Batman 66: Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack In the Middle

by Drew Kiess

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“Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle” is the first two-parter of the Bill Dozier Batman series staring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Frank Gorshin guest stars as Riddler. The episodes were directed by Robert Butler and written by Lorezon Semple, Jr., and premiered on January 12th and 13th, 1966.

 

When Gotham’s police force is intimidated by the return of the joyful devil Riddler, they realize they have only one choice: the Caped Crusader, deputy of the law, Batman and his faithful ward Robin must be called into action! Batman and Robin track down their arch enemy, and wrongfully accuse him of a crime. Riddler sues Batman, which threatens Batman’s secret identity- millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. 

 

Frank Gorshin steals this first double-header. We know that Adam West’s earnest performance as Batman is legendary, but Gorshin sets the tone for all the villains in this show with an over-the-top, manic performance. His movements are like a cartoon character and are surprisingly more controlled than Jim Carey’s turn as the Riddler in Batman Forever. Through all the mania, you can see the intelligence on Gorshin’s face. In this world, he is the smartest man in the room. This madness improves the comedy of West’s earnest performance. The whole thing is gloriously ridiculous. In one corner, a deadly serious, deputized crime fighter in a cape and cowl who labels his utility belt so he doesn’t have to memorize the contents, and in the other, the most intelligent, maniacal cartoon character to ever wear flesh. 

 

But Riddler has one weakness- he must prove that he’s the smartest man in the room, and that room must also include the Dynamic Duo. “Crime is no fun unless he’s outwitting us,” Robin observes. Batman and Robin fall into the Riddler’s trap at the “What a Way to Go-Go” discotheque (but not before giving the world the Bat-tutsi dance). Batman manages to escape, but Robin is not so lucky.

 

Here we have the staple trope of the Dozier Batman series- the dramatic cliff-hanger! Will Robin escape? Tune in tomorrow, same time same channel. Riddler enlists “Molly”, played by Bond-girl Jill St John to impersonate Robin using a rubber mold of his face. When Molly wears the mask, Burt Ward replaces her, meaning Ward is playing St John playing Molly. Ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that a rubber mask can take someone shaped like Jill St John and turn them into someone shaped like Burt Ward. But the less said about that, the better.

 

Batman is never fooled, and when Molly realizes her plan was foiled, she attempts to escape by climbing on an atomic pile. Batman attempts to save her, but she falls to her death to the line, “What a terrible way to go-go.” Batman rescues Robin and puts an end to Riddler’s plot for good.

 

Bizarrely, Batman appears perfectly fine with the potential that Riddler was killed at the end of the episode, and perhaps even disappointed that he didn’t know for sure. That aside, what we see in this episode is an incredibly faithful representation of the Batman character from the 1950s. The 50s were a bad decade for comics, having been put under the Comics Code Authority after Seduction of the Innocent through mud on the industry. What resulted was a nerfed version of the medium that gained popularity during the second world war. That nerfing is what Bill Dozier’s series was satirizing. Understanding the show in that context and recognizing that, yes, it is supposed to be funny, can bring back the enjoyment of a series that many fans of the character’s more dark and brooding tone look sideways at. 

 

Yes, this Gotham looks more like the kind of big city Sheriff Andy Taylor would visit rather than the hell breaking through concrete vision of Tim Burton or the dirty Chicago vibe of the Nolan series. But for viewers of Batman in 1966 who were familiar with the book, this was Batman. Serious enough for kids to be enthralled by, and funny enough for adults to be entertained by. Campiness as serious art.

 

“Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle” is a strong start. It introduces a classic, core villain, and sets the tone for all the major characters in the series. The pieces are in place for Batmania to begin.

 

Final Grade: A

Joker Review: A Medley Of Madness

By Drew Kiess

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Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix and is directed by Todd Phillips. Based on the villain we all know and love to hate from DC Comics, Joker is a one-and-done psychological thriller that has no franchise ambition, which is something that the comic book movie sub-genre is sadly lacking. Sequels and franchise-starters are the name of the game, and if nothing else, maybe that trend will finally be bucked. One can dream.

