Tag Archives: Batman Actors

Michael “Size of a Tangerine” Caine as Alfred

   Michael Caine punch to cameraWe’re each others’ good luck charms. I always say to him, I’m not your good luck charm, you are mine!  

Michael Caine

Father figure, mentor, friend, guide, conscience, bad ass, gentleman.

Alfred is all of these and more to ‘master’ Bruce.

Alfred as portrayed by Micheal Caine in Chris Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is the character whose essence is perhaps most true to the comic book source material.

Caine embodies the best qualities of Alfred.

Alfred is loyal, passionate, tough, loving and kind.  He is the father that Bruce conveniently forgets he has, the man who actually raised him.

The Alfred /Bruce relationship is at the core of the Nolan Batman films, their relationship is the core dynamic that binds the three films together thematically and emotionally.

Michael caine Alfred Bruce Wayne Batman Dark Knight Christian Bale

Micheal Caine’s Alfred eases us into our Batman cinematic journey.  The transition of Bruce Wayne boy billionaire to Bruce Wayne masked avenger is also the relationship of Bruce and Alfred.

Alfred is there at the beginning to hold our hand and guide us in the dark, he travels with us along the way through the hard times and the good times, he’s quick with a joke and a smile, he stands up to and questions Bruce’s journey as all good mentor figures do, and Alfred is there to shed a tear at the end of the journey, the lone figure standing over the empty grave of a strange man the world truly never knew.

Christopher Nolan began his cinematic relationship with Michael Caine in the film adaptation of the novel The Prestige.

Nolan has included Caine (his “good luck charm”) in every subsequent film from Batman Begins and Inception to Interstellar.

In Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Caine plays Alfred to Christian Bale’s Batman.  Alfred is a father figure, mentor, guide, conscience and a friend to Bruce Wayne.  Alfred is Bruce’s rock in a chaotic life, he is Bruce’s only family, and primary care giver, even though they are not related by blood.

Michael Caine dapper gent 2

In the Batman source material, Alfred Pennyworth has been portrayed as a bungling amateur detective and failed actor for comedy relief.

Alfred later died and then turned into a super-villain called Outsider in one of the silliest and ill-conceived ideas in comics history.  Of course the idea would be repeated with Jason Todd / Red Hood as well as other ludicrous stories that make no real sense.  Alfred got better better and reverted to his normal self after Batman punches some sense into him (see the image below, top left panel).

Alfred over the years evolved into the sarcastic but warm hearted mentor/father figure to Bruce Wayne that we are most familiar with in the modern era of the Batman mythos.

Detective Comics 356 Alfred revealed as Outsider 1
Alfred gives up his short career in super villainy

Alfred is an essential of element any great Batman story.  Without Alfred, Bruce is just some spoilt rich manchild in a silly costume who takes out his anger on criminals and refuses to move on with his life.   Alfred is Bruce’s conscience, stand in father figure, mentor and friend.  Without Alfred, Bruce would rapidly descend into his own self-invented Batman persona, leaving behind the ‘Bruce Wayne’ parts of his personality.

As a character, Alfred has never been more vibrant, wise, sarcastic, kind and loving as when Sir Michael Caine brought the cheekiest, toughest and most loyal Butler in town to life in Chris Nolan’s Batman Trilogy.

Michael Caine Dapper Gent

If there is a valid criticism to be made of Nolan’s Batman trilogy it is perhaps they are TOO serious, too grim, too dark and depressing.  Batman is a dark character, but not one hundred percent of the time.  Spawn and The Shadow are darker characters (and both are killers), lets say not one hundred percent, but around ninety-nine percent.

I see Batman as more like 60-70% dark, in my hypothetical ‘just imagined for this sentence‘ scale of darkness for popular fictional anti-heroes, vigilantes and masked avengers.  Otherwise Batman becomes too much like Spawn or the Punisher.

There has to be a line somewhere, and I think maybe Nolan went over that line.  But I still love the films, even when they are not being true to the comics by having Batman kill, or when Bruce gives up being Batman after The Dark Knight to go sulk in his mansion like a bratty child.

Batman basically kills the main villains in each of the Nolan Batman films, something that doesn’t sit right with the comic book version of Batman.  Most of the time when I watch The Dark Knight I forget that he kills Harvey Dent / Two-Face at the end of the film by knocking him off a building, which muddies the character of Batman in a film I really love.

The thing you have to accept to really enjoy Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, is that this is HIS Batman, not our communal (comic book) Batman.  It is Nolan’s version of the character, and the internal film logic makes sense to him,but not always to us.

Alfred Bruce Wayne The Dark Knight Nolan Movie

The cinematic Batman is its own thing, you can’t hold a director/writer accountable for following their own vision in telling the story they wanted to tell.  Whatever the story ends up being, it is basically the writers/directors subjective opinion/interpretation of the character, so can not be “wrong” in any absolute sense.

You can argue “Batman doesn’t kill” and pick plot holes in the Nolan Batman Trilogy all day long, I have no issue with that, but remember that you can do that with any film ever made.  You could say, in an imaginary heated exchanged with the tea drinking heavy coat wearing Nolan:

“Wait a minute, I don’t think you are really being true to the essence of the Batman character here.”

And you would have a valid point.

