Putting The Goth In Gotham – The Batman Review


There’s a lot to love about Matt Reeves’ take on The Batman.

The character’s introduction is one of the best onscreen portrayals of him yet, as we see how two years of dwelling in the shadows has bred fear into the criminals of Gotham, with some chilling shots of them staring into dark alleyways, fearful of what will emerge. And there is a fresh arc to the Batman’s role in Gotham, evident by the end of the film, a take on the character we haven’t really seen highlighted for some time. Gratifyingly, it’s an arc earned both plot-wise and emotionally.

His relationship with Jeffrey Wright’s excellent Jim Gordon (though really, when isn’t Wright excellent…!?) is a highlight, though doesn’t pay off as satisfyingly as we might expect. Perhaps they’re saving that for the inevitable (and bluntly teased) sequels.

And finally, after decades of being ignored in the various cinematic versions of Batman, ‘the World’s Greatest Detective’ (as he’s known in comic books) takes to the screen, and very welcome he is (albeit set against a typically convoluted film noir plot).

Noir is a major touchstone here, and Jake Gittes would be at home in Reeves’ Gotham as much as he was in Polanski’s Chinatown (I almost expected someone to pull Gordon aside and say “Forget it, Jim, it’s Gotham”).

The other influences are strong: Scorsese’s Taxi Driver weighs heavily on Pattinson’s Batman/Wayne, and Fincher’s Se7en and Zodiac loom close at hand in numerous ways, while the dynamic between Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Batman here could easily be traced back to Sutherland and Fonda’s in Pakula’s Klute. Meanwhile, comic book series such as Batman: Year One and The Long Halloween also make their presences keenly felt (Zoe Kravitz’s winning take on Kyle/Catwoman has its DNA placed firmly in the former).

These textures make for a far more refreshing version of the character than I was expecting, and while the distinctly non-frenetic pace is to be applauded, a tighter edit could easily have trimmed fifteen to twenty minutes from the bloated three hour running time without any detraction from the overall film.

While Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne occasionally veers a little too close to being a moody emo boy under his floppy locks, he nevertheless brings a fine vulnerability to the role, gifting the character with liberal (*cough*) doses of white guilt and a couple of touching revelatory moments for both of his alter-egos. Happily, the actor/director/studio choice not to make Wayne growl absurdly as Batman pays dividends, as that has been too much of a diversion in recent iterations of the character.

The film’s main villain never feels quite as present or chilling as he should be. Despite some truly grisly crimes he tends to get a little lost in the story’s mass of convolutions, and his final confrontation with Batman ultimately suffers when compared to, and yes, that is an elephant in the room, Ledger’s Joker. Indeed, The Batman is unable to escape from the long shadows cast by the far-too-recent Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy (or, to a far lesser extent, the Snyder Batfleck efforts), and perhaps expects audiences to have moved on too quickly from that cultural juggernaut. It’s a sure bet that Reeves’ outing with the Caped Crusader would have felt fresher with a little more distance from those films.

Having said that, Reeves should be applauded for his almost stoic anti-blockbuster approach, deftly juggling elements of noir, horror, and mystery, for resolutely refusing to spoon fed audiences yet another version of the Batman origin story, and for leaving the character in a place that bodes well for his next outing.

Though maybe next time Reeves could bring some sharper scissors to the edit suite.

The Batman – DC FanDome Trailer


The DC FanDome online event has just dropped the second trailer for Matt Reeves’ forthcoming film, The Batman.


Starring Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader, this latest trailer reveals much more of Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman and Colin Farrell as Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot, A.K.A The Penguin. Still held back from all but the briefest view is the film’s chief villain, Paul Dano’s The Riddler.

In his second year of fighting crime, Batman uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler.

Reeves has promised that this iteration of the DC Comics character will place a greater emphasis on his detective skills, though since this trailer mainly focuses on action beats, we’ll have to wait and see if that bears out.

Originally set for release on June 25, 2021, the pandemic saw that date come and go, and The Batman will now emerge from the Bat-Cave into cinemas in March, 2022.


EDIT: Director Reeves released a higher quality res version via his Vimeo account:

The Batman – Main Trailer from Matt Reeves on Vimeo.

Marvel Cast Iman Vellani As Ms. Marvel For Disney Plus


Deadline just dropped the news that Marvel have found their Kamala Khan, AKA Ms. Marvel. Newcomer Iman Vellani will play the character in a new series for Disney Plus.

Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book.

The new series for the streaming channel will be written by Bisha K. Ali and centers on Khan, a Pakistani-American teen based in New Jersey. It will mark Vellani’s first big role in the film and television industry.

The news follows on swiftly from the recent announcement that Tatiana Maslany has been cast in the title role of a She-Hulk series, and this week’s announcement that the studio is developing a Nick Fury series, to star Samuel L. Jackson.

