Whilst this is a movie site, rather than a comic one, I think it is interesting to chuck some reviews of different types of work on here occasionally. Plus the main story in The Adventures of Superman #14 is written by Max Landis, son of the great John Landis, he of the exceptional pitch for Ghostbusters 3 and writer of the excellent script behind the much beloved Chronicle (2012). So there is a film connection to this review.
There are a couple of great, distinguishing factors about this story from Landis. For starters, it features a nemesis of the Batman – The Joker, showing up on Superman’s turf. I am not all over comic book history, so it is quite possible these two have interacted on occasions before. But it was a novelty for me. One captured awesomely by the cover of the book which you can see above, with the Joker striking an iconic Superman pose.
The second distinguishing factor, and one that is possibly my favourite thing about this story, is that the ‘action’ so to speak consists almost entirely of the two characters standing around having a chat (ok Superman is technically hovering, but you get my drift). By having them literally just talking, trading dialogue, the effect is that the reader feels they can genuinely peer into the psyche of both a major villain and an archetypically perfect hero. I have not read a whole lot of Superman comics, but they generally seem ultra serious. Or at least the character is. It is great then that Landis sets up this patter between the two characters with Superman interacting and toying with the Joker on a really fun level. Some of the best moments here are when Supes laughs at the Joker’s jokes, a reaction that the supervillain is really not sure how to take.
Something else that will interest comic book readers, or just fans of their films, is the somewhat terse relationship between Superman and Batman that Landis constructs. I won’t give too much of the detail away cause you really should read it to get the flavour of it. During his discussion with the Joker, Superman perhaps reveals some of his true feelings about Bruce Wayne’s superhero alter-ego. And then toward the end of the story the two of them have a little clash over what the responsibilities of being a superhero. Landis expanded on some of these ideas on his twitter account, today. Check out some of his thoughts below (and if you are on twitter, Landis is a great follow and often tweets out really interesting stuff on the writing process.
I loved the boldness of some aspects of the art in the book as well. Artist Jock obviously did not feel constrained to present everything in the one style or even stick to one physical depiction of the Joker. It is an approach that is initially a touch disconcerting but definitely grew on me as the story progressed. And given my movie focus, it would be remiss of me not to share this amazing panel, which pays homage to the interpretation of the character by Nicholson, Ledger and others. It does not totally stick out as a gimmick either because I think the effect is to show the constantly evolving and shifting mental state of the Joker, even in a single sentence.
There is also a second, fun story about Superman babysitting in The Adventures of Superman #14. It is not written by Landis, so I won’t give it a full review. But consider it a fun little extra if you decide to pick this one up. Which I highly recommend you do. It is a breezy and original read with some interesting psychology and superhero relationship stuff going on underneath.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Chronicle and Comic Review: Captain America The Winter Soldier film tie-in.
In the first look at a Michael Caine for the week, Jon Fisher from The Film Brief blog and podcast takes a look at Batman Begins.
It speaks to the deceptively rapid passage of time that it has been nearly a decade since Batman Begins (2005) was released. In the time since this movie, superhero movies have returned in a big way, a way that likely wouldn’t have happened unless this movie or something like it had come along to reinvigorate interest in comic books films as super-profitable ventures. Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011), Captain America (2011), and the other Marvel Avengers all owe Batman Begins, at least in part, for their existence so it’s worthwhile to look back at Nolan’s breakthrough piece and consider what, if anything, it did for the aesthetics of the superhero movie.
First of all, it should be pointed out that superhero stories shouldn’t be discounted as lesser films simply because of the source material. The late Roger Ebert once wrote that a movie isn’t about what it’s about – it’s about how it’s about it. With regards to superhero movies, the poor track record prior to 2005 wasn’t due to the innately vapid source material. Rather, it spoke to the puerile way that most film-makers treated the material handed to them – mining morally complex and visually exciting material for the sake of lowest-common denominator, throw-away bile, before defending it by intimating “They’re only comic books…”
Thus, Nolan deserves some credit for treating the material seriously in the first place. His Batman Begins is an origin story – (briefly) chronicling Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) troubled childhood, his encounter with the League of Shadows, and the trial-and-error process that resulted in him esablishing the structure we identify as the Batman universe. This includes Alfred the Butler (played the ever-so-consummate thespian Michael Caine), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and some lesser known characters from the comic book series (the Scarecrow, for instance, played by Cillian Murphy). All of this is presented with choppy, non-linear narrative – a Chrisopher Nolan signature ever since his intriguing first short film Following (1998) and the outstanding Memento (2000).
The film, overall, is a good and entertaining one, although far from a perfect one. Nolan certainly nails the film’s tone – dark, introspective and murky. He uses fine cinematography, suitably morose performances and a Hans Zimmer score that has become synonymous with the Caped Crusader to achieve this tone. The film’s shortcomings mainly lie in simple storytelling errors – which have plagued the subsequent sequels, The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). These are mainly minor, but are certainly irritating for rationalist film buffs. One example – during a scene in which the League of Shadows demands that Wayne murder a simple thief to complete his ‘graduation’ from their training, Wayne refuses on moral grounds. He explains in the screenplay’s classically succinct and modestly poetic style: “When I go back to Gotham, I will fight men like this, but I will not become an executioner.”
