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The Dark Knight Rises July 27, 2012

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Comic Book , 7 comments

And so ends the Dark Knight Trilogy. Having spent 7 years watching these three films from Ireland to Japan to Hong Kong I almost feel i’ve been on a journey with Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises isn’t the best of the three films. I still love ‘Batman Begins‘ for where they finally took the character and ‘The Dark Knight’ for exploring the response to that character through the Joker, it too is just a perfect film with brilliant performances. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is certainly the most epic of the three and brings a fitting conclusion to the story of Bruce Wayne/Batman so much so that I almost cried near the end which was perfect. Getting to the end a little less than perfect, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a brilliant film. I am only measuring this against what has come before and the high standard Nolan has set for himself.
TDKR is the most comic bookish of the Batman films Nolan has done. I thought with TKD anyone and their Grandma could watch it just as a film. Here Nolan gravitates a little more towards the fans. Before it was a movie set in the real world that contained comic book characters, now it’s a movie about comic book characters.

The scale of the film is huge. As I said in my ‘Inception’ review, Christopher Nolan is a traditional film maker. Here he makes a movie, movie. I mean he uses CGI quite sparingly and from the opening scenes of the movie I feel far more impressed with what I see because it’s not just some CGI effect. It looks completely real and adds an element of realism that is necessary for such a character as Batman.

Catwoman. Ann Hathaway is a sexy Catwoman but the character herself isn’t fleshed out so much and the relationship between herself and Batman isn’t as interesting compared to Keaton and Pfeiffer in ‘Batman Returns‘. I loved ‘Batman Returns’ when it came out, the relationship between the two characters, exploring the dichotomy between them was fascinating to watch. We don’t get that so much here. We see Selina the person.

Bane. Doesn’t have the onscreen presence of the Joker and I do think the mask takes away some of the performance of Hardy while at the same time adding to the mystery of the character and his unstoppable force. I could understand his voice fine for about 99% of the film but I did find it coming in too clear, the audio sounding unnatural, almost as if dubbed over the film. Tom Hardy as Bane is the most threatening looking Villain Batman has ever faced and the way Batman pounds on this guy to no effect shows Batman losing in a very different manner to how he lost to the Joker. By the way how stupid was Batman to sleep with someone and then get into the biggest fight of his life. Boxers and sports stars avoid that stuff until after their big sporting event. Batman really did underestimate this guy…

The story. I’m getting a ‘Dark Knight Returns’ comic vibe from the story and I felt after watching ‘The Dark Knight’ that Nolan might take the Trilogy in this Direction. Here we have an older more fragile Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to help Gotham once more like the DKR comic. There is also parts of the ‘Knightfall’ comic in this with the breaking of the Bat along with bits of ‘No Mans land’. We see a return of Batman twice in this film. I thought the parts at the beginning dealing with his return and the middle would better fit into one continuous thread of Batman’s return. There is an obvious analogy to the world in recent years with the rich standing above the poor and the system that protects the people no longer fully working.

Alfred. Michael Caine gives it his all and it’s his best turn at Alfred yet. Give the man an award I say. Any actor that can stir an audiences emotions like him deserves another Oscar. He portrays Alfred as a loving Father figure who is seeing his adopted son losing himself in his battle against life. He isn’t as large a presence in the film as he was in the previous ones and I kinda miss that. While he was more of a sidekick in the others here he has become the Bat computer, dispensing relevant plot information to Bruce Wayne about Bane and his accomplices. Where does Alfred get this info from? Off the streets? It’s one minor little nit pick I have that here we have a film running at 2 hours 45 minutes and there is still a lot of exposition from characters, giving info about certain things. Take Blake’s explanation of how he discovered who Bruce really was. Couldn’t we see said scenes instead?

John Blake. He has some very cool scenes, especially towards the end with his real name being mentioned and then what follows after that…. I geeked out completely. It put a massive smile on my face. I liked Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character. He’s someone almost above Batman and Gordon in the Morals department, he gives no ground to the idea of doing a little wrong for the greater good, he believes that the system is no longer working and quite clearly common sense has abandoned the police department.

The ending of the film is perfect way to end the franchise and it’s an emotional blow out that I haven’t really felt with the end of any other trilogy. It’s sad, touching, heartwarming and beautiful.
As I was coming back home on the train having just seen the film and having a big dumb school girl smile on my face I suddenly stopped and thought.

“Did Nolan just pull an inception on us with that ending??!”

