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Why "Gotham" Succeeds Where Other Prequels Fail

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I have been known to outwardly hate prequel films. This is, in no small part, due to them tending to be terrible. It should come as little shock that I was extremely reticent about watching Gotham, DC’s attempt at a prequel story for the Batman franchise. As I have defended in past, the Batman origin story is the greatest origin story in film, and attempting to undertake it in a way which would not result in extreme disappointment for aficionados of the canon seemed dodgy, at best.

I was very, very wrong – and I’d like to examine why.

Layers of Canon and the Batman

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One of the concepts which has been intriguing me over the last few weeks has been the concept of multiple layers of canon existing over many works in an overarching canon.

The Batman mythos comprises more than 70 years of collective canon built on a foundation of comics, films, television series, and other works of fiction; as it spans multiple mediums and auteurs, it seems an ideal system to examine for the phenomenon of nested canon.

The Usual Suspects: Mirroring the Outer Story

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One of my favorite thematic plot devices in the medium of film has been “inner story mirrors outer story” (especially across epistemic layers). Bryan Singer’s 1995 neo-noir classic The Usual Suspects is told through a series of flashbacks – and manages to use this thematic device to great advantage.

WARNING: There be spoilers here. If you’re one of the small group of people who haven’t actually watched The Usual Suspects yet, go watch it, then read on. Seriously. Don’t spoil this for yourself.

The Rise of Crossover and Mashup

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“The ability to generate novel, high variance outcomes is based on the availability of ideas. Idea availability can be constrained by local search, in which a limited set of options is considered according to confidently held beliefs. Broader search results in more idea variety and can identify ways to combine knowledge that challenge the belief that constrain innovative behavior. The paradox is that innovative experts also search locally to determine what rules to break, while nonexperts search locally and conform to those rules.” - Taylor, Greve (DOI: 10.2307/20159795)

The concept of story and character crossover/mashup to mix epistemological systems between comic, literary, and film universes is hardly a new phenomenon, but there has been a precipitous rise in its prevalence in popular culture over the past decade; I’m looking to explore the reasons behind the increase in popularity.

Revisiting Past Work: The Argument for Artistic Immutability

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“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it or offer your own version in return.” - Salman Rushdie

Whether it be for the sake of temporally relevant cultural mores, attempting to refine or “reimagine” an existing work, or for other miscellaneous reasons, the act of changing existing artistic work has extended itself into the artistic medium of film.

This posits that it is destructive to the nature of the medium and the art inherent therein to endorse these kinds of changes.

Pi: Using the Medium of Film to Externalize a Concept

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Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage famously posited that the way something is presented to us is as important if not more important than the information itself. Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film, Pi, offers an excellent example of an auteur using the physical medium of film to help tell a story, rather than be hindered by it.

Post-Mortem: 2015 Providence 48 Hour Film Project

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My 48 Hour Film Project team, Shoot the Moon Films, participated in the first Providence 48 Hour Horror Film Project last year, but had never entered the regular 48 hour festival in Providence, so we decided to give it a shot. This is my critical analysis of the processes used to create “Buck’s Bed & Breakfast” (IMDb).

WARNING: There are some details of the film which may function as spoilers, so don’t read below the fold if you haven’t seen it yet.

Why Batman Begins Is the Greatest Origin Film of All Time

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This argument originated in a rather unconventional way: it was dropped in my lap. The AV Club’s Scott Eric Kaufmann (or “SEK” for short) dropped this on me in a particularly interesting Facebook thread; in his words:

Because I just can’t with today anymore, I’m just going to say that Batman Begins is the greatest origin film ever, and let the brilliant Jeff Buchbinder defend my position. Did he ask me to do this? No. Did he want me to do this? Probably not. But can he do it? Without a doubt.

Challenge: accepted.