It’s a good time to be a Batman fan

Hey there, folks!

So, did you see it? Did you? You know what I’m talking about, right? I am of course talking about the amazing trailer that was released last week for the upcoming Batman v Superman movie! You must have seen it by now. Everyone I know is talking about it (because I make them).  In case you’ve been living under a rock, here is the trailer:

Pretty dope, right? I mean, you don’t get any sense of what the plot of the movie will be, but whatever. You see Superman, you see Batman, and, most importantly, you see Batman in the armor suit that he wears in the Dark Knight Returns. It. Is. The. Shit.

Now, I wasn’t particularly impressed with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, so I worry about what he’ll do with Batman v Superman.  But it’s okay. To make me happy, this movie only needs one thing. All it needs is one scene where Batman punches Superman right in his stupid handsome face.  I am almost positive I’ll get to see that, so this movie has pretty much already won me over.

I’m curious how it’ll all go down.  I believe this movie is supposed to lead to the Justice League, which means that at some point the Dark Knight and Big Blue will have to put aside their differences and start working together. Maybe they’ll start by fighting each other, only to realize there is a bigger threat. Like… I dunno… Braniac.  That would be awesome.

Anyway, the trailer wasn’t the only Batman-related movie news that came out recently.  We also got to see our first full look at Jared Leto as the Joker.  Again, allow me to remove the rock you’ve been living under.

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I dig this look a lot. It reminds me of this:

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There ain’t nothing cooler than a Joker with tattoos.  That said, I don’t know how I feel about the tattoo on Joker’s forehead. It’s seems a little… distracting. I’m also not a big fan of the silver teeth.  I just think that the most distinctive feature on the Joker’s face should be his smile, not the teeth behind the smile. Regardless, I think he looks pretty cool.

I also think it’s neat that this version of the Joker will be introduced in the Suicide Squad movie, rather than in a Batman flick.  My guess is they wanted to give people a reason to go see a movie about a team no one outside of comic book fans (or fans of the Arrow TV show) have ever heard of.  Good thinking, Warner Bros. Good thinking.

And if that’s not enough Batman-related news for you, there was also an announcement this past week that Frank Miller is going to do another sequel to the Dark Knight Returns called “The Master Race”.  Here is the promo art:

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I mean, c’mon! What is not to love about that! Looks like we’re going to have even more Batman-punching-Superman action! What’s even better is that Miller is working with Brian Azzarello, who, among many other things, wrote the Joker graphic novel, and absolutely crushed it on Wonder Woman. This dude is the real deal, and him working with Frank Miller means that this book has the potential to be one of the greatest Batman stories of all time.  I am hella excited for this to come out.

Well, that’s all the Batman stuff I have to talk about right now. As you can see, it is clearly a good time to be a Batman fan.

Until next time…

BATMAN-BAMPF!

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The Dark Knight Ranks Again

Hey, did you know I like Batman?  Surprised?  Of course you are.  You may also be surprised to know that I have decided to share my personal ranking of Batman movies.  To make this extra special, my ranking is going to include both live action and animation.  Cool, right?  Maybe you’ll get to hear about a movie you didn’t know existed.

So without further ado, let’s get the show on the road.  Here we go with my ranking of the top 5 Batman movies of all time!

5. Batman

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Director:  Tim Burton

Writers:  Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren

Starring:  Michael Keaton as Batman, Jack Nicholson as Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, and a bunch of other famous people.

I was too young to see this movie in theaters, but I remember my parents buying me a VHS copy.  The first time we watched it, the scene came on where Joker uses his hand buzzer to burn a guy to a crisp, and my dad reached over and covered my eyes.  I would have been about 7 or 8 years old at the time.  Every time I would watch the movie after that, I would know the scene was coming and I would cover my own eyes or turn away, even if my parents weren’t around.  It wasn’t for a few years that I got up the courage to watch the “forbidden scene”, and when I finally did I thought… wow, that was silly.  Maybe I should have kept my eyes closed.

