BAFTA Film Awards – 2015 Original Screenplay nominations

The BAFTA Film Awards airs tonight at 21:00 on BBC One HD, and will announce, among other things, the winners of the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay awards.

Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place, for the most part, entirely within the titular building, where a murder occurs, prompting concierge Gustave H. to prove his innocence, which takes him through the various parts of the hotel. Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig and his real-world travels, Anderson planned the story with Hugo Guinness, which is divided into six acts: PrologueM. GustaveMadame C.V.D.u.T.Check-point 19 Criminal Internment CampThe Society of the Crossed KeysThe Second Copy of the Second Will and Epilogue.

The character H. was inspired by someone Anderson and Guinness both knew. When creating him, the original screenplay draft was a short, and not set in the past or a hotel. Anderson was inspired to revise it when discovering Zweig’s writings. Beware of Pity influenced the opening scenes, which Zweig used in his other writings, in-which a character living on the edge of society meets an equally interesting character, which is how The Grand Budapest Hotel begins. Zweig’s further influences in the screenplay involve the decline of an empire, developing division and declining independance.

Anderson’s previous nominations include The Royal Tenenbaums with Owen Wilson.

Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash

Chazelle’s Whiplash was nominated by The Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, whereas The BAFTA Film Awards have nominated it for Best Original Screenplay. To encourage interest and funding, Chazelle produced a short film from an extract of the screenplay, which The Oscars determine to make the finished product an adaptation. The BAFTA Film Awards determined it to only be an adaptation of itself, and therefore be considered an original screenplay.

Artistic inspiration behind Whiplash can be found in Chazelle’s previous work, Grand Piano, in-which a pianist will be killed by a sniper if he plays a wrong note. This situation is threaded through Whiplash, with playing out-of-time causing music teacher Terrance Fletcher to become violent and aggressive. Writing Whiplash began as reaction to writing another screenplay, which wasn’t working. Chazelle instead began focusing on his other idea of being a jazz drummer, based on his own experiences with a real teacher. It was for this reason that he initially didn’t want to share the screenplay, which felt “too personal”, and for a long time it was in a drawer. It eventually gained interest from producers, but not enough for any to fund it. The Black List ranked it among the top unproduced screenplays of the year, leading to it being greenlit.

This is Chazelle’s first nomination.

Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler

Gilroy’s aim with Nightcrawler was to write a screenplay with a “moral darkness” that would highlight Los Angeles’ best aspects. In that way, it counterbalanced the sociopathic tendancies of Louis Bloom with news media’s own sociopathic nature. It works as a form of alternative psychology, by presenting sociopathy as a scale, and presenting the numerous ways it can manifest in all people. The vulnerability of the characters is another key element to it, which also balanced the sociopathic themes, which both bring-out each other.

Nightcrawler was inspired by Arthur Fellig. the first crime photographer to follow events with a police scanner in his car, who inspired others to do the same. Part of Bloom’s character was inspired by Weegee’s biopic, Howard Franklin‘s The Public Eye. Gilroy based Bloom on a coyote, nocturnal animals often seen around Los Angeles late at night that are never. From there, he wrote Bloom as never being fed spiritually, with his hunger extending itself with every feeding. Bloom’s addicted to the scenes he photographs. This hunger’s the catalyst of his success story, which Gilroy says made him not want to label Bloom with a label that reduces his character. He has sociopathic tendencies, but from a desire to be a self-employed business owner, which is also a very Human feeling.

This is Gilroy’s first nomination.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo‘s Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The majority of praise for Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has focused on its metatextuality within 2010 cinema. During the peak of the superhero genre trend, it presented the audience with an out-of-work Michael Keaton, who’s career was made with Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren‘s Batman and and Daniel Waters‘ Batman Returns. Here, Keaton’s Riggan Thomas attempts to stage a comeback through directing a production of When we Talk About When we Talk About Love. Along the way, he encounters Edward Norton of Zak Penn‘s The Incredible Hulk. In this version, Norton is an actor in a similar situation, not only being a further reflection of Keaton’s declining career as a former superhero, but as Norton’s own status as having been replaced as the character in Joss Whedon‘s Marvel’s the Avengers by Mark Ruffalo (also nominated for Best Supporting [Male] Actor as Dave Schultz in E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman‘s Foxcatcher). Also appearing as Sam Thomas is Emma Stone, who’s most famous role – arguably – is Gwen Stacy in James VanderbiltAlvin Sargent and Steve Kloves‘ The Amazing Spider-Man, before being killed-off by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s Stone who’s nominated for Best Supporting [Female Actor], due in part to a scene in-which she talks of how nobody really matters. It’s this theme of being dispensable that makes it a story of people who are existing on the edges of their own existence. It may be a meta-parody of the superhero genre, but more than that is it a Human interest.