Once upon a time, I wrote about how dumb of an idea I thought a Joker movie was. I am happy to report that in the case of this film, I was dead wrong. Joker is a freight train and it hits hard. Like its subject, the film slithers and contorts as it weaves an uncomfortable story about the relationship of mental illness and violence, as well as explore, more superficially, how a character like the Joker could possibly come to exist.

This film is not unique in its depiction of madness. As has been pointed out by many before me, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, and American Psycho all have shown a main character fall into murderousness. But when you take the most high profile villain in the most high profile subgenre of film and entertainment and give him a similar treatment, people are going to react. It’s not part of the plan. And that reaction has been harsh. Some are simply trying to score woke points in a world where clicks equal dollars (I don’t get paid to write these reviews, by the way). Others are striking against a preconceived idea of what a film like this ought to be. But Joker has opened up conversations like no other movie in recent memory, regardless of its quality.

Luckily, it is quite good. I will even dare to say that Joker is great. It is repetitive at this point to praise Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck and Joker, but I will do it anyways because it is deserving of the praise. What Phoenix manages to pull off is incredible. He is physically unlikable at all points in this movie, yet somehow manages to maintain a certain quality of helplessness that it is reasonable to feel some empathy towards him early in his downward spiral. However, that quality of helplessness vanishes as we reach the final stage of development in this two hour thriller. Fears that Joker would somehow make the Joker’s violence attractive are, in my opinion, unmerited. In any other story, a likeable character would choose option “A” at critical moments in his narrative. Arthur, every time, chooses option “B”, moving him further away from the character we as an audience empathized with at the beginning. The film, instead of glorifying the violence, makes us mourn for the fall of the offender. We wanted better for him and he fell short of that hope. It is a tragedy, which is nothing new to the arts. Just ask Bill Shakespeare.

It is a shame that we will never see this Joker get punched in the face by a man dressed like a bat, but for once, the Joker will get all the press in this film. But if you are a Batman fan, fear not: there are so many nods to other iterations of the character, and his eighty year legacy is honored well by the Phillip’s script. From references to Cesar Romero and Heath Ledger, to plot points ripped from the pages of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, this elseworld’s tale does not shy away from its comic book lineage. There is a wonderful blend of source material and creative license that keeps us on our toes while never straying away from the black heart of the clown prince.

Joker is one of those movies that it is hard to fully commit to an opinion on. It is deserving of long conversations and quiet reflection. While the internet is buzzing about whether or not it will lead to gun violence, it bluntly asks whether our monsters are born in a vacuum, or are they born out of a society going to hell? Perhaps in a climate of over-sensitivity and stark black and white morality, this question lands with a dud, but, it might just be the kind of important questions we need to be asking as our handbasket closes in on its final destination.

The film is not for everyone. It is audacious, violent, uncomfortable, and beautifully gross. It is also fascinating, thought provoking, and provocative. It is tempting for me to believe that those who do not see the message in the film are those who want to avoid it, but I also think that there are many who are simply not ready to have that conversation just yet. How are we responsible for our monsters? What have we done to create the awful world our villains live in? These are the questions that we are left with, and I hope that we begin to ask them.

Final score: Full House

NEWS: Pattinson Approved as Batman

by Drew Kiess

Smoke rises from the Gotham Cathedral. A new Batman has been chosen.

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Last month, Variety reported that Robert Pattinson had been cast as Batman in Matt Reeves’ The Batman. However, that story was dampened when other outlets said that it was not official and that it was down to Pattinson and Nicholas Hoult. However, today Deadline has reported that Pattinson, who was thought to be the frontrunner, has been approved by Warner Bros. to star as Bruce Wayne in the upcoming film trilogy, set to start production later this year, or early next year.

 

For most, Pattinson may seem like an odd fit, as he is mainly known as the guy from Twilight. Those who follow independent film, though, will know that Pattinson has created an impressive resume’ as of late, starring in indie darling films such as The Rover, Good Time, and The Lighthouse.

 

Details about The Batman are sparse, but it is believed that the film will feature several members of the rogue’s gallery, in a detective noir story, including The Penguin and Catwoman, as well as Riddler, among others. The Batman is scheduled to release June 25th, 2021.

