If you like the Hunger Games, you’ll love Snowpiercer


This year’s best film is about the conflicted, young leader of a revolution but it’s NOT Mockingjay part 1

For a generation frequently derided as shallow we Millenials have remarkably dark tastes. Witness, for example, our infatuation with dystopias. We seem to devour Divergent, the Lovely Bones, Maze Runner and, the series which ignited this trend, the Hunger Games. The latest installment of the cinematic adaptation of which is out this weekend.

Like its predecessors, Mockingjay Part 1 is an impressive film. This was a series that was unlikely ever to go completely wrong; the filmakers could have shot Jennifer Lawrence filling out her tax returns and she’d still be compelling to watch. But the extent to which they’ve got in right is remarkable. Mockingjay 1 manages to be epic yet personal. It opens the story out to encompass the fate of the revolution against the Capital yet continues to anchor us to Katniss’ scared and confused perspective. It also evokes war very effectively as when it shows the residents of District 13 enduring an airstrike. And it’s remarkably bleak, especially for a such mainstream film, while still being inspiring.

The power of the Hunger Games films is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that Thai protestors have adopted the Mockingjay symbol as their own resulting in the film being banned in Thailand.

However, Mockingjay 1 is not this year’s best film about a revolution. That’s Snowpiercer, the most recent film by South Korean director Bong Joon Ho. It’s set in a near future in which an attempt to use geo-engineering to reverse global warming has plunged the Earth into a deep freeze. The last fragments of humanity are aboard a train powered by a perpetual motion machine. The passengers live in a rigidly hierarchical society: squalor at the back of the train, co-exists with opulence in first class. A young worker named Curtis (Chris Evans) galvanises those cheated by this system to rise up. However, as they drive towards the front of the train, the death toll begins to mount and Curtis finds himself doubting the morality of what he has done.

Snowpiercer is adapted not from a young adult novel but an obscure French comic. This may explain why it has not achieved the success of other recent dystopian films. While it broke box office records in Bong’s native South Korea, a dispute between him and the production company mean it has not had a cinematic release in either the UK or the US. I’ve only seen it because I’ve moved to Vietnam.

However, this commercial disadvantage has been an artistic boon. Snowpiercer does not have to gesture towards the tropes of young adult fiction: hence no forced loved triangles. Not dealing with immensely valuable intellectual property also gives Boon a lot of freedom. Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence more or less had to make a rather workman like film, a studio is not going to risk breaking new ground with such a valuable franchise. By contrast, Boon has the scope to experiment with the visuals and tone, and he uses it to the full. And Snowpiercer does not have to weaken its excellent cast by adding bland so-so teen performers like Hutcherson and Hemsworth.

Where it really gains the edge, however, is with its more apt and better directed satire. The Hunger Games might appear to be about the issue of the moment: the monopolisation of power and wealth by an elite. However, its real targets are reality TV and the celebrity culture. These are still worthwhile targets but in the light of the global crash they seem less of a priority than when Collins wrote the books in 2006. Snowpiercer, by contrast, is focused on one of the most alarming trends of recent years: the extent to which inequality is leading us to dehumanise those more or less fortunate than us. This is perhaps best illustrated by the character played by Tilda Swinton – a performance which ought to get her a best supporting actress Oscar - a first class passenger whose job is to hector those at the rear of the train for being lazy, disgusting and ungrateful. If you’ve ever wondered what the Daily Mail would be like if it became an individual person, watch Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer. However, what makes this aspect of the story particularly disturbing when we hear the same ideas being repeated by a class of cute first class children.

Moments like these are why I would implore you to seek out Snowpiercer. This is especially true if you have enjoyed the Hunger Games. It delivers a similarly intelligent mixture of darkness, heroics, action, world building and uncomfortable questions.


5 reasons why this season of Dr Who was the best so far

Season 8 of Dr Who recently finished. It saw the show rejuvenate itself and reach new heights.

A month or so before Dr Who returned this summer, I opined to a friend that I wasn’t really a Dr Who fan anymore. It was just the methadone for my Sherlock addiction. I suspect what drove this feeling was the fact (and it pretty much was a fact) that by the end of its seventh season it had come to feel rather tired. It felt like it was not only running out of ideas but also of ways to repackage old ones.

What a change the past 12 episodes have been. A new Doctor, a new Clara and a fresh approach made it unmissable telly. Here are some of the ways it topped all its predecessors.

