Tag Archives: batman

The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie posterWhile the initial idea of The Lego Movie was, at first, somewhat of an odd one, the final product was one of the highlights of recent family cinema so it wasn’t surprising when a sequel was announced fairly swiftly.

The fact that this sequel would be The Lego Batman Movie, focussing on the Lego version of the DC superhero, a highlight of The Lego Movie but ultimately a bit part, just added to the surprises around the franchise.

Opening with Batman foiling one of The Joker’s schemes to destroy Gotham, all the tropes of Batman are quickly established, but added to this is the knowing, post-modern humour that made this Batman such a highlight of the previous film.

The first chunk of the film relies heavily on this and, while the action, animation and characters are well done it’s the reference heavy humour that is its strong suit.

Lego Batman and Robin

Lego Batman and Robin

After this of course a plot is required to fill out the rest of the movie and really this is the film’s weakest element. It tries to balance a further nefarious plan from The Joker with a focus on Batman’s ever-present loneliness including the introduction of a new cinematic Robin, but all with a suitably lighthearted tone (this certainly isn’t Ben Affleck’s dark and brooding version of the character from Batman Vs Superman).

While it’s still fun the slightly forced plot causes the middle section to drag a bit and it is more predictable, both in terms of story and jokes, than it could have been.

The final act brings the same feel as the first back, closing things on a high point with nods to all the previous screen versions of Batman, including the often overlooked 1960s Adam West incarnation, along with guest appearances from pretty much every villainous character Lego have licence to use from Daleks to Voldemort and way beyond.

The Lego Joker

The Lego Joker

As a whole the voice cast are very good with Will Arnett’s Batman being an excellent standout. However, while Zach Galifianakis does a good turn as Joker, it’s hard to escape the fact he simply isn’t Mark Hamill who has been the most consistently effective versions of the character, vocally at least.

While it doesn’t quite live up to The Lego Movie, I’m not sure how it could as that film’s inventiveness is of course being replicated here to some degree, The Lego Batman Movie is none-the-less great fun with enough to appeal to all the family on various levels and with enough surprises to, mostly, keep it going along very well if not quite being the standout many had hoped for.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad posterAround 18 years or so ago the perception of comic book/superhero movies changed, seemingly forever, from slightly naff, campy b-movies to genuine blockbuster contenders thanks to the likes of Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man leading into Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and the ongoing (now somewhat inconsistent) Marvel Cinematic Universe behemoth.

Now, with Suicide Squad – the latest instalment in DC Comics’ attempt to set up their own ongoing series like Marvel’s, following Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – director David Ayer (of End of Watch and Fury fame) and the various shadowy studio figures behind him, seem fairly intent on taking us back to the superhero movies of the mid-90s.

Describing the actual plot of Suicide Squad is a challenge, but in broad strokes it deals with the formation of a new super team that, rather than being made up of heroes, is made up (mostly) of second level villains and, in its better moments, deals with them coming together and working together.

In it’s not so good moments the story follows them as they face off against an ancient evil force, supposedly with the ability to destroy the world, embodied by two rather un-inspired, at least partially CG creatures.

The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad

The first stumble the film makes is in trying to be an origin story for a number of characters. This is very inconsistent as Deadshot (Will Smith) gets about three versions of his origin story while Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) gets a very short montage.

Certainly this shows their relative places in the movie, but it feels imbalanced and the lack of exposure for a few becomes problematic as they have relatively pivotal moments later on.

Along with these we get the loose origin of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) threaded throughout, providing as much an introduction to her as to her ‘Puddin’, ‘Mr J.’ – Jared Leto’s new take on Batman arch-nemesis The Joker – during which the duo proceed to steal the show. Though Smith gives them a run for the their money.

It is these characters that are the film’s highlight – while the dialogue is fairly awful, the charisma of the performances and the essence of the characters that has made them favourites in the comic for, in some cases, decades, shines through.

The Joker (Leto)

The Joker (Leto)

Robbie is exactly the kind of demented fun that was promised, though I agree some of the more gratuitous camera angles smack a little too much of Michael Bay’s framing of Megan Fox, but aside from that she provides the nearest thing this film manages to emotional weight through her fabulously deranged relationship with ‘The Clown Prince of Crime’.

