Batman: Year One: Gritty Noir with an Amateur Vigilante

yearOneI had been looking for a copy of this since it came out in November, but I wouldn’t just deal with whatever version happened to be at the local Wal-Mart. I was rather peeved when they carried two versions of the DVD copy, but no Blu-ray. One version had the Catwoman short and the other one didn’t – and the only difference in price was $2-$3, a marketing decision I just don’t understand. I get having a Blu-ray and a DVD version, just not having two separate DVD versions.  I guess a couple of dollars makes a big difference in this tough economy though.

yearOne_comicLet me just start by saying that I’ve loved Batman: Year One for quite some time. I think I first read it back in the mid-nineties when I was in junior high and was eating up the Batman universe. Sure, I had been loving this universe for quite some time, but that was my peak-fandom era I would say. We would go through every summer and catalog our comics, making sure each had the proper type of bag and backer board if we could. Let me add though that reading this epic graphic novel is not a prerequisite to enjoy this film. They worked extra hard to get the look and feel just right, and the gritty glamour of Gotham City is on stage throughout the film.

This graphic novel was one of Batman’s best forays into film noir, in my opinion. As one of the commentators in the extra features explained, this story isn’t just about the beginning of Batman, but about Commissioner Gordon’s first steps in Gotham. It’s as much his origin story as the Caped Crusaders, and he feels like the underdog in his dogged fight against corruption within the very police force he’s been transferred into. The voiceovers are dark and succinct, perfect for a film noir piece. Frank Miller’s caustic ambivalence and hopelessness carries over quite well from comic to screen.

The camera shots and angles felt like they were pane-by-pane along with the comic – and they follow the action beautifully. There is no shaky-cam like what is seen on many modern films, or delayed shots that don’t quite keep up with the action. The audience can follow every step of the way as an amateur Batman struggles to survive in a city that’s been given orders to kill.

I’ve got to take a moment though to compliment this film on including one of my favorite scenes though. In the comics, there’s a shot with Jim Gordon and Detective Essen sitting in a diner late at night, which shares a striking resemblance to Hopper’s “Nighthawks”. They didn’t have to keep this shot in the film, but I absolutely love it that they did. It’s a testament to how much this film embodies the graphic novel. Here are a few shots from the comic followed by Hopper’s original “Nighthawks”, just to show the resemblance. Don’t you love how it’s even labeled Hopper?

batmanhopper01batmanhopper02hopper_nighthawks

The reason I love this so much is because Hopper’s paintings, and especially his “Nighthawks” piece, are known for their melancholic appeal. They’re known for solitary figures in areas that are usually busy and bustling, typically in city environments. Hopper’s paintings always epitomized to me the soul of Gotham, the loneliness, the desperate hope for a connection (as is the case with Gordon and Essen above), and in a way is the essential film noir accompaniment.*

Batman: Year One in short got all the parts right that I was hoping for, and then some. If you’ve never read the comic but love film noir, or just love a raw and vicious version of Batman, then I think you’ll love the film. This was the inspiration for the look and feel of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight after all, so that ought to be reason enough to go pick up a copy. Without this piece, Batman would never have been made so realistic and down-to-earth as he is in these films. Oh and did I mention it’s also on Netflix?

joker_killingJokeNow if only the DCAU creators would consider doing “The Long Halloween”, “Dark Victory”, or maybe some villain origin stories like “Scarecrow: Year One” – it would certainly make me a very happy Bat-fan. Come to think of it, seeing “Arkham Asylum” put to film would just be divine, if not downright creepy!


So what would you like to see the DCAU creators put to film next? Mark Hamill has said several times that he would come out of retirement to do “The Killing Joke”. I for one would add that to my movie shelf without hesitation!

* There’s some interesting critique for Hopper’s work that I referenced a while back. If you want to read a bit more about his style of work, I recommend checking it out.

Six Sentence Sunday – The Rickety Desk

A bit of a switch up for me this week, I decided to post a snippet of the Scarecrow fanfiction I’m working on at the moment. Sometimes inspiration to veer off into fanfic is the best way to let my mind mull over where to take the plot for my book next. And after beating Arkham City last week, my mind’s been been revolving around the fandom!

