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 shocking that “Manifest” lives on to see a second season, as the series is thick in mystery and mythos and it might drive fans nuts if it ends without some answers. I’m not usually a fan of series like “Manifest” that practice the tradition of an ensemble of characters uncovering a mystery that connects them a la “Lost,” but “Manifest” is a pretty good science fiction drama all things considered. I don’t know if the show is going to dip in to science fiction or religious realms soon, but the series digs in to some unique material with a prologue that is pretty damn compelling.
The “Arrow” series finally comes to its natural peak as season seven loosely adapts Green Arrow’s iconic comic storyline “Super Max.” Once optioned for a movie and basically in development hell for years, “Arrow” realizes the narrative for a full season arc. After Oliver Queen is finally pushed in to a corner in season six he’s forced to out himself as the Arrow for all of Star city. In season seven he’s jailed in Maximum Security and forced to confront all of the criminals he’s put away since he arrived, prompting some tense unfolding of events.
One of the most family friendly and outright entertaining superhero features of the year, “Shazam!” is a movie that will appeal to children of all walks of life. It’s a movie that promotes the power of family, promotes the appeal of adopted families, and explores the effects of bullying and toxic masculinity. “Shazam!” is one of the bigger surprises of 2019 as the DCEU keeps delivering on entertaining and bright action features that spotlight the lesser explored and rarely discovered characters from the DC Comics stable.
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.