When Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast in the concluding chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the fanboy-geek/girl community immediately worked themselves into a fit of speculation and wishful thinking. Clearly, he was the Riddler. Or maybe even Black Mask. Or, hell, perhaps he was filling in for the dearly departed Heath Ledger as the Joker. After all, the two had once appeared in Ten Things I Hate About You a decade before, and, well, that was proof enough for the lowest common basement dweller.
And then there were those poor, deluded morans who insisted that JGL was in fact taking on the role of Robin despite the fact that Nolan had repeatedly insisted that Batman’s sidekick would play no part in the director’s grim and gritty cinematic Gotham. That fact was confirmed, of course, when it was finally revealed that Gordon-Levitt was playing a lowly Gotham City cop with the improbably bland name of John Blake. Of course, this announcement only fueled the pro-Robin’s posse, and in the days leading up to the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, they began to speculate that Nolan would pull one of his patented third-act twists in the film, revealing that John Blake was in fact Dick Grayson all along.
They were right.
OK. Not really.
But, then again, yeah, they were.
Although John Blake wasn’t Dick Grayson — or any of the Robins that populate the DC universe — he not only functioned as Bruce Wayne’s crime-fighting sidekick, the film ends with him becoming the new Batman. And for Bob Kane’s sake, his first name — as ham-fistedly revealed in the final minutes of the film — was actually Robin.
Personally, this didn’t bother me. JGL didn’t have to actually be Grayson or Jason Todd or Tim Blake or Damian Wayne to be Robin. His character was actually a nice re-imagining of Robin, one that fit in quite well in Nolan’s trilogy, and for the non-fanboy/geek girl movie-goer, a nice little surprise. After all, they don’t know Dick from Adam Warlock. For me, Nolan’s little bait and switch was successful.
The same couldn’t be said for J.J. Abrams’ attempt to conceal the identity of the main villain in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Once again, a well-regarded Hollywood director with serious nerd cred used another tragically bad name to conceal the identity of a principal player, the name in this case being John Harrison and the villain being the titular baddie in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
From the start, no one truly believed that Abrams would actually center his Trek 90210 sequel around a character who had never existed in the previous four decades of the franchises’ history. In essence, the director and his writers had created a twist that would shock few, if any, viewers. And yet, they stuck to their guns until Into Darkness was released. In the end, the movie only angered long-time fans and, ultimately, performed tepidly at the domestic box office. Admittedly, the failure didn’t have as much to do with the attempted twist, but with the fact that any charm that Into Darkness may have had was based entirely on whether or not the viewer had previously seen Wrath of Khan. The movie itself was one giant Easter egg, albeit a cracked and rotting one.
Which brings us to today’s announcement that the next chapter in the James Bond franchise will be entitled, simply enough, Spectre. If you’re a James Bond fan of any sort, then you know how bad ass this title is. In the history of Bond films, no title has ever just cut right to the chase like this one: Daniel Craig’s rebooted 007 finally will take on the preeminent bogeyman of the Bond universe, Ernst Blofeld, and his terrorist organization SPECTRE — don’t even ask me what the name stands for; it’s actually quite silly. That said, even if the name Blofeld doesn’t ring a bell for you, you know exactly who he is: Dr. Evil. I mean, he’s not Dr. Evil per se. He’s the arch-villain with the cat that inspired Dr. Evil and countless other little- and big-screen fiends. And in director Sam Mendes latest Bond flick, Blofeld will be played by Christoph Waltz, a casting move that is so on the money that the value of a dollar is now at unobtainium levels. Hell, it’s even worth more than the contents of Marsellus Wallace’s stolen briefcase. Waltz, with his stilted but loquacious delivery — not to mention his knife-sharp German accent, will be perfect as 007’s archnemesis.
Except for one thing.
He’s not Ernst Blofeld. He’s Hans Oberhauser. Of course, nobody believes that. Instead, the San Diego Comic-Con odds are that he’s really just Blofeld in disguise, a twist that I don’t know whether to greet with a yawn or a punch to the nuts — mine, Mendes’, and everyone else’s associated with Bond 24.
However, there is hope. There remains the distinct possibility that Waltz really is just a character named Oberhauser — no twist at all. And although he’s clearly meant to be a stand-in for Blofeld, he’s actually able to be something so much more: an original character with his own backstory and quirks, one that actually has the potential to surprise Bond aficionados, while giving a big ole middle-finger to the nostalgia-hobbled purists.
Personally, I welcome our new terrorist overlord, and I hope that Mendes and company have the balls to leave Blofeld and his fucking cat in the dust of a smoldering smoke stack.