The Death of Superman: Best Superman Movie Yet?

by Drew Kiess

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The Death of Superman is the latest film in the DC Animated Universe directed by Sam Liu and Jake Castorena from a script from comics writer Peter Tomasi. The film stars Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane, and Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor. The Death of Superman is the first part in a two-part release adapting the Death and Return of Superman story arc from Mike Carlin’s Superman writing team in the early 90s, with The Reign of the Supermen hitting stores next year.

 

If you’ve been reading this blog for any significant amount of time, you will know that I have been critical of many of the recent DC Animated releases. I think that one of the many benefits of this format for the DC characters is the ability to take a concept directly from page to screen. Recently however it would seem that these films are less interested in showcasing our heroes acting out the stories we all love and more interested in pushing them into adult-like scenarios, and I say adult-like because I don’t think there is anything remotely grownup about excessive blood splatters and fetishizing lesbianism (here’s looking at you, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay). Most of the time, these harder edged updates come across tacky and out of touch with the characters and quite possibly the fans. Many of these films have been written by veterans in the DC animated worlds, so the disconnect hasn’t made a ton of sense, but perhaps they’ve just run out of things to say about this world.

 

Enter Peter Tomasi.

 

For my money, Peter Tomasi is the best thing to happen to the DC Movies in quite some time. His recent run at the beginning of DC Rebirth on the Superman title (opposite of Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics) has ushered in one of the greatest eras in the character’s 80 year publication history. Being tasked to bring this story to life is no small task, as the book itself is marred in a messy continuity and is impenetrable to anyone who is not familiar with that era (why does Lex Luthor look like a troll doll? And who the heck are these superheroes?) Don’t get me wrong, I love that time period, but there are good reasons why it hasn’t quite been elevated to the status of The Dark Knight Returns like it probably should have been. It’s weird and is very much a product of its time.

 

Placing The Death of Superman within the Justice League War continuity makes the story much more accessible (Let’s be honest: Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash are much more popular than Thorn, Gangbuster and Guardian). Dropping the Superman-Doomsday fight into a world we recognize allows Tomasi to draw out Clark’s personality.

 

The best parts of this movie don’t involve Superman punching Doomsday (although that stuff is great), but involves Clark and Lois. Clark is struggling letting Lois in on the big secret. It’s an incredibly well written plotline that humanizes Superman and gives him a weakness that is much more relatable than an alien killing machine. When the titular event finally does happen (this isn’t a spoiler… we all know Doomsday wins), you feel the Lois’ loss.

 

And this emotional weight that doesn’t rely on shock, gore, or sex to make the film stand apart is actually what makes it stand apart. It is emotionally resonating, visually exciting, and well-written from start to finish, with so many references from Superman’s history that I lost count. This has everything I could have ever wanted from any Superman movie, be it animated or live action.

 

I said after seeing the Deluxe Edition of The Dark Knight Returns (DC’s other two-part release, re-released as one movie) that it was the greatest Batman film ever made. I think we could be on the precipice of the same thing being said by me about Superman films if the second half pays off (and we get a Deluxe Edition, which I am hoping that we do), because I think I just saw the first half of what could be one of my all-time favorite comic book films.

 

As it stands, this is clearly among the best, if it is not the best, DC Animated Universe movies sense the relaunch. It is nothing short of spectacular and I hope that this raises the bar for this studio on what it means to adapt these characters and these beloved stories. They can be updated and adapted with love and accuracy. And they can be done with excellence.

 

This one certainly was super.

 

Final Grade: A+

 

The Death of Superman is on Blu-Ray and DVD August 7th, 2018

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Episode 118: Mario Robles

Episode 118 is now live! For a third time in recent months we welcome Mario Francisco Robles onto the podcast. Justin and Kyle sit down and chat the ongoing Henry Cavill situation and what that could mean going forward for “Man of Steel 2.” Additionally, the guys chat the recent news on #TheBatman and what Matt Reeves has in store not just for the script and story, but for the role of The Caped Crusader!

10 Years Later, The Dark Knight Still Matters

By Mark Hughes

1200x630bbAs we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Batman film “The Dark Knight,” most talk centers on the film’s status in the superhero film genre and the iconic performance by Heath Ledger. But it’s worth remembering the film’s powerful reflection of our national debate about balancing social fears and security with our individual liberties and right to privacy, amid the so-called “war on terror.” It remains one of the most socially relevant and resonant action films of the modern cinematic age, and even more so specifically within the superhero genre.

