Tag Archive: Batman


BVS-1It is no secret that I am not a fan of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the first in Warner Bros. attempt at a DC Cinematic Universe (or the DC Extended Universe, as they appear to be calling it). It was a glum, poorly written, pretentious, and dumb attempt at dragging the icon of Superman into the 21st Century. It fared relatively well at the box-office but both fan and critical reception was divisive to say the least. It is for that reason that this ‘sequel’ to Man of Steel comes with a little added Caped Crusader. The decision to reboot Batman in only the second film of the Extended Universe must have been driven by the desire to reach bigger box-office numbers, and perhaps more favour with fans. Some may say that they were setting themselves up to fail, what with the widely beloved Nolan Trilogy still incredibly fresh in collective memory. As a result, the film hasn’t stormed the box-office as desired, what with a barrage of scathing reviews. Batman v Superman is as inelegant as blockbusters come, perhaps even more so than Man of Steel. But, to say it isn’t fun is to ignore aspects of what is possibly the strangest comic book movie to arrive in recent years.

With the arrival of Superman (Henry Cavill), the world has had to face up to the fact that mankind is not alone in the universe, and must also address who Superman is, what he stands for, and if he can be trusted. In the wake of the destruction in Metropolis caused by Superman’s battle with Zod, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who also practices vigilantism as the Batman in Gotham City, doesn’t believe the Son of Krypton can be left unchecked. With Batman keen to find a way to put the Man of Steel in his place, eccentric entrepreneur Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) sees an opportunity to pit the two together in order to rid the world of Superman for good (or something like that).BVS-2

BvS is a fundamentally flawed film, and that is largely down to a screenplay that fails to carve clear paths of motivations for its various characters found within (and boy, are there a lot of characters). It is an un-structured, cluttered, often aimless, loud, obnoxious mess. It is a collection of set-pieces, dream-sequences, Senate meetings and email correspondences that all amount in a film that while often difficult to follow, is not unlike reading a DC comic-book. Calling upon imagery from The Dark Knight Returns, the art of Alex Cross, story arcs of Dan Jurgens and further Frank Miller texts, this feels a great deal more like a comic book movie than Man of Steel, and in a way more so than The Dark Knight trilogy. It doesn’t entirely forgive it for its sloppy story-telling, but it gives it a relentless sense of pace and means that it is not afraid to get weird. And boy, does it get weird.

Much of the strangeness comes courtesy of Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. His performance belongs in an entirely different film, something that wouldn’t be amiss in a Joel Schumacher Bat-flick. His twitches and eccentricities cloud his agenda, but do make him a credible threat, as it is often hard to predict exactly what he’s going to do next. His motivation is murky as hell, and he is too far removed from Luthor in both the pages of the comics and previous screen incarnations, but he feels dangerous enough to pose a threat, and to push our heroes buttons to get them to rumble in the concrete jungle.

The two heroes themselves are something of a mixed bag. Let’s start with the good. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is a strong contender for being the best screen incarnation we have seen thus far. What about Bale, I hear you cry. Bale’s Wayne was infinitely more successful than his oft parodied Batman, complete with gruff growl, this Bat is made of much meaner stuff, and cuts a far more imposing figure than Bale ever did. The writing does let Affleck down, but he imbues both his Wayne and his Bat with a heap of regret that perhaps only a man with Affleck’s past could. The choreography attributed to this Bat is also a wonder to behold, as his brawler styling truly characterises him as one pissed-off vigilante who is way beyond the point of giving a shit about the lives of the scum of Gotham City. It is a controversial decision, but provides enough weight to suggest that this Batman is one with a history, and not a particularly colourful one. BVS-3

Superman is another matter. Cavill is once again given very little to do in a film which should have been his sequel. This is a Superman who seems to blatantly refuse to state his position in the world, for no good reason other than he’s a bit moody. One of the the biggest fundamental mistakes of this film is having both Batman and Superman as two characters who seem at odds with the world, and whose tactics at deploying justice are not too dissimilar, despite what the film may want you to think (they both kill people for chrissakes). The main reason these characters work well in a universe together is that their approaches to justice are so different, so when you have both of them being depressed individuals, the dynamic simply doesn’t work. This Superman becomes so passive through the course of this film that it is truly hard to invest in him as either a hero or a dubious figure. The actual bout between the two DC titans is well choreographed, but ultimately fails to work emotionally, as the motivations are unclear, with the factor that puts a stop to the fight coming across as hilarious rather an smart.

