Author Archives: Sourcerer

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, a LitFlix

I’ve been less than impressed with Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Hobbit. That’s why I have written so little about them. I didn’t even see the first movie on the big screen because I had a bad feeling about it.istari

Turns out, I was right. Jackson lost me  early in An Unexpected Journey with his buffonish characterization of Radagast the Brown. He unsuspended my disblief with that unfortunate bit of scripting and never truly regained it. I mean, come on. I’m generous with creative license where film adaptations of books are concerned, but there is no possible world in which one of these guys can be a buffoon.

That said, an invitation to write a LitFlix on the third film for CompGeeks was just too good to pass up. I got myself to the theater on Tuesday and gave it a watch. Then I re-read the last four chapters of The Hobbit on Wednesday night while I awaited the arrival of a certain jolly old elf.

The Battle of the Five Armies is an awesome fantasy action movie. It was more than worth the ticket price – and the two and half hours I spent watching – on the strength of the fight choreography alone. The production is beautiful. It will suck you right into Jackson’s version of Middle Earth. I applaud the artistry, but the adaptation could be better. Do allow me to explain. (That’s the fun part, right?)

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The Dark Knight v. The Man of Steel: The Dark Knight Returns, part 2

As I read Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Clark Kent and Batman are not DKR crimealleylandingexactly friends. They are more like veterans of the same unit who maintain cordial relations. Kent is barely present at all in the first two books, but he definitely looms in the background. We know almost from the beginning that a collision between the two must be inevitable. Kent is the last active superhero. He takes orders directly from the President; and we all know how Batman responds to authorities who try to shut him down.

I’m referring to Superman as Clark Kent throughout this post because I don’t think the name “Superman” appears anywhere in this novel. There’s a suggestion in book three that the word has been censored from the media and just using it is an FCC violation. Miller depicts Superman as a role and Clark Kent at the real identity rather than the disguise. Even the soldiers who work directly with Kent during operations refer to him by his last name. That’s an interesting piece of characterization, because Batman/Bruce Wayne is drawn from the opposite angle. Once he goes back into action, it’s clear that Batman is the true identity, not Wayne.

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Batman, retired? Are you kidding me? Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Part 1 of 2.

I’ve wanted to write about the Clark Kent-Bruce Wayne relationship in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns since before I ever started blogging. Miller published his 1986 tale of Gotham-under-siege by criminals with no superheroes to save it  as a four-book miniseries in 1986. The trade paperback went 80s-viral in 1987.DKR  cover

There are tons of themes to pick at in The Dark Knight Returns. There’s a critique of big media. There’s criticism of the 60’s counterculture deciding that the struggle was over and settling for comfort when they should have never abandoned the streets. There is much questioning of government authority. There’s the fact that finally, after all these years, Robin gets to be played by an actual girl and grows into a perfect Robin by the end of the story. There’s the twisted Joker-Batman relationship on full display with very little ambiguity about just how co-dependent they are.

For my money, though, the relationship between Wayne and Kent is the most important theme. Early on we learn the U.S. government suppressed all the D.C. Ronald_Reagan_DarkKnightsuperheroes a decade before the story opens. The Dark Knight Returns reads like a futuristic dystopian novel, but the setting is contemporary to the late 80s. The Cold War is on and the President is clearly Ronald Reagan, even though he’s not named as such.

Wonder Woman has returned to her island, Green Lantern has left the planet, and Green Arrow has been “persuaded” to retire. Superman has become a covert agent of the United States. Batman has simply disappeared. The tension between the latter two drives the story. The Man of Steel has allowed himself to be reduced to the role of supersolider, though not without reason. The Dark Knight is past 60 and forced to come out of retirement by his implacable, idiosyncratic code of justice.

Miller’s tale emphasizes the worst excesses of late 20th Century American society: Violence for the sake of violence, a famous psychiatrist pronouncing two of Batman’s worst nemeses cured and releasing them to kill again, the cynical news media sensationalizing it and allowing the doctor to frame the criminals as victims, do-nothing politicians pronouncing all this – the disorder – someone else’s responsibility.

It is these excesses that awaken the Bat and impel Bruce Wayne back into action. The idea that Batman is the real person and Wayne is the disguise is very clear in this text. I don’t know that Miller originated the idea, but he certainly popularized it. Pretty much every depiction of Batman in movies since this book was published owes some debt to Miller’s concept of the character and to his dark vision of Gotham City. Continue reading