The Batman Is A Powerful, Gritty Look At The Dark Knight

The latest live-action incarnation of DC Comics’ most popular superhero, The Batman, was eagerly awaited by fans and for good reason. Director Matt Reeves promised his version of Batman would actually used his detective skills like in the comics and his film would be more of a gritty crime noir piece. For the most part, Reeves succeeded and delivered one of the most powerful Batman films of all time.

Taking elements from the film Se7en and the comic book mini-series Batman: The Long Halloween, The Batman takes place during the second year of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s (Robert Pattinson) war on crime. As the film starts, a terrifying serial killer called the Riddler (Paul Dano) is killing the rich elite of Gotham City and exposing their dark secrets. This includes crooked politicians and police officers alike. Batman and his only ally in the police department, Detective James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), work together to capture the Riddler by solving his enigmatic clues before he claims his next victim.

Batman’s detective work leads him to the seedy, underworld empire of crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and the criminal elements working for him, such as Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrel echoing Robert DeNiro in a fat suit) and Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz who redefines sultriness with her version of Catwoman). Their interactions expose many secrets about Gotham, including uncomfortable revelations about Bruce Wayne’s parents. At the same time, Batman starts questioning his vengeance-fueled crusade to rid crime from Gotham as he realizes the Riddler’s macabre vendetta is a dark mirror to his cause.

Unlike previous Batman films, The Batman is more grounded and gritty. Believe it or not, it feels even more realistic than the Christopher Nolan films. Gotham itself is shown to be a bleak and dreary locale without redemption and Matt Reeves revels in exposing it to the audience. Almost all the characters have dark elements in their souls and are tremendously conflicted. Batman most of all, who is at his core, a tragic figure. He is clearly emotionally damaged by the murder of his parents…thankfully this film did not bother to show us yet another version of his origin. Instead, it focuses on the aftermath of their deaths as Bruce has to learn to move past the idea of vengeance and find a more noble vision within himself.

Seeing Batman portrayed as a quiet and intimidating vigilante at odds with the police and displaying his cunning intelligence as he solves riddles was a novel approach and harken back to Batman’s Golden Age crime story roots. Pattinson does a fine job as the determined Caped Crusader and the gaunt Bruce Wayne. Unlike other versions, this Bruce Wayne is a true social recluse who has not yet adopted the outward identity of a charming billionaire playboy and it was an interesting take on the character.

The other actors were also striking in their roles, with Kravitz, Dano and Wright standing out. Dano’s horrifying take of the Riddler is truly chilling and rivals the best portrayals of the Joker. Speaking of the Joker, there is an unnecessary cameo of the Joker in the film which was distracting. We did not need to see the character and his appearance demonstrated one of the film’s weakness.

As powerful as it was, The Batman was bit too long in length, being nearly three hours long. Matt Reeves could have easily trimmed off fifteen or twenty minutes because the film dwelled too long on the intricate subplots of various villains and the corrupt elements of Gotham’s elites. Honestly, the material with the Riddler more than held up the film and those side stories were not needed. It was obvious these elements were put in to set up future films.

Regardless, from the excellent acting to the beautifully haunting cinematography to the thrilling fight scenes, The Batman is quite a neo noir achievement. It is not for everyone, especially younger children and those seeking a light-hearted superhero romp. But The Batman is one of those few films that makes you want to see again and again to discover something new with each viewing.

José Soto

Top Ten Unused Batman Villains For Future Films

With the release of Matt Reeve’s The Batman, which features three main Batman villains (The Riddler, The Penguin, and Catwoman), it’s time to take a look at some unused antagonists of the Dark Knight who either have never been seen in live action or have only appeared on the various TV shows featuring Batman and/or the Bat Family.

10. Hugo Strange

This character is more of an intellectual threat to Batman. A psychologist and evil genius, Dr. Hugo Strange runs Arkham Asylum, but uses his intellect to commit crimes while under the guise of trying to reform criminals. Batman always sees through this and stops his plans, but Strange’s abilities and access to Arkham’s most dangerous villains allows him to evade justice many times. His appearance in the Gotham show was a highlight and he would make a great antagonist in any Batman film.

