Sound Off

The Great Batman Debate

Every Friday our friend Daniel Holloway, Metro movie critic, joins us to break down the upcoming weekend's new films. Last Friday, as you might expect, a lot of attention was paid to Ironman. And while discussing where that film ranks in the superhero movie pantheon, Daniel happened to mention that he doesn't list Batman in his top 10. That utterance caused Ian Chillag and me to jump from our cubicles and go running into the studio to protest. Here's a 1:36 clip of what happened:

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As promised, Daniel and I have taken this outside...to the blog. Below are the e-mails we exchanged over the weekend, as we continued the discussion on friendlier terms. Take a read, then tell us what you think. And tell us what superhero flicks make your top 10.

DANIEL HOLLOWAY WRITES:
I was disappointed in my performance today during the raid by the Batmaniac Society. Really, if I'm going to say something like "Batman isn't one of the 10 best superhero movies ever," I should at least have the decency to be able to say why, right? So here's why:

1. Because X2, Superman, Spider-Man, The Incredibles, X-Men, Superman 2, Iron Man, Superman Returns, Batman Begins and Spider-Man 2 were all better.
2. Because it marks the beginning of Nicholson's "Jack being Jack" period, during which almost every part he's had could have been played just as well by a drunk person doing a Jack Nicholson impression.

Read the rest of Daniel's e-mail, and my response, after the jump...

3. Because the point of being Batman isn't that he has a jet and a car. The point of being Batman is that he's a ninja or a samurai or something. Nolan gets that in "Begins." Yeah, there's a car, but better than the tech is the fact that there are fight scenes that are worth watching. In Burton's movie, not so much.
4. Because Michael Keaton is terrible. Bruce Wayne isn't exactly the most charismatic character in the world, but Keaton plays him with all the verve of a school bus driver.
5. Because Billy D. Williams isn't in it enough.

Clearly, my logic is ironclad. I invite you to admit defeat, preferably on air next week.

I RESPONDED:
I agree that X2 is the best, that one's amazing. To tell you the truth I haven't seen every single one on your list. I'm not saying Batman has to be #1, but it has to be in the top 10. You asked me if I've seen it as an adult, but I'd ask you if you remember what it was like when you saw it for the first time. That movie was revolutionary when it came out. No previous superhero movie that I had seen was so dark in its look and feel. And while I agree Michael Keaton isn't amazing, he does work well with that darkness, and he does inject a certain ambiguity, an idea that he might not want to be or like being Batman. And even though Batman prevails in the end, that film gives you the idea that good might not always triumph over evil. That film was a stark departure from the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks.

I'm not saying that film invented those concepts, but it was the first big superhero film I ever saw that employed them. And that Tim Burton-style darkness, especially the visual darkness, has been ripped off a bunch of times in subsequent superhero movies.

I also, by the way, think Batman Returns is nearly as good. Danny DeVito is classic.

As for Jack, I'd argue that this is like one film before he jumped the shark. Sure it's Jack being Jack to a point, but that's the role. I mean, it's the Joker. The role is too perfect for him. How else could he have played it? Maybe it's just the best casting decision in the history of cinema.

DANIEL HOLLOWAY RESPONDS:
I will grant you that it was an innovation at the time, but like the comics it emulates, what seemed at the time like something new now looks rather dated. Innovative art isn't always timeless (or good) art.

I'll say this for Keaton: I doubt I'll ever see anyone play Bruce Wayne in a way that's really impressive. So long as people keep interpreting Batman as a brooding sociopath, he's going to come off a bit boring. As for Jack — well, I'll probably have more to say on that after we see what Ledger does with the character.

The best scene in Batman Returns is when DeVito bites the nose of the guy who played the annoying neighbor on "The Hogan Family."


OK, BPP blog readers, I'll let Daniel have the last word. Where do you stand on where Batman stands? And what other flicks comprise your top ten superhero movies?

Comments

 

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I think about superhero movies in the same way I think about all movies. I have to be given some reason to care about the characters before I can invest in the movie. Michael Keaton did a fine job as Batman, but he was saddled with a mediocre script. Batman Begins gave Christian Bale much more interesting and compelling character development which makes it easier to care about him and the movie. That and the fight scenes kicked butt.

