Batman

The Ingredients is a column devoted to breaking down the components of a new film release with some focus on influential movies that came before. As always, these posts look at the entire plots of films and so include SPOILERS.  The James Bond series is something of a hub in the course of film and pop culture history. As iconic as it is on its own, it tends to be informed by other material as often as it does the informing. In the beginning, for example, the movies were highly influenced by the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Author Ian Fleming even wished for Hitch to direct the first movie adapted from his 007 novels. And Cary Grant was famously sought for the part of Bond, which would have been interesting had he continued with the second film, From Russia With Love, given how much it calls to mind North by Northwest. Instead, little-known Sean Connery embodied the character, and after the first two installments made the actor famous, Hitch cast him in Marnie. As usual, the director capitalized on a movie star’s pre-existing notoriety, his screen value, which makes it quite difficult for us to see Connery’s Marnie character, Mark Rutland, as anything but James Bond as a wife-raping publisher. Hitch went another step with his next film, Torn Curtain, which was an admitted direct response to the 007 films. He wrote to Francois Truffaut in 1965: “In realizing that James Bond and the imitators of James Bond were more or less making […]

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Tim Burton is not a fan of the horizontally-challenged. That’s the conclusion I reached from watching Frankenweenie, an otherwise very pleasant return to form for for the director. What isn’t so pleasant is how every paunchy character — the mayor, the gym coach, and the chubby kid whose name doesn’t matter — is cackled at by Burton and turned into a visual punch-line. Burton portrays these characters in a way that seems antithetical to how most people perceive him and his films… with a casual dash of mean-spiritedness. The one constant in Burton’s films, aside from Johnny Depp obviously, is that he’s always championed the outcasts and made them the eventual heroes of their worlds. Think of the Goth cutter Edward Scissorhands defeating the jock bully, the goofy Amish kid saving the day in Mars Attacks, the friendless Charlie Bucket outlasting the truly bad kids to win the chocolate factory, etc. Looking back at his work, though, it seems clear that Burton himself has been acting the bully when it comes to even the mildly obese. They’re made to be clumsy, goofy, obnoxious and irritating, and if they don’t exist strictly as a visual gag they’re almost sure to be a villain. Can you think of one overweight hero or true good guy in his films? I can’t. Why would a man so feverishly in favor of defending and uplifting outsiders himself single out a specific group of people to consistently bully throughout his career? Hell if I know, but […]

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Justice League Alex Ross

Development has really been heating up the over that Justice League movie. A few months ago, Gangster Squad writer Will Beall was hired to handle script duties, there was word Warner Bros. was eying Ben Affleck to direct, and then we got a director short list including the Wachowskis, Ruben Fleischer, and, who could forget, Brett Ratner. Today the project became even more real, thanks to a resolved legal dispute. The Los Angeles Times is reporting the studio is gearing up fast for a 2013 shoot and a 2015 release, which would pit the film up against The Avengers 2. After that, mostly depending on whether the film’s a hit or not, Warners would then follow up the film with a reboot of Batman and solo films following whatever heroes they decide to put in the movie. So if any of you have been holding your breath for a Hawkman movie, then perhaps your big dream may finally come true.

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Continuing a yearly tradition that began at the defunct movie blog Spout, this is my 5th annual list of mostly original yet highly unlikely Halloween costume ideas. You can take any of these suggestions if you want, especially if you want to avoid having the same outfit as another person at the party you attend, and particularly if you want something that needs a lot of explanation — these tend to be good conversation starters for people looking for excuses to hit on you. Mostly, though, the following ideas are not to be taken too seriously. Some are really just stupid jokes. But they’re primarily intended to visually remind us of some of the trends, criticisms, immediate icons and zeitgeist of the past year in film. For instance, last year‘s “Forrest Gump wearing an X-Men uniform” costume illustrated 2011′s penchant for Gump-like revisionist history in blockbuster movies. And back in 2008, there was a costume called “Nuke the Fridge.” Sadly, in looking over 2012 for this year’s ideas, I realized that it’s been a very weak year for movie references worth calling back. Where are this year’s “nuke the fridge,” Antichrist fox, “Why cookie Rocket?” and “Winklevi”? Before too long, I might need to spin-off a TV version of this tradition to make it easier on me and more interesting to readers. Because we all know film culture is dead anyway, right?  

