DC Universe Animated Original Movies (Part 3): Batman: Gotham Knight

Hello, my friends.  Well, I’m back to give you more of what you love.  Also, in honor of Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt surpassing Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, it’s once again time for the review series known only as…

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And speaking of Christian Bale, this next entry “kind of” has to do with the recent trilogy of stellar films set within the universe in a little tale called…

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Released on July 8, 2008, this film came out six days prior to the NYC Premiere (and 10 days prior to the world premiere) of the high echelon of comic book movies known as “The Dark Knight”.  Unlike “Superman: Doomsday” and “Justice League: The New Frontier” which were adapted from certain DC Comic books, this film has the role of an anthology, taking six short stories and combining them into a long one.  For this project (whose chief directors are Bruce Timm and Toshi Hiruma), each segment has a Japanese director, a famed American comic book writer and a different Japanese animation studio throughout the project.  For the review, I’ll give my opinion on which segment was the strongest and how the film as a whole holds up.

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We open on our first segment, “Have I Got A Story For You” (Writer: Josh Olsen, Director: Shojiro Nishimi, Animation Studio: Studio 4°C), at an indoor skate park where a young boy is waiting for the rest of his friends to show up.  They eventually do and they each tell him that they’ve claimed to have seen Batman.

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This particular lad goes first as we see his story unfold.  He was skateboarding over at the docks and was on his way to the skate park.  Suddenly, he comes across a “Man In Black” who’s covered completely in silhouette and wearing red-lensed goggles.  This agitates the man as he prepares to severely threaten the boy.

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In the boy’s story, Batman is depicted as a red-eyed, slanky figure who moves as a swift shadow.  He’s able to combat the Man In Black and save the boy’s life.

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After a brief scuffle with Batman, the Man In Black is able to escape by throwing a flash grenade at him and then dive into the water.  After the young boy regains his vision, he sees Batman take his leave to follow said wrong-doer.

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We then get out next Batman encounter from the lone girl of the group who actually came across him slightly earlier.  She was on her skateboard weaving through a crowed Gotham City sidewalk, running into a police officer and getting caught.  Just as she’s about to get in trouble, the Man In Black comes in on his jetpack, kidnaps a random woman and flies off.

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Fortunately, Batman is able to arrive and save the woman from falling to her death.  Being depicted as a figure with a mostly-human body, a bat head and possessing giant bat wings, he catches up with the Man In Black and strips him of his jet pack.  Our girl follows the two figures as they take their fight to the outskirts before Batman knocks the Man In Black into the water, who tries escaping via swimming.  Batman then proceeds to give chase, eventually getting to the first story.

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The final kid then tells about his Batman encounter, which turned out to have occured before the two other tales.  This young lad was on the roof of the Gotham Empire Building among other civilians.

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Suddenly, the Man In Black arrives in explosive fashion and begins his robbery of everyone on the roof, laying out a suitcase for them to place their valuables in.

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Just then, a helicopter arrives onto the scene as a figure flies out and lands on the roof.  It turns out to be Batman, who’s depicted as a cybernetic being and is resistant to the Man In Black’s lazer guns.  After the kid gets threatened by the thug, Batman converts his arm into a blast cannon and destroys both guns with a pair of shots.  They both run towards each other, but Batman easily prevails with a staggering punch that sends the Man In Black off the edge of the building.  However, he’s able to save himself with his jet pack and flies off.  Batman follows suite by leaping across building tops, making his way towards the two later tales.

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After the lead kid feels bummed about missing out on said encounters, the Man In Black comes crashing into the skate park window with Batman following close behind.  The Man In Black tosses out a smoke grenade, encompassing the room in a dense, white fog.  While the kids scurry under the bench, Batman cautiously continues his search.  The Man In Black then picks up a glass shard and prepares to fatally stab the Dark Knight.  However, Batman is saved as the lead kid noticed and slams his skateboard with enough force on the Man In Black’s head to knock him out.  The Caped Crusader (voiced by Kevin Conroy, the immortal voice of Batman) thanks him and heads out with his suspect successfully captured.  As the rest of the kids make their way to their friend (and having been unable to see the heroics), the first segment ends as the lead kid is filled with positive vibes now that he has “his story” to tell.

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We then get started on our next segment, “Crossfire” (Writer: Greg Rucka, Director: Futoshi Higashide, Animation Studio: Prodution I.G), as we open at the Gotham City Police Department and at the desk of Det. Crispus Allen (voiced by Gary Dourdan) who wearily sees Batman’s shadowy figure from within the office of Lt. James Gordon (voiced by Jim Meskimen) while his partner Anna Ramirez (voiced by Ana Ortiz) tries to get his attention.  After Batman leaves, Gordon calls for both of them to come into his office.