“The Dark Knight” is among a group of high-profile films forcing us to consider the sacrifices and conflicting ideals civil society must confront in an age of anxiety about domestic terrorist threats and loss of individual autonomy. “Prisoners,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Rendition” are among those spiritual siblings to “The Dark Knight,” representing literal or analogous depictions of the rising national security state apparatus and how it has changed our culture forever. The best of such films also include themes about technology becoming both an existential threat to, and instrument of expression for, our security and our liberty.

I recommend watching a movie paring of “The Dark Knight,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Prisoners,” and “Rendition.” Specifically, I’d suggest watching them in that precise order, to achieve maximum impact. These films take different yet comparable paths to examine many of the same or conflicting ideas about terrorism, torture, privacy, abuse of power, and the painful choices we make or refuse to make, depending on if and when a given moment allows us to transcend ourselves and serve a greater good.

Does the greater good require us to violate our ideals, or does it demand we double down on living up to them? Do we take the easy path, or the hard path, and where does that path lead and any given moment? What are we willing to give up, and what is too precious to sacrifice in the name of either safety or liberty? When does our principled idealism have to give way to the truth about mandatory compromises to save civil society and our ideals from those who use them as weapons against society itself? Is it noble or foolishly selfish to keep our own hands clean and wave the flag of idealism, rather than get our hands dirty doing things to protect society even if society will damn us for it later?

These and many more questions are posited in each of the films I recommend you watch for this marathon on the anniversary of “The Dark Knight”’s release. And I hope everyone will participate in such a marathon viewing, to remind us all that these questions have not faded or lost relevance, even a decade later. Indeed, the relevance grows ever more obvious, and cinema has always been a great way for our society to confront our inner demons and major issues of the day together, in a church of pop culture where ugly truths and painful questions can be vocalized and portrayed in ways inviting us to let our guard down, internalize the themes and messages, and walk away willing to face the questions directly, with new insights and understanding of different perspectives.

Today, our nation faces a renewed crisis of conscience and existential threats to the very survival of civil society and democracy, if not eventually the survival of the world itself. The threat of terrorism was and remains very real, but larger threats have conspired and aligned against us both domestically and externally. So we cannot ignore the renewed importance of our debate about how we prevent and fight terrorism, without losing our fundamental liberties to authoritarians abusing those national security considerations as a means to grab power and undermine democracy.

It’s a testament to the power of cinema that it can play a significant role in how we visualize, consider, and ultimately address the most troubling questions about what sort of future we want for our country. “The Dark Knight” is one of several superhero movies proving comic book films are a valid part of artistic expression relevant to our national dialogue about who we are as a people, particularly with regard to waging war at home and abroad in the post-9/11 age.

The impotent cry of “keep politics out of superhero comics/movies” from certain corners of fandom is transparently absurd at face value, since of course comics have always been political and some of the greatest comic book stories are great precisely because of their social commentary and political relevance. Such is the case for superhero movies, and “The Dark Knight” proves it perhaps better than any other example from the genre. No reasonable viewer could watch “The Dark Knight” and fail to recognize its social and political relevance. How you interpret it is of course dependent on what you bring to the experience and how you perceive the world, but it’s also possible to interpret the film contrary to your own views, or to glimpse morally ambiguity within the story as well.

“The Dark Knight” might conform to your own views, or it might conflict with them, or it might conform to them in some ways while conflicting with them in others. Or it might all seem ambiguous and uncertain, the lessons hard to describe as either intentionally righteous or flawed and doomed to fail. What you get out of it can be radically different, even while certain aspects of the film have an element of objective truth to them, simply serving as mile-markers of sorts to keep our moral and intellectual journey honest.

It’s great when a superhero film entertains. It’s even better when a superhero film entertains and also informs. But it’s perhaps best when a superhero film entertains precisely because of how it informs. “The Dark Knight” is a terrific example of the latter, a film that is thrilling and transcendent because of how it informs us, how it challenges us, and how it makes us realize this caped crusader, this masked vigilante, this Batman, is a truer reflection of us and our world than we ever realized.

Happy anniversary, “The Dark Knight.” Of all the praise I could give you, I think the best is this: you mattered, and you matter even more today.

