Thursday, December 07, 2006

The New Lou Review Number Two (or maybe Three)

Casino Royale: Once upon a time, Batman films were very silly things indeed. The villains, who were always more interesting than the protagonist himself, were filled out by a procession of famous actors like Christopher Walken, who hammed it up as a over-the-top, pantomine baddies, while two dimensional love interests like Kim Bassinger clung to our hero's hand, blond bombshells required to do little more than scream, swoon, ask the right questions, and get rescued at the appropriate moments. Then, something happened - Batman Begins, the first Hollywood live-action adaptation of the Caped Crusader to actually pay attention to the source material. In an easy parallel, once upon a time, Bond films were also very silly things indeed. The villains, who were always more interesting than the protagonist himself, were filled out by a procession of famous actors like, well, Christopher Walken, who hammed it up as a over-the-top, pantomine baddies, while two dimensional love interests like, well, Kim Bassinger clung to our hero's hand, blond bombshells required to do little more than scream, swoon, ask the right questions, and get rescued at the appropriate moments. Then something happened. As Paul Cornell has already said, and said beautifully: "Well, it took us fifty three years, but finally someone has made a movie based on James Bond. You may recall the character. He’s an assassin, who’s been horribly injured, both mentally and physically, in the course of his career. He regards it as his job to do terrible things, but wishes innocents to be spared the sight of those things. He can be ruthless, and enjoys killing in the moment, but we care for him because of the awful personal cost. He rewards himself with the finest cuisine, and has complex and difficult relationships with women. Daniel Craig is perfect as the first screen James Bond. And I hope we’ll now see a whole series of such tremendous movies about him. The potential is enormous. I don’t know why nobody’s thought of doing it before." Certainly all the hype you have been hearing is true. The Best Bond since Connery. The Best Bond script since (my personal favorite) On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The most developed female character since Diana Rigg, etc... So, so nice to see a Bond that bleeds, too. As a childhood fan of the books, I'm so glad there are now three good, accurate Bond films out of the 21. Don't know what "Bond 22" is going to be, but since we've rebooted from Book One, it would sure be nice if they had the guts to actually shoot the books in order, as written but adapted for the 21st century as Casino Royale was. Surely an updated, Daniel Craig version of From Russia With Love need not feel itself in competition with a 1963 film. I mean, we'll always have Paris and all that, but think about it...

And speaking of Batman...

Batman & Son: Though I think Grant Morrison is an absolute genius, one of a handful of comcbook names that will endure for all time, please don't kill me but I just don't think he can write for Batman. I said that last century when he wrote Arkham Asylum, and, yes, I know he did some interesting things with the Darknight Detective in the pages of Justice League while I was away, but when it comes to the new run in Batman comics, I am bitterly disappointed in his Batman. Loved the man-bat stuff and Bruce Wayne as a return to the Playboy days, but how "on the nose" can you get with a name like Damien for the "bad" son? It's not like the didn't just remake the Omen this year. And I thought Wayne's reaction to having a son was horribly misportrayed. I'm a very big fan of Mike W. Barr's brilliant Son of the Demon graphic novel. In that tale (spoiler), when Batman learns that Talia is pregnant he immediatley packs it in and hangs up the cape. Reason? In his mind, the absolute worst thing he can image is to be an orphan, a child whose parents were taken from you at a young age. This is the fate worse than death that drives his entire modus operandi. There is no way in Hell he'd risk doing that to someone else. So when Talia says she is going to conceive, he quits in no uncertain terms, forcing her to return him to himself by giving the child up for adaption and faking a miscarriage. Mike W. Barr understands Batman's motivation and what happens when events take him back to his core. But Morrison has never gotten inside the cowl. His Batman just leaves the kid hanging around the Batcave to wreck the place, murder my favorite long-absent 70s villian, and nearly slaughter Robin. This gets him a "bad boy, we don't kill" lecture and an "I guess you can come out adventuring with me after all, but no more cutting people's heads off, okay?" a few minutes later. Okay, this is asanine! And Batman's proposed solution to the problem of procreating? Just dumping the kid back with his mom, the international criminal and terrorist so they can have a second chance? At what? Blowing up the world together? Come on! This makes Batman as big a dead beat as the woeful Clark Kent of Superman Returns. "Don't worry Lois, I'll be around." Yes, I suspect that a lot of what was GOOD about the issues was Morrison himself, and BAD about it orders from above, but this sucked. I've also realized that Batman exists for me from Denny O'Neil to the (long gone) "good" Frank Miller, with moments like Long Halloween and Dark Victory tacked on, but that post-Dark Knight Batman of current DC continuity is pretty much infintile and I should stick with the animated series for my fix (and with Paul Dini, whose doing a great job over at Detective).

But, having now mentioned comics, superspies and Paul Cornell, a comic I'm much more excited about is...

