same way that any episode of the Batman TV series would. Batman uses a way-ahead-of-its-time 3D printer to recreate stolen artefacts and with the help of Catwoman solves the puzzle leading to the big finale fight.

As I have now come to expect from this series the big fight at the end matches the spectacle of watching Adam and Burt on screen as a child. The DC² has captions bursting out of the screen as Batman, Robin and Catwoman all slide across the panels with ease. The artwork in the final fight is brilliant and really sets this series apart from other; darker incarnations of Batman currently available.

The dialogue continues to pop and there are some brilliant Adam West-esque lines featured in this chapter particularly as events draw to a close. Jeff Parker continues to earn his stripes as the new captain of the Batman ‘66 ship and I now cannot wait for his work with Penguin coming up in the next issue.

It would appear that DC² will not be a feature of the next story so I am now intrigued as to whether the lack of visual spectacle will take away from the magic of the series. As the classic Batman voice over would say: only time will tell!

8/10

‘Batman ’66′ #2

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #2

Re-introduce yourself to some familiar elements from the TV series in chapter 2 of ‘The Riddler’s Ruse’

‘Batman ’66′ #2
‘Batman ’66′ #2

 

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Coloured by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!

Following on from last weeks successful first entry in to the new digital first Batman comic series Batman and Robin return to continue chasing after the Riddler.

This week we get a first glimpse at several familiar aspects from the original TV series: the bust of William Shakespeare; the Bat-poles, the Batcave, Alfred and Catwoman (the Julie Newmar incarnation) to name but a few. Although my favourite is possibly the sight of Batman and Robin climbing up the side of a building for the first time.

In some respects this may seem like quite a long list but what this comic does so well in echoing the TV series is to pack in all the elements that we expected to see on a weekly basis.

Jeff Parker crams in all the elements of a classic episode of Batman but broadens the universe in a way which might be unexpected to some – this issue features two villains but not in the classic season 3 Batman team-up fashion.

I mentioned in my previous review that it would be interesting to add some continuity to this universe. As this story follows on directly we are yet to have a break between stories but my interest would be further piqued if the Meow-Wow-Wow club were to feature again in a later Catwoman escapade.

The quality of the art and dialogue is a continuation of the previous chapter; the characters remain recognisable as themselves and Catwoman strongly echoes her TV counterpart. One thing of note about the art is that the actors who portrayed the villains seem to be depicted much stronger than West and Ward. The Alfred of this book is not recognisable to me as Alan Napier at all.

The DC² features continue to integrate well with the story and I hope this continues through the series run.

Overall a strong continuation to the series; next week is the conclusion to the Riddler arc so it will be interesting to see how this transitions in to the Penguin/Mr. Freeze arc which is to follow.

6/10

‘Batman ’66′ #1

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #1

Adam West and Burt Ward return to the Batcave in new weekly digital series by DC Comics.

‘Batman ’66′ #1
‘Batman ’66′ #1

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Coloured by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Like many other Bat-fans I have long been waiting for Adam West’s incarnation of Batman to come to home video. Like all those other fans I think I’ll be waiting a long time. But in March of this year we were all given a brief reprieve when Warner Bros. officially announced that it had acquired merchandising rights to the show meaning that the market would soon be flooded with new toys; t-shirts and a comic book series based in the ‘66 Batman cannon.

On 3rd July DC Universe digitally released issue (here referenced as ‘chapter’) #1 entitled ‘The Riddler’s Ruse Pt1: Mirth from Above’ featuring new DC² technology (read about it HERE) with print media versions to be released later.

As some who reads comics purely on paper the idea of this new technology was a big draw to pick up the digital version on release day rather than wait for the separate digital chapters to be brought together and released in print.

The animations are fun and take the transitions between panels to a whole new level. In the context of Batman ‘66 this is used to great strength to reveal the on-screen captions such as ‘KABOOM!’ in such a way that it really recreates the feel of the TV series.

For those uninitiated to comics the progressive reveal of the speech bubbles help the reader to follow the dialogue in a linear fashion and focus the eye on various aspects within the scene.

