Bat-News

There was a small flurry of Batman-related news over the past month or so, so I thought I’d make a few comments….

“Gotham”

We have a new Ra’s al Ghul to look forward to, this time in “Gotham”. As you’ll remember, in the Nolan/Bale film trilogy, the character was played by Ken Watanabe and then Liam Neeson. More recently, Matt Nable played the quasi-immortal master assassin in several episodes of “Arrow”. While I respect the talent of all three actors, I felt those versions were… unsatisfactory. Part of it is the writers’ fault, of course, but none of them quite captured the essence of the character for me.

Siddig in GoT

The latest interpretation of the Demon’s Head will be portrayed by Alexander Siddig (5’11.75″,b.1965), most well-known for his role as Dr. Julian Bashir on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. (Siddig has, of course, been in many other genre productions, including Kingdom of Heaven, “24”, “Primeval”, “Game of Thrones”, etc.) This is an intriguing choice. He (a Sudanese native) is much closer in ethnicity to Ra’s al Ghul (an Egyptian) than any of the previous actors, and he has played villainous characters before. On the other hand, I’m not sure he has the proper bearing (if that’s the right term) to portray this character correctly. While projecting a certain nobility/regalness, Ra’s is also a very physical person — martial artist / swordsman and often seen bare-chested. So, if they are planning on him displaying much physicality, Siddig had better be physically fit and properly trained.

We shall see. I just hope that they get the other visual aspects right this time, too — from the sometimes Wolverine-like hair & whiskers to his distinctive style of clothes (i.e., sort of a mix of Dr. Jekyll, Doctor Strange, and Doctor Doom).

The Batman

Among the latest news about the solo The Batman movie is that Ben Affleck may be trying to bail (no pun intended) on the role, apparently due to frustrations with Batman vs. Superman‘s reviews, development hassles, and pain-in-the-butt fans. As per Johnny Brayson at Outer Places,

“[S]ources claim that Affleck and Warner Bros. are currently in talks that would see him exit the role, and though he reportedly would like to leave before The Batman, the studio is apparently trying to convince him to stay on for the standalone movie before he takes his leave.”

Assuming any of this is true, you have to wonder if it’s a play for more money.

I know that some people are still very anti-Batfleck and would love to see him leave the franchise. I was skeptical but actually appreciated his performance in BvS and would like him to stay awhile. He is already in Justice League this November, and I would prefer to see continuity with him in The Batman (2018?) and the Justice League sequel (2019). After that, though, I would like to see a reboot with a younger Bruce/Batman. (I’m putting some story ideas together, which I will post in a few weeks/months.)

The other news on this front is that Affleck abdicated the director’s chair and a replacement has been named: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes franchise).

Nightwing

Among the better fan-made film shorts and web-series about superheroes is “Nightwing: The Series” (2014, 5 episodes). I only caught one or two episodes, but I thought they were pretty decent and had good fight choreography. There is also a new “The Nightwing” mini-series being filmed by another group this year. Fans of the Nightwing character who have been holding out hope for a feature film, though, may finally be getting their wish.

Just a couple weeks ago, Warner Brothers announced that they are now planning a live-action Nightwing film! It will be directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, “Robot Chicken”), with screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge). Since this is just barely getting underway, little is known. An adult Dick Grayson / Nightwing would fit with Affleck’s 40-something Bruce Wayne / Batman, but we don’t yet know if there will be an effort to connect the two.

We do know, however, that McKay’s take on the character will probably be a bit lighter, less gritty than Batman, especially the Batfleck version. As he said in a recent podcast,

“Dick Grayson didn’t come from [privilege]. Dick Grayson came from a circus family. Essentially people who aren’t rich and they are self-made. They’re entertainers. They’re gymnasts. They’re people who live hand-to-mouth and that’s something that informs him and his attitude.

He’s a fascinating guy to me, because he had all the same things happen to him [as Bruce had]…. [Y]et he remains still a brutal fighter but he’s not a playboy, he loves people dearly. Those things are why I like Dick Grayson, why I like the idea of Nightwing as a movie.”

That sounds good to me and in line with the way Grayson is usually portrayed in the comics.