9. Solomon Grundy

Solomon Grundy is rather large, super strong villain that is basically a zombie who was resurrected in the swamps of Gotham. He appeared in the television show Gotham, as well as the various animated shows and is a great bad guy for Batman to deal with. Showing up in a grounded Batman film would be strange, but would give it a good horror movie feel and play on our fears of unknown creatures in the dark.

8. Killer Croc

This character had a prominent appearance in Suicide Squad, but didn’t interact with Batman onscreen. I liked this portrayal of Croc and would be happy to see him appear again, especially going up against Batman in the sewers of Gotham City. His gruesome reptilian look and super strength makes him a real threat to the Caped Crusader and like Solomon Grundy, evokes fears of unknown creatures in forgotten places. His appearances in Batman: The Annimated Series and other shows are always great to see.

7. Calendar Man

A criminal who kills according to the dates and significant holidays of the calendar, this villain had a great appearance in the animated movie The Long Halloween with his Hannibal Lecter-like presence while being questioned by Batman in Arkham Asylum. Batman was trying to find out about murders being committed during holidays, and turned to him for insight. Having something like this in live action would be great to see and would fit Matt Reeves’ take on the Batman universe, with his version of the Riddler being portrayed in The Batman as a serial killer trying to take down Gotham City and expose its many secrets.

6. Ventriloquist

Another unique villain, the Ventriloquist is a meek gangster named Arnold Wesker who can only commit crimes while having a dummy, named Scarface on his hand who has a violent personality and rules his gang through fear. His appearances in Batman: The Animated Series werememorable and showed an interesting split personality similar to Two-Face. The audience was kept guessing as to who was really at the center of the Ventriloquist’s schemes, the mild mannered Wesker, or the hot tempered Scarface and it would be fun to see in a film.

5. Mad Hatter

Jervis Tech is a demented villain is obsessed with the Alice in Wonderland story and is frequently shown to be determined to live out the book by kidnapping his would-be Alice and forcing her to partake in his bizarre rituals, and commit crimes using mind-control hats. Obviously, Batman always has something to say about that, but had to deal with the Mad Hatter’s insanity and overcome Tech’s schemes. Having this kind of villain in a film would be a strange but interesting take in a Batman film.

4. Clayface

A shapeshifting villain that uses his sludge-like appearance to mimic anyone he wants, Clayface has caused all kinds of problems for Batman, and his morphing attributes would be nice to see on the big screen. His ability to create various weapons with his arms evokes the T-1000 from the Terminator series and was something that was used to great effect in Batman: The Animated Series, but to date hasn’t been attempted in live action.

3. Man-Bat

This unusual villain is literally the flip side of Batman. Dr. Kirk Langstrom is a scientist who develops a serum that turns him into a huge bat-like creature that terrorizes the skies of Gotham City. Man-Bat has the distinction of being the villain that appears in the very first episode of the classic Batman: The Animated Series and is a unique take on the were-wolf mythos. Bruce Wayne eventually befriends Langstrom and helps him overcome his curse by developing a cure, but the threat of the Man-Bat reemerging is always in the background. Having a massive bat-creature duking it out with Batman on various rooftops would be thrilling to see on the big screen.

2. Deathstroke

With only a brief cameo at the end of Justice League, this master mercenary/assassin known as Slade Wilson has been a match for Batman. Deathstroke was supposed to be in the now-defunct Ben Affleck-directed Batman solo film as he battled Batfleck in Arkham Asylum. His deadly skills and mastery of weapons are shown to great effect in the Titans series as he divides the team from within, pitting them against each other and nearly destroys them in his quest for vengeance. Deathstoke also had a famous role in Arrow and became that show’s best villain. He has recently appeared in his own animated film and it would have been great to see him go up against Batfleck, but hopefully there is a future for him in any further Batman films.

