Thursday, 31 March 2016

Nerdversity Discussion: Batman in Live Action Film (Part 6: A Dark Future?)

As of 2013, Warner discussed the idea of opening up the world of DC to film thanks to the likes of the Avengers. On the discussion was more Superman, Batman, Batman vs. Superman, Cyborg and Wonder Woman movies. 

Batman vs. Superman started life after Zack Snyder was announced to be directing a sequel to Man of Steel, written by David S. Goyer. Nolan returned as an adviser.

Inspiration for the movie came from The Dark Knight Returns, though not completely based on it. The basis is that it's an older Batman that has been doing the job of Batman for 20 years and sees Superman as a threat. At the time of writing this article, Batman v Superman has earned over 500 million at the box office,

While not directly part of the Batman mythos, but sharing common villains, Suicide Squad nears it's release in August. It's written and directed by David Ayer, who describes it as "The Dirty Dozen, but with supervillains".

More news forthcoming as the time allows, but Ben Affleck will be returning for his 3 picture deal in a Zack Snyder directed Justice League film, featuring the cameo characters from the Batman vs. Superman movie. It'll be written by David S. Goyer.

Finally, it was revealed this week that Ben Affleck is working on his final movie with DC. He is writing a script with Geoff Johns. Affleck stated the graffitied Robin suit will be explored fully and we'll also be finding out who was in that suit when they died. Zack Snyder will also be directing this movie.

Nerdversity Discussion: Batman in Live Action Film (Part 5: A Dark Knight Rises)

We're almost at the end of this look at Batman's rich cinematic history. In this part, we'll be taking a look at Christopher Nolan's take on the Dark Knight. 

In 2002, Joss Whedon had pitched a reboot of Batman which failed. Warner hired Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer to write a Batman origin story. They came up with one that explored Batman's humanity and realism that had never been seen before in a movie or comic. He wanted a contemporary feel to a story that saw the hero rise. Taking inspiration from Richard Donner's Superman, in that we had the all star cast alongside a growing character.

Rather than use Year One like so many people had done before, Goyer used The Man Who Falls from the Secret Origins novel, which features a Younger Bruce travelling the world. The other story used as inspiration was The Long Halloween, which used Carmine Falcone as the villain and the sober approach to The Dark Knight.Some elements from Year One were used, such as the corruption of GCPD and the need for Batman. The movie relied heavily on traditional stunts, special effects and models over CGI and as such, received very heavy fanfare, earning $372 million world wide and even getting an Academy Award for Cinematography.

In 2008, we got the sequel to Batman Begins, simply called The Dark Knight. The movie was supposed to take place over the trilogy and this would set up Joker and Harvey Dent, with Joker scarring Dent in court and thus set him up as the villain in the 3rd movie as Two Face. However, that was changed. Goyer's script was turned into what we know and love in this movie.

Goyer's main comic story adaptions and influences came from Batman 251 - "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" in which Neal Adams bought back the Joker. Once again The Long Halloween served as a main inspiration, especially with Two-Face. Nolan did once again return to the director's chair.

While coming up with how to portray the Joker on film, they turned to a 1930s movie called The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, from Germany and directed by Fritz Lang, which features a former stage hypnotist and criminal mastermind by the name of Dr, Mabuse who has gone insane, written detailed plans of his crimes and these plans are acted out. Once again the movie was a hit in cinemas when released and earned over a billion world wide. it was nominated for 8 oscars, but one 2. One for sound and posthumous award for Heath Ledger's support.

Warner had hoped to get the sequel and final piece of the puzzle in place in 2011, however, this was not to be. Nolan had finished a draft by then, but had to delay the movie due to him working on Inception. However, it was finished in time. Nolan wanted a villain in this, comparable to Leonardo DiCaprio's character from the movie and had planned to use The Riddler.

As Nolan wanted to have a character that would have a physical presence, he opted for Bane. The main comic inspirations for this movie came from the 1993 Knightfall arc, which featured Bane defeating Batman, who came back for a second fight. The second inspiration was No Man's Land, which featured Gotham cut off from the rest of the world and overrun by criminals and gangs. The movie did very well at the box office, earning well over a billion in returns and was named one of the biggest movies of 2012, however, it wasn't nominated for any Academy Awards during it's run.

