There are several ways to look at Todd Phillips’ 2019 movie Joker. It is obviously grounded in DC Comics’ vast history, however it is not what most comic book aficionados would consider a “comic book” movie. Yes, it is set in Gotham City. Yes, there are references to Arkham Asylum as well as characters like Thomas Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, and even a young Bruce Wayne. However it would be grossly unfair to judge this movie as a Batman movie or even consider it in the same frame of mind as the introduction of the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman or Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight (and hinted at the end of Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins). Both movies featured The Joker as the villain, and there was a clear relationship between him and Batman, but as I suggested, this does not appear to be a typical comic book movie.
For the record, I have not actually seen “Joker” yet. I am basing this op-ed piece on what news is currently available, video clips, trailers, etc. This piece may be flawed, but it is my opinion, and you are welcome to take exception with it if you choose to do so.
We see Arthur Fleck as someone akin to Arthur Miller’s “Willy Loman” in Death of a Salesman – a man of little perceived significance and yet to come to terms with who he is. Arthur Fleck is the kind of guy who gets the crap beat out of him in viral videos. He is a stand-up comedian who has had more bombs than Dresden. From what we see of him, there is a slow progression into madness or at the very least, we see him come to terms with his madness and rebirth as the Joker, something more than a stage persona. Arthur Fleck has accepted this as who he is as he becomes visible to a wider audience thanks to an appearance on “Live with Murray Franklin.” The fact that “Murray Franklin” is played by no less than Robert De Niro lends a gravity to what could have been a simple comic book movie, but even saying that is doing a gross disservice to Joker. The movie is a love note to Martin Scorsese’s 1982 masterpiece The King of Comedy.
Joker is as Warner Bros Publicity has stated, “a cautionary tale.”
So far Joker has enjoyed unprecedented critical acclaim and response from international film festivals, however it has also endured pre-judgment from comic book fans who are quick to dismiss it as NOT a comic book movie. A friend of mine was excited to see this when the teaser first hit social media, however recently he said he wouldn’t bother seeing it as it was not in his estimation a legitimate telling of the origins of the Joker as generations of comic books, TV shows, cartoons, and movies have portrayed it. There was Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s timeless Batman: The Killing Joke (from which Joker seems to draw inspiration). There is also the older story element of Batman chasing a man in a red hood who falls in a vat of chemicals. Being immersed in chemicals apparently rendered this man’s hair green, his face white, and his lips red giving Gotham City the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. While the red hood was not integral to the Joker’s origin in some cases, Batman was, and in the case of The Dark Knight, the Joker existed as a response to Batman establishing a symbiotic relationship.
A lot of dissatisfaction from comic book aficionados seems to come from the basic question of “Where’s Batman?” It is bad enough that adaptations of stories sometimes play fast and loose with established mythology, and some fans seem quick to voice that they’re not going to see Joker. I confess that I was one of these fans, however after deeper consideration, dismissing Joker as not a Batman movie would be just the same as what happens to Arthur Fleck in the movie – dismissing him as insignificant. Joker appears to be a frighteningly intimate portrayal of a man’s descent into madness and embracing it as others have not accepted him or his true nature. As such, I could easily see how this could and should receive massive amounts of critical success, however it is not what I would consider or accept as a comic book movie or a Batman story. Perhaps this version of the Joker would appear in an adaptation of DC Comics’ Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that certainly would be interesting, but I have reservations about that. It would be better to judge this as a character study.
Journey back into history far enough, and look in the right place, and maybe you’ll come across the common ancestor of drama and spectacle. Something religious, maybe. And as recently as 2,000 years ago, give or take, if you were taking a break from whatever ancient Romans took breaks from and filling a seat at the Circus Maximus, you’d see the chariot races and athletics and you’d also see staged battles.
And, ancient Roman that you are, if you could slip into a time warp and fast forward to what we could jokingly refer to as modern civilization, you might enjoy the movies of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton and the Olympic gymnastics and boxing matches and their surly offspring, mixed martial arts and…
Maybe you’d see the three movies I’ve seen recently and two of these might remind you of the good old days, sitting in the sweltering Italian sun and being entertained by mock combat. You might also enjoy the third movie I’ve seen of late, but not in quite the same way.
Chinese Zodiac stars the beloved and amazing Jackie Chan and, judging by a voiceover he delivers as the end credits roll, it might be his valedictory – not to cinema as a whole, for he will surely act in future movies, but to the kind of comedic action flick he’s been delighting us with for decades, featuring just enough plot to carry Jackie’s awesome stunts/acrobatics/clowning, usually with his face in the shot so you know that it’s really him up there and not a stunt double.
If Jackie needs an heir apparent, I nominate the Thai performer, Tony Jaa, who was inspired by watching the movies of Jackie, Bruce Lee and Jet Li as a youngster. I caught Jaa’s most recent American release, The Protector 2, and am glad I did. Jaa does not display Jackie’s comedic gifts, but his fight scenes, which, like Jackie’s, combine acrobatics and martial arts, are terrific. Doubt me? Maybe you can catch TheProtector 2 at your television’s movies-on-demand option, as I did, and decide for yourself.
Which brings us to Batman Begins. We didn’t intend to watch it, but we were channel surfing and there it was and we had time to kill, and what the hey – why not? Of course, we’d seen it five years ago, but surely merited a revisit. Now, let me say it again: Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is excellent. But the fight scenes are among the few problems I had with it. A lot of them are rendered in blurs, closeups and quick cuts, highly kinetic but, for me, of limited entertainment value. Not like Chan and Jaa and Keaton and, no, not even like those sword-slingers in the old – really old – days.
