On November 17th 2017, Justice League arrived in cinemas everywhere. After several missteps, the DCEU was finally going to rival the MCU. Then people saw it.
Reviews were mixed, with the film currently sitting at a 6.4 on IMDb. After director Zack Snyder stepped down due to a family tragedy, Joss Whedon finished the film. Despite reassurances that the film would not be affected, the result was a frankenstein of a film. Tonal shifts, deleted scenes, bad CGI and the infamous moustache removal. The final product did not live up to the hype. But then whispers of another cut began to emerge- The Snyder Cut
So what’s so special about it?
Snyder’s original plan for the film was part of a five long film arc. Starting with “Man of Steel”. However he was forced to edit much of part 2 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, most of this was eventually restored in the “Ultimate Cut”. Parts 3, 4 and 5 would have been a Justice League trilogy (with standalone movies for each character appearing in between). His cut of the film would have felt much more like part of that universe, with the “Knightmare” scene becoming a key plot point, and the heroes actively working to stop it.
Regarding the heroes, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was supposed to be a much bigger role. Jason Momoa’s version of Aquaman was largely created by him and Snyder, and the original film was supposed to introduce a lot of the mythology surrounding him before his own film. Snyder frequently posts images and teases from his version on his Vero and Twitter accounts.
Why is this such a big deal?
The theatrical cut of Justice League disappointed almost everyone. In an effort to please everyone, they pleased no one. While Snyder’s films often get mixed reviews, he does have a dedicated fanbase, as do DC comics and their heroes.
The Snyder Cut movement has been all over the internet since it began, especially anything related to DC films and although they have developed a reputation for being entitled and mean, that isn’t always true. For San Diego Comic Con 2019, the movement set up a crowdfunding page and bought billboards around the convention center. The additional funds went to a suicide prevention charity, in honour of Zack Snyder’s daughter and the reason he stepped away from the project.
Is it finished?
This one is a little trickier, as there are a lot of mixed reports. Snyder himself claims that “it’s done“. Reports say that principal photography was completed, with some VFX work still in progress, which is more likely. However several people, like Jason Momoa, have seen it, so it is at least viewable, albeit likely with several effects shots not finished.
That can’t really be answered until we see it. Of course, all art is subjective. Snyder’s films, especially Batman V Superman, are rather divisive. The Snyder Cut would likely be similar in tone to that film, as well as picking up plot threads. However, Directors Cut’s are often seen as improvements over the theatrical releases. Snyder himself has several Director’s Cuts, with the aforementioned Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman adding in 30 minutes of cut material, and his Directors Cut of Watchmen. The Snyder Cut is presumed to be around 214 minutes (about 3 and a half hours) long. So it likely depends on how you feel about his previous film.
Will we ever see it?
Never say never. Director’s Cuts are popular. And although the DCEU has moved away from the original plan, there is still clearly a big demand for this version. All cards seem to be in WB’s hands, and some suspect a release on HBO Max. The 2 year anniversary of Justice League gave the movement a big resurgence, so it seems like they won’t stop until it’s released.
Joker has been a big success commercially and for the most part critically, but what does this Joker mean for the DCEU?
Warning – major spoilers for Joker below
Not A Superhero Film
Joker is many things. In my opinion, it is a great film, an intense film, a controversial film but it’s hardly a superhero film at all. There is very little of the comic book about it – no superpowers, no gadgets and absolutely no heroes. Joker has far more in common with Taxi Driver than The Dark Knight and that film is evoked often. The titular character is Arthur Fleck, a man who is struggling to survive in Gotham City. He lives with his mother who is in poor health, he works a poorly-paid job where his colleagues laugh at him when he rarely tries to reach out to anyone it does not go well. Arthur also has very serious mental health problems for which he sees a court-appointed therapist as well as taking lots of medication. At the beginning of the film, Arthur seems to be trying to stay on a positive path but that is proving increasingly difficult.