1. Red Hood

The classic story “A Death In the Family”, which shows Jason Todd aka the second Robin being killed by the Joker, resulted in the emergence of a resurrected Todd as the anti-hero/villain the Red Hood. He terrorizes criminals using lethal force and goes after Batman due to his outrage at the fact that Batman let the Joker live, even after being responsible for Todd’s death. This emotional tale is told in the excellent animated adaptation Under the Red Hood and is also seen in a different form in the HBO Max series Titans. It would be great to see this adapted into a theatrical form since it strikes at the core of Batman’s code of ethics and his battle to control his demons while contrasting this with the Red Hood as a Punisher-like vigilante, who goes over the line trying to clean up Gotham City.

Batman has an iconic rogues gallery. While the most famous ones have been portrayed many times in films, there are many more that show the variety of villains that exist in his universe. Some are more serious and deadly, while others are more fantastical, but all of them are interesting characters that would be great to see in any big budget Batman film, including a sequel to The Batman.

C.S. Link

Peacemaker Joyfully Revels In Violence And Silliness

Peacemaker is the first TV show set in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and streams on HBO Max. It’s also a spinoff of The Suicide Squad and follows the further adventures of the idealogically fanatic superhero Peacemaker/Chris Smith (John Cena), who was rightly left for dead at the end of the film.

After been rescued and hospitalized by the U.S. government group A.R.G.U.S., as seen in the post-credis scene of The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker is recruited by that group’s black ops team to fight alien creatures who inhabit host human bodies and are called Butterflies because of the way the aliens appear.

The black ops team is made up of an eclectic group of goofy or over-the-top violent characters including the deadly and tough A.R.G.U.S. agent Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), John Economos (Steve Agee), an insecure tactical support agent, Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), a new A.R.G.U.S. recruit who becomes good friends with Chris, and their exasperated mercenary leader Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji). An unofficial recruit is Adrian Chase aka the costumed Vigilante (Freddie Stroma), an overeager sociopath who looks up to Peacemaker and fashions himself as Peacemaker’s best friend. But that is actually Peacemaker’s pet bald eagle, Eagly.

As the group carry on their mission to eliminate the Butterflies, they learn a lot about each other and gradually earn each other’s trust, respect and even friendship. The one person who is most affected by the experience is Chris himself who begins to question his extreme jingoistic view of life and even becomes likeable.

In The Suicide Squad, the Peacemaker was a real jerk, a total D-Bag, and when he was supposedly killed off, hardly anyone mourned him unlike the other characters. But the TV show went to great lengths to humanize him and it paid off. Yes, he is still a jerk who is too cocky, but we learn that beneathe that false bravado hides a wound psyche and the emotional center of Peacemaker.

The TV show is written by James Gunn, who also directed most of the episodes. Much of the success of the show is due to the film director who reinvented the Suicide Squad and presented a possible new direction for the DCEU. As always, Gunn demonstrates his twisted filmmaking skills thanks to his well-written characters and fast-moving scripts, which keeps surprising viewers. All the actors are especially good in this show and bring an extra dimension to their characters. Cena was the best surprise with his role because of the way he is able to show different levels to his character.

As is James Gunn’s forte, Peacemaker excels at its level of cheekiness, graphic violence, and its overall raunchy nature. This is certainly not a show for the kids to watch, but DCEU fans will love the jokes, Easter eggs, and stylized action. There are a few cameos by DCEU characters that actually work and add to the show’s enjoyment. Fans of hair and glam metal bands will love the soundtrack which is peppered generously with many songs. The standout song used in Peacemaker is, naturally, Wig Wam’s “Do You Wanna Taste It” and it fits so well with the show’s hysterical dance number in the opening credits.

Be patient with the first episode or two as Peacemaker settles in and establishes the characters and situations. While it and the main character may be off-putting, by the second or third episode, viewers will get wrapped up and engaged with the bizarre and irreverant nature of the show as the characters are actually changed by their adventures.

After dealing with the inane Arrowverse, Peacemaker comes at the right time as the DCEU now thankfully is represented in the TV medium and it can herald a new era for DC-based TV shows.

