The Dark Knight: Setting The Standard For Superhero Films

The-Dark-Knight-Standing-Before-a-Burning-Gotham
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of The Dark Knight hitting theaters and setting a new standard. It became the highest grossing superhero movie of all time and while this record has since been surpassed, the film is still widely regarded as arguably the best comic book film ever made. The Dark Knight was highly anticipated before it came out, as director Christopher Nolan’s well received Batman Begins showed a new interpretation of Batman on the big screen. It was an origin film that had a Batman universe in a very realistic setting as if taking place in the real world. This first movie ended with a tantalizing hint of the Caped Crusader’s arch nemesis the Joker. Seeing the clown prince of crime in this realistic setting was something fans were very eager to see. When actor Heath Ledger was cast in the role, there was some blowback, but stories of his intense preparation for the role, and his unfortunate death before the premiere of the film changed this perception and led many fans to look forward to what his take on the character would be like. The results of his performance and of the film itself blew audiences away.
The movie portrays a tense showdown between Batman and the Joker, who sets in motion a plan to take over Gotham City by uniting all of the criminal gangs in Gotham under his leadership. Heath Ledger’s Joker was both psychotic and brilliant, with a scarred smile carved into his face and war paint-like makeup that gave him a nightmarish look. How he manipulates both the Gotham City public, police and criminals while setting up the downfall of Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne was something to behold. Christian Bale played both Batman and Wayne very well and showed true conflict while he attempted to protect the love of his life Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and try to take down the crazed anarchist who seemingly wants to destroy everything he holds dear. This conflict included supporting a potential rival for Rachel’s affections, in Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent played by Aaron Eckhart. Dent’s crusade against crime was something Batman supported but this also put the DA in the crosshairs of the Joker, who is eventually able to push Dent over the edge and force him to become his evil and twisted alter ego Two-Face.
Nolan’s ability to balance out the idea of a comic book hero like Batman with a gritty crime drama is something that makes The Dark Knight a great experience. The movie begins with an intense and foreboding atmosphere as a bank is robbed by a gang of crooks and one of them ruthlessly guns down his compatriots. It is revealed to be the Joker, and this intensity stays with you for the rest of the film as the Joker starts his rampage against the underworld and broadcasts executions on TV and has judges blown up in their own cars. Batman comes to see what he is dealing with and realizes he will have to go to great lengths to stop this madness. This would come to include having to spy on all of Gotham and violating everyone’s privacy; losing Rachel in tragic circumstances due to a fiendish bait and switch by the Joker; and eventually taking the fall for the death of Harvey Dent and going on the run as a hunted fugitive.
batman and joker the dark knight
Even a decade later, The Dark Knight is seen as the standard by which superhero films are held to. Whenever there is a great genre film, it is said to be the “Dark knight” of its kind. While the follow-up film The Dark Knight Rises didn’t quite live up to its predecessor, the trilogy as a whole is still seen as one of the best to have come out in recent times. The film increased Batman’s already very high popularity and reestablished the character in cinematic terms after the less-than-enthusiastic reception to Batman & Robin from 1997. It took eight years for DC and Warner Bros. to bring Batman back to the big screen with Batman Begins in 2005, and the huge success of The Dark Knight put Batman back on top and brought success unseen since the first Batman film in 1989 that was also a huge hit for its time.
the dark knight classic
It seems very appropriate that Batman would work well in this realistic setting since his character is somewhat more grounded than other superheroes. He has no super powers and neither do most of his villains. His main concern is stopping violence in Gotham City and bringing down crime bosses. This fits in well with a less fantastical type of superhero film. That’s not to say that other kinds of comic book films with Batman don’t work, since there have been other movies with him that are more like traditional superhero movies and are really good. It’s just that The Dark knight is an excellent blend of both worlds. Because of this, the film will be remembered well beyond these first ten years.
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Marvel Wins The Movie War…For Now, Part Two

 

avengers guardians DC heroes

Marvel Entertainment has ruled the box office with its numerous hit films, especially those produced by Marvel Studios. Meanwhile, DC Entertainment and its parent company Warner Bros. while successful with TV and video game adaptations of the DC superheroes seemed to be asleep at the wheel in putting out film products to counter Marvel’s box office dominion.