Oh and be warned:



1. The Best Doctor

Ecclestone, Tenant and Smith played the Doctor; Capaldi is now (for me at least) the Doctor. He inhabited the character and his millennium of flaws, hopes, contradictions, wisdom, insecurities and memories. Previous Doctors oscillated between light and shade. Capaldi didn’t need to because he could be both at once. We should not have expected no less from the man who brought us Malcolm Tucker: an awful blend of hilarity and hate. Capaldi’s Doctor is essentially the inverse still: still a figure of both tragedy and farce but this time amounting to a mighty angel not a nasty little demon. He’s a creature so lofty that his at once absurd, intimidating and inspiring. That’s a lot for an actor to convey but Capaldi did it faultlessly.

2. The Best Companion

Now here’s something I didn’t expect to be writing. Last season’s Clara was the worst companion new Who had given us. This time round she was the best. She was no longer a puzzle to be solved masquerading as a manic pixie dream girl. Rather she a fully developed character. And quite a character at that!

Gone was any sense that the companion was the Doctor’s human pet.  Clara came to as to being the Doctor’s equal that any human is ever going to get. She was even able to pass for him when necessary and to put him in his place if that was likewise required. At one point she remarked “you’re not my boss, you’re my hobby”, at another warned him that “if you speak for me again, I will detach something from you” and most pointedly condemned his decisions during “kill the moon”. She was not angry with him prior to show how things really were. He took one view, she found that morally repulsive. And the show never did anything to undermine the validity of her viewpoint.

The character and Jenna Coleman’s superb acting (where was that last season!?) were sufficiently strong that they overcame this run’s main weakness: Danny Pink. He seemed intriguing at the start and he was noble at the end. However, in between he was bland at best and dislikeable at worst.

3. The best/worst monsters

Since Dr Who has returned its best monsters have been those built around a single idea: the Weeping Angels (‘don’t blink’) and the Silence (‘you can’t remember’). By contrast, many of the weakest episodes are those which have tried to restore classic monsters like the Sontarans and Cybermen to their past glories.

The writers seem to have noticed this and we had a slew of successful conceptual monsters: robots you have to hold your breath to escape, a Mommy which kills you after 90 seconds, fear itself and most chillingly creatures which exist only in two dimensions.

4. The Best Big Bad

What do you get when you cross Heath Ledger’s Joker with Mary Poppins? Michelle Gomez’s version of the Master it turns out.

I think comparing Missy to the Dark Knight’s villain makes sense because the secret to both is that they are so unhinged that we’re denied the comfort of being able to guess what they might do next. Rather than maniacally pursuing plans to conquer the universe like Simm’s Master did, Gomez has the more alarmingly personal mission of fucking the Doctor up. Witness, for example, her cruel lie about knowing the location of Gallifrey

And the scene where Missy kills Osgood (*sob,sob*) had the same gasp inducing nastiness as the Joker making a pencil disappear. It was probably the darkest moment the show has given us so far.

 5. More consistency

Dr Who has always been a difficult show to be a fan of.  Giving up 45 minutes of your life to watch an episode has always been a gamble.  You might get pure genius like Blink or Midnight but you were equally likely to have to watch excruciating flops like the Curse of the Black Spot or Love & Monsters.

Season 8 broke this pattern. Sure there were weak episodes but they at least had redeeming features. Kill the Moon was the bottom of the barrel. It was spoilt by unnecessary lunar spiders and an unwanted terrestrial teen. But it did set up the important and effective moral clash between the Doctor and Clara which I mentioned earlier.

And more importantly such quality control failures were rarer than they had been in the past.


Dear Stephen Moffat and BBC Wales,

More of this kind of thing please! :-)


The tarnished Brand

I get grumpy about Russell Brand (again)

You can generally spot when someone has written something in a hurry and in a bad mood. I first noticed this while doing political campaign. If you put out an attack leaflet then quite often you’d see the other party start delivering a response with great haste. Almost as often, they did little to mitigate the damage. At time you could just the target of the original attack sat at their desk bashing out a response too furiously to consider if it made much sense or how it would come across to its readers.

I got this same sense of irritated thumping of keys while reading James Robertson’s defence of Russell Brand. Robertson is defending the wannabe revolutionary leader from the attacks made on him in a review of his book for Prospect. Given that that review was written by my friend Robin McGhee – indeed I quoted approvingly from it in a post last week – and that I’m not a Brand fan, I was predisposed to disagree with Robertson. However, even I was surprised how weak it is.

