Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Messages - Crudblud

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 35  Next >
Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Religion?
« on: February 18, 2020, 09:07:18 AM »
Presumably there are more important things a presidential candidate can offer than the truth about the shape of our planet.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Superhero Movies & Comics General
« on: February 16, 2020, 01:18:01 PM »
I'm a little more hopeful because of the lengthy negotiations between Reeves and WB, so we know that this won't be a rushed director-for-hire job. And Reeves has been doing pretty well for himself lately.
Reeves strikes me as a middle-of-the-road sort of efficient but mediocre filmmaker, but maybe that's what DC needs after Snyder's abyssal onanism. Or maybe I'm wrong and he's spent all this time negotiating to make sure that he really gets to make this movie his own, as opposed to the by the numbers blockbuster stuff he normally does. I will say the casting seems quite good, I'm especially intrigued by the idea of Paul Dano playing a villain.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Bernie 2020
« on: February 16, 2020, 07:36:00 AM »
Were I eligible to vote I would unironically support Bernie now that my boy Yang is out.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Superhero Movies & Comics General
« on: February 15, 2020, 12:49:54 PM »
why is there another batman movie? does it really need to be rebooted so soon?
I think they want to make people forget about the Snyder Batman stuff as soon as possible. They're probably going to end up with a sort of Batman Forever situation where they're so desperate to do that that they forget how to actually make a movie.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« on: January 22, 2020, 07:56:47 AM »
Sekiro is brutal, but you've inspired me to give it another shot. Despite being superficially a Soulslike, you don't have nearly the same number of options to building a character and fighting that you would in those games. You really have to master the system of split-second parries and counterattacks. You can't level yourself up, you can't switch out your equipment, you can only git gud.

I mean, coming to this one in the middle of my second playthrough of Dark Souls, it's a very different kind of challenge. I've been playing a relatively "naked" dex build for that playthrough, not once levelling vitality, and pretty much only putting points into endurance and dexterity, but in Sekiro I already feel way more exposed even in the Ashina Outskirts area. Also the deflection mechanic is way harder than parrying ever was.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« on: January 21, 2020, 09:25:08 PM »
Well, today I bought Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice on Steam and I am already hooked. Currently getting my arse kicked repeatedly by the boss past the third bonfire (sorry, old habits die twice hard) but it's the kind of Souls-y arse kicking that encourages you to keep on coming back for more. There's even a resurrection mechanic so you can just stand back up and get your arse kicked again immediately instead of running back from the bonfire. It's a winner!

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« on: January 14, 2020, 08:13:34 AM »
Some disorganised thoughts on Darksiders: Warmastered Edition.

Competent but incredibly boring mindless grindfest in which various voice actors attempt to out-gruff each other in a post-apocalyptic setting. Maybe I'm misremembering the state of gaming in the good old days of 2010 but this is just a bunch of nice-looking but empty areas stuffed in which you fight the same five enemies over and over and clear occasional barrages of arena time trials and I'm kind of surprised it got a sequel, let alone being revived more recently with a third instalment. Mark Hamill voices your Navi-type character, which I guess is neat, but his script is just kind of "I'm sassy and I have a slightly dark sense of humour". I only played a couple of hours so I don't know if the game somehow opens up later, but those two hours were quite a snore/chore to get through.

Also, at least Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition makes use of a pun that kind of works, even if it is terrible.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: January 04, 2020, 09:04:13 AM »
The Death of Stalin (dir. Armando Iannucci)

Hilarious yet unflinchingly bleak farce depicting a loosely historically accurate version of the internecine struggles at the very top of the Soviet Union following Stalin's death. While the film is obviously set in Russia and the characters are all Russian, the cast is mostly British and American, and the actors all use their regular (or close to regular) voices, so you get for example Nikita Khrushchev with a Brooklyn accent courtesy of Steve Buscemi. While the film features too many excellent performances both large and small to list without succumbing to fatigue, Simon Russell Beale absolutely fucking kills it in his role as Lavrentiy Beria, one of the most shockingly vile figures of the Stalin era. Really just a brilliant film from start to finish.

Also, shout out to the original music by Chris Willis, who does a very good job of capturing the feel of Soviet era classical music, particularly Shostakovich, whose music has always sounded to me like a soundtrack in need of a movie.