Late Start

Around the beginning of this decade as Marvel Studios was blossoming what was DC Entertainment doing around this time? We got from them Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises. The former film didn’t perform to expectations and failed to resonate with fans and audiences. Green Lantern was hamstrung with weak villains, pedestrian storytelling, and for a film featuring a cosmic hero it was too Earthbound. On the other hand, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s DDark Knight trilogy was well received at the time of its release, but many grumbled that it was too ponderous, pretentious and its villain Bane (Tom Hardy) couldn’t compare to The Dark Knight’s Joker (Heath Ledger). What was noticeable was that Batman’s world seemed smaller and darker than the more light-toned Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seemed odd that Batman was the sole superhero around in Nolan’s films, although for The Dark Knight Rises’ plot of Gotham held hostage, that was a necessity. It was plain to see in the end that while the Batman films were hugely successful, they did not do anything to expand the DC Universe in film. So once that trilogy was completed there wasn’t anything to follow it.

Does all of this mean that it’s over for DC? Should they throw in the towel? Hell, no! They may be way behind Marvel at the moment, but they are gearing up for a new war that will start in March 25, 2016. The release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice is just the opening salvo. However, the failures of Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises in terms of creating a cinematic universe is why DC had to start over with Man Of Steel in 2013, already a few years behind Marvel Studios. That reboot of Superman and his mythos was successful, but it’s considered controversial by many fans who decried the character deviations, especially when Superman killed at the film’s end.

man of steelNevertheless, the film did begin an earnest establishment of a larger universe. Take the scene near the end when Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) fight above Earth and tear apart a satellite belonging to Wayne Industries. It was a nifty Easter egg, but it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment and the film should’ve done more. Imagine if a post-credits scene was shown where the near destruction of Metropolis is shown on a TV screen. The camera would’ve pulled back to show that the TV was in a cave and that Batman could be seen watching the disaster on TV. Or have the TV in a non-descript apartment where a certain green Power Battery could be spotted.

Regardless, Man Of Steel was DC’s first true attempt at establishing its own cinematic universe. Its Easter eggs may pale next to Iron Man with the Avengers Initiative scene, but it’s a start.

Broad Horizons Ahead For Both Companies

From March 2016 until 2020, DC has eight films scheduled for release. At this point, the general public doesn’t know which properties will be on the big screen aside from Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, but current rumors point to Shazam, Wonder Woman, the Justice League (finally!), a new Batman, and a proper sequel to Man Of Steel. DC and Warner Bros. should be commended for not rushing things unlike some other movie studios with comic book properties (looking at you Sony). This means that when the universe is finally presented it should be cohesive and well done.

dawn of justiceRegarding the recent decision to move Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice from May 6,2016 to March 25,2016, it may seem like an admission of defeat. One way of looking at it is that DC recognizes what a juggernaut Marvel Studios and its films have become and want to avoid direct competition. But it’s really a more strategic move by DC and Warner Bros. to ensure that Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice reaches the widest possible audience. That is why they moved up the film’s release date so it doesn’t have to compete with the third Captain America film. A lot of people wwomansalivated over the prospect over these two comic book titans going at it in the box office, but in reality such direct competition would hurt both brands. In this case, DC would have suffered more. Why? It’s likely that Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice would’ve won the match against the third Captain America film, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a proven brand with devoted followers and Captain America has risen significantly in popularity thanks to his last film. There isn’t any way that the third film would flopped; it would’ve earned a respectable amount of money in the matchup, enough for Marvel to declare a pyrrhic victory and claim their film held up well against DC’s better known characters. In the meantime, if Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice didn’t have super impressive opening box office numbers or heaven forbid came in second on the opening weekend, it would’ve spelled a PR disaster for DC and stifled their burgeoning cinematic universe. DC had more to lose than Marvel, so taking a page from their competitor’s strategy book, they positioned their centerpiece film in a less competitive time period where it’s guaranteed to score high.

