Monthly Archives: May 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise

ENT Title

Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer
Jolene Blalock as Sub-commander T’pol
Connor Trinneer as Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker
Dominic Keating as Lieutenant Malcolm Reed
John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox
Anthony Montgomery as Ensign Travis Mayweather
Linda Park as Ensign Hoshi Sato

Note: this was originally called Enterprise but renamed Star Trek: Enterprise later.

I can’t believe some hardcore Trekkies think the new movies by JJ Abrams have ruined Star TrekStar Trek: Enterprise is what ruined it (although in fairness, it is a black mark on those films that their timeline includes this show in their continuity…) I’m thankful I didn’t get UPN when it was on the air, saving me a lot of depression at watching something that used to be great go to shit. But lest some apologists of this show think I revealed something I shouldn’t have, let there be Netflix! I had heard that Enterprise got better later on like most of its predecessors. So I watched. And not just the later episodes. I’ve seen virtually every episode of the third season, much of the other three, and my position on the show stands.

It takes place a hundred years before Kirk. Humans and Vulcans are trading partners instead of members of the Federation, which doesn’t exist yet in any case. Klingons are first contacted in this series. Quite a concept, actually. To this show’s credit, there is a feel of of a crew both just barely in the space age and before humans are a major galactic power. Ships use grappling hooks instead of tractor beams, don’t have much in the way of recreation for crewmen, there’s no holodeck, food is natural, and the Enterprise for this show is less powerful than what some other species have.

Alas, that’s all that is done right with the premise. Now, I’m not about to bash this for stupid, uber-geeky reasons like ships looking more “advanced” (meaning the special effects are post-9/11, not worse than those of the ’60s) than they will in the future or the fact that there are species that never appeared in other series. I’ll even admit that Enterprise’s continuity problems are often exaggerated, with the exception of the Borg and Ferengi (and it should be noted that the Borg episode is one of the better ones) appearing despite being encountered for the “first time” in Next Generation. Besides, there were some gaffes in the past as well. Like the movie with the eye patch Klingon that dates the Federation/Klingon peace back to Kirk even though Next Generation, which takes place many decades later, strongly implies that the alliance is fairly recent. Where were fanboys then?

But episodes are pretty generic. More than a few plots were done on previous shows. More importantly, few episodes look like they couldn’t have been done on any of the other shows. They’re not particularly well-written, either. A generic Trek story on fanfiction.net could have more or less the same writing style as here.

And then there’s the characters.

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Left to right: white Sulu, female Spock, black Chekov, Kirk, Asian Uhura, Scotty, alien McCoy.

I got my first sinking feeling when I saw that image just before Enterprise went on the air. The cast is almost as interesting as that picture makes it look. Well, that’s not true. I do like Trip and Hoshi. But that’s all. T’Pol is a use of the same sex appeal as was used with Seven of Nine from Voyager. Archer is the worst. He’s basically Kirk with a little of Picard sprinkled on top. This kind of arrangement never works. The actors are actually acceptable but the forgettable characters don’t give them much to work with.

Enterprise went through a lot of changes over time. Its ratings were down nearly the entire way and lots of quick fixes were attempted. Brannon Braga, Enterprise head writer for most of its run, has claimed that Star Trek is simply too old a concept. The success of the 2009 movie and the comparable box office returns of Into Darkness (although it’s still in theaters as I type), to say nothing of franchises that have either been in cinema or on TV for decades, such as James Bond and the X-men, rather conclusively refute that. What Enterprise needed was competence.

As Enterprise changed over time, I think I’ll do little descriptions of each season.

Season 1: The pilot was fine. It had a well enough introduction to a “new” enemy: the Klingons. And it brought some nice conflict between the Humans and Vulcans. T’Pol’s brief betrayal went too far and other mistakes were made. Enterprise writers clearly needed to step up their game.

Instead, this season got to be possibly the worst in Star Trek history. Dialogue was cheesy, plots unimaginative, and character interaction token. Some goofy episodes like Trip being impregnated by an alien woman didn’t help. This season wasn’t quite as bad as what one of the show’s main competitor, Andromeda, was doing, but it sure was close.