This is their first nomination.

Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood

Though showing the life of a family over twelve years, Boyhood was scripted and followed a pre-constructed narrative that was altered with every year’s filming in collaboration with the cast. Linklater called it a document of time, though it resembles a documentary to show the indistinction between fiction and non-fiction. The screenplay’s a compilation of smaller screenplays written every year that follow-on, like an inconsistently-lengthed serial. But it still feels like one story, with each year’s segment remaining part of the same thing, rather than seguing into tangents. This was largely a result of the collaboration with the actors, who also began to know where the characters were themselves going. Linklater wanted each year not to noticeably transition, but to only exist through perception, with the effect of the film being emotion created by realising the passage of time. It relied on the audience’s nostalgia, and the emotion that comes that hindsight.

This is Linklater’s first nomination.

Cucumber: Episode 2 — review

Screenplay by Russell T. Davies.

Following last week’s launch episode, Davies develops the drama that is Henry Best’s life to a position that puts the audience in a moral dilemma: Best is punished based on allegations that are untrue. It’s a dilemma because he’s still a predator living amongst younger boys who openly admits to his boyfriend that he’s a whore. So, even though there’s that element involved, does he deserve to be punished for something else? Is it important what he’s being punished for, or does the fact that he’s being punished make it okay, even if it doesn’t actually stop the things he’s doing? No, he didn’t make racist, heterophobic remarks, but he’s still praying on younger men, who are of a legal age, but still feel threatened just by his presence.

Of course, all of this is made even more complicated by the possibility that he did do those things as well, and that we just didn’t see them. Perhaps Banana will reveal things Cucumber didn’t. But what matters it that this episode, regardless of what was shown, still makes no attempt to hide the fact that Best is bad. He fantasises about Freddie Baxter (and honestly, no really, honestly, who wouldn’t?) and is waiting for the moment to seduce him with wine and a shoulder massage, in a similar manner to his threesome from the previous episode, and the drama never denies that it’s wrong of him to do that. But at the same time, we’re being asked to empathise with him based on a situation that maybe didn’t even transpire. That’s the kind of moralistic problems that come-up in Davies’ dramas, and he doesn’t shy-away from it. He embraces the complications of morality, by making us find ourselves supporting a person for being in the right in one situation, when they’re in the complete wrong in another, more important situation. Cucumber‘s kinda like a gay Breaking Bad.

And yet, even in that far more serious situation, you still really like him for it. Or at least, I did anyway. You find his fantasies and desires to give it good to Baxter satisfying yourself, especially if you would gladly drop whatever you’re playing with to do the same. The episode reveals that he’s a virgin, and feels frustrated by his own sexual inexperience, and that frustration can be appeal if you connect with it. Davies makes you like a man you know you should hate for thinking things he shouldn’t be, despite them being your own thoughts. You want to champion him for at least trying, because it’s fiction. You want to him to succeed, so you can achieve the same through him. You want him to do the things you know you shouldn’t because it’s a safe way. But it never once stops trying to remind you of how sick you really are.

Cucumber: Episode 2 – complex moral ideas, socially engaging. 8/10

Fantastic Four — review

I actually really liked Fantastic Four. In the run-up to the new Fant4stic, the general consensus seems to be that this version is mostly disliked. But that’s fine. Because unlike some idiots on the Internet, I know what subjectivity is.

Anyway, so Fantastic Four. Here’s what I liked about it more than anything – I didn’t have to worry about how this connected to a much larger universe. There were no easter eggs to spot, no tie-ins or continuity to think about. Basically, Fantastic Four wasn’t trying to fit into a story already in progress. It just exists as a standalone, so it actually had room to breath and to just be the thing that it wants to be without the existence of other releases getting in its way or influencing it. As much as I like recent releases based on comic books, I’d prefer that they weren’t part of some big, interconnected world, because that causes a lot of practical storytelling problems, as well as inserting an element of expectation or comparability into what you’re watching. With Fantastic Four, there are no connections to anything. The Spider-Man trilogy was already in progress at this point, but there are no references to anything from it made. Both they and he live in New York, and have super-powers, and defeat a supervillain, but Marvel decided to allow Fantastic Four to exist on its own, which was a much more logical choice, because it lets the characters prove themselves on their own. It’s simpler, and simpler is better. Especially when the new Fantastic Four team are (probably) going to be a part of the X-Men universe, which already has a very complicated continuity.

