Jul 25, 2008

Top Five Comic Book Movies I'd Like to See Made

The title of this post is "Comic Book Movies I'd LIKE to See Made", and not "LOVE to see made", because if you know me at all, you know I have absolutely no faith in Hollywood. But! Let's pretend I do.

5. The Question

Victor Sage meets a lot of the criteria Hollywood is looking for these days, so why not? It'd be noirish, full of intrigue, mystery, and zen meditation. Plus, trenchcoats are always fun, and there's always something cool about a guy with no face.


The Justice League Unlimited cartoon really did wonders with The Question.

4. Green Lantern


I'm back and forth on whether the Green Lantern in this movie should be Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner (as Kyle's more imaginative), but it'd probably be Hal, and his rising up in the ranks of the Corps, ending with a big blow-out between him and Sinestro. The lightshow would be amazing, but the problem is that there's a fine balance between the inherent silliness and awesomeness of Hal's power, and, as a friend of mine just told me, "When the power you have is only limited by your will and the color yellow, Hollywood wouldnt know what to do."

3. The Flash

Like the above, I'm torn as to who should be the Flash in the movie, Barry Allen or Wally West. I guess we could have them both, promoting Wally to the lead role in the sequel, which would be more interesting because Wally's a far more interesting character than Barry, who really has no emotional baggage.

The big problem with making a movie about the Flash is the same thing that makes him so cool in the comics. He's incredibly fun. His villains are colorful, sympathetic, and act as a fraternity, who are not out to kill him, but to evade him.

Unfortunately, you can't tell the story of Wally West in full without killing off Barry Allen. So there may be that unfortunate dark side to what would be a GP movie, ending with Barry sacrificing himself to save the world.

So I don't know if the mainstream Hollywood audience would go for such a movie. One thing's for sure, though: mainstream comic book fans would love it, and so would kids.

2. Original Superman

Superman, as conceived in 1938 at the height of the Great Depression, was not the virtuous role model you see today, fighting evil with a smile on his face, and saving the world from alien threats and mad scientists. Superman originally was a social crusader, who took matters into his own hands. If a politician was corrupt, then Superman would go over and rough him up, with no regard to proper avenues of how to complain about these things. If he saw a man about to get the death penalty and he knew the man was innocent, he'd spring him - no questions asked. Superman was a two-fisted champion of the oppressed, and honestly, I think there's a place right now for that kind of hero.


In addition, he could be hurt by an exploding shell, could only leap an eighth of a mile (not at all fly), and run faster than a locomotive.

I think it'd be fun, but it's obviously not commercial.

1. Adam West Batman

As I've said in this blog before, if I could make any movie I wanted, it would be a remake of the Adam West Batman TV show, with as much irony, parody, humor, as the old show. And like the old show, it would play it completely straight.



It would be smart. It would be funny. It would be a riot. It would be awesome.

And who would I get to play Adam West? The one guy in Hollywood who has his voice register, delivery, and the ability to be just as melodramatic:


Will Arnett.

Imagine him doing the Batusi:



By the way, I'm not AT ALL kidding. I would really like to see this.

Anyone got a particular movie they want to see made?

Jul 24, 2008

The Top Five Best Joker Moments, Ever

In my dream, the world had suffered a terrible disaster. A black haze shut out the sun, and the darkness was alive with the moans and screams of wounded people.

Suddenly, a small light glowed. A candle flickered into life, symbol of hope for millions.

A single tiny candle, shining in the ugly dark.


I laughed and blew it out.

~The Joker, from a story I can't find, which is annoying, because it's awesome.



Of all time, the Joker is my favorite villain, and I'm very happy with the late Heath Ledger's portrayal of him in the Batman movie. So I thought about it, and thought, "Shit, the Joker's been in a lot of great stories in the comics." I thought I'd pick the five that I feel best define him. Maybe I'll make the top five a regular from now on.

Anyway, before we go, here's a few honorable mentions.

First honorable mention goes to the time that Joker shot Dick Grayson (Robin I) in the shoulder, making Batman increasingly scared for Dick's safety, leading Dick to leave the mantle of Robin behind. Not in the top five because the Joker would do something far more effective to another Robin later, plus it led to Dick becoming Nightwing, which is a million times cooler than Batman himself, so he's like a billion times more awesome than Robin in short shorts.

Second honorable mention goes to Batman: Dark Detective. Here's the cover. I think that says it all. Not in the list because the story itself wasn't notable.