Smith’s Deadshot is far from the stone cold killer assassin he is built up to be as he provides some more emotion through his relationship with his daughter that plays as a pivotal motivation throughout, even if I couldn’t help but feel this kind of good guy/bad guy balancing act was added in to get a ‘name star’ such as Smith to play the part.

As is obligatory I should give a few opinions on Leto’s Joker… as he only appears relatively briefly its hard to have a full view but I liked what I saw with the modern ‘gangsta’ style echoing past versions who echoed gangster styles of their time – particularly Jack Nicholson’s version and the original comic book version.

Harley Quinn (Robbie)

Harley Quinn (Robbie)

Aside from that the relationship between him and Harley added a new dimension to the character and led to one of the film’s most striking images during a flashback involving the two and I can’t wait to see a more fully fledged version of the character, hopefully squaring off against Affleck’s Batman who was such a highlight of ‘BVS:DOJ’.

The rest of Suicide Squad unfortunately can’t escape feeling like it’s stuck in the mid-90s. A slightly poorly realised, special effects based, big bad with a fairly non-specific plan to destroy/rule the world is the epitome of this leading to a hugely unsatisfying denouement while being reminiscent of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Russell Mulchay’s The Shadow.

Added to this is the fact that once again it has far from succeeded in establishing the DC comics universe on-screen in any meaningful way with a tone so different from the two previous films that, other than the presence of Affleck’s Bat and a couple of flashbacks, this could have been an entirely stand alone piece.

Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)

Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)

All that said I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun, certainly some could have been trimmed from the first third to up the pace and the apparent main villain was at once too much and too little, but as a fan of the aforementioned Batman Forever and The Shadow I couldn’t help but enjoy Suicide Squad on a similar level to them.

So, really it’s not a ‘good film’ but I still had a good time… make of that what you will, and I can’t wait to see more of The Joker and Harley Quinn.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice – Ultimate Edition

Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice coverWith the imminent release of the next instalment in the DC Comics expanded movie universe, Suicide Squad, I thought it was time I catch up with the previous one, the clumsily titled Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

For clarity I watched the extended ‘Ultimate Edition’ of the film, a kind of director’s cut that includes an extra half hour not included in the theatrical release and, judging by other feedback, I’m glad for it, despite the needlessly lengthy three-hour running time.

Zack Snyder’s first foray into the DC universe, Man Of Steel, was an uneven beast. Somewhat unusually this film starts out with the climactic scene from that, shown from another angle and instantly gives Man Of Steel’s overblown conclusion a bit more weight and meaning.

We see Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne racing through Metropolis apparently to try to save the staff in his Wayne Enterprises building there. Ok, so it doesn’t make total sense but it works well for what it is and, by and large, the same could be applied Dawn Of Justice as a whole.

The story is a mishmash of what feels like three movies worth of ideas loosely tied together, so we get the world’s (i.e. America’s) reaction to Superman’s (Henry Cavill) arrival, we get Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) machinations around ‘meta-humans’ (i.e. Superman and others), and we get the introduction of Batman as an older vigilante now pushed beyond any measure of restraint we’ve come to expect.

Batman (Affleck) and Superman (Cavill)

Batman (Affleck) and Superman (Cavill)

On top of this is the introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and other future members of the Justice League and we see Lois Lane (Amy Adams) investigating an apparent conspiracy against Superman within the US military. As I said there’s a lot going on.

So the story is an undeniable mess, even with the extra 30 minutes to try to tie it up, but it hangs together just enough to be a decent ride as long as you don’t ask too many questions, hanging on the actions of Luthor and the titular face-off between the two figureheads of DC’s set of superheroes, which we get in three different scenarios.

What helps save it, beyond the promise of those two characters going head-to-head are a couple of the performances, most notably Affleck’s.

His Bruce Wayne/Batman is one we’ve not seen before, strongly modelled on the version created by Frank Miller for The Dark Knight Returns; older, angrier and apparently having given up many of the moral qualms that existed in all the other screen versions so far.

