The Phantom (2009)

tn_phantom09There’s a new version of THE PHANTOM out on DVD that tries to be BATMAN-BEGINS-realistic instead of old-fashioned-serial-goofy. It uses the same concept of the Walker family and associates passing down the name and methods of The Ghost Who Walks, but in the context of the modern world. You know, computers and internet and shit. The new Phantom can do acrobatics and what not but not because of jungle training. He does it because he’s a parkour dude. I actually thought that was a good way to explain it. I just didn’t like the dad saying, “None of this parkay stuff” and the kid whines “Daaa-aad, it’s called parkour!

This new Phantom (Ryan Carnes) is a young pretty boy law student, what is commonly referred to as a bag containing douche. He’s not rich like Batman, Iron Man or Green Hornet, but he follows that same currently popular super hero formula of self-absorbed do-nothing finds his purpose through a masked alternative lifestyle. These stories tell us that you will never truly be happy with yourself until you help others. The Fountainhead would hate the Phantom. Actually, The Fountainhead would be a really good nemesis for a future Phantom movie. The Phantom could rescue people from his building before he blows it up.

mp_phantom09This new Phantom adventure comes about when some menacing suits including Abel Vandermaark (Jean Marchand) show up to tell this youth a few things he doesn’t know, like that his real name is Kit Walker, not Chris Moore, that his real parents were assassinated by an ancient pirate order called the Singh Brotherhood, and that his adopted parents will be in danger if he doesn’t abandon all of his loved ones forever to secretly wear a purple suit and live in a jungle cave. I think he’s thinking more along the lines of passing the bar exam and working his way up in a firm somewhere, so he says no. But he comes home just in time to find his parents murdered and parkour-chase after the culprits. After Vandermaark convinces him he had nothing to do with the murder Kit agrees to leave his old life behind and see what these jungle people can offer him re: avenging parent death.

The biggest problem I had with this movie is that it’s three hours long. That might sound like an overconfident DTV movie but it turns out it’s because it was a mini-series on the Syence Fyction Channel. And from what I understand it’s the first one they’ve ever tried where there’s not a giant sea creature involved. For them this is really branching out, like when Clint did BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. So they hired the creator of that show “Carnivale” to write it with his son, who I’m sure will pass the torch down for many generations and they’ll all pretend to be the same guy who created Carnivale.

The only thing I find more amazing than me getting through the first hour and a half is me actually starting to enjoy it in the last hour and a half. It starts out as a pretty typical TV pilot, with a not particularly cool hero and alot of setup. Yeah yeah yeah, his parents got killed, he has to reach within himself to find his true etc. etc. I think we get it. And before there’s pirate trouble there’s all this business with him going on a parkour run broadcast live over a webcam, it’s all very uncomfortable. You know how Hollywood people, and especially TV people, are real good at seeming like they’re trying way too hard to attract young people? It just has that feeling of some old dipshit who just found out about this internet and he knows that’s what kids want to watch is a TV mini series about a webcam broadcast.

It gets more fun once the kid gets his ass to Bengalla and it starts showing the mechanisms of the Phantom network. He doesn’t have to set it up like the other super-characters I mentioned. His super hero shit has been in place for generations, evolving with technology. They just have to teach him how to use it.

So that’s when it gets kind of cool. He has at his disposal a team of scientists who build him new tools and weapons and can do forensics, an advanced medical facility, high tech training and testing equipment, and also the natives for spiritual guidance. There are two factions within the organization – Vandermaark is a traditionalist who wants to maintain the classic Phantom techniques, Dr. Baboor (Ivan Smith) is an inventor always trying to push the Phantom into using the latest shit.

I was hoping Vandermaark would be a good influence on him, but when they proudly present this kid the Phantom costume he says “I’m not wearing that.” It’s that old live action super hero dilemma, that they think everybody wants to see super heroes but they also think the last thing anybody wants to see is super heroes, so they give him some SWAT team type “realistic” contraption. I never understand this attitude. Okay, so you’re concerned people are gonna laugh at this one:


Fair enough. I mean I think you can’t really go wrong with simplicity like that, but obviously alot of people now refuse to buy into the old classics. I get that. They don’t want to be perceived as old fashioned, the main thing the Billy Zane movie wanted to be perceived as.

But then how the fuck do you think nobody’s gonna have a problem with this:

That’s really supposed to be better? That’s where it loses me. And then when they made the cover for the DVD I guess they noticed that it didn’t resemble the Phantom very much, so they made it more noticeably purple and then it looks even more ridiculous.

