Monday, February 09, 2009

More comics and 1 1/3 Batman movies

A colleague pointed me toward Batman: Year One, and my first reaction is a thumbs-up for some copy on the book's back cover. The copy praises writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli for their groundbreaking "reinterpretation" of Batman's origin. I was grateful that it did not call Miller and Mazzucchelli's work a "reboot."

The collection's first story is nicely noirish and ought to appeal to crime fiction fans. It even contains a scene of police-on-police violence that may remind readers of Bill James.

Earlier I'd seen and liked the Batman movie Dark Knight, whose attractions included, in addition to Heath Ledger's celebrated performance as the Joker, a view of city life not normally seen in movies that emphasize views of city life, and the presence of Michael Caine. So I rented the earlier Batman Begins, which has the same director, one of the same screenwriters and many of the same actors.

That movie's rebo— I mean, reinterpretation of Batman's formative experiences, about the first forty-one minutes of the film's running time, is risible, psychobabblish, faux-mystical nonsense, complete with a Bruce Wayne who endures the most rigorous trials the mountains of Tibet can offer and emerges with his beard still neatly trimmed. But the movie does have Michael Caine.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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14 Comments:

Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Peter, did you finish it? (Batman Begins, I mean.) A lot of the mystical junk gets shown to be, well, junk by the end.

February 09, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, in what may be a message but is more likely the result of a smudge on the DVD, the movie froze just as Alfred and Bruce Wayne are getting on the place to return from Tibet, so I have not yet seen the rest of the movie.

The mystical hooey struck me as just campy enough that it might be a sendup, but it's still bloody hard to watch and still obviously intended to hook the audience. And we still don't see the barber where Wayne obviously popped in for a beard trim on his way up the mountain.

February 09, 2009  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

I liked "Batman Begins" a bit more than you, but I too am a big Michael Caine fan.

Have you seen "Pulp," a little known Mike Hodges film?

Caine is a pulp mystery writer who gets involved in real crime.

Caine does a great Chandler-type voice-over, but the voice-over does not match what we see on the screen. For example Caine says he is drinking Champagne while we clearly see he is drinking beer.

He also has a great line after he tells a policeman (played by an actor who is a deadringer for Bogart) a fact unbeknown to the police.

When asked how he knew this, Caine answers "I write crap like this every day."

I love Caine and this odd, little film.

Paul Davis
daviswrite@aol.com

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, didn't Mike Hodges also direct Get Carter, that other Caine classic? Man, Pulp sounds good. That's next on my list.

I haven't seen all of Batman Begins yet. The reason I called this post "1 1/3 Batman movies" is that my CD player froze precisely at the end of the silly opening sequence, just at the moment when Bruce Wayne has joined Alfred for the flight out of Tibet, and, presumably, back to sensible storytelling. Once I give the disc a good cleaning, I'll try to watch the rest of the movie. I have high hopes for it since I quite liked The Dark Knight.

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Christopher Nolan doesn't really address the campiness, per se, but the mysticism does end up being shown as hooey. I liked the film -- although I must admit that I missed the beard trimming gaffe!

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Matthew E said...

One thing I didn't like about those movies, strangely enough, was Michael Caine.

Not that he doesn't do a good job. He does. Of course he does.

But he's still miscast. Alfred should not have an accent like that. Alfred's accent should be more upper-crust.

(Someone did suggest to me that maybe Alfred was supposed to be the same guy as Caine's famous earlier character Alfie, which hadn't occurred to me. I wonder if that actually fits at all.)

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, before proceeding further, I must clarify a point of high importance: The beard-trimming thing was not exactly a gaffe. Bruce Wayne's beard is no trimmer when he gets to the summit than it was when he started. But it's just as neat as it was. That's the point. It's yet another recurrence of the action hero who goes through hell without mussing his or her hair.

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Matthew, I would not have picked up that subtlety, though in retrospect, I realize that of course, Caine's pronunciaiton was not all all clipped and snooty. Perhaps Nolan wanted to convey a subtle message that in America, class disctinctions matter less. Or maybe he wanted to let Caine have fun. Or maybe he was just plain clueless.

I haven't seen Alfie, but your speculation raises the possibility that, as much as playing Alfred, Caine was really playing Caine.

February 10, 2009  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

Yes, Mike Hodges directed "Get Carter." Another one of my favorite films.

As for Bruce Wayne's beard, it is odd to zero in on that in a film where a guy jumps around town and fights crooks in a bat costume.

But what I liked about the first film (which I liked better than the second), was that the film makers offered the comic book characters in a serious thriller.

Take away the costumes and it could have been a James Bond thriller, complete with Morgan Freeman as Q, Michael Caine as M, and Liam Neeson as the Bond villian. (The girl was awful).

As for the beard, I too have a short, trimmed beard. If I were in Tibet prison all I would need to stay groomed would be a small pair of scissors and a broken piece of glass. Bathing might pose a problem.

Paul

Paul Davis
daviswrite@aol.com

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hodges and Caine might be one of the great director-star teams, then.

The beard issue rears its neatly trimmed head before Bruce Wayne dons the Batman costume. And, as I mentioned, it's like any other objection to the Hollywood convention of stars always looking freshly made up and immaculately coiffed no matter how many swaps they have to crawl through. (As it happens, I was flipping through one of the Batman comics this week, and I was amused to see Batman in costume, compete with cowl -- and what looked like three days' growth of stubble. It was an unsubtle clue to his worried state of mind, but a lot more realistic than Christian Bale's neatly trimmed Tibetan ordeal. Perhaps this will fade in importance once I see the rest of the movie, but it's lapses like that that make viewers roll their eyes.)

Once I have seen the rest of the movie, I may return with further comment on Bruce Wayne's facial grooming and other vital matters.

February 10, 2009  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

Regarding "The Dark Knight," I'm sorry that Health Ledger" died so young, but I have to say that I was not impressed with his portrayal of the Joker.

I liked Jack Nickholson's Joker much better. I love when he said "Wait till they get aload of me." And "What are we, ten years old?" in the rooftop fight with Batman.

I like the two more serious new Batman films better than the past campy films, but crazy, old Jack is still tops as Joker with me.

Paul

Paul Davis
daviswrite@aol.com

PS: Have you ever seen "The Last Detail?" I think this is one of Nicholson's best films. He portrays a sailor taking a young kid to prison. As a former sailor, I think he nails it.

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've seen clips from The Last Detail, including one great scene with Nicholson and Otis Young blowing their tops over the Randy Quaid character's naivete.

I found Heath Ledger's performance enjoyably over the top, though the lip-smacking and lip-licking close-ups were a bit much. I think Nicholson has spent many of his recent movies these last few years playing Nicholson.

I haven't followed the Batman revival in recent decades. I saw one of the Michael Keaton movies, which wasn't bad but went a bit too heavy on the post-Blade Runner urban nightmare set design. It's my recent reading of comics that has me seeking out the recent movies.

February 10, 2009  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Neither Nicholson nor Ledger really seemed to share my take on the Joker. To me, the Joker should be a) elegant and b) funny. Plus murderous and crazy as a rat in a coffee can, of course. Nicholson was kind of stylish and kind of funny, but Ledger was too down-to-earth about it.

February 11, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll have to pursue my Batman studies further before I decide my take on the Joker. The role probably demands an actor who can play a psychopath without being too obvious about it. But asking that a character called the Joker not be too much of a clown may be a bit much. I did enjoy the moments when H. Ledger was able to make the character seem evil and dangerous.

February 11, 2009  

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