Aquaman Review

Aquaman’s reputation for a good chunk of his comic career was as a punchline. “The power to talk to fish” isn’t as desirable a power as being able to fly or shoot lasers from your eyes, and cartoons and comedians have made sure to remind viewers of that whenever they speak of Aquaman. It is somewhat fitting then, that Aquaman is the funniest entry in the DC Extended Universe. Forget the grimness of Man of Steel and the groanworthy comedy of Suicide Squad, Aquaman is genuinely funny and fun and an utter delight to watch.

Jason Momoa’s Aquaman was one of the few highlights in the mostly-dull Justice League, but here’s where he really gets his chance to shine. He’s clearly having a blast playing this character, showing more personality in one film than Superman showed in three. He always has a humorous line when the situation calls for comic relief, but this does nothing to make him any less sympathetic or likeable. This is probably the most “Marvel-esque” of the DCEU films, and I mean that as a compliment.

A lot of DC’s most recent output has been attempting to showcase how serious and dark Batman and Superman can be, but as Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and The Lego Batman Movie has shown, DC is more enjoyable when it’s embracing the weirdness and absurdity of the past than attempting to ignore it. This film includes fantastical underwater kingdoms, armies made up of nautical monstrosities, and even a locale that calls to mind Doyle’s Lost World and all of them a wonder to behold. This is definitely the biggest visual feast of the DC Universe, with the technologically-advanced city of Atlantis being spectacular and even ethereally beautiful (it even seems that DC has heard all those comments about “why are DC trying to be overly dark and gritty when Marvel has a talking raccoon in their movies”, as Aquaman not only has a octopus playing drums and a reaction shot from a goat, but an entire army of crab people).

The film may be a little too long, and I wouldn’t say it’s as good as Wonder Woman, but Aquaman is still highly recommended for those who want a high-octane, humorous, superhero thrill ride.


Top Ten Movies I Reviewed in 2017


A fitting end to the character of Wolverine, at least until his inevitable introduction into the MCU.

Better Watch Out

Surprisingly clever film which will make good viewing for those who seek something other than saccharine holiday fare.


Proof that horror remakes are not always unnecessary, and has a lot of fun with its monster.


Thrilling and suspenseful with a surprising and satisfying twist, but worth watching just for McAvoy.

Spider-Man Homecoming

While not the best superhero or Marvel-related release this year, this was still enjoyable and had a great performance from Michael Keaton.

The Lego Batman Movie

A tonne of fun and a barrel of laughs, it’s strange that a Lego movie is a better 2017 Batman movie than a live-action Justice League.

A Monster Calls

Not only has some interesting visuals but a heartfelt story as well.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was one of the best parts of Batman v Superman and shines even more in the best DCEU film yet (or ever, it might seem).

Baby Driver

Hilarious, exciting and makes good use of music.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Speaking of a film that makes good use of music, this is a film you could watch again and again, filled with great comedy, action and even emotion.


A Look Back on Batman Movies

This is an article I wrote back in 2012 for the release of The Dark Knight Rises. I have edited it, and added my thoughts on Rises. Spoilers may follow.

When Batman v Superman was released this year, many were disappointed. A cinematic meeting between two of the greatest heroes in history should have been more spectacular than it was; the final film was riddled with plot holes, a confusing story and an attempt to catch up with Marvel. However, most people did find redeeming qualities to it; many liked Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, though she appeared very little, and they liked Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman. Though him killing criminals was a departure for the character, Affleck’s acting as a darker, nastier Batman was a pleasant surprise. That movie is far from the first time the Dark Knight has graced the silver screen, however. Batman is such a fascinating figure that many have been tempted to tell tales about him and his exploits, as well as those of his varied and colourful rogues’ gallery.

Batman has featured in a multitude of movies, from serials in the 1940s to direct-to-video cartoons, but there have been seven theatrical films that can be called ‘major’: the tie-in to the infamous 60’s series, the quadrilogy that started magnificently only to end with a titter, and the revered Chris Nolan movies. This article will look at each of those movies and give them their own brief review.

Batman: The Movie (1966): The Batman television show of the 1960s, starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, may be seen by many as the type of cartoonish superheroics that modern films should be trying to distance themselves from, but it still plays a significant role in Batman’s history. It kept comic sales alive due to its popularity, and still manages to be a delight to watch even today, if only because it is a hilarious contrast to the modern-day, darker Batman movies.

Comic books today are in some ways as ridiculous as they were yesteryear; there are still talking monkeys and space aliens and a man in blue pyjamas who can fly and shoot eye-lasers. The Brave and the Bold cartoon prided itself on exploring and celebrating the hilariously surreal world of the funny pages, but the Batman TV show and the subsequent movie did so first (even though it was apparently campy because the man behind it hated comics). One of its prominent traits is common to nearly every Batman adaptation: the villains are more worthy of screentime than Batman himself.

