Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fox Developing Cowboy Bebop Live-Action Feature Film!

by Alex Billington
Cowboy Bebop

All your Faye Valentine fantasies are finally going to come true… if you have any at least! Following Akira and Ghost in the Shell announcements, apparently Cowboy Bebop is in for a live-action adaptation as well. IF Magazine talked with veteran producer Erwin Stoff (via AICN) and discovered that he's working on making a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie with Fox. Apparently it's very fresh news: "I'm really excited to be working on it, and it's in the really early stages. We just signed it the other day." If you're not so familiar with Bebop, it's an incredibly popular Japanese anime TV series that first aired back in 1998 and has become a hit here in the US as well as Japan. I'm not exactly a big fan myself, but considering Hollywood is caught up in the anime trend, I'm definitely excited to see this one come to life as well.

Faye ValentineStoff goes on to explain his enthusiasm for the project and their attempts to remain faithful. "I have such an enormous admiration for its creators, that our first and foremost concern is going to be a real degree of faithfulness to the tone of the movie, to the mix of genres, and so on and so forth. When I met with them in Japan, one of the first things that I brought up was the experience that we had on A Scanner Darkly, and how hard we worked to remain faithful to Philip K. Dick, and that was our big concern here." Don't get confused, this does not mean that they're going for a similar animated look like A Scanner Darkly, as he explicitly said that it's going to be live-action. And if you're wondering who Faye Valentine is, she's one of the main character's in the series and a fan favorite. The photo to the right comes from Bam Kapow's gallery of Faye Valentine costumes.

The show first aired in Japan in early 1998 and was brought over to America in 2001 on Adult Swim. The series follows the adventures of a group of bounty hunters traveling on their spaceship, the Bebop, in the year 2071. Sony released a full-length animated film titled Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heavens Door in 2001 where it was greeted with immense praise from fans worldwide. It is easily one of the most popular mainstream anime series and is beloved by many people even if they're not hardcore anime fans. I think it's the perfect series to adapt, but like Dragonball, I worry that it may get screwed up in translation if it falls into the wrong hands. Unfortunately both Dragonball and this adaptation are at Fox, which isn't a good sign so far, but maybe they'll find a good director. However, I'm enjoying Hollywood's anime trend and am anxious to see what they're going to do with Cowboy Bebop. Thoughts?

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Top 10 links for comic-book heroes

Damian Noonan scours the web for caped and masked crusaders

The Dark Knight, 2008

The new Batman films, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, started with Batman Begins in 2005 and return once again to a Gotham City cloaked in darkness.

Christian Bale in the new Batman film, 'The Dark Knight'

The official website for The Dark Knight, which opens on Friday, has trailers and goodies to download: but also see the magazine of the International Cinematographers Guild ( and click "Current Issue") for an insider's view.

The Mark of Zorro, 1920

The original action hero movie. The character of Zorro was created by Johnston McCulley, a former police reporter, for a five-part weekly magazine serial in August 1919. Douglas Fairbanks is the caped crusader in this silent movie version, which runs for 58 minutes and is out of copyright (search for "Zorro"). Joe Shuster, the artist who co-created Superman with writer Jerry Siegel, has said: "The movies were the greatest influence on our imagination, especially the films of Douglas Fairbanks".

Buck Rogers, 1928

The first pulp science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, launched in April 1926: its covers by Frank R Paul are icons of popular culture (see a gallery at A story in its August 1928 issue introduced Anthony Rogers, who falls asleep after breathing a strange gas and wakes 500 years later to become a heroic spaceship pilot. Renamed Buck, he became the star of the first sci-fi comic strip, which appeared in American newspapers on January 7, 1929. The Internet Archive has 12 of 14 known surviving episodes of the Buck Rogers radio show from 1939 (search for "Buck Rogers").

The Shadow, 1930

"Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows!" The Shadow, also known as "The Dark Avenger", was one of the great pulp fiction characters. He was created as a mysterious narrator to introduce radio dramas, but later starred in pulp novels and his own series (for which he was voiced by Orson Welles). Bill Finger, the writer who, with artist Bob Kane, co-created "the Bat-Man" in 1939, admitted borrowing a Shadow plot for his first strip. You can buy reprints of Shadow stories and other pulp fiction at The Vintage Library.

Superman, 1938

The first comic books to feature whole original stories, rather than reprints of newspaper strips, appeared in 1935; but for fans, the "golden age" of comics began with the arrival of Superman, the first superhero, in the debut issue of Action Comics in June 1938. On the website of the Department of American Studies at the University of Virigina, you can find the whole of that first Superman story (search the xroads site for "Superman").

Batman, 1939

Detective Comics, now known simply as DC, not only published Superman, but also weighed in with other top-ranking superheroes. Batman made his debut in May 1939 and was joined by teenage sidekick Robin in 1940. Read a recent reinvention of the origins of Batman on the DC site (click "Heroes and Villains").

Spider-Man, 1962

Considering that he is now Marvel Comics' most important character, Spider-Man is a latecomer. He was created by Stan Lee, Marvel's head writer, with the idea that a teenager - Peter Parker - would be the hero, rather than just a sidekick. This fan site has covers of the early comics and audio of the unforgettable theme song from the 1960s TV cartoons (under "Things", choose "Shows", then "1960s cartoon" ).

2000AD, 1977

The British comic 2000AD not only gave the world Judge Dredd, it also nurtured a wave of talented artists and writers who a decade later would be instrumental in revitalising American comic books. This official site has a complete gallery of covers and, if you register, whole stories to read. There's also a BBC mini-site (, where you can read classic 2000AD strips in their entirety.

Watchmen, 1986

These days, we like our superheroes to be complicated, flawed characters. Much of this is credited to Watchmen, by British writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, tidily summed up on this fan site. In 2005, Watchmen appeared in Time magazine's list of the 100 best novels published since 1923 (

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 1986

Frank Miller's dark, gothic reinvention of Batman - again, originally a short series for DC, but later a graphic novel - was even more influential than Watchmen. It led inexorably to the Tim Burton Batman movie of 1989 and to the modern era of superhero films. Read early drafts of the script for the 1989 movie, by writer Sam Hamm, on this intriguing website, which also has an early attempt at a script for a Watchmen movie.

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Katy Perry and the media’s ‘Kiss’ of hypocrisy

By Tony Sclafani

Well, it’s official. It’s cool to make fun of gay people again.

How do we know? Because the folks in Medialand told us as much by relentlessly cheerleading two gay-unfriendly songs by newcomer Katy Perry: “Ur So Gay” and “I Kissed a Girl.” The first derides an emo guy with a barrage of gay stereotypes that were cliché even in Boy George’s heyday. The second addresses same-sex kissing (and, by extension, bisexuality) by putting forth the judgment that such a smooch is “not what, good girls do… not how they should behave.”

Although these tunes have definitely amused mainstream listeners, with “I Kissed a Girl” staying at No. 1 for several weeks, they’ve been less welcome by some members of the gay community and the alternative press.

