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Nazi Killin’ Fun

Sometimes a movie will just be a huge surprise, like Iron Man, and manage to be impressive in every way and exceeding any expectations anyone has for the film.  Much like Iron Man before it, Captain America: the First Avenger is that kind of movie.  Clever, charming, if a little simple, Captain America is probably the summer’s top blockbuster.

Set during World War II, Captain America follows 98 pound weakling Steve Rogers, who, having been bullied his whole life, wants desperately to stand up to the biggest bully of them all, Hitler.  After being rejected several times for enlistment, Rogers is picked up by a special Allied “Science Unit” designed to breed an army of super soldiers and he is subsequently embroiled in a conflict with the Red Skull and his Hydra cult, and their desire to conquer the world.

This movie has a lot in common with the original Iron Man.  It hits a lot of the same plot points and concepts and it has the same basic story structure, for good and ill.  This is a good thing for Captain America though, because it gives the audience a very strong first and second act, which is a very smart character study of Rogers and the people around him.  Just like Iron Man, it goes through the process of realistically building Rogers into the hero he is destined to become.  It takes the time to show his transformation while studying what effect this has on him and the people around him.  It’s not just Rogers who gets time to shine, but Bucky, Peggy Carter and Colonel Phillips all get a lot of growth in the first two thirds of the movie.

Unfortunately, around the time the bad guy really shows up and starts to be threatening, it’s also where the movie loses a lot of momentum, an unfortunate trait inherited from Iron Man.  The last third of the movie comes off as truncated and rushed, which is disappointing because the third act begins right as Rogers really becomes Captain America, but the audience only sees a montage of Rogers being Captain America before jumping right to the last couple of action sequences.  It makes the last part of the film seem rushed and unfinished.

Which is a shame, because the action sequences are amazing.  They’re well set up and they do a great job of blending the super hero mythos with common World War II film expectations.  Unfortunately, most of these scenes are in a single montage of unrelated missions where Captain America, Bucky and the Howling Commandos blow up some Hyrda goons.  This montage is sandwhich between two great action set pieces that do a great job of establishing and growing Rogers as a character, which causes the issue to stand out even more than it should.

The movie really shines with its characters, especially Rogers.  Chris Evans totally sells this movie, absolutely becoming Steve Rogers.  Even when CGI’d in half, there’s no point where Evans doesn’t come off as anything less than genuine.  His performance is what makes this movie and brings out some of the best scenes in the movie, demanding some top notch performances from the supporting cast.  Bucky, Howard Star and Peggy Carter all get more weight, more personality and become more real when Evans interacts with them.  Even at the end of the film, when the movie tries to switch into dumb action mode, Evans makes sure there’s still a sense of character.

However, when Evans isn’t around, some of the characters have difficulty standing on their own, or are woefully under utilized.  Peggy Carter is the most “under utilized” of any character, devolving from a true SIS Spy to a mewling secretary whenever Rogers isn’t on the screen.  She doesn’t even get to utilize the skills she’s supposed to have, and that’s unfortunate.  The Red Skull is one of those characters who just doesn’t stand very well.  Hugo Weaving does a good job with his traditional unnerving villain character and, although I like that I think V for Vendetta and Lord of the Rings prove he’s got more range as a hero, but unfortunately, he’s just not a very interesting villain.  He doesn’t really have a personality or a motivation, he just wants to take over the world, M. Bison style.  His best performances are next to Evans, but once Evans isn’t on the screen, it’s clear there’s not a person there.

On the whole, it’s a good, fun movie.  Cap never actually fights Nazis, which is weird for a World War II movie, but that doesn’t really change the fact it’s a well done, character driven action movie.  It stumbles a bit there at the end, and again when it tires to tie in some more Marvel continuity, but other than that, it’s great.


Balancing the Budget

This is going to be a short one, since it’s late and I want to go back to reading the Dresden Files.  I’ve got to give thanks to my friend John for setting me up with tonight’s idea, by the way, since most of these concepts are his.  We sat down and I grilled him about games and movies and this is basically what he gave me, so I need to give credit where it’s due.  Thanks John.

