Jedises? Ben & Rey Skywalker?

The Last Jedi first artwork

The small bits of Star Wars: The Last Jedi artwork that we’ve seen have got people talking again – as though anyone needed an excuse to talk about Star Wars. Who is/are the last Jedi? Who are Rey’s parents? What is the connection between her and Kylo Ren? Why the hell did R2 magically wake up for no reason at all?

The most popular theory seems to be that Rey is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. I’m in two minds about whether I like the idea of the galaxy revolving around the Skywalker family, but if she is to be a Skywalker, I’d rather it was maternal. In the no-longer-canon Expanded Universe, Han and Leia have twins (and a third child, but who cares about him?): Jaina and Jacen Solo.

Jaina and Jacen SoloJacen turns to the dark side, while Jaina remains in the light, so Kylo and Rey taking an approximation of these roles would be a decent nod to this. Plus, Jacen kills Luke’s wife, which would add to the justification of Luke running off to sulk in the films.

The downside to this is that there’s little likelihood that Han wouldn’t know that Rey is his daughter. Sure, they could have been split up like Luke and Leia, but there would have been no reason to do that, or to keep her secret from Han. Plus she was around six-ish when she was dumped on Jakku – though this is probably about the right age to hide her to keep her safe from Kylo and Snoke.

Failing this, I’d quite like her to be Obi-Wan Kenobi’s granddaughter. His relationship with Satine in The Clone Wars is canon, so it’s a vague possibility. The downside to this is it still leaves room for the absurd Rey/Kylo romance people seem so desperate for.

As for The Last Jedi, we seem to have confirmation that it is meant as a plural. It’s possible that the foreign language versions were simply translated as plural but not actually told that it was, so I’m not taking it as a fact. But it seems likely. Even if Luke is the last at the beginning of the film, if he trains Rey to be a Jedi, there would be two of them by the end. But, given that Snoke is supposedly an ancient being, is it plausible that he was at some point a Jedi? Could The Last Jedi refer to Luke and Snoke? (No, I do not in any way count Leia as a contender.)

And who’s to say Rey will become a Jedi anyway? Perhaps the old ideas of Jedi and Sith are over, at least for a time. It would be interesting to see her become a balance of light and dark, rather than the extreme of either. This is a concept used in the Dawn of the Jedi graphic novel, and it would be interesting to explore beyond just the realms of Jedi = light side and Sith = dark side.

What do you think about these questions? Who is Rey? Who is Snoke? And seriously, were they that lazy at writing that R2 has no actual reason for waking up?! Will Benicio Del Toro be Boba Fett’s son?

Wonder, Marvel, and Survival

wondermarvelsurvival

For me, when a female-led action movie is done well, there is something a little extra special about it. Perhaps it’s because they are comparatively rarer for the time being. Let’s put aside the obvious Star Wars Episode VIII and Rogue One, the brainlessly whitewashed Ghost in the Shell, and some others. There are three main, female-led potential blockbusters that I’m very much looking forward to.

These three not only have the potential to be brilliant movies, but also to show the morons- powers-that-be that there is just as much a market for female-led movies as there is for male-led ones. That market is, of course, people who like good movies! These idiots powers-that-be seem to be about the only ones that don’t realise that it doesn’t matter who leads a movie – what matters is that it’s entertaining, exciting, thrilling, funny, sad, GOOD.

But that’s not the point. The point is, these are those three movies.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot seemed like an odd choice to play Wonder Woman at first. While the likes of Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck were busy growing to twice their normal size at the gym so they could look the part, a spindly model only really known on screen for her part in a Fast & Furious movie was cast as the third of the Trinity. But out marched Batman v Superman, and it was terrible. But Gadot’s Wonder Woman was, for the brief appearances she made, one of the best things about it.

Granted, how good she was will have been exaggerated a little by how terrible the eponymous leads were. She didn’t whinge and whine and boo hoo her way through her cameo scenes; she was there for a reason and she got on with it. She was, as far as anyone can be in such a short time, Wonder Woman. (While the leads failed utterly to be Superman and Batman, but that’s beside the point).

Sadly, Zack Snyder still has his grubby hands on June 2017’s Wonder Woman solo outing, with IMDb listing him under ‘story by’. But he isn’t directing (that’s Patty Jenkins) and he didn’t write the screenplay, so there’s hope yet. The trailers keep looking better and better, and there’s a slightly Marvel flavour to them, which isn’t a bad thing after an okay Man of Steel followed by two woeful outings from the DCMU.

I’ve always considered Wonder Woman to be Superman’s equal. While he has more raw power, her being a magically-created demigod and warrior balances the scales. When Superman goes bad, who do you call? Wonder Woman (also Batman, obviously). So far, it’s looking as though Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is going to be that equal, with the actress  easily embodying Power, Grace, and Wisdom.

Captain Marvel

I don’t actually know all that much about Captain Marvel, being neither a comic reader nor a Marvel fan outside of the screen, but I look forward to her introduction to the MCU more than most of the other Marvel movies coming up.

