From The Vault: The Secret History of Monsters (2005)

A guide to the ups and downs of Cinema’s greatest Creatures…

(This is one of the articles I was most proud of, simply because the original comission was totally different. Done for Hotdog magazine in December 2005 to accompany the release of Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong, it was supposed to be a “Monster Deathmatch”, kind of a comedy wrestling-style face-off between different legendary screen monsters. One problem – I simply couldn’t get it to work, or be remotely funny. So, after a great deal of panic, I brainstormed a different idea that felt like my kind of lunacy, pitched it, and amazingly they accepted it. Due to complicated reasons I never actually got paid for it, but there are various bits in here that still bring a smile to my face (even if certain gags have dated – God, I’m not sure if anyone nowadays will even remember Dragonheart…))

Ever wondered what Kong was getting up to between his infrequent movie appearances? Wonder no longer, as we unearth the behind-the-scenes lives of cinema’s greatest (and not so greatest) monsters…

KONG (King Kong, 1933)

He may have initially struggled to match his 1933 success, but Kong finally found massive acclaim on the London Stage, particularly during his unbroken two-year run as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Romantically linked with a string of screen beauties including Jean Harlow and Katherine Hepburn, Kong remained a committed bachelor, spending most of the Forties and Fifties as a representative of the World Wildlife Fund. Probably the most unexpected turn in his lengthy career was his Avant-Garde period in the Sixties, immortalised in the Andy Warhol film “Kongdom”- a four and a half hour single shot of the giant ape asleep in front of New York’s Carnegie Hall. Appearing in the unsuccesful1974 King Kong remake was an unwise move, resulting in Kong losing out on a role in Beyond The Poseidon Adventure, while his self-written sitcom “Who Brought The Ape?” was eventually cancelled after two seasons. He now lives in Northern California running his own vineyard, and is credited as an “Executive Consultant” on Peter Jackson’s remake.

GODZILLA (Godzilla, 1953)

Fondly referred to as ‘the hardest working Monster in show-business’, the 50-metre tall radioactive lizard and self-confessed ‘Renaissance Beast’ has barely stopped working between his 28 movies. Since 1964, he’s appeared regularly on Japanese television in the Sesame Street-style education show Gojira Chikara Kazu!! (Number Power Godzilla), where he teaches children to count how many buildings he’s just knocked down. The Eighties saw the start of the Big G’s infamous talk show Shiawasena Gojira (Godzilla Happy Chat), while he’s recently moved into directing with a series of highly acclaimed (and destruction-heavy) arthouse dramas.

T-REX (Jurassic Park, 1993)

The star of Jurassic Park started developing a substance abuse problem when his starring role in the mooted remake of One Million Years B.C. failed to materialise. After being overshadowed in Jurassic Park III by the supposedly scarier Spinosaurus, the T-Rex was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct on the Universal Studios lot. In and out of rehab for the next few years, the T-Rex has now cleaned up its act, spending much of its time hanging out with Corey Feldman, and is strongly tipped for a comeback with a vital role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards.

THE SCORPION KING (The Mummy Returns, 2001)

Widely mocked at the time for his unconvincing, CGI-like appearance, the Scorpion King made the move into professional wrestling, but was booted out of the sport for accidentally slicing the heads off some of his opponents. After an unwise attempt at shifting careers into Telemarketing, he was declared bankrupt in 2004, and is currently living as a derelict on the streets of Downtown L.A. According to reports, he can regularly be found flexing his claws outside the Bradbury Building wearing a cardboard sign that says “Will Raise Eyebrow For Food”.

THE BALROG (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001)

Already a legend on the Lord of the Rings set for his practical jokes involving banana skins and lava, the Balrog’s hard-drinking lifestyle was exposed after he publicly brawled with one of the Nazgul’s Fell Beasts at a 2003 post-Oscar party. Despite this, he remains friends with all the Rings cast members, and his cameo opposite Orlando Bloom in Elizabethtown will be re-instated on the forthcoming DVD release. He lives in a New Zealand volcano, and is currently suing Peter Jackson for a percentage of the profits from Fellowship of the Ring,

BRUCE THE SHARK (Jaws, 1975)

After many years trying to get out of the iron-clad contracts that forced him into the shoddy Jaws sequels, Bruce The Shark has finally left the world of Hollywood far behind. He now lives at an exclusive resort in the Cayman Islands, where he’s allowed to snack on any guests who don’t pay their bills on time, and is strongly rumoured to be writing a candid expose of his film career that will ‘set the record straight’ on the supposed rift between him and Steven Spielberg.