This is me

It’s no surprise that one of the things that made the original Star Wars movies so successful was the characters.  They were wonderful, believable characters in a fantastic, but relateable world.  Yes, there were “all manner of crazy monsters” (thank you Cleveland), but they were still pretty human and realistic, plus with main characters like Luke, Han and Leia, things stayed pretty grounded despite planet destroying lasers and wrinkly old wizards ruling the galaxy with black magic.  Of course, one of the biggest weaknesses of the new Star Wars movies was that most of the characters were flat or had very limited development (or worse, their development was actually cut from the film).  Outside of Qui Gon Jinn and, later, Obi Wan Kenobi, none of the characters have any real personality or character (or, they get it all removed at the last minute like Padme.  Seriously, go watch the Revenge of the Sith deleted scenes).  Considering the price of the films and the fact that it was more interested in show casing the decent special effects, this isn’t a surprise.  Lucas didn’t want to take any chances on this film and it shows.

Part of the advantage Lucas had was that he was filming the original movies on a shoestring budget, so he had to sit down and focus on the characters.  He had to really take chances with the world he had invented because he couldn’t try and cover the problems with the film with a computer generated band aid.  Things had to look real, so he used models, make up and real actors to make the movie look like it was really happening.  Also, as my girlfriend is wise to remember, the old actors had the ability to not stand for shitty lines, but it’s not the case with the new movies, thanks to Lucas’ unlimited budget.

Honestly, I'm still not convinced this wasn't a hologram

This is an issue that translates heavily into games.  Game projects are getting bigger and more ambitious and these are costing more.  However, as my friend points out, the developers are playing very safe with the majority of these games.  Every so often, a big budget game like Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed will come out that will really push the status quo beyond where it is at, but that’s generally no the case.  As my friend says, “if you put $100,000,000 into a game, you’re going to want to get that money back, so you’re going to go for as wide an appeal as you can.  If you put $100,000 into a game, you’re going to be more willing to take chances others aren’t.”

There are always exceptions to this rule

I don’t necessarily think the thing to do is to take away the giant budgets that most of these blockbuster developers and directors have, because some of them (Ubisoft, Christopher Nolan) can do phenomenal things without being seduced by a giant budget, but there are a lot of things out there that are getting more than they need, and it is crippling them.  No one is expecting to build Assassin’s Creed out of their garage, but that’s where a lot of the real innovation is coming from and this is something bigger studios need to look harder at.  Obviously, there’s no way for them to abandon the blockbuster game model, it’s just not economically viable for most of these publishers, but they do need to step back and see what’s really making their games sell.

There’s no one right answer, either, because what kills one game kills in another.  Celebrity voice acting is probably the biggest part of Mass Effect 3’s budget, especially since they’re licensing the engine the game runs on, but it wouldn’t be the same game without the all-star cast it’s assembled, while at the same time, a lot of the big budget cast was lost on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  Even with the better performances, smaller name voice actors would have had the exact same impact.  The same goes for special effects and CGI, which looked great in Avatar and probably made the movie so successful, but it just looks cheap and crappy in Attack of the Clones.  It’s not something that should be said, but more artists need to step back and really look at what they’re making, maybe pull in a trusted editor who isn’t afraid to say “this is shit,” to really make things work better.  These guys realize they’re building dreams, they should realize they need to build the dreams better.

A Fitting End: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Review

After eight movies in a row, it’s good to see a franchise end with a bang.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 gives a satisfying ending to the lengthy, complex and sometimes questionable Harry Potter series by being tightly focused, well written and, frankly, pretty awesome.  While the movie highlights the issues with breaking the adaptions into multiple parts, it still manages to be a wonderful capstone to a wonderful, if flawed, film series.

Part 2 opens up just before we left off, with Voldemort taking the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave.  With Harry reeling from another friend sacrificing himself for him, he searches for a way to end Voldemort’s tyranny once and for all.  His quest eventually takes him back to Hogwarts castle for a final, climactic battle between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters.

The worst part of the film comes in the somewhat odd pacing.  It’s clear that this is basically the second half of a full movie, and the audience just paid double price with a six-month intermission.  While the last movie had a more complete arc to it, this movie really stumbles at feeling like a full film.  Yes, there is a full plot here, the pacing feels just a bit off.  Not quite rushed, but not quite on the right track.

The pacing however, is still quite tight, pretty much superior to all other films in the franchise, barring it’s immediate predecessor.  Unlike the other films in the series, nothing about the film seems rushed or edited for time, which is great, because for once, we actually get time to care about someone beyond the initial trio and giving the truly all-star cast a time to shine.  For the first time in 10 years, Maggie Smith finally gets to give Minerva McGonagall the dues we’ve all known she could give the character, and it’s glorious.