We’ll bring you more word on Ms. Marvel as the show moves into production, but this is exciting news for fans of the character.

Marvel Cast Tatiana Maslany As She-Hulk For Disney Plus



I have to be honest, I’m a little obsessed with Tatiana Maslany. It’s her teeth. They are, and I’ll brook no argument on this, the sexiest teeth on television.

That aside, the fact that Marvel have landed Maslany for the title role in their new She-Hulk series for Disney Plus is excellent news, because her performances in BBC America show, Orphan Black, were fabulous. Maslany was nominated for three Emmys and a Golden Globe during the show’s run between 2013 and 2017, winning the Emmy for best actress in a drama series in 2016.

She-Hulk, to those who are behind on their Marvel Comics’ lore, is the alter-ego of lawyer Jennifer Walters, Bruce Banner’s cousin who, at least in her four-colour origin, is tranformed into an intelligent, green-skinned giant after a life-saving blood transfusion from her (in)famous relative. Mark Ruffalo has coyly intimated he may even reprise his role as Banner for a cameo on the show.

She-Hulk’s debut on the screen is shaping up nicely, as Maslany’s casting joins the announcement from earlier this week that Kat Coiro had been signed as director and executive producer. She will direct the pilot and additional episodes of the series. Jessica Gao is writing the series and serves as executive producer and showrunner.

Coiro has directed shows including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Dead To Me, while Gao has Rick and Morty on her resume, which suggest She-Hulk might follow the frequently semi-comedic tone taken by the best of the character’s comic book appearances (star artist/writer John Byrne produced a memorable run in the 80s, with Shulkie, as she’s affectionately known, frequently breaking the fourth wall to address readers).

She-Hulk, with a currently unknown release date, will join other Marvel Cinematic Universe shows on Disney Plus, including Falcon and The Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Loki, with Hawkeye, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel also in development.

We’ll bring you more news as it hits.



Tatiana Maslany photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Somewhat Surprisingly, The New Mutants Gets A New Trailer…

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Whatever has occurred in the twists and turns taken to bring Fox’s The New Mutants to the screen remains somewhat of a mystery, but we finally have a new trailer and a new (new) release date.

Though I’m generally not a huge fan of Marvel’s mutant teams, I’ve always had a soft spot for The New Mutants, encouraged mainly by the Chris Claremont/Bill Sienkiewicz ‘Demon Bear‘ storyline that elevated a bunch of second string characters into a must read comic book!

I also rather liked the first trailer for Josh Boone’s The New Mutants film for Fox, released two years ago, followed by… well, officially, nothing.

Behind the scenes, however, everything seemed to be going on, from the Fox/Disney merger (would Disney want to see Marvel characters in a straightforward horror movie, albeit released under the Fox banner?), to delayed release dates, rumoured reshoots involving X-Men writer/producer Simon Kinsberg and further rumours that the film would be shelved as it now longer fitted in with the Mouse House’s overall plans for Marvel.

But just recently, director Boone tweeted that a new trailer would be released and a final release date set, and here we are.

I’m more than intrigued by this, the cast is full of great young actors (honestly, I’d watch Anya Taylor-Joy in anything, and I’m dying to see her take on Illyana Rasputin / Magik, but Maisie Williams, Maisie Williams, Henry Zaga, Blu Hunt, and Charlie Heaton are all of great interest too), and the thought of a superhero/horror mash-up ticks all of my boxes.

The New Mutants is released (finally) on April 3rd. Here’s hoping I won’t regret spending so much time writing about it.

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.

Captain Marvel: Further. Higher. Faster. Mostly.

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On the surface Captain Marvel might be one of the more straightforward of Marvel Studios’ films, but there’s some intriguing stuff at play underneath.

Carol Danvers has been around in the comic books since 1968, though it wasn’t until 1977 that the character adopted her first superheroic alter-ego, that of Ms. Marvel, taking on the legacy mantle of Captain Marvel (after a previous, separate character sharing that name) in 2012.

So while Danvers and the Captain haven’t been around as long as or share the general public awareness as Wonder Woman, the character has paid her dues.

Mention of Wonder Woman here is interesting, as while DC and Warner Bros made her gender a prominent part of the character’s journey in 2017’s film, here Marvel almost wilfully subvert expectations of such considerations to take a more subtle route in unleashing their first female-fronted franchise.

When alien Kree warrior Vers (Brie Larson) goes on a mission against the shape-shifting Skrull race with her mentor, Yon-Rogg (played by welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jude Law), which quickly not only goes pear-shaped but also sees Vers begun to unlock a sequence of events which will lead her to unravel a series of recurring nightmare flashbacks.

Ver’s journey leads her to Earth in 1995, and encounters with (amazingly CGI de-aged) younger versions of Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and revelations which will change both her life and the future of Marvel history.