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Batman Detective Comics

According to Batman On Film, there is a rumor floating around that Justice League will be used as a launching pad for a rebooted Batman franchise. It may be a rumor, but it feels like common sense. Warners has got Man of Steel next year, but the next time we’ll see superheroes from them is in 2014 when LEGO versions hit screens thanks to Phil Lord and Chris Miller. It’s seems unlikely that they’d want to – or even be able to – mobilize a Batman reboot so soon after Christopher Nolan‘s franchise closed out, and with the omnibus superhero movie in their sites, it seems inevitable that we’ll see Bruce Wayne (or someone) as The Dark Knight playing well with others before we get to see him on his own again. The question is whether that’s a good call. It’s hard to say. If Warners is echoing Marvel‘s method of success, they’re doing so without laying all the of right groundwork that aided The Avengers in becoming such a massive smash. Plus, by investing so much in one film, it could mean sabotaging individual superhero projects if Justice League doesn’t take off like they want it to. Beyond focus group polling, how would the studio even know which characters were working the best in the film, which were connecting with audiences, which deserve their own properties? The only character that is immune is Batman. If Man of Steel falls flat, it will be two in a row for Superman, calling even the most iconic hero […]

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Now that the last film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, has finally hit theaters and been seen by everyone, comic book nerds all over the world thought that they would have a chance to cut back on the Batman talk and stop mistakenly referring to the film as The Dark Knight Returns. Why did we keep calling the movie by the wrong name? Because its title was annoyingly close to one of the best-loved Batman stories of all time, Frank Miller’s gritty, 1986 limited series about an elderly Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement, “The Dark Knight Returns.” There’s good news for fans of Nolan’s look at an older, more beat-up Batman, as the Miller-penned story that somewhat inspired his final go-around with the character is now being put out by DC as an animated feature, and its first trailer looks pretty good. The bad news, of course, is that we’re all set to once again get tongue-tied and misunderstood when trying to keep these two stories straight.

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Boiling Point

The trailer for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel recently made it online after rolling in front of the related DC property The Dark Knight Rises. Reactions have been mostly positive to the somber looking film, with words like “restrained” being laid upon it. Many have chosen to highlight the apparent effect that Batman producer/director Christopher Nolan has had on the Superman story. The trailer for Supes does seem to harken to a more Batman Begins esque story rather than say, Superman Returns or Green Lantern. Hey, the Batman movies were good for the most part right? Having Christopher Nolan involved is a great idea, right? Well, not if you want your universe to do anything other than implode.

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Dark Knight Rises

There’s no doubt that Batman has had a profound effect on the life of Christopher Nolan. The writer/director has lived and breathed the character cinematically for the better part of a decade, the resulting movies have made him one of the most revered popular filmmakers in the world, and their success has helped him craft large-scale creative stories outside of Gotham. So how do you say goodbye to a figure you know you’ll never see again? A colleague of sorts that you won’t see around the office anymore? Damned eloquently is the answer. Nolan wrote the foreword to “The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy,” and it reads a bit like a farewell letter. An incredibly touching, fitting farewell letter.

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises (and other Christopher Nolan films). Christopher Nolan is the first director to make more than two Batman films. In the past, a second Batman film has provided a space for filmmakers to explore their excesses. In the case of Batman Returns, Tim Burton was able to further develop a vision of Gotham as an elaborate fairy tale. Batman & Robin was Joel Schumacher’s venue for exploring Batman as full-blown camp. For Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight manifested a mammoth vision of the summer superhero blockbuster by way of Jules Dassin and Michael Mann, where the Gotham setting gave way to an intricate, sprawling matrix of a metropolis that contains an eternal struggle between order, chaos, and every gray gradation in between. Until Nolan released The Dark Knight Rises, however, a Batman story reaching a third and final act was without precedent in the hero’s manifestations within the moving image. Not only has no previous director articulated a vision of the Caped Crusader in three parts, but no film, serial, or television show has attempted to bring a definitive end to their particular version of the superhero’s arc. The Batman of the moving image is one that largely exists in perpetuity. That Nolan has attempted a completist, closed vision of the Batman universe is relatively anomalous. Despite The Dark Knight Rises’s virtues and shortcomings (and the film has both of these in spades), perhaps the major reason for the film’s comparably […]

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Bane in Dark Knight Rises

Was there any ever doubt that The Dark Knight Rises was going to be one of the most talked about and praised films of the summer? Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy had seemingly secured positive reviews before the release date was here thanks to some zealous fans and people who can’t keep their bat-boners of expectation tucked into their utility belts of rationality. For The Dark Knight Rises to get a truly negative review it would have had to fail massively as both Batman and Nolan have earned a bit of leeway in the judgement department. Now that the film is screening in front of millions, the general consensus seems to be – it’s good! And then we hushedly whisper “but not great.” I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises overall, but if you’re looking for a list of everything that was awesome, look elsewhere. For I come not to praise The Dark Knight Rises, but to bury it. (Yes, that’s Shakespeare in reverse.)