But the counterpoint is that Nolan went with his version of Batman, his cinematic Batman – a character based on the source material that was never intended to be the same literal Batman from the comic books.  So calling out errors based on what people like in the comics is just irrelevant, because it is a movie, NOT a comic book!

I do have issues with Nolan’s Batman, – such as Batman killing Two-Face – but overall I love the films.

As Batman’s conscience, Alfred (Michael Caine) helps Bruce Wayne reach the outer limits of his psyche, harnessing the power of the villain / shadow archetype without fully giving in to the darkness he feels inside himself.  Batman owns his demons, they don’t own him.  It would be easy to just kill criminals and be done with them.  But Batman holds himself to a higher moral standard.

At the end of the day, Batman values life, and the lives of all people.  He is not an executioner, nor a judge.  Batman is more like a cop, bounty hunter or sheriff in the old West.  He chooses to operate outside of the law, because of the high level of Police corruption and all around ineffective law enforcement at all levels in Gotham City due to the stranglehold of the mob, serial killers and masked maniacs.

michael-caine-batman-begins

Some may call Alfred an “enabler”, in that he at first resists Bruce, then ultimately supports and helps Bruce to become Batman.  He enables Bruce Wayne’s particular brand of madness.  Alfred is such a highly principled character, so strong, motivated, caring, loving, and yes – wise – that I feel it speaks volumes about the rightness of Bruce Wayne’s choice (or mission / calling) to become Batman.

In ordinary terms becoming Batman is basically an insane choice.  It would not be the choice of a well adjusted person.

But Gotham City is no ordinary city, it is the most crime ridden most corrupt city in America.  Extreme times call for extreme measures, and given the depths to which  Gotham City has sunk, and the cities genuine need for some force outside of government and law enforcement to allow for genuine change and progress, progress here meaning not capitalism, but a return to wellness, in this situation the invention of the mythic “Batman” may be a very reasonable response.

Any system that is so corrupt as to be completely ineffective has lost any sense of wellness, or sanity.  A return to sanity, or wellness then requires either abolishing the current system, or change from outside of the system itself that ultimately pulls the old system down by proxy, or coerces it the old system to change by demonstrating a superior model.  A city that lives in its own Shadow (as in the psychological term, not actual shadows) and refuses to evolve becomes a cancer on the land, and Batman is like an immune system response to the overwhelming attack of corruption (cancer) on the body of Gotham City.

Batman Robin Comic Alfred with Shotgun

Sanity and wellness then are ultimately the same thing.  Once the city has been rehabilitated, then in theory there is no need for Batman, or if Batman is to continue, he becomes no longer an emergency response to a sick body, but a worker preserving the healthy status of the city.  Batman becomes a defender of life, wellness and sanity, despite appearing to be a bit of a loony.

People in all times and places respond to Mythic characters, not with their intellect, but at a primal instinctual gut level. Mythic characters and archetypes bypass our everyday rational mind and penetrate our subconscious, they haunt our dreams and fantasies, they live in the space between worlds and flow from our intuition speaking to us of timeless tales and life lessons.

In this sense, Batman is an idea whose time has come.  He is the antidote to the sickness of Gotham.  He is Gotham’s underbelly given form and shape come back to haunt them, he is a wrathful deity determined to drag us kicking and screaming out of darkness and into the cold hard light of truth, showing us what we refuse to see or acknowledge for ourselves.

harry-brown michael caine

Michael Caine’s accomplished career has seen the actor staying the course in more iconic roles than most of us can even remember.  Early films such as Alfie, The Ipcress File, The Italian Job, Zulu and Get Carter established Caine as a versatile actor.  He could be an effortlessly charming ladies man, a tough guy, a quiet spy, a soldier, an upper class gentleman, or a lovable James Bond-like rogue.

Caine’s seventies roles were stereotypical male power fantasy roles that later led into his more intellectual roles in eighties cinema. Caine featured in further dramatic and comedic performances in the nineties, and a surprising return to both action and thrillers in the post year two-thousand era amidst the resurgence of aging male action stars in B grade films such as Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Arnold and Sly Stallone.

Throughout his career, Caine has played a mix of heroes and villains. He has every bit the talent and ability to play a Bond, Batman or Bruce Wayne.  Caine is well suited to a variety of roles, but he is not limited by those roles, nor afraid to do something different.

From working with Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters to boldy strutting around with a shotgun in Get Carter to being Austin’s dad in Goldmember, and the pseudo-father to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Caine never really felt like a “young man” even when he literally was a young man on screen.

Michael Caine seemed to appear fully formed on screen, full of wit, bravado and effortless class.  The seasoned veteran is a thoughtful actor whose acting style has changed and grown over the years, while still remaining effortlessly charming and unique.  Caine is a perennial favourite among impressionists.  The list of celebrities and laypersons who love to impersonate his distinctive voice are legion.

Alfred Pennyworth Batman comic sarcastic

Caine can play a tough guy loner, spy, mild mannered intellectual, charming thief, father figure, mentor or just a lovable rapscallion that you can’t help but enjoy on screen no matter what mischief he gets up to.

The Italian Job while a relatively boring film, is memorable for two reasons – the fantastic car chase getaway scene in the iconic mins through the stunning shops and streets of Italy, and leading man Michael Caine.  Remove either of those two elements and the movie would be a totally forgettable sub-par Ocean’s 11.

