“It’s time my enemies share my dread”

Batman Begins & The Dark Knight

Famously directed by Christopher Nolan; there is a third film to complete the trilogy, Dark Knight Rises, but it is more depressing and not one I really wanted to revisit (more on that later).  Christian Bale (who is technically Welsh and played Jack Kelly in Newsies, the voice of Thomas in Pocahontas, and known for American Pyscho, Ford v Ferrari, and The Fighter.  He will also be in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder film and The Pale Blue Eyes [the main reason I’d be interested in this film is because it filmed near where I live]) leads the film as Bruce Wayne, with Gary Oldman (Air Force One, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, voicing the bad guy in Quest for Camelot, Red Riding Hood, and most recently known for Tinker, Tailor, Sailor, Spy and Darkest Hour.  And of course, no one of my generation is going to forget him as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films) as Jim Gordon.  Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn in Phantom Menace and the voice of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, also known for A-Team, Taken, and Schindler’s List) is Ducard, Michael Caine (whose acting career goes back to the fifties and was in Zulu, The Battle of Britain, The Eagle Has Landed, and A Bridge Too Far [we blame my father for my knowledge of some of these movies], and more recently in Miss Congeniality and Muppet’s Christmas Carol)  is Alfred, while Ken Watanabe (Katsumoto in The Last Samurai) appears as Ra’s Al Ghul.  Katie Holmes is Rachel Dawes, Morgan Freeman (he needs no introduction) is Lucius Fox, and Colin McFarlane (he appears in Outlander, Dr. Who, and Torchwood, and is not terribly nice in Hallmark’s Crown for Christmas movie) is Commissioner Loeb.  Charles Edwards (Michael Gregson from Downton Abbey) also makes a brief appearance, as does Jack Gleeson (most famous as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones) as a little boy.

The film opens with a young Rachel and Bruce playing on the grounds of Wayne Manor.  Bruce falls down an empty well and bats fly out of a cave underground.  He wakes up and it’s a memory from his childhood; he’s now a grown man in a foreign prison (somewhere in Asia, I presume).  A fight begins and he comments that his opponent is not the devil, just practice.  In solitary, a cultured man finds him and knows him to be Bruce Wayne [I actually forgot that Liam Neeson was in this film until I heard him speaking].  His name is Ducard and he works for Ra’s Al Ghul [pronounced Raz, unlike Batman Beyond].  He offers Bruce a path with the League of Shadows, where men share his hatred of evil and he can devote himself to an ideal, becoming a legend.  If he wants this path, pick a blue flower on the side of the mountain, then journey to the top.

Bruce picks the flower and makes his way up the mountain.  He is asked what he is seeking and responds that he wants to fight injustice and turn fear on those who prey on the fearful.  Ducard starts a fight to test Bruce, warning him that he faces fear and death in training.  What does Bruce fear?  He fears the bats that swarmed him as a child.  His memory continues with his father rescuing him.  “Why do we fall?  So we learn to pick ourselves up,” his father teaches.  They take the new train into the city for a night at the opera, built by Wayne Enterprises and makes their tower the center of the city.  Unfortunately, the demons in the opera are reminiscent of bats and Bruce begs to leave early.  The family take a side door out into an alley, where they are confronted by a man with a gun.  Thomas Wayne easily hands over his wallet, attempting to keep the situation calm, but when the other man points the gun at Martha, Thomas steps in front and is shot, followed by Martha.  The crook runs and Bruce is left to hear his father tell him “don’t be afraid,” before he dies.

There is a kind police officer who drapes Thomas’s coat over Bruce that night at the precinct, assuring him “it’s okay.”  The crook is caught, but now all Bruce has is the manor and Alfred.  The boy blames himself for his parents’ death.  In the present, Bruce tells Ducard his anger outweighs his guilt.  Ducard instructs him to confront his guilt and counsels him that theatricality and deception are powerful agents.  Criminals thrive on society’s “understanding.”  Bruce recalls the hearing he attended as a young man against his parents’ murderer.  Alfred continues to support Bruce and gives a damn about him and his family’s name.  Bruce takes a gun to the proceedings and plans to shoot Joe Chill afterwards.  But someone else, connected to the Falconi mob beats him to it.  When Rachel, now part of the DA office, finds out, she slaps Bruce and tells him off.  What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?  Bruce attempts to confront Falconi, but the man sees through Bruce’s bravado.  Falconi revels in the fear he creates and the power it gives him.  So Bruce makes a decision.  He leaves Gotham.  And spends the next years studying the criminal world by becoming a part of it. 

Ducard continues to instruct Bruce that to conquer fear, one must become fear.  One must become a wraith and one with the darkness.  Bruce faces his final test to become a member of the League of Shadows; he fights Ducard amidst a room full of identically dressed men.  Bruce triumphs, using a bit of deception, but now is told to execute a man.  Bruce refuses; he’ll fight, but he won’t kill.  His compassion separates him from his enemies.  Ducard warns him against it, he and Ra’s wish Bruce to join them and bring down Gotham.  It is the city’s time to fall.  Bruce takes the sword offered and throws a branding iron into the building, starting a fire.  He fights Ra’s and ultimately kills him.  Bruce saves Ducard and carries him down the mountain.  Then he calls Alfred to return home; he wants to show Gotham that the city doesn’t belong to the criminals.  Well, after he’s brought back from the dead; it’s been seven years, Alfred points out.

Back at the manor, Bruce follows a bat and discovers a large cave underneath the foundation of the house.  He stands in the center of a swirl of bats.  Then, he walks into Wayne Enterprises, surprising the CEO.  He’s fine with things for now, though he wants a job so he can learn about the company his family built.  He joins Lucius Fox in Applied Sciences.  Lucius knows it’s a dead end, but Bruce is surprised to find out considering all of the useful prototypes that are sitting there.  Which will help him with his “spelunking.”  He gains his black suit and utility belt.  He and Alfred make arrangements to put the cowl together.  And Bruce picks out his first ally; Jim Gordon, one of the few good cops left.

Meanwhile, Rachel is facing off against Dr. Crane, who gets Falconi’s men out of jail and into his asylum.  Crane is working with Falconi; though it’s more like Falconi is working with Crane, who is working for someone else.  They agree that Rachel Dawes needs stopped before she ends their criminal activities.

Bruce gains a few more gadgets, like memory cloth to make his cape, and the “Tumbler” as his Batmobile.  Lucius may be suspicious, but he tells Bruce that everything is his anyways as a Wayne and the less that Bruce actually tells him, the less he’ll have to lie when asked.  Just don’t treat Lucius like an idiot.  Batman’s first foray is at the docks, where drug shipments are coming in for Falconi.  But part of them get diverted to the Narrows.  Batman easily handles the goons and declares “I’m Batman” when asked.  He also grabs Falconi.  He then quickly tracks down Rachel in order to save her from a mugging.  She got a few good moves in and even is armed with a taser, which does nothing to Batman’s suit.  He gives her evidence to leverage the corrupt judge and get the ball rolling on putting the mob in jail.  His first Batsignal is made from Falconi on a light.

Commissioner Loeb is not pleased with the Batman; “no one takes the law into their own hands in my city,” nor is he impressed when Gordon points out that Batman was the one to capture Falconi for them.  Falconi requests Crane visits and tries to leverage his partner to get him out.  He also wants in on the deal Crane has with his overseer.  Crane gasses him with his toxin and Falconi loses his mind.

Bruce also has to develop his playboy lifestyle in order to throw suspicion off him and to potentially explain bruises and such.  Rachel is not impressed when she sees her old friend and tells him “it’s what you do that defines you.”  And things look better for a moment.  Gordon believes that Batman is trying to help.  Rachel’s boss insists on seeing one of Falconi’s crates and discovers it has something from Wayne Enterprises inside.  Then he’s shot and we find out that Wayne Enterprises developed a weapon that is now missing.  Batman visits the Narrows and manages to find Crane’s stash, but Crane comes in and gasses Batman, then lights him on fire.  Alfred has to pick up Bruce and Lucius gets involved to develop an antidote to the weaponized hallucinogen. 

Crane manages to capture Rachel at his asylum and gasses her with a stronger dose.  He’s been dumping the toxin into the city water supply, but it needs one more thing in order to work.  The police surround the asylum, but that’s to capture Batman.  Gordon goes in alone and Batman sends him out with Rachel under the cover of bats.  Batman manages to gas Crane and discovers that he is working for Ra’s Al Ghul.  At the Batcave, Batman uses an antidote on Rachel, then tasks her with finding Gordon and inoculating him.  Soon that gas will be all over Gotham.

Bruce Wayne has to make an appearance at his thirtieth birthday party even though he wants everyone to leave; they’re all in danger and he needs to be Batman to save them.  Alfred encourages him to keep up appearances at least and yes, he cares about the Wayne name because two people charged him with their most precious treasure.  Bruce gives Fox his task, then is pulled over to meet someone.  A Ra’s Al Ghul.  The man standing there is certainly not the man Bruce killed.  But Ducard comes up behind him.  Ducard is Ra’s.  So Bruce has to act like a jerk to get everyone to leave.  Then Ducard starts a fire, like Bruce did to his home.  The League of Shadows has existed for thousands of years and whenever a civilization reaches the pinnacle of decadence, they are the ones to restore balance.  They sacked Rome, let loose the plague ships, burnt London.  Bruce asks for more time, but Ducard has decreed that it is Gotham’s time.  Bruce had been his greatest student, but Bruce now puts himself between Ducard and the people of Gotham.  And Ducard and the League were behind Bruce’s parents’ death; create enough hunger and criminals emerge.  A falling beam knocks Bruce out, but Alfred comes along and comments “what’s the use of all those push ups if you can’t lift a bloody log.”  They escape into the cave, Alfred encouraging Bruce once again that he’s never given up on him and “why do we fall?”  Bruce suits up.

Arkham Asylum is emptied into the Narrows (by the League) and the police go in force to clean things up.  But that’s where the gas is first vaporized, using the Wayne Enterprises weapon.  Ducard and his men load it onto the train, intending to run it over the water supply and hit Wayne Tower, causing an explosion and the gas to spread citywide.  Rachel gets to Gordon, then protects a boy (the same one Batman met earlier).  She uses her taser on Crane, who is trying to imitate the Headless Horseman.  Batman arrives to help Gotham.  He has Gordon drive the Batmobile, then manages to save Rachel before heading off after Ducard.  Rachel insists that Batman tells her his name; he could die.  His response is to echo her words to Bruce earlier, “what I do that defines me.”

Ducard’s remark to seeing Batman is that Bruce took his advice on theatricality a bit literally.  The two opponents fight inside the train, while Gordon shoots out the support structure, causing the train to crash.  Ducard asks if Bruce has finally learned to do what is necessary, when Batman has him pinned.  Batman won’t kill him, but he doesn’t have to save him either.  The train and weapon both explode after Batman flies out.

A new day dawns.  Fox now has the CEO job at Wayne Enterprises, per Bruce, who bought most of the public shares through various foundations and such.  His company is in good hands.  Rachel visits Bruce at the charred remains of the Wayne manor.  She tries to apologize for what she said to him seven years ago, but Bruce points out that what she said was true.  She kisses Bruce, then sadly tells him that Bruce Wayne is the mask.  His true face is what he shows Gotham’s criminals and the man she truly loved never returned from abroad.  But maybe someday, when Gotham doesn’t need Batman anymore, they can be together.  Bruce tells Alfred he will rebuild the manor brick by brick (when he was an angry younger man, he had declared he would tear down the manor brick by brick).  Alfred suggests improvements be made to the foundation.

Gordon has a new Batsignal and meets with his ally.  While Batman is doing good, he is causing escalation.  Like there’s a new threat in town, calling himself the Joker.  Batman will look into it.  Gordon tries to thank Batman.  Batman assures the cop he never has to say thank you.

Our core cast is back in The Dark Knight, though Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes and Aaron Eckhart (he was fairly decent in No Reservations with Catherine Zeta-Jones) joins as Harvey Dent.  Heath Ledger (A Knight’s Tale) won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor posthumously as the Joker in this film and is practically unrecognizable [I stayed up that Oscars night to specifically watch and see if Leger won the award].

Men in clown masks hit a bank, and then have been instructed to kill the other members as their parts are finished.  At the end, only one man is left, wearing creepy make-up under his mask, declaring that “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stranger.”  He then drives a school bus with all the cash out a building and into a line of other buses.  Things haven’t changed too much from the end of the previous movies; Gordon still uses the Batsignal, though now he’s head of Major Crimes Unit, and the Scarecrow is still in business.  And now there are copycat Batman out there, trying to take down the drug dealers, but the real Batman is not happy to see them.  And the Scarecrow even knows they are phonies when they use guns.  The real Batman rounds them up along with the drug dealers, his parting comment is that at least his armor isn’t hockey pads.  Back at the new cave, since Wayne Manor is not yet complete, Alfred is worried about Bruce.  While Batman has no limits, Bruce as a man does, but replies that he can’t know them.

We meet Gotham’s new District Attorney, Harvey Dent, who happens to be dating Rachel.  Harvey meets up with Gordon; the two men don’t entirely trust each other, Dent knowing there are corrupt cops in Gordon’s unit, but Gordon doesn’t really have a choice.  And Gordon doesn’t share all of the details of his plan with Batman with Harvey.  Bruce later runs into Harvey and Rachel at a restaurant and talk turns to Batman.  Harvey actually likes Batman and even comments that Batman won’t want to do the job of protecting Gotham forever.  He will want someone to pass the mantle on to.  And Harvey’s comment is that the people of Gotham elected Batman as their protector when they stood by and did nothing and they’re accepting his help right now.  Rachel tries to get her boyfriend to see sense and he comes back with “you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  Bruce decides that he likes Harvey and offers to throw a fundraiser for him.

The criminals of Gotham are banding together, trying to protect their assets from being seized.  Then the Joker walks in.  He has a plan to kill Batman, because everything changed when the Batman showed up.  But, if you’re good at something, don’t do it for free; he wants half of all the mob’s money.

Harvey uses the Batsignal to get Batman, then he and Gordon argue over how Lau escaped.  Batman has to get him back.  Bruce takes the Russian ballet away as an excuse to get near China so Batman can capture Lau.  With Lau and his accounting (he holds all the mob’s money), Harvey can get the whole mob off the street.  But the Joker kills one of the pretender Batman and delivers the message that Batman must take off his mask and reveal himself or people will die.  The video ends with maniacal laughter.

Bruce continues with his fundraiser and publicly announces his support for Harvey Dent.  He is the face of Gotham’s bright future.  Afterwards, he talks to Rachel about the day when the Batsuit can be hung up.  Gotham needs a hero with a face; they need their White Knight.  But the Joker has announced his next victims, with their DNA on his calling card.  He blows up the judge who put the mob away, and poisons the police commissioner.  He personally shows up at Wayne’s party to get Harvey, but Bruce hides him away.  (After Harvey has a similar conversation with Rachel about spending their lives together).  Batman shows up at the party to take on the Joker, who has found Rachel to threaten.  He starts to tell her to story of how he got his scars (after telling a crook that it was his father putting a smile on his face, demanding “why so serious?”)  Now, it’s his wife who got in trouble and he just wanted to see her smile.  The Joker demands that Batman take his masks off and Batman times his demand of the Joker to let go of Rachel badly; the Joker drops her and Batman dives after her.

At Wayne Enterprises, an accountant has been running the company’s numbers and found some discrepancies and finally took a look at Applied Sciences.  He realizes that many of the gadgets Batman uses are from Wayne Enterprises.  And he tries to blackmail Lucius Fox.  Lucius points out that Reese is attempting to blackmail a very wealthy man who may very well get his kicks out of beating up bag guys; does he really think this is a good idea?  Reese lets the matter drop, for the moment.

The Joker threatens the mayor at the funeral for Commissioner Loeb.  Bruce goes to investigate, but he can’t stop the Joker from taking a shot at the mayor and Gordon stepping in the way.  In the aftermath, Harvey calls Rachel and tells her to go somewhere safe.  She goes to Bruce’s penthouse.  Meanwhile, Harvey has captured one of the Joker’s henchmen and threatens to shoot him for information (and if the creep looks familiar, that’s David Dastmalchian, who plays Murdoc in the recent MacGyver series).  Batman stops him.  Harvey is the symbol of hope that Batman can never be.  And Batman’s made up his mind; no one else will die because of him, he’ll turn himself in at a press conference.

Alfred tries to help Bruce.  Nothing good will come of Bruce turning himself in.  The Joker is not a man who can be reasoned with; some men just want to watch the world burn.  As Batman, Bruce can endure.  Batman is the symbol that can be hated, more than a hero, but Bruce is set.  At the press conference, Harvey even tries to get people to see reason, but they still call for Batman’s head.  Bruce steps forward, but Harvey announces himself as the Batman first.  The Joker hits the convoy carrying Harvey, chuckling at the mayhem and destruction.  Batman comes out to stop him.  When the Batmobile takes a hit, the Batpod is released from it (which is super cool!).  And Batman has the chance to hit the Joker, the Joker is begging him to do it.  Because the Batman has rules, and the Joker doesn’t.  The Joker wants Batman to break his one rule.  Batman swerves to avoid the Joker.  And he is saved by Gordon.  The mayor gives him the commissioner job and Gordon doesn’t even get to relax that long because the Joker wants to talk to him.

Gordon ends up leaving the Joker with Batman, who gets a good hit in on him.  And the Joker doesn’t really want the Batman dead; “you complete me.”  In their conversation, the Joker reveals that he has both Rachel and Harvey Dent tied up somewhere and the Batman has to choose who to save.  Batman attempts to beat the answers out of the Joker, but all the painted criminal does is laugh.  Batman has nothing to do with all his strength.  He finally reveals the locations and Batman goes after Rachel, Gordon and his men will go after Harvey.  The couple are tied up amidst oil barrels rigged to explode.  Rachel gives her answer to Harvey (the same answer she left Alfred to give to Bruce, that she would marry Harvey because Bruce will never not need Batman).  But the Joker told them the opposite locations, so Batman drags Harvey out, whose face is half drenched in oil from his escape attempt and the police are seconds too late to save Rachel.

Harvey’s face is terribly burned, but he’s furious at Gordon.  Now his nickname, Two-Face, from Internal Affairs is very true.  “Why should I hide who I am?”  Bruce is depressed at Rachel’s death, then Reese announces he will reveal the identity of Batman.  While the Joker burns his half of the mob’s money, along with Lau, he calls to tell Reese that he’s changed his mind about Batman.  A world without Batman would be boring.  So, if Reese is not dead soon, the Joker will blow up a hospital.  So now all the people who were calling for Batman to reveal himself, want that secret to stay secret to protect their loved ones.  Bruce takes the Lamborghini and stops a truck from hitting the van carrying Reese.  Of course, he blows the situation off.

The Joker visits Harvey Dent at the hospital, dressed as a nurse.  His plea is that it was nothing personal against Harvey or Rachel.  He doesn’t have plans; he doesn’t make schemes.  He’s a wild dog chasing a car, he wouldn’t know what to do if he caught one.  Gordon and the rest make plans.  When things go “according to plan,” no one panics.  But throw that plan off, introduce a little anarchy, and everyone goes mad.  But anarchy, the Joker points out, is fair, showing Harvey his scarred coin that he flipped to make decisions.  Once the Joker leaves, he blows the hospital, punching the button a few times when it is slow to finish.  And he continues to rule the city.  Now he announces that everyone who wants out and get out, but maybe don’t take the tunnel or bridge.  Leaving the ferries.  Which he’s actually rigged to explode and given the opposing ferry the detonator.  One is filled with normal civilians.  The other is filled with criminals because you really don’t want to leave them behind.

