Monday, February 10, 2014

Recap: The Batman "Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind"

Whenever they make any sort of movie with an evil villain (i.e. most movies), what does the audience always say? “If I were him, I’d do _____ and then I’d beat the hero.”

Villains are a tricky thing. They need to be defeated, but they can’t be incompetent. Today, I’m going to look at a rare happenstance. We’re going to see what happens when Batman runs into Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind.

Yo, DAVE, I'm really happy for you, and I'ma let you finish, but Lex Luthor's the greatest criminal mind of our time.
We open on a shot of Arkham Asylum. There’s thunder and lighting, and it’s all spooky and stuff. Inside, a group of people including Commissioner Gordon, various Arkham authorities, and, for some reason, Bruce Wayne, is listening to Arkham psychologist Professor Hugo Strange give a speech about his latest creation. After scanning the mind of several of Arkham’s criminals, he’s compiled their minds into what he calls the “Digitally Advanced Villain Emulator,” or DAVE. Not just for kicks and giggles, but in order to use this AI to decipher villains’ goals, and possibly even predict crimes before they happen.

As long as it doesn’t also redirect the world’s electricity, I’ll believe it.
After mentioning that DAVE believes itself to be a real person (why would you ever program it that way?), he poses to it a hypothetical situation.

Strange: “Now, DAVE… What would you make of the theft of twenty tons of ostrich feathers and a break in at NoyGon Chemicals in the same night?” 
DAVE: “A Joker scheme. The crime clown will threaten to have the city tickled to death by feathers treated with the Joker Toxin. Unless, that is, his ransom demands are met. A respectable crime, to be sure, though I personally would commit something more elaborate.”

Strange remarks that it’s a good thing that DAVE is locked away inside his “electronic prison,” and DAVE proves him wrong by making his great escape. Sparks fly out of the Emulator and electricity flows through the wires plugged into the wall. It looks like he just jumped into the power cord, but I’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt and say that he jumped into the Ethernet cable.

I don’t know why you’d plug an evil computer into the LAN, but we've just seen why you shouldn't.
Strange: “Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind has just escaped.”

His statement is punctuated by thunder, and we now have a title for the episode! Cut to Bruce Wayne with his surrius face on, and we go to the intro. It’s the later-seasons theme song. I prefer the older one, but this one’s okay.

We resume the episode with Strange trying in vain to bring DAVE’s AI back online, and Commissioner Gordon tells an Arkham worker to get the techies in on this. Strange hypothesizes that they should get Batman instead. Gordon tells Strange that batman fights “real criminals,” and Strange assures him that DAVE is a real criminal now. Bruce asks how DAVE doesn’t know he’s a computer program if he just uploaded himself, and Strange tells him that “the criminally insane create their own reality.” Basically, DAVE just doesn’t think about it. Strange fears that DAVE will go to town on the city, but Gordon remarks on how difficult that’ll be without a body.

We then cut to a machinery assembly line where DAVE’s AI zaps in, reprograms the computer, electrifies the technician there, and gets the machines to build him a new robot body.

DAVE gets up and the technician comes to.

Techie: “What are you?”
DAVE: “Not ‘what.’ ‘Who.’ …I like your coat.”

We then cut to a Gotham news broadcast, but before they can report on the weather, DAVE (now wearing a stylin’ new coat!) hijacks the frequency and announces his presence to Gotham through video, kind of like the Joker in The Dark Knight. Except this predated that. He vows to the whole of Gotham that, unlike all the other villains, he’s going to actually succeed at pulling off the ultimate crime.

Back in the Batcave, Alfred calls DAVE cliché, but Batman notes that DAVE hits all the right notes. Massive ego, boasting about plans; he’s following the villains’ playbook to the letter, essentially. Batman deduces from DAVE’s statements that he’s going to go after the most well-protected place in Gotham City: the Gotham Database. As Alfred exposits, it contain all of the city’s most valuable information; financial data, computer codes, and more. Good plan, but it’s not original. The Riddler already tried that. It seems that DAVE’s attempting to improve upon a past scheme before creating one of his own, but I can come up with fan theories later.

We cut to the building housing the supercomputer, where DAVE has already taken out an entire team of security guards. As he knocks the last one out, he estimates out loud that they will be unconscious for slightly longer than the time it will take him to rob the place. He rips open the elevator doors, jumps down to the elevator below, and cuts the cables. DAVE rides the elevator to the bottom floor, crashing it to the ground and sauntering out. He greets the terrified guards who open fire on him, and deflects their lasers with his hands. One of the blasts hits a fire extinguisher, and the guards begin to choke on the gas. DAVE tosses them aside and begins entering every possible code on a keypad which quickly lets him in after hitting the right one.