Tim Burton’s Batman is full of silly things.  I mean, do you remember the scene where Batman is flying towards the Joker in the Batwing, and he takes a bunch of shots at the Joker but manages to miss him completely?  First, Batman isn’t going to shoot a gun at someone, and second, if he did, he wouldn’t miss.

Regardless of the silly bits, this movie has two things I really dig.  The first is Danny Elfman’s score, which is the music I hear in my head whenever I think of Batman.  It’s got a bit of the dark, brooding feeling that accompanies most (good) incarnations of Batman, but it’s also got a bit of that… jumpy Elfman goodness (reminiscent of the Simpsons, I guess) that seems to fit with this version of the Dark Knight.

The other thing that this movie has is Michael Keaton, who, in my opinion, delivered the best live-action performance of Bruce Wayne/Batman that’s ever been depicted (sorry Kilmer).  If they ever decide to make a live-action version of Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, I would totally be okay if they cast Keaton as an older Batman.

Speaking of Dark Knight Returns…

4. The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2

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Director:  Jay Oliva

Writer:  Bob Goodman (based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson)

Starring:  Peter Weller as Batman, Ariel Winter as Robin, Michael Emerson as Joker, David Selby as Commissioner Gordon, and Mark Valley as Superman

As I alluded to earlier, Frank Miller wrote the Dark Knight Returns, which is widely considered to be the best Batman comic ever written. In the book (and movies), an older Bruce Wayne decides to come out of retirement and don the cape and cowl once more.  They released an animated film version of the book in two parts, with the second part being included in my top 5 Batman movies.  I think you need to watch the first part to fully appreciate the second, but it’s totally worth it.

In the first part (which is still pretty good), Batman takes on a recently released from prison Harvey Dent, as well as a group of thugs called the Mutants that have taken over Gotham City.  In the second movie, Batman has what may be the most vicious and violent fight I have ever seen in a cartoon against the Joker, and after that, Batman has to go up against Superman, who at this point is a government lackey (hehe… lackey… get it?).

There are lots of cool things in this movie. There’s a female Robin, there’s the ongoing threat of nuclear war with the Soviets, and best of all, Batman is voiced by Robocop himself!  And have you ever wanted to see Batman ride a horse?  Well guess what?  This is your chance.

The book this movie is based on is one of the first Batman comics I ever read, so it has a special place in my heart, but ask anyone who knows anything about Batman, and they’ll tell you that you should watch this movie.

3. Batman Begins

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Director:  Christopher Nolan

Writers:  David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan

Starring:  Christian Bale as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Liam Neeson as “Ducard”, and a bunch of other people.

I remember the first time I saw this movie.  I was in university, and I had returned home to celebrate a high school friend’s birthday.  We were eating dinner at a sushi place when the topic of what to do afterwards came up (this followed a discussion of whether we enjoyed sleeping in the same bed as another person.  My answer was no at the time.  My opinion has since changed.  Hooray for marriage!).  Someone (probably me) suggested going to see the new Batman movie.  All of the guys agreed, but the birthday girl had to be convinced.  I can’t remember how we did it, but I’m pretty sure it involved begging, whining and a wee bit of crying.  I also remember I was wearing my favourite pants that night, and I ended up sitting in a wad of gum in the theater.

And I tell you all of that because… err… well, for no reason.  But it does give you a sense of how good my memory is when it comes to things that are even tangentially related to Batman.

I was really excited for Batman Begins after suffering for years without a Batman movie (ever since the stupid batnips), and the movie did not disappoint me.  I remember thinking how great a Batman Christian Bale was, but I think a lot of that was the fact that he didn’t actually become Batman until about half way through, and when he was Batman, he spoke in short sentences which made his goofy voice choice less noticeable (later on in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Bale’s voice became more evident.  And more annoying).

