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.

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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.

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Another Joker Movie On The Way?

by Drew Kiess

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Can I rant for a minute? Because I feel like ranting. Every other blog writer for geek stuff gets to do it, so why not me?

 

Overall, it has been a bad year for fandom. Not just DC fandom, mind you– all of fandom. Star Wars fans turning on each other and bullying individuals involved in a movie they didn’t like, Marvel fans using success as a weapon instead of an invitation for improvement, and Snyder fans turning every possible scenario into an opportunity to harass and belittle individuals who were only doing their job. The rest of us are left in the cold trying to fend for ourselves.

 

The reality is that we have created this mess. Our feverish desire for more of our geek-flavored product has caused a cheapening of what we once held precious. This is why we get a Han Solo movie that no one asked for (regardless of whether you liked the film or not, can we at least admit it’s still a little bizarre?) and its why we have Warner Bros. now scrambling to find Jared Leto’s Joker something to do.

 

Suicide Squad 2 is in apparent limbo, and Matt Reeves doesn’t want anything to do with Joker, and with Margot Robbie now attached to the moving train that is Birds of Prey, there isn’t really an obvious landing place for the character that for some reason, Warner Bros. has deemed a priority. Thus, we get the announcement today that Jared Leto will be starring in his own film as the Joker.
We may not have asked for this, but we absolutely asked for this.

 

The only thing that is currently known about this film is that Leto will star and produce. No writer, no director, and no production date have been given. So, in essence, its a concept without any skeleton.

 

I have done my best to remain positive regarding DC Films. As a matter of fact, I have liked to even loved every single entry to this point (yes, I liked Suicide Squad, Leto included). But it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand behind a studio that doesn’t seem to understand why these characters matter in the first place. Joker exists to challenge Batman. Without that dynamic, it is difficult to comprehend what the draw will be. Add that to the fact that Leto’s Joker was not particularly well received. It makes me wonder who exactly this film will be aimed at.

 

Time will tell if this will even be made (I have my doubts), but it seems like this is what happens when we push these studios for content. Long gone are the days when we were happy we had just one great comic book franchise. Now we need ten, plus.

 

And all this… and still no Superman movie. Explain that.

 

 

Batman Ninja: A Beautiful Frustration

By Drew Kiess

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Oh, boy… where to start with this one?

I suppose I will start by admitting that this is a review of the dubbed version of Batman Ninja. I am not an anime fan, so watching the movie with subtitles would have been a chore for me. For some, that may disqualify me altogether from reviewing this. That would be fair. I can only approach this from the standpoint of being a Batman fan, so that is the angle from which this review is written.

There. The qualifier is done.

Batman Ninja is the newest addition in the long line of DC Animated movies, this time from Warner Bros. proper and not from any of its subdivisions, such as Warner Premier. This movie will see a theatrical release in Japan, and I sincerely wish it all the success in the world there. The film was directed by Junpei Mizusaki, with Roger Craig Smith providing the dubbing for Batman, Tara Strong for Harley Quinn, Grey Griffin for Selina Kyle, and Tony Hale for the Joker.

When Gorilla Grodd’s time travelling experiment sends Batman, his allies—Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin, Alfred, Red Hood, and Catwoman—and his greatest foes—Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Penguin, and Deathstroke—back in time to feudal Japan, Batman must learn the ways of the ninja in order to return everyone back to Gotham. As the movie opens, the CG animation is striking. The movements look fluid and the action is more captivating than anything DC animation has put out in some time.

This quality in the visuals is almost constant throughout and the eyes never get bored watching the movie. The one strike against this is a baffling change in style about midway through the film that seemingly serves no storytelling purpose, but this alone does not sink this movie.

What keeps this movie from being great in my eyes is its over reliance on its own medium. The film sets itself up in ”our Gotham”, and then transports the familiar back in time to feudal Japan, but the rules of feudal Japan are not the rules of “our Gotham”—it exists very much by the rules of anime.

