What Should Mr. Robot Pay Homage to in Season Two?

The critically-acclaimed, award-winning cable series Mr. Robot is notable for a number of reasons, with a big twist: in the final two episodes, you realize you’ve been watching a ten hour unlicensed Fight Club reboot. One could say that the twist is “Elliot was Mr. Robot all along!” just like the twist in Fight Club is “Edward Norton was Brad Pitt all along!” but to me the twist was simply that Mr. Robot was Fight Club all along.

fight-club-ending
Where is Mr. Robot’s mind?

Some people saw the “twist” coming, but I didn’t know I was watching a Fight Club reboot until the final few episodes, when a character is revealed to be imagined, the protagonist fights himself,  and a piano cover of “Where is My Mind” plays in the background. (Probably worth noting it was the same song used in The Leftovers, which I saw first and still think used it better.) Continue reading “What Should Mr. Robot Pay Homage to in Season Two?”

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Is Harvey Two-Face Dent the Batman Character Trump Resembles Most?

This is the third installment of an ongoing investigation into which Batman character Donald Trump resembles most. You can read the beginning here

Harvey “Two Face” Dent represents the curse of the classic politician. He’s the fallen star, the Apollo destroyed by the harsh realities of politics. His ambition and ideals are corrupted by pain and reality.  He’s the Barack Obama who realized he couldn’t close Guantanamo in his first term, the John McCain who courted the religious right and chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, the Mitt Romney who denied inspiring Obamacare.

whos-who-two-face
Two-Face as depicted on the back cover of Who’s Who: The Definite Directory of the DC Universe #24, February 1987

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight

Dent divides the world into those who die heroes (Kennedy and Lincoln come to mind) and those who live long enough to become the villain (Julius Caesar is the example he uses, although one could think of many more). Trump is of a third variety.

How does Trump resemble Two-Face?

Idealistic, handsome, charismatic. Donald Trump is none of these things, and there are those who admire him for it. He does not appeal to our higher selves, does not court intellectuals or idealists. He is humanity at our basest: frightened, hateful, and angry. He appears to have little-to-nothing in common with Harvey Dent, but there are some ways in which they resemble one another.

They promise a better world, whether they can deliver it or not.

Trump promises to “Make America Great Again.” Dent is elected to Gotham City’s District Attorney in The Dark Knight on “a crusade to take back our city,” with the slogan “I Believe in Harvey Dent,” which itself is a reflection of Batman’s recurring line in The Long Halloween: “I believe in Gotham City. I believe in Harvey Dent.” Continue reading “Is Harvey Two-Face Dent the Batman Character Trump Resembles Most?”

What We Failed to Learn About Terrorism from The Dark Knight

Or, “Stop Calling Them Gunmen and Start Calling Them Terrorists”

One of the most notable elements of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is that, despite being made by a British writer and director and set in the fictional Gotham City, the films capture the zeitgeist of the post-9/11 America in a frightening, realistic way.

But there’s one lesson in these films that we don’t seem to have retained: terrorism can take many forms. 

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, the first and third films in the trilogy, show evil as an extensive international network motivated by belief in a higher cause: the League of Shadows, led first by Liam Neeson and later by Tom Hardy’s Bane. It’s an evil organization which resembles Al-Qaeda or IS/Daesh in its reach and tactics. 

Unlike the other two films, in The Dark Knight our villain is Heath Ledger’s Joker: a criminal who seemingly materializes out of nowhere. His background is unknown, with no criminal record or history of violence. He operates as a loner, with a few followers but no peers. He believes not in fundamentalism but in anarchy and chaos. He prefers easily-obtained weapons: in his words, “a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets.” He kills with abandon, targeting mob bosses, murdering his own followers, burning corrupt businessmen alive, turning civilians against one another. Throughout it all, he operates without loyalty and welcomes death. 

CA.0627.darkknight
Perhaps film’s most famous villain of the oughts.

He gives a speech, in one of the more famous moments from the film, explaining why people are so frightened of him. Because he disrupts expectations. He disrupts “the plan.” Because anyone can be his victim, not just “a gangbanger” or “a truckload of soldiers.”

The mass waves of shooters (most of whom are white and “Christian”) overtaking America resemble the Joker in every way: they kill innocents, make spectacles of their crimes, and fear nothing, including death. The American mass shooter is almost always suicidal. There are few mass shooters who begin their killing sprees expecting any outcome aside from death or life imprisonment.

Like the Joker, they cannot be “bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with.”

But there is a key difference. In The Dark Knight, District Attorney Harvey Dent holds a press conference and calls the Joker what he is: a terrorist. America’s leaders, when they hold press conferences, talk about gunmen, about shooters, but not about terrorists. Continue reading “What We Failed to Learn About Terrorism from The Dark Knight”

What Would Christian Bale Do in Season Three of True Detective?

