How soon is now?

Culture in a 24 / 7 world

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  • Published: Nov 19th, 2012
  • Category: Culture
  • Comments: 7

Bond x Batman: The Greatest Movie Concept Ever

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I saw Skyfall this weekend and was a little disappointed. I won’t go into great detail, but it’s the usual criticisms – over the top stunts, pauses while the villain chomps the scenery (oh for Christ’s sake, James, just shoot him). Yes, that’s always been part of the James Bond franchise, but as the world has moved on, in some ways Bond hasn’t. Nevertheless, that’s not really the point of the movie worth talking about.

SPOILER ALERT - While I’m won’t be going into the main plot points of Skyfall, I do want to talk about elements of Bond’s backstory revealed in the movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to just bookmark this post and come back at a later time. - SPOILER ALERT

Right then, here we go.

The movie I saw this weekend featured:

  • An anti-hero…
  • Who is an orphan…
  • That grew up in a mansion…
  • That has a secret, underground cave…
  • Under the watchful eyes of a kindly caretaker…
  • Only to grow up to fight ridiculous, over the top villains…
  • By operating just outside the law…
  • Often using an alias or secret identity…
  • While wearing a custom-made suit, and…
  • Reporting to a boss who sends him on missions (and was in the Harry Potter films)…
  • Has a colleague who makes cool gadgets and weapons for him…
  • Gets entangled with beautiful, dangerous women…

So, yeah, I guess I saw a Batman movie this weekend.  No, I’m not the first to make this comparison. This Summer, when The Dark Knight Rises came out, The Economist said, in referring to the Batman character:

He was James Bond in a mask—a secret agent with a Q (Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox) to manufacture his gadgets, and an M (Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon) to send him on missions. (Meanwhile, in “The Quantum Of Solace”, Daniel Craig’s James Bond had become a brooding, brutal outsider who didn’t have time for jokes or women. He seemed to be turning into Batman.) 

More recently, the website Cinema Blend connected the dots as well, with a piece entitled, How Skyfall Proves That James Bond is the British Batman. 

But I’m going to take it a step farther. Rather than discuss the similarities between the two characters, let’s talk about what would possibly be the most anticipated movie of all time: A James Bond – Batman cross-over.  I’ll pause for a moment while you let that idea sink in.

Yeah.

So, before we start talking about plots and so forth, let’s just clear up some logistics. Bond is MGM and Batman is Warner Bros. But, a precedent was set with the 2nd Star Wars trilogy which was a Lucasfilm / Fox joint. Also worth noting, and something comic book heads will know – Batman had certainly done non-DC team ups before. One notable example being the Batman – Grendel books. And bringing unrelated fictional characters together has precedent as well: Aliens v. Predator (good example, poor execution) and the Wold Newton Universe show the way.

Whatever, we’ll let the legal boys solve those issues. Let’s get down to business. What would a Batman – Bond movie look like? I think the possibilities are myriad. The criminal empire of Ra’s al Ghul be investigate by James Bond. You could certainly imagine Bruce Wayne and James Bond being at a high society gathering anywhere in the world. Surely Lucius Fox and Q run in the same Black Ops covert war circles. Bringing the two together would be easy.

How would two “lone wolf” operators work together? Tough to say, but one can envision the two would have admiration and respect for each other, even if in the beginning Bond viewed Batman as a potential threat or enemy. They would surely have much to talk about on a personal level, with similar childhood experiences. Get some talented writers and an A list director, and I think this could be fantastic.

But more importantly, I think both franchises need, not a reboot, but an injection of something really disruptive. Nolan ended his Batman trilogy in a place that is prime for a departure, not a revisiting. And the Daniel Craig Bond, which had a ton of promise (and delivered) with Casino Royale, seems to be simultaneously sliding backward and digging for deeper understanding of the Bond character.

 

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  • Published: Jul 25th, 2008
  • Category: Archives
  • Comments: 6

Batman, James Bond and Superman: The Need for Brand Reinvention

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The graphic novel that shook up the Batman franchise in the 80s.

With the successful opening weekend of The Dark Knight, the Batman franchise has returned with both popular and critical acclaim.  Perhaps the memories of the final Joel Schumacher-helmed, George Clooney-starring Batman & Robin can now be safely tucked away. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for The Batman to be sure. An iconic comic book that became a campy TV show, only to be resurrected in the mid-80s by Frank Miller and his seminal Dark Knight graphic novel. Yes, let’s remember that it was Frank Miller’s genius that set the stage for the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson movie.  But Batman soon found himself the object of scorn once again as the movies became charicatures.

Now Batman seems to have returned to its darker side, a more serious, more violent persona. This character/franchise arc reminds me of another iconic hero – James Bond.

Bond started out as a truly unique character that defined a genre, and an era. But as the Roger Moore-Bond faded into the sunset the franchise seemed done. It bounced back with Pierce Brosnan, only to once again lose its way as the gadget and stunts overwhelmed what had always been the real source of the Bond franchise’s strength – the villains (and sidekicks). Blofeld, Jaws, Odd Job, Pussy Galore, Goldfinger. All more memorable than Timothy Dalton’s Bond (or George Lazenby’s for that matter).

But once again Bond is back thanks to Daniel Craig and a return to a grittier, more violent Bond.

Which brings us to Superman. Every bit as iconic as Batman and Bond, if not more so. For many (most?) people in the world, if they were asked to name one superhero, it would be Superman. The Christopher Reeve-Superman reintroduced the character (much like the Keaton-Batman) but it too devolved into camp and parody (Richard Pryor?), again much like the Batman movies of the 80s/90s and the Bond films of the late-90s/early 00s.

But here’s where Batman and Bond made a critical choice. Those franchises were reimagined to be grittier, more real and more authentic feeling. Perhaps it is because these two characters are human and could therefore return ‘to their roots.’ The change was dramatic. When you see the Dark Knight or Casino Royale you realize you are seeing something clearly different from what you had seen before.  With Superman Returns the change wasn’t great enough. It wasn’t that it was a bad movie, but you don’t hear anyone talking about the Superman movie franchise. What could they have done? Well, it wouldn’t work now because of Hancock, but what about making Will Smith Superman? Here’s a guy who is box office gold internationally and could have completely re-invented the character. That would have been a really bold move and totally broken away from all the baggage of the Superman character.

Another example: Star Wars.  The three prequels made money, but in many ways hurt the creative integrity of the franchise.  I’m very interested to see how the animated Clone Wars movie will be received. This is a dramatic change and clearly a departure from the previous theatrical efforts.  Grant McCracken posted today about the X-Files movie (yet another example of a franchise with a challenge). He sees the history of the X-Files as a burden that has stultified the creativity and freshness of the franchise.  I agree with him and would have like to have seen a dramatic change for the new movie.

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