To pick two Christopher Reeve Superman movies and two X-men movies is giving these series too much credit. One of each is plenty.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned M. Night Shyamalan's "Unbreakable". Not a classic superhero movie, but it does revolve around a superhero and gives us a sense of what it might be like to walk in his shoes. Most movies blow right through the origin story which is usually the most interesting part. This one takes two hours to tell the origin and it's delicious.

My 10 would be:

1 Batman Begins
2 Unbreakable
3 Ironman
4 The Incredibles
5 Xmen
6 Terminator II
7 Superman II
8 Batman
9 Remo Williams
10 Flash Gordon

I think any definition of "superhero movie" would have to allow T2 as a candidate. It's the perfect balance of superhero and supervillain. Remo Williams and Flash Gordon are two highly underrated superhero films that are not only side-splittingly funny, but don't try to be anything other than what they are. I'd also like to throw in a mention of "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer". A supervillain whose special power is his sense of smell? Delightful! The crowd of peasants with torches never stood a chance. Alas there's no superhero in the story.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 4:43 PM | 5-6-2008

@Dan Pashman, you've got to be kidding me. You stormed into the studio as though someone insulted your mother. It's a movie! Let's get some perspective.

Tim Burton's dark direction was actually a distraction. I couldn't tell if he was taking the Dark Knight of the comic books and lightening it up or taking the campiness of the television show and darkening it up. Keaton grunting his punchline while the Batmobile uses its grappling hook to do a 180 left me thinking, "Wha?"

@Daniel, spot on about Jack. I actually believe that Prince would have done a better job not just performing on the soundtrack but also performing as the Joker.

That said, no, it isn't that Batman is a ninja. Batman, like Iron Man and the Green Hornet, are super-heroes because they are intelligent strong men. Not blessed by God, the yellow sun, Amazonian ideals, a radioactive spider, or whatever short-hand plot device the writers use as a crutch, they harness your intelligence into the physical training and the technical development necessary to fight crime. That's what makes them super-heroes: that they are just like us, and we, therefore, can be just like them.

Yes, Bruce Wayne has a back-story of losing his parents at a young age, with Alfred stepping in as the man who's more father than servant to the young Bruce (something almost messianic about Alfred in that way). I, however, don't see that as something that any of the movies should have fixated on (unless the movie's called "Alfred of Wayne Manor"). That's why the "Begins" movie was such a yawner, however visually appealing it was. A Chinese prison, come on!

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 7:26 PM | 5-6-2008

Time to geek out. I laughed so hard at work when you guys stormed the studio last week and I thought the same as you - how could anyone forsake Batman? And then I thought about it. And realized the BPP staff is right. Though I think, in the grand scheme of super hero movies, it depends on how much you like the hero (Batman's my favorite ever). For example, Spiderman will never be on any top list of mine since I've never liked Spiderman. With the exception of the X-Men, I'm a DC kid.

So, in no particular order, here's some of my favorite super hero movies: Batman, Batman Begins, Superman Returns, X-Men, X-Men 2, The Incredibles, Hellboy, Clerks II (which obviously counts because of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back).

I'm looking forward to one day watching a Green Lantern movie, Wonder Woman movie, Batman Hush, and the most incredible DC franchise movie ever - Kingdom Come.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 8:11 PM | 5-6-2008

Having also stormed the studio (I actually wanted to throw a chair through the window, but Pashman pointed out that the door was also an option), I should chime in here too.

My argument for Batman goes like this:

Take your top ten superhero movie list. Now lay it out over your all-time movie list. If you have to shuffle your superhero movie list to make it fit, there might be something wrong with your superhero movie list.

In thinking of all-time great movies, you gotta consider a lot of factors. It's not just how much you enjoy a movie, but also how influential it is, and what it means to people. By that measure, there's no way you could put Batman lower than Superman Returns on an all-time movie list. Batman changed the genre. Why would we not consider that in an all-time superhero list?

In conclusion, Iron Man was awesome.