Setup: Locked in Arkham Asylum, Crane has been informed that his mother is visiting. Considering that the last time he saw her he tried to kill her, he’s not too thrilled that she’s been asked to visit. Here he’s mulling over the simple desk in his cell.

It had taken him four months of good behavior to earn the right to have it, and other than his books and magazines, it was his most prized possession in here. She wouldn’t notice anything special about it though. To her it would be a rickety, lopsided desk with graffiti carved in on all sides, a dilapidated thing that would only be fit for a trash heap were they outside of the asylum. She wouldn’t know all the time he spent smiling at dim-witted doctors, all the drugs he’d swallowed down willingly knowing full-well that the side effects would be worse than the cure, or all the boring daytime talk shows he’d been forced to watch in the recreation room. She would only see an ugly, unfinished desk that was too big for such a tiny cell, and too big for the scrawny man that sat at it.

Be sure to drop by Six Sentence Sunday to see what other juicy teasers have been posted!

In the distance I see the finish line

Well it’s not at all what I was expecting to be writing on, but when the muse strikes you certainly can’t shrug it off regardless of your best efforts. Most of my writing update today comes from two fanfiction pieces I started. Yes I know, shame on me! But when I’m this close to the end of NaNo I’ve all but given up on the event. If I do get my word count in time this year, trust me – I’ll be more surprised than anyone. 😉

If I don’t, I’m not really that upset. My wordcount for the entire year I think is pretty impressive. This is only the second year I’ve been writing on a regular basis like this and that I’ve participated in NaNo. I won Camp NaNo in July, so I’m just not too upset. Doing two NaNo’s in a single year is tough work I’ve discovered! Especially if you’re an easily distracted pantser like myself!

Expect much nerd-talk about Arkham City in the weeks to come as I start getting into the blogging groove again now that NaNo’s almost done. There is sooo much to talk about!

Project: The Secrets of Leekston (Working)
Deadline: End of 2011 (Preferably much sooner)
New words written: 126 *sadface* More stuff is in my journal written by hand, but I haven’t had time to transcribe it yet.
Present total word count: 52,230

Project: Black Friday
Deadline: End of December – fic exchange with a friend.
New words written: 1,298
Present total word count: 1,298
Synopsis: While setting up for the Black Friday rush, Crane runs into some well-known faces at an unexpected time. Great minds think alike?

Project: Crane’s Mom
Deadline: End of December, might toss this in for the fic exchange I’m doing – just for fun. 🙂
New words written: 1,134
Present total word count: 1,134
Synopsis: Crane thinks its just a regular day of therapy at Arkham Asylum again, even though his doctors know his true beginnings in Georgia. However when Dr. Bartholomew tells him that his mother will soon be visiting, Crane finds he can’t hide his rage.

Total Word Count for 2011: 137,158

An action-packed mystery and a Cillian Murphy update

Got quite a bit of writing in for NaNo today – yay! Still coming along slower than I’d like, but I did skip three days in a row there. And apparently that really hurts your word count. Hopefully I can keep this up until I can completely bridge the gap over the weekend! Also getting closer to my two storylines meeting, and I’ll admit I’m looking forward to it! It’ll be interesting to see how my two main characters react to each other, and you know you just can’t tell until you get there. 😉

By the way, I have a sneaking suspicion that Cillian Murphy might play a big role in The Dark Knight rises, but I’m just not sure. Rumors are going around like crazy online, but I won’t spoil you here. Let me just say that Cillian is one of my favorite actors right now, and if he’s on to be Scarecrow again, I’ll be going to the midnight showing of TDKR when it comes out. Either way, I’ll let you be the judge!

As far as my novel goes, some really devastating news was just delivered, and some precious journals were found. After that a strange piece of machinery was found as well – it connects to another world you say? And just when you’re starting to get curious, remember that werewolf mob I mentioned? Well they’re at the door, and they’re not happy to see you.

Project: The Secrets of Leekston (Working)
Deadline: End of 2011 (Preferably much sooner)
New words written: 3,327
Present total word count: 47,417
Total Word Count for 2011: 129,913