Let me take you through it and its myriad howlers. It begins:

“By following Brand’s ramblings and refusing to vote, people are submitting to a system they purport to be protesting against.” Robin McGhee’s shallow assessment of Russell Brand is not only factually inaccurate; it’s politically naive.

This our first sign that this article has been sloppily written. As we go on we’ll see plenty of arguments from Robertson as to why he thinks that Robin’s review is “factually inaccurate; it’s politically naive”. However, there’s nothing to really back up the choice of “shallow” as the correct adjective to use here. It just feels like the first insult which came to Robertson’s mind and which ought to have been switched for something more pertinent in a redraft that never happened.

Let’s start with the facts.

Spoiler: this is overpromising.

Brand is not “anti-voting”. He refuses to contribute to the reproduction of the political class that dominates the British establishment by endorsing any of them at the ballot box. That’s no more anti-voting than a vegetarian who refuses to dine at a steak restaurant is anti-eating. He won’t vote because there’s nothing politically palatable on the menu.

I’ve written before about Brand as an example of an ‘immature democrat.’ Someone conditioned by a consumerist culture to expect a politics tailored to their individual preferences, and therefore rather dejected by the results of a process which is a compromise between the preferences of an entire society. Or put another way someone who thinks voting is like ordering at a restaurant! We can decide not to go to a particular restaurant. Short of emigration, we are stuck with the society we have. And when the discontented choose not to participate that makes change harder to realise. Witness, for example, how the retreat of the young and economically disadvantaged from participating in this week’s mid-term elections made a Republican victory much easier.

I also continue to find it strange that Brand thinks there’s no one for him to vote for. Surely, the Green’s brand of luddite socialist nonsense would be perfect for him?

 However, on Newsnight in October, Brand said he “would have voted yes” in the Scottish referendum as this was a form of direct democracy that would have actually made a difference.

That doesn’t actually refute the notion that Brand is de facto anti-voting. We live in a representative democracy. Deciding you will only participate in the odd referendum removes your influence over the vast bulk of decisions which are not subject to referendums. Indeed, such exercises in direct democracy only come about because of other elections. Had the SNP not won a majority in the Scottish Parliament then there would have been no Indy referendum to Brand to approve of voting in.

McGhee claims, “Without voting you have zero chance of changing anything”. Let’s remember that Brand is talking about “a revolution”. Voting didn’t bring independence to America. It didn’t bring the indigenous Zapatistas control over their land in Mexico. It didn’t bring women the vote or black people civil rights. These revolutionary moments were created by people engaging in a collective struggle for a better world – not by wandering into a local village hall and putting a cross in a box with an Ikea pencil.

Robertson’s definition of ‘revolution’ seems rather thin. It seems encompass any political change involving violent or non-violent civil disobedience and as a result winds up including a whole host of not terribly revolutionary movements.

We now think of the campaign for votes for women as being all about women throwing themselves under horses and going on hunger strike. The reality is more prosaic. The acts of civil disobedience were confined to a radical fringe. Largely lost to our collective memory was the much larger and more effective, movement led by Millicent Fawcett. She was a Conservative supporter and her organisation relied on petitioning and lobbying to achieve its goals. It also relied on the election of sympathetic MPs to achieve its aims.

Likewise, it’s hard to see how the US Civil Rights struggle would have been assisted by African American living in Northern cities and white liberals taking Brand’s advice about voting. Without them the political incentives for the Federal Government to have taken action would have been much weaker.

McGhee and other critics relentlessly attack Brand for the language he uses. For not being what McGhee calls, “a serious political thinker”. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the political bourgeoisie pour scorn upon a working-class lad for not speaking like they do. However what they fail to remember is that, as the Canadian political philosopher Will Kymlikca wrote, “democratic politics is the politics of the vernacular”. Brand is engaging a much wider audience than Chomsky precisely because he doesn’t use the language of the political intelligencer.

Actually what Robin attacks Brand for is trying simultaneously to appear like someone you should take seriously while also being funny, and apparently failing at both. Robin writes that “Brand is clearly desperate for people to take him seriously—punishing the reader with statistics and poorly written summaries of 18th century political philosophy. The constant changes of tone from whimsical memoir to sombre pseudo-philosophic discourse are unpleasantly jarring.” Robin is purporting to judge Brand by a standard the comedian has himself chosen; calling him out for posing as a ‘serious political thinker’ while failing to articulate any thoughts of substance.