10 Memorable Moments from ‘The Dark Knight’

10 Most Memorable Moments From The Dark Knight 

By Jeff Grantz

When Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise hit theaters in the summer of 2005, it was coming off of the 8-year-spanning dark ages that followed the release of Joel Schumacher’s horrendous second Bat-film. Batman & Robin was thought to have killed the franchise for good, but Nolan was able to pull off the unthinkable with Batman Begins: he took a character that a lot of non-comic fans (like Schumacher) might dismiss as campy kid’s stuff and delivered a film that finally realized the gravitas that true Batman fans knew was there all along. However, that was nothing compared to what came next…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the release of The Dark Knight. I remember being out of my mind excited after that final scene in Batman Begins, in which Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) summoned Batman (Christian Bale) to the roof of the GCPD with their brand new Bat-Signal to inform him of a new criminal with “a taste for the theatrical.” Looking back, that calling card was the very first inkling that Nolan and company truly had something special planned for us next.

I remember the following three years to be a truly exciting – and tragic – time as we eagerly awaited every morsel of information we could get our grubby little hands on. I remember the speculation. Who’s gonna play the Joker? (my choice was Crispin Glover, who was yours?). I remember the backlash upon Heath Ledger’s casting. The Knight’s Tale guy is the Joker? Dude from Brokeback Mountain? Mr. 10 Things I Hate About You? I remember the intrigue when we finally started to see what the actor was bringing to the role. And sadly, I remember the heartbreak when it was reported that Heath Ledger had tragically passed away at the age of 28. Thankfully, by that time, we had already seen enough of his take on Joker to realize just how remarkable his performance was going to be. There was a lot on the line going into July 18, 2008, but no matter how high I cranked up my expectation, the film delivered and then some.

The Dark Knight is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s arguably one of – if not the – greatest comic book film ever made. It changed the game for superhero storytelling and taught us that these characters can be taken seriously. It spawned or inspired countless later superhero films and TV shows, from the darker take on Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (and the direction taken by practically all subsequent DC films to this point) to Arrow on The CW. This film left a mark that we are still living in the shadow of to this day, a decade later.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 10 Most Memorable Moments from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (in chronological order)…

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10. “Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Simply Makes You Stranger.”

I remember waiting in line to see I Am Legend in IMAX opening night for the sole purpose of seeing TDK’s opening bank heist scene a whole SEVEN months before the film would eventually hit theaters. While superhero origin stories can be fun, I always feel that it’s way more exciting to hit the ground running and TDK did just that with one hell of an opening sequence that is on par with the likes of James Bond or Indiana Jones films.

First impressions are important, and The Joker certainly gave a good one here, even though we don’t see Ledger’s face until the final moments of the scene. We are introduced to this maniacal madman and are shown not only how ruthless he is, but how brilliant as well. The scene is made even better by the fact that all of the goons he hired to pull the job off spend the entire scene talking about this mysterious Joker guy, not realizing he’s right there alongside them the whole time. As each step in his master plan is successfully executed, he successfully executes the guy who performed the task, until there’s no one left to go splitsies with on the haul. This is a wonderfully rendered depiction of what it’s like working for the Joker of the comics: he might need something from you, but the guy isn’t really big on loyalty.

The Dark Knight Rises continued this trend, and while Nolan certainly went bigger with Bane’s introduction in that film’s plane-hijacking opening, certainly a fantastic sequence, bigger does not always equal better.

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9. “That’s More Like It.”

While the scene featuring Batman’s first appearance in the film is more often than not remembered for the “hockey pads” line (one that, for some reason, is one of the go-to’s for mocking Christian Bale’s Batman voice, along with “Swear to me!” and “I’m Batman” from Begins), I will long remember it as the first modern day superhero film to really get on board with something that comic book movie fans were long hungering for: continuity.

Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow is the first big screen Batman villain to ever return for a sequel. I’m not really a big fan of the villains being killed off in superhero movies, because I love the fact that, in the comics, they always come back, no matter what. Dr. Jonathan Crane was a perfect character to do something like this with too. Having a bad guy who we all know is very familiar with the Batman is always a great way of illustrating how the city as a whole has reacted to him. Some thugs might talk a big game, but only those who have actually crossed paths with him before really know how feared the man should be. I love the certainty with which Scarecrow utters, “That’s not him,” as the fake Batmen break up the drug meet, and the fear in his voice when he definitively states, “That’s more like it,” after the Batmobile crashes its way into parking structure.

Besides, Murphy’s performance in Batman Begins was terrific, so he more than earned himself a small cameo in this film, as well as its sequel.

