1917: Selling the exhaustion

I went into 1917 completely blind. The most I knew about it was that is was a World War 1 film, a topic I don’t see explored nearly enough in cinema or other forms of media. It’s such an interesting and horrific time in human history because of how the entire war came about, and how it literally changed the world’s perception of war, and the actual end goals of what war is fought over. I’m not going to go into super great detail about it here because that’s a history lesson that could take hours upon hour of explaining, but I will say that, as a history buff, the fact that is was about World War 1 was enough to get me to go see it.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when the movie started and I discovered the whole thing was shot and edited to be one giant long take. There are parts where you can tell that cuts happen, but for the most part it works very well in selling the idea that it’s one long, continuous shot, and genuinely think that may be one of the best decisions this films makes, because while the story the movie was telling was good, the long take style elevates it into something special.

It also doesn’t hurt that the lighting is steller

The plot is pretty simple. The British are about to attack a retreating German army, not knowing that it’s actually a trap. The main story is about our protagonist being tasked with navigating the front lines of World War 1 to reach the commanding officer and stop the attack. It starts off pretty slow, which makes sense due to the fact that they’re chasing a retreating enemy, but gets more and more intense as they get closer and closer to the combat and the impending attack. There are a few twists and turns to be sure, but overall, this is a road movie with a ticking clock to push the characters along. While I wouldn’t call it generic by any means, the true genius comes in with it being a continuous shot, as you see the character get worn down more and more by all the things he faces. What’s more, it’s all the more believable, and you feel it, because you’re being worn down too.

The movie has a way of breaking our main character a little bit at a time, dealing with a little more the closer he get’s to the front line. By making it a single shot, all those little things start to add up in a way they wouldn’t if there had been a cut in the movie. By the middle of the film, in what is probably the most stressful part of the whole ordeal, you started seeing him breaking down a little more each time, and you believe it because it’s all just one day to this character. Everything becomes much more believable and powerful for it, because when you see him kneeling down and crying after having to crawl over a mountain of dead bodies to escape a town occupied by Germans trying to kill him, you understand. You’re tired like he’s tired. He’s at the frayed ends of sanity and you’re right there with him. And when you see him get even a moment’s break, you’re grateful for the moment of rest you get before he has to go out and save an entire group of people rushing to their deaths. The scenes of quiet mean all the more when you, the viewer, are asking for it at the same time as the character.

Pictured: a man who could use a weekend

Overall, the story doesn’t seem to be the main focus of this movie as much as the cinematography is. It serves it’s purpose in giving this character a setting that is pretty much as close to hell on earth as you can really get in my opinion, but the actual plot of the movie isn’t the important part here. Not to negate the performances of the actors here, but the way the movie is shot is about taking in the settings and the way the world is at this point, rather than the things happening to the people the story is focused on. The setting and the way the characters interact with it are far more interesting, and the camera tells as much of the story as the characters do, and to me, that’s the magic of this movie.

Because the key to this movie is making you feel like you just went through the hell that was World War 1, because the camera just took you through World War 1.

Same dude. Same.

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Heart of Ice: Batman’s finest hour

If you were a alive in the 90’s, few pop culture icons were as huge as Batman. Between the Live action movies, both good and not so good (I will fight you if you think The Govanator’s performance is anything less than sublime), Batman was everywhere. But, if you were a kid, the thing that really brought it close to home was the show Batman: The Animated Series.

When you’re watching him, he’s also watching you

The success of both of the Tim Burton Batman movies (Michael Keton is still the best batman), the animated series brought the caped crusader right into your very own home. Boasting the stellar voice cast of Kevin Conroy (THE voice of the Batman), Mark Hamill (THE voice of the Joker), and made with a respect cartoons weren’t, and still aren’t, usually made with, the show was a smash hit.

Spanning 85 episodes, 2 spin-off series, being the progenitor of pretty much all of DC’s animated series, 2 movies and winning 4 Emmys, there is no denying the series had a big impact on the Batman mythos. And while it’s quality can’t be understated (you try winning 4 Emmys), one of the greatest things about the show was that it had actual batman continuity. Harley Quinn’s first appearance was in episode “The Joker’s Favor”, Clayface’s story and designed changed in comic continuity to reflect what the show had done with him, which leads us to easily the shining moment of the series: “Heart of Ice.”

Before the episode aired, Mr Freeze was mostly a joke character, like moth man or condiment king (yes, those are really characters). He had a short stint in the 60’s Adam west show and occasional appearances in the comics, but other than that, he was mostly a throwaway villain of the week nobody really cared much about. All of that changed with “Heart of Ice”, the episode that won the series it’s first Emmy, and is widely considered to be not only one of, if not the best episode of Batman, but also one of the best episodes of animated TV ever.

The show completely re-wrote the character’s backstory, turning Mr. Freeze into Victor Fries, a scientist attempting to use cryogenics to save his wife from dying. While working on the cure, the man funding his research, Ferris Boyle, decided to cut that funding and says that all the equipment he’s using is legally his, and that he will be turning is all off immediately, and orders his guards to disconnect the equipment, despite Fries’s horrified objections that Nora will die if they do so. In a panic, Fries seizes one of the guard’s guns and orders them to stay back. Scared, Boyle attempts to reason with Fries. Fries lowers the gun… and then Boyle kicks him in the chest, sending him crashing back onto a table of chemicals, which fill the room with vapor. As Boyle and his guards flee the room, Fries drags a hand over his wife’s tank, calling her name.

