Tag Archives: Batman

THE BATMAN is a twelve-issue miniseries of a movie

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The Batman is dark. It takes place largely at night, features multiple scenes of its costumed hero slowly emerging from the shadows, and its new build of the always-murky Gotham City seems to be located in a rainier climate than before, somewhere near the unnamed city from Seven. And yes, The Batman is that other kind of dark, too. Batman, still a little green a year or two into his self-appointed job as protector of Gotham, spends much of the movie chasing down a serial killer who leaves clues scrawled in a creepy-kid handwriting/font-in-waiting, alongside a series of prominent corpses. This is the handiwork of the Riddler, last glimpsed wearing a series of brightly colored, question-marked bodysuits, springing his child’s-garden-of-brainteasers material with the infinite elasticity of comedy superstar Jim Carrey. Now he is a masked, muffled weirdo played by Paul Dano, watching his victims from a distance, working himself into a messy froth to subdue them, leaving taunting messages for the flummoxed authorities via complicated ciphers.

The Riddler may be the most flagrantly antisocial Gothamite we meet in this movie, but the other characters dress up in their own costumes of discontent. Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), recognizable though not referred to as Catwoman, grimaces through her degrading server work at a criminal-friendly club, as she sets up cat-burglary scores, attempts to protect her friends, and plots various forms of revenge, while Batman (Robert Pattinson) stalks the streets and irritates any cops who aren’t his tentative, already-weary ally Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). The Bat and the Cat are matching his ‘n her skulkers with voids where their families should be. Only a scarred gangster known as the Penguin (Colin Farrell) seems to be having much fun.

Of course, Batman has a heavy burden to bear—thematically, sure (you ever hear about his parents?!?), but also practically, as the only mainstream superhero who allows rich swirls of darkness and shadow in their palette. (Plenty of superhero slogs get stuck in the gray zone of bad cinematography, falling short of inky blackness.) Certain fans believe that this confers a grown-up respectability upon this Bat-material, which, of course, is largely hogwash. This reputation does, however, give filmmakers more leeway to add textures and shading into the superhero universe. It’s been that way ever since Tim Burton and the stunning production design of Anton Furst brought Gotham to nightmarish life in the 1989 Batman.

Burton’s two movies about this character, especially his masterful Batman Returns, whimsically cross-faded gothic tragedy with circus-sideshowmanship. By comparison, it’s a little difficult to discern how seriously we’re supposed to take The Batman. Based on the past work of director and co-writer Matt Reeves—the dramatic clarity of his Planet of the Apes sequels; the ultimate doominess of his monster movie Cloverfield—it seems like he’s aiming for psychological realism, not too far removed from Christopher Nolan’s beloved Dark Knight trilogy. Those movies were pulpier than some of their most ardent fans gave them credit for, and The Batman is pulpier still, whether or not the filmmakers admit it.

Reeves must at least appreciate comic books; his compositions favor close-ups and shallow focus, and he extends this preference by occasionally affixing his camera to an unusual vantage point—the back wheel of a car, or Batman himself—as action shifts in the background, keeping his foregrounded image unnaturally steady. Here, those shots look especially like panels, without the ostentatious pose-and-crib styling of Zack Snyder, or even the experimental page-flipping of Ang Lee’s Hulk. It’s a more modest and (relatively speaking) subtle way of making the on-screen action resemble the dynamic action of comics. If his Warner Bros. stablemates the Wachowskis specialize in splash panels, Reeves seems to enjoy the smaller corners of the page, the way complicated action can be broken down into single images. He places these eerie moments of clarity within action-sequence tumult, most impressively in a scene where Batman’s muscle-car Batmobile relentlessly pursues the Farrell’s sputtering, wiseass Penguin, or in his longer shots of Batman in combative motion, deflecting bullets and bulldozing various stooges.

Batman does this a lot; he also keeps tromping, workmanlike, out of the shadows, and when he attempts a more majestic, fantastic escape flight, he wipes out spectacularly. I didn’t clock the screen time, but it feels like Robert Pattinson spends more time in that durable Batsuit than some of his predecessors. On the human side of things, he recalls the Keaton/Kilmer Batmen of the ’90s cycle—aloof, remote, and downright socially awkward as a Bruce Wayne who seems to be distractedly thinking of his superheroic tithing even (or especially) when he’s forced to appear unarmored in the harsh light of day. Reeves seems to want to give Bruce/Batman a worthy, knotty case to untangle, and remake his image as a sleepless, irritable private eye. Some of the movie’s zip derives from how unsuited Batman is to reclaiming that world’s-greatest-detective mantle: He clumsily interrogates the Penguin, tries to team up with Catwoman only to watch her repeatedly go rogue, and generally fails to make the friends or surrogate family that might sustain him. (How many Jokers have we gotten on-screen, and yet Chris O’Donnell is the only one allowed to play a proper Robin?!) The ever-loyal James Gordon brings around him to crime scenes and keeps referring to him, from a slight distance, as “man” (as in, “we really gotta go, man”).