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It turns out that Batman had dropped off the “Man In Black” to police custody and we learn his identity as Jacob Feely, who had escaped Arkham Asylum and will be escorted back there by Allen and Ramirez (both of whom are members of GCPD’s Major Crimes Unit).  After Ramirez escorts Feely out of the room, Allen then mentions about Sal Maroni’s gang gunning for a guy known as “The Russian” at a part of Gotham called “Tri-Corner”.  This lets him express to Gordon about his distrust towards Batman, but James won’t have any of that since Gotham has been pulling itself out of its troubled past due to the Dark Knight.

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After Allen and Ramirez have a brief chat session concerning Batman, they arrive at the drawbridge that leads into Arkham.  After being allowed access onto the island, they proceed to the main building, passing by all of the insane inmates.

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As they make their way back to the police station, Allen tells Ramirez about him possibly quitting the Major Crimes Unit since he feels that all they do is play errands for a vigilante.  Ramirez gets fed up with this, swerving the car into a vacant lot and scolds him to not leave the M.C.U. just when Gotham is finally turning around for the better and how Batman actually makes her feel better about being a cop.

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However, it turns out that the vacant lot that Allen and Ramirez ended up on was in Tri-Corner.  As such, Sal Maroni (voiced by Rob Paulsen) arrives with his gang.

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Not only that, but The Russian (voiced by Corey Burton) also showed up with his gang.  After a brief vocal spat, the two sides erupt with guns a blazing.

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Allen and Ramirez literally find themselves caught in the crossfire as their car gets pelted with bullets while the two various gang members continually gets shot at.  To make matters worse, they find out that the closest police back-up is three minutes away, meaning that help will come far too late.  After the last of his men is shot dead, Maroni then uses the car as temporary refuge.  The Russian then preps a rocket launcher, forcing Allen and Ramirez to get out of the car.  Ramirez and Maroni are able to dive away in time, while Allen is saved by Batman just as the rocket reaches the vehicle and blows it up.

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After Allen finds himself on a nearby building, Batman passes by him and joins in on the chaotic fight.  As he makes his way down the building, Ramirez regains consciousness in time to see Batman successfully take down the Russian gang and its leader.

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However, things start to take a turn for the worse as Maroni (noticing her police badge) grabs the exhausted Ramirez and holds her up at gunpoint as Batman and Allen confront the potentially fatal situation. Fortunately, it get resolved as Batman swiftly reaches for Maroni and disables his gun-wielding hand.  Thus, Maroni falls over in defeat.

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Batman then acknowledges both Allen and Ramirez for being a part of Gordon’s Major Crime Unit before departing from the battle-torn piece of land, ending the second segment.

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We then kick off our third segment, “Field Test” (Writer: Jordan Goldberg, Director: Hiroshi Morioka, Animation Studio: Bee Train), as we get to see the man behind the mask, Bruce Wayne.  Deep within the confines of his company, Wayne Enterprises, we see Bruce entering the work space of Lucius Fox (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) and the remains of a satellite called the WayneCom 7 (which was mentioned during a newscast from the prior segment).

WayneCom 7 & The Interesting Piece Of Hardware!

The satellite was in space for a quick photo op, but then a malfunction caused it to crash back down onto Earth.  A gyro ball that was used in the satellite caused an electromagnetic pulse to rupture it, knocking it out of orbit.  Lucius then demonstrates the gyro’s electromagnetic power with the Batmobile, causing various nearby metallic objects to float around in the air.

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Following the demonstration, Lucius then shows Bruce a very unique way that it can help him as Batman.  Strapping the gyro ball to a mannequin and placing it within the shooting gallery, it gets used as a Shockwave Sensor.  As Lucius demonstrates, it senses the quick arrival of a bullet and triggers a pulse to deflect it, preventing its wearer from harm.

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The next day, Bruce attends the grand opening of the Lower West Side Community Homeless Mission, being hosted by developer Ronald Marshall (also voiced by Corey Burton).  There’s also a charity golf tournament being held simultaneously as the major figures take part in the outing.  During the match, Bruce learns about a community activist named Teresa Williams who had opposed some of Marshall’s building plans and has mysteriously died during a gang fight.  During the match, Bruce discreetly has a successful test of the Shockwave Sensor on Marshall’s wood club and even secretly takes his PDA device in preparation for an eventual venture.

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Night falls on Gotham and we cut to Maroni’s boat where he and his gang are still looking for The Russian in order to take him down.  All of a sudden, the boat starts to move but they realize that no one’s driving it.

