Twilight Batman Mostly Works – Review

You’ve seen goofy Batman (Adam West), sophisticated Batman (Michael Keaton), campy Batman (George Clooney), gritty Batman (Christian Bale), and grumpy Batman (Ben Affleck).

Now in 2022, director Matt Reeves brings us emo Batman!

When I first heard that Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame was going to play the Batman, I struggled with the announcement.

Apparently I wasn’t alone. The 2019 announcement of Robert Pattinson’s casting was met with a wave of criticism by franchise fans. Over 6,800 people went so far as to sign a petition urging Warner Brothers to reconsider. Others, including Jimmy Kimmel, jumped to his defense.

For me, it was difficult imagining Robert Pattinson in a role that wasn’t a tortured emo goth. And after watching 2022’s iteration of Batman, I came away saying, “Yup! He’s still a tortured emo goth! But you know what? Oddly enough, it kinda works.”

In the three hour slog of dimly lit darkness that was the darkest darkness that ever darked, I got strong Twilight vibes from Pattinson’s portrayal of a reclusive, brooding Bruce Wayne who shunned the limelight to skulk in the shadows—a Bruce Wayne with a guyliner heavy aesthetic the likes of Brandon Lee’s The Crow meets My Chemical Romance. But hey, Batman didn’t sparkle! So that’s something.

As someone who grew up watching the 1990s animated series, with a gothic, dark, somber, serious, tough and joyless Batman, Robert Pattinson’s portrayal more or less worked for me. Sure, this Batman was ’emo,’ but he was also menacing. He didn’t hold back his punches as Gotham’s ‘Vengeance.’ And the people he rescued seemed just as scared of him as the criminals he thwarted.

SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE!

WATCH OUT!

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Paul Dano’s Incel Riddler:

Paul Dano’s portrayal of an internet troll Riddler with his own horde of online followers ready to commit violence was something fresh, creepy and yet relatable for our time. Far different from Jim Carrey prancing around in a lime green onesie in Batman Forever, Paul Dano wears thick glasses, a home made mask, and terrorizes the citizens of Gotham with his Tik Tok esque videos. His boyish face and genuine mental illness (the likes of 2019’s the Joker) adds a creepy realism to him that made my skin crawl.

Zoe Kravitz Nails it as Catwoman

Zoe Kravitz was originally denied the role of Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises for being “too urban” — in other words, for having dark skin. That was definitely their loss!

Zoe Kravitz did a great job of bringing the dangerous, simmering sexuality of Selina Kyle to the screen. While she gets saved by the Batman once or twice, she’s definitely still capable of holding her own in a fight. And yes, she has lots of cats.

Some critics say there wasn’t much sexual chemistry between Catwoman and Batman. I didn’t mind. Batman doesn’t have to be sexy. He just has to be a somber, frowning, vengeance machine in a cape and cowl. He’s lowkey attracted to Catwoman. But it’s clear that crime fighting is his first love, so he doesn’t have much room in his life for sex or romance.

Thinly Veiled Allusions to Today’s Political Reality

In the Batman universe, you have a billionaire saving the day while the people who want to overthrow the corrupt elites are the extremist bad guys. Seems like quite the plutocratic message, no?

This was why The Joker made in 2019 was revolutionary. The Waynes are actually the antagonists, while Joaquin Phoenix’s emaciated and poverty riddled Joker is shown in a sympathetic light, even if he does end up going off the deep end.

Matt Reeves’ The Batman doesn’t go nearly as far as The Joker in showing Gotham’s wealthy elite in a critical light. But it does it more so than other Batman movies in the past. Catwoman states that Batman “must be rich,” because he moralizes to her from up high on his pedestal.

One thing that was interesting about this movie is that it takes a look at the corrupt actions of Bruce Wayne’s father, while past movies have largely shown the Wayne family in a positive light.

In the end of The Batman, the protagonists are people who are trying earnestly to do their best in a corrupt system, despite the fact that reform seems like it will never come. You see this with the Batman himself, along with police commissioner James Gordon, and Bella Reál, who is running for mayor with the slogan, “Change for Gotham.” I definitely got Obama vibes from her slogan. And I suppose that allusion to the Obamas was no accident, because the actress who plays Bella Reál, Jayme Lawson, was a young Michelle Obama in The First Lady.

Bella Reál is running her campaign in a stadium that gets flooded by water (along with the rest of Gotham). The stadium becomes overtaken by the Riddlers’ army of masked internet dorks. They have given up on trying to attempt reform within the system. They just want to destroy Gotham and its elites overall, thinking it is too corrupt to be saved.

