On Batfleck and Superman

(Warner Bros)

(Warner Bros)

I can’t have been the only one.

Walking out of the cinema with a huge grin on my face, still reeling from the formidable slice of cinema that is Man of Steel, to say:

“Boy, they could only better that if they had Ben Affleck as Batman in the next one!”

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn't you hear about it?

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn’t you hear about it?

I am of course being facetious. Man of Steel was not a terrible film but no one actually walked out of it with anything other than a headache and slight motion sickness, let alone a demand that the star of Gigli should don Batman’s famed cape and cowl.

Indeed the very idea of a Batman/Superman smackdown seemed strange even before Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne. The presence of two iconic characters in one film demands that the principle question of why they are together is answered with panache.

I fear that this fundamental imperative will be ignored. I fear that it is economic considerations on the part of Warner Brothers that are driving Batman/Superman towards its July 2015 release date, instead of what ought to be the prerequisite of making such a picture: a great idea for a story.

Films have to make money – I get that, but cherished characters like Bats and Supes have to earn that showdown, just as Marvel did with The AvengersMan of Steel certainly did not lay the groundwork for such a clash and director Zack Snyder and studio Warner Bro’s have not yet created a cinematic universe big or interesting enough to explain the presence of these two icons in one movie. This is the equivalent of making The Avengers after the first Iron Man

Marvel’s massive success at universe building has probably disturbed the suits at Warner. It ought not to though. They are after all the studio that gave us Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the only sequence of films in the whole superhero genre that might be called definitive, thematically interesting and perhaps even imperishable.

The reason the announcement of Affleck has been met with such consternation across the internet is because it is very difficult indeed to imagine anyone playing Bruce Wayne other than Christian Bale. The latter was an utterly ferocious Batman imbued with a physical and emotional intelligence that will be hard for Affleck (or any other actor for that matter) to emulate. God help them when they try and cast a new Alfred after what Michael Caine did with the part.

This doesn’t mean casting Affleck was wrong. Or that nobody can ever be cast as Batman again. On the contrary, he may be a good Batman. The decision to put Bats in the next Man of Steel is wrong though, simply because instead of respecting both the work of Nolan and the intelligence/wallets of cinema goers, Warner are content to chase the quick buck that Batman/Superman represents. I guess some men just want to watch the world burn, or they’re really, really impatient. For me the whole thing stinks of desperation.

The aforementioned Mr. Caine has a very wry observation on Batman and Superman:

“Superman is how America views itself. Batman is how the rest of the world views America”

In other words if Superman was an American politician he’d be a bullshitting and mythologised emulsion of various founding fathers and Batman would be Richard Milhous Nixon, a man with a crozzled and blackened heart whose very existence taints the American dream.

Good luck Ben, I think you’re going to need it.

2012 in Review: Part 2 – Crying Claire Danes, Bane and beards

Television in 2012 was as feckless as ever. While that guy whose face resembled a medium sized ham with two pickled onions stuck in the middle of it won X-Factor; the BBC completely revolutionised the talent show genre by putting Tom Jones, diet-Bono, the Fringe and Will.i.am in big fucking chairsThis was ‘The Voice‘. This was the future of television. Or it was just another shite show that nobody watched after the auditions.

Will.i.am continuing to do for blazers what Jimmy Savile did for the tracksuit. Note Tom Jones' grizzled Umpa Lumpa look.

Will.i.am continuing to do for blazers what Jimmy Savile did for the tracksuit. Note Tom Jones’ grizzled Umpa Lumpa look.

The only thing I really got into in 2012 was Showtime’s terrorist drama ‘Homeland‘, two series of which were broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. My televisual year was therefore dominated by images of actress Claire Danes weeping, staring and yelping with such authenticity that it spawned this. The first series was a brilliant I-can’t-recommend-this-enough mixture of mental illness, uncomfortable sex scenes that you wouldn’t watch with your mates let alone your parents and the murky moral minefield that is the War on Terror. The series finale was so tense that I don’t think I moved for the entire 2 hours; Channel 4 hadn’t been this exciting since Ahmed broke all the plates on Big Brother 5. Would Brody detonate the suicide vest? Would the wind change while Claire Danes was making one of her crazy faces? Why was Saul‘s beard so God damn itchy?

Saul's idea of a disguise - a fancy summer hat and some tinted glasses. Good luck avoiding Hezbollah Saul.