In 2007, Warner planned to have two Batman series running side by side. In this one, they planned to call Justice League: Mortal. Warner had cast Armie Hammer as Batman, penned by Michele and Kieran Mulroney, with George Miller at the helm. It was greenlight for a budget of $220 million and scheduled for a 2009 release. The Writer's Guild Strike moved production to Australia, but they refused to hand over a 45% tax relief as there were no Australians in the movie, production was moved to Vancouver before the project was finally scrapped and Warner chose to move on with Dark Knight Rises.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Nerdversity Discussion: Batman In Live Action Film (Part 4: Unfinished Business)

As production stormed ahead for Batman and Robin in 1996, Warner were so impressed with the dailies that they greenlit another movie with Schumacher in the chair. The script was written by Akiva Goldsmith, who worked on Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. The plot would have bought back the cast and introduced The Scarecrow, played by Nicholas Cage. The plan was scrapped when Batman and Robin flopped at the box office and didn't return anything anywhere near the previous movies. 

As 1998 rolled around, with Unchained officially scrapped, two scripts were made with plans to greenlight only one. The first script was a Joel Schumacher made adaptation of Year One and a live action adaptation of their latest hit cartoon, Batman Beyond. Neither project saw the light of day. 

At the same time, comic fans Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise had written a story based on Year One, called DarKnight, which would have seen an R-rated return to Batman, seeing a return of an older Batman who'd retired. Dick had gone to Gotham University and the villains would have been Scarecrow and Man-Bat. Scarecrow would have created Man-Bat and his murderous rampage would have framed Batman. However, the pitch and script were passed up in favour of Year One and Beyond.

Warner had already pitched the idea of having Chris O'Donnell return for a series of movies starring solo Robin, with his eventual change into Nightwing. This was confirmed in a 2012 interview with Chris, however, due to Batman and Robin flopping at the box office, these plans were scrapped.

By 2000, Warner had resurfaced with their Batman Beyond movie, which had been written by Paul Dini, Neal Stephenson and Boaz Yakin. Yakin was also in line to direct. However, Warner had gotten a script together with Frank Miller on making a Year One movie with Darren Aronofsky was set to direct. Once Yakin had turned in the script to Batman Beyond, the project was scrapped and Warner went ahead with it's greenlight on Aronofsky rebooting the Batman movie universe with Bale attached. However, once again, the project was scrapped due to Warner focusing it's efforts on Catwoman and a potential Batman vs. Superman movie.

The origins of Batman vs. Superman can be found in a 2000 pitch by J.J. Abrams called Superman: Flyby. The project was to be helmed by McG. McG dropped out to direct Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Wolfgang Petersen was lined up to direct Flyby, however the project was scrapped. In 2001, Andrew Kevin Walker had pitched a Batman vs. Superman movie with Petersen as director, Akiva Goldsman was attached to rewrite and in 2002, returned the pitch. The pitch was

"Bruce Wayne going through a mental breakdown after his five-year retirement from crime fighting. Dick GraysonAlfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon are all dead, but Bruce finds some solace in his fiancĂ©e, Elizabeth Miller. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is struggling because of a recent divorce from Lois Lane. Clark and Bruce are close friends, and Clark is Bruce's best man. After the Joker kills Elizabeth on their honeymoon, Bruce swears revenge, while Clark tries to hold him back. Bruce blames Clark for her death, and the two go against one another. Ultimately, Lex Luthor is revealed to have masterminded the entire plot to get Batman and Superman to destroy each other. The two decide to team up and stop Luthor"

Christian Bale was cited to play Bruce Wayne/Batman and Josh Hartnett was attached to play Clark Kent/Superman. This was the closest we actually got a Batman Vs Superman movie. Shooting was scheduled to commence in 2003, for a summer 2004 opening. Sadly, the project was scrapped in favour of the upcoming Superman Returns and Batman Begins. 

As proof of how close the move was to completion, early promotion for the movie was placed inside the opening shot of I Am Legend, which features a billboard with the Superman logo inside the Batman logo. Akiva Goldman claims that this is an in-joke, but many fans don't believe so.

Nerdversity Discussion: Batman in Live Action Film (Part 3: Burton and Schumacher)

With Tom Mankiewciz's script considered unsuitable, Batman's fate in the mid 80s seemed uncertain. After Tim Burton had previous success with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Tim Burton was bought on to direct the new Batman movie. The success of The Dark Knight and The Killing Joke had given Warner renewed interest in making a dark Batman movie as per Uslan's original pitch. Burton himself admitted that he wasn't a comic fan, but loved the darkness in the stories.

