Tag Archives: comic book movies

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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The Forces that Shape our Stories – Why We Crave Superheroes/Modern Mythology like Oxygen

What is true is that we humans cannot shrink the Universe or its God down to something we can see and understand.  We, to understand, must expand our ways of understanding to infinite and eternal expanses. -Bob Laughlin, Denver, USA

In the modern world our mythologies and legends have been deconstructed.

Our cultural stories have been torn apart, dismantled, analysed to death and seen through the eyes of post-modernism and a rational scientific mind.

Our religions, spiritual and wisdom traditions have been endlessly studied, analysed and pulled apart.

Dragon_4_by_el_grimlock
A mythological dragon can  represent out own personal demons to battle, to triumph over.  The dragon can also represent the unintegrated aspects of ourselves that we have disowned or refuse to acknowledge.  A dragon may also represent the ‘other’ in physical terms, the ‘other’ may be perceived as threatening or benevolent.  Art by El Grimlock / DeviantArt

At the end of it all we have culturally dismissed most, if not all of it as irrelevant or at least the childish beliefs of primitive societies. While the inherent corruption and power of cult like societies that steal people’s money while keeping them stupid has diminished, we have also lost some important benefits along the way.

Few people in the modern world consider mysticism a genuine spiritual path, yet most if not all  religious founders had some sort of mystical experience of love and unity, the watering down of that experience then becomes all sorts of  nonsense beliefs and practices by people who don’t understand what was attempting to be communicated by the founder who had the direct experience of a higher reality. This is generalising of course, as religions, belief systems and political messages are added to, redacted and promoted or neglected according to who is in power, and what cultural story is being massaged into an easily digestible group of beliefs.

Werewolf by El Grimlock Deviant Art
Werewolves are fun, they serve as warnings of predators and are symbolic of animal instincts and sexual energy

We have thrown out our myths and fables, which served as communal ways of transmitting not only important life lessons, but basic survival skills while warning us of genuine dangers such as predatory animals and the danger of wandering into the wilderness away from our tribe or group where death was a constant threat.  Our cultural stories are infinitely adaptable to any belief system and we tell stories to small children, and it becomes part of their ongoing education.

As adults stories entertain us but also can be used to convey important life lessons.  At no point do we cease individually or collectively growing and learning.  Life is growth.  Of course we can choose to remain stupid and not learn, nobody is forcing us. We may have moved on from the fundamentalist mythic-literal interpretation of events in world religions, we may dismiss myths and fables as silly stories from a primitive world view.  However, if we deconstruct our cultural stories, this in no way fulfills our genuine need that was at least partly satisfied by those stories.

Our need for cultural values passed on through oral traditions, our need for wisdom, a sense of belonging, our place in the world, our unique personal story, and the mass story of our tribe, town, city, nation or world story.  This article then is about stories and myths, our need of them, how they fail to meet our needs and how we live in constantly changing times where our mass cultural stories and fictional stories are all up for grabs.  Our mass and local culture is being rewritten, re-interpreted, re-invented.  As deconstructionism and reductionism have served their purposes, the inevitable move then is back to Holism, to arrive at the place where we have always been. quote-we-shall-not-cease-from-exploration-and-the-end-of-all-our-exploring-will-be-to-arrive-where-we-t-s-eliot-57010 Disassembled Car Let us say for example you take a modern car / automobile and you pull it apart.  You take every piece of it and completely dismantle it, label every piece carefully, you look carefully at all the parts, see the functions they have and can accurately tell someone everything you have learned from taking the car apart, you have learned all you possibly can from this process. Now, suppose you have to be on the other side of town within the next hour. What use is the car to you in this disassembled state?

We still have need of a vehicle to take us to our intended destination.

We have dismantled our cultural myths, we have dismantled our religions (although some still choose to be part of them). We have dismantled and studied the ways of life of hundreds of generations who proceeded our time on this earth.  We feel that we are above all of that primitive stuff, we feel that we are above – rather than a part of – Nature.  That somehow the religion of Science will fix everything, that there are experts somewhere who have it all figured out. We still have the same needs as human beings that led to those myths, religions, spiritual and wisdom traditions and cultural stories being formed in the first place.