With DC beginning its own universe, which at this point is still in planning stages, Marvel is charging avengers ultron posterforward with more film releases. Next year will see the eagerly anticipated sequel Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man. The following year we’ll get the aforementioned third Captain America film and on July 28, 2017 the Guardians of the Galaxy will return to theaters with a new film. Additionally, Marvel recently announced several release dates through 2019 for five more films in the MCU. No details have been released but the speculation is that these films may include sequels to Thor, the Avengers, possibly Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr. recently expressed interest in continuing to play Iron Man), and new properties like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, the Inhumans, or Doctor Strange.

A film based on the last character mentioned, Doctor Strange, also means that Marvel is branching off in yet another direction. Like with Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is actually a space adventure film, a Doctor Strange film would not be a traditional superhero film, but rather one that deals in the genre of horror and fantasy. The fact that Scott Derrickson has been hired to direct the film is indicative of its horror trappings since Derrickson’s resume includes horror films.

lineupGuardians Of The Galaxy and the upcoming Doctor Strange film point to how Marvel has won the Movie War because they’ve done so well with superhero films that they are now able to branch off into other genres. DC has tried doing this in the past with poor adaptations of Constantine and Jonah Hex. If DC’s film slate includes a rumored movie based on its fantasy property Sandman, then this would prove that DC is remaining competitive and moving beyond superheroes as well. Continue reading

The Dark Knight Rises And Falls

Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan concludes his Batman film trilogy with an absolute triumph. Needless to say, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. It’s simply one of the best superhero movies ever made and more importantly a satisfying way to finish a Batman film series.

By this, what is meant is that The Dark Knight Rises gives a finality to the Batman story  that has not been seen in comics except perhaps for certain aspects of Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns. In fact, Batfans will notice many similarities to The Dark Knight Returns at least in broader sense. That includes the idea of a retired Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) making a comeback when his beloved city of Gotham is imperiled, then he gets defeated the first time out before regrouping and coming back to take out the foe that pummeled him the first time out.

Christopher Nolan’s film also utilizes aspects of the great “Knightfall” storyline where the villain Bane defeats Batman by wearing him out then crippling him. Bane may not seem an imposing or interesting foe to the larger public because the only film exposure non-comic book fans had of him was that awful Batman And Robin movie. But true fans will see the spirit of who Bane is in The Dark Knight Rises. Tom Hardy who plays the masked villain deserves a lot of credit for the way he made Bane such a distinct villain. Not only did he physically pump up his body impressively to resemble the muscle-bound foe but because parts of his face are covered, Hardy created a memorable voice villain. Bane’s voice has a deep cadence that makes him sound like an older man or officer used to ordering troops around. How does he compare to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight? Well, as great as Hardy is in Nolan’s third Batman film, Ledger created not only one of the greatest comic book villains on film but one of the greatest film villains of all time. Plus, viewers were able to see Ledger’s face and see more emotion than with Hardy.

As with all comic book adaptations, changes were made in The Dark Knight Rises. This was done with Bane regarding his origin. In this film, his background is tied to Batman, Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson from Batman Begins returns to play him) and Ra’s’ daughter Talia (Marion Cotillard). Viewers will see a link between all four characters and see how their shared experiences transformed them into separate ways.

But Bane isn’t the only standout in The Dark Knight Rises. Other memorable characters include Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).

Although Selina isn’t called Catwoman and her feline aspects aren’t as exaggerated as with previous film incarnations of Catwoman, the character works in context of the film. Some may wonder during the film why so much screen time is spent on Blake, a young cop and ally of Batman, but he provides the film’s most pleasant surprise at the end; his arc was a real crowd pleaser. Fox is in many ways the head or brains of the Batman franchise. It should be pointed out that Alfred, Bruce’s loyal butler, is the heart and soul of the Batman franchise. He warns Bruce not to confront Bane simply because Alfred fears Bane. He knows that Bruce isn’t a match for the hulking villain. This leads to a very emotional argument where Alfred tells him that Bruce has another option in his life that doesn’t have anything to do with darkness. Bruce can have a shot at a happy life, but the superhero won’t hear of it since he feels bound to fight Bane. At that point, having a happy life is an abstract notion. It isn’t until Selina comes into the picture that having a happy life seems possible, so she serves as a sort of catalyst. Sure Marvel’s The Avengers was the greatest and most exciting superhero movie ever made, but The Dark Knight Rises has a deeper emotional core.

