55 – Magician

coverblackRecorded August 3rd. “The magical thinking of orphan boys.”  Batman the magician.

[I finally get to do an episode about Batman, so it’s long.]

Answers, insights, and commentary on:

  • I. Magic and Batman Tradition (25min)
    • Houdini the superman
    • Zatara in Acton Comics No. 1
    • Stage Act similarity
    • Perfection of Self
    • Working Definition of Magic
      • Artful Performance
      • Of the Impossible
    • Trained by Giovanni Zatara
    • Batman’s performance
  • II. Magic of Movie Making (8min)
    • Georges Méliès
    • Robert Houdan
    • Larry Fong on the illusion of movies
    • Terrio, Nolan, Fong
    • Fong Super 8 Featurette
    • The Wizard
  • III. This Batman is a Magician (12min)
    • Beautiful Lie
    • Mozart of Deception
    • Lies and Child Development
    • Theory of Mind and Self Control
    • Orphan Boys and Magical Thinking
    • Many Magic Tricks of This Batman
    • Impossibility of Magic and Logic
    • It was always a trick
    • Disappearing in Belle Reeve
    • First and Last Batman scenes
    • Lex’s Magical Props
  • IV. Spellbound (40min)
    • Mind the Gap
    • Load Up
    • Write the Script
    • Control the Frame
    • Design Free Choice
    • Employ the Familiar
    • Conjure an Out
  • V. Force (20min)
    • Magic Words: Luck, Fake, Watching, Force
    • Two Meanings of Force
    • Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
    • Accept the World or Force It… Recognize or Save It
    • Free Will and Force, Martha
    • Batman Transformed and Self-Deprecating
    • The Silent Accusation
    • Superman returns
  • VI. End Notes (15min)
    • Miscellaneous

To learn more:
Beyond Magic | David Blaine
It’s A Trap! | Justice League Action
Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man | John Kasson
Secret Life of Houdini | Kalush & Sloman
What is the Art of Magic? | Lawrence Hass
Blaine: How I Held My Breath for 17 Minutes | TED
Super 8: Abrams on Big Lessons of Small Budgets | Hero Complex
Spellbound | David Kwong
The Carbonaro Effect | Michael Carbonaro
AOM #306: Magic Teaches Success | David Kwong
Blaine Shocks Jimmy & The Roots | Tonight Show
Mentalist Lior Suchard Bends Alice Eve’s Mind | Late Late Show
The Grift | Maria Konnikova
Ep. 65 – David Berglas | The Magicians’ Podcast
Petter Johansson – Decision and Choice Making | Media Evo
Math Magic | VSauce
Mind-Boggling Card Trick | standupmaths
Oil and Water | STEMMathsMagic
Black Box | RadioLab
TED Talks on Magic | TED

End notes recorded August 8th
Beyond Magic with DMC | NatGeoUK
Death Trap | Harris & DeLisle
Who’s The (Bat)Man | Patrick Stump

Web: ManOfSteelAnswers.com
Twitter: @mosanswers
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Less than 100 days ’til #JusticeLeague

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  1. Wow – once again the insights and explanations of the good doctor are mind blowing – having just heard “The Magician” I really need to rewatch BVS once more (making it the 5 time so far) – thank you doc. Big fan of your podcast and your amazing analysis.

  2. All Batman really has to do is put his back to wherever he wants to go, it’s a fairly safe bet that he’ll be sent flying in that direction, Supes being fond of the flying tackle. He doesn’t predict it perfectly, in that he has to drag Superman some distance to get to the spear, but close enough for suspension of disbelief.

    • Thanks for listening, ring management is definitely a component.

      • Thanks for replying. This is a great resource, there’s so much content here, and it’s great to see such positivity somewhere on the internet between you, Sam Otten, and Pulpklatura among others, because some of the commentary on the DCEU borders so often on bad faith.

        I was ambivalent to BVS on release and slowly grew to love the film as I realised the depth involved (especially Lex’s plan). It’s not perfect, but it is far, far more than it’s often given credit for. But of course that’s not news to anyone on this site.

