What DC can learn from the masterpiece that is “Mask of the Phantasm”

batman phantasm dceu.jpgImage via Warner Bros

After finishing Stranger Things, I felt I was out of things to watch until television series start picking back up over the next couple of weeks.  So, I had the grand idea to re-watch Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the 1993 animated feature based off the animated series.  I hadn’t seen the film in its entirety since I was six or seven years old, picking up parts of it on television every now and then.  Having seen the film again, I concluded that not only it is a masterpiece, but that DC and Warner Bros can take some ideas and apply it to their upcoming films, especially those involving Batman.

***Spoilers for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ahead.***

Handling Batman’s One Bad Day

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One of the most understood criticism’s of Batman’s first appearance in the DCEU is that it gives us a third retelling of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  Granted, the death of Bruce’s parents are his single biggest motivator (a part of the character I felt was missing from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), but Mask of the Phantasm is able to show the emotional gravity Bruce still feels from their death in the perfect way.  He visits their grave, and often looks to their portrait for advice.  All of this, and we don’t see their murder in Crime Alley.  Mask of the Phantasm handles Bruce’s parent’s death in a way that DC should recreate.  No flashbacks, no back story, and no Martha from this point on, but we do know that it is still the driving force behind why Batman puts on the cowl (we might see another reason in the DCEU, which seems more likely to me honestly, which is the death of Robin, but I think they should still have references to the dead Waynes).

The Joker is pretty much perfect in this film

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Mark Hamill’s iteration of the Joker always seems to be perfect, but his characterization in this film stands above most of the character’s other outings.  The reason is simple: Mask of the Phantasm boils down the Joker to his core concept, and that is mayhem.  Joker has no agenda in this film. His goal, as always, is to get Batman.  But everything he does is perfect, using the Future of the City as his base of operations is classic Joker vs. Batman.  Everyone likes to think that Batman is the only one equipped to deal with things when they do not go his way; Joker proves that to be wrong, especially in this film.  Of course, rigging the place to blow is classic Joker, but it goes to show that he isn’t some laughing crazy person; he is a laughing crazy person with a plan, which is how the Joker should be characterized.

It Sets the bar for original storytelling in comic book adaptations

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You’re probably right that I should consider this more of a spin-off of a television series than a comic book adaptation, but I’m not going to let that bother me.  Mask of the Phantasm is a completely original story written specifically for the screen.  Even the character of Andrea Beaumont/Phantasm was created for this movie.  DC has shown us that a story doesn’t need to adhere to the comics or even draw inspiration from the comics to create good stories (see: Harley Quinn).  With The Batman rumored to be an original story written by Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns, they could take some cues from the writers of this film.  While I do not think there will be any original characters in the DCEU anytime soon, this story shows that a successful comic book adaptation needs no basis in comic books.

It shows the struggle between Batman and Bruce Wayne

batman mask of the phantasm dceuImage via Warner Bros

I already touched on this a little bit, but I will expand here.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice didn’t do it, most likely because the film was already overstuffed and Bruce Wayne’s life isn’t important to the plot of that movie.  Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy attempted to do it, but either there was not enough of it in The Dark Knight or too much moping in The Dark Knight Rises.  Mask of the Phantasm shows us a struggle that Batman has to go through- take up a normal life with Andrea, or keep the vow he made to his parents.  This helps to humanize Batman to audiences.  We kind of saw it with Superman already in the DCEU, so why not with Batman.  We do not need a lot of it, but enough for audiences to think that he isn’t just Batman, but also Bruce Wayne (which honestly I find unlikely, especially after the mid-credits scene in Suicide Squad).  

Well, those are my thoughts on Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.  It really sets the bar high for DC animated movies and superhero movies in general.

What are your thoughts on Mask of the Phantasm? Let me know in the comments!

Ok DC, it’s time for Nightwing

nightwing-buildingImage via DC Comics

With all of the buzz around Deathstroke in the past few days basically confirming his presence in the DCEU, fans around the world are overjoyed at the idea that the mercenary is finally coming to the big screen.  While I am as excited as anyone about the inclusion of Deathstroke in the DCEU, it is time for DC and Warner Bros. to include a character that has received no love in live action movies: Nightwing.

