DoorMatt Gaming Review: “Batman – A Telltale Games Series (2016)” (So far…)

batandcatTelltale games was formed, somewhat anonymously, as a game developer and producer in July of 2014. While the company was founded by a trio of former LucasArts (the developer behind Monkey Island, innumerable Star Wars Games, and others) employees Dan Connors, Kevin Bruner, and Troy Molander, the path of the company wasn’t designed or planned to be anything like the industry giant’s. Rather, Telltale from the very beginning sought to do things differently. Telltale Games has slowly built a name, and niche, for itself within the gaming industry for a variety of reasons, the easiest to point out of which is their approach to video game storytelling and the stories they tell: episodic content of licensed properties.

From their early development of CSI titles for Ubisoft, Telltale has very rarely broken from this formula and it hasn’t failed them yet. Telltale has created titles based around Wallace & Gromit, Monkey Island, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, The Wolf Among Us (based on Bill Willingham’s comic series Fables), Minecraft, and, perhaps most famously, two seasons (an upcoming third) and two specials based upon Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comics. With all of those properties attacked, and the results being widely loved and praised, what could they possibly do in 2016 to top what has come before?

The answer came at the Game Awards in December 2015…

Reaction was strong, very positive, and created great anticipation. From the art style to the choice of story, curiosity abound and we finally got our first taste when Episode 1 – “Realm of Shadows” was released on August 2nd. I could go on and on and on about what was great about each episode (1 and 2 – “Children of Arkham”) so far but that would get us widely off topic. What is worth discussing is what this series has gotten right before I get into Episode 3, which was released on Tuesday (10/25).

brucewayneWhat I love most about Telltale Batman is that it is the first Batman game to capture the proper feeling of Batman. That’s not to say that good Batman games don’t exist – The Arkham series by Rocksteady still stands as the relaunching point of Batman as a video game commodity – it’s just that none of them have really offered such a complete take on my favorite comic book hero. What many Batman fans love about the character, myself included, is that Bruce Wayne is such a deeply flawed persona that in many ways is much more interesting than the one he patrols rooftops as at night. Taken from a June 2016 playboy.com article by Alex Avard:

“There are dozens of Batman video games, but none have the angle Telltale has taken with the beloved character. As demonstrated by my first glimpse into the gameplay of this five-part series, the studio is treating the DC license as an opportunity to undertake a grounded character study of the man behind the mask: Mr. Bruce Wayne himself.”

Batman as a comic was not just about what the character did with his time under the cape and cowl. Rather, it was often about Bruce Wayne and his struggle to fulfill his obligation to his parents, himself, and his city. The fact that Telltale offered REAL options in their series to accomplish just as much playing as Bruce Wayne as you can as Batman shows that, for one, their storytelling continues to be something other developers should strive for and two, their are more ways than one to create the best approach to the Batman mythos. Aside from this new angle, all the familiar characters are there (Gordon, Selina Kyle, Harvey Dent, etc…) with new story twists for all of them. Couple this with a story that is… different, for lack of a better term, and you have a Batman game that has created something new with a decades old character and a game that has fully exceeded expectations.

Now, for Episode 3 in proper. The third of five schedules episodes, “New World Order” isn’t a misdirect – it is a new world for Bruce Wayne. After the events of the first two episodes in the series, Bruce’s world is being turned upside down. Without delving into deep spoiler territory, Bruce’s family legacy has been destroyed, his friends are hurt, his company is in shambles, and people are dying. Episode 3 sets the stage well, requiring you to utilize both sides of Bruce’s psyche to get to the bottom of what is happening: The Dark Knight and the cornered Billionaire. Action abounds in this episode but all of it in ways that feel rewarding and a natural progression of where the story is going for the characters and as a whole. And, in classic Telltale fashion, the episode ends on a large cliffhanger that will leave you frustrated that episodic game storytelling is still a thing.

