Holy Bat-movies! – Part 3

We did it! We made it! I was worried for a second…

In Part One – we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Tim Burton’s Batman Returns

Then in Part Two – we tore apart Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and the god awful Batman and Robin

Now it’s time to review Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy!

Batman Begins

Batman Begins (2005)

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale (Batman), Liam Neeson (Ra’s Al Ghul), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Ken Watanabe (fake Ra’s), Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Rutger Hauer (Mr. Earle)

Batmobile:

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Plot: A true origin story following Bruce’s life periodically from the murder of his parents to his travels around the world making himself into Batman, one step at a time. He becomes a member of, and eventually turns against, the League of Shadows, who come to Gotham to get their revenge and destroy the city. As Batman, he must face the Falcone mafia, the Scarecrow, and Ra’s Al Ghul, while trying to rekindle his relationship with childhood friend turned assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, establishing a relationship with Jim Gordon (one of the only honest cops in Gotham), and working to get his company back from Mr. Earle.

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Holy Bat-movies! – Part 2

Last time, in Part One: we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Batman Returns, now for our descent into Hell…

BATMAN FOREVER poster

Batman Forever (1995)

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Val Kilmer (Batman), Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Jim Carrey (Riddler), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian), Michael Gough (Alfred)

Batmobile:

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Plot: Batman and his new sidekick Robin must face the combined forces of Two-Face (former district attorney Harvey Dent, who blames Batman for the courtroom incident that scarred his face) and the Riddler (Edward Nygma, a former employee of Bruce Wayne seeking revenge for being justifiably fired), and their device that is going to steal all of the information from all of the brains in Gotham. Or some stupid crap.

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Holy Bat-movies!

All the Batmen

Batman has had a number of incarnations over the 75 years he’s been around, and many of them have been captured on film in the last 50 years. Depending on which movie you watch, he can be either part of the campy, ridiculous dynamic duo to the dark, brooding, badass dark knight. Depending on which version you prefer you can find at least one film that is to your tastes and is a totally valid interpretation of the character. Unless you like Batman and Robin, in which case go fuck yourself.

Erik and I will break down each of the Batman’s feature films, beginning with the 1966 adaptation of the television show and ending with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, and will attempt to convey what is good and bad about each, and which ones we liked (Batman), loved (Dark Knight) and straight up went into murderous hatred over (Batman & Robin).

Animated features were left out this time, as there are so many we feel like they deserve their own article.

Batman '66

Batman: The Movie (1966)

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Top 10 Comic Book Movie Villains

Part of making a good comic book movie is getting the hero correct. You have to make sure they look close enough to the source material, and you really have to make sure the character feels right. You can’t have Daredevil fighting on a seesaw, or Batman and Robin going to a social event with the media present and talking to reporters (I hate you, Schumacher).

But, just as importantly as all of that is getting the villain right. How many lame ass versions of cool characters have ruined (or at least contributing to the ruining of) movies? I’m looking at you, Jim Carrey’s Riddler, Danny Devito’s Penguin, Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face, Arnold’s Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy, Collin Farrell’s Bullseye, Jigsaw in Punisher War Zone, and every villain in every Superman movie (yes, even Terrance Stamp’s Zod).

Here are my top 10 examples of villains they got right.

10. The Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)

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This really shouldn’t have worked. They completely changed everything about the character except for his name, Emil Blonsky. He looks different, acts different, has a completely different origin, and somewhat different motivations. The only real similarities besides his name are the fact that he’s as strong as, or stronger than, the Hulk, he’s huge, and he’s a maniac who has no qualms whatsoever about massacring anyone and everyone that gets anywhere near him.

I like the fact that we saw Blonsky evolve from a regular man to a psuedo super soldier to a gamma monster. I like the design, despite the fact that he’s completely different from the version that’s been around for nearly 50 years. I like that he’s made with a combination of super soldier serum and Hulk blood, which is the worst nightmare of the Hulk, and something that would/will piss off Captain America to no end.

I think the fight(s) between Blonsky/Abomination and the Hulk are the highlights of this movie, and probably keep it from being a really average movie.

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – BRONZE AGE (3 of 4)

Continued from Part 2: The Silver Age

THE BRONZE AGE (1970 to 1985)

— “I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever — I am PHOENIX!!!” – Jean Grey (Dark Phoenix)

This is considered to be the start of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics, and with good reason, which continued into the late 90’s (the Copper Age). Some very dark twists to many popular characters backstories were first established during this time such as: (Retro Spoiler Alert!) the Green Goblin killing Spider-man’s girlfriend (Gwen Stacy, not MJ), the demise of Jason Todd (the second Robin) at the hands of the Joker, Elektra’s murder by Bullseye, etc… (BULLSEYE was introduced in Daredevil #131 – 1976, and ELEKTRA in #168 – 1981)

Often disputed between comic fans / historians, this Bronze Era is typically said to have occurred sometime between 1970 and 1985 give or take a couple years. This was a time when comic books became more socially conscious and began featuring real-world issues. Comic books were no longer just an escape from reality, but a mirror of it. This is when the legends behind the most acclaimed adult-themed comics started to creep onto the scene. Writers and artists like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, George Perez, Joe Quesada, and countless others who are still relevant today, most of whom are still actively in the comic industry today!