You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsay)

Sort of a psychological anti-thriller in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a hired killer contracted to rescue a politician's daughter from an underground sex trafficking ring. It's very atmospheric and well paced, and the subtly rich portrayal of the central character is compelling. The child sex abuse theme might be difficult for some viewers to stomach, but the strong central performance and uncompromising direction makes the film very much worth a watch.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: January 01, 2020, 02:35:09 PM »
Batman Forever (dir. Joel Schumacher)

Let's begin by being as clear as possible. This film sucks. It really sucks. I'm aware that people might think Batman & Robin a more memorably bad film, and it probably is, since I must admit that, in the time between my father taking me to see it in the cinema and the viewing I undertook for this review, I had pretty much forgotten everything about Forever except for one or two things, but make no mistake: this is a diabolically confused mess of no small magnitude. Initially it may have shown some promise, as Joel Schumacher wanted it to be an adaptation of Frank Miller's much lauded Batman: Year One, one of the comics of the late 1980s that defined the modern idea of Batman, but the project was gradually transformed into something that was most decidedly not that. Batman Forever is sometimes described as a throwback to the Batmania of the 1960s, but in making that comparison people seem to forget that while that version of Batman was very silly, it knew what it was doing and carried itself with a warmth and affability that made it very fun to watch. What we have here is a charmless, directionless, oddly cold and synthetic vision of a Batman without purpose.
So, what happened? How the hell should I know. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were originally attached for a third and probably final entry in their Batman series, with the working title “Batman Continues”, and then they ceased to be so. It seems that from the start Warner Bros. execs were actively pushing Burton to go lighter in response to the (in my view wrongly) perceived “darkness” of Batman Returns, so it's likely that at least some of the nigh unutterable stupidity that goes on in the finished product was there from near the beginning of its production. At the very least we know the character of Chase Meridian was there in the early stages, since Burton had already cast Rene Russo in the role. So while Joel Schumacher often gets the blame for this movie and its sequel, it seems that here at least he was simply the chump they brought on board to clean up whatever mess had been left behind in the wake of Burton's departure, and was later left fumbling even more blindly as Keaton followed suit and walked away. Of course, we know Burton later signed back on with the project as producer, since his name is pretty much the first thing you see in the opening credits, and while the question “why?” might be intriguing, I'll leave that where it is in favour of simply discussing the mess that is the film itself rather than the mess surrounding it.
With a film as confused and scrappy as Batman Forever, it's hard to know exactly where to begin. Normally a plot synopsis would suffice, but the plot itself may be the least remarkable thing about the film, not just because the rest of it is so misguided on pretty much every level, but also because it barely even registers as a story told. The stakes are clear-ish, but none of them has any weight. We are told for example that Riddler's machine will suck all the intelligence out of Gotham's citizens and pump it straight into his brain, yet at no point does this ever actually seem to happen. I mean, we see the machine working, allegedly, yet the Riddler's level of intelligence never seems to rise above that of a small child thrown into a bathtub full of sugar at any point during the film. It's easy enough to joke that the writers weren't smart enough to write the Riddler as a super genius, especially since, as we shall see, they were hardly capable of writing the Riddler at all, but when you realise that they weren't even able to write an accurate if fairly shallow elaboration on the phrase “idiot box”, that's when you start to consider just how much of this particular iceberg's mass is hidden below the water line.
While the film pays a little lip service to its villains' defining traits every now and then, neither of Batman's foes really maintains more than a passing resemblance to his namesake from the source material; Two-Face is basically “Joker with a Coin”, while Riddler is “Jim Carrey Funny Moments 10 Hour Compilation SO RANDOM!!! xD”. So when the two get together you're essentially left with a pair of failed Joker auditions sandwiched together into a sort of villainous near non-entity, a duo of (in the sincerest mode of charity) embryonic personalities crushed under the weight of conflicting and unrealistic expectations: don't recall Burton, but also play bigger than Nicholson. For Batman Returns, both Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer understood well enough that their characters could not simply be sartorially differentiated retreads of Nicholson's Joker, that to step out from under his shadow they would have to find their own voices, their own physicalities. Whatever you think of them, they cannot reasonably be accused of copying their predecessor, and I suppose in their results neither Tommy Lee Jones nor Jim Carrey could be accused of resembling Nicholson's Joker either, but it is clear enough to me from what they seem to intend to be doing on screen that they were being pushed in that direction. Indeed, I get the feeling that the goal of this film from the studio's perspective was to spiritually retcon Batman Returns.