13679938_10153788536223597_8984223050530435721_oIt is very difficult to discuss this episode without giving too much away but, if you have played the game thus far, let me know what you think. Am I just jaded by how much I love the Caped Crusader? Am I wrong in declaring this perhaps the BEST Batman game made yet? Leave some comments, share with friends, and let me know other things you might want to hear about!

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Format Change

As you might’ve noticed, we’ve changed a few things around here. I’ve changed the scheme a little bit color wise and I’ve added a new headed image, created for me by my talented friend and collaborator Brian Mitchell. Please visit his web store to check out some more of his work and for contact information!

Deep Six Podcast: Episode 9

DeepSixPodcast_square2Episode 9 of the Deep Six Podcast is now online! Fair warning: this episode gets very into wrestling and comic movies territory so, if that’s not for you, this episode won’t be for you. Also, we learn a little more than we need to about some of Steve’s personal time interests.

As always, Steve, Dan, and myself get a little off the rails but circle the wagons and bring it home in good time.

You can find the Deep Six Podcast on all major platforms (itunes, google play, stitcher radio, etc…) or at podbean which I will link below!

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/riz7z-63c178

DoorMatt Gaming: Red Dead Redemption 2 Trailer Released!!!

Can we talk for a second about how dope this trailer is (as much as a trailer that shows absolutely nothing can be dope?) Maybe I’m just partial to old west storylines, or westerns in general, but I loved Red Dead 1 WAY more than any of the GTA games and now I’m insanely looking forward to this. The only thing I find sad is that I can’t continue the story of (SPOILERS) John Marston (/SPOILERS).

Of course, I’m open to any discussion that disagrees with me. Just know you’re wrong. A lot.

Where I’ve Been…

IMG129I should start by apologizing for the lengthy absence I’ve taken but maybe that gives me an opportunity, albeit brief, to impart some wisdom before I get into the meat of what I want to say today.

Life is weird. I’m not exactly shedding light on any new ground there, for sure, but it’s a journey. We can get ourselves onto tremendous highs, lengthy plateaus, and deep lows, all within the series of months, weeks, days… Hell, seconds. Earlier this year, I’d say that I was finally reaching some highs. I got myself clean (again – and holding), found a solid relationship, friendships were good, I was creatively fulfilled… I can’t say that there was any one specific thing that wasn’t going the way I wanted it to. I’ve often found that those moments of peace and tranquility are where it falls apart but, this time, it didn’t. I was in a good place for quite awhile.

So, fast forward a few months, and I’m pretty much miserable, right? I hide it well, unless you’re one of my very close friends, but I’m generally a drag to be around or associate with. I try not to be but I find it hard to be anything but. I’m still clean, thankfully, for maybe the longest I have been in years, but otherwise, everything else has fallen apart.Without getting into particulars, I have been feeling horribly, horribly alone. I’ve lost relationships and friendships over the past several months, live by myself and don’t generally go places… Where others in this situation would choose to get themselves out to do things and break from the malaise, I’ve chosen isolation. It’s only been the past week or so that I’ve just driven myself to pull out of it. And that’s what brings me here.

Like any journey, the road has many exits and you often know where you want to go but get lost along the way, right? This is my last detour, it has to be. Isolation isn’t healthy, or rewarding, and will only serve to send you further into a spiral. I’m choosing a different exit (to continue the dorky driving analogy.)

So, if you’re in the same boat I am/was, let’s try it together. Challenge yourself, don’t rely on others pushing you, it’ll only build resentment. It has to begin at home. Here’s a small sample of what I’ve been pouring myself into the past week or two, a new web series concept that I’m calling “Quarterlife.” I hope to start getting some people together for a table read of sorts in the next few days and MAYBE film this pilot in the next month or so. I have other projects in the pipeline but this is what I wanted to share today because… Maybe my shitty, rambling, too many words story of months of depression can help someone else see there’s a channel for that energy. Find your channel, share it with the world.

