Segarini vs Batman v Superman Part Two: The Nolaning
If you haven’t read Part One of this overlong, rambling screed, may I suggest it would behoove you to read it before you dive into Part Two. Otherwise, you may become confused and accidentally watch an episode of Vinyl or Empire.
You can find Part One HERE…and yes…’behoove’ is a real word. Honestly. It is. Google it.
I didn’t walk out of Se7en, although I was tempted many times. Five times to be exact. Once for each time Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman’s characters arrived at the scene of a vicious, messy, tragic, murder. At least, the pictures of the murders that had run in Premiere Magazines spread on the film showed them to be truly epic in nature, so epic in fact, they were the reason for my ass being in a seat in the theatre, my pants and shirt covered in popcorn that missed my mouth, and a big mustard/relish stain on my shirt where the hot dogs marked their territory in the dark. My small coke (not yet diet) remained upright and safe on the floor just under my chair and out of harm’s way.
Why, you ask, was I tempted to storm up the aisle and leave this movie palace five times?
…because whoever lit the scenes made it impossible to see anything.
By murder number three, I was shouting “For the love of God, someone turn on a fucking light!” at the top of my lungs (and yes, I am very passionate about my entertainments). By the time the credits rolled, I wished I had stayed home and pulled the goalie.
Two hours of my life gone, all in the service of seeking out a Hollywood happy ending and escaping the harsh realities of life’s random heartaches, disappointments, and tragic turns of events. To sit in the dark with others and see the perpetrator(s) of evil and suffering receive just and fitting punishment…an oh-so-human trait we all share (or at least, used to), to see good prevail over evil, to see life played out in fiction the way we would like to see life work, but rarely does…to be offered a small victory, even if it is only imaginary.
Later, I realized this director had also eviscerated the ‘Alien’ franchise when he directed Alien 3. After two great entries in the series, by Ridley Scott and James Cameron, he destroyed the third film (and the franchise) before it was barely 2 minutes old.
Instead of building on the story Cameron had set up in ‘Aliens’, he killed off two of the three survivors of that film, including the 10 year old girl the Cameron movie had revolved around…
…and then rolled out the dullest, darkest, saddest, possible film imaginable, ending with the death of the main character, Ripley.
After mulling this over, I realized that there was a shift in our nature, a resolve to embrace the worst possible scenarios, to watch bad things happen to good people and think to ourselves, “Wow! That was AWESOME!…I am so glad that didn’t happen to me”, brush the popcorn off of our laps, and go home to our real lives, diminished further by one more tiny step toward apathy in the face of horror, numbness instead of outrage, and acceptance of the futility of giving a shit about anything. Now, over 20 years later, we no longer just don’t give a shit, now…now, we don’t give a fuck.
…and we’re so proud of that, we brag about it in social media.
Like it’s a good thing.
How close are we to wanting to watch people get on a rollercoaster that has had its track removed just a few feet after the last corkscrew turn high above the Amusement Park’s asphalt floor?
It wasn’t just the shitty lighting in Se7en that bothered me, it was the end of the film. Where I expected (and wanted) the bad person to be caught and punished for his horrible deeds. Instead, I got the severed head of the lovely, timid wife of Pitt’s character in a box, her pregnancy terminated by her murder, and the end of Pitt’s character’s sanity and career, and the fulfillment of the serial killer’s plan…
…and The director, David Fincher, fought for this ending, demanded this ending for it’s “gritty, dark” realism…and he got it, and it was very popular.
That it was so popular
Because so many people liked it.
I did not…
…because I gave a fuck.
I kicked over my up-until-then safe-on-the-floor-under-my-seat Coke when I walked away.
I wonder if there are people who masturbate watching the Final Destination movies….
Batman v Superman: The Prelude
As much as I dislike the contributions to the popularity of dystopian futures, apocalyptic visions, death as an advancement of plot, the convoluted interjection of dark, gritty ‘realism’ and the pretentiously intellectualized over-analysis of stories, and the heroes of my youth. by Tarentino, Fincher, George Miller, and others…none of them up my dander more than the movie world’s equivalent of Pink Floyd, U2, and John Coltrane, that happy go lucky, washed-out colour, blaring soundtrack hipster, Christopher Nolan.
Surely you were enthralled by his Momento, a film similar to, and as engrossing as a Rubik’s Cube, Insomnia, a dead-end police procedural, Inception, a dream within a dream within a concept better suited to Psychology Today than it is to a movie theatre, and Interstellar, a film embraced by the scientific community for it’s ‘real science’, theoretical concepts, and ideas so real and scientific that actual scientists have written actual papers about it, where time is a library inside of a black hole. You can’t get more sciene-y or real-y than that…can you?
If you are one of the millions who were swept away by these movies, then, yes, you are part of the mainstream audience who have chosen to be entertained by the futility of our lives, the harsh reality from which most popular films no longer offer safe harbour, and the mindset that allows you to welcome the apocalypse, totalitarianism, oppressive, self-serving governments and corporations, and the inevitability of Kims, Kanyes, and psychopaths who run for President, carry guns with them everywhere they go, and create popular music so mindless, that one man in the Netherlands can write all of it.
That may be the longest run-on sentence I have ever written.
The mainstream has embraced the joy and inevitability of the worst case scenario being the most entertaining form of entertainment since Steve Gutenberg and rectal thermometers.