Superman, Wonder Woman (Gadot), Batman

Superman, Wonder Woman (Gadot) and Batman

With this Affleck is clearly relishing getting to be both sides of the character and as such steals pretty much every scene he’s in with a performance far more convincing than any other in the movie. Added to this his back and forth with slightly a reworked Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is pitch perfect.

The other performance that really worked for me was that of Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Every bit the stereotypical mad scientist, in many ways he feels like a throwback to the kind of characters seen in 1950s b-movies or 1930s horrors, right down to creating an uncontrollable monster.

On top of this the Luthor of the comics also comes through as his scheming and hyper-intelligence drive the most coherent aspect of the plot forward – although even that becomes slightly too convoluted by the end.

This convolution centres around the monster Luthor creates that isn’t introduced until the movie’s third act giving the totally CG character a sense of being simply tacked on to provide the apparently obligatory big explosions and fight scene climax.

Lex Luthor (Eisenberg)

Lex Luthor (Eisenberg)

While this serves to bring the heroes back together in an even more obvious way than a preceding event, I couldn’t help but feel it was some kind of contractual obligation to include yet another city destroying superhero fight scene, the like of which we’ve already seen countless times thanks to Marvel and, even if this is well delivered, can’t help but be repetitive.

As always Snyder makes the film look great with moments feeling very akin to his still great version of Watchmen and making the CG characters have weight even as they throw laser blasts from their eyes at each other, something other films still often struggle with.

As a whole though the film doesn’t do what I think it needed to or was hoped it would do, in cementing the DC cinematic universe in the way Marvel did with a much slower build approach in their ongoing series that started way back with Iron Man (even if that has become somewhat repetitive of late). While it’s not the disaster some had proclaimed, it remains far from the film many thought and hoped it could have been.

I never give star ratings but this is one to which I could easily apply such as it feels very much like a three-star film, far from essential but watchable and distracting enough to not feel like a waste of three hours.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Films of 2014

So, before I begin this will be short as I haven’t seen nearly as many new movies this year as I’d like, but none-the-less here are my thoughts on things based on what I have seen.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Prison1As seems to something that’s going to continue well into the next decade Marvel took a big chunk of the blockbuster release schedule this year, but, unlike the last few years they actually lived up to the hype.

Following on from the sugary but ultimately unsatisfying confections of The Avengers and Iron Man 3, and the frankly rubbish Thor: The Dark World, Marvel studios stepped up their game in 2014 with the thriller-like Captain America: Winter Soldier that re-established some sense of intrigue in the ongoing Avengers storyline and the massively enjoyable and fun Guardians of the Galaxy that was one of the most enjoyable things I saw all year, whether new or not.

Quicksilver

Quicksilver

The X-Men also re-established themselves as a group of Marvel characters worth watching as Bryan Singer returned to the director’s chair for Days of Future Past which built on the great work Matthew Vaughan did in First Class to be a great action adventure and set up some exciting prospects for the future.

Sony’s other Marvel property, Spider-Man fared less well in the bland follow-up to the almost ironically named The Amazing Spider-Man.

WyldStyle and Batman

WyldStyle and Batman

Family films were broadly catered for from the usual places but for me the stand out was The Lego Movie.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy it was a massively entertaining ride with enough smart jokes to make it something far more than any pre-release talk could have suggested.

It also added another great take on Batman to the cinematic canon that looks set to get his own stand alone follow-up.

Interstellar - Mackenzie Foy and Matthew McConaughey

Mackenzie Foy and Matthew McConaughey

One of the most anticipated movies of the year was Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. I was very glad I had avoided most of the pre-release hype and bluster when I went to see it and enjoyed it hugely as it combined a sense of adventure with ideas and thoughts akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

While it was divisive with audiences, for me it perfectly balanced the two kinds of sci-fi, with spectacle standing alongside science and including one of the best pieces of stand alone world building I’ve seen in a long time.

The Imitation GameSomething of a wild card entry for me was The Imitation Game as, while its subject (Alan Turing) was one that greatly interested me and it starred Benedict Cumberbatch, who is generally a great performer, it had something of the look of an Oscar-bait biopic come English costume drama to it.

Thankfully it avoided this and ended up being very entertaining while also tackling some serious issues and taking a look at an only recently revealed part of second world war history.