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Batman (overseeing from afar) rigged it so that he could control the boat and uses it to crash Maroni’s ship into the vessel owned by The Russian.  This has both sides getting ready to take part in a seaside shootout.

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Just then, Batman swoops down in front of Maroni and his men.  They try firing back at the Dark Knight, but the Shockwave Sensor easily swats away any bullet that comes near him.  Afterwards, Batman easily subdues both of Maroni and the Russian’s forces.

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As Batman finally settles the gang war between the two sides (giving The Russian control over Gotham’s seaside and Maroni control over the slums), one of Maroni’s men tries to shoot him.  However, the Shockwave Sensor ricochets the bullet and hits one of The Russian’s men.  After Batman takes care of the shooter, he takes the wounded man to Gotham City Hospital for treatment.  As the cops approach to help, the fugitive aims his gun and warns them to stay away.  No shots are fired as he tries to run away, but Batman easily subdues him as the wounded man throws his gun into the gutter and finds himself in handcuffs.  The next day at Wayne Enterprises, the sement ends as Bruce tells Lucius that he no longer needs the Shockwave Sensor in his crime fighting duties, wanting to only risk his life and nobody else.

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We then proceed with our next segment called “In Darkness Dwells” (Writer: David S. Goyer, Director: Yasuhiro Aoki, Animation Studio: MADHOUSE, Inc.) where the GCPD’s Major Crimes Unit has responded to a riot at a cathedral that Cardinal O’Fallon (voiced by Babu Bhatt himself, Brian George) was at in order to deliver a sermon.  As Cripus Allen and Anna Ramierz tell Lt. James Gordon, there was also a giant lizard-monster that kidnapped O’Fallon and took him well below the cathedral.

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As they travel down within the depths of the cathedral, Gordon gets himself a private chat with Batman.  The Caped Crusader believes that this is the works of The Scarecrow (yet again voiced by Corey Burton) who triggered the riot with his fear toxin.  They even reference the film “Batman Begins” as Scarecrow has been eluding justice since the mass riot within the narrows.  Batman gives Gordon an untraceable earpiece that will allow them to stay in contact before he dives down into the depths to continue the hunt.

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After going through an abandoned subway station (where a hobo identifies the lizard-monster as Killer Croc), he begins to enter a methane-heavy area.  Suddenly, Killer Croc begins his assault.

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During the fight, he bites into Batman’s right shoulder.  As the scuffle continues, Batman’s vision starts getting hazy, realizing that it’s the Fear Toxin and that Killer Croc was under the influence.  Batman ultimately defeats Croc and continues towards his main goal, despite the Fear Toxin now running through his veins.

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Batman ultimately reaches The Scarecrow, surrounded by fellow homeless men and Arkham escapees who are under the influence of the Fear Toxin and are prepared to sentence Cardinal O’Fallon to death because of his need to help the homeless and the downtrodden.

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Despite the raging Fear Toxin, Batman is able to fend off Scarecrow’s cronies and lifts O’Fallon up towards a high formation with his grappling hook.  They notice the massive amounts of methane gas above as Batman delivers the necessary spark to trigger an explosion, sending large amounts of water down into the area and allowing them to float out.

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With the aid of his grappling hook, Batman successfully swings out onto a ledge and drops off O’Fallon to let the nearby police chopper pick him up.  Allen and Ramirez secure O’Fallon within the helicopter while Gordon offers Batman a ride, but refuses as the segment ends with the Caped Crusader using his cape to guild off into the night.

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We then reach our next segment called “Working Through Pain” (Writer: Brian Azzarello, Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka, Animation Studio:  Studio 4°C) as it begins with Batman chasing after one of Scarecrow’s lackeys.  Still under the effect of the Fear Toxin, he shoots at Batman as he tries to run away.  The Fear Toxin combined itself with Batman’s image to scare him away into the shadows.  However, Batman’s body armor wasn’t enough to hold up against a bullet that pierces his left abdominal muscle.  Going to the utility belt, he’s able to cauterize his wound as he starts flashing back to a similar ordeal.

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He remembers a moment where he volunteered in relief efforts as a doctor tries to perform surgery on a badly-wounded victim without the immediate use of anesthesia.  Bruce maintains his best efforts to hold the patient’s flailing legs as the doctor saves his life.

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We then cut back to regular time as Batman tries to climb out by using a certain row of wooden planks.  However, one of them breaks and he ends up tumbling back down into the depths of Gotham City’s underground area.  As he continues to tries and make his way up, he remembers a certain part of his journey that helped him in this particular moment.

