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.
Start your engines! The Batman director Matt Reeves has just revealed his version of the Batmobile. And, well, here it is…
There’s not much more to say at this point, except that it looks nicely slimmed down from recent chunky cinematic Batmobiles, and to this old Bat Fan’s eyes, it has something of the feel of both the 1970s comic book sports car versions designed by the likes of Bob Brown, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano and the sleek number designed by the late, great artist Norm Breyfogle, for his excellent run in the 1980s. And that’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, The Batman stars Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The cast also includes Zoe Kravtiz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as Riddler, Colin Farrell as the Penguin, John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred and Peter Sarsgaard as Gotham City DA Gil Colson.
The film will be released June 25th, 2021.
Director of Warner Bros.’ forthcoming reboot of The Batman, Matt Reeves has revealed the first look at incoming Bruce Wayne, Robert Pattinson, in costume as the Dark Knight…
The short, atmospheric video is part of a camera test for the film, so this may not be the final costume, but there’s no doubt that Pattinson looks good in the cape and cowl.
The cast for The Batman also includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as Riddler, Colin Farrell as the Penguin, John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and Peter Sarsgaard in an as-yet unrevealed role.
The Batman hits our screens on June 25, 2021.
UPDATE: Apparently that IS the Bat Suit and also the music is from Michael Giacchino, who’s scoring the film. That makes this clip a whole lot more intriguing.
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.
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.
Warner Bros/DC have just dropped the full trailer for Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), so here it is…
I mean, it at least looks pretty and cohesive, in a way that even the trailers for Suicide Squad weren’t, and that cast is certainly to die for: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Chris Messina, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, and Ewan McGregor, but I can’t help but feel it all comes across as a little… flat.
Maybe I’m just in a mood, but I was hoping for something a little more off-kilter, a little more dangerous (though a Harley Quinn song and dance number would definitely be a step in the right direction)…
But okay, if Robbie is at the centre of this (and the trailer certainly suggests that,as her Harley Quinn character positively dominates the narrative) then I’m in for the ride, as I think she’s a seriously undervalued actor and might just have the star power to pull this off. And if nothing else, it looks like it will be Jared Leto-free…
Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – and that might be the last time I’ll type out that mouthful, directed by Cathy Yan, hits our local screens on February 7th, 2020.
The trailer for James Wan’s Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa, has arrived and it looks, well… fun.
Take a look…
Fun, bright and seemingly going full comic book crazy with super-villains, underwater empires, giant sea creatures and, uh… turtles… could it be that between this and the equally fun-looking trailer for Shazam! DC/Warner have finally learned lessons from the grimdark Zack Snyder films (and, whisper it quietly… Suicide Squad)?
Aquaman opens on December 21st, and I guess we’ll all find out then.
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…
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.