So far, all we know about the movie is that it is scheduled for release in March 2019, is being written by Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve, and will star Oscar winner Brie Larson (who I have only now realised was Abed’s girlfriend in Community!).

Captain Marvel is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe, and according to the Marvel Studios’ president, Kevin Feige, the MCU’s version of her will not only be more powerful than the rest of the heroes ‘by far’, but will also be more powerful than fans are used to seeing her. So, she’s taking the Hulk’s heavyweight belt and then some.

brie-larson-captain-marvel-1

In the comics, as the character progressed through the usual iterations, she gained the ability to tap the power of a white hole, allowing her to manipulate gravity, heat, and the electromagnetic spectrum. Though she lost this connection, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel’s base powers include flight at around Mach 6 (light speed with the white hole connection), the ability to survive in space, superhuman strength and durability, a limited precognition, and the ability to blast energy from her fingertips. She can also absorb energy to augment her power to the point of unleashing a nuclear warhead level energy blast, and can throw a 92-tonne punch.

In short, even if these are the highest levels her power reaches in the film, she’s going to be insanely powerful. So with a strong choice of actress, good source material, and Marvel’s mostly solid track record, I don’t need a trailer to know that I want to see this, now!

As a side note, I’m interested in seeing how she’s used going forward. Up till now, Marvel has been mostly trying to keep a balance between the heroes’ power, with them coming out of every scrape pretty much equal (even if it doesn’t always make much sense): Captain America v Iron Man; Thor v Captain America; Thor v Iron Man; Iron Man v Hulk; Thor v Hulk, etc. So it will be interesting to see how Captain Marvel is incorporated in later films, which she will be given that she’s set to become one of the most important characters in the MCU. In the comics, she has had affiliations with pretty much everyone from SHIELD and the Avengers, to the X-Men, to the Guardians of the Galaxy, so we could be seeing a lot of her.

Tomb Raider

Again, we know very little about 2018’s Tomb Raider, except that it will star Alicia Vikander and will be based to some degree on 2013’s Tomb Raider game reboot and sequel. This is what IMDb currently says about it, if it means anything:

Lara Croft sets out on her first expedition to finish her father’s archaeological research and uncover ancient secrets in order to clear his disgraced name. Tragedy hits when her adventure turns into a fight for survival.

This sounds made up to me, but it would make sense. While the 2013 Tomb Raider game was about Lara Croft taking part in an expedition that goes wrong, its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider (yes, stupid name), was a more personal story about Lara trying to complete her father’s work and clear his disgraced name.

Written by Rhianna Pratchett, the reboots were far more story driven, and introduced a more human Lara Croft. Initially, she doesn’t believe in the more supernatural elements that gamers were used to her battling, she was barely out of college, and certainly didn’t somersault all over the place firing two guns at once. She was a young woman way out of her depth, concerned only with trying to rescue her friends, and has to adapt radically to be a surviver.

alicia-vikander-tomb-raider-645x370

While Angelina Jolie was a good choice for the big screen’s somewhat entertaining first attempt at the character, it’s easy to imagine Alicia Vikander (another Oscar winner) bringing the young, innocent, and vulnerable Lara Croft through the tragedies, tortures, and trials that will forge the Tomb Raider.


So these are, aside from Rey and Luke, the characters and movies I’m most looking forward to seeing in the next few years. If they’re done right (and I think at least Captain Marvel and Tomb Raider will be), they could be brilliant.

What movies, female led or not, are you looking forward to most before 2020?

Still Alive

You might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps I had died and decided that in this new state of unliving, I would abandon my blog. This is, you will be ecstatic to hear, not the case. I have been busy with a death that doesn’t belong to me, the following despicable family behaviour, a job, a new car (it has GT on the back!), moving house, trying to get internet, and making my beta readers cry.

Yes, finally, the third book in the NEXUS series is (kind of) finished. I started writing it as soon as I finished Temple of the Sixth and set it aside time after time to write Kira, Acts of Violence, and Kira Part II, but at last the most abused book I’ve worked on is nearly ready. It still needs a bit of rewriting and then editing and proofreading, but it’s not too far off now. Hopefully.

Trip To Space

After this stop-start, stop-start, I hope at least the next two books will come quicker and smoother, but thinking about other projects is what got me into this four year crawl in the first place, so let’s ignore that for now.

So, sooner or later I’ll be posting again with a synopsis and release date…or just a cover. Or a rant about another film.

BvS: Dawn of Unjustifiable Nonsense

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman

I have just watched the new Batman v Superman trailer for the second time and I wanted to rant about it. I needed to rant about it.

The first few teasers and trailers were okay. I felt a bit better about the film with each one (not including the teaser that came just before this new trailer). But now comes the three minute trailer that basically gives us the entire skeleton of the film. Obviously the following rant will contain spoilers.