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We see Bruce in the Middle East (possibly India, the film never mentions the country’s name) as he attempts to seek help from one of their Fakirs (Muslim/Hindu ascetics or monks considered as wonder-worshipers) after months of waiting.  However, a man named Arman (again voiced by Brian George) tells him that they won’t train him since it’s not enlightenment or truth that Bruce seeks.  Fortunately, he does know of someone who could help Bruce out.

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Bruce is introduced to a woman named Cassandra (voiced by Parminder Nagra) who ultimately takes him on as her pupil.  During the initial round of training, she talks about the various forms of pain and on controlling it through will.  Cassandra then picks up on Bruce’s pain from within, which he responds as “something I manage”.

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Over the course of several months, Cassandra trains Bruce on how to take all of his pain and concentrate in onto a single point.  From sleeping on a bed of needles to walking across hot coals, he gets mentored on “working through pain”.

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Eventually, we get to learn about Cassandra’s back story.  She tells Bruce that when she was a young girl, she disguised herself as a boy in order to be trained by the Fakirs.  Despite them seeing though her disguise, they still took her on and hoped that she would fail.  Ultimately, she prevailed through many years of training.  However, this proved to be her downfall as the Fakirs banished and exposed her.  This caused her to be cast out from both her family and her own village as she’s pelted with stones and forced to take her leave.

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On one fateful night, Bruce awakens to hear a small group of young men harassing Cassandra.  They even get to the point where they manage to use a piece of wood to shove her Bindi (her forehead decoration) hard enough to make her bleed, but she drowns out any internal sting and tells them to leave.

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Before the ruffians can continue their assault on Cassandra, Bruce intervenes.  The training is on display as he receives a whack on the head with the piece of wood, getting hit hard enough to split it.  However, the pain doesn’t hinder him at all.  Not even a bottle being used upside his head does anything to him.

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After they start attacking with knives, Bruce then proceeds to fight back as he easily takes them down.  He subdues enough of the gang to leave one remaining, who drops his knife and runs off in fear.

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Bruce immediately looks around but doesn’t see Cassandra, assuming she went back into the hut.  Upon returning inside, he see her with his backpack as he’s being told to leave.  Cassandra had the highest amount of confidence that, like the Fakirs, that the ruffians would have eventually stopped with their nonsense and left.  She evens says that despite Bruce earning valuable knowledge during his training, she has failed him since this particular pain is beyond the ability of anyone.

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Near the end of this past experience, Batman finally manages to get to a gutter and see various lights from Gotham City.  As he sits down to rest, he feels around and comes across a gun.  He continues to dig around and finds the gun that the injured Russian thug had discarded.  Once his flashback ends, we see him discovering a large amount of guns buried within the refuse.

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Just then, the Batmobile pulls up the grate and the elderly man that has come to Batman’s aid is the faithful butler himself Alfred Pennyworth (voiced by David McCallum) as he asks for Batman’s hand in order to pull him out of the gutter.

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The segment ends with Batman holding all of the guns he found in the gutter, fully succumbed to his burden and simply states “I can’t”.

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We then begin our final tale called “Deadshot” (Writer: Alan Burnett, Director: Jong-Sik Nam, Animation Studio: MADHOUSE, Inc.) with Bruce Wayne within the confines of Wayne Mayor reliving a flashback to the fateful evening where his childhood ended as his parents were shot and killed by a common thug named Joe Chill.

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Afterwards, we have Alfred approaching Bruce with a bag full of the guns that were discovered in the previous segment.  Bruce tells Alfred that with these various forms of firearms (that he’ll hand over to the cops), you would have to know your foe.  He also says that while he’ll always resist the need to use them in combat, he understands the appreciation of them.

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While all of this is going on, we have a guy in a red coat and hat prepping a sniper within a ferris wheel kart and taking aim.  It turns out to be Floyd Lawton a.k.a. Deadshot (also voiced by Jim Meskimen) and he’s on a killing assignment.

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The man that he intends to murder is a local mayor who’s attending a swank party over in a building that’s miles away from the ferris wheel.  Despite all of that plus the fact that the ride is moving slightly, Deadshot is able to get his killshot off and successfully assassinates Mayor Manning.

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The next day at a shore front restaurant, Floyd Lawton meets up with a bulky associate and learns that his services are needed in Gotham City again.  With the police department coming back into prominence due to Batman, The Russian has a kill order on Lt. James Gordon.

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Seeing this as just another cop kill, Floyd accepts the job.  He then departs by taking out a bug with his martini sword stir.

