#TheBatman earns its genuine article: Best Batman ever

There’s a new Batman movie.

The title is “The Batman.”

The “the,” as in the genuine article, is earned.

Your friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker loves comic books and loves comic book movies, so forgive me as I indulge my obsession with consumed crime fighters.

I loved “The Batman.”

The movie was everything I wanted in a Batman movie and some things I didn’t know I wanted.

I like that Batman works with the police, side-by-side with officers, many of whom are skeptical of his presence.

That troupe is common in comics, but it hasn’t been seen much in movies, except for the relationship Batman has with Commissioner Gordon and the 1966 camp classic “Batman,” starring Adam West.

Side note: West’s Batman will always be my favorite. I watched the TV show re-runs on Channel 5 early mornings when I was a boy. If I need a pick-me-up, the ’66 Bat-flick is one of the five sure-fire ways to cheer me up.

But “The Batman” may well be the best Batman.

I love that this Batman, played by Robert Pattinson, possesses enough self-awareness to question whether he’s making a difference.

I love the score by Michael Giacchino. It drives the film with a constant brass march that softens and intensifies with the plot.

Giacchino manufactures a sense of edginess that pumps up an already intense film.

I love the direction by Matt Reeves and the cinematography. It represents the very best of neo-noir: muted colors, constant rain.

The sun rarely shines in Gotham City; it’s plunged into the darkness, sometimes on the verge of dawn or dusk, but the clouds never fully part.

I love the suit. It looks more like a modified military uniform than something as perfectly manicured as the suit Christian Bale wore in the Dark Knight Trilogy.

The utility belt includes pouches that look like those a police officer.

Batman carries his grappling hook gun like a sidearm rather than something that mysteriously appears when its needed.

I love the car. Nobody calls it the Batmobile, but we all know.

This one looks like a souped up 1970s muscle car, the kind manufactured when gas was cheap and nihilistic movies like “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry” and “Vanishing Point” romanticized the flawed notion that you could get away with anything with a fast car and an open road.

I loved Catwoman, who is not called Catwoman, played by Zoe Kravitz. She’s smart, tough, quick, and more than a match for the big man with pointy ears.

I loved Colin Farrell as the Penguin, who is called the Penguin. If the credits hadn’t told me that was Farrell under that makeup, I would have never guessed.

Farrell succeeds at doing something no other portrayal of the Penguin has done: He makes the man seem dangerous.

Paul Dano plays the Zodiac killer. They call him the Riddler, but his M.O. is 100% Zodiac killer with a social media age twist.

Dano makes the Riddler terrifying; it’s an achievement, because even in most comics the Riddler is a mope.

I loved Jeffery Wright as James Gordon, who is a lieutenant rather than commissioner in this movie. He trusts Batman but is uneasy with the need for a vigilante to maintain order and justice.

Wright’s rendition of Gordon is witty. I loved the exchange between Batman and Gordon when they were on the trail of the Riddler.

“No guns,” Batman tells Gordon.
“Yeah, that’s your thing,” Gordon replies with his service pistol locked and loaded.

I love so much about this movie I could fill up every page in the Marion County Express.

What I loved most, however, was how Batman changed through the events of the movie.

Most Batman movies focus on the villain. They are like horror movies in that way, or the murder podcasts people seem to love so much.

That makes sense. Why go to movies if you don’t want to experience something you would never want to experience in real life?

The Riddler certainly fills that role: a brutal serial killer who uses his murders as clues to darker truths about Gotham City.

The advertisement for sees a guy in clown makeup ask Batman what he’s supposed to be.

Batman knocks him to the ground him and ferociously punches him for what seems like a half hour. The Batman sneers, “I’m vengeance.”

He’s very much that through much of the film. Lots of bad guys get punched, kicked, thrown, and otherwise batter.

This Batman does not kill — a staple of his code in comics, but something other Batman movies have ignored.

“The Batman” shows us he is more than vengeance for his dead parents and crime victims everywhere.

The climactic scene, I’ll not spoil the details, shows Batman’s final, greatest act is to come out of the shadows and defend the innocent rather than avenge them in the darkness.

In this way, Batman becomes a film hero like we’re never seen him before.

So, if you’re into this kind of movie, please take some time and go see it. It’s worth every minute.