And this would be fine, if the movie set itself up as an anime first, set in an anime world. By trying to its cake and eat it, too, the film loses its punch. If fighting mechanical castles were necessary to the overall arc of the film, perhaps it would have been better to simply establish that the world that this Batman lives in is that kind of world, and not bother with the whole time travel ruse (It’s hard not to feel like Randall from Clerks, here. “I don’t appreciate your ruse, ma’am. Your cunning attempt to trick me).

What saves this movie for me is the characterization of Batman, which never feels false to the character, and the aesthetic. It is also incredibly refreshing to see a DC animated movie that doesn’t feel reliant on sophomoric sexual overtones that have become tiresome in recent entries. The characterization of the other characters, however—save, perhaps, Selina Kyle—is all over the map and not really as true as I would prefer.

Overall, I am lukewarm on Batman Ninja. This very well may be a great movie that simply wasn’t made for me. What I can say is that the film is absolutely gorgeous, and the marketing on just how good this film looks was not overstated. If you are a Batman fan or an anime fan, I would say that Batman Ninja is worth checking out. But if you are not as into anime as you are into Batman, then this may not be for you, either.

 

Final Grade: B-

 

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Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay

By Drew Kiess

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Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is the latest addition to the DC Animated Universe that began with Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox and is the first to feature the Suicide Squad. The film stars Christian Slater as Deadshot, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Billy Brown as the Bronze Tiger, Kristen Bauer van Straten as Killer Frost, Gideon Emery as Copperhead, Liam McIntyre as Captain Boomerang, and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. It was written by Alan Burnett (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and was directed by Sam Liu (Batman: The Killing Joke).

Can we be honest about these animated films for a moment? There has been a narrative about DC’s animated projects that has been all the rage that these are the DC movies that are knocking it out of the park. And at one time, that was honestly true. From Wonder Woman, New Frontier, The Dark Knight Returns, and Flashpoint Paradox, there was a strong string of good to great animated features in a short amount of time.

Since then, there has been less consistency. Killing Joke and Batman and Harley Quinn are far removed from the glory days of DC animated films. And for every Gotham by Gaslight, there is the unavoidable realization that the production quality is not what it once was. And I don’t think it’s a problem with the creative team, but there might just be too many projects for not enough people.

Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay may be one of the better productions from this universe in a while, but the story as a whole feels somewhat lacking. The Squad is sent to retrieve a get out of hell card for Waller, but they have some competition from various baddies across the DC Universe, including Blockbuster, Vandal and Scandal Savage, and Professor Zoom. A grindhouse road trip ensues to find the card.

Where this movie thrives is with the villains—that is, the bad bad-guys. The connections to the greater universe that is weaved into this film may be the best use of this connected universe to date. If this were the focal point of the movie (you know, telling an interesting story within a larger comic book universe) it would have been one of my favorites. That’s not what we got.

What we got was a movie that promised a sexy, violent action movie that could not separate itself from past attempts by these animated movies to be more “adult”, succeeding only in fulfilling the most juvenile of expectations on both fronts. Fetishizing strippers and lesbians is not something I associate with “edgy” and it, unsurprisingly, falls incredibly short here.

I have said it before with these movies and apparently it needs repeating: not everything needs to push the boundaries. Cool stories that exploit what makes these characters interesting will forever be preferable than using these characters to prove some point that comic book stories can be “grown up”. It’s a trend that is in desperate need of ending and I seriously hope it finds its demise before Death of Superman.

Here’s hoping.

 

 

Star Wars and the Falsehood of Correct Opinions

by Drew Kiess

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Nothing like a Star Wars movie to bring us together, right?

Being a DC Comics fan, I’m in an interesting position to comment on divisive movies. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is certainly just that, but in a fascinating way that I am struggling to find a parallel to. Perhaps J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, ironically, has had a similar reaction to where it is a critical hit and seemingly well liked among casual moviegoers and fans, but incredibly divisive among the more faithful fanbase.