Batman and Gordon try to separately track down the Joker before either ferry blows, but Gordon is angry with Batman, even pulling a gun on him.  Because Gordon has to save Harvey.  Batman is forced to fight the SWAT teams before they rush in and kill the wrong people; the hostages the Joker has are dressed to look like clowns, while the doctors are the real threat.  SWAT eventually realizes it, but Batman has to go after the Joker.  They fight and look on as the ferries don’t explode.  It just proves that there are good people out there.  Batman throws the Joker off the building, but still drops a line to catch him.  “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object.”  Batman is truly incorruptible and the Joker can’t kill him; he’s too much fun.  But Harvey Dent wasn’t.  All he needed was a little push in the wrong direction. 

Harvey has capture Jim Gordon’s family and threatens to shoot his son.  He wants Gordon to lie to his son, like Harvey and Rachel lied to each other that everything was going to be okay.  Batman of course tries to stop Harvey.  Aim the gun at the one responsible.  Harvey does, and shoots Batman.  Gordon begs for his son’s life and Batman gets up to tackle the pair.  He catches the boy, but Harvey falls.  Gordon grabs his son and Batman falls.  He gets up and again insists that Gordon doesn’t have to thank him.  And they can’t let the Joker win; no one can know what Harvey Dent really did his last day.  Batman can be the fall guy.  Let Harvey remain Gotham’s hero.  “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  Batman will be the villain, he begs Gordon.  Let him be hunted.  Gordon gives in and consoles his son that Batman can take it.  Because Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.  Batman is Gotham’s Dark Knight.

The trilogy is finished with Dark Knight Rises and as stated, it’s a depressing movie.  I’ve watched it once and there’s a reason I don’t own it.  Everything just falls apart in the middle.  Yes, it ends relatively well, but Bruce Wayne and Batman have to die in order to have a better life.  Batman is ultimately remembered as a hero, and Bruce Wayne runs off with Selena Kyle, but to Gotham, they’re dead.  Bruce passes the mantle onto a young man (whose given name happens to be Robin) and gifts Gordon a new Batsignal and a hint to his true identity, recalling the coat incident from decades prior.  Alfred catches a glimpse of his former charge, which alleviates his guilt a little, but the rest of the movie is just depressing. 

So I focused more on the first two films.  I like Batman Begins because it gives us a reasonable explanation.  How Batman became who he is; the fighting, dressing in a suit, and pummeling bad guys.  How he gets his tech and where it was logically developed.  I find the movie to be well written and well-acted.  Gary Oldman of course is excellent.  Christian Bale is a believable Batman; yes, the growly voice is a bit much, but the idea is to a) scare bad guys and b) disguise his voice so he’s not recognized.  And it technically works.  Just maybe not the best thought out.  Michael Caine is a caring Alfred.  I prefer Katie Holmes as Rachel because she’s got a bit more sweetness to her than Maggie Gyllenhaal.  And Liam Neeson is very believable in the beginning as a kind mentor.  Not terribly fuzzy, but he’s not meant to; he’s meant to shape an angry young man into a keen weapon.  And the first time viewing, I was very surprised to discover he was truly Ra’s Al Ghul.

While The Dark Knight is a dark movie, there’s a line of hope running through it and ultimately, it is an excellent movie.  Well written again and Heath Ledger’s performance was stunning.  He’s unrecognizable and yes, he’s a truly creepy Joker that no, you don’t want to meet.  But that’s the point.  This is why he’s Batman greatest enemy.  I really don’t think that there needed to be another movie.

However…after watching my Batman collection in short succession, I realize that as much as I like the two Nolan movies, I do miss some of the comedy.  Schumacher’s films are too comedic, while Nolan’s are too dark.  Out of my collection, the best balance is Batman Beyond.  There are dramatic storylines; Batman almost has to sacrifice himself for the city.  But there’s also truly funny bits, like anytime a hero backhands a bad guy trying to sneak up on them.  Of course, Mark Hammill’s Joker is a great combo of menacing laughter and actually wanting to hurt someone.  Heath Ledger’s Joker really just wants the world to burn.

As for fanfiction recommendations; it’s been a while since I’ve visited this fandom, so I’m checking out what there is.  I will update when I’ve found some good stories.

Up Next: Wonder Woman

“Holey Rusted Metal Batman!”

Batman Forever & Batman and Robin

Both films are directed by Joel Schumacher (who also directed The Phantom of the Opera in 2004, which boggles the mind a bit) and Tim Burton, who had directed the prior two Batman movies [I have watched them, but Batman Returns seriously creeped me out and I will not be revisiting it, nor am I a huge fan of Burton anyway] served as a producer on Batman Forever.  There is a discussion on whether these two films actually fit with the prior two, though a few of the secondary characters keep the same actors; but the tone is completely different and the leads changed.

Val Kilmer (Iceman in Top Gun) stars as Batman in Forever, with Chris O’Donnell (D’Artagnan in 1993’s Three Musketeers and Callen in NCIS: Los Angeles) joining him as Dick Grayson.  Nicole Kidman (Satine in Moulin Rouge and Lady Sarah Ashley in Australia) is Chase Meridian, while Tommy Lee Jones (he makes an appearance in the first Captain America film and tends to play more serious roles) as Two-Face and Jim Carrey as the Riddler play off each other as the villains of the film.

The film opens with the reveal of the Batsuit (yep, Schumacher is remembered for highlighting these suits in a very particular fashion) and the Batmobile.  Batman meets Dr. Chase Meridian, a psychologist at the scene of Two-Face’s latest crime.  And boy, does Chase make her intentions known in regards to Batman right off the bat.  Batman of course goes in to rescue the security guard and Two-Face attempts to kill Batman several times, to no avail.  We next see Bruce Wayne touring his facility and meeting Edward Nygma, who is obsessed with the man.  But Bruce doesn’t trust Nygma’s newest invention, quickly picking up on the manipulative nature regarding brain waves.  When Nygma forces a quick decision, Bruce tells him no.  Nygma does not take this well and when his supervisor visits him later in the evening, Nygma demonstrates precisely why his invention is not innocent.  He inadvertently discovers that while he can beam TV directly into someone’s brain, it has the side reaction of bumping up Nygma’s IQ and giving him access to their mind.  Nygma disposes of his supervisor, painting it the next morning as suicide; Bruce still insists on full benefits for the man’s family.  Nygma leaves Wayne Enterprises, though he leaves Bruce a few riddles.

In the meantime, Chase arranges another meet-up with Batman, using the Batsignal.  Batman is not impressed, though they do flirt and Chase drops her coat to truly reveal her intentions.  The caped crusader leaves the woman, and Bruce Wayne pays a trip to Dr. Meridian.  He knocks down the door when he hears a struggle, only to find out that Chase is working out inside.  He ends up taking her as his date to the circus, where the Flying Graysons are performing.  The performance is interrupted by Two-Face, demanding that Batman reveal himself; the villain has all of the wealthy people of Gotham held hostage, one of them is bound to know who Batman is or quite possibly is the vigilante himself.  Until Batman does step forward, Two-Face is going to hoist a bomb full of TNT into the air and kill everyone in the tent.  Bruce shouts the truth, but the noise of the crowd drowns him out, so he dashes off to dispatch Two-Face’s goons.  The Graysons use their trapeze skills to go after the bomb.  Young Richard climbs in the scaffolding and is able to hoist the bomb outside.  Two-Face notices what the family is doing and shoots the wires, causing the parents and other son to fall to the ground (the net had been removed for a prior stunt).

Bruce is horrified by what happened and offers to take Dick in.  Being a young man, Dick rather make his own way and kill Two-Face, but Bruce persuades him to at least fill up his bike in the garage.  Which is full of cool cars and motorcycles.  He passingly suggests that if someone could repair two of the bikes, he could keep one.  Maybe hanging out at the Wayne manor wouldn’t be so bad after all.  Dick begins to settle in and explains to Alfred that his nickname was Robin, emblazoned on his bike helmet.  “One day, the robin will fly again,” the older man remarks. 

Bruce is also having flashbacks to his parents’ death and pays another visit to Dr. Meridian, commenting on her fascination with Batman.  Her response is she thinks he feels cursed, but “what crime could he have committed to deserve a life of nightly torture?”  Alfred has to unfortunately interrupt the pair to inform his employer that their new guest has stolen the car…the other car.  Yes, Dick Grayson has taken the Batmobile out for a joyride because he’s snuck into the Batcave through the only locked room in the house.  Though, does someone want to explain why all the lights come up and the cave is revealed when the Intruder Alert goes off?  Admittedly, when the young man comes upon a gang ready to terrorize a young woman, he gets out and fights them off.  He does get a kiss with the girl and remarks “I could definitely get into the superhero gig.”  But the leader has called for reinforcements.  Lucky for Dick, the real Batman sweeps in and the gang scatters.  Dick lets out some of his pent-up anger on Batman, blaming him for his parents’ death.  Batman solemnly tells him, “if Bruce Wayne could have given his life, he would have.”  When they return to the manor, Bruce immediately forbids Dick from following him.  He warns the young man that revenge will become his life; Dick still has a choice.  Dick insists that Bruce helps him and trains him.  “Let me be your partner.”

Edward Nygma settles on the “Riddler” as his villain name, then scampers off to join Two-Face, so they can take down their enemies.  Two-Face has two ladies who accompany him, to reflect his dual personalities (nicknamed “Sugar” and “Spice.”  “Sugar” is played by Drew Barrymore).  The team-up begins a string of robberies, which ends up funding Nygma-tech to rival Wayne Enterprises and Nygma’s box ends up in homes across Gotham, feeding brainwaves to Nygma.  Nygma holds a gala, which Chase and Bruce attend.  Nygma is obviously trying to mimic Bruce, who is still his idol, though a bit fallen.  Bruce does attempt to remove the power to Nygma’s mind-reading boxes before he investigates, because he still doesn’t trust them, but a battery is put back in once he goes inside.  The box hypnotizes Bruce, asking him to reveal his dreams, fantasies, deepest secrets and fears.  Two-Face interrupts the gala, because nothing brings out Batman like murder and mayhem, which snaps Bruce out of the trance.  He quickly changes into Batman and crashes the villains’ party.  He ends up following Two-Face out of the building and down into the subway.  Two-Face attempts to incinerate the Bat, but his cape becomes fire-retardant.  Next move, bury the Bat in rubble.  Lucky for Batman this time, Dick brought his acrobatic costume and followed Bruce out, pulling him out of the rubble.

Now Dick really wants to be Bruce’s partner, maybe Nightwing would be a good name?  (A nod to the name Dick chooses when he separates from Batman).  Bruce is still insistent that Dick should not become a vigilante beside him.  Once he kills Two-Face, like he plans, what next?  Killing Two-Face will lead to more killing until he doesn’t know who he is anymore [this is possibly a response to Batman’s treatment of the Joker and other criminals in the previous two movies, some fans have theorized].  Dick stalks off and Bruce retorts to Alfred that he’s encouraging the younger man.  Alfred responds that the young man in question needs guidance.  But Batman has a date set for that night with Chase at her place.  She’s obviously ready for her rendezvous, considering she’s wearing nothing under her sheet.  But now that she has Batman, she’s discovered that she wants someone else.  Back at Wayne manor, Bruce decides to quite being Batman.  He’ll tell Chase the truth, but he’s done trying to live two lives.  Dick does not take this well, because he wants Bruce’s help with vengeance.  While Bruce is wining and dining the psychologist, Dick takes his motorcycle and leaves.

In the aftermath of the disastrous gala, the Riddler asks Two-Face “riddle me this – what kind of man has bats on the brain?” when he brings up Bruce Wayne’s file.  Since it’s Halloween, the two attempt to blend in with the trick-or-treaters to gain access to Wayne manor.  They knock Alfred out and surprise Chase and Bruce, who is having another flashback. Chase has also figured out for herself that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one; she’s kissed them both now.  Bruce manages to fend off the invaders for a few minutes, but a bullet from Two-Face grazes his head, knocking him out.  Chase is taken.  The Riddler skips down to the cave, which again lights up, and blows everything up, shouting “Joygasm!” (which is the weirdest word and slightly disturbing).  He insists that Two-Face does not kill Bruce, so they can leave him one final clue.  Which Bruce and Alfred put together with the other riddles to discover that Edward Nygma is behind everything. 

Never fear, Bruce has contingencies set in place; there is another cave under the one that was destroyed with another suit and a Bat-boat and Bat-plane.  Dick returns, in a new suit modeled after his acrobat costume, with an “R” emblazoned on it, for Robin.  Robin takes the boat; Batman takes the plane and they head for Nygma’s lair.

The villain pair play Battleship, attempting to blow up the duo.  Two-Face then heads out to take them on and Dick passes on the chance to kill him, pulling him up when he’s about to plummet to his death.  Two-Face recognizes this and tells the young man that the Bat has taught him well, then holds a gun to his head.  Inside, Batman faces the Riddler, who is drunk on power.  “If knowledge is power, then a god am I!” he declares.  He’s got Chase and Robin trapped and rigged to plummet; Batman has to choose one.  But he doesn’t have the time.  However, Batman has a riddle and knocks out the Box and the lights.  He catches Chase, then continues on to grab Robin at the bottom of the hole.  But Two-Face pops out again, ready to shoot them all.  Batman reminds him to decide with his coin, then confuse the issue by tossing duplicate coins.  Two-Face can’t keep his balance and falls into the pit….a third way out.  Batman did not directly kill Two-Face, nor did Robin have to kill him.

The Riddler is taken to Arkham Asylum, having lost his mind and now thinks that he is Batman.  Bruce has decided that he can be Bruce Wayne and Batman and gains a partner with Robin.

George Clooney takes over as Batman in the sequel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is Mr. Freeze, while Uma Thurman (a big-name star that I haven’t watched the movies she’s actually famous for) is Poison Ivy.  Chris remains Robin and Alicia Silverstone is Barbara.

Our heroes have new suits and a new car for this film, plus a bike for Robin.  They’re off to stop Mr. Freeze from freezing the entire museum, where the villain is stealing a huge diamond.  Robin is still headstrong and rushes after Freeze, only to get frozen.  Batman has to remain behind to thaw him out, instead of chasing after Freeze.  Bruce has words for Dick when they return home, but Dick feels like Bruce doesn’t trust him.  They do work out the backstory of Mr. Freeze, who plans to hold the city ransom so he can complete his research to save his ailing wife who is cryo-frozen.

In the meantime, a doctor (who honestly looks more like Winona Ryder) is attempting to crossbreed animals and plants, to give plants a fighting chance.  But her co-worker has subjugated her research to create Venom, then creates the strongman Bane.  But when Dr. Isley refuses to join him, he dumps chemicals on her, intending to kill her.  This backfires when it merges with her body, creating Poison Ivy.  Bane is now her lackey.  As Isley, she tries to get Bruce Wayne to shut down anything that would harm the environment.  Bruce points out that it would create hardships for others; people do need to come first.  Instead, there is a gala being held featuring the Wayne family diamonds in order to raise money for charity to save the planet (this is also a ruse to force Freeze out).  Batman and Robin are featured guests.

Ivy shows up to the gala and uses a smoke she blows into men’s faces to control them, which results in Batman and Robin fighting over her.  Freeze interrupts and steals the diamonds (which power his suit), but now Ivy is intrigued by this blue man.  However, Batman has captured him, after stopping Robin from making a jump, and sent him to Arkham.  Ivy breaks Freeze out and suggests a pair up.  Freeze will freeze Gotham and the world and Ivy will fill it with her attacking plants.

In the meantime, Alfred’s niece, Barbara has come to stay.  Dick finds her sneaking out one night, taking one of the motorcycles, and follows her to a street race.  Since their opponents do not play by the rules, he ends up saving her and back home, she reveals she intends to “save” Alfred from his life of servitude.  He’s ill, she’s noticed.  He’s dying, Bruce corrects.  He too has been paying attention to his mentor and figures out he has the same disease as Freeze’s wife.  He privately asks his oldest friend if he regrets his life.  Only that he couldn’t be out with Bruce.

Ivy makes Freeze believe that Batman shut off the cyro-freeze and killed his wife so he will follow her plan.  Batman figures out Ivy’s deal, but Robin is still under her spell and declares he’ll go solo.  He’s tired of living in Batman’s shadow.  When Ivy shoots a Robin signal into the sky, Bruce pleads with Dick to trust him.  If he wants Bruce to trust him, then Dick needs to trust Bruce; more like a family than a partnership.  Robin goes to face Ivy, but he has rubber lips to protect him from her kiss, gaining her masterplan.  She dumps him in the water, but then has to face Batman.  She gets him tied up and now there is a young woman in cape and cowl.  Barbara has discovered the secret as well and Alfred already had a suit waiting for her.  Batgirl takes on Ivy, calling her out on using feminine wiles to get her way; it gives women a bad name.  Ivy falls into one of her plants and the trio banter a bit before heading after Freeze.

He is successful in freezing most of Gotham, but the heroes reposition the telescope to bring heat to the city, defeating Bane as a side note.  Batman makes Freeze an offer; Batman had saved Freeze’s wife, if Freeze will give him the cure to the beginning stage of the disease, Batman will arrange that Freeze can continue his research to ultimately save his wife.  Huzzah, Alfred is saved!  And Freeze will torment Ivy for her duplicity.

I didn’t watch these films until after Batman Begins came out and I went in search of more Batman material.  So for someone who is used to superhero films being taken a little more seriously, these are a bit laughable.  But they may be imitating the campy nature of the 60’s TV series.  The villains’ plans are simple and really have no hope of working.  The lights are bright and obnoxious in Gotham and there are so many gadgets that one can tell these were made to sell toys.

I honestly like how Val Kilmer played Batman in Forever; I think that film definitely needed some seriousness to balance out Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey trying to out-ham each other.  Admittedly, that makes the movie funny because you quickly realize that this is not meant to be taken seriously.  Chris plays a young man trying to find his way, which I enjoyed.  Nicole Kidman is an excellent actress, but Chase Meridian is trying too hard to be flirty and get in bed with Batman.  I do miss seeing her in the next movie because she ultimately makes a good pair with Bruce, since she understands both sides of him. 

Batman and Robin take all of the goofy bits up to eleven.  It’s just so full of puns, you want to groan.  There are some nice serious moments with George Clooney, and yes, Dick is a bit whiny, but that tension between Robin and Batman exists in the lore; there’s a reason they separated.  Overall, the movie needed character development all around.

The main reason I will watch these movies is if I need something a little fluffy…and because I like some of the actors (in this case, mainly Chris O’Donnell because he was the first D’Artagnan I ever saw on screen and he’s excellent in NCIS: Los Angeles…oh my goodness, the banter with L.L. Cool J’s character is hilarious).