The stuff those guys did has been proving its worth for centuries.
In the final third of the trilogy, Mr. Nolan proved that he can deliver a well-choreographed fracas. I just wish he’d chosen to do so earlier. Imagine what Jackie Chan could have done with that cape!
As much as there has been a fascination with Batman since his debut 75 years ago, lately, the trend has been to examine those vital origins. This began back with the Christopher Nolan Batman Begins and will most likely be on display next fall on Fox’s Gotham. In the comics, Scott Snyder is wrapping up his own take on that first pivotal year in the cape and even Cartoon Network took a stab at it with Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham. The latter debuted last July only to be unceremoniously yanked off the air in October after 11 episodes. A total of 17 are known to exist out of the 26 ordered but despite promises the show remains off the schedule.
Meantime, Warner Archive recently collected the first 13 stories onto a two disc Blu-ray set billing it as Season One, Part One. From a content standpoint, the idea of looking at those early days is ripe for exploration in any form. Interestingly, under Executive Producer Sam Register, the production team led by Glen Mirakmai, Mitch Watson, and Butch Lukic proclaim this is Batman (Anthony Ruivivar) after being in action five years. He’s no novice by then and depending upon which continuity you follow, he’s clearly a veteran hero. That length of experience puts him at odds with how he’s portrayed, somewhat unsure of himself, somewhat error-prone.
And unlike his one-man crusade as seen in the superior Year One animated film and graphic novel, he was on his own. Alfred was reluctantly aiding him but here, he’s a willing and very active participant as his one-0time experience as a secret agent handily comes into play. James Gordon (Kurtwood Smith) is still a lieutenant at the outset, graduating to commissioner during this season. What doesn’t work at all, for me, is the adding on of Katana (Sumalee Montano) as Alfred’s goddaughter and Robin surrogate. Batman should remain a loner if you’re exploring those first days and years and if he gets a sidekick, it should certainly not be someone from another culture with her own baggage but someone more organic to the story, such as Barbara Gordon, who merely crushes on the Caped Crusader here.
That said, the series gets kudos for avoiding the tried and true villains in favor of a wide assortment of lesser lights starting with Grant Morrison’s silly Professor Pyg (Brian George) and Mister Toad (Udo Kier). The second episode introduces a darker, more malevolent Anarky (Wallace Langham) who is the meta villain for the arc and has eschewed his comic book-based philosophy in favor of being a criminal mastermind. We also get a deadlier and less silly Magpie (Grey DeLisle-Griffin). On the other hand, we get Ra’s al Ghul (Lance Reddick), Lady Shiva (Finola Hughes), and the League of Assassins so the Dark Knight certainly has his hands full.
The series is also rich with other elements of the DC Universe such as Michael Holt and Simon Stagg; and if Stagg is on hand, you can bet Rex Mason (Adam Baldwin) is here, too. In fact, “Toxic” is one of the stronger stories as Mason becomes Metamorpho and is first seen as a threat dubbed the “Golem of Old Gotham”. There’s also Jason Burr, introduced in “Safe” but who recurs and sharp-eyed readers know he is destined to become Kobra.
The series looks different, with the figure work being more angular and distorted than one expects. The CGI-animation is somewhat off-putting but better than the last straight Batman series but nowhere near as good as the original Animated Series or The Brave and the Bold. The strong writing makes you overlook the odd visuals which is a benefit.
The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds just fine, as one has come to expect. And being from the cut-rate Archive arm, there are no extras.
Synopsis: Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’sThe Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos… but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.
Cast:Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s Thor, Marvel’s The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman) as Thor, Natalie Portman (Marvel’s Thor, Black Swan, Star Wars Episodes I-III) as Jane Foster, Tom Hiddleston (Marvel’s Thor, Marvel’s The Avengers, War Horse) as Loki and Anthony Hopkins (Thor, Silence of the Lambs, Nixon) as Odin.
Director: Alan Taylor (TV’s Game of Thrones, TV’s The Sopranos, TV’s Mad Men)
Screenplay: Christopher L. Yost (Revolutionary Road, Snitch)
Christopher Markus (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise)
Stephen McFeely (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise)
Story by: Don Payne
Producer: Kevin Feige, p.g.a. (Marvel’s The Avengers, Marvel’s Iron Man Franchise)
Executive Producers: Louis D’Esposito (Basic Instinct, Marvel’s Iron Man, Marvel’s The Avengers)
Victoria Alonso (Marvel’s Iron Man, Marvel’s The Avengers, Big Fish)
Craig Kyle (X-Men: Evolution, Ultimate Avengers, Iron Man: Armored Adventures)
Alan Fine (Marvel’sThe Avengers, Marvel’s Iron Man, Marvel’s Thor)
Nigel Gostelow (Batman Begins, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Da Vinci Code)
Stan Lee (Marvel’s Iron Man, Spider-Man, Marvel’s Thor)
Release Date: February 4, 2014 for Digital 3D (Select Retailers) and Digital HD
February 25, 2014(Direct Pre-book: TBC; Distributor Pre-book: TBC)
(3D Combo Pack, BD, DVD & Select Digital Retailers)
· Never-Before-Seen Extended and Deleted Scenes
· Gag Reel
· Exclusive Look – Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier
o Get an exclusive first look at the latest installment in the Captain America franchise and its incredible cast of characters, including Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as Director Nick Fury, Chris Evans, our hero Steve Roger’s, his new ally Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon played by Anthony Mackie, and a mysterious enemy from the past…the Winter Soldier played by Sebastian Stan.