Twilight Of The Arrowverse

The Flash, the flagship TV show of the Arrowverse, has been renewed for a ninth season. “YAWN”

Legends of Tomorrow might be renewed for an eighth season, but being the TV show airs on The CW, its renewal is likely. No surprise, if it is renewed.

Batwoman…er, is this thing still on?

To be serious, the Arrowverse has seen better days. That was back when Arrow was in its early seasons and The Flash was considered one of the best superhero TV shows. But now, the interconnected TV shows based on DC superheroes are considered outdated, some of them have had problematic productions and there is little excitement over them.

Yes, Superman & Lois is a great superhero TV show and is part of the Arrowverse, but even that show seems embarassed to be associated with the Arrowverse. Nearly all of its episodes do not have any references to the larger Arrowverse. One notable episode that guest-starred the Arrowverse mainstay, John Diggle (David Ramsey), only annoyed fans of Superman & Lois because the show is very well done with superior writing, acting and special effects.

These Arrowverse TV shows are masterminded by Greg Berlanti. He is also behind better received, non-Arrowverse shows like Titans, Stargirl and Doom Patrol, so he can produce quality TV shows and the early days of the Arrowverse confirm this. However, the proper Arrowverse is creatively running on fumes and, aside from Superman & Lois, need to be put out to pasture. At least Arrow quit while it was more or less ahead in its seventh season when its star Stephen Amell decided to leave the show. Even at that point, Arrow had seen a decline in quality, although its final season was generally well done.

The issue of TV shows that go on for too long is a common one with most TV shows on The CW, which is now up for sale by its owners WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS. If and when the sale goes through and, particularly if WarnerMedia is spunoff by its owners AT&T, the future of the Arrowverse is dim.

So, we could be looking at the twilight of the Arrowverse.

This will generate collective yawns from most viewers and fans who have moved on from the Arrowverse. It is a shame because at one point, the Arrowverse TV shows were some of the best and most engaging superhero fare on TV. Honestly, when Arrow debuted on October 12, 2012 and spawned other TV shows, it was an exciting time since they were the only game in town. During that time, as Marvel Entertainment dominated the box office, DC ruled the airwaves. But eventually the competition caught up and surpassed the Arrowverse. Not just Marvel, but even DC, as edgier and better produced shows like Doom Patrol, and now Peacemaker, captured our attention.

The problem with the Arrowverse is that they are quickly churned out, have limited budgets and it shows. Most of the shows feel the same. They usually have the main character/superhero who has some back up team providing support, which is odd since the comic book counterparts operated by themselves or with little support. This team consists of some annoying computer or tech nerd who talks too much, a grounded, more mature, mentor, the love interest who has nothing to do and winds up becoming an integral part of the team for no reason, and a young protege superhero who tries to follow in the hero’s footsteps. The villains are hit or miss and often badly overacted. When the villain does connect that foe then becomes overused by the shows’ tired writers.

Also, the average Arrowverse show dwells too much on vapid romantic sub plots that are good sleep tonics for anyone who is not a lovesick teenager. Being that the shows on The CW are geared towards younger viewers, this helps explain the worn out formula and emphasis on romance with the Arrowverse TV shows.

Another flaw is that the Arrowverse shows have too many episodes per season, which betrays its outdated model. Try to name a show currently airing or streaming with over 20 episodes in a season. Good luck with that. The point is that by churning out so many shows in a limited time period it is difficult to produce quality episodes. This amounts to lots of filler episodes that can be skipped. What’s worse is that the main story arc for a season meanders on and is unfocused.

With all these flaws it is hard to deny the Arrowverse has outlived its shelf life. The Arrowverse is clearly in a twilight phase of its existence and it’s sad to observe. The Arrowverse helped set the mode for a modern, interrelated TV universe where characters would casually appear in any given show. This TV universe deserves to be commended for its contribution to the geeky arts even as it is in its final moments.