If you ask me the new one is way sillier looking than the old one and makes this show difficult to take seriously. I mean I feel similar about the Nolan Batmans, but that costume is a little more aesthetically pleasing than this one. And it doesn’t seem logical to me that a parkour guy would think it was okay to put all this shit on. I’m pretty sure those guys are big on wearing comfortable clothes. Since the military has developed lightweight bullet proof materials out of genetically altered spider webs I’m sure the much more advanced scientists over there at Phantom headquarters could come up with something more parkourable than this thing.

But like the Batmans they do make it a little more tolerable by explaining the technology of the suit. It’s not only armor but some kind of strength enhancing powersuit deal. I guess if that’s the only option then it’s a good choice, function over fashion. Yes, I look like M.A.N.T.I.S. in this piece of shit, but at least I can punch a guy real hard.

When the movie gets enjoyable is when he starts using all this shit. Of course he has to go back into the city (the urban jungle, right? kinda deep) and I guess where he differs from other super heroic individuals is he has a whole team keeping an eye on him via satellite and cameras, mapping things for him and sending out help and what not. So he’s kind of a cross between Batman and the CIA. And of course the kid has to sort of come into his own, he has to decide for himself which direction to take the Phantom legacy and therefore prove that he’s worthy of wearing the suit. So that he can, you know, not wear the suit.

The bad guys are kind of cool too, they’re still the pirate organization but of course they’ve gone corporate, so there is some board room sword execution and what not. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m always up for a good board room sword execution. Also Isabella Rosellini is in it.

I hope since the Phantom is supposed to save the world from piracy that he eventually has to go after CD and DVD bootleggers. It just seems like it would be good for him to get some cases that are less dangerous, you know? I think he could handle that one and wouldn’t have to do as much parkour.

I don’t know man, I was way more into the Billy Zane one, but somehow at the end of this I thought if they do make it a TV show or make another mini-series I’d probly take a look.

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74 Responses to “The Phantom (2009)”

  1. I agree with all of your points on this movie. It started slow (not bad just slow) but steadily picked up the pace at is went on. I was honestly happily surprised by this movie/mini-series since it is a SyFy thing which usually spells utter shit, and I like giant sea creatures……….

  2. I love the Dark Knight, thought it was the second coming of christ. But I actually fell asleep watching Batman Begins.

    Batman Begins wasn’t the first realistic Batman film. That would be the original Batman film, the 1989 version. The studio actually wanted a campy Batman a la the Adam West tv serials. It was Tim Burton who put down his foot and went for a dark realistic version.

    And my girlfriend fell asleep watching Batman Begins. In her defense, “the movie ended twice!”. Go figure.

  3. In Scandinavia The Phantom’s suit have always been blue, so I thought
    they had made a mistake when I first saw Zane’s purple get up. But given
    that this guy lives in the jungle, why didn’t he go for green?

  4. It would be nice to see a lot of these funny book characters come across bad guys that don’t need that much effort to deal with. You know, something like Batman using his grapple hooks and shit to help a cat out of a tree or something.

  5. “the Syence Fyction Channel”
    “So they hired the creator of that show “Carnivale” to write it with his son, who I’m sure will pass the torch down for many generations and they’ll all pretend to be the same guy who created Carnivale.”
    Good ones, sir.

  6. Vern – Get in touch with your inner-woman and review BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY for The Clint.

    brad greenspan – what’s exactly realistic about Burton’s BATMAN? Then again, whats realistic about the Nolan movies? Some realism here and there is nice I suppose, but difference between BATMAN BEGINS and this PHANTOM (from Vern’s recap) is that Nolan never ditched the Bat cowl and costume for a riot squad uniform.

    Of course I can’t imagine how someone could think BATMAN BEGINS is boring. That shit just blows my mind like an explosion in a Michael Bay movie.

  7. But wouldn’t Batman begins have been better if he had not dressed up as a bat? If he had still been the millionare with all the toys and shit, just not being a bat? I just can’t get behind the fancy dress outfits in any of these movies. Hugh Jackman looked cool untill he put on his gimp suit in X men and Superman looks like a man with his underpants over his tights. And thats not super is it? I know that’ll get me murdered, I won’t mention it again.