A reminder: this was a kid’s show

Understandably pissed and looking for revenge, all the while desperately trying to save his wife, the character is no longer they typical villain of the week character, but one with actual depth and is now genuinely sympathetic. Instead of being evil, he was a man desperate to save the only thing he ever really cared about. That’s all he wants, and now, this is the character’s backstory in pretty much every medium. This episode is almost 30 years old, and only got a actual ending to this story arc with the video game “Arkham Knight” in probably what is one of the most fantastic missions in the Akrham game series.

Spoilers for the ending of the mission, but it’s too good not to post

Everything he does, be it not so bad to absolutely terrible was in pursuit of saving his wife. And yeah we can debate the moral issues of his decisions till the ice caps melt, but at his core, he’s just a desperate man who’s just be just beaten down by life and so many people in it. And he has a chance to save the one thing in his life that he loves more than anything. Can you really say you wouldn’t too?

again: A CHILDREN’S SHOW

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

More Knives than you thought: What really impressed me about Knives Out

I love mystery movies. Stuff like Clue, the Sherlock Holmes movies and shows, murder mysteries, ect. It’s all great to me. I love twisted tales of figuring out who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, and how someone is trying to cover their tracks and blame someone else for their crimes. When these stories are done right, there is a great sense of satisfaction in seeing something like a well crafted story coming together in way you didn’t see coming. It’s like watching a magician do their trick. You, the audience, know that that you’re being tricked and that what you’re seeing is a series of misdirection’s, but when it’s done well, the surprise makes none of that really matter. And it’s that feeling that I was able get out of Knives Out.

This article will have spoilers for Knifes Out, but I’m going to do my best to dance around the actual things that happen, and the names of the characters being mentioned. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to go in completely fresh, now’s your chance to bail out. So with that out of the way, I wanted to talk about this movie because it managed to do something that really impressed me, even though I came in expecting a classic “whodunit” movie with misdirection’s all over the place. It managed to make me and the audience forgot the movie was a “whodunit” movie within the first 30 minutes of watching.

So in order to explain, I’m going to have to talk about that first 30 minutes in more detail, so again, this is the last SPOILER WARNING I will be giving.

We good? Cool.

Image result for spoiler warning
Geddit?

So the story picks up a week after the apparent suicide of Harlan Thrombey, a massively successful mystery writer and head of the Thrombey family, who’s success is the foundation for the family’s massive wealth. The estranged family has gathered to bury him, and immediately it’s apparent that this family is not the “loving, caring, support each other” type, and more the “I’m only staying as long as I have to, otherwise I’m going to murder someone” type. The family does not get along, and as they’re questioned by the enigmatic private detective Benoit Blanc, they start to put a picture together of what happened the night Harlan Thrombey killed himself. We’re also introduced to our main protagonist, Marta Cabrera: Harlan’s nurse and caretaker who had a close relationship with him.

Then the Bombshell drops when it’s also revealed to the audience that she is the reason Harlan killed himself, as she had given him the wrong medicine, and he killed himself before it could kill him so she wouldn’t be blamed for it.

Me too buddy

It was at this moment that the movie truly surprised me. Normally during these types of movies, the mystery lies in who killed the person and why. Within 30 minutes, you know exactly who did it, how and why it happened, and how they got away with it. Now the movie has gone from a mystery movie to a suspense movie, causing tension as she is almost caught at almost every turn, and that is the real trick of the movie. The movie has just started, and now the genera has been swapped for a suspense movie, all the while still having bits and pieces of the the night explained to you. It’s so tightly crafted to keep the pace of the movie going, that you seem to get new information eveny scene that changes the context of the rest of the movie.

That’s what I mean about making you forget you’re watching a “whodunit” movie. Because you’re explained the who right from the start, and the rest of the movie keeps moving and feeding you more information, you stop thinking about what else might have happened that night in something so clear cut. It’s no longer a story about “who?”, it’s a story dealing with “what now?”. Now that we know what happened, we’re trying to see if she is able to get away with this accident with the detective Blanc constantly getting closer to finding her out.

Little on the nose with this one

There is a lot more to this movie than I’m talking about here, and while that is a large plot point of the movie, I feel okay talking about it because that movie is such a tangled web of plotlines and character interactions that know it won’t lessen the enjoyment of it, and it’s far from the biggest revelation the movie has to offer. Like I said with the magician, the fact you know you’re being tricked doesn’t make the trick any less enjoyable. And this movies has plenty of tricks up it’s sleeves.

And THAT is what impressed me about Knives Out.

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Credit where credit is due: I’m enjoying STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order

I don’t want to be praising Electronic Arts right now. There is a reason they’ve practically become synonymous with all the horrible things people who who play video games hate in video games. Loot Boxes (oh, I’m sorry. “Surprise Mechanics”), horrible sports games with even more loot boxes, “acquiring” studios and then running them into the ground, and I will never forgive them for what they did to the Dead Space franchise. But, as the title of this article says, I need to give credit where credit is due in saying that I’m having a great time with the recently released Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Pictured: EA hearing me say this

To be fair to myself, I’m less praising EA more than I am praising Respawn Entertainment, the studio behind the game, as well as a list of other genuinely great games. Right now they’re mostly known for the guys behind Apex Legends, but before that they were the guys who made the Titanfall games, games that are CRIMINALLY underrated. Titanfall 1 was a pretty generic FPS with mechs thrown in and a lot of movement options and no single player content. Titanfall 2 came out 2 later and rectified that with what is all honestly one of the best FPS single player campaigns I have every played, and improvements to pretty much every mechanic they put in the game. In a perfect world, that game would be a smashing success, but sadly, EA decided to be EA and launch it with practically no marketing support and ON THE SAME WEEK as EA’s other shooter Battlefield 1. You know, the game they did put marketing support behind. So while i’m not too keen on the idea of supporting EA and their shenanigans, I am okay with supporting the guys who made Titanfall 2.