In the next area, he deftly dodges multiple arrays of moving laser detectors, and enters what appears to be the MCP central control area from the climax of Tron. How appropriate that this room reminds me of a movie with an evil computer program. From the catwalk he’s on, he attaches a cable to himself and the railing, and rappels down to the data core below, careful not to touch the electric floor. He unplugs the handheld central data server, and catches an incoming Batarang with his other hand.

Those of you expecting massive amounts of snark and sarcasm were probably disappointed by those last two paragraphs. But honestly, there’s nothing to really snark at. This was actually a good plan. And you know what else? When he gave his estimate on how long it would take him to rob the place, it was actually much longer than what we saw here. So, even though he’s factoring in a getaway, he probably estimated how long it would take to defeat Batman, as well.

He crushes the Batarang after expositing that he can plan for any eventuality, and drops it onto the electric field below. Batman leaps in to tackle DAVE, but DAVE manages to use Batman’s own momentum against him. Not in a way that makes Batman look stupid or clumsy, but in a Ju-Jitsu sort of way; dodge and deflect. The two, both swinging around on cables, have a quick, brutal, yet evenly matched fight, and it becomes clear to me that DAVE isn’t trying to win this one. If he wanted to, he would. Instead, he’s trying to stalemate Batman so that he can finish giving his casual evil monologue as they’re fighting. It’s a sharp contrast that makes it exactly clear how easy this all is for DAVE.

Batman: “DAVE, why are you doing this?”
DAVE: “You say ‘why?’ Why do you dress like a bat? Why do you fight crime? Why do we do anything, Batman? I do what I do because I’ve made it my purpose. Like you have made it yours to stop me.”

Yes, yes, it's purpose that created us, binds us, drives us, etc. I saw that movie too.
DAVE cuts Batman’s cable with his bare hand and Batman falls.
DAVE: “But you’ll fail trying.”

After commercial, Batman saves himself by using a pellet from his belt to short out the electrified floor as DAVE watches with amusement. When Batman looks up, however, DAVE is already gone. His eyes narrow as he makes his surrius face. Back on the streets of Gotham, DAVE broadcasts his face over the Gotham Jumbotron.

DAVE: “Now that preparations are complete, on with the crime itself!”

He frames this by telling Gotham exactly what he’s doing and why with each step.
He first tells Gotham that “most great crimes are built on the foundation of monetary gain,” so he steals all of the money in Gotham using financial records and codes. All of the money, adding up to a little under one billion dollars. (Wait, there should be more than that. Bruce Wayne alone is a billionaire, and there's several other rich guys in Gotham. Maybe he didn't empty the stock market where their assets are tied up?)

He also tells them that “the ultimate crime should induce mass hysteria,” so he turns off all the electricity in Gotham (besides the Jumbotron). Cars start crashing as the stoplights deactivate, and the screaming begins. Finally, he decides to add a personal touch by lighting up the windows in the buildings of Gotham to spell out DAVE. Ironically, that's the most unrealistic part of the plan, and I've seen it done worse.

Now, this crime is not completely perfect, as DAVE’s transactions can easily be countered (a common criticism with The Dark Knight Rises, too) but it’s not about the haul to DAVE. It’s about committing the crime. But already, we can see DAVE’s one small weakness: being a gestalt entity.

Steal money? That’s Penguin’s main goal.
Cause mass hysteria? That’s got Joker written all over it.
Light up windows to spell out DAVE? Riddler did that to make question marks in an earlier episode.
DAVE is merely the sum of his parts. And that can be exploited.

As DAVE completes his crime, Batman appears behind him. DAVE offers him back the tracking device that he planted.

DAVE: “Another predictable move.”
Batman: “Then my next move won’t surprise you either.”

Batman tosses a handful of exploding pellets at DAVE, who begins an evenly-matched fight with Batman, again, while monologuing about how he’s faster and stronger. After this, it’s all Batman can do to keep up. Eventually, DAVE simply wears Batman out. That’s right, he beat the Batman in hand-to-hand combat… by making him tired.

DAVE picks Batman up and start musing over how easy it would be to just snap Batman’s neck… but just tosses him aside, saying that his defeat must be the ultimate defeat. Ah, I see. DAVE will destroy Gotham and then, when it is done... and Gotham is ashes... then he’ll have DAVE’s permission to die.