Daniel P. Finney writes a weekly column for the Marion County Express. Reach him at newsmanone@gmail.com.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.

HOT SHEET: How I’m getting ready to start my career in local television news

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, Paragraph Stacker, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: I start my new job as an assignment editor for WOI-DT on Monday. The only thing I know about television is how to watch one. I decided to turn to the best possible source to prepare myself for joining broadcast media: movies. Here are five flicks I’m watching to get ready for my new TV job:

  1. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”
  2. “Network”
  3. “Broadcast News”
  4. “The China Syndrome”
  5. “Good Night and Good Luck”

ITEM TWO: Today is new comics Wednesday. Let’s talk shop:

  1. Darth Vader: The Heart of the Sith Vol. 1— The story picks up in the hours after Vader cuts off Luke Skywalker’s hand and lets the young Jedi know who his daddy is. Vader vows revenge on the Rebellion and the people who made Luke such a wimp, but first he has some questions of his own he wants answered. First, how did Padme survive the force choke fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker put on her, and who delivered baby Luke into this world? To find the answer, Vader traces Padme’s final days and crosses paths with Padme’s old pals from Naboo. Again, Marvel proves it knows how to handle “Star Wars” characters better than the people who make the movies. This is Vader as we all dreamed of seeing him: pissed off, cutting people in half with lightsabers and just too much of a force to be reckoned with — even for giant sea monsters. The first trade paperback of the latest Vader series is on sale now.
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol. 1 — What Vader gives to “Star Wars” comics, Bounty Hunters takes away. That’s not quite fair. The story centers on a comics character resurrected from the original Marvel comics of the 1970s and 80s, which were often mediocre to terrible. There’s Boba Fett, the most overrated character in “Star Wars” lore, and Bossk, a reptilian bounty hunter who makes for a better action figure than character in a story. The story deals with a protection job gone wrong, some mafia clans and other jibber jabber that just doesn’t entice more reading. The art isn’t for me. I’m always hesitant to criticize art because even the worst comic book creators make things more beautiful than I could ever create. Still, this artwork feels like posed shots that belong in pin-up galleries or sold as paintings at conventions rather than pages of a comic. It lacks action and sense of motion. But I know Boba Fett and bounty hunters as a concept sell, so a lot of “Star Wars” fans might want to give this trade paperback a look.
  • Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 1 — Writer Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp team for some of the best Green Lantern stories in decades. Morrison is one of modern comics’ geniuses. His stories are trippy, fun and balance badassery with a hint of Silver Age fun. Sharp’s artwork is so tremendous one might be convinced this is why God invented pencils.
  • Batwoman/Catwoman No. 1 — Writer Tom King shaped the love story between Batman and Catwoman like no other creator before him. That story propelled through his entire 85-issue run on “Batman.” This issue begins a special year-long story about Batman and Catwoman set after the events of “City of Bane,” during which Catwoman nursed a broken Batman back to health in order to defeat Bane and an alternate version of his father, Thomas Wayne. I’m looking forward to this comic more than any other on the schedule. I usually wait for trade paperbacks for stories, but I’m buying this in single issues.

ITEM THREE: A recent study found that when people preface a statement with the phrase “with all due respect” the thing that followed was in no way respectful in 100% of cases.

ITEM FOUR: A joke from a Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” from the 1970s: “A new record is out that teaches people how to have better sex. It encourages couples to play the record in the act. There’s already been a tragedy. One couple put the record on at 78 instead of 33. Services are this week.”

ITEM FIVE: This is the best #2020 thing ever and of course it comes from a collaboration between Taylor Swift and Ryan Reynolds:

ITEM SIX: One of the few things I know about English soccer leagues is the concept of relegation. The poorest performing teams are sent down to a lower league and the better performing teams are brought up to play at the highest level. Such a thing would have been a mercy to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who posted 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993 to 2012. It similarly would be a mercy to Chicago Bears fans to see the Bears sent down to the Big 12 or the Pac-12 for a couple of seasons. Let Ohio State or Alabama have a go at the pros. Their college programs are damn near that good anyway. Anything to ease the suffering of Bears fans who have to watch a team without an offense, a quarterback, a competent coach and general manager play pro football games against bonafide NFL winners such as the Green Bay Packers.

