Let’s face it: nobody really gives a damn about Batman.
Archive for The Joker
The Dark Knight Trilogy is a big, epic set of movies with big, epic themes. For all the talk about them being darker and more realistic than your average superhero film, they actually have the same scope as a lot of epic fantasy tales, with battles between pure good and fell evil and the fate of an entire city in the balance. With such big action and high stakes, the films have some large themes and symbols behind them. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne crafts Batman as a symbol that is, “Something elemental, something terrifying.” Today we’re looking at some of that elemental imagery and how it runs throughout the films.
I was going to post a long, rambling review of The Dark Knight Rises. However, after doing some thinking about not only that movie but the three Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films together, I’ve decided that there is too much there to touch on in one post. So instead I’ll break my review down to three words:
It was awesome.
I will go further to say that The Dark Knight Trilogy is probably the best film trilogy I’ve seen. The movies themselves have their flaws, but they’re good enough overall to get people to overlook those flaws. And in terms of being consistently awesome, I don’t think there’s another film franchise that approaches it. The Star Wars Trilogy was excellent, but the first movie is, in my opinion, a weak link that doesn’t stand well alone. The Lord of the Rings movies are awesome throughout, but do drag near the end. The other most consistently good trilogy I can think of is Back to the Future, but even that has a dip in quality between the first and second movies. By comparison, these Batman movies are very consistent throughout, each tying into the previous film and building a final product that is a masterpiece of cinema.
With that in mind, I’m going to take this week to geek out about The Dark Knight Trilogy and its overall themes. And there is no better place to start than looking at the theme of symbolism.
(Warning: Spoilers for all three movies follow.) Read more »
When it comes to comic adaptations, the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) is pretty much the cream of the crop. Running for over a decade, the shared universe included Batman: the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and the various tie-in movies and comics that connected to them. While the animated series aren’t comics, I think they’re awesome enough to deserve a list of Crowning Moments of Awesome all their own.
Here we have the 32 winners from the first bracket, fighting to achieve more glory and move one step closer to the championship.
Round One: Gregory House and James Wilson versus Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins
I will not turn this round into one big gay joke. I will not turn this round into one big gay joke. I will not turn this round into one big gay joke.
House takes a look at the two hobbits and decides that it would be fun to whack them around the hospital parking lot with his cane. Wilson tries to argue that doing so is against everything ethical, but House counters with the fact that Wilson regularly supports his wildly dangerous and unethical behavior, not to mention the many times that he himself has outright broken the law and performed morally repugnant acts such as sleeping with one of his terminally ill patients, lying to law enforcement, and spiking his best friend’s coffee with antidepressants. In the end, Wilson is forced to admit that yeah, hitting some hobbits around like golf balls does sound kinda fun.
What they lack in stature, however, the hobbits make up for in spirit. Plus, they’ve been to Mount Doom and back, so they’re hardened by battle. Sam and Frodo double up on House first, who they correctly assume to be the alpha of the group, and target his knees. House isn’t exactly a guy who can move quickly, and once the hobbits get underneath the reach of his cane, the doctor is out. Once House is dealt with, Wilson immediately backpedals and starts claiming that he was on the hobbits’ side all along. Sam and Frodo don’t buy it. Sam goes after Wilson with an iron pot, and Frodo wields House’s own cane like an oversized quarterstaff as the two friends beat Wilson to within an inch of his life.
Then they go back to the Shire and make mad, passionate love to one another. Damn it…I almost made it through the whole round. Winner: Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins.
Comic book deaths are a punchline these days. A few years ago when Captain America died, no one expected the death to last more than two years, even though Marvel swore up and down that it would stick (sort of like how Spider-Man unmasking during Civil War was supposed to stick and not get retconned away thanks to a deal with the Devil). Despite the fact that a comic book death currently translates into little more than a cheap sales gimmick, there have still been some really good ones over the years. Even if they didn’t stick, they were chilling, touching, or otherwise hugely influential. What follows is my totally biased opinion of the best deaths comics has had to offer.