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8. “How About a Magic Trick?”

Fully understanding Joker’s place in Gotham’s criminal underworld is important. Plus, the man not only likes to make an entrance, he likes to leave an impression, and he does just that in record time in the scene where he interrupts the Salvatore Maroni (Eric Roberts), Gambol (Michael Jai White) and the rest of the crime lords’ secret daytime meeting.

Obviously, everyone remembers the pencil trick (“Ta-da! It’s gone.”), but like with any great sleight-of-hand artist, the trick is only meant to drawn us in while something else is happening altogether. This is a scene that people remember, for the most part, because of the violent nature of it, but there’s so much more to it than that.

We’re drawn into the incredible performance that Heath Ledger was giving in this role – a role he posthumously, but deservedly won the Best-Supporting Actor Oscar for – but we’re also getting an insight into what makes this character tick. He’s the kinda guy who walks around with a couple dozen grenades in his jacket. We get to see how this character is planning on making a name for himself in this town. Simply stated: “Kill the Batman.” One man declaring war on the Batman is insane, but it’s a job this man is perfectly suited for.

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7. “You Wanna Know How I Got These Scars?”

Personally, I am of the firm belief that The Joker does not need an origin story (sorry, Todd Phillips). In the comics world, the only thing that ever dared to come close to being considered a canonical origin for the Joker was Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, and even in that, Moore left himself a little wiggle room, with Joker’s line, “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” His proclamation that even he sometimes remembers it happening one way and sometimes another was excellently worked into Joker’s shtick in this film.

The first story Joker tells Gambol, about his abusive alcoholic father cutting his mother’s, then his face, is horrific, and might make the character somewhat sympathetic, if it was to be believed. In addition to the line I’ve plucked to title this entry, this first scene also features a couple other instantly famous lines, like “Let’s put a smile on that face,” and of course, the iconic, “Why so serious?”

The second story, Joker tells to Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) when he crashes the Dent fundraiser at Bruce Wayne’s apartment. When he grabs the man that he says reminds him of his father, you think he’s about to go into the whole drunk dad spiel again, but this time, his story’s a bit different, with a tale of a gambling wife cut up by loan sharks and his twisted way of cheering her up. And, of course, this scene is wonderfully capped off with the Joker’s line to Rachel, “You got a little fight in you, I like that,” met with Batman’s, “Then you’re gonna love me.” This was an excellent first face-to-face meeting between these two historic adversaries.

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6. “Come on, hit me!”

Sometimes, a Batman film is all about the spectacle. The Hong Kong gliding sequence earlier in the film is a beautifully-photographed example of this, but nothing says spectacle like flipping a big ass 18-wheeler in the middle of the street. And doing it practically, no less! Now, that’s what going to the movies is all about!

This entire chase sequence – where the Joker attempts to get his hands on Dent who publically proclaimed himself to be the Batman – is fantastic. The truck flip is epic, but the following events are what make this scene one of my favorite Joker vs. Batman moments in the whole film. The game of chicken Joker plays with Bats is so indicative of how unhinged the villain really is. There was no way Batman was going to win that one. Also, I’ve always loved the little trip Joker does immediately after getting out of the flipped truck where his gun goes off randomly.

And, of course, there’s the awesome conversion from the Tumbler to the Batpod that, granted, feels a bit like they’re trying to sell toys, but isn’t that like 90% of a Batman movie’s job?

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5. “To Them You’re Just a Freak, Like Me.”

While the previous entry is, in my opinion, one of the best Batman/Joker action sequences in the film, the interrogation is their best performance-based scene. Straightforward dialogue scenes between the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime are always favorites of mine, on screen or in print, whether it’s Bale and Ledger, Keaton and Nicholson, or Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. These types of scenes are always the introductory course for their relationship, and this one is no exception.

Needless to say, Ledger and Bale both give incredible performances in this scene, as does Oldman. Each and every thing Joker says about how similar the two of them are unnerves Batman more and more, because Joker knows just how to press all of Batman’s buttons. The truth is, Joker might understand Batman better than anyone. Even in a verbal back and forth, though, things with Bats and Joker still tend to get physical (“Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy.”), but as Gordon says, “He’s in control.” Though, when the threats start to get a little closer to home, that’s when the chairs get jammed under doorknobs.

Of course, the scene’s sets up the devastating choice that Joker gives Batman – to save the woman he loves or the hero his city needs – getting Batman out of his way while he makes his escape. After all, he planned on getting caught all along. Now, that’s a criminal genius.