Blogger Duane Moody, for example, asked “What Do You Have Against Gay People, Katy Perry?” The Washington Blade’s review lampooned Perry’s CD title, “One of the Boys” as “One of the Clueless.” It also singled out “Ur So Gay” as “a song that delivers no enjoyment, only confusion as to how anyone could be so shortsighted about its connotative meaning.” The Philadelphia Weekly was equally as unenthusiastic in its review.

The New Gay conducted a confrontational interview that had a rattled Perry actually say, “My closest friends happen to be gay.” She wasn’t being ironic. Celebrity blogger Mollygood pointed out Perry comes from a religious upbringing (she used to record Christian music as Katy Hudson) and in her New Gay interview, Perry talks about how in her “strict, suppressed household,” homosexuality was considered “wrong.” But as Mollygood also says, that’s not so far removed from the message she’s sending with her hit songs, whether she realizes it or not.

The feminist blog, Feministe, chimed in as well, with blogger Fatemeh accusing Perry of reinforcing old stereotypes and playing into gender clichés. The blog’s commenters were even more negative.

Clearly Perry, who is straight, is kidding around with these songs. Both are clever, if simplistic tunes and both obvious bids for attention — which the 23-year-old is definitely getting. But the real problem shouldn’t be with Perry herself. Artists in a free society should have the prerogative to say whatever they want, even if it’s offensive to some.

Media hypocrisy
The trouble has to do with media hypocrisy. For over a decade, anti-gay prejudice messages have been put forth in everything from public service announcements to movies to award shows. Because of this and some societal factors, a mindset has taken hold (especially among people under age 30) where deriding someone for being gay is just not done.

But that was so yesterday. Once the media found it had a hot babe with a smart mouth to promote, their tune changed pretty quickly. “Ur So Gay” became the toast of MTV, probably because it played into the popular trend of male bashing. “I Kissed a Girl,” with its “Girls Gone Wild” overtones followed, and now Katy Perry is the “it girl,” with every writer apparently legally required to call her “sassy” and “rebellious.” Of course the “rebellion” comes neatly packaged courtesy of the Capitol Music Group.

Not only is the media sending a mixed message in heralding Perry, they’re undermining any stand they might want to take in support of gays in the future. How can anyone heed their warnings not to disrespect gays when they roll out the red carpet for an artist who has done exactly that? The real point seems to be they’ll do anything for an audience.

‘Ur so….What?’
The litmus test of hypocrisy here is that if you substituted a different minority in Perry’s tunes, they’d never get airplay. “I Kissed a Black Guy” or “Ur So Korean” would not be Top 40 bound. For that matter, a song called “I Kissed a Boy,” sung by a guy, would probably die on the vine.

Ethnic jabs are now largely seen as déclassé and gay insults were following suit. But now those insults have returned — with an inferred stamp of approval, no less. The media have used some discretion in the past, like when MTV nixed airing Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up.” You’d think some judgment might have been used here, considering that gay teens attempt suicide four times as much as straight kids.

This isn’t a call for a ban on either song, just a question about why the high holy mass treatment is given to some politically incorrect works of art and not others. Let’s look to the past for a good example: It was one thing to have Frank Zappa’s 1979 song “Jewish Princess” known only as a below-the-radar satire (which in itself caused protests). But had that song been sent blaring from every radio in the country, it would have sent another message to the Jewish community

Perry’s supporters note she’s bringing up issues that used to be whitewashed. That’s true, but we live in a more gay-friendly world now. TV has a gay talk show host whose biggest recent controversy was about dog adoption, not sexuality. The biggest pop star of the 1970s is out and has the appellation “Sir” before his name. Doogie Howser’s coming out elicited…indifference. “Ur So Gay” and “I Kissed a Girl” aren’t so much starting a discussion as reviving one — the juvenile one we used to hear in the pre-Ellen era.

It’s fine if the media wants to give a big promotional push to songs with unpleasant messages. They just need to be equal opportunity offenders, so to speak. If that ever comes to pass, I respectfully request MTV lift their broadcast ban on the God-des & She’s “Lick It” and 50 Cent’s “I Still Kill.”

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Once Naked For Nirvana, Now A Teen Spirit

The 'Nevermind' Album Cover

Spencer Elden's dad was a friend of the photographer who created the Nevermind album cover. Courtesy Geffen Records

Spencer Elden

Spencer Elden poses for photographer Jason Lazarus with his clothes on — as he is prone to do these days. Elden hopes he can finish his high school requirements this summer. Jason Lazarus

Spencer Elden
Chana Joffe-Walt /NPR

Spencer Elden, now 17, says he thinks it would have been cooler to have been a teen in the early '90s.

All Things Considered, July 23, 2008 · Imagine if millions of people had seen you naked before you were old enough to say "embarrassing." That's the story of Spencer Elden, whom you may know as the little baby floating towards a dollar bill on the cover of Nirvana's 1991 album, Nevermind.

Nearly 17 years later, amid hating school and playing water polo, Elden is still struggling to make sense of his (very) public image.

"Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis," he says from his home in Los Angeles. "So that's kinda cool. I'm just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I'm here."

Nevermind is often credited with changing the face of rock. Elden's naked participation in this important moment in music history was rather accidental; Kirk Weddle, the photographer working on the cover, was simply a friend of Spencer's dad, Rick.

"[He] calls us up and was like, 'Hey Rick, wanna make 200 bucks and throw your kid in the drink?,'" Rick recounts. "I was like, 'What's up?' And he's like, 'Well, I'm shooting kids all this week, why don't you meet me at the Rose Bowl, throw your kid in the drink?' And we just had a big party at the pool, and no one had any idea what was going on!"

Three months later, while driving down Sunset Blvd., the Elden family spotted a 9-foot-by-9-foot Spencer floating across Tower Records' wall. Two months later, Geffen Records sent 1-year-old Spencer Elden a platinum album and a teddy bear.

Over the coming years, 26 million albums were sold. As Elden learned to walk, talk and sing — his pale baby arms stretched across millions of grungy fans' walls; his private parts stood magnified across billboards and floors.

In some places, his image stuck. The other day, his friends spotted a giant Nevermind photo on the floor of a record store in Hollywood.

"My friend is all like, 'Hey I saw you today.' And I'm like, 'Dude, I was working all day.' And he's like, 'No, I went to Geffen Records, and you're on the floor and you're floating and I stepped on your face. 'Cause I guess they have like a floating thing where people can like walk on me and stuff ... so it's kinda cool," he says.

Life in general isn't quite as "cool" as it was when he jumped naked in the pool in the early '90s, though, he says. These days, his peers are too stuck on the Internet and video games. Ironically, he yearns for the era that gave Kurt Cobain, the lead singer for Nirvana, so much angst.

These days, Elden says, his peers concentrate on "playing Rock Band on Xbox, like, that's not a real band! That's the difference between the '90s and kids nowadays; kids in the '90s would actually go out and make a [real] band!"

But overall, life is good, he says. When he's not being repressed by video games and computers, Elden blasts music — mostly techno — and carries around a big bag of angst, mostly around the fact that he is "so over" high school.