Saul’s idea of a disguise – a fancy summer hat and some tinted glasses. Good luck avoiding Hezbollah Saul.

Naturally this being 2012 a paltry year, in which all entertainment figures from the 1970’s turned out to be pedophiles and John Terry got to lift the European Cup, we did get answers to the questions Homeland posed; they were just incredibly fucking stupid. The first series’ perfect blend of suspense, hilarious false beard heavy flashbacks and plausible characters was suspended in the second series. We instead enjoyed preposterous plot twists, remote controlled pacemakers and terrorist helicopters that could fly undetectably around Washington D.C. without the C.I.A. being able to do a thing. Oh and somebody tell the actress who plays Dana that fiddling a lot doesn’t make her an actress.

I refuse to have a picture of this wanker looking happy on my blog, so please enjoy this one instead.

I refuse to have a picture of this wanker looking happy on my blog, so please enjoy this one instead.

Thankfully 2012 had plenty more stupid to bring to our screens. A cavalcade of sequels, prequels, remakes, re-imaginings and re-packages – we may look back at 2012 and see it as the zenith of Hollywood‘s absolute creative bankruptcy. Until we reach summer 2013. There was the good-looking ‘Prometheus’, a prequel to ‘Alien‘ that was so highly anticipated and so hyped up that everybody forgot that a creative collaboration between the writer of  Lost’s bafflingly shite finale and the consistently inconsistent Ridley Scott was bound to be a confusedly well-designed blancmange of a movie.The Hunger Games’ was a sort of ‘Twilight’/‘Battle Royale’ crossover without the gay vampires, t-shirt removal and graphic violence of those two. ‘The Hunger Games’ replaced those with some competent female archery, a guy who was really, really good at makeup and some convenient killer bees. It was alright. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man‘ saw Andrew Garfield (age 30) and Emma Stone (age 24) playing two 17 year-olds, making a film with a giant talking lizard in it even less plausible than it already was. ‘Safe House‘ was a by the numbers Denzel Washington thriller in which Denzel, playing a maniacal genius, showed the characters off the scale intelligence by muttering ‘tick-tock’, befriending Ryan Reynolds  and shooting his pistol with above-average levels of flamboyance. Quite. ‘The Hobbit‘ sees Tim from ‘The Office‘ embark on an epic quest, battling Trolls, Wargs and Andy Serkis in a wet suit. It’s an uncomfortably long film, containing a fucking huge number of close up shots of Ian McKellan‘s Gandalf doing weird shit with his eyebrows. The much-lauded ‘Skyfall‘ marked the 50th anniversary of James Bond by essentially remaking 2008’s  ‘The Dark Knight‘ complete with random scenes were a brooding Daniel Craig stands on a roof for no reason at all. Javier Bardem gives it his best Heath Ledger and there’s even a butler who gives our moody protagonist the perfect salt of the earth advice we would all enjoy receiving (except he is Scottish not a bleedin’ cockney). Nowhere near as good as everyone says it is.

Prometheus - the film equivalent of waiting a long time to go to the toilet and finding out that the 'toilet' is a hole that you will have to squat over. And there is no arm rail.

Prometheus – the film equivalent of waiting a long time to go to the toilet and finding out that the ‘toilet’ is a hole that you will have to squat over. And there is no arm rail. Or toilet paper. And you’re on a train.

The most frustrating film of 2012 was without a doubt The Dark Knight Rises‘. Yes it had numerous moments. The ‘Blues Brothers‘ style car chase at the beginning, a startlingly brutal moment involving Christian Bale‘s  spine and the wonderful Michael Caine turning the ham-o-meter up to 11 in one great scene. But these were the occasional laudable stars shining in a reservoir of a movie. The incomprehensible plot littered with asine conveniences, the painstakingly obvious dialogue/political allegory and the fact that NOTHING the films villain, Bane said made any sense. If I wanted to watch a bald guy masticating indecipherably through shit dialogue with a look of wide eyed confusion on his face then I can go and watch Gregg Wallace on Masterchef.  It was completely ridiculous. The way people talk about the film you’d think it’s ‘The Godfather‘ but it is not near as much fun as ‘The Avengers‘, a film which doesn’t have a batarang up its arse. I’ll end this part with some of Bane’s dialogue from ‘TDKR’:

Mpppppmhhhhhh mphhhhh mhhhh oarghhhh reckoning mmmpppp!