“Once you crack the script, everything else follows.” — Ridley Scott, writer/producer/director of TV & film
If you have read many of my TV and movie reviews here over the years, you’ve probably noticed my frustration with… well, a lot of things. But, one refrain is that I’m not sure who to blame for a disappointing show: the writer(s) for a poorly developed story and/or character(s), the actor(s) for not doing a good job in the role(s), or the director for failing to elicit good performances or to realize the best vision for the material (or some such thing). Or, perhaps a combination?
Another issue has to do with proper casting. For instance, I had serious doubts about Daniel Craig as James Bond, as well as Ben Affleck playing Batman. But, in the end, I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. Just don’t get me started on Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan…. A related issue is when beloved characters are “tweaked” too much, imho, from the source material and/or the writer(s) demonstrate that they really don’t understand the character or his/her appeal.
A few weeks back, someone (“LKJSlain”) in one of the pop-culture Facebook groups I frequent posted some insightful observations of her own on this subject. I believe the original subject matter was the now-confirmed casting of Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman reboot. (I have been reminded that he is much more than just “that guy from Twilight“, so I am cautiously optimistic.) LKJSlain shared her thoughts not just on Pattinson but on DC-based movies in general and on Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. She was nice enough to let me share the post with my readers….
Here are my general thoughts (like anyone cared)… BY AND LARGE most people have absolutely despised the newer DC movies. NOW- there are some people who really enjoyed them, sure, and movies like Wonder Woman (minus the villain, which wasn’t terrible, but was WEIRD) and Shazam (which, IMO was MOSTLY incredible, minus a bump or two and an odd occasional problem with pacing) but the other films (Suicide Squad, Aquaman, BatmanVSSuperman, Man of Steel-) were not “necessarily” TERRIBLE but they had some really weird glaring errors that not only miffed the fans, but caused a lot of people who love the comic book genre and superhero / comic book films to just be left scratching their heads… – “Why did they go THIS direction?” “Why did THIS happen?” “WHAT THE HECK Batman wouldn’t DO that…” “Superman is acting strange…” “Mus…tache…” etc…
This combination of what I will call “oddities” makes for some really BIZARRE movies… I have my opinions about WHY (And a youtuber who I love named TheCosmonautVarietyHour has an EXCELLENT video that represents everything that I’d say here- it’s a 25 min -plus- long video that’s called “The Problem with DC’S Heroes” – watch it, it explains the problem perfectly, I can’t post it here because he cusses a lot…)
But here’s the deal… The problems are not the actors… the PROBLEMS are the movies themselves…
RobPat might be INCREDIBLE portraying Batman, [but] it’s not going to matter if the Batman he portrays is written terribly and leaves the audience with a sense of confusion / head scratching more than, “Heck yes, that’s the Batman that I know and love!”
I’ll use the JOKER movie as an example.
Joaquin Phoenix can act. HE … CAN… ACT… But do you know what I DON’T want to see? A movie that makes me feel EMPATHETIC towards the Joker… -_- (again, these are the things that are WELL explained in the video I mentioned above…) As a writer, it always miffs me SO MUCH with these movies because I always feel (pardon my hubris) that I could have written a BETTER Joker story.
TO ME this movie “JOKER” is CRYING for the audience to “feel sorry” for and thus “understand” the Joker… I DON’T WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE JOKER! That’s why he’s such an awesome character, he’s one of the few villains that encompasses and represents TOTAL chaos, anarchy, and a sense of “WHY?” It makes for a GREAT villain, and part of the greatness of that villain IS the mystery. If you REMOVE the mystery, it’s not the same character and after that, the audience will ALWAYS say, “Oh, well…his horrible past…” etc… -_- NO!
My point being- one of the reasons that people roll their eyes with these choices is NOT the actors themselves, but trying to picture THESE actors in the modern DC films… *cringe*…
Regarding her initial comments, I can’t comment re Aquaman or Shazam!, since I haven’t seen them, yet. As for the rest, yeah, I’m pretty much in agreement. In regards to Phoenix as Joker, I mentioned in another post that I would (eventually) check out that film. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was a bit “iffy” on it, but I think LKJSlain comes pretty close. I am perhaps more accepting of some origin for the character. But, the never-fully-answered question of “How did this guy get so screwed up?!” is indeed part of the appeal. We certainly don’t want a sob-story to make us empathize (sympathize?) with the Joker. He is the embodiment of chaotic evil, a capricious homicidal maniac with a clown fetish, and Batman’s arch-est of archenemies. That’s all.
Bottom line is that, while Phoenix will no doubt give a marvelous performance, this is not the Joker we’ve been looking for. (Nor is that Jared Leto version from Suicide Squad.) It’s like DC / Warner Bros don’t even understand their own characters, and they have only themselves to blame for their cinematic failures.