Monday, March 18, 2013

Accidental ground-breaker: Batman & Robin (1997) catches the bad guy at the half-way point...

I've made several jokes about this over the last few months, but by now when that moment comes in Star Trek Into Darkness, we'll all be quietly snickering.  You know the moment: Benedict Cumberbatch  has been captured about halfway through the movie, and he stands isolated in his glass prison.  As he stands tall, full of arrogant confidence, he'll surely taunt our heroes with some kind of allegedly profound monologue about how A) He and Kirk/Spock aren't that different, B) Starfleet is not as wonderful an institution as they think it is, and/or C) Once Kirk and/or Spock have outlived their usefulness they will be tossed away or scape-goated for the good of the Federation.  And then, right on cue, Not-Kahn will totally bust his ass out of that glass prison, kill several random guards and possibly one major character (Pike?).  Because, holy shit, he totally planned on getting caught the whole time!  Yeah, the whole 'villain gets caught halfway through but escapes and escalates his evil' was old back when it started in... Batman and Robin?

Yup.  Batman & Robin is many things, but it was also somewhat surprising in that it had its prime villain, Mr. Freeze get captured during the second major action sequence and hauled off to Arkham Asylum.  I distinctly remember being surprised by this somewhat unorthodox plot turn, as at that time I couldn't remember a major action picture which had its prime villain get nabbed at the hour mark.  Alas, not much came of it.  Yes his escape cost the lives of two guards, but otherwise it didn't quite follow the now-standard pattern.  Mr. Freeze and Batman didn't have any heart-to-heart chit-chat at that point, he only busted out with the unexpected and unsolicited help of Poison Ivy, and Victor Freeze most certainly did *not* plan to get caught the whole time.  But for what it's worth, Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin played a somewhat fresh card, even if it didn't really know what to do with it. Despite its reputation as everything that modern superhero cinema wants to avoid, it did plant a seed for what's now pretty much standard practice in the new era of serious and respectable superhero films.  

In today's modern superhero cinema, be it The Avengers, The Dark Knight, Skyfall, and now apparently Star Trek Into Darkness, it's absolutely standard practice for the villain to allow himself to get caught as part of his intricate evil plan, preferably with a glass prison and/or an attempt at evil profundities and high-end collateral damage.  Well, let us raise our chilled glass to Batman and Robin.  Mr. Freeze may not have been 'planning this for years!', but mainstream action tentpoles have been stealing his play for the last several years anyway.

Scott Mendelson         


corysims said...

Which film had the better "villain getting captured" in the middle of the movie moment?

Luke Y. Thompson said...

Didn't Seven come first?
Wasn't quite halfway through, but in terms of the villain getting captured as part of his master plan, it was pretty much the one that most of them riff on.

Saw 2 is the other most notable one, but in that he gets caught right at the beginning.

Scott Mendelson said...

Actually, the next 'accidental ground-breaker' piece I have in mind involves the Saw sequels. As for Se7en, I'd argue (but not too aggresively) that Doe was captured towards the end of the film and there was no surprise about the fact that he intended to get caught and/or had an ace up his sleeve of some kind. The tension was waiting to see what that ace happened to be.


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