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The Dark Knight Returns

As superhero movies go, few have been as highly anticipated as Christopher Nolan’s final outing as captain of the Batman franchise. The Dark Knight Rises received a level of hype and hoopla second only to the superhero Cobb salad that is Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, and now, finally, the long-awaited Friday has arrived. So once you see the movie, what happens if your eyeballs remain unquenched of their thirst for Gotham’s caped protector? With the future of the franchise uncertain, might we offer the alternative of returning to some of the printed source material from whence it came? I’m no comic book expert, that much is clear any time I speak with the true comic literati. However, Batman is the one character I’ve read in-depth and he continues to be my favorite hero. While watching The Dark Knight Rises, I became antsy to go home and read some of my favorite stories. Below is a list of Batman comics we highly recommend that you tear into should a similar inclination grip you. Be forewarned: the reason this article is titled as such is that some of these stories will spoil elements that comprise the surprises of Nolan’s film. See the movie first, then read…

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Batman (1989) The Joker

Two nights ago, we begin a countdown of Batman’s five greatest Scenes We Love, considering all of the contemporary cinematic appearances of The Dark Knight. It started with Bruce’s intro in Batman Returns before jumping forward in time to enjoy the glory of the Tumbler chase in Batman Begins. For the third scene on our list, we jump back in time again to Tim Burton’s series, all the way back to the original Batman from 1989. In this climactic sequence, Batman (Michael Keaton) and The Joker (Jack Nicholson) battle it out atop that big ass Cathedral (which has to be about 900 stories, wouldn’t you say?) Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? I haven’t either, but it’s an interesting proposition…

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Over Under - Large

Ever since names like Spielberg and Lucas brought us the first summer blockbusters back in the 70s, film fans have slowly morphed into film fanatics. And perhaps the pinnacle of this phenomenon is the cult of personality that has developed around Christopher Nolan since he gave us his wildly successful interpretation of the Batman universe, The Dark Knight. Whether it was because of Heath Ledger’s electric performance as the Joker, Nolan’s realist approach to the material, or the sheer scope of the action, something about this Batman movie captured the attention and adoration of hordes of fans in a way that no other adaptation of the character’s story has before; and Batman has been one of the most popular fictional characters in our shared culture for at least half a century now. But one thing about The Dark Knight that I don’t hear mentioned all that much anymore is that it wasn’t Nolan’s first go-around with the character. Everything that was paid off in that film was set up, three years earlier, in the director’s first attempt at tackling a superhero story, Batman Begins. Not only was this movie successful enough at the box office to spawn a very well funded sequel, but it’s the film that’s actually responsible for bringing us Nolan’s grounded and relatable vision of the character. This was the film that revitalized a property whose big screen potential had been tarnished, and it gets treated like it doesn’t even exist when fans gush over their love […]

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Culture Warrior

Part of the appeal of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films is that the basic conceit informing their aesthetic seems so natural. Batman is one of few major superheroes that isn’t actually a super-hero. Batman mythology, then, lends itself to a degree of plausibility more than, say, Superman or Spider-Man, so why not manifest a vision of Batman that embraces this particular aspect that distinguishes this character from most superhero mythologies? But realism has not been a characteristic that unifies Batman’s many representations in the moving image. Through the eyes of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, the Batman of tentpole studio filmmaking has occupied either a world of gothic architecture and shadowy noir, or one of schizophrenic camp. From 1989 to 1997, Batman was interpreted by visionary directors with potent aesthetic approaches, but approaches that did not necessarily aim to root the character within a landscape of exhaustive Nolanesque plausibility.

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Boiling Point

The long awaited climax to director Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is finally coming to theaters this week. While we’ll all have answers soon enough, the question on everyone’s minds during the advertising campaign has been “Does Batman die?”. It’s not so insane a question as it once was. I mean, the hero dying in the film? An icon falling? Certainly comic books have done this (and gone back on it almost immediately…) and movies have a long history of “killing” villains only to bring them back. But this is Batman! You can’t kill Batman! Yet, the advertising and the general darkness of the films lead a lot of credence to the idea that the legend might actually end. In the trailer, Selina Kyle says that Batman has given Gotham everything, to which he morbidly responds “Not everything.” Will Batman die? I don’t know. But I know he shouldn’t, and here’s why.