Holy Moly! Shazam! Is A Triumph For DC

By Drew Kiess

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It seems like a lifetime ago that we fans were speculating that Dwayne Johnson was hinting at the possibility of a DC Universe movie featuring Shazam. Of course, when the movie was initially announced five years ago, Dwayne Johnson was announced as Black Adam. Things have changed, and while many (including me on some, but not all, fronts) will bemoan that change at Warner Bros. and DC Films, we now have our first winning streak as fans of this world on screen.

Aquaman was a moderate critical success and a major box office force. Following in the footsteps of James Wan, David Sandberg brought a truckload of magic into the DC universe with Shazam. Written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke, Shazam brings back the Amblin spirit and tells the tale of an orphaned Billy Batson and his search for family…and there just so happens to be an ancient wizard looking to hand out superpowers to someone pure of heart.

Zachary Levi and Asher Angel together create a likeable Billy Batson. The movie works because these two actors convey an undying hopefulness and despite perhaps him behaving badly at times, we empathize with his journey. Jack Dylan Grazer as his foster-brother Freddy brings a nerdy perspective to the cast, and he is very much the audience’s viewfinder into the superhero world at-large. Mark Strong as the villainous Sivana adds a level of gravity to the proceedings and provides a poignant foe for our hero. The rest of the cast fills in beautifully, and I cannot find a weak point.

Where Shazam! soars where other superhero movies have fallen short for me is the use of humor. Most of the jokes land well and feel character appropriate. The film balances comedy and the understanding that the situations are, in fact, serious, very well. The humor is the kind of humor a fourteen-year-old would use in similar situations that Billy finds himself in, while Sivana is allowed to carry the weight of the darker elements of the story.

And the story does have darker elements. Sivana channels the Seven Deadly Sins in his search for power. Sandberg taps into his horror roots and creates a threat that has vibes of Gremlins-style horror, all balanced by Big-style heart. Levi’s childlike glee contrasts nicely with Strong’s childish envy.

Shazam! is the film that will win over many stragglers onto the DC Films bandwagon. It is a true crowd-pleaser and offers something for the whole family. My only concern heading out of this movie is the DC slate moving forward. Yes, Wonder Woman 84 hits theaters next summer, but between now and then, Joker and Birds of Prey, both of which are expected to be rater R, are on the horizon. Will this darker turn turn-off the fans hopping on board with the Aquaman-Shazam! vibe? Time will tell. But for now, get ready to enjoy one of the most joy-filled superhero movies we may ever see.

 

Final rating: A

Guardians of the Galaxy Director in Talks to Direct New Suicide Squad

By Drew Kiess

The hits keep coming.

We may have seen this one coming after it was announced last year that James Gunn would be writing a new Suicide Squad film after being fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for controversial tweets involving child rape. It is assumed that Gunn’s film, titled The Suicide Squad will be a soft reboot and will feature a brand new Task Force X. No idea of whether this will fit in continuity with David Ayer’s 2016 film or if Viola Davis will return as Amanda Waller.

This news will likely be divisive, as Guardians of the Galaxy is not the most popular movie in DC circles, and Gunn himself is even less popular after his controversial firing. Whether this is a good fit is, obviously, yet to be seen.

Either way, this is likely to be a topic of debate for some time. Stay tuned to Shanlian on Batman’s social media for more news as it develops.

Matt Reeves’ Batman Gets Release Date, Affleck Officially Out

By Drew Kiess

It is being reported by Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter that director Matt Reeves’ Batman film will light the signal on June 25, 2021, the same weekend that Burton’s Batman debuted in 1989. The report also confirms that this will focus on a younger Bruce Wayne, leaving Ben Affleck reportedly out of a job. Earlier today, it was revealed that Reeves is looking to cast a “rogues gallery” for the film, which is said to be a noir detective film.

Warner Bros. is also releasing what seems to be a soft reboot of Suicide Squad, with The Suicide Squad (the The adding the all-important distinction) set to bow on August 6th, 2021. No indication was given as to whether or not James Gunn will be directing or only serving as a writer on this film. Super Pets, which was previously rumored, will release on May 21, 2021, but no more details were given as to the nature of this project.