DAVE makes his getaway, and Batman keeps scowling. After Batman gets back to the Batcave, Alfred tells him that the emergency power’s working, but Bruce Wayne’s penniless. Once again, Bruce Wayne's money alone should have given DAVE over a billion dollars, but let's ignore that detail because I'm admittedly nitpicking. Batman is busy studying the diagnostics of DAVE’s original hard drive. Going over the data, he discovers that DAVE’s escape wasn’t an accident, it was planned for, right in the programming.

Alfred: “How very odd.”
Batman: “Not odd, Alfred. Strange.”

We then cut back to Arkham, where Professor Strange works by candlelight. Batman walks up and accuses Strange of orchestrating the whole thing. Strange pulls a gun that Batman quickly takes away, holding him down. After Strange is subdued, Batman looks at the file he was working on. A file all about Batman. Batman demands that Strange shut down DAVE, but Strange insists that DAVE’s working independently now, with no way to stop him, because DAVE was designed to stop Batman.

First: Commit the ultimate crime to draw in Batman
Second: Study Batman
Third: Humiliate and defeat him.

DAVE’s obsession with Batman comes from Strange’s mind also being programmed into DAVE, as he exposits. He also tells Batman that DAVE most likely knows everything about him by now. Back at the Batcave, someone keeps ringing the doorbell. Don’t answer it Alfred; that ended really badly in Batman Forever! But he opens the door for DAVE, who asks if Batman’s home.

After commercial, Batman arrives back at the Batcave, only to find DAVE has already setup a deathtrap for Alfred. He also calls Batman “Bruce.” Uh oh.

Batman: “You should have told me you were stopping by. The place is a mess.”
DAVE: “Humor; often used as a coping mechanism in high-stress situations. But I’m not here to trade quips, Bruce. I’m here to destroy you.”

He begins to elaborate upon his plan, revealing the trap he earlier set up. There are two buttons on a pedestal. The red one is hooked up to a computer ready to broadcast Batman’s secret identity to all of Gotham using the Jumbotron, which it will do in less than two minutes. The red button stops the transmission, but will kill Alfred by dropping Batman’s giant penny on him. (You know, the giant penny in the Batcave that no one remembers where it’s from. Next to the robot dinosaur.) The blue button next to it will save Alfred, but automatically broadcast Batman’s identity. If DAVE’s giant hourglass runs out before he chooses, Batman loses both. Alfred begs him to just let him die, but Batman’s made his choice.

Batman: “None of the above.”

He launches his grappler at the hourglass, breaking it, and knocking DAVE down. DAVE leaps into the air and attacks Batman, saying that he anticipated this. Meanwhile, the timer to both the broadcast and the deathtrap count down. As the two fight, DAVE says how he figured out Batman’s identity in a way that makes it seem scarily easy.

DAVE: “Using information readily available to anyone, I began by narrowing down Gotham’s population of 750,832 males. Those not falling inside the Batman’s probable age range of 18-36 were eliminated. Medical records revealed body-type matches, tax records indicate those who possess the wealth and resources to create his technology, but the true key to the puzzle was deducing who of the remaining candidates had motive to become the Batman. After all, every great hero must have an origin. And once Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind put it together, the answer was obvious.”

Dang. Just… dang. Batman presses a few keys on a nearby keyboard and drops a crane down, but DAVE dodges it in time. He grapples up and slashes at Alfred’s chains with a very sharp Batarang, but DAVE climbs up and tackles him. DAVE pulls off Bruce’s mask, and Alfred struggles against his chains. After all that, Bruce figures out the key to defeating DAVE.

Batman: “You have all the answers, DAVE. Except one. Every great supervillain has an origin, too. What’s yours?”

DAVE says that he fell into a vat of chemicals, but Bruce tells him that was Joker’s origin. DAVE begins rattling off several origins, but Bruce identifies them as Mr. Freeze, Penguin, and Hugo Strange. He then tells DAVE that he doesn’t have an origin. Because he’s just a computer program. DAVE begins to short out, all the while trying to figure out his origin, demanding that he’s Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind. Batman punches him out, knocking Alfred to safety and hits the red button, shutting off the countdown with under two seconds to go, and the deathtrap launches the coin into the air. Batman tells him that he might not have a beginning, but he has an end. DAVE looks up and the giant penny crushes him flat.

Alfred rejoins Bruce as the lights go out in DAVE’s eyes one last time. We then cut to Arkham Asylum, where Hugo Strange (now a patient, not a professor) muses in his cell that there will be other opportunities to discover Batman’s identity, remarking that Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind remains undefeated.

Let's review, shall we?

1 comment:


    - That One Anon