· A Brothers’ Journey: Thor & Loki
o In this 30 min feturette go behind the scenes with filmmakers and cast as we explore two of the most iconic characters in the Marvel Universe with stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor) & Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and journey through the key moments that have defined and endeared these characters to audiences around the world.
· Scoring Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World with Brian Tyler
o Go behind the scenes with the filmmakers and acclaimed composer Brian Tyler for a look at the creation of the movie’s stunning original score.
· Audio Commentary with Director Alan Taylor, Producer Kevin Feige, Actor Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau
A day after Christian Bale confirmed he would not don the cape and cowl for a Justice League movie comes the official announcement of his three Dark Knight films being collected in time for the holidays. Christopher Nolan’s vision of Gotham City and its defender resuscitated Batman after a fallow stretch and showed us a darker view of heroism and its costs. Here’s the official press release:
Burbank, Calif. July 1, 2013 – Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Batman franchise beginning with 2005’s Batman Begins enjoyed phenomenal critical and box-office success.
Now on September 24, Nolan’s three Batman films – Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises – will be released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition. The six-disc set will feature all three films with their existing extra content, two new featurettes and exclusive new collectible memorabilia. This must-own collection for fans of DC Comics’ Caped Crusader is available in premium packaging and will sell for $99.97 SRP.
About the Ultimate Collector’s Edition (UCE):
*Disc 1 – Batman Begins Feature and Special Features
*Disc 2 – The Dark Knight Feature
*Disc 3 – The Dark Knight Special Features
*Disc 4 – The Dark Knight Rises Feature
*Disc 5 – The Dark Knight Rises Special Features
*Disc 6 – Bonus Disc of New Special Features (details follow)
NEW Special Features:
The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy–The inside perspective on the fascinating story behind the creation of one of the most celebrated franchises and how it changed the scope of movie making….forever. Full of never-before-seen footage, rare moments, and exclusive interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Damon Lindelof, Michael Mann, Richard Roeper, Zack Snyder and others.
Christopher Nolan & Richard Donner: A Conversation – For the first time, Directors Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Richard Donner (Superman) sit down to discuss the trials and triumphs involved in bringing the two most iconic superheroes of all time to the big screen, and how Superman influenced Nolan when developing Batman Begins.
Premium Mattel Hot Wheels Vehicles: Batmobile, Batpod and Tumbler
Newly commissioned collectible art cards by Mondo featuring Scarecrow, Joker, Bane, Harvey Dent, and Ra’s al Ghul
48-page hardcover book featuring production stills and behind the scenes images from all three movies
About The Films
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight’s emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents’ murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Oldman, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
Dark Knight Rises (2012)
It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.
But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane. Christian Bale stars, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Morgan Freeman.
THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY: ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION (BD)
Street Date: September 24, 2013
Order Due Date: August 20, 2013
Catalog/UPC #: 1000372133 / 883929308002
Pricing: $99.97 SRP
Note: All enhanced content listed above is subject to change.
Blu-ray Disc™ and Blu-ray™ and the logos are the trademarks of Blu-ray Disc Association.
Warner Home Video Blu-ray Discs™ offer resolution six times higher than standard definition DVDs, as well as extraordinarily vibrant contrast and color and beautifully crisp sound. The format also provides a higher level of interactivity, with instant access to extra features via a seamless menu bar where viewers can enjoy features without leaving or interrupting the film.
I will stipulate that The Dark Knight Rises is not necessarily the movie Christopher Nolan set out to make. The tragic death of Heath Ledger derailed his plans to conclude the trilogy with more between Batman and the Joker so he spent the last four years rethinking how he wanted to end his trilogy. What he crafted is a definitive conclusion to his vision of Batman and it is a mostly satisfying film experience. Now out on disc from Warner Home Video, we’re given a chance to re-evaluate it.
Gotham City is a place of corruption, we’ve been told this extensively in Batman Begins and the presence of the Clown Prince of Crime in The Dark Knight reinforces that. As a result, the theme returns in the third installment but with every passing film, Gotham is less and less of a character and more of a stand-in for New York City. In the first part, Gotham had the Wayne-built monorail system, a city bathed in grays and blacks, and the rise of a costumed champion to help stem the corruption before Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Shadows destroyed it. Exactly why Gotham of all the cities in the world is the vilest and deserving of fiery justice has never made sense in this trilogy.
The second film showed us how the city’s corrosive nature could take down even the most noble of men, district attorney Harvey Dent/ When the acid ruined half his face, the act sent him into the darkness and Two-Face emerged. Nolan twisted events so that Batman took the blame to preserve Dent’s reputation telling Commissioner Gordon he was giving the city the Batman it needed, a bogeyman to be feared. And then he vanished.
We pick up eight years later and Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse and here’s where I started having trouble with the story. If Batman was the bogeyman, then you need to see him now and then to reinforce the message. Instead, he broods in Wayne Manor with a silly beard, mourning the death of Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes/Maggie Gyllenhaal) who rejected him pretty solidly in the first film and again the second, although Alfred (Michael Caine) kept the news from him. Wayne lost his parents and spent seven years to become a force of vengeance, returning to Gotham to rid it of the evil that turned children into orphans. His girlfriend rejects him and dies so he broods for eight years? I don’t buy that at all. And what has he done for eight years? We’re never told. One could conclude that the physical toll of the first two films have rattled him badly, eradicating his knee cartilage and causing head trauma which might explain his mood, but we’re left guessing.
