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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Bale’

Back in 210 when production of the as yet unnamed 23rd James Bond movie was indefinitely suspended due to MGM’s financial troubles, I speculated about the future of Daniel Craig as the worlds most famous secret agent. Remembering what had happened the last time there was a delay and Timothy Dalton walked away from the role, I feared the worst. I looked at who could replace Craig should he drop out. As it happened there was nothing to worry about. When the film now named Skyfall finally arrived at the back end of 2012 it turned out to be one of the best Bond films ever and my favourite film of the year. It has since been revealed that Craig will appear in two more Bond films, at least one of them reuniting him with Skyfall director Sam Mendes. It is believed that “Bond 24” as it will be know until a title is chosen with be released in November 2015, suggesting Craig’s final outing will be two or three years after that by which time he will be somewhere around 50 about the right time to hang up his Wallther PPK .james bond daniel craig

This leaves a problem with some of my other suggestions for the next bond. If Craig does fulfil his commitment for another two (five in total) Bond films it will be around 2020 before a replacement is needed, by which time some of my other suggestions will be too old. Idris Elba: already in his 40’s Elba will be the wrong side of 50. The long time favourite Clive Owen will be 50 next year so will be way too old, his chance realistically went when Craig was first cast.

Michael Fassbinder (1977): The German born Irish actor has been in hugely varied movie and TV roles. He is very at home in period settings as seen in a lot of his films including Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class making him the perfect choice for a 50’s or 60’s set Bond. He will be in his early 40’s by the time “Bond 26” goes into production, just about the right age.Michael Fassbinder

Henry Cavill (1983): For so long the nearly man, Cavill was the first choice for McG’s Superman but lost out to Brandon Routh when Bryan Singer took over as director. He was the fans favourite to play Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter but lost out to Robert Pattinson. He was author Stephenie Meyer‘s choice to play Edward Cullen in Twilight, again missing out to Pattinson. He narrowly missed out to Daniel Craig to play Bond in Casino Royale. All these casting choices turned out to be right, he was too old to play Diggory and Cullen, too young for Bond and eventually got to play Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel that was better than Superman Returns. He will be about the right age to play Bond in 2020.Henry Cavill

Tom Hiddleston (1981): Having worked mainly in television for a decade I had never heard of Hiddleston until he played Loki in Thor then all of a sudden he was everywhere with War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea and a small but memorable performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. He will always be associated with Loki and this villainous typecasting could help bring the necessary cold edge to Bond. Again he will be about the right age to play the part.Tom Hiddleston

There are lots of other names mentioned who I can’t see as Bond for one reason or another: Tom Hardy (1977) is probably to visceral and brutal and would need to slim down from his Warrior/Bane bulk. Christian Bale (1974) probably brings too much baggage (Batman) and is at the upper end of the age range. I could have seen Guy Pearce (1967) as Bond a couple of years ago but think he will be too old by the time the part becomes free. Jon Hamm (1971) is probably the right age now making him too old when Craig steps down. I also can’t see an American Bond.

Then we come to the leftfield choice: Nicholas Hoult (1989) at 23 he is too young to play Bond now and will still be at the bottom end of the age range in 2020, however it could work. Bond movies have always moved with the times (although often behind the times) without any mention of a reboot until Casino Royale (2006). This is a perfect opportunity to not only reboot the series but to return to Ian Fleming’s eleven key novels (skipping the short story compilations and The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) whose format would need a lot of tweaking):

Nicholas Hoult

  • Casino Royale (1953)
  • Live and Let Die (1954)
  • Moonraker (1955)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
  • From Russia, with Love (1957)
  • Dr. No (1958)
  • Goldfinger (1959)
  • Thunderball (1961)
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)
  • You Only Live Twice (1964)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1965)

If they start with a young enough actor and make a film every couple of years we could see an actor grow into age in the part. Possibly taking certain books and playing with the order a little we could have rise, fall and rebirth of bond including a SMERSH trilogy and a Blofeld trilogy. The big question is when to set the stories. Although always assumed to be contemporary at the time they were written Fleming was always as vague about the passage of time as he was about the age of his hero. The two options are either present day or 1950’s. I would go with 1950’s partly for the look of the films but also to help keep the stories close to the source material without the distraction of modern technology.

In truth the next Bond will most likely be someone we have never considered or possibly somebody we have never heard of. Although aware of Daniel Craig before Casino Royale I have never considered him as a potential Bond. Whoever they choose, we have two more Craig outings to look forward to, we can only hope they are as good as Skyfall.

