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Catching Up! Josh Reviews Powers Season One, Star Wars The Clone Wars “Bad Batch”, and Batman vs Robin

On my desk I keep a list of the various movies and TV shows that I’ve watched that I intend to write about here on the site.  Lately that list has been growing very long!  I have fallen somewhat behind on my blogging.  So I’m going to try a new format here and post some “Catching Up” blogs in the coming weeks, with short reviews of some of the stuff I’ve seen.  Let’s dive in!

Powers Season One — For fifteen years Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers has been one of my favorite indie comic books.  For about that long, Powers has been “in development” in Hollywood for a movie or TV adaptation.  It looked like it would never happen, but then miraculously the series became the initial TV show produced by Sony’s Playstation network.  It seemed to me like a perfect fit.  The show would have the freedom to faithfully adapt Mr. Bendis & Mr. Oeming’s profane, sexy, violent, weird, wonderful series.  I was very excited.  But I’m sorry to say that this first season of ten episodes disappointed me.  I wrote about my initial lukewarm reaction here, and unfortunately the series never improved much for me.

Powers should be edgy, it should be cool, and above all else it should have the wonderfully witty & gritty dialogue that Mr. Bendis is justifiably famous for.  But I found the show to have none of those things.  It was stiff.  It was cheap looking.  Shockingly cheap-looking.  The sets looked like sets and what few super-heroic moments we saw were painfully primitive.  (I mean, the wire-work was just horrendously awkward.)  But I could forgive that if the series told a cool story.  Sadly it did not.  The show has a great ensemble of actors but there was never a moment when I felt that the show ever truly came alive and took flight.  There was little momentum from episode to episode.  With the involvement of the talented Mr. Bendis and crime-writer Charlie Huston, I was excited to see a ten-episode super-hero murder mystery.  But that never really came together.  The murder of big-time super-hero Olympia that kicked off the series, was quickly forgotten about in place of a lot of boring soap opera between former friends Walker, Johnny Royale, and Wolfe.  There was never any momentum to the show, just a lot of dithering about and back-and-forth between these flat characters.  Hardly any character actually DID anything.  Worst of all was that the comic’s central relationship, that between partners Walker and Deena Pilgrim, felt ignored by the show.  Deena herself was marginalized in the second half of the season, and that was a big disappointment.  Who’d have thought it would not be Powers but instead Marvel’s Daredevil that would be the compelling, dark, and very adult super-hero show I fell in love with this spring.  Oh well.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Bad Batch” — The more we learn about how far ahead The Clone Wars TV show was when it was cancelled, the more shocked I am at the wastefulness of not allowing the series to be completed as planned.  Luckily, the many in-development episodes are gradually seeing the light of day.  We got the release on Netflix of thirteen completed episodes from what would have been season six of the show.  An arc resolving the Darth Maul story-line was released as a comic book by Dark Horse.  Last year we got to see the animatic story-reels of a four-part episode, “Crystal Crisis on Geonosis.”  And last month the story-reel for another four-part episode was released, “Bad Batch.”  All of the voices and sound-effects were recorded for these completely written episodes, it’s just that the animation was never completed.  So what we have is a stiff, somewhat blocky animatic of these four episodes.  It’s hardly a place for a beginner to start dipping one’s toe into this cancelled series, but for a fan, it’s a delight.  As with “Crystal Crisis,” “Bad Batch” is terrific.  These episodes work great even in such a primitively animated form — they would have been stellar had they actually been completed.  This four-part episode is juicy for Clone Wars fans because it resolves the fate of Clone Trooper Echo, a popular character who appeared to have been killed off about half-way through the show’s run.  Show-runner Dave Filoni had previously teased Echo’s survival, so it was fun to see that confirmed here.  Is this the end of the in-production Clone Wars episodes, or will still more unfinished episodes eventually see the light of day?  I am eager to find out, and also delighted that the new animated show, Rebels, appears to be picking up story-threads left unfinished by The Clone Wars’ untimely end.  The Star Wars universe is alive and well in animated form, and that makes me very happy.

Batman vs Robin — The latest DC Animated direct-to-DVD movie is the fourth in their new continuity of films, based on the “New 52” revamp of DC’s comic-book universe.  So far I have been underwhelmed, and that’s putting it lightly, though Batman vs Robin is the best of the four films so far.  It’s no coincidence that it is based on the strongest source material, Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Court of Owls storyline from Batman.  I wish this movie had been titled The Court of Owls rather than the more generic Batman vs Robin, but oh well.  The movie takes the premise of Mr. Snyder’s Court of Owls storyline — that Batman/Bruce Wayne discovers the existence of a secret society of Gotham’s elite that has existed since the 1800’s, secretly manipulating the city’s destiny — and blends it with conflict between Batman and his newly-discovered son, Damian, a story-line based loosely on the work of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman which preceded Mr. Snyder (and about which I have written at length).  The combination works, for the most part, as it smoothly blends the Court of Owls story-line with the new continuity of these DVD films.  The film’s biggest weakness is that it didn’t sell strongly enough Robin’s being pulled between Batman and the Court.  That was an interesting idea, but I didn’t buy that Damian was genuinely tempted.  Still, this is by far the most interesting story of these “New 52”-based animated films, and the least juvenile.  The action choreography stands out.  There are some terrific fight sequences in this film, from a great car chase to the titular Batman vs Robin fisticuffs.  I was very impressed by the look of The Talon, the assassin of the Court of Owls.  Great job by the animation team in flawlessly bringing Mr. Capullo’s wonderfully weird and iconic design to life.  Some of the other design work, though, continues to be lacking.  Most notably, Bruce Wayne looks hideously malformed.  I have commented on this in previous reviews, but Bruce spends the most time out of costume in this one, out of the four films so far, and so this terrible design is most problematic here.  Seriously, they have got to improve this.  The voice cast in these “New 52”-based films continues to be OK not great.  It was clever to cast Kevin Conroy — THE iconic animated voice of Batman, from all the great years of Bruce Timm’s animated Batman work — as the voice of Thomas Wayne.  But it’s tough to hear the great Kevin Conroy’s voice and have him not be playing Bruce/Batman.  I know I need to make peace with that, but my motto is: when there’s gold out there, silver sucks.  These new animated films continue to fall far short of the great DC Animated work I used to enjoy.

I have lots more to catch up on, so I’ll be back soon with more!  (Hopefully on Wednesday.  I am trying my best to get back to a Monday-Wedneday-Friday schedule for new blogs.  I know I have fallen off of that schedule recently, and I apologize.  Life has intervened.  I appreciate the patience of every one of the readers of this site — you are all the best! — and will do my best not to let you down.)

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