  8. The problem with the “realistic” approach is that you still have to deal with a guy who dresses up like a bat or wears a spandex bodysuit or whatever and expects people to think he’s a badass. Which is pretty much the opposite of realistic. It’s better to give me a heightened reality where that kind of thing is par for the course than set up a realistic world and then throw in this completely preposterous thing that you’re obviously embarrassed about but you have to do it anyway because, you know, that’s the reason somebody gave you money to make the movie in the first place. You might want to make a gritty crime thriller, but something has to go on the lunch boxes.

    I liked BATMAN BEGINS until Batman showed up. His appearance was so jarring that the series never got me back. There’s simply no reason for there to be a Batman in those movies. A vigilante in a Kevlar suit, sure. But a guy with a cape and ears? That’s a level of quirk that Nolan never earned.

  9. Ace Mac Ashbrook – How about while we’re at it, we make Alfred a black mechanic, the Batmobile a souped-up Lincoln Continental, and Batman a hockey mask-wearing vigilante who lives above the garage he works at?

    I always wonder how that version by Darren A. would have turned out.

  10. I actually like how in the comic strips (and his has been true for some time–they’ve gotten a bit darker and edgier themselves in recent years) the coloring emphasizes the purplish twilight or nighttime environments the Phantom operates in.

    I didn’t know that in Scandanavia (where the strips currently originate, btw) his costume is blue, though! (So while I’m at it, in defense of Batman’s classic blue/gray costume: I’ve read several places, having nothing to do with Batman, that blue and gray are actually best at disappearing at night.)

  11. Ace Mac, I completely agree – the only think I didn’t like about the Nolan Batman movies was that Batman looked like Batman. I understand the symbology aspect which gave them the justification for the suit, but that
    was a suit that was always going to be in search of justification after the fact.

    A wacky looking guy is pretty jarring in a world where most everything else
    looks fairly familiar.

    They might as well have put Batman in The Wire.


  12. The main problem with Batman’s appearance (in both movies), in my opinion, is that you can see too much of his face. It ruins the effect he’s going for.

    Still, it does add the psychological factor of “This guy is crazy and is out to get me–oh crap he also has skillz!” A man wearing a William Shatner mask inside out shouldn’t be scary either, but I think that would actually be worse (instead of hilarious) than a non-masked equally competent killer in real life at scaring his targets.

  13. “the only think I didn’t like about the Nolan Batman movies was that Batman looked like Batman.”

    Limey – Maybe he should have looked like Superman instead?

  14. “I understand the symbology aspect which gave them the justification for the suit, that was a suit that was always going to be in search of justification after the fact.”

    Well put, Limey. That was exactly the point I was groping for in my post.

    Personally, I think SPIDER-MAN 2 gets the balance exactly right. The emotions and the characters feel real and grounded, but the tone is wacky enough that a dude swinging around in red-and-blue jammies doesn’t stick out. Ditto IRON MAN. Superhero comics are pop art. You can’t just take the pop out of it and expect it to fly.

  15. Was there really gonna be the thing with Batman working at a garage, driving a Lincon with a hockey mask on and a black butler? That sounds pretty good. Is that a funny book?

  16. re: Nolan’s bat dude.

    I had a completely dissonant moment about 1/2 way though DARK KNIGHT where it occured to me that the bat costume looked absolutely STOOPID! in this Micheal Mann-esque crime caper. All the elements; cinematography, music, costume and sets and the unhinged Joker – it all worked together. Except the dude in the cape.

    It was, as I remember, right after the news clip of the Joker terrorizing one of the bat-nerds on home video. He says, in this *awesome* bark: “LOOK AT ME!” and the scene really worked. Then Alfred talked about his past in Burma.

    Then there was a guy in a cape.

    BATMAN BEGINS was silly and comic-bookey enough to work tonally. TDK is the equivalent of dropping a spandex-suited figure in Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It just grates.

    (this from a guy who really digs TDK. When it works, it really cooks. But there is no denying that its idiosyncracies get in the way of making a coherent movie. Like SPIDER-MAN2 – a tad too long in the middle but perfectly cogent.)

  17. Majestyk – Fucking hilarious you mention IRON MAN in your argument, considering that one’s narrative basically plundered BATMAN BEGINS. Not that I’m criticizing, but come on let’s be honest here while we’re at it.

    As for “wacky”, wouldn’t you agree that one of the weakest elements in BB were the forced one-liner “jokes”? Man alot of them were cringe-worthy forced.

