Mutant. And Proud

X-Men: First Class

The start of the prequel-ish series and brings in James McAvoy (I adore him in Becoming Jane and he’s Tumnus the Faun in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) to play Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender (he’s the reason I went to watch the Jane Eyre movie that came out around the same time and led me to actually reading the book [that sometimes works]) to play Erik Lensherr.  Oliver Platt (Porthos in the 90’s Three Musketeers) is simply “Man in Black Suit,” though Kevin Bacon (star of Footloose) brings dimension to Sebastian Shaw.  Jennifer Lawrence (this came out a year before the first Hunger Games film, where her fame skyrocketed.  She has since won a Golden Globe for American Hustle and an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook [no, I have not watched those, but I love her in this role]) is Raven, while Nicholas Hoult (now you see him all the time for ads for The Great, and he’s remarkable in Tolkien) is Hank McCoy, and Lucas Till (the new MacGyver) is Alex Summers.  A few older adults are familiar; Rade Serbedzija (Prince Kragin in the first Downton Abbey movie and Gregorvitch in Deathly Hallows, and Emile de Becque in the TV movie of South Pacific with Glenn Close) is the Russian general, Glenn Morshower (he shows up in a bunch of TV shows, usually as someone in charge) is General Hendry, and the senior William Stryker is played by Don Creech (yep, that’s Mr. Sweeney from Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide).

The film begins the same as the first X-Men film, in Poland in 1944.  But this time, we see someone watching young Erik Lensherr pull down the gates.  This man is known as Klaus Schmidt and he’s very interested in discovering Erik’s abilities.  The Nazis are only partially correct in their idea of genes unlocking a new age, but Schmidt is focused on latent abilities.  He offers Erik chocolate to move a metal coin.  When that fails, he brings in Erik’s mother and threatens to shoot her after the count of three, unless Erik can move the coin.  Sadly, the teenager cannot move the coin, and Schmidt shoots Mrs. Lensherr.  Erik goes on a rampage, destroying everything else metal in the room, to Schmidt’s great delight.  As a “reward,” he gives Erik the coin at the end, noting that he can unlock the boy’s gift with rage and pain (that does not bode well).  At the same time, in Westchester, New York, a young Charles Xavier discovers a young Raven in his kitchen.  At first, she morphs into Mrs. Xavier, but Charles quickly realizes she’s a fake since his mother has never stepped foot in the kitchen and has never offered to make him hot chocolate.  But when Charles realizes it’s another mutant, he’s excited, as is Raven.

Eighteen years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, Erik tracks down a former Nazi banker to make him give up the location of Klaus Schmidt.  He’s sent to Argentina, where he notices a photo of Schmidt aboard a ship based out of Miami.  Erik kills the men, after remarking that he is Frankenstein’s monster, and he’s looking for his creator [this sequence highlights Michael Fassbender’s talent with languages].  At the same time, Charles is finishing his degree at Oxford University and hitting on girls in pubs, while his “sister” Raven watches on.  While Charles praises pretty girls for their “mutations,” such as two-colored eyes and brown hair, Raven has to hide her true form in order to fit in.  She mocks a girl for saying “mutant and proud,” but the relationship between Charles and Raven is very sweet: Charles is very much a brother by saying that the overall concept of his sister dating is that “any man would be lucky to have you,” while the actual thought is, “you’re my sister, I don’t think of you that way.”  And he genuinely fears Raven slipping up and what the consequences would be.  [And excellent editing, playing Charles’ thesis over the scene where Erik walks into the bank, stating “the mutated human species meant the extinction of its less-evolved kin.”]

In the States, CIA agent Moira McTaggert is investigating the Hellfire Club in Las Vegas, discovering several officials and important people are all meeting, including General Hendry, so she sneaks in.  And overhears Shaw pressuring the general to put nuclear missiles in Turkey, extremely close to Russia and almost certainly a declaration of war.  But some of his mutant companions help sway the general.  When her report is not believed, she sets out to find an expert in genetic mutation.  Which leads her to Charles, who initially tries to flirt with her, until he discovers that there is something more interesting going on.  So, Charles and Raven accompany Moira back to the CIA headquarters, where Charles gives his presentation, but isn’t taken seriously, until he uses his abilities.  Of course, they think he’s a spy, until Raven transforms into Styrker.  They’re still not trusted, so the man in the back ground [Oliver Platt] offers to house them in his facility, since it’s secure and off-premises.  Then a lead comes in about Shaw’s whereabouts, and Charles persuades Moira to take him.

Erik has caught up to Shaw (who is in fact Klaus Schmidt) after Shaw has killed Hendry by demonstrating his mutant power: he absorbs energy and can redistribute it, which also keeps him young.  Erik is knocked off the boat by Shaw’s associates, then uses the anchor to begin tearing the ship apart.  Emma Frost and Shaw escape into their submarine, which Erik attempts to stop using his powers.  But the U.S. Coast Guard is also on the scene, with Charles on board.  Charles senses Erik in the water, after mentally running into Emma, who is also a telepath.  Charles urges Erik to stop and let the sub go; he’ll drown.  When the man doesn’t listen to him, Charles jumps into the water himself and calms the man down.  “You’re not alone.”

Charles brings Erik back to the “Covert CIA Research Base,” where they investigate the application of paranormal powers in a military setting.  Or as Charles jokingly calls them, the “mutant division.”  They meet young Hank McCoy, who on top of being extremely intelligent, has abnormal feet.  Charles accidentally outed Hank, but Raven is pleased to meet the young man.  It’s someone else who has a physical mutation.  Hank has developed a supersonic plane [looks an awful lot like the SR-71 Blackbird], (which appears in the other X-Men films).  When the two teens talk afterwards, Hank wants some of Raven’s blood in order to develop a serum that will mask their physical mutations, but not their actual powers.  Erik walks by in time to stop a kiss, but also points out they shouldn’t have to hide.  Erik is still bent on revenge, but Charles stops him before he leaves.  Charles wants to help Erik, and stresses that Erik has a chance to be a part of something bigger.  Erik in fact, stays, but they find out that the missiles have been placed in Turkey and Shaw is on his way to Russia.  He also has a helmet that blocks a telepath’s ability to read his mind.

It’s time for Charles and Erik to gather mutants of their own.  Hank developed a transmitter, he calls Cerebro, that can amplify Charles’ brainwaves and abilities, so Charles can locate other mutants.  Hank suggests shaving Charles so the helmet would fit closer, to which Charles definitively says “don’t touch my hair.”  They first find a club dancer whose tattoos are actually wings; then there’s a cab driver, then Alex Summers who is in solitary confinement.  Next, there’s a teenaged boy on a date, but he can drive fish away.  They find Wolverine in a bar, but all he says is “go fuck yourself,” and they leave.  The teens get to know one another and show off their powers and decide on nicknames.  The club dancer is Angel, the cab driver is Darwin, because he adapts to survive.  Raven becomes Mystique and the red-headed boy is Sean and he goes by Banshee because of his sonic blast.  Alex becomes Havok due to his laser blasts.  Erik and Charles are trying to plan their next step and are disappointed to find the kids having a party and goofing off (and destroying part of the building).  Raven does manage to tell them their nicknames; Charles is Professor X and Erik is Magneto.  The adults head off for Russia to hopefully head Shaw off, but he doesn’t show, Emma is leading the meeting with the Russian general.  Erik is determined to take her instead, so Charles chases after him.  Erik wraps Emma in metal hard enough to crack her diamond form, which allows Charles to read her mind for Shaw’s plan: place U.S. missiles in Turkey, place Russian missiles in Cuba and then make a nuclear war happen.  “Radiation gave birth to mutants; what will kill the humans will only make us stronger,” and Shaw can take over the world.