Yes Nightwing, and not Dick Grayson Robin.  There are reasons for this, which I will get into.  But seeing how DC has made no official plans regarding the character, it is time that we make them talk about it.

Dick Grayson is one of DC’s most iconic characters

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Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern…Robin, am I right? When discussing the most important and iconic DC characters, Dick Grayson is top 10 if not top five, easily.  He was the first Robin, the Boy Wonder.  After he outgrew the Robin mantle, he took up the persona of Nightwing.  Heck, he has even taken up the mantle of Batman.  Dick Grayson deserves a spot in the DCEU.  Plus, he is a fan favorite, having been included in nearly all Batman properties- we see Dick as Robin in Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go, as Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood, as well as his appearances in the Batman: Arkham video game series.  In all of those, he has gotten pretty decent treatment.  Speaking of which…

Dick’s last outing on the Silver Screen wasn’t too good

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Maybe “wasn’t too good” is mincing words.  Chris O’Donnell and Joel Schumacher brought the character to life in  Batman Forver  and Batman and Robin, which killed the franchise and almost comic book movies as we know them.  We know now that O’Donnell and the studio had plans for Nightwing, as shown by the costume change and a planned spin-off for the character.  But just as we got to see Deadpool have a shot at big-screen redemption, we need the same for Dick Grayson/ Nightwing.

Why not have Dick Grayson as Robin? Why Nightwing?   batman killing robin death

Image via Warner Bros

That is an excellent question.  As shown in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,we know there is a dead Robin somewhere in the DCEU, which was confirmed by Warner Bros to be Jason Todd.  Assuming the films are keeping somewhat the same timeline as the comic books, Jason Todd was the second Robin, and became the second Boy Wonder after Dick had grown too old to be Batman’s sidekick.  This point also leads to another plea to DC and Warner Bros: please include the Death in the Family and Under the Red Hood story lines in the DCEU somehow.  You’ve already teased us by showing us the dead Robin costume, as well as throwing the curveball of Harley being an accomplice in the murder.  David Ayer gave us part of this story, but to many fans, myself included, this doesn’t mean anything until we see it for real.

He’s got his own story lines, too

bludhaven nightwing DceuImage via Warner Bros

People tend to forget that after fighting side by side with the Dark Knight in Gotham, Dick took up his crime-fighting residency in Bludhaven, not that that is the only place where Nightwing has been in action.  But he isn’t just part of the Bat-family, and should be treated as such.  Plus, Bludhaven is another setting that would add to the DCEU.  With Gotham and Metropolis not going away anytime soon, a new city would be a welcome change of pace.  Introducing Nightwing in a more ensemble-focused DCEU film and then introducing Bludhaven after the introduction of Nightwing would be the way to go.

That pretty much wraps up the case that I have for Nightwing/Dick Grayson’s inclusion in the DCEU.  I hope you have found it compelling.

What do you think of Nightwing’s place in the DCEU?  Should there be other characters in the DCEU that haven’t been? Let me know in the comments!

Why Batman Killing is Important

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By now, you’ve probably seen the video that shows Batman killing 21 people in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, or, you noticed the level of aggression that Ben Affleck’s Batman had when you watched the film yourself.  Batman never kills, or so we are told.  But Batman killing this many people in Batman v Superman is not only important for the arc of the character, but it informs us of some things that we should expect in Justice League and future DC Extended Universe films featuring Batfleck.  Spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition are contained in this post.

This isn’t you grandfather’s Batman

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The DCEU offers us a more modern version of the classic DC characters that we all know and love.  The visual style shows a maturity that previous adaptations of the characters have not had- such as Superman’s new suit lacking underwear over it and toning down the color saturation on Wonder Woman’s costume.  Not only is the visual style more mature, but so are the characters themselves.  As you can see above, we’ve come along way from Adam West holding a bowling-ball-with-a-wick type bomb and running around panicking with it.  Two films in, and the threats in the DCEU are the biggest we’ve seen in any DC movie, and they’re only going to get bigger.  So what Batman never killed in the comics? This isn’t the comics, and Batman killing is the perfect way to tell audiences that it’s a different story being told on screen.