And giving that extra time to the cast is important, because otherwise, all of the emotional resonance the film manages to capture would otherwise be lost.  Some of the scenes in this movie are absolutely heartbreaking, with outstanding performances by everyone in the cast.  The emotions conjured by this movie seem like they were carved right from the book itself, thanks entirely to some exceptional performances.  Because of the somewhat inconsistent pace and tone throughout the franchise, this film would have been ruined by lesser actors.

That’s important, because like the first half of this film, this is the first time the Harry Potter franchise has felt less like a truncated adaption and more like an actual film on its own.  The writing and direction are so much improved and focused that for once, the world feels as magical and dangerous as the books present, instead of an artificial copy as the films can sometimes feel.

The special effects are, as usual, amazing, but again, this is the first time they feel and look “right.”  The action set pieces are very well directed, with smart use of the fictional universe’s magic within the combat, but it’s the subtler things that sell this film.  The goblins at Gringotts or the rubble strewn passage ways in Hogwarts and the bleak, empty streets of Hogsmeade go far to build a world that feels much more genuine than most of the other films.

That said, the effects are absolutely ruined by the 3D, which is very poorly implemented and very distracting.  Having seen the movie twice, both in 3D and 2D, the movie is much better in 2D simply because the audience is not distracted by an odd looking rock, or broken piece of the castle that just happens to be sticking out.

Fans should be proud of this film.  There are changes, yes, but they do add a lot of drama to the visual medium of film that would be wasted on a straight adaption.  There are still a handful of odd omissions and choices, however, many of which are more outstanding than they were in the previous film.  Like part 1, this one is much more accessible than any of the other films, but there are still odd little details that could confuse non-fans (Lupin’s son, for instance is only obliquely referenced early in part 1, and it’s never clear how Harry knows about it when he brings it up late in the movie), but there are fortunately, no detail induced plot holes.

As a full movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is easily the best in the series.  As a stand alone film, this works, but it balances precariously over the mistakes of the past films and its own slightly skewed pacing.

5 ways to make Spiderman Cool at the Movies Again

I’m still not sure about the Amazing Spiderman coming out soon, and the fact that it’s supposed to reboot a series that just had a movie come out less than five years ago.  However, it has had a couple of production stills come out and they look pretty amazing.

Yeah, looks pretty awesome.  However, like I said, I’m a bit concerned, and not just because Spiderman 3 pretty much just came out.  No, I’m concerned because I really didn’t think any of the other three Spiderman films were that good.  OK, the second one was awesome and I have a soft spot in my heart for the sheer stupidity of the train wreck that was Spiderman 3 (emo Parker is my favorite part because it’s so damn hilarious), but I think Sam Raimi wanted to be too much like the old Stan Lee comics that it made the movies seem dated and silly before they even came out.  So, borrowing a line from Cracked.com, I present my 5 ideas to make sure the new Spiderman franchise rocks.

1. Mary Jane needs to be freakin’ gorgeous

When I say Mary Jane needs to be hot, I mean she literally needs to seem unattainable to any man.  Mary Jane is a super model and actress, so she’ll have to be drop dead gorgeous.  This is where the previous film seriously dropped the ball, because while Kirsten Dunst was attractive, she had this nice girl next door look, which is great for Gwen Stacy, but it’s not Mary Jane.  Remember

and this is Kristen Dunst:

Yeah.  Mary Jane also needs to be smart, tough and incredibly nice too, which were all characteristics Dunst’s version of the character lacked, which made her seem even less like Mary Jane.  Remember, Mary Jane loves Peter more than anything, a love so pure it hurt the friggin’ devil (stupid Joe Quesada), and this was not a trait we saw with Kirsten Dunst’s version of the character.  She wouldn’t get jealous of Gwen Stacy, because she’d be smart enough to understand the relationship she has with Peter (unless Joe Quesada is on board).  Considering Emma Stone has been cast as Gwen Stacy, and Stone has that perfect girl next door look, I think the studios are finally starting to get it.