The dialogue itself is in keeping with the original TV series. I’m not familiar with the work of Jeff Parker although looking at his history on Comixology I must have come across some of his work in the past. Reading his words I can hear the voices of the characters in my head and this is a big bonus in helping the story feel organic within the universe we all know so well.

There is no time for origin stories here; but then what Bat-fan needs an introduction to this version of the Dynamic Duo? We arrive to find Bruce and Dick attending the ‘Lady Gotham Ceremony’ but it only takes a handful of panels before the Riddler makes his presence known.

The artwork features a hugely 60s vibe and seems heavily influenced by the work of Roy Lichtenstein and rightly so. Again I am not familiar with the work of Jonathan Case but he seems the perfect fit for this series. The likenesses of Bruce/Batman and Dick/Robin are accents in the pop art menagerie. It’s clearly them – the costumes of Batman; Robin and Riddler are spot on – although at times I felt it could have been more like them but this is hardly a drawback to this incredibly fun continuation of the series.

There’s little room for character development here, much like in the show, but it would be interesting to see these characters developed and made a little more believable if only as a way for younger audiences to connect more with the universe.

6/10

‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

TV REVIEW: ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

Even if you’ve spent the first half of 2011 living under a rock I’m sure you will have heard about the potential new Wonder Woman TV series originally due to be hitting our screens sometime during either the 2011/2012 or 2012/2013 season and unless that rock was seriously heavy you will also know that this series is now all but dead and unlikely to ever see the light of day short of a special DVD release or Comic Con screening.

Title Card for ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
Title Card for ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

Being a comic book fan myself, although not a reader of the on-going Wonder Woman title, I had high hopes for seeing another of the DC Comics A-list brought to the small screen in an enjoyable fashion (especially having recently decided to give Smallville a second chance) although disappointed at the loss of a potential WW movie at the hands of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.

My (and many others) first disappointment with this series came with the announcement that Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley would be the showrunner. I have nothing against McBeal and her dancing baby personally but it was just not a show that I found myself particularly interested in and in terms of any adaptation of Wonder Woman under his guide it rang alarm bells regarding the essential action elements the show would require.

My second disappointment, one that was echoed by a huge cross section of the general public and fans of the character alike, came with the release of the first photo of lead actress Adrianne Palicki (Supernatural) in costume – through the course of this shows short lifespan this is has been a topic for heated debate and one which we will come back to during my thoughts on the pilot episode itself.

As the pilot story and premise of the show began to leak it seemed like this was going to be a badly modernised version of the character which would focus more on the personal struggles and integration of Wonder Woman in to a mass media culture. Shortly after this set videos and photos began to leak and excitement continued to dwindle. Throw in the casting of Elizabeth Hurley as the villain and unfortunately this show was marked for cancellation very early in its inception.

Doomed from the outset the show was initially passed on by all the major US TV networks before finding a short stay home on NBC upon its second trip round the executive shopping trolleys and for a while things were starting to look up for the Amazonian princess.

We’ll probably never know for sure but either the poor test scores from audience screenings of the sheer amount of anti-WW internet buzz killed this show off before the pilot was even finished and for a time it seemed that we would never see the show that was being singled out as one of the worst pilots in recent memory by the media.

But alas first several small clips appeared online and just days later a full copy of the episode, featuring unfinished effects, scratch dialogue and probably only temporary music arrived online and straight to my TV screen.

Adrianne Palicki in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
Adrianne Palicki in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

The premise of this show takes a different approach from that which any fan of the character – devoted or casual – will be accustomed to. There are no scenes of Amazonian women fighting for the chance to travel to the US of A in order to return the injured war pilot Major Steve Trevor to his homeland. There’s no baby sculpted from the sands of Themiscyra. In this reworking the titular character is the owner of Themiscyra Industries, a company who aren’t actually seen to do anything but create Wonder Woman related merchandise and give Diana moral support upon her victorious battle with the evil CEO of rival company Cale-Anderson Pharmaceuticals – rounds of applause for her seem to be compulsory upon starting employment at their offices.

