Tag Archives: wheelman

Batman joins The Wheelman in Barcelona

It can’t be the weather. I don’t think it’s the nightlife, either. The food? I doubt that Batman and The Wheelman will be able to spare any time for tapas while they chase the bad guys down the dark alleys of the Gothic Quarter. But come March, they’ll both be in Barcelona doing their stuff, joining Vicky and Cristina in the latest trend of celebrity tourism: that of film, comic book and video game characters.

This recent spate as a leading city of pop-cultural narrative imagination marks a turning point in Barcelona’s steady climb towards global recognition. In the case of Batman and The Wheelman, these latest representations of Barcelona will reach an audience that might not care much about architecture, design and molecular gastronomy. And as the image of the city slips away from the tight controlling grip of its institutional and high-cultural minders, we might all be able to reclaim a more open, more complex version of our city – or drown in the endless rehash of half-baked Barcelonese stereotypes.


Barcelona, fast and furious

I told you about the video game The Wheelman in an earlier post. It’s the one where Vin Diesel trashes everything and everyone in sight in “exotic” Barcelona. It’s due out anytime soon, we’re being told, and while we wait with bated breath we’re being teased with a new trailer. What I’m really liking about this game, is that for once a global product that commercialises the “Barcelona Brand” shows us something other than the usual suspects. There are plenty of those (Sagrada Familia, Plaza Real, waterfront and palm trees), but thanks to the exacting requirements of the script, bursting with car chases and criminal behaviour, we are paradoxically offered a more realistic version of the city, which includes nail-biting ring-road action, dreary mass-housing neighbourhoods, dusty parking lots and abandoned construction sites. Now there’s a Barcelona I can recognise!

Dr Jeckyll Mr Hyde Barcelona

Woody Allen’s film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which was filmed here last year and premiered in the city a few days ago, has generated a lot of controversy along the road. The hot topic was the rumour that it received considerable financial support from local public institutions such as the Generalitat (Catalan regional government), the Spanish Ministry of Culture, and the Barcelona Municipality (the latter to the tune of one million euros or so). Others insisted Allen’s film had been no exception and had benefited from the usual range of institutional support offered to filmmakers in Spain.

There has been much bad feeling buzzing around Barcelona for the last few years as the locals have felt increasingly overwhelmed by the sell-out success of the Barcelona Brand, which has transformed the city almost beyond recognition, not always for the best. Many complain that they now live in a theme-park, and that the entrance ticket is beyond their means. And Allen’s film will only make things worse in that respect – Javier Bardem, the film’s male lead, commented in a recent interview that he felt sorry for the Barcelonese: ‘Where are you going to put all the people that will now flock to the city, in ever greater numbers?’ he wondered.

Woody Allen has said that the Barcelona of his film is the one seen by two young American tourists. I will happily report on exactly what kind of Barcelona that is, but I expect to see a lot of Gaudi architecture and possibly (incongruously) a bit of flamenco. More on that in a later post.

In the meantime, while the official Barcelona Brand cannot but be strengthed by the film, another branding battle is taking place around the city’s image, this time centered on a violent new computer game that uses the Catalan capital’s streets as its playground. The Wheelman, starring Vin Diesel, has a violent storyline of gang warfare, corruption and chaos. The game’s webpage explains that it is

Set in the exotic location of Barcelona, Spain. This classic European city is densely populated with traffic and pedestrians that react intelligently to your actions as you roam around realistic environments filled with massively destructible objects.

That all sounds pretty realistic to me, except for the intelligent reaction bit. And I love the idea of ‘massively destructible objects’ as an actual category of things. But as you can well imagine, the Barcelona Municipality was not pleased. Its lawyers have spent all summer trying to find a legal base to ban Midway, the game’s producer, from using Barcelona as a location.

Unfortunately the press reported yesterday that they had been unsuccessful, and the game will be released in a few weeks. Vin Diesel will be free to roam the exotic Catalan streets massively destroying every single destructible object (and individual) in his path. Montserrat Ballarin, the town Councillor in charge of the proceedings, has explained that Barcelona can’t sue Midway for tainting its image, because cities don’t actually seem to legally own their image:

No se puede reclamar a los creadores que resarzan por los daños que pueden provocar a la imagen de Barcelona, porque las ciudades no tienen recogido ese derecho“, ha explicado la concejal. [source]