Gotham, we’re told, has enjoyed nearly a decade of unprecedented peace thanks to the draconian Dent Act which apparently handed down such stiff sentences (without chance of parole) that after stuffing 1000 criminals in the poorly located Blackgate Prison, crime has dropped to little more than jaywalking. Mayor Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) has remained in office but the political tides are turning and he intends to replace Gordon, a commissioner needed during a war, less so during peaceful times.
As all of this happens, the masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) has come to Gotham. For six months, he has been overseeing a surreptitious mining of the city’s infrastructure, building an underground army that has become the stuff of rumor and legend. Why and what motivates him remains a mystery until the final act.
Apparently the city’s corrupting nature has woken up and forces are at play that brings Wayne and his alter ego back into the spotlight. That both reappear nearly simultaneously and no one makes the connection shows how somnambulant the city’s populace has grown. Initially, he dips his toe back into the game of life not because Alfred harangued him for the umpteenth time but when Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) manages to steal his mother’s pearl necklace, a physical reminder of his loss. Her carefree approach also sparks something missing in his own soul.
Apparently, the city’s acidic touch has been centered on their financial sector and there John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) has been manipulating the markets, using Wayne’s stolen fingerprints, to force Wayne to lose control of his company so Daggett can gain access to the fusion device that could mean clean energy for the city but can also be weaponized and therefore is mothballed by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Daggett, we learn, hired Bane to help him gain control of the device, but Bane took the contract in order to further his own agenda.
Batman’s return is exciting to one and all as a veteran cop tells another, “You’re in for a treat”. Nolan does an excellent job brining the action to life and the film is a visual stunner. Where he falls down repeatedly is neglecting to give the characters’ much depth. Wayne and Kyle and maybe Gordon have shades to them while everyone else is cardboard. Apparently, out of thousands of cops, the only one with a brain is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and others throughout the film show up, more the plot along and vanish so none feel real. Alfred whines in a one-note performance, the Mayor is cypher, and even Bane lacks the shades of brilliance he had in the comics. There are some storytelling gaps of logic as well that appear here and there, making you scratch your head.
Events proceed until Bane detonates his bombs, isolating Gotham from the world in a nod towards the No Man’s Land storyline and his thugs turn the city into a prison state. A city that refused to kill one another in the second film suddenly cowers beneath Bane’s bellicose tones. Sorry, don’t buy it at all. Bane gains access to the fusion device turns it into a nuclear bomb but only a handful of people seem to know it will destruct in five months one way or the other given its unstable nature. We briefly see citizen’s justice as the 99% exact vengeance against the 1% presiding over by Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), dispensing not fear but death sentences. Finally, the city’s corruptive nature, very thing Ra’s has tried to stamp out, has taken hold of its citizens. What life during this time was like should have been explored in far greater depth, similar to the two boat dilemma seen in the second film.
Bane breaks Batman’s back. Anyone who read the comics knows this is coming and we anticipate an interesting recovery sequence, one that does not rely on the magical healing touch used in the comics. That Bane left Gotham to fly Batman to the very pit that spawned him, half a world away, makes little sense. Nolan went for a far more painful and realistic solution but also it slows the film’s momentum to a crawl and we really don’t learn much about Bruce Wayne during this protracted sequence.
He finds his mojo, returns to Gotham and really does become the Batman the city needs. His presence is inspirational: to children, to Gordon, and even to Kyle. The final act is the retaking of Gotham and destruction of the bomb. It’s overly long and at times tedious as people stop to do things that make little sense given how little time they have and knowing how unstable the bomb is. Gordon, for example, takes time to go to the suburbs (or so it looks) to collect the inept Foley (Matthew Modine).
As the clock ticks inexorably to 0:00, characters stop to talk, a lot. The story slows to a crawl as characters finally reveal their true feelings and motivations and here. The worst story logic is probably showing us five seconds until a nuclear explosion but somehow Batman escapes the blast radius with any burns.
Nolan offers us the few storytelling surprises in the whole film. Among them is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) who has had something to do with the fusion device and Wayne for years, and has hints of an interesting character, left unexplored.
The climax goes as expected and by this point you see how Nolan has set this up to be a conclusion to the trilogy. This has the feeling of beginning, middle, end, with plenty of connective tissue tying all three films together and for that Nolan, his writing partners Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer get kudos. The major players in these films have been masked, rarely revealing their true selves, offering up one face or another needed from the overt Batman/Wayne or Two-Face to players like Daggett and Crane. These conflicting natures were a lovely touch to the films but those who are exactly as they seem – Alfred, Gordon, Rachel – feel like lesser characters as a result.
Bale does a good job showing the pain and emotional emptiness he feels until forces demand he wake up. But to me, the best performance goes to Hathaway who instilled Kyle with moral conflict and enough depth to make her worthy of more. The rest do a commendable job although Hardy seems wasted as Bane since he never gets to really act, just strut and punch. Oldman’s Gordon and Levitt’s Blake are serviceable and everyone else feels more or less stock, robbing the film of its richness.
I have liked but never loved this take on the Batman, from the flimsy cape to the over-muscled tumbler. Nolan had some interesting things to say and explore in these three films but always came up short, never really exploring the themes as they deserve or making the characters feel real enough to react to these events. Gotham City remains a corrupt place in need of justice beyond that the police can offer. It needs the very champion its corruption birthed and it will be interesting to see what the next filmmaker brings to the enduring mythos.
The film comes nicely packaged under a lenticular cover and contains two Blu-ray discs – the film and the special features – with a standard DVD edition of the film as disc three. An Ultraviolet code also can be found within the case. You’ll be very pleased with the quality of the transfer as all the shadows and blacks are well-preserved without losing clarity. The sound is above-average for those who listen to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and you won’t miss a note of Hans Zimmer’s excellent score.