Shaw, in the meantime, has discovered that Erik and Charles are recruiting, so he heads for Virginia to find them.  His minions accompany him and start ripping the agents apart.  The agents attempt to protect the kids, even though some of them were teasing them not too long ago.  Until the last guy is very eager to hand the mutant teenagers over to the psychopath.  Shaw only wants to make an offer to the kids, saying that the humans will eventually rise against the mutants and they need to pick their sides now: either wait to be enslaved, or rise up to rule.  Angel willingly goes with Shaw.  Darwin starts to go with Shaw, then signals for Alex to let loose a laser, hoping to take out the bad guy.  Unfortunately, they did not realize that Shaw would absorb the power, then feed it to Darwin.  Shaw, Angel, and his minions leave.  When Erik and Charles return, Charles initially wants to send the kids home, but they point out it’s too late for that.  Erik convinces Charles to train the teenagers.  And Charles knows where.

At the mansion, Charles teaches each teenager that they need to control their powers, not let their powers control them (we see this lesson repeated in the previous trilogy).  Seeing Sean learn to fly is humorous, just the way he falls into the bush, and then Erik simply pushing him when Charles tries to let him out of trying.  It’s Erik who points out to Raven that she is splitting half of her attention in order to look normal.  She wants society to accept her, but she won’t accept herself.  And Charles and Erik work together, Charles showing Erik that he doesn’t need to use anger to fuel his power; that true focus lies between rage and serenity.  Charles feels the good in Erik.  Hank finishes the serum and shows Raven, but she’s realized the truth in Erik’s words and it doesn’t help that Hank calls the serum a cure.  She’s finally mutant and proud.  When Hank tries the serum, it initially works, but then goes the wrong way.  Meanwhile, Erik and Charles are playing chess and discussing the mutant issue, fundamentally on opposing sides, but for the moment acting like gentlemen.  Raven sneaks into Erik’s room to wait for him and even tries her older form, but he doesn’t say “perfection,” until she’s in her natural blue form.  She confronts Charles afterwards and he struggles to see her point.

The team heads out to try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, using the plane that Hank developed.  He’s now blue and furry, thanks to his serum, but he’s now become Beast.  When they reach the embargo line, Charles makes the Russians fire on their own ship, so the Americans won’t have to fire and then start the war.  They figure Shaw is nearby, perhaps underwater, so they use Sean as sonar (and he stays away from Erik, so he won’t get pushed out).  Shaw is indeed on site and plans to become the weapon, draining the nuclear reactor of his sub.  But Erik manages to lift the sub out of the water and crash it on the beach.  The plan crashes shortly after.  Erik heads for the sub, and Beast, Havok, and Banshee take on Angel, Riptide, and Azazel.  Erik realizes that smashing the mirrored walls of the reactor will allow Charles telepathy to work, so he can freeze Shaw.  Shaw attempts to win Erik over to his side, and Erik admits that Shaw made him into a weapon.  Then Erik puts on the helmet so Charles can’t stop him from using the coin to pierce Shaw’s head in final retaliation for killing his mother.  [Excellent editing, following the path of the coin and overlaying Charles’ face occasionally, indicating that he feels what Erik is doing.]

Stryker is causing problems and orders both sides to hit the mutants on the beach.  This just adds fuel to Erik’s argument that the humans are against the mutants and they all need to band together.  Charles still holds hope that there are some good humans out there.  Erik manages to stop the missiles and turns them back to the ships, but Charles tackles him, breaking his concentration so the missiles start exploding in midair.  The two men wrestle, then Moira starts shooting at Erik.  He deflects the bullets, but one lands in Charles’ back.  Erik retaliates by cradling his friend and strangling Moira.  Charles points out this was Erik’s doing.  He releases Moira, but pleads with Charles that he needs the man by his side; they’re brothers, they want the same thing.  No, my friend, we do not (and we’re hit by James/Charles’ piercing blue eyes).  Erik leaves Charles, makes one last plead to gain allies.  Raven steps towards him, though she detours to her brother, who gives her permission.  “Mutant and proud,” are her parting words.  The rest of the team swarm their leader and Charles can only say he can’t feel his legs.

They’re back at the mansion, formalizing plans to make it a school.  And Charles has to protect the anonymity of his students, so with a kiss, he wipes Moira’s memory.  Erik breaks Emma Frost out of prison, now wearing the repainted helmet and a cape and going by Magneto.

This has become my favorite X-Men film, because it’s a story that can really stand on its own.  They make it fit well into the Cuban Missile Crisis, so we wonder, could this really have happened?  There’s also more energy to the movie.  It’s nice to see older Charles and Erik get along on occasion, but it’s even better to see how they started.  Yes, some continuity snarls show up, but since none of the movies were exactly planned out years in advance to fit together, it still works.  And I probably allow much more leeway since I have never read the comics.  It’s also not as dark as many of the previous movies were.  Several mistakes were made by characters in complete innocence.  The soundtrack also heightens the energy of the film, with the electric guitar and steady pace.

And yes, I totally subscribe to the theory that Charles and Erik are a couple. And utterly adore the new fact that Charles and Raven are siblings. These people need more hugs!

Fanfiction Recommendations:

I love blueink3’s Rumor Has It, which picks up where this film left off and adds an unknown child of Charles’ to the mix.

Up Next: Days of Future Past

“Okay. People are dead now.”

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

A prequel to the trilogy with a lot of familiar faces.  Danny Huston (we just saw him as Ludendorff in Wonder Woman and briefly as King Richard the Lionheart in Robin Hood) is Stryker and say hello to Dominic Monaghan (he will always be Merry) as Chris Bradley.  And there’s Kevin Durand (Little John in the same Robin Hood movie) as Fred Dukes.  Liev Schreiber (he was in Kate and Leopold with Hugh Jackman in 2001) is Victor Creed and Ryan Reynolds (he’s been opposite Sandra Bullock in The Proposal and is famous as Deadpool now…and that’s a confusing bit I will attempt to explain later) is Wade Wilson.

Wolverine’s origins actually begin in the mid 1800’s in Canada’s Northwest Territories.  James is an adolescent with a friend/half-brother Victor.  There is an altercation downstairs between James’ mother and another man, with James’ father investigating and getting killed.  It is quickly revealed that the other man is James’ actual father and Victor’s father as well and since they share the same mother, they’re full-blooded brothers.  James also has bone claws that extend from his hands, revealed when he attacks the other man for killing his “father.”  He and Victor run away and brief scenes show that they fight together in wars throughout the next century, including the American Civil War, both World Wars, and ending up in Vietnam.  Victor takes things too far and James (going by his surname of Logan by this time) jumps in to protect his brother; for their actions, they face a firing squad, but bullets do not harm the brothers.  That’s when Stryker shows up and offers the men the chance to join a special team, that enjoys “special privileges.”

The special team is a black ops team that touches down in Africa to confront a businessman (played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim, who has voiced Krogan in Race to the Edge, as well as has appeared in the rebooted MacGyver series, NCIS: Los Angeles, Black Sails, Jomo in The Librarian: Return to King Solomon Mines [the second film] and Jocard in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) about a meteorite fragment he has on his desk.  Logan is displeased at Stryker’s willingness to kill an entire village to gain the location, and leaves.  Victor stays, once again enjoying killing.

