Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 21: “The Anvil or the Hammer”

May 11, 2015

At least Harvey Bullock gets to dress up nice for his ignominious adventure tonight. The grizzled vet un-grizzles himself for a visit to the Foxglove, a supposedly swanky sex club that plays Suicide songs about Marvel Comics characters on its sound system — thank God it wasn’t “Frankie Teardrop,” or things would have gotten really weird — for the entertainment of a clientele decked out in fetish gear to a hilariously explicit degree. (When Harvey finally placed everyone under arrest, here’s hoping he started with whatever Foley artist decided to add the squealing pig to the mix.) Looking around this Eyes Wide Shut meets the Gimp hellscape, it’s hard not to wonder who the target audience is — perverts who thought Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was too intellectual, maybe? Perhaps some mysteries are best left unsolved.

Forgot to link this at the time, but I reviewed the penultimate Gotham episode for Rolling Stone.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 19: “Beasts of Prey”

April 15, 2015

It feels weird to complain that a TV show is too violent the day after the new Game of Thrones season premiere was eagerly consumed by thousands (some of them legally, even). But since neither Batman nor Tyrion Lannister got where they were by playing by the rules, neither will we. “Beasts of Prey,” the aptly named episode that marks Gotham’s return to the airwaves after a number of weeks off, is a boringly brutal affair. It’s stuffed with bloodletting that wastes time on characters we’ve got no attachment to and, in the process, tarnishes those we do.

I reviewed this week’s gross episode of Gotham for Rolling Stone.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 18: “Everyone Has a Cobblepot”

March 3, 2015

The Scarecrow. The Joker, maybe. Fish Mooney carving her own eye out with a spoon. Gotham has really been cooking lately, and the madness and mayhem of its villians are what’s kept the fire burning. In that light, the prospect of an episode about bad apples in the GCPD is about as welcome as a VIP pass to a nightclub performance by the Penguin’s mom. But on the mean streets of Gotham City, miracles, like full-body transplants, can happen. And tonight’s cop-centric installment “Everyone Has a Cobblepot” was the latest in a long line of beautifully berserk hours of pseudo-superhero TV.

I reviewed this week’s Gotham for Rolling Stone.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 17: “Red Hood”

March 3, 2015

If you say a show is “firing on all cylinders,” you conjure an image of a vehicle moving at maximum speed, all its component parts working together for optimum effect. Gotham, on the other hand, may be more like the Wonkamobile. But its tonally disconnected bangs and clangs and explosions are, at this point, no less formidable than the proverbial well-oiled machine. The past few weeks have shown that if the show jerry-rigs enough weird, wild, occasionally emotional parts together, the whole can be a real whiz-bang contraption. And tonight’s episode — “Red Hood” — had plenty of pop to go around.

For starters, Jada Pinkett Smith carved her own eyeball out with a spoon.

I reviewed last week’s Gotham for Rolling Stone.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 16: “The Blind Fortune Teller”

February 21, 2015

[Showrunner Bruno] Heller has been cagey about Jerome, the gibbering ginger played by Shameless star Cameron Monaghan, refusing to outright label him the Caped Crusader’s future archnemesis. On the one hand, that’s good mythos management: The Joker has no official origin, a fact Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the character got a lot of murderous mileage out of in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. (“You wanna know how I got these scars?”) He could be anyone and no one — a big part of his terrifying allure.

On the other hand, Gotham’s reluctance to call Jerome the J-word could just be another example of genre television’s post-Lost fixation on mystery over meaning. Raise a bunch of questions, promise “the answers,” throw the audience a bunch of red herrings (or in this case a redhead), rinse, repeat. And if the series is teasing their Joker-to-be only to eventually reveal otherwise, it’d hardly be the first time a superhero show faked out its audience.

So what’s the best strategy for enjoying the character, in all his villainous potential? Ignore Jack Nicholson’s advice and don’t think about the future. Just appreciate Jerome for what he is: a little jolt of Joker-esque mirth and mayhem. He’s surrounded by the Cirque du Insanity trappings that have come with the character ever since creators Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, and Bob Kane thought him up. Does Monaghan lay it on a little thick? You bet. So what? This is (maybe) the most famously gleeful, gloriously over-the-top supervillain we’re talking about here. Restraint is not his strong suit. If you can’t camp it up as the Clown Prince of Crime, what has this society come to?

Ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? I reviewed this week’s Gotham for Rolling Stone.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 15: “The Scarecrow”

February 9, 2015

Hit the Bat-signal and spread the word: Gotham is crawling out its slump. For the second week in a row, strong writing for the series heavies, from its dueling Dons to the once and future Scarecrow, injected much-needed mirth and menace into the often shaky show. Serious flaws are still abound, but you may be having too much fun to notice.

For starters, a Scarecrow was born, as teenage Jonathan Crane receives a hot shot of toxin so strong it warps his mind forever. (If he only had a brain!) But while his J-horror-meets-4H hallucinations of straw men with gaping maws and fiery eyes were reasonably creepy, it was his father,Dr. Gerald Crane (a realistically rumpled Julian Sands), who was the episode’s true nightmare. His pseudoscientific scheme to rid himself of fear by essentially overdosing on it made intuitive, if not biological, sense; when it comes to supervillainy, that’s more than enough. The point was driven home most effectively not by Crane’s hallucinations of his incinerated wife, but by something more prosaic. “Think I’m afraid of you? Afraid of your guns?” he asks when the cops corner him — then immediately comes out blasting, right out there in the open, bullets be damned. That jolt of surprise delivered the message in a way that medical monologues or syringe close-ups couldn’t.

I liked another episode of Gotham! I reviewed tonight’s ep for Rolling Stone.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 14: “The Fearsome Dr. Crane”

February 2, 2015

Whoa, whoa, whoa: Was that really the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel we just watched?

Tonight’s episode of Gotham, “The Fearsome Dr. Crane,” was clever, creepy, funny on purpose, deliberately disturbing (instead of thoughtlessly so), and graced with an excellent villain-of-the-week. In other words, it was everything the show has not been for a long, long while. The temptation here might be to use it as a Batarang and lob it at every other half-hearted installment this lackadaisical longform origin story has given us, but I don’t think that’s what Thomas and Martha Wayne would want, may they rest in peace. This was a good hour of TV, for God’s sake. Let’s just enjoy it while it lasts.

I liked tonight’s episode of Gotham. I repeat: I liked tonight’s episode of Gotham. I reviewed it for Rolling Stone. If I might suggest it, please pay attention to the last graf, where I talk about the episode’s approach to horror, which was enormously effective.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 13: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

January 27, 2015

Let us now sing the praises of no man’s lands. “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon,” tonight’s episode of Gotham, features two brief scenes shot in semi-subterranean nether-regions, places that exist solely as way-stations between the places you actually want to go. In the first, anonymous goons in the employ of Don Falcone wheel a gurney with an unseen, unknown passenger through an equally unfamiliar — and underlit — abandoned warehouse-cum-torture laboratory of a mob Mengele named Bob.

In the second, recently reinstated Detective Jim Gordon chases a corrupt cop called Delaware down into the GCPD’s parking garage, cuffing him on the hood of his car and rifling through his trunk for contraband. Cold blue daylight shines down through grates in the ceiling while vertically mounted florescents on every column radiate a sickly green. The settings may not be unique, especially in dark genre fare, but they’re beautifully visualized nonetheless — sprawling yet claustrophobic, creepy and lovely to look at.

If emphasizing the lighting and set dressing in a couple of throwaway sequences gives the impression that there’s not much else worth praising here…well, yeah, pretty much. Corruption within the Gotham City Police Department has driven the story of some of the best Batman comics of all time, from Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One to Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark’s Gotham Central, two obvious influences on the show. Yet the topic’s handling here is as subtle as the character’s countless fists to each other’s face.

I reviewed tonight’s Gotham for Rolling Stone. It was Gotham, alright.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode 12: “What the Little Bird Told Him”

January 21, 2015

Over in the mob-war storyline, Fish Mooney finally makes her move against Don Falcone by staging a kidnapping of Liza, her mole in the boss’s inner circle. “I didn’t think it was going to be you,” Falcone tells Fish when she makes contact. After playing dumb for 15 seconds, she admits the plot is hers. His reply? “Of course it is. How long have I known you? You’re the smart one in the family, didn’t I always say so?” So he didn’t think Fish would betray him, but he’s known her so long and admired her intelligence so much that “of course” he knew she betrayed him? These lines come less than a minute apart in the same conversation!

I reviewed this week’s atrociously written episode of Gotham for Rolling Stone. Do stick around for the comments; angry Gotham fans are easily the most adorable angry TV fans.