What truly hampers the film is its attempts to address the criticisms of Man of Steel and in its world-building, namely with attempting to draw threads for next year’s Justice League. The main criticisms of Man of Steel that it aims to address concern the amount of destruction and sheer number of civilian causalities that seemed to be entirely disregarded by the writers (and therefore by Superman). Its constant asides to acknowledge that a certain area is clear are often unintentionally hilarious, and in the end rather pointless as the final act simply descends into the same moronic, button-bashing action stylings that coloured most of Man of Steel. 

The Justice League set up is where the film is at its most lazy and its most laughable. While Wonder Woman, in the form of the beautiful but rather bland Gal Gadot, is present (complete with a rollicking theme), she is disappointingly very inconsequential to the proceedings, seemingly only present so that Bruce Wayne can send her an email containing video clips of other future Justice League members. What Marvel took their time to do over the course of five films, BvS attempts in an email, and it is just as lazy, dumb and uninspired as that sounds. BVS-4

BvS does seem to have weakened the DC Extended Universe more than it has strengthened it. While I enjoyed myself a darn sight more than I did in Man of Steel, there is no escaping that Snyder and co. still get a hell of a lot wrong. Snyder remains a strong visualist, but one who has a poor sense of judgement when it comes to character, while my hatred for David S. Goyer requires another post entirely. What we have here is a strange and disparate movie, one akin to dumping a bucket load of bouncy balls on a table top n the hope that some stay on the surface. It remains to be seen how DC’s future will pan out, and for the sake of the characters (most of whom I have a great deal of affection for), I hope this extended universe can be both critically and commercially successful. Guess we’re just going to have to be patient.

2/5- BvS is Blockbuster Cinema at its most unsophisticated, resulting in an un-intentionally hilarious, only occasionally inspired, yet never dull take on two pop culture icons. 

 

 

 

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Greetings all! Mr. Gaudion here, but only briefly. As you are well aware, while I am at home in Alderney I am not able to catch the latest releases, which irritates me somewhat, but I can live with it. But one friend, a Mr. Greg Falla, gave me the idea to allow my friends to do guest reviews for films that I perhaps will not be able to see for quite sometime. I should have a review by Mr. Falla arriving in the near future, but for now I’ve got you an extra special treat; the first guest review by my great friend Michael Perry for The Dark Knight Rises! It is an excellent read, displaying Mike’s witty and sophisticated writing style, and I hope that this is the first of many guest reviews from him, and perhaps many other people. Should you wish to write a guest review, feel free to get in touch with me via Facebook or this here blog. But now, without further ado, here is Mike’s verdict on Christopher Nolan’s Bat-finale! Thanks again Mike!

One of the hundreds of online fan-made posters for The Dark Knight Rises summarises Christopher Nolan’s Batman cycle in three phases: begins, falls, rises.  After the gothic noir of the origin story (Batman Begins) and the chaotic crime epic (The Dark Knight), Nolan has set both the Caped Crusader and himself a pretty hefty challenge to rise to for the final lighting of the Bat-signal.  Rarely has a film had this level of anticipation fastened to it: in the wake of a towering sequel which broke the boundaries of what comic-book films could achieve, the hype and expectation burdened upon The Dark Knight Rises was enough to leave cinemagoers buzzing with countless anxious questions.  Will it tarnish this otherwise-perfect series?  Will it be too overcrowded?  Will Catwoman fit into this world?  Will it be better than The Dark Knight?