The filmmaking was meticulous recorded allowing them to slice and dice the footage into bite-size featurettes covering everything you might want to know about the process. Ending the KnightProduction (68 minutes), Characters (28 minutes), and Reflections (15 minutes), you get some fine pieces on the production then there are the characters, and finally, two short pieces trying to put a bow on the entire trilogy but they both felt far too self-congratulatory. My favorites may have been Anne Hathaway talking about her research into playing Selina Kyle and how the aerial opening was accomplished. A lot of good information is shared with rebuilding Wayne Manor and upgrading the Batcave as a result, information that might have been better shared via the film itself. Interestingly, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are almost absent from the entire disc, which is a shame. Also missing and noticeable in its absence is more about the actual writing process, and the challenges that came from losing Heath Ledger in the second film.
There’s the nearly hour-long The Batmobile documentary and I was one of the many talking heads. A shorter version aired the week the movie debuted but this full version is richer as more people got to talk about the building of the various vehicles along with placing it historic context. Leave it to Denny O’Neill to also place the vehicle in a mythological context, tracing it back to the god’s sky chariots. Some terrific clips and some heart-tugging examples of how the Batmobile can bring joy to ill. This is a terrific piece and I’m glad to have been a part of it.
For those who bother, The Dark Knight Rises Second Screen app integration has replaced the once-standard picture-in-picture track. If you take the trouble to sync it all, you’ll get additional treasures and visuals that are worth a look.
Rounding out the package is the Trailer Archive (8:35), showing how the groundbreaking marketing was achieved, accompanied by the Print Campaign Art Gallery.
Nolan and company had a singular vision and while I may disagree with it, I was entertained by the trilogy and appreciate his refusal to repeat himself, keeping each film a separate piece of a larger story. The disc reminds me that when it’s good, it’s very, very good.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a blast from the past! After years and years of intending to, I finally bought and watched the Director’s Cut of Daredevil (thank you, Black Friday sales! $4 is a reasonable price, eh?). I remember watching the original in the theater when it came out in 2003, and enjoying parts of it despite the overall unbalanced and less-than-cohesive feeling of the whole product. I also remember the cascade of negative reviews, and I can’t say I disagreed with a majority of what they said. I know after the Director’s Cut was released, however, it got more positive reviews, and it turns out those were also deserved.
With the re-watch of the movie in its more fully intended form, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most egregious error made was the inclusion of Elektra, or at least Elektra as we get her in this movie. There are two problems with the Elektra storyline. The first is that it gave the director an opportunity for one more cheesy fight scene than would otherwise have made it in, that being the horrendously cheesy and overlong almost dance-like fight scene when Matt meets Elektra. That thing is so ridiculously choreographed that when it starts, you feel like you’ve hopped movies into West Side Story and they’re about to run up and down the playground see-saws singing or something. I can almost see Matt Murdock balanced on the end of a park bench, arms flung wide as he delivers a little solo. It’s cringe-inducing, and pulls me out of the story.
I actually like most of the fight scenes in this movie, but there are snippets of others that are cheesy, too, namely when first Daredevil and then Elektra whirl their weapons around the first time we see them suited up. I could have enjoyed those bits if they were shot a little differently, to show Daredevil, say, routinely checking his weapons to make sure they’re functioning before he goes out, or to show Elektra warming up for her little sandbag-vendetta practice. But as shot, they just look like they’re posing for nobody, and are hilariously too comic book for an otherwise fairly serious and dark movie. Added to that first fight scene, those bits also pull me out of the story.
The second issue I have with the Elektra story is that it’s just too much story to be trying to fit into one movie with all the rest. Granted I understand it’s part of the larger storyline here, but if the entire Elektra thing was lifted out, almost nothing except a tiny bit of Daredevil tragic-story-ness would be missing, and the storyline could surely have been reworked in a way to close any gaps caused by her absence.On the other hand, by including it, we get a hurried “romance” that isn’t firmly established enough to make it feel very real or engaging, as well as the too-minimal establishment of Elektra’s father as a character. If the elder Natchios existed just to be eliminated or shown to be part of Kingpin’s empire, his being a mostly stock character would have been fine. But given that we’re supposed to care about him and his connection to Elektra thanks to her larger part in the storyline, his negligible appearance and then disappearance as a character is not the tragedy we’re supposed to feel it is.
As opposed to the whole Elektra storyline (and despite the fact that I’ve loved Jennifer Garner in action roles ever since my addiction to Alias), I think the movie would have been much better served to have used the established story of Elektra as an ex if she needed to be there at all; or to have found another Kingpin patsy than the Natchios family for this particular story. Also, in my imaginary world, cutting out the Elektra storyline would have eliminated Fox’s ability to introduce the Elektra movie, which, let’s face it, could not have been made better by any amount of cutting or tweaking, despite Jennifer Garner’s ass-kicking ways and dimpled smile. Man that thing was terrible, boring, and disjointed to the point of complete incoherence.
However, I will say that there was one thing I loved in the romance storyline: the bit about Matt being able to “see” Elektra via the rain. It was beautifully done, and was later used to great effect in the funeral scene with the umbrella.
Despite Elektra and the bits of cheese, there’s actually a lot to love about this movie. The main storyline is pretty good when the additional scenes of the Director’s Cut are added. With those, we actually get a cohesive story, rather than the chopped version we saw in theaters. The cast is mostly super-enjoyable, too. I know Affleck got flak for his portrayal of Daredevil, but honestly, I think he’s very good, particularly as Matt and when Jon Favreau is around to add a little warmth and comedy as Foggy Nelson (I liked Favreau as Happy Hogan in the Iron Man movies, too. He should be in more movies). For some reason Affleck looks a little weird in the mask (he has a strong chin and jawline and yet it makes him look slightly chubby-cheeked) but I blame the costume department, rather than Affleck, for that (and I liked the rest of the costume).
