The Cynical Optimist – 24/7/08


“Fanboys” Hits Lightspeed!

The galactic empire known as The Weinstein Company has given “Fanboys” a release date. Though no exact date is given, the film is slated to hit theaters in September. If you haven’t been keeping up on this project, time to catch up.

Directed by Kyle Newman, “Fanboys” is about a group of friends who decide to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal and early print of “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” Their criminal agenda isn’t just some dumb prank, there’s a real heartfelt reason behind it: One of them is suffering from cancer and wishes to see the film before his death.  This spurs a road trip begins where the group encounters William Shatner, obsessed Trekkies, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher.

“Fanboys” had a 2007 release date, but was pushed back to January 2008 because director Kyle Newman was given more funding to shoot additional scenes that the original budget did not include. The movie was pushed back, yet again, because the reshoots could not take place before November/December 2007. These reshoots were directed by Steven Brill and not by Kyle Newman.

In January of this year, The CineManiac broke the story that “Fanboys” was being re-edited to remove the cancer plot from the movie and replace much of it with raunchy, vulgar humor. Of course, this stirred up quite a bit of controversy – the film had been taken out of Kyle Newman’s hands and now the studio was tinkering with his work to make it more appealing to the masses.

Ain’t It Cool News picked up the story and confirmed that the two different versions of the movie (with and without the cancer plot) were screened to different test audiences to see which one would rate higher.

Then the film was given an April 2008 release, but upon hearing about the changes being made to the movie, dedicated Star Wars fans united and started an Internet campaign rebelling against the plot changes and demanding the original version that included the cancer storyline be released in theaters.

Well, here we are – and the fans got what they wanted! On July 6, 2008, it was announced on The Official Fanboys MySpace Blog that the cancer plot would be included in the final cut of the movie.

As a loyal lover of “Star Wars,” I am so glad to hear this film is finally coming out – and it’s Kyle Newman’s vision, not Steven Brill’s or the Weinstein’s or whoever else tried to get their hands on it. Look forward to a fun, Apatow-esque, heartfelt comedy that’s aim isn’t to laugh at Star Wars nerds… but laugh with them. It’s a film about friendship – not some “American Pie” rip-off like the studios wanted.

The Dark Knight’s Sequel

According to Media by Numbers, “The Dark Knight” broke another record on Tuesday by becoming the fastest film ever to cross the $200 million mark – five days! The previous record of eight days was held by three films – “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.”

Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” follow-up added $20.87 million on Tuesday to push its massive total to $203.8 million. That puts it at #84 already on the all-time domestic blockbuster list after just five days.

“The Dark Knight” has outdone its own hype – it’s breaking records left and right and you can guarantee Warner Bros. wants Christopher Nolan and company to crank out a third film as soon as possible. These days, a trilogy is a prerequisite to make a film based off a successful franchise. Before “The Dark Knight” even came out, people were already talking about who the villain might be in this supposed third film – yet director Christopher Nolan, and screenwriters Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer aren’t even sure if they’ll make one.

One thing is for sure, Warner Bros. will pay considerably to keep this cast and crew of talented folks in their corner – another Batman film can only be good for their revenue stream – but the real question is, is there a story to tell? “The Dark Knight” is such a phenomenal film, with such fantastic performances – can it be outdone or is a third film destined to be underwhelming.

The Riddler? Penguin? Catwoman? Chances are, no matter what villain they decide to go with, their performance will be pale in comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker. These other members of Batman’s rogue gallery aren’t nearly as threatening or maniacal to outdo the Joker.

And watch out, because here’s the spoiler-laden portion of my column. Maybe Two-Face isn’t dead after all. We never saw a true funeral with a casket, right? Perhaps they faked his death in an effort to memorialize Harvey Dent while locking up Two-Face in Arkham? If that’s the case, doesn’t it cheapen “The Dark Knight” finale?

People take Lucius Fox’s comment, “Should be just fine against cats,” as a nod to Catwoman – and her inclusion would fill the niche for a love interest in this next Batman film, but is Bruce ready to jump from Rachel Dawes to Selina Kyle? I’m not so sure. There’s so much to consider.

And bringing the Joker back is out of the question, right? No way would they dare recast Heath Ledger’s role – odds are we’ll hear that he either got away or is locked up safe and sound in Arkham. Maybe there’s some unused audio around somewhere so we can hear him laughing and jabbering from his dark cell.

I have complete faith in Nolan and Goyer to develop an amazing story worthy of being told – but it pains me to know that we will never see Heath Ledger on the screen again, and all the great stories I could dream up about his Joker and Bale’s Batman.

Caffeinated Clint

If you haven’t read Clint’s latest column, his epic rant about opinions, then you’re missing out. I’ve experience more than my fair share of backlash for opinions given on films like “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” as well as my negative outlook on “Terminator 4.”

Like Clint, I also loved “Superman Returns” and “The Incredible Hulk.” I hate Superman – I think he’s the worst damn superhero ever created – but as soon as Bryan Singer got hold of the property and brought a real emotional texture to the story, I quickly understood his appeal.

As for “X-Files: I Want To Believe” and Tosia’s review, who knows – but I appreciate her review and viewpoint. One thing is for sure, I love “Twin Peaks” and “Fire Walk With Me” is one of the most frightening, insane movies I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. Hell, I love the Star Wars prequels… flame away!