THE SKELETONS (Jason and the Argonauts, 1963)

The sword-wielding stars were an instant success in the early Sixties thanks to their novelty hit record version of “Dem Bones”. Sadly, the sextet soon split for artistic reasons, with one Skeleton recording a 3-volume concept album, and another launching a series of pop art “happenings” with fellow Argonauts star Talos. Thankfully, the group was re-united in the mid-Eighties as a result of the “We Are The World” Ethiopia charity single, and today can still be found performing their spectacular “Boneyard” theatrical extravaganza at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.

DRACO (Dragonheart, 1996)

Despite Dragonheart’s lack of success, Draco the last dragon did, briefly, manage to carve out a successful career as a witty, urbane sidekick in TV shows like Dragon P.I. and Flaming Hell, but his flippant attitude soon stalled his film career when he got himself fired from As Good As It Gets, with his role being switftly rewritten to fit his replacement Greg Kinnear. Draco currently runs his own Flame Grilled Barbecue restaurant in the San Fernando Valley, as well as earning money on the side doing Sean Connery-impersonating prank calls.


The Heart of the World (Or, the Utter Bewildering Craziness of Guy Maddin)

Sunday’s entry made me realise that while I’d made a brief reference to Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, it’s very likely that anyone who read that post would have just gone “huh?” as he’s one of those little-known cinematic eccentrics who very few people actually know about. So, needing no excuse to introduce anyone who wants to know to the stranger things in life, Guy Maddin is a writer-director who’s the absolute definition of ‘cult’ – he’s occasionally described as the ‘Canadian David Lynch’, but the only things they really share is an absolutely personal and distinctive way of doing things. He’s got his own very particular style, and his stuff is most definitely going to fall into the love-or-loathe category with most people. He’s made a variety of short films and features, during which he’s evolved a particular way of storytelling – basically, he hi-jacks silent movie filmmaking grammar, mixing ludicrous melodrama with German expressionism and the kind of completely nutzoid editing you only get in Russian propaganda, along with a whole selection of his own bizarre storytelling pecadillos and some of the most hilariously OTT silent movie-style intertitles that you’ll ever see. He even shoots his stuff in a way that perfectly captures the look of silent film – grainy, black-and-white, dream-like images that feel like they’re coming from another universe.

The first film of his that I saw – The Saddest Music in the World – is one that I didn’t quite enjoy – it was visually beautiful, but I wasn’t quite in the right mood for it (It was something I saw at a film festival, which can sometimes be very wearing experiences), and I simply didn’t get it. However, the next one I saw – on BBC2 one Christmas, at about 1 in the morning, was Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, which is something that sounds utterly insane – a filmed version of a ballet adaptation of Dracula – and yet was absolutely brilliant. I was kind of amazed to find that out of all the versions of Dracula I’ve seen, it’s the one that’s most faithful to Bram Stoker’s original, capturing that really odd mixture of Victorian melodrama and sheer sexual panic, managing to be both oddly beautiful and absolutely hilarious at the same time. I also managed to track down Brand Upon The Brain!, which is his ‘autobiographical’ film, but also finds time for mad science, ghostly teen detectives and weird experiments. In a world where film can often be homgenous, it’s good to celebrate the absolutely strange – and while I need to track down more Guy Maddin stuff (especially his acclaimed psuedo-documentary My Winnipeg), I did find a short film by him on Youtube that’s one of my favourites of his. It’s an absolute distillation of his entire style, and crams a literally brain-melting amount into six minutes. It was made for a film festival in 2000, and it’s a celebration of the entire Silent Movie era (which is about the only explanation for the significance of the word ‘KINO!’ in the last minute or so) – it’s called The Heart of the World, and it’s one of the most deliriously mad things I’ve ever seen. It’s also extremely, extremely bizarre, with moments that rank as both slightly disturbing and completely inexplicable, so… WARNING: if a story involving morticians, actors, star-crossed love, orgies, apocalyptic destruction, mania, large sinister Russian men, phallic symbols, religious hysteria and SCIENCE doesn’t sound like your thing… well, don’t click on the embed below.