Sent by Ian Chillag, NPR | 8:06 AM | 5-7-2008

@Ian: "In thinking of all-time great movies, you gotta consider a lot of factors. It's not just how much you enjoy a movie, but also how influential it is..."

I disagree with this. Great or best are personal decisions. I don't think historical context is necessary. If you were an esthete geek drinking Red Bull with pinky extended and arguing over the "most important" superhero movies ever I could see it. You also have to bear in mind given the prevalence of recorded movies many of us now see movies well after they were released. I just watched _Withnail and I_, a movie my brit friends have been quoting to me for decades. I have no idea when it was released, but I liked it all the same. Great movies should stand the test of time. For the record, Batman is one of the few movies I have ever been to the premier of and even back then I thought the ending was silly.

--
By the by, I was reading Terry Gross's book and whose name should feature prominently in the "thank you" section? Way to go, Ian. That is so cool.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 10:48 AM | 5-7-2008

At the risk of having my virtual head handed to me, I am presenting a definitive list of the top 10 superhero movies of all time (BTW, Marvel and DC jointly own the term superhero, so to avoid litigation from here on in the genre will be referred to as dirty underwear perverts with post-human abilities movies). The list is as follows:

1) Superman: The Movie - The watershed moment for DUP flicks everywhere. Not only is it the premier big screen adaptation of the world's foremost superhero, but it revolutionized special effects and became the model of narrative structure for all good DUP films to follow. It introduced the world to a fully realized three-dimensional man of steel, and humanized him to an extent neglected by the preceding serials and television shows, introducing an entirely new generation to the Superman mythos.

2) Batman Begins -- A marvel in design and elegance. Not only did director Christopher Nolan rescue Batman from the clutches of Joel Schumacher, but he reinvigorated what had become a stale franchise, imbuing his Batman with the epic scale it deserved. Bale is arguably the definitive live action Batman, accenting his vulnerable and wounded Bruce Wayne with a sense of relentless obsession. The only way this gets bounced from number two is if The Dark Knight delivers the goods it's trailers so richly promise

3) X2 -- Using the first film as a launching pad X2 starts fast and doesn't let up. The film never lets you catch your breath as action scene after action scene unfurls at a blistering pace. It sounds like shallow criteria to place this at number three until you realize that it is as authentic a translation of the comic as possible, heightened moments of action and suspense interspersed with brooding melodrama. Plus, Wolverine goes berserker nuts which is totally 'effing awesome.

4) The Incredibles -- Tim Story take note; here is the Fantastic Four film you could never have made. A perfect cocktail of humor and action with such genuine heartfelt moments that you almost dip into a diabetic coma this film is so sweet. Chock full of action and goggle eyed 'wow' moments, the character dynamics set-up by writer/director Brad Bird are what truly move this story along. Also, I get a meta-woody whenever I watch it because I want to have brain sex with Sarah Vowell.

5) Batman -- I think you guys have this one handled.

6) Unbreakable -- Totally outside the box. Love him or hate him, you have to recognize the M. Night delivers one of the most intimate and interesting visions of the awakening of a hero. Whose weakness is water. Just like the aliens in Signs. What is this guy's deal?

7) Blade -- Without, there wouldn't be an Iron Man, Spider-Man, or X-Men. Or Daredevil, Elecktra, Ghost Rider or Punisher. Take from that what you will.

8) Spider-Man 2 -- Like X2, this film uses the first film as a springboard into bigger and better storytelling.

9) The Crow -- Tragically, it is the death of Brandon Lee that elevates Alex Proyas' gothic pre-emo (preemo?) tale of tragedy and revenge into the haunting and eerie classic it is.

10) The Rocketeer -- Fine. It's just happens to be my favorite. The only argument I can really make for it is that it's about a pilot who straps an experimental rocket pack designed by Howard Hughes to his back and goes out to fight gangsters and Nazis. Oh wait, it's about a pilot who straps an experimental rocket pack designed by Howard Hughes to his back and goes out to fight gangsters and Nazis! And it has Jennifer Connelly in it. As the saying goes, 'nuff said.