But at last, it has finally been released, and the story of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is done.  And audiences everywhere can breathe a collective sigh of relief: it’s a blistering, thrilling, glorious conclusion to a much-loved series.  Nolan has been slowly honing in on a masterful filmmaking formula over the last few years, and The Dark Knight Rises is yet another gem to add to his already-gleaming catalogue.  With his directing skills stronger than ever (action sequences are now much clearer and crisper than the dizzying fights of Batman Begins) and with a head-spinning array of ideas and possibilities corralled into a cohesive, intelligent thrill-ride (big props to Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer), Nolan bows out of Gotham on a high note.

If you don’t mind (and you probably won’t at this late stage), I’ll try and leave out exposition and lengthy synopses, because I think everyone’s tired of re-reading the story so far after countless other reviews, articles and the like.  Besides, it’s now August 2012, so only those dwelling under rocks will be unfamiliar with Batman’s arc.  Suffice to say, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) isn’t in the best shape, and nor is Gotham once the masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) rolls into town, intent on bringing the city to its knees.

As with most finales, the scope has been widened, the stakes raised, and the scale enlarged to end proceedings with a bang.  The team have returned with a story which picks up where The Dark Knight left off, and several threads from the previous films have been consolidated, lengthened, and neatly tied up.  Bale is definitely centre-stage this time around, as Wayne’s story is brought full circle.  The film does a great job of exploring the tortured psyche of the tragedy-stricken hero, with both sides of his character investigated.  Bale’s performance here is his strongest in the series, as he invests Wayne with a poignant vulnerability as he undergoes his most exhausting journey yet.  It’s a real tightrope act, with Bale just about managing to remain the central focus of the film, even with such a strong supporting cast and while facing off against such a monstrous adversary.

The rub with playing the villain in this film is that expectations have been raised to skyscraping levels after Heath Ledger’s masterful turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight.  Tom Hardy was always going to have a mighty shadow to try and escape from, but a number of critics have dismissed his Bane – muscular, logical and ruthless – as disappointing in the wake of Ledger’s anarchic, cackling clown.  But this is ridiculously unfair.  Both villains are separate creations with different character traits, methods and backgrounds (both in the film universe and in the comics), and should be treated as such.  Comparing one to the other is kind of ludicrous, especially since within their own roles, both actors deliver to the best possible standard.  Yes, Heath Ledger was a truly exceptional actor.  But then, so is Tom Hardy, and the Bane of this universe is absolutely terrifying.  Working from behind that creepy (but cumbersome) mask, Hardy pulls off a fantastic feat with simply his eyes, body language and that voice: an unsettling, croaky tone which bubbles over with confidence and malice.  And yes, it’s understandable!  Okay, there are times when a line or two is indecipherable (I’d argue that the placing of Hans Zimmer’s otherwise-wonderful score slightly too high in the mix plays some part in that), but for the most part, Bane’s voice reverberates with a booming menace.

And he’s surprisingly charismatic, too.  One of the film’s best scenes focuses on a furious tirade from Bane as he stands astride a familiar-looking vehicle, making his plans clear as he raises his own army in the battle for Gotham.  Even behind the mask, the anger, disgust and traces of a sick, facetious pleasure punctuate every syllable and gesticulation.  And in the fight scenes, too, he is as intimidating as he looks.  There is one moment in particular when Bane completely lets loose in a rapid-fire flurry of fists, and it’s a truly horrifying sight as the behemoth smashes through concrete and more while snarling like a wild animal.  This time around, you genuinely fear for the people of Gotham, and for Batman in particular: as comic-book fans would put it, Bruce Wayne should watch his back.

As for Anne Hathaway, let’s just say that all those who balked at the thought of her portraying Selina Kyle are probably wiping egg from their collective faces right now.  And yes, I was among those naysayers.  But stab me with a sharpened heel, Hathaway’s performance is absolutely wonderful, with her character (the title ‘Catwoman’ isn’t actually used once during this film) capable of holding her own against the big, brutal boys of Nolan’s Bat-verse.  She lands in this world on two nimble feet, bringing with her several crucial ingredients for this incarnation of the ambiguous Kyle: humanity and humour.  The final creation is a cat burglar who feels authentic and believable.