The “origins” of Joker are the grim, horrible circumstances of what such a person, in reality, might have. While still cinematic Gotham is a seedy, dirty, city, a million miles from the Gotham of the Bale or Affleck films. If we were still in the Affleck-Batman world there could be no way of integrating these two characters or these two universes (the same would be true of the Nolan films). Not a successful way of doing it anyway, but they may well have tried. And while the Robert Pattison Batman is an unknown quality it would be hard to imagine a Batman that would work with this Joker. The instant the batmobile made an appearance would cause some terrible schism of the comic book universe where such a vehicle could happen and the brutal and dirty universe where such a thing is plainly ridiculous and impossible.
Too Many Jokers
But some of you might say well we have a perfectly good Joker right here…well, a Joker anyway, in the shape of Jared Leto from Suicide Squad. I was quite forgiving of this incarnation of the Joker, yes, it was bad, but trying to follow the iconic performances of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger was going to be damn-near impossible. Leto’s IMDb page still has an Untitled Joker film in the works but such was the rancour directed at his portrayal I doubt we’ll see him reprise the role. I have heard some people suggest that Joaquin Phoenix’s character is not the Joker but rather perhaps an inspiration for him, with that being said could both Leto and Phoenix’s Joker appear in the same film? I can’t see how this would work, already comparisons between the two different portrayals have not been kind to Leto and putting him in scenes with Phoenix would only make it worse.
A Billionaire Playboy
An interesting facet of Joker that I had not at all anticipated was the anti-wealth aspect. When Fleck kills three stockbrokers many of the citizens of Gotham see someone striking back against the greedy upper class. Thomas Wayne is shown as an unsympathetic character, harbouring his own prejudices against the poor and his murder was motivated less for material gain than as a political killing. What type of figure would Bruce Wayne be in this world? There has been a meme going around for years that said if Bruce Wayne really wanted to help Gotham he would use his vast wealth in more orthodox ways. Would we get a Batman who delighted in attacking the less fortunate who had resorted to crime because of their circumstances rather than criminal insanity? Those denied essential services, with no opportunities to improve their lot, that would hardly seem heroic.
I still think of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as the pinnacle of superhero films, a genius director, a fantastic cast and the money to make it happen. For me, and many people, Batman Vs Superman was an outright disaster and I was so disillusioned I didn’t even bother with Justice League, but undeniably it has a different feel to Nolan’s films. So coming up with a whole new distinct world might be difficult, especially so as I hope Joker is quarantined and kept safe from any other DC films. Joker is a brilliant film and should be allowed to be that and not just the first part of another story.
The Next Villain
As we now know Robert Pattison is taking over the role of Batman and very recent news seems to suggest the villain will be The Riddler (played by Paul Dano) so it may be that the DCEU lets the character of the Joker rest a little while. However, I’m sure they will return to the character, after all, he is best-known and most iconic Batman villain.
The Joker is Batman’s most iconic villain. While many of his other villains are more physically imposing, none have left quite an impact like the Joker. The villain is so iconic, that he’s even getting his own standalone movie. The new film is completely separate from all other continuity and even earning Oscar buzz, but also it’s fair of backlash.
With the film in cinemas soon, now seems like the perfect time to take a look at the Joker, some of the iconic performances, why it’s such a great role, and whether audiences should be worried about going to see it in cinemas…
“Wait ’til they get a load of me”
The Joker first appeared in 1940 in the first issue of “Batman” (who finally got his own book after starting in “Detective Comics”). Initially intended to be a one-off villain who was killed off at the end of the story, a panel showing his survival was added at the last minute. The Joker would return several times, with his own unique brand of chaos changing from serial killer to prankster and a hybrid of both as the years went by. The first live-action incarnation came alongside the campy Adam West Batman (1966-68) played by Cesar Romero. He was tied for most popular villains on the show appearing in 22 episodes, as well as the feature-length movie.
The next time Joker appeared in live-action, it was in 1989’s Batman played by Jack Nicholson, starring opposite Micheal Keaton’s Caped Crusader. He wouldn’t appear again in a film until 2008, despite the Batman franchise being hugely successful in the 90’s before Batman and Robin put it on ice (Mr Freeze pun intended). However, the character lived on in comics and animated series, with Mark Hamill being the definitive voice for many fans.
The next film the Joker appeared in was 2016’s Suicide Squad played by Jared Leto. Naturally, he had some big shoes to fill and Leto responded by taking the method acting up to 11. Leto lived the character resulting in some quite disturbing set stories. After so much build-up, audiences were disappointed to find out he had barely 15 minutes of screentime. This film was the first to feature his relationship with Harley Quinn, an abusive relationship in the comics.