To a child playing with his action figures, the ultimate battle for any hero would be if a selection of villains teamed up to take over the world. Batman the Movie utilised this line of thought, as the main draw to that movie was to see the series’ biggest four villains joining forces: Joker (Cesar Romero), Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Catwoman (Lee Meriweather, substituting for Julie Newmar). Their plan in the movie is to seize a ray that can dehydrate people into dust and use it on the United Nations. They are equipped with other interesting devices such as flying umbrellas and a penguin-shaped submarine. Along the way, they even manage to have some amusing interactions with each other (‘We’re about as united as the United World Organisation!’)

As with all good comic book villains, the fearsome foursome steal the show, but the real main draw to the movie is seeing West and Ward’s reactions to the situation. These days, Batman may be regarded as a serious detective, but the way the dynamic duo deduce the perpetrators of the plot (‘They were at sea! C for Catwoman!) is hysterical. The centrepiece of the entire movie is the iconic moment where Batman attempts to dispose of a spherical bomb.

There is no deeper meanings to the 60s Batman movie. It plays out like an extended episode of the series, onomatopoeia fights and all. Yet it remains a very guilty pleasure.

Batman (1989): When the 1960s TV series was cancelled, the Batman comics began to tell darker stories. However, while DC published stories like The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge and The Killing Joke, the general public still had some trouble shaking the image of Adam West’s Batman. In 1989, however, a new take on the caped crusader emerged, re-imagining Batman as a dark, tormented figure for pop culture consumption.

Batman was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, with the latter taking top billing over the former. Gone was the sunny, optimistic Gotham of the TV series, replaced with an amalgamation of architectural styles blended together in a nightmarishly claustrophobic city. Like most Burton movies, Batman succeeds mainly at being a visual feast, with the Joker’s flamboyant costume striking against the murky backdrops and the criminal underworld existing in what looks like an urban Tartarus.

There may have been some trepidation regarding Keaton’s casting as Batman, but though his performance as Bruce Wayne is lacking, he makes a fine Batman indeed. He truly comes off as an antihero consumed by his inner demons, though at times it seems he is rather too good in that department. This is a more ruthless Batman, killing people left and right, ultimately resulting in the demise of the Joker and not even playing nicely with the police.

Jack Nicholson may simultaneously be the best and the worst thing about the movie. His Joker costume, with its plaid trousers and smart blazer is marvellously appropriate for his character, and he is a lot of fun to watch, but one can never shake the feeling that it is just Jack playing himself. There are too many scenes where he is sans his clown-white skin, all to show off Nicholson’s face, and there is little to distinguish the Joker from someone like Randall McMurphy. He is a character who demands attention, but takes too much of it away from Keaton’s Batman, who seems a more interesting character.

Despite some minor quibbles, Batman is still successful in what it set out to do, and because of its success, it spawned three sequels of varying quality.

Batman Returns (1992): Batman Returns is probably the strongest of the quadrilogy, despite the fact that it feels more like a Burton movie than a Batman movie. The themes of being an outcast and the cruelty of the world are carried from Edward Scissorhands, as is the tone of the music and the sets. In fact, it might be because it feels like a Burton movie that Returns is the strongest; one can tell he was having more fun with it than he was with its predecessor.

While 1989’s Joker was Nicholson through and through, one can watch Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny Devito and actually feel like they’re watching Catwoman and the Penguin, albeit slightly different from the comic characters. In previous Batman stories, the Penguin was a sophisticated criminal genius, but here, he is a sewer-dwelling monstrosity, wishing revenge upon the world that abandoned him. DeVito does a commendable job at playing a more tragic villain, though this type of character would be done better in The Dark Knight with Two-Face. Sadly sometimes DeVito lapses into cartoonish super-villainy. The silly plot devices of the 60’s weren’t completely dead, if the missile-toting penguins were any indication.

Michelle Pfeiffer was the film’s strongest point, and may have even turned in the strongest performance of all four films in the franchise. Her Catwoman was demented and broken, but still oozes a sultrily sinister personality. The first film may have been pitted a dark soul against a cheerful lunatic, but the hero and his villains here are all tormented in their own way, their pain cemented through Elfman’s sullen tunes, more beautiful than his work for the previous movie.

The Batman in Batman Returns is even more dangerous and fearsome than he was in Batman, continuing his murderous rampage against criminals. In fact, he even straps a bomb to a goon and smiles maliciously about it. This could potentially turn off new viewers expecting a more heroic Batman, but Keaton continues his marvellous work with the character, especially when acting against Pfeiffer.

Batman Forever (1995): Batman Returns was not for everybody, however, so the third film had to take on a lighter tone. Not only that, but Burton and Keaton left the series, leaving Joel Schumacher as the new director and Val Kilmer as the new Batman.