I will get this out of the way now: I did not particularly like The Last Jedi. I found the plot to be clunky and full of holes that would make Mr. Sir proud. It was an incredibly uneven experience with the things that I loved about it clashing with the things that I didn’t. This, however, does not mean that the film was without merit or should, as some zealous fans have suggested, be stricken from the official canon. That is just nonsense.

All students surpass their masters. This is the way things work. This is the theme of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi and is easily the greatest thing this movie can add to the franchise. We can always move beyond the things that have come in the past and embrace the future, even if that future makes us uneasy.

And I embrace that lesson. I will be the first to admit, while I was fighting the good fight for Man of Steel against the “Not My Superman” crowd, I was planted directly in the middle of the “Not my Star Wars” crowd as a proud member. The year 2005 changed the way I viewed Star Wars with the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith. The Star War was over. It was a thing of the past. The next month, I would read for the first time Batman Year One and watch Batman Begins and my conversion to being a comic book nerd from being a Star Wars nerd was completed. “When I was a child, I thought as a child…”

And so Star Wars was cemented as an element of my childhood. I was fourteen when Revenge of the Sith hit cinemas and Star Wars has always been a relic for me of that time period. I have flippantly referred to Star Wars as the nerd starter pack. I still (kind of) stand by that.

The prospect of bringing them back and even deconstructing these heroes was not and is not an idea that I am entirely game for. I have a deeper understanding of those who dislike Man of Steel for that reason. However, that was my problem with The Force Awakens. I do suspect that is also the problem for some with this film, but it reveals another dark side to fandom:

If someone disagrees with our opinion, we have to explain it away.

The reason I didn’t like The Last Jedi is simple: the negative subjectively outweighed the positive. The reason others liked it is because they had the reverse experience. The common theory that has been thrown around is that those who dislike it are throwing some kind of tantrum because of their fan theories is actually a disservice to the movie you love.

I fully believe that The Last Jedi is a bold movie that makes bold decisions. If those worked for you, great. I would hope that if you are a fan of a controversial movie that you would choose to engage in the conversation rather than categorize dissention and write them off. Engaging with it is the best way to embrace it.

On the flip side, if you hated it, do not conflate those who love it with blind brand loyalists. Any movie worthy of a strong negative reaction must have qualities that are bold enough to warrant appreciation from someone else.

I believe that conversations about movies can and should include discussing different opinions and not become a shouting match. We all have a different road that leads us to these movies and so we all have a different experience with them. Hear from them, and let it inform and even strengthen your own opinion. You might actually learn something along the way. Learn the lessons from the film arguments in the past and make the ones coming up better. Movies shouldn’t be something that rips us apart, but something that brings us together—even if we disagree.

 

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Justice League Review

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by Drew Kiess

 

How to describe a movie like Justice League? Or, a better question, how to describe a movie like Justice League in a way that it has not already been described?

Let’s look over what we know: yes, we know that the post-production process on this movie was less than smooth for various reasons, chief among them a personal tragedy in the director’s family. Yes, we also know that the critical hill for this movie to climb was probably much too steep and the comparisons to the distinguished competition were unavoidable (how could anything measure up to what is already locked-in as a cultural phenomenon?). And yes, we also know that the tone of this film was shifted even further from the somberness of its predecessor due to critical feedback.

We know all that. What we don’t know is how things would have turned out otherwise. I can only review this movie for the movie I saw in the theaters and not the movie that I thought we were getting. Maybe someday we’ll get to see that movie (we’re just now getting to see the three hour version of 1978’s Superman The Movie, so there’s always hope), but this is the Justice League movie we got. And—honestly—I loved it.

To say a movie is imperfect seems like a critical cheat, but it is also important to say in this case. While I think most of the imperfections pointed out aren’t necessarily the same problems I have with the film (most of my complaints involve the ever-hated spoilers, so I will avoid talking too much about them), this is the first of the three Snyder DC Films entries that I’m comfortable with letting the critical onslaught hit without much argument. Perhaps that says more about me than the movie, but this is not quite the same kind of movie as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. If you hated those movies, you might take that as a relief. As someone who loved them, it is a bit of a dunk in cold water.

