Riddle Me This… Paul Dano To Play Which Bat-Villain?

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The answer, of course, is that Warner Bros have just announced Paul Dano will play The Riddler, in Matt Reeves’ The Batman.

We couldn’t be happier about this at Out of Dave’s Head towers, as Dano is a superb actor and a smart choice.

In a departure from the comic books, Dano’s character will be named Edward Nashton, as opposed to the rather too on-the-nose Edward Nigma, and will be part of a Rogues’ Gallery of villains squaring off against the Caped Crusader, joining (so far) Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman (see here for more).

Jonah Hill was in talks for the film, reportedly to play either The Riddler or The Penguin, but it seems negotiations broke down, swiftly followed by Dano’s announcement.

Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang in Detective Comics 140, published in 1948, the Riddler has previously appeared onscreen portrayed by Frank Gorshin and John Astin (in the 1960s Batman film and TV series) and Jim Carrey (in the 1995 film, Batman Forever).

Dano’s credits include Love and MercyPrisoners12 Years a SlaveThere Will Be BloodYouth and Okja, and he was recently nominated for an Emmy for his role in Escape at Dannemora.

Dano and Kravitz join Jeffrey Wright as Comissioner Gordon and Robert Pattinson as Batman. Warner Bros will release The Batman on June 25, 2021.

Photo: Paul Archuleta/WireImage

Send In The Frowns – Joker Review

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So I’m very late to the game with this one, but much of Joker is, of course, amazing.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain that Joker is a step away from the fairly disastrous DC Extended Universe. It’s a standalone tale, starring Joaquin Phoenix, that explores the background of Batman’s arch-nemesis, containing nods to films from Network (he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore, indeed), Taxi Driver (you almost expect Phoenix to snarl “You talkin’ to me?”), The King of Comedy (with both elements of the plot and the perhaps too on-the-nose casting of Robert De Niro) to The French Connection (particularly in one of the shootings that takes place on a subway stairway).

But away from the greatest hits of the Easy Riders, Raging Bull generation, Joker centers around a truly mesmerising, heartbreaking and ultimately repulsive performance from Joaquin Phoenix, who thoroughly deserves every award bound to be thrown at him.

It’s absolutely Phoenix’s movie, as he dominates every inch of the screen, ably abetted by Lawrence Sher’s gorgeous cinematography, and further supported by Mark Friedberg’s bold and beautiful production design, bringing to life Gotham City by way of 1970s New York.

Director Todd Phillips surprises (in fact, shocks) with his ability to allow his lead actor to fully explore the fragility, pain and brutality which punctuates this journey into mental illness. It’s also a surprisingly sharp commentary of the selfish, unfeeling world we’ve allowed to fester around us, resulting in the likes of Trump and Johnson.

However…

I can’t help but feel the film is something of an exercise in futility, as it takes so much care to explain away a character who ultimately doesn’t need to be explained. Heath Ledger’s multiple Joker “origins” in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight were as intriguing and satisfying as everything Phillips and Phoenix put their character through (taking two discomforting hours instead of a few pages of dialogue).

I came away almost wishing they hadn’t hooked their story to Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson’s character, but instead created their own. Is this too much of a comic book geek’s complaint?

Perhaps, but when as storytellers you attempt to give a voice to the too-often neglected corners of society in such painfully gritty terms, it then feels almost like you want to have your cake and eat it too by connecting this to a psychotic comic book villain. It’s almost as if the film is daring itself to give voice to the toxic parts of our culture likely to hold the four-colour character of the Joker aloft as an anti-hero.

I’m honestly not certain where the film stands on this, but it is undeniably deserving of greater contemplation than an immediate post-screening collection of thoughts such as these, and it’s certainly one I am curious to see again.

Regardless of these caveats, while I don’t think anything in the film (beyond Phoenix’s performance) raises it to the level of genius that’s been heaped upon it, Joker is a powerful and bold, utterly nihilistic, shattered funhouse reflection of the world around us. And that’s no laughing matter.