So with that out of the way, Let’s talk about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

The Fallen Order is a 3rd person metroidvania type game with combat around based around blocking, dodging and stamina management. Think less a dark souls type game and more of a Sekiro type one, with a lot more verticality and moment options because you’ll be running and jumping around the environment constantly. As you play the story, you’ll be unlocking more abilities that have both combat utilities as well as environmental ones, opening up new paths in places you’ve already been, which is where the metroidvania comes in. I honestly can’t think of any other Star Wars game like this because it’s not a franchise that typically dips into the Soulsborne/Metroidvania genres. The closest I think they ever came was The Force Unleashed series, but that was mostly linear and combat focused, where as this is all about landing on a planet, exploring the map and using your lightsaber.

This game would be a much easier sell if this was the cover

(Slight Spoilers for like the first hour of the game ahead)

The story takes place about 4 years after the events of Star Wars 3 and the empire has pretty much wipes out all of the jedi. You play as Cal Kestis, a former Jedi Padawan, who’s in hiding on a junkyard planet, trying to avoid the empire and pretty much stay out of sight and mind. That plan goes to hell, however when he gets found out pretty much the moment the game starts and he goes on the run again from the empire and their Purge Troopers, led by the Inquisition. You are saved by Cere Junda, ship pilot Greez Dritus, who pretty much recruit you into figuring out a way to rebuild the Jedi order. It’s a serviceable story, nothing too groundbreaking and some plot twists that are kind of easy to read from a a mile out, but it does enough of it’s job that makes it easy to care about the characters and their plight. It also does a good job of trying in your character’s progression of abilities into his narrative arc, which allows for Cal’s growth of character tie directly into his abilities, allowing the gameplay to open up.

Narrative

This will be my “gripes” section, and while none of these are deal breakers for the game because a good number of them can be fixed with a patch or two, I felt that they should be mentioned going in. The games has a rather large number of technical bugs at the moment, ranging from clipping through the environment, being stuck in a falling animation on the ground, and animations from characters just being generally clunky. During combat, you can occasionally get stunlocked by attacks resulting into a good chunk of your hp gone (especially on higher difficulties), and it also seems to have inherited the camera problems the Soulsborne games have where it occasionally gets stuck in walls and other objects, usually resulting in your death. The game is also rather short, I completed my first runthrough in about 20 hours, so if you’re rushing through everything, you might now be there too long.

So while it is by no means a perfect game, the exploration and combat are fun and engaging enough to enjoy my time playing it. I’m enjoying figuring ways to use what abilities I’ve acquired to get from point A to point B. I’m enjoying the block/deflect/attack nature of the combat against the different enemies types with varied attack timings and attack patterns. And I’m enjoying experimenting with the skill tree abilities you unlock as you progress the game.

Does it have flaws? Yes.
Do I still recommend it? Yes I do.
While I still find the idea of giving EA praise, I am more than willing to support a good single player game by a studio that clearly put in the time and effort to make it so. So, credit where credit it due, I do recommend you play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Yes, really

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Nobody loves the Guest Characters in Smash Bros more than Masahiro Sakurai

This week, in the year of our lord and savior Nicolas Cage 2019, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate has become the highest selling fighting game of all time, finally beating out the longtime holder of that spot, the legendary Street Fighter 2. Finally passing what could arguably considered the first real fighting games as we know it, the game’s success is well earned, stuffing in more content than almost any other fighting game before it, every character that has even been featured in the game (Guest Character or not), and DLC fighters that crossover from almost any game genre. The most recent addition is Terry Bogard, the SNK poster-boy, and an absolute classic fighting game representative. The character actually has a big history his Sakurai himself, as the King of Fighters, the game Terry comes from, was one of the games that helped influence the design of Smash Brothers.

“In the arcades, when I was younger, there was a game called King of Fighters 95, and I thought I was pretty good. I had a 50-strong win streak on Street Fighter 2 around that time. So I was playing King of Fighters once – and the way arcades are set up in Japan, you can’t really see the person you’re playing against, because you’re on opposite sides of the cabinet. I was feeling pleased with myself because I was winning, and it turned out to be a total beginner with their partner, just trying to have fun, and I thought, ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t have beaten them so badly. Now they’re going to feel like they never want to play it again!’ It’s important to think about the beginner crowd.” Source

Masahiro Sakurai. Crushing noobs in front of their girlfriends back when gamers didn’t have girlfriends, according to stereotypes

So, since this character has a lot of history, not only for fighting games in general, but also for the games creator, you can expect a lot of love and care to be put into him. Like, Ken and Ryu, he’s got command inputs from his original game that do more damage than the shorthand versions, voice lines and attacks lifted directly from specific titles in the series, a stage that pays tribute to all of the games and series he comes from (except you Mai, gotta keep the boobs out of kids faces apparently), and 50 tracks from pretty much every SNK game ever made.

Seriously, I don’t get what the kids can’t handle here

The DLC is practically exploding with love and reverence for everything SNK, and if you knew nothing else about the game, you’d think that this character in particular meant something personal to the team over in Japan making Smash. But here’s the thing, Terry is the 4th DLC character in this game, and literally everyone guest character before him has been given just as much attention as a classic fighting game character. And that, that love and care that goes into these guest characters, is exactly one of the big reasons why so many people love this series. This is a series all about representation, and if a character gets announced. you know they will be done proud when they finally get put into the game, because they understand why people love that series, and what people want to see from them.

