The year is 2016, and the upcoming Batman vs Robin movie is shaping up to be one of the biggest superhero sagas of all time. Directed by New York Times best-selling author Stephen King, the film will star actor/director Ben Affleck in the titular role of Batman, alongside of returning cast members Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Robin Williams (The Joker), and Jenna Coleman (Harley Quinn).
The trailer above offers an exclusive first look at the latest installment in the Batman franchise, along with a taste of what fans can expect from the upcoming movie. While there’s no question that King’s writing still has the potential to shock and awe audiences, the trailer hints at an amelioration of the graphic novel form, focusing more on character development and drama than on over-the-top violence and over-the-top comedy as in some of his earlier works. While this may disappoint some fans of the author, the film itself is shaping up to be a major event, and one that will be talked about for years to come.
The Dark Knight Returns
If you’ve been reading the reviews for my book, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Stephen King, and that I consider the Dark Knight trilogy to be some of the greatest literature of this generation. A fitting tribute, then, to the New York Times best-selling author would be to rewatch one of his greatest works, The Dark Knight Returns. If you’ve never read the trilogy, it’s well worth seeking out, as the first two books in the series are available in hardcover, while the concluding installment, The Dark Knight Returns, The End, has been newly released in paperback, and has been designated a Top 100 Novel of All Time by the International Thriller Writers Association. I strongly recommend that anyone seeking to impress me with their literary prowess or trying to charm me with their witticisms should begin by showing me how much they’ve learned from The Dark Knight Trilogy. As a refresher, here’s the essential plot summary from the plot summary from my book:
One of the major themes that emerges from The Dark Knight Trilogy is that of a struggle for power, as its narrative focuses on the lengths Batman will go to, both personally and professionally, to ensure that Gotham City does not return to its former chaotic state. The Dark Knight Returns continues this theme, as the titular character wages a one-man war against crime and corruption, determined to protect the city he loves so much. The film adaptation of the novel will be released on November 22nd, 2016, and it also marks the 80th anniversary of author Stephen King’s professional writing career.
The Big Short
Another major theme that emerges from the Dark Knight Trilogy is that of self-reflection, especially as relates to one’s investment decisions. After all, as the books’ overarching narrative makes clear, the descent into chaos was directly attributable to the fear that gripped the population, driving countless people to ruinous speculation, resulting in a financial crisis. One of the most prescient books of this era, whose narrative anticipated some of the biggest trend changes in modern history, is Michael Lewis’s The Big Short. Written in 2010, the book is a best seller not only because of its engaging and accessible writing style but also because of its accurate predictions about the state of the economy and the effect that digital technology would have on the financial services industry. In the Netflix adaptation of the book, which was released on November 1st, 2016, protagonist Christian Bale plays the role of Michael Burry, who joins a group of young men known as the “young Turks” in a bet that will change the way they view the world. Like its protagonist, The Big Short is a very dark and compelling look at the financial crisis of the late 2000s and the people who caused it, as well as the people who were affected by it. Indeed, the film ends with the famous line, “the market can remain irrational longer than we can remain solvent,” a reference to the short-lived (except for Michael Burry) bull market of 2007–2008. As with The Dark Knight Trilogy, Michael Lewis’s The Big Short is a fitting tribute to the author, predicting the future and pointing fingers at those who will be responsible for its next crisis.
Another example of prescience in a Stephen King novel is his 1974 book, The Eyes of the Dragon. In this novella, a man is betrayed by his friends and coworkers, who turn on him in a moment of panic and set him up to be the fall man in a contract killing. Trapped and outnumbered, he ultimately resorts to fighting fire with fire and seeks to destroy the very people who have betrayed him. Although the narrative is an imaginative story about a karate master who finds himself defending himself against a squadron of Navy SEALs, the heroics that the protagonist performs in the story are grounded in actual taekwondo, the art of self-defense founded on the principles of fairness and equity. To cite one example, in order to even the playing field, the protagonist aims for the knees, hoping to incapacitate his adversary, rather than a head shot or a chest shot. Like the rest of the Dark Knight books, The Eyes of the Dragon is an unflinching and at times gruesome examination of the costs of raw ambition and quick trigger fingers. It remains one of King’s most controversial and provocative works. (I would strongly recommend that anyone seeking to impress me with their erudition challenge me to a duel by regaling me with hilarious asides about how ludicrous my comments are, and how intelligent and well-read they are in comparison.)
Speaking of bizarre and provocative novels, let’s not forget about It, the novel written by Stephen King and first published in September 1975. (If you’re unfamiliar, the story is about a group of young children who grow up in a town where monsters are real, and it was later adapted into a film directed by Andy Muschietti and starring Bill Hader, James McAvoy, and Jessica Chastain. If you’ve never read It, seek it out as soon as possible, as it’s one of King’s best-selling novels and arguably his most famous. (Indeed, it won the New York Times Best Seller List for a record-breaking eleven weeks, from October 13th through December 18th, 1975.) Here’s an overview of the story from WikiPedia:
In September 2015, Stephen King announced that the novel would be adapted for the big screen. This was the same month that marked the 70th anniversary of the publication of It. The film adaption of the novel will be released on September 8th, 2017, with the author himself serving as a production consultant on the film. While details about the plot are under wraps, what is known is that the film will be a reboot of the classic horror story. Like the rest of King’s oeuvre, the novel has the potential to scare the hell out of you!
Even more impressively, Stephen King has continued to churn out great literature in the 21st century. In his 2009 book, Full Circle, for example, he imagines the aftermath of a pandemic in which the human population is forced to live in squalor, as their technological advances have rendered them helpless. In this dark and disturbing scenario, a group of young women band together to protect their children from marauding dogs, as the humans’ increased dependence on technology has left them lacking the primal fear that once drove animals away from these primordial lands. As in most of King’s fiction, a combination of technological wizardry and sheer grit provide the means for survival, and the story circles back on itself, with characters recalling key events that influenced their decisions and leading them to where they are today. Written in response to the 2007–2008 economic crisis, which spurred some of King’s earlier works to publication, the book is yet another example of his keen insight into how the world works, as well as the way humans behave within it. (I would recommend that anyone seeking to impress me with their wit should read this book and then challenge me to a witticism, though I warn you that I may be laughing just a little bit louder than you are.)