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode Eleven: “Rogues’ Gallery”

January 6, 2015

Movies, video games, toys, movies based on video games based on toys: The Bat-Signal has cast the Dark Knight’s shadow on such an enormous portion of the pop-culture landscape that it’s now possible for a generation of Bat-fans to never once crack the cover of a single comic book. And now that Gotham exists, they really don’t need to. Episodes like tonight’s return from winter break — “Rogues’ Gallery” — recreate the experience of reading a mediocre Bat-book so perfectly that they all but feel plucked from a back-issue bin at a Comic-Con dealer’s table. The isolated moments of zany inspiration and compelling atmospherics, surrounded by scene after scene of ham-fisted character work, inert dialogue, and rehashed crime/cop/horror clichés — it’s not a great deal, but at least Gotham is free with your broadcast package, and Senator Clay Davis makes a cameo.

Guess who’s officially covering Gotham for Rolling Stone now?

“Gotham” thoughts, Season One, Episode Ten: “LoveCraft”

November 25, 2014

Any superhero story requires a certain suspension of disbelief. We’re not even talking about the secret origins and incredible powers here, mind you — a culture that can accept Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut can handle a few radioactive spiders, green power rings, and super-soldier serums with no problem. The real storytelling stretch that superhero stories ask their audiences to accept is one of basic human behavior. After all, no billionaire has ever spent their ducats to become a masked, armored vigilante, fighting crime in a gaudy costume under a nickname ending in “-man.” A good caped-crusader story — even one like Gotham, which several crusaders but no actual capes — convinces you that “well, yeah, no one acts like that…but what if they did?” is a question worth asking.

By that standard, Fox’s year-one prequel to the Batman story not a good superhero story. Oh, it’s a fun romp, from time to time anyway. As it approaches the mid-season mark under showrunner Bruno Heller, it’s created a more visually entertaining Gotham City than Christopher Nolan’s dour concrete canyon, a place where buildings, bridges, burlesque clubs, even bathrooms are just a bit bigger than our workaday world’s. The score, by Graeme Revell and David E. Russo, is similarly souped up, swelling and humming and clanging and making everything feel, well, like a comic book. (That’s a compliment where I come from.) The setting looks and sounds like a world where a man who dresses up like a bat and punches evil clowns would fit right in.

But tonight’s episode, “LoveCraft,” reveals a fundamental problem with Gotham’s tone: Evil clowns, sure, bring ’em on. Larger-than-life heroes who battle injustice in spectacular style? Not so much. With a lack of actual bona fide Batman built right into the premise, the show pitch-shifts real life up a few octaves, sure, but almost always in an unpleasant direction. What should feel camply thrilling, and often does in the moment, winds up leaving you feeling as dirty as Harvey Bullock looks.

I reviewed last night’s Gotham for Rolling Stone.

Comics Time: Illegal Batman

September 12, 2013

I reviewed Illegal Batman by Ed Pinsent for Vorpalizer. This is really some comic.

Elsewhere again

February 28, 2013

I’m excited to announce that I’ve made my debut at Wired, writing about recent developments in Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham’s Batman Incorporated #8. I tried to place the event in the context of Morrison’s run, and Morrison’s run in the context of the other things going on both with him and with Batman and DC Comics in recent years. Thanks to Laura Hudson for the opportunity.

And at Vorpalizer, I’ve written about Ron Howard’s Willow and the art and comics of Uno Moralez. Running the gamut!

The Dark Knight Reads: 15 Essential Batman Graphic Novels

August 2, 2012

I wrote up a list of 15 essential Batman graphic novels—essential, not necessarily best; you’ll see—for Rolling Stone. Number one is definitely number one, though.

Talking about The Dark Knight Rises on television

July 26, 2012

Here I am on CBS New York’s local news channel WLNY’s morning show Live from the Couch, talking about The Dark Knight Rises with Cinema Blend’s Katey Rich and hosts Carolina Bermudez and John Elliott last Friday. It was a tough morning, so I’m grateful to the hosts for their thoughtful, sensitive, and nonsensationalistic questions, and to both them and Katey, an old hand at this, for putting me at ease. Hope you dig it.