  18. Sounds pretty funny to me.

    I still think they should hire Aronofsky to direct ARKHAM ASYLUM. Just keep him away from the script.

    Actually, keep Grant Morrison away from the script, too. He’ll probably think his old story was too “linear” and throw in some futuristic panda samurais who all look like Val Kilmer and poop fourth-dimensional energy bullets.

  19. Ace Mac Ashbrook – that apparently was the essence of the Darren Aronofsky/Frank Miller script for their BATMAN: YEAR ONE movie that they were gonna make in the early 2000s. Which btw also inspired briefly that annoying AICN Talkback meme: “Gordon has a beer, cheets on his wife!”

  20. Clarification for above post (no edit feature, shame that.)

    Point is: SPIDERMAN 2 is coherent in form, style and content. TDK is not.

  21. Didn’t Liam Neeson/Rah Zal gull (sp.?) have a funny line toward the end of Batman Begins where he sees Batman for the first time in character and says something like, “You took my advice about theatricality a bit literally, huh?”

  22. RRA

    I have the same problem with most superhero movies – but at least with Superman, he’s catching falling aeroplanes.
    Batman just looked (to me) like the only thing that didn’t belong in his own movie. Not that I didn’t enjoy them as movies, but I seem to have difficulty if the whole thing is treated with as much realism, it makes the corny / silly aspects seem more corny and silly.

    As I said, it’s a purely personal reaction to the super-serious treatment of the Nolan films, but I prefer Superman Returns to either of them and as I have also said before, I have terrible taste.

  23. RRA: Who’s talking about plot? The plot of every origin story is the the same. I’m talking about tone.

  24. ARKHAM ASYLUM deconstructs Bruce Wayne in a way that destroys the Batman mythos.

    Maybe it’s just me but every time I re-read it (once every couple of years since publication) I realize just how juvenile are the concept of a rich prick dressing up to fight crime, the idea that obsession is like a light switch, and the pop-psychology of motivation through catastrophe.

    The descent into madness of Arkham himself – better though not all that much better – only underscores Wayne’s character infantility.

    Finally, the Jokey has such lines as one might read in a parody of Batman.

    This is not a bad thing! I have a feeling Morrison knew just what he was doing and did set out to slaughter the moronic mystique of a character who is less superhero and much more pathetic, sado-masochistic thug with a guilt complex – (not a big surprise from a culture steeped in Christian iconography.) But I don’t think anyone is ready for that in movie form.

  25. Mr Majestyk. Thats the other problem with superhero films, its always an origin story, its always the same schlok. The only one that I have seen (and I really have not watched a great deal of them) that seems to skip that whole thing is Blade.

  26. Majestyk – In other words, you prefer to have more humor right? I mean that’s what you’re basically saying here buddy.

  27. Does John Mclain’s vest count as a superhero costume? Or Indy’s hat? Have always wondered about that, ‘cos those guys are superheros in my eyes.

  28. RRA, why do you always have to break it down to the simplest possible elements? It’s not as simple as “Make him crack some jokes, jokes is funny lolz.” That would be even worse than what’s there now. I’m saying find a tone that fits the character. The story of Batman is an essentially Gothic story. There needs to be an element of expressionism in the mix for his iconography to work. He looks stupid when grafted onto a realistic movie.

  29. I think what he’s saying is that if Gary Busey was playing Batman, the cape and ears wouldn’t be so out of place.

  30. Gotham City was not gothic enough to support Nolan’s Batman. If its going to be set in a made up city called Gotham, why make it as realistic as possible? Tim Burton had the right idea.

  31. Vern – I notice no mention of Phantom-punching despite the suit’s super strength (though I’m not sure how a catchers vest imparts super strength, unless it’s of the Barry Bonds variety). Does this mean the charisma of one B.Zane out punches the technological strength enhancement?

  32. Ace: The first Punisher film handily skips all that origin jazz and gets right to the meat. Also, Burton’s Batman deals with the origin in flashback halfway through the film. It let’s the character have some mystery before explaining him, which I like.

  33. Thankyou Mr Majestyk, I forgot about those ones.

  34. Mr. M – Which first Punisher movie? The Dolph or the reboot?

    As for why I’m breaking down the elements, well why not? In some ways a movie is indeed like a car. Why do some work and some don’t? Of course that doesn’t mean if you have all the right parts that it will win the Indy 500.