"Same people, same teachers ... going to your locker, worrying about stupid girls ... I wanna get something going, I wanna travel," he says.

Last fall, travel he did — all the way to military boarding school for six months. All his parents will say is that he's done his fair share of "testing authority."

Now he's trying to graduate high school a year early. And he's talking about applying to West Point or becoming an artist ... or something.

As Spencer is wont to say, "I just take it as it comes. If I like it, I like it; if I don't like it, I don't like it."

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The Lost tapes from the Dr. Who engineer

Delia Derbyshire is the composer of the original theme music to the cult favorite TV show Dr. Who. She worked for the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in 1963 and was asked to record the theme written by a composer named Ron Grainer. She turned this composition into a ground breaking (at the time) electronic masterpiece.

Delia passed away in 2001 and recently it’s been revealed that 267 tapes of recordings were discovered in her attic, laying dormant for over 30 years.

This hidden horde of music includes some groundbreaking work, including a very modern sounding techno track recorded in the late 60’s that could easily just have been released on Warp Records.

Paul Hartnoll (former member of the electronic group Orbital) said the track was, “quite amazing”. Near the beginning of the track, you can hear Delia’s voice saying “Forget about this, it’s for interest only”.

Here are some other samples:
A recording of her voice, playing forwards and backwards from a documentary about the Tuareg people on the Sahara

The final version of the recording above mixed with electronic-sounding elements

A soliloquy from Hamlet set to strange science fiction swooshes.

Ms Derbyshire did most of this music BEFORE synthesizers came along.

Ms Derbyshire was known for using found objects such as a green metal lampshade as musical instruments and said she took some of her inspiration from the sound of air raid sirens, which she heard growing up in Coventry in the Second World War.

“The next thing that we want to do is make the archive available to everyone who wants to hear it,” says David Butler, of Manchester University’s School of Arts. “But also this has to be a living, breathing archive so we are going to commission new works as well.”

The sound effects on the Dr Who show were widely regarded as groundbreaking. Here is a collection of videos describing how 4 famous sounds were made.

Unfortunately we have also recently lost another pioneer of electronic music and sounds from the BBC, Daphne Oram. She was arguably one of the pioneers of techno and electronic music.

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The Dark Knight Sets Monday Box Office Record. Also: Strange Audience Observations, Why This Film Matters, and Online Snobs

According to Box Office Mojo, The Dark Knight grossed $24.5 million on Monday and set yet another record: biggest non-holiday Monday of all time. On Tuesday, the film grossed $20+ million, coming in second place for Top Tuesday behind Transformers, bringing it to $204 million domestically. The film is scheduled to earn more in its first week than any other film in history. The movie is a flat-out cultural phenomenon earning comparisons to Titanic. And I’ve spoken with a number of people who have shared odd conversations heard amongst general moviegoers waiting on line to see it. Previously, we reported that 64% of TDK viewers plan on seeing it again. Here are a few other “phenomenon” stats for moviegoers we’d be curious to see.

A) The number of people going to see The Dark Knight that do not realize it’s a sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins. For example, this conversation occurred while on line before my second viewing: John Doe: “Why is this movie called The Dark Knight and not Batman?” Jane Doe: “I guess there are those three other Batman movies.” Of course, TDK is the sixth major Batman film. I guess these moviegoers can be filed under The Joker Factor. (Some commenters have labeled it the “dumbass factor.”) So many people equate Batman with The Joker that all the previous Joker-less efforts fly below their radar. Also, some people are clearly just buying tickets to see Heath Ledger, others just dig the “dead guy factor.” But I’m getting the sense that for a surprising amount of viewers, Batman Begins doesn’t register. You?

B) The number of moviegoers that think the film is a “prequel” to 1989’s Batman, and the number that have only seen the ‘89 and ‘08 films. The former crowd may sound ridiculous, but considering the huge and diverse crowds TDK is pulling in, again, not so much. I’ve talked with people on both coasts who have overheard this misconception at theaters big and small over the weekend, and not just amongst the olds. Some commenters have said that Slashfilm must have “dumbass radar,” but let’s continue. ;)

On Monday’s /filmcast, Kevin Smith added that, in his opinion, anticipation for TDK did not surpass that for 1989’s Batman. He then proceeded to offer our staff handjobs, but staying on topic, Smith has a point—though most 20somethings who experienced both flicks sans handjobs would disagree with him. Tim Burton’s first film and Chris Nolan’s second may be regarded by many un-geeks as related bookends existing outside their own (and the nippled) franchises. Of course these two films are unrelated, but in a way they are forever coupled in how they define the ways in which our culture, movies and moviegoers have changed in the 20 years between them. For instance, compare Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachel Dawes. Compare the ‘89 Joker throwing money out to the insatiable, rioting masses to the ‘08 Joker’s boat party, where the masses undergo a post-911 soul search (some would say a creatively forced and false one). Compare the seedy, steam-spiraling streets of ‘89 Gotham to ‘08 Gotham’s sleek, brightly lit modernity (which is evidently poverty free? And has way more trustfunders). Compare Burton’s pulpy, highly rewatchable popcorn fantasy with Nolan’s weighty tome of politics, terrorism and philosophy. Compare the number of teenage moviegoers, then and now, who are familiar with the work of Frank Miller.

Back in ‘89, the Batman logo seemed to physically blanket the country. In ‘08, TDK signifies the power that digital buzz has in luring even the most infrequent moviegoers into physical spaces. Smith said he didn’t feel the IRL buzz for TDK like he did with Batman, but he should consider the attached Watchmen trailer. Only three years ago, not to mention back in ‘89, such a trailer would have received laughs not only due to “the funny-looking Batman wannabe,” but also due to general audiences’ unfamiliarity with this provocative cult property. Now? Those same laffers are shutting off their snark and pondering their cultural disconnect. As Peter noted, you can literally intercept the thoughts of general moviegoers’ as this trailer screens. (And yeah, Slashfilm likes Scanners.)

Moreover, consider all of the trailers playing in front of TDK. ‘Net influence is currently consolidated into comic book/genre films, sure, but it’s absolutely jaw-dropping how the game has changed in the 10+ years since the arrival of “spoilers” and leaks. We did this. Where does it go from here? Back in ‘89, I wasn’t within six degrees of Tim Burton, now a 13-year-old fanboy is six degrees to Zack Snyder. More on this below.

C) The number of people going to see The Dark Knight that haven’t seen a movie in a theater in six months or a year. AKA: The “ask your mom” test. The number of these viewers, though small in comparison to the boffo grosses, is probably suprising and would further solidify the film as a cultural phenomenon. Also, there are definitely fantasy moguls and real ones out there who feel that TDK will eventually overtake Titanic, and these stats would offer further support. (DiCaprio can finally cease moping.)