We don’t write these reviews in hopes of gaining minions for some war of right versus wrong. We don’t pour out our opinions and thoughts for your approval, and we don’t need your approval. I respect the fellow enthusiast reviewers out there who put their passion into talking about film – even if we don’t agree.

I loved “Speed Racer” and gave it a strong review when the majority of media outlets canned it immediately, which led to its poor box office and general reception. Clint said it better, with much more explicit language, but just to reintegrate it – We all like different shit. We hold some things sacred and absolutely loathe others… that’s the way it is. Objectivity is a lie, and when it comes to a film review – what truths are hoping to find? It’s an opinion – if it aligns with your own thoughts, great. If not, find one that does.

Bat-Tastic Recommendations

If you’ve got Bat-Fever like I do, but you’re a novice to the world of graphic novels, then perhaps you should check out my recommendations this week – a solid list of some of Batman’s greatest adventures. These books make up most of the source material and inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s films – so check them out!

Batman: Year One

Written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli

This amazing graphic novel recounts the beginning of Bruce Wayne’s career as Batman and Jim Gordon’s with the Gotham City Police Department.

See if any of this sounds familiar: Bruce Wayne, aged 25, returns home from training abroad in martial arts, manhunting and science for nearly twelve years. In Gotham, he bides his time, waiting for the right moment to strike, all the while preparing himself. Gordon, meanwhile, has moved to Gotham from Chicago with his pregnant wife, Barbara Kean-Gordon, and pursues a career in law enforcement. His first time out patrolling reveals to him the disturbing nature of law enforcement in Gotham as a senior officer, Detective Flass, assaults an unsuspecting teenager for “staying out late”.

Batman: The Long Halloween

Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Tim Sale.

One of the quintessential Batman stories, The Long Halloween takes place during Batman’s early days of crime fighting. This 13-issue series (now in graphic novel form) tells the story of a mysterious killer who murders his prey only on holidays. Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month. A mystery that has the reader continually guessing the identity of the killer, this story also ties into the events that transform Harvey Dent into Batman’s deadly enemy, Two-Face.

Batman: Dark Victory

Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Tim Sale

This follow-up to Batman: The Long Halloween picks up with a mass breakout at Arkham Asylum orchestrated by the sons of Sal “The Boss” Maroni. The breakout is staged so in the confusion, the two can find Harvey “Two-Face” Dent and kill him as a peace offering to Sofia Gigante Falcone – the new head of Gotham’s crime family.

Soon after, police officers began to die, one on each major holiday, with crude hangman games pinned to their hung corpses… and the facts suggesting that Harvey Dent is the killer.

Dark Victory is amazing for multiple reasons – the mass breakout allows for all of our favorite villains to team up on Batman. Joker is in the mix, and of course Two-Face is around. Most interesting is the introduction to Robin – and, in my opinion, Dark Victory is the definitive Robin story – it’s actually great and worth checking out.

Batman: The Killing Joke

Written by Alan Moore with art by Brian Bolland

This one-shot delves into the psychological battle between Batman and his longtime foe the Joker, who has escaped from Arkham Asylum. The Joker intends to drive Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon insane to prove that the most upstanding citizen is capable of going mad after having “one bad day.” Along the way, the Joker has flashbacks to his early life, gradually explaining his possible origin.

In “The Dark Knight,” the Joker tries this same tactic with Harvey Dent – hoping to prove that even Gotham’s white knight, shining, can fall to madness. This comic was one of the major influences for Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker and explains if the Joker were to have an origin, he’d prefer it to be multiple choice.

The Dark Knight Returns

Written and drawn by Frank Miller

Set twenty years into an alternate future, ordinary criminals run amok in the absence of superheroes, (all the super-villains having been incarcerated or otherwise killed), and a gang called the “Mutants” made up of schoolchildren terrorize Gotham City. Batman has been retired from crime fighting for ten years following the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Wayne funds the rehabilitation of Harvey Dent (“Two-Face”), leading to his release from a mental hospital, but upon re-entering society, Dent returns to crime. Wayne dons the Batman costume again and apprehends Dent, but in an increasingly media obsessed society, the populace debates publicly whether Batman is a savior or a menace.

This is my favorite Batman book – Frank Miller’s take on the Dark Knight is amazing, and instantly you’ll see several inspirations from Christopher Nolan’s films – namely the tank-like Batmobile. This is a definitive work, a masterwork, and if you’re a fan of the new Batman films you should definitely give this a look.

Batman: Hush

Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee

“Hush” opens with Batman rescuing a boy kidnapped by Killer Croc, whereupon Catwoman steals the ransom money. As Batman swings though Gotham City in pursuit of her, his rope is cut and he falls to the ground, fracturing his skull. His butler, Alfred Pennyworth, follows his instructions to summon Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend, Thomas Elliot, now a renowned brain surgeon. Batman recovers, and discovers that Poison Ivy had used Catwoman to steal the ransom. Batman rescues Catwoman, and a romance blooms between them. Batman decides to reveal his true identity to her.

Okay so, Hush isn’t the most realistic or practical take on Batman – it’s a pure comic book adventure with tons of characters drawn and colored beautifully and who knows, maybe the next Batman film will borrow from it.