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Deep Six Podcast: Episode 5

DeepSixPodcast_square2Hey everyone, Episode 5 of the Deep Six Podcast is online now! In the new episode, Steve, Dan, and I discuss the happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the short list of directors for “Captain Marvel” and Dan Harmon’s involvement in “Dr. Strange.” Also, I (Matt) reveal that I did NOT like Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Please, please, PLEASE give this a listen and like, share, subscribe, or, you know, comment. This is continues to be a passion project for me but it can be a BETTER time with your support.

As always, we appreciate the support we already have… Now tell your friend(s)!

You can find the Deep Six Podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

DoorMatt Movie Discussion: Was “Man of Steel” Intended to Launch a DC Cinematic Universe?

Henry_Cavill_Batman_v_SupermanBy now, it is no secret that we here (read: I) at DoorMatt Review are big fans of DC Comics and the DC Cinematic Universe. While I did not give a glowing review to “Suicide Squad,” I also certainly did enjoy the film and ended up being a big fan of what they did with it despite a few obvious pratfalls in the making of the film. “Batman v. Superman” was similar for me; there are obvious flaws with the film (though many of them are addressed and solved in the Ultimate Edition cut of the blockbuster) but overall I highly enjoyed DC Entertainment’s effort to relaunch the Batman character and create their shared universe vision. While I was writing my “Suicide Squad” review, though, I really started to think these things through more in depth and came to a conclusion that I’m honestly not sure is right or wrong, shared or not; “Man of Steel” (2013) was not intended to be the start of the DC Cinematic Universe as we know it. DC Entertainment has created many detractors with their approach to the Cinematic Universe and, as I see it, this could be mainly attributable to the fact that it was hurriedly thrown together to alleviate the problem a failed chart for the future of what they thought their universe would be. Hear me out.

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Let’s rewind to 2003. In the early parts of that year, Warner Brothers hired relatively small (at that time) director Christopher Nolan (imdb) to relaunch their Batman film franchise. After the failure of “Batman & Robin” (1997), the idea of doing a fifth Batman installment had been batted (PUNS!) around for some time before Nolan signed on. Up to that point, Nolan had been known mostly for his cerebral approach to film-making (“Following”) and his use of non-linear storytelling (“Memento”) but after the critical success of “Insomnia” (2002), Nolan became something of a rising star for Warner Brothers. Within two months the film series also had a writer in David Goyer (imdb) and, later, a star in the unknown (again, relative to the time) Christian Bale (imdb). With a renewed focus on making the viewer care for both Batman AND Bruce Wayne, and a tonal shift toward the hero rather than the villain, the film was a critical and commercial success. The film even received praise from “Batman” (1989) director Tim Burton (imdb) who said of the film:

“…captured the real spirit that these kind of movies are supposed to have nowadays. When I did Batman twenty years ago, in 1988 or something, it was a different time in comic book movies. You couldn’t go into that dark side of comics yet. The last couple of years that has become acceptable and Nolan certainly got more to the root of what the Batman comics are about.”

With such high praise, it was only natural that a sequel would come and it did in the form of “The Dark Knight” (2008, trailer below). The film can be taken and interpreted many different ways but, at its core, it is the story of Harvey Dent’s (played by Aaron Eckhart) journey from symbol of hope to the antithesis of Bale’s Batman, the yin to his yang. Of course, the film is most known for Heath Ledger’s portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis, The Joker, and his accidental death following the film’s production. The film went on to gross more than $500 million at the domestic box office, cross over $1 billion worldwide, and win a posthumous Oscar for Ledger. Most telling about the production of the film though is that Goyer originally turned in a treatment for two sequels to expand the Dent and Joker storyline over two films, rather than the one that we ended up getting. Of course this was followed with a third film in the series, 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” once again starring Bale and Tom Hardy as Bane. Nolan and Bale were thought to not be very interested in coming back for the third film but Nolan had the following to say upon confirming his involvement in the series ender:

“The key thing that makes the third film a great possibility for us is that we want to finish our story […] rather than infinitely blowing up the balloon and expanding the story […] Unlike the comics, these things don’t go on forever in film and viewing it as a story with an end is useful. Viewing it as an ending, that sets you very much on the right track about the appropriate conclusion.”