Robin’s problem with Brand is not that he writes in ‘the vernacular’ but that he writes sentences like “Dear ol’ Thomassy Piketts, ol’ Piketty, Licketty, Rollitty, Flicketty, has been given a right kicketty by the right wing for daring to suggest that we need transparency around the wealth and assets…” which are neither funny nor enlightening.

Talking politics in an amusing way to a broad audience does not require producing such witless crap. In the US, the trio of John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver have been showing how to do satire with bite and brains.

Brand isn’t claiming to be the heir of Chomsky or to speak “for the people.”

The fact that it’s in quotation marks might lead you to believe Robin uses the words “for the people”. Ctrl F it and find out for yourself.

What he does do is provide evidence that Brand does indeed see himself as engaged in a similar enterprise as Chomsky. Again Robertson dismisses this without dealing with that evidence.

Instead he is using his platform in the media to draw attention to the stories it ignores. Stories that undermine the disempowering narrative that there is no way out of life under capitalism: stories of the E15 mothers who refuse to be priced out of their community in London; stories of academics like Graeber who challenge the notion that debt should always be paid back, however unjust the conditions of the loan.

Side note British law does not support the notion that “debt should always be paid back.” The selling of financial products is subject to consumer protection legislation and there are insolvency procedures for dealing with unmanageable debts.

Brand provides the British public with a guided tour of alternative ideas, but he no more claims to be an intellectual or a representative of the people than the tour guide claims to be the attractions they draw attention to.

A nice analogy that gives Brand too much credit. If I asked my guide to elaborate on something or tell me how he knows that and rather than answering the question he began ranting that this was the kind of strategy that people used to show him up; I would conclude they were pretty useless at their job.

As a Liberal Democrat supporter, maybe McGhee is looking for a scapegoat in Brand for when next-to-nobody votes for his party next May?

Is this a serious argument or a weak excuse to bring up Robin’s Lib Demmery? Come May 7th, I can’t see anyone, including Robin, who’s asked the question “how do you explain these Lib Dem losses?” replying “Russell Brand.”

However, rather than joining the legions of puritanical lefties who relentlessly feel the need to prove their intellectual and moral superiority over this former drug and sex addict, perhaps McGhee should use the space that Brand is creating in the otherwise hegemonic media narrative to open up a discussion about how to address the colossal democratic deficit, social inequality and climate crisis, created by capitalism.

What’s ‘puritanical’ got to do with anything? Has Robertson just gone to a list of insults and looked up the ones starting with P?

Also since when has the media not talked about democracy, climate change and inequality?

Because as many times as pompous interviewers demand it of him, Brand, a celebrity engaged in a project to help people to regain control of their political destiny and collectively agree a way forward, will not and should not define how society should be organised. In a real democracy, that is for us all to decide, even you Robin.

No but he is advocating for a change. And it behoves him to explain what the change he wants is. If he wants us to join the revolution then we should know where it is going to take us. If Brand cannot or will not articulate that then he should make room for people who can.

This final point is a weakness you encounter in much other anarchist writing. Many of the other mistakes throughout this article just seem like sloppiness. I do genuinely wonder if Robertson read Robin attacking a figure he likes and agrees with and was riled up by that, and put fingers to keys without stopping to think through the piece properly.

Writing an article with greater haste than care and more passion than reflection is bad. Trying to summon a political movement that way is worse.

There’s a place for guilt

John Newton. A man with much to be guilty about.

Christianity is often accused of making people feel guilty. That may not be a bad thing.

It is sometimes said that ‘Christianity is like a swimming pool, all the noise comes from the shallow end.’ I recognise that assertion is snide and relies on caricatures but it is tough to disagree with. That’s partly the fault of those swimming in the deeper waters. They are often afraid to make a splash.

