Media Moment – 01/18/20

The Batman (2021)

So Warner Brothers are making another iteration of Batman because the Affleck version sucked. I am all for new interpretations of characters as long as the latest version brings something creatively rich to the table and isn’t merely a retread of things we’ve seen before. I am not a fan of most Batman films, and I definitely try to read them through a critical lens that is least favorable to the Batman character. Batman is a wealthy white man who is allowed to transcend the justice system and inflict violence on criminals, with the readers/audience being given the excuse that he had a lousy childhood. I think there is an excellent argument to be made that the same compulsive gimmicks present in the Rogues Gallery are just as present in Bruce Wayne’s psyche, but I digress.

This new Batman film is titled THE Batman and will be directed and co-written by Matt Reeves. Reeves has previously directed Cloverfield, Let Me In, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of this director, I have really only enjoyed one thing he’s directed, and the most important thing is that he did NOT have a writing credit on that project. I will say I hated Cloverfield because it was found footage and that subgenre is just trash to me, no fault of Reeves. However, Let Me In was an unnecessary remake that completely missed the core themes of the original and, while I do like Michael Giacchino’s score, the production is a failure. War for the Planet of the Apes was good on a first watch, but after reflection, there are a ton of logical inconsistencies and plot conveniences. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has been Reeves’ only film that has stood the test of time for me, it’s well-plotted, and the story is relatively simple & straightforward. It’s not the most excellent film ever made, but it sets up clear stakes and pays them off in ways that allow the protagonists to have a full arc. Reeves has no writing credit on Dawn, but with all the others and the upcoming The Batman, he is listed on the screenplay.

The cast of The Batman has me intrigued and also a little worried. Robert Pattinson will play Batman, and I am looking forward to that. Pattinson has made some incredible turns lately in Good Time and The Lighthouse. I doubt he’ll be able to flex his acting chops too much in a big-budget studio tentpole film, but he’s a great actor. Here’s the rest of the cast list we know at the time.

Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman

Colin Ferrell as The Penguin

Andy Serkis as Alfred

Paul Dano as The Riddler

John Tuttoro as Carmine Falcone

Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon

Peter Sarsgaard as?

Jayme Lawson as? 

Apparently, there are a lot more villains that will appear, but I suspect it will be in the context of an Arkham Asylum scene with Batman delivering one of the villains there. I am wondering what the tone of the film will be. Zoe Kravitz said in a recent interview that it will be “grounded,” but I hope that doesn’t mean Warner Bros. is cementing Batman into following the Nolan model for the foreseeable future. I only really enjoyed one of those movies (The Dark Knight), and the thing about comics is that it’s fun to see other creators give their version of a long-running iconic character.

I’d love to see Warner take a different route with DC than Disney has with Marvel. Disney has turned the Marvel movies into palatable fare devoid of any sense of style (save for Thor: Ragnarok). Warner needs to lean into the multiverse angle of the DC Universe and make movies that don’t need connections, stand-alone stories that examine iconic characters. While I didn’t love Joker, the idea of what Joker is, disconnected from anything else, is a good thing. 

Goldman vs. Silverman – The Safdie Brothers & Adam Sandler just released this short film. It starts out feeling like a humorous prank in Times Square, but there’s definitely something more going on by the end. I see it as a meditation on working-class infighting, feeling that lack of solidarity.

Adam McKay will be helming an anthology series on the upcoming streaming platform HBO Max. The series will be based on The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells, one of my favorite books of 2019. I’m imagining it will be something like The Big Short or Vice, which, if done well, could be one of the most effective ways of communicating the urgency of the current global climate crisis. Jacobin had a profile of McKay in their most recent issue that is an excellent explanation of his socio-political journey and propelled him higher in my directors to follow list.

Director Shane Carruth (Primer, Upstream Color) has said he is retiring from filmmaking after he completes his next picture, The Modern Ocean. This film has been in pre-production for half a decade with no release date in sight so that retirement may not come until Carruth is literally sixty-five. Carruth’s work is the “you love, or you hate it” camp, I tend to love Primer and definitely admire & respect Upstream Color. If he does genuinely retire after The Modern Ocean, he will be one of those interesting directors to study in the future as a reflection of the first three decades of the 21st century.

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