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Holy Camp, Batman: The Redemptive Queerness of “Batman & Robin”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, will be looking at Batman and Robin this weekend. It is a fun discussion, well worth a listen, and I hope you enjoy. However, I had some thoughts that I wanted to get down before specifically about the film.

Batman and Robin is not a good movie, by any stretch of the imagination.

However, it is somewhat unfairly vilified. This is particularly true in comparison to its direct predecessor, Batman Forever. Very few people would attempt to argue that either Batman Forever or Batman and Robin were good films on their own terms, but the consensus seems to have formed around the idea that – to paraphrase Edward Nygma – Batman Forever was bad, Batman and Robin was worse. This calcified into the idea that Batman and Robin is among the very worst comic book movies ever, and Batman Forever is not.

It is interesting to speculate on why this might be. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are both cynically constructed blockbusters aimed at the youngest and least discerning audiences, eschewing concepts like plot and characterisation in favour of cheap thrills and terrible jokes. Both films offer incredibly condescending exposition, betraying the sense in which they have been constructed for audiences with the shortest possible attention span. However, while Batman and Robin embraces this cynicism, Batman Forever clumsily tries to disguise it.

Much has been made of the fact that director Joel Schumacher wanted to make a better movie than Batman Forever. He singled out Batman: Year One as the Batman movie that he wanted to make. Traces of this better movie occasionally surface in discussions of Batman Forever and are often framed in reference to the film’s admittedly darker and more artistic deleted scenes. There is a clear sense that Batman Forever harboured something resembling ambition before it was brutally bent and broken into its final released form.

However, Batman Forever also offers its audience condescending and trite pop psychology. The result is a veneer of faux profundity that suggests hidden depths that the movie is unwilling and unable to explore. Batman Forever vaguely touches on the question of whether Bruce feels responsible for the death of his parents and the trouble he has reconciling the two halves of himself, but in no real depth. Two-Face is one of the primary antagonists of Batman Forever, and the film can’t even be bothered to make that thematic connection.

It’s interesting to wonder if Batman Forever has a slightly warmer reputation because of this unearned grasp at weightiness, these small gestures towards the idea of “psychological complexity” and “psychological nuance” in the most trite manner imaginable. After all, Batman Forever is a movie that has Bruce Wayne dating a psychologist, and feel inordinately proud of that idea. It’s easier to pass off Batman Forever as more mature or more considered than Batman and Robin, because it gestures broadly at ideas that are a little darker and more complex.

This is strange, because there’s a lot more interesting stuff happening in Batman and Robin. Unlike its direct predecessor, Batman and Robin makes no broad gesture towards profundity or insight. It is a profoundly stupid movie, and it is cognisant of both that stupidity and the audience’s relationship to that stupidity. However, there’s something much more interesting going on underneath the surface of Batman and Robin, in direct response to Batman Forever.

Batman Forever feels like a moral panic picture, a direct response to some imagined public outrage about certain earlier interpretations of the Caped Crusader. As such, it aims to produce the most generic and vanilla iteration of the character, the most boring and the most normative. What makes Batman and Robin so interesting is that it represents a firm rejection of that conservativism, and actively works to inject a lot of the queerness back into the Batman mythos. It doesn’t do this especially elegantly or smoothly, but it does it nonetheless. The results are compelling and engaging.

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128. The Avengers (-#68)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Jeremiah Chechik’s The Avengers.

When the sinister Sir August de Wynter discovers a way to harness the weather for his own monstrous ends, there is only one way to stop him. Sophisticated secret agent John Steed teams up with meteorologist Emma Peel in order to prevent the villain from bringing his fiendish plot to fruition.

At time of recording, it was ranked 68th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the worst movies of all-time.

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Non-Review Review: The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie is – as one might expect – a wonderfully well-constructed family film. Following a construction worker repeatedly described as “normal” or “average” – but, one colleague hastens to add, “not normal like us” – named Emmet, the movie is structured as a conventional “special one” narrative. However, veteran directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller stir things up just enough to keep it interesting.

With a wry sense of humour and an acute awareness of the clichés of a typical “hero’s journey” narrative, Lord and Miller have actually managed to tap into the core essence of Lego – if a massive multi-platform brand name empire can be distilled to a “core essence.” It’s a story about the magic of playing with toys and the necessity of throwing away the instructions every once in a while.

The ensemble fits together perfectly...

The ensemble fits together perfectly…

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Non-Review Review: Green Lantern

Green Lantern is solidly middle of the road as far as superhero movies go. Perhaps in a less crowded (and less high quality) summer action season it would seem a stronger contender, but the film really shows as Warner Brothers’ first major attempt to produce a big-budget superhero film not directly related to Superman or Batman. It’s perfectly functional, managing to do everything it sets out to in a relatively efficient manner, but there’s never really a sense that the film exists as anything more than a series of plot points that need be checked in order for the movie to cross the finish line. Given the potential of the source material, as well as its relatively unique nature amongst the slew of generic superheroes, a functioning and formulaic adventure can’t help but feel like a bit of a disappointment.

Hal Jordan: Space Cop? It has a nice ring to it...

Note: We also have an introduction to the Green Lantern mythos available, if you’re interested in checking it out.