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4. “You Either Die a Hero, or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become the Villain.”:

For the most part, I’ve barely touched on Aaron Eckhart’s phenomenal turn as Harvey Dent in this film. Whenever people complain about comic book movies having too many villains, I always point to this film as a shining example of just how to pull this kind of thing off.

For the most part, Dent’s fall from grace is so beautifully done. Sure, there were some liberties taken on the part of the filmmakers in regards to Two-Face’s origin, but we’ve already seen how stupid the original looked in Batman Forever (Really, a single sheet of paper can perfectly shield half of his face from acid?). The origin here is made much more impactful with Rachel’s death, not to mention it plays so much better into Two-Face’s theme of the 50/50 chance and making choices (a theme that the film is pretty heavy on aside from just Dent’s involvement – see next entry). The real cherry on top, however, comes in the hospital scene that follows soon after.

As a whole, Two-Face’s quest for vengeance from the ones that played some part in Rachel’s death is really well executed. My only qualm, and my only issue with this film in the slightest, is that they killed off Two-Face. This was especially disappointing seeing as how they wouldn’t be able to have him nor the Joker return in The Dark Knight Rises. Not only could Dent have been a great recurring villain in the series if not for his demise, but Batman’s decision to take the fall (both figuratively and literally) for Dent’s crimes led to him spending 8 years on the shelf between this film and the next. This was my biggest problem with TDKR, because Batman, especially a Batman whose only been doing it a year, would not take 8 years off under any circumstances. Not when his city needs him. But at the time that this film came out, I didn’t yet realize just how disappointed I would be in this story point in just three years time.

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3. “Some Men Just Wanna Watch the World Burn.”

The above line from the story that Alfred (Michael Caine) tells Bruce perfectly encapsulates the Joker’s whole m.o. (it also happens to be another of the film’s highly quoted lines). He isn’t after riches. All of his favorite things come relatively cheap. What he wants is complete and utter anarchy. The anarchy part is on full display in the scene with the two ferries – one carrying civilians, the other, prisoners – with a bomb on each and its detonator onboard the other.

Also, I’ll always remember the scene where Joker burns the money, if only for the Joker’s joyful slide down the giant mountain of cash. His burning the money is his declaration to the criminal underworld that Gotham City belongs to him now. Hell, by this point, this film belongs to him. Seriously, you mention The Dark Knight to me, the first thing I think about is Ledger’s Joker. Batman almost takes a backseat in his own film, but hey, that’s pretty much the case whenever these two share the screen together.

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2. “I’m a Dog Chasing Cars…”

The Joker’s brilliant manipulation of a vulnerable Harvey Dent in the hospital scene is yet another one of those great glimpses into the mind of a maniacal agent of chaos. In every conceivable way, the Joker is responsible for the birth of Two-Face in this film. He orchestrated all of the events leading to this moment, were Dent lies in a hospital bed and he utilizes the power of suggestion to arm Dent and point him in his desired direction.

There are so many incredible lines of dialogue in this film, but there are a few that I think are simply perfection. Joker’s speech here is expertly summarized by his line about being a dog chasing a car and not knowing what he’d do if he ever actually caught one. To me, the car in question is Batman. He can play the mastermind all he wants, but even he doesn’t know what he wants from Bats in the grand scheme of things. All he knows is that he’s fun. The fact that he delivers this whole speech while dressed as a female nurse is delightful. It’s something I could easily see the Joker of the comic books or even Mark Hamill’s animated Joker doing.

Almost as an added bonus, the hospital scene crescendos into one of those true movie magic moments when, after Joker exits the hospital and hits the trigger, the final, big real-life explosives didn’t go off, so Ledger stayed in character while the cameras rolled on before they finally detonated and he could make his big exit. They had one chance to get that shot right and that one little hiccup made the scene that much more iconic.

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1. “You and I Are Destined To Do This Forever.”

The film’s big finale, set opposite the two ferries Joker turned against one another, features a scene not all that dissimilar to the finale of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Batman lays siege upon a tall building and it all ends with one hell of a physical altercation between the two. Batman is always an impressive fighter, but Joker doesn’t always cut the mustard in that regard if not portrayed correctly. With the Joker utilizing the dogs and dual-wielding blunt weapons, it is perhaps the best fight scene ever between the two characters. At the end, he plummets over the side, only this time around, Batman saves him.