We may currently be living in the techno-inspired future of Tron, The Matrix and The Terminator, but we are still running around in hunter gather bodies primed for action and reaction to immediate physical threats.  Our intellect has grown in leaps in bounds while we have lost touch with our “primitive” bodies, the modern workspace and educational arenas see us ill-equipped to handle adrenaline and nor-adrenaline dumps into our blood stream to in response to threats both imaginary and real.  Modern man then is cut off his at the head, disconnected from his body.  We stand on the verge of reintegrating our lost stories and values, our lost ways of being.  But where we are at present is a place of fear and uncertainty that can lead to inaction where action is required.

We are then the hunter gatherers who have evolved to greater intelligence and sophisticated culture and domination of the natural world, but have yet to evolve our world views.  Like a caterpillar mid transformation, the promise of the butterfly is yet to appear, and some traditionalists want to remain caterpillars, while progressives argue that we are already butterflies. From my perspective I would say we are collectively like Neo in The Matrix, some of us have taken the “reality” pill, while others are as yet undecided, but the future of humanity demands that we both grow up and wake up to ourselves and our world.  To remain ignorant is a luxury none of us can afford if we want to survive as species.Terminator Matrix Tron Neo Arnold What we have not done in the modern world is create a new world myth, world religion or world spirituality to replace what we have pulled apart.  We are a culture and world obsessed with technology, but we have yet to reconcile our hunter gatherer roots with our techno space age ambitions. No true synthesis of belief system that incorporates our previous ways, meets out genuine needs and integrates with our modern and post-modern technological world view has yet appeared. What we are left with is endless yearning for something undefinable, something just out of reach.

We don’t quite know what that something IS but we know we have the capacity to fulfill any wish or desire we may entertain.  The cycle of satisfaction and completion escapes us when we are lost in frivolous pursuits and neglect the essentials of life. We lack a communal world story to match out current living at a world-centric level.  Our problems are no longer just local, but global.  But our religions and spiritual traditions have remained in the cultural dark ages while our every day reality has blasted off to the the moon and back.

Old time religions where never intended to handle world-centric concerns.  It’s like asking a Ford Model T to outperform a V8 Supercar, Formula 1 or Nascar in a race, that old Ford vehicle was NEVER intended for such a task, and is completely incapable of fulfilling that purpose.  Our technological progress have outpaced out spiritual progress as a species and few today are capable of even defining what Spirituality even means, instead being lost in petty arguments about whose version of the Truth is more “true”.

Bathurst_Island_men Australia Formula 1 Car
Australian Aboriginal culture may be earths oldest at an estimated 75,000 years of unbroken genetic lineage

Some have tried to synthesize a new world view based on the old world views, but so far attempts at world religions, world spirituality and/or belief systems have failed.  And some people would say good, we don’t need it, we are no longer primitives running around with stone and wooden idols making human sacrifices to some god in the hopes that our crops will grow and that we will be successful in slaughtering our enemies/neighbors/friends whose hearts we have literally ripped out while atop our glorious citadels. We have taken the old ways, pulled them apart, claim we understand them and they are redundant in our new scientific world view (Science being the default world religion of today).

There is a clear and present danger in assuming we know everything there is to be known.

That kind of arrogant erroneous thinking led to limited beliefs like the world being flat and that the earth was the center of the known Universe. When some new information comes along that proves how clueless we are as a species, we tend to try and categorise and apply it within old world paradigms.  But that is like trying to play a DVD or Blu-Ray disc on a record player, not only does it not work, the technologies are fundamentally incompatible.  Retrofitting new world experiences into old world paradigms is a recipe for disaster, if not mass voluntary suicide through ignorance.

Progress through the Sciences is generally met with resistance, ridicule and denial, often one grave at a time.  As the old guard dies off, new ideas and theories gain the opportunity to flourish or flounder among younger generations who eventually grow up and replace the old guard completely.  When new ideas are suggested, we often view them through the filter of our old world beliefs.  But we just metaphorically threw out most of our old ideas, or rejected them as irrelevant back in the beginning of this article – so where does that leave us?

moving-boxes-with-labels
Labelling something does not mean we truly understand something, we may miss vital information that does not fit the label

We live in a cultural, religious, scientific and spiritual ghetto.