Up Next:  The Christopher Nolan Batman saga, mainly Batman Begins and Dark Knight (not a fan of Dark Knight Rises)

The Legacy of Batman

Return of the Joker

Batman gets to work and interrupts a heist by the Jokerz; a new group we haven’t seen in the show.  There’s a spot of gentlemanly behavior, when he hesitates to hit the pair of girls.  There’s no such hesitation after they taser and kick him.  Of course, Batman stands out from other heroes and saves one of the girls when they start to plummet to their death.  Her twin sister rescues her.  Destruction is caused, but one of the Jokerz gets away with a computer component.  When they meet up with their mysterious boss later, it’s not enough.  When one of the gang members speaks out on his frustration with their current jobs for the mysterious boss, the boss shoots him.  Okay, this is something new…and made a bit worse by the revelation that the original Joker is back and he is ready to give Gotham a wedgie.

Back in the Batcave, Bruce can still throw a batarang with precision.  And his company has dropped “Powers” from their name, returning to Wayne Enterprises.  Bruce is taking more control of his company again.  He keeps an eye on his protégé and questions Terry’s decision to go out that evening; he’s sore and tired, but Terry quips back, “the night is young and so am I.”  That lasts all of a couple minutes once he hits the club with Dana; he falls asleep on her.  Later, at a Wayne Enterprises party, the Joker’s laugh interrupts the festivities.  Terry, as Bruce’s assistant, tries to head off some of the Jokerz gang.  Once Bruce is fine for the moment (he takes out one member with a cane), he tells his assistant to “go to work.”  A minute later, Batman swoops in to save the patrons.  The Joker rises out of the floor and causes mayhem, but ultimately escapes.  Terry grouses to Bruce later in the cave that he should have gone after the Joker, but Bruce reassures him he did the right thing by saving the people.  However, he won’t talk about the Joker.

Terry switches tactics and goes to Barbara Gordon; “what do you know about clowns?”  “In this town, they’re never funny.”  And she refuses to talk.  Terry comes back to the cave to see Bruce going over the Joker’s file.  He is listed as deceased, yet when Bruce runs an analysis on the voices from the archive and from the previous night, they are a match.  When Terry asks again, Bruce calls the man a psychopath and a monster; and he wants Terry to give back the suit.  He has no right to force this life on the young man, or anyone.  Terry disagrees; Bruce didn’t force the life on him, Terry stole the suit.  And they come from two different worlds.  For Terry, Batman is a way for him to make up for past sins (running with a gang, etc), this appeases his soul and is a chance for him to be a worthwhile human.

  “It’s what I want, Bruce.” 

“Stupid kid.  You don’t know want you want, none of you did,” Bruce retorts as he walks away.  Terry throws the suit as his feet and runs out.

With his new free time, Terry meets up with Dana at the club again.  Bright side, more time for her.  Bad side, less pocket money.  Their evening is interrupted when the Jokerz gang shows up and goes after Dana.  The two girls attempt to distract Terry while Dana is grabbed, but he fights them off.  Dana is hurt and Terry puts Chelsea in charge while he finishes off the gang.  He heads to Bruce, who has been working on Joker anti-toxin.  The clown himself shows up in the cave and greets Bruce “hello Batman.”  A gas fills the room.  By the time Terry arrives in the cave, the clown is gone, but he left graffiti and a mess.  Bruce is frozen on the floor, wheezing out a few words between a weird laugh.  Terry administers the anti-toxin in time and calls Barbara for help.  She finally opens up about what last transpired between Bruce and the Joker, still adamant that it’s not the real Joker, but Terry deserves answers. 

Dick Grayson had already left; Tim Drake was Robin.  He was abducted and she and Bruce spent three weeks searching for him before a clue was delivered.  The Joker and Harley Quinn had taken Robin to Arkham Asylum.  They decided they wanted a family of their own and decided to “borrow” one of the kids that Batman had lying around.  The Joker molded Robin into “Joker Jr” and not pleasantly.  He tortured the kid (and shows Batman a video) and now know who’s under the cowl.  Barbara goes after Harley, who falls several stories, though they never found the body.  Bruce goes after the Joker.  The Joker gets a lucky cut on Bruce and holds Batman up for Robin to kill.  Robin ends up shooting the Joker amidst laughing, then crying.  Barbara tells Terry they buried the Joker and Tim was able to put the events behind him after extensive therapy, but Bruce forbade him from ever donning the Robin costume again.  Tim eventually left as well.

Terry decides to pay Tim a visit while in the Bat suit.  Tim is adamant that he knows nothing about the Joker’s reappearance and he as much as anyone wishes the clown gone.  Besides, he was so sick of the crime-fighting that he never wanted to see his suit again.  Terry goes searching for other clues, Barbara sitting in the chair in the cave this time.  She does suggest that Terry look up Nightwing for more stories if he wants.  Batman checks on a disgruntled Wayne Enterprises employee, thinking he’s behind it, but finds the Jokerz gang there, ready to waste him.  Yes, the employee had been in on the one attack, but the man behind the scenes decided to tie up loose ends, sending a laser weapon after the man and Batman.  Batman saves him, but is more than happy to turn him over to the commissioner. 

Bruce is up and around a bit more now and apologizes to Terry; he never wanted the young man to go against the Joker.  Terry notes that he is a completely different Batman, he never was a Robin.  And it’s then that they notice the only costume the Joker completely shredded was Tim Drake’s old costume.  And Terry puts together the parts he knows the Jokerz have stolen and they align with Tim’s expertise.  Bruce tells him to suit up, and take Ace with him.  The Joker is not pleased that Terry has figured it out shoots down the Batmobile. 

Between Ace and Terry, they take out the Jokerz gang.  Terry finds Tim face down, but then the man starts acting funny and feels unwell.  Soon his body transforms and Tim Drake is not just in league with the Joker, he is the Joker.  Or rather, as the Joker explains, the old Joker implanted young Tim with a chip coded with the Joker’s genetics.  Tim doesn’t realize he is the Joker.  His first order of business is to threaten to either go after Dana, Mary and Matt, or Bruce.  Ace attacks and the fight begins.  The Joker knows all of the tricks from Bruce’s peek and Terry is out of his league.  Bruce suggests that Terry tries to drown out and power through the Joker’s talking.  Terry has a different idea.  He likes to talk too.  He mocks the Joker; it was sad that he fixated on Batman in the past; the man wouldn’t know a joke if it bit him in the cape.  Oh, and Terry fights dirty.  Proof the Joker doesn’t know him.  Terry laughs, the Joker is pathetic.  “Not funny,” the Joker growls.  “I thought you wanted to make Batman laugh!” Terry calls down from the rafters.  “You’re not Batman!”  The Joker gets a good hit and Terry’s on the ground, the Joker trying to choke him.  Terry picked up a joy buzzer and burns out the chip on Tim’s neck with it.  Terry manages to get himself, Tim, and Ace out of the hideout before the laser (that has been running through Gotham) hits.

Terry visits Tim in the hospital alongside Barbara.  Tim thanks him and compliments that “Bruce couldn’t have chosen anyone better to put on the mask.”  Bruce actually shows up to visit Tim.  Before Terry leaves, Bruce corrects his earlier statement; “it’s not Batman who make you worthwhile, it’s the other way round.”  (On a funny note, Dee Dee, the twin girls from the Jokerz gang, have their bail paid by their grandmother, Nana Harley [Quinn]).  At the end, Terry stands over Gotham, in the suit, ready for work.  He slips on the mask and swoops into action.

As already stated, Terry McGinnis as Batman makes a few more appearances in the DC Animated Universe.  He shows up in an episode of Static Shock, where a young Static time-travels to the future, meeting old Bruce Wayne and the new Batman (and having to help break his future-self free from the Kobra gang).  He also appears as part of the two-part episode Once and Future Thing in Justice League Unlimited.  In the first half, Batman (Bruce Wayne), the Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman chase a thief named Chronos to the past, specifically, the Wild West.  They then end up following him to the future in the second half and there meet the older Static, Warhawk (who happens to be the Green Lantern’s son), and younger Batman.  Also featured are the new Jokerz gang that were introduced in Return of the Joker…with some upgrades.  The heroes manage to escape, after taking a beating and Batman leads them to the new Justice League headquarters, the old Hamilton Hill High School.  The Watchtower had been attacked and most of the members killed.  Old Bruce enters at that moment to keep everyone from dwelling on the bad; they’ve got a mission to attend to.  Bruce faces his younger counterpart and comments “surprised to see me?”  “A little,” original Batman remarks, though he’s more surprised to see he lived that long. Terry quips “Batman, Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne, Batman…or, have you met?”  They deliver “not now!” at the same time, so he gripes “what did they use to call it, stereo?”

The main issue is that the time line is becoming polluted, as original Batman notes, and Bruce responds that history is becoming fluid.  This needs to be stopped.  Batman writes a program to put an end to Chronos’s time travel belt; now they just have to find him.  Terry tries to warn Batman he doesn’t know the new town.  “Are criminals superstitious and cowardly [and we laugh because of the musical!]?”  “Yup,” Bruce responds.  They catch one of the gang and original Batman’s method of interrogation is to hang him over a building and tell him to talk before his arm gets tired.  Bruce hauls the criminal away and growls he can’t believe he was ever that green…his cane is a bit menacing in his hand, but he succeeds.  They can get to Chronos through his wife.  

There is a final showdown between the League and the Jokerz while time itself unravels.  Dee Dee pins Terry and electrocutes him.  We hear his cries of pain, then Bruce at the school shouts “Terry!”  Then silence.  But Green Lantern and Batman follow Chronos who wants to see the beginning of time and put a stop to the madness.  They end up back at the Watchtower from when everything started; the only ones to remember the events (and putting everything back in order).

Justice League Unlimited also brought us Epilogue.  We’re even farther in the future; Terry has bulked up and sneaks into Amanda Waller’s residence for some answers.  Apparently, Bruce needed a new kidney and Terry was found to be a perfect match.  The odds of that are suspicious, so he does a DNA test and discovers his DNA matches that of Bruce, not Warren McGinnis.  There is a scene where Terry confronts Bruce about it and also where he breaks things off with Dana, but these turn out to be just a dream.  Terry is mad at Bruce, thinking he meddled, but Amanda admits it was her doing; Project Batman Beyond.  She used project Cadmus (which, the Joker used on young Tim Drake in the flashback of Return of the Joker; Terry admits it was as low blow when he accused Bruce of it) and Batman’s DNA from crime scenes; then she overwrote Warren McGinnis’s reproductive DNA to that of Bruce and so when he and Mary had a son, Terry, he was in fact, Bruce’s son.  (This was a way to explain how both Matt and Terry have dark hair while their parents have ginger hair; Warren and Mary were selected since they had similar psychological profiles to Bruce’s parents.)  Amanda originally had planned that Warren and Mary would be killed while Terry was a child to mimic the tragedy Bruce underwent to become Batman, but the assassin backed out, arguing it was not what Batman would want.  So life continued unassuming until Paxton Powers had Warren McGinnis murdered and Terry met Bruce as a sixteen-year-old.  She urges Terry not to make the same mistakes as Bruce and points out that he is Bruce’s son, not his clone.  He doesn’t have quite the brilliant mind that Bruce does, but his heart is just as big, if not bigger. 

The episode ends up Terry contemplating an engagement ring for Dana, then helping Bruce out with his meds and vowing to continue to be Batman.  Bruce urges the younger man to eat something before attending to League duties.  Terry quips he’s stubborn, like his old man.

First, my thoughts on Return of the Joker; I think it’s a great continuation of the Batman Beyond story and a reasonable way to bring back Batman’s greatest enemy.  Because who would have ever expected that the Joker was hiding in Robin?  And the showdown between Terry as Batman and the Joker is great.  Terry is a different Batman and he doesn’t have a history with the Joker.  I wouldn’t say he’s not emotionally involved in the fight, because this man did harm his mentor (I’m sure running down to find Bruce gave Terry flashbacks to finding his father).  Terry also shows that he’s not a brash teenager any longer; when Bruce doesn’t want to talk about something, he does back off, same with Barbara.  But he is correct that he deserves answers.  Also, Bruce doesn’t waste time telling Terry off for suspecting Tim; Bruce trusts Terry’s skills.  And he tries to help during the showdown with the Joker, giving Terry advice.  And I think it’s a bit sweet that Barbara fills in for Bruce after the Joker’s laughing gas attack.

And the irony of Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker voicing the Joker will never not be funny (and it will always be funnier that he voiced Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender)

As for the Justice League episodes; Epilogue at least gives us a proper ending to the series (as does Return of the Joker; Unmasked was pathetic and lame).  And I agree that it gives us a reasonable explanation to the family non-resemblance Terry has with his parents.  On the one hand, it’s sweet that Bruce has a biological son, though in the lore, he adopted Tim Drake (apparently Dick Grayson was a ward, which had some standing; I reiterate, Batman lore is not my strong suit, I just like this show).  Terry will continue his legacy not just as Batman, but potentially as a Wayne (he’d have to find some way to explain that to the public pending circumstances).  And as Amanda points out, Terry is Bruce’s son, not a clone.  He is not Bruce Wayne, he’s still just Terry.  His decisions were his own.  On the other hand, there is a more compelling story of Terry being Batman with no blood connection to Bruce.  I’m glad the episode ended well nevertheless.

As for Once and Future Thing, Terry is hilarious at times.  I’m a bit sad to realize he was essentially killed at one point, though relieved that it was erased.  It’s a satisfactory story, though I mainly watch it for the “Batman meet Bruce Wayne” bit.

This was one series I explored fanfiction early on.  I have several recommendations that I repeatedly re-read:

Katfairy has “Beyond Knightfall” where Terry lands is a spot of trouble and his friends have to help him out (though I wish it would be completed), and “Divine Secrets of the YoYo Sisterhood.”  It has a good mix of drama and humor.

“Virus” by ChampagneWishes could be another episode in the show.

Bumpkin has some good little scenes in “Welcome to My World,” “An ‘Inside Peek’ into Mary’s Mind,” and “Nelson’s Wake Up Call.”

Tomy’s “Reparation” is excellent and “Reclamation” is good as well.

Jadeling has a whole series of stories, most especially “Lover, Friends, and Family.”

And if you want a hilarious crossover joke, try “Ron Beyond” by speedster.

Next Time: Batman Forever and Batman and Robin with Chris O’Donnell.

“Anything broken?” “If I said yes, could I go home?” “No.”

Season Three

The Royal Flush Gang is back in King’s Ransom, minus Ten.  And King gets angry if you mention her.  Turns out he’s working with Paxton Powers; well, more like Paxton’s assistant.  King is having an affair from his Queen.  She’s not happy with the state of the family, things are not like when her father was in charge.  King tries holding Paxton for ransom, but Bruce won’t deal.  If King has a problem, Paxton wrote the policy.  Though Bruce is now able to nail Paxton on some crimes (and Barbara has a snarky comeback when Paxton protests being arrested; he’d never try to kill Bruce, he was like a father to him.  Well, Bruce doesn’t glow in the dark like Paxton’s real father).  And when Queen finds out about the affair, she goes after her husband.  King protests to Batman, “do you have any idea what it’s like living in someone’s shadow?!”  (Yes, he does.)  On a happier note, Melanie stays out of the criminal activity and even pays Jack’s bail so he can have a fresh start.

There is a thief running around Gotham, stealing isotopes and wearing a force field, making him Untouchable.  Bruce and Terry investigate the force field and discover that Wayne Enterprises is funding its’ research to be used for patients with weak immune systems.  Terry befriends one of the female teenaged patients (and Bruce makes a crack that women used to throw themselves at his feet; he simply stepped over them).  She does help discover that one of the doctors is behind the thefts.  While Bruce is away in Inqueling, Terry has to face Inque by himself; he refuses to risk Bruce again, after the last encounter brough out the dangerous Bat Armor.  Dana is not as upset about Terry missing their date; she’s figured out that Bruce is a father figure to Terry.  Terry admits to Max that his girlfriend may not be so far off.  Inque is in trouble and needs to lay low; she finds her daughter and convinces her to steal the appropriate mutagen.  But after only sending money her entire life, the daughter betrays her mother for her large bank account.  Batman is not convinced that Inque is truly gone at the end.

An old friend of Terry’s returns; Charlie Big Time Bigelow.  He was the one who took Terry on a heist when Terry was fourteen and Charlie was eighteen.  It was when Terry’s parents were divorcing and he was being an angry kid with Charlie.  Terry didn’t realize what was going on until it happened.  Terry got three months in Juvie, Charlie got three years in jail.  Now he’s out and wants Terry’s help.  Terry refuses; he has a life now, a job.  However, he still feels guilty and tries to get Charlie a job at Wayne Enterprises.  Bruce figures out that Charlie is trying to get in with another crew and is using his connection.  Terry goes after Charlie; Batman is waiting at the next break in.  Charlie is exposed to cerestone, a growth hormone.  He becomes large and disfigured and goes after the crew.  Batman is involved in the fight and takes down Charlie.

Bruce starts to feel his age in Out of the Past.  Terry treats him to the Batman musical for his birthday; Bruce does not find it amusing.  [Though, the music and lyrics are very good, even using “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman.”  And criminals are a “superstitious and cowardly lot.”]  he reminisces about his past relationships and Talia al ’Ghul steps out of the shadow.  Terry even knows who she is; he’s actually done research on the Bat computer.  She’s offering Bruce a trip to the Lazarus Pits for eternal youth.  Bruce takes it when Batman has to save him and a young woman from an accident.  The process works and Terry enjoys working out with a more youthful Bruce.  But Bruce feels like it’s a cheat, so they plan to leave.  The guards won’t let them, so the two kick butt together (and the Animated Series theme plays for a minute).  And Talia is actually Ra’s al Ghul; he used his own daughter to continue to cheat death.  His ultimate plan is to transfer his consciousness into Bruce, now younger and stronger, and return to Gotham to take over the company as Bruce’s long-lost son of Talia’s.  Batman to the rescue!  The pits are ultimately destroyed and Bruce bids farewell to his beloved.

There is a gorilla on the loose in Speak No Evil.  The local university used human DNA to give the gorilla human intelligence.  Now he’s after James van Dyle; he appears to be a conservationist but is actually a poacher and captured the gorilla and his mother years ago.  Batman helps the gorilla and investigates, but he’s captured.  The gorilla helps get him out of a tiger’s cage and the commissioner is there to arrest van Dyle.  Bruce and Terry release the gorilla back into the wild so he can scare away poachers.

Superman shows up in The Call, a two-part episode.  The Justice League tower in Metropolis is facing danger, superheroes are being put out of commission.  Superman comes to Gotham to ask Terry to help the Justice League.  The other members are not happy about young Batman joining them and they don’t trust him.  Batman does his research and even rescues Aquagirl when she’s in danger.  Superman feels there is a traitor in the League and right now, he only trusts Terry.  Metropolis is under multiple attacks and the League is spread thin.  Warhawk receives a distress signal and Batman follows him because no one else heard it.  Warhawk is apparently killed in an explosion and when Bruce investigates the footage, it looks like Superman is responsible.  Bruce has kept kryptonite on hand, in case Superman ever went rogue again.  His directive to Terry is “do whatever it takes, but make sure you stop him.”  However, turns out that Warhawk is alive; he suspected something when he was the only one to receive the distress call and now trusts Batman when he suspects Superman.  When they go to confront Superman, he is being controlled by an alien starfish.  He escapes, but Bruce knows where the Fortress of Solitude is located.  There, the League finds a zoo of alien creatures.  Batman uses kryptonite to stop Superman and Aquagirl is able to read the starfish’s mind to discover that the starfish was kidnapped from its’ home world.  Superman eventually freed him, but kept him locked up again.  Now the starfish wants freedom and to take over the world, so he’s using Superman.  Superman and the starfish wake up and take control of the League, except Batman.  Now Batman has to fight several other superheroes in order to save the world (just another day in the life, huh).  Superman goes after Batman and eventually an electric shock brings Superman back.  They work together to free the League and to stop the starfish’s friends from escaping.  Superman almost traps Batman (“he knew what he was getting into” Superman tells another hero when they protest Batman is still underwater), but Batman flies up at the last second.  They send the starfish home and Batman is offered a full-time position with the League.  Old Batman was only ever part-time.  Then they have something in common, Terry remarks.  Superman muses, more than you think.