So basically, Clark Kent – the super journalist – doesn’t have a clue who Bruce Wayne is. Bruce Wayne calls Superman a ‘freak dressed as a clown’ in a stare-down that kind of alludes to the possibility that Bruce knows who Clark really is.

Then the ridiculousness that is the new Lex Luthor pops in to tell Bruce not to pick a fight with Clark…oh ha ha…ha? How awfully humorous that writing is. How clever. I don’t know if the personality Lex displays in that scene is just his public persona and is completely different from the real him (I hope so), but it is terrible. Jesse Eisenberg is quite a good actor, yet his acting in this scene was a little embarrassing to watch.

Then the part that we all knew was coming, but weren’t necessarily expecting to be shown outright in the trailer: Lex Luthor creates Doomsday from Zod’s corpse. And he looks like one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fell into an acid bath while he was injecting himself with steroids.

The penultimate scene contains the worst case of ‘seriously?’ of the entire trailer, which is saying something. Wonder Woman saves Batman from Doomsday’s attack with her shield, and then Superman asks ‘Is she with you?’, to which the witty and original response is ‘I thought she was with you’! Oh what amazing writing this film will contain.

I thought Chris Terrio taking over the writing of the film would be a good thing, but it seems like the stain of David S Goyer can’t be cleaned off that easily.

Batsignal

It’s not just the few bits of awful writing that gets me, though. It’s Batman. From the line ‘You will’ at the end of the original teaser (about whether Superman bleeds), I’ve wondered if they were going in a decent direction with Batman. The scene at the end of the first proper trailer where Batman stands up from his wrecked Batmobile to face Superman was a brilliant scene that partly allayed my fears…but now we have this.

In the newest teaser, Batman looks terrified of Superman. It’s almost certainly a nightmare sequence, so it’s forgiveable. However, he seems to show too much emotion for my liking in the main trailer. There’s too much baring his teeth, too much slack-jawed…stuff (‘I thought she was with you’). And what the hell is with him throwing his arms over his face when Doomsday attacks? Batman wouldn’t do that. A) Batman would have a way out, as he always does. B) Even if he didn’t, he wouldn’t hide from his death, he would simply narrow his eyes and glare at it, striking terror into the heart of the poor Reaper sent to collect him.

It’s true that trailers can give a false impression of a film, and I really hope that is the case here, but if they aren’t going to get Batman right, then I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that the entire DC movie universe that they are setting up is kind of doomed before it gets going. The Trinity – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – are the foundations of that universe, and if they aren’t done right, said universe will crumble.

One of the things I knew would make a big impact on whether Batman works or not is the voice that Affleck chose to use. I still don’t know about it. He does speak as Batman without the armour that changes his voice drastically, but it’s not enough to go on. It sounds as though he’s just using the gravel that’s already in his voice, which could be okay. But it also sounds as though he may still be using a voice modulator, which I don’t really like. The main thing is that it sounds okay. But Kevin Conroy is still the best Batman voice.

Damn it, Batman doesn’t do crap like ‘I thought she was with you’! No, I can’t get over it, shut up. Batman does the ‘Thanks, Batman, we couldn’t have done it without you’, ‘I know’ lines. He does the hilarious, usually scathing one-liners that don’t take away from his terrifying Dark Knightness. And he doesn’t show the kinds of emotions that he does in this trailer. Fear of Superman, fear of death, shock at seeing Wonder Woman. HE’S THE GODDAMN BATMAN!

And now that abysmal Frank Miller line has made me feel unwell.

Incidentally, here are a few semi-related articles that you might like read:

The Big Blue Boy Scout

Birth of the Superhero (I used the same top image 😦 )

Batman: Arkham Knight (review)

The Force Will Soon Awaken

The Force Awakens poster, landscape

Are you ready to desperately want to be a Jedi again/still? Star Wars Episode VII is coming soon (December 17 in the UK) and we know little about it so far, aside from rumours and speculation. So here’s some more! I could babble on and on about it for ages, so I’ll just briefly give a couple of my theories.

I don’t really know what I think about the idea that Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are Han Solo and Princess Leia’s children. That might align too much with the no-longer-canon Expanded Universe books and be too predictable. But it might go some way to explain why A) Kylo is apparently obsessed with Darth Vader, and B) He says (or his toy does anyway) ‘That weapon is mine’ about, presumably, Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber.

I also wonder if Luke Skywalker might not be on the poster because he isn’t really in the first film or even dies fairly early on. My theory, kind of, is that Kylo was one of Luke’s students when he restarted the Jedi Order. Because Luke was never properly trained, he didn’t know how to handle a difficult student and it led to a clash – a physical clash that perhaps resulted in Kylo having to wear that mask. Luke, feeling like he failed, goes into isolation.

Kind of carrying on from that, I have another theory which I don’t think I actually believe. But I wondered if the Knights of Ren – the group that Kylo takes his name from – are either A) The Jedi Order that Luke failed, or B) Simply Force-sensitive people banding together to create their own group that is neither Light- nor Dark-side. The fact that they are supposedly hunters of Sith relics could simply be in an effort to better understand their powers. Or not.