I’m one of the lone defenders of True Detective’s second season. So far, I can count on one hand the people I know who actually liked it.

People didn't like this season? What do you mean?
People didn’t like this season? What do you mean?
While I disagree with the complaints and criticisms that have been leveled and hurled against it, I’ll admit that some of the complaints were grounded in a truth I also see: too many main characters. The pilot felt cluttered, as did many of the episodes. The death of one protagonist (of the four) at the end of the seventh episode came almost as a relief, as it meant we would have fewer plotlines, fewer threads, fewer scenes to cut between in the finale.

There are those who say that, whether or not True Detective was good, you cannot say that it moved the detective genre forward in any meaningful way. I don’t necessarily get on board with that, as I think that this season had moments of devastating brilliance which I’ve already discussed.

What I do think is that the third season, in order to move forward, needs to look back. A story that is more classically noir, in which one character is the detective and this one detective is at the center of every scene. Something that resembles the works of Raymond Chandler or Dashell Hammett, the kind of first person hardboiled narrative emulated by Jonathan Lethem and Bret Easton Ellis, the kind of story where the only facts we get are the ones that we get through the eyes and ears of the protagonist.

Continue reading “What Would Christian Bale Do in Season Three of True Detective?”

Why Ben Affleck could be the best Batman ever

People like to predict that Ben Affleck will fail as the Batfleck. But what this blog post presupposes is, maybe he won’t?

The fact is, Ben Affleck is a good actor who is actually positioned better than any of his predecessors in terms of his ability to play Batman. Here are some of the reasons why.

Chasing Amy

It’s easy to forget that Ben Affleck was in comic book movies when no one cared about comic books. He starred in several Kevin Smith films during the ’90s and ’00s in which the characters were either readers or writers of comics.

One of the moments from Affleck's early work in which he is literally surrounded by comic books.
One of the moments from Affleck’s early work in which he is literally surrounded by comic books.
This includes Affleck as Holden McNeil, a New Jersey comic book writer in Chasing Amy. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a good reference point if you want to see that Affleck knows a thing or two about the comic book world. He also plays the villain in Mallrats, another comic-centric movie by Kevin Smith.

Continue reading “Why Ben Affleck could be the best Batman ever”

How accurate is The Economist in comparing Donald Trump to The Joker?

This is one of many articles on this site comparing the current state of American politics to the world of Batman. Read more here, or buy D. F. Lovett’s debut novel here for only $4.99.

In an editorial published on 7/23/15, The Economist likened Donald Trump to Heath Ledger’s Joker:

Mr Trump’s lust for attention, combined with his fortune, seemed to be all the explanation needed. “Do I look like I have a plan?” says the Joker in “The Dark Knight”. “I’m a dog chasing cars. I don’t know what I’d do if I caught it”. Mr Trump’s havoc-spreading run seemed to share this improvisational spirit.

They go on to argue that yes, Trump has a plan, and yes, there’s a good chance that he is a dog who has caught a car and knows what to do with it: “sell it for profit.”

While The Economist moves away from the Batman metaphors and focuses on the politics, it’s worth dwelling for a moment on this comparison. This is not to say that Donald Trump is a villain. But he is one third of a complicated, shifting cinematic circus of three-directional conflict.

The scene in which The Joker gives his famous "plan" speech.
The scene in which The Joker gives his famous “plan” speech.

 

The Dark Knight is a film of three-way conflict. All great films are. Consider Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (HAL v. Humanity v. The Monolith) or Raiders of the Lost Ark (Nazis v. Indy v. The Ark) or The Departed (Jack v. Leo v. Damon). In The Dark Knight, our initial conflict is that The Joker is stealing money from the mob and cornering them, drawing Batman into the fight. Batman goes after the mob, thinking The Joker can wait. “One man or the mob…” Continue reading “How accurate is The Economist in comparing Donald Trump to The Joker?”

The Top Ten Christian Bale Films of 2013

A lot of movies happened in 2013.  Only a few of them had Bale in them, but many were connected to Bale, either through themes, tone, extended universes, future sequels, Nolan-esque qualities, etc.  This is a list of the Top Ten Christian Bale films, whether or not they actually had Christian Bale in them.

10. Man of Steel

It’s on the list, but barely.  The strangest thing about this movie has to be that it’s ostensibly a gritty reboot, yet it still features basically the exact same opening as the Superman movie from the 1970s.  Why so boring?

Try making it through the alien-explosion-flying scene at the beginning of Man of Steel and still call it a "gritty reboot" with a straight face.
Try making it through the alien-explosion-flying scene at the beginning of Man of Steel and still call it a “gritty reboot” with a straight face.

9.  The Great Gatsby

The success of The Great Gatsby demands a sequel, setting things up nicely for DiCaprio and Bale to make The Greater Gatsby in the next few years. Continue reading “The Top Ten Christian Bale Films of 2013”

What Ever Happened to Bruce Wayne?