Big Time is back in Betrayal and Bruce has to warn Terry against going after Charlie again.  Leave it for the police.  But Terry won’t back down.  He ends up kidnapped by Charlie (Max picks up the backpack with the suit and Bruce calls her to warn her against putting it on…the old man knows everything).  Charlie wants Terry to join the new operation as his loyal companion.  Terry refuses, which makes Charlie angry.  Terry escapes and Charlie chases.  When he catches his old friend, Charlie says he can’t kill Terry due to their friendship.  Terry convinces Charlie to go to the police; yes, he’ll go to jail, but while there, Terry will have Bruce’s company search for a cure to the cerestone.  When the police arrest the gang, Charlie runs.  Terry is only slightly surprised, but now he’s angry.  Charlie lied to him; he never had any intention of going good.  He used it as a way to get the leaders out of the way and now he’ll take over the gang.  Bruce drives by and throws the bookbag to Terry.  Batman appears a minute later to save Bruce and take on Charlie.  Bruce once again warns Terry against facing an old friend.  Charlie ultimately falls off the bridge during the fight and Terry claims he outgrew him.

Terry faces the Kobra cult in the two-part Curse of the Kobra.  They start by stealing a thermal bomb and Batman can’t face off against all of them.  Instead of berating Terry, Bruce sends him to an old martial arts teacher to fine-tune his technique.  There, Terry makes friends with Zander.  He even introduces Zander to Max when they go to get a slice of pizza (“who’s bad, who’s rad, who’s never been had,” she cheers when she beats Zander at a video game).  But Zander is being groomed for something else and can’t socialize with his new friends.  Turns out, Zander is the leader of Kobra and they have something big planned.  Then he kidnaps Max (who immediately calls Bruce and Bruce immediately sends Batman to her house when they hear her scream).  Batman ends up with a minor concussion and four cracked ribs after trying to go after Max and Zander.  Bruce warns him that it will hurt to move and breathing won’t be fun.  He helps with the investigation since Terry is in no condition and blaming himself is not productive.  When Bruce finds the hideout, Terry immediately suits up: “I’ll breathe on the weekend.”  “It’s a toxic waste dump,” he tells Bruce when he arrives.  “Or so they say.  Can you think of a better way to make people want to avoid the place?”  “Call it a high school?” Terry quips.  Max meanwhile attempts her own escape (after being changed out of her clothes into something that is almost slave-Leia inspired).  She’s stopped by a dino-man, the result of a Kobra lackey breathing in green gas.  Zander’s master plan is to use the thermal bomb to heat the Earth up so only he and his men will survive and thus they’ll rule the world [not the brightest plan], and he’s chose Max as his companion.  He likes that she’s different, though to make her subservient, he does order her to be gassed.  Batman goes in (sore) to rescue Max and receives a bit of help from a ninja in the shadows.  After Zander breathes in the gas to go through the transformation, their teacher (the ninja) appears to take him down.  She buys Batman and Max time to escape.

At a science symposium in Countdown, Mad Stan interrupts to “blow it all up!”  He comes across a man in distress afterwards and rescues him from federal agents.  The man is actually a synthoid; Zeta is back [tying in to the new show that was developed].  Mad Stan figures it’s the feds out to get him so he arms Zeta with a secret bomb and releases him.  Batman discovers the plot and now has to go after Zeta. He tries to get the feds to help him, but they are only concerned about getting Zeta back, not the innocent people that could be hurt or killed.  Batman of course finds the bomb in time, but they’re surrounded by the feds.  Zeta pretends to be Batman so he can escape and Terry gets out as himself in disguise.  [Not a terribly exciting episode.  Nor is the final episode.]  Unmasked relates a mission Terry had when he was first becoming Batman when he showed a young kid his face in order to rescue him.  Kobra found out and kidnapped the kid so they can find out who Batman is.  Terry lucked out and the kid remembered his face as a famous action figure.  Terry uses the tale as a caution to Max for making jokes about Batman in Terry’s place. 

If the final episode feels like a letdown, never fear; Terry McGinnis shows up as Batman in a follow-up movie Return of the Joker and several episodes of Justice League Unlimited.  What I really appreciated about this season is Bruce showing obvious care and concern about Terry.  I do so love when a crochety character shows tenderness to a select group of important people.  Bruce may be learning from his past mistake of shoving people away.  Overall, the episodes are not as interesting as season two, but Out of the Past was fairly interesting, giving Bruce a little bit of the limelight again. Charlie Bigelow as a villain after being a friend to younger Terry is a good twist; Max remarks in his second appearance that Charlie was always a monster, just now his outside matches his inside and Dana never trusted the guy. It highlights Terry’s growth as a person. As he remarks when Charlie first approaches him, he has a life now.

Next Time:  Return of the Joker and the other episodes featuring the new Batman.

“Where were you?” “Oh, just out saving the world.”

Batman Beyond: Season Two

Season Two opens with introducing a friend of Terry’s, Maxine Gibson (voiced by Cree Summer, who has provided voices for hundreds of shows and games, including Susie Carmichael in Rugrats and All Grown Up, Valerie Grey in Danny Phantom, and Princess Kida in Disney’s Atlantis movies).  In Splicers, Terry faces off against Dr. Cuvier, who leads the splicing movement in Gotham; splicing animal DNA in humans.  DA Young stands against the movement, understanding its dangers.  Even Terry agrees with him, though his friends are piqued by the teen craze.  When Batman investigates the Chimera Institute (Reborn to be Wild), he’s electrocuted and captured.  Cuvier injects bat DNA into Batman, but Batman escapes, in time to help stop an attack against Sam Young.  Barb has to stop Batman from killing one of the henchmen (even calling him Terry in the process); the invading DNA is starting to take over.  Barb calls Bruce to warn him and Terry steps out of the shadow; he’s now half man, half bat.  He attacks Bruce, but the old man is a few steps ahead and already has a mutagen antidote ready.  Terry is cured and takes Ace to help him track down Cuvier “you find, me stop.”  Cuvier spends part of the fight as “a true Chimera,” injecting himself with multiple animals’ DNA.  Then Batman overloads him and he gets real creepy.  Ace leaps to Batman’s rescue and Batman returns the favor “don’t touch my dog.”  The factory ends up going up in flames and Barb speaks to Terry afterwards; he can’t live a life of narrow escapes.  It’s a thankless existence with few rewards.  To Terry, the small rewards are the best, like now being friends with Ace.

Earth Mover is a bit creepy.  Terry is studying with a classmate, Jackie, and they feel something watching them.  Terry chases after a blob, which throws him around a bit (and he gets right back up), but it disintegrates into dirt.  Later, there is an earthquake at a field where Terry is with Dana, Jackie, and her stepfather.  Radioactive goo spills out and they all run.  Batman swings in to the rescue.  The truth comes out that Jackie’s birth father worked for Bill, until there was an accident illegally dumping chemical waste.  Tony was believed dead and Bill adopted Jackie.  Turns out Tony’s DNA was scrambled with the earth thanks to the waste and he’s now trying to contact Jackie and get revenge on Bill.  Batman helps saves the pair and Tony finally dies.  (Terry does have to point out to Bruce that ten years ago, when some of this went on, he was only seven so no, he didn’t read the news.)

A few Jokerz find a new government vehicle abandoned (because it was going to overheat) and take it for a Joyride.  They terrorize Gotham with it and Batman has to work with the woman who developed it to get it shut down before the nuclear core blows.  Of course, Batman saves the day and another teen realizes he does not want to join the Jokerz.  Lost Soul is also a bit creepy; a businessman from the past who had his mind stored in a computer decides that when he’s woken up he’s going to take over his grandson’s body.  He manages to take control of the Batsuit and attempts to drown Terry before Bruce uses the kill switch.  The suit escapes the Batcave and Terry decides he’s going after it.  Bruce tries to stop him; that suit is very powerful and just punched through a stone wall.  Terry brings up “is Batman just the suit, or the man inside?”  Bruce gives Terry one of his old utility belts and Terry uses Nightwing’s mask.  The actual suits won’t do much good since they have bullet holes and cuts in them.  Using his wits and gymnastic moves he already possesses, Terry faces off against the controlled suit and runs a spike plugged into a magnet to shut it down.  At the end, Terry says he’ll be glad for a few nights off for Bruce to reprogram the suit.  Bruce quips, it’s the suit that’s out of commission, not Batman.

Max is running a program in Hidden Agenda to discover Batman’s true identity; she’s brilliant and bored.  Terry is fearful that she’ll find out his secret, but first he has to protect her from a band of Jokerz out to hurt her.  They’re led by a classmate angry that Max beat his test score.  For a while, Max believes Terry is one of the Jokerz, but quickly realizes the truth.  She’s eager to help Batman, going after the female Joker when Batman tells her to run.  “Not what I meant,” he quips.  Max points out to Terry at the end that her knowing his secret can be good; she can cover for him with Dana when he as to cancel dates.

Batman gains a Stalker in Blood Sport.  Stalker is a poacher who is now hunting Batman as the ultimate prey.  He bears a scar down his back from an encounter with a panther; the scar now gives him enhanced strength and other abilities.  Stalker also believes that the bat spirit is an ageless soul that inhabits the strongest warrior in each generation.  Terry doesn’t realize he’s been marked after his first encounter with Stalker and ends up leading the man to his younger brother while he’s babysitting.  So Batman swoops in to rescue Matt (which Matt finds thrilling).  Matt even quips to his brother that Batman is super cool, unlike Terry.  To which Terry responds, “we can’t all be Batman.”  Ten is back in Once Burned, stealing from a high-stakes poker game to pay the Jokerz ransom to get her family back.  Turns out, it was all a test by her family to prove her loyalty.  Melanie stays with Terry while she’s in Gotham and really wants to get back together with him.  But she goes on the run after breaking with her family and Terry decides to not read the note she left with Batman for him.

Max pressures Terry to let her help Batman in Hooked Up.  He ends up agreeing when clues from comatose runaways lead to the Virtual Reality gaming room.  Max is approached, but Terry is hesitant and suspicious.  She goes without him and comes under the thrall of Spellbinder, who is using virtual reality to give people their dreams, in exchange for money.  They steal when they run out and when they get too much of their dreams, it puts them in a coma state.  Max likes the dream world because she’s alone at home and in the dream, her family surrounds her.  She does ultimately help take out Spellbinder, but she’s beginning to learn what Batman’s world is really like. 

Rats is another creepy episode (this season has several).  As you can guess, rats feature heavily in the episode.  Dana is mad at Terry for breaking another date, but decides to give him another chance when she finds a white rose.  However, Terry ends up late for the date anyway (keeping Mad Stan from blowing everything up).  And when Dana goes to leave before he arrives, she finds another rose, then is chased by large rats.  She wakes up in an underground lair of Patrick, the rat boy.  He collects unwanted things and has been spying on Dana, realizing that Terry’s been letting her down, so he’s brought her to him.  She plays along to get Patrick to leave, then attempts to escape on her own (you go girl!).  She gets away for a while, but ends up lost and stuck; Patrick finds her.  Batman is also searching desperately for Dana when her father reveals to Terry that Dana never came home.  He discovers the giant rats at their meeting place and follows them back to Patrick.  While Batman fights Patrick, who has decided that Dana needs to die since she won’t stay with him and teases him like others have (he’s done this before…you might not want to think about that), Dana fights off the rats and starts a fire.  Gotham’s underground seems riddled with chemical waste and a pool of it explodes while Batman flies Dana to safety.  It’s Terry who meets her above ground and she has him take her home.

A psychic girl, Tamara, contacts Batman to save her in Mind Games.  The Brain Trust told her parents she was going to a gifted school, but when they try to contact them, they get nothing.  With Tamara’s help, Batman is able to track them down and rescue the little girl.  Max pops up in the episode, helping Terry study while on patrol (all presidents are boring, according to Terry), and accompanying him to a swanky hotel to find the girl.  There is a supposed ghost haunting Hamilton Hill High in Revenant.  Strange accidents have been happening around school, so a few girls hold a séance to contact the ghost (at home, Matt wants to hold one to contact his father).  Nelson interrupts them and the “ghost” attacks.  Batman has to begrudgingly save Nelson.  But Bruce doesn’t believe it’s an actual ghost; not because he doesn’t believe in ghosts.  He’s seen actual magic, but this stunt seems “so high school.”  Terry puts together some of the clues and visits Willie Watt in Juvie.  Willie has retained his powers and is responsible.  He escapes and goes after Nelson, then fights Batman.  Willie is locked up again and cannot access his powers.  At home, Terry reminds Matt of the good memories they have of their father.

When animals start going nuts in Babel, Bruce and Terry realize that Shriek is back.  And Shriek plans to use sound to his advantage and terrorize Gotham; he’ll drive them all mad unless Batman hands himself over at midnight.  Barbara tells him “you’re out of your mind” on the phone; Shriek answers “duh.”  Barbara calls Bruce and he is the first to offer himself up as Batman.  But he’s not the Batman people know now.  And Bruce won’t hand Terry over so easily; while he may trust Barbara, he doesn’t trust the others around her.  “That kid’s done a lot for the city; it’s time for the city to do something for him.”  Max cautions Terry that he has friends and family that would miss him if he handed himself over.  And the public isn’t going to do anything to protect their vigilante hero.  But Terry still shows up at the Batcave in his suit; it’s not his first plan to just hand himself over, but he also remembers why he became Batman.  And he figures out where Shriek is hiding.  They fight and Shriek is buried in a pile of rubble.  Back in the cave, Bruce thanks Terry for reminding him why he started his crusade.  This is one of my favorite episodes because it’s about Terry as a person, not in the suit.  He has to decide that he’s the kind of guy to put others ahead of himself.  And I love Bruce standing up for him.

Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot is exactly what it says on the tin.  Terry’s friend Howard is trying to be popular.  When he accompanies Terry on an errand to a synthoid factory for Bruce (he has Terry run simulations against the classic villains as training), he discovers a man running a side-gig, hooking men up with…let’s say female companions.  Howard orders himself a hot and loyal girlfriend.  And it works to get people to come to his party.  But “Cynthia” attacks Nelson when he makes fun of Howard.  And she tries to go after Chelsea when she flirts with Howard; Terry manages to stop that.  And at the party, when Howard tries to hook up with Chelsea, Cynthia goes berserk.  Max buys some time for Batman to swoop in; and Howard does nothing to help when he utters “can we still be friends?”  As Batman points out, that is never the right thing to say.  Cynthia self-destructs and Howard now has to deal with irate parents.

While Barbara won’t hand Batman over to Shriek, she will believe that he killed Mad Stan in Eyewitness.  To be fair, it’s not entirely her fault.  Spellbinder is behind it; and Batman interrupted an undercover sting.  But Terry has to go on the run for a while after he finds cops at his home asking to see him.  Bruce luckily believes him and works to clear up the video recording of the last fight between Batman and Mad Stan.  Barbara reminds Bruce that Terry has a record; he knows.  Terry spent three month is juvie, but Bruce argues, the teen is still learning.  And if Barbara takes Batman in and reveals Terry’s secret, she reveals a lot of other secrets too.  Bruce is able to give Terry the clue to reveal Spellbinder.  Barbara makes it up to Terry by giving him a student award to cover for the police looking for him.

Curaré is back in Final Cut.  She’s taking out the rest of the Society of Assassins.  The last member comes to Batman for protection (voiced by Tim Curry, a most excellent Cardinal Richelieu in Three Musketeers with Chris O’Donnell [who plays Robin in Batman Forever and Batman and Robin]).  He’s planted a bomb in Gotham that will go off if he doesn’t input a code every twelve hours.  Batman needs to stop Curaré, or a lot more people will die.  Max again tries to help Batman, but Terry warns her off.  She doesn’t listen and is almost killed by Curaré.  Batman saves her (and warns her not to call him “Terry”) and the assassin dies.  Now it’s a race to find the bomb and disarm it.  And fight off Curaré.  The latter task is Batman’s and Max has to deal with the bomb.

Dr. Wheeler has set up a ranch for troubled teens in The Last Resort.  But his methods aren’t the best.  Busloads of kids are being sent to the ranch for minor things, apparently due to a new parental liability law.  Luckily, Terry is not sent, but Batman investigates because what kind of ranch would take his friend Chelsea alongside a legitimate threat like Sean Miller.  Wheeler’s methods run alongside those use to brainwash prisoners of war; and he’s using it on kids.  Terry heads in as himself to speak to Chelsea; he has to sneak past the guards to get the truth and ends up running into Sean Miller.  Wheeler catches him and throws him in a cell.  If no one comes looking for him, he’s to be terminated.  Terry works with Sean to escape and Batman swoops in to finish the job.  The kids run free and Batman has to stop Sean from killing Wheeler.

Terry’s friend Jared shows up again in Armoury.  His stepfather throws him a lavish birthday party, then ends up laid off.  As a weapons’ developer, his skills are just not called for now and he struggles to find a new job.  An old buddy suggests some illegal methods and the man takes them so he can maintain appearances.  That means stealing from Wayne-Powers and Batman gets involved.  Jared figures out the truth of what his stepfather is doing and the partner is not happy.  Batman shows up and the partner tries to kill him, but the stepfather saves him.

Batman’s identity is almost revealed in Sneak Peek.  A nosy journalist, Ian Peek, has found a way to get exclusive dirt on celebrities.  Turns out, he has a belt that allows him to go intangible and sneak through walls.  When Ian gets in a spot of trouble, he finds the Batmobile and sneaks a recorder inside.  He captures an image of Terry unmasking in the Batcave and Bruce alongside him.  He plans to reveal the exclusive on television.  Terry attempts to tell his mother, but she laughs him off.  He goes as Batman to Ian to persuade him to not reveal Bruce; he’s done too much good for the city.  Ian is his usual reporter self.  Batman flies away.  Then Ian needs Bruce’s help; he can’t control the intangibility, he needs Bruce’s company to save him; after all, the original scientist worked for him.  Oh yeah, he killed the scientist.  Bruce isn’t happy and walks away.  Ian attacks and luckily, Batman is nearby.  When he begins to sink through the floor, Batman tries to save him, but gravity is the only thing that works on him now.

Eggbaby actually won an Emmy award for the show and it is a fairly funny episode.  It’s a classic family studies episode, which Terry is failing.  So he has to take care of a baby simulator, an egg.  While being Batman and facing Ma Mayhem and her boys from stealing rubies.  Bruce is not happy that Terry takes the egg on patrol (for a second he thinks there is an actual baby and does Terry have something he needs to tell Bruce?), but he also won’t watch the egg.  Through various mishaps, Terry has to get the egg back.  And all the excitement is apparently good for his grade because he’s the only one to pass since he gave it positive stimulation.