Contrary to the obsessively critical fans I complained about earlier, some Star Trek geeks always have an excuse for any mistake this franchise makes. Their excuse for this season was that all Treks (save the original) start off weak. That they never conceived that this might have always been a problem speaks to why the franchise has so much trouble appealing to those who aren’t already fans: it’s isolated from conventional standards. Did the Simpsons, the Sopranos, or Smallville go through an early period of not knowing what they needed to be? No. An unwillingness or inability to rectify the mistakes of the past, more than anything else, is what killed this show.

Season 2: For the most part, no different from the first season. quality is still quite low. However, it did end with the creation of a new foe. The Xindi are an alliance of races who take orders from incorporeal creatures who mislead them about humans. This made some hopeful about the third season.

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By this point, they were sexing it up out of desperation. I’m SHOCKED that this didn’t save the show.

Season 3: This season is about the Enterprise crew trying to find the Xindi and assure them that Earth means them no harm. The first couple episodes prove to be pretty good. It was still the sort of storyline that could have been done on the other shows, but for the first time in a long time, there was some heart and soul. There was suspense tension. There were some good episodes. That scene near season’s end where the Enterprise is blasted by three Xindi ships and the decks are literally torn up from within was a classic.

In my review of DS9, I noted that it’s story arcs were advanced only every once in a while and sporadically. This show is the same way. The problem is that this approach to storytelling had come a long way since the 1990s. It had pretty much become the standards for arcs to proceed episode-to-episode. The result is that the Xindi plot stalled after the first few episodes. Result? Twenty hours worth of material are stuffed in the last five or six episodes of the season. Perhaps you see the problem.

All said, the third season was about hit-miss. But hit-miss actually qualifies for Enterprise’s glory days.

Season 4: Changes are made again. Instead of a constant story arc, this season has a few arcs that span two or three episodes each. Writing is again sloppy. The fourth season is nonetheless recalled fondly because of all the fanwankery in it.. There’s a trip to the mirror universe, the Orion slave girls return for the first time since the ’60s, we learn why Klingons look human in Kirk’s time, the great-grandfather of Data’s creator pops up, and for the finale, Riker and Troi appear.

Services to the fans do not make up for bad TV. As this was a bad show, it did not break my heart when I heard that Enterprise was to be cancelled.

And yet, some people apparently penned a series of “relaunch” books that continue Archer and the gang’s voyages. But I’ve had quite enough of this show. Catch it only if you have to see everything Star Trek.

Overall: 3 out of 10

Star Trek: Voyager

VOY Title

Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
Tim Russ as Lt. Commander Tuvok
Robert Picardo as the Doctor
Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres
Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
(Seasons 4-7) Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
(Seasons 1-3) Jennifer Lien as Kes
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim

Although not exactly unsuccessful, Star Trek: Voyager is a show that people either love or hate. Here are the arguments:

Voyager is the best Trek series because it brought Star Trek back to its episodic, exploratory, idealistic roots.

Voyager is the worst Trek series because it had no continuity or even plan beyond the crisis of the week.

Personally, I can see good points on both sides. The pilot brings us the tale of a starship being marooned eighty years away from Earth. An interesting concept. One that absolutely nothing is done with. With the exception of the replicators being turned off and food being collected from planets they visited by away teams, life on Voyager doesn’t seem any more difficult than life on the Enterprises. this brings me to the main problem with this show: it’s basically a copy of The Next Generation. That is barely a figure of speech. A typical Voyager episodes is about helping the rocky-headed aliens of the week or dealing with a mass of stuff that can do just about anything as long as the word “anomaly” appears enough in the script.

What this show should have done is actually show us what life away from home is like. That means making it easier for everyone to collapse under pressure, having the crew struggle to keep from running out of equipment needed to keep Voyager running, and perhaps situations that truly challenged the long-held principles of the Federation.

VOY1

I give you Neelix, Star Trek’s most annoying character.