Where does that leave us?  It leaves us with the story of “no story”.  It leaves us thinking hey, we are pretty smart, we don’t need all that old cultural junk from pre-modern times, it just held us back, we’re marching boldly forward into the future baby! But what if some of those old ideas and traditions actually held something quite valuable, that we did not recognise.  What if amongst the noise of wars, persecution, assassinations, executions and genocide of the old world in the name of the most holy, or whatever King or dictator was flavor of the month – we lost something of our unique cultural story and perspective?

What if we overlooked some very fundamental needs that were addressed through life lessons and fables by those old world stories? What if there were deeper meanings to those stories we learned as children that we would neither understand nor comprehend understand until we were adults and seriously inquire into our inner and outer universe? Another perspective at being at a place of “no story”, is that we are in metaphorical terms at a point of “zero” or infinity.  At the point of zero, everything is possible.

Eventually we will have a new cultural mass story, but first our old ways have died like the Dinosaurs, the hazard of moving to zero point is that we lose our traditions and gradual incremental growth oriented changes. Good cultural stories, be they scientific, religious or purely poetic or mythic are like a Trojan Horse.  Outwardly they appear as one benign and perhaps beautiful form, while inside they contain something potentially more powerful that may help or harm us. Good stories may act as catalysts, as information that interacts with out unique consciousness to unleash our innate potentials by reminding us of who we are and the life we intended to live before we got distracted by the ‘noise’ of the world. the unwritten22 Good stories exist on multiple levels that can speak to different ages and generations.  Good stories can have every day simplistic meanings in union with deeper symbolic meanings, every element then becomes essential and we should consciously aim to understand the literal AND symbolic meanings of good stories, we should aim to understand both the simple and the complex in life, valuing both interpretations equally. unwritten arm55 How we learn and evolve is partly through increasing our simultaneous parallel perspectives on life.  The more contrasting and complementary points of view we are able to hold within our own minds at one time the greater our mental model of reality and life becomes. The unwritten Book The cyclic journey of our lives appears to be a circle, but from a different perspective the unique story arcs of our individual lives is more akin to a spiral that seemingly overlaps with a return to the resonant themes and motivation of our lives, this spiral then is a growth of our selves in time as we overlap previous versions of ourselves. Sometimes when we seem to be at the end of something in life, we are truly starting from zero with new perspectives. Regression seems to be a step backwards, but our inner and outer journey in life is a series of spirals that bring us full circle through our path of learning with ever deepening meaning and an expanding perspective. Spiral A big part of that learning in today’s world is learning not only our own cultural history and traditions, but the history, traditions and ways of life of other cultures.  We are only capable of thinking within the dominant paradigms we grew up with in our own culture and passively absorbed as children.  While we learn from our mass and individual history, a key point is not to be enslaved to any idea that does not serve our needs for the sake of “tradition”.

Tradition is fundamentally the passing on of daily habit through ritualised repeated behaviors for people who have no access to written records, or are under the rule of an oppressive leader.  Tradition and ritual preserve cultural wisdom across all fields, as well as the deeper subtle fields of the inner universe (your own mind), soliciting both beneficial inner states and outward physical action. If we want to expand our personal realities and intelligence then there is a need to learn the ways of people from cultures different than the culture we grew up in, not just their outer actions but how they elicit their inner subjective states, their fundamental relationship to how they perceive the world – while remaining committed to your own learning, expansion of love and not being a slave to any ideas or limited philosophies that oppress humanity along the way.