“14 Dead, 50 wounded at Batman Screening in Colorado (developing)”

July 20, 2012

That’s the headline I saw right before I left my house to appear on live television to talk about The Dark Knight Rises this morning. As the segment concluded I said that Batman represents the fantasy that one man can have a meaningful effect on random violence of this sort, and that the presence of the character in our culture can be reassuring. I was amazed to hear this come out of my mouth, since I do not at all believe the line that superheroes are our way of telling ourselves how much better we can be. And yet I know what I said to be true. When I was in college, a friend of mine was murdered. I’m exaggerating even as I type: She and I were friendly, but what she really was was the estranged ex-best friend of my then-current best friend, so to the extent that I thought or talked much about her before the night she was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant who is still at large today, those thoughts and words were negative. This didn’t help make her murder any easier to take. I don’t know if it made it harder. I know it made it weirder. How do you process the meaninglessness of murder in the face of the petty personal gripes and grievances it renders even more meaningless? For reasons I couldn’t articulate then, one of the ways to process it was to read The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and escape into the fantasy world of a man with a gaping wound for a psyche, who closes that wound by beating the world around it into the shape of the hole. After I read it I gave my treasured, dog-eared, beat-up copy — the one I was given as a gift in sixth grade by the one kid in my class who was already listening to PiL and getting blowjobs from eighth graders, the one he’d stolen from his older brother and been impressed with as he read it while taking a dump — to my friend, with an inscription I can’t remember other than that it positioned the book as a psychic pain reliever for what she was feeling. I still believe that to be true, as I believed it then; in neither case do or did I believe it because I think Batman is an inspiring example of hope to be emulated. The Batman fantasy is comforting because it is a fantasy. Reading about him or watching movies about him is a pleasant way of being reminded that the idea of a single man putting the world to rights is the stuff of movies and comic books, the stuff of make-believe. The real world has no Batman and never will. It will always be this way. Only when you let go of the hope that it can be something else can you come to terms with what it is rather than dashing your mind against the rocks of what it can never be.

The Dark Knight Rises thoughts

July 19, 2012

SPOILER ALERT in the basic tonal, “what did I think of it,” “I liked this storyline and that character” kind of way. I’m not blowing any secrets or anything.

My favorite thing about The Dark Knight Rises was Bane’s voice. That’s not a joke. It’s not a backhanded compliment, given that TDKR is my favorite of the three Christopher Nolan Batman movies. (Not the highest bar to clear, admittedly, but still.) No, Bane’s voice is legitimately wonderful. Theatrical, grandiose, mocking, filled with evil good cheer, ending every sentence on AN UP NOTE! As a friend of mine put it, since Tom Hardy’s mouth is obscure for the duration of the film by Bane’s mouthpiece mask, it’s entirely possible all his dialogue was ADR’d by Brian Blessed. It’s an over-the-top supervillainish delight from start to finish. I’m going to start using it EVERY DAY! I’m going to order VEGETARIAN BURRITOS THIS WAY!

Take this flash of joyous weirdness as a sign that in The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan has almost entirely jettisoned the flaws that marred, well, every other Christopher Nolan movie I’ve seen. There are no massive, gaping holes in the plot: The doomsday weapon makes sense, the tasks each player takes up on the road to the climax make sense, the reasons people are or aren’t able to do certain things throughout the course of the film make sense. The character motivations are rock solid as well: For once, Batman’s professed goals and his methods line up, the more superfluous elements of the villain’s plan are adequately explained and justified, and you’re never once required to swallow outrageous out-of-character behavior by anyone in service of the needs of the story. Nor are you ever suddenly required to invest a ton of your dramatic interest into someone you actually don’t care about — no random MTA employees narrating the path of the doomsday device, no boatfuls of commuters and criminals upon whom the climax rests, no making us pretend to think Harvey Dent is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Best of all, the tedious, dorm-room-bullshit-session dueling speeches about morality and the nature of heroism are gone. The villains are motivated by fanaticism and, even better for a superhero vs. supervillain story, straight-up revenge. The heroes are heroes because they try to stop people from murdering other people. There’s no need to gussy it up any further than that.

Everyone looks and sounds great, too. Bane especially: Tom Hardy is a gorilla, he’s got a fabulous winter coat, and jesus I really couldn’t oversell that voice if I tried. Christian Bale looks like he’s been running a 101-degree fever for five years. Anne Hathaway looks like the perfected T-1000 to the Kristen Stewart/Krysten Ritter prototype models, and her Catwoman’s wit, competence, and mission-to-mission, fight-to-fight success ratio make her basically the Batman you kinda wish you’d had throughout the whole series. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s weirdly-prominent-but-okay-I’ll-roll-with-it young cop is just so handsome in his dress blues and detective suit I could die. I love the way Gary Oldman wears that mustache. There’s funny cameo after funny cameo, including two that brought down the house (one unintentionally, I think); my favorite was Officer Jack Bass.