Batman-I've Got Something To Shut Deadshot Down!Image

Crispus Allen has a meeting with Batman on police rooftops about The Russian’s kill order on Gordon and has the Dark Knight join the fray.  Batman then gives Ronald Marshall’s PDA to Allen and says that there’s an e-mail account on there with proof of his Deadshot hirings in the past, further proving that Teresa Williams’ death was no coincidence.  Later on, Gordon gets into a police motorcade with Ramirez as his driver and Allen riding alongside as an escort.  With Batman searching at every vantage point (while Alfred provides satellite-assisted imagery from the WayneCom satellites), Gordon checks out Marshall’s PDA and is astounded by the various kill orders Deadshot had in the past.

Deadshot-Target Acquired!

However, a key vantage point looms as Gordon’s escort starts to head toward the el bridge just as a train goes by them.  As Batman searches said train via cape glide, the WayneCom satellites pick up another train going in the opposite direction.  It turns out that Deadshot is on that one and is prepared to shoot from a boxcar at Gordon.

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Deadshot locks onto Gordon’s head and fires his sniper at him, yet Batman comes in the nick of time and uses his gauntlet to deflect the bullet safely onto the streets.

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Batman then uses his grappling hook to latch onto the train and glide towards the assassin.  However, we learn that The Russian’s kill order on Gordon was a fake out and that Deadshot was hired to kill the Dark Knight.

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Batman manages to get out of the way just as Deadshot starts to open fire on him.  The Dark Knight glides to the outskirts of the bridge, but gets told by Alfred that a tunnel is coming up.  He tries to land on top of the train and does so just before the locomotive enters.

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Batman launches his Batarangs, but Deadshot easily shoots them down like clay pigeons.  The Caped Crusader then tries running as fast as he can towards him, but ends up with his left shoulder shot and nearly falls off the train.

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Deadshot then heads over to where Batman fell and prepares to finish him off.  However, the Dark Knight was able to sneak up just so in order to jump into the air and use his gauntlet to slice & destroy Deadshot’s wrist gun.

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Batman then grabs Deadshot and has him scraping alongside the tunnel, destroying his head gear.  After learning of The Russian’s kill order on him, Batman finishes off Deadshot with a swift punch from his injured arm.

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We then see a newscast wrapping up the situation and learn that Deadshot had three assassinations in the past: Teresa Williams, Mayor Manning and a guy named Robert Conner.  Both Deadshot and his employer Ronald Marshall are arrested and possibly face the death penalty for their crimes.

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And so, the film ends with Alfred treating Bruce’s wounds as they talk about how similar the fight with Deadshot seemed to be compared to the night that his parents were murdered.  Despite a brief moment of discouragement from Bruce, Alfred reassures him of his high purpose towards life.

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As far as picking my favorite segment, it would have to be the very last one, “Deadshot”.  It’s where everything that the past five segments have built towards and as a stand-alone episode, it works.  It shows the power of Deadshot, giving Batman a deserving foe to go against.  It also serves in a mythic sort of way as the Dark Knight’s war against the dreaded firearm, the eternal device that forever robbed him of his childhood.

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A close second for me would Segment #2: “Crossfire”.  It gives a lesser known character in Crispus Allen a chance to shine and he undergoes a character arc from being mistrusting of Batman to ultimately being cool of having him on the side of the law.  As for Anna Ramirez, this really lets her have her character development.  Even though she goes on to be a lesser part in “The Dark Knight”, she shows off her might as being optimistic towards Gotham’s change for the best thanks to Batman’s presence and lets that shine when Allen thinks about quitting.

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As far as least favorite, it has to be the opening segment  “Have I Got A Story For You”.  While the action scenes are decent, there’s really not much to connect this with the rest of the film other than the Man In Black.  The animation style looks kiddy/amateur (that animation style’s just not my thing), the actual Batman is lame, and it just makes you ask “Why am I not watching the ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’ episode since it was done better there?”.

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Despite my rant about the opening segment, the film as a whole holds up.  It was nice to see Bruce Timm and company experiment with its animation and try something new.  While it may serve more as a cul-de-sac that exists just off the road between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it’s a well-put together film that strings along nicely.  Batman holds up really well and does his civilian identity of Bruce Wayne, James Gordon and GCPD fill their roles nicely, and the rogues gallery provides enough of a threat for the heroes to overcome.  Overall, it’s worth a watch.

Next Time: Out of DC’s famed Trinity of heroes, Superman and Batman sure do get a lot of solo films.  However, I’d like to see something involving our favorite Spirit of Truth going toe-to-toe with a War God.  I’m up for a film simply called “Wonder Woman”.

Batman (created by by Bob Kane and Bill Finger) is owned by DC Comics.

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