Six years later, Logan is enjoying the simple life in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend.  Kayla Silverfox [who looks like Jennifer Lawrence a bit] is a schoolteacher and Logan is a lumberjack.  We cut briefly to a fair in Springfield, Ohio, where Bradley is working.  Until he is visited and killed by Victor.  Afterwards, Stryker pays a visit to Logan, asking for his help.  “Your country needs you!”  Logan points out, “I’m Canadian.”  That evening, Kayla tells Logan a Trickster story about the moon’s lover, Kuekuatshue (which means “the wolverine”). 

Of course, the next day, Victor tracks down Kayla.  Logan senses it and runs to the woods, finding Kayla’s bloody body.  He hunts down Victor, but takes a lot of hits in his rage.  Stryker finds Logan at the hospital and promises him revenge, but first, he must endure pain in order to become indestructible.  Logan agrees, warning Stryker that afterward, he will be out for blood and no code of conduct nor law will stop him.  The procedure (at a familiar looking facility) involves the metal they found in Africa; adamantium [which is harder than vibranium, but not harder than Captain America’s shield according to the comics], which will be grafted to his skeleton.  Logan wants new dog tags that say Wolverine since he plans to become to animal in order to get his revenge.  There are visiting generals observing the creation of Weapon X; as in the Roman numeral for ten.  There is a moment where the procedure appears to have killed Logan, but the heart monitor starts up again.  Then Stryker tells one of his agents to erase Logan’s memories, which Logan hears.  He emerges from the pool furious and escapes, butt naked.  Stryker now tells his agent to cut off Logan’s head.

Logan manages to find a kind elderly couple to stay with for an evening.  But he’s found and they’re kill.  He rides their motorcycle out and takes down armored trucks and a helicopter (the fireballs are rather impressive).  Stryker is still trying to play both sides; give Logan his revenge, but keep him as a weapon.  Logan isn’t having that anymore.  Stryker is informed that the only thing that can kill Logan now is an adamantium bullet to the skull.  Logan goes to some of his old teammates to get information on what exactly Stryker is planning.  He finds out that Stryker was having the team hunt down mutants and he’s still doing that with Victor, and we see Victor go after Scott Summers at school.  Turns out, Stryker is collecting mutant powers in order to combine them into the perfect weapon.  They’re held on an island that only one mutant ever escaped from, Remy LeBeau, known as Gambit.  So Logan heads to New Orleans to find him.  But there is a miscommunication between Remy and Logan and Remy throws him out of the casino, then interrupts Logan and Victor’s fight

Back at the island, the general shuts down Stryker’s project, citing a conflict of interests in regard to Stryker’s son being a mutant.  Stryker kills the general and proceeds with creating Weapon XI.  Turns out, said island is actually Three Mile Island, the nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania…where better to operate in secrecy?  Remy drops Logan off and Logan confronts Stryker only to find out that Kayla is actually alive, and a mutant and planted in order to keep an idea on him.  She is able to influence people by touching them (she did that by deescalating a fight between Logan and another man earlier).  Logan is furious and walks out.  Victor goes to Stryker, because he wanted a fight.  So Victor goes after Kayla; her scream calls Logan back and he dukes it out with Victor.  He knocks his brother out, but doesn’t kill them, instead rescuing the trapped mutant children with Kayla, including her younger sister who has diamond skin.  Kayla sends the kids on their own, staying to watch Logan take on Weapon XI, who is Wade with a lot of new powers, and a sewn-shut mouth (because that man would not shut up, not while he was awake and Stryker had commented earlier that he’d be the perfect soldier if he didn’t have that mouth).  Victor joins in on the fun and fights back-to-back with his brother again; “nobody kills you but me.”  Logan manages to decapitate Wade, but still walks away from his brother.

Logan finds Kayla wounded and they try to leave, but Stryker arrives with a gun with adamantium bullets.  He downs Logan and puts two bullets in his skull; which doesn’t kill him, but does erase his memories.  Kayla keeps from being shot by grasping Stryker’s leg and ordering him to turn and walk away.  Remy has come back and after seeing Xavier take the children, discovers Logan, with no memory (at least he’s smart enough to realize that two bullets to the skull of someone who is indestructible is not good and yeah, probably causes memory problems).  Logan discovers Kayla, but has no recollection of who she is, then tells Remy he will find his own way.  Which brings us to how the first X-Men movie started; how Logan had no memory of how he became the Wolverine.

Oh, and Wade survived.  Which brings us to the conundrum of Deadpool’s place in Marvel.  I will be honest; I’ve only watched the first Deadpool movie once and not really my cup of team, but I believe that a few X-Men do show up and I recall Deadpool calling out Wolverine (or that was Ryan Reynolds calling out Hugh Jackman).  The Deadpool character is part of the Marvel universe (but not the huge cinematic universe that Disney owns now) and I read somewhere that technically, Deadpool does exist in some way in the whole wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey timeline that Days of the Future Past created.  However, it does appear that Ryan Reynolds enjoys playing Deadpool.

In a similar vein of honesty, this used to be my favorite X-Men movie and why I began liking Hugh Jackman as an actor.  And it fits fairly well with the previous trilogy of films, though we do have a question now about Sabertooth, because Victor Creed is supposed to be Sabertooth, but in the first film, he does not have any brotherly tendencies towards Logan.  Bit confusing if you stop and think about it.  But things do get out of whack with the prequel films; however, I like those movies a little more in general; I think the stories are more nuanced, but we’ll get into that with the next batch of films.  Overall, this is a straight-up action film, which we expect from Wolverine.  He is caring, but doesn’t focus on the warm and fuzzy notions.  And from the bits I’ve seen of later Logan-centric films, this doesn’t wallow in angst, which is appreciated.

Next Time: X-Men First Class

The Professor’s Lessons Continue

X-Men: The Last Stand

The third in the original trilogy of X-Men films.  There are a few new faces in the crowd, including Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Hank McCoy and Ellen/Elliot Page as Kitty Pryde.  But the film starts with a flashback to twenty years prior, where Erik and Charles meet the Greys, proving that the two men were indeed friends and began searching for mutants together, though their outlooks already differ.  Charles comments on his feeling of the misuse of power to Erik and they try to present a united front for Mr. and Mrs. Grey.  They ask to speak to Jean privately and Charles warns her that she has more power than she can imagine, but she should control it lest it controls her.  Jump to the “not too distant future” and Ororo and Logan are teamed up with some of the older teenagers, fighting against giant robots.  It’s only a simulation to get them to work as a team, which Logan is not keen on.  But he’s only a sub, because Scott hasn’t been the same since Jean’s death.  So when Scott starts hearing her voice again, he heads out alone to Alkali Lake to investigate.

Meanwhile, there is a meeting with the Department of Mutant Affairs, a relatively new department put in place by a sympathetic president, headed by Dr. McCoy.  They hope they are a step closer to re-capturing Magneto because they have managed to capture Mystique/ Raven Darkholme.  Dr. McCoy theorizes that yes, Magneto will come for her.  But there is more troubling news; a “cure” for mutants has been discovered.  It is an antibody, naturally produced by a mutant boy that permanently suppresses the X gene.  When McCoy visits the boy, his blue fur fades away, revealing a human hand.  News spreads and some mutants are for the cure, like Rogue, and many are against.  Magneto speaks to a group, warmongering that the government will force the cure upon mutants.  He recruits more mutants to his Brotherhood, claiming that the other option is genocide.

With his new crew, Magneto is able to find Mystique, along with a few more newcomers.  The Juggernaut is played by Vinnie Jones (he has been in episodes of NCIS: LA and MacGyver and was Labarge in The Musketeers and Gareth in Galavant), and they gain a man who can duplicate himself.  But when they try to get away, one of the guards was not completely unconscious and fires off a shot of the cure towards Magneto.  Mystique stands in the way and turns human.  Then Erik leaves her because she is “not one of us anymore.”