PrideIn the end though, my favourite film of the year has to go to Matthew Warchus’ Pride. With its story of gay rights campaigners in London supporting striking Welsh miners in the mid-80s it could have been a very worthy film, but, instead it took a huge load of exuberance and positivity, along with all the issues surrounding both sets of characters, and created the most all-round entertaining and engaging movie I saw all year.

At no point did it shy away from anything, but at the same time it didn’t preach or posture and, while it encouraged tears along with the laughter, Pride made for the best time I had in a cinema in 2014.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie posterComing into The Lego Movie on Blu-ray certain expectations were in place following the near unanimous praise it received during its cinema run earlier in the year… unlike many films that this happens with, I am happy to say I was far from disappointed, 100 minutes or so later, as the credits rolled.

Telling the story of an average Lego man’s quest to save the world from being frozen, The Lego Movie is one of the most good-hearted and genuinely entertaining films I’ve seen in a long time. Despite the fact it is a one hundred minute toy advert, it manages to entirely make you forget that as you get swept along with the characters, the joyful animation and action and the amazing sense of irreverence that is laced through it all.

What this combines to make is a genuine family film as there is stuff there, in the basic story and the, at times cutesy, animation that will appeal to youngsters, there is a sense of rebellion that I think teenagers and young adults would get (not wishing to stereotype) and the combination of all of it along with actual jokes and references, and the denouement, that would appeal to adults – and if I’m being honest, a combination of all of these could appeal to anyone and certainly did to me.

Princess Uni-Kitty and Emmet

Princess Uni-Kitty and Emmet

With hints of 1984 as the film begins we soon get into some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a long time and, despite being purely animated, act with their own sense of internal logic that often seems missing in the CG parts of live action movies.

This includes the thing that is Lego’s unique selling point, that the bricks can be used to create entirely new objects and machines, which is so ingenious it never gets tired, despite being used time and again and does some of the things I’d expected from the Transformers films far more successfully than they managed.

It’s this USP that becomes the moral of the movie and, while it could easily fall into being a cynical advert, it never does as we are left with the message that being yourself is, in the film’s vernacular, “awesome”, but so is being able to work in a team. This may sound trite and obvious but the way that message is delivered, and the fact that every fibre of the movie stands by this, is what makes it work so well.

WyldStyle and Batman

WyldStyle and Batman

Normally at this point I’d point out the things that I didn’t enjoy about the film, but, in this case there really was nothing I didn’t enjoy, from the glimpses at the relationship between Superman and Green Lantern, to the joyously out of character, but so in character, Batman to the giant robot pirate and the cameo from Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and the Millenium Falcon, it was a movie packed with things to just make you smile and have a good time.

On top of this the animation was consistently first-rate and believable in its context and the voice acting was spot on giving us one of the best voiced screen Batmen we’ve yet to see and Chris Pratt delivering another fine performance as the hero to stand alongside Guardians of the Galaxy. Will Ferrell even manages to not grate and Liam Neeson is a true standout.

Bad Cop and Lord Business

Bad Cop and Lord Business

I’d imagine if you approached The Lego Movie cynically you would probably have trouble with it, but I can’t see why you bother watching it if that was your attitude as, above all, it is simply a joyous celebration of imagination and fun – though I will admit its got me wanting to find all my old Lego and see what I can build.

And, well, because its awesome… Everything is Awesome!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top 5 Movies of 2012

Seeing as the guys over at 24LPS have all done their top fives of the year (hear them on their YouTube Channel), I thought I’d add my thoughts to the debate.

Anyone who knows me will know that picking my favourites of anything is a big challenge but I have done my best to whittle down the new films I’ve seen in 2012 into something of a top 5.

As ever I’m being slightly unconventional as what I have come up with is, in fact my three favourite films of the year, in no particular order, as well as two others that have struck a chord with me.

So here we go with my not quite top 5 films of 2012:

Rodriquez 2Searching For Sugar Man – This music documentary gave an interesting twist to the convention of telling the story of a band or musician by focusing on an artist most viewers, myself included, would never have heard of rather than someone well known.