Steve Englehart wrote a second treatment in 1986 and cut the amount of characters down, removing Robin from the script. Warner held off actually making the movie until after Beetlejuice had been released. The reason why was simply because Tim Burton had become synonymous with Pee Wee and Keaton with comedy. The 1989 movie was met with fan and critic appraisal and still considered by many to be the most perfect Batman movie ever made. 

After the 1989 movie had proven to be a massive success, Warner were eager to make a sequel and cash in. In the meantime, Tim Burton had gone on to direct Edward Scissorhands. Sam Hamm, who had previously worked on Batman, returned to work on the new script which even included Marlon Wayans as Robin, who was Batman's mechanic. Wayans was cast and even had a fitting, before being dropped. The movie failed to really capture the audience in the same way the 1989 movie had and didn't have the same return at the box office. Parents even complained after McDondalds had put a Happy Meal tie in with the movie.

After the failure per sae of Returns, Warner believed they should have made more on it. One of the problems was that Warner felt the movie wasn't mainstream enough, so they changed the direction of the third movie, They hired Joel Schumacher to make it and demoted Tim Burton to producer, which made him quit. Rene Russo was cast as Dr. Meridian alongside Keaton. However, Keaton didn't approve of the mainstream direction the movie took and quit. Val Kilmer was cast not long after and then Dr, Meridian was recast with Nicole Kidman in the role. Year One was the initial inspiration for the movie, but was deemed too dark. The movie earned more than Returns and was the 2nd most popular movie of 1995, behind Toy Story. It earned a largely even split down the middle between fans, despite critics absolutely destroying it.

With the success of Forever, Warner fasttracked the sequel, Batman and Robin. Instead of a 3 year gap between movies, Batman and Robin was scheduled for a 1997 release. Scheduling conflicts prevented Val Kilmer from reprising his role. The movie was written and made in the same campy style as the 1966 TV series and was panned by critics and fans for this. Due to the failure of the movie, Warner cancelled all their planned sequels.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Nerdversity Discussion: Batman in Live Action Film (Part 2: The Wilderness Years)

Batman was absent throughout the 70s and into the 80s. In the 1970s, Batman's popularity was on the decline and DC were seriously considering axing one if it's flagship comics. In the early 70s, CBS considered the idea of making a Batman in Space movie. Michael Uslan purchased the rights to Batman in 1979 and planned to make a new movie based on how dark and gritty Batman should have been. Richard Maibaum was attached to writing the projectm, with Guy Hamilton in the director;s chair. Uslan pitched the movie and script to several studios, but was however turned down as many places wanted a campy, comedic Batman much like the 1966 Batman, as they believed a gritty and dark Batman wouldn't sell as a movie. Columbia and United Artists were among the studios that turned down the project.

Shortly after this, Uslan returned to writing a Batman movie. He came up with an idea called "Return of the Dark Knight" which would predate The Dark Knight Returns by 6 years. Uslan teamed up with Jon Peters and Casablanca Film Works to create the project, with a budget of $20 million. They based the production of the movie on that of the very successful Superman movie. The announcement was made at the 1980 Comic Art Show, however, not long after this announcement, Casablanca was absorbed into Polygram The producers left Polygram in 1982 with the legal rights to Batman and took it to Warner, where it was deemed successful enough to be made into a movie.

With the rights secured and the promise of a new movie, Batman's future in the world of motion pictures seemed to be making headway again. In 1983, Tom Mankiewicz completed a script called The Batman, The movie would have been based on the story called Strange Apparitions from 1977. It would have dealt with Batman and Robin's origins, introduced Joker and Rupert Thorne as villains and Silver St. Cloud as the love interest. Among the cast, were an unknown as Batman, William Holden as Commissioner Gordon, David Niven as Alfred and Peter O'Toole as Penguin. Sadly, William Holden had died in 1981 and David Niven had died in 1983, so the project was scrapped.

After this project had died, both Ivan Reitman and Joe Dante were attached to direct a movie of Strange Apparitions based on Mankiewicz's script. Among the names thrown into the hat were Bill Murray as Batman with Michael J. Fox as Robin. Sadly, none of these projects would come to pass and we wouldn't see another Batman movie until 1989

Nerdversity Discussion: Batman in Live Action Film (Part 1: The Early Years)

As Batman vs. Superman has had it's opening weekend and hit a record $425 million opening, outclassing all previous entries into the Batman franchise and even beating Marvel's own Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, we thought we'd take a look at the history of Batman in film.