Third honorable mention goes to the Alan Moore-penned Swamp Thing story where Anton Arcane has unleashed a mystical emotional plague on the world. In a scene showing reactions to Arcane's emotional storm, we cut to Arkham, where the nurses and doctors are starting to get scared. Finally, one doctor said, "Oh yeah, you wanna see something really scary? There.... the Joker's stopped laughing." Not in the list, obviously, because it's not a Joker story.



Final honorable mention goes to the Joker's monologue in the first Spider-Man/Batman crossover, which has him showing Carnage who's boss. Not on the list because, as a rule, crossovers shouldn't count. 'Cause it opens a can of worms. "Any idiot... can go out and slaughter a few thousand people. But where's the laughter and tears? The handstands and histrionics? In short... where's the theater?" Plus, Mark Bagley rules as an artist, and everyone should see how well he draws the Joker.



So here's the list.

5. Joker beats the living crap out of Jason Todd

Jason Todd, the second Robin, did not get over with fans very well. For one thing, he was an annoying little snot, undermining Batman every chance he got. He was the early attempt at a teenage rebel in the comics, and it wasn't executed very well. So, finally, DC left his fate up to the readers, by way of telephone votes. Of over 3,000 votes, the death option won by about 76 votes, so it was decreed: Jason Todd must die.

In the story in which they did it, Todd is on a search for his mother, and when he finally finds her, he finds out she's an international criminal, conspiring with the Joker. Appealing to her maternal instincts and good nature, he reveals to her his dual identity. Only, it turns out, Jason's mother is really an impure soul, and leads him right to the Joker, who takes the annoying snot by surprise, and beats the living crap out of him with a crowbar... in front of his mother. Then he straps her to a pillar and leaves them with a bomb.


While this particular scene does not have the pizazz of some other Joker moments and the story as a whole is, for me, below par, it really is a moment that cements (as if it weren't already) Joker's place as Batman's top villain, as the one person who is capable of taking so much away from him. Plus, he does it with a smile on his face.

Joker's murder of Jason Todd is the oft-cited in-story reason for Batman's grim, serious turn for the worse in the 90s and first half of the 2000s. As far as an in-story reason goes, there are few better.

4. Underworld Unleashed

James Jesse, the Trickster, is brought to Hell for a meeting of villains. The meeting is called by Neron, at the time DC's most serious version of the devil. Neron has promised the villains more power than they currently have (basically, the story is a retooling of the villains in general). One by one, Neron shows them the villains that he's already got on his side. It starts off with Kadabra, and the Trickster, with his internal narration, professes a certain level of fear and hesitation towards the Flash's magician antagonist. It then goes to Lex Luthor, who, of course, the Trickster respects, followed by Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis Circe, increasing the Trickster's level of fear. It then goes to Dr. Polaris, the master of magnetism, and the Trickster is realizing just how serious the power is getting around the table. But then, he sees one more figure at the table, and then he realizes who it is.




"Oh," he says. "Oh GOD."

The Joker is the least powerful person on the table, but he's the only one who's capable of injecting such abject fear into The Trickster. And the kicker of it all is that one line that follows it.


"When villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories."

3. Joker kills Sarah Essen-Gordon

About some time after Joker shot Barbara Gordon in the spine (see number two), he took someone else away from Commissioner Gordon: his wife.

Now, it must be noted that Joker is doing all of these things to break Jim Gordon. Any maniac could go out and slaughter a few thousand people, as noted before, but when the Joker kills someone close to Gordon, it's for the express purpose of breaking Jim Gordon. He is not out to kill Jim Gordon. He wants Jim Gordon to go mad.

So, at the end of No Man's Land, the year-long Batman story that had the US turn its back on an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City, the Joker resurfaces and kidnaps a bunch of babies, and gives the good guys a set amount of time to find them. Along the way, Commissioner Gordon's wife, Sarah Essen, has a malfunction involving her police communicator, and must return to police headquarters to get a new one. Unfortunately, that just so happens to be where the Joker is hiding the babies, even holding one in his arms, tenderly.

Sarah pulls out her gun, and tells Joker to drop the baby... so Joker does, at which point Sarah has no choice but to drop her gun and catch the baby. The Joker then, calmly and very seriously, without any hint of histrionics, pulls out his own gun and shoots Sarah in the head.



But that's not where it gets good. Jim Gordon, along with the entire GCPD, corners the Joker as he exits police headquarters and surrenders. Once Gordon learns what the Clown Prince of Crime did to his wife, he pulls out a gun at him, and tries to justify killing him, using his murdered wife and crippled daughter as the two main reasons. Batman, whose code against killing is as strong as it ever was, decides he can no longer blame Gordon if he does shoot the Joker, as he's lost so much.