And so, given my preference for standalones, it makes sense to look at Fantastic Four by not thinking about other superhero films at all, and actually showing the kind of credibility its status as a standalone has.

So – despite there being a sequel, which I’m hoping to get to, we begin Fantastic Four in a brand new world that’s about to become much braver. And as it progresses and develops, it seems that it isn’t taking itself too seriously, which works better than it doesn’t. The characters are extremely likeable, and that’s what Fantastic Four has going for it – they’re like a family. Reed Richards is scientific, and skeptical, and approaches everything with logic in a way that does work, even if it’s at the detriment of his connection to the other characters. Susan Storm’s role in the story is… interesting. Johnny Storm was my favourite, however, because of his comedic apathy and for being semi-aware of questions I actually found myself asking, e.g.: where the Thing’s ears are? And also for pointing-out how gross Richards’ power is (which I’ll admit is created through effects since dated). I’d point out how fun it was to watch a serious hero like Steven Rogers suddenly being comic relief, and that it’s entirely due to Chris Evans, who gains legitimacy here because of his contrasting roles, but… standalone!

But though Storm’s my favourite (Johnny, though I can understand the affinity for Susan), it was Benjamin Grimm that affected me the most. The scene where his fiance runs away from him, despite him having set-up his reveal so carefully, worked because it’s accurate. Some people really are capable of being monster on the inside, when there are people considered monsters on the outside. And I especially liked his exchange with Storm, where he tells her that he wishes he had her ability, because he hates being seen.

Fantastic Four‘s the kind of thing where, the screenplay… kinda sucks. it has good moments, but it mostly sucks. But somehow, everything else worked. The Thing was really well-realised, I don’t get the hate for it. And it didn’t have the overbearing sense of dread that modern superhero releases have. Not that I don’t like dark themes, it’s just that they’re all looking as if they’re trying to have them, as opposed to just having them.

Really, I’m satisfied with what Fantastic Four provides. Again, I’d mention how, to me, it’s set the bar high in terms of Fant4stic, but…

…standalone!

Fantastic Four – goofy, but not overly so. 7/10

Why I don’t read comic books

Normally, I tend to focus on motion pictures with These Things, but a large trend in cinema currently is comic book adaptations. Upcoming this year are Avengers: Age of UltronAnt-ManFantastic FourKingsman: the Secret Service and The Peanuts Movie, all of which are adaptations of comic books. And they’re also the most successful, as well as generally being of the most interest to audiences and news sites. And the reason, from what I’ve observed, seems to be because Marvel Studios have decided to launch a series of comic book adaptations using the same structure as comic books themselves, with characters having their own series, which interconnect with each-other. So any comic book being released this month is likely to be part of a larger, ongoing story and that we’re only seeing that character’s perspective of it.

And yet, I don’t read comic books. The main reason is because I don’t want to bring that external element into it. I figure that if I followed comic book storylines, then it would alter my perception of the adaptations, in the same way as a novel would. For example, there’s a Marvel fanatic I unfortunately know. And he’s quite obsessed with accuracy. He once said that the reason Marvel need to follow the Winter Soldier storyline of making him the next Captain America after Steve Rogers dies is, in a nutshell, because that was the events that happened in the comic books. Do you know something? I don’t care. I just don’t care. When I saw Captain America: the Winter Soldier, I knew nothing about that villain. When I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I knew nothing about them either. But both were still entertaining. And as someone whose biggest interest is motion pictures, I find that having that knowledge there – of the lore, and the continuity – would create an undesired conflict of interest. So I just don’t read them. Because I want to be surprised. I don’t want to know what’s coming. All I want is a good story. And, as someone who’s never read a single comic book, I can tell you: their adaptations still manage to entertain me.

Killed the Cat — review

Screenplay by Bertie Gilbert.

With Killed the Cat, I can now tell you that Bertie Gilbert is potentially the lovechild of Woody Allen and Wes Anderson. And that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, you only need to follow Gilbert’s tumblr. to see how much he loves Anderson. And, like Allen, Killed the Cat attempts to answer and solve the presence of life’s big questions with comedy.