Sent by Chris Maltby | 11:15 AM | 5-7-2008

I am not expert on this subject I don't think I have a list of 10 but I was wondering if The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension counts as a superhero movie? Maybe my memory is faulty or maybe illiciting huge crushes from teenage girls gives you super powers? Am I the only one here? I loved that movie!

Sent by robin | 12:51 PM | 5-7-2008

I really enjoyed "Batman." I want to get that out of the way. I thought Keaton made a serviceable Wayne, who is a very difficult character to portray in his later years. Anything that got Prince to do a soundtrack back then can't be all bad. I don't consider it one of the greatest comics/superhero movies of all time, however, because of the following:

1) Tim Burton had no love of comics whatsoever while making this film. The result? A Gotham City which doesn't look like "Gotham City" per se, but more like "every other city in a Tim Burton movie, save 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'" While fanciful and all, viewing it later on just filled me with confusion, as Batman shouldn't be living within an acid trip reality.

2) The Joker... No, I thought Jack's version of him was fun and enjoyable. There was just one little hiccup - HE DIES! So they manage to kill off the Bat's greatest villain. STOOPID. (I would also mention that they managed to do it yet again in the sequel, with the Penguin.) Making major recurring villains die just doesn't make sense, in my book.

3) I do agree... Not enough Billy Dee Williams.

My favorites? In no particular order:

1) Superman: The Movie - the one that made viewers WISH for Clark to put the "S" on his chest. It captured everything that he was about, and was only outdone by -

2) Superman II - Excellent tone to this film. The idea that a Superman story could be a bit darker was a risk, but they pulled it off well. Much better than Singer did in '06, with "Returns."

3) Conan the Barbarian - It took many liberties with the original property, but this movie was a fantastic spectacle. Also, Conan punches a camel. He. Punches. A. Camel. And, there's James Earl Jones.

4) The Incredibles - people have talked about this movie enough, so I'll just say that it was something I was originally hesitant to see, but so very pleasantly surprised by. Yes, that is how you tell a FF story.

5) X2 - The first one was slow and plodding, and felt as if a short story were being stretched too far. It also featured the worst line in the history of cinema. The third... well, that sucked. It was as if they took 10 stories, and smashed them into a 1 1/2 hr box. X2, however, got it just right. The pacing, scripting, editing... you cared about the characters, enjoyed intense action, and were completely sucked in by the dialog. It was exactly what a "team movie" should be.

6) Batman Begins - I don't know how anybody can call this film "boring" at all. This movie came closest to replicating the feeling from Superman, that being the desire for the main character to put on the suit. I tend not to compare Bale's and Keaton's performances, because they are each playing Wayne at different stages of his life, but Bale set a bar in my opinion. The casting is excellent(except Holmes, I can usually do without her), and they all feed off each other beautifully. It left me clamoring for a sequel.

7) Spider-Man - A lot of people tell me they liked the second in this series better. My contention has always been that the first did a better job of storytelling. It's one of the perfect introduction/origin films, and captures the lighthearted nature of a typical Spidey jaunt, along with the weight of the circumstances of his transition to hero. And who didn't enjoy his first attempt at web-slinging?

8) Blade - It's just awesome. I liked the second one as well, but this makes the list because of its "comic book feel." It set the bar, in terms of the expectations from a superhero movie.

9) Iron Man - I had very low expectations from this movie. It receives the best compliment I can muster, however, when I call it the "Anti-Daredevil." Downey Jr was always the only choice for Tony Stark, and he plays it with gusto. The effects are superb, the ENTIRE cast(pre-end credits) is spot on, and it tells a simple story. It was so important for Marvel to knock one out of the box in their first "Studios" release, and they did it. Excellent mix of funny, deadly, cheesy and cool. And how crazy was Jeff Bridges???

10) Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker - this is one of my favorite animated superhero movies of all time. It is dark, gritty, and a bit terrifying, almost the antithesis to "The Incredibles." Mark Hamil may have created the ideal Joker voice, while Kevin Conroy IS the voice of Batman. Matter of fact, I'd be fine if they just dubbed him into every film. They're able to pull off things here, which could not be done in a live-action. The effect is a story which sticks with you for a while. If you haven't seen this, or the series which preceded it, I urge you to check them out. Batman Beyond was a very good show, but this movie took it to a whole other level.