While we’re at it: there are those online that have expressed snobby bafflement at why Slashfilm seems so “invested” in this film’s success. Do I rank TDK in the top 10 films of all time? Nope. Moreover, I’ll agree that the film is not perfect, and I would not compare it to The Godfather (any of them, though it’s certainly better than the third). But TDK is the superlative result—forever a touchstone—of millions of genre fans pushing a boulder up a cliff year after year dating back to AICN’s crazy salad days (figurative ;) and up to Slashfilm’s DIY rise and popularity. Not only does a film like TDK benefit Slashfilm and our readers’ tastes, but what these aforementioned baffled snobs do not grasp—even with Comic-Con 2008 booming—is that movies and movie going have changed forever. TDK is the geek community’s Harvey Dent, anointed after an incredibly long fundraiser. Even the way in which many moviegoers think about and absorb a film as they watch it has changed dramatically. This realization has and will continue to scare the shit out of film professors and dead tree critics for years to come. It’s called immersionism, old dudes (and snobs).

In the future, will all of us carry converted Wayfarers into an IMAX and bask in kitschy cool 3D? I’m not so sure. I think we’re much more likely to look up and see our and our friends’ digital fingerprints clearly imprinted on what’s playing on the screen, rather than experiencing the nth T. rex blasting laser beams right at our stoned clones. The populism of summer has always pissed off contrarians and indie lovers (and to some degree, point taken, yet AGAIN), but these people are not seeing the bigger literal picture, maybe because they are not yet—and maybe they simply cannot be—a part of it.

Original here

8 Great Villains We Want in the Next Batman Movie

by Aaron_Koehn

With The Dark Knight set to break box-office records, a sequel is almost certainly in the works. With Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhardt's masterful performances as The Joker and Two-Face, respectively, finding another villian or two to ably face off against the caped crusader, while staying true to Christopher Nolan's darker tone won't be an easy task. Here's 8 villains that may be able to pull it off.

8-Dr. Hugo Strange

Character's effectiveness and value: While Dr. Hugo Strange might not be very physically intimidating or threatening, his mental prowess and ingenuity make him a credible foe. His comic book schemes have included massive, genetically-engineered monsters that attack upon command, and the discovery and attempted auction of Batman's secret identity. He was also one of the first reoccurring Batman villains, appearing before both the Joker and the Catwoman.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: The not-so-good doctor would easily lend himself to a practical portrayal, especially since his costuming would probably only include a lab coat and some Windsor glasses. There also seems to be a degree of mistrust with today's medical field and its practitioners, and the filmmakers could certainly tap into that fear when developing this character.

Influence of previous interpretations: Aside from one or two animated Batman episodes, Dr. Strange has been sparsely utilized on screen making him a character that has little previously-established bias.

7-The Penguin

Character's effectiveness and value: One of the most glaring weaknesses of the Penguin is his lack of menacing qualities. He's short, obese, and chain smokes, meaning his athletic prowess is pretty low. That being said, he does have an extremely rich history in Batman lore, and his character has been thoroughly fleshed out resulting in more depth than your average villain.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: The Penguin is another character that would translate fairly easily into film. He seems to favor formal clothing, but given his physical attributes, masking his insecurities with feigned affluence seems natural. At one time the Penguin was rumored to be cast in The Dark Knight as a British arms dealer, which lends further credence to the idea that he could be done realistically.

Influence of previous interpretations:There have been a myriad of Penguin portrayals all of varying degrees of quality, so it would be tough to escape any foregoing prejudice and this could be seen as another weakness for the character. Hopefully that won't dissuade the usage of him because there is an underlying creepiness with the Penguin, and as we saw with Christopher Nolan's Joker, creepiness is something that he seems to do well.

6-Mr. Whisper

Character's effectiveness and value: Mr. Whisper was said to be an ancient monk who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal life, and an immortal would likely make a very formidable villain. In the comic Batman: Gothic, the shadowless Mr. Whisper runs amuck in Gotham, slaying numerous mob bosses in an attempt to win back his soul. Batman repeatedly does battle with Whisper, but it's especially tough to defeat someone who's death-resistant when you've taken a vow not to kill.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: Mr. Whisper's outside appearance would not be a problem in terms of rational depictions, but the fact that he survives falls from skyscrapers and head-on collisions with trains might seem a bit too improbable for the next Batman movie. An ambiguous approach to Mr. Whisper's perceived powers might be the best way to portray the character on film, keeping the audience guessing whether or not he really is superhuman.

Influence of previous interpretations: As previously mentioned, Mr. Whisper can only be found in the graphic novel Batman: Gothic, and as a result there haven't been any distorted interpretations done. So if Mr. Whisper was utilized, no audience member would have any preconceived partiality.


Character's effectiveness and value: Zsasz is a serial killer who cuts tally marks into his skin after each subsequent murder. He regularly refers to his victims as zombies and he insists that he's liberating them from pointless existence by slitting their throats. He briefly appeared in Batman Begins as an inmate in Arkham Asylum where he was identified as a hitman for the mob. During the film, his recognizable scars could momentarily be seen during his escape from Arkham.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: His potential is obviously very high since he has already been imagined and introduced into the film's universe.

Influence of previous interpretations: Beyond the comic books, the only other source where Zsasz can be found is in the Batman Begins movie, and as a result the character hasn't yet been tainted by any earlier distortions. So a more fleshed out and prominent role in the ensuing film would set the cinematic interpretation standard.

4-Deacon Blackfire

Character's effectiveness and value: While less of a preacher and more of a cult-leader, Deacon Blackfire led a band of brainwashed Gotham citizens into what he described as a war on crime. Eventually this cult took over all of Gotham resulting in its segregation from the rest of the country. At one point a weakened Batman had even become an indoctrined sect member; however, by the end of the story he realizes the error of his ways and beats the reverend senseless.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: There really isn't anything too unusual or improbable about the deacon to warrant not including him in the movie. While Blackfire makes claims that may seem too sensational for the film, specifically regarding the immortality he receives by bathing in blood, by the end of the comic we find out that indeed the deacon was more of a conman than immortal, firmly grounding the story in reality.

Influence of previous interpretations: The graphic novel Batman: The Cult is the only source where Deacon Blackfire can be found, so again, there aren't any other representations of this character to muddle his prospects.


Character's effectiveness and value: The Catwoman is one of Batman's oldest foes and on occasion she's portrayed as a love interest and ally. She is known for being a master thief and as a result she is often cleverly referred to by others as a cat-burglar, although her crimes are often given noble intentions similar to a black-spandex-clad Robin Hood. Overall, she is one of the most popular Batman figures, having appeared in more adaptations than any other villain.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: The Catwoman is another character in the Batman mythos who, like the caped crusader himself, possesses no special powers. This makes her easily translatable into Christopher Nolan's very grounded Batman films. She also has costuming that is traditionally very similar to Batman's, so her acceptance based on attire in this universe would be no less likely than his.

Influence of previous interpretations: Being the Batman villain that has seen the most adaptations means the Catwoman comes with lots of baggage. From her appearances in several movies (notably, the terrible film starring Halle Berry) to countless television show spots, the Catwoman has become an ingrained pop-culture icon. And ultimately, it's this familiarity that becomes the biggest drawback when considering the likelihood of this character's utilization.