        The Bat tends to get a lot of flack from the fandoms, but the funny thing is, he often gets simultaneously called out on being too omniscient and not omniscient enough. When his plans work, he’s called out on being over prepared, when they don’t he’s called on not being prepared enough. But not even Batman can plan for everything.

        I’m going to lay out some detailed thoughts on the combat here, a lot of which lines up what what you have said, but not all of it, but I’m not attempting to nitpick, it’s just a philosophical difference. Bear in mind, as a fan of the Bat, I may not be impartial here.

        A BVS fight is fundamentally a problem because it’s a clear mismatch and neither of them ordinarily will a) fight in the first place b) go all out if they do.

        The fight in the Dark Knight Returns is the most famous one, probably, but the key point there is that both of them are holding back, which is something so often forgotten. A real Batman Superman conflict, the one everyone wants to see, is not very cinematic because it’s Batman in a soundproof lead lined bunker somewhere in the world launching missiles at him from hundreds of miles away by proxy… which isn’t what the crowd wants to see.

        And BVS’ fight is also one where both of them are holding back, because it’s closely modelled on the Dark Knight Returns, and that they each aren’t fighting at their best is made explicit in the line ‘If I wanted it, you’d be dead already’, and as I believe you said in another video, assassinating Clark with Kryptonite would be very doable if Batman was going for a kill at peak efficiency. Neither of them are using their A game, which is in character for both as they are presented in these films.

        Batman doesn’t prepare for being flown into the stratosphere became he knows Clark won’t blast him from space. He does not believe Clark is currently a monster, he believes he has the potential to become one. He knows Clark won’t squash him with a fifty foot rock, as he is now. It’s his potential for corruption later that is the problem, not Superman as he is now.

        My interpretation is that Batman believes he has to kill a fundamentally innocent, good man, and because that’s so contrary to everything he is, he has to work very hard to make himself do something like that. Hence the display, and the efforts to convince himself that continue all through the fight.

        Superman is unlikely to see Batman as a significant threat, because he knows nothing about Kryptonite by this point. There’s no real need to immediately drive in for the kill, and no reason for Batman to believe he will given his history. It’s also unlikely Superman will take him somewhere when they’re already in a conveniently deserted area and nothing is a threat to him as far as he knows. There’s no need to take him to Antartica, that would waste time and might kill him. And in the immediate vicinity, the options are through the populated city (which neither of them would want), or into the bay, which would be fatal for Bruce, and Superman has not shown himself to be the person that wants to do that. So there’s no reason for him to do anything like that or for Batman to expect him to do that and plan for it.

        The plan didn’t hinge on taking Superman to any specific room or building, it was built around the Kryptonite weakening him enough that he could be brought there. But it was a reasonable assumption that the fight would move backwards in the general direction of where the spear was, because Superman is flying tackle prone and Batman doesn’t have the strength to recover ground as easily. It didn’t rely on taking him to any specific place. That was just luck and cinematic brevity. It’s a reasonable plan, not a perfect plan, Batman nearly gets into serious trouble when Superman recovers faster than he expected. He can’t plan for everything, and that’s okay.

        Apologies for the long digression, and thanks again for creating a site with so much valuable content. I’ve been listening for some months now, but this is the first video I commented on. Thanks for all your work.

  3. Doc! Thank you so much for another great episode. Finished listening last night.
    This is not specifically about this episode, I just wanna tell you that you are one of the real-life superheroes out there who made me believe men are still good from time to time.
    There are so many negativity in all social media but whenever I listen to you, I feel that there are still good people out there producing content with love and passion. And your work here, it’s so remarkable.
    I am a Chinese and now I started a blog to post similar content analysis DCEU films in Chinese for those whose English was not good enough for all this good stuff from you and Sam and everyone. You are my greatest inspiration (Or maybe it should be Zack?). I refer to you all the time.
    Thank you and thank you again.

    • Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you’re finding encouragement and sharing the ideas with others and I appreciate that you’re finding value for a Chinese audience.