The new DC Films is moving forward full steam, as just earlier this week we got out first look at next year’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). And now with these announcements, it seems clear that Hamada and company have no plans on slowing down.

Update: According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Gunn is in negotiations to direct The Suicide Squad.

Stay tuned to Shanlian on Batman for more news as it develops!

@shanlianonbatman

Aquaman Keeps DC Afloat

by Drew Kiess

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It feels like an eternity since Justice League landed with a thud last November, the film that introduced us (officially) to Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry. Irrespective of your opinion on that film (I still watch that movie with a stupid, childish grin on my face, despite its flaws), we all knew coming out of it that the landscape of DC on film was going to be changed forever.

The Snyder era, in practicality, was over (The Snyders are listed as producers for Aquaman, but likely had very little creative control). Aquaman is the first true post-Snyder DC film and the first film who’s post-production (and some production) overseen by Walter Hamada. This is the new DC Films, for better and worse.

By the time my “early” screening started, it felt like everyone in the world had already seen the film. In fact, it had already become a smash hit in China and had many screenings around the world. The word-of-mouth on the movie felt really strong, but the critical reception was lukewarm. Heading in, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for.

Ever since Geoff Johns took over the book in 2011 at the beginning of the “New 52” era, Aquaman has remained at the top of my favorite comic books. There’s been something exciting about the character for me for some time, and I have long wanted to see what the world of Atlantis would look like on the bigscreen. Finally, James Wan has brought this dream to life.

Aquaman looks gorgeous. Yes, it’s a CGI heavy film, but there’s probably a good reason for that. Rumor has it that Jason Momoa and Amber Heard are not actually fish-people. Once we accept the world, then hopefully we can acknowledge just how well crafted it is visually. But CGI always has a way of drawing criticism, warranted or not.

The cast of Aquaman, from Momoa’s Arthur to Heard’s Mera, and from Wilson’s Orm to DaFoe’s Vulko, are all pitch-perfect castings and seem to have good chemistry. It is an overused trite of film criticism to say that actors seemed to have a fun time making a movie (who cares? So long as it’s a great performance, they can be miserable for all I care), but Momoa had an energy about him that was absolutely infectious, and Heard played Mera with a light-hearted royal air.

Aquaman, however, squanders its cast’s chemistry with some fairly cliche’ emotional writing. There’s nothing wrong with a conventional Joseph Campbell-esque hero’s journey, but the writing needs to be less conventional and on-the-nose. Too often, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall’s screenplay held the hand of the audience through emotional beats, and some of these beats were delivered in flashback, without our heroes. Much of the humor falls flat as well, which falls square at the feet of the screenwriters The break-neck pace of the film and the consistency and quality of the action make up for much of what is lacking in the screenplay’s dialogue, but script-wise, it may be the weakest of these DCU films for me (remembering, of course, that I haven’t disliked one outright yet).

That hero’s journey is well-plotted. Arthur’s journey from reluctant hero to king is about as classic as it gets, and is a quintessential part of who this character is. He shows us that being heroic isn’t about whether we are worthy of our heroic stature, but it’s about what we decide to fight for–ourselves or those around us?

In a better world, this would have been a two-part film, giving some of the ideas and character development room to breathe. But because superhero movie sequels are not a guarantee outside of the mighty MCU, this film had quite a bit of ground to cover. The result is a fast-paced, wacky, and action-packed adventure. For the most part, it’s fun. It brings a comic book character to life in a way that I had not thought possible. Wan certainly deserves a chance to direct the sequel, and all signs point to him getting that chance. Aquaman is poised to become Warner Bros.’ biggest box-office superhero success since The Dark Knight Rises, but even if it falls short of that billion dollar mark, it should land happily in the neighborhood of Wonder Woman‘s $822 million dollar hull. The new DC Films is here, boys and girls. Let’s hope it sticks around.

