Batmantrix


[For those of you eager to get your Batman fix, there is a new DVD that takes place between the movies, as well as my review of BATMAN BEGINS, where Hyperion falls in love. Enjoy]





#732 BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT


For those of you anticipating and eager for Friday's release of the new Batman movie, I have a treat for you. Warner Bros. and DC Comics have teamed together for BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT, a collection of animated episodes about the caped crusader. What's so cool about GOTHAM KNIGHT is that the stories come between BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT, so rather than another edition of cartoon Batman (itself a good thing, but in its own universe), we basically are getting Batman 1.5, in the new incarnation.

Here's a preview:

Batman Gotham Knight - Official Trailer



BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT is meant to fill the gaps between the two movies, and storylines are continued, such as the Scarecrow (and his nerve tonic), and the Narrows island, which is now completely the domain of Arkham Asylum. The six episodes run about 12 minutes each, and can be watched separately, although several intermingle. The art and style of each is very distinctive and different, so we get six fully unique interpretations of Batman. (Even more, in one case.)

Again, this is not the cartoon Batman universe, in look or feel. The segments are much more simpatico to the Animatrix, both in the anime-esque drawing style, and the daring and at times avant-garde story lines; this is where I got the title Batmantrix. (The DVD is rated PG-13, but it's far closer to R. If you let your kids watch Batman the cartoon, you should preview GOTHAM KNIGHT first. Even if you didn't have a problem with the first movie, this is arguably more intense. I'd say high school age and up, but that's me.)

In Have I Got a Story for You, four kids relate a recent experience with Batman. The narration is animated as if the kids' memories or flights of fancy are real, and so Batman is presented variously as a bird, a robot, or even a monster. (It reminded me of story about the seven blind men and the elephant.)

Crossfire introduces two detectives (the guy's voice is noticeably Warrick from CSI), and ponders the concept of vigilantism. There's tons of murder in this one, and a great spooky feel.

In Field Test Lucius Fox comes up with one of his electronic gizmos to repel bullets, but Batman decides the price is too high.

The best title goes to In Darkness Dwells, which sees the return of the escaped madman The Scarecrow, and the effects of his nerve toxin on the homeless population and an urban legendcroc -man that seems straight out of X-Files. Batman himself has to deal with the effects of the nerve gas in this compelling episode.


My favorite segment is Working Through Pain, which starts up where the previous story ends. A wounded Batman recalls a time when he sought out the Fakirs, trying to deal with his pain. The episode is sad and poignant, and reveals a raw emotional storytelling you rarely find. in BATMAN BEGINS we learned that Batman is successful by making his enemies feel Bruce Wayne's fear. Here we glimpse the idea that what drives Batman, and ultimately what may destroy him, is how much he craves the pain. (If THE DARK KNIGHT goes into this with any depth I'm going to come back to the theme and write a whole column on it.)


The last story is Deadshot, and features the best animation of the six episodes. It evokes a mano-a-mano Western flavor, and is a great rousing way to end the set.

If you were a fan of the Animatrix, for its daring and as a bridge between the first two films, I imagine you will be similarly pleased here. Though not quite as ambitious in its scope, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT pulls back the curtain on what the Batman mythos is truly capable of. It whetted my appetite for THE DARK KNIGHT, and makes me crave the day for when someone is brave enough to make Batman the way it ought to be shown: an adult tale of darkness and pain.






Movie-Hype00603 – BATMAN BEGINS



THE BEFORE

A midnight screening at the IMAX theatre. Can it get any sweeter? Well, actually, yes. It costs two and a half bucks more. What’s up with that, I asked, but plans has already been made, so I ponied up.

We were to meet at West Side Luigis, Canada’s idea of what New York Italian is. I had this ten dollar off coupon, which the waitress said was expired and wouldn’t let me use. Then I saw “all you can eat soup and breadsticks” with a pasta order. I smiled at the server: “You’re gonna wish you’d given me that coupon.”

So it’s Ajax, Marcellus and me. About my 8th bowl of soup Quincy also shows up. We get to talking about all sorts of things, mostly them razzing me about my adventure with the 19-year old violin major last Saturday night. In honor of that, I asked about weirdest first dates ever. I can’t repeat the best story, but it involved a roller coaster and a giant loogie.

Soon it’s time to go to the theatre. I was all jacked up. I think staring at a five-story screen will do that. You forget how freakin’ immense IMAX is. I got up right before the show to explore and ran into this hot girl (and of course got her email), so I was on fire.

Before the movie starts they give us this laser show. It was okay, I guess, but pretty cheesy and make-fun-able. And, the announcer points out that IMAX is Canadian.