Gordon comes to a decision, and decides to shoot the Joker in the knee. The Joker then screams, saying he might never walk again, like Gordon's daughter...



...and then laughs, because he gets the joke.

That is a deranged mind, folks.

2. The Joker Shoots Barbara Gordon

In Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, oft-recognized as the definitive Joker story, Barbara Gordon is enjoying a night at the house with her father, Commissioner Gordon. Suddenly, the doorbell rings. Barbara, smiling, goes on to open it, finds the Joker, standing there with a gun. And without a single narrative caption, thought balloon, sound effect, or word of dialogue, the Joker shoots her, right through the midsection.



As Commissioner Gordon goes on to check on his fallen daughter, the Joker's men subdue him, as he's the one they came for anyway. While they're doing that, Joker smiles, and compares Barbara to a used library book, referring back to her old days as a librarian. It's one of the most callous, heartless things I've ever seen, and you can tell he's enjoying every single witticism that comes out of his mouth.


One of the things making this moment so effective is its permanence. Since then, Barbara Gordon has remained paralyzed, waist-down for life, with the Joker never knowing that he had ended Batgirl's career.

Because another thing making it effective is the fact that he just didn't care. It was all random happenstance. Joker was there for Jim Gordon, without any intent to kill him. It just so happened Babs opened the door, and you simply don't get in the Joker's way.

1. The Laughing Fish

In the classic story, "The Laughing Fish", which was also adapted into the animated series (with improvements, such as Harley Quinn), the Joker poisons a large number of the fish in Gotham City so they all have his distinctive smile on them.


Because a bunch of fish now look like him, he goes to the copyright offices and demands a cut from all sales of the fish, and that they all be deemed his intellectual property. The guy behind the counter tells him you can't copyright fish, as they're a natural resource.

The Joker's response? "But Colonel Sanders has those chickens, and they don't even have a mustache! You see now why I resort to crime."



Within the next 12 hours, the man who told the Joker he couldn't copyright his fish was dead, and two more people died before the Batman finally caught him.


Why is this number one, you ask? It just illustrates what the Joker really is. Why does he put his face on fish, knowing full well he could never copyright a natural resource? He thinks it's funny. And if you don't agree with him, then sorry. You're dead.

And he does it all with a smile on his face.





Well, those are, in my opinion, the most definitive Joker moments ever! Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Jul 21, 2008

Batman movie franchise: Who's next?

So, uncharacteristically, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight more than I thought I would. I thought Christian Bale and Gary Oldman did great jobs as Bruce Wayne (not as Batman. We'll get to that later.) and Commissioner Gordon, Aaron Eckhart was a spot-on Harvey Dent, and Heath Ledger was a phenomenal Joker. And by phenomenal, I mean amazing. I mean great. The only thing Ledger had going against him is that his physical features don't really match the Joker's (he's too big and built), but that's not his fault at all.

So I was thinking of the next Batman movie, and possible villains for the Bat to square off against. Batman has one of the three best rogues' galleries in comics (along with Spider-Man and The Flash), and certainly the most psychologically fascinating. The problem is that I think they've used up the three villains capable of carrying a movie on their own (Ra's Al Ghul, Two-Face, and the Joker). Who's left? Let's check it out.

Uh, spoilers may follow.

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TWO-FACE


Pros: The logical villain for the next movie is, once again, Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Because of the way the last movie ended, the obvious next plot is to get Batman to clear his name, and exposing Harvey is the easiest way to do that. Plus, Aaron Eckhart played him well, and it'd be a hoot to see him again. (I actually thought in the beginning that they were putting him in the next movie instead of this one.)

Cons:
Been done. People might not get into it as much due to the repeat factor.

The Verdict: I think Harvey'll be in the next movie. But I don't think he'll be alone, and I'm even unsure as to how much he'll be in it. I'd say 100%, but I'm not sure what he'll do or how much.
__________________________________________

CATWOMAN
Pros: With Rachel Dawe "dead" in the last movie, the Batman franchise needs a new woman to take center stage, and to put in another love interest for Bruce is just reprisal. So the femme fatale's the way to go. Also, next to the Joker, it's hard to argue that the most recognizable antagonist for Batman is Catwoman. She'd also be the one antagonist left in his gallery to fit in really well with the "realistic" Batman world Nolan is creating - she's the only one left in a black costume, with no superpowers to speak of.