Perhaps the worst thing about these rather horrible portrayals is that it's very difficult to tell who is at fault, since at least in the case of Jones I want someone else to blame. Carrey I could probably leave to the wolves, but as we see from later performances in his career, much as with Robin Williams, a good director can rein him in and channel his naturally extreme energy in the service of pathos, which on some level is a state to which most Batman villains can aspire. So there at least we might blame screenplay or direction, although it is possible that Carrey, whose star was arcing very high in the Hollywood sky at that time, was granted executive carte blanche to “Carrify” his performance as much as he liked. One thing is certain: something went very, very wrong. Whether it is the character's totally unbelievable claim to being a genius scientist, his terrible one liners which seem to come out of some deep recess of juvenile tastelessness, so deep that I can hardly believe real grown adults actually came up with them, or his mediocre attempts at being anything remotely resembling a threat to anyone whatsoever, the Riddler is simply bad in this film. Sure, he's supposed to be insufferable, his whole shtick by and large is that he envies Batman's intellect and wants to outdo him by the most spectacular means possible, in one of the comics he even goes to extremes in an attempt to drive Batman insane, but the insufferability of Carrey's Riddler seems to be almost entirely directed at the audience, so many of his cringe-worthy verbal eruptions are made when no one else is around that it is hard to believe I am not being personally targeted when he screams “joygasm!!!” after blowing up the batmobile.
With Jones, you might be tempted to exclaim “who the fuck knows”. It may be that an actor used to playing fairly down to earth dramatic roles might struggle to walk a mile in the larger than life shoes of a comic book villain, but really his delivery matches the garbled lines he has to work with, so in that sense at least he did a good job. Indeed, short of walking off the set while telling the writers to shove their dialogue up their arses in whatever form should prove least comfortable, Jones could probably not have done any better. Two-Face is a complicated character, on the one hand he is still Harvey Dent, a former District Attorney, much closer to the kinds of roles Jones had usually played up to this point; on the other he has succumbed to a sort of scarring of the mind equal to the scarring of his face, such that the ideal of blind justice is taken to extremes with the aid of a defaced coin, pure chance, a fifty-fifty split. The character is then dramatically compelling fare for a film, a dark mirror of Batman's own dual nature to match Returns' Catwoman, yet here he is, as I said before, treated as “Joker with a Coin”. Jones is not really given the basis of Harvey Dent to expand from, and any sense of Two-Face's actual character is subsumed into a shambolic medley of cackles, mumbles, and circus ringmaster pomp, yet the gravest crime committed is not that he barely resembles himself, but that for all his gun-waving, coin-flipping antics he is about as threatening, about as compelling, and about as tragic as a slightly misshapen Werther's Original.
Now might be the time to mention that this film, and indeed its sequel, are intended as continuations of the Burton films. The only real on-screen confirmation of this is the presence of Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, the stalwart and stately butler of Wayne Manor. Of course, he too has not survived the transition from Burtmania to whatever the hell this is. He is reduced to playing a doddering old man who is easily fooled by the buffoonery of fake trick or treaters that couldn't have been less convincing even if they had been dressed up as the titular villains from Killer Klownz from Outer Space. He is at his best in his few scenes with Dick Grayson, here played by Chris O'Donnell, forming perhaps the only relationship in the film that comes close to resembling genuine human interaction. O'Donnell is probably the most likeable major screen presence in the film, and while his Robin is more akin to the wayward Jason Todd than your typical Dick Grayson, he doesn't do too badly with the fairly shoddy material he has to work with. But the inclusion of Robin at the halfway point of the film immediately comes across as an unnecessary addition to a stage that is already overcrowded, albeit by a bunch of cardboard cut-outs and other non-entities, and it is through this perpetual narrative greed that the film's confused identity is matched by its confused focus. There's a reason Two-Face essentially retreats behind Riddler later on in the film, this being that the writers, or perhaps meddlers from the darker recesses of the studio system, began to realise that the film was trying to contain too much stuff and basically jamming it in any which way it could, such that the audience is left trying to navigate a room where two thirds of the doorway are blocked by furniture and the floor itself is totally covered with stacked chairs, tables, and garishly upholstered sofas, none of which can be sat upon or at with any comfort. Forever lacks any of the sense of proportion, balance, tonal continuity, or purposeful storytelling that grounded and propelled the action of its predecessors.