Warning: Spoilers for all the Batman films, as well as a few Batman comics, abound in the following:

The most troubling element of the Dark Knight Trilogy (as it is now known) is that the entirety of Gotham City does not realize that Batman is Bruce Wayne.  Interestingly enough, a variety of characters figure it out throughout the film not because he tells them, but through deduction alone.

Consider that, by the end of the series, the following characters (approximately chronologically) know that Bruce Wayne and Batman are indeed the same person:

  • Ra’s Al Ghul
  • Alfred Pennyworth
  • Lucius Fox
  • Rachel Dawes
  • Coleman Reese (the accountant guy who tries to blackmail them)
  • John Blake
  • Selina Kyle
  • Bane
  • The entire League of Shadows
  • Commissioner James Gordon

These people fall into three categories: those who naturally know that Bruce is Batman because they watched him become Batman (i.e. Alfred, R’as, and Lucius), those who know he is Batman because he disclosed his identity (Rachel, Selina, and Gordon), and those who deduced it (Blake and Reese.)  Bane and the League of Shadows fall into the first category, as they know Bruce is Batman because he used to be one of them.

Continue reading “What Ever Happened to Bruce Wayne?”

Why Michael Bay is Right, and How Bale Can Save the Ninja Turtles

So the internet is having a complete meltdown because the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will no longer be teenage nor mutant.  They will be aliens, they will not be teenagers, and there will be no garbage-truck-radioactive-chemicals origin story.    Redditors have been panicking with each new development,  the guy who did the voice of Michelangelo in the first movie is also panicking about it, and someone even started the biggest waste-of-time petition in history.

Michael Bay has been spending all of his time reassuring everyone that they are being complete babies about this, but alas, I feel the problem is actually the oppostite of what the fans are saying.  The problem is that Michael Bay might not be rebooting the Ninja Turtles as much as necessary.  The series is tired and needs new life.  Rebootds are allowed to make major changes.  If James Bond could lose his gadgets and Q and Moneypenny for Casino Royale and if Star Trek could swap Spock with Kirk for Uhura’s love interest, then surely a few changes can be made in order to liven up the origins of the Ninja Turtles (especially considering their origins are heavily plagiaristic of those of another superhero.)  And the answer to how Bay can thoroughly reboot TMNT is simple: Christian Bale as Casey Jones.

Casey Jones, the ally of the Turtles. Not to be confused with the railroad engineer or Grateful Dead song.

The biggest problem with the original TMNT film trilogy is that there is no protagonist in any of the films.  The first film gives us a number of potential main characters to follow, each with their own depth and story arch.  Unfortunately, with a running time of 93 minutes, this cast of characters is not able to develop beyond “They learn a couple things about the value of family and friendship,” which is an important message but fails to connect with all the things going on at once. Continue reading “Why Michael Bay is Right, and How Bale Can Save the Ninja Turtles”

The Man of 2012, Part II: Bale vs. Tebow vs. Gosling

(Continued from The Man of 2012, Part I: Christian Bale vs. Ryan Gosling.)

There was another public figure who captured the attention of America in a way that few others did in 2011.  That man?  Denver Quarterback Timothy Tebow.   But unlike Gosling, Tebow has not been adorned with universal adoration.  He divides the country,  causing more polarization of the nation than LeBron James, Michael Vick, or Brett Favre.  One study said that 43% of Americans believe that God picks sides in football games and that he divinely intervened in order for Tebow to win his first NFL playoff game.  On the other hand, Deadspin published an article defending hatred of him entitled  “Why People Who Hate Tim Tebow Hate Tim Tebow.”  NPR used him as an example in an editorial on hatred, pointing out that no one dislikes him: they either love him or  hate him.

One can argue that Tebow likes the love, and loves the hate.  He basks in it.  Consider that Tim Tebow prays with his lips moving, so that there is no doubt that he is praying for all to see.  Consider that Tim Tebow dabbles in politics, automatically forcing anyone passionate about abortion to either side with him or against him.

Yep... this is one of the many things that is happening.

Regardless, everyone has an opinion on Tebow. Everyone from Chuck Klosterman to Jason Lewis to Rush Limbaugh to LeBron James to Reverend James Jones to everyone you have ever met.  Even Charles Barkley had made a point of saying that he doesn’t like Tebow.  I am apt to agree with Klosterman that the reason people hate him is a form of jealousy, that Tebow does not appear to be a hypocrite (unless the gay rumors are true.)  Unlike most public figures, from politicians to movie stars, Tebow appears to have no crack in his public image.  He has, as Klosterman says, “profound social intelligence.”  As most people point ultimately point out, whether reluctantly or excitedly, Tebow is, by all appearances, a nice person.

Continue reading “The Man of 2012, Part II: Bale vs. Tebow vs. Gosling”