If nothing else, we can thank Tim Burton‘s 1989 film for the explosion of the Bat-franchise. Even if you hate the flick (and I understand there are some that do), we all owe it something. Without it, we don’t get the brilliant animated series that kept much of its tone (and Danny Elfman‘s glorious score), we don’t get nearly as many Batman action figures and t-shirts. Sure, someone would have made a Batman film eventually, even if this one never got off the ground. But it did, and thus it’s the launch pad not just for the Batman franchise, but for the modern age of superhero cinema.
Not every blockbuster or franchise starter/wannabe can – or should – be seen through a superhero prism, but Dumbo, Tim Burton’s (Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, Edward Scissorhands) misguided remake of the 1941 Disney animated classic, certainly can be. The superhero in question can’t speak or even control his own destiny (for that, he depends on the kindness of strangers), but he can communicate except through overlarge, blue eyes, giant, floppy ears, and expressive body language. And like every superhero, he has a tragic backstory (forcible separation from his mother) that unfolds in reel time, and a unique superpower (flight) that once used purely for good and not entertainment, will help free them both from the chains of captivity. He’s also an outcast, a pariah among his own kind, the deliberate subject of ridicule, humiliation, and shame. In short, the all-CGI title character is a misfit-outsider after Burton’s own, not-yet-curdled, middle-aged heart.
Unfortunately for Burton and his audience (i.e., us), doubling the original’s thankfully brief 64-minute running time effectively means opening up Dumbo, shifting the focus from Dumbo and his plight to a circus family also beset by tragedy (the symmetrical loss of a mother and a visibly wounded war veteran) and the larger circus itself, beset less by tragedy than a sputtering post-war economy that has little room or space for their kind of old-school entertainment. Not that there’s anything wrong per se in the non-Dumbo circus characters, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), the aforementioned war veteran, a one-time trick horseman and circus mainstay pre-war injury, or his two children, Milly (Nico Parker), a wannabe scientist in early 20th-century America, and her younger brother, Joe (Finley Hobbins). They make for an endearing, if remarkably well scrubbed, trio. It’s just that their individual and collective story often distracts from Dumbo’s journey from sideshow outcast to world-class entertainer and beyond. (Props for Dumbo’s surprising, surprisingly welcome pro-conservation, anti-animals-in-circuses-or-zoos message.)
And when Dumbo isn’t focused on the Farriers and their intra-personal jousts, conflicts, and reconciliations, it’s focused on the circus proper, specifically owner-ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito), a kind-hearted, well-meaning impresario who treats circus workers less as employees than an extended family. Burton and his screenwriter, Ehren Kruger, use broad strokes to introduce the circus performers, most of whom leave little if any mark. To Burton, however, the circus represents a near-socialist utopia of equals or near-equals, with only one or two mean-spirited workers who represent both the worst humanity has to offer (i.e., cruelty to animals) and function as a plot device (one callously instigates the incident that separates Dumbo from his mother, Jumbo). The real villain, V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), a Trump-like venal, morally and ethically bankrupt showman, doesn’t appear until the bloated, overlong, and over-indulgent second half. He’s as bland, dull, and uninteresting a villain as any found in Disney’s animation library.
Once Dumbo switches from the shabby, worn-out environs of the picture-book circus to Vandevere’s static amusement/theme park, Dreamland, Dumbo practically stalls out. Besides Vandevere and his machinations to permanently separate Dumbo from the circus, Dumbo introduces another characters, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), an aerialist who proves crucial to the evolution of Dumbo’s high-flying act and – no surprise here – a potential surrogate mother and significant other to the Farrier children and their wounded father, respectively. She has a semi-tragic history too (because of course, everyone who’s not a villain in Dumbo does). In exchange for a career and financial stability, Colette has handed over control of her life to Vandevere. A minor-league, bald henchman, Neils Skellig (Joseph Gatt), in thrall to Vandevere for no discernible reason other than the usual villain’s need for gofers and day-to-day evildoing, and J. Griffin Remington (Alan Arkin), a crotchety, curmudgeonly banker who holds the financial keys to Vandevere’s future, round out the non-circus performers.