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Channel Guide - Large

When I was about ten years old, I used to plop myself down after school in front of my ’90s-chic, wood-paneled TV set with a Capri Sun and the soft, moist remnant of the ham and cheese sandwich that I hadn’t finished at lunch, and not just watch, but absorb Batman: The Animated Series. The suspense! The drama! The musical numbers about domestic abuse! What more could a fifth-grader ask for? Now Comic-Con, the impending rise of the Dark Knight, and, of course, Landon Palmer’s thoughtful exploration of the film serial and TV iterations of the Batman character in this week’s Culture Warrior, have made me especially nostalgic for the cartoon Caped Crusader of my youth – the guy who ended up ruining me for all other cartoon superheroes – so, I decided to revisit the series and examine it with fresh, grown person eyes (which actually means eyes that are increasingly crappy).

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Culture Warrior

Enduring cultural figures like Batman endure precisely because of the slight but notable changes they incur over time. Batman has had a long history in the moving image, and while the character has maintained both the central conceit of being a crime-fighting detective, the cinematic Batman of seventy years ago bears little resemblance to the Batman we’re familiar with today. The character and his myth have been interpreted with variation by a multitude of creative persons other than Bob Kane and Bill Finger. In the moving image, Batman has been embodied by a range of actors including Robert Lowery, Adam West, and George Clooney, and Batman has been realized by directors and showrunners prone to various tastes and aesthetic interpretations like William Dozier and Christopher Nolan. While Batman is perhaps best-known by a non-comic-astute mass culture through the many blockbuster feature films made about him, including this summer’s hotly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, the character’s cinematic origins are rooted in the long-dead format of the movie serial. Batman first leapt off the page in a 15-part serial made in 1943 titled Batman and another six years later titled Batman and Robin. These serials did not influence Batman’s later cinematic iterations realized by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher as much as they inspired Batman’s representation on television. Batman’s presence in film serials and on television have had a decisive and important impact in terms of how mass audiences perceive the Batman of feature films. At the same time, these serials […]

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The Dark Knight Rises

After a decade of marketing materials for The Dark Knight Rises, some excellent and some bland, the IMAX poster for Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming Batman movie finally reveals its true nature: epic and terrifyingly God-like. No more hiding what it is, this poster is distilled hubris. The kind of one sheet that will slap you in the face and then sleep with a beloved family member. Fair warning – it already melted Ronald Lacey’s face, so be careful:

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The release of The Amazing Spider-Man this week has left some people scratching their heads. How can a movie that is billed as “The Untold Story” be so achingly repetitive? With the first hour of the film an alternate take on the first hour of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man from 2002, people have questioned the need to rehash essentially the same origin story of such a widely-known superhero. As reported in Latino Review, director Marc Webb insists the reboot was necessary. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.) He continues to say it was to introduce the world to a new Spider-Man and, more importantly, a new Peter Parker. (Spoiler: It really doesn’t.) Whether Webb was pressured by the studio for the redux origin or if he just wanted to not have to follow any of the Raimi canon, it seems silly to tread such familiar ground so soon. In 2002, Spider-Man continued the trend that X-Men started two years before, making superhero films profitable and possible in the big studio system. Since then, we’ve seen quite a few origin stories – from full-blown reboots of known characters as in Batman Begins to introduction of heroes who aren’t known much outside of comic book fans as in Iron Man. However, with The Man of Steel coming up next year and an obvious Batman reboot once The Dark Knight Rises finishes its run, who knows what Hollywood is going to do next?

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Though the idea of making a movie about Legos initially sounded like a really bad one, once Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller pitched their take on the material it actually sounded pretty promising. Could a movie about little plastic blocks tell an engaging story that teaches children an important message? That’s a question that we won’t be able to answer for quite some time, but thanks to a report from Variety we now know a whole lot more about what this upcoming Lego movie will look like. First of all, the project’s working title has now been confirmed as the project’s official title – that would be Lego: The Piece of Resistance. Thematically this makes sense, as Lord and Miller’s initial comments said that their main character would be an average guy living in Lego City who has to unlearn the town’s strict rules of always building things according to the instructions and figure out how to create something wholly original. It would seem that The Piece of Resistance’s protagonist is being set up as something of a revolutionary; both figuratively and literally according to new information from the Variety report.

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