Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

  • Year: 2016
  • Director:  Zack Snyder
  • Series Rank:  #8
  • Year Rank:  #68
  • Oscar Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Robin Atkin Downes (Doomsday)
  • Batman Allies:  Henry Cavill (Superman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jeremy Irons (Alfred)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film beset with a lot of problems, the first of which is the title, which is terrible.  Clearly the marketing people at Warners stressed that both names had to be in the title and then some idiot decided to put a v in there.  That wasn’t the only problem before the film had been released, of course.  It was contending with the fact that its director Zack Snyder, makes empty violent spectacles with little depth to them.  He had somehow gotten the reputation for being a comic book director even though his comic book movies are mostly terrible.  Snyder reminds me of this paragraph from the Rolling Stone Album Guide: “A New York Times headline once suggested that ‘If There Hadn’t Been a Bruce Springsteen, Then the Critics Would Have Made Him Up,’ but that’s utter nonsense.  If rock critics had tried to invent a Springsteen, this is what they would have come up with – a singer who understands rock’s drama and tradition but lacks the vision necessary to transform them into something greater.  In other words, John Cafferty.” (p 105)  In this case, it’s not the critics inventing a singer like Springsteen but fanboys creating a director like Tim Burton: someone who has a sense of style and flashiness but without the greater understanding of how to make this work to his advantage in making a coherent film that utilizes the style instead of just relying on it.  In other words, Zack Snyder. (more…)

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The Dark Knight Rises

  • Year:  2012
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Series Rank:  #3
  • Year Rank:  #9
  • Oscar Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Batman Villains:  Tom Hardy (Bane)
  • Love Interest:  Anne Hathaway (Catwoman), Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate)
  • Batman Allies:  Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake)

Any movie that has a countdown, a race against time as its climax will always beat the clock.  Sometimes you can beat the clock with wit (like Goldfinger, ending on 007 even though Bond himself doesn’t do it) and sometimes it’s just pathetic (like in Octopussy).  But they will always beat the clock, because otherwise what’s the point?  So it’s always a question of how artfully you do it.  To my mind, the best examples of when you’re so caught up in the moment, so pulled in by the editing and the cinematography and especially the music (music is always so important in any kind of race against the clock like this) that you’re ignoring the cliche and just reveling in the race are Star Wars, of course, and The Dark Knight Rises.  But then, the film takes an added step and we really haven’t beaten the countdown, because that bomb is still there and still deteriorating and we’re running out of time. (more…)

The Dark Knight

  • Year:  2008
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Series Rank:  #1
  • Year Rank:  #2
  • Oscar Nominations:  Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Makeup
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Makeup
  • Batman Villains:  Heath Ledger (The Joker), Aaron Eckhart (Two-Face)
  • Love Interest:  Maggie Gyllenhaal  (Rachel Dawes)
  • Batman Allies:  Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox)

“I don’t need help,” Batman growls at a group of copycats.  “Not my diagnosis,” replies Jonathan Crane, still moonlighting as the Scarecrow, though this time what he’s doing is a bit different.  It shows that even in the darkness that Christopher Nolan has descended into with this, the best Batman film (by far), there can still be a bit of sly humor.  Like the moment when Bruce is considering giving up being Batman for the sake of the populace of Gotham and Alfred says “They’ll probably lock me up as an accomplice.”  Bruce replies “Accomplice? I’m going to tell them the whole thing was your idea.”  It’s nice to have a little levity in the midst of all the darkness. (more…)

Batman Begins

  • Year:  2005
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Series Rank:  #2
  • Year Rank:  #7
  • Oscar Nominations:  Cinematography
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Editing, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Sound Editing
  • Batman Villains:  Liam Neeson (Ducard), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Ken Watanabe (Ra’s Al Ghul)
  • Love Interest:  Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes)
  • Batman Allies:  Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox)