      One of the best things about these DC films is that they have a theme of multilateralism running through them (just today EW released a quote from Ben Affleck saying this about Justice League). I’m glad you’re expressing yourself on your blog.

  4. Emmanuel Adeloye

    This was amazing. Nice work. Enjoyed every moment of it.

  5. Halfway through and had to comment Doc. Going in to the fight Batman in his mind can not lose. He defeats Superman and he fulfills his narrative. He loses, what does it matter it was all a beautiful lie anyway. This goes to the expertly crafted manipulation skills of Lex. He makes you believe you are going to win (like Senator Barrows) without you realising it’s Lex who has created the wider narrative with which you are functioning within.
    Within the fight, Batman has one way in which he wins, by getting off the kryptonite grenade, and he creates multiple scenarios with which he can get that off. I believe we don’t see everything he had planned to create the time for him to get that shot off. But he absolutely studied Superman’s habits in order to give him the knowledge in order to get that shot off. Once he learns about the lead weakness from Lex’s files (expertly provided by Lex) I believe it’s then he believes he can win this fight. Even with the kryptonite specs it may have been too difficult for him to engage in that fight. As you mentioned in a previous episode, without energy provided into the kryptonite it’s effect on Kryptonian cells is likely insufficient as an exterior source.

    • In one of the earlier versions of the episode, the one where I’m parsing every choice, I make some lame transitions from magic, to Vegas, to gambling, and end up explaining how “All-In” works tactically in poker. In a sense, it’s a similar principle. No, Batman cannot win if Superman does a speed blitz or blasts him with heat vision from space… so if you’re already going to lose those scenarios but already committed to fighting, you might as well go all-in on the odds where you have a chance. That was the general idea, but I cut all that stuff out.

      • That’s a reasonable viewpoint from Batman. He would know, that Superman, if he wanted to, would completely annihilate him if he wanted. His key assumptions would be;

        a) Superman is able to be antagonised
        b) Superman is willing to act against me directly
        c) Superman would prefer nobody around during interaction
        d) Superman isn’t willing to use his full power set to stop me
        e) Superman’s first response will be to talk me down
        f) Superman’s second response will be to subdue me with minimal force
        g) Superman’s third response will be to talk me down again
        h) Superman is likely to wait for my response before acting

        This he can gather from their first confrontation and from some of the street level footage, but mostly Superman gives away his patterns on first confrontation. This gives Batman enough information to design a scenario to give himself a chance. Namely that, he expects Superman to subdue him with just enough force, hence he arms himself in the armoured suit to survive the first attack. He then expects Superman to repeat his threat which gives him the chance to get his round off.

        The wildcard here is that he doesn’t know Superman is under Lex’s narrative as well. This forces the encounter with Superman to happen much faster than Bruce would have hoped, but he planned for some level of uncertainty by bringing the lead smoke grenade to give him additional time to get off a shot.

        You’re right. When you really think through it, Batman actually has enough information on hand to design a scenario where his chances of success are reasonable. It relies on the untested kryptonite gas to work and Superman playing a “normal hand”. Like poker, you can always lose to a better hand in a one off, but over time the odds are in your favour with a winning strategy against someone who repeats the same habits.

  6. Another great episode Doc. Had the fight gone Clark’s way, do you think he would go through with it and kill the Bat? After all, he did say “no one stays good in this world” and that including him. Zack Snyder said he cut a scene where Superman tried to scan the city to find his mother, but all he saw and heard was the crimes committed in Gotham. That would make him truly desperate and followed Lex’s will. But then, he should know that Lex would not let Martha go even with the head of the Bat on his hand. What would Clark do? I am not hoping for a full-on Elseworld story back in Episode 40, but your insights would be great.

    PS: Really looking forward to the Doomsday fight episode, any ETA? Wonder Woman will be released on Bluray late August and for the first time, we will have a short epilogue attached. Something to do with Motherboxes?

    • Thanks for listening, John.