Cons: There's that Halle Berry movie that might still be giving Catwoman a stigma to carry around with her, wherever she goes, and DC can't really make up their minds as to what to do with her, whether she's a hero or a villain. Granted, her moral ambiguity may make for a fascinating story, but is it enough to carry a movie on its own? I doubt it.

The Verdict: I think she's a lock, but, again, I don't see her being alone. I'd say 75%, because I don't think she can carry the movie alone. Maybe she's the one who ends up clearing Batman's name.

__________________________________________

THE PENGUIN

Pros: Name recognition. Next to the Joker and Catwoman, it's hard to argue that any Batman villain is more known than the Penguin. And it would be the perfect time to reclaim the character from Danny DeVito's creepy portrayal back in 92.

Cons: He's a fat dirty businessman with an umbrella. Oh, the gods do tremble. What would end up happening is that he'd just be another mobster; there's nothing he can really offer in this particular version of the Batman universe that Moroni and Falcone haven't already.

The Verdict: The only way I see it happening is if Penguin is the leading mob boss in the city. In which case, he can't be the leading villain, because that'd be boring. And I don't see DC, Warner Brothers, or Nolan just using him as a tertiary character, similar to Moroni in the last movie. 10%.

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MR. FREEZE
Pros: The original Mr. Freeze episode of the Batman Animated Series won an Emmy. AN EMMY. Freeze is just that good of a tragic villain.

Cons: He has a science-fiction edge to him that would likely not fit in with Nolan's Batworld. Plus, all of his emotional baggage is a movie in itself and would not fit in very well with the loose ends from Dark Knight.

Verdict:
Don't see it. Victor doesn't fit in tonally, nor does he fit in narratively. 20%.

__________________________________________

POISON IVY
Pros: The same as with Catwoman, Poison Ivy gives the film a female antagonist that this Bat-universe could use.

Cons: Ivy doesn't fit. Not just with this Bat-universe, but with the Batman universe in GENERAL. This is why she's never the stuff classic Batman stories are made of. She has powers that are FAR too powerful, she's too freaky to be a love interest (some writers depict her as bleeding chlorophyll), and the whole eco-terrorist angle has been covered by Ra's Al Ghul, kinda making her redundant. She simply does not fit. I say transplant her into the Wonder Woman universe.

The Verdict: 10%, and that's only because I can see them putting her in just because they need a woman.
__________________________________________

THE RIDDLERPros: Flat out, name recognition. It goes, arguably: Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler in terms of name recognition. In fact, little bit of trivia. The Joker was not Batman's arch-nemesis until the 70s. There was a time, in the 60s, thanks to the Adam West show and my man Frank Gorshin's spectacular portrayal of Edward Nygma, that the Riddler was the number one villain. And there are two ways to play him: he can be manic, like Gorshin and Jim Carrey played him, with joyful, Joker-like glee, or he can be cerebral, as he was played on the cartoon, just calm and calculating. He works either way.

Cons:
Because most people know the Riddler as his manic self, it's quite possible that he'd be seen as too close to the Joker tonally, and the Joker's a hard act to follow. There's also the question of his entire gimmick, fitting in with the Nolan Batverse.

The Verdict:
I think they could pull it off, and I think he could even carry the movie on his own, but I also think it's a stretch. If he does show, it'll likely, still be with Harvey. It could go either way, I think. 75%.

__________________________________________

MAXIE ZEUS
Pros: Maxie Zeus is fascinating, insane, and would make a great leading mobster because of his whole angle.

Cons: As discussed in the Penguin section, for a mobster to be the number one villain in the movie would be kind of boring.

The Verdict: I can see Maxie Zeus being the mobster, playing Moroni's role in the last movie, much more than I can see the Penguin doing it. But it might be too much extra baggage, and they would rather go with a regular mobster instead. 15%.
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MR. ZSASZ
Pros: Zsasz is a fascinating villain, who has no powers at all, and kills people with brute abandon. He carves a scar onto his body for every life he takes. I think he'd be GREAT in Nolan's Batverse.

Cons: Who the hell is Zsasz?

The Verdict: I can see him being one of Harvey's henchmen, but there's no way he's carrying a movie. 40%.
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BANE
Pros: The Man Who Broke Batman's Back in the comics would certainly be a good antagonist for Batman, and would give the next movie one thing EVERY Batman movie ever has lacked: a good fight. Plus, Bane's not just a big guy who's strong; he's actually really smart.

Cons: Good luck finding someone to play him. Also, with Bane's strength coming from drugs, it might run the risk of being preachy.