Liberal Christianity is too often written about solely by authors with a scholarly disposition who are so attuned to nuances that they speak of little else. So I found it refreshing to read Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense. Spufford is direct and colourful in his enunciation of why his faith still holds. Here he is talking about the unfashionable topic of guilt:

‘Guilt’… gets a terrible press now: much worse than frothy, frivolous ‘sin.’ Our culture does take it seriously but as a cause of unhappiness in itself, a wanton anxiety-generator. It’s as if if the word ‘groundless’ always slid invisibly into place in our sentences next to it. As if it were always, a false signal, a fuss being made about nothing by somebody who shouldn’t be beating themselves up over playing tiddly-winks on the Sabbath. Once again, our usage assumes a world where we never do anything it would be appropriate to feel bad about. So the old expressions of guilt stop sounding like functional responses to real situations and become evidence of crazy self-hatred. Strike up the New Orleans big band, please:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me….

There! Did you hear that? He just called himself a wretch. He’s beating himself up in public. Sorry, mate: lovely tune, lousy sentiment. Except that ‘wretch’ is actually a very polite word for what John Newton, the eighteenth-century author of ‘Amazing Grace’, was. John Newton was a slave trader. He made his living transporting cargoes of kidnapped human beings, in conditions of great squalor and suffering, to places where they and their children’s children would be treated all their lives as objects to be bought and sold and brutalised. Some of John Newton’s own contemporaries (the ones who weren’t chained below decks in their own shit” may have thought the profession that his profession was only a bit unrespectable ; we, on the other hand, recognise that he was participating in one of the world’s greatest crimes, comparable to the Holocaust. Wretch? John Newton was horrible.

But at least he came to know it. At least he made the journey from comfortable acquiescence in horror to an accurate, and therefore horrified, sense of himself. At least he learned that something was wrong. And ‘Amazing Grace’ is a description of the process by which he began to awaken. The wrinkle is that he wrote it before he gave up slaving. He wrote it under the impression that he had already seen the stuff he should be worrying about – booze and licentiousness, presumably, and playing tiddly-winks on the Sabbath, and not running his slave ship with a swear-box screwed to the mast. In the Holocaust analogy, it’s rather as if a death-camp guard had had a moral crisis, but over cheating his colleagues at poker, and then continued to come to work stoking the ovens, while vowing shakily to be a better person. Yet Newton’s guilt, once found, wouldn’t leave him alone. It went on gradually showing him dark, accurate visions of himself, it went on changing him, until eventually he could not bear the darkness of what he did daily, and gave up the trade, and ended his life as a penitent campaigner against it. At every stage, it had been the same patient guilt that led him on, and so ‘Amazing Grace’, which records his earliest gnawing at him, is unwittingly faithful to the rest of what was coming to him. “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”, he says in the second verse, and what he’s reporting there is his feeling, his amazed feeling, which we probably wouldn’t want to disagree with under the circumstances, that he’d been done a massive undeserved favour by being allowed to become frightened of himself. The night sweats, the uncontrollable memories, the waking to misery, were all in his case a gift, a bounty he couldn’t have earned….There are some human states to which guilty fear is the absolutely appropriate response; on which guilty fear; from which guilty fear is the first step of only available rescue, ‘Amazing Grace’ has been popular for two and a half centuries – has been claimed by millions of hearers and singers as true to their own perspective – because it has been so to speak, tested (unwittingly) at the extremes of what human beings ought to feel guilty about. If there’s room for John Newton to make peace with his terrifying variety of the [human propensity to fuck things up], there’s room for everyone.

This, of course, needs caveating:

However, the fact that some Christians have encouraged people to feel guilty about the wrong things should not discredit guilt itself. As Spufford writes it’s like “whenever  we say guilt the word ‘inappropriate’ is silently inserted before it.”

However, this isn’t really something Christians can blame the secular world for. We have so often talked about guilt as if it’s synonymous with breaking sexual taboos that it’s hardly surprising that the rest of the world assumed that’s what we meant.

Person of Interest

Why you should take an interest in Person of Interest

It’s one of the ten most watched shows in the US yet in the UK it languishes in the backwaters of freeview. Here’s why you should seek it out!

So what are we talking about today?

A TV show: Person of Interest.

What kind of show is it?

It blends elements of thrillers, sci-fi and detective shows.

So what’s the story?

After 9/11, the US government looks for a way to prevent it happening again and turn to a reclusive billionaire named Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) to provide a solution. He builds them a massively advanced computer system known as “the Machine.” It harvests virtually all data produced online and feeds them into a massively sophisticated AI to predict terror attacks with near infallible accuracy. The government, aware that such a system would create an outcry if its existence ever became known, decrees that it must remain secret. This creates a dilemma for Finch when he realises that the Machine is also identifying plots to kill individuals. The government won’t help them because doing so would involve revealing where the information was coming from. Finch’s solution is to turn to a former black-ops officer named John Reese (Jim Cavaziel). The show follows their unofficial efforts to thwart these attempted murders.

