Category Archives: Film

Batman Goes to the Movies

I like when people make the effort to go forth and dive deep into a topic I love – such as Batman – and I crave this sort of in depth thinking wherever I can find it.

I enjoyed a couple of great video essays this year that take the time to think about Batman and have something useful to say, all of which are linked to below.

The first one is “How the Dark Knight Killed the DCEU” from the Lobster Magnet channel.

 

The other two videos are from HiTop Films, and are basically video essays on how the various Batman movie adaptations do or don’t stack up to the essential core of Batman established in various media. Both are EXCELLENT thought provoking videos that demonstrate a clear depth and understanding to Batman beyond the casual fan level.-

Batman 1989 is a Bad Batman  Movie (from HiTop Films):

Batman does not kill (from HiTop Films)

I rarely link to any sort of video content here, as often videos disappear and leave a big ugly blank space in your blog post, but these channels are fairly active and hopefully will be around for a while,  I hope you check them out.

I have no affiliation with these guys, but every year I look for interesting stuff related to Batman online and in all types of media –  and these guys really stood out with their content. It gives me an idea, maybe a “best of batman media” type of post, a round of good stuff in one post. Something to ponder.

At times I’ve considered doing video content myself – but I don’t have the editing skills for that and it would take a lot of time to learn – to make something of the quality I would desire. I’d much rather do a Podcast anyway, and I’m still looking for someone to do a Batman podcast with, but have not yet found that person. It may happen one day, or maybe never. I considered doing a solo Bat podcast, but as an avid audiophile – I really don’t like solo Podcasts and much prefer the banter of a good dynamic duo.

So I’m grateful for cool videos like the ones linked to above that go above and beyond and are not just the usual run of the mill low effort clicky baity bullshit.

Despite being around for over seventy years, there is only a handful of quality books written about Batman, and surprisingly little to find online that is worth reading about Batman. Low quality ain’t the Way of the Bat my friend, Batman don’t do shortcuts and he don’t do lazy. It’s downright disrespectful to the Legacy of the Bat to create garbage online and add the Good Name of Wayne to it. So don’t do it! Avoid! Reverse the Batmobile at full speed away from stinking garbage.

THE FUTURE OF BATFAN ON BATMAN

My apologies for the lack of posts here lately. Lots going on behind the scenes creatively speaking, but not many finished posts here over the last year or so. I hope you enjoyed my epic long-ass in depth post on Harley Quinn, that more than a few people requested – including my fellow Batfan and friend Deboleena Panja.

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At a risk or repeating myself, there is a lot more Batman themed articles in the works. Some nearly finished, others with tons of editing to do. This is post #82, and I have at least 200 more in me (probably more).

In the gaps here, I’ve also been doing other writing elsewhere. If you’ve never found my Transformers Multiverse Blog  take a look if that sort of thing interests you. Currently I’ve started into a series of articles focusing on the Transformers 1986 animated movie. I talk in that blog about Transformers fiction, sometimes toys and the odd bit about Ninja Turtles appears in there too.

Also in the works is a Batman ebook. It will be announced here long before it becomes available for anyone interested. I’m thinking it will be between 50,000 to 100,000 words, and most likely in the $5 range for Amazon Kindle (you can get the Kindle app for pretty much everything these days, you don’t have to own an actual Kindle). Once I get it done, I will more than likely do some other volumes focused around different topics.

My focus in 2019 is shifting away from various online communities, endless (enjoyable) research and back to more hardcore get up at 0500 and drink some disgusting coffee – write for an hour five or more days a week before work routine. I’m sipping on yet another disgusting black sugarless coffee ‘write now.

For anyone wondering, will I ever do my own article series about the various Batman movies? In a word…….eventually. I prefer to focus on the comics, animation and essential core of Batman. The movies get so much attention that they are at the end of my “to do” list. I will dive more specifically into the Nolan movies for a bit as part of my upcoming “Symbolism of the Bat” article series, but that will be a tangent to my articles on Batman: the Animated Series and Batman Arkham Asylum video game article series throughout 2019.