2. Don’t Kill the Bad Guy

This is a serious issue in comic book movies anyway, but seriously, don’t kill the bad guy.  One thing that made the original Star Wars trilogy better than the original was because Darth Vader was there the whole time.  The prequel trilogy had three front line villains, and two of them were awful.  One thing that would have made the Spiderman Trilogy awesome would be if Willem Dafoe was torturing Peter the entire three films.  Yeah, I know, they also should have made sure he turned in a performance worthy of his skills too, but killing him off in the first movie kind of killed the whole franchise.  Sure, Alfred Monlia’s Doc Ock was good, but it lacked the passion and emotional tug-of-war that the Peter Parker-Norman Osborne dynamic has.  There’s a reason the Green Goblin is the iconic Spiderman villain.  Right now, we have the Lizard and the proto-Goblin, which worries me, but maybe they’ll manage to make an actual character arc out of it.

3. Don’t Make Peter Such a Bitch

The worst Spiderman stories are about Peter crying.  Yes, he has a hard life, it sucks some times, but when Parker is written right, he gets down on his luck, sucks it up, kicks some ass and then makes things better.  Yeah, sure, he may be poor and have girl troubles (and super villains regularly kick his ass), but his life doesn’t suck.  He has friends and family who care about him, and he has his hobbies and goals.  Peter works for these things and he works hard.  He doesn’t ever give up on anything, period.

I’ve said a few times before that Jim Butcher writes the perfect Spiderman stories with his Dresden Files books.  Harry Dresden has some serious shit happen to him, but he sucks it up and soldier’s on and he works to make his life better, even when he’s literally homeless and alienated from his friends and family.  Unsurprisingly, Harry is heavily inspired by Spiderman (and has compared himself to Peter Parker on at least one ocassion).

Peter needs to grapple with the ramifications of power and the responsibility that comes with that, but he can’t be a down in the dumps emo teen, and he can’t always be dumped on by the world, which brings us to number four:

4. Sometimes, Peter Has to Win

Yes, at the end of all three Spiderman films, Peter beats the bad guy and gets the girl, but his life still sucks and he never seems to really be working too hard to make anything better.  See, part of a successful Spiderman story is that not only does Spidey beat the bad guy at the end, but he either A. fails in his personal life or causes some kind of emotional problem (which means we’re at the middle of a story arc, or the second movie in a trilogy) or B. he succeeds and things begin to get better for him (which means we’re at the end of a story arc).

Yeah, Peter needs to get beat up and fail, but he also has to win and make things better.  He has to get a raise from J.J.J. when he gets his job back (because he was fired midway through the movie, natch) or he has to become a science teacher or graduate from college or whatever happens.  He can’t just beat the bad guy and then bang Gwen Stacy/Mary Jane, because that’s only half of Peter’s story.  If he doesn’t get out of his shit apartment or get a good job by the end of the first movie, it’s pretty clear the people running the show don’t know what they’re doing.  Speaking of not knowing what they’re doing…

5. Let Peter Crack some jokes

I’m wary when I see Kevin Smith’s name on the cover of a comic book, but he made an excellent point about Spiderman’s awful wisecracks: Peter is scared to death out there and if he doesn’t put on the Spiderman persona, he’s going to get seriously hurt.

In the old movies, Toby Maguire’s Peter Parker was very straight laced and awkward, which, yeah, is pretty much Peter.  However, he was also awkward as Spiderman, which comes off as weird.  What’s even crazier is that the Spiderman movie tie-in video games proved that Maguire could pull of Spidey’s goofy wisecracks.  The first game even had one of my favorite Spiderman jokes of all time when fighting the Vulture (“Come back!  The food at the old folks home wasn’t that bad.”).

Yes, it’s difficult to write jokes that are intentionally stupid and nerdy, but we need them.  This is essential to Peter’s character.  He can’t be Nerdy Peter the whole movie and he can’t be stoic McActionhero either, because neither of them are Spiderman.  Let him make a bad joke.  Let the villain even call it out for what it is too (it’s great when villains, or other heroes, complain when Peter’s joke is too lame) so the audience doesn’t think the movie is trying to be corny.

A Waste of Potential: Tron Legacy review

About 2/3 through Tron: Legacy, I came to the realization that this would be a much better movie if it wasn’t Tron.  Instead of utilizing the gorgeous audio/visual spectacle to tell an entertaining story, the filmmakers decided it was more important to give the audience yet another 80’s nostalgia throwback.    A beautiful mishmash of dark and moody Daft Punk music and cyberpunk visual aesthetics is ruined by a boring, nonsensical story that is still trying to pretend computers are still the mysterious beasts they were in 1982.

