We've all been there. You’re sitting around talking about movies or TV shows, carefully avoiding any discussion involving the real issues of life like mortgages, mortality, or the proper mixture of spices for a Crock Pot pot roast. The discussion becomes a indictment of sorts, bringing up pointless charges against the various “crimes” perpetrated by pop culture over the years.
Inevitably, there is no forward momentum to these discussions. At best, we collectively revel in our knowledge that we know what these artists did wrong. All too often, all we can detect is a general sense of badness that is not terribly more evolved than Tom Hanks trying caviar for the first time*.
Before, I never seemed to have any other solutions for the problems. Well, with this blog series, I’m going to change all of that. Here, I offer the second of what may end up being several pop cultural solutions.
These fixes can’t cheat. Sean Connery can’t fix Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) with his mere presence alone. For one thing, Connery has completely retired effective with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)**. For another, the movie’s problems run much deeper than its lack of callbacks to Last Crusade (1989).
We can’t go with simple answers, either. It isn’t enough to say that M. Night Shyamalan should have stopped making movies with Signs (2002). For one thing, The Visit ((2015) is actually a return to keep-you-guessing form, and there just has to be a version of The Village (2004) that actually works. It probably involves the absence of a Sci-Fi Channel documentary about the mysterious wonder that is M. Night Shyamalan.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Again. Is it the worst movie of all time? No. Is it even the worst movie that features billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth, his trusted butler? No. Does it have the worst third act turn in the history of screenwriting? Probably. But I may have come here not to bury Martha, but to praise her.
There are things to like about the movie. Against all odds, the man who was cut out of Elektra (2005) ended up being a pretty awesome Batman. I, begrudgingly, look forward to more from Affleck in Justice League***, and definitely anticipate his solo-Batman film. He’s a pretty great director, and it’ll be interesting to see a Directed-by-and-Starring-Affleck Batfilm.
But almost no one was on board with the idea of him as the Dark Knight when his casting was announced. I made the jokes, too. It wasn’t even that Affleck was a bad idea. Sure, he got a hefty pile of superhero-stank on him appearing Daredevil (2003).
And because of that film, he swore he would never be in another superhero movie. It seemed a little off. For my money, though it just meant that Affleck had to be good a this. If Daredevil was an embarrassment, whiffing on Batman would be pretty bad indeed. Although, to be fair, Clooney recovered.
I think our collective allergy to Batfleck came not from the choice of he-who-also-wrote-Good-Will-Hunting to fill Christian Bale’s breeches, but that Warner Brothers couldn’t wait for The Dark Knight Rises (2012) to hit Blu Ray before they started working on rebooting the character all over again. Your mileage may vary with each movie of the Nolan trilogy, but it’s hard to deny that he produced a pretty definitive version of the Caped Crusader about a half an hour before Affleck donned the cape and cowl.
Here’s my pitch, or at least what would have been my pitch, had Warner Brothers asked me in the days following the release of Man of Steel (2013).
Go ahead. Make your DC Cinematic Universe. You can’t let Marvel have a monopoly on that kind of an ongoing series. The Time Warner board won’t sit still for it. I get it. But, here’s the one change you need to make to your plans:
Don’t include Batman.
Hear me out. The character needs at least ten years before someone else can bring something truly new to the table. Let it lie.
Now, I didn’t say anything about not including Bruce Wayne****.
One of the seminal Batman stories that has yet to be brought to the film***** is The Dark Knight Returns. Its tale of a Bruce Wayne past his prime has had far reaching impact on subsequent Batman stories. Both the animated series and ongoing comic Batman Beyond is built on the concept of a geriatric Bruce searching for some sort of relevance post-Batman. Even Kingdom Come finds Wayne aging out of the Batman role, but modifying what Batman means so that he can continue to keep order in Gotham.
The future Justice League films should follow (or should have followed) Kingdom Come’s lead. In the sequels, as Superman amasses the League to meet the challenge of Darkseid or whatever big bad the movies are headed towards, there is one source of resources and information that simply can’t be ignored.
Bruce Wayne has long since hung up the cowl, but he is the key to giving the Justice League their best chance to prevail. He wouldn’t have to be in the movie long, but he would have a central role in the plot.
Who would play him?
Well, the one actor I have a long track record of saying should play almost every role in movies:
Think about it. Give him the Marlon Brando deal: a few days of work, a Brinks truck worth of money, and he doesn’t have to don a big rubber suit. And give him a meaty, memorable role****** that just might interest him again. It would have worked. Furthermore, while we all think that Warner Brothers has been running behind on the shared cinematic universe. What if I told you that the first film of the DC Universe movie was actually released nearly thirty years ago? With the recent groundswell in the 90s nostalgia-industrial-complex, the movie would have sold itself. Manchildren in their thirties******* from all over will become positively rapturous over the mere notion of getting their Batman back, even if only for few minutes.
Do I need to leave Warner Brothers alone? Are they geniuses routinely trouncing those fools over at AOL-Time-Disney-Lucasfilm-Marvel? Am I being too soft on them? Do they need to be subjected to wave after wave of ridicule until they can piece together a watchable film? Let me know in the comments.
Next week: I go full-Kurtz on this trip down the pop culture correction river. It’s big. It may be the dumbest thing I have ever done, but it sure is big. I’ll give you a clue: Edosian Suckerfish.
*For the record, caviar is delicious. This will be the one and only time I will publicly disagree with Tom Hanks.
**Probably for the best.
***Even if the early trailer is a little light on course correction from Dawn of Justice.
****No. I’m not pitching Gotham: The Motion Picture. Something about that show bugs me, and I just can’t put my finger on it. I can’t stop watching it, so I guess that’s something.
*****Outside of Bale’s half-baked decrepitude and arbitrary retirement in the aforementioned Rises.
******Lest we forget, the flimsy arc of Batman Forever (1995) was the reason Keaton originally hung up the cowl and we were all subjected Val Kilmer smiling in a mask.
*******And if there’s one thing I understand, its manchildren in their thirties. Look at that! I may have broken my record for footnotes.