The late Michael Clarke Duncan is wicked menacing and convincing as the Kingpin – you get the sense of both his business smarts and his street smarts from his scenes, plus the feeling that you really, really just do not want to be in the same room as him, ever, because you never know what he might do next. Joe Pantoliano is perfect as reporter Ben Urich (Urich’s always been a favorite of mine in the comics, and being a journalist, I loved the way they have him popping up everywhere as he diligently goes after the story, and when they show him writing at the end). And I got a kick out of Kevin Smith’s cameo, as well as all of the shoutouts to Daredevil writers and artists.
I have to say Colin Farrell as Bullseye might be my favorite casting in this movie. That may seem surprising, given that every single second he’s on screen he chews scenery like it’s the most important meal of the day; but given the character he’s playing, that’s actually perfect. Pardon my French, but Bullseye in the comics is bug-fuck nuts, as well as being crazy arrogant and not giving shit one about the lives of others, and Farrell pulls that personality onto the screen with every swagger and look of madness-laced annoyance at everyday occurrences. I love the little scene where he chokes the chatty old woman with a carefully aimed peanut, as well as when the Kingpin walks in and Bullseye’s just casually hanging out in his office waiting for him, boots up on the desk, sharpening a pencil like the ones he just killed the guard with. The scene where he goes through the airport, while completely over the top, is priceless too. I also love how he asks for a costume (but happily, doesn’t get one) and the fact that they let Farrell keep his Irish accent for the movie, even though it doesn’t fit with the comics origin. I like the idea of Bullseye as a crazy Irishman (who gets mad when people call him a crazy Irishman).
Some of my absolute favorite parts of the movie have to do with both the look of the movie – with all the night scenes, the blue-tinged lighting, and the gritty streets, we really get the feel of this being Hell’s Kitchen NYC and Daredevil’s NYC, not the tourist variety – and the fight scenes. Despite the high leaps in those scenes looking weirdly fake to me (something about the way they were shot, I think), I absolutely adore everything else about the way they portray Daredevil’s unique and fluid fighting style, including the way he uses his white cane/weapon (although his is red and white) and the way he uses the city as basically one giant jungle gym from which to move and fight. More than anything, though, I love the way they portray both his enhanced sonar senses and how he lives as a blind man. Even years later, I remember my original viewing of the scene that shows him moving through his apartment, choosing his suit by the Braille tag labels and folding his money, stored in separate Braille-marked boxes, into different shapes to differentiate the denomination. Less well-remembered but equally cool are the parts of fight scenes that show, from his viewpoint, how he uses sound to fight, as well as how sound can be used to overpower him. And, as mentioned, the effect of water on his “sight,” used both in the Elektra scenes and in the Kingpin fight scene, is brilliantly done.
Oddly, in looking back at this movie, which appeared two years before Batman Begins, I can see how with some adjustments this could have been, if not as great (Batman Begins being just one of those pretty-much-perfect movies to me), something a bit closer to that; and how it actually was in much the same vein as that movie in mood and tone. I think that realization was lost to me (and probably a lot of other people) on first viewing by the lack of the Director’s Cut scenes and the inclusion of the cheesier story elements. However, with the darkness (both visually and in the story) and the noir feel of the movie that stems from the Frank Miller stories by which it was inspired, as well as the modern sense of a gritty NYC, the full version of the movie actually holds up pretty well nine years after it was made.
But, fun as this retrospective may be (for me, at least; your mileage may vary), why am I writing about all of this nine years after the movie’s release? Well, mainly because in October of this year, the film rights reverted back toMarvel Studios; and I’d really, really love to see a new Daredevil movie from Marvel. There is a lot I love about the character and his surrounds, including his stance as a crusading lawyer and helper of other superheroes and his unique fighting style. I also like his devotion to and the stories’ focus on Hell’s Kitchen, which infuses the area itself with its own unique comic-book character and makes it one of the more “real”-feeling settings in comics, since it’s both a strong presence in the stories and based on a real and not-too-overwhelmingly-large area. And, cheesy as it may be, I love the fact that in the Daredevil stories, justice is literally blind. What can I say: I’m a sucker for a good double-meaning.
As of a few days ago, Marvel has not announced any plans for a new Daredevil movie, but I hope to see that change sometime soon. I’m not sure what storyline I’d want them to follow – but a reboot could be a lot of fun if they kept the basic origin and some of the great elements from this one but did a different introductory storyline. With Daredevil, I think that would be entirely possible, since his origin itself doesn’t need to take up too much of the movie (they established it pretty efficiently here and I didn’t feel anything was lacking) and his job as a lawyer gives plenty of opportunities for crime-fighting stories that encompass both halves of his life. What do you think a good focus for a new movie would be? Tell me in the comments!
Your first thought at seeing this review is: “Why on earth is ComicMix reviewing this?” First of all, we’re a pop culture site; but more importantly, this is a film filled with marvelous British actors we have enjoyed in countless genre offerings. They deserve to be seen in just about anything they do and when you put them all together, it’s a British version of The Expendables, the geriatric edition. When you have Judi Dench (the current Bond films), Maggie Smith (Harry Potter, et. al.), Bill Nighy (the Pirates of the Caribbean series), and Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins) acting together, you sit down and pay attention.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a charming, well-written, well-acted film that is actually about something. It was directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and based on Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things. The cast is fortunate to still be working, but many of their peers – and many of us – are not working as we age, and our future has come into question. The film follows these Brits as they decide to relocate from their homeland to a more affordable retirement community in India. They were suckered into believing the glossy brochure, without stopping to investigate. The reality, of course, is far worse than imagined and now they have to deal with the decisions they have come to make.