And what great battles are featured in the film! Nolan pulls out everything here. The Gotham police, the National Guard, and even the air force come out to confront Bane and his army. It was all thrilling to watch. As were all the cool gadgets and vehicles Batman uses like The Bat, the new interpretation of the batwing flying craft. The Bat was an amazing sight, sort of like a flying tank with VTOL capability and well armed. Batman also uses a type of EMP gun which helped him travel stealthily throughout Gotham, it was ingenious!

Christopher Nolan created an effective bookend to his Batman movies. Whereas The Dark Knight seemed like a crime thriller, his third film feels more like a superhero film.  The end of Batman in this film means so many things in the context of Nolan’s Batman world, and The Dark Knight Returns provides multiple, satisfying resolutions. Anyone who is worrying about the third film curse can relax because he doesn’t let the fans down with this sendoff.

GEO

2013 Hallmark Sci-Fi Ornaments

The Hallmark ornaments for this year just made their debut yet the company already announced some of 2013’s ornaments in the San Diego Comic-Con. Many of them look like must-haves for collectors and fans.

Star Trek

The U.S.S. Kelvin seen in the 2009 Star Trek reboot is the latest in Hallmark’s long line of Star Trek ship ornaments. It looks well detailed as their ship ornaments often are, but no details have been revealed on any special features. As with the other Star Trek ship ornaments, the Kelvin will light up.

After years of demands from vocal fans, Hallmark will finally produce a Scotty ornament. This one will be the fourth in the series “Legends Of Star Trek“. Reportedly, the ornaments in this series can be placed together to make up a scene from the show.

The coolest looking ornament is a mini diorama featuring Captain Kirk fighting with the reptilian Gorn (seen in the classic Star Trek episode “Arena”). It will feature dialogue from that episode and that exciting vintage Star Trek fight music (hopefully they pick the right score!). If only they included those iconic mountain formations too or Kirk’s handmade cannon!

Star Wars

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars Episode VI: The Return Of The Jedi, Hallmark will produce several Star Wars ornaments that reflect that film. 2013’s Star Wars ship ornament will actually be of the two-legged scout walker that was shown prominently in Return Of The Jedi.

Additionally, a set of two Ewok ornaments will be available next year, one of which is Wicket who, of course, appeared in Return Of The Jedi. A limited editon ornament coming out in July will be of Boushh, but a super rare ornament of the rancor will be available in the 2013 Comic-Con.

 

The highlight of the Star Wars ornaments will be Jabba the Hutt. On the base of the sluggish gangster is C-3PO. Other ornaments in the series will include a Lego Yoda and Jango Fett in flight mode.

Superheroes

The usual superhero ornaments were announced at the convention. Look for a Spider-Man ornament that plays the ’60s theme song, an Iron Patriot ornament based on Iron Man 3 and several based on Batman. One of which will be the Adam West version of the Caped Crusader which could be the surprise hit of 2013. Other Batman ornaments will have him on the IP and spideybatpod as seen in The Dark Knight films, which will be limited, and the deadly flying batwing aircraft seen in The Dark Knight Rises. There will also be a Joker ornament based on Heath Ledger’s interpretation in The Dark Knight. The only other superhero shown in their display was Superman in a wimpy flying pose, based on Man Of Steel. Also look for ornaments based on The Hobbit, Harry Potter and believe it or not K.I.T.T the car from Knight Rider.

Waldermann Rivera

UPDATE **** We just learned that the Bat ornament from The Dark Knight Rises will be a limited edition ornament to be released for the 2012 Holiday season. Happy hunting! Also, some sad news for some but the Adam West Batman ornament has been pulled from this year’s offerings.