Wright makes that line sound like his own, whether it is or not. He brings some actorly personality to his short scenes, as does Farrell. Pattinson and Kravitz rely more on their looks, but not in an empty-model sort of way. They cut the right figures in their various guises, which is half the battle in such a visually driven environment. Regrettably, Pattinson is denied the opportunity to masquerade as Bruce Wayne’s undercover identity as a low-level criminal named Matches Malone. Kravitz, however, has enough DIY for the both of them, sporting a cat-eared ski mask and fingernail claws. It’s fun to watch the Bat, the Cat, and the cop warily circle each other and attempt to chase down clues.

Where the clues ultimately lead, though, feels less lucid. Not so much because the movie is indecipherable (it’s not) or overplotted (it probably is that) but because it scans so much like a comic book, and not a great one. Like most past Batman movies, it pulls from and amalgamates a number of sources. Unlike those past movies, the dominant rhythm is that of a readably unspectacular twelve-issue miniseries—though the comics-world coinage of “maxiseries” makes particular sense for this three-hour movie that’s neither endless slog nor gripping epic. The story adds up, in a nominal sort of way, and has some unexpected twists and tweaks in the final stretch, meant to challenge Bruce Wayne’s obsessions and guide him toward the lessons he’s lost in the pursuit of, as he puts it and as Selina drolly echoes back to him, “vengeance.” What the movie doesn’t do is reach a true crescendo, either of tension (as in Nolan’s films) or grotesque beauty (as in Burton’s). It hits its notes early and often, like the insistently memorable Michael Giacchino theme that accompanies it.

That leaves The Batman most resembling, of all things, the follow-ups to Burton’s work, when Joel Schumacher took the reins for Batman Forever (the one with Carrey’s Riddler) and Batman & Robin. It’s a different tone, of course. Schumacher embraced live-action cartooniness—sets that look like sets; actors that act like chattering wind-up toys—and making kids laugh. If anything, Reeves’ comic relief carries the faintest echo of Burton’s mordant humor. Yet Reeves shares with Schumacher an inability to make the characters feel like they truly exist in between the plot points and set pieces. That’s why certain characters, like Bruce’s loyal butler-guardian Alfred (Andy Serkis), depend on the presumption that they’re arriving pre-endeared to the audience at large, and therefore in little need of character development.

The Batman isn’t completely devoid of feeling. Kravitz has a heat that short-circuits some of Pattinson’s more po-faced tendencies, and it lingers in the air between them even as they’re pulled apart. (Imagine, superheroes with the desire to kiss each other before their relationship is fully and clearly defined!) There are even moments, toward the end, when the movie turns hearteningly optimistic amidst the viscerally rendered gloom, evoking the muddling-through so many of us have found ourselves performing (albeit on a less dramatic scale). Yet much of the actual story consists of lateral piece-moving, dependent on a bunch of gradually revealed and remodified backstory. If the serial-killer trailing and cipher-decoding is supposed to evoke the historical unease of Zodiac (“This is the Riddler speaking,” Dano intones at one point), it lands closer to ’90s thrillers that slickly repackaged dread as flashy excitement–aimed at adults in quote marks, perhaps equally well-suited to fourteen-year-olds. Sound familiar, comics readers? The darkness of The Batman is somehow both richly textured and flimsy–a painting done up on newsprint.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Not long into Zack Snyder’s Justice League (A Zack Snyder Film), Marisa started taking notes, just feeling in her bones that this would be a podcast. She was right to suspect it; we’ve certainly covered our share of superhero movies on this site, including a recent overlong review, a ranking of DCEU movies, and an earlier podcast about the state of the superhero movie back in 2017. But not even flop superhero movies stay dead, as Zack Snyder’s Justice League is here to prove. For SportsAlcohol.com’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League Podcast, Marisa, Jesse, Rob, and Ben all watched Snyder’s four-hour epic and lived to talk about it, at a comparably brief two hours. We cover everything from Jack Kirby to graverobbing, from Joss Whedon quips to tortured food metaphors. So while you wait for a third, black-and-white version of Justice League to drop on HBO Max, enjoy our latest SnyderChat!