Sent by Jason Goodman | 1:07 PM | 5-7-2008

Umm, Mr. Holloway said Superman Returns ("SR) was better than Batman (1989); he has somewhat invalidated his entire opinion. It's not even possible to count the ways in which to deride SR as an obsequious piece of garbage that fellated Donner's movies and his material in the wrong places but then chose to defecate on the great themes of his movies. The same themes that thirty years later keep "Superman" vital, fresh and inspiring. We also won't dwell on the fact that the casting choices were mediocre (Kevin Spacey) to indefensible(Kate Bosworth, really?).

What's almost as atrocious is that Mr. Holloway saw fit to included Superman Returns on his list ahead of Superman II which is a very good movie. I'm re-reading to make sure that he didn't have Spider-Man 3 in there.

A final point: regarding samurai and ninjas. Ninjas are assassins, plain and simple, their have no code to speak of except get the job done. A comparison of Batman with ninjas is nonsensical.

The concept of samurai has been distorted in the western mind which is often why certain superheroes are attributed as being samurai-like (Batman and Wolverine come to mind). This notion is laughable. Samurai are at their essence feudal servants who look to bushido (the way of the sword)for guidance on conduct. Bushi (followers of bushido) hold fealty to the daimyo (feudal lord) as the ultimate calling. Bringing dishonor to the daimyo was grounds for seppuku. A samurai/bushi is defined by his service to the daimyo. A samurai without a daimyo is a ronin ("one who is adrift on the waves"); many ronin renounced bushido due to force of circumstances.

Batman recognizes no daimyo, or authority figure. In his world he is the final arbiter of justice. The lines he chooses not to cross are lines of his own making (i.e. no killing). The liberties Batman takes, the constant flouting of authority is diametrically opposed to bushido and being a samurai. So please enough with the "so-and-so is a samurai," because they're almost certainly not.

Sent by Simba | 1:52 PM | 5-7-2008

To Simba: it's amusing how you call attention to the Western distortions of the samurai caste, but refer to ninja as "assassins, plain and simple". Most ninja were used for infiltration and intelligence gathering, and had no martial role whatsoever. Most of their tools centered around disguise, traversal of obstacles, and escape.

Sent by Greg | 2:44 PM | 5-7-2008

To Greg: guilty as charged. In the quest to make one point, I gave very short shrift to another.

Sent by Simba | 3:19 PM | 5-7-2008

Batman is neither Ninja nor Samurai. He has training, true, but he is a DETECTIVE. He's the World's Greatest DETECTIVE. What I am hoping to see in the next Nolan installment is more reference to that. It was also probably the one thing that Burton's Batman got correct, his knack for always finding the right answers.

And, for the record, "Superman Returns" only made me angrier when I considered the abomination titled "X-Men 3: The Last Stand." All I kept thinking was "Singer left this franchise to do THAT???"

Sent by Jason Goodman | 3:26 PM | 5-7-2008

The less said about Superman Returns and X3: X-Men: X-treme!!!!! the better. But since everyone is throwing in their two cents, I figure what the hey. The most despicable and mind-numbingly dumb mistake made during Superman Returns was when we discover to our horror that the little kid is Supe's son. Forget about all the grade school 'kryptonite condom' and 'super semen' questions it raises, how about the fact the Superman had unprotected sex w. Lois Lane, and quickly buggered of to become the worlds singular most absentee parent. I'm sorry but Superman as deadbeat dad does not work for me. Neither does the fact that I saw this entire movie once before, way back when it was called Superman: The Movie! List every major plot point of the original Superman film with Returns and the similarities become appallingly clear; Superman catches crashing plane? Check. Lex Luthor's plan for world domination using real estate? Check, and dumb the first time. And the casting? Kate Bosworth could stunt double for Amy Winehouse in her current physical condition, never mind that a girl who looks just out of high school is doubling for a veteran journalist. Rumors swirled in production that every scene with Spacey had to be paused halfway through filming so he could remove pieces of scenery from between his teeth. And I think somebody played Superman/ Clark Kent but I really couldn't see them as they constantly were obscured by some strange animated piece of wood. Suffice to say that the 'rebirth' of Superman turned into an unmitigated disaster.