What exists instead, though, is just as reverent a love letter to DC Comics fans. Never did I dream of seeing pieces from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World on a big screen. Seeing Commissioner Gordon (played well by J.K. Simmons) speaking with Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash and Cyborg on a rooftop is a treat. And for anyone who has read the works of Kirby, Grant Morrison’s Rock of Ages, or Geoff John’s Justice League: Origins, there is plenty to keep you geeking out from the opening titles to the close of the credits. And yes, that end credits scene is as good as you’ve been told.

Of the major characters, most for me were given a fantastic show case as to what makes them amazing characters. There is one character that I felt may have been shortchanged, but that may be super spoilery (see what I did there?). Steppenwolf was fine. The great thing about using a character like Steppenwolf is that he does not come with a lot of baggage and is disposable without having his fan club become up-in-arms. Quick, name your favorite Steppenwolf comic book! He serves the purpose of providing a threat daunting enough to get the team together, but is not the kind of character who merits a long-winded motivation.

What the movie does well for me is not shying away from the comic book-ness of the whole thing. While the humor, thanks in part to screenwriter (and post-production supervisor) Joss Whedon, is cranked up in Justice League, it never feels aimed at the audience for enjoying these types of stories. It managed to have fun while still telling a cool story ripped almost perfectly from the pages of a comic book. And that may make it a movie that’s not for everyone. But if you’re someone who loves these characters, I highly recommend seeing Justice League with someone who loves these characters with you. There’ll be plenty for you to talk about.

Final score: Comic Code Approved

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Early Justice League Reactions and Elfman’s Score

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It’s hard to believe that we are just a few days away from being in a theater and watching some of our favorite superheroes fighting side-by-side for the first time. Justice League premieres now in less than a week and it feels like Twitter is so full of 280-character opinions that it is about to burst at the seams.

With the social media embargo lifting on Friday, we now have some of the first verified opinions on Justice League. While there have been a few killjoys, it does sound like we are in for a good time when the film finally rolls. A quintessential part of getting hyped up for these DC Films has been listening to the musical score the week before. I am not entirely sure if there is another franchise, with the exception of Star Wars, where the musical score is so closely analyzed. (How many people remember the Twitter debates surrounding the score for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Yeah, I don’t either.)

The Justice League score, like much about this movie since the departure of Zack Snyder, has been under the microscope since it was announced that it would be Danny Elfman instead of the previously announced Junkie XL, who co-composed for Batman v Superman and impressed us all with his soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road. Danny Elfman, of course, has had his fair share of superhero work, from Tim Burton’s Batman, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. From a personal point of view, his score for Spider-Man 2 is among my favorite comic book movie scores of all time, and I was excited to hear what he had come up for Justice League.

Fan reaction to the score has been an interesting one to watch. I will say that I do not think it works as well as a standalone listen as much as what Hans Zimmer put together for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. That does not mean that it is a bad score.

There are scores we listen to specifically because it reminds us of a movie we love. Elfman’s Batman score is actually a perfect example of this. Outside of the main theme and Decent Into Mystery, I would argue that there are not a lot of tracks that would standalone if not for the emotional connection to a movie that we love. Clint Mansell’s Noah score is an example for me of the opposite, great pieces of music that are used within a movie.

If I am to fully judge Elfman’s score, I will need to hear it in context. I will say, I am a fan of the call-backs to the classic Batman and Superman themes. If the response to complaints about Batman and Superman not behaving like themselves in previous films has been answered by, “well, they’re building up to being the heroes we all love”, then I personally like using the classic musical cues to indicate that they are behaving at their best and most heroic.

I do want to signal out Sigrid’s Everybody Knows cover, the opening track on the soundtrack. It is a standout and has always been lyrically a very somber song. My curiosity is certainly piqued as to how this relates to the story Snyder and Whedon are telling with Justice League.

I am no musical expert. But after listening to the Justice League soundtrack, I can say that I fully believe it can work. I cannot wait to hear those classic themes fill up a theater next week. Be sure to keep the conversation going and tell us what you think!