We begin with three escaped mental hospital patients, and what follows is their journey through the town, intercut and complementing one of the patients’ anecdotes of the events that transpire. Like Cosmic Divide, it’s a manipulation of time and space, with what we see being determined by what we’re told, with information about the facility being revealed through the telling of the anecdote. And yet, unlike Cosmic Divide, it comes to twenty-minutes long, due to the number of characters and details that need to be revealed. It’s those details that make the story, with the patients’ thoughts and actions giving us an insight into how people think, how these characters think, how Gilbert thinks the characters think and how Gilbert himself thinks. That’s a big, complex web of thought there, but it’s true, and it’s those complexities and layers that make Killed the Cat an artistic success.

Ultimately, it ends on an interdetermined note. John goes for a (surprisingly sexy) clothed-swim in the sea, leaving his companion on a rock on the beach. The third member of the group decides to return to the facility, recalling what happened to the other escapees and why she decided to return. There are hints of her desire to leave throughout the journey, with her criticism of theft making her a hypocrite for later stealing something herself, only to then abandon it for no longer desiring it. She wanted to know how it felt to steal, but having done it ultimately didn’t feel as interesting as wanting to do it.

And yet, her context of it only called it theft because that’s what everyone else calls it. She preferred to think of it as just not paying for something, with other people exchanging items for money because that’s just what everyone else does. Which makes Killed the Cat an analogy. It even opens with the definition of “analogy” – “a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification”. The telling of the story is an analogy of the story, while the story explains the meaning behind the reason the story’s being told. There’s lots of causation between each half, and it makes the literal journey a psychological journey, but both are of discovery. They discover what the real world is like, and whether it’s that interesting or not, and the conclusion she comes to is that it really isn’t, but discovers how society would view her as a result of her opinion of it, despite not actually considering herself to be of any fault. And so, that further ties-in to its status as an analogy for also telling us more about ourselves; just because most of us consider society to make sense, that doesn’t mean everyone thinks it does. But they’re not bad people for that, and yet, they should still be isolated from society. It’s an interesting ethical debate, and not something Killed the Cat gives you an answer to – it just lets you decide what to think yourself.

Also, the penultimate shot really made me laugh.

Killed the Cat – superb accomplishment, explorative without pretentiousness (8/10).

Cosmic Divide — review

Screenplay by Bertie Gilbert.

As a screenwriter, I care about narrative. Because narrative is everything. On the first day of Film Studies, I learnt that narrative is the manipulation of time and space to tell a story. Which is where we get Bertie Gilbert’s Cosmic Divide, a motion picture I should have seen by now.

Here’s the thing: Gilbert gets motion pictures. Looking at his filmography, he obviously understand how to make ideas work. Even if his earlier work is arguably inferior to his more recent releases (though that can be said of any artist), watching what he creates shows you that he has everything in his head, understands it all, and just has to make it real. With Cosmic Divide, we get an example of how storytelling should work. And that’s because it honours an unspoken rule: stories need pace. Not necessarily a fast pace, but a consistent pace. And what Cosmic Divide does is to take everything that’s happening, present it in a way that we can understand the characters, but compile that in as less time as possible without loss of information to the audience.

That’s a basic rule of editing, too – giving the audience everything they need to see in as short a space of time as possible, without eliminating the artistic value. When you watch Cosmic Divide, you can see he’s doing this, and it’s clever. But what you don’t know is that this idea is being exploited. The twist ending looks so obvious watching it back, yet experiencing it for the first time doesn’t have this advantage. Again: that’s because the final scene gives extra information that alters what’s come before. Only, it does that by tying the two main threads together. The narrative functions with two things happening, and we switch between them, the diegetic narration being the only connection. Narration on its own can often be used as writers’ short hand when information could be shown visually but isn’t. Here, we get narration happening within the story as dialogue, just edited to become narration – an example of contracting sensory information without lossage. It’s not important to see the character recalling his story, all we need to know is that he’s doing it. And we do know that because of the sound quality as a result of using a telephone.

So these two strands are happening apparently exclusive of each other. Gilbert walks through London at night solemnly, intercut with him at home waiting for something. It’s effective because we don’t know what comes first. Is he clearing his head after the event he was anticipating, or is he on his way to it, and what we’re seeing takes place later that night? You don’t know. But we’re not meant to know. The execution of whatever happens is intentionally ambiguous, but its minimalism is what keeps you watching – it knows how vague it’s being, and all you need to do is just keep watching.