Wisdom: Paul Cornell's new Marvel 6 issue is off to a fantastic start. Pete Wisdom is a sort of John Constantine ghost-buster if he worked for MI-6, or in this case, MI-13, the branch of British Intelligence charged with protecting the British Isles from anything supernatural, superhuman or just plain strange. Wisdom was created by Warren Ellis in the pages of Excalibur, but I never encountered him until now. Assisted by a motley cast of characters that includes fairy dissident Tink and John the Skrull (essentially an alien copy of John Lennon), I'm hooked, even though issue one is mostly just "let's meet the gang" and now it remains to see where it goes. But I LOVE the set-up, and I wouldn't mind seeing this mini-series graduate to a full on ongoing monthly.

But the supernatural ought to allow for my finale segue into magic and...

The Prestige: Smartest film I've seen in a long damn time. Never read the book, or anything by Christopher Priest, so can't speak to how good or poor an adaptation it is, but as a film, it's utterly brilliant and Christopher Nolan, who had me at Momento, is on the fast track to be my favorite director. Just so, so refreshing to see a film that has both complicated plot and character and script all coming together, and the script - wow - it just sang it was so masterfully executed. No wasted scenes or bad dialogue. Loved it. There are flawed films that have resonated with me more (Batman Begins for one, natch), but to find another example of the kind of "perfect film" this one is I have to go all the way back to L.A. Confidential. I'm trying to get with the Net Flicks mindset and get over the oh-so-20th century mode of ownership of cinema, and it's not like with a child to raise and an imprint to run I'm ever, every going to have the time to read or watch anything twice again, but it's going to be really hard not to own this one when it comes out. Favorite film of the year!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the real tragedy of Casino Royale is the fact that this is the film Pierce Brosnan was agitating for, and got canned for his troubles. Sigh.

Dianora said...

Wow, Paul Cornell writing a Pete Wisdom miniseries, that is awesome. *makes mental note* Is Pete hot in it? Because he was hot in Excalibur. (You know I ask these questions just to make you crazy, right?)

Lou Anders said...

Jayme - you are totally correct. And I agree with Scalzi that its tragic how they always blame the actor for failures at every other level.

Dianora - well, he seems to have gotten a bit scruffier, though others have remarked on a certain resemblance to the (not very hot) John Cooper Clarke. (See, I took you seriously).

Paul Cornell said...

Thank you very much, Lou, I appreciate that! I've just delivered the script for Wisdom issue four, and we're now into the arc plot that closes the six issues. I think he's actually *less* scruffy, considering he's got a quality wardrobe now, and shaves, and has ditched the trenchcoat. And Dianora, he does get a full page nude scene. Will that do?

hutch said...

I haven't seen `The Prestige' yet but you should read the book. It really is an outstanding piece of work.
Also I'm glad to see the American poster is halfway decent - the one we've had over here was inexplicably cheesy.

Lou Anders said...

Hi Hutch,
One day I will. It will be a while though.

Paul Wargelin said...

Hi Lou,

Just read your new reviews and although I haven't read any of Morrison's recent run on Batman, I echo your feelings about Batman's character post-Dark Knight Returns. I stopped reading Batman after DC's Zero Hour series--which is when I dropped all of my DC titles actually--with Batman's Knightfall story being the last great hurrah I read.

Like you, my vision of Batman is of the Denny O'Neil, good Frank Miller, Steve Engleheart, Doug Moench era, although my personal favorite writer/artist team on Batman was the late 80s/early 90s run of Detective Comicsby Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. Since I stopped reading the comics, I also got my Batman fix with the animated series, and I've also read some of Paul Dini's recent work on Detective and enjoyed it.

And your thoughts on the out-of-character way Batman treats his newly discovered son echoes my thoughts on Green Arrow, my favorite DC hero and comic book of the late 80s/early 90s. In Mike Grell's Longbow Hunters, Oliver Queen speaks to Dinah Lance about having children, an idea Dinah shoots down because their line of work is too dangerous and the risk of leaving orphans behind is too great. So, Oliver must be content with having raised Roy Harper as his own son.

After Grell left the title, other writers came in and gave him an illegitimate son named Connor Hawke from an affair Oliver had years ago, never realizing he had a son.

Then in Brad Meltzer's "Arrow Quest" issues in the current Green Arrow title, Oliver admits that he knew Connor was his son and was even present at his birth. I felt this was a slap in the face to Grell's poignant story and Oliver's character--as I knew him.

So for me, Oliver Queen exists from the Denny O'Neil and Mike Grell renditions of the character and his current incarnation just doesn't work for me.

Just thought I'd share. :-)

Lou Anders said...

Paul, Grell's run on Green Arrow is one of my all time favorite comics (like Denny O'Neil's the Question), though I think I never read the very final ones. I quit reading comics when they had done the 1-800-KIll Jason Todd stunt - pissing away all the respect that Dark Knight and Watchmen had brought them - and when I learned about the upcoming Bane storyline. I also loved the Grant/Breyfogle era.