Final Grade: Comics Code Approved Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_Authority

 

Aquaman is in U.S. theaters December 21st

Facing the Kryptonite: Taken Down by Anxiety and Rollercoasters

by Drew Kiess

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In most contexts, feeling like Superman would be a fantastic thing. Absolutely invincible—a man of steel. But what happens when some two-bit thug pull out that dreaded green rock? Steel turns to water and no amount of positive thinking seems to be good enough to get you back to normal.

 

That’s a bit what it’s like going through life with anxiety. I am claustrophobic and a agoraphobic, which means I am afraid of two things: Being in tight spaces and being seen being afraid of being in tight spaces. An anxiety or panic attack is bad enough on its own, but being seen having one is such an extraordinary dose of embarrassment that it has kept me from doing a lot of things that I would normally consider fun (or, at the very least, an improvement on doing nothing at all). For this reason, I drive separately to places. If I feel anxious, I’ll make up an excuse and drive home.

 

And so the prospect of riding with a group of friends to an amusement park three hours away to be strapped into a rollercoaster is about as kryptonite as it gets. I am trapped and have made some promises that I have no confidence in my ability to keep.

 

But, like Superman, it was “up, up, and away” anyway.

 

A mere fifteen minutes after arriving at the park, I found myself being strapped into my first coaster. I doubt it made much noise, but in my head, the vest restraints coming down sounded something like prison bars slamming shut. I was surprised at my ability, despite the tight restraints, to adjust in my seat.

 

Deep breath. And we’re off.

 

The climb began and I look down to see my feet dangling. My anxiety is hitting the level that if I were a cartoon, a steam whistle would have been going off. We hit the top of that hill and gravity takes over. Loops, twists, falls, climbs, banks, and two minutes later the vest comes up and I’m done.

 

And you know the strange part? I had fun. My anxiety spiked and I had fun. Perhaps, eventually, I could do another. But not right away, right? Only an idiot would do a second coaster that quickly.

 

Ten minutes later I was being strapped into my second coaster. This time, my reaction was quite different. The vest restraint included a skin-tight vest that pinned the rider into the seat. The moment that was secured on me, my chest began hurting. The sensation felt like I was a pencil being shoved through a straw. I couldn’t breathe, and it took everything I had not to rip the thing off and just get as far away from every living thing as fast as I possibly could.

 

The ride started, and for the minute and a half I was riding the coaster, I didn’t think much of the restraints (and may or may not have had a little bit of fun, but I will never admit to that), but when the car came to a stop, it felt like I was waiting for hours while this vest tightened its grips on my body, threatening to pop my head like a cork. My anxiety was through the roof and I was utterly and entirely embarrassed. I came with a mission to conquer this monster and I failed.

 

I rode only two more rides my time there. One was one of those classic log drop rides where your thrown over a waterfall and get drenched just because its fun. The other was a swing that took you twelve stories in the air at a 100 degree angle and swings you to the other side at nearly seventy miles per hour. Both of these were exhilarating and exciting, but I knew my anxiety wasn’t really in a place to take much more of a beating. If I did much more, I didn’t know that I would even have been able to enjoy being around my friends anymore.

 

Anxiety, in that way, is like a loose change jar. You can fill it with as many quarters, nickels, and dimes as you can, but sometimes all it takes is a few pennies to make a dollar. I was about at ninety-nine cents and had no desire to cash-in.

 

Attacking the things that scare is all about taking that one step further than we thought we could. If you think you can only take one step, take two. If you don’t think you can take any, just take one. You’ll be further along than you ever imagined. The only person you ever have anything to prove to is yourself. How far do you think you can go in conquering your fear? Let’s take one step further together.

 

In all honesty, I don’t know that I would call my trip a success. I faced some demons and lived, but I feel like I let them get to me more than I would have liked. But here’s the rub: I can honestly say that I enjoyed spending time with people I care about despite the fact that they saw me have a panic attack. And I left with a chip on my shoulder. Next time, I can go just a bit further. And maybe it’ll be just one more step than last time. But I am completely over letting anxiety tell me what I can or can’t do, and what I should and shouldn’t do in my life. Next time, I’ll be ready. Next time, I’ll take one more step.

 

Next time, I’ll leap tall buildings in a single bound.

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

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?