Like “The Dark Knight” before it, the film was a commercial success with good critical response as well. After the film had been released, conversation again shifted to whether or not Nolan and Bale would return to continue the series or not. Meanwhile, David Goyer (who had written the story concept for the previous films) left early in production on “Rises” to begin work on “Man of Steel.”

Henry-Cavill-Zack-Snyder-MOS-Shanghai-080“Man of Steel,” of course, was met with harsh critical and fan reaction in response to its presentation of a darker, tortured Superman. Given the shared writing connection, and the tone that Nolan had set with his Batman universe, it should have come as no surprise that the Zack Snyder film gave us a Superman that struggled with his place as a man in the world and didn’t quite understand his power. It’s here that we really get away from my love letter to Christopher Nolan’s bat universe and back to the topic at hand: was “Man of Steel” meant to launch the DC Cinematic Universe?

Based on what can be inferred from what I’ve presented here, there’s no real way we can answer that with anything but a resounding “no.” While “Man of Steel” did end up launching DC’s shared screen team-ups, it certainly was not plotted that way originally. Warner Brothers announced “Man of Steel” in 2010 after a series of years that saw WB take pitches from comic writers and directors about what their take on a new Superman film might be. WB turned down every pitch, however, until Christopher Nolan and David Goyer brought up the idea for their film, which would become “Man of Steel.” Christopher Nolan on his and Goyer’s approach to the film:

“He basically told me, ‘I have this thought about how you would approach Superman’, I immediately got it, loved it and thought: That is a way of approaching the story I’ve never seen before that makes it incredibly exciting. I wanted to get Emma Thomas and I involved in shepherding the project right away and getting it to the studio and getting it going in an exciting way.”

Further, Nolan added that “A lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that’s what I know how to do,” and on the concept of Batman and Superman coexisting “Each serves to the internal logic of the story. They have nothing to do with each other.” Nolan went on to hire Zack Snyder to direct the film and served as a producer. On the topic of Batman and other DC characters inhabiting the universe, though, Snyder had other thoughts, including references to several other characters in the film and a direct reference to Batman with Wayne Enterprises technology being shown during the film.

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So, while Nolan might not have seen them sharing the universe, Snyder certainly did, and neither at the time saw themselves as starting something new with “Man of Steel,” as Snyder was working within the confines of Nolan’s concept of the universe and Nolan himself had not yet begun work on “The Dark Knight Rises” when “Man of Steel” was announced. Given all of that, we can certainly gather then that, while Nolan and Snyder may have differently viewed what was happening with the DC Universe at the time, they both certainly never dreamed of “Batman v. Superman” as it exists now at the time. I would venture to say that Snyder himself at the time pictured a world where Christian Bale’s Batman would inhabit the world created by Christopher Nolan and venture to Metropolis to tangle with Henry Cavill’s Superman. Later the tone changed and Snyder himself mentioned that he wanted to hire Bale to play a different role in “Batman v. Superman” just to further establish the different universes idea (here). While we may disagree on whether “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman” are good movies or bad we can likely all agree that this was an idea best left unexplored.

All in all, I am still very excited for where the DC Universe is going but what about you? Would you have more interest in the film if Nolan’s universe continued with Christian Bale still donning the cape and cowl? Would you be more accepting of a darker Superman if the screen was shared with Nolan’s dark Batman? Leave comments below or on any of our social media platforms.

Also, stay tuned later this week for the potential new writer I mentioned last week, as well as a recap of why I have been so busy over the past week and a half.

Deep Six Podcast: Episode 4

DeepSixPodcast_square2I am a little bit late to the party (for reasons that will become evident as this week and this week’s posts move along) but Episode 4 of the Deep Six Podcast is online (as of Friday!) In the new episode, Steve, Dan, and I discuss the happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the short list of directors for “Captain Marvel” and Dan Harmon’s involvement in “Dr. Strange.”