Ideally, I would like to see the evolution of Dick Grayson from young, newbie-hero Robin to independent Nightwing over several years. (This would be part of those ideas I’m developing.) But, if the powers-that-be are already planning a solo film, I have a feeling that I won’t get my wish. There just isn’t time to develop the character. I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2020 or later, but whether tied to Batfleck or independent, we may not know for a while. Wherever in the current DCEU timeline it takes place, I just hope (as usual) that the writers/producers respect and draw directly from the source material. Please, comic gods, let it be a faithful and fun ride!

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Brief Notes on Nolan/Bale Batman Films

Alright, I’m gonna say it up front: I didn’t think Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was as great as many critics and fans have made it out to be. Part of my issue was because of Gotham itself. Nolan wanted to do a “more realistic” take on the Batman mythos, which apparently included making Gotham look & feel like just about any other big city in the U.S. I am all for a strong foundation in realism, but for me Gotham also needs to have a dose of the dark, gothic quirkiness seen in the comics, the animated series, and even (just barely) in the “Gotham” TV series.

the_dark_knight_trilogy___movie_poster_by_zungam80-d76af9nI’m going to risk retribution from many fans by saying that I also am not a *huge* fan of Heath Ledger’s Joker. (With Jared Leto getting so much attention and applause for his version of the Joker before Suicide Squad even begins filming, I feel a little safer admitting this, now.) I didn’t say I wasn’t a fan of Ledger’s portrayal at all. The emphasis on the anarchist side of the character was interesting on its own merits, and Ledger’s performance was quite good, including the occasional ad lib. He really did make the character his own. But,… it just wasn’t the version of the Joker that I wanted to see/hear and have been waiting for for decades.

The same could be said for Christian Bale’s take on Bruce Wayne / Batman. Bale did a decent job within Nolan’s Bat-universe, I suppose. But, he wasn’t big enough, or confident enough, or formidable enough, or…. Both his hand-to-hand combat and his detective skills were far from impressive, too. (Sorry, dudes.)

As I have done for other movies, I jotted down a few brief notes — mostly re the latter two entries — that I just have to get off my chest. So, here goes…

  • Ra’s Al Ghul doesn’t look or act quite right. Plus, he was not Bruce’s only mentor/trainer.
  • Joker not prankster-ish enough.
  • Villains die too quickly (i.e., they should barely escape or be locked in Arkham or Blackgate).
  • Alfred’s accent and mannerisms are not right.
  • Bruce would not wallow in pity (and allow himself to get out of physical shape/practice) for 8 years, and he would never leave Gotham for good.
  • Is this new “Robin” (John Blake) supposed to be an amalgam of other Robins? Is he really going to inherit the ‘mantle of the bat’ so soon?
  • Bane should have been even bigger and had a different accent. (And what’s with the cheesy voice f/x?)
  • Gotham looks too much like any other city. It has no Gotham-esque character. It s/b somewhere between “normal” and the Gotham from the Tim Burton movies.
  • Christian Bale is a pretty fair BW/Batman, I guess, but the Batman voice has become laughable. He should use electronic alteration to mask it, instead.
  • Freeman is good as Lucius Fox, if a bit old. And since when is the character a technological genius?
  • Anne Hathaway was surprisingly good as Selina Kyle / Catwoman, and I like that they incorporated stuff from the comics. Should’ve had a cat fetish, though.
  • Gary Oldman is very good as Comm. Gordon.
  • The Bat Cave looks pretty good but needs to be “explored”. The vehicles, weapons, and gadgets are great but a bit too military-looking. (Yes, I realize that that is what they were originally designed for.)
  • In the three movies, we’ve seen little to make us think our hero is even an above-average fighter, and certainly not a world-class detective. (Heck, Alfred digs up more info than Bruce.) He is supposed to be the “world’s greatest detective” and master of multiple (dozens of?) martial arts, for cryin’ out loud! If Nolan wanted to make him “more realistic” by making him barely more than “ordinary”, he succeeded.
  • Leg-brace or no, if anyone had “no cartilage in your knee” along with Bruce’s other problems (with no explanation for them, mind you), he wouldn’t be in any shape to be running around and fighting, ESPECIALLY after having his back (presumably) broken. I don’t care if he was wearing a nifty, new leg brace.

Now, there are a lot of silly things, plot holes, and other stuff I didn’t get into. But, if you really want a brutal (but amusing) round-up of “Everything Wrong With The Dark Knight Rises In 3 Minutes Or Less”, check this out: