Why So Serious?


Went hiking yesterday in beautiful Harriman State Park. As I gulped down my intake of clean mountain air for the month, I let my mind wander. I started to think about the not-so-current trend of taking old intellectual property, be it a (comic)book, TV show, movie and re-envisioning its more fantastical, gaudy, or dated aspects into something more gritty and realistic. Examples that come to mind are “Battlestar Galactica,” Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, or any of the Avengers tie-in movies (except any Hulk movie).

Let’s take Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. They choose to tell the more gritty crime stories of Frank Miller and Alan Moore in a present day setting. They’ve replaced the tights with hi-tech Kevlar body armor. They’ve replaced mild mannered Bruce Wayne with a seemingly out of control trust fund kid of hyperbolic wealth and power. They’ve even found a martial art that would take the mystery out of Batman’s ability to defeat so many opponents at once. On the drawn page we see exaggerated frozen moments in time, even in traditional martial arts action movies we see the most exaggerated, flashy choreography, but in this “realistic” take we see less show, more precise, close combat, brutal beatings. And to add to all this, they made the Scarecrow cool.

Christopher Nolan’s perfection of this “realistic” treatment of Batman has become its very own category. I saw the prologue to “The Dark Knight Rises” in IMAX a few weeks ago and just…wow. Like jaw droppingly wow. Let’s just say there’s a shot where a bigger plane attaches to a smaller plane and pulls up forcing it to go vertical and just hang there…and they stinkin’ shot it IN IMAX. The audience is watching something so absurd, so over the top…and for some reason, it felt like it could exist in our world. It felt believable.

The meticulous way in which the story is crafted, and the fact that they have this insane commitment to shooting things practically as much as possible make everything convincing no matter how absurd they might be. For the Dark Knight they were prepared to shoot the base jumping sequence where Batman jumps from building 2 to building 1 of the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong. They were on location with a stunt man, helicopters and IMAX camera crews ready to go. If Hong Kong had granted them airspace clearance they would totally have tried to shoot that. That’s commitment.

I think I had a point here. I got lost. I really really really like the Christopher Nolan Batman movies and am terribly sad that “Rising” will be his last. Here I am rambling on and on, what on earth was I thinking about? Oh yes re-envisioning things. I blurted something to this effect to my girlfriend who gave me a sweet quizzical look and asked me what you are all probably quietly asking right now, “What made you think of that?”

Leaves.

The foliage around us made me think of the 1994 live-action Disney film “The Jungle Book.” This film endeavors to tell a serious tale set in the Victorian period weaved from bits and pieces of Rudyard Kipling’s collection of short stories without anthropomorphizing any of the animal cast. Baloo and Mogli had a silent bond growing up together. No more Bear Necessities.

Dudes die in the movie. A lot. Mogli’s dad is mauled to death by Shere Khan to kick off the wholesome family fun. “The Jungle Book” was a gritty reboot before gritty reboots existed! It had Lena Headey in it and everything!

I seriously felt like this was worth mentioning for some odd reason.

I’m probably dead wrong and people have been making gritty reboot films since forever, but my thinking before I came to this wild, totally uninformed conclusion was that dark, gritty, “realistic” reboots were a recent development. I think people’s brains kinda gravitate towards that train of thought. That today’s audiences want their gratuitous sex and violence grounded in a world they could relate to. Am I wrong? Or has that been true all along? Whatever, I’m all wikipediaed out so I’m sticking to my guns. Disney’s “The Jungle Book?”

First gritty reboot evar.

Happy New Year!

-Jay

P.S. My train of thought likes to leave the conductor at the station.

2 Replies to “Why So Serious?”

  1. Are we in the high noon of gritty reboots, or are we finally returning to the horrifying roots of so many cherished childhood tales? The original Jungle Book was about as kid-friendly as Ezekiel.

    1. Yes, but even in those tales the animals talked.

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