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Following last weeks thoughts on where the Batman franchise may go from here, I thought I would take a look how we got to where we are now. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t just happen, a comic book movie this big and epic but also this dark could not have been made in the 80’s or 90’s. Is the world in a darker place making such filmmaking a product of its time? Probably, but there is more to it than that. The billion dollar gross of The Dark Knight (2008) ensured that there would be a third film but things were very different before that. Batman Begins (2005) had a reasonable but unspectacular profit (it grossed around two and half times its budget). A few years before that would a big budget comic book movie have been made especially after Batman & Robin (1997).

When I started getting into movies as a kid the only comic book or super hero movies that had any credibility were Superman (1978) and Superman II (1981). Batman was best remembered for the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show from the 60’s that although it has gained a cult status now it something of a joke for a long time. Then things changed in with Tim Burtons Batman (1989). Although it is a long way from Christopher Nolan’s (very dark) Dark Knight version of Batman it was a million miles from the camp TV show. Gotham City became stylized Art Deco world that didn’t know if it belong to the future or the past. Futuristic gadgets existed alongside old cars and villains carrying Tommy guns. Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is a gloriously awkward character, only just the right side of sanity and probably closer to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark than Christian Bale’s Batman. The big name and star turn is Jack Nicholson as the Joker who has been unfairly forgotten in the shadow of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Batman Returns (1992) offered more of the same, it didn’t expand on the first film or offer anything new or different the way The Dark Knight did after Batman Begins but did boast an unforgettable Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. But then it all went wrong when Joel Schumacher took over.

Before all of that Frank Miller wrote two seminal comic book series The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One (1987). As well as introducing characters and storylines that their way into Nolan’s films, both books had a dark tone and themes of rebirth and redemption that we have come to associate with Batman. It also popularised the name “The Dark Knight”.

Then in a true comic book way, an unlikely hero came forward to save the genre, Blade (1998). After years of the rights to Marvel comics being sold off for TV shows and rubbish films (often with a tiny budget) Marvel studios first film was a co production with New Line Cinema. Not risking one of their big name comic books their first film and in some ways their most important was Blade. The character originated in the 1970’s as a supporting character in The Tomb of Dracula comic book. He went on to star in his own comic book as well as making appearances in various other Marvel Titles. Released in 1998 written by David S. Goyer (who also has writing credits on all three Nolan, Batman films), directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Wesley Snipes. Snipes is perfect in the lead role giving the right blend of stone faced killer, brooding hero and a little deadpan humour. The production had a relatively modest budget of around $45million and produced worldwide Gross revenue of $131million. This does not appear to be much when compared to the near $600million Iron Man took or the or the $2.5billion the three Spider-Man movies have made however without the relative success of Blade these films and the X-Men may never have been made. The sequel directed by visionary geniuses Guillermo Del Toro is even better and also introduced comic book audiences to a darker more melancholic view. Like many of his movies, there is an underlying question of who the monsters really are, and more importantly who are the real monsters.

So these are the films that created the environment that made The Dark Knight trilogy possible but what about its director. Christopher Nolan’s first feature Following (1998) is a low budget, low key affair that is well worth a look. He really made his name with the innovative and brilliant Memento (2000) before making Insomnia (2002) a remake of a Norwegian. Both films made a decent profit received critical praise. Between the first two Batman movies Nolan made The Prestige (2006), another financial success that received largely positive reviews. After the success of The Dark Knight he embarked on what appeared to be an expensive vanity project, Inception (2010), but that too was a runaway success taking over $800million and appearing at the top of many people top ten movies of 2010 (including mine). The net result of each of these movies is the same, they prove Nolan to be a bankable director that studios what to work with.

This leads to the part Warner Bros. played in the production of Nolan‘s Batman trillogy. Ultimately they hired him to make A Batman film. Prior to that, there was always going to be a Batman film but which Batman film? Early ideas involved a fifth film in the existing series and a return for director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher preferred the idea of a reboot bases on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One he was reported to have said: “[I] owe the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight.” This is the first suggestion I have heard of for both a reboot and a darker movie. Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise pitched an idea to Warner called Batman: DarKnight. It involved the character Man-Bat as well a plot centred around Dr. Jonathan Crane and his experiments into fear (sound familiar). This idea didn’t get off the ground, the studio instead deciding to hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct and adaptation of Batman: Year One. He quickly brought Frank Miller in on the project as a co-writer and approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman. This idea fell by the wayside along with Clint Eastwood’s The Dark Knight Returns and a Wolfgang Petersen directed Batman vs. Superman.