The Bronze Age was when there was a resurgence in interest for super heroes in general. Following the cheesy campy spoof that was the Batman 60’s TV series was the first serious, live action, depiction of a comic book, on the silver screen with Superman: The Movie in the late 70’s, and in the 80’s there was the Wonder Woman show and the Incredible Hulk became a Smash Hit! (pun-intended)

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The Not-So-Great Debate #1

The Not-so-Great-Debate: Battle of the Rogues
Batman / Spider-man

One of my favorite things about reading comics is the sheer amount of debates you can have about them. Who is cooler: Batman or Superman? Who is faster: Quicksilver or the Flash? Who would win: the Hulk or the Thing? Burton Batman or Nolan Batman? Married Spider-Man or single Spider-Man? Cyclops’ X-Men or Wolverine’s X-Men? Captain America or Iron Man? Avengers or X-Men?

I’ve always been interested in these conversations. When I worked at a comic book store, one of my favorite things was to listen to the arguments customers would have (especially the younger ones). The best one I ever heard was between three brothers: One was about twelve, the next probably 9 or 10, and the youngest was 7-ish.

They were debating which Robin was the coolest. The oldest loved Jason Todd, the second Robin that was murdered by the Joker, but mostly because of his time as the Red Hood since his unfortunate resurrection. The youngest was ALL ABOUT Tim Drake, and thought the other two were insane to even entertain this notion that there could ever be a Robin that measured up (for my money, he’s right, but that might be a topic for another day). The middle one had a strong argument, as he thought the best Robin was the first one- Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing (and replacement Batman). They went back and forth for probably twenty minutes, and it never devolved into shouting, or name calling, or anything like that. It was really just each kid making their case (“Tim beat the Joker! Without Batman!”). I remembered that conversation recently, and thought that there could be some entertainment value in something like that.

So, I called up Erik Slader (of EpikFAILs.com) and we settled on a topic that we come down on opposite sides of. We’re going to go back and forth, at least until we have each made our cases. If one of us can convince the other that we’re right, all the better, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…

Our first topic of discussion:

“Who has the better villains: Spider-Man or Batman?”

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ComicZombie: The best super-heroes always have awesome villains. Superman has Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Bizarro, and Doomsday; the Flash has Professor Zoom and the Rogues, whereas the X-Men have Apocalypse, Sinister, Magneto (sometimes), Sentinels, the Marauders, and just about every human on Earth; Daredevil has the Kingpin, Bullseye, Lady Bullseye, the Hand, Mr. Hyde, the Owl, and Mr. Fear, while the Fantastic Four have Dr. Doom; and the list goes on and on for the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and so on and so on.

However, I don’t think there is any debate that the heroes with the greatest villains are: Batman and Spider-Man. I also don’t think there’s any debate that Spider-Man edges out Batman for the title, but that’s why we’re here.

Batman has awesome villains, yes. But the real appeal for his rogues is really all at the top of the list; the heavy hitters, for lack of a better term. Spider-Man’s group of freaks is awesome all the way from the real bigs, like the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, etc to the guys that are practically hopeless, like the Shocker, Hydro Man, Boomerang, Cardiac, and a whole host of others. Granted, most of the appeal is at the top as well, but Spidey has more “A-list” villains than Batman does. His rogue’s gallery as a whole is just better.

ErikSmash!: So the duel Begins… 

Of course both of these dubious super-villain team-ups have their own merits, but on behalf of all Fan-boys and Geek-girls out there, I’m going to have to side with BATMAN’s rogues gallery as the best in all of comic-dom.

I might be a DC loyalist, yet even I can admit that your friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN has an all-star cast of costumed crazies, and perhaps even the best rogues gallery.. in the MARVEL universe that is!, but you have got to be shitting me if you think for a second that Spidey’s baddies are anywhere near the archetypal greatness that are the foes of the Dark Knight! Two-Face, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, The JOKER! All these characters are so awesome they often overshadow the hero. It can be argued that as cool as Batman is, it’s his villains that make him legendary, these are tales so psychologically metaphorical they will last the test of time and have already proven their versatility in their various reincarnations over the ‘Ages’ (Gold through Platinum).

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are tonight’s entertainment! I only have one question. Where is Harvey Dent?” – the Joker

I’m not going to even bother defending guys like CALENDAR MAN, MAXIE-ZUES, KG-BEAST, KILLER-MOTH, or VENTRILOQUIST, for example, but even those guys have had their moments, and can cause some serious trouble for Gotham’s Knight. However, when it comes to Batman’s rather extensive (and ever-growing) rogue’s gallery, the numerous heavy hitters far exceed those of the bottom of the barrel rejects. So let’s start with the one that is more acclaimed than all of Spider-man’s bad guys put together:

THE JOKER! From his first eerie introduction in Batman #1 to Heath Ledger’s terrifying portrayal in Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy, this agent of anarchy is the essence of nightmares. Not only that, but as perhaps Batman’s ultimate arch-enemy, you’ve got a perfect foil for one dark and brooding, ever-stoic, crusader of justice, versus: an unstable, unpredictable, laughing terrorist, dressed in a purple suit with makeup and green hair, whose only out to prove that life is meaningless, and doesn’t even care if you get his inside jokes. Denny O Neal once claimed that the Joker is not only one if the greatest comic book villains, but that he’s right up there with the other great villains in all of literature. My favorite thing about the character is that almost everything he does has an ulterior motive, or worse: not motive at all. For instance, when the Joker brutally murders your best friend in a most horrific (albeit humorous) manner there’s a 50/50 chance that it was either a spur of the moment idea that conveniently presented itself, or was simply an elaborate plan to drive you over the edge of sanity itself. Check out ‘The Man Who Laughs’ by Ed Brubaker (featuring a retelling of his first encounter with the Batman, following ‘Year One’), ‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore (one of the most acclaimed and pivotal Joker tales), or better yet: Brian Azzarello’s chilling graphic novel simply entitled, ‘JOKER’!

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