Thursday, October 20, 2016

5 Batman movie audiobooks reviewed

I’m a huge Batman fan and I collect a lot of stuff from the movies – particularly the Burton and Schumacher ones that I grew up with.

I always used to hate movie novelisations as a kid and found them pointless. I’d usually have the film on video and couldn’t understand the point of reading a long, slow, duller version where I had to build the image up in my head.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve had a lot of nostalgia for stuff from my youth and I recently purchased a lot of Batman novelisation audiobooks off eBay (curse you eBay) and transferred them from tape to mp3. Here’s my thoughts:-

Batman (1989) read by Roddy McDowall
At around 90 minutes this is a little shorter than the movie it’s based on. Roddy McDowell is a nice choice given that he played the Bookworm in the 60s series and voiced the Mad Hatter in the animated show. His high pitched, slightly camp voice makes him more suitable for the Joker and Vicki Vale than he does for Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s not an especially dynamic reading and definitely could have been improved. It sounds a lot like McDowall is reading his lines for the first time. Overall, it’s fine but no real surprises or additional scenes.

Batman (1989) novelisation read by Nathan Pierce (unofficial release 2016)
This is an unofficial recording made by a YouTube group called Audiobooks for the Damned who record themselves reading old movie novelisations unabridged. At 5 and a half hours this is very slow compared to the movie. It’s a straight read through of the novelisation by Craig Shaw Gardner. Hilariously it’s unedited and a few times Nathan slips up and swears to himself. Don’t let your kids listen to this. One interesting element is that it includes one of the cut subplots from the film in which the Joker defaces a statue of John T Gotham (the founder of the city) with his own face. If you go looking through some background material on the film you will find that they did build this statue but never shot the unveiling scene.

Batman Returns (1992) read by Michael Murphy
NOTE: No youtube version of this. You’ll have to find the tape.
Spread over 2 tapes this is around 2 and half hour. A little more than the film’s runtime. Michael Murphy plays the role of the mayor in the movie. He’s actually really good and has a much more suitable voice for Bruce Wayne and Batman. Again, no major additions here though there are one or two extra sleazy puns from the Penguin. This is actually really enjoyable and probably the most recommended of all the audiobooks.

Batman Forever (1995) read by René Auberjonois
NOTE: No youtube version of this. You’ll have to find the tape.
Again, this uses one of the cast. Auberjonois played the small role of Dr Burton in the film. He’s a decent narrator but like McDowall suits the villains more than the title hero. A few extra lines here and there. Strangely, it begins with a flashback of Edward Nygma being bullied as a kid at school and vowing one day he’ll get his revenge. I’ve always wondered if this was ever part of the script. Overall, a good reading and at 2 and half hours, it’s about the right length. One thing I always liked is that it opens with Danny Elfman’s superior score rather than Elliot Goldenthal’s.

Batman & Robin (1997) An Audio Action Adventure
This one is the odd duck. Rather than have someone narrate the novelisation they chose to do it as a radio play with sound effects. The voice artists, uncredited, are super cheesy and very over the top (not unlike the movie). The recording also boasts “special 3D sound effects” which are really grating. It even drops the Elliot Goldenthal score for some cheesy stock library music. It’s a real dud. The only saving grace is that it’s 35 minutes.

That’s all for now. Expect some more Batman-related stuff in the future.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

3 most devastating dad deaths in movies

I know, I know. Why the hell are you writing about such a morbid topic? The answer is I don't know, it's just something I have to get off my chest. I'm rarely affected by movies but for some reason scenes involving fathers dying just devastate me.

(SPOILERS... obviously)
Big Fish (2003)
What happens:
Will is sitting at his father’s side at hospital. He’s spent his life frustrated by his father’s infidelity and penchant for telling fantastical tales rather than the truth about his life. As his father dies he asks Will to tell him a story. Seeing his father has little time left Will spins a yarn about them escaping the hospital and driving out to the lake where his father transforms into a fish and swims off.

What’s really going on:
What makes this such an effective scene is that there’s a dual layer to it. There’s the reality of the situation and the fantasy of Will’s story. One is tragic while the other is triumphant. And most importantly, it’s Will, who has spent the whole film rolling his eyes at his father’s stories, is the one who spins the most fantastic tale of them all. It rings so true that as much as you try not to be your father, inevitably, there is a lot that connects you.
Tron: Legacy (2010)
What happens:
Kevin Flynn, who has been locked in the computer world of ‘the Grid’ for 30 years, has gotten his son Sam to the portal to the real world. Standing between them is Clu, a computer programme modelled on a younger version of Flynn who has gone rogue who wants to stop Sam. Flynn calls on some mysterious force, pulls Clu back towards him and he and Clu merge before exploding in a burst of light.

What’s really going on:
Tron: Legacy – a film a lot of people were fairly cool on (Daft Punk score withstanding) – is actually a really effective film. It’s about an errant father who has missed his son growing up. Yeah, technically Flynn was locked in ‘the Grid’ but really that’s just a metaphor for the way fathers get obsessed with work and other commitments and miss out of their children growing up. The end of Tron: Legacy is Flynn realising he hasn’t been there for his son and that rather than force a reconnection he should step back and let his son grow up.
Man of Steel (2013)
What happens:
Jonathan Kent has spent years telling his adopted alien son Clark not to show the world his superpowers. When their car breaks down and a hurricane swirls in, Jonathan rushes back to the car to rescue his dog. He twists his leg in the process and is forced to accept that he cannot get out of the way of the hurricane. Though Clark could save him Jonathan holds out his hand to tell him no.

What’s really going on:
There’s two things going on underneath this scene. The first is Jonathan is saving someone – something that Clark will later do lots of when he become Superman. I always thought it was kind of silly that it was saving a dog but on reflection it makes his death all the more tragic and mundane. The second layer is that Jonathan is staying true to his beliefs that Clark shouldn’t show his powers. Again, a lot of critics and fans had a problem with this but as a father of 1 (and 2 more due next year!) I can totally understand his reasoning. Sure you want your son to exceptional but not at the expense of being a freak. I think what Jonathan Kent really wanted for his son was normal life.