As Bella Reál’s campaign gets overtaken, you get the vibe that all hopes for reform are lost. But Batman of course triumphs. And then at the end of the movie, Batman stays in the city to help people recover from the damage. He says that he can no longer just be vengeance, but he must represent hope as well.

My Overall Rating of The Batman: B, 84%

(No, I’m not rating it ‘B’ for ‘Batman.’)

This movie did not have the stellar acting the likes of Heath Ledger or Joaquin Phoenix. So I can’t say that it was my favorite Batman. But not every movie has to be ground breaking. Overall, I did come away from it feeling entertained.

I enjoyed Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman more than I expected.

I guess vampires can turn into bats after all.

New Star Trek Animated Series – Lower Decks

For the first time since 1974, there is a new animated Star Trek series, “Lower Decks.” It follows the characters who have the less glamorous jobs within Starfleet. I myself have often wondered what the rest of the crew does on the massive Enterprise ship.

Lower Decks is available on CBS All Access. It’s described as the “sillier side of Star Trek.” (Keep in mind that there is also The Orville if you want Star Trek with humor)

The reviews for Lower Decks are mixed. Some people really enjoyed it. Some people described it as out of touch baby boomers trying too hard to write humor for Generation Z. Some people asked, “Who is this show for?”

On Rotten Tomatoes the critics gave it a 61% and the audience gave it a 31%.

But of course, the only way to truly know if you like a show is to check it out yourself.

LINKS

Watch Lower Decks on CBS

Star Trek: Lower Decks makes “Second Contact” with its first episode…(Musings of a Middle-Aged Geek)

Lower Decks on Rotten Tomatoes

Lower Decks Reviews on Reddit

“Raised by Wolves” Trailer – New Post Apocalyptic Show Directed by Ridley Scott

“Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.”

The show is directed by Ridley Scott (at least the first two episodes) and will appear on HBO Max, September 3rd, 2020.

After binge-watching most of the good TV while stuck in quarantine, I’m experiencing a television drought. So I’m excited to see that there will finally be some new, quality television out there (I hope).

“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves— a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions,” Scott told Deadline Hollywood in 2018 about what drew him to the project. “What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”

LINKS

Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves is giving us strong Alien vibes (Ars Technica)

Raised by Wolves American TV Series on HBO (Wikipedia)

Raised by Wolves (IMDB)

Watch Trailer on YouTube

What I Learned in Dan Brown’s Masterclass

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By the end of this, I’m going to tell you something about myself that no one else on Earth knows…

See that, that’s an example of hooking the reader and generating suspense. This is also how Dan Brown started his Masterclass on writing, which hooked my attention immediately.

Even though I’m a Sci-Fi writer, and not a Thriller writer per se, I think there are lessons about Thriller writing that all authors can benefit from. Thrillers tend to have faster pacing and more tension than other genres, but honestly, I think all stories need tension and good pacing. It’s just a question of degree. All I know, is that when I pick up a Dan Brown novel I can’t put it down. Sometimes I’ll have issues with the characters or plot, but the man is a master of tension and pacing, there is no doubt about that.

So here is a short summary of some of the key things I learned. I’m not going to say everything, because you should pay for the Masterclass to get everything. And there’s a lot of great stuff in the class. But these are just a few of my favorite topics.


THE THREE C’S OF THRILLER: 

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When writing a Thriller, or really…any novel…keep these three C’s in mind.

The Contract, The Clock, The Crucible. 

The Contract is the implied promise you make to the reader about what they’ll discover by the end of the book. For example, in Moby Dick, the promise is that the reader will find out whether or not Ahab catches the whale. It would be very disappointing if Melville left that question unanswered.

The Clock refers to the fact that adding time pressure to the character’s struggle will create higher stakes and more tension. A lot of thrillers do this by having a bomb, so there is a literal ticking clock the protagonist is working against.

The Crucible refers to your character’s struggle, a box you put them in so they have a difficult time getting where they need to be. Whenever I beta-read a story that ends up being really boring, it’s because the character doesn’t have enough (or any) struggles. Happy people doing happy things isn’t interesting. Don’t just put your character in a tree and then let them climb down to safety without struggle. What are the obstacles that make climbing down difficult for your character? Is there a beehive? Are they getting splinters? Is it a long way down if they fall? Is there something scary, and ominous waiting for them at the bottom?


GENERATING A SENSE OF MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE

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Dan Brown spoke a lot in his class about raising questions that you don’t immediately answer. Of course, there has to be a balance. Not all of us can pull a George R.R. Martin and say that “winter is coming” for like six seasons of a show before finally paying off that promise. (Does it ever get paid off in the books?)