I’m not necessarily saying all of these movies or events had a direct influence on Nolan and his trilogy but they are all the building blocks that made the movies possible.

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With The Dark Knight Rises bringing an end to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy there is a lot of talk about where the character should go from here. It would be naive to think this is the end of Batman on screen. There is too grater appetite from viewers and too much money to be made from the studio point of view for it not to happen.

WARNING this paragraph contains The Dark Knight Rises plot spoilers 

Firstly a little background. You may remember the whole thing about all Marvel characters who couldn’t appear in the Avengers movie because the rights have been licensed to other studios; Fox’s has dibs on Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer while Sony/Columbia have the big money Spider-Man. Batman has no such problem, Time/Warner owns DC Comics giving Warner Brothers exclusive rights to do whatever they wish with the character. The result of this is that the true power lies with the studio. If they want to continue the Nolan universe going with a new director, Joel Schumacher for example, they can. The way The Dark Knight Rises ended leaves great potential for spin-offs. Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is set up to become Robin or even a second Batman, this has endless possibilities. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) came to the Nolan Batverse as an established character with a slinky costume and a shady back-story. This gives her character the option for an origin story as well as a spin-off. And then there is Batman himself, depending on your interpretation of the end of the movie, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) may or may not be alive. If he is alive, he has certainly left Gotham, what will he get up to in a different country. As tantalising as these possibilities are, it is probably best they remain unmade leaving customers wanting more. Fortunately, my understanding is that Christian Bale has said he won’t play Batman for any other director so they will need to change him to. I would like to think the rest of the cast would do the same. So where do we go from here.

But the Nolan Batman universe doesn’t have to end here, there is something that could happen. What is possibly the best Batman story, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns remains un-filmed (an animated version is due out later this year). Did Nolan avoid using the title because he wants to save it for a future movie? Probably not but you never know. They will have to wait at least fifteen years until Christian Bale is approaching his mid fifties, and that is the interesting thing. Christopher Nolan is yet to make a bad film, and more importantly from a studio point of view he is yet to make a flop, but that is a career has lasted just fifteen years to date. Given another fifteen years and another half dozen movies there is no way of knowing what position Nolan will be in and what his motivation will be. We also don’t know if the world climate will be right for a movie like The Dark Knight Returns. With all this in mind I haven’t given up on a new Christopher Nolan Batman movie somewhere around 2027! To keep continuity with the existing movie a rewrite will be required removing Superman from the story, this isn’t as big a problem as you would think. Superman would be replaced by a government sponsored elite team who are sent to take Batman down. And best of all the timing fits, there is enough time between now and then for another actor and director to take on the character before Nolan and Bale return.

Before then there is something else we have to contend with. The Justice League aka the Justice League of America first appeared in comic books in 1960, for those not familiar, it is a sort of DC equivalent to The Avengers. Rumours of a Justice League movie have been around for years but is yet to happen. The big problem; all the other original members (Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter) are all supernatural, superhuman or alien. But the problem goes deeper than that, none of them have appeared in a decent movie for thirty years. The long and short of it, there can be a Justice League movie, but it can not include Christopher Nolan’s Batman. They will also struggle to make it as successful as The Avengers. The sensible thing to do from an artistic point of view would be to make a Justice League movie with its own story, its own cast and its own continuity outside the other movies. If successful it could create its own franchise, if it flops it would do so without harming other franchises.

There is sure to be a reboot, but when and how. Although it seems like longer, there was less than a decade between Batman Begins and Batman & Robin suggesting a reboot could happen as soon as the end of the decade. Or have things been accelerated by the quick reboot of Spider-Man? While I am not suggesting a Joel Schumacher style farce, the tone and style of any reboot has to be dramatically different to Nolan’s vision. This is essential for its own good as well as avoiding the impact on Nolan than way Schumacher’s movies taint the memory of Tim Burton’s movies.