I can pinpoint the very episode where this show permanently turned away from this. In addition to marooning the crew, it is also stuck with a Maquis crew that’s also marooned. Reluctantly, the Maquis crew join Voyager because more people working towards getting home mean a greater chance for all. Created in Deep Space Nine, the Maquis are renegade humans who refused to leave their homes when their planets were given to the Cardassians as part of a treaty. Logically, this would create grumbling if not mutiny. But no. After Chakotay and Torres insist that they will never be Starfleet puppets, they almost immediately fall into line. The first season finale involves rank-and-file Maquis finding it difficult to play by Starfleet’s rules. They finally agree to do things by the book. From that moment, Voyager’s approach became take no risks, make no changes to the Trek formula, and do nothing that even makes any long-term impact.

But unlike many critics of this show, I’m not about to bitch excessively about missed opportunities. Voyager is what it is. And what it is can be quite entertaining. The characters (except, of course, for the annoying Neelix) are quite enjoyable. A woman is in captain’s chair for the very first time. Kathryn Janeway is a reasonably likeable leader. femine but not stereotypically weak. It’s a nice touch to give her a side project as a novelist. Chakotay was pretty good in the first season. Misuse and then neglect reduced him to a guy who sits next to Janeway on the bridge. Same with Tuvok, who serves well as Janeway’s confidante and friend in the first season only to be overlooked later. Regardless, Tim Russ plays a Vulcan just as well as Leonard Nimoy did. B’Elanna and Tom are occasional misfits who mature into good people and eventually get together. The Doctor is probably the best character on the show. He’s a holographic doctor who’s turned on when the designated doctor is killed. The Doctor was never meant for continuous use and ends up discovering what it means to be human. Robert Picardo breathes life into this character with a healthy amount of cynicism and curiousity. Harry Kim is a fine rookie with a lot to learn… for a while. He loses credibility after a few years pass because he’s still acting like he’s fresh out of the academy.

And of course, the most famous character of them all: Seven of Nine. Seven replaces the rather forgettable Kes in the fourth season. She’s a Borg Collective who is rescued by the Voyager crew and her individuality is restored. Like the Doctor, she’s trying to become human because it seems that while you take a Borg out of the Collective, you can’t take the Collective out of a Borg. The reason Seven is the most famous character is because she’s used so often. She basically became the mascot of the show on UPN; if memory serves, the commercials called her “the Borg babe.”

VOY2

The real star of the show. Care to guess why?

UPN. Ugh. Other than Star Trek shows and WWE Smackdown!, did anyone watch any show on that channel for any length of time? I remember being grossed out whenever I tried to watch that crappy channel.

Back on topic. Voyager’s true strength is in individual episodes. They provide good space action, character drama, and some of the best effects of the time. Yes, there were some awful episodes like Threshold. But prior Treks had And the Children Shall Lead,Genesis, and Let He Who Is Without Sin… At the same time, this series has great episodes like Death Wish and Scorpion, Part I,the latter of which is the episode that brings the Borg into Voyager. While this was an indication that the writers were running out of ideas, the Borg proved to be a welcome addition. None of the other villains were particularly great, although the Vidiians were kinda cool.

So long as you accept this show for what it is, it might have merited a seven if not for the fact that the arrival home is royally botched. It’s literally the last seconds of the last episode before it happens. And after all the building up, too. Janeway had that novel I mentioned, and a fiance at home as well. Tuvok, Tom, and Harry talk about family they haven’t been able to see because they’ve been lost. Will the Maquis do prison time or be forgiven in light of their acts of service on this voyage? This is the sort of stuff we needed to see. Instead, the last line is, “set a course… for home.”

My verdict on Voyager: passable and nothing more.

Overall: 6 out of 10

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

DS9 Title

Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Nana Visiter as Major/Colonel Kira Nerys
Rene Auberjonois as Security Chief (nicknamed “Constable”) Odo
Colm Meaney as Chief of Operations Miles O’Brien
(Seasons 1-6) Terry Farrell as Lieutenant/Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax
Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf
Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir
Armin Shimmerman as Quark
(Season 7) Nicole de Boer as Lieutenant Ezri Dax

This is probably my favorite Star Trek series. It was probably the most professionally written of them all, was one of the first TV shows to use the now-standard story arcs, and although you can tell that this style of writing had yet to be perfected, it is used to great effect.