A big mistake I see new writers doing is that they try to immediately answer every single question that pops up, or tell you everything about a main character as soon as they arrive on the page. First chapters like this read as infodumps and don’t pull me into the story. The process of pulling someone into a story is raising a question, with the tacit promise that the question will be answered in an interesting and exciting way as the reader progresses through the story.

As Dan Brown says: “Suspense is all about making promises. It’s about telling a reader, ‘I know something you don’t know. And I promise, if you turn the page, I’m going to tell you.’”


THE PURPOSE OF POINT OF VIEW (POV) – PULLING YOUR READER INTO THE STORY

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One thing Dan Brown said that I really like is: (I’m paraphrasing right now) well written POV makes your reader feel like they’re a character inside your story, and the reader forgets that they’re reading.

Another mistake I see from new writers is that they write in POVs that bounce all over the place. This can give the reader whiplash.

If your story needs lots of POV characters, try to have one POV per chapter, or per scene.

Personally, I like it better when there’s only one POV the whole book, but that’s just me.

If you give your POV character a strong voice and personality, this can really help to draw in the reader and provide a more colorful depiction of the world you’ve created.

Also, when choosing a POV character consider the following: Who has the most learn? Who has the most to lose? Alice in Wonderland is interesting because Alice is a stranger in a strange land. But if Alice in Wonderland was written from the perspective of the Rabbit, or the Queen of Hearts, it would be a completely different story.


HOW MANY CHARACTERS SHOULD YOUR STORY HAVE? AS FEW AS POSSIBLE

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Once again, not all of us can be George R.R. Martin with a cast of like a hundred something characters with impossible to remember names. It seems that High Fantasy can get away with this a little more than other genres, but most readers don’t want to think too hard, and they definitely don’t want to read a story that feels like a homework assignment.

And if one character already accomplishes a certain thing, why have two that do the exact same thing?

For example, if one character is a quirky wizard who makes sarcastic wisecracks, having two characters exactly like this would just seem redundant and unnecessary.

Or maybe you can economize. Have one character who accomplishes multiple things to downsize the need for further characters.

Too many characters is actually in the “17 Reasons Why Book Manuscripts Are Rejected.


THE NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING – PROTECT THE PROCESS!!!

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“Writing a novel is not all about inspiration and craft. It is about process…about making sure that you set aside time every day to do your work.” – Dan Brown 

Protect the process and the rest will follow. 

What does Dan Brown mean by protect the process? Every successful writer has their own process. And not every writer’s process will be the same. Dan Brown’s process is that he sits down from 4am-11am everyday to write, with no connection to the internet, no distractions, and he forces himself to get up every hour to do a few brief exercises, so that he keeps himself energized.

Your process doesn’t have to be like this, but this is a process that works for him. Your job is to find what process works for you. Do you like writing in the early morning when no one else is awake to distract you? Do you like to write late at night for the same reasons? Do you jot ideas down on toilet paper and shove them into your pocket?

There’s no writer’s block. There’s simply failure to put your butt in the chair and write.

Writing is like going to the gym. We don’t always feel like doing it. But if you’re someone who is serious about getting published, you can’t just write only when you feel like it, or treat it like a hobby. You have to treat it like a job.

Also, be fiercely protective of your process. Sometimes the people you love the most will be the ones to (inadvertently) undermine your process (because they love you!). I suppose this is why a lot of writers like to write in the early hours of the morning, or late hours of the night, or go to a location where there won’t be any friends and family members around to distract them.

Of course there has to be a balance. You can’t ignore your responsibilities to your family, spouse, and friends. But if you’re serious about being a published author, you should probably try to set aside some amount of time each day (or five days a week) that are your writing time.

Dan Brown suggests committing to an amount of time rather than a word count. Some days you might feel drained, and struggle to put a mere 100 words on the page. Other days you might feel super inspired, and whip about 6,000 words together in no time flat. It’s going to vary day by day, based on your energy and creativity levels. So, it’s more important to commit to X hours, rather than X words.

Also keep in mind that it’s okay to make mistakes. You might write a scene that sucks. You might end up writing a book no one wants to read. That’s okay. You learn from your mistakes. You be kind to yourself. Reflect. Move on.

Yet the time to be tough on yourself is when it’s time to protect the process, when you wake up at the appointed time and think, I’d rather sleep in. Or when you’re struggling to write, and are tempted to binge watch the entirety of The Punisher in a single weekend. (No…I didn’t do that…Of course not.)

Mistakes will happen. And there’s no guarantee your writing will even be good. But if you commit to a habitual process, you’ll at least become a better writer than you were yesterday, and have something to show for your efforts.


If you like what you’ve read, consider getting a Masterclass subscription so you can see the rest of what Dan Brown has to say. Because he discusses much, much more, than what is merely summarized here.