I have to imagine that almost everyone on the planet has seen this movie, so I won’t get into it too much, but I will say that it tells the Batman origin story in a new and interesting way, and also introduces some great members of the Dark Knight’s rogue gallery to the big screen, including the Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul.  My only major beef is the ending, where Batman lets “Ducard” die in the monorail.  They try to justify it in the dialogue (I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you… or something like that), but that doesn’t jive with my version of Batman.  My Batman would never let someone die through inaction.  But the story (and how it’s told) is so good up to that point, I’ll let the bad stuff at the end slide.

If you haven’t seen Batman Begins… we probably aren’t friends.

2. The Dark Knight

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Director:  Christopher Nolan

Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer

Starring:  Christian Bale as Batman, Heath Ledger as Joker, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and a bunch of other people.

I know I said that almost everyone on the planet has seen Batman Begins, but when talking about its sequel The Dark Knight, I think it’s safe to say that every single person who has ever existed on planet Earth has seen it.  It’s that popular, and deservedly so.  Of course, the star is Heath Ledger and his iconic portrayal of the Joker.  He presented the character in such a way that was both familiar and brand new.

Given that I have already established that everyone on the planet has seen this movie, I won’t get into the plot (something about using cellphones to triangulate the position of someone), but it serves as a way for Ledger to really go crazy (hehe, get it?  Because Joker’s crazy?) with his performance.  The real problem with this film is the introduction (and sudden departure) of Two-Face.  He’s such a great character, and to have him only appear for a few minutes before killing him just seems like a wasted opportunity (even if the scene is pretty solid).  I let it go initially because I figured they would bring him back for the third instalment of the franchise, but that didn’t end up happening.

Anyway, as I said, Ledger is so good as Joker, he covers up all the other flaws in what is a good, but imperfect movie.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Chris you dummy, you listed The Dark Knight as number 2 in your list.  Everyone knows this movie is the best Batman movie that’s ever existed.  Did you forget to take your pill or something?  Well, yes, thank you for reminding me.  But I am going to go on record and say that The Dark Knight is not the best Batman movie of all time.  I believe there is another movie that is more worthy of the crown.

1. Under the Red Hood

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Director:  Brandon Vietti

Writer:  Judd Winick

Starring:  Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, John DiMaggio as Joker, and Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing

Again, I already know what you’re thinking.  Chris, this is a cartoon.  How can a cartoon be better than a live action movie that saw one of the actors win an academy award for their performance?  Well to start, I think Under the Red Hood has a perfect story.  Based on the graphic novel of the same name, a mysterious vigilante by the name of Red Hood comes to Gotham and starts taking over the underworld by killing anyone who gets in his way.  When Batman confronts him, the Caped Crusader is surprised to learn that Red Hood knows that Bruce Wayne is secretly Batman, and that this vigilante has a grudge to settle with the Dark Knight himself.  I don’t want to give anything else away, but believe me when I tell you that the climax of this movie is hands down the best scene in a Batman movie.  Without question.

The art and voice acting in this movie is amazing, but the real highlight is Jensen Ackles’ performance as the Red Hood.  There is a line he delivers when he is questioning Batman on why he has never done the world a favour by killing Joker that is so perfect, he probably should have won some kind of award.  On top of all that, the very last scene is so… touching and sad, I would cry if I had anything resembling a soul.  The movie’s even got Doogie Howser doing a little voice acting!

If you like the character of Batman at all, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie.  You will not regret it.

There it is, folks, my favourite Batman movies.  Do you disagree?  Let me tell you now that you’re wrong, but feel free to let me know where you disagree.

BAT-BAMPF!

The Dark Knight (surp)Rises

I’ll cut to the chase.  I love Batman.  If I was Tracy Morgan, I would say something like “I love Batman so much, I wanna take him behind the middle school and get him pregnant!”

Of course, I would never actually say that because:

1. To the best of my knowledge, I am not Tracy Morgan,

2. Getting someone pregnant behind any type of school seems pretty inappropriate to me, and

3. It’s impossible to get a fictional male character pregnant, unless you have help from Danny Devito.

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I enjoy Batman in all his various forms: comics, video games, movies, television shows and, of course, PEZ dispensers.