Even when playing a villain or amoral selfish character, Michael Caine remains very likable.  There is something about his face that he just seems trustworthy and reliable.  At this stage of his career, he literally is the archetypal Wise Old Man.  It is hard to imagine Michael Caine in his younger days being a scoundrel running around with Sean Connery picking up women.  Michael Caine starred alongside Sean Connery in the John Huston directed The Man Who Would Be King (1975).  Caine and Connery remained lifelong friends.

There is something of a retired James Bond feel to Micheal Caine’s Alfred in Batman Begins.  Beneath the cool and fatherly exterior is a man of remarkable depth and insight.  While Batman despises guns, Alfred has no issue with them, and will not hesitate to shoot an attacker.

As much as we learn about Alfred over the three films, by the end of Dark Knight Rises we still know next to nothing about his personal history.  The original Alfred introduced in Batman #16, 1943 was a fat bumbling Detective, a failed actor and son of Thomas Wayne’s butler Jarvis.

Batman 16_First appearance Alfred Pennyworth

Later revisions of the character saw Alfred slimming down, changing his name and becoming the slender snooty sarcastic butler we are more familiar with today. Another retcon of the character made Alfred a former cold war spy.  In yet another take on the character – Geoff John’s Earth-1 Alfred is a former Royal Marine, sharpshooter and martial artist who trains young master Wayne in martial arts.  It will be interesting to see which version of Alfred turns up in the next Batman live action film.

Michael Caine Get Carter Shotgun
Gangster, Ladykiller, Thief, Lovable Rogue

When Micheal Caine made Harry Brown following his success in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it instantly reminded me of his seventies film roles such as Get Carter.  It is easy to forget that Michael Caine is not just a classy English gentleman, but is also suave, sexy and charming on and off screen.  Just as dangerous as BOND on screen, and real life friends with BOND (Sean Connery) off screen.

Harry Brown was a return to the anti-hero character made popular in revenge films by Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood.  A senior citizen who grows tired of the endless street gang violence and drug dealing in his neighborhood, Harry Brown is set on a path of destruction when his best friend is murdered.  Being a former soldier, Harry is more than familiar with guns, and goes to town like a senior citizen version of Marvel’s Frank Castle / The Punisher.

The Four Horsemen of Awesome 1
The Four Horsemen

Michael Caine makes a difficult role believable. It is Alfred’s role to convince us that Batman is plausible, that it is not completely insane to dress up like a Bat and punch crime in the face.  Alfred is the cinematic bridge between our everyday world we inhabit and the realm of the unknown world, or underworld that Batman makes his own.

When Bruce decides to dress up as a giant bat and punch crime in the face, Alfred is the voice of reason.  Micheal Caine sells this role by being a very warm, gentle and yet tough no nonsense mentor.  Alfred’s acceptance of Batman ultimately becomes our acceptance of Batman, we want Bruce to succeed  in his insane quest.

Alfred helps us to make the unknown known, he helps us to see the shadow that is Batman is not some threat, but an essential part of our personality that we have been afraid to explore.  The power of Batman is not just about fear, but that there is a little of Batman in us all, we all have a dark side, and we all have hidden strengths demanding to be expressed.

Batman is an also an explorer of the human psyche

Batman then is not only a highly trained martial artist, scientist, criminologist, strongman, gymnast and detective.  He is an explorer of the human psyche, making his home in the place where most of us fear to explore within our own lives, he not only journeys to the mythic underworld daily, he embraces and empowers himself with the symbols of shadow.  Batman uses a criminals own fear against him by appearing to him as an otherworldly wraith, an invisible ninja, an unkillable spectre of the night.

Alfred doubts Bruce Wayne’s reasoning, methods and motivation.  He is the sounding board to Bruce’s eccentricities.  By running up against barriers and resistance in life, we are better able to gauge our actions, and know when we are moving beyond a barrier through the natural growth of our personality, of whether we are pushing ourselves in a direction which ultimately does not serve our best interests.  Bruce butting heads with Alfred over his decision to become Batman only leads Bruce to further solidifying the idea in his mind.

Bruce Wayne becomes determined to become Batman, despite Alfred’s well reasoned and sane pleas not to.  When Bruce later decides he no longer wishes to be Batman, Alfred reminds him that once you start something, you should really follow through.  Alfred suggests to Bruce that the city may need Batman after all.  Of course by the third film, Bruce Wayne has lost his way.  He has given in to his own ignorance and self-delusion.  He has walked away from his quest and Alfred, again the voice of reason pleads with Bruce not to be Batman.

After years of being idle, Wayne has lost his edge, and he faces new dangerous enemies he knows nothing about and fails to understand. Rather than retreating from his enemies, instead Batman charges head on into situations in which he has no hope of being victorious. This is where the movie version of Batman departs from the source material.  The comic book version of Batman would have retreated, studied his enemies and their tactics, and eventually moved in like a ninja, catching his foe unaware to kick ass and take names.

Michael Caine get carter shotgun2 resized

Instead, the Nolan movie version of Batman goes further down the rabbit hole.  He gives in to his own selfish false needs, his gives in to his own anger, desperation, rage, his need to prove to himself that he can still be Batman, and Bruce fails spectacularly when he is beaten physically and mentally by Bane.  Bruce is robbed of all his wealth and resources, cut off from his allies and then dumped in a third world prison.  Bruce then is his own worst enemy, and his spectacular failure seems to be what he needed to get him out of his Howard Hughes inspired self-exile.