Daisy Ridley - Rey

Rey, I think, will be the Jedi rather than Finn (John Boyega) – I think him having the lightsaber is misdirection. I also think she may already have some Jedi training. I even wonder if her ‘scavenging’ is actually a mission that Luke gave to her, and she is hunting for Jedi relics just as the Knights of Ren are hunting for Sith relics. Will that be one of the big twists/reveals? She seems to be a normal person and then suddenly uses the Force, perhaps to save Finn in that snow scene. (EDIT: The new trailer pretty much destroys this theory.)

That doesn’t cover the ‘There has been an awakening’ line. I have no theory for that. I do, however, have some theories about who some of Kylo Ren’s toy’s lines are delivered to:

‘I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.’ – Following my Luke/Kylo theory, this could be delivered to Luke when Kylo tracks him down again. This time, I think Luke will lose.

‘You know what I’ve come for.’ – This could be, as everyone assume, referring to Anakin’s lightsaber, but it might also be delivered to Luke along with the previous line.

‘Don’t fight it. You know you can’t’ and ‘Together, we will destroy the Resistence and the last Jedi’ – These could both be delivered to the terrified-looking Finn in that snowy scene from the second teaser trailer. Or the second line could just be delivered to Snoke (his boss/master, voiced by Andy Sirkis).

‘Is it true: you’re just a scavenger?’ – This is almost certainly delivered to Rey, as she is…well, a scavenger. But the way it is delivered is odd. Could it be that he has reunited with his sister and is disappointed with who and what she is?

Again, I could go on for ages with conflicting theories, but I won’t. What do you think will happen?

Kylo Ren lightsaber

E.T. And Earth 2.0

In light of the discovery of Kepler 452b in July (or at least its announcement then), I thought I would repost an article I wrote a year ago about the search for life, and the possibility of another habitable planets. It’s interesting to see how things change in the space of a year. Also it means I don’t have to write anything new.

Kepler 452b/Earth

“I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the universe we humans stand alone.”

This was said by NASA administrator Charles Bolden during a panel discussion on the search for other forms of life in the universe, about a year ago.

There was a claim at the time that NASA had said they would prove extraterrestrial life within twenty years, but where the twenty years part came from was associate administrator John Grunsfeld saying that scientists are closer to finding another Earth-like planet than people realise. Apparently, with the telescopes we have now, and those we’ll have in the future, we may be able to find life on other planets in as little as twenty years.

The agency has plans to launch the Transisting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017 and the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018. These will be used – as the former’s name suggests – to find and study new planets and determine if they are capable of harbouring life. Or if they already do!

Thanks to our existing technology, we already know of at least one potentially habitable planet. Considered a prime candidate for life, Gliese 832-c is a super-Earth. The term sounds pretty promising, but in fact a super-Earth is only defined by its mass, which is higher than Earth’s but no more than 10 Earth masses.

Gliese 832-c – a very catchy name – is about five times the size of Earth and closely orbits a red dwarf star. It’s thought to have Earth-like temperatures and is one of the closest potential habitable worlds to us, at about 16 light-years away [Edit: Kepler 452b is actually only 1,400 light-years away]. But we don’t really know much more about it. Because of its orbit, the planet could suffer from drastic seasonal shifts. It could be a gas or water planet. Its atmosphere could preclude life. We don’t know.

Gliese 832c

In fact, because it’s so massive, Gliese 832-c quite likely possesses a massive atmosphere too. If so, that may well render the planet inhospitable. Such a dense atmosphere would trap heat and make it far too hot for life – more like Venus than Earth. So while it’s potentially habitable, it probably isn’t.

But let’s put things in perspective. Go to Google Sky and start zooming in. How many stars can you count? Perhaps I’ll save you some time and tell you that there are around about 300 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Astronomers estimate that there actually are up to 400 billion. And that’s our galaxy alone.

How many stars are there in the universe? Well, there are some galaxies out there with up to 100 trillion stars. Others are smaller than ours. There are an estimated 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Again, that’s just the part of the universe that we can see.

So if we use our galaxy as an average, and we multiply the number of stars in the Milky Way by the number of galaxies in the observable universe we get something around a septillion.

That’s 1024­­. That’s a 1 with twenty-four zeroes. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

So how many planets are there? That’s a bit tougher. The Kepler Space Telescope, between 2007 and 2013, found that there may be an average of about three planets orbiting each star in our own galaxy. So to make an unscientific estimate, that’s a potential of over a trillion planets. The lowest scientific estimation is between 100-200 billion. And that’s conservative. Others think up to 10 trillion. That might be a little on the high side.