 

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Deathstroke Film from “The Raid” In The Works

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In what seems like a lifetime ago, Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello was announced as the villain in The Batman. It’s been unspoken for some time now that he would no longer appear in that feature, but Manganiello as Deathstroke the Terminator was just too good of casting to go completely to waste.

Now, friend of Shanlian on Batman Umburto Gonzalez from the Wrap is reporting that The Raid Director Gareth Evans is in negotiations to write and direct a Deathstroke film. The Raid and its sequel are renowned for their incredible action sequences, and so just what kind of movie Warner Bros. wants out of Deathstroke likely falls right in line with this style of film.

Evans reportedly was offered Justice League Dark, but impressed DC executives with his Deathstroke pitch.

What remains to be seen, of course, is just who or what Deathstroke will be up against. Will it be one of the many DC heroes populating the universe already or someone else entirely? Only time will tell, but that won’t stop anyone from speculating. This may be the perfect opportunity to bring back Will Smith’s Deadshot, but I will be excited to see whatever Evans has come up with.

Source: https://www.thewrap.com/gareth-evans-dc-comics-deathstroke/

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“Batman Vs Two Face” Review

 

 

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By
Drew Kiess

I fell in love with Adam West’s Batman later in my fandom than many. While West’s portrayal was responsible for an entire generation becoming Batman fans for the first time, what West did for me was teach me how versatile the Caped Crusader could be. In 2016, seeing Adam West (along with Burt Ward and Julie Newmar) return to his classic role was an absolute joy, and the film itself was ridiculously entertaining, even if it was flawed in some ways.

When Adam West passed away, it struck a chord with me. This man had been responsible for bringing a character that has meant so much to me and has brought me a countless amount of joy to the mainstream. Before his passing, he was able to provide us with one final crusade: “Batman Vs Two-Face.”

In “Batman Vs Two-Face,” Adam West’s Batman is joined by Burt Ward’s Robin, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, and William Shatner as the villainous Two-Face. While most of what we now consider the heavy hitters in Batman’s rogues gallery found their way onto the screen during the 1960s TV series, one notable exception has always been Two-Face, who starred only in one unused script. Harvey Dent, Gotham’s District Attorney and best friend to billionaire Bruce Wayne, is scarred by pure evil in a laboratory accident gone terribly wrong. The explosion turns Dent into the criminal known as Two-Face, and despite what Bruce Wayne believes to be a successful recovery, Harvey Dent’s scars are deeper than just the surface. With a crime wave indicating the involvement of a duality obsessed fiend, only Two-Face could be behind it. But could Harvey Dent truly be evil? Can the Dynamic Duo stop this crime spree in Gotham? (Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!)

The DC Animated films have been hit and miss lately. This was definitely a hit. Not only was it incredibly funny, it also had a surprising weight that pulled me into the film’s story. The casting of another 60s TV star in William Shatner as Harvey Dent was a stroke of brilliance, and he delivers with a voice performance that rivals any in these films. (His performance was reminiscent of the better moments of Tommy Lee Jones’ version in “Batman Forever.” Surprisingly, this version was less cartoonish.) Shatner pulled off a menacing Two-Face, playing the tongue-in-cheek nature of this universe with ease, while providing a tragic weight to Harvey Dent that is unexpected in connection with the 60s TV show.

Adam West’s performance was everything you would expect it to be. This story gave him a terrific send-off, allowing him to play both the heroic and inspiring Batman in some of the film’s more heavy moments, to the more comedic tones that this version of the character requires. As always, this was what made Adam West and this character such a great marriage: he could play every tone with the same amount of sincerity and commitment. You are always sure about two things with Adam West’s Batman around. Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot that he’ll bring to justice, and that Batman is always there watching out for us when we need him most.

The cast of characters in “Batman Vs Two-Face” is deep. If a viewer can go in not knowing what villains cameo and have major roles outside of the titular character, they can find themselves enjoying the revolving door of references to episodes of the TV series. On top of the revolving door of villainy, be on the lookout for some hilarious shout-outs to various Batman pop-culture moments that add flavor to this bountiful Bat-feast.