Getting Over Recasting Gripes

Recasting roles for films and TV shows has gone on ever since the first roll of film was developed over a century ago. This included many iconic characters like James Bond, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes. This is a normal thing and widely accepted among filmgoers and TV viewers, but lately there has been so much griping over the recasting and potential recasting of several superhero roles in upcoming films and TV shows. This especially goes for Superman, Batman, and the Black Panther, but there is no need to fret over this.

The most obvious reason for the uneasiness is that many fans are devoted to a certain interpretation and portrayal of the character and cannot move on after an actor leaves that role. They behave like it is the endo of the world and focus on the negative.

It’s funny but most of these fans have very short memories. For example, there is the current issue with Henry Cavill being replaced as Superman in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films. Before Cavill was cast, Brandon Routh played the role in Superman Returns and many fans complained about Routh not being allowed to continue the role for Man of Steel and wondered why was he replaced by Cavill. Now, given the mess the DCEU is in, and the clear disdain Warner Bros. has for the current version of Superman and the director that cast the role and set the tone for the DECU (Zack Snyder), it is a certainty that Henry Cavill will be replaced. In TV, Superman is currently played by Tyler Hoechlin in Superman & Lois, and he is receiving wide acclaim for his portrayal of the Man of Steel. So, fans have to face facts, Henry Cavill is not the only person who is allowed to play Superman. There are many capable characters who could pull it off as Hoechlin is now showing and this has gone on for decades. Many thought it was impossible to recast Superman after Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance in his films, yet it was done. To be blunt it had to be done given that Reeve passed away years ago.

Then there is the casting of Batman in the upcoming films, The Batman and The Flash. Originally, the character was played in the DCEU by Ben Affleck, but before that the Caped Crusader was portrayed by Christian Bale and before that by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney. In another case of short memories, Bale was considered the best actor to play Batman and when Affleck’s casting was announced for the next Batman film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was widely panned. But guess what? Affleck shocked many people with how good he was in the role. Many now claim that at least in that film, Ben Aflleck gave the best interpretation of the superhero.

Sadly, one calamity after another hobbled the DCEU, which is now rumored to be rebooted in The Flash and will likely remove Cavill and Affleck. But, Batman has been played numerous times by different actors who added their own unique interpretations to the brooding superhero which can be enjoyed in different ways. In a few weeks, we’ll see the latest take of the Dark Knight as Robert Pattinson has his turn in The Batman.

In similar situation, the role of Black Panther/T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) might have to be recast in the future and this is creating controversy. The originator of the role, Chadwick Boseman, passed away and Marvel Studios hastily announced that the role would not be recast in honor of Boseman. While this decision is commendable, it put Marvel Studios in a bind. Given the mammoth success of Black Panther, a sequel was inevitable and one is underway, but without the character. The details are under wraps but supposedly another character will assume the title of the Black Panther. This is a sound plot choice but needless. The role of T’Challa could have easily been recast and there plenty of actors who could pull it off. It has happened in the MCU when Mark Ruffalo took over for Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/the Hulk and Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes/War Machine. The MCU did not collapse, people adjusted to the changes and everything went well. So, why not just recast T’Challa? On top of that, the sequel film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is going through a production hell with countless halts and difficulties. The film studio probably regrets not recasting the role and continuing T’Challa’s adventures.

Spider-Man fans also underwent their own bout of negativity when the role was recast twice after Tobey Maguire left the role. At first many complained about Andrew Garfield as the replacement Spider-Man/Peter Parker. He was too Emo, too broody, too much of a wiseguy. Still, he won over many fans who lamented him being replaced by Tom Holland when Spider-Man joined the MCU; and people fell in love with Holland’s version of Spider-Man. Yet, Andrew Garfield earned his redemption in his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home. After people could easily compare the three actors together, a consensus is emerging that Garfield is the best Spider-Man, which is fueling talk of him returning to the role.

This development gets to the heart of the gripe. With the other actors mentioned, they never got to do their farewell performance or do a proper goodbye. This gave the impression of lost opportunity and wondering if these actors had more time or a better film then their time doing the role would have been viewed as being more successful. That may be but at least they left a positive impression and a film legacy that can be repeatedly enjoyed.