Possibly the most notable difference when comparing this film to the previous two is the near total absence of Gotham City itself. In the Burton films we are often treated to shots of its bustling streets, political and social events, alleyway robberies and so forth. Batman feels for all his high-tech gadgetry like a street level crime fighter; he has amassed his formidable arsenal essentially to save people who, just like his own parents, take a wrong turn on their way home from the theatre, to fight the rot that festers in the dark corners of the city, and to instil fear in the hearts of the cowardly and superstitious lot that lie in wait in the long shadows. Because we see almost nothing of Gotham except for some rather unappealing CG cityscapes devoid of so much as even Lowry-esque stick-figure crowds, Batman's crusade is made to feel like a vanity project, this sense not being helped by his ludicrously flashy vehicles and, yes, his overly sculpted suit, replete with injection moulded nipples and “dummy thicc” rear end. Bruce Wayne of course first donned the cowl for personal reasons, but Batman do what he do with a view to upholding values that actual human beings tend to hold as universal: justice, crime and punishment, rehabilitation, mercy. Here the entire world seems to exist for a handful of characters, anyone else who might happen to appear in frame is so much ephemeral, almost accidental decoration, you might even take them for ghosts from the previous films still haunting select interior spaces of a now largely abandoned Gotham. Along with the art design, this feeling would be surreal were it not so eminently forgettable.
Also notable for its absence, the brooding neo-Wagnerian score that Danny Elfman provided for the two Burton films. Elliot Goldenthal was brought in to try and unify through music the fecklessly assembled budget caterer's buffet of half-baked characters with some of that good ol' leitmotivic special sauce. Goldenthal sort of apes Elfman here and there, but his themes are not as memorable, and we are at no point given the impression of a Batman, a crusader who roams the night seeking justice, but rather being told “look, it's Batman, there he goes, being Batman”. It has the slimy wool-over-the-eyes quality of a carpetbagger. We can never really quite believe that what we're hearing is the soundtrack to Batman, and like the film itself the soundtrack reads like a knock-off competitor hastily rolled out to make a buck. Things do not get better when we look at the attempts to lend weight to the villains through scoring. Two-Face's music, which Goldenthal has rather bafflingly claimed was inspired by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, fails to ground Tommy Lee Jones's messy performance with thematic stability because it is itself a complete mess of noisy effects, only serving to heighten the incoherence of the portrayal. Meanwhile, the Riddler is mismatched with a theremin heavy throwback to old science fiction scores, attempting to play up the intended mad scientist character, but instead hammering home just how little Carrey's performance matches anything of that description.
But what of Batman himself? This is after all a Batman film. Well, sad to say, this iteration of the caped crusader, played by Val Kilmer, is neither equal to the task of succeeding Michael Keaton nor recalling the light-hearted straightman act of Adam West. I bring up West because, by all accounts, Forever is supposed to be the return of Batmania. As I said in my review of Batman Returns, Burton was already doing Batmania, especially in that film, but apparently cheesy rhymes about mistletoe and DJ scratching CDs are just too dark for kids. Pouty-lips Kilmer is not dark, but he is hardly light either, being at best a neutral earth tone, inoffensive at the side of his garish counterparts. It is only when you see him away from the obscuring presence of these paltry interlocutors that you realise he might as well be a potted plant, for that is basically the level of expressivity he manages to reach in any given scene. He's cracking a joke with Alfred, he's bashing down a door to try to save a life, he's in a bank vault that is suspended from a helicopter and inexplicably filling up with acid; his plain and immutable foliage of an expression is not so much a reassuring anchor of calm and stability as it is the face of a man who is trying not to show how bewildered he is by the fact that he is in Batman Forever. This makes the scene in which he turns to camera and smiles quite surprising, but probably not in the way the director intended. It is surprising not just because Kilmer's face has been in a single and completely different configuration the entire film up to that point, but because the change occurs over the non-person that is Chase Meridian.
Meridian, played by Nicole Kidman, is a woman what gets kidnapped, and that's basically the entirety of who she is. Meridian succeeds only in making me nostalgic for Vicki Vale, who was easily the weakest part of the 1989 Batman, but there are some interesting points to consider when comparing the two love interests. Vale is essentially a bystander who is rescued by Batman, and their relationship deepens as the Joker begins to take a perverse interest in her. Vale is a fairly typical damsel in distress, but there is a developmental line that is established and followed over the course of the film, and it begins with her resisting her colleague's fascination with the Batman myth. Meridian is the opposite, she is already possessed of a consuming obsession with Batman, and she thrusts herself into his path as often as possible. She makes herself the damsel in distress, but at no point in the film is this questioned, critiqued, or even so much as addressed in passing. Unlike the villains, I can't even criticise Kidman for turning in a bad performance, she has almost no character to portray, and the most consistently surprising thing about Meridian's relationship with Batman and Bruce Wayne is that he continues to fall harder and harder for what can at best be described as a cardboard cut-out of a woman. While it is a lazy criticism, the entire “why” of the romance subplot may be best explained as follows: because it's in the script.
So that's Batman Forever, two hours of people you're never given a reason to care about doing things that make no sense because Warner Bros. wanted a kid friendly Batman movie, or rather because they desperately didn't want another Tim Burton Batman movie. The film has the sense of having been guided so much by what it was to avoid, rather than by what it was to aim for, that it spends most of its duration in the violent throes of an identity crisis that is only resolved in the end by the realisation and acceptance that it in fact has no identity at all. Its synthetic, contrived narrative, character portrayals, and locations all combine into an offensively bland mush, and even the most refined of gourmands would be hard pressed to identify even one flavour in this broth spoiled not by too many cooks but by a disorganised kitchen led by a head chef who didn't even know the recipe. It is not in thrall to the crass commercialism that permeates its infamous sequel, but its lack of even this as some kind of defining characteristic leaves it shambling in a pile of its own mess, miserable and forgotten down in the shadowy sewers where lie yesteryear's most fleeting of pop cultural dalliances.