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I even have an adorable vinyl Batman figure.

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The comics have been awesome lately. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been killing it.  I read a lot of comics, and there is a lot of… let’s say… stuff that isn’t Batman.  But it’s all worth it when I get to an awesome story, Batman or otherwise (it’s usually Batman).  If you haven’t been reading Batman lately, here is what you’re missing.

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On the video game front, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City we’re tons of fun to play, and the Bruce Timm Batman cartoon was some of the greatest entertainment ever produced for television.  Not to mention the 1960’s Batman show was Pure West.

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There is even a pretty cool podcast about the Caped Crusader.  Kevin Smith (yes, the guy who made Clerks and Cop Out) has a podcast called Fat Man on Batman (get it?).  The last two have been dedicated to his interview with Grant Morrison.  Those who know Morrison’s work know that he is comic book royalty.  In the podcast, Morrison tells a story about a trip to Kathmandu, which I think explains a lot about him.  Here’s a link to the main Fat Man on Batman page:

http://smodcast.com/channels/fatman-on-batman/

That leaves the movies.  There have been ups (The Dark Knight) and downs (Joel Schumacher and the Bat-Nips), but overall, watching Batman movies has been an enjoyable experience.  In fact, I enjoy the character so much I can overlook a lot.  Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze?  Chill out!  Christian Bale’s ridiculous Bat-voice?  Sure, why not?  He has to mask his voice somehow, right?

The Dark Knight Rises seems to split Bat-fans into those who love it and those who hate it.  I am one of the few who is somewhere in the middle.  While there are a lot of things in the Dark Knight Rises that don’t work for me (Bane reading a speech on TV), there are parts of it that I really enjoy.  For example, I really enjoy the visual of the mostly-unarmed Gotham City police force charging at Bane’s well-armed army (even if it doesn’t make any sense), and I really like the fact that I got to see a scenario where Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to be Batman any more (even if in this universe, Bruce Wayne was Batman for all of, what, a year or so?).

If you like the live-action movies, I recommend giving the animated films a try.  I haven’t seen the second part, but the first part of the Dark Knight Returns was pretty great.  It’s based a book written by Frank Miller, which is considered by many as the greatest Batman story ever told.  I also really like Batman: Under the Red Hood, which is based on a book written by Judd Winick. In the movie (and the book), Batman has to face his greatest failure and try to make amends while not breaking his own moral code.  If you get the chance, I highly recommend checking out both Dark Knight Returns and Under the Red Hood.

There are also a lot of fan films based on the Dark Knight that are really good.  Here are a couple I enjoy:

The first one doesn’t even feature Batman.  It’s called Grayson, and it was made by a guy named John Fiorella. The movie plays like a trailer, and it tells the story of what Dick Grayson would do if Batman died.  The characters are more in line with the 60’s TV show than the comics or the more modern movies, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.  Fiorella actually wrote a feature length script for the movie and made a bunch of behind the scenes stuff (which you can find here: http://www.untamedcinema.com/ ).

The second Batman fan film I really like is called Batman: Dead End.  This one was made by someone named Sandy Collora (http://collorastudios.com/) .  It starts as your basic Batman versus Joker story… and then gets way more awesome in ways I cannot describe using Earthly words.  Let’s just say that Batman ends up in the middle of an interplanetary war.  You need to watch this.

And that’s just the tip of the Batman iceberg.  There is so much more for a Batman fan to get into.  If you’re not a Batman fan, you were probably dropped on your head as a baby and ate paint chips during your formative years.  Even so, it’s never too late to get into the greatest character ever created.

I could get into why I am such a big fan of Batman, but I think I’ll leave that for another post.  At this point, after all the entertainment I have enjoyed based on this character, all I’ll do is say thank you.  Thank you to DC comics and Bob Kane (and the various other people he had ghost write for him) for making the world’s greatest super hero.

In honour of my hero, I will wrap up this post, not with my usual BAMPF, but with a special sign off:

BAT-NIPS!

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