This gave it a double impact of being both a fascinating story of discovery, rediscovery and the power of music on society and a chance for me to hear some great sounding new music I had never heard before and hope to explore further.

ParaNorman ZombiesParanorman – Every now and again a movie comes along that, while ostensibly a children’s film, hits the right balance of humour, plot and subject matter to genuinely cross over as a film perfectly suited to both children and adults.

Shrek often gets lauded as being a high point of this, but, to be honest I never understood why as it always to me to just hit a few obvious references. Paranorman on the other hand genuinely references both film and other pop culture as well as well as hitting the marks of what must be real scares for kids and laughs for everyone while dealing with some issues rarely tackled in family films.

the dark knight rises - baneThe Dark Knight Rises – Ok, so I think anyone who reads this blog or has listened to any of my reviews will know I’m something of a mark for Batman, so it’s probably not that surprising that The Dark Knight Rises has made my list.

While it has come in for its fair share of flack as a film rounding of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy I think it does an excellent job and sits firmly within its own well constructed heightened reality universe.

As well as telling a story that has totally sucked me in on several occasions, it also squares off the trilogy in a way that, while open, completes a story, in a manner much like a comic book, but in a way that suits film.

And I still don’t see what people’s issue was with Bane’s voice.

Looper Joseph Gordon-LevittLooper – In a year that featured the release of possibly the most anticipated sci-fi movie I can recall, Prometheus, it was nice to find this time travel which took a more serious approach to sci-fi and combined it with a thrilling action/adventure type story to create what the best sci-fi across any media is – something thought provoking and entertaining.

Certainly it was a good year for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and, for me, this was its high point as he put in a great performance at once channeling Bruce Willis but also being something very much his own.

This combined with some nice twists and turns and some fun playing with classic time travel concepts created a movie that certainly should become a genre classic.

Q and Bond - SkyfallSkyfall – Amidst some of the biggest hype and marketing I remember seeing (it even got to me who does my best to avoid a lot of it) Bond was back in 2012, and in spectacular style. Sure the film certainly did well at the box office and was generally well reviewed, but, I think somewhat thankfully, I didn’t rush to see it but gave it a few weeks before heading into a quieter cinema to watch it.

Now, I’ve always been a Bond fan, but, in recent years, have become somewhat distanced from the archetypal movie super-spy. First there were the later Brosnan films that became a bit like the later Moore movies with gimmicks aplenty but little plot and even less worth. Then we got the Craig reboot-ish films and, while Casino Royale was an enjoyable film, for me it went too far in the direction of trying to make Bond a real world creature and, frankly, the less said about Quantum of Solace the better.

So Skyfall has, somewhat, reset things again and hit every mark that made the classic Bond films, Goldfinger, GoldenEye, Dr No and their ilk so great all at once, whilst keeping an element of the more modern Bond introduced in Casino Royale to create one of the most complete Bond films ever.

With a genuine sense of jeopardy and a modern twist on many of the classic hallmarks of the series Skyfall may well be my favourite Bond film, and, just maybe, is my film of the year, though as I said, I always find it hard to pick one.

* * *

As well as these five, for various reasons, I’d also like to mention Dredd, End of Watch, Brave, The Avengers and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, all of which I enjoyed on different levels and I thought were noteworthy films in one way or another and I’ve still not seen The Hobbit or Berberian Sound Studio…

Note: At the point of compiling this I hadn’t seen Life of Pi, another movie released in 2012 though I saw it in 2013, and if I had this would certainly be a top 6!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1

Dark Knight Returns coverIn the wake of the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy of Batman movies DC Comics have begun to release a series of animated versions of some of the most revered and influential stories in their canon.

First, appropriately enough, was Batman: Year One, Frank Miller’s mid-80s take on the origin of the character, which informed quite a lot both Tim Burton’s run of Bat-movies and Batman Begins.

They have followed this up with another of Miller’s 80s tales, The Dark Knight Returns which, along side Year One, set the standard for the Batman that took us through the 90s and up to today with his darker and more psychologically troubled tale.

This animated movie cover the first half of the story as an older Bruce Wayne dons the cape and cowl again to “come out of retirement” as Gotham heads into another crime wave.