Technology & Information / Re: Nephew's Computer
« on: December 17, 2019, 12:28:24 PM »
>mfw people rave over a masturbation joke where there's a perfectly good "Thork can't count to 2" joke set up right for them

In my defence I have a head-crusher of a cold rn.

Technology & Information / Re: Nephew's Computer
« on: December 17, 2019, 06:38:55 AM »
I have a crush on Pete's other hand tbh.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Thork crows for a bit
« on: December 16, 2019, 11:26:41 AM »
I was happy to support Labour in the election (and note with some small amount of pleasure that my constituency remains red) because I believe that a vote on a "deal", something at least close to concrete, is far more valuable than a vote on a vague declaration of intent. And no, a general election was not the proper forum to determine whether or not the patchily reheated withdrawal agreement was a good way forward for the union. In all truth, Labour should have maybe not helped but at least allowed the Tories to get on with their shitshow leave policy, bided their time and then (2021 perhaps) brought forward the confidence motion to trigger an election. But I suspect we are now locked in to at least a decade of Tory rule, and without a strong opposition at that.

I kind of felt bad for Corbyn personally because he was trying to acquiesce on the point of being more "electable" by agreeing to put at least a couple of fingers into the teflonising machine, yet his backbencher instincts compelled him to stick up for his beliefs, kind of the opposite of Tim Farron's gay marriage gaffe. So you ended up with someone who was honest about his most controversial views, yet was fidgeting in his seat over a question about the Queen's speech, which most people in this country don't watch or care about in any sense. He would die on hills that would play up his association, rightly or wrongly, with antisemitism, yet meaningless trifles presented some kind of image dilemma for him, and not even the incumbent PM hiding in a fridge while his aide told a journalist to fuck off on national television was apparently enough to take the pressure off in any real way. "Boris is Boris" as Theresa May once said, shortly before sacking him; show him doing something patently retarded and people will laugh and clap for more.

Speaking of Boris Johnson, the worst thing Labour could have done was to fall into the same trap the Democrats did with Donald Trump. By attacking his character and things he had said in the past, they played into a game of personality over policy, so all Bozo had to do was bumble around affably repeating the same basic lines over and over, and not even those self same lines coming from the bloated lips and B'stardish grimace of Gove and Raab respectively were enough to make them seem less than wonderful. Ironically Labour and its activist army probably drove more support to the Tories by attacking their leader so fervently.

