Movie Journal: Batman Begins

Warner Bros. certainly had their hands full in relaunching the Batman franchise. Overcoming so much ill-will was not going to be easy. And, I’m happy to report, they succeeded.

Batman Begins is not meant to be an extension of the series, first directed by Tim Burton and then by Joel Schumacher, that ran from 1989 to 1997. It ignores all the plot points set up in those films and starts Batman off from scratch to great effect. Jettisoned are nipples (aside from those sticking out from under Katie Holmes’ shirts) and neon facades. In their place are dark brown rusty tones and serious psychological issues. Most reviewers, including Pete Vonder Harr, have made note of fear being the central theme of the movie. I don’t have anything to add to his or other comments on this point so I’ll leave it to you to read them and get the point.

What I thought was the best part of the movie was the performances from all, save Holmes, the lead actors. Not only does Christian Bale acquit himself more than adequately as a wayward spoiled rich kid who eventually finds some measure of tranquility in donning a bat’s mask but everyone else is just as strong. Michael Caine pulls a Harrison Ford and gets more out of the role than might have been on the page. Cilian Murphy is incredibly believable as a doctor gone psycho. Gary Oldman plays a very believable good Chicago cop without allowing in any of the cliches that so often dominate these types of roles. Liam Neeson especially shows what a great job he might have been able to do as Qui-Gon Jinn if it weren’t for an awkward script and almost no direction. It’s an incredible cast and you can see why they were able to get past whatever trepidations they might have had about being in a comic book adaptation.

My main thought after coming out of hte theater: I can’t wait to see it again.

Movie Journal: Audition (Odishon)

Holy shit. A mild tempered drama about a middle-aged man who holds a phony movie casting call in order to screen for a new wife goes from 0 to 60 in, literally, nothing flat. There are a couple weird moments before the grisly conclusion but nothing that prepares the viewer for what’s to come. This movie just defies easy description but is worth checking out.

Movie Marketing Madness: War of the Worlds

warworldsmmm01storyHow bad does Steven Spielberg have to be feeling right now? He makes a movie with Tom Cruise one of the biggest stars in the world, involving an alien invasion that’s based on a classic H.G. Wells novel. That novel was the foundation for one of the greatest publicity stunts of the 20th century when Orsen Welles broadcast a radio drama that sent panic throughout the country. It was easy money. It was going to be a blockbuster. It was going to be huge.Then Cruise starts talking. He starts talking about Brooke Sheilds, he starts talking about Scientology, about psychology, about Katie Holmes. (I’ll now allow a moment for everyone reading to go “ewwwwww”. All set? Let’s continue.) All this while ostensibly on the press tour for “War of the Worlds.” And through all this I just have this very clear mental image of Spielberg holding his head in his hands and thinking, “Why me. Why can’t this guy just shut the f*** up and talk about how it was so great working with me again?”

So Paramount’s publicity department has had their work cut out for them. They have to take what should have been a slam dunk requiring little but some moderately cool trailers and all of a sudden have to work against the tide of a star who seems to have turned a corner somewhere in the last six months. How bad do these guys jobs suck right now?

The Trailers

Lots of Tom Cruise and lots of ominous clouds gathering can be found in just about all the trailers and TV spots, of which there are four and 16 respectively. For there being 20 video spots there’s an astounding lack of originality to any of them. They all focus on Cruise and Dakota Fanning as his daughter reacting to some off-screen menace. The occasional one has co-star Tim Robbins looking grimy and like he’s avoiding something terrible. Either it’s aliens or a right-wing politician, I’m not sure.

Anyway, I don’t particularly like these spots. There’s no rhyme or reason to them. Very few of them follow any sort of linear format and instead seem to just jump in during the middle of the invasion. I’m sorry but I need more from a trailer than just that, especially when we’re talking about Spielberg. One of the problems with “Jurassic Park” was that there was very little in it that identified it as a Spielberg film. Based on the trailers I don’t see anything bearing the director’s distinctive mark. That’s too bad since I’ve really enjoyed his recent movies (I even like about 75% of “The Terminal.”)

The Posters

If I thought the trailers were boring then the posters are downright snooze-inducing. There’s either the ones with the alien hand reaching out and grasping the earth or the block letter one. The hand posters have recently been compared to the cover of one of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology-themed sci-fi books (I’ll find the picture and link to it off of my blog). The block-letter version has always reminded me of “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Not very exciting. I just wish they had been able to find something more innovative.

The Website

This is actually the coolest aspect of the campaign. Not so much because it helps sell the movie but because it looks like it was laid out by someone who knew what they were doing.

“About the Film” is perhaps the shortest synopsis I’ve seen of a movie to date. Basically it says the earth is at war, this is an adaptation of a Wells novel and that it is told through the eyes of one American family. That right there is half the length of the synopsis itself. Also, why did they feel the need to specify it was an “American” family in the movie? Was there some fear audiences would mistake Cruise and Fanning for a Pakistani family? The mind reels.

Perhaps the most fully-stocked section of the site is “Media”. There you will find all four domestic – and a Japanese – trailer, 12 TV spots, some clips and a link to the soundtrack. I love it when a studio pays attention to this section and does more than just post one or two trailers there. The website should be all-encompassing and this one is just that.

Moving on we come to “Downloads”. I can’t even list all the features available here. There are wallpapers in every conceivable style and language, posters, a screen saver and a bunch of buddy icons. Pretty cool. “Photos” is just what it sounds like, a collection of almost 40 stills. “Features” includes a Yahoo IMvironment, something I’m still pretty fuzzy on and Moviefone’s “Unscripted” Q&A between the star and director. Finally there is the “Survival Game.” I’m not going to go into the game play but it’s pretty fun if you have some time to spare.

Overall

As much as I want to believe this reteaming of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise is an authentic attempt to create some meaningful contribution to the lexicon of film I just get the feeling it’s a grab at some easy money. The campaign is not that exciting and honestly didn’t build my anticipation for the movie all that much. Sure the trailers look kind of cool but computers can do a lot and for as much as they don’t show what is seen is kind of lackluster. The best part of the campaign was the website since it acts as a repository for all the other promotional materials to date. Nice to have a one-stop spot for posters, trailers and such.