That the film presents all this as an unfolding mystery is one of the stronger points of the standard origin story, and as per usual this is entertainment of the highest caliber from Marvel: superb casting (including a star-making turn from Larson, who rises above some deficiencies in the script to make a hugely appealing central character and another fantastic turn from Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, the Skrull, who is obviously having a blast), snappy dialogue and fun action sequences. But it’s somewhat disappointing to report that despite all this, Captain Marvel still feels like one of the studio’s more workmanlike (excuse the gender conflation here) efforts.

While it’s highly admirable (and enjoyable) that it’s never even really made an issue that Vers and Marvel are presented as the equal (and indeed, superior) to any males in her orbit, making the film rather an important step in its own way, it’s a shame that some of this is presented in a less than inspired manner. I found the direction by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to be lacking a certain vision, and it’s the first Marvel film where I’ve actually felt the hand of a committee in the course of viewing.

It’s not difficult to imagine that the firing of James Gunn, who had been acting as a kind of creative guru to the studio until a small group of internet nazis dug up some poor taste jokes Gunn had made on Twitter and used those to successfully blackmail Disney into letting him go, had some kind of reverb effect on Marvel (and Captain Marvel). There are choices made in the film which feel distinctly Gunn-ian (is that a thing? It is now), but executed without his very particular flair.

A perfect example of this is the decision to play out a third act fight scene, between Marvel and some of the bad guys, with No Doubt’s Just A Girl playing over the soundtrack. Given the possibility of this particular song to comment on the action, this might seem like a good idea, but on reflection I found myself wondering what the song really had to do with I was seeing onscreen. In hindsight it feels like a choice that Gunn might have considered then rejected as being simply too on the nose.

It might seem unfair to be laying the film with a “what would James Gunn have done?” vibe, but it’s impossible to separate a studio film like this from the events that surrounded its creation.

But don’t let these caveats put you off from seeing Captain Marvel (in 3D if you can, and if you have a cinema that knows how to project the format properly – because the post-converted 3D is really superb), as even Marvel’s most simply efficient is the equal of or better than many other studios’ efforts.

You’ll definitely have a good time (and if you’re a Stan Lee fan, like me, the film may even make you cry in its opening seconds, as I did), and without a doubt it’s a strong introduction to a character who is tipped to become an important lynchpin in Marvel’s future movies (not least of which in next month’s much-anticipated Avengers: Endgame).

And to answer a question I know many of you have (without spoiling anything) Thanos should be very, very worried right now.

Captain Marvel definitely goes further, higher, faster, to use both the character’s and the film’s tag-line, but could have gone even higher, even further and even faster.

Stan Lee – So Long, True Believer!

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It isn’t too often the death of a celebrity affects me emotionally, but today is very different. Stan ‘The Man’ Lee has passed away.

It’s difficult to talk about Stan without discussing my own life, so ingrained is he in the very core of the person I am today. Comic books were always around me, from my very earliest memories in the mid-1960s, those beautiful and crazy, four-colour treasures were always to hand, courtesy of a family that believed in the power of reading and in the stimulation of the imagination.

At first the comics were probably quite random, though I recall some Superman titles and an adaptation of King Kong that I literally read to pieces. These, along with the seminal American monster magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, were the guides that quickly took me past Jack & Jill books.

Then in 1972, Marvel, whose characters until then had been spottily reprinted in comics from other UK publishers, such as Odhams, launched their very first issue of The Mighty World of Marvel.  A weekly title, featuring Fantastic Four, Hulk and Spider-Man, it continued in the house style set by the original US Marvel comics, crediting the creators of the strips and led by the breathless purple prose of the personable and garrulous front-man for the company, the one and only Stan Lee.

Like Lee’s teenage hero Peter Parker being transformed by the radioactive bite of a spider, I was bitten and entranced with not only these larger than life super-hero characters, but by the very idea of Marvel and its editorial Bullpen, where creators such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Marie & John Severin, Don Heck, John Buscema, Gene Colan and many more dreamed up a never-ending series of stories to further stimulate my senses and, even better, encourage my own budding talents as an artist!

In October 1975, Lee and Hulk artist Herb Trimpe came to the UK to appear at the music venue, The Roundhouse, in London’s Camden. The show they put on was like a music gig, with Lee & Trimpe striding the stage like Plant and Page, rock gods of the comic pages to these youthful eyes. I had a front row ticket, alongside my lovely, flu-ridden Mum, who didn’t want eleven year-old me travelling across London on my own at night. Getting to meet my hero was beyond exciting, and that night is still firmly fixed in my head, as I can still feel the heat of the spotlights and hear my Mum coughing beside me.

I’d meet Stan again the following year, and buried somewhere in my loft (I hope) is a glossy, black & white still of me handing him my copy of Captain Britain, issue one, to sign (I still have that too).