Meow! Zoe Kravitz Is Your New Catwoman!

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Big Little Lies star Zoe Kravitz has been confirmed as Catwoman for new movie, The Batman.

The actor reportedly pipped the likes of Zazie Beetz, Eiza Gonzalez and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman’s nemesis/love interest in Matt Reeves’ soon-to-begin filming new take on the Caped Crusader, starring Robert Pattinson in the title role.

Pattinson was chosen by Reeves and Warner Bros when previous Batman, Ben Affleck, departed the role after than the less-than-satisfactory Justice League.

Meanwhile, Kravitz’s credits include the Divergent series and Mad Max: Fury Road, and she will stalk the streets of Gotham alongside Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon and Jonah Hill, who is in talks for an unspecified villain role.

“It’s very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale,” Reeves said of his take, to the Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. “It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional. It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films. The comics have a history of that. He’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and that’s not necessarily been a part of what the movies have been.

Pre-production on the Warner Bros./DC Comics pic is expected to start this summer. No official start date has been set, but industry rumours have suggested that filming could start late this year or early in 2020.

The Batman is scheduled to hit cinemas on June 25th, 2021.

Send In The Joker – New Trailer

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Just ahead of its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, here’s the final trailer for Todd Phillips’ Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

What to make of this? It looks pretty intense and Phoenix is clearly pulling out all the stops, but frankly Phillips’ track record (The Hangover movies… oy!) causes a little pause for breath and despite the clearly well-intentioned decision to basically makes this a riff of Scorsese’s King Of Comedy I’m concerned it all feels a little too familiar, that its narrative arc may be a path already too well-trodden.

Frankly, I hope I’m wrong, I hope this film absolutely knocks it out of the park and I’ll be first in line on opening day, but I can’t help think this might not be a joke funny enough to repeat.

Joker opens on October 4th.

Robert Pattinson Is Officially Your New Batman

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Warner Bros. have now officially announced that Robert Pattinson will star as the Caped Crusader in Matt Reeves’ forthcoming, The Batman.

Rumours flew out earlier this week that Pattinson and Nicholas Hoult were both duking it out in final negotiations as Reeves and Warner’s final choices, and now it looks like Pattinson punched that bit harder, as Deadline have revealed him as the victor.

Little is known about Reeves’ long-in-gestation movie, except that it will focus on the early days of Bruce Wayne as Batman, highlight more of the detective angle of the character (yay!) and that the central villains could be Penguin and Catwoman (again… boo!).

While many still think of Pattinson as “the Twilight guy,” the actor has steadily been turning out a number of critically-acclaimed roles in the past few years in films such as Good Time, Cosmopolis, High Life and The Lighthouse, and has also been cast in Christopher Nolan’s new movie, Tenet.

And director Reeves certainly did sterling work revitalising Fox’s revamp of the Planet of the Apes saga, so there’s much to be intrigued by here.

Shooting is rumoured to take place in the UK this autumn but no release date has been announced for The Batman, so I’ll be sure to light the Bat-Signal as soon as Warner Bros. give the word.


Photo by Paul Archuleta

DC Universe Unveils Titans Trailer

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“Fuck Batman.” Well, that’s a heck of a way to introduce Robin to a post-Nolan DC landscape, I guess.

As reported here recently, the new DC Universe streaming service will feature a whole raft of new, live-action TV shows, and Titans is one of their big guns. Here’s the just released trailer, care of TV Guide:

Fans of the long-running comics will no doubt be pleased to see many of their favourite characters appearing alongside a pissed off Robin: Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven.

It all looks pretty dark and grim… so, uh… grimdark… making it very in line with the pre-Justice League Zack Snyder vision for DC live action. Will the series hue this dark? Stay tuned to DC Universe when it launches later this year!

Justice League: Dawn of… Something.