Some more than others, no bias here from Sakurai though

Joker (the persona one, not the other one) has his stage change based on the music playing, his persona (pretty much a Jo Jo stand for anybody, like myself, that isn’t too into persona) amps up all his moves, pretty much exactly like in his games.

His final smash is pretty much just a cut scene from his game

The Hero from the Dragon Quest games has different skins, all from the different Dragon Quest games, and has a mana bar, which he can use mid combat to bring up a spell list and cast one of four different options at a time.

All of those guys are playable. Also, pretty much Dragonball Characters

Banjo & Kazooie has different kinds of eggs, golden feathers that can power him up and make him momentarily invincible, hits people with Kazooie, and his stage, Spiral mountain, actually rotates like you’re climbing the mountain in the game.

This is in a Smash Brothers game. That sound you hear are people looking for another Banjo game crying

This doesn’t just extend to just the DLC characters either. You can tell that this is a series that absolutely loves every character it has access to, and that that each character is more than just a roster spot, it’s a celebration of video games as a whole. From Incineroar doing poses after landing every hit, Snake having pretty much every explosive every and his box, to the Belmonts having their own special fight against Dracula in their classic campaign mode. Every character has their history represented and their personality portrayed with such reverence, that you can’t help but feel that this games loves them as much you then fans do.

Literally everyone is here, and you are all loved equally

There are a lot of factors that contribute to a video game’s success, especially when it comes to something like Smash Bros. It could be the game play, something that’s easy to understand, easy to pick up and know what you’re doing, but hard to master. It could be the presentation, a colorful ballet without being too overwhelming but still being able to bring out each character’s personality for every which genre that come from. It could be the recognizable characters that draw you in, because you know that character, like that character, and want to play that character. Hell, it could be all of those things. But for me, the thing I see that is their number one priority, and the thing that led Super Smash Brothers Ultimate to being the number one selling fighting game of all time, is doing these characters justice in their game. Giving them the love and respect that any fan would wants, because while you may love that characters they’re putting in the game, nobody loves being able to do them justice more than Masahiro Sakurai himself.

Try me

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Superman isn’t boring, he’s just terribly written

Superman is one of the oldest and most overpowered superheros in the history of comic books, and he’s only gotten more powerful over the years. When your character becomes synonymous with overpowered and being the guy who can do everything, saying he’s powerful is an understatement. With him being so ungodly powerful for so long, people tend to see Superman stories as boring, and how can they not? How can a character who’s practically invincible, faster and stronger than pretty much everything, and who’s weakness is a bunch of radioactive bits of his home world that only a handful of people have access to? At a glance, it can be hard to make that character compelling, and having bigger and stronger guys show up to try and fight him only adds to the problem, as he just seems more powerful the more you throw at him. So, how do you make someone like that interesting?

Don’t lie, you’re interested

Well, since you’re asking, and since I happen to be a fan of several Superman stories from over the years, let me explain to you how Superman being overpowered isn’t the thing that makes Superman boring. The thing that make Superman boring are when his writers that don’t know how to use his powers to further the story and point they’re trying to tell. Putting anything he needs to fight in front of him is a losing battle, because he’s Superman, and there’s nothing out there that he can’t just punch away. It’s why he’s punching that makes the story compelling. What he’s fighting to represent and what he’s fighting for are what give the best Superman stories their charm, and what makes them great.

Still the best

Here’s and example to help elaborate on my point.
The story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” is a Superman story about a new group of superheros called “The Elite” who do not share Superman’s nonlethal approach to dealing with bad guys, something Superman takes great offence to. They are brutal and ruthless, and see killing these villains as delivering the justice they aren’t receiving when Superman is dealing with them. The problem for Superman is that public is on their side, and as they go around executing criminals, it forces Superman to question his methods and beliefs about what is best for people and what being a hero means. Their eventual conflict brings Superman closer and closer to the edge, pushing him to answer why doesn’t he just kill the super villains he’s fighting, instead of letting them wreak havoc on the world when they eventually escape. Superman could just punch these guys and the day would be over, but that wouldn’t answer the question because their conflict isn’t about “who can take the bigger beating?”

Hint: It’s Superman

All of the best Superman stories have these kind of questions. They challenge his character in different ways, and reaffirm the core of what makes the character so interesting. By making him look at the hard questions, it shows the greatest part about his stories aren’t the super part, but the man part. “For the Man Who Has Everything” asks what someone like Superman wants most in the world, and would he give it up to do the right thing?

If this scene isn’t painful to you, you have no soul

“Red Son” asks how Superman would be different if instead of being raised in rural america with “Truth, Justice, and The American Way” as his guiding principals, he was raised in Communist Russia and what would that do to the world?

The pen is mightier than Communist Superman apparently

“The Death of Superman” asks what the world looks like without Superman in it (admittedly, it’s only for like a few months, but still, at least it asked). The list goes on, all of them reaffirming the kind of character Superman is, and nowhere is there a better display of the kind of character Superman could and should be better than in “All-Star Superman.”