To transcend and include, but not be held back by anyone or anything. Our devaluation of wisdom traditions and ways of the old world has lead us to feel collectively lost and alone in an existential void, and we try so hard to fill that void with drugs, bad relationships, food, sex, entertainment, or anything else, but it is never enough and does not truly satisfy us.  Anything to offer a brief reprieve from that emptiness that we so desperately need to be satisfied, and which can easily be satisfied once we identify that which is essential in life, that which is real and timeless. red skull hitler stalin thanos dr doom dictator bad guy We collectively lost sight of our traditions as they became more and more perverted through the willful destruction of libraries, perversions of sacred teachings by rulers who seek to control the masses, genocides, wars, gaps in the passing down of traditions, or that good old standby – mad power mongers and super-villain like rulers with iron fists who tear down culture and tradition in the name of their own inflated ego or anti-life philosophy. Think Dr. Doom, Thanos, Darkseid, Stalin, Hitler etc. To destroy the will and heart of a people, you take away their culture, you take away, destroy or pervert their personal story.  You break the will and the Spirit of people be denying them their basic freedoms and sowing seeds of doubt and mistrust in their own minds about who they fundamentally are in their heart of hearts.

Dr Doom Superman
Dr Doom meets the Kryptonian Knuckle Sandwich

I don’t have the answers, just an inquiring mind that never rests – and I do not suggest you look for the answer to life’s biggest questions in a Hollywood movie. But, in the existential wasteland we live in contributed to by deconstructionism and a post-modern rational scientific world view there now exists a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum.  Something will come along to fill it, it may be good or bad, but what that something is we do not know.

The future arrives one day at a time, and it is not all hover boards, DeLorean’s and sports almanacs. Part of what has stepped into that existential void we currently live in is modern superhero cinema.  It is only one contender, one idea in the ring, and it is not the only idea out there.  Superhero cinema in no way replaces or meets our actual needs in life, and I do not mean to suggest it does.  Superhero cinema does not replace genuine Spirituality or man’s search for for or relationship with God in any way.

I believe that Superhero cinema can be inspiring, uplifting, but also remind us of own potential for greatness, and inspire us to live out not only our grandest dreams, but to co-operate with others, to be considerate and be of service however we can in life.

When I watch the old Star Trek shows, I see a human race that bickers and fights amongst itself, but I see a human race that is ultimately united in their mission and purpose.  Good science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories can help to remind us that we are one human race, one big family, and the sooner we learn that lesson, the more can co-operate and work together creatively instead of inventing new ways to slaughter each other.  I love when fiction reminds us of that possibility.  For to manifest out hearts desire we must first see that desire as possible, we must imagine a future grander than any Star Trek like utopia where humanity functions as a healthy whole organism, as symbiotic organisms that live with the earth and its many species rather than as parasites or viruses who attack their host. Star Trek Unity and Viruses The hero archetype and myth is as old as time itself, the particular superhero evolution of the hero archetype is just another spin on a timeless tale. Whether the hero/heroine and superhero/superheroine archetype is one that ultimately serves us or holds us back as a species, as a culture is really up to us.  Where we place our values, what we invest our time and efforts in ultimately determines the direction of our lives.

The Hero’s Journey of Joseph Campbell is a fascinating, deep, insightful and meaningful work. However that work comments on the past, on what is and has been.  As valuable as it is, it only a beginning.  It can only tell us where we have been, and not where we are going. The Hero’s journey is one of common tropes across different cultures in different times identified within a patriarchal paradigm that displaces female power by necessity.  Whether we continue to define the Heroine and Superheroine in male terms, as reactions to male power, rather than finding the authentic voice of feminine power and strength within women and men as we live today, and incorporate that into our stories and new mythologies is up to us. Super hero The re-emergence of the suppressed divine Goddess within all of us is long overdue.  Living as we currently do is psychologically unbalanced for both sexes, how and when we address that issue is up to us as individuals and as communities. Men need to be able to express their emotions and follow their intuition, Women need to be able to stand up as self-confident empowered individuals and equals, and not as merely reactions to perceived male power.

Each of us must do the hard inner work of acknowledging and allowing healthy expression of the male and female aspects of the psyche within each of us.  Collectively we must work to embody our deepest values in the outer world as free thinking and feeling men and women. Perhaps it is time on this planet for the artificial battle of the sexes to come to an end, and instead be replaced by a genuine equality and co-operation that we have never known in modern times.  It is up to us to create, model and live that way of being, and to refuse to back away from the challenge.