Please, please, PLEASE give this a listen and like, share, subscribe, or, you know, comment. This is continues to be a passion project for me but it can be a BETTER time with your support.

As always, we appreciate the support we already have… Now tell your friend(s)!

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/audio/postId/6429945?url=http%3A%2F%2FDeepSixPodcast.podbean.com%2Fe%2F005-1472177717%2F%3Ftoken%3D0ec497eb344e07d148183bbf3155a626

You can find the Deep Six Podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

DoorMatt Reviews #3: “Suicide Squad” (2016)

clac5pdwyaadpxoIt’s no secret by now that DC Entertainment has developed a track record of releasing highly divisive pictures under its banner. Starting with “Man of Steel” (2013) and continuing with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), DC has began to build its stable on the heels of its biggest feature attractions; Superman, Batman, and to a lesser extent, Wonder Woman (trailer at the end of this article). Despite the box office draw of Batman (coming off the highly successful Christopher Nolan trilogy), though, and the appeal that is corn-fed Clark Kent, DC’s opening salvos into the contested comic book movie genre have been critical duds. In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I am a giant fan of both. “Man of Steel,” from its very first trailer (seen below), had me hooked (the Russell Crowe voice over, the way you can’t even tell it’s a Superman trailer until Zack Snyder’s name pops up on the screen; it’s the perfect setup for what a Superman movie should be). DC continued that universe with BvS, regardless of whether of not “Man of Steel” was ever even intended to be a universe starting picture or not (more on that later). BvS introduced a new, older, veteran Batman to this universe that is tired of criminals shit and is willing to go to whatever length necessary to stop it. Highly influenced by several high profile DC Comics event runs, it should have been a hit (and it was… you know, just for me and a few select others).

So what exactly has gone wrong? While hard to pinpoint, speculation is easy. Zack Snyder’s direction has been a point of contention, as well as casting decisions, storyline and scripting, editing, and Warner Brothers interference. That brings me to “Suicide Squad,” the newest entry into the DC Entertainment Cinematic Universe that released on August 5th.

clac5qvweaqjdspIt would be next to impossible to start this review in earnest without mentioning the incredible amount of negative attention that this film has received, even before the general public had seen the film. Critical reviews (see Rotten Tomatoes) have been overwhelmingly poor and the usual suspects have been out sounding off on how bad the film is. This has created a harsh battleground between pro-DC faithful and Marvel backers, critics, and review aggregate sites, like Rotten Tomatoes. Having seen “Suicide Squad” now… They aren’t entirely wrong. My single biggest issue with the film, which is arguably the BIGGEST issue period with the film, is that it may be the most poorly edited film I’ve ever seen. There is simply very little logical flow to the film. Without entering spoiler territory, there is a sequence about 5/8 of the way through the film that has the Squad entering a federal building. Directly before this scene is a serious clip of Will Smith’s Deadshot, preceded by a jokey scene of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn “window-shopping,” preceded by a serious scene with the film’s villain establishing part of their plot. Oh, and the scene entering the villain is followed by two jokey scenes with Deadshot and Harley, then more action, then a serious scene. This is the general flow of the movie; scenes like this occur all within minutes and there are no smooth transitions, things just happen, jarringly at times, and you’re along for the ride. It’s like an old school wooden roller-coaster and you’ve previously had a neck injury.