Which is still about 100 times better than the piece of regurgitated yellowing tripe that was X3 -- 2 + 1 = X-ness!!! If I ingested a fistful of opiates and downed them with a fifth of jack Daniels, lay in the remorseless Arizona sun for three hours before emptying my bowels in a streaming rupture of liquid excrement, then hired a peyote smoking Roma to rummage through my leavings, she would divine a better script than what Ratner vomited on the screen.

Sent by Chris Maltby | 4:40 PM | 5-7-2008

@ the Superman Returns nay-sayers.

Yeah, nay-sayer is too strong. I will say that I'm hoping the kid is the movie franchise speeding up the Superman clone saga. To me, it's the only thing that makes sense since having it ACTUALLY be Lois's kid is just weird and disturbing and way off cannon. I mean, most comic book movie franchises are trying to stick to some kind of story arc within cannon even if they have to tweak it a little.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 5:51 PM | 5-7-2008

The debate on what makes a good superhero movie or not can go on for ever. The debate for what are the best movies based on comics and comics properties can go even longer. For this quick top ten list I'm picking movies (off the top of my head) that are superhero or fantasy and based on comics. Movies like A History of Violence, Ghost World and others can make up their own list.

1- Batman Begins
2- Spider-Man 2
3- Iron Man
4- Conan
5- X2
6- 300
7- The New Frontier
8- The Crow
9- Blade 2
10-Batman Returns

I left off some sacred cows like the original Superman and Batman. This is an opinion list, and in my opinion those movies and several others just haven't held up over the years.

As a life long comics fan I love seeing these stories hit the big screen. The excitement of comics fans around the world is incredible. It's like we finally made it to the party, and we're the guests of honor :)

Sent by Christopher Neseman | 5:51 PM | 5-7-2008

1- Batman Begins - Of course! The Tumbler, the suit, the martial arts training! Gotham as the crime-ridden city it was always meant to be. Of course, Morgan Freeman!

2-V for Vendetta - Although the original comic pitted anarchy vs totalitarianism Hugo Weaving lends his amazing voice to the vengeful joker V. Among so many other things this movie has the death of the superhero. He laid down his life because who he was would not fit into the future, he would become a risk to the change he was trying to set up. The only weak point of the movie is Natalie Portman in the final reel.

3-Spiderman - this movie saved us from things like the HULK. The special effects and a convincing Peter Parker, MJ, Aunt Mae. I think the entire viewing audience's jaws dropped when this movie came out.

4-Iron Man - When I saw the trailer for this movie I went on a rampage looking for all the information I could find. Robert Downey Jr!? Perfect choice! Iron Man should be a beaten man on the inside, despite the billionaire playboy persona. Then the feel of the action sequences and best cgi to date. This movie has saved us from the Spider Man 3's.

5-Superman - How can you argue with the beginning of it all? Effects don't matter when you have acting.

6-Blade - Superhero + Vampires. It's about time we get someone that could kick butt without flying and who knows how to handle a gun!

7-The Incredibles - A sad tale of Supers being forced into the private sector, in a political move so foolish it could probably happen. Action and comedy in a very nice union.

8-X2 - They attacked the Xavier House! We get to see mutants fighting men with guns, glorious. The action and development of new characters lends to this movie's excellence.

9-The Crow - Dirty, dark, beaten and an icon for the metal and goth crowds. This movie's place in film history ensures it will be on my top 10 for some time to come.

10-Batman - It changed the look of mainstream flicks. Again, you aren't sure if he really wants to be doing his job, and that the police don't seem to support him really doesn't help out Batman's plight for redemption.

Sent by William Wettrich | 4:48 AM | 5-8-2008

In thinking about Iron Man and Batman, for whom wealth and engineering skills are their only superpowers, I'm considering this question: is Neo from the Matrix a superhero? He has powers that others don't. He saves the world. If he's not a superhero, why? Discuss.