At Alkali Lake, Jean is still alive, though she doesn’t know how.  And she can control Scott’s laser eyes; she wants to see them.  They kiss, but something is wrong.  Back in New York, Charles senses something and sends Ororo and Logan to investigate.  When they arrive at the lake, stones are floating, as are Scott’s glasses.  Logan finds Jean, still alive, but no sign of Scott.  Back at the mansion, Charles reveals to Logan that because of Jean’s immense power, Charles put in physic barriers to help her control her power, meaning she developed dual personalities: Jean and Phoenix.  Now, with what happened at the lake, Phoenix may be getting free.  Logan now distrusts Charles, so when Jean awakes, he makes out with her, though he too sense something is off.  This is not the Jean he knows.  She becomes confused when Logan asks “where’s Scott?”  She pleads “kill me before I kill someone else,” but Logan doesn’t. 

She returns to her old home, where Charles and Erik meet up again.  Erik is determined to recruit Jean to his side and points out that Charles never let her fully be herself and tried to control her.  Charles insists he is helping her.  Jean’s powers flair and while the two mutant groups face off against each other, Charles turns to dust.  Erik is horrified and tries to tell Jean to stop, but he is comfortable with taking Jean with him at the end.  Logan and Ororo are left to mourn.  Bobby comforts Kitty after the funeral [because that’s what this movie really needed was a teenage love triangle] and Rogue decides to leave.  Logan lets her, though cautioning her that she should go because it’s her decision, not because of some boy.  But Rogue has always wanted to be able to touch people again after her mutation developed.

In the Brotherhood camp, the other members don’t trust Jean, and former student Johnny spouts he would have gladly killed the Professor, if given the chance.  Erik retorts “Charles Xavier did more for mutant than you’ll ever know.  My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.”

Events only escalate.  Magneto sends Pyro to torch a cure facility, bumping into Bobby looking for Rogue.  Magento also issues a threat to humanity, so in retaliation the Army is deployed, making sure to use no metal.  McCoy returns to the school, that Ororo keeps open.  Logan begins to hear Jean and goes looking for her, overhearing Magneto’s rallying cry to the Brotherhood.  Their plan is to go to Alcatraz Island, where the boy forming the cure is kept and burn it to the ground.  With information from Mystique, the President hopes to entrap Magneto, but when the raid goes down, all the mutants they saw turn out to be just the replicating man.  The X-Men form up and go to Alcatraz to face off against the Brotherhood.  Magneto is fine with letting the meaningless hoards of his troops go first and be shot with the cure by the Army.  He holds his more powerful allies in reserve, sending a few of the newcomers to take care of the kid.  Kitty heads in to save the kid, distracting the Juggernaut.  Pyro and Bobby get the rematch they’ve been waiting for, with Bobby ultimately freezing Johnny.  Logan works with the team and distracts Magneto while Hank comes from behind and jabs Magneto with the cure.

When we think that the X-Men have won, reinforcements arrive and Jean’s powers obliterate them.  Erik murmurs “what have I done?” as he escapes.  The rest of the X-Men get the remaining people off the island and Logan faces off against Jean.  His healing ability gives him the time to get close, though it is painful.  His claws are out and Phoenix growls “you would die for them?”  “No, for you,” Logan admits.  Jean comes through for a moment, pleading again “save me.”  “I love you,” Logan declares as he runs Phoenix through.

The world attempts to return to normal, rebuilding the Golden Gate Bridge that Magneto destroyed.  Xavier’s school re-opens, with headstones for Jean, Scott, and the Professor.  Hank McCoy is the new representative for the whole United States to the United Nations.  In the theatrical version, Rogue did take the cure so she can touch people (I prefer the alternative scene where she didn’t take it, because she realizes it is important to be a mutant, whether she can kiss her boyfriend or not).  At the end, Erik is disguised as an old man in a park, attempting to move chess pieces like he used there.  There is also a scene amidst the credits where the coma man that was part of an ethics question earlier wakes up with Charles’ voice.

We’ll notice more once we get to the prequel trilogy that some of the backstories no longer line up.  But Erik’s comment about Charles is the nicest thing he’s said in this trilogy and you want to see a glimmer of humanity in Erik.  Then we recall he didn’t do that much to keep Jean from destroying Charles and his friend’s death does leave an opening for his own agenda to make traction.  And his decision to let Phoenix free comes back to bite him in the butt later, so maybe Charles wasn’t in the wrong.

The romantic relationships still fall flat to me.  [Though the thought did pop into my head during the scene between Logan and Jean/Phoenix in the mansion: “it’s the return of Onatopp”].  And I do want to know, did Jean really kill Scott, or if Charles can come back, can Scott?  Is the cure a permanent thing, considering that Erik must feel something to think he can try to move the chess pieces.  And how is he not in custody?  Many questions, with no answers, the least of which, the actual ethical question of Charles taking over a coma patient.

My final thoughts?  I love the gravitas that Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bring to Magneto and Charles Xavier; they’re wonderful together.  The story itself was lacking, I feel.  I’m looking forward to diving into the prequel-ish trilogy, but first:

Up Next: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

“Logan, my tolerance for your smoking in the mansion notwithstanding, continue smoking that in here and you’ll spend the rest of your days under the belief that you’re a six-year-old girl.”

X2: X-Men United

The leads from the first film are back and joined by Brian Cox (Agamemnon in Troy, Argyle Wallace in Braveheart, and Killearn in Rob Roy) as Colonel William Stryker and Alan Cumming (Boris in Goldeneye) as Kurt Wagner.  And once again the film opens with an introduction about mutation and the comment from Professor Xavier that “sharing the world has never been humanity’s defining attribute” [and who else thinks this is something Captain Picard would tell another being?]  After that, the action kicks off with a mutant who can pop around in a cloud of blue smoke attacks the president, but once he’s shot, he leaves behind a knife with a banner reading “Mutant Freedom Now” on it.  Logan has made it to Alkali Lake in Canada, but it’s deserted.  He does spy a white wolf, which can hold various symbolism, including a search for truth I believe.

Back in civilization, Jean, Storm, and Scott are leading a field trip and a trio of teenagers, John, Bobby, and Rogue, get in a bit of trouble.  Jean is also experiencing some problems with her powers; they’ve been off in a way since Liberty Island.  Her dreams have been worse and she feels something terrible is going to happen.  Professor Xavier has to freeze the food court and reprimand John for showing off in front of humans.  But then the news story comes in about the attack on the President, so they quickly leave.  Colonel Stryker visits the President to request authorization for a special operation, namely to “investigate” Xavier’s school for children.  He has access to Eric Lensherr, which Senator Kelly is very interested in (reminder, that is Mystique in disguise).  The President agrees that Stryker may “enter, detain, and question,” but he doesn’t want to see a dead mutant kid on the news.  Kelly warns Stryker about turning this into some kind of war.  (We can tell there is something suspicious going on.)

Logan returns to the mansion and gets left to watch the children while Jean and Storm track down the mutant who attacked the President [there is an error in editing; Jean comments to Logan they’re going to Boston before Xavier uses Cerebro to find the mutant.]  Scott and the Professor are going to visit Eric.  Charles realizes that Stryker has been using Eric against his will for information against Charles; gas is pumped in and the two older mutants collapse.  Stryker’s assistant takes care of Scott.  Jean and Storm are able to find the mutant, a teleporter named Kurt Wagner, known in the Munich circus as the Incredible Nightcrawler.  He remembers the attack, but like he was watching himself and couldn’t stop it.  The back of his neck is scarred (like Magneto’s).  Mystique shifts into Stryker’s assistant in order to find out information on the prison where Eric is kept; she also discovers plans for a second Cerebro at a classified location. 