The general public are aware of Wonder Woman and also that her alter ego is Diana Themiscyra but what they are not aware of is the alter ego within the alter ego… Diana Prince (Diana T with her hair tied back and added glasses). Neither of the Diana’s receives much in the way of character development during this pilot outside of a few scarce scenes with Steve (Justin Buening – Knight Rider). In fact I’m not sure which of the Diana’s it was that Steve was dating but based on her glamorous appearance in these scenes it must have been Themiscyra and not Prince. So essentially we have Diana T who is a not-so-secret identity and basically just a name to use for Wonder Woman out of costume and Diana P who sits at home with her cat whilst browsing Facebook, I’m not sure which one to care for less.

‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

The daily running of Themiscyra Industries is left to Diana T/WW confidant Henry Johns (Cary Elwes – Twister) who seems to be the voice of reason amongst the Diana’s. There’s also trusty PA Etta Candy (Tracie Thoms – The Devil Wears Prada) who fulfils the role of best friend and probably only friend to Diana.

These two characters appear quite frequently throughout the pilot, usually together, in order to deal with Diana’s mood and to provide the voice of reason whilst the become hell bent on solving the lacklustre mystery that provides the plot.

Both actors do a fine job of shoring up Palicki in the lead role and given time for the series to develop these characters could have become a very tight knit group and offered a very true human element in a fantasy-tinged show. Etta is perhaps the less generic of the two characters here, especially when compared to her 1970s TV counterpart. Henry, although a compassionate and strong voice amongst the crowd, is a very generic male secondary character that could easily have been retooled by the time this show came to air.

Perhaps the biggest of the character cock-ups in this show is that of Steve Trevor. Anybody with a knowledge of Lynda Carter era Wonder Woman will know that Steve Trevor was the army pilot who’s crash landing on Themiscyra was the reason for Diana to travel to America in the first place. Jump on to the final season of the show and Steve Jnr is an agent working alongside Diana at the IADC.

Here Steve is nothing more than a mere plot device by which to aggravate one of the various Diana’s and make her more human. Quite early on in the story we learn that Diana (both of them) are lonely spinsters who have recently gone through a breakup with lover Steve. We are witness to their breakup via flashback scenes with the two of them having dinner together at a restaurant where it transpires that it was probably her life as Wonder Woman which took Diana away from the love of her life.

I don’t want to spoil the ending of this pilot for anybody who has yet to see it but his introduction into the cast as a major player is more like something from an episode of 90210 than a performance expected in a serious comic book adaption.

Justin Bruening in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
Justin Bruening in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

The second biggest mistake made by Kelley here is Veronica Cale (Liz Hurley – Austin Powers). I would only be stating fact but she is not the strongest actress when it comes to serious material but luckily this pilot and the word serious do not belong in the same sentence and as such she becomes par for the course in terms of character. Whether Cale would have been used beyond this pilot is unknown as an episode order was never discussed and the term big bad is not mentioned but no amount of development could save this character from being a villain of the week.

In fact watching her character does nothing but evoke feelings of watching Sharon Stone in the Catwoman movie but if that doesn’t put you off watching this pilot nothing will. In a similar vein I think the same people behind that slashed vinyl pants and belt bra-top costume that Halle Berry wore must have crafted WW’s costume.

Adrianne Palicki in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
Adrianne Palicki in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

We all saw that original photo with the shiny blue trousers and the blue boots (linked above) and gasped in horror: no starred hotpants? No red boots? Shiny material? There were many, many questions about the horror that was that first image but I can gladly tell you that particular costume makes only the briefest of appearances in the pilot itself.

In the opening sequence the blue trousers appear but they’re not the shiny ones seen in the released image and likewise the boots are red. It would appear the blue booted costume was used for a photo shoot for some WW advertising that appears in the background of the Themiscyra Industries conference room (see below image).

When WW lands one of her various stealth crafts on the roof of the building her trousers are the dark blue ones which will become the must used in the pilot but once she exits the elevator into the building the shiny trousers appear under (without the blue boots) an on screen message of ‘VFX MISSING – PANTS TO BE DARKENED’ so at least we know the production team were listening to fan complaints above the outfit.