So I think Labour played its hand quite poorly, appealing largely to "champagne socialists" and the sort of people who view Ash Sarkar as an insightful political commentator, but the deck was stacked against them with their leader being a pro-Palestine critic of Israel who wanted to go after the wealth of the British elite. Even Ed Miliband, himself a Jew, felt the weight of the establishment coming down on him when he whipped in favour of recognising Palestine as an independent state in 2014. Yet the party could have gotten rid of Corbyn at any time had they actually presented a credible alternative. With the best will in the world, Cringela Eagle and Owen "99 Flake" Smith were about as viable as chocolate fireguards. Labour would have been in an infinitely better position if (for example) Hilary Benn, who had already been sacked from Corbyn's cabinet and probably had popular narrative on his side, had been convinced to step up instead.

Well, shit happens. It's at least going to be amusing to see brexiteers of all stripes gradually realise how little what they're getting matches what they voted for. You won, get over it, and so on and so on.

Signed, a working class "small el" lefty who doesn't particularly care for the EU and for whom the real tragedy is that FPTP strikes again.

Technology & Information / Re: Nephew's Computer
« on: December 02, 2019, 08:07:55 AM »
Balls. I need a wifi adapter for him.

Ethernet cable is cheaper and far more reliable than a wifi adapter. It's slightly more effort to set up, at least it is if the router's in a different part of the house, but I think he'll appreciate it if he's going to be playing a lot of online games, which thanks to cloud bullshit most games are now.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« on: October 25, 2019, 02:17:21 PM »
The RANDOM LOUD NOISES ARE SCARY approach to horror was already wearing kind of thin for me by the time Observer decided to reveal its spoopy monster. I'm not sure I'm going to finish this one.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: October 23, 2019, 01:59:54 PM »
20 Remote Controlled Batarangs/20: A Batshit Odyssey Returns!

Batman Returns (dir. Tim Burton)

Batman's second outing under the joint stewardship of Burton and Keaton is also his last. Burton was not interested in doing another sequel, and Warner Bros. execs were concerned about the dark tone of Burton's films. The impasse thus formed led to the two quasi-neo-Batmania (I did the Kenosha Kid, I can do the Popcrit too) films directed by Joel Schumacher. Would that they could have seen their Snyderian future. Perhaps some did, those poor Cassandras of the executive suite. But it's understandable: with the first Batman a big success, Burton was granted greater control over the sequel, and all that was suggestively fairytale and carnival of that first effort is foreground and writ large here. I always liked this film as a kid, it was equal parts goofy and nasty, vibrant and sinister, a cartoonish noir fantasy of the urban Gothic. But unlike the original Burton outing it has not been a film that I have thought about much since my childhood, let alone watched. Will it hold up? Let's find out! I wrote this introductory paragraph before I even sat down to watch the film, so I literally do not know, but of course will have known for at least day or two by the time you get to the second paragraph.

Sidestepping any pretence of suspense, I can reveal that I had a blast watching this again, it's seriously off-the-rails, wacky, hilarious, and occasionally violent. I don't think the executive, or indeed critical assessment that it was too dark is at all fair. In comparison to the previous film, its dark parts are darker, but its light parts are lighter. Burton managed to ramp up the expressionist inspiration of the first film by putting it everywhere, not just in the architecture, the light and the shadows, but in the comedy, in the story, in the characters. Everything is heightened, more extreme, more sharply contrasted. While many would blame Burton's successor Joel Schumacher for turning this first WB Batman series into an over-the-top silly cartoon, in a lot of ways Burton was already there. Consider the rooftop fight between Batman and Catwoman: Batman knocks her to the floor (Catwoman was an asshole etc.), she says “how could you? I'm a woman,” Batman drops his guard with concern for her, allowing her to get the upper hand and hang him over the ledge with her whip. It might as well be Adam West's Bruce Wayne falling for Miss Kitka in his pursuit of improving US-Soviet relations.