2019 is just around the corner, and while it may not be my Zodiac Sign, I’m predicting it’s gonna be another Year of the Bat around these parts. It’ll also be the year I finally get another superhero tattoo, expect pictures of that one.

2019 –  The year I do five impossible things before breakfast

2019 – The year of Making it Wayne

2019 – The year of BATITUDE

2019 – The year of many good fortunes, long life and lucky Bats.

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Batman v Superman – 6 Days to Go until Batman Punches Superman in his Smug Face

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There is only six sexy days to go until Batman v Superman hits cinemas here in Australia.

Wearing this sweet black and white Batman shirt this week reminded me of how close it is.

While I’m super excited to see my main man Batman on the big screen again, I do feel like I’ve already seen a little too much of the film in the trailers. With yet another trailer released showing even more footage of the film, I decided simply not to watch it.

I’d like there to be at least some surprises when I watch BVS for the first time. It feels less like Batman v Superman at this point and more like the launching point for the inevitable JLA / Justice League movie coming down the line.

When BVS was first announced we knew nothing, then it had announcement after announcement, feeding rumors and speculation on the internet in a mad frenzy of anticipation and predictions. Eventually it morphed into the smorgasbord it is now. They threw in Wonder Woman (hooray!) and Lex Luthor (do we really need him?) they announced Aquaman (lame) but then they cast one of the manliest men on the planet – Jason Momoa.

As a fan of Stargate SG-1 and SG-Atlantis, I feel there is nobody better qualified on the planet to play Aquaman than Jason Momoa. I was genuinely excited to see them take traditionally one of the lamest and least liked of the JLA pantheon and actually make him cool.

I’ll keep this post nice and short, as I don’t see the point in talking about a movie until after I have seen it. I guess it’s something that is important to me. You can speculate all day, and sure it’s fun to talk with friends about the flick. But I don’t really want to write a damn word about it until after I have seen it.

And as big as BVS will be, it’s just a drop in the big bucket of Batman.

Batman is bigger than any comic book series, any movie, animation, video game or merchandise.

The focus of my blog always has and always will be on that timeless mythical archetypal Baman that transcends any one genre, that transcends any one medium. I’m happy to cover Batman from any medium, but I like the distance of time that gives us perspective on what is truly great and worth talking about in 70+ years of Batman history.

Some people seem to be giving Zack Snyder shit about BVS for his choices.

“It’s too dark, it’s too cynical, it’s too this, not enough of that”

I say it is important for any director to have a unique vision, and to captivate with their story, and for the two hours of so they have your hostage  in that cinema, they have to make those characters their own and make you want to care about them. And so far, Snyder has impressed the hell out of me with his cinematic action style. Snyder’s style is unique, over the top and great fun. Just what I want from a comic book movie. I’ve been a fan since his Dawn of the Dead remake, and loved 300 so much I had to see it twice on the big screen.

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I will say Snyder understands characters and motivation, and has a great visual style and flair – but he can’t write for shit. Take a look at Sucker Punch if you don’t believe me. It’s his only film to date where he directed and wrote the story, rather than directing with someone else writing. I wanted to love that film, on paper it was his most superhero comic-book like film so far. And it was an all women super-hero team. It was like a mix of Avengers and the Dirty Dozen. It was like the best bits of Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill on steroids.

Neither DC nor Marvel has given us anything like that on the big or little screen. The most similar thing is the upcoming Suicide Squad – which is a mostly male cast. So in that way Zack Snyder is kind of visionary and ahead of his time. Sure it was a rubbish movie, but it had some good points, and I believe he put his blood sweat and tears into that movie. With better writers, I believe it would have been something special.

I’m sure we will eventually get another all girl superhero team on the big screen, and it will be good. And whoever makes it will look at Sucker Punch and see the mistakes that were made and learn from them.