For those of you who haven’t journeyed up here in the Witness Protection Program, I have to explain. Canada is a great place, but with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder, when it comes to America. Consequently, they claim to have invented everything in the history of the universe. If a guy had maple syrup the morning he did something great, he’s Canadian. I find it kind of silly, and beneath them. I mean, Canada’s a fine land, you know? Someday they’re going to find that blue fairy and become a real country. But in the meantime, they just take credit for everything under the sun.



THE DURING

BATMAN BEGINS is the best BATMAN movie ever made. BATMAN BEGINS is the best Super Hero movie ever made. BATMAN BEGINS should get Oscar consideration.

It’s that good.

Finally we get an “origins” story worthy of a great hero. What makes Super Heroes so interesting (or should, at least) is why they do the things they do. Taking their time, director Christopher Nolan (MEMENTO) shows us exactly why Bruce Wayne is the way he is. How can he fight that way? Why use bats? Where’s all this anger coming from? All explained, and really cool too.

I liked how hard they tried to not get too sophisticated with the equipment he uses, recognizing that at first Batman was starting from scratch and didn’t have every cool thing under the sun. The Bat Cave? An actual cave. The Bat signal? It’s blurry. And the Batmobile? It deserves it’s own special on American Hot Rods, but I think Ajax said it best: “It’s like a dune buggy mated with an armadillo.”


I could easily spend 10,000 words talking about the cast. I’ll try not to, but I will say that Rutger Hauer and Gary Oldman both give refined performances. I did not know Gary Oldman was capable of this. Color me impressed.

Then there was the big four: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Tom Wilkerson. (Wilkerson is the best actor you’ve never heard of. Do yourself a huge favor and watch some of his films.) What can I say here? I’ll limit it to this: I may not like every single one of their movies, but I have never seen any of them give a performance where I thought anyone could have done a better job. These men are the best there is at what they do.

Which means that Christian Bale, as Batman, had his work cut out for him. Thank the Maker, he’s up to it. At first Bale looks like Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise had a child. But get past that and see how much he brings to the table.

One of my problems with all the other Batmans, even though I liked a couple of them, was that they focused too much on the bad guys. They are interesting and all, but Batman himself is so compelling! He should be the main character. This is a guy who’s fighting crime, but right there on that edge, always in danger of falling off the deep end.

HYPERION’S RATING SYSTEM

Suspension of Disbelief Index (out of 10): 9. We are talking about a Super Hero here. However, the emotions are very real, so take those seriously.

Genre Grade (Super Hero Movie): A+

Violence: A good bit, and not all cartoonish, either. This is not for kids

Sex/Nudity: Nada. I’ll probably regret saying this, but it really didn’t need it

Chemistry: Fantastic. Bruce Wayne with Alfred is already one of the best duos ever

Pantheon Percentile: 94. One helluva movie.

Bale brings that intensity to Bruce Wayne. I believed his anger, his guilt, and surprisingly, his fear. This guy is top notch. He’s been doing a lot of independent films or I think he’d already be A-list, but now he definitely will be. He can act circles around most his age. Watch out for him.

The dialogue is tight, sharp and acerbic. The humor is never forced, and comes as a great relief to a very serious film. The special effects are not over-used, but effective when we get them. The sets are fantastic, giving us a Gotham both as glamorous as anything Manhattan ever produced and as squalid as Hell’s Kitchen. Taking nothing away from earlier versions, this is Gotham as I imagined it.

We get several bad guys, each with their own thing: one creepy, one smooth and vile, and one strangely honorable, which makes him all the more evil. Bruce Wayne and Batman are equal to the task. Yes, there is a woman, played by Katie Holmes, and she does fine, but this isn’t a romantic film. They really could have kept her out, but you have to have some girl. Understanding that law (and it is a law), it’s really not much of a distraction. BATMAN BEGINS is virtually flawless.



THE AFTER

I was so excited walking out that I didn’t want to come home just yet. So, Ajax and I stood in the empty parking lot and relived much of the movie. Eventually we turned to wandering what other Super Hero movie could be as good, and somehow wound up casting a real-life G.I. JOE movie (which is such a good idea that I’m thinking of writing a script). But as the old saying goes, “When you start arguing about who’s going to play Cobra Commander, it’s time to go home.” Now I know (and knowing is half the battle).

One thing Ajax said struck me. “This movie is so perfect,” he said, “that I hope they don’t make another one.” While I would love to see what the director would do next, and I already miss Michael Caine as Alfred, and Christian Bale as Batman and all the rest, I may have to agree.

This is the movie you want to have in your mind when you think of the Dark Knight. This is the movie to go out on top. This is BATMAN BEGINS, and they will never do it better.

Hyperion
June 15, 2005

Credits
Thanks to Ajax, Marcellus, and Quincy

[The original page can be found over at Movie-Hype, in case you wanted to read all the wacky comments.]

Now thasss what I'm a talkin' about!

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