For anyone else who’s still left, here’s the sheer cinematic delirium of ‘The Heart of the World’:

Tron: Legacy

Just for some additional eye-candy, here’s some footage that was originally shown last year at Comic-Con, I suspect simply to cause a splash and gauge reaction. No surprises, reaction was pretty massive, with the end result being that a sequel to Tron, of all things, is happening – Tron: Legacy is currently being shot, and is scheduled for release sometime in 2010. Jeff Bridges is appearing, which is at least a relatively promising sign, and the concept footage for Tron: Legacy has now been released in official, spangly Quicktime rather than the rough camcorder captures that were available on Youtube. It’s gorgeous stuff (watch it in the highest resolution you can muster) – and my only real issue is that it does seem to make things in the ‘game world’ a little bit too real, missing out on some of the cool abstractness that’s made the bizarre style of Tron so groovy over the years. However, it’s certainly enough to get me very intrigued as to what the final result is – it’ll be eye candy, but (especially in 3-D) it could be very, very cool eye candy…

The Strangest Thing

News: the rewrite on my book is done. Which should in theory mean flags in the streets, a day of national celebration and a letter from the Queen, but what it actually means is a general sense of “Oh blimey, what the hell do I do now?” Combine this with my general habit of getting somewhat downcast once any major project is finished, and I could easily have gotten hopelessly miserable last night – but instead, I headed straight into town and watched Drag Me To Hell at the cinema. Had a fantastic time, although it’s a gleefully odd movie – it’s almost a fantastically well-crafted grim and doomy old-school horror movie in the vein of Night of the Demon, but with lots of Raimi’s patented cartoony ultraviolence and viscera sandwiched in. It’s easy to tell that he’s been missing this kind of thing – there are moments in the film that certainly get close to the demonic energy of Evil Dead 2, and the impression is that of a director letting his hair down and really having fun. The only trouble is that the cartoony stuff really doesn’t sit well with the rest of the story – it’d be rather like interrupting Evil Dead 2 every ten minutes to try and deal with Ash’s psychology or background. Evil Dead 2 works so well because it’s an unashamed cartoon, and here it’s bolted to a story of slow-burning menace and dread, meaning it’s a bit bizarre when we’re suddenly in the realm of bonkers Evil Dead-style seances and seeing how many horrible liquids can be thrown all over Alison Lohman. But it’s far more exciting and enjoyable than any of the bland PG-13 horrors that have come our way, and far more interesting than yet another exercise in Torture Porn.

This morning – well, this morning I discovered that while most Postmen may be fine upstanding fellows, there’s at least a couple who are bold-faced liars. Last week, I came home from a walk in the park to see a postman outside my front door, in the proces of doing something with a parcel. Now, I presumed he was filling out one of those “Sorry you weren’t in” cards, and rushed up to take possession of the parcel, which it turned out was for Anna. Thanks were said, and I went inside to find more envelopes waiting on the doormat – and a “Sorry you weren’t in” card with my name on it. There were some parcels I was expecting (although I wasn’t expecting them quite this quickly) so I immediately rushed along to the postman who was only a few doors away and asked about the relevant parcel – and he looked at me and said something along the lines of “Oh, that was for the one I gave you.” At this point, I figured “Oh – how annoying” and went back home. I’m very English, and it’s very easy when given an explanation like that to think “Well, I guess that explains it…” and it’s only until later that thoughts like “Yes, but why would he have written my name on it?” came to mind. It was odd, but I didn’t really figure anymore about it. Anyway, one of my parcels turned up the day after, and another one the day after that, so all appeared to be well. All that was left was the biggest parcel, the one from

By the time it got to Wednesday, I was thinking “Hmm…” because they can sometimes be late, but they don’t normally take this long. By the time it got to Friday I was thinking “Grrr…”, and my thoughts returned to that card. Thankfully, I’d been sensible and not thrown it away. The Sorting Office where parcel pick-ups happen is a good twenty-five minute walk from my house, and it’s often a place where you’re greeted with a truly terrifying queue, so it wasn’t something I was relishing, especially when there was every chance that it was just a mistake and that I’d go there and be greeted by a “Huh?” when I presented the card. Anyhow, as I’d gotten into the habit of waking up very early, the idea occurred that I could head along there early – especially as it’s open at 7AM. So, this morning I did that very thing, walking through the rainy streets of Manchester, figuring I was wasting my time, I got to the office… and moments later the parcel was in my hand. The bugger lied. I’ve encountered this once before – Postmen on our round do occasionally seem to like the idea of leaving the heavier parcels in the van and posting “Sorry you weren’t in” cards through the door without actually knocking first. I’m glad I got the package, and I didn’t need it urgently – but rather unhappy that it sat in an office for a whole week when it didn’t need to.