Deep Space Nine broke tradition in a big way. Instead of a starship, It takes place on a space station. We’re told that the Cardassians have left Bajor and the station as part of an exchange of territory. This liberates the planet and establishes a Federation presence in the Bajoran system. That presence is concentrated on an abandoned Cardassian station: Deep Space Nine. This changes a lot. There’s a lot more sets, including the Promenade, where Quark, a Ferengi who runs a restaurant/bar/casino, is the prime mover. This makes for a combination of military and civilian characters on the show. Actually, it reminds me of the military base and civilian housing areas I lived in many years ago. Obviously, this means that “to seek out new life and new civilizations” is a no-go. So the cast finds a wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant of the galaxy (the Cardies must have felt real good about abandoning the system when that happened). This means that new life comes to DS9, not vice versa.

DS91

The did get a ship, albeit one that looked curiously like the Millennium Falcon eventually, though.

Performance for performance, DS9 probably has the best acting of any of these shows. Avery Brooks isn’t as good an actor as Patrick Stewart, but you give him a good script and he will manage. Colm Meaney (O’brien) is an actor who, outside of Star Trek, generally plays a grumpy dick. Here he’s a working stiff and family man. standout performances include Rene Auberjonois (Odo) as a Changeling and hard-as-nails cop with a soft spot nontheless, Nana Visiter (Kira) as the station’s First Officer and free-spirited Bajoran,  Garak (Andrew Robinson) as a Cardassian exile who is delightfully untrusting and dishonest, and Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun) as a duplicitous Vorta for the Dominion.

The Dominion is a Gamma Quadrant empire that is mentioned in numerous episodes before finally turning up at the end of the second season, quickly supplanting the Cardassians as the series’ primary villains. They control many planets with two races of organic machines: the Jem’Hadar and Vorta. Their rulers are the Founders who turn out to be Odo’s people (he was once thought to be only one of his kind). After three years of brinksmanship, the Dominion starts a war with the Federation and Klingon Empire. This was always something Kirk and Picard always did their best to avoid. In this case, though, it can’t be helped, war is forced on us.

DS92

Either that’s space bugs or we’re really f@cked now!

Religion plays a stronger role in this spinoff than in any of the others. The Kai (equivilent to Pope) of Bajor, Opaka, identifies Sisko as the Emissary of the Prophets (gods). This leads to many episodes in which Sisko is confronted by puzzles with a vague connection to Bajoran prophecies. He is also often contacted by the Prophets themselves, who seem to live in the wormhole. Except that like many of gods in fiction, they consider themselves above us mortals. Consequently, they listen to Sisko but talk to each other, not him.

DS9 has a much weaker first season, although not bad. Upon entering the second, season, it’s uphill. The stories improve greatly, the continuity-driven story arcs I mentioned earlier come into play, and socially relevent themes are used. I think that if more people had stuck  with the show, it would be more well-thought of . But Star Trek shows, with the exception of the original (which, as I noted in my review of it, had its own problems), seem to take awhile to warm up.

DS93

DS94

DS95

DS96

DS97

Odo’s morphing is pretty cool. And pretty high-budget.

The one negative critique I have about this show is that the story arcs aren’t constantly advanced. New developments occur in quick, occasional bursts. This is really not the way to go. But as it was a new concept, it can be forgiven.

Often overlooked, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is my favorite show in the franchise. A sci-fi masterpiece!

Overall: 9 out of 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation

TNG title

Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
LeVar Burton as Lt. Commander Geordi la Forge
Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
(Season 1) Denise Crosby as Lieutenant Tasha Yar
(Seasons 1-3) Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher

By 1987, there had been a live-action series, an animated series, and four full-length movies, all starring the original cast. It was then decided that it was time for a new series. Headed by Gene Roddenberry in the first couple of seasons but not after that due to his health, this series has a similar premise but takes place a full hundred years after the original. McCoy does make a guest appearance, as do Spock, Scotty, and Spock’s father, but for the most part, they tried to avoid too many connections to the past. This show sought to stand out on its own.