Batman Forever feels like a film full of missed opportunities. It features the big-screen debut of Two-Face, one of Batman’s more complex and sympathetic foes, who is turned into a second-rate copy of the Joker with a coin gimmick. Tommy Lee Jones could have realised the character well, but the writing reduces him to a giggling, dancing imbecile. The film tells the origin of Batman’s famous sidekick Robin, and was supposed to delve more into Batman’s psychology than the previous two movies, but sadly, this too was botched up. Chris O’Donnell’s Robin was in his twenties, meaning the traditional father-son dynamic between Batman and Robin felt strange, and many of the scenes expanding on Batman ended up on the cutting room floor.

It did not help that Kilmer’s Batman and Bruce Wayne felt rather flat and lifeless, as did O’Donnell’s Robin. The only performance that’s really entertaining is Jim Carrey as the Riddler; like Nicholson’s Joker, he is more like his actor than his comic-book inspiration but still a joy to view. Nowhere near as good a Riddler as Frank Gorshin in 1966, but still enjoyable.

The less said about Batman and Robin, the better.

Batman Begins (2005): It took eight years for a new Batman film to grace the screens, but Batman Begins was truly something special. It showed a new step in the evolution of live-action Batman, as the series now promised to be more realistic and introspective. The movie was in more-than-able hands: Chris Nolan, a master of the psychological thriller, was director, and Christian Bale, who had previously played the main roles of The Machinist and American Psycho with fantastic vigour, was in the role of Batman. Even the mere inclusion of Michael Caine (Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred) and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox, who invents Batman’s gadgets) signified a new prestige in the series.

Batman Begins was the first Batman movie where Batman truly was the main character (unless one counts the theatrically-released animated movie Mask of the Phantasm), and what a Batman this is. As opposed to Michael Keaton, Bale is better as Bruce Wayne than he is as Batman. His Batman has a voice that has been ridiculed to kingdom come, but his Bruce Wayne, when pretending to be a lazy good-for-nothing millionaire, is actually convincing and his private, reflective brooding is similarly genuine.

Another thing Batman Begins has that its forbears lacked is a strong supporting cast. The late Michael Gough was a brilliant Alfred for all four of the original movies (even appearing in a radio play based on the Knightfall comic) but Michael Caine is the perfect father figure to Bruce – constantly keeping his inner demons in check. Commissioner Gordon is usually an overlooked character in Batman adaptations, but as played by Gary Oldman, he is given a character arc of his own, and feels a true friend to Batman.

Even a character as underutilized by Batman stories as Lucius Fox is given a chance to shine, as Morgan Freeman brings forth his trademark warmth and manages to get in some amusing lines. Sadly, the supporting cast do bring flaws of their own; the likes of Alfred and Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) deliver speeches that spell out the themes of the movie rather than let the audience figure it out for themselves, and some offer some groan-worthy comic relief (‘I’ve gotta get me one of those’, says Gordon about the Batmobile). It is the interactions between Batman and his friends that keep the movie interesting.

The villains of this piece are the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson). They are villains from the comics, but not well-known to the general public. Their obscurity shows how far the Batman franchise has come; they are there not to tickle the fancy of nerds, but because they best serve the story. Batman Begins is about Batman trying to strike fear into the criminal mind, so what a fitting counterpart the Scarecrow makes. Ra’s Al Ghul is there to challenge Batman’s ideals and save Gotham in his own way. Neither villain is characterised deeply, but they don’t need to be.

The Dark Knight (2008): The golden rule of the 60s TV series – the villain is more interesting than Batman – struck back when The Dark Knight came around. The focus swerved away from Bale’s Batman and towards the Joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger, and Two-Face as portrayed by Aaron Eckhart. Indeed, The Dark Knight is said to also refer to Harvey Dent, Gotham’s ‘White Knight’ fallen from grace.

Jack Nicholson’s Joker was just Nicholson being himself; there was nothing about him, except for maybe him killing the Waynes, that convinced anyone that he was the greatest villain Batman had ever faced. DeVito’s Penguin was a lot more sinister. Ledger’s Joker, however, is something unique.

Not only does he earn his position as Batman’s most terrifying foe by his nihilistic philosophy and apathy towards murder, it is hard to believe that he is even human. He is Satan given makeup-smeared flesh, tempting the once-noble Harvey Dent into a life of madness and trying to warp Batman’s mind through a twisted admiration. He pays homage to the Jokers of old – he has the multiple-past device of The Killing Joke, the calling card of the Joker’s first appearance – but Ledger and Nolan have made their Joker their own.

The other villain, Two-Face, is played with similar vigour by Aaron Eckhart. In his first moments, Eckhart succeeds at creating nobility that contrasts with his fate, but doesn’t forget to give the character a dark side even if he does descend into melodrama (‘You can’t give in!’)