Taking place nearly 30 years after the original Tron, Sam Flynn, son of the disappeared hero of the original film being a typical rebellious dilettante, gets a page from his dad’s office.  Going to check it out, he winds up getting zapped into the computer world, which has become a dystopian hellscape under the control of Clu, who had also kidnapped Sam’s father 20 years ago.  Meeting up with his long lost dad, Sam tries to escape the computer world with his dad.

Truthfully, the movie isn’t terrible.  Yes, the main character is boring, the plot is poorly thought out, several plot point go no where and the villain is pretty lame.  Yet, it’s still pretty fun to watch, and not just because the exceptional blending of the music and lovely CGI.  The fights and vehicle chases are pretty well put together and Jeff Bridges shines reprising Flynn, who is some kind of cross between the Dude and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Unfortunately, none of that can save the fact the movie is incredibly dumb.  The movie tries so hard to stay true to the Tron mythology, that it actually gets in the way of the movie.  It’s not 1982 anymore and even the least technologically savvy moviegoer is going to think the movie looks quaint.  Instead of taking the advancements in computer science over the past 30 years and exploring how they would affect the Tron world, the filmmakers decided to cleave slavishly to what the audience has already seen before and as a result, Tron Legacy becomes less realistic than the early 90’s cartoon Reboot.

Still, if I could mute the voices (and none of the other sounds), I’d buy the biggest HD screen I could get when this comes out on Blu-Ray because the art and sound direction is phenomenal.  The moody techno music by Daft Punk perfectly matches with the dark and stormy world of Tron.  Heavy bass and deep beats mix with the gorgeous blue and orange CGI in a way that’s just inspiring.  The world looks like a video game doused with copious amounts of LSD while great music pumps into the ears.  It’s just a shame that the audience has to listen to some boring crap about changing the world and perfection and some crap.

The worst part though isn’t the bad dialog getting in the way of the beautiful aural/visual orgy or outdated view of computers, it’s how boring and dumb the plot is.  There’s something about perfection and some kind of race of computer programs that spontaneously appeared who can some how change the world.  Unfortunately, we never really find out how the computer people can change the world (they’re just “Flynn’s gift”) nor do we really explain what’s meant by “perfect” despite Jeff Bridges spending the entire movie arguing with his younger clone about it.  Maybe if the movie had been about Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde trying to get out of the dystopian computer world, using new technology to communicate with his long-lost son, there might be something there.

There are some elements to this movie, and of course it looks beautiful, but unfortunately, it’s just dumb.  It’s a true waste of what could be.

A damn fine film: a “Social Network” review

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a villain. It’s even hard to call him an asshole. Kind of a douche, maybe, but I think that’s about as far as we could go, at least within the context of “the Social Network,” which depicts Facebook’s meteoric rise to the world’s largest online social network site. Easily a contender for the coveted Movie of the Year, “the Social Network” succeeds as a well crafted exploration of the phenomenon of the Internet generation and the social networking scene, but falls short as an indictment of the supposed narcissism of which Facebook is merely a microcosm.

“The Social Network” is the story of Zuckerberg’s (Jessie Eisenberg) creation of Facebook and his legal controversy surrounding the site’s construction. Being sued for several hundred million dollars in two different lawsuits, one of which coming from one Zuckerberg’s best friends, the film is told through dispositions during the pre-hearing meetings surrounding Zuckerberg’s legal entanglements.

Springing from the mind of “the West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin, it’s unsurprising the audience is treated to such a smart, well balanced film. The characterization is strong, the plot is smart and snappy and the acting is top notch, with Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake, who plays Napster founder and almost bad guy Sean Parker, giving break out performances.

Eisenberg’s turn as Mark Zuckerberg is remarkable, giving a nuanced performance that will hopefully prevent people from confusing him with the much less talented Michael Cera. Eisenberg’s performance made this movie, and in the hands of a lesser actor, it would have completely sunk it. The understand performance he delivers causes the audience to make their own mind about Zuckerberg and allows the viewer to see him as an actual person, stripped bare of his controversies and glamor.
All of the other characters are treated with just as much intelligent characterization as Zuckerberg is, which makes the movie so powerful. These aren’t Shakespearean characters, they’re just people who are so caught up in themselves that they don’t always see what they’re doing. There’s an element of Greek tragedy here, but more than that, it’s about college. These people are young and college, and the Facebook life, is what consumes and drives them. It gives them purpose, but it also limits them.

The characters aren’t much more than children, more concerned with getting chicks or just “making it big” that they don’t really care about much else. It’s commented that money doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t. Zuckerberg doesn’t care about the $600 million he’s being sued for, just making the site is his concern.