Eventually Bruce Wayne comes back, he redeems himself.  He trains and reinvents himself like Rocky and other movie heroes.  But Bruce loses the one companion he has known his entire life. Alfred warns him not to continue his insane quest, and walks away, leaving Bruce to his fate.

Bruce Wayne redeems himself as Batman, but betrays his relationship with Alfred.  He destroys his relationship to the man who raised him and cared for him his entire life.  Bruce betrays Alfred by not telling him that he is alive after the resolution of the terrorist actions by Bane and Talia that threatened the city.  The crisis has passed, and what possible reason could Bruce have for not telling his friend, father and mentor that he is in fact still alive, and did not die in the bomb blast, we, the audience never find out.

At the end of The Dark Knight Rises Bruce/Batman is revealed as still alive, but the pain and anguish that Alfred went through because of Bruce’s deception will take a lifetime to heal, if at all.  The ending is bittersweet, as we see no evidence of Bruce Wayne attempting any reconciliation or re-connection to Alfred, the man who has been by his side his entire life, and whom he conveniently cut loose when the relationship no longer suited him.

On the one hand, we can say Bruce Wayne is a spoilt rich brat, on the other hand we can see his dedication and commitment to being Batman and serving the common good is total, and he is willing to sacrifice his friends, father figure, his wealth, resources and ultimately his own life.

Alfred Pennyworth Butler Batman the animated series

Starting in Batman Begins, Alfred supports Bruce in his one man war on crime, but he never really fully approves of Batman.  When Bruce insisted on becoming Batman, Alfred reluctantly supports him in his choice, but his loyalty is never in question.  It would be quite reasonable for Alfred to walk away and have nothing to do with “Batman”.

It would be reasonable to go to the cops when your former employer starts punching criminals in the face while dressed up at night because of his childhood trauma rather than going to therapy or burying his misery in a bottle of booze.

The fact that Alfred never does any of these things speaks volumes of his character and integrity.

Alfred’s actions also suggest that he is not just the Wayne family Butler,  but also Bruce Wayne’s primary care giver, the man who raised him more than his own father did.  The man who has been by his side his entire life, supported Bruce, loved him and never let him down.

Few of us in the real world have it so good.  Despite Bruce Wayne going through a terrible trauma and loss of his parents as a child, he was never truly without parents in the sense that Alfred was always his third parent, and continues to be his parent, mentor and counsel even as Bruce begins his career, obsession and calling as Batman.

The conflicting nature of the Bruce / Alfred relationship is one that has been tested to the limits in both Chris Nolan’s films, and in various comic book stories.  Most people have heard of Batman and Robin, but few appreciate how integral Alfred is to Bruce Wayne.  Robin, whether Dick Grayson, or any of the subsequent people to take up the role of Robin, can never be Batman’s equal.

Bruce Wayne found in young Dick Grayson the boy he thought he had lost, his inner child.  The child he so desperately lost in himself, who never got to grow up with his parents.  The death of Dick Grayson’s parents (also a murder) means Batman reliving his trauma, and knowing how it affected him, wants to guide young Richard Grayson to a happier, healthier life than Bruce had after the death of his parents.

Richard Grayson looks up to Batman, and sees the man he wants to become, while Bruce looks at Dick as the child who he never got to be, the child who died along with his parents the day Thomas and Martha Wayne were brutally murdered in a back alley.  Bruce, Richard and Alfred then are an impromptu family.  Alfred is the wise elder in the family, and guardian of the family traditions, while Bruce Wayne is the progressive rebel who cares nothing for tradition, and insists on doing everything his way.  Alone, Bruce, Dick and Alfred are broken men, but together they are a great team, and family.

While the Robin we know from the Batman comic books was not part of Chris Nolans Batman Trilogy, Alfred very much is, and that core relationship remains, proving to be the most emotionally resonant and satisfying relationship in the three films.

micahel caine smoking black and white still handsome bastard he is

‘Batfleck’ Ben and Star Wars

One thing I like about Marvels Avengers movie is the lack of cynicism.

Both Man of Steel and The Dark Knight while enjoyable films have a hard edged cynical feel to them, that don’t exactly scream “fun” or “comic book” to an audience.

It is fair to say that Man of Steel and The Dark Knight and the forthcoming Batman v Superman are films that while taking inspiration from comic books, want to be taken seriously as grim realistic movies, or at least as realistic and depressing as cartoonish movies can be with a man who dresses up like a bat and an alien space Jesus in tights.

In contrast Marvels Avengers and Iron Man films are not afraid be what they are – big bombastic fun comic book movies.  Emphasis on fun. Most people don’t go to the cinema to feel miserable, they want to feel good and have fun at the movies as a respite from their daily lives.

Avengers movie illustration

Personally, I love to see fresh new interpretations of Batman.

Each time Batman has a great new creator team making some enjoyable comic book stories I get excited.  I get super jump out-of-your-skin excited when any new Batman project is announced.  A comic, a game, a new film or animated series, I love it all.  No matter how many projects DC do, each time I still get excited.