There’s a synthoid on the loose in Zeta (which ended up being the backdoor opener to a new series that no, I did not watch).  It first masquerades as a teacher at Hamilton High, then the feds show up and start shooting (not the smartest of ideas).  Zeta was a deep cover operator for the NSA, whose purpose was to infiltrate, interrogate, and dispose of terrorists.  Now it’s gone off target.  Max gets involved and Batman goes to save her.  Turns out, Zeta doesn’t want to kill anymore.  Max persuades Batman to help and when Zeta resists killing an NSA agent, he does help Zeta disappear.  The NSA shows up in the next episode, Plague, when they’ve hired Stalker to track down False Face, who is helping the terrorist organization Kobra spread a super virus through Gotham on credit cards.  Batman and Stalker have to work together and their styles do not wholly mix.  They stop the virus, but False Face gets away.

Batman faces a gang of thieves who have metal accessories in their bodies in April Moon, thanks to a specialized doctor.  He gave the gang their powers hoping to save his kidnapped wife.  When Batman does further investigating, it turns out that she was in on the operation, which breaks the doctor’s heart.  Batman is able to defeat the gang, though the leader escapes.  He goes to the doctor at the end of the episode, not knowing that the doctor knows the truth now (that can only spell bad things).  Luckily, the next episode is a bit funnier, and a bit of a spoof on Star WarsSentries of the Last Cosmos is an elaborate series of video games.  One of Terry’s friends excels at the game and is invited to the home of its creator.  Who believes the story he has spun, that he is a Wise One and uses the kids on sentries to destroy his enemies, like the Dark Regent is on Earth.  They attack a hall of records and Batman investigates afterwards (dissing Jar Jar at the same time).  Batman is able to reach “the Dark Regent” first, who is actually the original writer of the game series, the other man was the producer, but wanted more of the profits, so he cut the writer out.  His charade falls apart and the kids leave him.  They turn up on the writer’s doorstep and ask their questions.  “It began a long time ago, in a cosmos far from Earth…”

There is a masked man attacking people who disrespect kids in Gotham, named Payback.  Bruce figures out the connection between the kids; they all attend youth counseling.  Terry goes in and has a convincing story about being overworked and underappreciated by his boss.  Batman goes after the wrong man first and gets in an argument with Bruce (proving his point).  We do get this exchange (this episode has some of my favorite quotes from the show):

“Ow!”  “Why weren’t you watching your back?”  “I was too busy watching my front.  Am I supposed to have eyes everywhere?”  “Only if you want to live to a ripe old age.”  “You don’t make it sound too inviting.” 

They attend a fancy dinner and Payback attacks…as planned.  Payback goes after Bruce. 

“You’re a mean old man, you know that?”  “Mm-hmm.  And what are you?”  “Your worst nightmare!”  “You have no idea what my nightmares are like.” 

Of course, Batman saves Bruce and Payback is revealed to be the counselor’s son, hoping that taking out the kids’ problems would allow his father more time to spend with him.

Terry leaves a date with Dana, Max, and Howard, then ends up following a guy in the subway.  The next day, he’s not at school and Bruce can’t hail him.  Max decides to help Bruce find Where’s Terry?  Batman wakes up in rubble.  There’s a runaway kid there who wants Batman out of his domain.  He’ll lead him topside.  Batman thought he recognized someone.  He did; Shriek is behind it.  But the tunnels make aiming bad for him.  Batman sends the kid on for help, but Shriek strikes again, releasing the river into the tunnels.  Batman can now escape and goes to help the kid.  Meanwhile, Bruce and Max track down Terry’s backpack and Bruce uses Max as a decoy so he can find Terry.  A well-aimed strike with his can puts Shriek out of commission and the kid decides to run back home.  Luckily for Terry, his mother doesn’t suspect anything; she just now thinks that he makes his bed in the morning.

We discover Ace’s background in Ace in the Hole.  His previous owner had him in dog fights.  He managed to run away during a police raid and found Bruce while he was paying his respects to the spot his parents were murdered.  They save each other from a clown and Bruce takes Ace home.  Now the previous owner is back and Ace chases after him.  Batman searches and even goes undercover as Terry.  Ace finds the bandages with Terry’s scent and Batman discovers that the owner is making serostone growth hormones to use on the dogs.  Batman has to face one of the huge mutant dogs, but Ace breaks free in time to help him.  It’s a happy ending, with Bruce and Ace reunited.

I like the character development we see in this season.  Bruce genuinely cares for Terry, even if he is sarcastic about it.  He doesn’t want to see Terry hurt.  And Terry cares for Bruce.  When his mentor wears the powered Bat-armor, he’s fearful of the effect it will have on the elderly man.  This season also shows Terry coming into his own as Batman.  He doesn’t always need the suit and he’s developing his own deductive sense.  Though, could the bad guys please stop electrocuting Batman?  That’s got to have some consequences for Terry down the road.

Next Time: Season Three

“I’m Batman now”

Batman Beyond

I’m not entirely sure how my brother and I stumbled onto this cartoon aside from it was on when we came home from school.  It was also my first foray into the superhero world.  I of course knew basics about the major superheroes; I knew Batman, Superman, and Spider-man existed, but I never read comic books, I never played video games.  This is essentially a continuation of Batman: The Animated Series, but I had never watched it.  The stories though are what kept me coming back.  It does feature Kevin Conroy, who has voiced Batman in any number of shows, as Bruce Wayne.  And Will Friedle (Eric in Boy Meets World; he’d later go on to voice Ron Stoppable in Kim Possible) headlines as Terry McGinnis.

The first episode is a two-parter, entitled Rebirth and gives us the back story.  Batman is breaking up a kidnapping, but he now has heart issues, so when he strains too much, he ends up breaking his one rule and picks up a gun to scare off a crook.  He’s disgusted and retires.  Twenty years into the future (where cars fly now, but obviously written before our technological advances because there are no smartphones) Gotham is rank with crime.  Gangs modeled after the Joker roam the streets and cause problems.  We meet Terry McGinnis when he takes on one.  Wayne Enterprises is now paired with Powers, headed by Derek Powers, and we soon learn the merger was not for the best.  Terry’s father, Warren works for Wayne-Powers; his friend delivers him secret information then disappears.  Warren reads the information and realizes something horrible is going on at the company.  He and Terry argues over Terry’s temper and fights before Terry storms out to join his girlfriend Dana at a club.  Jokerz attack outside the club and Terry takes them on.  Before they can hurt too many in the crowd Terry takes a bike and leads the gang away.  He ends up on Wayne property and meets old Bruce.  Terry attempts to keep the gang away, but Bruce uses his cane to great effect.  But he’s overexerted himself, so Terry helps him back to the house and gets his medicine.  Before he can leave, he finds a bat stuck in a clock and discovers the Batcave.  Bruce chases him out.

Terry arrives home to find police there, and his mother.  His father is dead, police are blaming Jokerz (we noticed a henchman of Powers waiting outside [Mr. Fixx, voiced by George Takei, aka Mr. Sulu from the Original series]).  Terry finds the information tucked away and makes the same discovery as his father.  He goes to Mr. Wayne, yelling “something stinks in your company!”  When Bruce doesn’t respond, he shouts “you’re no Batman!”  The episode ends with the gate opening.  The second part of the episode reveals that Powers is using the company to make nerve gas to supply to a dictator.  Wayne reads the information and is furious, but sends Terry to Barbara Gordon, the new police commissioner.  Terry doesn’t trust the cops and ends up stealing the new suit to take care of business on his own, including finding out that Powers had his father killed.  Terry’s got the quips down (“just in time for fall”) and learns the suit quickly.  But Bruce is not happy with Terry and shuts down the suit.  Terry pleads for help and Bruce relents.  When the new Batman goes to break up the delivery of nerve gas, Powers is hit by a cannister.  Batman goes after the boat and Mr. Fixx, ending up sending the boat to the bottom of the harbor.  Powers is secretly treated, but it makes him radioactive and turns him into a more classic villain; he’s got the chuckle down.

Bruce visits Terry at his home the next day and offers Terry a job in front of his mother.  A part-time assistant is the official cover, but Bruce tells Terry he needs an ally.  “Welcome to my world,” he tells the young man when Terry agrees and they shake hands.

Black Out introduces Terry’s first villain, Inque; a woman who underwent genetic manipulation and can now slide through cracks and uses it to commit corporate crime.  Powers has hired her to attack Foxteca, a company with times to the old Wayne Enterprises, knocking out his competition for a government contract.  Powers is displeased with Batman interfering and sends Inque to kill him.  She hides in the Batmobile (which flies now) and makes it back to the Batcave, but Bruce is crazy prepared.  She does try to bring the cave down on them, but her new body dislikes being frozen by a freeze gun.  Bruce calls Barbara Gordon (voiced by Stockard Channing, Rizzo in Grease, and the aunt in Practical Magic [I like the concept of that movie, but it’s also a bit creepy]); his new errand boy is making a delivery.

Batman has to take on a giant lifting machine in Golem, controlled by a teenaged boy (a classmate of Terry’s) who is going after a bully at school.  As Terry tells Bruce, there’s a line of people that starts with him and wraps around the block, twice that has beef with Nelson Nash.  Unfortunately, an accident fries the controls of the Golem to Willie’s mind.  He’s ultimately caught and the machine is destroyed.  Willie keeps the powers.  Mr. Freeze [I know him more as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 90’s Batman and Robin movie with George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell] returns in Meltdown.  A doctor tests a theory on him to give his head a new body; to see if it would work for Derek Powers.  Bruce doesn’t trust Freeze, but Terry thinks he’s not too bad.  When Freeze realizes the doctor and Powers mean to betray him, he tries to turn villain again.  He ultimately saves Batman by shooting Powers, now known as Blight.  The building collapses on Freeze.

Heroes brings new heroes to Gotham; accepted by the public and backed by the government (and as noted by fans, they’re very similar to Fantastic Four).  They’re the Terrific Trio and they will wage a war on crime in Gotham.  Terry’s younger brother Matt still thinks Batman is the coolest, so his big brother rewards him with ice cream.  However, one of the members of the trio, Magma is dejected; this is not how he had planned his life.  He discovers that their friend knew an accident would occur and didn’t stop them.  The Army has turned on them and Batman gets embroiled in their fight.  The Trio secretly escapes and Batman is still Gotham’s defender.

Batman’s second new villain shows up in Shriek.  A scientist is working for Powers to use sound as a mean of demolition.  Powers sends him to the old part of town to tear it down so he can turn a profit.  Bruce gets the board to stop him, but he’s almost killed by Shriek when he visits the old police station.  Batman saves him, but Bruce is admitted to the hospital.  And he starts hearing voices.  Powers is gleeful, but Batman breaks him out.  Terry tries his hand at investigating and confronts the sound scientist.  A batarang damages his suit and he ends up deaf.  Bruce explains to Terry he knew he wasn’t crazy because the voice called him “Bruce.”  He calls himself something different in his own head.  Terry drops his voice, “that’s my name now.”  “Tell that to my subconscious.”

The Royal Flush Gang returns in Dead Man’s Hand; they’re a family of crooks that steal from the rich.  When Terry briefly breaks up with Dana due to his limited social life, he hooks up with Melanie; who happens to be Ten from the gang.  Her father vows to get revenge on Batman for breaking up the gang.  Bruce and Terry also get into an argument and Terry doesn’t feel any better when Melanie breaks things off with him; her family is pressuring her to put the family first.  Terry traces the call to a hotel, to discover the trap that the gang left for him.  He connects Melanie and Ten and then has to fight the family when they return.  He ends up saving Ten, but has to watch as Terry while Melanie is led away.  Bruce starts to tell him the story of Selena Kyle.

The Winning Edge could be called the “drug” episode of the show (very popular in the 90s).  Terry falls asleep in class and his grades drop.  His mother starts to believe that he’s using the popular drug going around “slappers.”  She enforces a curfew, which cuts into his Batman patrolling.  Bruce wryly notes he knows how to handle archcriminals; mothers are another thing.  In the meantime, Terry discovers that one of his classmates is stealing and using the funds to purchase “slappers.”  They examine one and Bruce realizes the formula matches venom, used years ago by Bane.  Batman pays a visit to Bane to discover that the man is on life support due to using the drug.  When Batman traces the shipment, he also discovers that Bane’s doctor is the one behind the drug; he had to make it for Bane and decided to make a further profit.  Batman and the doctor fight, the doctor falling into a pile of the product and overdosing.  Terry tests clean, to his mother’s relief and a story comes out about the kids on the sports team using the drug, the coach implicated by turning a blind eye.

Another new villain pops up in Spellbound.  A man in a weird leotard uses an orb to hypnotize his victims and steal expensive items.  First, it’s a classmate of Terry’s.  Then a wealthy fashion collector.  Terry borrows a different suit, belong to “DG” to attend a wedding where the villain shows up to collect priceless jewels.  Batman rescues the bride, but ends up hypnotized.  Bruce is able to help him out of it by connecting to his vidlink.  At school, the psychologist decides to check in with Terry after the death of his father; and working for Bruce Wayne.  Bruce hears a break-in and finds out Terry was hypnotized again.  Bruce had made the deduction that all of Spellbinder’s victims had a connection to Ira Billings, the psychologist.  Batman heads out to stop Spellbinder and tries not to get caught in the visions of zombies.  Again, Bruce coaches him and Batman unmasks Ira.  At the arrest, Barbara Gordon begins to make the connection between the new Batman and Terry (Terry also comments to Bruce earlier “guess you’re the expert on troubled kids.  You collect them,” tying back to the animated series.

Inque is back in Disappearing Inque.  She’s been imprisoned on ice, but her caretaker starts to take things too far and is fired (he’s been a bit creepy, confiding in her and even kissing the ice).  The caretaker sabotages her containment and she escapes.  But the ice has damaged her genes further and she can’t shift back into a human.  So they break into a lab to mix a serum to fix that.  The caretaker wants to become like her as a reward.  Inque also plans revenge on Batman; she also wants the old guy she’s heard in the headset.  Young Batman does end up captured and Inque threatens to kill him.  In true hero fashion, Batman warns his mentor not to come.  Bruce goes anyway, clad in his exo-suit that gives him incredible strength, but puts too much strain on his heart.  Together, they do manage to defeat Inque (and you hear a bit of the animated series’ theme) and now the caretaker is the one locked up and has to listen to a woman tell him all her woes.

Barbara Gordon features in A Touch of Curaré.  Curaré is an assassin sent by a society to kill Sam Young, the District Attorney, and Barbara’s husband.  Batman helps stop her first attempt.  Afterwards, Barbara visits the Batcave, to Terry’s surprise.  He’s further surprised to realize she was Batgirl.  Barbara warns Bruce and Terry to stay out of police business.  Batman still keeps an eye on things and bundles a trap set for Curaré.  Barbara is waiting for Terry afterwards; she takes him to a diner to have a conversation.  She stayed with Bruce after Dick Grayson left (she was more than partners with Bruce at that point).  On the streets, Batgirl and Batman were great.  But to Bruce, there was nothing but the street.  So Barbara left.  She doesn’t hate Bruce, she just hates what he became; a great man all alone.  Bruce will keep protecting Barbara, though Terry warns him he doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of her; he respects her.  Bruce also warns Terry that Curare will be desperate now; assassins from the society who fail become the next target; they kill their own.  Batman does end up swooping in to save Barbara and Sam, and Barbara proves she can still use a batarang.  She comments to Batman is was like old times.  And just like old times, Batman vanishes.  The episode ends showing that Curaré managed to escape, but now someone else is after her with their own super sharp sword [that thing acts like a lightsaber, deflecting bullets, cutting through steel doors.]

Blight is back in Ascension; he’s burning through his skin that covers his radiation, not helped by his temper.  New arrangements must be made; so he calls in his son, Paxton (voiced in this episode by Cary Elwes; most famous as Westley in Princess Bride, Robin Hood in Men in Tights, and the evil uncle in Ella Enchanted, and I totally want to check out Castle for Christmas).  Paxton will be his front man, but Derek will retain the true power.  However, in a board meeting, Derek loses his temper and reveals himself as Blight.  He goes into hiding.  The Batsignal lights the sky again; Paxton is asking Batman’s help in finding his father, under the guise of helping him.  Bruce does warn Terry about sounding too vindictive going after Blight; the teen’s also not terribly sad that he may have inadvertently caused the accident that made Derek Powers into Blight.  The man had Terry’s father killed and hides from the law.  He taunts the man when he finds him aboard a nuclear sub.  “This is personal,” he declares.  You killed my father.  “Do you know how little that narrows it down?” Derek is flippant.  But Derek has a larger problem once Paxton steps out.  He taught his son the only way to get power is to seize it, and Paxton has no problem killing his father.  Batman tries to step in, let justice be served.  But Blight goes supernova and the sub begins sinking.  Paxton escapes and Batman carries some of the men he was just beating up to safety.  But Batman is not sure that Derek is truly gone.

I like the banter in the show and how they develop the relationship between Bruce and Terry.  And I am fine that this show is not all light and fluffy.  It’s not too dark, which a lot of Batman movies and such try to do.  Batman can get knocked down and it really is a team between Bruce and Terry.  The creators also commented that while some of the original villains make comebacks, they also wanted a new Rogues gallery for this Batman.  And yeah, as a teen, it was cool that Batman’s suit has jetboots and the Batmobile flies, and he’s a teen just like us who has to deal with school and homework.

Up Next: Season Two

“They fly now?!” “They fly now.”

The Rise of Skywalker

Richard Grant (he’s been in Downton Abbey and Doctor Who) joins in as General Pryde.  Billy Dee Williams is back as Lando Calrissian!  Yes, that is Dominic Monaghan (Charlie in LOST and Merry in Lord of the Rings [I forgot he was in this and looked and told the screen “Hi Merry!”]) as Beaumont.  Denis Lawson makes an appearance as Wedge Antilles once again and even John Williams, the composer, cameos in the festival.  And yes, Ian McDiarmid is back as Emperor Palpatine.

We open finding out there are mysterious broadcasts of the Emperor making their way into the galaxy.  Leia sends Poe and Finn to gather intelligence.  Kylo Ren also searches for the Emperor, determined to destroy any threat to his power.  We find him slaughtering a group in order to obtain a Sith wayfinder (I thought it was a Holocron because I know those exist).  It leads him to a Sith Temple and Palpatine.  Kylo voices his vow to kill the former Emperor [while the young man is determined to follow in Darth Vader’s path, he still has several reasons to be rid of Darth Sidious; I’m sure some part of him recalls stories his parents and uncle told him that boil down to “this man should not be allowed to live.”].  But Palpatine explains that he is the mastermind behind everything.  He created Snoke; he’s been every voice inside Kylo’s head.  (So just like Anakin, Palpatine brought about the turning of a Skywalker.)  He reiterates: “The Dark Side of the Forces is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”  Like, creepy cloning.  The Sith Lord promises to give everything to Kylo; they’ll make a new Empire (which is the last thing we want to hear).  He raises a massive fleet of ships that have been worked on in secret and the Imperial March plays again.  But first, Kylo must “kill the girl,” and end the Jedi.  Only then will he become what Vader could not and rule as the new Emperor (and no one believes that.  He promised that to Vader…again, Sidious has a habit of breaking his promises once someone new comes along).  And the big question of the hour, who is Rey?

