Connect with us

Movies News

Why Superhero Films Should Embrace ‘Batman: Gotham Knight’s Anthology Format

Published

on

Why Superhero Films Should Embrace ‘Batman: Gotham Knight’s Anthology Format

2008 was a good time to be a Batman fan. July saw the release of The Dark Knight, popularly considered one of the best superhero films ever made. Its gritty and realistic tone laid the groundwork for the next decade of Hollywood, and cemented Christopher Nolan as one of his generation’s defining filmmakers. Fourteen years on, its influence shows no sign of disappearing, but just ten days before its release in the United States, another film featuring the titular Dark Knight quietly released on DVD. The film was Batman: Gotham Knight, an animated anthology consisting of six different stories told by six different directors, all of whom are prominent names in the world of Japanese animation. It was an intriguing prospect, and the idea of a simpler take on such a popular character that departed from the grandness that was steadily becoming the norm for comic book films was a refreshing one. Not surprisingly its bigger brother hogged all the limelight, leaving Gotham Knight as a curious footnote for those interested in the animated adventures of their favorite Caped Crusader, but the film deserves better. Its anthology format affords the film a unique perspective on an overdone genre, and the short length of its stories allows for some of the most creative Batman tales in years. More superheroes should embrace the anthology treatment, and Gotham Knight is the perfect example why.

RELATED: Christian Bale Is Open To Returning To Batman If Christopher Nolan Gives Him The Bat-Signal

Advertisement

One of the greatest strengths of an anthology film is the freedom it affords a writer. Rather than having to stretch out an idea to a minimum of ninety minutes that fits neatly into a three-act structure, writers are free to concentrate on the core tenets of their story without having to worry about filler. Much like a short story, writers often eschew the first act entirely in favor of getting right to the heart of the narrative, a structure that is perfectly suited for quick consumption. It’s a format that harkens back to the comic book origins of these characters where writers had to operate under a strict page limit, and the result was a series of wildly inventive stories that served as fun explorations of their protagonists and their respective universes. It’s a concept akin to the monster-of-the-week format of shows like The X-Files and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and in an age where long-form storytelling is increasingly becoming the norm across all mediums, they serve as two of the best reminders that shorter, more standalone narratives are an equally rewarding form of storytelling.


It’s in this area where Gotham Knight excels. Each of its stories builds out from a strong central idea that, while they would have crumbled under their own fragile weight in a feature-length production, have more than enough strength to sustain a ten to fifteen-minute short. For example, the opening segment called Have I Got a Story for You depicts four teenagers who have all had an encounter with Batman that day, each of whom perceives him differently. One of them sees him as a living shadow who can disappear and reappear at will, while another sees his apparent invincibility as proof that he’s a robot. Its themes of perspective and false memory reveals an obvious debt to Rashomon, but also serves as a compelling exploration of how the citizens of Gotham perceive the masked vigilante that has taken upon itself to become their protectors. The sequence clocks in at just over twelve minutes, the perfect length for it to establish its concept, explore it in sufficient depth, and then provide a satisfying conclusion, all the while telling a story unique to Batman’s silver screen iterations. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it doesn’t have to be, and its twist on the usual formula makes it an essential watch for any Batman fan.


This concept applies to all of the remaining shorts. Crossfire, for example, embraces the gritter side of the franchise by placing the focus on two members of James Gordon’s Major Crimes Unit as they unwittingly get drawn into a conflict between two rival gangs. Working Through Pain jumps into Batman’s past as he reflects on when he was volunteering with a relief effort, leading to an encounter with a mysterious woman who teaches him a valuable lesson about managing pain. Deadshot, meanwhile, is a more traditional Batman story, pitting the World’s Greatest Detective against the World’s Deadliest Assassin in an action-packed sequence that serves as the film’s grand finale. Adding to their distinctiveness are the unique visual styles of each short, courtesy of four of Japan’s largest animation studios. It gives each short a clear identity that perfectly complements the mood of each story, but without ever being so radically different from its companion pieces as to become distracting. None of these stories would sustain a longer running time without a large number of additions being required (a change that would only negate the elegance and simplicity of the original idea), but in their current form they make for fascinating little exertions into the crime drenched world of Gotham City, providing a snapshot view of its populace and the various exploits they get into that a broader approach would not have allowed for.