“Madness is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little push”
It is hard to say if people are right to be worried about such things until the film is released. While it is likely that this is an overreaction, some people are understandably worried. These fears could impact its opening weekend, but it seems unfair to blame Phoenix, who could still be on track for an Oscar.
Despite receiving excellent reviews upon its release “The Lego Batman Movie” has largely been forgotten about when it comes to Batman films. With most of the recent discussions being about the upcoming “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson, “Justice League” and the fabled “Snyder Cut” or even some of the excellent fan films. Lego Batman has vanished from pop culture quicker than the Dark Knight himself can.
Meanwhile “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse” is regarded as one of the best in the genre, not only winning an Oscar, but also acknowledging that the character of Spider-Man can have many different interpretations, but that all are equally Spider-Man (or Spider-Woman/Ham etc) something that most Batman media tends to shy away from. Except for Lego Batman.
A Hero Can Be Anyone
Batman has been around for 80 years (and aged phenomenally) and has been adapted countless times, with each version of the character having some differences but still being Batman, despite the film versions often having no reservations about killing (which is a whole other debate). Many of these are reactions to the previous version. For example, the Adam West ’66 show and Clooney’s “Batman & Robin” are infamously campy takes, while the ’89s Micheal Keaton and Bale’s “Batman Begins” are much darker and serious in tone. “Batman Begins” did this with such success that nearly every other film had to be “dark and gritty” as well.
The same is true of Spider-Man, and “Into the Spider-Verse” celebrates these different versions of the character by bringing them all together. It has a few laughs at their expense, but it doesn’t shy away from those aspects of the character, it celebrates them. Just like Lego Batman does. It acknowledges that the dark and gritty Batman and the goofy camp Batman is all still Batman.
Why Do We Fall?
There are some other surface similarities between the two films as well. Both are animated and feature a veteran hero (Batman/Peter B. Parker) begrudgingly mentoring a younger character (Robin/Miles) along with a female version (Batgirl/Spider-Gwen). As well as someone back at base to offer advice and gadgets (Alfred/ Aunt May). Both feature arcs where the younger character must prove themselves to their peers and both feature creative twists on classic villains.
On a thematic level, they both deal with the idea of loneliness and pushing people away. Batman pushes people away due to the loss of his parents, while Peter initially pushes Miles away and volunteers to sacrifice himself due to his fear of having children. Despite their wacky premise, they both tell very relatable, human stories, like some of the best comic books.
A Watchful Protector
While both films take artistic liberties with their setting (Gotham City being made out of LEGO) the city our heroes protect is as much a character as the actual characters themselves. Lego Gotham City is a mash-up of the gothic Tim Burton designs and the modern Nolan city, while each Spider-Person comes from their own distinct version of New York City.
There are tons of easter eggs and references for the hardcore fans to appreciate in these films, such as the various selections of costumes, to vehicles and callbacks to previous films, like the Shark Repellant Bat Spray. These films work as standalone and someone with a passing knowledge of the character can enjoy them, but the more a viewer knows of the history and adventures of the hero, the more there is to pick up on and enjoy.
Despite some people considering animation as “just for kids”, Into the Spider-Verse and Lego Batman are for the fans, regardless of age, while the older viewers will likely get more out of the experience, as they will appreciate the little details. There is often a debate about which Batman is the best, and while Lego Batman is rarely at the top of favourites lists, it’s underrated and understands Batman in a way that many live-action interpretations don’t. Even if Lego Batman hasn’t had the influence of “The Dark Knight”, Batman doesn’t kill, which is more than most films can say, and for some Bat-fans, that’s the most important factor.
Batman. This single word has inspired so much over the years. Beginning as a simple vigilante hero in the pages of Detective Comics, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s iconic creation has spawned some of the most well-loved movies, TV shows, video games and comic runs of the past century. Everyone knows who Batman is and his world has become a permanent fixture of popular culture. And like Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, many fans have been inspired by the caped crusader to pick up a camera and make their own batman stories.
