Monday, February 07, 2005

Play ball

Never been a Superbowl fan (much as I enjoy the sight of muscular men in tight-fitting synthetic fibers grappling with each other), but I did happen to catch the new ad for Batman Begins, which provides the biggest glimpse yet of what awaits us in the spring. That tantalizing glimpse inspired me to revisit the official website, which has been beefed up significantly. The Superbowl spot is there, along with more video, pictures, interviews, and the promise of still more goodies in the future.

I really don't want to sound like a comic book and/or movie geek (let alone a comic-book-movie geek), but I'm a little nervous about the thought of the Scarecrow being the villain here. As with Bane (who made a way-premature appearance in the miserable new WB animated series), this is a character who forces the hero to re-examine his very existence, and you really can't do too much of that if you've only had your existence for a short time.

I'm pretty much convinced that movies aren't the best vehicle for comic book stories, unless Hollywood suddenly starts making Saturday afternoon serials again. I've said it a thousand times: comic book myths are ongoing, they rely on an audience's sustained awareness of a group of characters over a long period of time. Movies are all about compressed storytelling: they have to fit everything from the introduction of the protagonist and antagonist to their first confrontation to their climactic showdown to the resolution of that encounter into two hours. (Notable exceptions being multi-part sagas like The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and long-running franchises like the James Bond series, though that one has seldom made much creative use of its longevity/hyperfamiliarity.) Somebody like the Scarecrow or Ra's Al Ghul (who I think is also in the new film) is intended to shake up the familiar routine of the narrative and shake the hero to his core, but that can't really happen very effectively if the audience and the hero are still learning the lay of the land. (To use an example from my own myth: If I'd met the Monk ten years ago, my encounters with him wouldn't hold anywhere near the force for me that they do at this point. If you're going to lose everything, then "everything" has to mean something first.)

End of sermon for now. On a related note, since we're talking geek now, am I right that the post-Superbowl Simpsons episode was the first time we've ever learned the real name of Comic Book Store Guy? (As you can imagine, I sometimes think he is my totem character on the show, unfortunately.)

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