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After a great deal of anticipation and no small amount of concern at its production woes, the best we could hope for with Justice League is that the film wasn’t going to be a complete mess.

Well, it is a mess, but it is also a lot of fun, more so than expected.

The Warner Bros/DC universe has been a wobbly affair from the outset. First of all, Zack Snyder presented a version of Superman in both Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman which suggested at best that he didn’t understand the character and at worst that he actively disliked him. This was followed by the incoherent Suicide Squad, and frankly the less said about that, ever, the better.

Finally, Patty Jenkins launched Wonder Woman (after a cameo in Batman vs Superman) with reverence and respect to the qualities that have made her such a much-loved character since 1941 and a palpable sense of joy. In a case more shocking than snow being white, audiences responded favourably.

While Diana of Themyscira was cleaning up at the box office, Warner Bros and DC decided on a spot of course correction for their characters. Joss Whedon (director of Marvel’s first two Avengers movies) was brought in to oversee rewrites and reshoots on Snyder’s Justice League. Industry scuttlebutt suggested this was an attempt to steer what had been Snyder’s overriding grim vision for the cinematic DC universe towards something more hopeful, and more fun.

A viewing of Justice League will clearly show this has been the case. In the opening moments Superman is given an introduction which attempts to make us understand why the world feels such a profound loss at his death. While welcome, it does come across as a rather clunky retcon, since what we’re shown fails to jibe with the lofty, distant character seen in his previous outings.

The film’s threat is then introduced and if you were hoping the casting of Ciarán Hinds would result in a character of subtlety and nuance then you’d have been better off hoping for a cameo from Batgirl as played by Adam Sandler. Steppenwolf is a CGI mope who wants to take over the world. And uh, that’s it. Frankly he makes the weakest Marvel villain seem like a character in a Mike Leigh film.

The rest of the plot, such as it is, sees the League introduced, but here again the film fails since these introductions feel more like trailers for forthcoming movies. This was always a danger for Justice League since DC decided not to put in the legwork that Marvel did, firmly establishing their characters in individual movies before bringing them together for The Avengers.

So we have a group of characters we barely get time to know, one whose place in the world is very obviously rewritten and a barely one-dimensional villain. As a film, it’s a shambles, but there is something more going on here.

Despite all of the above, the characters are a great deal of fun. That they are is testament to both the well-cast actors and, I strongly suspect, Whedon’s rewrites. Jason Momoa is obviously having a blast as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and that translates well (his ‘bro with a trident’ being more enjoyable than the trailers would have us believe), Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/Flash is a little more of an acquired taste – but his over-earnest shtick mostly works a treat, while Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/Cyborg gets the shorter end of the stick and is barely developed at all. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot (Bruce Wayne/Batman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman) continue to do great work with their characters (but then we’ve been given time to get to know them). Gadot is definitely the MVP of the DC Extended Universe.

Thankfully, the gloom and doom portentousness of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman has been entirely done away with, instead the mood here is downright pulpy, with events unfolding at a breakneck pace (that studio-dictated two-hour running time has really paid off). While the characters suffer from that, there is at least no time to be bored.

And then, of course, there’s Superman. It’s not really a spoiler to say the Man of Steel returns in Justice League, as his resurrection was teased just moments after his demise in Batman vs Superman. What is a pleasant surprise is that we are finally given a more recognisable version of the Last Son of Krypton than either of his previous outings. Even Henry Cavill’s super-suit has been colour-graded (in glaringly obvious post-production) to more closely resemble its comic book counterpart. Incidentally, Cavill’s real-life moustache, grown for the filming of  the newest Mission: Impossible movie and unable to be removed for Whedon’s reshoots, is also given a post-production erasing with frankly bizarre results.

But it’s pleasurable to see Superman, the real red and blue Superman, in action. It’s impossible to imagine Snyder’s version of the character asking “Is this guy still bothering you?” as he hurtles head-long into the villain. Let’s hope the long-in-gestation Man of Steel 2 picks up on this revitalised iteration.