So, put on your capes and cowls and come with me as I countdown
five Batman fan films that are worth your time.
The Dark Knight Returns – An Epic Fan Film
In 2016 director and star Wyatt Weed decided to translate the first part of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns comic into a short film. And it truly is a testament to his enthusiasm for the material.
The story is of a future where Batman retired after Jason Todd’s (The second Robin) death and crime has overrun Gotham’s streets. Now Bruce must put back on the cowl to save Gotham from destroying itself.
On a budget of $2500, Weed admirably captures the story’s wide scope. He makes Gotham City feel like its own character. With news reports and detailed interiors doing a lot to illustrate the kind of world Batman is returning to. Weed also gives an interesting performance as Bruce Wayne/ Batman. Showing him as aloof and disinterested with life, even having a potential death wish. He portrays Batman as a habit that Bruce can’t seem to shake, which gives the short some great dramatic weight.
Some aspects do let the film down. Many of the performances alternate between too theatrical or too restrained, never finding that magical sweet spot in between. And the presentation looks a bit bland. But nevertheless, an enjoyable watch for fans of the comic and a lesson in how to make a limited budget go far.
The Dark Knight Legacy
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy has had a major impact on how many people see Batman and his world. And Nolan’s influence can be seen in every frame of The Dark Knight Legacy.
Taking place after The Dark Knight Rises, the disappearance of Batman has allowed not only criminals but also copycats wanting to carry on the dark knight’s mission, to flourish. Though in the case of new vigilante Red Hood he has much more flexible ethics than Batman when it comes to killing.
Although it has a limited setting and somewhat flat visuals, this film does a great job at carrying forward the dark aesthetic of Nolan’s trilogy while also being unique unto itself. Introducing the Red Hood in a way that is sure to leave an impact, with some fantastic performances and a very impressive action centrepiece, Batman may not be in this short but it deals with his world and characters in a way that will leave you hungry for more.
A refreshingly heartfelt take on the Batman mythos, this
recent short sees DC universe stalwart Amanda Waller recruiting Batman to track
down and kill a powerful psychic before Deathstroke can find her and sell her
to the highest bidder.
While the story is a little obtuse and confusing, the short really shines when it comes to everything else. The cinematography is very moody and engaging, the choreography during the fight scene with Deathstroke is amazing and the acting is truly outstanding, with each player managing to inhabit their roles perfectly. Special mention goes to John Crawford III and Jaci Jones, who gave Batman and Ace a great sense of relatability and Kyle Klein plays a very menacing Deathstroke.
An entertaining and well-produced effort, with some fine performances and worth seeing, if only for the surreal sight of Batman, Superman and Wonder woman standing side by side with Spider-man and Captain America.
Now we leave behind the serious entries to celebrate the fun side of Batman. Many people nowadays are only familiar with Batman as the dark and brooding defender of Gotham. But there was a time when Bats was a dispenser of joy as well as justice. And Batman Evolution acts as a fitting tribute to that.
Set in the Adam West Batman universe, the relatively light-hearted fare that batman is used to is upended when Black Mask kidnaps Robin. Batman goes to find him, doling out “Biff’s”, “Bam’s” and “Kapow’s” on Black Mask’s henchmen. When he has an experimental compound dumped on him, transforming him into the Dark Knight trilogy Batman. Will Batman be able to rescue Robin and keep his humanity intact?
While essentially just an extended action scene, Evolution is able to deliver some great moments. The fight scenes are well-staged, the music is cool and the dialogue and acting are incredibly fun. Everyone plays their roles with just the right level of self-awareness so it never becomes irritating and the level of humour derided from both the camp and dark side of Batman makes this the perfect treat for any hardcore Bat-fan.
Batman: Dead End
We finish with the oldest short on our list and without a
doubt the most fun.
Dead End begins as a straightforward story about the batman trying to catch the joker but quickly turns insane when a second and third antagonist enters the fight (No spoilers here. Watch it and experience it for yourself. It’s worth it).
Like Batman Evolution the film could be considered just one long fight scene, but this short does so much to set itself apart. The visuals are positively cinematic, with great use of atmospheric lighting and well-composed shots. The performances are fantastic with Clark Bartram and Andrew Koenig giving, for my money, one of the best live-action performances of the Batman/Joker dynamic. The action is very well-choreographed, with great editing to help everything flow naturally. And, it is worth a watch because this film exemplifies what is best about fan films.