Early Films

Batman's first ever outing in the world of theater was the a 1943 serial called The Batman. It was a 15 part movie. The serial introduced many things that would become staples in the Batman mythos since, these would include the Utility Belt, the Bat Cave, Alfred being trim and with a moustache, rather than overweight, the Bat Cave's entrance through a grandfather clock. It was directed by Lambert Hillyer and stars Lewis Wilson as Bruce Wayne/Batman. As it was written and was shown in theaters in the 1940s, it has a very anti-axis and anti-Japanese sentiment to it. The plot revolves around the Japanese villain Dr. Daka, who has invented a machine that turns people into zombies. The serial has been re-broadcast several times and is available on DVD.

In 1949, Columbia released their second Batman serial, named Batman and Robin. It was directed by Sam Katzman and starred Robert Lowry as Batman. The plot revolves around a villain called The Wizard, who has invented an electronic device that can control cars. It's up to the Dynamic Duo to stop him once and for all. This one was more derided by fans and critics as Columbia had cheapened out badly, as they had poorly fitting costumes on both Batman and Robin, cheaper effects and it's more obvious in this movie which are the real actors and which are the stunt men. Robin's stunt man wore pink tights to hide his hairy legs. It ran for 15 chapters and has since been released on DVD.

In 1966, Adam West's Batman hit the big screen, marking this the first ever big screen appearance of the Caped Crusader in feature film. Production of the movie was troubled from the get go, as Fox were unwilling to pay up for a feature film, as it was too risky. Fox also threatened to fire Adam West from the movie after he asked for more money. The plot revolves around the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman and The Riddler kidnapping the United World Headquarters Security Council. it's up to Batman and Robin to save the day. This would also mark the big screen debut of the TV series cast in those roles and it would also feature Batman tackling real world issues, such as the Cold War. It has since been released on DVD.

These movies represented America and Batman in the Golden Age of Comics. However, things were about to get strange for the Caped Crusader in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Star Wars Micro Machines Space Escape

Released earlier this year, Hasbro put out a series of 3 and even 5 piece sets through their Star Wars Micro Machines line. This set is called Space Escape, based on Empire Strikes Back. The front of the card has the red Star Wars topping that all pieces in the The Force Awakens line do. Underneath that, we have the Micro Machines logo with some artwork of the Tantavie IV being chased by TIE Fighters from A New Hope. The bubble has all 3 vehicles on display and those are The Millennium Falcon, the Executor and a TIE Bomber.

The back of the card is all orange. On the left hand side, we have the large STAR WARS logo, what movie it's from and the Micro Machines. On the right hand side, we have what pieces are in the set. Underneath that, we have artwork showing the R2-D2 playset and the Millennium Falcon playset as well. Underneath that, we have a pile of copyright, licensing and safety information.

None of these vehicles are in scale, but they do represent what they are in Micro Machines scale. The first up to the plate is the Millennium Falcon. Great piece. It's based on it's look from the Empire Strikes Back movie. The detailing is superb and has different coloured panels, the dish moves and is made of a rubbery plastic. The back engines are painted in a light blue.

The TIE Bomber is next. It's painted in a grey-blue colour scheme. There's a lot of molded on detail on the cockpit and bomb bay next to the cockpit. The solar panel wings have the raised edging to them as well. Again, not in scale with the rest of the pieces in this set but does a great job of representing one.

The final piece is the Super Star Destroyer. Not much on this one paint wise. The main body is in a grey colour with the  central command section painted in a much darker gray. There are some details molded into the plastic,such as the command section, engines and launch bays. Once again, it's not in scale with the rest of the pieces in this set.

As Disney don't seem to be enthusiastic about having the prequel movies as part of the toy lines and other merchandising, if it's in, it's been kept to a minimum and most of it has been original trilogy, this set wins for me. It's based on a key scene from the Empire Strikes Back movie, where the Empire is chasing the escaping Falcon. The set has some key players. It looks and feels great. If you're a fan of this kind of thing, I would pick it up. I paid £5 for my set from Tesco during their Star Wars weekend.