Would you believe there’s inventively, coherently staged action, too? The opening sequence involving an airplane was astonishingly loud and intense, the kind of thing that will send too-young children bawling and screaming from the theater, but it’s perfect if you’re the kind of adult who’d kind of like to see what powerful, well-trained human monsters would do in a crazily dangerous environment like that. There’s a brief Batman attack seen from the POV of his victim that made me laugh out loud, it was such a good idea. As I said, Catwoman’s fights are some Bourne-level shit. The terrorist attacks are Stockhausen-style works of death-art. All of the car/motorcycle/etc. chases are vastly more spatially coherent than the truck sequence from The Dark Knight, and therefore gripping enough that they don’t require the presence of Heath Ledger and a bazooka to get over.

Do I have quibbles? Oh boy, do I. It remains really bizarre how little agency Batman has vs. the other heroic characters—it’s his name on the building, after all. We’ve never really gotten the sense that he’s actually unusually good at any given aspect of his job; we see lots of people who are better at each of them (detective work, fighting, technology, inspiring people, etc.) While it’s reductive and mistaken to look at Bane as an anti-Occupy allegory — his populist rhetoric is a transparent, acknowledge sham, and more than that it’s a mixture of Occupy anti-1% stuff and Dubya Bush “not conquerors but liberators” schtick — it’s still the case that, in the wake of how American law enforcement violently cracked down on Occupy from coast to coast, there’s something preposterously reactionary about scenes where an army of fully armed policemen charge screaming and guns-blazing into a crowd of civilians, and this is presented as heroic. Even when we “know” on an intellectual level that the civilians are almost all Bane goons and freed gangsters, it’s the image that matters. (That’s to say nothing of the way the film presents a working-class revolution going straight to looting and kangaroo courts, do not pass go, do not collect $200.) The shift in quality between IMAX and non-IMAX scenes was distracting at times, though Nolan’s genuinely gorgeous and immersive cityscape shots — one after another after another — were worth it. Hans Zimmer simultaneously overscored and underscored the thing, his melody-free horns and strings a constant, blaring mosquito buzz in the ear. There were two boy-soprano music cues too many.

But nothing made me roll my eyes or want to leave, which is more than I can say, again, for any other Christopher Nolan movie I’ve seen. It was solid, (can’t believe I’m about to say this) unpretentious fun. I was entertained for the entire two hours and forty minutes. BANE VOICE!

Comics Time: Batman: Earth One

July 19, 2012

Batman: Earth One

Geoff Johns, writer
Gary Frank, artist
DC, July 2012
144 pages, hardcover
$22.99
Buy it from Amazon.com

For today’s Comics Time review, please visit The Comics Journal.

Slightly Less Behind the Curve but Still Not Quite Caught Up Theater, with your host Sean Collins, part the third

July 1, 2005

Today’s installment: Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan. Shhhh, don’t tell anybody we talked.

I unloaded about this movie on a message board right after I saw it. (I barely saw the whole thing–I came as close to walking out on it as I have on any movie since The Thin Red Line. I’ve since mellowed about it somewhat–the acting was terrific, and I appreciate the characterization of Batman as someone to be scared of–but they made such a hash out of virtually everything else that I’ve sort of de-mellowed and come to really resent the movie again.) Here’s my litany:

—–

Rutger Hauer to Morgan Freeman: “Go get all those papers and disks and data and put them on my desk right now. Also, you’re fired.” Because THAT makes sense.

I also LOVED how Alfred’s FIRST GUESS about what Master Bruce was talking about in terms of becoming a “terrifying symbol” against crime was that he was going to adopt a second persona. Because that would have totally been my first instinct too. I mean, doesn’t everybody assume that people who go missing for seven years and end up being broken out of a Himalayan prison by a death cult then come back and start talking about how they’re going to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies want to dress up in a costume and fight crime?

Haphazard, murkily edited fight scenes with drearily boring fight choreography. This is the era of Kill Bill, House of Flying Daggers, The Matrix–if you’re going to make a big deal out of your protagonist’s martial-arts training, at least make it look impressive.

Can we please have ONE comic book movie that doesn’t hinge on some big, dopey, nebulously powered sci-fi device that’s going to destroy the city? X-Men, Spider-Man 2, now this–enough.