Meanwhile, Rogue is very happy to see Logan back at the school and introduces him to Bobby, her boyfriend (and isn’t that a whole load of awkward).  Logan wakes in the middle of the night, at the same time that black ops men break into the school and shoot stun darts at the children.  Some are able to get away, led by a kid that can cover himself in metal.  John and Bobby go back for Rogue while Logan takes out the men.  Logan instructs the big kid to watch after the other children.  Rogue convinces Bobby to go back for Logan, who is now distracted by Stryker; he remembers this man for some reason and Stryker seems to know things about him.  Bobby erects an ice wall between Logan and Stryker.  Logan tells Rogue, “Go I’ll be fine.”  “But we won’t,” she responds.  So Logan takes the three teens.  They head to Boston, where he knows Jean will be.  Bobby suggests they go to his parents’ house for clothes and he has to reveal that he’s actually a mutant.  His younger brother is upset and his mother asks him to try to “not be a mutant” [cringe].

Stryker has kidnapped Charles and Scott and is using his own mutant son to control Charles, having him send illusions into Charles’ head.  Charles protests Stryker’s use of his son, but Stryker also won’t admit that the young man is his son whom he’s holding prisoner.  His true son died; this is simply mutant number 143.  He will admit that mutants serve a purpose, as long as they can be controlled.  Charles also realizes that it was Stryker who arranged the attack on the President.  Create a situation where his expertise will be required and manipulate the situation to get what he wants.  He needed a reason to attack the school and get the specifications of Cerebro.  After the attack, the President gave him permission.  And breed enough fear against mutants, his method of controlling them will be desired.  Mystique charms a man and drugs him in order to gain access to Eric’s prison; by injecting him with lead that Magneto pulls out of him and creates pellets to free himself.

Jean is able to contact Logan, but Bobby’s brother called the cops.  Logan tries to calmly talk his way out, but with his claws out, he’s shot for his trouble.  John, who controls fire, shoots fireballs at the cops, until Rogue uses her power to stop him and put the fires out.  Jean and Storm pick up the teens and Logan.  Then two other jets come up on the mutants’ jet and Storm has to distract them.  They take a hit and Rogue is sucked out of the plane, though Kurt rescues her.  Magneto helps land the plane and both groups have to work together to free Charles.  Stryker’s son, James, is putting the illusion in Charles’ head that he has to use Cerebro to locate all the mutants.  But the danger is, if Charles concentrates on all the mutants too long, he can kill them.  Which is what Stryker wants.  Jean is able to read Kurt’s mind to discover that the secret base is underneath Alkali Lake.

They send Mystique in as Wolverine since Stryker is less likely to kill him on sight, but Mystique will be able to man the control center.  She gets in, but Stryker recognizes that she is not the true Wolverine, thought she is still able to complete her part of the mission.  She lets the others in.  Storm and Kurt will free the other children the men captured, while Jean goes with Magneto and Mystique for Charles.  Wolverine sneaks out to go after Stryker.  Jean runs into Scott, who is being mind-controlled, so Magneto and Mystique go on to Cerebro on their own.  Wolverine finds the lab from his nightmares and faces off against Stryker’s assistant, who is also a mutant with adamantium nails and a healing ability like Wolverine’s.  He manages to win by injecting her with more adamantium.  Then he goes after Stryker and is ready to kill him, despite Stryker’s insistence that he will tell Logan everything.  Except he finds out that the dam is going to flood their escape route and goes back in to save his new friends.

A blast from Scott knocks both him and Jean out and when he wakes, he’s back to normal and Jean’s injured her leg.  Kurt and Storm manage to get the children and Mystique and Magneto do find Cerebro.  “From here it doesn’t look like they’re playing by your rules.  Maybe it’s time to play by theirs.”  Instead of simply pulling Charles out, Magneto has James tell Charles there is a change of plans.  Kill all the humans now.  Storm has Kurt teleport her inside since Magneto and Mystique have left.  She freezes the inside so James has to stop his control.  Kurt gets Storm and Charles out and they are all almost to the spillway when Logan closes the door, right in time to keep them from being flooded.  He leads them out, but Stryker’s helicopter is gone, courtesy of Magneto and Mystique.  They’ve also gained a follower in John, who goes by Pyro.  Magneto told him on the way in that his power makes him a god among insects.  Stryker is still alive and once again tries to convince Logan he’s only an animal and who else can give him the truth?  Well, Logan will take his chances with the mutants.  Stryker shouts after him “one day someone will finish what I’ve started!”

Rogue and Bobby have brought the jet around to rescue everyone, but it won’t start again.  Jean senses that the dam is about to give, so she limps out of the plane.  She starts it and gets it in the air and won’t let the ramp back down for Scott to come after her.  She also manages to keep the water away from the jet and uses the Professor to say good-bye to Scott.  Then the jet is in the air and she drowns in the water.  All Logan can say is “she’s gone,” and Scott finally breaks down.  But they’re not finished yet.  The Professor freezes a press conference in the Oval Office and points out the truth of Stryker to the President and urges him to work together for a better future rather than repeating the mistakes of the past.  Back at the mansion, Charles tries to comfort Logan and Scott, but they don’t seem terribly convinced.  He then goes on to start a lesson with the students on T.H. White’s Once and Future King, which Eric was reading earlier in jail.

The pairings and relationships in this movie…to start, it seems like Rogue may view Logan more as a surrogate father-type figure, since she’s dating Bobby and Bobby seems like a nice guy.  He’s not trying to push Rogue, but he would enjoy a kiss once in a while.  And it evens works for a second, until it lasts too long.  And Logan probably views Rogue in a protective sense, but he doesn’t grill Bobby.  As for Logan and Jean; that is a ship that never should have set sail.  While Logan’s reaction to her death tugs at the heartstrings, I definitely side with the notion that she should be with Scott; she has a history with him and an understanding.  And yes, the two men are united for a moment in their grief for the loss of Jean, but even with Logan telling Scott that Jean chose Scott, I don’t see these two becoming friends.  Then there’s Mystique obvious interest in Wolverine which could be interesting in one respect, though creepy how she switched through the various ladies (one of whom may have been Rogue and yeah, definite creepy factor there).

There are hints of Jean’s growing power throughout the film and that is an epic display at the end, lifting the jet and holding back the dam at the same time.  And we are left with the notion at the end that all may not be what it seems.  But Magneto may be right, that there is a war coming and these are the warning shots.

Up Next: X-Men: The Last Stand

The First Step Into a Larger World

X-Men

The first of a whole series of films made, including a prequel set.  It has a stellar cast, helmed by Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean Luc Picard of Star Trek: Next Generation, John Gaunt in Hollow Crown, he voiced the Pharoah in Prince of Egypt, he appeared as King Richard at the end of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and an overall acting career that dates back to the sixties) as Professor Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen (Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies [the director, Bryan Singer, even adjusted the filming schedule so Ian could travel to New Zealand], Cogsworth in the live action Beauty and the Beast, Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, and a career as long-spanning as Stewart) as Eric Lensherr/Magneto [the two actors are friends in real life and it’s adorable].  This was Hugh Jackman’s first major role (he had done a recorded stage production of Oklahoma before this and was known elsewhere for his singing, but most American audiences knew him from X-Men first) as Wolverine (he goes on to star in Australia, Kate and Leopold, Van Helsing, The Greatest Showman, and Les Misérables, and is now on Broadway in The Music Man).  Halle Berry (Jinx Johnson opposite Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day, the titular Catwoman in the 2004 film, and she won the Oscar in Monster’s Ball) is Storm, James Marsden (Prince Edward in Enchanted, he appears in Hairspray and 27 Dresses as well) is Cyclops, while Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye, so that’s two Bond women in this movie) is Jean Grey.  You kind of can’t tell, but that’s Rebecca Romijn (Eve Baird in the Librarians series) as Mystique and Ray Park (you can’t recognize him in his other role either, but he’s Darth Maul in Phantom Menace) as Toad.