And now, having vented, I shall sit in a corner and read some more Jack Kirby comics. Hurrah!

“So grab hold of your seats, and hold on tight, as I tell you a story… about Black Dynamite!”

Okay, it hasn’t been the happiest time on the blog of late – but here’s something that made me smile – a trailer for a wonderfully observed slice of low-budget Blaxploitation mayhem entitled ‘Black Dynamite’ – it’s showing at the Sundance Film Festival right now, it’s getting rather good write-ups, and for anyone who’s ever watched a trashy movie from the Seventies, it looks a whole barrel-load of fun (as well as potentially a much more accurate version of ‘Grindhouse’ cinema than what Rodriguez and Tarantino spent nearly $100 million on, and for only a tiny fraction of the cost). Of course, it might be the kind of thing where all the good bits are in the trailer, but I’m looking forward to it already, if only for the fantastically ludicrous plot description:

When The Man murders his brother, pumps heroin into local orphanages, and floods the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor, Black Dynamite is the one hero willing to fight all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House.

Strap on your sideburns, and enjoy…

Watching you, Watching me, Watching the Watchmen…

Just a quick post on the Watchmen legal situation and the latest bizarre twist it’s taken which – I have to admit – rather made me laugh. The whole saga of the Watchmen movie is the story that wouldn’t die, and even now its finding ways of flying off the track in a fascinating way. Naturally, online fandom is packed full of venom for Fox’s behaviour, and certainly there has to be a question mark as to why Fox didn’t actually file suit until just before principal photography had wrapped (did they not notice it before?), but let’s not forget that this isn’t completely a case of Fox being evil for the sheer hell of it. A judge has (at least for now) said that there’s something in it rather than simply dismissing the case – which means that, in short, someone in the Warners legal department let them go ahead and spend somewhere in the region of 100 million dollars without being completely, totally and utterly certain that they actually had the rights to make and distribute the movie. As screw-ups go, that’s pretty major. Some serious mistakes have happenned and heads will certainly roll for this – it’s going to be interesting to see which studio blinks first, and what the situation with the movie is once the smoke eventually clears…

Shadow of the Bat

As an intermission from the somewhat downbeat (if understandable) current nature of this blog, here’s some thoughts that have been burbling around in my head, and which spun out of The Dark Knight…

I was a very craze-driven child. An idea would spark in my head, and I’d follow it completely. My first craze was SF, and most particularly Doctor Who, but eventually I would spread out – and some of my crazes would sometimes surprise me. I can remember thinking “Good lord, those daft metal Citadel Miniatures figures are ridiculously expensive – you’d have to be a complete idiot to be into that”, and barely a year later I was knee deep in them and slapping paint on them like there was no tomorrow. I can also remember thinking the same thing about American comics – I was raised on a diet of Doctor Who Monthly and 2000AD, and the bright, four-coloured universes of American Comics seemed completely alien to me.

Then, however, a few things happenned. I worked out that the same person seemed to have written a lot of comic strips I liked – and his name was Alan Moore. I knew he was writing this US comic called ‘Swamp Thing’- I looked at a recent issue, and it didn’t really look like my kind of thing. Too garish, too comic-y, lacking the grit that made 2000AD work. But then, I picked up a nice black-and-white collected edition of Swamp Thing: Volume Two, and it nearly took my head off. This was creepy, weird and beautifully done stuff, and then I was noticing that a name I recognised from the introductions of various Swamp Thing graphic novels, and a name who’d also written various film reviews in a magazine called Space Voyager (including one about Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, which led to me watching what was to become my favourite film) was also now writing comics. In fact, there was this new one that had just come out – I didn’t know anything about it, but I loved Dave McKean’s artwork and he’d done the cover, so I thought ‘Why not’? and gave issue 1 of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman a try.