The costume comes across as overly plastic-y and I don’t just mean the vinyl corset. The headband and belt look like they’ come straight off your Halloween speciality store costume shelf and throughout the pilot I expected to see them bouncing or moving like they were about to fall off, I was pleasantly surprised when they didn’t.

The wristbands also have an air of off-the-shelf about them. They don’t look like they’ll be stopping bullets any time soon; they do however get the chance to do so very briefly in the climactic moments of the show.

As you will see from the above image the hotpants do make an appearance in the show by the end. There’s no real discussion about why different costumes are worn at different times although a conversation does take place between Diana and Etta regarding the fact her costume was designed in order to help sell action figures.

Speaking of which: I do not agree with mass media WW…

‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

Perhaps the truest line spoken in the pilot is by Etta when she says ‘Wonder Woman isn’t vulgar’ but this is sadly followed up by a couple of uses of the word ‘tits’ and also the word ‘ass’ in describing the Amazonian woman – the only reference to her background.

You can poke holes in much of this pilot but the scenes discussing the mass marketing of the Wonder Woman brand make for some of the most cringe inducing watching. Diana sits with her creative team to discuss the impending launch of a new WW doll and how her anatomy has been oversized to help increase sales. I completely understand the point of this scene as Diana stands up for what she believes in and opposes modifying the female form in order to boost sales but it’s completely unnecessary as the character of WW shouldn’t need to be seen to define her strength of character, it’s just part of who she is but here it’s watered down and offered to us as an extremely obvious plot device.

The above use of vulgar language is part of a very clichéd and derivative script that I’m told is drastically improved over some leaked pages from several months ago. Like much of the rest of this pilot there is no depth to what is being said. Every word is spoken with true determination – Liz Hurley included – but there is not much room for emotion here.

Both Diana T/WW and Veronica Cale are often seen to monologue, as heroes and villains invariably do, but it all falls flat without a convincing cause to fight for.

The best lines appeared to be saved for Etta, who radically becomes the most human and believable character in the whole show. She would most definitely be one to watch out for if the show were to continue.

Adrianne Palicki and Joseph Gatt in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
Adrianne Palicki and Joseph Gatt in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

Earlier on you’ll remember that I mentioned my reservations of David E. Kelley helming this project, as I was unaware of his ability to handle action scenes. You’ll also notice I have mentioned any action scenes as yet and that is because there aren’t many here.

This episode opens with a kind of double teaser: one which makes you say ‘what the f***?’ followed by another which makes you say ‘why wasn’t that the teaser?’ so leaving aside the WTF element of the pre-title card sequence lets look at our first action scene.

WW is chasing down what looks like an Observer from Fringe in his civvies; she’s running the streets, jumping on and even being knocked down by cars but she doesn’t stop chasing her prey. There’s a serious push to show that Kelley’s WW doesn’t stop for anything when she is after her man and that is a theme which runs throughout the show. There’s also anger to this incarnation that is a little misplaced here but not unwelcome.

This unfinished version shows off some wires whilst WW is leaping down some stairs but overall it’s well shot and well edited and there’s a reasonable sense of tension. It’s also nice to see that instead of some awful suiting up introduction a la Joel Schumacher era Batman or a simple action stance we are first show WW as she’s in mid-sprint and ready for a fight.

We also see the golden lasso quite early on here, one of several appearances, but sadly the effects have not been completed so it can look very fake at times. However you get the overall impression that this WW is gong to be badass and her actions are going to well represented.

Jump ahead to the utterly cliché climactic battle with the drugged up goons of Cale-Anderson Pharmaceuticals and the action is presented very differently. Firstly we are granted the cheesy suiting up scenes with the headband, wristbands and lasso (note the blue boots are in the background of this scene) and before kicking beefcake ass WW takes a very Lynda Carter –esque stance.

The actual fight itself is between WW and twenty drugs induced super soldiers who look like they’ve just left the gym (according to the only goon with a speaking role, by count there’s him and nine extras) and does sadly show off some of the wires used to help accentuate the action. The choreography is very hand-to-hand with Palicki’s WW throwing punches, high kicking and using her lasso to throw the goons around like dolls. It’s a far cry from Lynda Carter and fits the modern setting far better than simply tossing the bad guys around.