Special shout-out to the Injustice comic for doing the best Evil Superman story ever

Easily one of, if not the best, Superman stories of all time, “All Star Superman” tells the tale of Superman being given one year to live, after absorbing massive amounts of solar radiation, basically overclocking him until he eventually burns out. So, with 365 days left to live, he sets out getting the world ready for his passing and trying to do the most good he possibly can in that time. The story is not a part of Superman canon, meaning it allowed writer Grant Morrison to tell whatever Superman story he wanted without being weighted down with the idea he needed to connect it to the rest of the DC comics out there. This let him boil Superman down to his best characteristics, and while there are a lot of big moments in the story, notably the 12 labors he’s supposed to accomplish before he dies (Because people from the future told him he does. Comic get weird sometimes), the best parts of the comic are some of the little moments the comic is filled with.

Revealing his real identity to Lois and finally telling her how he feels. Flying sick kids around the world in a school bus (Again, comics get weird.)

Rebuilding bridges in the background on the transition pages. Reassuring a depressed girl about to jump off a building that she wasn’t alone, and so much stronger than she thought she was.

These are what Superman is all about, and one of the reasons this story is so great. Being the person who would just as soon punch a giant robot attacking the city as he would help an old lady cross the street. The person out there doing everything he can to make the world a better place, even if it means doing the little things to help. He’s suppose to be an inspiration. A symbol for people to be the best version of themselves.

This scene is actually taken word for word out of a Superman comic, and though the movie itself isn’t the best, this scene is

All in all, I’m not saying writing a Superman story is easy. There are a lot of traps you can fall down and you’re not careful and coming up with new and interesting ways to use his powers is not an easy task. The easy way is to just give him some big dumb guy to punch and keep saying how strong that other guy is, and looks like Superman is gonna have to punch him REALLY hard this time (Looking at you Doomsday), but that’s never makes it a better story, just one with a fight scene.

The stories I mentioned have fights, but they’re never the meat of the story. They’re never why these stories are great, because it’s Superman. We know he could heat vision people off the face of the earth if he wanted to. But writing like that is what makes people think Superman is boring. And he’s not boring, he’s just terribly written.

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Last Laugh: My problem with the Animated Killing Joke

This one is going to be hard for me because The Killing Joke is easily one of my favorite Batman stories. For years, that was the story I was hoping would eventually be animated but always seemed to run into problems. Production of the film always seemed to hit a snag, but fans of the story kept pushing for it, even having a fan campaign in 2011 after Mark Hamill, the defacto voice of the Joker, said he’s reprise the role if the film ever got made. That sat for years until in 2015, I finally got what seemed to be a gift from above. Not only was it announced that it was being animated, but Bruce Timm, Kevin Conroy, and Mark Hamill were all coming back to work on the film, to give it the adaptation the fans wanted. This is the dream team of Batman animated. The acclaimed Batman: the animated series team was coming back, so an animated movie of The Killing Joke was practically a guaranteed success. Unfortunately that’s not exactly what happened, as it released to mixed reviews, and is something I have had very strange feelings about ever since.

It’s been a while since the adaptation and, with the new Joker movie coming out soon, I think I finally understand what bothered me about how The Killing Joke was handled. No, it wasn’t the first half of the movie, a completely new story added onto the original one, or the treatment of Barbra Gordan (I’d actually be annoyed if they changed that). In fact, I respect the attempt they made to add to the story. The whole thing is a 46 page one-shot and attempting to make a full length movie out of that is pretty much impossible without adding to the story, an ill-conceived story it may be.

Seriously, this is weird guys

No, what bothered me about this version of The Killing Joke is that it didn’t seem to really get the tone of what’s happening in the comic. It never seemed to get the idea that this is supposed to be the last Joker story, and a last chance for both him and Batman to convince the other that their point of view is the right one.

A brief summary for anybody who has not seen or read The Killing Joke:

The story begins with Batman vising Joker in Arkham Asylum in an attempt to, one last time, reach out to his arch-nemesis and try to prevent the inevitable outcome that their back and forth will have. The only problem is, the Joker has escaped, and has made it his mission to prove to Batman and everyone else that he’s not as crazy as everyone thinks he is. That whole world is just one bad day away from seeing everything the way he does, and decides to give Commissioner Gordan that kind of day. He kidnaps him, shoots and paralyzes his daughter, Barbra Gordan (Aka Batgirl), strips him nude and sends him through a monstrous carnival, filled with pictures of his suffering daughter and other horrific photos, all while taunting him and his misfortunes in only the kind of way the Joker can.

The whole story, the comic stuff anyway, is all about how both he and Batman see the world. As you go through the comic and get the bits and pieces of his backstory, the Joker shares a lot of details with Batman. He keeps coming back to the phrase “one bad day” because both him and batman both have that one day that pushed them to become what they are. The absurd cruelty that life can dish out sometimes hits both of them, but the difference between them is how it effects their outlook on life. For Joker, the world is insane, nonsensical, and cruel, and trying to make sense of it all is pointless because there really is no point. Batman sees the world pretty much the same way but decides to force it to make sense. That the one bad day you eventually must face doesn’t have to break you, and this argument becomes centered directly on Commissioner Gordan.

And you think you’ve had a bad day

Now, in the comic, it’s very clear that this struggle is taking place, but when it’s animated, it doesn’t feel as pronounced, and nowhere is that more apparent in the final showdown between Batman and the Joker. The final monologue that the Joker gives to batman is supposed to be pleading. It’s his last chance to make Batman see the world from his point of view. It’s him trying to figure out why him and batman are so different. When they both got shafted by life in much the same way, why does batman keep trying when he sees there is no point? Why did he zig when the rest of the world should have zagged?

His face says he genuinely wants to know. Because this is the last time they’ll ever get to know


And that’s what makes Batman’s eventual reply hit even harder and have actual weight, because it’s the very fiber of what makes him Batman.