The Verdict: For the same reason that I fear for the Thor movie, I don't see Bane being the Bat-villain, in the next movie or ever. 25%.

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CLAYFACE
Pros: Clayface is, like Mr. Freeze, a good tragic villain and would provide an interesting foil for the Dark Knight Detective. And because of his shapechanging ability, he would have to make Batman really be a detective.

Cons: Again, the superpowered aspect doesn't really fit in with Nolan's Batverse, and it's only been a year since Spider-Man 3 and their version of Sandman. Clayface might be too close to it.

The Verdict: Don't see it at all. 10%.
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KILLER CROC
Pros: Croc is a good, serviceable villain for an action sequence.

Cons: To just call his reptiley hide a skin condition is kind of a stretch, but it might work since they just did it with Harvey. At first glance, he doesn't look like he fits, but I think he could with some tweaking.

The Verdict: I can see him being a henchman or just opening the movie to be taken down right away, much like Zsasz. 60%.
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TALIA AL GHUL

Pros: Talia Al Ghul would provide the femme fatale. (See Catwoman, Poison Ivy) And she would be an easy storyline to write in, given her ties to Ra's Al Ghul.

Cons: Talia doesn't really work without Ra's, and I don't see them pulling Ra's out again.

The Verdict: Not at all. 10%.

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THE MAD HATTER


Pros: A good, insane villain who could serve pretty decently in the opening of the next movie.

Cons: Nowhere near strong enough to carry the movie on his own, or even be a big character.

The Verdict: I could see him playing a bit, kind of comic-relief part. 60%.
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SCARFACE and the VENTRILOQUIST

Pros: To be honest, this is the only way I'd see the whole mobster angle taking center stage. Scarface and the Ventriloquist are certainly psychologically fascinating enough for Nolan's Batverse.

Cons: Scarface is a dummy. That's not a lot of marketability for people who most likely want to see a good-looking man play the lead villain. Plus, as noted above, the whole mobster thing is really a tertiary storyline, and has been done. This would just add a twist, but I doubt the novelty could sustain the movie.

The Verdict: Again, don't see it at all. 10%.
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WRATH

Pros: Wrath is the anti-Batman. His parents, hardened criminals who were killed by a Gotham cop, thus forcing him to dedicate his life to crime. The cop also just so happens to be Commissioner Gordon. Another perfect example of duality, if they were to play that card again with Harvey. Plus, since he's every bit as good as Batman, it would give action-marks the greatest fight scene ever, in any comic book movie. Yes, better than Hulk vs. Abomination.

Cons: Nolan will probably want to use the established Batman villains before using a character that's shown up all of twice in the last 70 years and has never been adapted into other media. Also, as shown by our next potential villain, the fight scene is probably not the priority.

The Verdict: 1%. But it would be INCREDIBLY cool.
__________________________________________

BATMAN'S ANNOYING BATSUIT (extra: Batman's annoying voice)

Pros: It's "realistic." Which is not, you know, the actual meaning of the word realistic, which is "believable". It's Hollywood "realistic", which is "pretends to be believable in a world where believability should really be taken with a grain of salt." You know, kinda like the Watchmen movie. Where Watchmen the comic was "realistic" in that it had believable characters and situations, and short fight scenes (like real fights are) where the guy who is clearly physically better wins, the movie is looking like it is just "realistic" in that it is dark and gritty, and the world's most perfect man has a rubber suit with nipples which will in no way, not at all, hinder him from catching a bullet.

Cons: In The Dark Knight, Batman got injured by a dog, fell off his motorcycle and got knocked out, and fell on his back in the last scene and took a while to stand up, without even trying to save himself. I blame the suit. This Batman, unfortunately, is not about finesse or smarts. And, unfortunately, it's not about the fights either. Batman is Batman and should be able to protect himself. The suit shouldn't be about protection. It should be about maneuverability. A flexible suit of light armor with bulletproof Kevlar underneath is fine. Any boxer or martial artist will tell you that maneuverability comes first. Protection should come with your natural ability.

The Verdict: Unfortunately, I think Nolan loves the "realism" the Bat-armor gives. "Realism". Yeah. 100%.

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DR. HORRIBLE AND THE EVIL LEAGUE OF EVIL
Pros: It would be awesome. Now that Dr. Horrible has taken care of Captain Hammer, he needs to move up in the world. Plus, I want to hear Batman sing.

Cons: No cons at all.

The Verdict: As Dr. Horrible would attest to, genius is never appreciated in its own time. Zero.
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