The film, now out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment, plays things with a light touch while the subject matter is fairly heavy and resonates with our aging elders here, too. There’s Dench as a recently widowed woman who finds 21st Century technology baffling, and Wilkinson, who lived in India as a young man and has desired for a return. Nighy and Penelope Wilton (Shaun of Dead) blew their retirement savings on funding their daughter’s failed start-up so make this move out of desperation. And there’s Smith, playing a racist who only came to India for a quick and cheap hip replacement operation. It’s not all bleak as Ronald Pickup plays a retiree hoping to score with some of his compatriots, his ardor still running hot.
Sharp contrasts are drawn between the characters and their motivations for making such a major move so late in life. How they react to the decrepit hotel, run by the charming, enthusiastic and overwhelmed Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) propels much of the story. Jaipur, where the story takes place, is beautiful and squalid, a composite of modern day India.
The film follows the characters and over time we watch some adjust, some struggle, and many fight. It’s a school of fish out of water, prompting a lot of cultural miscues and comedy, but it overlays a poignancy that this stellar cast projects in a nice, subtle way. They learn things from the local people, and each other, while they also teach Sonny a thing or two, letting him finally take the belated steps towards a mature adulthood.
The film has its predictable moments but you’re smiling through most this and you want a happy ending for all concerned, which you (for the most part) get. It’s immensely satisfying and worth a look.
The transfer to Blu-ray is good, not great, and has fine audio. There are a handful of perfunctory extras that are too short for the subject matter, such as Behind the Story: Lights, Colors and Smiles (2:34) and Casting Legends (3:55). The exotic and picturesque locales get their due in Welcome to the “Real” Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2:55) and Trekking to India: “Life is Never the Same” (2:45).
It was inevitable this week, now wasn’t it? All of us true-blue-comic-geeks are reveling in the acclaim and success The Avengers is enjoying. The critics generally liked it. Audiences are eating it up. Mark Ruffalo’s star is rising like Apple after the invention of the iPod. And comic book columnists are dancing in the aisles over it all. Michael Davis wrote a great piece on how the flick is a giant bitch smack to Bruce Wayne and his Brothers Warner masters.
Now I could suggest that, based solely on the sheer brilliance of Nolan’s Bat Films, our resident Master of the Universe (his phrase) isn’t exactly on the money… but why start a fire? Rather than blather for the sake of creating a phony flame war between the king of San Diego Con and this lowly Midwestern cracker, I’ll find my muse in Michael’s throwing of the gauntlet. It’s the idea we’re all thinking; DC could just copy Marvel’s blueprint and rake in the dough. But really, when we dissect that idea, this molehill quickly becomes a mountain. Where to begin? How about with the lynchpin – Superman.
Man Of Steel can set DC on the right path – or just nail the coffin closed. As many have seen with the various leaked set photos, and blurbs being dropped on the interwebs… the movie is assuredly in the vein of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, where realism is king. The men with the checkbook want results this time. No doubt that influenced all those in on the production to match the tone and soul of Nolan’s films. And the skeptics all agree, the blue Boy Scout should be as gritty as soft-serve and real as well… Superman!
Paul Dini, fifteen plus years ago, got it right. Based solely on some production stills, Zack Snyder isn’t paying attention. Granted I like Snyder a lot, but his last few cinematic efforts (Sucker Punch and the Watchmen) didn’t exactly incite waves of acceptance from the geek nation. It leads me to state the obvious: There’s only so much angst the fan base is willing to accept for the prodigal son of comic books as a whole. Simply put, Superman without a smile is indeed no Superman at all.
Think back, just a week ago, when you were watching The Avengers. Think how many times you laughed out loud, smirked, or just geeked out over a simple fight. Now think of Green Lantern. The proto-franchise out just one summer ago showed just how wrong DC “got it” when it came to the bridge between the pulp and the picture on the big screen. The movie was over-produced, under-written, and a pitiful invitation to celebrate the greater DCU. Don’t believe me? If that movie had lived up to its potential, mark my words, there would be no “New 52.” When Marvel launched the Avengers initiative, they did so with Iron Man. And that movie, nose to tail, was as good as Batman Begins. Hold that up to the boy in the green jeans? Don’t even try.
If DC intends to make their way into the arena to match The Avengers with a multi-franchise comic book based pantheon, they must be mindful of more than just the broad strokes. The House of Mouse was smart enough to hire genuinely good directors and writers to helm their pieces. They chose strong stars. Most important, they spent time developing stories that kept in mind plot, pacing, and fun… more than toy tie-ins. In order to match, or dare I suggest, beat Marvel at their own game, Warner Bros. needs to do more than throw money at the problem. At their very core, they need to trust DC with their product and presentation. That means when the screener gets a bad reaction, you don’t just write a check to increase the CGI budget and hope special effects cover up the plot holes. It means not demanding you gank a style of a successful movie and apply it to a wholly different franchise in hopes of snagging an unsuspecting public.
In other words… do what Marvel did.