The Joker’s final speech as he hangs upside down from an under-construction building sums up the Batman/Joker relationship perfectly: “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” If the interrogation scene is the introductory class, this line is the thesis statement. What Joker tells him about their relationship – how neither one can kill the other, because of Batman’s moral code and Joker just finding him too much fun – is everything you need to know about these two characters. No matter the medium, Batman and the Joker have such a co-dependent relationship it’s crazy… like, literally crazy. They need each other. Okay, so one more so than the other, but still.

Joker’s destiny line is made all the more heartbreaking by Ledger’s death and the simple fact that this would be the only time we would ever get to see Heath Ledger’s Joker and Christian Bale’s Batman share the screen together. But damn, it was good while it lasted.

–––––

So, that’s my list, as tough as it was to narrow it down to just 10 moments. So many more could have made this list, moments big – such as the Joker’s attempt on the Mayor’s life at Commissioner Loeb’s funeral (he loves a good parade, doesn’t he?) or his videos sent to news outlets (which Ledger directed himself) – and small – like Joker clapping at Gordon’s promotion or even Lucius Fox’s (Morgan Freeman) chat with the would-be blackmailer Mr. Reese (an apparent Riddler nod: E. Nygma/Enigma, Mr. Reese/Mysteries. Get it?).

Now, it’s your turn. Tell us what your favorite moments are from the film. Leave a comment or reach out on Twitter (you can find me @Jeff_Grantz). And if you haven’t already, celebrate the tenth anniversary of a true cinematic classic and revisit The Dark Knight today.

10 Years Serious: The Legacy of the Dark Knight

by Drew Kiess

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“You changed things…forever”

Do you remember 2008? The New England Patriots just failed to complete an unbeaten season, Indiana Jones is hiding in a refrigerator, and Sarah Palin is still the craziest Republican. The world has changed quite a bit since 2008. Except for the Patriots. They’re still really good. Dangit.

Superhero movies had been on the rebound since the turn of the century, starting with X-Men in 2000 and the Spider-Man in 2002, and their respective sequels. These films took a more grounded approach to the subgenre and were hits. Marvel comics on film was finally hitting the big-time after decades of false starts, but DC was dead in the water following Batman and Robin (and to a lesser extent, Steel and Catwoman) and attempts to relaunch Batman and Superman on the big screen were troubled and often misguided.

Enter Christopher Nolan.

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In 2005, Batman Begins was a modest success, but it offered one of the most nuanced and earnest interpretations of a comic book superhero to date (and perhaps since). Begins may not have lit the box office on fire, but Batman was back and people were paying attention again.

Three years later.

The build up to The Dark Knight in 2008 was the return of Batmania. There was an energy to this movie that hasn’t truly been replicated since, and when the movie finally hit, it hit hard. Heath Ledger’s Joker took the world by storm, taking a legendary pop culture figure and re-writing the legend entirely. “Why so serious” was now intrinsically tied to the character, and burned into public consciousness as an all-time great film moment. The Dark Knight was a massive success, clearing the $1 billion mark (a much more rare of a feat at the time). Comic Book movies would never be the same.

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The reason they would never be the same has less to do with The Dark Knight’s serious storytelling than with it does with its success. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, despite neither being spectacularly lucrative, had a more long lasting impact in the storytelling department than did The Dark Knight, as every company wants their own universe now. Warners has two shared universes, Fox had their own comic book universe which is now in limbo thanks to a corporate buyout, Universal has struggled to get one off the ground, and Sony has thrown everything from Men in Black to that one guy who once appeared in an ad in a Spider-Man comic at the wall in hopes that people would look forward to seeing their films. And of course, Marvel Studios built a multi-billion dollar business off the backs of their 2008 films.

No, the legacy of The Dark Knight is that no superhero movie since has been like The Dark Knight. At least once a year, we see a critic refer to a superhero blockbuster as “the best since The Dark Knight”. It changed the way audiences perceive the ceiling for comic book movies. These aren’t just superhero movies—these are real movies. They can contend for awards, and you can say you like them without feeling silly. Without The Dark Knight, there is no MCU, because The Dark Knight didn’t just make Batman cool again, it made superheroes cool.

There is still a lot of talk about whether or not The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie of all time. Maybe it is. I don’t think that’s a very interesting conversation, though. What’s more interesting is the fact that the conversations are happening, still, even ten years later. The Dark Knight was a landmark moment for cinema that ushered in an age of geek-domination at the box office.

