Tag Archives: Batman Returns

Film & TV News: December 23

News

  • The latest Force Awakens box office numbers put the Star Wars episode at $610.8 million, blasting past previous record-holders in pretty much every category. Avatar‘s global box-office haul is certainly in sight. More importantly, The Force Awakens is a pretty fantastic movie.
  • Speaking of Avatar, James Cameron has made a series of optimistic-sounding comments about the future of the franchise and the release of the first sequel around Christmas 2017. Cameron is planning a trilogy of sequels and is taking his time developing the world of Pandora, which in my book is a good thing.
  • Inherent Vice‘s Katherine Waterston will lead Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel Alien: Covenant, which will reportedly bring back Michael Fassbender’s android David and potentially Noomi Rapace’s Shaw as well. Here’s hoping the writing is more akin to the sparse Alien than to the convoluted Prometheus.

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Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Today is the day, the distant future, to which Marty McFly travels in Back to the Future Part II, hurtling through time with Doc Brown to October 21, 2015. As predicted in the first film, Marty sees some serious shit — hoverboards, Pepsi Perfect, Jaws 19 playing in the local Holomax Cinema. Paradoxically, if Marty were to actually arrive today he’d find Back to the Future Part II re-released in cinemas instead, depicting the story of the day he traveled to October 21, 2015. He’d sit in the theater and have his recent past recounted and his impending timeline spoiled, which is an obvious time-travel no-no. His actions in the future would be influenced by the movie depicting his actions in the future, which would in turn change the 2015-set scenes of BttF2, which would in turn jeopardize Marty’s presence in that very theater, which would in turn jeopardize our ability to hypothesize about Marty’s presence in that very theater, which would in turn [head explodes].

The actual plot of Back to the Future Part II isn’t actually much simpler. If there are Ten Basic Ideas about time travel — meeting yourself, erasing stuff from existence, etc. — then three of them made it into the first movie and all ten of them were crammed into Part II, leaving Part III to differentiate itself by pretty much not being a time travel movie. But simple time paradoxes (paradoxi?) are for wimps — let’s have Michael J. Fox play a billion different roles, including three versions of Marty McFly! So silly!

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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

I have a few favorite Batman moments, but the one that trumps them all occurs in the first Batman animated movie Mask of the Phantasm. The comic books are full of contenders, of course — the iconic “legends can never die!” panel in Jim Aparo’s “Man Behind the Mask”, the more-iconic moment in “Hearts in Darkness” when Batman rises from the grave, or the most-iconic “fiend from hell” moment from “The Demon Lives Again!” (which we talked about in our rundown on Batman Begins). The feature films have some epic moments as well, like the introductory call-to-arms of Batman Returns or the final ascension from the pit in The Dark Knight Rises. But Mask of the Phantasm captures what many of these moments capture — the determination of Bruce Wayne, the -ness of the Bat — in a unique way.

Phantasm, of course, is more than just the best animated Batman movie — it might be the best Batman movie, period. It certainly stands with the live-action iterations of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, and getting over the fact that Phantasm happens to be animated (as if that’s a point against it) is just a necessary assumption akin to classing The Incredibles at the top of the list of Best Superhero Films. It’s easy to forget about The Incredibles amid the present torrent of live-action Marvel hero flicks, just as it’s easy to forget that Mask of the Phantasm is without a doubt a better Batman film than at least 6/10 live-action Batfilms. I’ll let you figure out which ones I mean.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

As with our recent article on Batman Begins, this won’t exactly be a traditional “review” of The Dark Knight Rises so much as an examination of the comics that directly inspired the film, previous iterations of the character on the big screen, and the things that Christopher Nolan chose to pinch and blend together from the two of those in order to give us a recognizable version of Cinema Batman. Some of the most legendary moments in Nolan’s trilogy are those of true originality, but it’s good to remember every now and then that Bruce Wayne has been around a hell of a lot longer than Nolan and Co.

And if we’re talking comics that influenced Nolan’s last Batfilm, the only one really worth mentioning is Knightfall. Yes, there are a whole host of comic arcs that can claim to be influences for parts of Rises — the No Man’s Land arc sees Gotham cordoned off from the rest of the world; the four-part story The Cult has a villain operating from the sewers; Bane is the explicit right-hand man of Ra’s al Ghul in 1999’s Bane of the Demon; and Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns has a similar premise and conclusion to Nolan’s Rises, which we’ll come back to in a moment.

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Batman Returns (1992)

‘Tis the season! ‘Tis a time for merriment, gaiety, festivity, and a bunch of other synonyms! ‘Tis also a time in which box-office turnouts for fifth and sixth installments of Saw or Fast and Furious vastly outweigh those for fresh, original film — a time in which the popularity of one kind of movie seems almost contingent on the failure of the other. ‘Tis a good time for cynicism, evidently.

Batman Returns is a superhero sequel, obviously, but it’s not the kind of assembly-line movie that phrase conjures up today (it’s also a Christmas movie, hence my yuletide cheer). This isn’t an instantly forgettable Marvel sequel like Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, seemingly intent only on filling the space between Avengers team-ups. Returns, like Burton’s first Batman film, takes pride in originality even in the face of decades of established Bat-lore, flipping things upside down and ignoring long character histories and comic book arcs in favor of new things, for better or worse. So in Batman we discover that the Joker is the one who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, not some nobody named Joe Chill; here in Returns, Penguin isn’t a respected sophisticate but instead a literal man-bird. Returns basically says f*ck you to so much of the Batman canon that it’s difficult to imagine it being released today without causing fanboydom to implode.

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