2-The Riddler

Character's effectiveness and value: The Riddler is another Batman villain that strikes little fear into the hearts of do-gooders. This could be due to his lack of physical weapons, or his insistence on leaving riddle-based clues at his crimes that always result in his schemes being revealed and then thwarted. That being said, the cerebral nature of the character seems to lend itself well to Christopher Nolan's more mature and thoughtful approach, and the character's rich history provides abundant potential.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: Provided enough green fabric can be found to create an olive suit and matching Bowler hat, there really isn't anything too unusual about this character. Certainly a less cartoony, more mature interpretation would be necessary to make this character believable, but if an audience can buy a grown man fighting crime under the guise of a humanoid bat, it should be able to accept a criminal fond of riddles.

Influence of previous interpretations: Again, this is a character that has been done before and to limited success. So if the Riddler was going to be again seen on a movie screen, a deep reinterpretation would be necessary. There have been recent allusions made by several cast members though, indicating that indeed this character could be the next Batman villain.

1-Black Mask

Character's effectiveness and value: Black Mask is a deranged mob boss in Gotham city who wears a skull-like mask carved from his mother's ebony coffin. Growing up, Black Mask had a parentally forced-friendship with Bruce Wayne, one which he despised and which grew into a deep resentment of the Waynes. Black Mask frequently uses torture not only for personal gain but for personal satisfaction, often resulting in the death of his victims.

Character's potential for realistic portrayal: While some might see the skull-like mask to be a bit of a stretch in regards to realism, the motive of personal resentment and subsequent revenge certainly isn't. This is a very dark character and one can easily picture him fitting into the darker tone established in these Batman movies. As a mob boss, he also easily fits in with plots and themes used in the earlier films.

Influence of previous interpretations: While Black Mask has been used a number of times in comics, his universal recognition is pretty limited. To the diehard fan he is pretty significant in the Batman canon, but to those who are only casually interested in the Caped Crusader, he would be a complete unknown. To put it simply, Black Mask has a lot of theatrical potential.

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Where Does ‘The Dark Knight’ Leave Us?

Not surprisingly, The Dark Knight has done sublimely well at the box office. We knew it was going to happen, but maybe we didn’t know just how well it was going to do. Given the way the world works, however, this means that there will almost definitely be a third movie in Christopher Nolan’s reinvention of the Batman franchise.

And according to an article over at MTV, Nolan and his co-writers — brother Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer — have already discussed the theme and villain for a third movie.

But of course, no one is saying anything, which leaves us to speculate.


The overriding theme that we got from TDK concerning the future for Batman was that he and Gotham City were going to be at odds. This was brought to the fore during Batman’s conversation with an upside down Joker, and leading right into the final scenes between Batman and Gordon. Being chased into the shipping crates by Gotham’s finest’s canine unit and their human handlers, Batman is now the villain in a city which has just lost its white knight, Harvey Dent.

And this is not something that is new to the Batman universe, where oftentimes he is painted as a criminal vigilante. So in all likelihood, a large portion of a third Batman movie under Nolan’s direction will focus on Batman having to hide from the law. But just like Gordon’s young son, there will be those in Gotham that know that Batman is innocent of the crimes labeled against him.

But Batman versus Gotham is not going to be the title of the next film; there needs to be a villain. But this villain has to allow Batman the chance to redeem himself in the public eye. Enough must be put on the line, at stake, that Batman’s sacrifices and struggles to bring whomever to justice will allow him to be the hero that Gotham needs.

Add in to this equation the need to keep a measure of reality to the villains, and your list continues to diminish. Because as much as I love the Riddler or Bane, I can’t see them appearing in a third Nolan movie as Batman’s big enemy.

I’ve been asking my Twitter-peeps who they think will be making a return for the third movie, and the one answer I keep getting is Two-Face. Now I was at once saddened when the movie finished that they had killed off Harvey Dent. However, I was soon alerted to the possibility that he wasn’t actually dead. Nothing is said on the scene of Two-Face’s fall from the construction site, and the need to keep him redeemed in the eyes of the city was what sent Batman running in the first place, so it isn’t a huge leap to think that they faked his death and locked him up in Arkham Asylum.

So write Two-Face in as the number one choice of fans. But there are others, two in particular that have all of a sudden seen an opening in the position of “female lead”: Poison Ivy and Catwoman.

Catwoman will never play the big bad villain, and for good reason. She is a very talented burglar, but she’s not going to be vying for world domination or committing mass murder anytime soon. So she will play a small role in the next film, of that I am sure. She will be Bruce Wayne’s love interest and Batman’s constant annoyance in a city that doesn’t like either of them, which in and of itself will make for some fantastic scenes.


But in my movie, I would have Bruce Wayne and Catwoman forced into partnership by the evil doings of one Pamela Isley, aka, Poison Ivy.

Though the fantastical element of Ivy’s ability is to control plants and the like, take a step back and what you have is a fan favorite villain who is out to protect the planet and its plants. In this day and age of environmental awareness, the idea of making a movie where the main antagonist is trying to protect a city by destroying it is not a big leap to make. And even if Nolan and Co want to drop the attachment to realism, Poison Ivy still manages to be one of the better villains in the pages of Batman.

You’ve heard what I and my Twitter-peeps have to say, let’s hear what you have to say. The comments are just below, leave as long a reply as you would like. We would love to hear what you think. Who should be the villain(s) for the third Batman movie?

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/Film British Gossip Endorsement: Tom Cruise Should Make Top Gun 2

Across the Atlantic, The Sun—a tabloid that our commenters loudly detest—has decided to blow on the sails of the Internet and report that Top Gun 2 is in the works. Apparently, a script-outline is out to Tom Cruise and if he approves by recreating the image above, get ready to rock like it’s 1986.

As we witnessed with Crystall Skull, revisiting the ’80s can conjure spilling a bunch of pills on a bathroom floor, but I think this would be a really smart move for Cruise. If this guy was a Transformer, he’d still be a fighter jet. (Slashfilm Statements Hall of Shame). Moreover, Mission: Impossible is beat. Cruise will never play up the “team” aspect required to make that franchise work/make sense. He’s too big and too perfect a star. Valkyrie? Edwin A. Salt. Stop with the reconnaissance. Next month, his work in Tropic Thunder will be crowdsurfed across the globe and have the press blah blahing about the direction his career should go (Answer: if you listen to me, up). Until then, let us grab a milkcrate: the two highlights of his recent career are 1) his website, seriously, Neo-Tokyo, eat your heart out and 2) the scene where he talks shit and tosses around a baseball in War of the Worlds before the aliens make a thunder storm.

Tom Cruise, upside down, screaming in an airplane, killin’ it or chasin’ ‘tang: that is what we (and our world of wars) want to see. I want American flags flowing under the credits. And Val Kilmer might be too old to play Diamond Dave in The Dirt, but The Iceman can be chunky. He needs to be there. Tony Scott? Sure. Bring it. Top Gun 2, we’re throwing a couple pennies in the wishing well for this…

“The idea is Maverick is at the Top Gun school as an instructor — and this time it is he who has to deal with a cocky new female pilot.”