One of the few stumbles this movie has is that it tries to use this, as well as the excess of high end college and Silicon Valley parties, to indict the Facebook generation as narcissistic and vacuous, but it can’t. The “dark side” it shows the viewer is nothing really special. The drugs, the corruption and the preoccupation with sex is just college, it’s no different than what we all saw in Animal House over thirty years ago.

Fortunately, these scenes work just as well to highlight the darker aspects of success, so it’s easy to ignore any attempt calling out the current generation of college kids out on their banality, so they still work.

For the most, using the dispositions to convey the narrative makes for a clever film structure, adding a bit of non-linearity to the film. It gives the audience a lot of different perspectives on the whole story and makes the controversies less one-sided. Unfortunately, this also leads to some pacing problems and it kills a handful of lines, switching from the story itself back to the hearing mid sentence.

Sometimes, that mid sentence cut works out great, but when Timberlake says “you know what is cool?” switching to Andrew Garfield saying “a billion” takes a whole lot of the impact out. Especially since it was so well handled in the trailer.

On the whole, “the Social Network” is an excellent film. It’s not the next “Citizen Kane” simply because Zuckerberg and William Randolf Hearst share some similarities, but it’s definitely one of the most well crafted and intelligent films of the year.

Not much under the (red) hood

Batman: Under the Red Hood is a textbook example of what not to do when faced with making a film about Batman, make him tedious, boring and uninteresting.  Under the Red Hood is a wandering, directionless film that manages to miss all of the potential emotional cues and falls flat on the action hooks.

Under the Red Hood follows Batman’s investigation of a new criminal overlord, the Red Hood, who has been quickly taking over Gotham City’s criminal underworld.  Thinking the Red Hood may be Batman’s long thought deceased partner Jason Todd, the second Robin, Batman looks for the truth while trying to shut down Hood’s criminal empire.

Under the Red Hood is, in a word, boring.  It’s a tedious cut-and-paste adaption of the 2005-2006 Batman story, Under the Hood, which should be interesting.  Batman’s formerly dead partner has possibly come back, and he has to face not only this new villain, but the consequences of his failure years before.  It should be a strong, psychologically engaging story about failure, redemption and choice, but instead the plot is an excuse for Batman to fight a grown up, ruthless Robin, stopping every so often to give viewers exposition.

This slows the movie to a crawl.  While beautiful to look at, very few of the fights manage to go beyond simple four-color slugfests and those that do are too short or too ridiculous to really be particularly engaging.  A couple of them are complete level breakers, which should have been left out altogether,  in particular, an overlong scene where Batman and Nightwing fight an Amazo android.  It may have been in the original comic, but here it’s completely pointless and sets up a plot point that never goes anywhere.

Worse, most of these fights are filled with philosophical psychobabble which attempt to peek into the Batman’s head during what should be one of his most emotionally churning cases, but it falls flat, as Batman’s psyche remains mostly unexplored.  It doesn’t help that the mystery of whether or not Jason Todd is the Red Hood is so transparent, all of the drama evaporates.

Thanks to all the cuts and flashbacks to Todd’s death, it’s so obvious that he’s the Red Hood before the film even begins.  Batman spends nearly the first hour of the movie trying to solve a mystery that never existed in the first place, so any attempt at looking into his mind is a failure.  When the first inklings that it might be Todd show up, the audience already knows, and by the time we get to the reveal, the movie is more than half over and there isn’t any time for any emotional evaluation.

While it does try to look into Batman’s mind, it’s really just an excuse for the writers to make Batman fight evil Robin.  The movie doesn’t attempt to compare Batman’s greatest success, Dick Grayson, currently Nightwing and the first Robin (perfectly cast as Neil Patrick Harris) with Todd, who in more than one way is Batman’s greatest failure.  Grayson is a stalwart companion and an equal while Todd is a two-bit thug looking for revenge he doesn’t need, and the movie never bothers to comment on this fact, or does so only briefly and subtly (Bruce thanking Dick for his help, which was an excellent scene)  It doesn’t help that Batman never bothers to reach out to Todd, or look to give him guidance.  He just spews of a bit of self-righteousness there at the end and extends a token hand in friendship before going back and trying to beat the kid’s head in.

In the end, Under the Red Hood is a failure.  It tries, but it just becomes a waste of a perfectly good idea.  Oh well, at least it looked good.