      Let me suggest that the fight was sort of going Superman’s way. His ideal self would prefer Batman listen and the cooperate on a plan. That’s why he opens with, “Bruce… Please… I was wrong.” He’s referring back to their last exchange, where he judged Batman from afar and thought threats and a show-of-force was the answer. But consider how quickly he goes BACK to fighting and force, lording his power over Batman… while maybe not intentional, I think it’s instinctual… that Clark knows it’s easier to fight someone in-anger than to convince them in conversation. We see him do this against Zod, “You’re a monster.” I think part of him wants to provoke Batman and for Batman to be provoked so he has “no choice” but to put him down. To make the unthinkable easier by not thinking and acting on impulse and anger. So, in a sense, it was always his “plan” to get swept up into fighting Batman. No part of him wanted to have to kill Batman in a cold clinical execution… that’s why he doesn’t grapple with Batman or keep him in a hold… the last time he did that it ended with him killing Zod and his conscience is clear there only because Zod forced his hand in such a clear-cut manner. If Batman is pinned and powerless in his grip, unable to do anything or defend… I believe Clark would know the rational calculation is that Bruce has to die so Martha lives… I doubt whether he could do it after his experience with Zod and without Batman actually able to fight back or provoke him. I think it’s a sincere dilemma and Clark isn’t written out of it because he makes the conscious choices to recklessly fight.

      I don’t think Lex would have refused to let Martha go. Some ding kidnapping Lois as redundant, but I think it proves Lex is willing to kill but also OK to let go. If Superman really thought Lex was going to go back on his word, he wouldn’t have let Lois go on her own… he’d assume Lex would have someone ready to clean her up too. If we want to throw a theory at it, we might claim that Clark can detect if people are lying. I don’t know if that’s necessary, but you can use that to justify him going along with the conditions as presented. From a game theory perspective there’s little advantage to acting as if Lex is going to betray, because then the entire game is irrelevant… for all Superman knows, Martha is already dead and there’s no point to compliance. Only trusting the game and its rules yields the hope that Martha lives and can be rescued or recovered so it’s sensible to go with it initially.

      No ETA on the Doomsday fight episode, not happy with it as-is. I do need to rethink production so I don’t have so many deleted episodes… used to be every 5-6 and now it’s almost a 1:1 ratio.

      • please, doc, we like to hear more, just don’t delete anything. I’ve lost count how many “that’s another episode” you mentioned. I want to hear them all!

      • Lex having Supes on a timer forces Clark to reveal his default instinct. He tries to talk, as raised by Jon, but the overwhelming desire to act takes over very quickly and he exerts his power but in a restrained way. These are the habits of young Clark that we see repeated time and time again.
        Once hit with kryptonite gas and unclear of the effects he throws the punch that Batman blocks that clearly would have killed Batman, and he moves from simply trying to subdue Batman in order to reason with him, to outright incapacitating him at best and even willing to accept Bruce’s death in a sort of repeated Zod scenario.
        It really shows the brilliance of Lex’s plan. It’s simple, yet stunningly brilliant. It does however rely on one scenario to work, that Batman is in so much pain that he can’t recover. And moving into Lex plans is another episode we don’t need to tred here.

  7. So it seems that Danny Elfman has stated that he will add a ‘twisted version’ of the old John Williams Superman score, apparently in “an actually very dark way, in a dark moment. It’s the kind of thing that some fans will notice. Some won’t. It’s a moment where we’re really not sure whose side he’s on.”

    It seems to add to the notion that the revived Superman may initially be different than the one we know, albeit initially. For a while I’ve seen fans bringing out the Injustice topic and the apocalyptic knightmare scene in BvS, so perhaps their theories may be into something after all.

    Nevertheless, I am very interested in how a twisted version of the classical theme may sound. For so long that theme has been associated with a ‘lighthearted and cheerful’ feel, I’m anxious to see how they will turn it into a dark feel.

    Some fans of the classical Superman may go riot at the notion of DC “ruining their definite Superman theme”, but I hardly see it that way. (If you ask me, they should be thankful that the classical theme will be featured at all)

  8. Wow what an awesome information you have provided about the magician it is very entertaining. I will be share it as much as I can.

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