    Consider a recent Jerry Bruckheimer flop in America, PRINCE OF PERSIA. Like Batman Begins and Spiderman and so forth, you have respectable director (Mike Newell) making what essentially is a popcorn action adventure, you have respectable leads (Jake Gyllenhall, Ben Kingsley), and you have also obviously an action/comedy module inspired by Bruckheimer’s previous PIRATES pictures.

    The fact that it was utter inane mindlessness is besides the point.

    Did you ever explain why the Pixar stuff left you underwhelmed? I don’t believe you did. Was it the overhype by some people (i.e. most people)? In that case I can understand ya. Hype is a bitch, and maybe a movie’s worst enemy sometimes.

    Its like if you’re beginning to get into movies and you watch CITIZEN KANE the “greatest American movie ever”…shit how can that hold up to such a proclaimation?

  35. Mr. Majestyk – You didn’t think Burton’s first BATMAN was less a Batman movie and more a JOKER movie co-starring Batman?

  36. Punisher: War Zone skips straight to the action of the present and very briefly touches on origins later.

    It also has some decent parkour, especially in it’s best shot, a shot that has awed & humored me perhaps more than any shot or scene or sequence in any film ever. There’s a shoulder-fired missile involved. You just have to see it.

  37. I watched Citizen Kane thinking I needed to smarten my movie knowlege up and decided I was much better off being an idiot. My friend asked me what I thought, I told him, he said I was a dunce.

  38. Going out on a limb here, but I like CITIZEN KANE. Not a great story but excellent filmatics.

  39. Citizen Cain? That was that movie with that guy from the radio, right?

  40. Imagine my friends opinion of me after I told him what I thought of Metropolis.

  41. Two PHANTOM reviews in two days and I still don’t know why Ben Affleck is the bomb.

    Majestyk: I agree with your first point, and particularly your analysis of the failings of BATMAN, but I also think that it is possible to make a “realistic” comic book movie. DEFENDOR worked really well for me. Maybe you see it more as a vigilante movie? But it addressed themes familiar to the funny books too.

    However, I am firmly opposed to your implication that futuristic panda samurais would somehow be a bad thing.

    Caoimhín: Gary Busey Batman would be the most awesome thing ever.

  42. Jareth: I absolutely agree that it’s possible to make a realistic superhero movie. Just not a realistic Batman movie. I’m not trying to suggest that there’s one way to make these kinds of movies. Each character and situation should be given the tone that work for the material.

    I’m getting a real kick out of picture Busey’s giant tombstone teeth jutting out from underneath the bat-mask, though. Maybe now that Clint’s too old we could get him for THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

  43. But getting back on topic…

    How ’bout that Phantom, huh? I think I’d be okay with the riot gear outfit if they’d just maintained the stripey underpants from the comic strip. Some things are sacred.

  44. So the problem with the Batman movies is . . . Batman. Strange argument but it kinda makes sense. I personally think that Batman 1989 is the best batman movie by far. Its dark, gloomy, etc., but it’s also completely over the top when it needs to be. No boring origin story, though technically, there is a joker origin story but it worked since the origin is basically him falling into a vat of toxic waste. Origin story done. And Prince did the soundtrack! I still rock out to “Party Man” every now and then.

  45. I think I’m gonna stop mentioning Batman in reviews.

  46. Good policy, Vern.

    Fuckin’ nerds everywhere, always ruining shit with their ongoing, omnipresent Batman analyses.

  47. And start mentioning Mattman in reviews? If it helps, I don’t own a cowl, so I’m automatically less polarizing.

  48. Someone actually likes that fucking terrible Prince soundtrack from Batman 89′?? I’m astounded. I usually fast forward through those parts. If Nolan put some horrid sell-out shit like that in Batman 3 there would be a nuclear fucking holocaust on the interwebs.

  49. P.S. Sorry Vern. Didn’t see your post. Look on the brightside though. At least now you know how to instantly derail a thread in the future in case you need to.

  50. Mattman: I’m going to totally stop enjoying your pithy comments if you let Nolan start writing your material.

  51. I’m going to be very harsh here, bjut i have to say, from reading some of the coments above, that many in here don’t deserve that movies like Batman Begins or The Dark Knight exists. Whne movie geeks get over-precious about so-called problems about those two movies and yet are very easy on Jar Jar Abrams’s Brewery Trek, that’s when i know that movie geekry is broken and beyond repair. It’s wrong, it’s just wrong. Some good movies are too good for the geekry, and Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are two of those. Since when it became cool to berate and put down proper good movies? Since when? We all should count our blessings and thank our lucky stars that BB and TDK even exist. Ungrate fools! I warned you, i was going to be very harsh, but i fell that i should tell it as it is.