The set-up to the story is a bit more complicated than that of the first film. An armed gang of circus performers attacks a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Gotham Square with the aim of kidnapping Max Shreck, a wealthy industrialist who is giving a speech there. Shreck escapes but falls through a mechanised grate into the sewer lair of the Penguin, who was abandoned by his parents as a baby and now wishes to return to human society. Shreck is eventually able to return to his office, having a made a deal with the Penguin. Upon arriving there he learns that his bumbling secretary Selina Kyle has been snooping in his private files and has discovered that his big plan, a new power plant, is actually a device by which he can suck up the city's power for himself and hold it to ransom. To shut her up, he pushes her from a high window, killing her. Her body attracts a bunch of street cats who inexplicably bring her back to life, imbuing her with the agility, reflexes, and folkloric nine lives of a cat, as well as engendering the emergence of a dangerous new side to her personality. At another public gathering, one of the circus gang members kidnaps the Mayor's baby and descends down an open manhole only to be “defeated” by who else but the Penguin. Ascending above ground with the baby in his arms, Penguin becomes an instant hero and press sensation, prompting Batman to investigate.

The focus of the film in the beginning is definitely on the villains. Batman shows up to fight off the circus gang at the tree lighting event, but the film wants us to know Penguin and Catwoman and Shreck. And why not? We know an awful lot about Bruce Wayne and his alter ego from the previous film, but almost everything else starts over from zero. So we have origin stories galore for each of the villains except Shreck himself. Although Penguin is this film's equivalent of the Joker, Shreck is in truth the main villain of the story. He abuses and parasitises both Penguin and Catwoman for his own gain, and his latest business venture seeks to do the same thing to Gotham itself. Max Schreck, for whom the character was named, was a German silent film actor best known for playing the vampire in the original Nosferatu, and was even fictionalised as a vampire himself. Like Shreck's impeccable wardrobe, the reference is extravagantly worn, he leeches the blood of the city while posing as its prime benefactor, and though the name refers to Count Orlok, the look and portrayal are definitely owed to Dracula. He is possessed of a kind of agelessness, serving as the embodiment of the concept of avarice.

It doesn't get an origin story of its own, but even Gotham seems somewhat different this time around. It maintains its larger than life architecture and its distortions of space and form, but the overall feel is different, and it's not just the Christmas lights. In the first film so much of the city seemed to be made up of pipes and vents, its theme was industrial sprawl, we were invited to hang around with the lowlife of the city, like rats crawling through the pipes. Jack Napier becomes the Joker in a chemical factory, Oswald Cobblepot is born the Penguin in a practically Victorian aristocratic home. The setting moves from the industrial to the commercial, to the political. This time the true villain is puppetmaster capitalist Shreck, a white collar criminal, a self-assured untouchable of the top floor penthouse class. The action takes place at political events, plush offices, government buildings, high-rise apartments, department stores, all of which tie back either directly or at least in some way to Shreck.
Cobblepot's ambition to reclaim his birthright as an aristocrat is seized upon by Shreck, who thrusts him into a campaign against the incumbent mayor, who is having difficulty containing the chaos caused by the circus gang, which is of course being run by Cobblepot himself. This sub-plot, based on two episodes of the 1960s TV show, presents itself as Preston Sturges by way of Burtmania, and it kind of works. The big climax revolves around Bruce Wayne's infamous CD scratching. It is actually possible to scratch a CD like a vinyl record, albeit not in the way that happens in this scene. It's either an ass-pull or an acceptable “of course he did” as we learn that Batman secretly recorded Penguin talking shit about Gotham's citizens during one of their encounters. Wayne uses the sound clips when he hacks into the PA system at a Cobblepot for Mayor rally, prompting everyone to suddenly produce rotten fruit and veg to hurl at him. The knowing silliness of the film is, once again, much closer to the Batmania style than many people seem to think. And I haven't even gotten to the rocket launcher penguins yet, or the remote control Batmobile arcade ride. This film has so many wacky setpieces that it's hard to know which to address and in what order.