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Green Lantern’s Light: Why I’m Holding Out For a Hero…

You know, I’m actually really impressed with how this summer’s slate of superhero-themed blockbusters are coming together. Despite fears about market saturation, I honestly think that the four big pictures this summer offer enough distinct flavour to avoid generation some superhero fatigue coming in. X-Men: First Class is a Cold War Civil Rights action adventure. Thor the story of a god, humbled. Captain America: The First Avenger is a bit of pulpy history set against a World War II backdrop. Green Lantern is an epic space opera about an intergalactic police squad. There’s enough variety there that it isn’t just wave after wave of people in silly costumes.

Still, Green Lantern holds particular interest to me. It’s been interesting to watch the buzz on-line, following the seemingly disappointed first trailer through the four minutes of footage from Wonder Con towards the well-received second and third trailers. Still, my affection for the character and the movie aren’t necessarily drawn from Warner’s publicity campaign.

You see, Green Lantern was really the character that introduced me to modern comics.

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Kevin Smith’s Superman Lives! Script

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way. I figured that, today, I’d take a look at Superman-related movies.

But Superman was one that I was kind of intrigued by, because of my love for comic books and because I read the script they were working from at that time and hated it. Batman is about angst; Superman is about hope. That was the thing that bothered me about Greg Poirier’s draft: they were trying to give Superman angst. They had Clark Kent going to a psychiatrist at one point. Superman’s angst is not that he doesn’t want to be Superman. If he has any, it’s that he can’t do it all; he can’t do enough and save everyone. It’s not enough to make him want to quit being Superman; it’s enough to make the guy stay up at night so he’s out doing shit constantly.

– Kevin Smith on the script he was handed

I figured, with all this talk about Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, I might as well take a look at some of the other productions that have brought the Man of Steel to the big screen in recent years. Superman never had quite the box office traction of Batman, and so never really went through that many big-screen iterations – while there’s a notable change in aesthetic between the Batman films of Burton, Schumacher and Nolan, Superman’s movies have been fairly consistent. I took a look at Superman Returns earlier today, but I thought I might take a look at Kevin Smith’s unproduced script for an earlier iteration of that particular film, Superman Lives!

Now, before you read my thoughts on the script, you should really watch the below clip, where Kevin Smith talks about writing Superman, and the various difficulties and demands that he faced.

Note: You can check out the script yourself, here.

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The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Catwoman and Bane Confirmed as Villains of The Dark Knight Rises (Batman 3)

Read our in-depth review of the film here.

Yesterday was a big day for fans of superhero cinema. Along with photos from X-Men: First Class (and an interview with Kevin Bacon which suggests he’s having a lot of fun, so I likely will too), Warner Brothers released some more photos of Green Lantern and a little bit of news concerning The Dark Knight Rises. Tom Hardy will be playing the steroid-fueled villain Bane, while Anne Hathaway will be playing Catwoman. I’ll just let that sink in.

“Tell me who the villains are!”

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10 out of 10: The Ten Best Movies of the Year

Contrary to popular opinion, I was actually relatively impressed with 2010 as a year in cinema. It was no 2008, with a consistent string of impressive hits (both big and small). However, it wasn’t as bitterly disappointing as 2009 was, with letdown after letdown. Sure, there weren’t that many hugely successful sequels or reboots, but the vast majority of them weren’t soul-destroying wastes of film. So I’m quite happy. This year I actually had to cut several items from the list to get it down to a perfect ten.

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Batman Beyond: The Call (Parts I & II)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. This review/retrospective was meant to go out over a week ago, when I looked at Justice League: New Frontier, but unfortunately my package was delayed in the mail. However, I thought it might be worth a look back at the first time we saw a Justice League in the DC animated universe.

It seems that Bruce Timm and his staff of writers had considerable advanced notice that they’d be working on a Justice League cartoon show. The last season of Superman: The Animated Series contained animated introductions of characters like the Green Lantern in In Brightest Day and the Flash in Speed Demons. However, the introduction of the Justice League as a concept, a team of superheroes working for the greater good, came in Batman Beyond of all places. Portraying the distant future of the animated universe after Batman retired, it proved an interesting way to look at the team without getting too involved in the personalities involved.

Batman goes Beyond the call of duty...

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Batman: The Animated Series – Robin’s Reckoning (Parts I & II)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. We’re winding down now, having worked our way through the nine animated features, so I’m just going to look at a few odds-and-ends, some of the more interesting or important episodes that the DC animated universe has produced. An Emmy-award-winning episode seems a reasonable place to start.

I know the logic. Robin shouldn’t work in the context of Batman, unless you’re veering into camp. Somehow, a teenager in green short-shorts with a yellow cape manages the near-impossible feat of making a grown man who dresses up like a bat look even more ridiculous. To feature Robin in film or animation is to invite insane volumes of camp – think of Adam West’s Batman! or Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. However, for some reason, Batman: The Animated Series mostly got the balance right somehow. So much so that the belated Robin “origin” story, Robin’s Reckoning, picked up the Emmy in 1993 for outstanding animated programming, somehow beating The Simpsons. These two episodes are on the shortlist of the best episodes of the series, and – thus – amongst the best animated episodes ever made.

Robin steps up to Bat...

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