And yet, as an adult I am far more critical of any Batman adaptation than when I was a kid and indiscriminately consumed whatever media was thrown my way with joyful glee.

Becoming more discriminating in the media I choose to consume and enjoy can be a sign of maturity, but it can also be a sign of a world weary soul who complains about every new project BEFORE it is even completed.

When I ask myself what is the point of getting emotionally invested in some new movie or cartoon I have not seen, and so really can have no accurate view on, well what is the point?  It is pointless.  Most films, cartoons and video games I like to know a fair bit about before investing my time in them.

Batfleck Ben and Jen

But with Batman, I don’t want to know too much and have my view coloured by other people to the point that it prevents me from enjoying something.  I will watch any Batman film, period.  Even if it is shit.  I want to like any Batman film that comes along.  I will give any animated show a fair shot before writing it off.

Take for example the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon.  I watched a clip when it first aired and found the show to be camp, silly, annoying and childish. It was too much like Adam West Batman for my tastes.  Imagine my surprise years later when I took another look at the show to discover it is absolutely brilliant, and one of best animated shows DC has ever created.  Brave and the Bold even manages to have some of the most emotionally affecting Batman stories ever told in any medium, and it is a cartoon intended for children that just happened to sneak in great stories and nods to fifties DC Comics.

There is a real danger (well danger is too strong a word, but you get my drift) that as fans we become world weary and cynical and overly opinionated about our favourite fictional characters and worlds.  Some fans start to even have too strong a voice thanks to the internet, even potentially interfering with the creative process by making a hullabaloo about not very much at all.

I personally feel that any artist in any medium is only accountable to themselves to create the vision they had intended

Whenever I read a criticism of say a film that “didn’t do this, and didn’t do that”, I pause and reflect, thinking, well, did the writer/director intend for the film to be what YOU wanted it to be, or did they intend for it be what THEY wanted it to be.

It seems sometimes we are willfully ignorant.  If we don’t like a particular artist, writer, director or whatever, we the audience of loud mouthed reactionary idiots (a.k.a. fans) can choose not to interact with whatever media they create.  Nobody is forcing us to consume their intellectual product!

If you don’t the vision a certain director or writer has in an adaptation of something you like, well then don’t bloody well watch it.  Don’t watch something you hate just so you can go online and bitch about it like a whiny little spoilt kid.  That is giving in to the dark side of the force my friend!  Not in a cool Darth Vader way, just a really pathetic and sad waste of life energy that COULD have been used to do something worthwhile.

Times likes these, I ask myself, WWBD?  What Would Batman Do?  Go online and whinge like a little baby, or go out into the world and do something, however big or small to make a difference.  Would Batman spend his efforts complaining about how the world is, or invest his efforts in creating a better word?

drunk superman ben affleck as george reeves vs Batfleck Batman
Superman flies better when he is drunk

It boggles my mind why any fan would mindlessly watch a film or play a video game purely because it is based on something that at one point in their life they enjoyed, but now seem to get a perverse kind of joy out of vocally hating and being miserable about every new incarnation of their favourite character or fictional world. (Wait, didn’t I just say something earlier like I would watch ANY Batman film…..)

Two examples that come to mind are Star Wars and Ben Affleck.

Did you groan at the mere mention of those words?

Affleck is NOT who I would pick for being Batman. But hey I don’t run a film studio, and nobody is asking me.

Ben Affleck being announced as Batman was not something I was enthusiastic about

However, I don’t have anything against the guy, I give him the benefit of the doubt that I will watch the film then form an opinion about it.  The vocal minority who skew the perspective of geeks world wide with their endless ranting, bitching, pissing and moaning and spewing copious amounts of nonsensical bile and venom is a really UGLY phenomenon that I want nothing to do with.

When I hear someone mention the word “geek” I think of people who are passionate about their pop-culture or whatever they are in to.  The ugly side of geeks it is when the fans think they own the Intellectual Property and try and dictate to the film studios and character creators and writers how they feel it “should be”.

Love or hate Ben Affleck, it makes no difference to my life whatsoever.  If you enjoy the Batman v Superman film– great. If not, there is always another Batman film right around the corner, we are in no danger of running out of Batman films in the next one hundred years, chances are you will like at least one of them.  And whether B v S is brilliant or a right load of old cobblers, what difference will it make ten years from now?  Life will go on.

Detective Comics 590 cover
I like my Batman dark, brooding and Gothic thank you

The Star Wars prequel issue had a bit more teeth to it.  At least people actually WATCHED the films, then started ranting, raving and foaming at the mouth about the things they didn’t like in Episode 1.  To be fair, Jar Jar Binks was a stupid and irritating character that most of us want to forget ever existed.

I am not a Star Wars fan, (I like it, I know it well, just not enough to be a fan will all the cool toys etc) but frankly I would happily pay for a version with Jar Jar Binks edited out of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace or at least have him him be relatively mute for the majority of the film.  For me, that character does ruin a food portion of an otherwise enjoyable film.  But the rest of the insane over reactions that George Lucas was somehow ruining people’s childhood by making the Star Wars prequel films was childish lunacy.

There is a danger once any art or intellectual property that reaches a mass audience, that the I.P. starts to be dictated to by the audience that consumes it in a serpent eating its own tail fashion.  A film studio or a comic book writer can do target market research and get good input back from fans, that sort of thing makes sense.