Of all of the celluloid incarnations of the Caped Crusader, Nolan’s take is the saddest one. Even in the two ’40s serials, with the clumsy 4-F actors playing the Not-so-Dark Knight tripping over his cape and ripping his tights, the Batman could down the bad guys with a haymaker or two, save the day, and banish the criminals. In the dorky TV series from the ’60s, Bats could solve a puzzle, break out of a death trap, kick ass, save the day, and put the bad guys in jail, and do it in under 26 minutes, but it was soooo campy and soooo popular, it even bled over to the comic books. Ick.
Tim Burton’s Batman was believable both as Bats and Bruce, carried a seriousness that indicated he was always thinking, and could also kick ass and save the day…plus say, “I’m Batman” so cool, that we still expect to hear it even now, and say it ourselves when we feel like it. Michael Keaton owned it in this first film.
Schumacher’s Batman was a Birdcage dream, an homage to the homo-erotic fantasies of Frederick Wertham, and a latex fantasy so fey and silly, that he insulted straights and gays alike, nudging Batman and Robin closer to a My Little Pony explosion of colour and sparkles than the Twilight series. Schumacher killed the Batman franchise with a Pink knife to the back, and a mishandling of everyone from George Clooney and Tommy Lee Jones, to Jim Carrey and Arnold What’s-his-Negger.
It took a half a dozen failed attempts to jumpstart the Bat Cash Cow again, but none bore fruit until Christopher Nolan signed on to do what he does…bring dark, and grit, and ‘realism’ to a comic book character who is a billionaire playboy and spends his evenings running around dressed like a bat who has mad fighting skills, the analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes, and a never-ending supply of gadgets that always happen to be handy when their specific qualities are needed. Oh yeah Chris…this is just BEGGING to be realistic and dark and gritty JUST LIKE real life…
…where a ‘Batman’ would get gunned down the first night he left the house dressed like a deranged vampire looking for blood or meth.
For all those Angry 12 Year Old Boys.
Like Batman, Supes also has a long history in the movie world, and an iconic television series to boot, not to mention a wonderful, fun-filled back story that managed to run 10 years on the tube and gave us a classic good guy/moral/honest character and the reasons he became the Superman people my age and younger grew up with.
The Big Blue Boy Scout.
The ultimate hero of so many for over 75 years, and for good reason…we have always needed heroes.
I loved the Fleischer Brothers cartoon series from the ’40s, the television series from the ’50s, and of course, all the Golden Age and Silver Age adventures in the comics. They were colourful, entertaining, and ran the gamut from heart warming human interest stories, to exciting, epic, world threatening high concept challenges that even Superman had trouble with. They also could be so silly, that you would shake your head after reading, say a Mr. Mxyztplk story (who could be a real threat to Superman, because magic is the only other thing besides Kryptonite that can seriously fuck him up) or anything that even mentioned Beppo the Super Monkey. And as silly as some of the characters could be, they were part of an honest to goodness ‘Superman Family, and we loved them all.
When Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman hit the screen, I was initially as impressed as everyone else, but as the film unspooled in front of me, and the belief that, yes…I DO believe a man can fly, began to lose its initial WOW! factor, a bunch of things ate away at my enjoyment of the film. By the time I got to the subway, I was over my love affair.
It was mostly the portrayal of Clark as a spineless coward and overreacting milqetoast played so broadly, that Paul Lynde or Rip Taylor could have played him and brought more testosterone to the character. George Reeves had Clark down pat on the TV series…but I don’t think Donner or Richard Lester paid much attention to it.
Then there was Lex Luthor obsessed with real estate and scenery chewing, henchmen with the collective I.Q. of a footstool, and an annoying Lois Lane who seemed dizzy and shallow from the first time she sees Supes in action. All four films in this series deteriorated further with the release of each one, until all that was left was a vague memory of what a genuinely nice person Christopher Reeve was…and how ironically tragic, the rest of his life turned out to be.
After the success of Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005, Warner Brothers took one look at the old bank account and rushed out the first new Superman movie in 8 years, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns.
Fresh from abandoning Fox’s X-Men after the second film in the trilogy, and Fox handing the reins to Brett Ratner, (who thanked Fox for the job by making the third film in the X-Men franchise a turd sandwich), Singer got hired to re-imagine Superman, and dove straight into getting the character all wrong for Warner Brothers at no extra charge. Once again, we get a scenery chewing Lex Luthor whose only interest is real estate and getting rid of Superman, a Lois Lane who has moved on because, well, this Superman has been gone for years visiting Krypton…a planet that someone should have reminded the screenwriters, no longer existed, and comes back all shoe-gazing Emo-man, stalking Lois, and hang-dogging through his life like a kid who didn’t pass the American Idol audition. ..and yes…it was as exciting as I just made it sound.
Meanwhile, Nolan’s Batman continues to crush it with two more films, including one with a psychotic take on the Joker so beautifully performed by Heath Ledger, that Christian Bale, the World’s Dullest Bat Suit Wearing Shlub, might as well have not been in the movie.
The writers and direction continued to sap the Batman character of everything that had made him an iconic figure for 75 years.
But damn, was he making money…
It had been right under their noses the whole time.
“Let’s make Superman dark, edgy, gritty, and realistic!” said Warner Brothers, gleefully rubbing their hands together and cackling like schoolgirls, “We’ll be soooooo rich!”
As soon as Shuster and Siegal stop spinning and Stan Lee stops laughing, I’ll get back to you.
NEXT! ON MONDAY!
A quick visit with Man of Steel
Batman v Superman: The Review!
Thrills! Chills! Surprises! Other Stuff! and MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!
DON’T MISS IT!
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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.