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The Big Question: What is the history of Batman, and why does he still appeal?

Why are we asking this now?

Because the Caped Crusader's latest movie had its British premiere last night – just after news emerged that The Dark Knight had topped the all-time US league for an opening weekend box-office take, with a remarkable $155m, as well as rave reviews about the late Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. That success snatched the record from another superhero movie, Spider-Man 3.

Where does he come from?

Batman was the brainchild of the artist Bob Kane and the writer Bill Finger, who collaborated on a new character for Detective Comics in 1938. Their first sketches were a long way from the Batman image most people are familiar with today: the first drawings gave him wings and red tights. A few drafts later, a Batman who looked more like the 2008 movie version was born. He was soon starring in his own self-titled comic.

Why was he such a success?

From the start, Batman was unlike other heroes. His rivals, Superman and Spider-Man, are festooned in the primary colours of the American flag, whereas Batman dresses in dark blues and blacks. And no other superhero has a story quite as bleak. When Bruce Wayne was a little boy, he watched his parents' deaths at the hands of Joe Chill, a heartless mugger, and vowed to dedicate the rest of his life to gaining revenge on the criminal underworld. Superman's arrival from another planet is kids' stuff in comparison. To quote the film director and comics geek Kevin Smith: "Batman is about angst; Superman is about hope."

How did he move from comics to the mainstream?

The first big fillip to the Dark Knight's career came in 1966, with the US TV series based on his comic-book adventures. It was a huge success for two years, and the POWs, WHAMs, and Holy Mackerel have an enduring ironic appeal. But the kitsch style, coupled with Adam West's goody-two-shoes performance dealt a near-fatal blow to the the comics, which were sullied for the hardcore aficionados and quickly forgotten by fans of the show. For the next 20 years, the series floundered through numerous relaunches without ever shaking off the high camp reputation of the series. Finally, just as Batman seemed to be on his last legs, Frank Miller wrote the four-issue mini-series The Dark Knight Returns, and changed everything.

Why was Miller's version so important?

As the cultural commentator Jabari Asim put it: "Miller revived what had been a declining character by plumbing his tangled psyche and exposing what he found there." Miller was fascinated by the horrors of the hero's childhood, and bears responsibility for the sense of Batman that most of us have today, as a uniquely downcast hero. That idea's influence on Hollywood, from the Batman series itself to the gloomy thrills of the Bourne movies, can be felt to this day.

What made this Batman different?

In Miller's version, Batman is a 50-year-old who comes out of retirement and has to battle the ravages of time on his body as much as the supervillains terrorising Gotham City. Tim Burton's 1989 Batman drew heavily on Miller's version, giving Michael Keaton's Batman the obsessive, dark personality Miller had imagined. It placed the same emphasis on the fact that, almost uniquely amongst superheroes, Bruce Wayne is not "super" at all, but an ordinary man who sometimes seems more like a vigilante than a hero, and who makes use of high technology, piles of money, his famous wits, and an awful lot of weight training. Critics saw the movie as the first about a superhero to treat the audience like grown-ups: typically, The Washington Post called it a "violent urban fairytale", "an enveloping, walk-in vision".

What happened next?

After a less successful sequel, Burton was dumped by studio executives in search of a more family-friendly director. Sure enough, Joel Schumacher's first effort, Batman Forever, starring Val Kilmer, enjoyed some box-office success; but the next time round, Batman and Robin was widely ridiculed for its garish, overblown style. George Clooney barely survived the mauling. Since then, there's been a renaissance in superhero movies, with Spider-Man and X-Men leading the way – both clearly inspired by Burton's original, darker vision. As a result, Batman himself came roaring back in the form of Christian Bale, in Christopher Nolan's 2005 revival Batman Begins. These days, comic-book movies are everywhere.

Why the box-office surge for superheroes?

It's simple: the audiences keep lapping them up. Hollywood first caught on after the surprise success of X-Men in 2000, and so far the formula hasn't run dry. That's partly the result of the die-hard comic-book fans who routinely see each new title two or three times, and partly because studios can use the fantasy element of the superhero universe to unleash all their most spectacular special effects. There may be more intangible reasons too. According to the comics blogger Josh Flanagan: "This is the kind of movie that can be patriotic and tap into what the United States is craving in a movie right now. That resonates with a lot of people."

So will they continue to be a success?

The Dark Knight's huge success suggests so – but more telling still might be Iron Man, which made $565m and, despite having two big stars, Robert Downey Jr, and Gwyneth Paltrow, was a franchise without anything like Batman's fan-base. If the obscure story of the arms dealer Tony Stark can do so well, the critic Ross Douthat wrote, "the road is cleared for literally dozens of efforts featuring characters just as obscure as Iron Man, if not more so". Tellingly, Marvel, which owns the rights to many of the most popular comic-book heroes (although not Batman himself) has now set up as an independent studio, seeing its future as much in movies as in the comic books it has published since 1939.

What about Batman himself?

His future looks rosy. The success of the new film guarantees a sequel. The current comic book series, Batman RIP, has the fan community in paroxysms of excitement over whether the hero will live or die. But even if he is bumped off, that won't signal his permanent demise. To quote the prominent comics critic Douglas Wolk: "There's no such thing as a 'definitive version' of Batman... there are as many interpretations of Batman as there have been creators who've worked on his stories."

Is Batman the greatest superhero ever?


*He's often called the World's Greatest Detective, in homage to his formidable deductive intelligence

*His tragic personal history and dark, brooding psychology make him far more interesting than the clean-cut, square-jawed likes of Superman

*He drives the Batmobile


*He can't compete with X-ray vision, spider-sense, or super-strength; he can't even fly, only use his cape to glide

*The 1960s TV version will always make him slightly ridiculous

*Lois Lane and Mary-Jane Watson, female foils to Superman and Spiderman, have no equivalent for the Caped Crusader (unless you count Robin, of course)

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If Batman's truly gone bad, has Christian Bale doomed his Oscar hopes?

Finally, after an admirable, but low-key career spanning two decades, Christian Bale is the biggest star in the world — at least as measured by having the title role in the most important movie right now: "The Dark Knight." Christian Bale has given Oscar-worthy performances in the past in prestige flicks like "Rescue Dawn" and enjoyed a notable cult following, but he's never been recognized by Oscar voters. No, he won't get nominated for a popcorn pic like "The Dark Knight," but Christian Bale is now such a superstar that he's perfectly positioned, soaring high in his bat cape over filmland, to be noticed by academy voters in the future.

That is, unless Christian Bale may have shot down his award hopes after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mum and sister, questioned by London police and released without being charged.


Has Christian Bale just thrown away his Oscar hopes?

Being a bad boy off screen can seriously hurt your shot at winning an Oscar for your on-screen work, however brilliant. Academy Awards are all about bestowing hugs, of course, and nobody wants to embrace a thug.

It's no coincidence that Oscar's two biggest losers — Peter O'Toole (eight defeats) and Richard Burton (seven) — have been Hollywood's biggest hell-raisers.