  52. I can’t believe someone else remembers M.A.N.T.I.S. (that was a bitch to type out). If I remember correctly, it was kind of a rip off of Iron Man, and it aired immediately after the X-Files.

  53. Maybe it’s just me, but people who think that Nolan’s Batman movies are some kind of holy grail and nobody is allowed to criticise or even not-like them, while they never get tired to tell everybody that whoever likes their least favourite movie is an idiot and a horrible human being, accompanied by giving the director a “funny” nickname that has stopped being funny (if it ever was) years ago, but also have to bring this up in every single discussion, doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with it or not, are more dangerous to “geekry”.
    I also remember that M.A.N.T.I.S. was killed by an invisible dinosaur in the last episode.

  54. I have no problem with the costumes looking EXACTLY LIKE THE COMICS. Because THAT is who the character is. If a writer and director CAN’T make the concept work in the story and in the world they create, then they should move on to another project.

    We all laughed at those Reb Brown Captain America t.v. movies, but now it appears (based on online set photos) that the new Captain America movie has a red white and blue HELMET, just like Reb’s motorcycle helmet.

    Superhero comics exist for a reason. No matter how dark and violent you make the comics, they are still pretty silly. Always. No exceptions. The graphic novels, the weird art, the murky panels, the twisted morals…it’s all still idiots in costumes fighting other idiots in costumes. It’s professional wrestling. You need to embrace that and then move on to the logistics of making it all work in the world as created by the script.

    The Nolan BATMAN movie, for me, have a huge problem because by calling attention to how “realistic” we want the costume to be, they go WAY WAY in the opposite direction by making you realize that, realistically, the guy would just wear black and carry a gun.

    So stop trying to make these characters acceptable to “grown ups.” You only make matters worse and it destroys the charm of the original character.

    But they SHOULD make a Charlie Brown live-action movie where he wears a flak-vest to outsmart Lucy. And Snoopy could be a bitbull, too.

  55. ***. . .realistically, the guy would just wear black and carry a gun.***

    That movie is called Death Wish. However, due to hilarious 80s G&G Cannon-isms, the Death Wishes are not at all realistic.

  56. Could you believe that the 89 Batman album and the single “Batdance” both went to #1 on the Billboard Charts? Not the bullshit “Adult contemporary” charts but the “Pop” charts. I like the album but didn’t remember it being that popular. I guess this was back in the days when a movie and a movie’s soundtrack could both go to #1. The popularity of movie soundtracks has died a slow death. Though, I think if the Dark Knight had a “Joker Shuffle” or a “Two Face Two Step” it would’ve hurt the “realism” a bit.

  57. Carter Nash: I think the issue Majestyk was getting at with superhero costumes isn’t so much that the costumes can’t be the same as the funnybooks, but that the world of the funnybook has to accompany the costume to a large extent if the transition to film is going to work. There is a high degree of stylization in the way a city is drawn in the comic, and just as much mood and tone as a good film. That’s why some of us think the Burton and Adam West Batmen are more successful renderings than the Nolan versions.

    AsimovLives: Just so you know where I stand when you launch your next junta, I dislike both Nolan BATMAN films, the new STAR TREK and IRON MAN in equal measure (but for different reasons). I agree with everyone who has said that SPIDERMAN 2 probably got the superhero stuff done the best, though, frankly, I think the only movie superhero that completely worked for me is Elmo Oxygen. I passed on EXPENDABLES to watch the Joan Rivers documentary, and passed on SCOTT PILGRIM to watch Sion Sono’s three hour epic of teen angst and upskirt photography. Also, I think those British RED RIDING films were way better than both ZODIAC and the DRAGON TATTOO movies (I’m serious, UK, give yourselves a pat on the back for that shit. Those films were awesome). Also, I like long walks on the beach and good times with friends, but dislike cold car seats and Monday mornings. Let me know where I fall on your credibility chart.

    But seriously, I have been deeply impressed by how thoughtful and articulate many of the regulars on this site have been when defending films that I didn’t enjoy. I don’t think hectoring them is fair repayment for the thought and effort they put into their remarks.