ITEM LAST: I was overwhelmed with the kind notes, messages and well-wishes after the announcement of my new job. I plan to continue to write for this blog. There will be no more politics talk and the profanity will be scaled back to PG-13 levels. As for what I’m going to be doing at WOI, well, I don’t know yet. I do know I won’t be on camera and that’s a blessing to everyone including me. I will be working with our team of reporters, anchors and producers. And I’ll be doing some reporting and writing for the WeAreIowa.com website. Frankly, it’s good to have something to look forward to each day besides more worry. Unemployment is a crushing mishmash of depression and anxiety. You’re depressed because your old shop sent you packing and even though they tell you it’s not personal, it sure as hell feels that way. It’s anxious because the money goes fast and when you start to wonder if you’re going to be living at the YMCA by this time next month, your guts churn. So at the risk of one more political comment, having been through what I’ve been through and knowing millions of Americans are still going through, I hope Congress and the new president figure out a stimulus bill as soon as possible to help everyone who wasn’t as lucky as I was to find a job in the middle of a pandemic.

Daniel P. Finney is getting down to this sick beat.

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HOT SHEET: Hawkeyes, Cyclones win, pierce the gloom of the coming winter of COVID-19

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Most Iowans interested in football found happiness Saturday. The Iowa State Cyclones bludgeoned Kansas State. The Iowa Hawkeyes mauled Penn State. All was right with the world for a few hours on a late autumn afternoon.

ITEM TWO: Sunday promises to be another excellent day for this pro football fan. His favorite team, the Chicago Bears, will not play, but he fears the Bears are so bad they may find a way to lose without taking the field.

ITEM THREE: The Age of COVID-19 feels like a woolen sweater too tight in all the wrong places. It itches and stifles and never seems to let us breathe no matter how hard we tug and pull. The naturally shortened days of autumn get even shorter when the restaurants lock their doors at 10 p.m. Efforts to curb the virus’ potentially deadly spread curb our abilities to gather in fellowship whether it be to root for a favorite football team, celebrate a holiday or worship our gods. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker called one of his best friends Saturday. She was overwhelmed by the emptiness of it all and despite his silly jokes and empathy, he could not shake even a giggle loose. The miles between us seemed doubled or tripled despite the intimacy of a phone call. He felt the depression from his end of the phone. He had no choice but to let go and hoped her planned passivity would bring what Pink Floyd called comfortable numbness. The typist fared no better on his Saturday. He could have done laundry, but a psychological immobility paralyzed him whenever he gave leaving the house a serious thought. He attempted to watch football games, but the he fell into fitful sleep early in the games. Most of his friends hunkered with their family and the weight of a lifetime of bad choices and failures to grow left the Paragraph Stacker alone in a little apartment surrounded by nothing but entertainment but overwhelmed by the urge to have a beer with a buddy in public. So, he slept, for this is the season of hibernation. And he slept some more because he knew more of this malaise was to come. As the poet songwriter Bob Dylan once sang, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”

ITEM FOUR: This blog will become private in a few weeks, which means you’ll have to request access to read the posts. It’ll still be free, but there will be an extra step to reading posts. The easiest way to avoid all that is go to https://paragraphstacker.com/ now and look for the follow button on the left side of the page. Enter your email address and confirm it. You’ll get every post delivered to your inbox.

ITEM LAST: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker makes no secret of his love for classic “Doctor Who.” He relaxes to the infinite stream of 200 episodes on the free streaming service Pluto TV. Saturday evening found him watching the very first “Doctor Who” story he ever watched many moons ago on Iowa PBS: “The Armageddon Factor.” He found a gem of an exchange between the Doctor, as played by Tom Baker, and his companions, Romana, played by Mary Tamm, and his robot dog, K-9, as voiced by John Leeson. It’s as true today as it was in 1979.
THE DOCTOR: Where’s your joy in life? Where’s your optimism?
ROMANA: It opted out.
K-9: Optimism: belief that everything will work out well. Irrational, bordering on insane.
Perhaps that’s a little too dark to end a Hot Sheet. So if it’s insane to be optimistic, perhaps the typist shall lean on a quote from another favorite childhood classic, the 1989 “Batman” film.
BRUCE WAYNE: You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!

Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Daniel P. Finney stepped into the quantum accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Daniel can see and hear. And so Daniel finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.