Scarecrow, one of the film’s two major villains, was dispatched by a supporting character simply by shooting him in the face with a taser. He then gets carried off screen on a spooked horse. Wow, what a climax.

Speaking of boring and pointless Scarecrow scenes, his first confrontation with Batman lasted approximately 5 seconds before Batman got his ass handed to him. By a psychiatrist who looks like he weighs about 98 pounds.

Also, Batman’s costume is bulletproof and can withstand direct electrical currents, but it burns like polyester.

Batman’s cowl and mask are really dopey looking. The ears are too small and curve inward—they’re not intimidating. The mask curves down too low on his face and makes his chin look fat.

God knows I love Christian Bale but except for the scene where he’s interrogating the crooked cop, his Batman voice was awful, like the world’s worst Clint Eastwood impersonator.

Scenes just collide one on top of the other with no through line, no sense of transition, seemingly no logic. Characters are introduced with no build-up and no sense of pacing or timing. Bam! It’s Morgan Freeman! Bam! It’s Dr. Jonathan Crane! Bam! It’s Liam Neeson!

Katie Holmes supposedly ingests a fatal dose of fear toxin, yet she’s still coherent enough to listen to Batman’s calming instructions as he drives her around town.

That was the most boring car chase scene ever, btw. Nothing at stake—for all the jive about how Katie Holmes was gonna die, she seemed fine, no more freaked out than any normal person would be if a man in a Bat costume was driving them through the downtown of a major city at 200mph with a squad of cops chasing them)—no interesting or genuinely evil antagonists, just a bunch of thoroughly outclassed cops.

For someone who (in this version at least) is completely pathological about all crime, Batman sure doesn’t mind causing millions of dollars in property damage, does he?

“Not saving someone” and “killing someone,” in the circumstances shown in the film, are the exact same thing. That’s a truly retarded bit of fanboy morality.

“I’m not an executioner. Therefore I’m going to burn down your monastery, killing you, dozens of your henchmen, and most likely the very criminal I’m currently refusing to execute.”

“Hello, I’m a random employee of the water system, introduced during the climax of the movie simply to explain what’s going on, because I guess it’s impossible to have Morgan Freeman serve this function for some reason. Anyway, if that pressure-raising device that’s currently following the monorail above the water main gets back to this central processing plant in which I am speaking, the whole system will blow! Everybody in the audience get that? No? Okay, I’ll repeated it two minutes later!”

Not only did Batman not stop the Scarecrow, leaving it to a supporting player, he didn’t stop the subway either—he left that to another supporting player, Jim Gordon. I don’t know why it’s so hard for filmmakers to realize that the big climax of your movie should feature YOUR HEROES TAKING AN ACTIVE ROLE IN BRINGING THINGS TO THAT CLIMAX AND SOLVING THE CLIMACTIC PROBLEM. Ahem, Wachowski Brothers in The Matrix Revolutions, ahem ahem.

I’m just wondering if anyone else picked up on the fact that the theme of the film was fear? Because I don’t think they made it clear enough when EVEN BEFORE THEY INTRODUCED THE FREAKING SCARECROW they used the word fear or afraid or scared or terror or some variation thereof about six dozen times. Yes, that’s part of what Batman’s about, but it’s not ALL he’s about. Give it a goddamn rest already with the fear.

ANYONE who complained about stiff dialogue in the Star Wars prequels but didn’t complain about it here should have their Complaining License revoked. At least in the SWprequels it made some sort of sense—it was all in this sort of faux-Shakesperean milieu. Here, on the other hand, the filmmakers brag and brag about how real-world this version of Batman is, and they’re all speaking in the most unbelievably wooden shitty hackwork Batman-comic-from-1993 self-serious fashion imaginable. “How long are you planning on staying in Gotham, Master Bruce?” “As long as it takes. I want my enemies to feel my dread.” Good Lord. Rachel’s constant little speeches–“The good people do nothing, blah blah blah”–are almost unlistenably bad. And don’t even get me started on Thomas Wayne’s Basil Exposition imitation on the monorail into the city.

There’s no theme music. WTF? How can you have a Batman movie with no theme music?

This is difficult to articulate, but every character seems to display a totally unearned level of familiarity with every other character. Not thirty seconds after Bruce is introduced to the concept that Falcone runs the city, he’s sitting across from Falcone facing him down, and Falcone knows exactly who he is and is lecturing him on his psychological shortcomings. Alfred has seen Bruce for all of a few hours in seven years and he’s instantly simpatico with Bruce’s desire to become a costumed vigilante. About a minute after he meets Ducard he’s ready to climb the Himalayas to meet a total stranger. This is such unbelievably lazy writing.