Or consider Marlon Brando. Early in his career, when he exulted in being a 'tude-heavy dude fond of throwing his fists around Hollywood, he left the Oscar ceremony in 1951 hugely embarrassed — the only cast member of "A Streetcar Named Desire" not to win despite widespread predictions otherwise. Things just got worse after that. Over the next two years Marlon Brando lost best-actor nominations for "Viva Zapata!" and "Julius Caesar."

Then in 1954, desperate to win, he finally wised up, knocked that chip off his shoulder, put on a fancy tuxedo and started acting all sweet and thoughtful at the Golden Globes where he won best actor first, then repeated the feat at the Oscars at last.

Playing the good guy can be awards bait, but not if you are a bad boy in real life. Consider the backlash against Christian Bale's "3:10 to Yuma" co-star Russell Crowe. Just a few short years ago Crowe was the biggest superstar in the galaxy. When "Gladiator" swept the Academy Awards in 2000, it was all about him, not his movie as academy members welcomed the star of "L.A. Confidential" and "The Insider" into the inner circle of filmmaking like he was a real gladiator triumphantly entering the Hollywood coliseum.

The next year he again joined the Oscar race as the lead star of the eventual best picture winner, "A Beautiful Mind." He was still such a white-hot actor that he coasted through the early derby, easily snagging a best actor trophy from the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, SAG and — egads — BAFTA. That Brit fest is where the gladiator really threw himself to the lions. He did so by "roughing up," according to the London Sun, a British TV producer for daring to edit down Crowe's rambling recitation of a poem during his acceptance speech. At first he allegedly shrugged the whole thing off and refused to apologize. Soon public outrage grew furious enough that he appeared to take responsibility for his deed and said he was sorry, but it was the worst performance ever by an Oscar champ. When he allegedly shoved that BAFTA producer, he also threw away his chance to nab an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind." Instead, Denzel Washington claimed the prize for "Training Day."

Two years later, Crowe proved he was still a commanding screen star, although no longer the ruler of his domain. He landed the lead role in "Master and Commander," an epic, high seas blockbuster that cost $150 million to make. While it earned only $93 million at the U.S. box office, it was a hit with Oscar voters, reaping a whopping 10 nominations, including best picture, but — ominously — no acting bid for the movie's master and commander: Crowe. It ended up winning only two Academy Awards, both in tech categories.

More disaster followed for Crowe with his next project, "Cinderella Man." This 2005 biopic helmed by Ron Howard looked like perfect Oscar fare: a well-crafted, feel-good tearjerker starring Crowe as a down-on-his-luck boxing hero. Reviews and buzz were excellent when it opened but soon thereafter Crowe pulled his biggest blunder yet. Allegedly drunk and unhinged in the middle of the night, he got mad when he had trouble dialing his hotel phone in Manhattan, yanked it out of the wall, marched down to the lobby and hurled it at an innocent hotel clerk. The clerk struck back by filing criminal charges.

Unfortunately for Crowe, the whole incident had been caught on videotape by a security camera. Suddenly, he became contrite and he quickly toured the TV chat shows to apologize to his victim and his fans, this time appearing to mean it. But it was too late as this hissy fit crossed a line. This time he wasn't bullying another media pro he had a quarrel with. Or it wasn't like this hotel clerk was a pesky paparazzo (like the kind that Sean Penn went after). He was an honest, hard-working, innocent Everyman, a regular Joe, just the kind of guy who probably spends a chunk of his paycheck to see Russell Crowe movies. Produced for $88 million, "Cinderella Man" ended up earning only $61 million domestically.

While voters for the Screen Actors' Guild and Golden Globes thought his performance in "Cinderella Man" was good enough to merit a best actor bid, Crowe was snubbed by the Academy Awards. And for his acclaimed 2007 roles in "3:10 to Yuma" and "American Gangster" he had to make do with a pair of SAG ensemble nominations.

Christian Bale has never had a hooligan reputation like Russell Crowe. That may help him to be easily forgiven now, if this current mess plays out OK.

Christian Bale certainly deserves another chance to be reconsidered for his excellent screen work. While the actor has denied that such an assault took place in London Sunday just hours before the premiere of the highly anticipated sequel to "Batman Begins," the damage to Bale's reputation may be irreparable. Though Christian Bale earned critical acclaim for transforming himself physically for roles in edgy films like "American Psycho" and "The Machinist," he never broke into the mainstream until taking on the iconic role of Batman in 2005. Since then, Bale has appeared in a range of big budget movies with varying degrees of success.


Though the historical epic "The New World" and the Victorian adventure "The Prestige" failed to impress, his performances last year in a trio of very different roles showcased his abilities. Whether as the real life Vietnam hero in "Rescue Dawn," one of six different incarnations of Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There," or the innocent rancher caught in the crossfire in "3:10 to Yuma," Bale showed Hollywood he had the right stuff. He recently wrapped "Public Enemies" playing the do-gooder who hunts down John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and is filming the long awaited sequel "Terminator Salvation" stepping into the shoes of John Connor, the only hope for man against machine. And he is said to be considering the role of Robin Hood in "Nottingham."

(Warner Bros.)

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The Dark Knight and What the Future Holds for Super Hero Movies

by Larson Hill

Now that a new record breaking era of lucrative comic book movies is in full swing, will big screen comic book translations always be this popular? Will our favorite super heroes eventually become as roll-your-eyes cliché to a new generation as Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Van Damme? After the recent box-office success of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, and with so many comic book properties in development, those questions keep rolling over in my mind like my own imaginary trailer for Iron Man 2 on continuous loop. What does the future hold for the comic book universe on the big screen?

After years spent playing the "What if?" game with regard to comic book properties, namely the question of whether Hollywood would ever get around to making a Spider-Man movie, comic book geeks can finally enjoy "their" time on the big screen. To be perfectly honest, I never ever thought a live action X-Men movie would ever get off the ground, let alone be executed properly and go on to spawn two sequels. It seemed like something that would never happen and too large of a project to be done right. It wasn’t that long ago when any notion of an X-Men movie being made was met with, "Yeah, whatever." Now that technology and the releases of Spider-Man and X-Men ushered in a new era of comic book movies, the real question becomes - How long will it last? If this is truly the dawn of a new era of comic book movies, with fans currently soaking up the rays of a rising super hero sun, wouldn’t the next logical assumption be that at some point the sun will set?

Am I wrong? Is it blasphemous to even suggest such a thing? Maybe to some diehard comic book geeks, but I certainly don’t feel compelled to like every comic book on the market simply because it’s a "comic book" or "graphic novel". Although I’m caught up in the excitement of the current wave of super hero movies, I sometimes wonder when we’re going to reach a point when too much of a good thing will have an adverse affect. To think that even more comic book movies will be coming down the cinematic pike (possibly double the amount) when 2008 is already bubbling over with comic book goodness is a bit mind blowing. Aside from super heroes on the big screen, in the last few years movies like Wanted, 300, Sin City, A History of Violence and 30 Days of Night have hidden their comic/graphic novel roots well to the mainstream moviegoer not familiar with pages and panels. It's just not as obvious as a guy running around in tights and a cape.