The scene is purposely shot and lit to allow Palicki’s face to be seen, she clearly did some of the fighting herself, but also to allow stunt performers to take over and do some of the bigger portions without being easily given away. The overall allusion is of a pretty grissly dogfight and a very pleasant surprise amongst some of the awful dialogue. Had this show made it to air then there was every chance that it would have appealed to a wider audience than a show more reflective of Lynda Cater’s WW would.

Here we’re faced with one of my more serious issues with the pilot: WW kills.

‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

I only noticed a body count of two in this pilot: a goon used to shield WW from the bullets of the above guard whom she through a pipe at. But where Batman and Superman are regularly shown to have strong beliefs when it comes to murder on the job this WW has no issue with taking out a guard at a moments notice.

If this show had been picked up I would have expected the anger which clearly lies only just beneath the surface of both WW and Diana T would be explored and developed because it is clearly an issue which Etta and Henry are concerned with and her determination to take down Veronica Cale is as murderous as any comic book villain.

Beyond this I’m not sure what further exploration could be offered to us beyond the pilot, there’s no overarching mystery involved as WW instead of investigating the reason for Cale-Anderson’s drug trials just takes out the boss and goes home to find Steve waiting for her. There’s a brief moment between our three Themiscyra leads which alluded to a sense of family which needs to be exploited further to make the audience care but short of Steve’s closing statement there is nothing in this pilot to follow-up in later episodes.

Ending the episode we return to the redundant Diana P’s home to sit at her computer join the rest of the world in becoming a member of Facebook. We get it: she’s trying to be normal.

Adrianne Palicki in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot
Adrianne Palicki in ‘Wonder Woman’ Unaired Pilot

I’m going to make a controversial statement and say that this pilot is actually not as bad as I was expecting. Knowing that there is currently no show to follow it up with and bring further disappointment meant I could enjoy it for what it is: pure fluff. There’s nothing serious here, nothing beyond a shallow one-off superhero adventure and nothing that wouldn’t have been a massive hit with audiences in perhaps the 1970s.

Would I like to have seen more episodes? Yes, I think I would like to see at least a second episode to see if Kelley had a plan for where a season of this show would go as it doesn’t feel like any groundwork has been laid for anything other than a TV movie. Sadly this episode only clocks in at 41mins 40secs so unless there’s a lot on the cutting room floor it’s never going to make a TV movie. Then again if it was deemed bad enough to cut out of this edit I don’t think it should be seen at all.

There’s some reasonable action, some appalling dialogue and laughable temporary VFX but Wonder Woman is not unwatchable. For a rough edit it appears to be well executed if you can ignore a hospital scene with changeable lighting depending on the camera angle. I would still be interested to see a finished version to see the show how Kelley had intended.

If you get the chance to see this, even just once, I recommend you take that chance and see what was perhaps never meant to be seen.

2 stars

 

 

2 stars

 

'Batman Live' Logo

LIVE REVIEW: ‘Batman Live’ Arena Tour

Batman - 'Batman Live'
Batman – ‘Batman Live’

‘Batman LIVE!’ these are two words I thought I would never speak together in the same sentence but after the announcement of this summer’s arena tour they’ve now been uttered ten times over.

Essentially ‘Batman Live’ – due to open in London 24th August – is a mash up of Adam West sensibility with comic book iconography and Arkham Asylum (the wildly successful game incarnation) storytelling and tells the story of Dick Grayson’s rise to become Robin.

I witnessed the spectacle from the second row of Gotham City in the Glasgow SECC arena. I should point out the show did not feature the Bat-shaped screen on this night for reasons unknown. Honestly I think it wouldn’t have fitted in the room.

It was a sold out show and ages easily ranged from 5-65, which only added to the level of excitement pre-show.