The film opens with narration on mutation and evolution, explaining that in this universe, mutants are the evolution of humans.  Then we’re in 1944 Poland, at a concentration camp as evidenced by the yellow stars the prisoners are wearing.  A family is torn apart and the mother cries for her son; he reaches out to her, despite guards holding on to him and pulls the metal gate back before he’s knocked out.  Time jump to the “not too distant future” in Mississippi.  A teenage couple is discussing the girl’s desire to go on an adventure.  When she kisses the boy, he becomes paralyzed and non-responsive.  She screams at her parents “don’t touch me.”  Meanwhile, there is a Senate hearing going on about a mutant registration act, headed by a Senator Kelly, who views all mutants as dangerous while Dr. Jean Grey is trying to explain that they are still people and often their mutations are brought on at puberty by heightened emotions.  After the hearing, two older gentlemen have their own conversation.  Charles is in favor of hope, while Eric views humans as lesser beings; “we are the future,” he tells Charles and warns him not to get in his way.

The teen girl has made her way to Canada where she enters a bar with a cage fight going on and meets “the Wolverine,” a champion fighter.  She warns him afterwards of a man threatening him, but Wolverine has claws that extend from his hands, so he’s got it covered.  Later, Wolverine, whose real name is Logan, discovers the girl as a stowaway and his heart is kind enough to not simply leave her on the side of the road.  Her name is Marie, but she goes by “Rogue” now.  They get in an accident and Logan is thrown from the truck.  He faces off with another mutant, while Marie is stuck in the truck, about to go up in flames (thanks to Logan’s cigar).  They are saved by two other mutants, one who controls the snow storm and one with laser eyes.

When Logan wakes up, his first instinct is to escape, though there is a voice following him and leading him to…Professor Charles Xavier.  And his school for the gifted, a cover for mutants.  His primary instructors are Storm, Cyclops (real name is Scott), and Jean Grey.  Marie is attending classes and hopes to fit in with the other wayward students.  Charles explains about their counterparts, led by Magneto, who foresees a war involving mutants.  Magneto was an old friend of Charles’, when he went by the name Eric Lensherr.  Charles also knows that Logan has lost his memory of his life before the incident that gave him an adamantium skeleton.  He makes a deal with Logan; give Charles forty-eight hours to discover Magneto’s plan and then Charles will use his skill at mind reading to help Logan discover his past.

In the meantime, Magneto has Mystique kidnap Senator Kelly and he uses a machine to expose the Senator to radiation.  Kelly ends up a mutant (whose body can now squeeze through bars), just like the Brotherhood of Mutants.  Afterall, humans fear what they don’t understand, so Magento is changing their minds about mutants.  Back at the school, Marie visits Logan when he has nightmares [why, not explained, and someone really ought to be asking that question]; he’s startled awake and accidentally stabs Marie.  Before she collapses, she touches Logan and heals herself, but knocks Logan out.  Charles explains once Logan wakes, that Rogue’s gift drains the life force of someone, and in the case of mutants, borrows their powers for a time.  Outside, Rogue’s new friend Bobby tells her to leave.  Except it’s not really Bobby; the yellow eyes give her away as Mystique.  Charles introduces Logan to Cerebro, the machine he uses to find other mutants, since their brainwaves are different.  He sends Cyclops and Storm after Marie, but Logan also goes.  Then Mystique gains access to Cerebro and plugs in a poison.

Logan is the one to track Marie to the train and comforts her.  He suggests she gives the school another chance because the Professor is one of the few people who understand what is going on and may be able to help her.  Logan also promises to take care of her, managing to give her a hug without skin contact.  But Magneto and his goons find them, Sabretooth and Toad taking on Cyclops and Storm while Magneto tears apart the train and throws Logan back so he can take Marie.

Logan intends to go back out to find Rogue, while Storm urges him to fight with her and Scott.  That’s when Senator Kelly shows up at the school, begging for help.  Charles reads his mind and finally realizes what Eric’s plan is.  To use his machine to turn the world leaders gathering at a U.N. Summit on Ellis Island into mutants so that the mutant cause becomes their cause.  And since the machine weakens him, he’ll use Marie’s power to transfer his power through her to power the machine.  However, a side effect of the machine causes Kelly to dissolve into water.  Charles attempts to use Cerebro, but is poisoned.  So the four adults have to work together to take on Magneto and his Brotherhood and rescue Marie.  Logan makes a crack about their suits and Cyclops comes back with a joke about wearing yellow spandex (apparently what they wore in the comics).

It’s an interesting fight since Mystique can transform into anyone on the team, so at one point we have two Wolverines fighting each other.  Storm eventually electrocutes Toad, Scott saves Jean, and when Logan returns, Scott knows it’s the real him because he calls him a name.  But Magneto pins the team and raises the machine.  Logan eventually stabs himself with his claws to get free, then takes on Sabretooth.  He helps the others get free and has them raise him up to Marie.  Cyclops gets a shot at Magneto, distracting him enough for Logan to slice the controls.  Marie now has a white streak in her hair and isn’t breathing at first.  Logan takes off his glove and attempts to siphon his power.  There’s a delayed reaction and Marie starts breathing, but Logan’s wounds begin bleeding.

Charles recovers and gives Logan a clue that there is an abandoned facility at Alkali Lake in Canada that may hold some answers.  Mystique survived and is posing as Senator Kelly so now he’s changing his view on the mutant registration law.  And Charles visits Eric in a plastic prison to play chess.  Eric asks his old friend if he stays awake at night, worried that someone may come for his children?  Charles responds: “I feel a great swell of pit for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.”  They’re still on opposite sides of the war, but they’re still old friends.

I have to admit, after watching the later X-Men and other superhero movies, this one feels a bit slow.  I understand that it sets up a lot of what takes place in later movies, but I had trouble getting back into the film after several years.  Of course, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are excellent.  I think Hugh Jackman’s performance gets better over time in the movies.  Jean is a bit flat and Cyclops and Storm are almost relegated to sidekicks.  As for the “love triangle” between Logan, Jean, and Scott; there is absolutely no chemistry between any of them and the only reason Logan is at all interested in Jean is because she’s pretty.  They have no interaction before he’s interested.  I do appreciate how they all work together at the fight at the Statue of Liberty at the end.  Also, looking back at the relationship between Rogue and Wolverine, it doesn’t sit quite right.  You can clearly tell that Rogue has a crush on Wolverine, but due to the age difference and the fact that they had only just met, it’s a bit awkward.  Now, it is sweet that Wolverine is concerned about Rogue and even persuades her to return to the school and promises to take care of her.

Up Next: X2: X-Men United

“I can save today. You can save the world.”

Wonder Woman

Takes place in the DC extended universe films that have come out recently.  Wonder Woman actually made her first appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (I watched it after this film since Wonder Woman was in it and still not impressed.  Yes, Batman and Superman have canonically butted heads but would they really dissolve into fighting each other?)  She also later appears in the full Justice League film (again, only watched once and not one I’m going to revisit).