She almost steals the show, but not quite.  Everyone is given time to shine here: Gary Oldman remains pitch-perfect as the weary-but-resolute Commissioner Gordon; Morgan Freeman enjoys an expanded role as Lucius Fox (more integral than he’s ever been in this saga); and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets to sink his teeth into one hell of a role as the young, idealistic cop John Blake, who has a character arc so juicy that one almost forgets that he’s only just been introduced into the series.

Of course, what with this being the final episode of the trilogy and all, emotions run high.  Anyone who argues that Nolan can’t hit viewers where it hurts (the tear ducts) might want to reconsider their arguments: there were about half-a-dozen moments in the film where things got more than a little misty for me.  A good number of those belong to Michael Caine, who pulls on the heartstrings something awful on at least four occasions, most achingly so early on, when Alfred recalls his saddened trips to a particular café.  And some pretty dark depths are plumbed in the story, with Bruce Wayne reduced to his lowest ebb and Gotham precariously positioned in the hands of a seemingly indestructible, tactical enemy.  Unlike the breezy (but no-less brilliant) Avengers Assemble and the competent-but-underwhelming Amazing Spider-Man, here you get the impression that things really could go catastrophically wrong.  Gotham might just be reduced to ashes after all.

But it’s not all tears and fears: as with its predecessors, The Dark Knight Rises never loses the light completely, with witty barbs and dry quips sprinkled throughout the darkness, most of them courtesy of Hathaway, who can spark one-liners as deftly as Kieran Culkin’s Wallace from Scott Pilgrim.  And thankfully, the light touches of comedy never overbalance the tone, seldom spoiling the mood or flow of the scenes they accompany.

This is crucial, because as with the previous films, the emphasis is firmly on making this realistic, and everything feels organic to the tone of the trilogy, while also feeling relevant to modern climates: economic collapse, terrorism and fears of impending apocalypse all inform the film’s action.  It also helps that Nolan isn’t that keen on CGI, and as a result, the special effects are never short of breathtaking, lending the action sequences a real sense of high-stakes urgency rivalled by few other blockbusters.  Football stadiums erupt, bridges crumple and huge-scale chase sequences are orchestrated, with the latter moments seeing Batman piloting a high-tech (and pretty freaking cool) new toy from Fox’s funhouse.

Perhaps inevitably, there are flaws.  There are a fair number of plot-holes which have the potential to nag away at you for a while, and personally, I would’ve liked to have seen further exploration and characterisation of Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and Peter Foley (Matthew Modine), whose stories are engaging, but feel lacking in places.  But then, with the film already spanning a bum-breaking one-hundred-and-sixty-five minutes, it’s understandable that some of the finer points have been left aside.

So no, it’s not quite perfect.  But let’s leave it to the forum fanboys to make mountains out of these molehills.  The bottom line is this: I haven’t seen a film as exciting as this in quite some time.  With outstanding performances all around, some genuinely heart-racing action sequences and a potent emotional punch, Nolan has concluded his trilogy in true style.  Have no fear Mr. Gaudion – it’s the finale Batman deserves.

5/5- As Andrew himself wrote when summing up Avengers Assemble: “there are faults to be had, but the sheer entertainment value of this movie over-rides them all”.  True again here: The Dark Knight Rises is a triumphant rollercoaster ride which ties the trilogy together in a hugely satisfying finale.

I am sure that most of you are aware that this Friday sees the release of The Dark Knight Rises, if you aren’t aware, than you must be a masked vigilante who has been hiding from the authorities for the past 8 years. Or you’ve been living under a rock. With two days left until the highly anticipated release is unleashed, and with me being once again in a position where I don’t know when the hell I’m going to be able to see it (that’s right people, give me your sympathy), I thought I’d give you all my guide on how best to prepare for the experience of Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his Batman trilogy. You may wish to go in completely fresh, experience the film for what it is, but if you wish to find ways to psyche yourself up or learn more about certain aspects of the movie, then here are some ways in which to do so.