Wayne goes on to flick a flame stick onto a platform above him stacked with gunpowder (you can imagine Ra’s Al Ghul invoking Homer Simpson and stating “I… keep some gunpowder there), which ignites the entire fragile structure of the building, and after a brief fist-fight, Wayne manages to escape, choosing to save Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), the man who trained him but just revealed himself to be a morally simplistic, basically nasty and untrustworthy person. Wayne apparently doesn’t mind that he clearly just sealed the fate of the man he initially refused to execute.
Moments like this pop up from time to time throughout the trilogy (there’s a doozy in The Dark Knight when Harvey Dent shoots a driver in the head in order to force the car to crash and kill its passenger – no visual explanation of how Dent escaped the car before it crashed). Usually they are minor irritations, but they prevent the Nolan films from being the super-perfect saga most people so desperately wish them to be. And it’s best not to get started on the way the trilogy (and the Batman mythology generally) uses the cover-all excuse of “he’s a billionaire” to explain away any number of truly unbelievable technological set-ups. This is acceptable as an ‘all in good fun’ approach to a point – but when investing 11 or so hours of one’s life to a trilogy that insists we take it seriously, audiences deserve a little more of a cerebral approach from the film-makers.
I still prefer to focus mainly on the things that Christopher Nolan does right in his Batman films. He re-crafted Bruce Wayne as a morally complex man, truly tortured by his past, unable to express himself emotionally to those closest to him. He transformed Batman from a caricature (i.e. the Joel Schumacher produced and directed films of the 1990s) into a character. Along the way Nolan also created the most iconic (and, as it turned out, tragic) villain of modern times in Batman Begins’ sequel… But that’s a review for another day.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
Jonathan Fisher is the creator and writer of (the kinda defunct but hopefully coming back) The Film Brief website and podcast. Be sure to check out his site as well as like his page on facebook here and follow along on twitter @thefilmbrief.
- Not Suitable for Children (2012), Peter Templeman – A cracker of a script brings this inner-west Sydney comedy to life. Not afraid to confound expectations, the film also delivers a healthy quota of genuine laughs. Refreshingly frank about booze, drugs and sex this excellently performed piece is the kind of Aussie film you really hope finds an audience. Also features the most fantastically awkward sex scene ever.
- East West 101: Season 1 (2007), Steve Knapman & Kris Wyld – This is an intriguing Aussie cop drama. There are definitely annoyances – shaky, hyperkinetic camerawork and individual storylines that are not always satisfying – but the storyline of Malik and his father is really well drawn out. The exploration of race, despite some initial clumsiness, also comes to satisfy by the season’s excellent (and genuinely shocking) conclusion.
- This Means War (2012), McG – I’m a big fan of all three leads in this – Pine, Witherspoon and Hardy. This is nice and light, there is no real sense of tension but the action scenes are good. The script is not great, especially the early establishment of Pine’s character and the motivation of all the characters is often warped. But in the end, this is genuinely funny and well performed, with Chelsea Handler as Witherspoon’s best friend almost stealing the show.
- The Amazing Spiderman (2012), Marc Webb – This is a fun film that looks great. But there is no denying that much of what is covered was done better by the first Raimi film. Andrew Garfield is a little hit and miss in the title role but Emma Stone is her usual delightful self. Unfortunately very little of the welcome humour that characterised the trailer is transferred to the final film. But despite all of this, the film is still more than enjoyable enough popcorn fluff.
- Batman Begins (2005), Christopher Nolan – This incredible film has come to sit somewhat unfairly in the shadow of its phenomenal sequel. Nolan’s first Batman flick is a really dense, multifaceted origin story which remains extremely accessible to non-comic book readers. The script expertly establishes the characters’ values and psychology above all. Katie Holmes’ performance in this is really underrated; I think she does better than Maggie Gyllenhaal who replaced her in the sequel. The film finishes on one of my all time favourite sequel setups as well.
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Christopher Nolan – As a standalone film, this is imperfect. However as the closing film of the trilogy, it is pretty darn close to perfection. The quibbles for me include the late twist, OWS references which veer into the overwrought and resolution of the main action that is not 100% successful. But I loved much of this. There is a couple of cracking action set pieces, the setup for the sidequel/spinoff is masterful and personally I was a huge fan of the ending. Michael Caine is amazing in a small role whilst Joseph Gordon-Levitt in detective mode is very good.
- Magic Mike (2012), Steven Soderbergh – I really liked this. On the surface this is a tale of male strippers. But there’s some (not too much) added depth here. Channing Tatum has a real charm and presence about him onscreen, as does female lead Cody Horne who is delightful despite occasional stilted line delivery. Biggest accolades must go to director Soderbergh though who is in good form, keeping proceedings zipping along rapidly, even as the action threatens to become predictable.
Not Worth Watching:
- Brave (2012), Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman – As far as animated films go, this is decidedly average. For a Pixar film it is utter pants. Technically, they continue to improve but it seems too much effort has gone into making Merida’s hair look amazing, and not enough into making the narrative amazing. This is a tepid tale, totally lacking in any Pixar distinctiveness or subversiveness.
- Safe House (2012), Daniel Espinosa – Cool idea. A CIA traitor just saunters into the American embassy in South Africa. Especially when you add in the fact that the traitor is played by none other than Denzel Washington. But this film never gets off the ground, making you wonder why anyone bothered. The action scenes are surprisingly sparse, and when they arrive they are annoyingly, shakily shot. Denzel is surely the most watchable actor of his generation, but even he can’t make this worth your while.
If you only have time to watch one The Dark Knight Rises
Avoid at all costs Brave
Like what you read? Then please like Not Now I’m Drinking a Beer and Watching a Movie on facebook here.