I am pleased to introduce this blog's official advisor on all things relating to comics. He is a fully accredited comic book historian, theorist, and artist. He goes by the name of Clarks Bent. Most four-year-old children can barely hold a crayon, let alone use it. They usually end up with more crayon in their mouth than they ever do on their paper. By the age of five, Mr. Bent was drawing impeccable, fully detailed comic book superheroes on the wall... in permanent ink.
He could see past the standard linear lines that confine most artists and instead draw from angles rarely used or seen in comics. While most teenagers his age were spending their free time sleeping in, taking naps, watching TV, and playing video games, Clarks was busy reading whatever comic book he could get his hands on, analyzing it, and drawing it. He has always had a natural ability to dissect and actually critique comic book and graphic novels in a way that was way beyond his years. From as early on as I can remember he was incessantly hounding me to read key, influential, classic graphic novels like Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, and many others way before they were ever creating buzz. He is now in his early 30's and along with being a charter school principle he has recently received his masters degree and is currently working on a revised version of Superman Returns.
At the risk of being an immense inconvenience on his precious time I have asked for his cooperation on analyzing and reviewing a few fan films and he has graciously accepted. Over the next few weeks we will be evaluating a handful of quality made fan films, starting this week with the recently released Batman: City of Scars. Here is his official review:
- BATMAN: CITY OF SCARS (2010)
Let me preface this movie review by saying that if you have a low-budget movie, which all fan films are, it is almost impossible to do anything but a drama or a comedy. Since Batman is not comedy material it has to be a drama. For the movie to be a good drama, the actor, the director, and screen writers need to deeply understand the nature of the characters and who they are. This film missed the mark on all of the major characters in the film.
The movie begins with Joker’s escape from Arkham Asylum, and as usual, the death or hospitalization of one of the nurses. Batman is generally well played, (exempting the scenes as Bruce Wayne). He has the physique of Batman and the costume is well done. His voice is a match, almost Kevin Conroy-esque. The fighting scenes are well done considering the obvious low budget. However, City of Scars suffers from too much flatulent narration from Batman: “The City is lucky I have never crossed that line because if I did I would take all of Gotham with me.” Are you kidding me? I would take all of Gotham with me? Wow, when did Batman become a narcissistic moron? If he would have just shut his mouth he would have turned in a notable performance.
Batman is the type of person who sits there and carefully observes his surroundings and the people around him. When he decides to speak, what he says is important. He would even never think, let alone say, the mindless garbage he was saying in the movie. He says what he wants to say in a few words as mathematically possible, he does not drone on and on about what he is thinking.
The great Knucklepop himself suggested that maybe they were trying to emulate the thought bubbles in the comics. My response: there are some things that simply don’t translate into film, and thought bubbles are at the top of that list. They either have to narrate, which is difficult to pull off in a comic book movie, (is there any good comic movie that narrates?), or they have to include it into dialogue. Dialogue is the best way for a comic movie.
The Joker, on the other hand, turns in a performance that cannot and will never be forgotten, it is that bad. There is a scene early in the movie, which is presumably meant to define the Joker’s character, that is nearly unwatchable. The Joker is in front of a mirror mumbling to himself as he loads his gun. The creators of this disaster simply do not understand the nature of the Joker’s character. The Joker is a cold-blooded psychotic killer, who only dresses like a clown. He is not a clown, nor is he the jackass the actor played him as.
The Joker wants to destroy any semblance of established order. If you will allow me to tell a little story from my own life to emphasize my point: When my parents were going through a divorce I was an angry little boy and I wanted to lash out at the world around me. I had an art teacher that I did not particularly care for. I decided to make her a B*tch of the year award certificate. I snuck over, and stealthily posted it on her door where all of her students could see. It was on her door for three quarters of the day before someone took it off. It was a huge hit, everyone was talking about it. The teacher saw it and totally lost it in front of the class. She threatened to destroy the person who did it. She started accusing the usual suspects, (most of who were jerks anyways), as they were the ones who were most likely to do it. They profusely denied any involvement, but they began trying to figure out who would have to brass balls large enough to do something like that. It was the greatest thing they had ever seen. Who could have pulled this off?
While all this was going on I sat back and watched. I watched as the teacher frantically accused people of my villanry, I watched as she flinched every time someone knocked on her door, I watched as the “Stoners” squirmed under the heat of her accusations, I watched as they tried to figure out who is was, I watched as the teacher lost all credibility with the class and the class came apart. All I could do was watch and smile. Four years later my sister couldn’t figure out why her art teacher hated her so bad. “Sorry Sis.”
I did not give her a certificate because I wanted the credit for such cunning, but I did it because I wanted to create anarchy. I wanted to watch everything fall apart and smile as the world fell down around me. That is how the Joker views his world. He doesn’t want credit, he just wants to watch the world burn, and as your neighborhood pyro can tell you, that is why he laughs.
To see the “Clown Prince of Crime” reduced to mere comic relief made me sick. That being said, his costume and makeup were well done. He looked like the Joker in the Alex Ross art. His laugh was right on the mark. However, his dialogue was so overplayed, that it ruined his whole character. In the end, he suffers more from severe overacting and ignorance of the Joker’s nature than the fatal bullet wound delivered during the movie’s climax.
On a large scale, the movie was tolerable. It attempts to reach Batman dramatically by forcing him to relive his childhood but it is just that: forced. The dialogue and narration are detrimental to the movie as a whole and makes the movie nearly unwatchable. The movie does have some good scenes involving minor villains like Scarface and Victor Zsasz, who both turn in a very good performance. The Scarface dummy was really well done, both the doll and voice acting.
I give this movie a C-. It reminds me of one of my students who was asked to do a paper on Jefferson Davis and turned it in without including anything about his being President of the Confederate States of America. - Clarks Bent