DC has truly globally recognized properties in Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman. Second tier talent like Green Lantern and Flash have oodles of untapped potential. DC even boasts a far better villain list. The Chitauri were undeveloped screaming CGI props to be blown up. Darkseid’s parademons are too, but they serve a grander purpose. And Darkseid brings with him InterGang and a slew of lieutenants that add flavor to a generally one-note bowl of soup. The pieces are all on the table, it’s just a matter of taking the time to put them together instead of mashing and taping them. Here’s hoping DC takes the time to realize the potential they have – and make the choice not to squander it for a quick cash-grab.
This past week on my podcast (which you’re not listening to, but totally should), a debate sparked that was left largely unresolved. Since I have this digital soapbox, might as well use it to bring said debate to you.
In a few weeks, the mega-multiplexes of America will be screening the culmination of years of work by the House funded by the Mouse. The Avengers will see the fruition of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger in one massively multiplayer action adventure flick. About a month or so later, Warner Bros. unleashes the end to Christopher Nolan’s bat-child, The Dark Knight Rises. There’s no doubt in my mind that both of these movies will be amazingly profitable. But the debate is this: which will bank more bucks? Which will be a better movie? Let’s look at the tail of the tape.
First up? Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes. Behind the scenes, we have the consummate king of the nerds… Joss Whedon as director. His writer team? Well… Whedon wrote with Zak Penn. Penn you’ll note wrote the successes such as The Incredible Hulk and X2, and the failures such as X-Men: The Last Stand and Electra. On the screen itself, the cast is of course a veritable galaxy of stars. Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scartlet Johansson, and Gwyneth Paltrow will all be in the film. Unlike any other franchise in history, The Avengers will coalesce four franchises into a single picture. From here? It’s all but a given that the there will be a sequel, as corresponding sub-sequels for all the individual characters. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of money growing on trees. Trees that became paper. Paper that became comic books.
The Dark Knight Rises, as previously mentioned, is helmed by Christopher Nolan. Nolan’s career has been nothing short of a meteoric ascent to directorial gold. Nolan also helped pen this end to his triptych with his brother Jonathan, and David S. Goyer – who, as you will recall, helped pen Batman Begins and Blade 2. And Ghost Rider: Spirit of Bad Acting. But you can’t win them all, can you?
Under the cape and cowl will once again be Christian Bale, joined by series stalwarts Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. The villain this go-around will be played by Tom Hardy. You’ll recognize Hardy as the mildly funny Brit in Inception. While not as big in scope as Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises is the follow up to the single most profitable comic book inspired movie of all time. For those who don’t recall, The Dark Knight did so well in the movie theaters, comic retailers reported sales of The Watchmen had gone up in response (which is nothing short of amazing, if you ask any retailer these days). With TDKR, Nolan puts his series to an end. Speculation on the plot, and how things will resolve has most everyone around in a tizzy.
The question then to ask: Which movie will make more money? Needless to say, both will bank boku bucks. For the sake of this argument, I’ll remove revenue from merchandise. Why? Because face it: Nolan’s Bat-Flicks haven’t spawned successful lines of toys; Marvel’s has. Specifically speaking on ticket sales? This is quite the toss up, is it not? On one hand you have the obvious ultimate popcorn movie in The Avengers. From the trailers we can safely assume there’s going to be wall to wall action, explosions, the Hulk, fighting, one liners, and boobs. Opposing that mentality, Nolan will nab those looking for a bit more substance. Whereas Marvel’s flicks were squarely targeting tweens and teens (with a side of general comic nerds and action geeks to boot…), DC’s Bat-Franchise has been nothing if adult in its complexity.
Gun to my head… if you asked me to choose, I’d end up with the nod to the Avengers making more moolah at the end of the day. The Dark Knight had the death of Heath Ledger, on top of the oscar buzz for his performance, on top of previous audience gained from Batman Begins. But TDKR features a villain most people aren’t familiar with (Bane ain’t exactly a household name now, is he?), and a star whose potential is only just now being noticed. And if other comic book trilogies are to be looked at (Spider-Man, X-Men, and previous Bat-Incarnations), the end of an era does not always translate into positive earnings. With The Avengers, we simply have too many stars to not draw an amazing crowd. Fans of any of those feeder movies no doubt want to see a team up. It’s the whole reason books like The Avengers and Justice League always sell so well!
Now, I would give The Dark Knight Rises the edge ultimately in terms of potential film quality. Not a knock on The Avengers mind you… I think from what we’ve seen, Whedon will deliver the goods. But The Avengers has more chance to pratfall than ascend to nerdvana. With so many stars on screen, there’s a real chance too much time will be spent assembling, mocking, and joking. And we can tell much of the movie will be dealing with a Loki-lead invasion fight scene. And just how much CGI action can we effectively sit through? Given the spectacle (and disappointment) of the last Matrix movie, suffice to say I’m fretful.
With Batman, Nolan seems to have been methodically building a dramatic arc. Bruce Wayne by way of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight has been an evolving force of nature. But Nolan’s best job has been grounding that force in reality. He’s delivered where so many others have failed: comic book movies without heroic quips and a knowing wink to the camera. When that theme of the dissonant chords let us know the Joker was at work, it was truly chilling. To think that Nolan is ending this series, one must postulate he’s had an ending in mind since the start. On that knowledge, I give the edge over to DC. Simply put, I’m more excited for their flick because I genuinely do not know what will happen.
In The Avengers? I’m almost certain we’ll have the following: Loki attacks. Avengers assemble by way of initial in-fighting. Disaster. True assembling. Fighting. Explosions. Boobs. Victory. Open ending for more sequels. Not that it’s a bad formula… but it’s just that: a formula.
So, plenty of points to discuss. Flame me, Internet, for I have opinions. Will Bats take more money? Will Avengers be the Return of the King for Comic Book movies? Discuss!