The thing which opened out the world of comics, however, was The Killing Joke. The combination of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland was more than my brain could take – I already knew Bolland for being the artist on the original (and best) Judge Death strips in 2000AD, and his work and craftmanship was simply amazing, resulting in comics that seemed to leap off the page at you. As a result, picking it up for £1.95 seemed like a slam-dunk, and it was the first ‘prestige format’, square-bound and glossy comic I’d ever read. It was also one of the most amazing, even though it took a couple of reads to completely get all the nuances. The main thing to remember about The Killing Joke is that, at the time, to anyone outside the world of comics, you said ‘Batman’ and the instant result was Adam West. The show had been repeated regularly, and was heavily ingrained in pop culture. It didn’t matter that Batman wasn’t originally like that – that was the most recent screen iteration, and that’s what stuck. And I think that’s one of the main reasons why the ‘Graphic Novel’ craze in the late Eighties happenned – while Watchmen attracted plenty of attention (and has, arguably, ended up with more longevity), it was The Killing Joke and especially The Dark Knight Returns that grabbed the limelight, simply because this was a take on a character we simply weren’t used to seeing. Going from Adam West and Burt Ward dashing around a garish Gotham and battling with Cesar Romero’s hilariously overacting Joker, to a pretty-damn terrifying Joker crippling Batgirl, abducting Comissioner Gordon and putting all his effort into trying to drive him insane – it was a major conceptual leap, and there’s a mythic aspect to both Knight and Joke that plays into it as well. It’s seeing what had succesfully been played as a self-aware joke suddenly turned straight – neither side was necessarily wrong (the Sixties Batman show is, while repetitive, also hilarious fun), it was the shock of the new, it was seeing something familiar in a brand new light. I went on to read The Dark Knight Returns, but while Frank Miller’s style and bombast was impressive, it was the insidious creepiness of The Killing Joke that stuck with me, and the way it managed to make the Joker both fearsome and tragic.

It was probably this that meant I went to see 1989’s Batman (as did most of civilisation at the time), and came out thinking “?” Let’s not mince words – the 89 Batman movie is a triumph of production design, but it”s really not a particularly good movie. Tim Burton is a great stylist but as a storyteller he’s hugely dependant on the script, and it also doesn’t help that he’s far more interested in the freaks than Batman himself – a problem that became especially apparent in Batman Returns. The 89 original has a couple of decent moments, and certainly opened up the idea of a darker interpretation of the Batman mythos, but it’s not a particularly exciting movie, and Jack Nicholson’s turn as the Joker is a shamelessly lazy bit of overacting – a performer who obviously knows his best work is behind him getting paid obscene amounts of money to have fun on a film he wasn’t too keen on making in the first place. It was the first event movie where it didn’t seem to matter how good the film was but how universal the merchandising presence was, and I remember feeling like they really hadn’t gotten it. There were brief aspects of the darker, creepier version of Batman there, but the whole thing was cartoony, played broad, and simply never felt like it completely meant it, combined with the virtual absence of a plot.

The film series spiralled downwards into Shumacher hell with Batman Forever – one of the few films to genuinely give me a migraine – while I went through some serious comic phases, and even picked up Batman itself regularly during one of the OTT multi-issue crossover ‘events’ that were so prevailent back in the early Nineties. Knightfall, where Bruce Wayne is driven to the edge and crippled, and an unbalanced new Batman takes his place, was rough around the edges but had a sense of drama and reality that the films were completely ignoring. It was good, action-packed stuff, even if my attention drifted away as the series started inevitable heading back towards the status quo. I was sensible enough to avoid Batman and Robin at the cinemas – I once attempted to sit through it on video, and only made it about half an hour in before I had to switch it off. The fact that the rest of the world seemed to feel the same was reassuring, in a way, but then the series became mired in development hell, and the idea of anything decent coming out of it seemed absurd.

It was Christopher Nolan who got me interested again. I loved Batman Begins when I first saw it – I still like it, but some of the cheesier dialogue and the ‘blockbuster mentality’ of the final half hour is rather hard to swallow. Most of all, it was a relief to see a Batman film that was actually about Batman, and which approached the whole mythos from a rigidly realistic perspective – taking you in step by step, showing Bruce Wayne finding his way towards being Batman, and making it somehow convincing and believable that a billionaire playboy is dressing up in bat-themed military-spec gear and going out to beat the crap out of criminals. Christian Bale was near-perfect casting – he’s not the warmest actor in the world (it’d be nice, if unlikely, to see him in a comedy) but he completely nails Bruce Wayne as an actual character, and the film served up a whole collection of talented character actors, and a low-key but excellent villain in Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow. It’s a far more consistent film than the fun but over-rated Spider-Man 2 – it just didn’t quite get where it needed to be, and there was the sense that a really, really impressive film was trying to get out from behind all the obvious notes from the studio and blockbuster quips.