The only answer batman could have given

That pleading isn’t there when it’s animated, and the pacing of it is completely different for how it goes down in the comics. These are small changes in the grand scheme of things, but they change the context of their back and forth, making it feels like a regular showdown between the two, when it’s supposed to be so much more.

This is how it was release in the movie. Notice it’s more angry than sad.

Without that feeling of desperation, that desperate attempt to make the other finally see the world the way he does, and the heartbreak that comes from finally realizing that they never will, it fails to elevate the story to being more than just another Batman/Joker showdown. This is THE Batman/Joker showdown, the one every version of the Joker look to as a reference point. Any incarnation of the Joker use The Killing Joke to get the characterization right, and to see it not translate to it’s animated incarnation is truly disappointing.

If you want to know how I think it SHOULD have gone, check out this fan animation and Dub that came out years before the movie

I don’t blame any of the voice actors for something like this, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are absolute legends who own the roles of Batman and The Joker. The art style does it’s best to mimic the one from the comic and while I do have gripes about how it’s not as amazing as it could be, it is still a well put together story, weird prologue story to the actual story aside. But I really feels like someone behind the direction didn’t really grasp why this story matters to the people who love it. What about this comic that resonated with people enough to push for it’s adaptation so hard nearly 25 years after it’s original printing.

All it takes is One Bad Day

This is a story about what happens when life deconstructs you. What happens when the sometimes-horrific things that life throws at you takes everything from you, and how you deal with it all when putting yourself back together. When the lows get low, we all would like to think we’d react like Batman, taking control back and seeing the world as a place where people can and will do what’s right, no matter how hard things get. But the Joker is what happens when you see it the other way around. That there is no point to it all and even trying make sense of it is futile. And seeing those two ideologies battle it out is at the heart of every great Joker story, and that’s what makes this story so compelling. That’s what makes it The Killing Joke.

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Preceding your Reputation: Astral Chain is the most Platinum Platinum game

There are a few developers out there that, once you hear they’re making a game, you know exactly what you’re in for. If you hear Gamefreak is making something, you know it’s gonna be a Pokemon kind of game. If you hear CD Projekt Red is making a game, you’re getting an open world RPG kind of thing, same for Bioware (or used to, thanks Anthem). But nobody, and I mean NOBODY, exemplifies this reputation preceding them quite like Platinum Games. If you play literally any of their titles and you know you’re in for a stylish-ass character action game that is full of over-the-top action, wacky humor, and gameplay that combines combat depth and style, not only as a concept, but as a mechanic. Bayonetta, Metal Gear: Rising Revengeance, Nier: Automata, Wonderful 101, all of these games weren’t terribly commercially successful, but every single one of them just oozes their trademark style and action, which leads me to Astral Chain, their most recent release. While all of their games have their own signature that are uniquely Platinum, I feel confident in saying that this game is the one that exemplifies what makes a Platinum game, a Platinum game.

The logo that brings joy

The story for Astral Chain is anime as all hell, fitting considering it’s influences aren’t really worn on it’s sleeves, but instead they made a full tracksuit out of them, and is now running around with a megaphone, screaming how much they love them. You are a future cop, given control of a Legion, what is essentially a enslaved demon thing from the Astral Plain, which you are able to control with your Astral Chain (The game REALLY loves Astral stuff), tasked with fighting other things from the Astral Plane that are invading, fighting, killing, and kidnapping people (and sometimes cats). You and your twin are a rookie cops who were just put into the division that gives people these legions, that only people who have them can see, which is captained by your adopted father, run by a super shady scientist guy, and just in time for a terrorist to basically declare war on society and pretty much everything you, as a rookie cop, stand for. It’s basically Blade Runner meets Neon Genesis Evangelion taking place in the Ghost in the Shell city with JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure stands thrown on top for good measure (the final boss is literally just a JoJo villain). It does what pretty much every Platinum games does, where it alternates between super serious to super goofy and back again without missing a beat, and creates a world that genuinely feels fleshed out and like there is a lot to explore, something you’ll be doing plenty of.

Muda Muda Muda

So the story is all well and good, and sets up for some great twists and turns, but with this being a Platinum game, the star is the style and the action, which they have pulled from their extensive playbook and pull out all the tricks. Each legion you have access to has their own play style which you can switch up mid-combat, dodges and perfectly timed counters lead to sync attacks that let you have a unique combo for that specific situation and that specific legion, and you can use the chain to tie enemies up for more damage and more combos. While the default human move-set is rather sparse at the beginning, as you level up and gain access to more legions and moves, it really opens up and lets you tackle any combat sequence in a huge number of way, always chasing that S+ ranking. The style ranking keeps you coming back and trying to master the combat against the game’s HUGE roster of enemies, and if you’re just trying to get a feel for it all, the easier difficulty lets you figure everything out without having to deal with any of the rankings.

If there’s one thing Platinum has, it’s style

If any of this sounds familiar to any other Platinum game you may have played, that’s because they’ve taken pretty much any mechanic they’ve ever put into any of their other games and thrown it in here as well. The Sync attack system is pretty much taken directly out of Transformers: Devastation, using the same sound effects and a flash, perfect dodges give you a slow-mo effect that lead into sync attacks that are pretty much Witch Time from Bayonetta, the sword legion has a bunch of moves that Raiden has from Rising: Revengeance on top of every legion having the Zandatsu, a instakill mechanic that heals you. Controlling your legion independently to traverse the world and using the chain to trap people is just like Wonderful 101‘s drawing mechanics. The list goes on, and each one of these mechanics has been adapted and refined to fit this game, using their their previous games as a springboard to evolve them into something better.