In a healthy creative cycle the creator has some awareness of the audiences expectations, reactions and what they love and hate about a particular intellectual property. But the moment that fans start dictating to the creators what they should be creating, the whole creative process falls apart.

When a company or publisher (or fans) dictates to the artist / writer what they should be doing, the creative process falls apart

The only thing an artist in any field whatsoever owes is to follow their unique creative vision, and be true to that vision.  If they are doing work for hire, there may be an outline and rules to follow, that is a given.

And if fans feel so strongly that they don’t like what a particular artist is doing, rather than wasting energy in a pointless endeavor to be little dictators intent on changing what the artist creates, instead they could take that same energy and passion, and go create something themselves.

They could go and create something and start their own conversation in the arena of public consumable entertainment.  That is at least part of the real reason I feel that some fans get so foamed up at the mouth like rabid dogs, they are jealous of those who create and contribute something (however meaningful or trivial) to the world.

Young kid anakin skywalker

I want to say to anyone in any medium, good on you for creating something, ANYTHING.  Congratulations on living the dream and getting off your ass and doing something.  Whether it is writing a movie script, drawing an awesome piece or art, writing books or fan blogs, contributing to a pop culture website or building dioramas or whatever the hell you are into. Paid or unpaid, career or hobby – it doesn’t matter, when you do what you love time just melts away and like minded people will enjoy your work.

Let those creative juices flow, the more you create, the more satisfied you are.  Creating something, sticking with a project through all the difficulties and seeing it through to the end takes real concentration, passion and a little Barry White style staying power.

I have zero wisdom to impart in this post.  It is just a random brain fart / rant that I felt like sharing.  I like to bitch and moan as much as the next dude about shit that I care about and want to see done right. But what is “right” is just my opinion, and I may be wrong.  Don’t expect to see too much of this sort of thing on my Batman Blog, as I prefer to spend 90% of my attention and efforts concentrating on what is right with the world, and what I love (and who I love) in life.  I just feel better that way.

It is easy to be a moaner and complainer and be really cynical, I did it for years.  But it is also a really in-authentic way to live.  Batman is the most honest and authentic guy around (excusing the whole dual identity thing of course), so if I am REALLY a fan of Batman, then I am going to live the most authentic life I know how.  That means facing up to problems in life rather than running away from them, and like our man Gandhi, being the change you want to see in the world, rather than sitting on the fence telling other people what they “should” be doing or not doing.

Lord_Darth_Vader_674x600

Well… if there is a lesson to be learned perhaps it is don’t give into hate, hate leads to fear, fear leads to hate and the dark side of the force or some such nonsense Yoda said in the Star Wars prequels.  I watched the Star Wars prequels last week with my girlfriend (who had never seen them).

Moments in the first two prequel films are pretty cringe-worthy, but that third film, wow!  Also, my girlfriend is obsessed with Ben Affleck, so I guess that is why I ended up mixing these two topics together in my mind.

The final transformation of young Anakin into ultimate bad ass dark side of the force chokes his own subordinates Darth Vader was hell impressive.  Beautiful little free spirited and inventive Anakin Skywalker turning into the cold remorseless unfeeling all time no good son of a gun Darth Vader is nothing less than genuinely heart breaking.
I still really enjoy that third film, but episodes IV, V an VI still kick the ass of the prequel films, they are like bottled lightning, destined to never be repeated.

Well, as Stan Lee was fond of proclaiming…

‘Nuff said.

10 Kick-Ass Actors I would LOVE to see play Batman in a Live Action Movie

Jon Hamm Batman

Jon Hamm as Batman from Detective Comics #27, May, 1939

 He smokes, he drinks, he’s a womanizer.  He does not give a fuck about anyone but himself. Who better than to play the Gotham Playboy.  This Bruce isn’t a persona or mask, he is just a terribly selfish man.  This isn’t the sensitive young green horn from Miller’s Batman: Year One.  This is the original ass-kicking, take no prisoners Batman who knocks teeth down throats and throws bad guys out of windows and off of balconies without a second thought.

A rough and tumble Batman who has yet to meet Robin or question his own tactics or morality in his war on crime.  This is Batman as drawn by Matt Wagner or Darwyn Cooke.  This Batman is pure ego and alpha male aggression.  A nostalgia free trip back to 1939.  A corrupt and violent world, Gotham the biggest cesspool of organised crime and dirty cops in America, Batman the only force willing to stand up in a city that has lost all hope of redemption, a dark avenger for a dark city.

“We were magnificent then, an unholy instrument of vengeance, relentless as a shark, blacker than their dark hearts…” – from Batman: Ego by Darwyn Cooke

Clint Eastwood Batman

Clint Eastwood (at age 60) in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman

It almost happened, this movie could have been mind-blowing. Then again, had it been made I’m sure some clueless studio executive would have forced them to put a giant spider in the third act or found some other way to ruin a perfectly good film, like turning Batman into one of those obnoxious singing chipmunks.  For over a decade, this was the dream casting that fans were salivating for.