But let’s forget that average of three and imagine for a moment that every star has one planet. That’s still a septillion planets in the observable universe alone. Or perhaps three septillion? Let’s not even touch on the theory that ours isn’t the only universe…

Consider now that in May 2014, Dan Werthimer and Seth Shostak, respectively director of and astrobiologist at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, told congress that billions of the planets inside our galaxy are Earth-sized and within the ‘Goldilocks’, or habitable, zone. That is, not too close to and not too far from their sun – not too hot and not too cold. Of course, that doesn’t automatically mean those planets are habitable, simply that they are a lot more likely to support life than those not in the Goldilocks zone.

Shostak apparently also said that he believes we’ll detect alien life within twenty years.

So what do we think? What do you think? I think it’s incredibly foolish to think that, in all that space, among all those stars and all those planets, there’s no life but our own. Foolish and arrogant. What kind of life that may be, though, is another matter. Bacterial, perhaps. Sentient life like our own is a bigger leap.

Alien

Of course, what we’re talking about is life as we know it – carbon-based. It’s entirely possible that there are life forms with another chemical basis, such as silicon. When we talk about whether life is possible elsewhere, we can’t really be too sure what other kinds of life there may be. We may say that planets are inhospitable to life, but again, it’s only life as we know it. Even on Earth, we have found life in places we previously thought it wasn’t possible to survive.

I would say if we’re here, then perhaps somewhere else there are similar life forms, cutting down their own rainforests and killing each other. There is a theory that our life here was seeded from elsewhere; that Earth’s organisms and whatnot came here via an asteroid, perhaps. If this is the case, then it would make sense that those same organisms would have hitched a ride to other planets. Whether or not those planets were conducive to that life is another matter. We already know there are plenty of planets out there in their star’s Goldilocks zone, and so are potentially habitable, but the ratio of those to uninhabitable ones lowers the odds somewhat.

How life may have come to be on Earth is a fairly interesting topic in its own right, but it isn’t this one.

So we’re perhaps more confident now in the possibility of life elsewhere. But what about sentient life?

We think of intelligent life as a natural stage of evolution, but that’s not necessarily the case. Life elsewhere might be mostly bacteria and plants. Stephen Hawking posits that intelligence may very well be just one of a large number of possible outcomes of a largely random evolutionary process. He says it’s not clear that intelligence actually has any long-term survival value.

Let’s stick with Stephen Hawking. He likes the idea of there being life out there. He supported SETI, until it lost its funding. However, he seems to be of the opinion that, should we receive any radio signals from space, we should be very wary of answering back. It seems he thinks that any intelligent alien beings who have developed enough to be able to communicate with us, or indeed travel to Earth, could very well be hostile. In fact, I seem to recall him saying this last bit was more than possible: it was likely. Don’t quote me on that, though.

Stephen Hawking's aliens

I can kind of see why he would say that, as we ourselves have developed to be quite an aggressive and unpleasant species. If we were to encounter alien life less advanced than us, we would almost certainly exploit it. I don’t entirely agree with this theory, but nor do I entirely agree with the idea that a species more advanced than us must also have evolved into wise, benevolent beings. Quite probably, they’d be like us: nice and complete ass****s, all in one.

Hawking says that to meet an advanced civilisation while at our stage of development might be like the Native Americans meeting Columbus. This makes more than a little sense and does make me stop to consider how wise it is to be looking for life. But that’s just one of many possibilities.

As for whether aliens have already visited Earth, there’s interesting evidence (or ‘evidence’, perhaps), but who knows? That’s a whole other topic, too, and one more suited to conspiracy theory forums.

So, in the end, I think we’ll find life at some point. Perhaps it will be fish in the oceans of Europa, bacteria on an asteroid, or Asgardians patrolling the outer reaches of the universe. But we are not alone, and the truth is out there!

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman Arkham Knight

I was going to write a blog post about how I don’t think it’s okay for the Ask EL James hashtag to have been hijacked by people just wanting to be abusive, but then I decided, ‘nah, I’ll write about Batman’.

Everyone is aware that I like games and I like superheroes, so it’s no surprise that I like games about superheroes. The best of these games (not that there are that many) is the Arkham series from developer Rocksteady. There is also the one that the publisher made themselves with their own development studio, but that was a bit rubbish, so we tend not to mention it. But I will mention it. Later.

First, we had Arkham Asylum, which took the gaming world by storm, appearing out of the blue from a little known studio with only one other game under their belt. It had Kevin Conroy, THE voice of Batman; it had Mark Hamill, THE voice of Joker; it had you play as the goddamn Batman (I don’t know why I enjoy quoting that so much). It wasn’t just the best superhero game ever made, it was one of the best games. It had the comic book, animated series feel about it, but was darker and grittier than anything a lot of people had seen from the franchise.

Next came Arkham City, where Batman took to the…well, the city. Rather than being cooped up in the Asylum, he was free to exercise his cape and glide about a large portion of Gotham. Fears that it wouldn’t be able to match up to the original were quickly allayed as it turned out to be even better than the first.

So the news that Rocksteady’s third Arkham game would also be their last was bittersweet. Although it would mean no more Batman from the studio who handled him so well, it also meant that the series was sure to go out with a bang (and that something very exciting might come next). Okay, hearing that Scarecrow would be the main villain of the game was a little bizarre, but with him would come a brand new villain – one that had been created alongside DC Comics themselves: the Arkham Knight.