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Well, if you’ll excuse me I have more articles to write and some cool Batman Podcasts to listen to. I’ve been getting into the DC Superhero shows on TV finally, after not watching any of them. Flash kicks ass, but Supergirl is my current favourite TV show.

Not my favourite comic-book show. Just favourite TV show, period. I believe this new Supergirl show if the definitive version of Supergirl in the best possible way. She’s had some shabby treatment in the comics over the decades, and always plays second fiddle to the JLA and other DC icons. DC killed her off right around the time she had a big movie in the 80’s. Way to build up your female icons DC!

I’m sure fans were  confident they would see more Supergirl movies  after this Crisis on Infinite Earths cover  appeared in the mid eighties.

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Free of the shadow of  Superman and the DC Universe, it is truly Supergirl’s time to shine. The crossover announcement with the Flash TV show had me practically wetting my pants in anticipation.

If you love those DC shows, and I know you do, well at least some you – then I urge you to read my favourite kick-ass mega blog of awesomeness on the internet Girl on Comic Book World, where Nav talks about the wonderful DC Universe TV shows (and films) in brilliant insightful articles on a regular basis. She’s a big fan of both Batman and Superman and has loads of great articles on those characters and the BVS film. Check them out. You’ll be glad you did.

Girloncomicbookworld.com

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Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face: Gotham’s White Knight

harvey-dent I belive in harvey dent Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale Ledger

Aaron Eckhart could have been Batman.

He has the square jaw and intensity of Batman, the charisma, charm, slick confident attitude and good looks to be Bruce Wayne.

It seems fitting that an actor who could have easily played Batman / Bruce Wayne ends up becoming Two-Face.

Two-Face has been handled differently in the comics according to the values of the day, and who was writing the character.  In his original inception, he is a knock off of a Dick Tracy era “ugly gangster with a gimmick”.

The split in half suit of contrasting colours, double sided coin and split personality were a gimmick that made Two-Face distinguishable from other comic book or pulp villains.  The classical look of Two-Face speaks to the era of guys in suits, Al Capone era bad guys, mob enforcers and other similar crooks and made men.

The modern day version of Two-Face plays up the similarities and differences between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, and gives more emphasis to the psychology of Two-Face rather than just the gimmick clothing, coin and gangster schtick.

In Batman: The Animated Series the early years of Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent show the two of them as friends and contemporaries.  Both men are passionate about law and order, and genuinely care about proactively fixing the corrupt city they live in.

Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale Ledger

The relationship of Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent was retroactively established in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Comics are a strange medium where time is fluid, where events can change seemingly without warning.  The next retcon (retro-active continuity) is only just around the corner for most modern characters.

When the friendship of Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne was established in the Batman comics, set during his earlier years in Millers Year One, it retroactively meant that every story before that was now affected by this new continuity.  It meant the relationship had always existed, even if stories  in the previous decades had failed to mention it.

That Harvey Dent / Bruce Wayne relationship endures in most modern interpretations of Batman.  Nolan’s The Dark Knight takes it cues from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Miller’s Batman: Year One and Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween.

The movie version of Two-Face is played by Aaron Eckhart as Gotham’s White Knight, a bastion of goodness, moral virtue and incorruptibility.  He is a day time version of Batman, who needs no mask and operates within the law, he exists as a bold contrast to Batman’s Dark Knight.

Thank you for smoking Aaron Eckhart Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale 2 sm

In some ways The Dark Knight is more the story of Harvey Dent than Bruce Wayne.  The entire film sets up Harvey Dents’s inevitable fall from grace, he is used as the Joker’s example (one of his many pawns) of how even the best of us can become rotten inside, if we were not already rotten to begin with.

Even the best of us can turn our backs on our own highest values and dreams, and instead be overcome with anger, grief, depression, vindictiveness, the need for revenge or to take out our frustrations on the world, rather than owning our behavior, and accepting the roles and responsibilities as authors of our own lives.

Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face comes about not because of the scars on his face, the damage to his body, but because of the unbalancing of his fragile mind.  He becomes Two-Face because of his psychological scars, although the movie does hint that he has a hidden dark side.

A throwaway line earlier in the film has Gary Oldman’s Gordon refer to Dent as “Harvey Two-Face”, a name he had been called by former associates. Whether this meant he was genuinely bad, or just unpopular because did his job so well, putting criminals behind bars (many of whom who had were in league with corrupt cops) is unknown.  The Joker does not make Two-Face so much as give Harvey Dent a small push at a critical point in his downfall.

Had the Joker hospital room conversation with Harvey taken place earlier in the film, Harvey might have laughed it off. Instead in his fragile, weakened and traumatised state, he subconscious is laid bare, he openly lets the Joker’s foul ideas into his own mind, and accepts them as his own.

Two-Face is one of the most popular villains in the long running various Batman comic books.  While it was good to see him used in the Nolan Batman Trilogy, we only see Harvey Dent become Two-Face towards the last third of the film.  He could have been the main villain in a Batman film, rather than a side-note.

A one time gimmick character who appears only sporadically through Batman’s first thirty years became a staple in the Bat mythos of the seventies and eighties and has been used regularly since then up until the modern day era.  The character has enough complexity and depth to him that there are more stories yet to be told with Harvey Two-Face.

Considering the amount of characters, plots and sub-plots that must be given screen time in the Dark Knight, Aaron Eckhart does an excellent job with the Two-Face character.

Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale 2 movie conept poster

I really enjoyed Aaron Eckhart’s performance, and would have liked to have seen more of him as Two-Face in the Dark Knight film, before his untimely demise at the hands of Batman.  Despite his strict “no-killing” policy Batman manages to cause the death (directly or indirectly) of a major villain in each of Nolan’s three Batman films.

Whoops, so much for those values and codes of behavior Batman holds so dear.

One weaker element of The Dark Knight is Dent’s relationship with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) which seems under baked at best.  Poor Rachel seems to exist in a man’s world, where despite being a strong, feisty independent woman, her role still revolves around the men in this fictional world.

In Batman Begins Rachel wants to be with Bruce, but that does not work out as Bruce will not give up being Batman.  In The Dark Knight, she is with Harvey Dent, but then he dies.  It is assumed that between the films she reverts to the strong independent solo women she supposedly is, but any time we see Rachel on screen – in either film – we only see her reacting to events caused by the male leads, or being saved by Batman who is also secretly Bruce Wayne, or being held hostage by a villain.  She fails to exist as her own character separate from the male heroes and villains.

It is no secret that women come off second best in Christopher Nolan’s films.  They are there to serve the plot, and the male leads.  Nolan is no more guilty than the majority of other mainstream films in a patriarchal society that is content to churn out multiple male superhero leads every year, despite roughly half their potential audience being women.

Rather than being second-stringers, it is long past the time when we should be seeing female leads in superhero films, there are no shortage of characters to choose from.

But getting back on topic, I really liked Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face, he was a welcome addition to the Nolan Batman franchise, and his face looks truly horrific in the film.  I was surprised how graphic and detailed his realistically damaged face looked on screen.

I winced when I first saw it, but the horror fan in me was proud of the special effects and attention to detail shown in Dent’s exposed eye socket, jaw, teeth and muscle and connective tissue.  In The Dark Knight Eckhart shows us some of his best talents.

He shows us his charming best qualities – the slick charismatic and genuine guy we saw in Thank You for Smoking, the leadership  qualities he displayed in Battle: Los Angeles and the softer, fragile tender side he displayed in Rabbit Hole with Nicole Kidman.

I think Aaron Eckhart is a wonderful actor, and I have enjoyed following his career and hope to see him in more films that really utilise his talents and have him grow as an actor and a human being.

Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale 2

 

Have you read these other Nolan Bat Trilogy posts?