The gang’s all there in spirit

Platinum games was created on the idea of taking risks and making noise. The guys responsible for Devil May Cry, Okami, Viewtiful Joe, and making Resident Evil 4 change from a classic Resident Evil game to the masterpiece it is today, started their own thing dove headfirst into making what they really wanted in a video game. While many of their games haven’t sold particularly well, they’ve built up a fierce and loyal following that swear by them and their games, and this game seems like a game for them. I’m not going to sit here and act like the game is a 10/10 masterpiece that has no flaws. It has some issue’s performance-wise because the Switch can only render at 30 fps, and the slow drip feed of mechanics means it takes a while before you can do all the crazy stuff, but that’s not the point of this article. If you’ve played a Platinum game before, give this one a try and you’ll see everything you love about their games, but if you haven’t played one before, this is the game to start, because it is a culmination of all their games before it, making it the most Platinum game to ever Platinum.

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Spider-Man is out of the MCU and that’s Okay

The internet seems mostly on fire today as the announcement that Sony and Marvel (or Disney? are they even separate things at this point) will no longer be working together as far as Spider-man is concerned, meaning Spider-man: Far From Home the last one to be appearing in the MCU for the time being. Details are a bit sparse, but details we do have say is that Marvel wanted a larger share of the profits from the relationship, and Sony wasn’t about to budge. This has created two firm camps on the internet, as Team Marvel believes Sony are being a bunch of jerks, and Team Sony believes that Marvel are being being super greedy. I’m not here to comment on who’s at fault here, who’s being greedy or selfish and whether or not any of that blame is justified, but what I am here to do is convince you that this might not actually be a bad thing. That Spider-man leaving the MCU might actually help the character be the Spider-man he should be.

As you can tell, my MS paint skills are great

I’ve already talked about my opinions on the MCU’s iteration on Spider-man and what it has done to the character, but a brief summery would be that they have fundamentally changed the character by taking away the driving force that makes Peter Parker want to BE Spider-man. Without his loss, his guilt and his desire to do the right thing because he believes he can make a difference in spite of everything in his life beating him down, he stopped being Spider-man, and started being Midoriya from My Hero Academia, or Iron Man Jr as people taken to calling him. While I had hopes they might be able to bring back some of what I think makes the character so beloved in the comics, Far From Home kept the “Iron Man Jr” angle, and the followed the same kind of format that first movie had, but this time in Europe.

I don’t think it was a bad movie, I really don’t. It was fun in the way most Marvel movies are, Tom and Jake clearly are doing their best with the characters and everything the movies is throwing at them. But Spider-man still felt like a sidekick in his own movie, focusing on how he’s trying to be like Iron man, instead of trying to be his own thing. And that’s where I think a complete disconnect from the MCU might actually benefit the character, because without the big shadow of RDJ’s Iron Man motivation him to be the next big hero, Spider-man can be the hero that made him into one of the most popular superheros in the world.

MCU Spider-man vs Sony Spider-man

There are a whole host of reasons that freeing up Spider-man from an extended universe might actually help the character, but the major benefit of the severed relationship with the MCU is that Spider-man will finally be able to have villains have a personal connection with him, keeping the conflict they have actually mean something to the character. In both solo movies, all of the conflict is caused by Tony Stark. Both the Vulture and Mystero are both just people who got screwed over by Tony, and now Spider-man has to clean up the mess. At least with the Vulture, Peter had a tiny bit of thread with him in that he was crushing on his daughter, which made for a great twist on the usual “Dad Speech” you normally see from movies. But neither of these antagonists have any personal stake with Peter himself. Everything they do is a result of Iron man, not Spider-man, which is unfortunate because that’s what all of Spider-man best villains have. Green Goblin is trying to figure out how to recreate him, and plays with the idea of creator vs the one they created. Kingpin is all about challenging Peter’s belief that the world is most full of good people, even though people like Kingpin are out there. Recently, the best example is Doc Ock from the PS4 spider-man game.

The game spends hours setting up Otto Octavius as a genus visionary that Peter idolizes, and establishing their relationship with one another, similar to how he was in the Sam Raimi films. He’s someone Peter wants to be because he’s managed to do what Peter has been trying to do his entire career as spider-man: balance be able to use his gifts that he has along with having a personal life and relationships. Otto is able to use his genus to help the world and make it a better place, a goal Peter has had since he was a child. Anyone who knows Spider-man knows Otto is going to become Doc Ock, but as the game progresses, and Otto starts to mentally deteriorate, it becomes all the more heartbreaking when Peter is forced to confront him as Spider-man, with the whole city, and Aunt May at stake if he doesn’t. A character like that couldn’t exist in the MCU because they need to set up the next big bad that the MCU needs to face. Spider-man villains need to be more personal, because that’s what makes them, and by extension, Spider-man so much more compelling. By forcing Spider-man to confront these hard questions these villains make him answer, the character becomes all the more inspiring when his optimism and the hope he represents triumphs.

If your heart didn’t break, even a little, at this part, you aren’t a person

Overall, I think Spider-man doesn’t need the MCU to be a compelling character. Actually, with his move to the MCU, Spider-man has lost some of his relatability that made so many connect with him. His money troubles, his trouble with relationships, the fact that everything in his life seems to go wrong all seem to be missing from these movies. They never deal with the consequences that being Spider-man brings, which is a shame because to me, that’s why I love Spider-man. I love that even though life constantly beats him down, even though his life sucks a lot most of the time, and even though every villain he has in his rouges gallery challenges his beliefs in the world, he still goes out there and tries. He still goes out and helps every person he can, and he still gets back up every time someone tried to put him down. And if we can get more of that out of Spider-man movies, I think that him leaving the MCU will be absolutely worth it.