Poe and Finn discover that there is a spy within the First Order, who passes information through a middle man.  Have to say, it’s nice to see Finn, Poe, and Chewie working as a team on the Millennium Falcon.  Poe’s even got crazy moves to pull, like lightspeed skipping.  Meanwhile, Leia is training Rey.  Rey’s attempting to contact previous Jedi, whispering “be with me.”  They don’t answer.  And the connection between Rey and Kylo still exists and may be influencing Rey.  She has visions during her training run and doesn’t possess the quiet calm of a true master.  But she vows to Leia, “I will earn your brother’s saber, one day.”  For now, she banters with Poe about the Falcon being on fire (this bit is fun).  Poe argues that they need Rey out fighting, not training.  But he does confirm that Palpatine is alive and is coming for the rest of the galaxy.  They need to find Exogol, the hidden world of the Sith.

Rey recalls that Luke had been attempting that before he went into hiding.  He left notes, including about a Sith wayfinder.  Finn and Poe insist on going with Rey.  There is a touching farewell between Leia and Rey; hugging and Leia whispering to Rey “never be afraid of who you are.”  [Leia was achieved in this film with unused footage from Force Awakens and her role had to be downsized due to the passing of Carrie Fisher.]  Our heroes land on another desert planet and run into an old friend; Lando.  He rescues them when the First Order gets on their trail.  They’re tracking an old Jedi hunter and Rey vaguely recognizes the ship.  A serious of mishaps lead them to a Sith dagger, inscribed with the location of the wayfinder.  3PO can read the dagger, but it’s against his programming to speak the language of the Sith.  Chewie is sadly captured and Rey faces off against Kylo, who is still speaking to Rey, asking her to turn to the Dark Side.  Palpatine wants to kill her.  They fight over the transport carrying Chewie and Kylo pushes Rey.  She inadvertently uses lighting and blows up the carrier.  Poe, Finn, and Rey do manage to escape and Rey begins to fear where her path is leading.  She admits to Finn she had a vision of herself and Kylo both on the throne of the Sith.

Lucky for us, there was another transport and Chewbacca is alive!  Unfortunately, he’s now a prisoner aboard Pryde’s ship and they have possession of the Falcon.  Our trio of heroes take 3PO to bypass his memory so they can get the directions (and Poe’s backstory gets changed).  The downside is, it would cause a complete memory wipe, so 3PO takes one last look at his friends.  They get their information and yep, 3PO is back to introducing himself.  And Rey senses Chewie is alive!  So they mount a rescue mission.  Rey goes after the dagger and finds it in Kylo’s quarters.  There is a face off between them (through the Force since Kylo is on the planet).  Finn and Poe manage to free Chewie, then they’re captured.  They are in turn freed by the First Order spy, General Hux.  He’s not in it for the Resistance; he just doesn’t want Kylo to win.  Hux doesn’t last long after that; Pryde figures it out and shoots him.  But the Falcon manages to escape, Rey jumping aboard at the last second, still resisting Kylo.  He has managed to pass along useful information; Palpatine wants Rey dead because she is a threat to his power.  She has his power; she is his granddaughter.  Between Rey and Kylo, they make a dyad in the Force.  Kylo figures together they could kill Palpatine and rule the galaxy.  Rey is disinclined to acquiesce to his request.

The path to Exogol starts in the Endor system, with the crash site of the second Death Star.  Rey’s very determined to destroy Palpatine and plows ahead alone.  Finn discovers there are other stormtrooper defectors and they all rush after Rey.  [I do wonder what it would have been like if Luke had discovered the wreckage, considering all that had happened.]  She manages to find the second wayfinder, but receives a vision of herself as a Sith, with a double-edged lightsaber.  That leads her to Kylo.  He points out how the Dark Side is calling to her; neither of them can return to Leia now.  He crushes the wayfinder, so the only way to Exogol is with him.  They duel; it’s an angry duel, with little of the finesse the prequels or original trilogy carried.  This is about stunts and new moves.  Rey is tired, which Leia must sense, so she reaches out to her son, causing a moment of distraction for him.  Rey capitalizes on it and stabs Kylo.  And instantly regrets it.  This is not the way of the Jedi; she’s giving in to her anger and hate, like a Sith.  She heals him (which uses a bit of her own life…just like magic, these deeds have a price).  Afterward, she can sense that Leia has passed.  Rey admits that she wanted to take his hand, but as Ben.  Instead, she takes his ship.

Finn, Poe, and Chewie return to their base and are informed that Leia has passed.  Gosh, you want to cry alongside Chewie with his howl of grief.  Back on the destroyed Death Star, Han appears to Kylo.  “Hey kid.”  Father and son have another conversation, Han telling him to come home.  While Leia may be gone, what she fought for is not gone.  Ben repeats “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”  A mirror of their last encounter, Han reaches out for his son and Ben holds out his lightsaber.  “Dad,” he pleads.  Then tosses the lightsaber away.  When he turns back around, Han is gone.

Poe struggles to accept the position that Leia left for him.  He doesn’t know how to do what she did.  He’s not ready.  Lando comforts him; none of them were ready.  All they had were each other and that’s how they won.  Rey’s taken Kylo’s ship to Luke’s island to burn.  She throws Luke’s lightsaber, but Luke’s Force ghost catches it.  He was wrong to hide away and it is wrong for Rey to hide now.  They’re just running for their fears.  Rey is afraid of herself.  But Leia always sensed who Rey truly was; she saw past the name of Palpatine and saw Rey’s spirit and heart.  [Leia had her own struggle accepting herself as Vader’s daughter, detailed in Tatooine Ghost.]  There are some things stronger than blood and confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.  Luke guides Rey to Leia’s lightsaber, hidden away when she sensed Ben’s fall.  Rey pulls out the wayfinder, but she still needs a ship.  Luke raises his X-Wing from the water (to the same music as Empire).

Rey sends her course to the Resistance so they can follow to Exogol.  (Oh, and R2 restores 3PO’s memories.  Yay, cause that was sad when he didn’t remember.)  Poe and Finn are now generals; they’ll lead the Resistance fleet.  Their plan is to knock out the navigation tower.  Chewie and Lando will take the Falcon and raise hope (and reinforcements).  Poe rallies the fighters:

“Good people will fight if we lead them.  Leia never gave up.  And neither have we.  We’re going to show them we’re not afraid.  What our mothers and fathers fought for, we will not let die.  Not today.  Today, we make our last stand.  For the galaxy.  For Leia.  For everyone we’ve lost.” 

They will take the war to the First Order (cue triumphant theme!)

Rey arrives on Exogol, the Resistance behind her.  They begin their ground assault on the command ship (a bit odd), aided by the other former stormtroopers (turns out, they were children stolen from their homes; one First Order officer referred to it as “harvesting the young.”)  The fleet will fire on the cruisers while they’re stuck in atmosphere for a few minutes.  And these new ships all have the power to blow up a planet, making it even more important to wipe them out.  Rey discovers the Sith throne, and life-supported Palpatine.  He didn’t want to kill Rey, he wanted her to join him.  “Strike me down,” and his spirit will pass into Rey, along with all the spirits of the Sith.  She will be the new Empress.  Rey refuses; she won’t hate.  Palpatine warns that he is her only family and turning will be the only way to save her friends.

Ben arrives (in an old TIE fighter) and faces off against the Knights of Ren.  At first, armed only with a blaster (yeah, that’s Han Solo’s kid).  But when it looks like Rey will strike down the Emperor, she instead passes Luke’s lightsaber (they managed to fix it at some point) to Ben.  Now it’s an even match between him and the Knights.  Rey then pulls out Leia’s saber and takes on the Red Guards.  Ben makes his way to Rey’s side and they face the Emperor.  “Stand together, die together,” he declares and sucks the life out of them, rejuvenating himself since they are more powerful as a dyad.

Just when Poe begins to lose hope that they are outnumbered, Lando arrives with an entire host of ships (apparently, the Ghost from Rebels is in that crowd, as is Tantive IV from the opening of New Hope).  Even Wedge Antilles is back.  But Palpatine is winning against the young couple.  He throws Kylo into a pit, “so falls the last Skywalker” (and getting revenge for Anakin’s final act against him), then shoots electricity into the Resistance, causing their ships to fall.  Rey murmurs “be with me.”  She hears the voices of Jedi past [reprised by their original actors]; Mace Windu, Qui-Gon Jinn, Ashoka, Kanan Jarrus, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi (both as Ewan McGreggor and Sir Alec Guiness), urging her to rise.  “These are your final steps, Rey,” Obi-Wan starts.  Anakin tells her to bring balance, like he did.  Mace and Yoda both assure her she’s never been alone.  “Every Jedi who has ever lived, lives in you,” Qui-Gon tells her.  Kanan encourages “in the heart of a Jedi, lies their strength.” And Luke gives her the last words of wisdom: “the Force will be with you, always,” like Obi-Wan told him before blowing the Death Star.  [This is the most epic part of the entire movie.]  Rey rises up against Palpatine and calls the first saber to her hand.  She stands against his onslaught of lightning, bringing the second saber to her hand as well.  Palpatine declares “I am all the Sith!”  Rey retorts, “and I am all the Jedi.”  Palpatine disintegrates in his own lightning.  The Resistance can fly again and they hit the fleet hard.  Finn and his buddies knock out the command ship.  Poe goes after them to rescue Finn, but Lando is faster in the Falcon.

Palpatine’s destruction also brings about the destruction of the Sith temple.  Rey collapses and Finn can sense it (it’s been confirmed that Finn is Force-sensitive and that’s what he wanted to tell Rey before they were swallowed in the desert.)  But Ben climbs up and crawls over to Rey.  He takes her in his arms; she’s limp and her eyes are unseeing.  He calms himself and Rey eventually rises again.  She’s surprised and touches his face, calling him Ben.  They share a kiss and Ben even smiles (he looks better when he smiles).  But then Ben falls back.  His body disappears, as does Leia’s back at the base [point of reference, not all Jedi do that.  Qui-Gon didn’t, Dooku didn’t, Vader didn’t.  Probably got something to do with their power in the Force.]  Rey flies away and we once again see celebrations on Endor (complete with Wicket), Coruscant, and Jakku.

Back at the base, everyone is hugging.  Chewie finally gets a medal.  And it is so good to see Rey land Luke’s X-Wing.  The trio share an emotional hug (and it’s wonderful.)  Rey has one last errand; the Falcon flies over Tatooine again.  She finds the old Lars homestead (back where it all started…so heartwarming), wraps up Leia’s and Luke’s sabers and buries them in the sand.  She has a new saber made from her old staff, with a yellow blade.  An old woman passes by and asks Rey “who are you?”  “Rey,” she simply replies.  “Rey who?”  Luke and Leia’s Force ghosts look on as Rey chooses to name herself “Rey Skywalker.”  She’s found her family.  The theme plays and we once again look at twin sunsets.  (And a magnificent finale theme on the soundtrack; you want to cheer when you hear the original theme play again.  I’ll admit The March of the Resistance has grown on me.)  And I certainly hope that Rey is not staying on Tatooine long; she needs to get back to her new family with Finn, Poe, and Chewie.

I liked that Finn and Poe got more main action in this film; they felt like side characters in the last one.  Yes, Rey is the main character, but it would be bland if she’s the only one who does anything.  They all had their own mission in this film and important ones.  Poe and Finn work well together and while they’d prefer to have Rey nearby, they can survive without her.  In regards to shipping…I know there are wars going on amongst fans; I’m fairly open minded.  I did not mind the kiss between Ben and Rey because it was Ben, not Kylo.  Totally appropriate considering he just saved her life.  And if it was Ben, I could see a relationship between Rey and Ben.  It would have been a fun story to see those two grow up together.  I’m also okay with Rey paired with Finn or Poe (or both, or Finn and Poe together because they totally give off those vibes.  And Finn revealing he senses the Force is a much better reveal than him being in love with Rey because that’s a bit too cliched).  The movies are written well enough that there are a lot of options.

My thoughts on Palpatine being the ultimate big bad…it does bring all nine episodes into one arc; he was the big bad of I through VI and with VII, VIII, and IX being a direct continuation of those, it makes some sense.  On the other hand, it feels like a bit of a cop out.  Though I guess it makes more sense than figuring out a whole new villain, since Snoke was killed in Last Jedi.  But it does make one scratch their head because how did he survive the second Death Star?  He got thrown down a reactor (or something) and then the thing blew up.  Is this one a clone?  Was that one a clone?  And the whole cloning thing; the universe already proved that stable clones could be produced, so why are Palpatine’s all messed up?  Is it the Dark Side of the Force?

On the revelation that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter; first, ew.  On so many levels.  Technically, it makes it a compelling story when Rey won’t turn and instead defeats Palpatine.  However, I’d much rather go with the fan theory that she was Obi-Wan’s granddaughter; it would explain her strength in the Force.  And give her a connection to the Skywalker clan considering Obi-Wan’s presences in Anakin and Luke’s lives.  There was also the theory that she was Leia and Han’s second child, which has some basis in the Extended Legends universe.  That would make the kiss at the end of the movie very awkward, but they’ve already gone there once.  But, Kylo would know his own sister.  Then there was the theory that she was Luke’s daughter (and in the Extended Legends universe, Luke married Mara Jade and had a son, so again, weaving in those elements fan were already familiar with).  There is a strong connection between Luke and Rey and she is incredibly strong in the Force; but Kylo’s knowledge is again a sticking point.  Some fans would argue that it would make a more compelling story for her parents to be completely unrelated to any of the main characters; there are more Force-sensitive beings out there than just the Skywalker clan.  But Anakin did have an incredibly high midi-cholrian count and was destined to bring balance to the Force.

I would have to say this is my favorite of the sequel trilogy.  It has the most compelling story and I love all the bits and pieces they brought in from the original trilogy (though someone give Chewie a hug).  Gotta smile when Luke raises his X-Wing like Yoda did.

Up Next: I start the Superhero section.  I’ll begin with DC, since there is a lot to unpack with Marvel.  X-Men will get thrown in the middle.  To start, let’s dive into Batman, with the animated series Batman Beyond.

“You were always scum.” “Rebel scum.”

The Last Jedi

The main cast returns, with Mark Hamill and Andy Serkis having more screen time than the last movie.  Billie Lourd (Carrie Fisher’s daughter) has a role as Lieutenant Connix as well.  Laura Dern (Marmee March in the 2019 Little Women amongst dozens of other movies) is Vice Admiral Holdo.  And if the captain of the First Order ship at the beginning looks familiar, that is Mark Lewis Jones, who has appeared in Merlin, Game of Thrones, Master and Commander, The Other Boleyn Girl, and Robin Hood.

We are informed that the First Order has taken military control of the galaxy and plans to wipe out the Resistance.  Leia is still certain that Luke will return and bring hope to the galaxy.  The Resistance is fleeing their last base when a Dreadnought ship appears.  A single light fighter [like in the original film] goes against the massive ship, piloted by Poe.  He’s able to take out the canons since he is too small and too close for their other weapons to hit, and still has time to joke with Hux.  This is supposed to pave the way for the rest of his squad to come in and bomb the Dreadnought.  His disobeys Leia’s orders and loses all of his bombers.  The last one manages to drop their payload, but falls into the resulting explosion.  They did manage to destroy the Dreadnought, but it came at a great cost. 

Nevertheless, Snoke is disappointed with Hux.  Snoke is also disappointed with Kylo Ren; he has too much of his father’s heart in him.  He keeps Hux around because he can be manipulated into a sharp tool.  But Kylo; Snoke sensed the raw, untamed power within him, in combination with the potential of his bloodline.  He could have been a new Vader.  Snoke fears he is mistaken.  “You’re no Vader.  You’re just a child in a mask.”  Kylo destroys the mask.  His new task is to snuff out hope in the galaxy, alive because the seed of the Jedi lives.

The Resistance thinks they have gotten away.  Finn wakes up and finds Poe, but he’s more concerned with “where is Rey?”  Leia slaps Poe and demotes him.  He needs to learn that “you can’t solve everything by hoping in an X-Wing and blowing something up.”  Then they receive word that the First Order has found them.  Poe immediately asks “permission to jump in an X-Wing and blow something up?”  Permission granted.  Poe doesn’t make it into the hanger before Kylo Ren blows it up.  Kylo senses Leia and does not fire.  His troops do not hesitate to blow the bridge.  Leia floats into space, but she uses the Force to bring herself back on board.  She is unconscious and needs time to heal.

Meanwhile, Rey attempts to get Luke to train her.  Well, her first argument is that the Resistance needs him.  That’s after Luke accepts his lightsaber from Rey and throws it over his shoulder.  His X-Wing is underwater.  [Fun note, the Pogs were created because puffins are prevalent on Skellig Michael and to digitally remove them from every scene would be impossible.  Thus, we get cute Pogs!]  Rey eventually has Chewie break in Luke’s door in demand of seeing him.  Luke is initially happy to see his old friend and hear that the Falcon is nearby.  Then he asks “where’s Han?” [there is a deleted scene that should have been kept of Luke mourning his brother-in-law.]  Luke tells Rey to go away.  She won’t leave without him.  So she gets to watch his daily routine (including a weird milking scene that could have been deleted instead).

But Rey begins to hear something.  She wanders the island and finds old books – the original Jedi texts.  Luke finally asks “who are you?”  Rey feels she knows the place from her dreams.  Luke now wonders why Leia sent Rey specifically to him.  Rey wants to learn, but Luke refuses to teach. “It’s time for the Jedi to die.”  That is, until Luke visits the Falcon alone and finds R2.  R2 tries to convince him.  Luke retorts “nothing can make me change my mind.”  Then R2 shows him Leia’s message from all those years ago: “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”  Low blow, but it works.

I’ll admit, the bit with Luke and the palm branch “do you feel it?  Oh, you must be very strong!” while training Rey was funny.  When Luke tells her to reach out, she needs to reach out with her feelings.  The Force is not just something to lift rocks and control people.  It is balance and energy between everything and inside of you.  And it does not just belong to the Jedi.  He’s a bit impressed with Rey’s training with the lightsaber, until she cuts a rock in two.  However, when Rey senses a dark pit on the island, she doesn’t heed Luke’s warning to stay away.  She dives right in, attempting to discover what it is it wants to tell her.  Luke is troubled; he sensed that same power in Ben Solo.  Rey realizes that Luke has cut himself off from the Force.  He tells her that when you strip away the mythology of the Jedi, their legacy is failure.  At the height of their power, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise and destroy them, and create the Empire.  It was Sidious who was responsible for Darth Vader.  Rey argues that a Jedi, Luke, brought Vader back.

Luke recalls that yes, there was balance for a time after the defeat of Vader.  Luke became a legend in the galaxy.  And he feels he became arrogant.  He thought he could teach the next generation of Jedi.  He thought he could teach his nephew.  But Ben ultimately betrayed him and slaughtered his school.  Luke blames himself.  Like the Jedi of the Old Republic, he failed.  Rey argues that Luke was not the one who failed; Ben failed him.  She vows not to fail Luke.