For one thing, the role of the Captain becomes very different from the original. Jean-Luc Picard isn’t young, aggressive, all that good with the ladies, or even very strong. Diplomacy and thinking are what he does best. Lower-ranked officers Data and Worf are the heavy hitters of this show.

TNG1

En garde. Or whatever that means in Klingon, not that I’d ever learn a fake language.

By most accounts, Roddenberry wanted the original to be a character ensemble. The network nixed the idea but by this time, Roddenberry had built up enough clout and respect to make this vision a reality. Most episodes focus on a specific character. Data and his attempts to be human probably being the most frequent candidate. Other character studies include Riker turning down command posts because he prefers the Enterprise, Worf trying to maintain his Klingon values despite having spent the vast majority of his life among humans, and Troi’s embarrassment by the annual visits of her mother, Lwaxana.

TNG is probably one of the less action-packed Treks out there. Plot and technological mishaps are center stage. Romance also occurs often. Some even call this “Star Trek for women.”

Compared to the original, TNG takes a different path in galactic politics as well. The Klingon Empire is now an ally of the Federation, albeit a somewhat embarrassing ally. You see, the Klingons are a violent, Dark Ages race of warriors while the Feds are basically a hippie pipe dream.

“The first mate to mention me prem’ture hair loss walks the airlock!”

The most frequent villainous races are the devious Romulans, super-capitalistic Ferengi, and fascistic Cardassians. The prime antagonist, however, was Q. Q is a omnipotent being with a patronizing fascination with the crew of the new Enterprise. He sets up puzzles for for our heroes to get through, one of which takes them to Sherwood Forrest as caricatures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

The performances are pretty good, Patrick Stewart in particular. No Shatner overacting here.

If the truth be told, this show had a rather rocky start. This was due to a writer’s strike and the fact that Roddenberry was in bad health. I think the first season was alright, but the second was pretty bad. Thankfully, a shakeup was right around the corner and the series became very well-polished, although some episodes in the last season (particularly that one where the crew mutates) are pretty bad. It’s Q Who, the episode in which they encounter the Borg, in which the show turns around. The Borg are of course race organic machines with a single mind and the ability to “adapt” to lasers, making them all but unbeatable. In fact, the Enterprise actually loses in this episode. A season later, Picard (spoiler) gets turned into a Borg himself, making for a betrayal of a sort.

TNG3

Another of the show’s most famous moments. Ironically, the episode in which it happened totally sucked.

One very annoying character is Wesley Crusher. I can understand that they wanted someone for the kids to relate to, but I don’t know about this character. His smile makes me cringe when I see it. But he leaves for the academy in the fourth season. No biggie.

A very admirable spin-off. Here’s hoping that the new version someday gets around to this.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Star Trek: The Original Series

Startrek

William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock
DeForrest Kelley as Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy
James Doohan as Lt. Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott
George Takei as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
(Seasons 2-3) Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov

Note: although this show was originally just called Star Trek, it was later lengthened into the five-word title in the name of this review. This is confirmed on the official site.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to do a fair review of this show. The original Star Trek is a cultural icon, yet in many ways it doesn’t stand the test of time. This was a true sci-fi pioneer and, man, does it show. The acting, look, direction, and, to a lesser extent, the plots are very amateurish.

So it should come as no surprise that this show didn’t get all that many viewers and, therefore, died after three seasons, though it was popularized later in reruns. I present to you this series’ most famous scene and one we all forced ourselves to enjoy, even though we all knew all along that it sucked:

But it beat the hell out of that 1950s sci-fi crap. That was full of atrocious dialogue and lame scripts that wanted to scream, “it’s high-tech! This is cool, dammit!” Which just goes to show how little a clue anyone had about this genre.

Point is, we may be spoiled, but we’re spoiled by competence.