There is a clear passion for the story being told and the art of filmmaking, but it also gives you something that you can’t get anywhere else. The filmmakers made the film they wanted to see and poured their heart and soul into making it as entertaining as possible.
There have been rumours about Ben Affleck quitting as Batman almost since he got the part. Many fans were against his initial casting although lots did come round to his performance. Behind the scenes problems on the Justice League film and a new director being brought in (despite talk of Affleck directing the next one) have been fuelling the rumours for a long time. The new director, Matt Reeves, has stated that the next film will be a noir Batman film and with this new direction it’s not surprising there will be a new Caped Crusader if for no other reason then a new director will like a blank slate.
Where will this new Batman film fit in with DCEU? Batman was one of the crucial members of Justice League, will he be so in the future? He is arguably the most interesting of all DC characters and making him part of a team is difficult. Since Tim Burton’s Batman films, the character of Batman has been very dark, a loner and certainly to many people, not a hero. It’s said the new film will feature a lot of Batman being a detective which seems a departure from Affleck’s Batman whose gadgets and strengths were dialled up to eleven so he could compete with incredibly powerful characters like Superman. So will the huge Batsuit from Batman Vs Superman and the almost psychotic level of violence be replaced by a deerstalker hat and a magnifying glass? We’ll just have to wait and see what Matt Reeves has in store for us.
The front runners
But who will play this “detective” Batman? First things first, the role of Batman has been somewhat of a poisoned chalice and really the only actor to walk away with their career intact and reputation enhanced was Christian Bale (we’ll have to see how Affleck handles it). That said two names seem to be coming up a lot are Robert Pattinson and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Pattinson has worked hard to not just be “that guy from Twilight” taking parts in heavyweight dramas and odd indie films like Cosmopolis, Rover and The Lost City of Z. And while he has shown himself to be an actor with depth and range the “Twilight” label is hard to shake. Of course, being the co-star of a huge franchise with millions of fans might be seen as a good thing.
Gyllenhaal is an immensely talented actor who recently seems to be more interested in taking on peculiar roles and very intense characters and actually seems to be moving away from the classic leading actor trajectory his career seemed to be on at first. Still, these days playing Batman and being a serious actor are not mutually exclusive and a new take on the character could interest someone like Gyllenhaal.
Personally, between Pattinson and Gyllenhaal I would prefer the latter but if I were Matt Reeves there would be two options – Oscar Isaac and Michael B. Jordan. Both actors are extremely talented and very popular right now, Isaacs is one of the central characters in the new Star Wars films and Michael B. Jordan is coming off a hugely successful run of films like Creed and more importantly Black Panther. In my opinion Jordan was the best thing in Black Panther, in fact, so much so that it was to the detriment of the movie overall. Jordan was so charismatic as Erik Killmonger (and in many ways very sympathetic) that I think it was actually harmed the film – he was a bad guy who you liked more than than the hero. Casting Isaac or Jordan would be doing something new with the Bruce Wayne/Batman character and perhaps give a new spin on their history and what they’re trying to achieve.
My dream pick for Batman…
Those two actors are my sensible choices, people I think would do well, be successful and make the fans happy. I do, however, have a dream Batman film which would essentially be a movie of The Dark Knight Returns – one of the essential Batman comic book stories. Ideas from this story have been used in The Dark Knight Rises and Batman Vs Superman but it is definitely deserving of a complete adaptation. In this story, Batman has been retired for years and struggling to deal with this life so eventually comes out of retirement. An older actor would be needed to play this part and I think Jon Hamm would be perfect. Best known as Don Draper in Mad Men, Hamm is a brilliant actor who could play the “old money” Bruce Wayne and has the all important strong jawline to be Batman.
These days playing a superhero is your ticket to Hollywood superstardom. Chris Pratt went from the lovably goofy Andy in Parks and Recreation to megastar just by appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy. Competition will be fierce and I’m sure dozens of actors are hassling their agents, desperate to demonstrate their gravelly Batman voice for Matt Reeves..