It’s food for thought. Of course things point to the happier ending which is how I originally perceived it,but I do love the way Nolan did that.

As to the future of Batman in movies there seems to be talk of a Justice League Movie on the way that he might be in. Nolan has completed his Batman story too so we won’t be returning to that world. Unless… we continue with John Blake as Batman. Kinda like Terry McGinnis of ‘Batman Beyond’ (they already have a flying batmobile). I wouldn’t mind seeing something tonally similar rather than your typical comic book film that has flooded the cinemas in recent years. Then again I wouldn’t mind seeing ‘Batman Beyond’ on the big screen too.

Favorite Quote: “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” - Batman

The Amazing Spider-Man July 8, 2012

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Comic Book , 2 comments

It’s a good film but I couldn’t help thinking how Sam Raimi did things better. I just wasn’t connected to it as much as I was with the original Spider-Man. The Spider-Man of 2002 nailed the story, the character, the origin. The wrestling Spider-Man, Uncle Ben’s death, the set up with the villains, the young, fragile teenage boy thrown into a life of a superhero and trying to hold all aspects of his life together. It’s tough being Peter Parker.

Thing is, Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is already a cool looking guy, already stands up to bullies, already has the girl interested in him. What really changes for the character? He becomes a superhero, goes through some sh*t but he’s still the same guy when he comes out of it at the end. Who is Toby Maguire’s Parker at the end of his movie? In the beginning, he is weak, a geek and definitely does not have the eye of the girls. At the end he is not totally willing to be Spider-Man, guilt over his Uncle’s death has thrust him into that life and it reminds him of his greatest failure. There is a lot of inner conflict there, he is still a geek, still the boy next door but he knows who he is. Spider-Man.

Uncle Ben and Aunt May: For these minor characters the star power of Sheen and Field is not required and I see it as something of a publicity boost giving weight to the films cast. With all due respect to the fine acting talents of Martin Sheen and Sally Field I just like Raimi’s version of Uncle Ben and Aunt May more and thought them to be closer to their comic book counterparts. The most glaringly absent line from the movie is by Uncle Ben which should have been “with great power comes great responsibility”. I think it is a quintessential piece to the character of Spider-Man and while Raimi didn’t quite have a home run with his Spider-man films that basic line still rang true even by film 3 .

A groan worthy nitpick. Why did Spider-Man’s identity need to be revealed so much in such unoriginal ways? He shows Gwen Stacy who he is, he is unmasked by her father and the most pathetic was the lizard discovering who he was because he had put his name on his Camera. Please…. Even there is a point where Aunt May might seem to know that Peter is Spider-Man. Hate to drone one about this but compare it to the reveals of Spider-Man’s identity in the 2002 film, the familiar kiss with Mary Jane, Peter’s cut arm noticed by Osborn. So much more impactful.

The Lizard. The origin story of Spider-Man takes time away from the Lizard of course and I can’t help thinking again what Raimi might have done with that character. Lizard seems to have little necessity except for someone for Spider-Man to fight and have action scenes with. The fights themselves aren’t on par with what’s come before.

There seems to be a rehash of scenes from Spider-Man 2002 early on. A reboot so close to that film is unnecessary to me. While the story here is changed the basic points of Peter dealing with his powers are similar, as is Uncle Ben’s death and there is also that “America is great” undertone with the citizens of New York once again lending a hand to Spider-Man as we glimpse the flag of the united states on a wall in the background. I don’t find it as relevant as it was back in 2002 for obvious reasons. Marc Webb just hasn’t done enough to reinvent this character and only shows how it pales in comparison.

Kids will probably love this and like it more than the originals for no other fact than they were in nappies when the original Spider-Man films were released.
The after credits scene. No idea what that was about but it didn’t interest me at all in the slightest or get me excited for the next film except to think we need to wait another 2-3 years to find out what the hell that was about.

So 10 years after watching Spider-Man (2002) in Dublin and walking out with a smile on my face I leave the cinema here in Hong Kong and frown. These franchise reboots, re-imaginings will not sustain themselves unless there is a strong creative force behind it that cares about the material and wants to deliver. I think Directors like Nolan, Raimi, Whedon get it. But here I believe Director Mark Webb was chosen because he could create a teenage romance to attract a wider audience or women and the credence is on the money that can be pulled in.

Favorite Quote: “Secrets have a cost. They’re not free. Not now, not ever” - Aunt May

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