Jared+Leto+JokerA secondary issue, and this may just be me, is relating to Jared Leto’s Joker. Inevitably, every conversation I have had about “Suicide Squad,” save one or two, has devolved into some form of discussion about who the best Joker is. We all know the usual suspects; Heath Ledger in the Nolan-verse, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s take, and Mark Hamill in “Batman: The Animated Series” (lest we forget Cesar Romero in Batman 66′). I am in the extreme minority on this issue but I loved Leto’s take on “The Clown Prince of Crime.” As I have mentioned to others, this is the Joker I have been waiting to see on screen. I realize the brilliance of Ledger’s performance, at times it bordered on mesmerizing, but he wasn’t The Joker. Ditto for Jack Nicholson who, while he was fun in the film, was essentially just playing Jack in face paint in Tim Burton’s interpretation of Batman’s world (which isn’t much like Batman itself). And while Mark Hamill certainly embodies a voice appropriately for The Joker, playing a character on screen where every emote is captured for all time is a completely different ballgame. This is the closest I’ve seen to a comic book take on The Joker. He’s sinister, appropriately psychotic, and holds court differently. He’s not a raving anarchist, or a mafioso, he’s a lunatic. That’s The Joker to me. Too many people are getting caught up in their opinions on people with tattoos and are quick to label the character as a “thug,” the infinitely more hilarious “juggalo,” or a “hot topic scene kid” (something also attributed to Heath Ledger upon first look at his take on the clown), instantly removing any credibility they had. Once you get beyond the tattoos, and the gang mentality behind the character, this is a character more influenced by the comic roots behind it than any other film take on the character yet.

All of that said, getting to the issue I mentioned, The Joker is barely in “Suicide Squad.” Estimates range anywhere from between 7 and 10 minutes of total screen time in a film around 2 hours long. The character, and Leto’s performance, captured the screen for me every time he was on it, so when he disappeared for the second half of the film, it became distracting when I kept expecting him to reappear every other scene. Instead, nothing was ever explained and I just kept wanting more. It should be mentioned though that this is NOT The Joker’s movie. He is just a side character and the movie could have existed in its current state even if they removed him completely from the film (and if you believe the rumors, they already removed 50% of what Leto shot for the film).

maxresdefaultWhat did I like though? Pretty much everything else. The casting was spot on for the movie (see the individual character trailers above). With ensemble casts like these, often a few roles seem to slip through the cracks and manage to miss the mark. In this film it didn’t feel that way. The two main characters of the film are Deadshot (Smith) and Harley Quinn (Robbie) and they are developed quite well through in more in depth back story. The side characters, namely Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara), all tend to be more fascinating on occasion, have less developed back stories, and had performances so good that they left me wanting A LOT more of them. Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag originally had me worried (based on different factors) but both performed their roles well for what they called for and should make solid additions to the extended universe. Sadly, it feels as if Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Slipknot (Adam Beach), and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) were added mostly to fulfill storyline facets, not to be parts of the film and Squad itself. Even these characters though, for as much as they felt tacked on, were cast well and felt fleshed out. Also of particularly good note, the cameos in the film were well done and should please fans of the DC Cinematic Universe. Make sure you stay through the credits!

It is somewhat hard to make a judgement call on the story of the film because the editing made so much of a mess out of it. What I will say is that the threat of the film felt credible enough to need the cast of criminals that were called upon to save the day. It is an A-level threat that the Justice League themselves may be called upon to face… you know, if they had been formed yet. While the actions, or inaction as it were, of the threat itself is questionable, it felt big enough to require a team effort to stop it.

In general, I would count myself among those who highly enjoyed “Suicide Squad.” Is it a perfect film by any means? No, it really isn’t. There are certain issues that WB MUST work on moving forward before they can be taken seriously by the general public to avoid the negative reviews they continually see for their films. Judging by the following trailer for “Wonder Woman” (2017), it seems like they are on the right track:

If I can try to impart anything it’s to see the movie yourself, don’t trust the word of a critic, or a friend who shits on the movie but won’t even make their voice heard with their dollars. Form your own opinion and then, if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.

This Week on The DoorMatt Review…

Moving forward, plans for the site for this week! After a rough week last week, Monday my review for “Suicide Squad” will hit at 6 a.m., look forward to an article from me this week where I analyze whether “Man of Steel” was intended to be a universe starter for DC or not, and a potential guest/permanent second writer coming on board at The DoorMatt Review! Stay with me, I promise we are only just getting started!