And you do keep watching. And ultimately, what the ending reveals probably wasn’t supposed to have already been known. But in so simple an exchange of shots, with costume becoming significant, everything you’ve just seen makes sense. It’s the kind of thing that Christopher Nolan accomplished with Inception, and Gilbert’s doing it here, just on a smaller scale that’s more personal.

Lev Kuleshov once made a point that audiences will assume shots are connected if placed together, and it’s always fun to see artists experiment with established conventions.

If you haven’t seen Gilbert’s pieces, the link to his channel’s on the video page.

Cosmic Divide – impressive, experimental manipulation of narrative. 8/10

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Chocolate Milk — review

Screenplay by Gabe Liedman.

When we were first introduced to Jake Peralta, we were told he hadn’t learnt how to grow up. In this episode, his case took him to a chocolate milk bar, where he unleashed his obsession with the chocolate-flavoured version, before comparing himself to a child, through-which he speaks to Terry. It’s as if it’s a manifestation of his true childlike mind. Of course, it’s the reason we like him, but this was more of an introspective episode, wrapped in a sitcom filled with cutaway gags. They obviously resemble Family Guy – they don’t contain the same kind of humour as Family Guy – but they still obviously resemble Family Guy. They begin and end before the gags do themselves, and that displace in time triggers laughter.

Of course, the case takes him through the process of being Terry’s “friend friend”, aka “friend”, rather than being his “work friend”, aka “colleague”. And really, his childishness is at the heart of that. Unlike many immature characters, who are obsessed with toilet humour, Peralta’s immaturity leads him to just being a good friend, and caring about someone in the same way that a child might. And then, through the process of being his friend, and being loyal, he gets a responsibility to him, and actually becomes quite grown-up for once. Through all the extremes and complications that occur, he never abandons Terry and remains devoted to what he has to do. Honestly, to someone who’s been following this show since its inception, it was a really good moment to see him actually take up that opportunity, and by the end of it, you like him twice as much as you already did.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Chocolate Milk – beautiful character development, rewarding experience. 8/10

The Big Bang Theory: the Champagne Reflection — review

Screenplay by Jim ReynoldsSteve Holland and Dave Goetsch.

There are two sides to comedy: jokes and bittersweet. The Champagne Reflection was on the bittersweet side, with characters basking in the present to think about what their lives will amount to. And the answer is: nothing. The Big Bang Theory itself states that eventually, the Universe will implode, leaving nothing. Entropy will consume all in time. That’s the basis of cosmology, and as a theoretical physicist, Sheldon Cooper only knows that too well. So it’s fitting that this episode should take the time to show us that all our efforts are truly meaningless by dividing the story into each character’s place, and linking them through meaning.

Firstly, there’s Cooper himself. We begin with him recording the final episode of Sheldon Cooper Presents “Fun With Flags”, and reminiscing on what it’s like to end something. So many sitcoms have famous last episodes, Friends: the Last One‘s final moments being testament to this. Eventually, he decides to bring Sheldon Cooper Presents “Fun With Flags” back, which I found to be a nice jab at the kind of producers that can’t leave something alone. Basically, Peter Jackson. The Big Bang Theory‘s characters are almost defined by their pop culture interests, so for one of them to unironically channel the kind of George Lucas milking is an interesting point made by Reynolds, Holland and Goetsch.

Then we have our title reference with Leonard Hofstadter, Howard Wolowitz and Rajesh Koothrappali clearing out a deceased professor’s office and finding an unopened champagne bottle, which was said to be reserved for when the professor achieved something important, which hadn’t been opened. There, the three of them make a pact: they were all take ownership of the champagne bottle, until one of them achieved something significant.

Of course, with anything like this, there’s always the oblivious ruining of something heartfelt by another character. In this case, it was Cooper opening the bottle to celebrate the final episode of his show receiving a positive comment, prompting him to bring it back. But this was also extremely clever of the writers’: it was both in-character, while also promoting a good life philosophy- if you enjoy something, and people like it, that’s all that matters. The moment is what’s important, and life is a pile of them. Not one single great thing.