We should not remain prisoners of the past, or outmoded ways of living, merely because what is new and different may at first be frightening and strange to us.  Life is change and motion, evolution and growth whether we want it to be or not.  We can resist the flow of life, or move along with the beat of the evolutionary impulse within our hearts.

Ellen Ripley Wonder Woman Buffy Vampire Slayer Female Goddess Heroine1
Strong empowered female heroines are rare

So within the existing cultural and explicitly sexist paradigm of the Patriarchy we currently live in, I feel several significant films have come along that attempt to address our unmet need for myth, meaning and story in our lives.  I am not saying that they satisfy our genuine needs, or that movies should ever take the place of genuine wisdom – just that one offshoot of the never ending evolution of story telling has appeared in a popular format that speaks to the masses.

Inspiring films are a complement to, rather than a replacement of our other activities in life.  However, while good, these films also fail to integrate feminine energy, to integrate authentic feminine voice and power, despite however seemingly progressive some of them may be. Storytelling, like most other arts has become so commercialized that we barely recognise its roots and origins. The films that we find satisfying not only as pure entertainment and escapism, all have deeper philosophical meanings layered within their narrative structure.

The films I feel that best meet this criteria for putting an emphasis on myth and magic, on Science and Spirit – and this is not a complete list, just well known films that fit the bill that I happen to like a lot – are Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978), Rocky (1976), The Matrix (1999), X-Men (2000) Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins (2005) The Dark Knight (2008) and The Avengers (2012).  I could have chosen others, but these films were seen by enough people that even those who have never seen them have at least heard of the characters, and all of these films feature archetypal heroic stories. batman begins darth vader wolverine neo matrix rocky spider man movie Part of the appeal of modern hero and superhero cinema is the very primal, fundamental way in which the films attempt to address our need for stories, myths and cultural narrative.  Whether Rocky, Batman or the Avengers, superhero cinema is a celebration of old world traditional values (but not Dogma) wrapped up in a shiny new package. Superhero cinema tells the timeless tale of heroes and heroines rising and triumphing over adversity, growing in wisdom and knowledge to meet life’s challenges, and offering their unique gifts in service to the world – rather than sinking away into depression and feelings of powerlessness. What constitutes the core values of a Hero or Superhero, what makes them a hero in the old world sense is the quest, facing adversity, victory etc.  A hero in our modern context in my view however is not so much about any particular quest. batman-3

The hero I most often think of and admire is Batman.  His quest is ordinary and never ending.  

He can never win, his quest will never finish, he can never win, it is by definition impossible. Yet he fulfills his duty anyway, not because of any external rewards, not for any magical swords or fair maidens or the love of the people.  Batman gives his gifts selflessly, because there is a genuine need for him in Gotham City.  But more than that, Batman is simply who Bruce Wayne is.  Batman is Bruce Wayne’s calling in life, it is his mission, sole purpose and primary focus in life to be Batman, along with everything that represents.

As an avatar of darkness and shadows, Batman makes the unknown known, he makes the unconscious conscious, shedding light on the ugliest parts of humanity that we refuse to see, acknowledge or integrate.

Batman is a metaphor for the alchemy of our mind and soul, of how to integrate and transform our darkest impulses and direct them towards our highest good.

What I love about Batman, or Spider-Man or the Avengers is that they knowingly face certain death and impossible situations, yet they boldly march forward, because being a hero is what is in their DNA, it defines who they are.  Heroes in my mind are selfless individuals who serve the needs of others not just out of a sense of duty or responsibility, but because they genuinely care about the welfare of others.

They are heroes not just because they choose to be, but because they don’t know how NOT to be Heroes, they don’t know how to shut off their humanity or to suppress their feelings, so instead they must be who they are. The heroic movies may focus on spectacle and action, but the heart of a hero is forged in the crucible of testing their values against adversity while not compromising themselves.  A hero then is one who serves others and lives by their core values, their own moral code and not by the laws of the nation, and is not motivated by external forces.  A hero follows what is in their heart, what they know to be true, and a true hero does what they do out of love for humanity, out of love for life. heart diagram-horz This article is a long one and I I have plenty more to say on this topic, so I’ve broken it up into two parts – stay tuned for PART#2, where I will discuss the themes and the cool bits of each of the films I just mentioned in detail.  I’ll be talking about Rocky and Batman, X-Men and other great characters.  Stick around, you’ll be glad you did!

