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Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Returns, Part II

To celebrate the release of The Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

The Dark Knight Returns is pretty much the classic Batman story, even more than Year One from the same author. It’s the story which – for better or worse – defined a lot of what we take for granted about Batman as a character today. So it makes sense that there would be an animated adaptation. And I respect the decision to split the story across two seventy-odd minute instalments, creating a two-part movie which still runs significantly shorter than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Adapting Miller’s story from print was always going to be a tough proposition. After all, Miller’s comic isn’t just one of the defining Batman stories, it’s a turning point in mainstream comics. Transferring it from its home medium was always going to be tough. Still, the production team working on The Dark Knight Returns, Part II acquit themselves well in offering a satisfying take on a classic tale.

It's the Batman!

It’s the Batman!

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Doctor Who: The Sound of Drums (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Sound of Drums originally aired in 2007.

Doctor.

Master.

I like it when you use my name.

You chose it. Psychiatrist’s field day.

As you chose yours. The man who makes people better. How sanctimonious is that?

– the Doctor and the Master

The Sound of Drums is really more interesting than it is successful. Building off Utopia as the second part of a three-part finalé, building the longest single story in the revived Doctor Who, The Sound of Drums does an excellent job moving the characters along and getting everything where it needs to be for the requisite cliffhanger. Unfortunately, Davies’ weaknesses when it comes to plotting are at play here. While Utopia took advantage of a leisurely pace and conventional plot in order to do some nice set-up, The Sound of Drums doesn’t have that luxury. Utopia came out of left-field, with the last ten minutes taking the audience by surprise. Now the audience knows the game is afoot, so the rules have changed.

The Sound of Drums kicks off with everything in full swing, and Davies has to ratchet up the tension from there. The result is that Davies does solid character work, but that the plot points and set-ups occasionally feel a bit forced. That’s especially true when it comes to the ideas that will be important to the resolution of The Last of the Time Lords.

The End of the World... oh, wait, we already did that one...

The End of the World… oh, wait, we already did that one…

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Non-Review Review: Batman Beyond – Return of the Joker

The Joker holds a special place among Batman’s iconic selection of villains. Appearing as early as Batman #1 all those years ago, the clown prince of crime has managed to hold on to his position as the prime Batman bad guy for pretty much all of Batman’s publication history. It was the Joker who put Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair in The Killing Joke, and it was the Joker who killed Jason Todd in A Death in the Family. As such, it’s no real surprise that the character should eventually make his way to the futuristic setting of Batman Beyond, to give Bruce one last challenge.

Guess who’s back…

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That One Role: Seeing a Star Differently…

I saw Magic Mike last week. And I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. Part of the fun of the film was revelling in a superb performance from Matthew McConaughey as the incredibly sleazy manager Dallas. Watching the film, I found it almost hard to believe that this was the same Matthew McConaughey who had headlined such nightmares as Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Sahara, Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner, Fool’s Gold and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, to keep the list brief. It’s amazing how one performance can really change your opinion of an actor’s abilities, serving as something of a revelation of talent and ability that maybe you had never really seen before.

It’s a kind of magic…

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Thinking Outside the Box: When Does Reality Subtext Overwrite Fiction?

It happens every so often, to the extent that I’m actually quite used to it. I’ll be either listening to Michael Jackson on my headphones, or mention in passing a bit of trivia, or name the musician as one of the most impressive of all time. And, undoubtedly, there will always be someone who will retort with, “Yeah, but he was a pedophile.” And that will be that – pretty much everything that Jackson has accomplished will be a moot point. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing one way or a nother, I just feel a little bit curious as to where the line between what happened in real life can prevent or undermine an artist’s work.

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Back to Begins: Is Nolan Bringing The Dark Knight Rises a Full Circle?

As The Dark Knight Rises draws closer and closer to filming, the rumours are just going to grow more and more intense. The latest rumour de jour (succeeding in a long line of debunked suggestions like the Riddler or Robin Williams as Hugo Strange) suggests that the League of Shadows will return to take on the Dark Knight in the final part of the trilogy, led by the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and her lover Bane. I was initially skeptical of the rumours, perhaps because they so neatly dove-tail back into the first film of the trilogy, Batman Begins.

The birth of Batman...

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Taking the Joker Out of the Pack: No Joker in Batman 3

Christopher Nolan confirmed over the weekend that the Joker would not be recast for the sequel to The Dark Knight. Which I suppose means we can rule him off the “list of potential villains” we’ve all been putting together in our heads as Batman 3 approaches. As much as I get the sense (and as much as rumours about the ‘trilogy’ that emerged before The Dark Knight was released would suggest) that the Joker was clearly imagined as playing a fairly lerge role in the conclusion of Nolan’s Batman saga, I can see the reasons for and respect his decision to not to recast the role.

This card is off the table...

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Non-Review Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a strange film, even with the concession that Terry Gilliam is a strange film director. Everyone knows the film is the last big screen work from the deceased Heath Ledger and it’s a shadow the film doesn’t feel entirely comfortable stepping out of. It’s almost paradoxical, but in watching it one gets the sense that the film may have bee the better for being less reverent of the actor – it would stand as a better testament to his memory if it could let go of his memory. In short, The Dark Knight will probably stand as the greatest testament to the actor’s ability and and rightly so. That doesn’t mean Parnassus is a waste of time – well, not all of it anyway.

Through the looking glass...

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Growing Old in Hollywood…

Is it possible for an actor to age gracefully? The Guardian has been very fruitful in providing food for thought this week and the article that grabbed my attention today is a discussion of Heath Ledger’s potential had his life not been cut so tragically short. I don’t intend to dwell on what could have, should have or would have been, but the article does raise some interesting assertions about the ageing of great actors:

If you want to propose Pacino, De Niro and Nicholson as the outstanding figures of the 70s and 80s, who can be resigned about what has happened to them? They have become pastiches of what they once were.

So, is that what really awaits our truly great actors at the end of their careers?

Grumpy - but cool - old men...

Grumpy - but cool - old men...

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Riddle Me This… Is The Riddler Really An Ideal Choice for Batman 3?

Last week I outlined why I didn’t think that Harvey Dent should be brought back for the sequel to The Dark Knight. If Nolan comes back, I trust him to do whatever he feels like doing with the franchise – he’s demonstrated that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to directing Batman. If he wants to recast the role of the Joker – or if he doesn’t – that’s fine with me. So, it’s ultimately futile to speculate about films that haven’t even entered production, but that’s never really stopped me before, has it? It keeps coming down to the Riddler – Johnny Depp or Eddie Murphy or whoever. It seems that everyone is expecting The Riddler to be the villain (or at least play a supporting role) in the next film. But I’m skeptical.

When the Riddler heard he was the new host of Bullseye, he didn't know that people would take the title so literally...

When the Riddler heard he was the new host of Bullseye, he didn't know that people would take the title so literally...

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