And so we begin the Ultimate Tag Team Tournament. We kick off with 32 rounds of chaos, which will weed out the lower rung right off the bat.
Round One: Wallace and Gromit versus Pinky and the Brain
Wallace and Gromit have been hired as pest control at Acme Labs, which is having trouble with a pair of lab mice gone rogue. The mice are, naturally, Pinky and the Brain. The two duos initially take each other on based on IQ, but that leaves Gromit and the Brain facepalming repeatedly as they witness the illogical verbal merry go-round that is Wallace talking to Pinky. It goes something like this:
And so on.
To solve this dilemma, Gromit and the Brain put a hold on their battle to take out the intellectual midgets of the pair. Gromit sets a mirror in front of Pinky, convincing him that there’s another lab mouse in the area, and Pinky strikes up a conversation with his reflection. While Pinky is suitably distracted, Gromit gets an encyclopedia and crushes him. He then goes back to face off against the Brain.
Unfortunately for Gromit, the Brain has used the temporary distraction to gain a sizeable advantage. Wallace, despite his idiocy, is an inventor, even though most of his gadgets have horrible bugs in them. The Brain is also an inventor and a genius, and while Wallace was yammering about cheese, the Brain took control of some of his inventions and jury rigged the bugs out of them. The result is that Wallace’s Techno-Trousers have been used as a key building piece in an atomic powered death-bot piloted by the Brain. The invention breaks down quickly, but not quickly enough for Wallace and Gromit to avoid being disintegrated. The Brain then drags Pinky’s half-conscious body out of the area, making sure that his tag-team partner will be rested and ready for the next bracket. Winner: Pinky and the Brain.
Possibly the greatest tag team of all time, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan up in Wrestlemania I. They also individually whupped Rocky Balboa’s ass (I never bother watching past the first half hour of Rocky III…it’s not like there’s any way he can possibly take down Clubber Lang). In honor of their general badassery, I’m yanking the “Taking on all comers” format I’ve used elsewhere and applying it to the tag team arena. There will be ten rounds, with each fighter or pair of fighters taking on these two. We’ll see if anyone can take down this titanic pair.
This rant is going to need some explanation, lest I look like a hypocrite.
Previously, I asserted that certain people are too sensitive to the treatment of women in comic books. I still believe that women or men receive more or less equal treatment in most comic books. I do acknowledge that there are exceptions among certain creators, though.
In browsing the Internet, I found a pretty well-written discussion about writer and artist John Byrne’s treatment of women in mainstream comics over the years. As Mr. Byrne is a very well-traveled individual in the industry, I’ve read quite a few issues of his work myself, and I can honestly say that the site linked above goes pretty easy on him. Byrne’s comics tend to be filled with women who are demeaned, battered, killed, and tortured. He seems to have a particular thing for pregnant women; they often get some of the worst treatment.
One of my favorite songs of all time is “Mack the Knife,” which Kevin Spacey was nice enough to sing when he was pretending to be Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea. I originally tried putting that rendition of the song to the Batman Beyond movie Return of the Joker, but I couldn’t seem to get the music and animation to mesh. As it turns out, it works much better with the dirtier-looking and downright scary Joker portrayed by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. So viola: “Mack the Knife” joins The Dark Knight in a video that might not be everyone’s taste, but which I am overall quite proud of.
Okay, it’s not 100% from The Dark Knight; only about 99%. The very last laugh comes from Mark Hammill’s Joker from Batman: the Animated Series, because I love Mark Hamill’s Joker even more than Heath Ledger’s.
Fun fact: the guy that the Joker is threatening with a knife in the image above is Patrick Leahy, a big Batman fan who got The Dark Knight screened in Vermont before its premier. And while his Internet censorship bill he proposed recently has me wanting to imitate the Joker a bit, he seems like a pretty swell guy overall. Click on the Joker threatening to knife my favorite senator to download the video.