Advertisement

But if the anthology format lends itself to superheroes so well, why are there so few films that take advantage of it? The answer comes down to quality. Anthologies are notoriously hit and miss, and with a new creative team taking over each story, it’s almost impossible to maintain a level of quality throughout. Take Black Mirror, for example. The show may have episodes like “San Junipero” that have become staples of the greatest television episodes of the 2010s lists, but it also has plenty of episodes destined to be forgotten as soon as the end credits start rolling. Black Mirror does better than most in this regard, as it at least has the consistent throughline of Charlie Brooker writing or co-writing most episodes, with most lacking an equivalent piece of connective tissue. It’s an issue anthology films have had to deal with from the days of Heavy Metal all the way to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and the difficulties with avoiding this issue while still ensuring each story is given the creative freedom it deserves means it’s often easier to just focus on telling one story well rather than multiple inconsistently.


This is another issue that Gotham Knight avoids. Rather than having each story being totally disconnected from everything around it, the film instead frames each story as taking place within the same short timeframe, with plotlines from one continuing in another. These connections are relatively minor, such as the Man in Black who was causing havoc in Have I Got a Story for You being the same Man in Black the police are transporting to Arkham Asylum in Crossfire, but they help give the film a sense of cohesion while still maintaining the strengths of the format. It gives a reason why these particular Batman shorts have been compiled together rather than any other arrangement of shorts that DC has produced over the decades, and gives Gotham Knight that rare honor of working in both an episodic and feature-length structure.

Despite its rarity, other superhero properties have attempted the anthology format, but with a more mixed result. The animated film Green Lantern: Emerald Knights tried to do the same for Hal Jordon, and the recent What If…? series on Disney+ has reinterpreted various moments from throughout the MCU’s history in a series of self-contained episodes. Unfortunately, neither matches the success of Gotham Knight. The decision for Emerald Knights to use the same group of directors for all six stories (all using a singular art style) causes them to blur together in a way that entirely misses the point of an anthology film, an issue the distinctiveness of its Batman counterpart masterfully avoided, while What If…? only half embraces the anthology format by ultimately tying many of its stories together in the season one finale. It also suffers from connecting itself so closely to the larger MCU, meaning it never feels like its own complete work rather than a side quest to the main adventure.


Advertisement

It’s here where some would argue that Gotham Knight suffers from this problem too, but this is an egregious allegation. The film does claim to be a part of the Christopher Nolan trilogy (taking place between Batman Begins and its sequel), but the connections are tenuous at best. The most obvious one comes in the fourth story In Darkness Dwells, which sees Batman investigating a riot at a cathedral that has all the signs of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin behind it (a character still at large following the events of Batman Begins). The segment was written by David S. Goyer who also worked as a writer on all three Nolan films, but as is to be expected in a straight-to-DVD film, nothing that occurs in this sequence has any repercussions in the subsequent film. Nolan himself had no involvement in the project, as did none of his cast, making it easy to watch Gotham Knight and never even realize it has a link to his films. Compare this to What If…?, which happy drags up most cast members who have made even a passing appearance in the MCU while also tying all of its episodes around a pivotal moment from one of its films. It makes for an enjoyable watch, no doubt about it, but it never feels like it’s exploring the anthology format as best as it could.


Gotham Knight is unlikely to join the ranks of The Caped Crusader’s greatest films, but it doesn’t have to, and nor does it feel like its creators are aiming for that anyway. Instead Gotham Knight acts as a celebration of its titular character, exploring each corner of his world in a film that’s constantly reinventing itself. It’s a brilliant reminder that not everything involving our favorite comic book heroes has to be epic in scope, while also allowing writers to provide fresh twists on an established formula that can be all killer, no filler. Of the seemingly endless number of animated films to feature Batman, Gotham Knight remains one of the most exciting, and more superhero films should be willing to follow its formula.

Movies News

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Published

on

By

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

Advertisement

The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

Advertisement

Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies News

Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

Published

on

By

According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

Advertisement

To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

Continue Reading

Movies News

Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

Published

on

By

Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

Advertisement

Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

Continue Reading

Trending