Joker: In this re imagined world from that Batman universe, Joaquin Phoenix adds new layers to this iconic character while talking frankly about mental illness.
The Song of Names: Based on the book of the same name, the film follows a man who is trying to discover the secrets of a missing childhood friend.
Frozen II: This sequel to the mega-hit Frozen was well worth the six year wait. Instead of doing a slap-dash direct to video type sequel, the filmmakers expanded this world in new ways, making the story even more relevant.
This will be my last post for 2019. Wherever you are, thank you for reading this year. May 2020 be bright and hopeful.
Batman has been part of our popular culture since his introduction to the public in the late 1930’s. Every generation, in its own way, has reinterpreted the Batman story to fit their era.
In 1966 Batman: The Movie was released. A spinoff of the television series, it is another fight against those would happily destroy the world as it exists. Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) must find a way to stop the United Underworld from holding humanity ransom via humans that have been turned into crystals.
Like the television show, it’s out there, to say the least. It is colorful, over the top and much lighter than the more recent adaptations of the Batman story. However, given the period, this film fits right in and has a sense of humor that later adaptations do not.
Creating a villain for the sake of opposing the hero or heroine is easy. It’s harder to create a three dimensional character who is still a villain, but is just as human as the hero or heroine.
The new movie, Joker, is a standalone/maybe prequel in the world of Batman. Set somewhere in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, Arthur Fleck/Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a Gotham City plagued by crime and poverty. Arthur earns his living as a clown for hire, though his professional goal is to be a stand up comedian.
He lives with his mother, Penny Fleck (Frances Controy) in a beaten down apartment. He dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), a Johnny Carson like late night talk show host. He also suffers from mental illness and has daydreams of dating his neighbor, Sophie (Zazie Beetz).
Over the course of the film, Arthur slowly transforms into the villain that we know of as the Joker.
I admire that director Todd Phillips and his co-screenwriter Scott Silver tried to tackle the very complicated ideas of mental health and economic disparity. However, I found the violence to be a little much for my taste. The film was also a little on the long side.
Since the release of the film last weekend, there have been some concern that the portrayal of Arthur’s mental illness might be a trigger for those who suffer in real life. While I can completely understand that concern, I am also concerned that some in the audience might come out of the theater with the general idea that everyone who suffers from mental illness has violent or criminal tendencies.
For over 200 years, America, despite her flaws, has stood out as a beacon of democracy and liberty. These days, some question if the image of America is just that, especially given who is in the White House.
She starts the book comparing New York City to it’s fictional comic counterpart, Gotham City and you know who to one of the many villains who take pleasure in antagonizing Batman. She then goes on to explore how you know who’s Presidency has forever changed America and questions what may change when he leaves office.
This book is an interesting one. Among the many books that have been published over the last couple of years about you know who and his administration, Ms. Reid writes about an angle of the story that I don’t think has been explored before. If nothing else, I think this book is the nudge that America needs to get involved in the future of our country before it is too late.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of art is re-interpretation.
Batman entered our cultural consciousness in 1939. In 1966, he finally was transferred from the pages of the comic books to the small screen. Lasting two years, the show starred the late Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin.
I think the best way to view this adaptation of Batman is through the lenses of the 1960’s. While the more recent Batman films have recreated the world of the Dark Knight as dark and uneasy, there is a lightness and an a campiness to the television series that reflects the era that it was created in.
For those coming of age in the late 1960’s, their Batman was Adam West. West died today at the age of 88.
Airing from 1966 to 1968, it was emblematic of the era. Compared to the darker and grittier film adaptations of comic book super heroes over the last twenty years or so, the 1960’s television series looks to be kind of silly and colorful. But it is also whimsical and fun and represents an era when America and the world appeared to be a simpler place, but was actually on the brink of a cultural shift that is still being felt today.
RIP Adam West. While other actors have worn Batman’s suit since 1968, you will forever be remembered as television’s original caped crusader.
A sequel that is done well is hard to find, especially one with an alternative story line that varies from the original narrative. While there is some freedom in creating the alternative story line, the writer or writers have to be careful. If they stray too far from the original narrative, they might loose the hardcore fans that admire and respect the cannon narrative and characters.
In the short-lived television series, Birds of Prey (2002-2003), the criminals in Gotham City are running loose. With Batman in exile, it seems like there is no one to stop the criminals. Enter three women who can take back Gotham City. Helena Kyle/Huntress (Ashley Scott) is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Barbara Gordon/Oracle (Dina Meyer) used to be known as Batgirl, until she was shot by the Joker and paralyzed. While she may sit behind the computer, she still watches over Gotham and her residents. Newcomer Dinah Lance (Rachel Skarsten) has the power of telekinesis and while she may look weak, her abilities outweigh her physical image.
Looking back, this was one of those series that had potential. Unfortunately, it didn’t have enough potential to last longer than it did. The other thing that kept it from lasting was that the audience member had to have been well versed in the Batman universe to truly get into the show.
There is something immortal about the superhero. No matter what era s/he was created in or the world that they inhabit, these characters continue to live on.
Hollywood has had it’s fill of superhero movies over the years. One of the most popular is Batman, who has returned to big screen again and again.
In 1995, Val Kilmer stepped into the suit in Batman Forever. In this movie, Batman must face not just one villain, but two. Harvey Dent/Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) is of the belief that Batman was responsible for the accident that changed his face, his revenge is to create chaos and fear in Gotham City. The other villain, Riddler/Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) works for Bruce Wayne, the man under the mask. When his inventions are rejected, the Riddler will get his revenge by draining the brains of Gotham citizens and learn the secrets of his former boss. Adding to the mix of chaos is Robin/Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), a young man from a circus family whose family has been killed by two face and wants revenge. And there of course, the love interest, Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman).
I happen to think Batman Forever is the best Batman movie. While it is dark enough (as any Batman movie should be), there are pops of color and elements that remain true to it’s comic book origins.
Ten years later, Batman returned to the big screen in a much darker vision in Batman Begins. This time Christian Bale suites up as Gotham City’s protector. After loosing his parents when he was still a young boy, Bruce Wayne travels to Asia to learn from Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). His goal is to return to Gotham City and fight off the forces of darkness that threaten to consume his city.
This movie and the following sequels are much darker than any of the previous Batman movies. But it is a refreshing take on the story, especially considering that Batman returns to the big screen every 5-10 years to begin with.