The reason why I’m pondering this stuff after the gargantuan success of The Dark Knight is that, despite my own unique comic book tastes - Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men, and the old school Sgt. Rock, and Jonah Hex - it only means we’re going to see a huge tidal wave of super hero movies for the next few years. And I’m not complaining at all. There’s no way you can convince me that on the Saturday morning following the The Dark Knight’s whopping $67 million one-day take, executives in Hollywood weren’t on the phone green-lighting every comic book property they could get their hands on. I mean even more than the ones they snapped up after Iron Man and the ones they already have in the development coffers. What does that mean for the future? Well, from this side of the fence, it looks bright and bleak at the same time.

Look, in broad strokes throughout the 1980s and’90s filmmakers tried really hard to kick-start the comic book to film revolution. Unfortunately, for every Batman or Superman there was also a Darkman and The Phantom. To a large degree, many were also limited by what was technologically possible. You’d go to the theater and, for the most part, pretend your favorite hero was all that you really hoped he would be on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong; it was a fun time and a fun ride to be sure. But deep down you knew there was still something missing from the equation. Something that still wasn’t quite right that you couldn’t put your finger on. For comic book geeks who grew up in the ‘80s, you know what I’m talking about. Deep down, I know you do. It wasn’t necessarily the fault of the filmmakers, it was the fact that we knew comic book/super hero movies were almost there, but not quite to the level that matched the comics.

Almost twenty years after Tim Burton’s Batman, the franchise is now where every comic book fan wants it to be after the success and reception of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Finally, comic book movies are being made the way fans want them to be made. That could only mean we’ll see more quality comic book/super hero-to-film adaptations in the coming years. Or does it?

Maybe, maybe not, but we’re going to see more of them. A LOT more of them, and that could very well be the problem. If you believe in life cycles and see how the sun rises each morning and sets at night, it probably will be. Do comic book movies have the same staying power as science fiction and horror?

The interesting thing about the dawn of the new comics to film era is that while comic book movies have been hit and miss on the big screen in previous decades, comic books in print have had huge staying power in a different medium. We all know comic books are, and have been, wildly popular since the birth of Superman in the 1930s. In fact, comics themselves are as old as the movies, dating back the late 1890s with the introduction of the dialogue "balloon" in a comic called "The Yellow Kid". So, seeing how The Dark Knight is the new record holder for the biggest three-day box-office take in movie history, will the same type of print popularity and longevity finally be duplicated on film? Will comic book movies stay as popular as they are at this current moment in cinematic history?

It’s easy for a lot of fans to say, "Hell, yeah!" But predicting the longevity of comic book/super hero movies isn’t easy, especially when there are never guarantees in the film world. We all know, or should know, Hollywood is a business. As soon as studios/companies stop making money from super heroes, that’s when it ends. Case in point - the eight year gap between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins. What about the nine year gap between Superman IV and Superman Returns? If it wasn’t for X-Men and Spider-Man and their box-office windfalls, it's doubtful we would we have even seen the return of Batmanand Superman. Some comic book properties will always be popular, but timing plays a huge part in all film releases, as proven by the fact that Batman Begins hauled in $48 million during its opening weekend in 2005 as compared to the $155 million opening weekend of The Dark Knight. Obviously, three years makes a big difference. When looking ahead to the next the years, it’s a gap that could very well predict the future direction - short and long term - of comic book movies and super heroes on the big screen.

The good in all of this is that comic book adaptations are finally giving geeks what they’ve wanted for so long. Christopher Nolan has raised the bar with The Dark Knight and we’ll finally see more sides of our heroes from real human perspectives, either light or dark. It’s the grittier, ballsy territory that held many earlier mainstream comic book movies back from matching their print counterparts. As long as we see deeper character driven adaptations with well-written stories that can match the intellect and emotion within the pages of a comic, we’re in for a completely new ride than in years past. I hope the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine is all that a stand alone Wolverine movie should be, especially after TDK. The downside of this new era is that once we reach a point where every second or third trailer we see is for a comic book/super hero movie, the non-comic book segment of the movie going public will undoubtedly say, "Enough already!" It’s likely that comic book/super hero movies will go through a natural life cycle, ebbing and flowing through the next few years before fading in popularity only to return a few years later. Until the current bubble bursts, the future looks amazingly bright, even if it isn’t forever.

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Is Christopher Nolan the Greatest Director Alive?

After breaking box office records this weekend with the newest Batman installment, The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan may just be the newest Greatest Director Alive.

By Mike D'Angelo

No formula exists to determine the greatest living American filmmaker. The populist approach, which asks which directors have succeeded in turning themselves into brand names, yields two candidates: Scorsese and Spielberg. For achievement in eclectic expressionism: the Coens, David Lynch, P. T. Anderson, or Gus Van Sant. Sheer volume: Woody Allen or Spike Lee. Hell, just hand the ballot to M. Night Shyamalan and he'll supply a conclusive answer: Me.

My own criterion is simple: Whose next film is most likely to be a flat-out, make-my-head-hurt masterpiece? Or, more to the point, who is working at such a rarefied level that he just might fashion something unprecedented from the latest Batman?

The thing about Christopher Nolan (who's as much British as American -- but sue me, so was Hitchcock) is that he doesn't clonk you over the head with his genius. While he's become more visually sophisticated over the course of his short career, he still has no use for the look-at-me camera moves. Nor does he seem to care whether people notice that his clever, gimmicky narratives conceal deep and unsettling questions about human nature. Nolan's films are casually profound -- like watching somebody bunt the ball out of the park.

You'll find folks who dismiss Memento as "the backwards movie," but the device, however superficially arresting, is anything but cute or glib. Not only does it place us in the same position as the perpetually disoriented protagonist (Guy Pearce), who has no short-term memory, it also reveals the disturbing extent to which we're prepared to rationalize phony explanations for our own unconscious decisions and desires. Memento is an existential mystery-thriller about a guy who has no idea why he's doing anything he's doing, but who keeps doggedly doing it anyway. Possibly you can relate.

The Prestige, likewise, tackles the subject of self-delusion, although Nolan's thesis is so discomfiting that he uses sleight of hand to blunt its impact. The first time I saw the film, I was thrown when David Bowie turned up as inventor Nikola Tesla, providing Hugh Jackman's conjurer with a sci-fi gizmo that would replicate rival Christian Bale's sensational illusion, "The Transported Man." Only upon a second viewing did I realize that I was witnessing an allegorical battle between science and religion, with the former managing a TKO, but the latter a key moral victory.

It's probably nuts to expect greatness from The Dark Knight (July 18), since Nolan's Batman Begins, while superb by the standards of the superhero franchise, didn't exactly burrow its way into anyone's soul. And yet, I can't help feeling that the Joker's carved grimace and prankster sadism could mesh nightmarishly well with Nolan's bizarre flair for grim entertainment. The question is whether people will be able to look past the creepy poignance of Heath Ledger's posthumous performance to see the stealthy, oddly underappreciated virtuoso at the helm. Probably not.

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