New Animation: Bat Man of Shanghai–and a Word about Old Animation

As industry-types and fans speculate and opine about the next iteration of Batman in one medium on the big screen–a pleasant and painful activity, like following hype, that I will have to say something about before too long–another medium, animation, is presenting new material.

Russ Fischer at /Film has already said just about everything else that needs to be said, but he may have left me one or two things to say.

Think: Batman in 1930’s China.

Now, perhaps any masked vigilante can be transposed into a great number of settings, like a melody in a new key, but even if a great number of speculators should think to transpose Batman to a place halfway around the globe and to a time just after steampunk,  few of them could realize a vision so very entertaining.

The designs are lovely, the animation is splendid, and the flourish–no transposition of a familiar melody should want for some bit of flourish–of mysticism is especially delightful.

The video clip does not only bring Batman to life again; it also animates anew my desire for a movie about Marvel’s Iron Fist.  The aesthetic could be something along the same lines, live-action or animated, and I would be enormously pleased by it.

The comparisons to the excellent Legend of Korra, which recently aired on Nickelodeon, are entirely in order, but I expect that the fellows at Republic City Dispatch, a podcast dedicated to the show, will make them as well as I could.  I have only one complaint against them, and by any reasonable standard it is a slight one.  My complaint is that there may be one instance of world-building, a sort of professional fan fiction, greater than Korra (see 11:10-16 in episode 1.6), and that animated world based on a line of transforming toys from the 80’s, The Transformers.

In that world, I include the 1986 movie, The Transformers: the Movie, or, as my college friends and I prefer to call it, now that it has been released on DVD, The Transformers: the Movie: the Special Edition.  The builders had to do very little but make sure that the cars, planes, and other mechanical things changed into humanoid form, but, like children with a box of toys, they created an entire mythos.

The word, sometimes too lightly used, is quite well-applied in this case, however “popular” or “low” this mythos may be.  After having read the Iliad, I was impressed at how well TF, the movie especially, instantiated the classic ideal of an epic.  The story may be based on a toy-line, the runtime may be short (84 minutes), the quality of animation may underperform by today’s standards, and  the non-stop soundtrack straight from the 80’s  may be “wonderfully overwrought” (to borrow a phrase used for one of Stan Bush’s tunes featured in the movie–I cannot place the source of the phrase)–but, oh, the epic story!  Media res, desperate stakes, mighty battles, fallen heroes, evil compacts, unlikely alliances, daring rescues, narrow escapes, deceit, betrayal, the rise of a hero, and the light, not yet of any color, of a dawning era.  And there is more!  But that will have to wait for another post.

“Till all are one”–follow the link to see Batman, Catwoman, and Bane vie for the scroll of destiny.


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