Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Musings: Batman, A Farewell to Nolan

(Could we see this in the Dark Knight Rises?)
I have writer's block about the Redskins. I've had it for about two months now. It's not that I don't want to write about the Redskins (trust me, I do. I have about 10 articles unfinished in my Blogger queue.) it's just a combination of trying to write the "perfect" post, have time to get the words typed (my work schedule has, to say it nicely, lately sucked for the past two months) and try not to write the same stories that every other media outlet/blog/fan site/messageboard has already wrote. I'm probably more frustrated about it as a writer than you dozen or so folks who regularly read IIWII. The heat of the summer and the fact that NOTHING is going on in the world of football (this is the rare dead period for the NFL) hasn't helped with the motivation. So, in an attempt to get back on the horse so to speak I'm going back to my roots and writing about comics/movies. Redskin fans bear with me, comic fans I hope you enjoy this.

When I originally started IIWII in 2008, the goal was to do a comics review site with Redskins game analysis during football season and whatever else I felt like writing about movies, football, sports etc (ie. It Is What It Is). I had a few people on board that were to contribute some stuff and get the ball rolling. What happened was that comic reviews are a pain in the ass to write-- especially when you're getting new comics a week after they're out. I was getting some praise for the Redskins coverage and was finding myself sticking more with that obsession than the comic genre. Before I knew it, I had stopped collecting comics (multiple reasons for that) contributors fell through and this was a full Redskins fan blog with the occasional comment on baseball, sports or movies. What you probably didn't know (or what you did if you've been reading and saw this or this article or even the brief blurb at the end of this post) is that I'm a huge fan of Batman in his various forms (Comics, TV, Movies etc.) so much so that I spent about 20 years of my life collecting most of his adventures in Batman, Detective Comics, Shadow of the Bat, Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman and Robin etc, etc. So, let's just say I have a lot of useless knowledge on the world's most famous fictional detective vigilante.

A few years ago I went somewhat unwillingly to a movie called Batman Begins. The Batman movie franchise was in ruin thanks to a horrible, putrid, un-watchable film called Batman and Robin (maybe one day I'll write a review just to show how much I hated that movie despite Uma Thurman and George Clooney trying to do their best with a horrible script and horrible direction). I knew little of director Christopher Nolan at the time but I had serious questions about the film. I didn't get why Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine was in this. The Batmobile looked clunky and as a purist the rumor that Bruce Wayne was going to be trained by assassins didn't thrill me. I went in with the lowest of expectations hoping that the film wouldn't be as bad as Batman and Robin and I left utterly stunned and amazed how good the film was. Jim Gordon was actually a good cop and not some guy who would turn on the Bat Signal at the first sign of a crime. Finally, we have a Gordon (played by the amazing Gary Oldman) that was like the Gordon of the comics. We had a cop who worked with Batman not because he was in awe of him but because Batman could do things he couldn't in order to bring down the mob. The twist with Ra's Al Ghul and Liam Neeson was interesting and surprisingly fitting with the comic/animated series and his premise for destroying Gotham also fit the agenda of the character. It turned out that I really liked the Batmobile and this urban assault vehicle made more sense than the sleeker versions from previous films. The writing of David Goyer and Johnathan Nolan was terrific and I like Michael Cain as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as a Lucius Fox who's more 007's Q than a man in a suit running Wayne Enterprises. The movie wasn't without its faults. I didn't like the train/microwave machine set up and Bale's Batman voice sounds more like me after a Redskins' home game, but overall it was a nice introduction to a Batman universe grounded more in a reality similar to ours.

Meanwhile, I got to see more of Christopher Nolan as he took a break from Batman and did a smaller film (and highly underrated) called The Prestige. It was all about trickery and showing things to an audience while showing them something completely different. While the plot revolves around two magicians, it's clear that Nolan had some underlying themes about film making. Nolan is an interesting director in that he shows the audience what is going to happen. It's subtle but also very blatant in how he does it either through a line of dialog or through a shot in one scene. Yet despite this, you still never know what's coming until it's too late. Nolan does this in every single film......