The ultimate problem with Justice League is that, Wonder Woman aside, each of the films has left us hoping that DC/Warner Bros will learn from their mistakes and get it right next time. So much was riding on Justice League: this should have been the movie to get everything right, set up the individual characters and firmly establish the world and the tone of the movies to come. Instead we have a film where everyone is given rushed introductions, a dull villain to fight and some of the worst CGI seen in a major movie since The Hobbit trilogy.

Let’s be clear, just the fact that it tries to inject heart and hope into the flagship DC legends means that it’s already way more fun than either Man of Steel or Batman vs Superman (and it’s light years ahead of Suicide Squad, despite its similarly troubled production).

The film is not the complete disaster many were expecting, but neither is it the triumph many were hoping for.

While it’s a positive sign that the company has taken notice of Wonder Woman, at what point precisely can audiences stop hoping for DC to get it right next time and just enjoy the movies as they arrive!?

These iconic characters deserve a better movie. Maybe next time they’ll get it. But then I’ve said that before…

Danny Elfman’s Justice League Theme – And Score To Include Iconic Batman Theme

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(UPDATE: Williams’ Superman score is in and can be heard in the track I’ve just added, Friends And Foes)

Whatever the heck comes out from the complicated production history of Warner/DC’s Justice League movie, at least we’ll be getting some kickass music.

Friend to the cinematic capes Danny Elfman (Batman, Darkman, Spider-Man etc) is scoring the film and insists he will use his iconic Batman theme (as heard in the 1990s movies and Batman – The Animated Series). In fact, there even seem to be traces of it heard in the new Justice League theme (hear for yourself below).

Rumours are also running rife that the film will reintroduce John Williams’ even more iconic (iconicer?) Superman theme.

This certainly all lends credence to the suggestion that DC are using the retooled-by-Joss-Whedon Justice League to do a major spot of course correction with their flagship characters, no doubt spurred on by the success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. Hopefully this pans out and we’ll get to see the more hopeful, upbeat representation these characters deserve and leave behind Zack Snyder’s dour, grimdark take on the DC universe.

We’ll know for sure in just a few weeks, but in the meantime here’s the brand new Justice League theme from Elfman. Enjoy…

 

(UPDATE: Here’s a track featuring John Williams’ Superman Theme)

Can They Be Heroes…? Justice League Trailer

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And so the latest (in a seemingly long, long line) of Justice League trailers hits.

Each trailer has shown a marked improvement and the greater reliance on character has been showing through more each time. What does this mean for the movie with Joss Whedon taking over after director Zack Snyder’s departure due to a terrible family loss? That remains to be seen, of course, but at least the trailers have been getting better.

Not much else to say at this point. Let’s hope Justice League can continue the rehabilitation of the DC Extended Universe after the promise shown by Wonder Woman.

New Justice League Trailer Hits Comic-Con!

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As expected, the brand new Justice League trailer dropped at Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con today and I’m happy to bring it to you in all its glory.

The film, the first to bring together DC Comics’ heavy-hitter characters (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) recently took a sad hit in production when director Zack Snyder had to step down from the director’s chair, following a tragic family loss earlier this year.

Joss Whedon, already hard at work on the Warner Bros. lot developing the new Batgirl movie, has stepped in to bring the League across the finishing line. Whedon, with The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron under his belt, has a little experience of delivering mildly successful superhero team movies, of course.

Ben Affleck took to the stage at SDCC, prior to the trailer’s screening, to debunk yesterday’s rumours which suggested Warner Bros. were looking to transition him out of The Batman role, ready for a re-cast. I’m happy to hear this, as his take on the Caped Crusader was one of the few genuine highlights of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of the Franchise.*

Justice League will unite in cinemas on November 16. And I have to say, I dug the heck out out of this trailer. Here’s hoping DC have finally learned how to handle their characters in the right way…

*I know, I know…