All stories about flawless princesses, mighty knights struggling with dragons and powerful sorcerers are foundations on traditional ways of thinking, tales we have been told as children. J.R.R. Tolkien’s modern fantasy epic Lord of the Rings is absolutely based on this scheme, and this is why the whole world at one time went wild about it. “LOTR-mania” lasted between 2001 and 2004 and was a major financial success, critically acclaimed and heavily awarded. Seven years later, a new epic story embedded in medieval realities rises from LOTR’s ashes, only this time the story is darker and the reaction it receives is more complex – and more fanatical. In contrast to Tolkien, who based his story on ancient poems such as The Song of the Nibelungs or Beowulf, where good fights evil with noble warriors and righteous kings, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones refers to the actual history of medieval Europe and very bloody events like The Hundred Years’ War or struggles between the mighty clans in Scotland and England.
Almost everything that Tolkien took from classic medieval tales and cultivated as an example of basic divisions between good and bad, Martin is breaking, changing into stories full of sex, violence, suffering and most of all: death. The world-wide success of Game of Thrones lies in the fact that no one is safe and anyone can die any minute, no matter if character is a supporting or leading a role. Magnetizing, real characters with psychological depth have become a trademark of the series. Combine this with constant uncertainty, and the world holds its breath for every episode. We fall in love with stories full of death and suffering because our story, the human story, is full of death and suffering. People identify with characters most similar to them. In this scenario, Martin exposes us as we really are: small, corrupted and capable of anything in the name of power. And we love it.
From panties to armor: Evolution of Batman.
Leslie H. Martinson, Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan – this directing quartet is responsible for four different visions of the Batman character in cinema, from his first appearance in Batman back in 1966 with Adam West as Bruce Wayne, to Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. In the 56-year movie career of Batman, the ‘dark night’ has evolved from a slapstick character, jumping around in grey panties, to nefarious hero cursed by society, fighting for justice even against the will of the people. The process of Batman’s transformation had three stages. The first sight of Batman in comic books in the late sixties gave birth to colourful and tongue-in-cheek screen adaptations by Tim Burton in 1989. He was the one who actually responded to fans’ complaints and created a truly credible world of comics onscreen. Gotham – the darkest city in America – is obscure, dirty and full of malodorous factories, always shrouded in mist. Burton clearly refers to classic genres like cinema noir or German expressionists (most of the action happens at night), and we can also detect the influence of Hitchcock or Poe’s macabre tones.
In the mid 90’s Joel Schumacher directed two batman movies but his only purpose (in my opinion) was to make it “sexy” and marketable to a wider audience. The result was so horrible that the only things remaining are jokes about the nipples on Batman’s costume. The artistic and commercial disaster of Schumacher’s work caused an 8 year break in the super-hero’s movie career until the prequel of the newest series, Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan, hit our screens in 2005. Nolan’s trilogy is a very important contribution for screen adaptations, because it exposes the psychology of the character, his inner struggles and depth. Nolan showed Batman as a human being with doubts, troubled and complicated. Nolan is the first to explain “how” Bruce Wayne become the Dark Knight, presenting all the emotional background of this evolution: a vengeful man without any family, tortured by his own demons, stepping on the edge between justice and rage.
“Darker is the new sexy”
From epic fantasy stories full of magic to comics about superheroes and super villains – in the age of reinterpretation of any kind of value and morality, fairy tales and stories for children become a very interesting field for filmmakers. This is why in last few years such productions as Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Huntsman or Maleficent have become worldwide hits. The conceit is in all examples similar: to tell a well-known story, but focusing on the omitted aspects, the background of the plot. In Red Riding Hood, for example, emphasis is placed on the story within the story – the big, bad wolf from the tale is actually a werewolf and the whole movie becomes a fantasy horror with a lot of action. Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent are both new interpretations of bed-time stories for children. But in both of films, the plot shows the story from different angle, from another perspective, and the main assumption is the fact that no one is evil without a reason, and there are no unconditionally good people.