As a director, Burton’s recent career has floundered more than it has soared (to deliberately mix metaphors). His attempt to start an X-Men-inspired franchise in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children failed to generate much interest from audiences while his attempt at spectacle-free drama, Big Eyes, came and went with little fanfare despite another winning turn from Amy Adams. And while his biggest successes over the last twenty years, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, generously filled the coffers of their respective producers/studios, they did little to discourage the argument that Burton’s best days as a filmmaker with something to say, with the equivalent of a vision beyond CGI-driven, heavily production designed filmmaking, were and will remain behind him. With the occasional moment or scene in Dumbo, all but one or two tied to the Dumbo character and his plight (Burton spends close to half of Dumbo’s running time in close-ups of Dumbo’s large, expressive eyes), he does little to convince naysayers that they’re wrong.
Everyone has their own favorite Batman. Every Nerd worth their salt has an opinion on who was the best Batman, who was the best Bruce Wayne, and who was the best at both. And every Nerd’s ranked list differs just a little from the Nerd standing next to them. So here’s our favorite Batmen, ranked best to worst. But this time, we want to hear from YOU. Which Batman was the best? Who didn’t cut it, in your not-so-humble opinion? How wrong were we? Post in the comment below and let us know which Batman stands where in your list. If this post does well and you opinionated (nerd)bastards comment like hell, there could be some Bat-related prizes for future posts…
The first trailer has arrived for Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo which blends a Greatest Showman style circus tale with the directorial stylings of Tim Burton. Based on a storyline written by Helen Aberson. The film stars Collin Farrell, MIchael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, and Alan Arkin.
This live-action film reworks the tale of the bullied elephant with big ears. Farrier (Farrell) is a former horse showman and war veteran who’s taking care of his two kids after his wife passed away. Their world changes after circus owner Max (DeVito who seems to have kept his costume from Big Fish) buys a pregnant elephant who gives birth to Dumbo with his giant ears.
Announcements have been made for what’s next in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Are we getting the Avengers 4 title? Of course not. Instead, we received casting news for the untitled Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel. So who is joining Tom Holland in the sequel?
Wait… that’s the wrong Keaton. Michael Keaton, not Buster Keaton is reported to be in talks for the Disney/Tim Burton live-action Dumbo starring Colin Farrell. Keaton is said to be up for the role of the Ringmaster, who’s all smiles for the Circus audience, but not such a great guy when it comes to the treatment of the animals in the Circus. Yes, Keaton is continuing his string of villainous roles with Dumbo. Keaton joins a cast that includes Farrell, Danny Devito, and Eva Green. (more…)
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) plays a large role in Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) life in Spider-Man Homecoming. While he may be a reluctant superhero mentor, Stark isn’t shy sharing new tech when designing and outfitting Peter Parker’s new Spider-Man suit. In fact, in this teaser, it seems like Spider-Man doesn’t really know what his suit is fully capable of when his chest symbol starts to move. Check it out below along with a new photo of Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture.
We’ve already talked this morning about Black Panther, but let’s consider for a moment a more immediate Marvel movie: Spider-Man: Homecoming. Once upon a time, the man playing Homecoming’s main villain, Michael Keaton, was the star of the biggest, and really the only, major superhero franchise: Batman, and Batman suffered in the latter films from too many villains who too often took the focus away from the titular character. So Keaton knows that pain, which begs the question, how does he feel about diving back into comic book movies this time playing the bad guy? Well, he’s got an answer for that too. (more…)
The first trailer for Sony and Marvel‘s Spider-Man: Homecoming premiered on Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight and it looks incredible. Tom Holland sounds good, looks good, and feels like the young, inexperienced, joke cracking Spider-Man we’ve all been waiting for. Check it out for yourself after the jump. (more…)
It is, unfortunately, awfully difficult to revisit Tim Burton’s Batman with an impartial eye in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s genre-defining Dark Knight trilogy and now, of course, Affleck’s Batman. However, you don’t get Nolan’s Batman – heck, the very idea of Batman, his modern age personification, might never have been realized had it not been for 1989 Batman. Despite Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns and other defining Batman comics of the time, for most children of the 80’s, and for fans of yesteryear, their idea of Batman was predominately localized to Batman 66 reruns and Hannna Barbera’s Superfriends. Burton’s Batman came along and forever changed the identity of the caped crusader. Burton effectively echoed the visual style of the original Bob Kane comics while conjuring up a Gothic world of his own. His vision for Gotham and its ranged cast of characters is impeccable. It set the standards for Batman and modern comic book films.
Batman 1989 holds a very special place for many a Bat-stalgic heart, and to it, are open wallets. While there is a treasure trove of goods, old and new, commemorating the landmark superhero film, consider what the fine folks at NECA Toys are offering. For one of the biggest superheroes of all time, NECA decided to go, well, big. (more…)