Let’s start with the ‘Gotham City’ seating: I genuinely felt fully immersed in the show itself, particularly during the circus scenes. It was great that the performers came down from the stage to interact with members of the crowd in the front rows, particularly for the younger audience members. There are other aspects of interaction that I don’t want to spoil but there was very little doubt that it was worth paying extra for these seats although I would warn parents with small children that although the stage is low the littlest amongst us might have trouble seeing the stage.What little doubt I had about our seats came from the view. There are pros here but also a couple of cons: sitting on the arena floor, barely ten feet from the stage provided an outstanding view of the actors and also the costumes which are very intricately designed and detailed far beyond what is expected for a show where 75% of the audience will be unable to appreciate it. I do question using a Nightwing logo on Robin’s utility belt though!

Eagle eyed fans will notice both Batman and Robin’s costumes have changed from the original media launch, I think you will agree these changes are for the better.

The downside to ‘Gotham’ seats: the potential for neck ache. Our seats were to the right when looking out from the stage and whilst the bulk of the action was central to the gangway and the actors made an effort to act to all sides there was no way to see both actors and the big screen at all times.

Although not a major issue as there was time to soak up the amazing visuals on screen without losing track of the action it meant that the full atmosphere of the show was not always easy to grasp. I found it most troublesome during a scene in which Dick sits at the Wayne dining table where without a perfect view of the stage all perspective would be lost.

Gotham City - 'Batman Live'
Gotham City – ‘Batman Live’
Dick Grayson - 'Batman Live'
Dick Grayson – ‘Batman Live’

I’ve seen a fair amount of criticism thrown at this show for not being a Nolan-esque or a Miller-esque vision of Batman and although you can’t deny how amazing either would be if done correctly at the end of the day this is a family show and a family show was exactly what we got.

I failed to notice anybody looking unimpressed after the show as hoards descended upon the reasonably priced merchandise stands and took photos with the cardboard cutouts of Batman placed around the venue.

The Villains - 'Batman Live'
The Villains – ‘Batman Live’

The story does veer from canon in terms of the origin of both Batman and Robin but does so in a way that is logical in terms of not overcomplicating the show. I won’t ruin the moment but any member of the Facebook group will be aware of the perhaps one of the most unnecessary scenes in the show. I can say that as a dedicated reader of the comics and an avid Bat-historian I digested the changes in backstory, appreciated the reasons for them and moved on without it tainting my experience of the overall show.

Aside from this blip the story is in fact quite heavily character driven in the first half before shifting the balance towards action after the interval. I did find my interest levels wavering somewhat towards the end of the first half but I put this down to anticipation for the action and not to a flawed script. On reflection there’s a huge amount to take in during the two hours this show runs for which could easily warrant returning for further viewings.

The Dynamic Due, Poison Ivy, The Joker stage - 'Batman Live'
The Dynamic Due, Poison Ivy, The Joker stage – ‘Batman Live’

The dialogue is easy on the ears and delivered in short bursts, very comic book in style. You can almost envisage the speech bubbles over the characters heads as they talk and it all works perfectly in the context of the show. The writers have done a good job of giving each of the characters their moments to shine and the respective actors work well with the material with my highest praise going to Harley Quinn and Joker.

A lot of the characters appear tied to particular environments for most of the show such as Penguin appearing almost solely in the Iceberg Lounge and Joker in the circus before it’s all tied together in Arkham for the closing moments of the show. It’s characters like Catwoman and Riddler who claim a lot more freedom over the Gotham environments depicted here.

Seeing all the villains together on the stage does evoke feelings of the old Adam West Batman movie, all that’s missing is giant bomb and a couple of nuns.

Leaving the arena there’s no doubt that this is Joker’s show, he has easily the most dialogue and some of the longest scenes in the show. He’s also given the widest variety of vehicles and special effects of all the characters. Mark Frost carries the part well and alongside Poppy Tierney the onscreen relationship of the characters from BTAS is recreated admirably. In the same vein as viral marketing for The Dark Knight the marketing team behind ‘Batman Live ‘should be putting out artwork altered to say ‘Joker Live’.