However, this film is directed by Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot as Diana.  Chris Pine (most famous now as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films, but he’s played romance before in Princess Diaries 2) is the lead male, Captain Steve Trevor.  Robin Wright (Buttercup in The Princess Diaries; there’s a saying going around with the movies that came out in the 2010’s, that our princesses, i.e. Buttercup and Leia, became our generals) is General Antiope.  David Thewlis (Professor Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter franchise) is Sir Patrick, Danny Huston (a brief appearance as King Richard in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood and we’ll see him as Stryker in X-Men Origins Wolverine) is Ludendorff, and that’s James Cosmo (he’s been in period films like Troy and Braveheart and is Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and was Jeor Mormont of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones) as Field Marshall Haig.

The film actually starts in modern days, with a Wayne Enterprises truck pulling up outside the Louvre, to deliver an old photograph to Diana.  The story then turns to her upbringing on Themyscira; her desire to train alongside the other Amazons, but her mother forbidding it.  She wants her daughter the remain a child as long as possible and tells her the story of Zeus’ creation of man and Ares’ jealousy.  He poisoned the kind hearts of mankind, so Zeus created the Amazons as protectors of humans.  The queen herself led the revolt against Area, but many gods were killed.  They believed Area perished as well, but Hippolyta fears he is still out in the world and is content to remain hidden on Themyscira.  Diana begins training with Antiope in secret for several years before her mother finds out (slightly retconned in the beginning of the sequel).  Hippolyta demands that Antiope train Diana harder than any she has trained before, but the young woman cannot know the truth.

Fast forward several years, and Diana is sparring with the other Amazons, Antiope pushing her to release her full potential; “you’re stronger than you believe.”  When Diana crosses her gauntlets, they create a shockwave, stunning Antiope.  Diana is starting to wonder if there is something else going on, so she visits the cliffs to collect herself.  And discovers an airplane crashing into the water by the island; the first outsider.  She dives into the water to save the man, then the pursuing Germans attack.  The Amazons fight back, their arrows somewhat effective against the soldiers, but they’re not prepared for the guns.  Antiope takes a bullet for Diana when she’s distracted.  The Amazons take the man Diana rescued for questioning, using the Lasso of Hestia to compel him to tell the truth.  His name is Steve Trevor and he is an American assigned to British Intelligence to spy on the Germans.  He discovered General Ludendorff’s and Doctor Maru’s newest toxic gas and stole the notebook so it cannot be fully developed and used on people.  The Germans followed him to the island.  Diana, raised on her mother’s stories and belief that the Amazons’ purpose is to protect humans, wants to join Steve fighting this terrible war.  Obviously, Ares is behind it and it is the Amazons’ duty to defeat him.  Hippolyta, knowing the truth of the world, feels they are better on their island and forbids Diana from going.

Diana decides to help Steve anyway and sneaks into the tower where there is the God killer sword, a shield, and a brightly colored set of armor (modeled after gladiator garb).  She will sneak Steve off the island in exchange for him taking her to the war so she can defeat Ares; she believes it will be so simple.  Hippolyta catches them before they board a boat, but she admits she cannot force Diana to stay.  However, she can never return to the island.  Steve and Diana have a rather…awkward conversation about relationships between men and women.

In the meantime, Maru continues working on her gas, though she discovered another one that restores a man’s strength and gives it to Ludendorff (yeah, there’s definitely some magic going on there because his reaction is not natural).  Steve and Diana make it to London and meet Steve’s secretary, Etta.  First, they need new clothes because Diana is going to standout in just her cape at some point.  But she’s not accustomed to early twentieth-century garb and the fact that women are not meant to fight; corsets are not armor.  She eventually settles on a long skirt and shirt.  Steve puts glasses on her and as Etta points out, not the most camouflaging.  The pair run into German spies who try to kill Steve, until Diana uses her gauntlets to stop bullets.  When they go to British command, the men are dismissive of Diana and Steve is forced to take her out of the room.  However, she’s the only one who can decipher the combination of languages Maru is using to make her notes.  And she gets very upset when the men all insist that they cannot go after the gas factory because they cannot endanger the imminent armistice.  Outside, Steve admits, using the Lasso to prove his sincerity, he is planning on doing the mission anyways.

Steve gathers his buddies; an actor named Sammy, a sharpshooter named Charlie, and a smuggler referred to as Chief so they can infiltrate Belgium, find the factory, and destroy it.  Sir Patrick, from command, pays them a visit and even helps them along, allowing Etta to coordinate in his office.  In Belgium, Ludendorff visits the other German generals (who do point out that this ongoing war is costing the Germans just as much as it is costing the allies and are willing to sign an armistice) and uses the gas on them.  He and Maru giggle like children at the destruction they cause and set in motion the rest of their plan.

Steve and Diana pass through No Man’s Land, and Diana finally insists she can do something to help; there is a village trapped behind the German line.  She drops her cloak, revealing her armor, shield, sword, and headband, and steps out of the trench.  She draws the German’s fire and Steve leads his men after her, giving her an opening to take out the German weapons.  They go on to the village (where we are treated to the energizing theme as Diana takes out her adversaries), Steve fighting alongside Diana.  He recalls a move he saw the other Amazons use and launches Diana into the bell tower to take out a sniper.  A local commemorates their victory with a photograph (the one from the beginning of the movie).  There are a few tender moments between Steve and Diana that evening, after Steve has reported to Etta and Sir Patrick.  Ludendorff will be at a gala nearby, but Patrick forbids Steve from going in.  Diana has also come to the conclusion that Ludendorff is Ares.  Everyone knows that Steve will disobey that order and go anyway.  I do love the scene between Steve and Diana in the bedroom for the fact that there is no dialogue.  Without words, Diana asks Steve to stay and he agrees.  There is a kiss between the two and that is all we see.

On the way to the gala, Steve tells his friends the truth about Diana, and of course, Sammy wants to visit, since he’s been flirting with Diana in half a dozen languages.  Steve attempts to order Diana to stay back while he sneaks into the gala, but she steals a dress and enters, breaking his focus on charming Doctor Maru.  Ludendorff dances with Diana and Steve catches her before she executes the man.  And admittedly, Ludendorff sounds very much like a god of war.  Steve takes Diana out of the gala and they see a “firework” set off.  Except it’s actually the gas and it hits the village they just saved.  Diana is not pleased with Steve, but they follow the Chief’s signal to Ludendorff at a nearby airstrip.  Diana goes after Ludendorff while Steve and his friends go after the gas being loaded onto a plane.

Diana has a bit of a fight with Ludendorff, but she overpowers him and runs him through with her sword.  And the Germans don’t stop.  How can this be?  You kill the god of war; you stop the war.  Steve doesn’t know either.  Maybe humans aren’t wholly good like Diana believes; maybe there is no one bad guy to blame.  He asks Diana to help him stop the gas, but she’s now disheartened and doesn’t follow him.  Sir Patrick shows up and tells Diana that mankind only deserves destruction.  It’s not Ludendorff who was Ares; Sir Patrick is Ares.  “I’m not what you thought I was.”  He did not spout war; he was not obvious.  He hid in plain sight and manipulated behind the scenes where no one would suspect him.  He tells Diana he is not the enemy; instead, he is the only one who truly knows her.  He saw from the beginning that his father’s creation was evil; humans are inherently cruel and selfish [oh boy, does he sound like Lucifer from Supernatural].  Diana gears up for another fight, but Ares is able to break the sword.  And reveals that the sword wasn’t the god killer, Diana herself is.  “Only a god can kill another god.”  Diana was not simply sculpted by clay and brought to life by Zeus, she is the offspring of Zeus and Hippolyta.  Ares tries to convince Diana to join him, destroy mankind and the world will be beautiful again.  He goes on, claiming that it was not him who made humans use weapons and wage war against each other, he only whispered inspiration in their minds. 