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.

LEGO Batman – The Playful Knight

LEgo Batman_2LEgo batman and john

I never thought I would see the day when I am genuinely more excited about watching a LEGO Batman theatrical movie  than the next Batman live action movie

LEGO Batman, he’s a swell cat I tell ya, I even got to meet him one time when he was in Melbourne as you can see in the fabulously cheesy picture up there.

I just happened to be wearing a Batman T-shirt at the time of course, he waved me over but refused to sign my powerade bottle, explaining that his LEGO hands were too big to hold a human sized pen.

You can take the best Batman cosplayers in the world and frankly it bores the hell out of me.  I mean I respect what they do, the passion and the enthusiasm, but it just does not hold my interest.

But a photo with a life size LEGO Batman excites the hell out of me.  It speaks to that inner child that used to play with Kenner Super Powers Superman and Batman toys and the same kid who listened to read along picture books with an audio cassette that read the book out loud to you (and had cool sound effects). The two books I had when I wass a kid were TRON and Star Wars, both were AWESOME!

LEgo BAtman 2 Video Game DC Heroes Unite

Lego Batman is not the sort of thing I thought I would ever care about

I remember un-enthusiasticly playing with some LEGO bricks as a kid in a big plastic bucket along with other odd toys that got mixed into it, possibly some Playmobil.  Either that or the fisherman dude in the bucket was a giant.  It was fun I guess but I never really built anything, just sort of messed around with them.  When I was a teenager I had this cool LEGO set that could be built into a Formula 1 style racing car or a single seater biplane, both were pretty cool.

That is the sum total of my experience with Lego, which at this point means I have not touched a LEGO brick in at least twenty years.  When LEGO Batman (the LEGO toy sets) came along, I was not even aware of it.  I had seen the Harry Potter and Star Wars LEGO toys in shops whenever I went browsing for superhero action figures at Kmart and other chain stores, and was aware of the various licensed LEGO video games by Travellers Tales.

When Travellers tales released the first LEGO Batman video game, then I started to pay attention.  I had previously played only one of the TT LEGO games, the original Star Wars Trilogy LEGO game that I played for free and wrote about for an old video game review for a website.

LEGO Batman_3
Yeah, don’t leave your girlfriend alone with Batman, or this may happen

LEGO Star Wars was a fun but unremarkable game, most noteworthy for its two-player co-op which suited kids playing together, and the drop in- drop out co-op was also well suited for parents playing video games with their kids.  The LEGO games are mindless fun, relatively easy to complete but a challenge to find every item and unlock every character.  They are games that encourage replay, but can get a bit dull after a while, they really are made for and suit a younger audience.

The most memorable thing about the LEGO Star Wars video games were the amusing story scenes that played out throughout the game, giving a brief overview of the major events in the movies.  Like animated cliff notes really.  The cut-scenes had no dialogue, just expressions and sound effects.  By the time LEGO Batman arrived on the scene, the Travellers Tales LEGO video games now had voice actors, which meant that LEGO Batman 2 had a full voice cast, and the story scenes were good enough to be released separate from the game as a direct to market animated CGI feature with expanded content.

Fast forward a few years and the video game series is up to LEGO Batman 3.  LEGO Batman made a significant multiple scene stealing appearance in the theatrical The LEGO Movie, voiced by Arrested Development’s Will Arnett, next to Chris Pratt’s lead character (Andy in the brilliant Parks and Rec, Star Lord in the ever groovy Guardians of the Galaxy).

Lego-Batman-and-Superman

I know that the upcoming Superman v Batman or Batman v Superman (or whatever other nonsense click baiting name they come up with) film will be great fun, and I can’t wait to see it.  But however good or bad it is, every BATFAN has basically already seen it in our minds.