Well, it turns out that that impressive film has come out – it took Batman Begins to get to The Dark Knight, and it’s an upgrade that makes the increase in quality between X-Men and X-Men 2 look hilariously mild by comparison. It’s not perfect – there are elements in The Dark Knight that are a little tricky, I’m not completely fond of Harvey Dent’s look as Two-Face (It’s suitably grotesque, but feels just a little too extreme and comic-book to fit with the otherwise rigidly realistic world Nolan has created), the plotline with Gordon’s fake death was bewildering and unconvincing (it’s not like they were ever going to kill Gordon off- or even if they did, they wouldn’t do it in such an off-hand manner) and some of the action sequences could do with being a little clearer and less frantically edited – but as superhero movies go – and frankly, movies in general – this was amazing stuff. What’s most astonishing is that, essentially, it’s an epic crime thriller, it’s Batman done as a Michael Mann film, and the simple excess of “Oh my god, they’re not going to – THEY DID!!” moments is something to behold. It’s a 2 1/2 hour movie that doesn’t really drag, and it’s also one of the most fantastically bleak blockbusters I’ve seen – it’s seriously unforgiving, amazingly violent, and with a tone and reach that had me sat there, in my IMAX cinema seat, amazed. (As a note – the IMAX version was amazing, but it was a little distracting at times – the switch between formats would sometimes happen for a single cityscape shot, and I can’t help feeling it would have been better if they could have kept it purely for specific sequences).

And then, of course, there’s Heath Ledger. Watching an actor who’s died young is always a faintly morbid experience, especially in this case as it’s hard to deny that Ledger is anything other than absolutely phenomenal in this role. Together with the screenplay, this is a version of the Joker that’s the closest I’ve ever seen to The Killing Joke – not a capering, quipping rent-a-villain with a fake smile, but a sick, twisted and utterly psychotic clown who’s near-unstoppable simply because of the fact that he doesn’t care about anything except chaos – and yet they actually managed to take the character even further. I know there have been complaints about the level of violence in The Dark Knight – it’s certainly the tough end of the 12A, and yet most of it is in tone rather than visuals, and frankly, it’s a Batman film. It’s a dark story, and if it doesn’t tackle some dark and disturbing stuff, it’s not doing its job properly. Ledger is incredible in this, nestling comfortably in the top-ranks of cinematic villains. It’s tragic that he’s gone, but as last complete performances go, this is a hell of a note to end on.

The success of The Dark Knight is somewhat amazing, considering how pitilessly bleak it is – and it’s rather concerning that as a result of that success, one of the Warner Bros production heads has said that they’ll be marching lots more DC heroes into production, and aiming for the same kind of dark tone as that’s obviously what people want. It’s understandable from a business point of view, but it’s also a major mistake. Bryan Singer’s dour and misconceived (but still occasionally majestic) Superman Returns may not have relaunched the franchise the way WB hoped, but I can’t even see the point of a dark, hard-edged Superman film. The whole principle of Superman is that he’s the yin to Batman’s yang – together they’re the day and night of the DC universe. Superman Returns failed because it was too faithful to the wrong bits of the original Superman films – instead of capturing the fun, Singer went for the angst and the slow pace, and ended up with a film that’s really not that enjoyable (I feel sorry for Brandon Routh – he’s genuinely excellent in Superman Returns, but doesn’t get the film he deserves). Superman needs to be bold, colourful and brassy to work – Superman II is, despite being a hodge-podge of Richard Donner and Richard Lester, superbly entertaining and gets almost all the notes right. And they should also beware, as superhero comics themselves went ultra-dark as a result of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen – suddenly you couldn’t move for vengeful, driven heroes and dark, unpleasent stories. And people got bored.

Dark works with Batman – it’s not going to work with everything. The Dark Knight returns hasn’t made over $500 million at the US Box office because its dark, or even because Heath Ledger is dead. It’s earned it because it’s a very, very good film thats packed with enough good stuff to warrant a re-watch, and if they can remember that when they green-light their next superhero flicks maybe- just maybe- they’ll have a chance….