This mysterious new villain seemed to have styled himself after Batman and looked as though he would be the ultimate match for the Dark Knight. Early trailers showed the Arkham Knight getting the upper hand in fights with Batman, and he seemed to have similar tricks and gadgets. We were all sure it was going to be good.

Well, the short version is: it wasn’t good. In my opinion, anyway.

The long version can’t really be put across without spoilers, so I’ll be sure to mention when they’re coming and start with the non-spoilers. As usual, there is no real structure to my ramblings, so let’s just start with, uhh…

The Batmobile

Batmobile

This looked like a promising addition to the series. The Batmobile is an iconic part of Batman’s arsenal, and so far we had only seen it in a few cutscenes in the other games (or game – I can’t remember if it was in City). Arkham Knight was going to take place in a bigger area than City and so Rocksteady were able to bring in the car. Car/tank, that is. The new Batmobile is one designed for this war that Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight have waged on Batman, and it transforms from car to tank in a fancy second. All the better to deal with those pesky drones driving and flying about (drones – i.e. conveniently unmanned so that Batman can blow them up).

My immediate thought was that the Riddler challenges that were sure to reprise their place in the game would be Batmobile-heavy. I was right. In fact, the entire game is Batmobile-heavy. To the point that several boss fights take place purely between your tank and theirs. Finish enough of the side missions and a new, unexpected villain appears to challenge you. One who is so sure of his skills, he would certainly give you a good fight and definitely wouldn’t cower inside a…why is he in that giant tank?

Yes, taking the place of the unique and varied boss fights is driving about trying to get behind powerful tanks to shoot their weak points, then doing pretty much the same on the boss’ tank. Except that each shot to the boss’ tank has to be followed by driving away very fast because it can somehow keep up with your jet fighter on wheels.

And that’s it. That accounts for most of the boss fights. There are two sneaky, ‘predator’ sections later on against two villains, but as far as I can recall, that’s it. Well, there is the Riddler fight too, but you’re not really fighting him in it. But THAT’S it.

It felt like Rocksteady spent so much time with the Batmobile that they couldn’t bear the thought of it being underused by players, so they forced us to use it over and over and over. In very uninteresting ways. Either that or they spent so much time on it they forgot they had to make the rest of the game.

It shows just how important it was to them that it gets damaged and worn over time, but Batman doesn’t. In the other games, his suit and cape get more ripped as the game goes on, they get dirty, his face gets bruised and cut. Not so in Arkham Knight. Not until the last 5% or so of the story.

I also can’t help but feel it’s a little stupid that you can drive into people, but it’s okay because they’re tased. Yes, tased by the front of a tank driving into them at 100mph. They’ll be perfectly fine. Even though Batman just reversed back over their unconscious bodies multiple times.

Disappearing Acts

Not too far into the story, something happens that causes Commissioner Gordon to get all stroppy with Batman and, at the time he needs the Dark Knight most, tells him to stay the hell away from his family. Makes sense. What also makes sense is that Gordon then disappears for most of the rest of the game. Only in the last two sections of the game does he reappear, with no sign of the temper tantrum he threw earlier.

Something similar could be said of other supporting characters. Nightwing, Robin and Catwoman all make an appearance and are all only in very small sections of the game. Robin has an excuse for most of his absence, but Nightwing is out there in the city, yet only appears to help beat up Penguin’s men and then disappear again. Catwoman is used only as bait. As a damsel in distress. Which I’ll complain about in a minute.

This is war. Batman is being targeted by an army. Where the hell are his allies? He had more help in Arkham City.

Underwhelming Villains

Scarecrow

Scarecrow was an odd choice. It was weird from the start. He’s not one of the more menacing villains in the Batman universe, is he? Maybe Rocksteady wanted to change that. Maybe they were just cashing in on how much people liked the Scarecrow fear-toxin-induced sections in Arkham Asylum. Who knows. They did make him a little more unpleasant this time, but they also made him a lot more sane than he seems to be in anything else – including Asylum. He has a very clear plan, a very clear goal and, it seems, a very clear mind.

But Scarecrow isn’t really the main villain, is he? Or is he? I can’t tell. I thought he was more of a backdrop for the Arkham Knight, who is working for him, but then the Knight seems to take the place as the backdrop. I think the real villain is the demon in Batman’s head. I’ll rant more about the Arkham Knight himself later.

[Potential mild spoilers here] Other villains were in the game – Two-Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn, Firefly, etc. – but they were very badly used. And under-used. They were were the result of completing some side missions. Stop a few bank robberies and Two-Face will show to take you down. There’s not even a boss fight: just take out his men and then do the same for him, just like any other enemy. Destroy enough of Penguin’s weapons caches with Nightwing and he’ll show (in a pretty ridiculous way, I might add) to teach you a lesson. Press one button and he’ll be the next one you’re driving to GCPD. It’s pretty pathetic.