She also discovers a connection to Kylo Ren.  They can see each other, but not their surroundings.  Kylo attempts at the beginning to force her to tell him where Luke is, but realizes it won’t work.  It is Kylo who wonders why there is a connection.  He even agrees with Rey when she calls him a monster.  During one of their conversations, he’s shirtless, which unsettles Rey a bit.  She asks him “why did you hate your father?”  Kylo admits he didn’t hate him, but won’t answer why he killed him.  Instead, he muses on how Rey is constantly searching for parents.  And she finds those figures first in Han and now in Luke.  But did Luke tell her the truth?  Kylo tells her that Luke sensed his power and feared it.  He tried to murder his nephew.  Kylo tells Rey “let the past die, kill it if you have it.  It is the only way to become who you were meant to be.”  In return, Rey admits to Kylo what she saw in the cave (a very weird mirror universe) and she tried to see her parents, but it didn’t work.  She comforts Kylo that they are not alone.  It’s not too late for Kylo.  Their hands reach out for each other.  Their fingers touch.  And Luke walks in.

Luke and Rey fight.  Rey pulls out the lightsaber and demands an answer.  Did Luke try to murder Ben?  Luke elaborates; he had sensed that Snoke had turned Ben’s heart.  He saw Ben’s future, saw him destroy everything Luke had fought for, and for a brief moment, Luke was tempted to end the threat.  That moment passed and he was left with shame and the consequences.  The last Luke saw of Ben was the eyes of a frightened boy.  That is why Ben saw Luke raise his lightsaber.  Then Ben reacted and everything went to pot.  Luke warns Rey when she wants to go to Ben and attempt to save him “this is not going to go how you think.” Rey leaves on the Falcon.

The ghost of Yoda appears when Luke attempts to burn the sacred tree and texts.  But Luke can’t bring himself to do it.  So Yoda calls down lightning and ignites the tree.  Luke even tries to save the texts, but Yoda laughs.  So Yoda must agree, it is time for the Jedi Order to end.  No, it’s time for Luke to look past a pile of books.  It has always been the way of things for the students to grow beyond the master.  Luke must pass on what he knows, Yoda instructs.  “Greatest teacher, failure is.”

Back with the Resistance, Vice Admiral Holdo takes command.  Finn doesn’t intend to stick around long enough to find out what her plan is; his plan is to leave and find Rey and keep her safe.  But a young woman named Rose stops him.  Together, they realized that the First Order managed to track them through lightspeed, which should be impossible.  But they could only be using the lead ship.  There’s a way to disable the tracker.  They tell Poe the plan and he contacts Maz for help.  She sends Finn and Rose after a master code breaker.  They check out an upscale casino, then managed to get arrested.  They meet another criminal hacker and during their escape, free some animals and destroy the casino, giving the poor locals hope.  When Finn and Rose are delayed, Poe confronts Holdo about her lack of plan, then takes command in order to buy his friends more time.  Leia wakes up in time to take the bridge back from Poe and stun him.  In actuality, she and Holdo like Poe.  Holdo’s plan all along was to get the last of the Resistance to a hidden Rebel base.  The First Order wouldn’t track the small cruisers.  She’s staying aboard the larger carrier to keep up the decoy.

Many of the characters all end up on Snoke’s ship.  Finn, Rose, and BB-8 are aboard to turn off the tracker.  They are instead caught by Captain Phasma, finding out that their criminal “friend” double-crossed them and they are almost executed.  That’s going on while Rey attempts to turn Ben.  “You don’t have to do this.  I feel the conflict within you.”  (Reusing dialogue from Return of the Jedi).  She’s seen the future where Ben does not bow to Snoke.  Ben has seen a different future, where Rey is the one who will turn.  They appear before Snoke, who calls Ben his good and faithful apprentice.  Snoke sensed that as Kylo grew stronger in the Dark Side, he equal would grow in the Light.  So Snoke bridged their minds and planted bait.  And Rey was not wise enough to resists it.

Similar to Return of the Jedi, Rey witnesses the destruction of the Resistance fleet and calls Kylo’s lightsaber to her.  Snoke senses that Rey holds the spirit of a true Jedi.  And that is why she must be destroyed.  He calls upon Kylo, the heir apparent to Vader, to kill her.  Rey still holds hope.  Snoke disabuses her of that notion; he cannot be betrayed or beaten.  He can see Kylo’s every thought and even now, he turns his lightsaber to kill his true enemy.  And Kylo did that.  He turned Luke’s lightsaber next to Snoke and cuts him in two.  Ben and Rey fight the guards off together (also catching the room on fire); Rey even tosses her lightsaber to Ben when he’s disarmed.  She begs Ben to come with her when they’re finished.  Ben in turns asks Rey to stay; together, they can rule and create a new order.  Let the past, all of it; Sith, Jedi, Skywalker, Snoke, die.  He knows that Rey’s parents were nobodies.  That would make Rey a nobody.  But not to him.  “Join me.”  Rey won’t.  They Force-fight for Luke’s lightsaber and it ultimately breaks in two, knocking them out.

When Snoke’s ship starts firing on the transports, Holdo turns the cruiser and jumps to lightspeed through the ship.  Finn gets a showdown with Captain Phasma, who then falls to her death.  Finn and Rose manage to escape with BB-8 (who has managed to get ahold of an AT-ST!)  The transport with Leia and Poe manages to make it to the base, where Finn and Rose crash land.  (Yes, Poe is happy to see them, but he wants his droid back.)  They put a call out for help.  In the meantime, there is a battering ram cannon that will eventually make it through their door.  A final stand then.  The Resistance is bolstered when the Millennium Falcon comes to their aid (Rey is safely aboard with Chewie, and a few Pogs).  Hux has saved Kylo, though not willingly.  Kylo declares himself the new Supreme Leader and leads Hux’s army.  Kylo now demands “blow that piece of junk out of the sky!” (meaning the Falcon).  Finn informs his friends that the New Order hates the Falcon.

The Resistance fighters are picked off.  Poe orders them to retreat, but Finn insists he has to take out the cannon; the New Order cannot win.  He continues with his suicide run until Rose knocks him out of the way.  She tells him that they will win by saving what they love, not be fighting what they hate.  She gives him a gentle kiss and passes out.  The cannon did its work and Kylo orders Hux to advance.  No quarter will be given and no prisoners taken (Kylo knows his mother is in there; he does not hesitate now).  The Resistance fears that no help is coming; the galaxy has lost hope, the spark has gone out.  Then a cloaked figure enters and kneels before Leia.  It’s Luke.  He apologizes to his sister, but that is not necessary; she’s glad he’s here at the end [and that is so poignant given that Carrie Fisher passed away before this movie was released].  Luke tells her that he is here to face Kylo, but he can’t save him.  She knows her son is gone.

Everyone watches Luke walk out.  Kylo orders every gun fire on that man, even shouting “more!”  Hux calls it off.  But Luke is still standing.  Kylo steps down to face him, and Luke admits that he is not here to save Kylo’s soul.  They duel, though notice that Luke dodges Kylo’s lightsaber strikes.  Meanwhile, Poe realizes that Luke is serving as a distraction; he’s stalling so they can escape.  They follow the crystal foxes for a way out.  When they get there, rocks are blocking their way.  But the Falcon is there and Rey lifts the rocks and rushes people onboard.  Luke cautions Kylo that if he strikes him down in anger, he will always be with him, just like his father.  Luke is not the last of the Jedi.  Kylo runs Luke through.  And finds out that Luke is a Force projection.  Luke is meditating on his island and collapses.  When he gets back up, he opens himself up to the Force, one last time.  He disappears and his cloak falls.  Kylo is not pleased to find the base deserted when he finally walks in.  He “sees” Rey one last time, before she shuts the door on the Falcon.  (Oh, she’s also hidden the Jedi texts on there.)  She has a conversation with Leia; they both sensed that Luke is gone, but he was at peace.  They will rebuild the rebellion.

Overall, not terribly interested in the side quest, because honestly, it wasn’t needed.  It was just some action for the characters to do when we weren’t focused on Rey, Kylo, and Luke.  And technically, if you think about it, if Finn and Rose hadn’t met that criminal, he couldn’t have double crossed them, thus allowing the First Order to target the small cruisers taking the Resistance to their base.  The story felt disjointed; yes, everything came together at the end, but it was clearly three separate stories going on.  This is repeating elements of Empire Strikes Back, with Rey training with Luke, and Han and Leia facing off with Vader.  But Vader was using Han and Leia as bait for Luke.

And we have to wonder where did Snoke fall in the whole timeline of Sidious turning Anakin and the rise of the Empire and eventual fall?  There is a very famous “Rule of Two” amongst the Sith, that there is only ever a master and an apprentice.  (Hence why Dooku became the apprentice after Maul was killed and Dooku had to die in order for Anakin to become Sidious’s apprentice.  Though in the Legends universe, there were other Force-sensitive students of Palpatine, but maybe they were not considered true apprentices?)

What I do like is the examination of the Jedi and the dichotomy between Rey and Ben/Kylo (he’s Ben when he’s good, Kylo when he’s bad).  They’re both fighting for a place to belong.  Again, we want Rey to succeed in turning Ben back to the Light.  And it almost works for a minute!  Then Kylo has to be stupid and vote for power.  That last scene between Rey and Kylo, when Rey shuts the door, I thought “she has the life you would have.”

Up Next: The Rise of Skywalker

“Some things never change.” “True, you still drive me crazy.”

The Force Awakens

The first of the sequel trilogy.  We’re introduced to Daisy Ridley as Rey, Oscar Isaac (he was Prince John in Robin Hood with Russell Crowe) as Poe Dameron, John Boyega as Finn, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.  Domhnall Gleeson (eldest son Bill of the Weasley family in Harry Potter) is General Hux, Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia in Black Panther) voices Maz Kanata, Andy Serkis (Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, as well as making an appearance in Black Panther…and apparently in the new Batman movie coming out) is Supreme Leader Snoke.  Gwendolyn Christie (Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones) is under the helmet of Captain Phasma.  Also from Robin Hood and Game of Thrones is Max von Sydow (he was Sir Walter Loxley in Robin Hood and the Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones) as Lor San Tekka.  Familiar faces from other franchises include Simon Pegg (Scotty in Star Trek) is Unkar Plutt and Kiran Shah (he’s been scale doubles in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, and Ginarrbrik in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) is Teedo.  Warwick Davis also pops up and yes, Daniel Craig hides out as one of the stormtroopers.  Anthony Daniels returns as C-3PO, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, and the old gang of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill is back together (I find it interesting in the ending credits that they appear first) …and honestly, this is why I watched.  J.J. Abrams of the NuStar Trek films directed this film.

The film opens with “Luke Skywalker has vanished.”  (That certainly catches our attention.)  “In his absences, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi [thought he was first of the new as of the end of Return of the Jedi?  Wasn’t that the whole point?  And fans know there are others out there!] has been destroyed.”  General Leia Organa [pretty sure there should be a “Solo” in there] leads the brave RESITANCE with the support of the Republic and hopes to “find Luke and restore peace and justice to the galaxy.”  [Pretty sure they already did that.]  Anyways, a pilot is sent to Jakku [a desert planet, cause there’s more than Tatooine] to find and old ally who has a clue to Luke’s whereabouts.  We continue the trend to open a Star Wars movie with a large ship.  And we still have stormtroopers, though their helmets have changed a little (and now a car mimics that).

We’re introduced to the BB-8 droid who brings us to the pilot speaking to an old man.  With no Jedi, he cautions, there is no balance to the Force [um, wasn’t that solved by the whole Anakin/Vader storyline?  Seriously, why is this an issue?]  The old man gives the pilot an information stick and warns him to leave.  The First Order has arrived.  And lays waste to the village, led by a black-robed figure.  We do see one trooper get startled and not fire on the village.  The pilot attempts to escape, but his ship is damaged.  The information is given to BB-8 and the pilot is captured.  The old man (Lor San Tekka) stands up to the dark figure; he knew him before he took the name Kylo Ren, he was not originally from the Dark Side.  He cannot deny the truth of his family (hint hint).  However, he is impaled by a red lightsaber.

We follow the new stormtrooper as they return to a Star Destroyer and briefly meet his female captain.  We can already sense he is not like most stormtroopers and are later rewarded when he breaks the pilot out, after interrogation with Kylo Ren.  Kylo and the Frist Order, led by General Hux, start hunting for the BB-8 unit.

Which is still on Jakku and meets a young scavenger.  There is a crashed Star Destroyer and AT-AT on the planet and the young woman wears an old Rebel helmet at times.  She rescues BB-8 and won’t sell him even when she would be given more food.  But, someone calls in that the droid is on the planet and events really kick off.  The pilot, Poe, and the trooper, now named Finn manage to escape, but soon after crash back on Jakku.  They’re separated and we fear Poe is dead.  So now Finn is taking up the mission to find the BB-8 unit…well, mainly he wants to get away from the First Order.  But he literally runs into the young woman, Rey, and BB-8.  And they keep running when troopers land.  They need to get off planet and the garbage ship will have to do.  Turns out the “garbage ship” is the Millennium Falcon [and fans cheer!].  Finn and Rey work well together to escape the First Order.  Finn doesn’t admit to Rey that he’s a former stormtrooper and plays along with being from the Resistance.  Then they’re captured.  By Han and Chewie [more cheers and just about the best scene of the film!  Cue old theme!]  “We’re home,” Han tells his old friend. 

They discover Finn and Rey and then have to escape from trouble that followed Han (that hasn’t changed).  Finn knows Han as the Rebellion general and war hero.  Rey knows him as a smuggler (he’s both, and we love him for it).  Rey proves very useful onboard the Falcon, though when she asks Han if his plan will work, he retorts “I never ask that until after I’ve done it.”  The information still gets back to the First Order and the Falcon races off.  Han fills in a few questions.  Luke was training the new generation of Jedi when one betrayed him.  He felt responsible and so he hid [not a smart or wise move, Luke], under the guise of looking for the first Jedi Temple.  Han has also come around to the Force; he used to disbelieve, but he saw too many things.  So yes, he will help Finn and Rey.  He even offers Rey a job, but she counters with the need to return to Jakku.

Within the First Order, Hux and Kylo report to Supreme Leader Snoke (well, the giant hologram of him).  Snoke tells Hux to use their new weapon on the Republic.  His conversation with Kylo centers on the concern of new Jedi rising.  “There’s been an awakening.”  And acknowledgement that Han Solo is the father of Kylo Ren.  Kylo apparently turned to the Dark Side to honor his grandfather, Darth Vader.  He even dug up Vader’s old, mishappened helmet from the funeral pyre on Endor [dude!  Did you learn nothing?!].  We hear a few notes of the old Imperial theme and Kylo Ren vows to finish what Vader started.

Han takes his young companions to Maz Kanata.  She jokes that Chewie is her boyfriend (which is adorable), but is intrigued by Han’s companions.  Finn just wants to outrun the First Order and walks away (and two separate side characters inform both the Resistance and the First Order).  Maz is more interested in Rey.  She has seen darkness with the Sith, the Empire, and the First Order (and we wonder how old she is and if she’s Force-sensitive).  All must fight.  When Rey hears a child’s voice, she wanders down an old hallway and finds a chest.  It’s calling to her.  Inside the chest is a lightsaber.  Rey sees and hears the past [this scene is also very cool; though it also calls into question, how does Maz have Anakin/Luke’s old lightsaber, the one he lost with his hand on Cloud City?  But we do get to hear Alec Guiness and Ewan McGregor for a second].  Rey does not want the lightsaber, even when Maz tells her that the people she is looking for are not returning to Jakku.

Their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of the First Order.  Hux has stirred them into a frenzy [very reminiscent of Hitler].  He claims that the Republic will fall [already tried that] and they have a new weapon, even bigger than the Death Star [cause that worked so well the last time…and honestly, that bit confuses me].  Finn takes the lightsaber from Maz and faces some of his old friends.  Rey runs into the forest and BB-8 follows her.  She sends the droid into hiding so the First Order can’t get ahold of the map he holds.  Finn, Han, and Chewie are briefly captured, but the Resistance is to the rescue (led by Poe, hurray)!  [The music is similar to the bit the occurs in the Attack of the Clones soundtrack where we pan over the clones before the Imperial March kicks in…I’ve obviously listened to the soundtracks too much, but it’s a nice tie-in to the prequel trilogy and a very “good guy” sound].

But Kylo finds Rey in the forest.  He senses that she has seen the map, so he takes her.  Finn sees them briefly, but can’t get to them.  Leia arrives with the Resistance and reunites with Han [and I’d really like to know how exactly things broke up].  Chewie comes up and gives her a hug.  Han admits that he saw him; he saw their son.  BB-8 is happily reunited with Poe, as is Finn.  Those two even exchange a hug [release the shippers!]  The Resistance begins their plans.  Finn says he knows the base that Rey was taken to.  Han is trying to help, but Leia doesn’t quite believe him (she doesn’t count the Death Star).  We get a glimpse of R2, but 3PO doesn’t have much hope of him waking up, the droid shut down after Luke left.

Han and Leia continue their conversation.  Han feels there is too much Vader in their son.  Leia hoped that Luke could train him; however, she should have never sent him away because she ended up losing both her son and her husband.  It seems that when their son turned, the couple split and they both went back to what they knew.  But they haven’t been truly happy since.  And much like her brother, Leia believes that Kylo can be saved; and Han is the one to do it.  He’s the boy’s father.

We see Kylo take his mask off and he’s not disfigured; he doesn’t wear it for the reason that Anakin/Vader did.  However, he most likely wears it to hide his true identity and a black mask with a deep voice is intimidating, Vader proved that.  Kylo tries to persuade Rey to give him the information he seeks.  He could take it by Force (literally), but he’s also trying to bring Rey to the Dark Side.  Rey uses her burgeoning powers (she has to be Force sensitive to sense Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and to have Jedi from the past speak to her) to read that Kylo is afraid he will never be as strong as Vader.  Snoke instructs Kylo to bring Rey to him to teach [just like Sidious/Palpatine instructed Vader to bring Luke.]  Rey is able to influence a stormtrooper [Daniel Craig] in freeing her and escaping on her own (you go girl!)

Han takes Finn to the First Order base [which is a planet, somehow?  Powered by the sun?  Still so confused] in hopes of destroying it while the Resistance fleet follows, much like a Death Star run.  Leia hugs Han goodbye; she hates watching him leave, but she asks him to bring home their son (and we’re treated to a reprise of their theme, yay).  Han crashes the Falcon a bit and Kylo senses his father has arrived.  And then throws a tantrum when he realizes Rey has escaped.  However, Finn’s true plan was just to rescue Rey.  But he figures they can “use the Force.”  Han bites back “that’s not how the Force works.”  [Ok, that part is funny.]  They end up capturing Captain Phasma and bring down the shields.  Han suggests putting her down a garbage chute and through a trash compactor [also funny].  But Rey’s got everything under control.  The guys find her and they decide to stay and blow up the base.  “Escape now.  Hug later,” Han tells the young people.