Read Knightfall…

I don’t know how well versed you are in terms of Batman comic-books and graphic novels, but allow me to recommend some issues and novels from the past that are relevant to the context of The Dark Knight Rises. The first is a very influential story arc from the early 1990’s, 1993 to be exact. The arc is entitled Knightfall, and it is the most famous arc in Batman’s history concerning the character of Bane, as it features the highly iconic moment of Bane ‘breaking The Bat’ leaving Bruce Wayne as a paraplegic. Most of the 90’s Batman comics weren’t particularly memorable, at this time the highest standard of Bat entertainment was the brilliant Animated Series, but Knightfall is certainly an exception. It addresses the question of whether only one man can be Batman; is it just the image or is Bruce the only man who can truly BE Batman? And it provided Bane with an everlasting legacy as The Man Who Broke The Bat. There has been much speculation as to whether this particular element will be incorporated into Nolan’s movie, it seems they may address it in some way, which they rightly should, considering that it is a major factor as to why Bane is an incredibly dangerous and formidable foe for Batman. The arc of Knightfall not only demonstrates Bane’s Venom-enhanced strength, but also his frighteningly powerful intelligence. He is a man with a plan, and is determined to see it through to the exact detail. This is what we need to see in Tom Hardy’s Bane, and I have the utmost faith in Nolan to respect Bane’s background and character traits perfectly established in the likes of the Knightfall arc. If you physically can’t get your hands on a copy, a little birdy told me that there may be PDF Torrent online somewhere or other. Not like I downloaded it or anything. Ahem.

Read No Man’s Land…

Another comic, this time from the late 90’s, that if the trailers are anything to go by, Nolan has taken inspiration from for TDKR, and that comic is No Man’s Land. Once again an extended story-line arc for the DC vigilante which saw the US Government evacuating and isolating the city of Gotham, leaving many innocents to fend for themselves against the criminals and gangs that have over-run the city. If you look closely in the trailers for TDKR, you will notice shot in which two bridges explode. Now, one may assume that this is an act of terrorism conducted by Bane, however when viewed upon with No Man’s Land in mind, it forces you to question as to why and more importantly who is cutting Gotham off from the rest of the world. Does Bane’s control over Gotham force the Government to cut off the city for the greater good, leaving only an army of cops to fight against Bane’s legion of criminals? Or is it an act of terrorism? It is an intriguing thought, and I cannot wait to discover why exactly the bridges are being destroyed. I doubt many more elements from No Man’s Land shall make it into TDKR, as it was very much a cross-over story–line, combining characters from the Superman universe as well. However, it does delve in to some very dark places that TDKR could easily cover throughout the course of its 165 minute run-time.

What to listen to…

This one is a no-brainer, and I love Empire even more for providing it. I am of course suggesting that you head on over to Empire Online to listen to the full score for TDKR, composed and conducted by the one and only Hans Zimmer. In fact, Empire’s whole Trilogy celebration is worth a look, as it spans so many details of the Nolan trilogy, from the actors, to the costumes, concept art, vehicles, you name it. But the highlight has to be their exclusive stream of Zimmer’s soundtrack. I am sure that you are all aware how good Zimmer is (if not then what are you doing here?), as he has supplied some of the greatest soundtracks of recent years (Inception, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean, to name but a few), and his soundtrack for Nolan’s epic conclusion is suitably grand. On solo duties following his collaboration with the great James Newton Howard on the first two installments, Zimmer’s score retains the themes that made those scores so memorable, but also creates some new, incredibly ominous and spine-tingling cues for what could be the Caped Crusader’s Darkest Hour. And don’t worry, none of the tracks titles have any spoilers, so there is no way you can ruin aspects of the film for yourself. I rarely listen to scores before seeing a movie, I do prefer to experience it for the first time whilst it is doing its job on the screen. However, in this case, it was just far too tempting not to preview a new score from Zimmer, let alone the whole bloody thing! I do not regret my decision, as it has merely increased my anticipation for the release of the movie. Which could turn out to be a bad thing if I still don’t get to see it for quite some time.

