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Archive for February 6th, 2019

The Bat-Man, created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger first appeared in Detective Comics #27, in 1939.  Described as the World’s Greatest Detective, and written in the style of the pulp crime novels and comic books of the day.  He soon became the Batman we know today.  But why am I writing about this now? You may have heard that Ben Affleck has hung up his cowl and cape for the final time, he will not appear in The Batman, a film originally announced in 2014 for release around, well, now!  The story appears to have gone through many changes, and is now slated for a summer 2021 release.  DC/Warner are describing the film as “character-driven” and “stylistically noir”, this gives an opportunity for a more interesting Batman, a period set movie.  There is no word on casting yet, but that isn’t a major concern as they have never really got the casting wrong; Michael Keaton, Christian Bale were in the best films.  Val Kilmer was a strange choice but OK in a poor film.  We will never know how good or bad George Clooney could have been, no one could have saved that film!  And Ben Affleck was actually good, all be it, in two terrible films.  It’s all about getting the story right. DC no 27 1939

There are multiple reasons for setting the film in the past, most notably, it will take it away from the Justice League.  Just as importantly, as the gaps between reboots gets ever smaller, it is a close as possible treat one of the most recognisable properties as a new character.  When it could be set is not limited by when it was created: Prohibition (1920-1933) was the golden age of gangsters; the war years could incorporate more of a spy story, as could the cold war years.  The other reason for the setting the movie in the past is simple, style.  Imagine a Batmobile based on a sleek 1940’s car!  Or even the gadgets! Give Batman things that exist today, with a throwaway line about how everyone will be using them in a few years.  This gets over the issue that Batman and so many other film and TV, Like Star Trek have; gadgets often look ridiculously unrealistic when we first see them, and horribly dated a generation later. Batmobile.jpg

Setting a comic book film in the past isn’t a big stretch, it isn’t as if it hasn’t been done before; The Shadow (1994) and The Phantom (1996), both set in the 1930’s are fun but flawed.  The Rocketeer (1991), aslo set in the late 30’s is a really fun film that stands up really well today.  More recently  Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and Wonder Woman (2017), largely set during WWII and WWI respectively, are both brilliant.  We can also look at Tim Burton’s take on Batman (1989), it has a sort of timeless period look; Gotham City, benefiting from being a studio backlot set is a mix of German Expressionism and Art Deco design.  The cars are mostly from the 70’s.  The Gangsters dress like they are from the 30’s and carry Thompson submachine guns, the cops look like they are from the 40’s or 50’sgotham 1989

Finally we need a villain.  Every comic book movie succeeds or fails on how good the bad guy is. There have been four great Batman movies to date (in my opinion – other opinions are welcome, but wrong) Batman (1989) Batman Returns (1992), Batman Begins (2005), and The Dark Knight (2008).  They all had one common denominator, a great villain, or two.  If setting film in the past, you not only need to make the villain fit the hero, but also the era of the film.  This isn’t an issue for Batman as most of the best villains were created years ago.  The antagonist needs to a recognisable one, so not too much of a deep-dive that only fanboys will get. Any reboot, needs to avoid The Joker; we have had two great versions of him, and there is a new stand alone Joker on the way too.  Two-Face has been done twice now in recent years, let’s give him a rest.  The Penguin was done so well in Batman Returns, it would be a big ask to do him again.  The Riddler would be an excellent choice if someone could make him work the way Heath Ledger did with the Joker.  I would say it’s too soon to use Ra’s al Ghul, but he could work well in a period setting.  Finally three that haven’t been used in a live action movie: Mad Hatter, Black Mask, and Hugo Strange. Ra's al Ghul Mad Hatter Black Mask and Hugo Strange

We all know that DC and Warner will play it safe and give us the standard reboot, just as long as we don’t have another origin, I think we have all seen Martha and Thomas get killed too many times!

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