So this was inspired by stories about NSA snooping then?

You would have thought so but rather remarkably this is a case of life imitating art. The first two series had already aired by the time Edward Snowden revealed the existence of the Prism program. And while the show is on the surface a pretty schlocky procedural, it does do some pretty serious stuff about the surveillance state and big data.

What is more, its topicality doesn’t end with those themes. As the series progresses it becomes clear that the Machine is evolving to be capable of quite a bit more than just predicting crimes. So the show begins exploring the potential consequences of artificial intelligence.

As this is Christopher Nolan week I take it this has some connection to him?

Yep. It was created by his brother, Jonathan, who also wrote the screenplay for the Dark Knight, the Dark Knight Rises and now Interstellar. Arguably as importantly he was the author of a short story which his elder brother adapted into Memento.

So is Person of Interest like a Christopher Nolan film?

Not really. Despite its often grand themes, it’s an awful lot less earnest than the elder Nolan’s films. In fact, at times it verges on being cheesy.  And Person of Interest doesn’t attempt anything like the visual grandiosity of say Inception.

That said you can see Jonathan Nolan taking some of the ideas he introduced in the Dark Knight and developing them in Person of Interest. Most obviously both feature technology for total surveillance and ask if it can be justified. It reuses also the idea of a billionaire deciding to combat crime though in the case of Person of Interest he relies on someone else to do the fighting, shooting and running. And it takes a similar view of the dynamics of vigilantism. Like Batman, Reese becomes an urban legend: “the man in the suit.” And like Bruce Wayne, Reese and Finch are simultaneously hunted and assisted by the police. There’s also comic book like about the way the show builds up a roster of recurring villains.

Why do you like it so much?

This is network TV*at its best. It has serious themes but doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s mostly popcorn telly with occasional deeper moments thrown in. It manages a pleasing blend of tension and humour, and handles both of those elements with alacrity. So the dialogue is as sharp as the fight scenes are crunchy. It also makes use of the ‘case of the week’ format used for mainstream fare like CSI but still builds in the kind of stories which develop over a whole series that one associates with more ambitious fare like Game of Thrones. Which, come to think of it, is a good metaphor for what this show is like!

It’s particularly successful at creating a cast of characters you want to be in the company of.  The interplay between Finch and Reese often resembles something out of a buddy cop movie. There are also plenty of strong supporting players. The most notable are Taraji P. Henson’s driven NYPD detective and Amy Acker’s affably psychotic hacker.

So where can I watch it?

The fourth series is currently airing on CBS in the States. British viewers can see the third one will be 5 USA next year (you can read my griping about that disparity here).

The first two seasons are now also on Netflixs.



*I.e. shows made for mainstream free to air US TV networks. So not Mad Men or the Wire!

Joss Whedon almost directed Batman Begins

So I’ve largely given this week over to posts reflecting my devotion to Christopher Nolan and his films. However, the film which made him a household name was nearly directed by one of my other nerd heroes. The Buffy, Firefly and Avengers mastermind Joss Whedon was also approached to direct Batman Begins.

In a 2008 interview, he reminisced thus:

“Well, I actually did pitch a ‘Batman’ film when [Warner Bros. began developing "Batman Begins"], and it wasn’t what they did but the vibe was very similar,” said Whedon. “Mine was a bit less epic. It was more about the progression of him and it was more in Gotham City. He didn’t go to Tibet and meet cool people, but it was very similar in vibe [to Nolan's "Batman Begins"].”

After a little prodding, Whedon opened up a bit about his “Batman” idea, even going into detail about what villain he planned on using…or not using.

“In my version, there was actually a new [villain], it wasn’t one of the classics — which is probably why they didn’t use it,” he laughed. “It was more of a ‘Hannibal Lector’ type — he was somebody already in Arkham Asylum that Bruce went and sort of studied with. It was a whole thing — I get very emotional about it, I still love the story. Maybe I’ll get to do it as a comic one day.”

Here’s hoping!

By way of a coda, this was not to be the last brush between this project and the Whedonverse. David Boreanaz (aka Angel) was considered for the part of Bruce Wayne before it eventually went to Christian Bale. I strongly suspect that was for the best.