He’ll feel alright in the morning

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com

Perfect Disasters: What makes Doom Patrol so great

What do you get when you have the full tragic super hero backstory, including the eventual superpowers, but instead of coming to terms with your new life and deciding to do good for the world, you can’t get over it and just sit around depressed all day? What you get is pretty much the entire cast of Doom Patrol, the DC streaming service exclusive show that is so much better than it has any right to be. Since every company out there has decided to jump on the streaming service cash cow, DC launched their own called DC universe, featuring all of their comics, all of their animated movies (Which are all actually amazing by the way) and a bunch of original TV shows like Titans, Swamp Thing, and Doom Patrol. And while I can’t speak of the other shows quality just yet, I can vouch for Doom Patrol being absolutely fantastic. And to celebrate the recently announced season 2 of the show, I thought I’d break down just what makes Doom Patrol so great.

Usually dubbed the “World’s Strangest Heroes” and it doesn’t take long to figure out why.
The team consist of:
– Cliff Steele, also known as Robotman, who is a former highly successful NASCAR driver but after a supposedly fatal crash with his wife and daughter in his car and is now just a brain in a robot body (He is also voiced by none other than Brendan Frasier)
– Rita Farr, also know Elasti-Girl (not that one), a egotistical former 1950’s actress who was exposed to a toxin while filming that turned her into some giant blob monster when she loses focus
-Larry Trainor, a former Air Force test pilot, who was exposed to some weird radioactive energy in the early 1960s while flying that led to a crash and him being horrifically burned all over his body. He’s also gay, something he’d been hiding since before the crash, and something he has yet to fully come to terms with, especially after growing up in a era that wasn’t so kind to homosexuals
– Crazy Jane, A member with 64 wildly distinct personalities, each displaying a different super power, and many of them aren’t exactly balanced individuals
– Victor Stone, also known as Cyborg, the half man/machine marvel of science that was in Justice League, who also has a lot of emotional baggage, especially with his overbearing father

Rounding out the cast is the groups highly mysterious “leader” Niles Caulder, a scientist who takes each of the members into his mansion to help them heal, but who’s secrets seem to hide a darker side and Alan Tudyk as the antagonist Mr. Nobody, the nearly omnipotent villain who absolutely kills it as the show’s arrogant main villain/narrator. The group is an island of misfit toys, people so broken that the world doesn’t have a place for them, so they seek refuge with Niles in his mansion, where they can hide from the world and their problems.

They almost look emotionally stable when they stand like this

What you’ll notice is that all of these character are pretty emotionally crippled from the start. Cliff wrecked his family by letting his fame go to his head and began cheating on his wife, and once he finally was able to fix himself, his car accident kills his family. Rita wants to be famous again, but because she sometimes turns into a hideous blob monster, she’ll never be able to, and doesn’t know who she is anymore. Larry is covered in burns all over his body, and has a weird ass negative spirit in his body that has it’s own personality that he can’t control, on top of still coming to terms with his sexuality. Jane is in a constantly shifting between personalities, and all of them cause their own kind a mayhem with no real desire to control any of them. And even though Cyborg is a big time hero, he’s in a constant battle with his father, who’s control over him and his systems cause all kinds of mistrust between the two. All of these people are pretty much screw ups and assholes, and the show doesn’t shy away from telling you so at every turn. These people aren’t heroes, and they all know it, which means they were able to do what Suicide Squad wasn’t, which is to make a team of the worst heroes ever actually interesting

At least the animated version was awesome

So while the characters themselves are pretty interesting to say the least, the world the show takes place in is just as weird and screwed up. I’m going to list off a few things out of context to give you a feeling for what i’m talking about. A guy who has telepathic control over people after he’s eaten their facial hair, a man who accidentally makes an entire town orgasm by accidentally flexing the wrong muscle, a living, teleporting, gender queer street named Danny, and a main antagonist that literally narrates the story and character’s actions. The world the show take in is just as weird as the characters and that keeps things interesting because anything can happen.

In context, this makes much more sense

Each episode feels like a completely isolated story because the world keeps moving you through all these strange events that it the current threat is so completely different from the last one. One episode they’re tracking down a farting donkey that ate an entire town, the next they’re in therapy and dealing with the fact that Robotman is having a literal and emotional breakdown. Next could be literally anything, and after a certain point, keeping people interested isn’t hard, because you just need to know where it goes next.

In context, this one doesn’t make as much sense

So I’ve gushed about a lot of the things I like about this show, the writing, the interesting concept, and the overall weirdness, but I think the real heart of the show, the thing that really sets it apart from any other superhero show is, at it’s core, it’s about getting a second chance. This is a show about a bunch of broken people getting another chance at trying to find some kind of place in the world. Robotman at being a father, Rita at finding who she is now now that she’s no longer the actress movies star, Larry trying to come to terms with himself like he couldn’t before his accident, Cyborg trying to not let the machine part of him take over, and Jane trying to learn to let people in on her crazy ass world after everything that’s happened to her. Unlike almost any other super hero show out there, these characters aren’t superheros. They’re broken people, looking to fix what’s broken in them, and watching them come together and learn to try again is what makes Doom Patrol so great

Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com