2008 saw the return of Nolan's entry to his Batman universe with The Dark Knight. There not much to say here that people haven't already said. It truly is one of the greatest comic films of all time and also could easily stand alone as a crime drama. I still remember IIWII's Steeler Hater Dan tell me he had concerns about Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker. He wasn't the only one. Fanboys and many in the geek community thought is was terrible and that there was no way that Ledger could be the Clown Prince of Crime or even come close to the campy yet crazy version played by Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's Batman. All I said to him was I trust in Nolan and when we walked out of the IMAX theater, Dan was converted. He wasn't alone as the Dark Knight became the 2nd highest grossing film of all time in the US (ED NOTE- Since then The Dark Knight has fallen to 4th all time with Avatar and The Avengers grossing more domestically). Ledger's performance is still highly regarded with the fans even if Nolan altered some of the character's origin to move the story along. It was the first time I went and saw a motion picture in a IMAX theater and it was interesting to see what lengths Nolan went to use IMAX cameras for larger sequences. The great news is that he plans on using the IMAX cameras for even a larger percentage.

Now with less than a week away from The Dark Knight Rises, I have a great deal of anticipation for the film but a little sorrow as well. This is the end of the Nolan-verse Batman. Whether Bruce Wayne comes out of this film alive or not (rumors are swirling of a Batman death- I have thoughts on the matter but will not spoil the film for you by revealing them) this will be the last time we see these actors playing these roles in a Chris Nolan directed film. Warner Brothers wants to do a Justice League film (to compete with and make boatloads of money like Marvel's Avengers) which will clearly mean a reboot of The Batman (as the Nolan Batman wouldn't fit well with Superheroes). Nolan has also said that he's done with the Batman universe and that he only wanted to make a trilogy on his take on the dark knight. There is also trepidation about this film. Not with Nolan per se but with the history of part 3 films. Superman III, X-Men III, Batman Forever, Spider-Man III have turned out to be horrible/mediocre entries of otherwise good movie franchises. Only Indiana Jones and Star Wars had good trilogies and that involved a pre-CGI influenced George Lucas. And yes, I forgot about Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings...proof that good trilogies can happen. Fans have said their concerns about the villains in the film. Do we really need a Catwoman? Why the hell are they going with Bane? Is it overkill with a possible return of Ra's al Ghul to the series or the possible introduction of his daughter Talia?

I don't know to be honest. Nolan is giving us almost three hours of a movie so at least it looks like that there will be enough room to feature all of the villains and flesh them out. It also looks like Catwoman may be working with Batman at some point (according to the trailers) so there's that angle. I've always liked Bane from the comics and was really hyped to see how the character was going to be portrayed in Batman and Robin. Instead of getting a fractured version of Batman with the brains and the strength to match the Caped Crusader we got this steroid fueled moron:
(Grrr... I'm the S&M version of the Incredible Hulk)
Even the highly reliable Batman: The Animated Series portrayed Bane as a Mexican wrestler/hitman. So, mainstream fans won't have an idea what to expect from Tom Hardy and his version of Bane.
(Gotham's reckoning and Bane's savior?)
At worst, I'm expecting some type of  James Bond villain. I think it's the voice and the big explosions that are making me think this at this point. Either way this should be a major upgrade from what we've seen of Bane in non-comics media. The Ra's al Ghul element also makes sense to give Bane a reason to show up in Gotham. He's going to finish the job that Ra's couldn't.

So how will this end? Again, I can only hope that it will be good. I plan on catching this on an IMAX screen again and take advantage of Nolan's desire to make the film epic in scale. It'll be a trip not much like going to a Redskins game: long drive, getting together with friends and a big event. If anything, this installment is like the final home game of the season. You're happy that you're going, hope it will turn out well and hate to see it go because you're going to miss it (even when the Redskins are playing horrible) but part of you is glad it's over because maybe you've seen enough and in Nolan's case maybe you won't see a bad movie in the franchise. By having Nolan go out on his own terms and not being rushed by the studio to do something either rushed or something he doesn't really want to do maybe the Nolan-verse Batman can do something no other comic franchise has been able to do in a trilogy----- be good.

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