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The Dark Knight Rises may turn out to be both the biggest and the best film of the year. Every movie fan with a virtual soapbox to stand on will review it in one way or another, I may do so myself some time in the future, but for now I will not. Instead I have decided to do something different. I am looking at the key players in the movie and picking out my favourite of their movies or performances excluding The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Christopher Nolan: The modern interpretation of the term masterpiece refers a pierce of art (in any medium) that is receives high critical praise and is often considered the pinnacle of the artists career. But the original, true meaning is very different. During the old European guild system, an apprentice wishing to graduate from a guild and become a master craftsman or member of their guild would have to produce a Masterpiece. If successful, the piece would be retained by the master or the guild. Using this theory, Following (1998) is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. An ultra low budget mystery, crime, thriller with no star names. This led to him making Memento (2000), a simple revenge, thriller that is elevated to a superior mystery by the ingenious idea of telling the story backwards. Using the same criteria, it could be argued that Following was a practice run and Memento is the true masterpiece. Taken on its own merits Insomnia (2002) is a great movie, it just isn’t as good as the Norwegian original. It is a worthy and justified remake that is sympathetic to the story of the original but has its own individual touches. You know how movies come in two’s, this year there are two Snow White movies, a few years ago there were to giant asteroid movies, 2006 was the year of the Victorian stage magicians. Neil Burger’s The Illusionist was good, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was much better. Legend has it that after The Dark Knight took a billion dollars Warner Bros let Nolan make any movie he liked. What he came up with was Inception (2010) a little art house movie disguised as a big budget studio blockbuster. Inception may well be his best (non Batman) film, but for introducing me and most of the rest of the world to his work I am declaring Memento to be both his masterpiece and finest hour for Christopher Nolan.

Wally Pfister: Cinematographer/Director of Photography Wally Pfister started out as a cameraman for a Washington news service before being given his first break by Robert Altman. He then enrolled in American Film Institute where a film he worked on was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Like so many great filmmakers, he received his first break as a Cinematographer from Roger Corman. Most of his notable works have been on Christopher Nolan films, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight finally winning for the movie that truly is his finest hour, Inception.

Christian Bale: Where do you start with Christian Bale? A child star in Empire of the Sun who found real fame in his late twenties. Noted for his extreme physical transformations for the movies The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, in I’m Not There, it is a tossup between him and Cate Blanchett as to who is the best “Dylan”. In 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Fighter, Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation he gives more subtle and low key performances than his co stars, it is therefore a surprise that his finest hour is probably his most showy and over the top performance, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Anne Hathaway: Many people know Anne Hathaway from her film début The Princess Diaries and can’t see beyond that. I first saw her in Havoc or Brokeback Mountain (saw them both around the same time) where despite all the praise going to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal I thought the best performances came her and Michelle Williams. I was impressed enough to go and see The Devil Wears Prada and enjoyed it, but her finest hour is Rachel Getting Married. A family drama about a young woman who is released from rehab to attend her sisters wedding. A truly an amazing performance, her character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable. 

Tom Hardy: I have seen many movies featuring Hardy and remember a great buzz about him around the time of Star Trek: Nemesis, but to be honest I really didn’t take notice until Bronson. Since then he has been brilliant in everything I have seen him in. as for his finest hour, it could easily be Warrior where his performance is monumental or Inception where he offers some great comic relief within an ensemble, but it has to be Bronson. 

Gary Oldman: How do you pick the finest hour from the thirty year career of an actor as talented as Oldman? Far more varied than you would think Oldman is at his best when he is wild and out of control, look back at Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Stansfield in Leon and Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. That is why it may come as a surprise that his best performance may well be his most low key and economical performance, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Michael Caine: Gary Olman’s career may be long but Michael Caine has been around for ever, certainly since before I was born. Many of his most notable performances came in the mid/late 60’s and early 70’s and include: Alfie, Sleuth, Zulu, Get Carter and The Ipcress File. He reinvented himself in more comic roles in the 80’s such as: Educating Rita, Without a Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Outside Christopher Nolan movies, the pick of his 21st century movies are The Quiet American, Children of Men and Harry Brown, but for his finest hour, you need to go back to the 60’s for his iconic performance as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

Morgan Freeman: Freeman found fame relatively late in life. In his early fifties and after thirty years in the business, in a two year period he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He makes a lot of movies, therefore there is a certain amount of crap in there too, but the highlights are very high, the include: Unforgiven, Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. His finest hour is probably The Shawshank Redemption. 

Marion Cotillard: A captivating actress who has been brilliant in every film I have ever seen her in. For many people she if best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. Others will know her from her English language movies: Public Enemies, A Good Year, Big Fish and Nine. She was also memorable in Midnight in Paris and Inception. Although deep down I know her finest hour was as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, I still go back to where I first saw her, Lilly, the long suffering but high maintenance girlfriend in Taxi (and its first two sequels).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The former child actor found fame as a teenager in the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. his most notable movie appearances from this time is probably 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to appear in: Havoc (along side future Dark Knight Rises co-star Anne Hathaway) and earned acclaim in Mysterious Skin Stop-Loss and The Lookout. In recent years he has impressed in 500 Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, but his finest hour is still the high school noir Brick. 