Sent by Ian Chillag, NPR | 8:15 AM | 5-8-2008

I think its almost sad that The Incredibles is so prevalent on everyone's list...it's a great movie, don't get me wrong, but there's just one problem. Its plot is dangerously similar to an amazing DC work from the '80s called The Watchmen. Now, despite years of pre-production obstacles and funding issues, The Watchmen movie is finally coming out, yet I'm sure that in the eyes of the public, it will be viewed as a ripoff of The Incredibles. Chances are, it'll probably suck anyways, but still...

Also, with all this love for comic book movies, I feel compelled to mention some greats:

Sin City
Road to Perdition
From Hell
Ichi the Killer

Sent by Greg | 8:51 AM | 5-8-2008

Can anyone clear up for me what really happened between the writers and the movie studio on the first Batman movies? As I understand it, the first group of writers were looking to follow the Dark Knight, Stan Lee path, and were "excused", the result being the catastrophic, 80's version of the Burt Ward TV Batman meets the Crow II. I am also wondering when the Dark Knight Returns will be released, does anyone know if that is in the works?

Sent by JC Delettrez | 9:51 AM | 5-8-2008

Also:

The Fountain
30 Days of Night

Sent by Greg | 10:20 AM | 5-8-2008

Ian Chillag, you read my mind. I don't go in so much for superhero movies, but luh-huuuvved the Matrix. There is a definite distincting in my head between science fiction and superheroes, but I can't put my finger on what that difference really is.

I'd have to say that Neo IS a superhero. He just happens to be in a movie that emphasizes the SF stuff and isn't based on a comic.

Sent by Maura | 10:43 AM | 5-8-2008

I actually had to force myself to leave The Matrix of my original list as it did not necessarily fit the main criteria, but I had this discussion seperately with someone else in this chain. The Matrix can arguably be in the top five. It has all the basic tenets of a DUP flick, i.e. it's an origin story that follows the basic model of a hero awakening to powers beyond his understanding and having to use those powers to save the people around him. The film itself was storyboarded in its entirety by Steve Skroce, an accomplished and prolific comic book artist and the majority of the mech designs were created by Geoff Darrow, a frequent collaborator of Frank Miller and artist of Hard Boiled and Shaolin Cowboy. The Matrix is crafted like a comic book film and has obviously influenced a majority of films since it's release, most specifically the DUP genre. So, in essence yes it is in the genre, with the notable exception that it is not culled from any original source material. I still strongly disagree with the inclusion of Conan in the list as it's origin is literary and not the comic series based on the books.

Sent by Chris Maltby | 12:02 PM | 5-8-2008

JC, I'll assume that you meant Frank Miller and not Stan Lee.

Anyhoo, are you serious about The Dark Knight Returns? The possibility of seeing a movie version of that is damn near zero; Frank Miller's vision of Batman as a near-insane old man isn't really very marketable to the mainstream.

Sent by Greg | 12:07 PM | 5-8-2008

The Dark Knight Returns is a comic by Frank Miller which depicts a 60-some year old Batman and a female red-headed Robin. A great read if you're into Batman.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 2:19 PM | 5-8-2008

JC,
Ack, sorry. The first part of my reply got cut off. I think the Dark Knight movie comes out July 18. See my previous comment for The Dark Knight Returns :)

Sent by Sarah Lee | 2:53 PM | 5-8-2008

@Greg: The possibility of seeing a movie version of that is damn near zero

Probably, but I sure hope it comes to be. You can also throw into the "reasons for not making it" mix some less-than-flattering portrayals of Ronald Reagan and Superman. The conflict between Batman and Superman, however, was one of the best things about the novel.

WRT: The Watchmen. The Incredibles covered some similar ground, but I wouldn't say they're the same. The Watchmen provides much better material for a movie, but the first one will probably suffer from too much exposition like most other superhero movies. Actually I think that the _Wildcards_ SF series is even better source material that mines roughly the same vein.