Why Christian Bale is the Batman Gotham Deserves

Christopher Nolan – The Intellectual Knight Gotham needs

15 Greatest Quotes on Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance

Heath Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance PART#2

Christopher Nolan – The Intellectual Knight Gotham needs

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I must become a creature of the night, black, terrible, a ……Director

I’ve watched all of Chris Nolan’s films so far multiple times.

With repeat viewings, his earlier films stand up much better than his later films in terms of a coherent plot, internal structure, character motivation, story arc etc.

From the tight internal continuity of Memento or Insomnia to the laid back structure of the Dark Knight Rises or Interstellar (both full of glaring plot holes) it seems Nolan has moved further away from his roots and more into traditional blockbuster territory, and I don’t think that is a bad thing.

His first three flicks (Following, Memento, Insomnia) were never in a rush within the Hollyweird production line, nor did they have such high expectations as his later films.  All of Nolan’s films all good films, they each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Whatever flaws any Nolan film has, they still serve the primary purpose of being entertaining.

But as Nolan’s career goes on, each film seems to have more and more giant plot holes and a looser continuity.  The increasing amount of plot holes and logical inconsistencies doesn’t really make sense for someone as attentive to plot and character as Christopher Nolan.

He knows every frame of his films, and if there is a major plot hole, you can bet he is more than likely aware of it, but he is also aware that there are strict time frames for big studio pictures.  That there are major plot holes is also in part because he aims high, and puts so many big ideas into a film that some of them are bound to clash, or not make sense when big idea (1) is juxtaposed with big idea (2).

Christopher Nolan’s recent movies have become less about tight internal story structure, and more about the performances, high concept ideas and spectacle.  I’d argue that the flaws in his films come down to putting so much into big budget films, cramming them so full of ideas in a limited time frame, that there is just not the luxury of time to nit-pick and edit the hell out of EVERY flaw before the release window.

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So then… I forgot what I was going to say

You get the well developed core ideas and narrative arc of the main characters, while the finer details are glossed over somewhat.  I am fine with that kind of compromise, because of all Nolan’s films so far has some kind of emotional pay off or resolution for the main character that makes for satisfying viewing.

There are enough high concept ideas (intentionally left open to interpretation) thrown out there in say Inception or Interstellar that the viewer is rewarded for paying attention, and repeat viewings reveal new layers of depth and insight that just are not possible to pick up on the first viewing.  At the end of the day, all films have micro-flaws in them due to shooting schedules, budget and time constraints etc.

I am perhaps more forgiving of Nolan’s films as a fan of his work, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice the flaws, if anything it means I notice them more, as I don’t pay the same level of attention to minor details in other films.  I also go back and read film spotter’s guides to every little thing that doesn’t add up in any given film.

In a way, spotting the flaws are a perverse joy, it adds another layer to the film, but some flaws are pure nonsense of course, and just make you angry that they were not fixed.

Not that there is anything wrong, with… that.  

-Jerry Seinfeld

Working on a big budget studio picture is a little bit like working for NASA.  There is a time frame, a window to launch that rocket, and if you miss that window, well that is NOT an option.  You make sure all the essentials are covered, but if somebody forgets their favourite Rolling Stones big lips T-shirt or their toothbrush, then tough shit, they are not going to scrub the mission for some minor inconvenience.

And a studio is not going to bend over backwards for ANY director, unless they are guaranteed a LOT of money in return for their investment.  Even then, no directer is God, any of them can be fired from a production if they piss off enough people, unless they have some of their own money in it, or have sought out independent financing and distribution.

Nolan still manages to make intelligent block busters that please a mainstream crowd and most of the nerds of the world.  He throws out thrilling action sequences that recall the best of Bond, Lethal Weapon or Die Hard, while giving us intellectually stimulating ideas and characters exploring themes of identity and existential angst comparable to The Matrix, Donnie Darko, Solaris, Dark City, Blade Runner, John Carpenter’s The Thing  or Bergman’s The Seventh Seal if you want to get fancy.