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“It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car.”  

The Batmobile has always been an important part of the appeal of Batman.  It has gone from a vehicle to get Batman to the scene of the crime to an import weapon in his fight against crime.   Here is a brief look at how it has evolved:

The Batman (1943): A little like the original comic book, Batman drives a regular car and not The Batmobile, in this case a 1939

60’s TV Show & 1966 movie: For the 60’s TV show car customizer Dean Jeffries was hired to design and build a “Batmobile”, due to time constraints the original design was dropped in favour of the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car.

Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992): The long low sleek Batmobile was designed to reflect Tim Burton’s Art Deco vision.  It was designed by Anton Furst who won an Oscar for the Art Direction/Set Decoration.  The car was built on a Chevy Impala chassis.

Batman Forever (1995): New Batman, new Batmobile.  H. R. Giger was chosen to design it but sadly departed the project sighting creative differences. What we got was something that had lost its sleek lines in favour a more aggressive looking car.

Batman & Robin (1997): As the franchise lost its way so did the design of the car.  Without a roof or a passenger seat it isn’t the most practical crime fighting vehicle.  It does have one nice if pointless design touch, the GoodYear tires have Batsymbols in the treads.

Batman Begins (2005): Every Batman movie up to this point featured Batman as an established character.  As an origin story Batman Begins doesn’t just tell the origin of the character it tells the origin of the car.  A prototype military vehicle called “the Tumbler” designed by the character Lucius Fox.  More practical, manoeuvrable than the last few Batmobile’s, it looks like something that could exist in the real world just like Christopher Nolan’s Batman.

The Dark Knight (2008): The Tumbler returned for a second movie but this time with a new part trick. After being hit by rocket-propelled grenade fired by The Joker the Batmobile is damaged beyond repair. Batman ejects motorcycle like vehicle know as the Batpod formed from the front wheels of the Tumbler.

The Dark Knight Rises (2013): Trailers and images from the new film suggest that the primary villain Bane has got himself a fleet of Tumblers.  We also see Catwoman riding a Batpod.

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Lewis Wilson – The Batman (1943): Before the 60’s TV show came a serial staring Lewis Wilson as Batman. Made during World War II and seeing Batman as a U.S. government agent pitted against Japanese agent Dr. Daka.

Adam West – 60’s TV Show & 1966 movie: With a movie and 120, 25 minute episodes between 1966 and 1968 Adam West has by far the most screen time as Batman. The camp action comedy show is considered a bit of a joke now but was hugely popular at the time (and in the early 80’s when I saw the rerun) and led to West being offered the part of James Bond in the early 70’s.

Michael Keaton – Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992): Looking back Its hard to believe that there were more than twenty years between Adam West handing up the bat cape and Michael Keaton taking it up. What is also hard to believe is that it has been a further twenty years since Keaton gave up the role. Now sadly tainted by the two Joel Schumacher efforts and lost in the shadow of the Christopher Nolan movies, Tim Burton’s original two films are well worth another look.

Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995): In fairness to Val Kilmer he isn’t a bad Bruce Wayne / Batman, sadly he is hampered by being in a truly bad film.

George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997): As bad as Batman Forever was, it is Citizen Kane in comparison to Batman & Robin. A few years ago I fell into a conversations about how many more Batman movies Christopher Nolan should make. We all agreed a trilogy was about right, I then suggested they should make a movie based on Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. I suggested Michael Keaton reprises the role of Batman, no one agreed with me and the question was then asked, what square jawed actor in their late 40’s early 50’s could play the part? When George Clooney’s name was mentioned we all thought it was a great idea for about a minute until we remembered Batman & Robin, but you never know!

Christian Bale – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) & The Dark Knight Rises (2012): The star of the most recent Batman series isn’t Christian Bale, its Christopher Nolan. Like Quentin Tarantino, the director has achieved superstar status over his actors, unlike Tarantino, he has done it without acting in his movies. Bale’s standing was further dented by the admiration for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. This is unfair, Bale really makes the movies work and like Daniel Craig in the current Bond movies, there are few actors who could do such a good job.

Tomorrow, The Batmobile. 

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