Does anyone else think that Cerebus would make a dandy hero movie? The epic battle between Cerebus and the Moon Roach is one of the funniest things I have seen in print. Though it's probable that Dave Sim's very public meltdown probably nixed the chances of this forever. Why are talented people frequently such jerks?

Sent by Dave Wiley | 4:01 PM | 5-8-2008

It also features an unmasked Batman in a suit of powered armor fighting Superman. And also Superman getting nuked. Basically, if you hate Supes, you'll love DKR.

Sent by Greg | 4:06 PM | 5-8-2008

In terms of great comic book movies, let's not forget the series of Lone Wolf and Cub films. Some people would even tell you that they are the best comic-to-film adaptations around. They're not far off when they say that.

As for Sin City, I feel that's a movie which is much more "important" than "good." It set a bar, in terms of creators having say over their properties.

Also, to piggyback off what Sarah was saying, the Nolan Batman films seem to have the feel of the Jeff Loeb/Tim Sale "The Long Halloween" series. That's a good reed, if you want something close to that feel. Good luck wishing on a "Dark Knight Returns"-type movie. I dunno if that could EVER happen. Not well, at least.

Sent by Jason Goodman | 7:20 PM | 5-8-2008

Im soooooo tired of the Batman '89 backlash. The bottom line is that movie is the citizen kane of Superhero movies. It's so easy for everyone to look back and break it apart and why it didnt work, but you have to remember....THAT WAS THE 80'S!!! The turning point into the 90's where every movie planned its summer blocker after Batman's blue prints. New Ground was broken into. The Casting of Jack and Keaton compared to the last living example of the Batman Cast (the 60's show) was HUGE. No one knew what to expect, and when you think Keaton you dont think Batman....until you see the movie! I know full well there was No real character of Bruce Wayne anywhere to be found in the Burton movie's, but the man knows how to do a mean Batman.
Batman made over 350 million that year BECAUSE there was good story, great lines, and LOTS of Action.

I have to STRONGLY (stronger than the combined strength of Superman, hulk, and Thor)...disagreaa and roll my eyes, at Daniels comment about the action in Batman '89. HAVE YOU SEEN BATMAN BEGINS??? Show me where exactky in that disjointed film do you see Batman WITH the sotume on, Kicking a$$? Show me. The Acion, action sequences, physical fighting scenes...were NON existant. Thy were all implied. Or off screen. I was agitated watching it because of how disatisfied I was that here I am in 2005, after a PLETHORA of great action based movies have perfected the art of conveying great fighting movement of screen, and heres the new Batman film, doing no better than Batman '89.

I know for fact, that all of the fighting in Batman '89 was waaaay better than Batman Begins! Easily, even if only for the fact that the action sequencing was well thought out and creative,and fun. As opposed to Nolan's lack of Action credentials. He's not gonna bring the goods folks. In Batman '89, Batman fights Jokers goons in the alley way, one sword yeilding Ninja Guy, in a seen theat kicked a$$!! In the end he fights a huge deisel good and disposes of him in a cool way. All of this was HUGE in 1989.

Now compare that to the type of Action you'd expect in 2005...after the Matrix movies, after the Blade movie...THIS is the best Batman Begins could deliver. A bunch of seriously rushed and fake looking Martial arts training for Bruce, and when he puts the costume on, most of his moves were not actually shown...go watch it again if you dont believe me. Its all off screen.

Which prooves another point...since 1989...to 2005...Batman Begins..STILL uses a IMMOBILE RUBBER TIN CAN for Batman's costume!!?? Are you kidding me?? What is this unholy praise this film gets over the '89 version, when it does'nt even improve on the the much "hated" costume of '89?? Its STILL a horrible costume for anyone...trying to actually fight crime.

The now pointed out Flaws in Tim Burtons Batman...or a sign of the times,...no one was complaining in 1989. The Flaws in Batman Begins...are INEXCUSABLE!!! For as many flaws as you can nitpick in a 20 year old movie, I can point out just as many if not MORE in Batman Begins. Think I can't? I can, and I will if need be.

Sent by BC | 6:14 PM | 5-11-2008