Dark Knight Returns 1In terms of the style of the film it combines elements of the Miller’s own artwork with some rejuvenated aspects of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series to create something that is visually striking and still clearly a part of the ongoing DC animated universe.

This style looks superb and really does feel like lifting the comics off the page, but that idea is also where the major problem with this film comes in.

While, as a fan, I appreciate the dedication that has gone into sticking to the comics feel in this film it has fallen into a trap that comic book adaptations often do, in that it has stuck too close to the source in many ways. If nothing else this highlights the differences between the different media of film and comic books.

Dark Knight Returns 2So what we are left with is a great looking retelling of Frank Miller’s tale, but one that feels slightly slow and stilted as it tries to lift images directly from the book and fit them into the animation.

The voice acting in the film is generally of a high standard though doesn’t quite reach some previous incarnations, specifically again The Animated Series, but the producers have found good matches for an older Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon – though I still don’t think anyone has bettered Mark Hamill’s voice for The Joker which is sadly missing here.

Overall part one of The Dark Knight Returns is an interesting film for fans but isn’t something that I would expect to be of much interest beyond that and, for anyone coming to this from Nolan’s version of The Bat, it will be a completely different world.

Extra features

The Blu-ray edition of The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 comes with a few decent extras.

First there is the throw away previews of the next installment of the story, and a Batman/Superman crossover tale, that really serve little purpose other than to see a few elements of pre-production from the films.

Two FaceThe more interesting things come in the form of two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series telling the story of Two-Face which really show that the series, essentially aimed at kids on its initial release, kept quite a lot of the darkness that was added to the comics in the late 80s and this exploration of Harvey Dent’s dual identity is a prime example of this.

The other interesting extra is a documentary about Bob Kane, the man behind Batman, which gives an interesting glimpse into the life of Kane and how he wanted to be Bruce Wayne and Batman and it seems became a caricature of himself, and seeing Stan Lee talking about this is fascinating as well as it seems that part of Lee is trying to be Kane as much as Kane was trying to be Wayne.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Chronicle

An interesting idea for a movie that doesn’t quite live up to its concept but still does something a bit different within the current superhero cycle.

I was advised to check out Chronicle shortly after posting my review of The Dark Knight Rises, and along with the recommendation I was told that Chronicle was “the best superhero movie of 2012”.

Anyone who has read or listened to my earlier blogs on the aforementioned Batman movie or The Avengers will be aware I enjoyed both of those a great deal, and I have to admit I didn’t expect Chronicle to live up to either, so I wasn’t really disappointed that it didn’t, but I was a bit disappointed with what the film did have to offer.

It started off promisingly with a very real world high school setting, dealing with a slightly more real world version of Peter Parker, struggling at home, bullied at school, the usual troubled geeky teen thing (though with a slightly darker edge) and the origin story of him and some friends getting superpowers.

From the start it has a similar vibe to Monsters, which did a similar thing for alien invasion films as this wants to do for superheroes, and this actually works surprisingly well, with the found footage motif actually not being too distracting (although a few moments of, ‘why does he/she have a camera?’ did take me out of the realism a little bit), but, as the film goes on, I did find it seemed to lose its sense of originality and become something of a ‘best bits’ of other superhero movies just done via found footage.

As the characters develop their powers (they don’t really develop much beyond that, save for Andrew, however his development is very obvious) they become very much types we’ve seen before and it brings to mind, variously, Kickass, X-Men: First Class and Akira and doesn’t really seem to make much point with what it does beyond “superpowers in the real world may not be great” and then pretty much becomes any other superhero movie with a big fight scene with characters flying around an inner city setting.

This was a shame as I thought continuing its basis in reality would have led the film to a more interesting and convincing conclusion, rather than the somewhat cheesy point it ends on.

All this said for a film that clearly was much lower on budget than many of the films it apes it does look very good with some excellent special effects and, the first big flight sequence in particular is stunning.

But it did just seem to cop-out too much with its ending and, while there seems to be talk of a sequel, I don’t see how it could become anything but a cheaper rip off of the films it’s trying to comment on as it had already pretty much become this by the end of its 85 minute running time.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Dark Knight Rises

Nolan, Bale and co do it again on film number three and genuinely round off the trilogy in both surprising and satisfying fashion.