Re-watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight

The most obvious preparation task that you should under-take; re-watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises seems to be finally breaking the mold by being a third superhero movie that actually maintains the quality of its previous installments, if the reviews are anything to go by. We have also been promised a closing chapter of an over arcing story-line, a very self-contained interpretation of the character. Elements that have been left open from the two previous instalments shall be addressed and wrapped up, so we’ve been promised anyway. Batman Begins is a lot better than you remember it, having been over-shadowed a great deal by the epic crime saga that is The Dark Knight. Begins is a dark, brooding origins tale that builds to an incredibly satisfying reveal when Bruce finally dons the Cowl. It suffers from the lack of a consistently threatening villain, but that is where The Dark Knight excels.  Heath Ledger’s Joker is still frightening and hilarious in equal measure, I don’t believe we’ll ever see a better portrayal of The Joker. He is archaic, unpredictable and a driving force for the movie. Yet, the film itself is a perfectly constructed crime epic that delves into the moral ambiguity of Batman’s responsibility, counter acted with the brilliantly written arc of one Harvey Dent. TDKR certainly has some strong films to match up to, but with the same dedicated team on board, I have the utmost faith.

Revisit Batman Returns and, wait for it, Batman & Robin (bare with me)…

Batman Returns and Batman & Robin are two films which feature two characters that are new to the Nolan Universe; Catwoman and Bane. For a lot of fans, the definitive performance of Catwoman comes from Tim Burton’s 1992 Bat sequel, Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the feline fiend, and the character is more Burton-esque than she is lifted from the comics; she is bizarre but in an incredibly committed and entertaining manner. Batman Returns is a film packed with beautiful production design, but unfortunately the story makes naff all sense. However, Pfeiffer is simply fantastic, but as I stated, her portrayal is a far cry from the Catwoman from the comic-books. Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle seems to be much more in keeping with the traditional and iconic comic-book image of Catwoman, a morally ambiguous character with an agenda against the privileged citizens of Gotham. Early buzz describes Hathaway as a scene-stealer so I am more than excited to see what she brings to the character, it needs to be radically different from what Pfeiffer did with the character, which should be a given, considering how different Burton and Nolan’s movies are.

Now, you may completely disregard the notion of ever revisiting Joel Schumacher’s franchise destroying 1997 installment, but in terms of viewing TDKR, it could serve as a rather fun comparison. Batman & Robin was the first time we saw Bane on the big screen, and in this interpretation he was nothing but a word-less thug, who merely did the bidding of Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy. He was nothing like the comic-books had established him to be so effectively in the likes of Knightfall. Tom Hardy’s Bane looks to be an incredibly different beast. Nolan may have removed the Venom aspect of the character (understandable), but he seems to have embraced both the physical and intellectual threat that Bane certainly poses. Not only is re-watching Batman & Robin a chance to see how badly Bane was interpreted, but it also reminds you how hilariously bad this movie actually is. Seriously, it surprises me every-time how bad it is, making it a rather fun experience if you are simply willing to laugh at it. Which is not very hard to do at all.

That brings my Spotlight (Bat-Signal, if you will) to an end. All of you who are seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend, please enjoy and let me know how it is. But if you reveal any spoilers, on your life be it, as I shall not be responsible for my actions. Christopher Nolan has made a massive contribution to the legacy of Batman, and the final installment in his trilogy deserves to be all it has the potential to be. So, Bat-fans, until the inevitable reboot, I think we do have a definitive big-screen Batman in the form of Christian Bale and Nolan’s world. Now, prepare to rise.