If The Dark Knight were to be released today, I cannot help but feel that it would not be quite as beloved as it is. It came out at the perfect time. Not a day too soon or late. It was lightning in a bottle, which is why it has never been replicated. Even The Dark Knight Rises (which, in my opinion is every bit as good, if not better) could not repeat the cultural impact, despite being an even bigger financial success. To sum up the legacy of the film by simply saying that it was special seems too quaint, but that is exactly where we are. There was nothing quite like it before its release, and there will never be another like it again.

So, no, I don’t think it needs to be the best superhero movie of all time, but I do think that it is easily the most important superhero movie of the modern age. While Superman The Movie may have been responsible for planting the seed, it was The Dark Knight that reshaped the landscape and finally tilled the ground.

And for those who wish to argue its merits based on inconsistencies and compare it to other movies’ ability to stick to the source material, all I have for you is one question:

Why so serious?

Batman 50

by Drew Kiess

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A year ago, we saw Bruce Wayne propose to Selina Kyle on a rooftop. What followed was a long road of stories that have been rather controversial. Tom King’s writing style is divisive, as he opts for broad stroke narrations as opposed to small scale stories that focus on the adventures of the Caped Crusader.

I am a fan of Tom King. With the exception of Doomsday Clock, King’s Mister Miracle miniseries is my favorite book being published right now. His Batman run, however, has been more miss than hit for me.

Chief among my complaints is how little time King spends showing Bruce to be heroic. Instead, his time is devoted to watching the world around him as well as Bruce and Selina pontificate on the nature of happiness and marriage, and what motivates the characters to do what they do.

At this point, does anyone need a sermon on what motivates Wayne to be Batman? Particularly, does Wayne need this lesson? What has been attractive about the Batman-Catwoman relationship has been that she was the fly in the ointment, with Bruce having to reject his emotions in order to bring Catwoman to justice. After all, she is a thief– which for those of you playing along at home, means she is a villain. Has she done heroic things? Sure, but only when self-serving.

And so when it comes to the pivotal moment of Batman 50 (beware, for here there be spoilers), it simply rings false that it is Selina Kyle who walks away from Batman in order to protect his persona as the Bat. After hearing from both The Joker (yeah, that’s a conversation for another time) and her friend Holly that Bruce needs his anger to be Batman, and that happiness would rob him of this, Selina leaves Bruce at the alter, being, in her own words, the hero.

Batman 50 makes reference to Selina being a hero now. And her leaving Bruce is her crowning achievement of heroism. The problem is, because of King’s writing style, we never really get to see Catwoman be a hero. In fact, the “you’re a hero” moment comes while she is wearing a wedding dress that she stole and with a friend she broke out of prison. She is no hero, and the fact that Batman would look the other way is, frankly, insulting. If she is indeed a hero now, how about showing her doing heroic acts that aren’t directly about protecting herself (protecting Bruce doesn’t count, as even that is self-serving for this version of Selina).

As this half of King’s arc comes to a close, it is difficult to pull out highlights. Every issue feels like it is the centerpiece of a line-wide crossover that isn’t happening, and leaves me wondering if these 50 issues couldn’t have been condensed and told better in 15-20 issues instead.

While things appear to be heading toward a showdown with Batman and his rogues gallery, lead once again by Bane, one can only hope that we won’t spend the next 50 issues with long speeches about the nature of sadness and brokenness. You don’t have to point it out constantly for it to be a looming factor for the character.

A great example of this would be A Lonely Place of Dying, where we know Bruce is grieving following the death of Jason Todd. Marv Wolfman is able to show through Batman’s actions his mourning, while driving the conflict between Batman and Two-Face forward. And Wolfman tells a comprehensive story that deals with complicated issues in only five issues, and as a result, creates a story that has remained memorable for 29 years. Time will tell, but if I were a betting man, I would bet that this story is too spread out to have a lasting impact on the mythos.

If this version of the Batman mythos works for you, then I am happy for you. But I simply don’t see the heroism, the adventure, or intrigue that I associate with the character and the book. It is not that it is poorly written (it’s not, King knows how to spin words), but that it simply doesn’t push the character forward in anyway, and ignores what has made the relationship between Batman and Catwoman interesting for over 70 years. They can’t be together–and Batman knows it.

This Batman seems way too content with the flies in the ointment.