The Batman: This was a long awaited film, in the can much earlier in a pandemic that was delayed to get more of an audience. It was just released in Canada this past weekend. I went to see it in IMAX on Saturday night. It stars Robert Pattinson, from Twilight and Harry Potter fame from many years ago. This is a stand alone version of the Batman tale with no association to either Tim Burton’s from the 80s nor Christopher Nolan’s later on. For context, I didn’t like the Burton version of Batman with Michael Keaton, but I really enjoyed the Nolan trilogy with Christian Bale.
As advertised this is a very long movie, at almost 3 hours. It can feel that way in a number of places. Without any fanfare or back story to Bruce Wayne this story dives right into the crux of the tale; corruption in Gotham City at its highest levels. Batman is already out in the streets and we are introduced to some familiar names, like Jim Gordon and Alfred (Andy Serkis). That’s one of the challenges and benefits to the material in my mind. A challenge because although the audience is familiar with many of the names and places that are re-introduced, they arrive with pre-conceived ideas on who they are, what role that they play and the basis structure. In many ways the roboot is resetting the chessboard with known pieces and movement, but with a new set of players directing the pieces. The pieces can move in all sorts of different ways. The director and script writer tells a darker tale, with darker scenes and a lot of rain. It feels like you are back in LA for the first Blade Runner with bustling streets and almost constant rain and darkness. On the streets of Gotham, there is guy who is killing high ranking officials and also leaving a greeting card addressed to The Batman. We learn that this is The Riddler and he is looking to uncover the ugly underbelly within Gotham. This has some ties into Bruce Wayne and the Wayne family. We learn this over time as the evidence is undercovered and The Batman is assisting the police along the way. The unravels slowly. Too slowly for my liking.
There are things that happen, like in many superhero movies, that are incredulous. Riduculous. But one goes with it. There are some cool toys, like a Bond movie, with the Bat mobile and the motorcycles etc. These are cool. There are some good stunts, production design, make up and costumes. Time and care was taken. Pattinson was committed and convincing. For Batman fans, they of course will see it. For non-Batman fans, is this a movie they need to see, in the same way that The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger as the Joker is a movie that everyone should see? I don’t think so. There likely will be more, as there is money to be made. Batman as we have seen is a big money franchise, the biggest in the DC comic world. More to come.
Movie Etiquette: Attending the movies at the theatre with an almost full theatre is a new experience for most in two years. The pandemic has made most of us turn inwards and watch from the comfort of our living rooms. We can talk, pause, eat loudly, head to the bathroom and move around freely while at home. We can watch On Demand, when and how we want. In the theatre, the movie has a start time. We thankfully have an assigned seat. This is a blessing in that we KNOW that we have a seat and we don’t have to be in line for hours ahead of time with a new release and popular movie. The downside is that with this assigned seat, you treat that ability cavalierly; you show up late, you make sure that even while being late you insist on getting your snacks. You decide to congregate in the entrance way and then light up your phone to try and see where your seat is, and then disturb other viewers. Those who were on time, and in their seats are compromised. They might miss something early in the film because you have to move into your seat. It’s annoying. Some of the blame should be on the theatres. There is something to be said for the owner closing the doors after the trailers are done. They know how much time that is to the minute. Respect your on time patrons by turning away those who are really late until the next show. My showtime was 6:45PM. There were people arriving at past 7:00PM. Not acceptable on any front. Being late is just as annoying as being Tommy Texter or talking or eating loudly. When you are part of a movie watching community, then respect those community members and recognize that others are just as importsnt as you are.
West Side Story: Steven Spielberg has taken on directing the iconic 1961 musical. Rita Moreno is an Executive Producer. Moreno won the Oscar for Supporting Actress from her role as the brother’s girlfriend. In truth I have not seen the original, remarkably really when I think about it. I know a number of the songs like “America”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Tonight”. This is the first time in a very long time with Speilberg hasn’t worked with John WIlliams. The songs, the dancing, choreoegraphy for him would have been something new. Spielberg dedicated this movie to his Dad. In short, this story is a modern day telling of Romeo and Juliet. In fact, as someone who knows the Shakespeare play pretty well, I noted that there are scenes that mirror the original very closely. Ansel Elgort places Tony, and he is best known for Baby Driver and The Fault in Our Stars. Rachel Zegler, unknown to me, plays Maria as his Puerto Rican love interest. She was one of over 30,000 women to audition. She has a great voice, and is of Colombian, Polish, Italian & German descent. She is a foot shorter than Elgort. Moreno plays an older woman who owns a local drug store and she has taken Tony in to help him after a stint in prison. The basic premise is that two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, are fighting over territory that is being torn down by the City in NY. Lincoln Center will replace it, and displace a lot of Puerto Rican residents and local whites. They don’t get along. There is a rumble developing to end all hostilities. The story continues. Tony meets Maria unexpectedly at a party and they have instant chemistry. There are underlying themes about violence and vengeance. The sad realities which mean that property and people are divided along racial lines, and people are viewed and judged by the colour of their skin and their country of origin. Hatred runs deep. The relevant question is whether this version of the story is watchable and entertaining? It is. This makes me want to see the original and compare. I have heard without confirmation that there are differences. For me, I think that the ending was abrupt. Different than the original material in a way that I can’t entirely agree with. More to the point, I don’t think that it goes far enough in looking to show a different attitude of all those involved. Elgort sings himself, and owns the role. Many of the supporting performances are strong, including the brother’s girlfriend Ariana DeBose nominated in the Moreno role again. It is nominated for Best Picture and I don’t see it as a remake. Still, it is a good story, well told. I am glad that I watched it and can recommend.