The story will be cobbled together from comics that have been around for donkeys years, there will likely be nothing new in the film, other than JLA member cameos building up to DC’s eventual JLA movie release.  If you want a JLA Year One story, well Mark Waid already wrote that comic series in 1998, it is a good read, and I encourage you to take a look at it if you have not already.

As much as I want to see Batman v Superman, I don’t expect anything new or innovative from the film.  However, the LEGO Batman solo movie, spinning off of the success of The LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman video games I am super excited about.  The Lego Movie not only had Batman as one of the main three characters, but cameos from Superman, Wonder  Woman, Green Lantern

LEGO Batman the Lego Movie_1

I’m a big fan of Arrested Development, as are my brother, sister and girlfriend.  There is barely a day that goes by that we don’t mention a quote or reference to Seinfeld and/or Arrested Development.  For people that don’t “get” those shows, saying to a fan you don’t like Arrested Development is like saying you don’t like oxygen.  It is just UNFATHOMABLE!

I am also a big fan of Will Arnett in pretty much everything, even the lesser Saturday Night Live vehicle movies with hit and miss gags I find are still pretty entertaining.  But my favourite Will Arnett appearances would have to be his minor roles in The Rocker, Blades of Glory and 30 Rock.  And his brilliant pairing with Christina Applegate in the TV show Up All Night.

In addition to numerous cameos in everything from 30 Rock to Parks and Rec and The Office, Will Arnett has been a decent voice actor in a surprising amount of animated theatrical features and video games.

Danny Phantom, King of the Hill, Ratatouie, The Simpsons, Monsters vs Aliens and more are on his resume, so it is not a bit surprise that he as was cast as LEGO Batman when you consider all the voice acting experience he has.

LEgo Batman_4
“Will this work?” Of course it will! “Why?” BECAUSE I’M BATMAN!

The LEGO Batman theatrical film will be something special, with a much bigger budget and a better voice cast than the direct to market previous CGI  LEGO Batman animated feature (the story scenes from the video game were released as a direct to market feature).

The success of the LEGO Batman games and animated spin offs also lead to the recent DC original feature, the mouthful that is LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League.

The JLA LEGO animated movie is short at under an hour, but it is great fun, and again aimed at kids (but I watch everything).  This JLA feature is unique in that there is no video game it is directly based on.  It uses the LEGO DC characters as featured in LEGO Batman 2, and has a decent voice cast including the ever talented Diedrich Bader and John DiMaggio from the excellent animated show Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

LEGO JLA vs bizarro JLA DC Animated Feature

The strength of the LEGO Batman I.P. (and by extension the DC universe) is so strong now that new media can be born from it that has no connection to the LEGO toys at all, other than the basic look of the characters, instead trading on the visual recognition of the iconic LEGO character style, and immediate market value of Batman and the DC Universe.

One of the things I love about LEGO Batman is that it is a great introduction of Batman to kids that parents know will not sneak in any underhanded psychotic violence like other DC animated shows and features.  I don’t have any kids (yet), but when I do, LEGO Batman is something I would be very comfortable for them to enjoy, as a game, or movie or as toys, the I.P. is just really fun and I am super excited for the upcoming LEGO Batman film with that funny bastard Will Arnett.  More excited than Batman v Superman because it will be something fresh and exciting, rather than stale and predictable.

My girlfriend finds the Nolan-verse Batman films too dark and depressing, but she liked the Will Arnett LEGO Batman, and enjoyed The LEGO Movie so much that she went out and bought the Blu-Ray.  That is a testament to the good writing and fun humour in the film, but also the strength of the timeless look of the LEGO toys and characters, which are fun for kids, adults and man-children such as myself.

Lego Movie Batman_1

If you’re itching for more fun reading, head on over to my brand new blog *Pixels in my Blood (link in blue below), a blog about my favourite video games of ALL TIME.  It doesn’t have a “follow”” tab yet, but relax about it – there will be one soon enough dear reader.  Now if you will excuse me I have to get back to playing LEGO Batman 2, easily the best game in the series (yes, better than the dull levels of LEGO Batman 3).

*Pixels in my Blood