Like the film itself, I'm going to suddenly veer off topic here to talk about Catwoman. She has a lot going for her over the previous female lead. Vicki Vale was kind of a one note damsel in distress despite being a war photographer. Selina Kyle is the opposite of that, well, at least she becomes the opposite of that. When we first see her she seems like a laughtrack sitcom character, replete with knowingly corny one-liners and an impossibly ditzy manner. Whe she is pushed out of the window and resurrected by the street cats, she retains this basic personality, particularly her penchant for one-liners, but she has taken on a crazed femme fatale persona with a DIY aesthetic, stapling together her Catwoman costume from a cut-up old coat and fashioning claws out of various materials she has lying around the apartment. She proceeds to wage a one woman war against her murderer, Shreck, blowing up his department store, and later plots to assassinate him at a masked ball he is hosting.

While the other villains have an adversarial relationship with Batman in the case of Penguin, and Bruce Wayne in the case of Shreck, Catwoman/Selina Kyle is presented as a mirror image of Batman/Bruce Wayne. As their unmasked selves they begin a romance, while their night-prowling alter egos clash violently atop Gotham's high rooftops. These relationships escalate in their intensity until somethin's gotta give, and give it do. The impossibly cheesy refrain “mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it / but a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it” reveals the double life of each to the other, threatening to immediately throw their already quite bizarre relationship out of the frying pan and into ripping their masks off while electrocuting Christopher Walken in a sewer tunnel. Different strokes for different folks. Bruce tries to save Selina from herself in the dramatic climax, but her suicidally pathological desire for revenge against Shreck proves too strong.

While Returns has never been as well received or fondly remembered as its predecessor, it does offer... and I won't say “depth”, because there is nothing deep about it, it's a film about people in ridiculous costumes hitting each other after all, but I think it is a richer film, with greater thematic unity and complexity than the 1989 Batman. That film, as much as I love it, is quite superficial, its conflicts basic, its characters archetypal and not much beyond that. The Joker is a villain who must be stopped, end of. Returns, through Catwoman, Penguin, and Shreck, forces Batman to reckon with possible other versions of himself. While the latter two are closer to the “must be stopped, end of” side of things, and this despite the nascent tragedy of the Penguin's origin story, it is Catwoman who drives a sword of ambiguity right through the moral heart of the main character. While The Killing Joke propelled into the public consciousness the idea of Batman and Joker as two sides of the same coin, something that has been echoed strongly in a great many Batman stories since, Batman Returns gives a more multifaceted take on the dual nature of Bruce Wayne's life, and how he is just a few steps removed from the villainy he fights both in and out of costume. On top of that, it's just a big ol' fun ol' cartoon of a movie, and I think it's pretty great.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Cyberpunk 2077 E3
« on: September 12, 2019, 08:19:17 AM »
Deus Ex is the only cyberpunk FPS RPG I can think of off the top of my head. The other games I'm aware of are either top down RPGs or adventure games.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: July 02, 2019, 07:50:19 AM »
I really enjoyed the first season of One-Punch Man. Haven't seen the second yet, I'm guessing it didn't come to UK Netflix like the first because the licence changed when the production moved studios from Madhouse to JC Staff.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: June 30, 2019, 10:11:42 AM »
All I have to say about Jazzy Cat's Jeans season 3 so far: Cello scene, lmao.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: FES Book Club
« on: June 26, 2019, 07:39:26 PM »
I'm about halfway through the 1200 page U.S.A. trilogy by John Dos Passos. It's basically about working class people, labour movements, anarchists etc. in early 1900s America. It's good but can be quite confusing because it shifts around through so many different characters and times and places, and some of the chapters are like fragmented first person memory narratives, while others are literally made out of cuts from newspaper headlines and articles. Enjoying it so far.
This was very good overall. Massive time investment, and not one I'm sure I'd be willing to make again, but it is a real achievement with great pathos. I definitely don't rate Dos Passos as highly as someone like Faulkner, and it's easy to see why he fell into relative obscurity compared to writers like Faulkner and Steinbeck, but as a social document of the US in the first couple of decades of the 20th century, I can't think of a contemporary of Dos Passos who was doing anything as broad or as deep.

Much shorter, only taking me a few days, was Philip K. Dick's Martian Time-Slip, which is basically about people going crazy on a colonised Mars. I like PKD's stories, his ideas and the things he has happen to his characters are very cool, but he is a pretty bad prose stylist. Overall I really enjoyed this, though.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: God sent Gandhi to Hell
« on: June 20, 2019, 06:13:19 AM »
You always know an essay is going to be well written when it begins with "Fam. It’s real talk time."

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 35  Next >