We may know what drove Batman to kill

batman killing robin deathImage via Warner Bros

Of course you remember the Robin costume with graffiti over it from inside the Batcave in Batman v Superman.   This has led to many theories of who Robin could have been, and after months of speculating, we know it is Jason Todd, who is deceased (some rumors and fan theories have suggested we may find out more about this through Jared Leto in Suicide Squad).  Perhaps the death of his trusted sidekick drove him over the edge.  We know that Affleck isn’t an idealized version of Batman who is going to do the right thing in every situation; he’s been around the block a few times, and he knows what’s up.  He is a more broken down, desperate Batman, which could lead to him killing.  Maybe all of those years of doing the ‘right thing’ and sparing the lives of Gotham’s worst only led to the death of Jason Todd, and Batman turns to killing, as he sees it is the only way to make change permanent in Gotham.

The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition shows us more of this grizzled Batman

clark kent batman superman deathImage via Warner Bros

Batman v Superman did a good job by mostly skipping Batman’s familiar backstory; what we could have used instead was a little bit more behind Batfleck, such as his motivations.  Luckily, the Ultimate Edition of the film gives us a little bit of insight into this.  While Clark is supposed to be investigating football in Gotham, he is at an apartment where he runs into some residents of Gotham, who tell him firsthand how brutal Batman has become, warning Clark to leave the city before dark.  It is clear that Batman is tired, which could be one of the reasons he kills.

Clearly, Batman has a lot on his mind, and he also kills.  It will definitely be interesting to see where this updated, darker, older, and more desperate version of Batman goes in the next few films.

What do you think of DC’s choice to have Batman be a killer in the DCEU? Let me know in the comments!

 

‘Arkham Asylum” movie idea

Batman_Arkham_Asylum_Television_CreditsImage via Warner Bros.

Note: this post contains spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition.

The most major addition to the ultimate cut of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the confrontation between Batman and Lex Luthor at the end.  Luthor tells Batman that he is insane, and cannot stand trial.  Batman informs him that he has arranged for his transfer to Arkham Asylum, where the most criminally insane supervillains are kept locked up.  Arkham Asylum of course is the location of Grant Morrison’s graphic novel of the same name, where Batman must go into the madhouse after the prisoners, led by the Joker, take control.

This is one of the all-time great Batman stories, and they wouldn’t send Lex Luthor there if they weren’t going to do something with him in a later movie.  This got me thinking: how could an Arkham Asylum film fit into the DC Extended Universe?

The best answer is to do it in the second Batman solo film. By then, many villians will have been established in the DCEU and sent to Arkham.  DC won’t have to think of new villains to use, because they can use ones from previous films, with Lex Luthor being the first.  I have a feeling that by the time a second Batman solo film is made, we will see an older, more tired, darker version of Batman, who then must go into the prison and sort things out.

This is where my idea for this film gets interesting.  Lex Luthor would obviously be in the titular looney bin, but what about the Joker? The fact that DC confirmed three Jokers really makes this interesting, especially because at one point in the graphic novel says that the Joker ‘invents himself everyday’.  While there is only one Joker in that story, having multiple Jokers in one film, or even throughout the DCEU is an interesting idea, which could add to Batman’s character arc (especially if a fan theory is true and Jared Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad is former Robin Jason Todd).  Willem Dafoe has not been confirmed in any role, but people are drawing a connection that he may be another one of the Jokers.  The Joker and Lex Luthor could run the show in Arkham- wouldn’t you rather see that than ‘Martha’?

Arkham Asylum is just as much about the villains as it is about Batman, which is why it is so interesting as a story.  It also shows that Batman and the villains operate on the same level.  Personally, I would love to see this on the big screen.  What is more iconic than the never-ending conflict between Batman and the Joker?

Anyways, everything I’ve said is pure speculation.  What do you think about possible seeing and Arkham movie in the DCEU? Tell me below in the comments!