Non comic book fans always complain that the first movie in a comic book movie series must deal with the dreaded origin story (comic book fans, on the other hand, don’t mind seeing Peter get bitten, Kal-El rocketing away from Krypton or Bruce deciding what will drive fear into the hearts of that cowardly lot).  This film has a double burden because not only is it the origin story, but it’s one we’ve already seen before.  Like The Exorcist, Jaws and Halloween, this film must live with starting an unfortunate trend, but like those three films it does it so well, we try not to lay the blame on this film.  It’s the first reboot of a super-hero film franchise.  While the stretch from 1989 to 1997 had three different Batmans, it had one continuous series.  But now, we’ve dropped all that, gone back to the basics and found out where it all started.  We’ve moved away from the camp that Schumacher and Goldsman had brought to the character and returned to its roots, to the darkness in that alley when his parents are gunned down, to the corruption in Gotham that causes the city to fester and stink, to the dark soul of a man who feels the need to dress up as a bat and bring fear to the people who deserve it.  He is a man, that, like is said about him in this film, clearly has issues and we will find out what those issues are. (more…)

Batman & Robin

  • Year:  1997
  • Director:  Joel Schumacher
  • Series Rank:  #12
  • Year Rank:  #178
  • Oscar Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mr. Freeze), Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), Robert Swenson (Bane)
  • Love Interest:  Elle MacPherson (Julie Madison)
  • Batman Allies:  Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Alicia Silverstone (Batgirl), Michael Gough (Alfred), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon)

You could tell this film was going to be bad before it even started.  In fact, you could tell that before it even started filming.  It wasn’t just the returning director, Joel Schumacher, or writer, Akiva Goldsman, both of whom are astoundingly inept.  It was the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Now, just because Arnold was in the film didn’t mean it was a complete return to the camp of the sixties show.  But casting him as Mr. Freeze just about guaranteed it, something that was solidified by the trailer which showed him in full punning mode: “Okay everyone, chill!”  The first Schumacher film had set Batman back at least six years (to before Tim Burton had gotten hold of him) and this one was threatening to undo everything good that Burton had done. (more…)

Batman Forever

  • Year:  1995
  • Director:  Joel Schumacher
  • Series Rank:  #9
  • Year Rank:  #138
  • Oscar Nominations:  Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Jim Carrey (The Riddler)
  • Love Interest:  Nicole Kidman (Chase Meridian)
  • Batman Allies:  Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Michael Gough (Alfred), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon)

We’re a little over halfway through the film and young (but not young enough) Dick Grayson has just taken the Batmobile out for a spin and kicked the crap out of same bad guys (and would have gotten a severe beating for his troubles had Batman not shown up).  Now he’s back and arguing with Bruce about whether or not they can be partners.  This should be a terrible scene, especially considering that Dick had no reason to ever be taken in by Bruce since he’s clearly in his late teens at earliest and there would have been no need for the supposed social services that were claimed earlier.  We’ve got one actor who was never really all that talented and one whose ego and inability to get along with anyone usually rode roughshod over his talent.  Yet, somehow these scenes, with the girl who was rescued (thinking Dick is Batman because he claimed to be) claiming “Doesn’t Batman ever kiss the girl?” and Dick arguing that he’s gonna be Bruce’s partner whether he likes it or not are among the best scenes in this film.  Too bad that this film was already beyond saving long before we ever got to the scene. (more…)

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

  • Year:  1993
  • Director:  Eric Radomski  /  Bruce W. Timm
  • Series Rank:  #7
  • Year Rank:  #38
  • Oscar Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Mark Hamill (Joker), Hart Bochner (Arthur Reeves)
  • Love Interest:  Dana Delaney  (Andrea Beaumont)
  • Batman Allies:  Efrem Zimbalist, Jr (Alfred), Bob Hastings (Commissioner Gordon)

When I was in college, there was a successful wrestler at my school that I knew who was built oddly.  He had this enormous upper body and these scrawny little legs.  It is a look that a lot of animators like to give to their characters (which has roots in the comics themselves when drawn by such people as Rob Liefeld) and I’m not fond of it.  It is the look of Batman specifically in this film, as it was in the Batman Animated series which was critically acclaimed but I didn’t watch because I was in college and was watching hardly any television.  The show was a huge hit and given the noir feel of the show, that was understandable.  The film also has a lot of critical acclaim and I have a harder time understanding that.  It was thrown into theaters in the years between Keaton taking off the mask and Kilmer putting it on and most people didn’t seem to notice as it quickly died at the box office (it made just over $5 million when every Batman live-action film was taking in at least $40 million on opening weekend alone). (more…)