The acting is hit-miss at best. I think Leonard Nimoy and DeForrest Kelley were always good actors, but the rest of cast is kind of lacking. William Shatner is, of course, the ultimate overactor. Those Family Guy bits of him changing his expressions mid-sentence really are apt. However, his performances can work simply because of Shatner’s personality. The best way to describe him is as a charismatic guy who can’t act.

trektv

If your definition of “awesome” includes erratically changing your face and tone of voice while talking.

The effects were of course underwhelming, to say the least. It was the the 1960s, what do you expect? So we get starships that are essentially cardboard in space, laser beams (called “phasers” for all you ready to fanwank) that sound like alarms, aliens who look like normal people, and so on.

I’m much more praiseful of the plots. These are actually very good stories. The show is about the crew of the starship Enterprise, which is on a five-year mission to explore deep space. This leads to encounters with people on planets. Some friendly, some not. Actually, a lot not, given the need for drama.

Some episodes don’t actually involve meeting aliens. There’s a number of episodes about a crisis like a virus on the ship that causes everybody to lose control of themselves.

Still, I have one major pet peeve about the plots: The fact that they had Kirk challenging the bad guy to a fistfight despite the weapons at his disposal. He would just beam to where his opposite number is and start a brawl. The spin-offs set a century later reveal that it’s since become standard procedure for the Captain to not attend away teams shows that even the writers of those shows didn’t think “beam over there and punch” should be the strategy of the boss of a major military craft.

Star Trek: The Original Series is often associated with tolerance. There was an alien, a black woman, an Asian, and a Russian (keep in mind that this was right in the middle of the Cold War). This was not a small thing. It was still the era of blacks being portrayed as monkeys in some cartoons. And while it wasn’t actually unheard of for an alien to be a hero like Spock is, it certainly was rare. Naturally, this lead to some episodes that gave us an in-depth look at Spock’s people, the Vulcans.

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Although just between you and me, Gene Roddenberry was probably a lot less forward-thinking on gender than race.

Despite my reservations, I would recommend that you watch at least a few episodes of this show if you haven’t already. May I suggest the Naked Time, Mirror, Mirror, and the Enterprise Incident.

Overall (on a tremendous curve): 8 out of 10

Star Trek Month

With Star Trek Into Darkness soon to be released, I’m going to do some reviews of what’s come before in this franchise. Whether you think it’s good or boring, you have to recognize that it’s enduring. A franchise doesn’t last nearly fifty  years by accident. So I shall pay my tribute to it over the next couple weeks.

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

LEGO Batman 2 Title

The LEGO series is truly a marvel of product placement. Basically, it’s about various popular franchises that LEGO has seen fit to make toys based on. These toys are used as the people, objects and miscellaneous things in the games. They might as well do load screens with advertisements for more lego crap while they’re at it.

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“Let’s make this into a video game. It’ll make a killing!”

Yet I can’t be too hard on this game. Why? Because I like it. Really. It’s a lot of fun to play even though it’s very easy to blast through. Lego Star Wars is the only other game in the series I’ve played and to be honest, I’m not sure how much of the improvements I mention occurred in previous games. I do know that the city and control of the vehicles make for great improvement by comparison.

Plot: 6 out of 10

The basic storyline is in two parts:

1.) After the Joker is captured early on, Lex Luthor stages an attack on Arkham Asylum that enables all of its inmates to break free and run amok. Obviously, Batman and Robin have to get all the psychos back behind bars or in their case, a windowed door.

2.) Lex Luthor is running for President with the Joker’s help. The Arkham breakout is intended both as a distraction and to break out the Joker. They use machinery to brainwash the populace into voting Luthor into office and kill Batman and Robin. This will also get Superman, Luthor’s usual opposite number, into Gotham for awhile. Robin is happy to have Superman’s help, but the predictably distrustful Batman is resistant.

OK, so it’s not the best plot. But the dialogue does help redeem it, particularly on character interactions. Supes is used well in this crossover game.  I can’t say the same about Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and the Cyborg answering a call to arms at the end. They seem rushed in for appearance’s sake.

Graphics: 7 out of 10

It looks pretty good for the Wii. Not really, for the other non-handheld systems it’s on. But it does capture the Batman, DC Comics and LEGO feel. As noted, the graphics are modeled after LEGOs. I guess they pull it off.

Sound: 9 out of 10

I struggle a little on the music. Much of it is basically composer Danny Elfman’s scores from the movies Batman and Batman Returns. Lego Star Wars made similar use of the music from its own respective source material. It’s easy to call this a sneaky way out. Then again, those songs are so good that I didn’t mind listening to them again. The music this game can call its own isn’t half-bad either.

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Also, if you’re flying through the city with Superman, they play the awesome theme song from his movies.

The voice acting is pretty solid. Everybody sounds like the character they are playing. Especially Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. I remember watching Superman: the Animated Series well. It’s great to see Clancy playing the character again although I doubt he’d say the same. He probably wishes he’d have gone beyond voice-overs by now. Tough break.

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

This game has a bird’s eye perspective. you have up to six characters in each level that you can alternate between. Who they are varies except that Batman is the only one who’s a character in each level. You go through the levels fighting criminals and solving puzzles.

Batman and Robin fight with punch-kick combos, throw Batarangs, and use grappling guns to swing from ledge to ledge. Objects known as studs can be collected. At the end of every level, you’re given a chance at a Super Hero rating. Getting that rating requires a certain amount of studs. Batman and Robin can also get additional abilities by obtaining special suits, such as Batman’s Electric Suit and Robin’s Ice Suit.

In between levels, you’re in Gotham City. You can use the Batcomputer (and Alfred’s voice) to find your next mission. Or you can search Gotham for studs and other stuff used to keep score. This is definitely one of those games in which you don’t actually have to stick to the goals. In fact, a search will reveal battles with villains not a direct part of the story but will enable you to purchase with studs so as to add to your list of characters available for levels you’ve already completed. You navigate Gotham by car/bike, aircraft, or boat.

Other characters, those with superpowers, are available in a number of levels. They have the following powers:

Superman: eyebeams, freezing breath, flight, invulnerability, regeneration, use of superstrength triggers.
Wonder Woman: punches and kicks as refined as B&R’s, flight, regeneration, invulnerability*, use of superstrength triggers.
Green Lantern: flight, use of objects made of the same energy as his power ring.
Flash: fast movement. Much too fast for enemies to keep up.
Cyborg: eyebeams, use of superstrength triggers.

All in all, a very fun game. I do recommend that you be ready to do some sidequests, though. It’s more fun.

*In comic book geek circles, there’s a bit of debate on how tough she is. Does she block bullets with her indestructible bracelets because she has to, or is it just her Amazon training kicking in and that she’s really bulletproof? I always figured that she wouldn’t block if she didn’t have to. Clearly, the programmers disagree.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

This game isn’t hard to beat at all. You have unlimited lives. This may seem like a deal-breaker but this series is still reasonably challenging because you lose a lot of studs every time you die, hurting your chances of achieving the Super Hero rating. Besides, the puzzles can keep you busy. Also, it’s fun to find the hidden stuff.

There is, however one giant problem. You’re able to use Superman or Wonder Woman in nearly half the levels. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said they were invulnerable. Lemme break it down. If you’re using one of them, YOU CAN’T BE HURT! In theory, you can still fall into a pit. But are your really going to forget to fly? What are you, a character from the Super Friends?

Superman does attack slower and more clumsily than B&R, obviously because he’s not as good a hand-to-hand combatant. Maybe they thought this a fair drawback. Also, he’s beset by the occasional kryptonite. But Superman automatically heals lost energy, so it doesn’t matter that they sometimes force you to not use Supes; you can just switch back and wait until you heal. And in the last level in which you get Wonder Woman, she doesn’t have even these pitiful limitations.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Nevertheless, I find this to be quite a fun game. Just don’t be surprised if using Superman, Wonder Woman, and anyone else with invulnerability hurts your experience.