Diana refuses to join Ares and their battle hits the tarmac.  Steve intends to stop the plane, but he can’t ground it since it’s on a timer and they can’t blow it up because it will still kill everyone in the vicinity.  The only way he can stop it is to take it in the air and hit it then.  But he finds Diana first.  Except the blow from Ares has messed with her hearing, so she doesn’t hear him at first.  He leaves her to fulfill his mission and she goes back to her fight with Ares.  He grounds her and she watches the plane explode, crying out and bursting from her bonds.  She rips through the soldiers and Ares is pleased.  He brings Maru in front of Diana and she picks up a tank.  Ares goads her, saying again that humans are weak.  Including Captain Trevor; he deserved to burn.  Diana spares Maru and goes after Ares, finally recalling what Steve told her: “I wish we had more time.  I love you.”  Before Diana strikes her final blow, she tells her brother, “I believe in love.”  There is a huge explosion as she shoots lighting back at Ares.  And everyone is just grateful to be alive afterwards that they all hug one another.

At the victory celebration afterwards, Diana quietly meets up with Etta and the men and visit the memorial wall.  Back in present day, she remarks that she decided to stay and fight and protect humanity.  It is her mission, now and forever.

There are several aspects of this movie that I enjoyed.  First and foremost, it shows a female superhero as the lead and she kicks butt!  The action focuses on her and she gets herself out of trouble.  (And totally cool that it is directed by a female.)  And it’s sweet that Steve accepts her as she is; of course he has to struggle to get her to fit in with early-twentieth century London, but that’s to avoid awkward questions.  He’s seen the Amazons in action and know they can defend themselves, so he trusts Diana to look after herself in that respect.  It’s the minutia of “in polite society you really can’t do that” that he has to worry about (like, don’t assassinate the general in a room full of witnesses who are going to take the general’s side).

Part of why this film was moved to World War I as a setting compared to its run in the comics was to differentiate it from Marvel’s Captain America; you don’t want tow Captain Steves running around.  But, it makes sense in a historical sense; the people who lived and fought in the first World War did not know there would be a second.  It was called the Great War and they thought it was the war to end all wars, so that’s a perfect time to find this amazing warrior who helps turn the tide.  And packs more of a punch when you realize that these people will live through another tragedy and Diana herself will witness the horror of the world dissolving into war again.

Also, Ares’ game plan.  Upon first viewing, and taking into account that many of the audience view this character as kind Professor Lupin, Sir Patrick’s actions are good.  He’s trying to end the war peacefully; he helps our heroes get to their destination.  Yet, it’s Ares playing the long game.  He knows how to maneuver people where he wants them without anyone suspecting.  Let Diana see her friends try and fail to end the violence.  It just cements his view that humans are inherently cruel and violent.  Of course, he weakens his argument when he reveals that he is the inspiration behind Maru’s gasses and behind weapons’ designs.

Diana and Steve were cute together, so I was happy to see Steve return in Wonder Woman: 1984, though I do question why he had to take over someone else’s body (and that opens the door to questions we possibly don’t want answered.)  The film features Kristen Wiig (oh hey, she voices Ruffnut in the How to Train Your Dragon films) as Barbara Minerva and Pedro Pascal (a big name recently as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones and the titular Mandalorian) as Maxwell Lord.  And the guy simply credited as “handsome man” is played by Kristoffer Polaha, a mainstay on the Hallmark Channel, including their Mystery 101 series.  On the whole, the sequel was an enjoyable film, but there were plot holes.  And stick around till the end because SPOILER, Lynda Carter (who played Wonder Woman in the 70’s TV series) makes a cameo as Asteria.  There are also rumors of a third film in the works.

Definitely watch the first film, mainly because Gal Gadot is awesome as Wonder Woman.

Up Next: Starting the X-Men film series

“You are my partner, not my mother.”

My apologies; I got sidetracked after watching the various Batman movies, recalling that Chris O’Donnell is a lead in NCIS: Los Angeles.  And I have a couple seasons on DVD.  So, I had to start watching them again.  And decide that I need to catch up on that series (I am terribly behind).  (I also took the time to work on some writing, inspired partly by reading fanfiction associated with the show, but also typing up scenes I had written elsewhere into their corresponding document on my computer…there are a lot…and I’m not finished yet.  But hopefully they’ll all be in one place soon, which makes finding a specific scene a spot easier…maybe…there’s one that’s disappeared).

I did watch the first show, JAG for several seasons.  It then spun off into NCIS, which is still going strong, but I’m also several seasons behind on.  Then they created NCIS: Los Angeles (and had a show based in New Orleans as well for a few seasons, and now Hawaii…that’s because they got rid of Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum P.I. but probably felt like they still needed a Hawaii show…I do not have plans of watching it).  I’ve always likes Los Angeles a bit more than the original NCIS, due to pacing and the characters.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Gibbs and Abby was amazing.  Ducky has great stories and it was fun to watch Tony and Ziva bicker.  But it’s even more fun to watch Deeks and Kensi bicker in Los Angeles and the bromance between Callen and Sam is strong.  And Hetty is intriguing.

We know that NCIS: Los Angeles and Hawaii Five-0 are part of the same universe; they even had a crossover episode. And MacGyver (the rebooted series) is in same universe as Hawaii Five-0 because there was a crossover episode between them as well. So, what I really wished had happened was a crossover between NCIS:LA and MacGyver because they both take place in Los Angeles (technically, MacGyver is filmed in Georgia, I believe, but they could have worked out the logistics. Sadly, with MacGyver off the air, that will not happen. But…that is where my brain has decided to play.)

(The car is also cool)

There are some hilarious quotes I recall from the show (and these only scratch the surface):

Callen and Sam back-and-forth: “Is that a frog?” (referring to an origami figure) “It’s a swan.”  “From where, Chernobyl?” (this always makes me laugh)

Callen (referring to Sam): “Seals are inoculated for everything, except suicidal tendencies.”

Callen to Hetty: “See, I see the glass as half full, Sam sees it as half empty, Kensei drinks the glass, Nate wonders why it has to be glass, and Erick knocks it over by putting his feet up on the table.”

Callen: “No.  Hetty + Mechanical Bull + Tequila = Bar Fight.”

Callen to Sam: “You are my partner, not my mother.”

Callen to Hetty: “No doubt. I mean, you never know when a horde of murderous Mongols are gonna come galloping over Laurel Canyon.”

I have also discovered some entertaining fanfiction stories:

NotARedHead has a story focused on Being Callen on fanfiction.net

Then I discovered a whole slew of stories on AO3, such as Trust and Blurred Lines by justfandomthings.

And definitely check out In_Dee’s stories like Come Hell or High Water and Endure and Prevail.

Sweet Dreams Though the Guns are Booming by OrionLady is a good read as well, a bit sad at points.

There are about a dozen stories by ifwednesdaywasaflowerchild that pair Callen with Nell Jones, which is a fairly common pairing in the fandom. They’re rather sweet and I’m okay with that pairing because Callen is a caring guy and Nell is someone who can hold her own.

And Zathara001 wrote a rather fascinating crossover with Batman entitled G is for Grayson

Just thought I’d share some fun things I discovered while my brain took a detour. 

Next Up: Wonder Woman  (within the week, I swear)

“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)

“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.