Kylo meets up with his father.  And turns out his name is actually Ben.  Han tells him to take off his mask and show him his son’s face.  Kylo retorts that Ben is gone, he was weak and foolish like his father (and he had remarked to Rey earlier that Han would disappoint her as a father…I really want to know what happened while they were a family).  Han tries to get Ben to see sense; Snoke is only using him and he’ll dispose of him one his use is completed.  Kylo insists it is too late.  Han tells his son, “no, come home.”  And the young man is so confused; he has tears in his eyes and he feels like he’s being torn apart.  All is wants is to be free of the pain.  “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”  He asks his father for help and Han answers “yes, anything.”  And Ben drops the mask and holds out his lightsaber to his father.  Han steps closer….And Kylo runs him through.  Chewie shouts.  Rey cries out.  Leia senses her husband’s death.

But they must complete their mission.  The detonators go off and the base begins to crumble.  The Resistance fleet hits it.  Kylo goes after Rey and Finn.  Rey calls him a monster and Kylo knocks her out.  Finn takes up the lightsaber again.  Kylo feels it belongs to him, he wants it back.  They duel for a minute, but Kylo is better trained and burns Finn’s shoulder and slices his back.  Rey is back up and there is a Force face-off between her and Kylo for the blue lightsaber (and we hear the Force theme).  Rey wins and attacks.  Kylo is wounded but still tries to turn Rey; she needs a teacher, she doesn’t understand this power she has.  She attacks again and manages to strike Kylo and scar his face.  Before she can wield a final blow, the planet begins to break apart and a gulf erupts between them (also very metaphorical.)  She runs back to Finn and Chewie rescues them in the Falcon.  They lead Poe and the other pilots away from the explosion.  Kylo has survived and Hux retrieves him per Snoke’s orders.  Snoke will complete Kylo’s training.

Back with the Resistance, R2 has woken up.  He has the rest of the map, so with BB-8’s piece, they have a complete route to Luke.  Leia sends Rey; an echo of A New Hope theme from the end of Revenge of the Sith plays as Leia wishes her “May the Force be with you.”  Chewie and Rey take the Falcon to a series of islands [actually the Skellig islands in Ireland, a UNESCO World Heritage site and they had to get special permission to film…also, that seemed like a short lightspeed trip].  Rey climbs up one to a cloaked figure and holds out the lightsaber.  The figure turns around with a metallic hand; it is Luke.  The Force theme swells, then switches to the main theme and credits roll.

My main issue with The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy as a whole is that it recycles so much of the original trilogy.  It takes place thirty years after the Empire fell; why have things not changed or gotten better?  And if the New Republic opposes the First Order, why is there the need for the Resistance?  Isn’t that redundant?  The prequel trilogy at least had a different story line.  And more awesome music.  It’s great to hear the familiar themes after a decade, but Phantom Menace brough us Duel of the Fates.  There’s no new signature piece for Force Awakens.  Still love John Williams (and super stoked that he may be writing the music for the Kenobi series, which I eagerly await…that is about the only new Star Wars show I plan on watching [considering I don’t have time to re-watch shows I love and I still need to catch up on Marvel, Star Wars falls to the wayside]).

There are admittedly elements of the film that I liked.  I like that the lead is a female.  I think the young stars performed well.  I loved seeing Han again, but I wished we could have seen the other two a bit more.  Luke and Han don’t get to reunite.  However, this is supposed to introduce the new generation, so they should be the focus.  You should check out Jill Bearup’s video on YouTube about the fight between Finn, Kylo, and Rey (her videos are just awesome in general).  For a minute, I truly thought that Kylo would turn back to the Light and I think it still could have worked story-wise, that Han’s love as a father could bring his son back.  It worked the other direction, though admittedly it took several films.  And this technically makes sense story wise as well; just, seeing Han die made me sad, it truly was a shock the first time.  Harrison’s been asking for it since Empire Strikes Back; at least he played a good-sized role in this film.  I also appreciate that some elements from the former Expanded Universe are used in the sequels; such as a son of Han and Leia’s turning to the Dark Side.  In the books, it was Jacen, twin of Jania.  He also leads Ben Skywalker to the Dark Side.  Though, I have to shout “have you learned nothing?!”  Like, how do you not know that this is a bad idea?

Next Time: The Last Jedi  [I cannot keep these straight]

“I’m out of it for a little while and everyone gets delusions of grandeur!”

Return of the Jedi

The film was originally planned to be titled Revenge of the Jedi, but George Lucas decided that revenge was not the Jedi way.  That title got recycled as Revenge of the Sith, because revenge is definitely the way of the Sith.  Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick and Griphook in Harry Potter; he was in an episode of Merlin; Nikabrik in Prince Caspian) joins as Wicket [he was eleven years old].  Kenny Baker (R2) joins as another Ewok.  And my apologies, I forgot to mention in the previous write-up that Billy Dee Williams is the rascal Lando Calrissian.

While the Empire builds another Death Star (because the last one worked out so well), Vader arrives to put them back on schedule and announces that Emperor Palpatine himself will be joining him.  Luke returns to Tatooine to stage his rescue of Han and sends C-3PO and R2-D2 to Jabba’s palace.  His message gives them as gifts to Jabba and they are put to work.  Then a bounty hunter shows up with Chewie to collect the bounty.  They haggle over price and the bounty hunter wins when he threatens to blow everyone up with a thermal detonator.  Turns out, the bounty hunter is Leia, who sneaks down to free Han from carbonite in the evening.  Han is temporarily blind due to hibernation sickness, but he recognizes Leia’s voice when she says “someone who loves you.”  But their reunion is interrupted by Jabba.  He imprisons Han with Chewie and takes Leia as a slave (complete with impractical attire).  Han is a bit disbelieving when Chewie informs that Luke has a plan; “Luke’s crazy!  He can’t even take care of himself, let alone rescue anybody.”  Luke shows up the next day dressed in all black (interesting style choice) to once again barter for his friends, introducing himself as a Jedi Knight and using their tricks.  But mind tricks won’t work on the Hutts and so Jabba dumps Luke into a rancor pit (and that this is creepy).  Luke’s still got his old tricks and throws a rock at the controls to bring the gate down on the creature.  The gang is all back together and Jabba sentences Luke, Han, and Chewie to death in the Sarlacc pit.

When Luke is about to be pushed into the pit, he salutes R2, who ejects his new green lightsaber, and Luke flips into action (cue hero theme!).  Lando gets to take his mask off, but falls overboard while fighting, so Han and Chewie try their best to rescue him.  Han even inadvertently knocks Boba Fett off the barge and into the pit (he survived somehow, and that was even before these new shows started coming out).  Leia seizes the opportunity, and her chain, and chokes Jabba to death.  Luke boards to rescue her and they swing away as they blow up the sail barge (call back to A New Hope).  Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his training, but Yoda is dying.  “When 900 years old, you reach, look as good, you will not,” he comments.  He also tells the young man that he has all the knowledge he needs to become a Jedi Knight, except he must complete his destiny and confront Vader.  Luke insists he needs to know if Vader was telling the truth.  Yes, Yoda admits, Vader is Luke’s father; and the wizened Master repeats his warning about the Dark Side.  Do not underestimate the Emperor, or Luke will suffer the same fate as his father.  Yoda’s final words to Luke are “there is another Skywalker.”

Obi-Wan pays another visit to Luke and the young man questions him why he didn’t tell him the truth.  Obi-Wan’s argument is that the young man he trained, Anakin Skywalker was destroyed by Vader when he fell to the Dark Side; so it was the truth from a certain point of view.  “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”  [You could write an entire article on how true that is; no, I’m not volunteering at this point, but I think I tried back in college.  I don’t think it turned out well, since I don’t remember]  Obi-Wan urges Luke to complete the task that he could not (when we go back to the prequels, Obi-Wan argues with Yoda that he cannot kill Anakin).  Luke replies that he cannot kill his own father [maybe Obi-Wan was hoping that if Luke lacked an emotional connection to Vader, it would make the task easier].  Obi-Wan confesses that yes, Luke has a twin sister; they were split up and hidden for their protection from both Vader and the Emperor.  Luke can sense that Leia is his sister.  Obi-Wan’s final warning is for Luke to bury his feelings; they do him credit, but they can be used against him.

The Emperor boards the Death Star and counsels Vader that young Skywalker will come to him.  When he does, Vader is to bring the young man to the Emperor and together they will turn him.  Everything is proceeding as he has foreseen.  However, later, the Emperor cannot sense when Luke is near, not like Vader can.  Palpatine is wondering if Vader’s feelings are clouding his judgment, but insists that Luke’s compassion for his father will be his undoing.

The Rebels prepare for their final attack.  Word has gotten to them that the Death Star is not complete and even better, the Emperor is aboard.  This is the perfect time.  Lando is now a general and is tasked with leading the attack on the Death Star to blow it up (again).  Han is also a general now and is tasked with leading the forces on the forest moon of Endor to knock out the shield generator.  Leia quickly volunteers to accompany him, as does Luke when he shows up.  Han insists that Lando take the Millennium Falcon, it’s the fastest ship in the fleet.  Though he has a strange notion he may not see his beloved ship again and makes Lando promise, not a scratch.

This is me, on a speeder bike display in the Star Wars section of Disney (circa 2007)

There is almost a slight hiccough while the Empire delays granting the stolen ship’s request to land.  And Han’s helpful instruction to Chewie is to “fly casual.”  They run into a bit trouble on the moon when they find some troopers scouting the forest.  Leia and Luke go after two of them and speed through the forest.  They’re separated and only Luke makes it back to Han.  Now they go searching for Leia.  Leia, in the meantime, has met the cute natives of the world, Ewoks (specifically Wicket, but they’re never named on screen).  Wicket helps her escape from more troopers and takes her back to his village.

Chewie gets the men caught in a net (“always thinking with your stomach!”) and they’re surrounded by Ewoks as well.  Who believe that 3PO is a god.  And “it would be against my programming to impersonate a deity,” the fuss bucket tells Han.  So Han, Chewie, and Luke are carted off to the village as well.  Luke uses a Force trick to mimic “magic” and get the Ewoks to set them free before Han can be roasted for dinner.  Leia and Han share a brief kiss and later, 3PO entertains the tribe with a brief retelling of their tale, complete with sound effects.  This gains them membership into the tribe, and some help.  Luke steps out and Leia follows.  Luke reveals that he can sense Vader is near; Leia urges him to run away.  He also reveals that Vader is his father and furthermore, the Force runs strong in his family; his father has it, he has it, and his sister.  Leia muses that she had sensed a connection as well.  Luke wants to try to save Vader; he can still sense good in him.  They part with a kiss on the cheek.  Which Han witnesses.  But Leia can’t tell him what she’s learned, but begs for Han to hold her.

Luke turns himself in to Vader, accepting the truth that Vader is his father.  Well, that Anakin Skywalker was his father.  Vader retorts that “that name no longer has any meaning.”  He examines his son’s new green lightsaber and declares his skills are complete.  But the Emperor will finish his training, in the Dark Side.  Luke cannot underestimate it; Vader must obey his master.  Luke even asks Vader to come away with him.  He tells his father “I will not turn and you will be forced to kill me.”  He feels the conflict within his father.  Vader insists it is too late for him.  And he still takes Luke to the Emperor.  Luke tells Vader “my father is truly dead.” 

The Rebels begin their space attack, but it’s taking a bit of time for Han and his team to get into the shield bunker.  The Ewoks create a distraction by taking one of the speeder bikes.  They make it a few steps in, except there are reinforcements.  (There is the notion amongst the fans that the older guy in Han’s attack group is actually Rex, who we know and love from the Clone Wars series.)  This is all a trap for the Rebels, laid by the Emperor.  Palpatine taunts Luke with the knowledge and urges him to strike him down in anger and descend into the Dark Side.  Luke retorts “your overconfidence is your weakness.”  “And your faith in your friends is yours,” Palpatine hisses.

But the Ewoks are clever creatures and attack the invading Imperials.  They have primitive weapons and for a while, things look bad.  But once Chewie helps a few Ewoks take control of an AT-ST (All Terrain Scout Transport), they gain momentum.  They use ropes to spin a speeder around a tree and clothesline another trooper.  Logs crush one of the walkers [Mythbusters tested this and it worked].  But this is still taking time and Lando urges Admiral Ackbar to give Han more time.  And the fighters unfortunately discover that the Death Star is fully operational when it blows up a large cruiser.  So they have to take on the Star Destroyers first.

Luke can’t take more of watching his friends die, so he calls his lightsaber and aims for the Emperor.  His blade crosses with Vader’s red one and the Emperor chuckles.  Then begins another duel between father and son [and the best one of the original trilogy].  But Luke stops fighting his father.  Vader doesn’t hold back long, even as Luke repeats he feels the conflict within.  Eventually, his thoughts drift back to his friends, and to his sister.  Vader was unaware there was a second child.  Perhaps she will turn easier than her brother.  This enrages Luke and he aggressively attacks, eventually knocking Vader down and slashing at him until he cuts off a hand.  He sees the wires in Vader’s limb, similar to his.  Palpatine laughs.  Luke’s hate has made him powerful.  Now, strike down Vader and become Palpatine’s new apprentice (see how loyal he is to Vader?  He did this with Dooku, if you recall.  This is the problem with the Sith, always backstabbing, completely untrustworthy the lot of them).  “Never,” declares Luke and throws his lightsaber to the side (bad move).  “You failed, your highness.  I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”  Palpatine cackles again and shoots lightning at Luke.

Han and Leia have victory on the moon and blow up the shield (reversing the “I love you”/ “I know” lines, which is adorable).  Now Lando and the fighters can launch their attack.  Wedge is leader of Red squadron and accompanies Lando.  Luke pleads “father, please.”  Vader studies Palpatine and when his master declares “now young Skywalker, you will die,” he shouts “No!” and picks up the maniac.  Lightning surrounds the two and Vader tosses the Sith Lord down the shaft.  Lando and Wedge’s shots ring true and the Death Star begins its’ destruction.  But Vader’s last stand has cost him.  His wheezing is worse and by the time Luke drags him to a shuttle Vader asks his son to help him take this mask off.  He knows he will die, “just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes.”  Anakin has aged, but the scars remain from his last battle.  The Imperial theme plays softly in the background, no longer menacing.  Luke pleads he has to save his father.  “You already have.  Tell your sister, you were right,” and Anakin Skywalker breathes his last.  Luke pilots them out in time.

Leia and Han watch the Death Star explode and Han is quick to assure Leia that Luke wasn’t on it.  She knows.  Very well, he won’t get in the way of the two of them when Luke returns.  No, it’s not like that, Leia reassures Han.  Luke is her brother.  Han gets a delightfully puzzled look on his face and has the most adorable realization after Leia kisses him.  He kisses back enthusiastically, until Wicket interrupts them.  The Ewok horns herald the celebrations, though Luke gives Anakin a funeral pyre alone.  We catch glimpses of Cloud City, Tatooine, Naboo (I’m glad they added Naboo), and Coruscant, where a statue is toppled.  Everyone hugs and Leia and Han cuddle.  Luke glances to the side and see the Force ghosts of both Yoda and Obi-Wan, then joined by Anakin (the new editions use Hayden Christensen, though I kind of agree they should have used the older Anakin from the original release; they used older Obi-Wan.  If you’re going to use Hayden, then use Ewan and heck, throw in Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon.)

A happy ending!  The evil Emperor is destroyed, his henchman is gone, and our heroes are one big happy family.

The story continues “officially” with the sequel trilogy in 2015.  However, before that, fans had the Extended Universe, now called Legends [because Lucas had to throw all that development out the window].  As I’ve stated, this was how I got into Star Wars.  I’ve already mentioned the Jedi Apprentice series by Jude Watson and Dave Wolverton, detailing Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s adventures while Obi-Wan was a Padawan (including how they were almost not paired up).  Truce at Bakura literally picks up where Return of the Jedi ends, Luke is undergoing treatment from his exposure to Force lightning when they receive a distress call (Han and Leia are looking for alone time and don’t get it because there’s always something going on).  Our heroes answer and meet a new race of aliens and Leia begins forging peace between the Rebellion and the Empire (Luke almost dies, again; he needs a vacation).  There’s The Courtship of Princess Leia (self-explanatory) where Han and Leia make it official. 

Timothy Zahn brings us the epic trilogy of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.  He introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn (the only non-human Grand Admiral and he’s appeared in Star Wars: Rebels, meaning he’s actually present-day canon) and Mara Jade.  Mara Jade is Force sensitive and worked as the Emperor’s Hand, a trained assassin who could hear her Master’s call anywhere in the universe.  And his final instructions are for her to kill Luke Skywalker, planting the image in her mind that Vader and Luke turned their lightsabers on Palpatine.  She does kill Luke, a clone made from his cut-off hand made by a crazy clone of an old Jedi Master, Joruus C’baoth (Zhan delves more into that backstory in Outbound Flight and Survivor’s Quest).  Mara and Luke actually end up married and Han and Leia have twins over the course of the first trilogy, Jaina and Jacen.  Later, they have a son, Anakin.  Leia becomes okay with that name after Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning.  Zahn also wrote Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future.  I highly recommend any of his books.

The trilogy of books that actually got me into the original movies was the Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson, consisting of Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force.  These chronicle Luke’s early attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order (it doesn’t go quite according to plan, he almost ends up dead, again.  Kid, seriously!)  I discovered these at my local library before I found the Zahn books.  Anderson also wrote the Young Jedi Knights series and I remember that is where it really caught my interest.  Oh, fun afternoons of exploring the science-fiction shelves in the back of the library, looking for more Star Wars novels.  Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre is very interesting; the kids get kidnapped and Leia goes off to find them, and Jaina has certainly inherited her father’s sass.  [When I get a chance to pull all my books out, I’ll have to find out which ones I have and which ones I need, because I’m remembering how much I loved these books; and these were my first introduction to “fanfiction,” one could say].

I got out of the Star Wars novels when Vector Prime, and the rest of the New Jedi Order books started coming out.  They just ended up weird, in my opinion.  There’s another alien race that invades and wants to take over the galaxy.  Chewbacca dies, Han blames Anakin, Jacen turns to the Dark Side, taking Ben Skywalker with him.  That just killed the fun.  The galaxy still had its own problems, it didn’t need more.  It took time to dismantle the Empire and build the New Republic, which had its own problems (reading these books made me hate politics).  But yes, I’m a bit put-out that all of this development got thrown out the window when Lucasfilm decided to make the sequel trilogy.  There were great characters already developed and I would love to see Mara Jade on screen because she kicks butt and has no problem telling people off when they’re being stupid, including her husband. 

My overall opinion of the film; it’s fine.  Leia’s main accomplishment is to kill Jabba (which we cheer for).  Luke seems so old; which yes, he’s matured, that’s a good thing, but we also liked the puppy-like Luke from the first film.  Now he’s all serious; he’s caught up on saving Vader.  Part of it is the dialogue is so reparative.  You’ve said it, now move on.  Han is fun, love that cocky smile he gives “hey, it’s me,” and he’s so proud of himself when they trick the Imperials.  And that’s why we love him.  The redemption of Vader is another good twist and if anyone would get through to him, it would be his son.  There is a message of hope that someone who has fallen can rejoin the Light.  And yes, there is a plothole created by Leia’s memories of her mother because in Revenge of the Sith we learn that Padmé died directly after giving birth; that’s a continuity error due to writing the movies in reverse order.

On a fun note: if you have never gotten the chance, go watch Carrie Fisher’s roast of George Lucas when he was awarded the AFI Lifetime Achievement in 2005; it is hilarious!

Next Time: The Force Awakens