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Zack Snyder’s JUSTICE LEAGUE: A Big Slice of Hero Cake

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

I thought about structuring my review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the much-anticipated four-hour reclamation-through-supersizing of a misbegotten DCEU non-blockbuster, like a normal piece of film criticism. This would mean crafting a catchy lead, smooth transitions, drilling down into some finer details, and summing it all up to make a broader point about the film, the filmmaker, the genre, whatever. But this version of Justice League stubbornly resists traditional structure; it’s literally one of the longest feature films I’ve ever seen, and not even in service of telling a radically different story from the bastardized version that came out in 2017. Instead, it tells that story again, and at vastly greater length, and with no particular rhythm, discernible construction, or traditional momentum. It’s divided into six parts and an epilogue, and apart from the epilogue (which takes place some days or weeks after the events of the climax), there doesn’t seem to be a particular organizing principle. It’s not sorted by timeline, character, or any thematic unity I could detect (and detecting subtleties are rarely among the challenges this filmmaker poses). The parts are titled seemingly at random, perhaps so Zack Snyder, the architect of this monument to his half-baked ideas, can decide what they mean later. It turns out that Snyder’s ideal movie is an assembly cut with finished special effects.
Continue reading Zack Snyder’s JUSTICE LEAGUE: A Big Slice of Hero Cake

Every DCEU Movie, Ranked

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Sure, there are twentysomething Marvel movies that we could sort and rank and argue over. In fact, the good people SportsAlochol once tried this as a group, and we may circle back to the project one day. But you know what’s a lot easier? Ranking the extended-universe movies from DC Comics, which kicked off in 2013 with the Superman reboot Man of Steel, and now, the better part of a decade later, continue to wonder around, stumbling across various megahits, disappointments, and flops, sometimes, somehow, in the same film. In celebration of the DCEU’s first actual sequel, the brand-new Wonder Woman 1984 hitting theaters and HBO Max in the U.S. on December 25th, here’s one man’s rundown of the whole DC shebang, before The Batman comes out in 2022 and makes it all even more confusing. All your favorites are here: Wonder Woman! And others! Like Enchantress! Now please let this all last long enough for them to make a Starfire movie!
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THE SPORTSALCOHOL.COM PODCAST: Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, and The Comic Movies of 2017

Gripes
There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

So, 2017 begins to wind down. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, buddy. But, as the year comes to a close, we launch—with apologies to Liz Lemon—out year end wrap-wrap-wrap-up. And, as with all things, we begin with an examination of facial hair, fever dreams, and superheroes. How do Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok and Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon’s Justice League fit into the pantheon of the gods: the MCU and DCEU? More importantly, how do they stack up against this year’s other comics output, namely Logan, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming? We discuss:

  • Which 2017 comic movie has the best villain?
  • “Immigrant Song” needle-drop: perfectly cheesy, or cheesily perfect?
  • Would You Rather: The Dark Lord Dormammu or Malekith the Dark Elf?
  • How long should Ben Affleck continue to play Batman: forever or infinity?
  • And, because you rely on us to go there, we do spend an awful lot of time talking about what’s going on with Henry Cavill’s face.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Career of Tim Burton

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Tim Burton is easily one of the most commercially successful directors in Hollywood, with a name awareness up there with Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan. Yet in recent years, the director, whose new movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children just came out, has been the target of plenty of scorn, too. Is he an underappreciated auteur, a self-plagiarizing hack, or something in between? Is Miss Peregrine a comeback or did he not really go anywhere? What’s up with how much the internet hates Alice in Wonderland?

These questions and more are at the heart of our Tim Burton podcast, where Nathaniel, Marisa, and Jesse started with his new movie and wound up discussing every single feature he’s directed in some capacity. We talk about the best, the worst, the unloved and the underloved. Who sticks up for what? Who has a hot take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? And what have any of us bought at Hot Topic? Listen up and find out.

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SPORTSALCOHOL PODCAST: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob

Jesse, Nathaniel, Rob, and Sabrina all saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. None of them really liked it. They knew this would probably be the case. So why go see and then record a very long podcast about it? Long story short: Zack Snyder. This film’s director makes watchable movies that are always some degree of hot mess.  For the long version: listen on! You may want to read this seminal essay that is referenced early on.

There will be spoilers, but not nearly as many as there were in the trailers.

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Top Ten Summer Movies of 1995

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob

1995 was a crazy summer, I think. As you listen to this podcast, you’ll discover that I didn’t ‘experience’ things so much in the 90’s as I read about them in Newsweek. That doesn’t stop me from breaking down the top ten domestic box office gross earners of ’95 with Jesse, Marisa, Nathaniel, and Sabrina.

We ask the tough questions:

What’s the best Die Hard?
Why did we like Batman Forever so much?
Do I even like movies?
So on and so forth. Enjoy!

How To Listen

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  • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here.
  • You can listen in the player below.

Throwback Thursday: Halloween Edition

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

It’s the Thursday before Halloween, so it seems like a perfect time for the good people of SportsAlcohol.com to indulge in some Throwback Thursday nonsense. This may sound strange, but sometimes you don’t get the full picture of our writers just from their bio pictures. Herewith, pictures and stories of Halloween costumes past.
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