The weak link in the cast is sadly Poison Ivy, although pictured in most of the promotional material for the show her character is only on stage for a matter of seconds and her dialogue dubbed by a different actress and because of this her scene sticks out in my memory for reasons that it shouldn’t. There’s no visible reason as to why her voice would be dubbed although the programme does detail what appears to be a Russian background for the actress.

Emma Clifford as Catwoman (and also Martha Wayne) also deserves a honourable mention for a clearly well researched performance, there’s little of Hale Berry and a lot of BTAS in her performance. The Costume design is near perfect to the comics and will appease those fans currently disgruntled by Anne Hathaway’s apparent costume in The Dark Knight Rises.

Nick Court has also fallen victim to what I believe is unfair criticism. He wears the suit with a modicum of authority and doesn’t shy away from an audience who can each describe in graphic detail their favourite Batman. A lesser actor could definitely crumble under the pressure of wearing the cowl, physically and metaphorically. He interacts well with all the other actors although I felt the relationships he has with Alfred and Dick could have been fleshed out further, particularly the latter as this show follows the inception of Robin.

On that note I also find it a little odd that for a show which follows the path of Dick Grayson from the circus to the Batcave very little has been written about Kamran Darabi-Ford and Michael Pickering who share the role equally. It was hard to tell which were on the stage or if the show was split between one as Dick and the other as Robin but whoever was on that stage brought a youthful vigour to the role which was perhaps lacking in his previous film appearances.

The stage - 'Batman Live'
The stage – ‘Batman Live’

As I have already mentioned we were not privy to the full stage set on this night but missing bat-shaped screen aside the stage lived up to all expectations and is as much as character in the show as any of the actors on stage. With moveable Gotham landmarks (which I spent much of the pre-show pointing out and naming) and adaptive decorations it provided almost as much to the atmosphere of Gotham City as the comic inspired (and partly Jim Lee created) background work.

The wirework is impressive although relatively safe but then as I have previously said: this is a family show. I’m sure if this were a more adult show the stunt work would be more precarious. I was particularly impressed by the Flying Grayson’s performance, which really hit home the feeling that we were at the circus and once Joker and his goons appeared to take over the joint I think I was actually overcome with fear for a moment.

I couldn’t write a review of the show without discussing the Batmobile, somewhat controversial in design I know that some people have not been pleased with the outcome but I can tell you that once you’ve seen the machine in action you will be nothing short of amazed. The car is first introduced to us in the Batcave (which features a seriously impressive control panel which I spent a good portion of the scene trying to photograph) but then reappears later to introduce us to a computerised car chase around the city. After crashing on to the stage from behind the screen there was brief moment where it spun into a 180 degree turn almost throwing Batman and Robin from the stage.

The Batmobile - 'Batman Live'
The Batmobile – ‘Batman Live’
The Batmobile - 'Batman Live'
The Batmobile – ‘Batman Live’
The Batmobile - 'Batman Live'
The Batmobile – ‘Batman Live’

I will finish up with a quick bit on the merchandise. I’ve seen fans online complaining about the prices of the merch but I have to say having been to a fair few concerts and shows in my time the ‘Batman Live’ merch was very fairly priced, particularly the programme which has been taken a lot of flack for being priced at £15 but it is completely worth it and beautifully designed.

There are the usual t-shirts (for all the family), mugs, keyrings, and badges but there are also Bat masks and capes. I suggest you get to the stand before the show starts as there are only limited stocks and from what I saw the t-shirts went very quickly. All is nicely designed and there’s something to please all the Bat fans.

If you already have tickets then enjoy the show and if you don’t have tickets – I suggest you get on to Ticketmaster now and checkout the next showing you can before it heads off to Europe and then the rest of the world as who knows when it will return. Ignore those who chose to write this show off as nonsense, it’s true that this will never please anybody but there is no need to write this off as a failure purely because it very successfully executes a story for all ages. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had on a Batman Live night and I couldn’t recommend it more.

The Joker - 'Batman Live'
The Joker – ‘Batman Live’
The Terrific Trio - 'Batman Live'
The Terrific Trio – ‘Batman Live’

 

4 stars

 

 

4 stars