The most interesting comparison I read recently on Nolan’s ambitions as a director is that the author of The Prestige novel Christopher Priest says Nolan aims to be another Stanley Kubrick, but his strengths seem to to more in line with being an Alfred Hitchcock.

I don’t think that is an unfair comparison, and frankly I would rather see intelligent but understandable films in the Hitchcock style – than pretentious, sometimes incomprehensible (but no doubt still the work of a genius) films in the style of Kubrick.  Film geeks love Kubrick’s films, but outside of a couple of his films – like The Shining or Full Metal Jacket mainstream audiences don’t really engage with his work.

What he’s trying to be is some kind of modern Kubrick  And I think he’d be better off being a modern Hitchcock

Christopher Priest / author ‘The Prestige’

Of course, there are no limits to what cinematic legends Nolan can pilfer ideas from.  All good artists have multiple influences, there is no need to be pigeon-holed into being one type of director.  But I for one have no issue with Nolan being compared to Hitchcock in the sense that he makes intelligent thought provoking films that reach a mass audience.  Film making is a business that exists to make profit like any other, and if you are not seen promoting or selling  a film, then you are not really in the business.

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Accusations of Nolan repeating himself are totally unfounded

Kubrick made clever and complex films that often required an educated audience to appreciate, while Hitchcock made basically the same movie over and over, but with enough variety and above average clever-ness that it usually felt fresh and exciting, rather than boring, while still engaging  a mainstream audience.

Despite the topical contrast in Christopher Nolan’s films, he does makes the same basic films over and over.  The core idea expressed throughout his films, more than any other is about identity.  The ladies in his films don’t come off too well, most of them end up either killing themselves or being murdered, which leads to speculation by click baiting internet randoms that Nolan may be a woman hater.

Several of his female characters are man hating shrews who are out to kill the lead character.

My counter theory is that Christopher Nolan is more likely a film lover, particularly a lover of films by Alfred Hitchcock, who made no qualms about killing any character if it served the plot, or made for a dramatic moment.  I do not feel that Nolan is a woman hater, chauvinist or anything like that, and comments that suggest it are really just looking to create sensationalism to get clicks on websites to tabloid style articles of little depth or meaning.

As clever as Hitchcock’s films are, (and he is in my all time top ten of great directors) he managed to walk a line between commercial interests and art, leaning more towards what was commercial and popular, rather than what was clever or arty for the sake of it.  Hitchcock films put bums on seats, as do the best Nolan films.

If Nolan’s true strengths lie in being a modern day Hitchcock, mixed with some high concept intellectual ideas and deeper meanings in the style of Kubrick -well I hope that Nolan embraces that and that his next blockbuster will not only be intelligent, but will also put bums on seat without large amounts of plot holes.  But I also hope that any film he makes is never dumbed down for an audience.  Audiences are smarter than Hollywood thinks, dumbed down entertainment is just insulting.

The significant plot holes in films like The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar make repeat viewings of those films a tedious exercise in trying to ignore those glaring flaws.  I don’t mind a few mistakes here and there, but when there are too many it takes you out of the film.  The clever thing about Inception was, any flaws were potentially part of a dream, or there on purpose to throw you off, but I don’t know if I can be as forgiving of his other films.

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The International Squinting Competition was heating up

Ultimately motion pictures are a commercial medium, they always have been.  Some people manage to make art within that medium, but to pretend is has not always been a commercial medium is to bury one’s head in the sand.

Christopher Nolan has managed to defy the odds by creating big budget blockbuster films that also have brains.  He has his critics of course, and he is nowhere near perfect.  But he creates consistently entertaining films, and what more can you ask of any director?  Films are there primarily to entertain, any artistic expression or stimulating ideas or philosophy is a bonus feature, and a welcome one at that in the case of the Nolanverse.

 

Did you miss these other recent Chris Nolan Batman Trilogy Posts?

Why Christian Bale is the Batman Gotham Deserves

Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face: Gotham’s White Knight

15 Greatest Quotes on Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance

Heath Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance PART#2