  58. On the topic of Batman, is anyone a fan of Batman Returns? I rewatched the Burton’s recently and think BR is a far far superior film. The first suffers from being far too formulaic, cheesy 80s and Jack Nicholson being far too distractingly Jack Nicholson. With Returns they really seemed to let Burton do whatever he wanted and, amazingly (i’m not a huge Burton fan) it works. It’s incredibly dark and twisted, so many bizarre touches to it that wouldn’t have go through in the first film.

  59. GBG – It is a much better movie than the first one. See I can back up BATMAN RETURNS. That one actually has merit. Well it sure helps when you have a story. Plus who didn’t love that not so subtle touch of Keaton and Pfeifer the only unmasked people at the mask ball?

  60. Batman Returns is Tim Burton at his l’enfant terrible best. He made the film right after he got into good graces with the studios thanks to the success of the first Batman film, but he was still immersed in some post-adolescent anarchism. From what I understand he didn’t want to make the sequel at first, but he was still under contract. He then used this leverage to make the film that he wanted. Not only did this mean exorcising all pop songs (sorry Prince) but he also decided Batman wasn’t even the main character in this one and decided to spend an inordinate time on the villains. He then increased the violence to make sure any kids who were brought into the theater by parents who were too stupid to look at the rating would be traumatized (I know I was). Batman Returns is also a wonderful showcase of Burton’s skills as a visual storyteller (something he lost with Alice). The opening sequence has absolutely no dialogue, but it tells us all we need to know. I would love Burton to create a silent film, even if it is a short film. As much as I enjoyed the Nolan Batman films, I must admit that Batman Returns is the gutsiest of the bunch.

  61. I hate Returns and always have. Probably one of the few movies I consider truly unwatchable, and that means something coming from me. It’s the Burton equivalent of Escape From LA….except with more Geek Cred for some reason.

    RRA-I hated that entire scene. It’s just like Burton to take anything interesting one of his films has to say and sledge-hammering it down to something a 5-year-old can understand. “Does this mean we have to start fighting??” Fuck off!!

  62. I won’t get into the Batman discussion because Vern tried to put a lid on that shit and what I have to say amounts to: you guys are fucking insane contrarians if you think Nolan’s take falls short of Burton’s or Adam West’s… but

    re: Jareth Cutestory on THE RED RIDING TRILOGY

    My experience with the films was one of diminishing returns. I watched them back to back so my waning attention span might be at fault here. But I thought things just got more convoluted as they went along, to the point that I found 1983 a very unsatisfying wrap to the trilogy. Slowly over the course of the films you begin to realize that this is not a whodunnit, that the emphasis is not on the central mystery of the Ripper killer or the dead/mutilated little girls (to add to the confusion: these are two separate cases!) but on the corruption of the police force and the authorities in general. This is a story about systemic evil, in which you cannot start pulling the threads in a murder case without unraveling the whole legal institution.

    I get that, but what started in 1974 as a compelling central mystery becomes so diluted by the time we get to 1983 that I’m left unsure of who did what to whom. It got to a point where many of the “reveals” meant nothing to me, because I just lost track of the specifics. 1974 has a very strong central character (a revelatory Andrew Garfield) with an easy to understand goal and arc, but by 1983 our central character seems like he’s a mystery even to himself. The constant use of unmarked flashbacks does not help to unmurk the plot.

    All of the films are well shot and well acted (although 1974 is the stand-out even in this respect) but I can’t help but feeling disappointed, looking for a more satisfying payoff for the time I invested. These films have been described as ZODIAC/MEMORIES OF MURDER meets THE WIRE, and that’s partially accurate. But they lack the comprehensive totality of THE WIRE’s look at urban crime, and the thematic precision of the conclusions of ZODIAC/MEMORIES OF MURDER.

    I would rank 1974 a 9/10, 1980 an 8/10, and 1983 a 7/10. So I’m not describing a total wash here, in fact the first one makes the experience worth it. But for films that have been compared to THE GODFATHER trilogy I expected to understand the story I was being told.

  63. Oh fuck. I forgot about the ban on all Batman-related talk. Okay, no more…..starting nnnn-now.

  64. No, it’s fine. I don’t think anybody has anything to say about the SyFy Phantom. I just get sick of this “Dark Knight: obviously great or too realistic for my tastes?” debate.

    But for the record “Bat Dance” is a great song. Keep bustin’.

  65. Gwai Lo

    I feel exactly the same about the Red Riding films, though I have to say I feel the main issue is the source material.