The wiry but fit and strong Eastwood could have been he perfect bitter cynical sixty year old Bruce Wayne pulled back out of retirement in a world where superheroes have been phased out or are persecuted by a government that previously turned a blind eye. Eastwood’s iconic turns as the Man with no Name, Dirty Harry, and a dozen other tougher than nails and old shoe leather personas make him the pick for the morally decaying Gotham City that forgot it needed Batman to not just keep it in check, but hold it back from sliding right into hell on earth.  Eastwood Batman does the job that you can’t interview for, and no sane person would ever want.

Karl Urban Batman

Karl Urban as Batman from Frank Miller’s Year One

He was awesome as Judge Dredd.  He’s got the chin, the gruff manliness and tough S.O.B attitude and is still relatively young enough for a Frank Miller Year One Batman.  While Nolan’s Batman Begins uses elements of Year One and other stories, this is a fantasy list where I pick any cast at any age.  I’m talking about a total adaptation of Miller’s Year One, not just elements borrowed from it.

While we are are here, let’s keep Bryan Cranston as Gordon.  He voiced young Jimbo in the animated version of Batman Year One.  Cranston is too old you say? I don’t care, make him look younger with make up, die his hair rusty auburn and your eyes will be glued to the screen.

Chris Pine

Chris Pine as Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond

He’s been Kirk and Jack Ryan, I say he can be the cocky young and arrogant Terry McGinnis  in a live action version of the animated DC show.  Set it a few years after the animated show, with McGinnis in his mid to late twenties.  Throw in Clint Eastwood as our man Bruce as the mentor to Terry – retired of course -and don’t forget the big black dog that keeps Bruce Wayne company as he guides young Terry.  Chris Pine did a fine job as the young arrogant and over-confident James Tiberius Kirk, and he would make a damn fine young arrogant hot shot Terry McGinnis in my opinion.

Daniel Craig Batman

Daniel Craig as Batman in the 1970s

Playboy? Check.  Intense stare? Check. Brooding angst? Check.  Bond Batman, or Batman Bond, it just makes sense.  One of the most popular versions of Batman is the Denny ‘O Neil / Neil Adams run from the 1970s.  Here Batman was transformed from a local crime fighter to a lean mean tumbling machine, he could dive and roll like nobodies business, full of athletic grace and realistic muscles, this Batman was a globe-trekking Bond in all but name, heavily influenced by the best Bond movies and he even had his own would be world conqueror villain – Ra’s Al Ghul, the Demon’s Head, the immortal Alexander of the modern age.

To have Batman actually be played by Bond may cause a tear in the fabric of space and time, but I don’t care, I would love to see that film and damn the consequences.  Make it a period film set in the 1970s with as much globe trotting and fancy suits and parties as an actual James Bond film, and this time make Ra’s Al Ghul the arrogant immortal madman he is, and not some watered down version who is too cowardly to admit who he is to Bruce Wayne’s face for fear of not being one of Batman’s Facebook friends.  The famous sword fight between Al Ghul and a bare chested Batman in the desert is of course essential, and makes for a thrilling climax to the film.

Ron Perlman Batman

Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy era) as Dark Knight Returns Batman

Dark Knight Returns Batman on Horse

While he doesn’t have the same pull with studios as Clint, Ron Perlman would be a perfect physical shape (as in bulk) to fill out Miller’s chunky stylized vision of the darkest Dark Knight of all.  We’ve seen him in enjoyable runs in Beauty and the Beast, Hellboy and Sons of Anarchy.  In a cynical corrupt world , shades of Batman’s pulp origins combine with Ron Perlman’s chin and Robert Rodriguez on directing duties, in a 1980’s set post cold-war tale of constantly shifting moral ambiguity and ultra-violence, with QT as producer.  He rode a horse and wore a cape in that crap Season of the Witch movie with Nic Cage, now just imagine the cowl and the stubby ears… and look at that square jaw!

Idris Elba Batman

Idris Elba as the modern day Batman

Born in Gotham, educated in the UK, a dark and intense Bruce Wayne terrorizes the criminals of Gotham in his never ending war on crime with the aide of his trusted Butler and mentor, Alfred Pennyworth.

The Butler? Daniel Craig or Ray Stevenson, as a special forces trained mentor to Bruce Wayne ripped from the pages of Geoff Johns’ Batman Earth 2.  Idris Elba has gone from strength to strength.  Sure he’s done his share of dodgy movies to keep those sweet meal deal checks rolling in, but anyone who has watched him as the obsessesively driven brooding and violent John Luther in the British drama series Luther knows that Idris Elba is perfect for Batman, and my top personal favourite choice from this list.

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Micheal C. Hall as Batman in Arkham Asylum

One word: DEXTER

His entire persona of “Dexter” is a false face of normality he wears to fit in, to hide who he really is.  Bathed in the blood of his parents, He knows Ju-Jitsu and spends a lot of time creeping around in the dark.  It was no accident that the writers of the Showtime hit Dexter, the story of serial killer who takes out other killers – wrote the lead character as a dark avenger.

Dexter serves some kind of indefinable dark purpose.  Call it Justice, the dark passenger, an evil deity, call it whatever you like, but put on that cape and cowl and see the instant transformation from man to myth.  From Dark Knight Detective to an unhinged crusading Demon in a Cape.  Then lock him in Arkham Asylum with all the freaks and let him go to town.  Have him bark Rorschach’s immortal line:

None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me!