I grew up alongside Peter Parker (some years older than me, of course, so he was a fictional, aspirational character), watching him graduate high school and head to college, then find himself in the hectic world of the freelance photographer – I could never have imagined my own life path would be so similar. This explains a large part of why Parker and Spider-Man remain my most-loved of Lee’s co-creations.

Only in my wildest dreams did I ever see myself actually working for Marvel, and yet, many years later there I was. Frankly, my career could have stopped at that moment and I’d have died with a grin on my face. Seeing my first Marvel pay cheque (ah, the days of printed pay cheques) emblazoned with images of the Hulk and Spider-Man was a genuinely surreal moment, to the point I almost (almost, mind…) didn’t cash it!

As I got older, I became more aware of the realities behind the comic stories: of the horrible practices of the comic book industry that saw creators robbed of their artwork and their intellectual ownership of characters that would go on to be financially exploited in all kinds of media. Slowly, and often posthumously, these creators or their families are seeing deals made to bring some equity to this shameful situation, and my hero turned out to have feet of clay as it’s pretty obvious that Lee helped perpetuate these problems.

That’s alway a useful learning curve for fans, of course, to be able to see those we admire as imperfect people instead of lofty icons.

And there was further sadness involving Stan, as in recent years he became embroiled in health and money issues, in seemingly endless attempts to recapture the creative heights of years long gone. This day has seemed ever more inevitable as he became more fragile with each appearance. And so it is.

But what a legacy this man left. A modern-day mythology that carries on the ages-old traditions of heroic storytelling, fables of characters we can and must aspire to be, whose ultimate goodness is set not in the wheel of victory, but in the attempt of victory, to be the better part of ourselves. Isn’t that something to get excited about?

For me personally, Stan and his amazing co-creations literally changed my life. Does that sound grandiose? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Stan appearing in my narrative directly led to me working in comic books for many years, and I wouldn’t now be working in animation had his vast imagination (and those of the people he worked with) not stirred my own imagination, my own creativity.

Thank you, Stan, for everything. You were The Man.

Excelsior.

Yours truly, with my original copy of the comic book that changed my life.
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My copies of the Origins of Marvel Comics (and its sequels), signed by Stan in 1975 and ’76.
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Your Dream Or Nightmare Just Came True: HBO Make Watchmen TV Series

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Prepare to scream with delight or grind your teeth in furious indignation: HBO announced today that their Watchmen TV series is a go, following recent production of a pilot episode.

To further find your bliss/fuel your anger, writer/producer Damon Lindelof has warned not to expect another direct adaptation likeZack Snyder’s incredibly faithful 2009 movie. Lindelof wrote on Instagram that his version is the “New Testament” to the original’s “Old Testament”. HBO also released the following logline via Indiewire:

“Set in an alternate history where “superheroes” are treated as outlaws, “Watchmen” embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel while attempting to break new ground of its own.”

Lindelof has also said of the show:

“This story will be set in the world its creators painstakingly built…but in the tradition of the work that inspired it, this new story must be original. It has to vibrate with the seismic unpredictability of its own tectonic plates. It must ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens. Most importantly, it must be contemporary. The Old Testament was specific to the Eighties of Reagan and Thatcher and Gorbachev. Ours needs to resonate with the frequency of Trump and May and Putin and the horse that he rides around on, shirtless. And speaking of Horsemen, The End of the World is off the table…which means the heroes and villains–as if the two are distinguishable–are playing for different stakes entirely. Some of the characters will be unknown. New faces. New masks to cover them. We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising yet familiar set of eyes…and it is here we will be taking our greatest risks.”

The show is sure to raise the ire of many fans of Watchmen, who think the Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ story should not be continued (both for moral reasons – as Moore notoriously has disowned anything produced by DC or Warner Bros beyond their original work – and creative reasons – seeing the graphic novel’s story as sacrosanct), and Lindelof’s CV is also filled with divisive productions (Prometheus and Lost among them).

Personally I’m cautiously intrigued by this and with a cast headed up by Tom Mison, Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith, Adelynn Spoon, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Louis Gossett Jr., Adelaide Clemens, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent and Andrew Howard, this promises to be, if nothing else, a major talking point when it hits HBO in 2019.

Ant-Man And The Wasp Full Trailer

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Just as Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War walks away with with approximately half the universe’s hard-earned cash (see the movie, you’ll get it), the company shows that the best way to follow up something so huge is by going small.

The stakes in Ant-Man and the Wasp seem relatively more low key, with a villain who wants to “take over the world… or whatever” (according to the always entertaining Michael Peña in the trailer).

It will be interesting to see how this movie works in relation to, well… what was happening in the Avengers movie… but this certainly seems to be a generally lighter toned affair.

Ant Man and the Wasp opens on July 6th, bringing back most of the original movie’s cast while adding Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer and the wonderful Walton Goggins.

Personally, I c…ant… wait. #SorryNotSorry