    I watched the films when they were broadcast on TV her in the UK(actually that’s bullshit, I watched the first and then about half of the second) to see how they’d interpret these books into something palatable for a TV audience and was kind of taken aback by how like the books they were in that whole “what the fuck is going on??” sense that I had while reading them

    I mean I get what David Peace was trying to do when he wrote the books – create a sense of an over-arching, almost supernatural evil in Yorkshire of that time, like Twin Peaks or From Hell but – and maybe I am just dumb, it’s possible – I had no idea what was actually supposed to have happened

    I read all the books to see if anything was completely explained but no. When I watched the films it quickly became apparent that even though they simplified the end of the 1st one and changed it to make it more clear, it was still hazy as fuck

    I know people compare Peace to Ellroy but fuck me at least at the end of an Ellroy novel you know what just happened and to whom

  66. Also I like Prince’s Batman soundtrack and I don’t care who knows it

  67. best Batman is the Animated Series
    i think the Batman comics are going in a more Phantom direction, with the idea of the ‘legacy’ and the Bat-family

  68. Vern – Why is it that we damn nerds seem to scrutinize great or very good movies much more than the stinkers or the mediocre efforts?

    Brimstone – Oh I don’t know, I wonder if the peanut gallery will allow you to pick Batman TAS because it’s not self-conciously silly enough. Needed more humor, too serious.

    I say its too seriously awesome.

    Funny and pathetic too how TAS was on TV kicking ass when about, give or take, the same time you had WB wasting millions on those Schumacher movies and that certain future Oscar-winner/JONAH HEX producer guy couldn’t write a story worth a fuck despite having a Fort Knox budget.

    Seriously, a KIDS CARTOON SHOW having better writing (and more mature) than a $100 million toy commercial. Hilarious.

  69. Gwai Lo: I don’t disagree with your observation that the second and third RED RIDING films don’t live up to the promise of the first one, at least in terms of script; the visuals were incredible in all three films. I also found the final film a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion; I think it’s because such a beatific ending ran counter to the utterly bleak tone of the first two films and seemed unearned. The first two films establish such a grim stranglehold, where all heroic acts are crushed, yet overcoming that stranglehold in the third film seems almost effortless and stumbled upon. They also seemed to be grasping a bit for deux ex machina devices in the third film (psychics are the easiest expository devices after Mr. Rourke’s pal Tattoo), when more careful, character-based plotting could have solved the problems.

    But I applaud the film-makers for keeping the cathartic retribution to a minimum, and so well grounded in the realistic psychology of the characters (ie. guilty cop and abused boy). The villains were such bastards that it must have been difficult to resist the temptation to wipe them all out in the last film. And even the third film is so much better than that DRAGON TATTOO crap.

    And you’re right: in an exemplary cast, Andrew Garfield somehow managed to be phenomenal.

    kuryakin: I suppose Ridley Scott will address some of your points if he ever makes his version – I think he still owns the rights – which will no doubt be a big shiny model of narrative familiarity. I prefer the films the way they are, convolutions, dead ends, lack of explanation and all (and think Scott would be better off spending his time making that damned ALIEN film he’s committed to not suck). I actually would have preferred if the original RED RIDING films were even more disjunctive and tangential than what they ended up with. Also, I’m a big fan of unmarked flashbacks.

  70. Brimstone

    Good pick on Batman The Animated Series – that is the perfect version.

    I think there have been some interesting points made, but one question comes to me: Do you guys think Superman could or does exist in Nolan’s Batuniverse?

  71. The Limey

    Yeah that’s a good question, I wonder how Gotham City in the 3rd Batman movie would be affected by a genuine superheroic, alien entity flying around – albeit in Metropolis

    But like, imagine if on the news tomorrow there was a report of a guy in Bangalore who was able to fly, he was an alien, couldn’t be killed, was saving all these people and being an upright citizen and generally decent fella while he was at it – there would be a massive shift in public consciousness, in government spending on defence or on SETI or whatever, not to mention the media attention and constant net bullshit

    And that would be if he was on the other side of the world, imagine if he was only a few hours away by car??

    And would Batman be jealous?

  72. I like how my posting on TAS got deleted so that’s awesome.

  73. I randomly leeched this show and have only seen the first half thus far. While the suit and the spin on the Bandar/Bengalla people is a bit of a stretch, I thought the lead was pretty good. The acting was also acceptable, albeit with the exception of the Singh brotherhood which was a little over the top.

    Nice review. Thanks.

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