Apparently two minutes is enough time for every last socialite to clear out of Wayne Manor, for their limo drivers to pull into the driveway and pick them up, and for them to get completely clear of the grounds before Ra’s al-Ghul’s thugs burn it down.

Holy moses did the jokes seem out of place and out of character! “Excuse me,” he says to the criminally insane inmates as he blasts a hole out of their cell and into the streets? Argh. Lines like that worked in the first movie, but not here.

Not to mention the fact that Batman essentially does what Ra’s and the Scarecrow do later on, which is let inmates out of Arkham Asylum.

Alfred’s near tears when he discovers that Bruce wants to tear down Wayne Manor, but then later when it actually gets destroyed he’s all “ah, no big whoop.”

“Your nice personality is just a mask. The man I loved never came back, Bruce, and I will only love you if that changes. So now let’s hold hands while I tell you how proud I am of you. Because that makes sense.”

The only character with any emotional depth is the guy who killed the Waynes, who at his parole hearing seems genuinely contrite, and therefore calls into question the notion, drilled home again and again, that compassion for criminals is a weakness. Though given the rest of the film that was probably a mistake on the filmmakers’ part rather than a conscious choice.

Speaking of which, our hero received all his training and indoctrination from what turns out to be an al Qaeda style terrorist network led by a madman. Just saying “I’m not like you guys” but then acting like them in every way save the use of lethal force (most of the time) does not exactly inspire confidence in our hero’s motive or methods.

Before he gets his Bat costume he breaks into Gordon’s office (which is stupid—once he’s decided he’s going to use a costume, he should use the Bat costume and the Bat costume only; only if he seized on the Bat as inspiration AFTER beginning his vigilante career would it make sense for him to ever go out without it) and has this whole coversation about what it would take to bring down Falcone—put pressure on the crooked judge, rely on Rachel the uncorrupt DA, etc. So what happens? He beats up Falcone at a drug buy that THE BOSS OF ORGANIZED CRIME IN GOTHAM CITY IS INEXPLICABLY ATTENDING PERSONALLY and ties him to a spotlight. I guess that’ll work too, but why bother with the meticulous explanation of what it’ll take to stop him if you’re not going to do a damn thing with it?

If you’re going to steal from Frank Miller—falling down the hole and discovering the bats, calling all the bats to help escape from a swat team, etc.–why not steal his greatest contribution to the Batman origin story and have a wounded, don’t know what to do with himself Bruce Wayne be inspired to become Batman by a giant bat that comes crashing through the picture window of Wayne Manor? Instead he’s just happily putting together his tech and is like “Oh yeah, I think bats are scary, why don’t I dress up like that.”

Also, if you’re going to have him talk in overly formal pronunciations all the time, why not actually go the whole hog and have him give the “Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot…I shall become a bat” speech?

The “What are you?” “I’m Batman” exchange made sense in the first movie because the guy asking “What are you?” had just seen a giant bat creature materialize out of nowhere, kick his partner’s ass, take bullets square in the chest and keep coming. It does NOT make sense here because Falcone hadn’t seen Batman AT ALL yet.

Those were sure some boring, non-scary “scary” hallucinations at the end there, huh?

That’s all for now, man. I’m spent.

—–

In retrospect I could get around a LOT of that if it weren’t for the fact that they made this HUGE deal out of the “I’m not an executioner” thing but then had him wipe out half the League of Shadows AND presumably the handcuffed prisoner too, and behave INCREDIBLY recklessly during that pointless thrillless car chase in which he was running policemen off the road, running over their cars, etc. All the smarts of developing Batman as this terrifying yet fundamentally just force went right out the goddamn window the second he ran over his first cop car and later on bragged about it to Alfred.

I’ll admit that Batman is the one character in superhero comics I’m a fanboy about (not in the icky, “Don’t call him Bats–that’s disrespectful” kinda way; I just really like the character), so I probably saw the film with a set of expectations that could only be completely fulfilled if I myself made the movie; but there you have it. It’s driving me nuts that people think this film did a good job, because the franchise is going to be continued by people who are saying to themselves “See, we really NAILED it there!” Me and my memories of how great Tim Burton’s first Batman movie was will be over here in the corner, brooding.