For anyone who reads or listens to my ramblings on this blog it will probably come as no surprise that I’m something of a fan of comic books and their associated movies (yes even some of the really bad ones… see Captain America 1990).

So, it was with a major sense of excitement and anticipation that I ventured into the cinema to watch the third installment of what has become known as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

From the start this was clearly pretty much the opposite of Marvel’s big summer offering, The Avengers, but at the same time managed to be equally as engaging and enjoyable, just in a very, very different way.

The thing that strikes me most about the film, that doesn’t involve massive spoilers, is the way it at once manages to be one of the most comic book like movies I’ve seen in a long time, in terms of plot, structure and style, while also delivering the something different that has become the mark of Nolan’s Bat-movies, with a genuine sense of reality around the comic book tropes.

While the first in the Dark Knight Trilogy is an origin story and the second goes off the rails (in a good way) in many ways thanks to The Joker and Two-Faces mayhem, this is an exploration of post 9/11 terrorism as well as being a great story about the Batman.

The notion of exploring terrorism is an interesting one because throughout the movie I got the sense that this was something of a comment on religious fundamentalist terrorism, particularly dealing with the notion that such things can come from anywhere, but, as ever here they do come from a ‘foreign’ land despite what seems to be an English accent under Bane’s mask.

However, upon talking to a few other people, they saw the ideas and ideals of Bane as being a criticism of the Occupy and 99% movements. While I can see how you could reach this conclusion, personally, I saw Bane’s actions as, if anything, being a criticism of those who have used the Occupy movement for their own gain, twisting ideas and ideals, in much the same way as religious fundamentalist terrorism arguably twists its religious basis.

Christopher Nolan on set

Away from the issues, which also continue the standard Batman thread of dealing with loss, my only thought on the story (which won’t take us into spoiler territory) is that, for those less involved with the DC universe than myself, I wonder how much sense a lot of it might make.

While I was able to revel in the references and pick up on the details relating to characters back-stories from both the film and the comics, and the clear references to three of my favourite epic arcs in Batman comic book history, to those less initiated I wonder if some of the exposition may have been confusing and somewhat over the top and too many characters introduced without necessary explanation?

Though that would be for less initiated Bat-fans to let me know…

Tom Hardy as Bane

In terms of the new characters, when it comes to main ones, Nolan once again delivers some excellent interpretations that may well actually out do his takes on Joker and Two-Face from The Dark Knight.

Most obviously there is Bane.

While in the comics he is a mercenary who is clearly hyper intelligent and both a physical and mental match for Batman, he also, somewhat bizarrely, seems to be wearing a pro-wrestling outfit with luchdore mask.

Here he is transformed into a mercenary/terrorist who is on a par with Batman and, thankfully, has replaced the spandex with body armour, combat trousers and a fantastic fur-lined coat, along with a face mask which makes him look like some kind of monster, creating an almost direct opposite, both in terms of appearance and mentality, to The Batman.

While The Joker also presented an opposite to the Bat, that was in terms of control and chaos, here it is terms of how someone with the same ‘powers’ would come out if their moral compass was flipped, which creates yet another interesting antagonist, following on from Ra’s Al Ghul and the aforementioned Clown Prince of Crime.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle

The other new character we meet is Selina Kyle, known more commonly in the comics as Catwoman.

Here, Anne Hathaway creates a version of Kyle clearly referencing elements of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, which has had a strong influence on this whole trilogy, and keeping alive the idea from the comics that Kyle is not just a villain.

In fact, she has an almost Han Solo type arc here, which is refreshing and, much like Bane, The Joker and Two-Face, serves to highlight elements of the Batman/Bruce Wayne character.

Speaking of The Batman, and the other returning characters, they are all once again expertly portrayed and build on the foundations laid in the previous two movies, but there isn’t much that can be said about their developments without directly referencing the plot and, therefore, spoilers.

So, in the end, for me, The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent piece of cinema combining comic book conventions with big blockbusters with that extra something that Christopher Nolan has become known for and it winds up the trilogy excellently… does it out do the original Star Wars as my favourite trilogy?… just maybe!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,