Riddler is both the best and the worst of these side-villains. The others are minding their own business until Batman involves himself, but Riddler comes after Batman, just like he does in the other games. Except this time, he has built a very elaborate series of underground race tracks. Because those count as riddles, right? That’s the way to show that he’s smarter than Batman: make him drive the Batmobile round and round irritating courses. But at least there’s some form of boss fight with him…kind of.

Be The Batman

That’s how the game was marketed. It was probably how the other games were marketed too, actually, but whatever. The idea of Arkham Knight was that it was going to be the ‘ultimate Batman game/experience’. Yet, no Batcave, no meetups with Alfred for sage advice, no well-paced, meaningful encounters with other series characters. In fact, the whole game seems rushed. Not in the sense that they rushed to get it made, but that the player is rushed to get to the end. And not in a sense of urgency kind of way. Just in a ‘we can’t really be bothered to write anything much, so go and beat up the next person’ kind of way.

I think the biggest problem of all is down to…

No Paul Dini?!

Paul Dini was a writer for Batman: The Animated Series – the cartoon that is, to this day, considered one of the best animated series ever made. And for good reason. It was dark and scary, despite being for children, and really got the world and atmosphere of Batman across perfectly in those 20 minutes or so.

Batman Nightwing and Robin

Paul Dini knows Batman. He knows the supporting characters. He knows the world. He knows how to write! The same, it seems, cannot be said for the writers of Arkham Knight. According to Dini himself, he asked Warner Interactive (the publisher) about doing the third game and was told that they might not be looking so much to freelance writers for the next game. He took it to mean that if he had anything else interesting coming his way, he should take it. It sounds, then, like someone – whether Warner or Rocksteady – had already decided that they didn’t need to hire Dini for the last game. And what a massive mistake that was.

The writers of Arkham Knight actually wrote the other two games alongside Dini. It seems from this one though that Dini did all the heavy lifting. The writing here is incredibly weak, unsatisfying, nonsensical and lacking in substance and quantity. It feels like they wrote a game half the length of the game they actually made. It’s not just the writing, though; the directing is off a lot of the time. But then, the director is also one of the writers.

Even from the start, something felt off (I only later discovered that Dini hadn’t written it). The game just kind of…is happening. It doesn’t seem to start – you’re just playing. Things happen without explanation, characters know things that they have no reason to know. For [spoilerific] example, Scarecrow kidnaps Oracle at one point, but he doesn’t actually tell Batman she’s been kidnapped. He says ‘Let me go or she dies.’ A quick call to Oracle shows that she is still okay until the feed cuts off with her screaming. Which part of that says ‘kidnap’? Yet Batman starts talking about her having been kidnapped. Not to mention that atrocious writing where Oracle ignores Batman telling her to get out. She just tells him no one knows she’s there. What a moron! She’s Batgirl. She’s Oracle. She’s been Batman’s friend for a long time. She should not be so incredibly stupid and she should know better than most that when Batman shouts at you to ‘get out now’, you get the absolute hell out!

In short, the game was hit badly by Paul Dini’s absence.

Sexism

Yes, when I noticed something on Google about the game’s sexist treatment of women, I rolled my eyes and assumed it was probably Anita whatsherface spewing more hate and lies at anything that will get attention for her. But the more I played, the more I began to agree. ‘Sexism’ might be too strong a term for it – one that people love to use as much as possible for the smallest things, thus diluting it – but it’s certainly bad use of female characters. There are only three female characters of note in the game: Oracle/Barbara Gordon, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn. Harley barely counts, because she’s in it for a very short time. That said, the DLC that gives you 10 minutes playing as her does have her telling Penguin where to stick his umbrella more than once, so that’s…something, I suppose.

[Mild Spoilers] Catwoman is so badly used it’s almost laughable. She is there for no other reason than some weak justification for starting the Riddler’s challenges. He has taken her captive and will detonate a bomb collar around her neck if you don’t complete his challenges and help her get a series of keys to deactivate said collar. So she sits there while her Dark Knight in dull spandex armour goes off, heroically…driving his car round and round underground racetracks.

[Still Mild Spoilers] She does at least help you beat up some of Riddler’s robots, but even her part in some of the ‘riddles’ is as helper. Then as soon as you’ve freed her, she disappears. She comes back to help fight him at the end, but that’s it. Even her dialogue isn’t what it could have been. She tells Batman to be careful and thanks him at one point I think (in a roundabout way at least), which just doesn’t fit her character.

Oracle

[BIG Spoilers] Oracle is the worst though. I already mentioned one part of her awful writing. But even that bit goes a little beyond just bad writing. It’s making her the stereotypical helpless, oblivious female character who doesn’t realise the danger even though it’s being practically spelled out for her. Then, of course, getting herself hurt/killed/kidnapped/whatever. It’s the moronic ‘You’re in danger, you have to run!’, ‘Don’t be silly, I’m fine’ kind of nonsense trope. But it gets so much worse.