 

Micheal Fassbender Batman

Micheal Fassbender as Batman in Cataclysm / No Man’s Land

He’s brilliant in everything from Fishtank and Shame to X-Men:First Class, A Dangerous Method and Prometheus. His well wicked turn as the intense man on a mission

007: Magneto BOND in X-Men:First Class was the highlight of the movie for me. His intense shark like portrayal of the most conflicted and yet relatable X-Men villain glued my eyes to the big screen.  A cold-hearted unforgiving bastard , a devil in a suit (and later a cape) who scares the living hell out of his enemies.

Sounds like Batman material to me.  Have him fighting to survive in No Man’s Land, the post viral outbreak, post earthquake disaster zone state that US Government is content to ignore as if it doesn’t exist.  Fassbender Batman and allies fighting to take back the Quarantined City of Gotham one block at a time makes for a riveting tension filled movie.

Damian Lewis Batman

Damian Lewis as Thomas Wayne / Flashpoint Paradox Batman

Thomas Wayne Batman

The dapper gent with the glowing red eyes and twin pistols.  A more vicious and deadly Batman (more like his inspiration The Shadow) lives in the alternate universe DC Story Flashpoint Paradox.  When Bruce Wayne and Martha Wayne died in the arms of Thomas Wayne, Thomas went on to become a Batman who runs casinos and has alliances with the mob.  A darker Batman for a broken world, I can think of nobody better than Damian Lewis, co-star of Homeland (with the under-rated Claire Danes) to become the tortured and broken violent man that is Thomas Wayne’s Batman.

Welcome to The Cut List TM&© Cutty McCuttington

He’s cut.  And him, oh that guy too, and you better believe that guy over there is cut. This may be a fantasy list, but that doesn’t mean ruthless cuts were not made in the name of keeping this list lean and mean like the Batman himself.

While the range of actors here are all people whose work I really enjoy, some guys just didn’t make the cut.  Not that they are not worthy of the Bat, all of them could conceivably be Batmen.  But these guys, good as they are in their various roles, just don’t FEEL  quite right to me as Batman.

Tommy Lee Jones Batman

Tommy Lee Jones

Maybe it’s the Texan accent, or that I associate him Western movies, real cowboys and The Fugitive.  Or the fact that he is a bit old to be jumping off of roof tops, although he generally does keep in good condition.  I see present day Tommy Lee Jones as more of a Jim Gordon than a Batman, and he would suit that role just fine.  But knock off a few years, and Tommy would do just fine as a possible Batman, dapper smooth gent that he is.

DRIVE Ryan Gosling as Batman

Ryan Gosling

This guy was really hard to cut, my girlfriend and my brother both tease me about my Ryan Gosling man crush.  Like the McConaissance, Tom Hardy or Leo, Ryan Gosling has been on a nearly unbroken run of must see film roles in recent years.   He is another internet fan favourite for Batman.  My favourite role was Gosling in Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE, my favourite film of all time.  DRIVE is my very favourite post modern neo-noir existentialist fairy tale,  hell it is probably the only post modern neo-noir existentialist fairy tale.

Gosling is nothing less than mesmerizing as the Man with No Name (right down to the toothpick in place of a Cigar).  He exists in a twilight zone place between worlds, he haunts the Micheal Mann esque streets of a neon-infused eternal night.  A hypnotic fever dream of getaway driving, bad deals and worse consequences on the streets of L.A.  He’s got guts, charisma and makes a great outsider/ loner anti-hero.  Sounds like Batman to me.

Ray Stevenson Batman

Ray Stevenson

Ray Stevenson is good in well…. EVERYTHING.  So why don’t I Iike him for Batman?  Well, he just looks evil.  So evil I’d say make him a villain in a Batman film.  He was brilliant in Dexter as a ruthless killer and average in Punisher War Zone.  But which villain should he be?  Not one of the usual lunatic parade, instead have him be an anti-Batman.  An evil/ amoral Batman doppelganger who kills without hesitation and Bruce Wayne must take him down as fast as he can before the body count rises.  There are no shortages of Batman doppelgangers, take your pick: Owlman, The Wrath, Killer Moth, Catman, Batzarro, Zur-en-ahh.

The Wrath vs Batman

Big Daddy_Nic Cage Kick Ass Movie

My pick would be have to him play The Wrath.  Let Ray’s booming voice scare the hell out of Bruce Wayne when he beats him within an inch of his life, Batman only escaping when Robin saves his ass.  But update The Wrath’s ridiculous costume.  Great character, dumb costume.  Lose the bloody purple and have him wear something closer to the Big Daddy costume from the Kick-Ass movie worn by Nic Cage.  Throw in Nic Cage as Catman if you like, who gets killed in the first act by The Wrath.

Riggs is Crazy and Buff

Mel Gibson

“You want to get nuts?  Come on, let’s get nuts!”

Riggs is crazy!  Another contender – the third in this list for Dark Knight Returns version of Batman.  He’s done crazy and tough.  He’s done crazy and passionate and funny.  He’s done crazy and sensitive and um… crazy.  As DKR Batman he would kick ass and take names.  And have you seen how he looks lately… check out those arms.  Sorry Micheal Keaton, you just got out-crazied by the master.


Dark Knight Returns Trade Edition Cover
Absolute Edition Dark Knight Returns Cover