If “Return of the Caped Crusaders” served as a sequel to “Batman-The Movie,” then “Batman Vs Two-Face” closes out Adam West’s Batman trilogy triumphantly, providing us with humor, action, and a big bucket of heart. Director Rick Morales’ obvious love for the TV show shines through with every scene. It is a miracle to take a world and a style and bring it back to us 50 years after it was popular and do it so well, and to provide us all with one last adventure with our Bright Knight.

I would recommend buying two copies (one for each face), and enjoying this conclusion to Adam West’s Batman trilogy. I watched this with a smile on my face from beginning to end and am looking forward to watching it again. And for those of you out there who have yet to discover Adam West for yourselves, please take it from me: when you learn to love the goofiness and the colors and the biffs, booms, and pows, you will also find the heart, love, and unwavering goodness that was Adam West and his Batman. I think we could all agree that the world needs a Bright Knight now more than ever.

 

3.5 Bats out of 4

 

 

 

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Batman and Harley Quinn Review

by Andrew Kiess

Many Batman fans are in agreement that Batman: The Animated Series is among the greatest comic book adaptations out there. For many of us, it has defined the character of Batman and his supporting cast. So, when co-creator Bruce Timm returns to the style and characters that first captured our imaginations, only greatness can happen, right?

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Batman and Harley Quinn is the latest DC animated feature film to get the one-night only theater treatment before being released on demand, following the success of The Killing Joke and Return of the Caped Crusaders. While I enjoyed Crusaders, neither of these one-night only showings featured what I considered to be the “best” of the recent animated films (I thought Judas Contract and Justice League Dark were fantastic), I was still excited to see what looked to be a long lost episode of The New Batman Adventures. What I got fell short of my expectations.

The opening few scenes of the films did not help my perception of the project overall. The animation looked cheap and the characters inconsistent. As the movie went on, the animation improved, but that’s when the story developed.

The plot of the film centers around Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) plotting to recreate the event that turned Alec Holland into Swamp Thing on a global scale, transforming all humanity into The Green. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) enlist the help of a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to track down Ivy and save the world.

On the surface, this still feels like a new episode of Batman. But as has been the case with many of the latest DC animated film, there seemed to be an imperative to “adult it up.” In theory, I don’t think this is necessarily a good or bad thing. It worked extraordinarily well in both The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark, but failed miserably with movies like The Killing Joke and Assault on Arkham. Harley Quinn is no stranger to being sexualized, and when done right it can create empathy for the character as someone who has overcome objectification. When done wrong, it just feeds into the objectification that the character (and, let’s face it, the comic book industry as a whole) has been fighting against.

We meet Harley working as a risqué waitress, where she beats up a customer for attempting to grope her. When Nightwing later questions her about it, she explains that it’s the only job she can get due to her past with The Joker being on her record. Instead of this being a moment to create empathy, it is followed up by a ridiculous scene where it is not-so-subtly implied that her an Nightwing, to quote Marv from Sin City, “do the nasty.” From the way the scene is drawn to the absolute lack of any reason for this to be in the film completely disservice the character, and is, in one man’s opinion, the opposite of “adult”. It is pure adolescent fantasy, with no real appreciation for storytelling.

To make matters worse, the rest of the humor in the film is bizarrely sophomoric. There is not much I can write that would fully explain just how off-putting a fart joke is in a movie that is trying to convince me that it is an “adult comedy.” A ten minute scene in a karaoke bar with ridiculous dancing and singing did nothing but add to the ever-changing tone. The story progresses to an inevitable appearance by Alec Holland himself, which was simply the final disappointment in a long line of disappointments.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I have seen several positive reactions and some middle of the road reactions from many outlets online. But for me, Batman and Harley Quinn was a failure on every level and never engaged me for a single moment. As always, I would recommend you judge for yourself if you are interested in seeing it, but I think this will join The Killing Joke as the second of the DC animated films to not have a home on my shelf.

 

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