Batman and the rest of the supporting cast is as strong as ever, even if they still have the tendency to launch into speeches about the general themes of the films, but at least those speeches are well-delivered. Christian Bale’s Batman is now as fascinating to watch as his Bruce Wayne, especially in his moments of frustration and anguish at what the Joker has done. One stand-out performance in particular is Gary Oldman’s Gordon, as he makes the character even more three-dimensional and likeable than he probably has ever been before. Once more, he makes the ending worth watching.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): The Dark Knight was a tough act to follow, but while The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t as good as its predecessor, it was still a solid conclusion to Chris Nolan’s trilogy.

Bale, Oldman and the other heroes were still on top form, and the newcomers – Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman – were equally impressive. Bane had some similarities to the Joker – he does try to bring anarchy to the city – yet never came off as a poor man’s version of the character. Tom Hardy gives the character a powerful, regal air, striding proudly towards his foe. Anne Hathaway is a welcome addition as well, creating a playful and enjoyable character.

It is a shame then, that the plot revolves around a ticking time-bomb capable of destroying the entire city. More or less every reviewer made a joke about how “some days you can’t get rid of a bomb”, and truly, it does feel too much of a cartoon for a series of this calibre. The film still does boast some fine action and great performances, it just feels there is something missing.

This wasn’t the end of Batman on film, for not only have we had Batman v Superman, Batman is set to appear in the upcoming Suicide Squad film and that same Batman will even be having his own solo film in the future.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review


Spoilers follow

Batman v Superman is a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, where the destruction of Metropolis has lead Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to be distrustful of Superman (Henry Cavill). Likewise, Superman is weary about how Gotham City’s Batman dispenses justice. Also not too fond of Superman is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who plans to kill the boy in blue, either through Batman, or his monstrous creation Doomsday.

I actually enjoyed Batman v Superman more than I thought I would, yet there was still the sense that something was missing. There wasn’t anything to make it really memorable. Even Batman and Robin is hard to forget with Arnie’s Freeze and the hilariously bad dialogue. There wasn’t anything that made Batman v Superman stand out other than the mishmash of several DC heroes, and even that lost its novelty before the film even came out, really.

Still, Affleck, I thought, made a good Batman. I didn’t really mind the way the way he was portrayed here; I mean, Keaton’s Batman broke the “one rule” but I overlooked it due to his entertaining performance. Same goes to Affleck here. One of the best things about Batman is how flexible he is, which makes him similar to so many great characters (the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland has been portrayed as a hero and a villain, Count Dracula can either be the embodiment of evil or a comic children’s cartoon) and Affleck was a great choice for this rendition of Batman.

Lex, however, I don’t really think is as flexible a character as Batman. What I mean is, I thought Jesse Eisenberg’s performance was good, but I was disappointed they didn’t go with the more serious Lex of the comics. Like, if he played another character, it wouldn’t feel so jarring. If he acted like that, but played Toyman instead of Lex, then it would have been more fitting. And yes, I know the story that he was originally supposed to play Jimmy Olsen. He does become bald in this film, but sadly they don’t use the story from the comics where he used to be Superman’s friend until he lost his hair in a lab accident and blamed Superman for it. I kid, but at least then he would have a reason to hate Superman, which he doesn’t really seem to have here.

Like many people, I liked Wonder Woman, especially her theme tune, and would have liked to see more of her. Really, her purpose here is to make you want to see more of her, so there’s an area where the film succeeds. Another thing I agree with is that they seem to be trying to do too much in one film. Batman fighting Superman is enough to put people in seats, but here’s Wonder Woman! Flash and Aquaman and Cyborg! And of course, Superman (I said there would be spoilers) dying due to Doomsday is just overkill.

It really does feel like there should have been another movie between this and Man of Steel. Superman died before we really got to know him, before he had an actual confrontation with Lex or faced Brainiac or something. I know Superman comes back, but adapting Death of Superman is something that should have been saved for this Superman’s third or fourth movie. The Dark Knight movies at least waited until the last movie to do something semi-similar with their Batman, and we got to know Nolan Batman more through his first two movies than we did DCEU Superman.

There’s another common complaint about this film; it’s trying too hard to be like The Dark Knight. I could definitely see where they’re coming from there, and it’s all the more jarring when it’s dealing with a more fantastical world than The Dark Knight. In fact, I think the Tim Burton Batman movies did a better job of mixing a dark world with comic book fantasy. Batman had Nicholson’s entertaining Joker living in one of the most lugubrious-looking versions of Gotham City without feeling too out of place, and the Penguin’s death in Batman Returns is one of the few times a scene was successfully silly and poignant at the same time. BvS, on the other hand, calls out for more levity.

BvS is lacking, but it isn’t a complete waste of time. Affleck and Gadot themselves are worth the price of admission. It’s entertaining enough, but still quite forgettable, and has nothing earlier Batman movies haven’t done better, really.