[Still BIG spoilers] Let’s not forget that Oracle – aka Barbara Gordon – was Batgirl until Joker shot her through the spine. So to have her kidnapped so easily and then dragged away without a fight is just ridiculous. Yes, she’s in a wheelchair. So the hell what? The character of Oracle has been, as far as I’m aware, something of an inspiration to comic book readers with disabilities. Being wheelchair-bound might have changed her life, but it didn’t destroy her. It put an end to the Batgirl alter ego, but gave birth to Oracle: the leader, among other vital roles, of her own team of superheroes. She makes people pay time and again for underestimating her either for being a girl or for being in a wheelchair. Rocksteady decided to brush that aside and make her just another damsel in distress, whimpering and screaming as she’s taken away.

[Still BIG spoilers] The best she could do while being taken away was cause the car to crash, giving her a chance to leave a clue for Batman. That’s it. No doubt had Rocksteady decided to show us that from inside the car, it would have involved her slapping and scratching the driver ‘like a girl’. But the worst was still to come. When Batman finally caught up with her, [Seriously BIG, BIG spoiler!] Scarecrow releases his fear toxin to make her fear Batman. In order to stop him ‘getting her’, she shoots herself in the head. Now, [Even bigger more seriously BIG spoiler!] I know that later on, it’s revealed that it was actually Batman who was under the influence of the toxin, and she didn’t shoot herself, but that happens so much later that the player is left with that impression of an incredibly weak and pathetic version of Oracle ingrained in their mind. Not to mention Batman should have known she wouldn’t behave like that.

The Arkham Knight

The Arkham Knight

I’m running out of steam, so let’s talk/ramble/rant about the biggest let down. The Arkham Knight is a ludicrously weak villain. From my first encounter with him, I was underwhelmed. Rather than the anti-Batman that I expected from the trailers, he just sounded like a whining, spoilt brat. He didn’t really get the upper hand on Batman, save for one time that had no repercussions at all. For the majority of the game, he just became one of those voices on the other end of the enemies’ earpieces that get on your nerves quite quickly, always throwing insults and empty threats at you – oh, they’re going to kill me this time, just like the last five times you told me that? He was a pitiful, disappointing character as the Arkham Knight and it only got worse once his helmet came off.

I wrote an article about who the Arkham Knight could be. My favourite idea was that he was actually Batman himself. The Dark Knight’s worst fears realised – an evil version of himself. The idea of Scarecrow’s fear toxin creating the villain was an intriguing one, but the moment the two interacted, it was obvious my already far-fetch idea was wrong.

[The BIGGEST spoilers!] I did, accidentally, mention the true identity though. It turns out that the Arkham Knight is none other than Robin number 2, Jason Todd. Which…is absolutely ludicrous. First, there was no mention of Todd in either of the other two games, even though Rocksteady said they had laid down their plans for the entire trilogy from the start. Second, and most important, Jason Todd is already Red Hood! I dismissed the idea as ridiculous, not only for this fact, but for the fact that Red Hood would feature in DLC for the game.

[Still the BIGGEST spoilers] Rocksteady did a stupid twisty thing, where this is kind of Red Hood’s origin story. He comes back as the Arkham Knight (thanks to Joker brainwashing him, rather than killing him), and then goes on to become Red Hood – because Batman talks to him for 10 seconds. It’s insanely stupid and weak. And if I hadn’t been so sure that Rocksteady wouldn’t be that stupid, it would have been blatantly obvious that it was Jason Todd. Not only from all that the Knight knew, but from the fact that Batman keeps seeing flashbacks of Todd in his mind.

The End

Not the end of the article/rant, sorry. The end of the game. I won’t even bother going into detail. I’ll just say it is absolutely atrocious and mildly insulting. There’s not even any proper closure to it, and it even gives rise to questions. Worst of all, it pretty well destroys any chance of an eventual Justice League game, which a lot of players were hoping was the long term goal. And why didn’t Superman have a cameo?!

The Good Bits

Naturally, it wasn’t all rubbish. Just most of it. The switching between characters mid-fight was pretty good, though kind of pointless at the same time. I think they just needed to add new features. The Batmobile was a good addition, just far too heavily featured. The fear takedowns were also very good but, again, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to put them to good use.

[Joint BIGGEST spoiler!] The best thing of all though, was the Joker. Yes, the Joker is dead, but he also lives on in Batman’s mind. A combination of the tainted blood Joker injected him with in City and the fear toxin. Although it gets a bit much at times, his scenes are mostly pretty good. And while I thought the series was over-saturated with Joker, I found myself not minding the way he was in this game. Again he was kind of the main villain, but in a far more interesting way: trying to take over Batman, trying to make him kill.

So, although I really don’t understand how it got so many 10/10s (I think I’d probably give it a 7 at the most), at the end of the day, you get to glide about being vengeance. Being the night. Being Batman.

Batman