The big Bang Theory: the Champagne Reflection – bittersweet plot device, meaningful episode. 6/10

Monthly Movie: Whiplash (January 2015)

Whiplash was released in UK cinemas this January, and has become the most critically-acclaimed. Which is saying something, since it’s come-out in the infamous toilet bowl month.

Screenwriter Damien Chazelle wrote the screenplay (available here) almost as therapy for the nightmarish memories he has of an abusive music teacher, brought to life by J.K. Simmons’  Terrance Fletcher. Fletcher’s teaching methods cause student Andrew Nieman to mentally and physically deteriorate over the course of the story, leading to a psychological battle between them – Nieman wanting to constantly usurp Fletcher’s doubt, while Fletcher wants to continue pushing Neiman. It soon descends into a primal endurance test between them, which ultimately manifests through Nieman at a performance, in-which he becomes one of the greatest drummers of all time. The ending is ambiguous in that respect, in that it doesn’t tell you what to think – did Nieman find his skill within himself regardless of Fletcher, or was Fletcher responsible for bringing it out of him? One ethical debate between them, which Nieman later recalls to his family, implies than anyone can become a great drummer under Fletcher’s tutelage regardless of previous experience.

As a screenplay, Whiplash has been very controversial at this year’s Oscars. To gather funding for the complete production, Chazelle (also the director) produced an extract in the form of a scene, which was shown at film festivals to encourage potential patrons. On that basis, the Academy decided that Whiplash is an adaptation. Regardless of it being an adaptation of an extract from itself to fund the rest, it’s still an adaptation as far as the Oscars are concerned, and it’s been nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. And yet, the British Academy have nominated it for Best Original Screenplay, determining the obvious logic around it to make it that thing, rather than using a loophole to deny it the chance of the award it actually deserves.

I spent my evening today reading the Whiplash screenplay. I have a bit of a sore throat right now, so I was drinking a black currant, but it looked like wine. So let’s just say I was drinking a wine and reading a screenplay on my laptop. I now officially know how it feels to be an Executive Producer.

Have you seen Whiplash? What did you think? Is it really the best release of January? Sound off below. And if there are enough comments, I might just feature them in next month’s blog. I don’t know yet. I don’t make promises I can’t keep (though they’re the best kind).

Batman: Year One — review

Written by Tab Murphy.

Batman: Year One is Warner Premiere’s one-hour animated adaptation of the 1980s modernised origin of Batman.

I picked it up from my comic book store purely because it stars Bryan Cranston as James Gordon, a casting choice Warner Bros. should carry-over to mainstream cinema, and Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne, who now stars as a younger Gordon in prequel Gotham. Warner Premiere promoted this as a story more about Gordon than Wayne, and that’s something that accurately carries-over here, but in a very strange way. What we get is a montage of events during Year One, which cuts between Wayne and Gordon. Most of the run time before the final act is this style; backwards and forwards between them, as a montage, playing over a long piece of music. Which is how Year One is recounted.  Run time is something I’ve had a big problem with when it comes to DC animations, because storytelling is often sacrificed because of it. Such a short runtime’s caused by writers realising they don’t have enough ideas for how to use and develop these characters, so instead they just cut the story short. And that’s the problem here: the story’s told much quicker than it needed to be. To say it establishes itself as a crime noir-esque thriller is strange, given that it rushes through each segment as if they don’t matter. Which is why there are a lot of questions left over – eg: where did Wayne get the Batman outfit? An origin story really desires that kind of information, especially for a character known for his appearance.

And even then, in scenes that have been given breathing space, the characters are so uninteresting. Bryan Cranston is an actor I love, but it’s obvious from the words he’s speaking that the script requires him to say it for the audience. In fact, there’s barely any dialogue here at all. Most of it’s internal dramatic dialogue that gives the audience all the information they might need. And that’s because there’s no time for dialogue in the story.

And yes, I complain, but that’s because I care.  Warner Bros.  could have become so popular by now if they put effort into their DVD-direct productions. If they used a cinematic screenplay, with a runtime allowing the story to exist in its own, natural terms, they could make something worth making, regardless of whether it was released in the mainstream or not.

McKenzie’s sleep-inducing performance notwithstanding, there’s nothing really notable about Batman: Year One when there should have been. There are many versions of Batman’s origin story, but this one told the story from Gordon’s perspective, and that really could have been something. But what we get instead is an extended montage that looked like a series catch up rather than the story itself.

Batman: Year One — potential wasted on frustrating montage. 4/10

Written by Tab Murphy