I think that when the smoke clears, director Todd Phillips’ “Joker” is going to be a lesson to Hollywood that—people want dark, violent comic book movies… which shouldn’t be what’s learned, if you ask me. “Joker” lends credence to the long held opinion that comic books are art and not just pop fodder for adults that refuse to grow up. Comic book movies, much like comic books, can be compelling art, and “Joker” proves that, even in spite of its inherent flaws. “Joker” is a shockingly good movie, even though it really wants to be a Scorsese film.
It’s the perfect storm of fandom this year, as Batman is celebrating eighty years in pop culture, while “Batman Beyond” is celebrating its twenty year anniversary. For 2019, Warner finally unleashes their fantastic follow up “Batman Beyond” on Blu-Ray in a stellar Limited Edition box set that is also conveniently in time for Halloween and the impending holiday season. With the Limited Edition featuring an exclusive Batman Beyond Funko Pop, and the inevitably regular set coming down line, Warner will cash in for sure. “Batman Beyond” is still the juggernaut follow up to the classic Bruce Timm “Batman” series that hasn’t aged a bit, despite being conceived during a period where everything had to be futuristic, and darker.
“Is it me… or is the world getting meaner?”
Bill Finger’s creation The Joker has remained one of the most fascinating figures in all of pop culture and comic books medium. Every new generation finds an angle upon which to examine the Joker and how he’s so much more than a simple Batman villain. It has fascinated artists for decades how someone can sink so far in to the murky depths of madness that they can’t even see the light anymore. Christopher Nolan set a high bar that director Todd Phillips almost touches with the ugly, grotesque, depressing and yet quite fantastic “Joker.”
After the polarizing “adaptation” from 2007, DC and Warner take another crack at the taking one of the most controversial and news making comic book storylines of the nineties and bring it to the big screen. With a little tweaks, of course. The whole of “The Death and Return of Superman” is compact, but it takes a good effort in streamlining the entire arc for a movie. The whole epic storyline spanned a ton of DC titles from Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Justice League, so Jake Castorena and Sam Liu have to squeeze it in to two whole movies, and they do a pretty great job of it, save for glaring flaws here and there.
It’s not often I sit down to watch a DCAU movie and want to immediately desire the original source material instead. I’ve never read “Batman Hush” but from what I originally gathered it was an iconic storyline that made waves in the aughts. The movie however is a disappointing, half baked and painfully boring Batman adventure that never really goes anywhere. Rather than treading new ground or giving us something completely different, “Batman Hush” just feels forced and never quite rises above the anemic energy.
No matter what you feel about “Batman and Robin,” you can’t deny that it almost killed the comic book movie as a sub-genre. It also about killed the careers of Alicia Silverstone, Chris O’Donnell, and Uma Thurman, all of whom took years to recover. Even today with so much nostalgia and looking back on classically bad movies, “Batman and Robin” is still just bad. I understand Warner wanted kid friendly, and Joel Schumacher delivered on kid friendly, but in the process he also delivered a nigh unwatchable sequel that also killed Batman on film for years until Christopher Nolan swooped in to reboot the whole kit and caboodle.
I’m frankly surprised that “Batman Forever” doesn’t show up often on lists about homoerotic mainstream films. In the annals of homoerotic cinema, “Batman Forever” is right up there. While Joel Schumacher pretty much does what Warner asked by making Batman less menacing, less violent, and a lot more family friendly, it’s also incredibly homoerotic. That doesn’t hinder the experience, but it’s worth discussing how Batman goes from fighting with a Latex covered sex zombie to building romantic tension with a young man he takes in seemingly out of nowhere.
If “Batman” was the opening act of Tim Burton’s iteration of Batman, “Batman Returns” is a pretty epic second chorus that pretty much completes the picture. Whether or not you believe Burton dropped out, or was ousted by Warner for being too dark or violent, “Batman Returns” is a pretty good closing chapter in Burton’s Batman world, even in spite of its flaws. Hell, it’s a better film than “Batman,” despite the fact it objectively garners the more obvious flaws than the 1989 original.