Tag Archives: The Dark Knight Rises

“The Dark Knight Rises” – film review

“I once caught a bat THIS BIG

I still remember the slightly dazed feeling that Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I had after going to the Vue cinema in Sheffield to see Christopher Nolan‘s dizzying, operatic “Batman Begins” sequel, “The Dark Knight“, in summer 2008.

It was a Sunday lunchtime, Batman was in the wind after sorting out the Harvey Dent situation and there was this distinct sense between us of having just been put through the wringer.  Had we just been entertained for two and a half hours or been through a punishing, sensory obstacle course?

The same feeling struck me after emerging from this morning’s screening of the third movie in Nolan’s series based on the DC comics character, The Dark Knight Rises“.

It needs to be said that this is an excellent film – a worthy cherry on top of the proverbial trilogy cake – but it’s an exhausting one which demands a lot of the audience, in terms of memory and ability to not visit the bathroom several times (forego the Super Gulp cup at your concessions stand – you will miss stuff if you have to visit the facilities during the film).  There’s no walking into this film green – you really do have to refresh your memory of “Batman Begins”, as it plays a significant part in proceedings, and it helps to have an appreciation of Harvey Dent, too.  It’s not as though there’s an exam paper to sit as you leave, but it will help to have some recollection of how our hero got to this point in this life and to know who the characters are, as introductions are sketchy at best. This is particularly true if the people in your party are not quite as geeky as the rest of us – you’ll be explaining a lot to them and missing things yourself.

The scale of the enterprise is what surprised me – we’ve all read those pre-release puff-pieces which seek to convince that “Summer Blockbuster X” sets the bar incredibly high and that we’re going to see things that we’ve never seen on-screen before – usually this translates as ‘canned special effects sequence marginally more entertaining than the one in that film we were conned into seeing last year’.  With “The Dark Knight Rises” I actually believe the hype for once – I’ve can’t recall having seen a film which has action set-pieces of the scale and duration seen during the last act in this film.  Big isn’t necessarily better, but Nolan’s taut command of the toy box at his disposal on “TDKR” makes the likes of “Transformers 3” seem even more weightless and juvenile than it already was, despite both films dealing in similar scenes of extended metropolitan destruction.

The performances match up to the apocalyptic imagery on display – Christian Bale is excellent and fully justifies Nolan’s initial decision to cast him with the rounded, nuanced turn he delivers here.  He’s beaten, bloodied and bowed by the demands and toll that his by-night vigilante campaign has taken on his body and mind – this is a Batman who wants out from the life he’s created for himself and finds that a wider world has something quite different to say about that.

Leaving on a jet plane? Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in “The Dark Knight Rises”

He’s more than complemented by Anne Hathaway, who defies a million dim-witted fanboy forum posts by making the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman her own – slinky, sarcastic, haunted, defiant, conflicted, capable and able to walk in heels that even Lady Gaga might deem a bit complicated, this is a Catwoman quite distinctively different to those we’ve seen before in Bat-Cinema, TV and games.  There’s an exchange of dialogue between her and Joseph Gordon Levitt‘s idealistic policeman mid-way through the film which goes past beyond the sexy cat burglar archetype to hint at Kyle’s essential dilemna in this telling of the tale – she’s brilliant at what she does, but what she does puts her in situations which can’t help but keep her in the mire that she’s trying to escape.

Best Catwoman ever?  Your mileage may vary, but I thought that she was wonderful and that Hathaway did splendid work in the role.  Even the ears worked.  Kind of.

Tom Hardy is fantastic as the force of nature Bane – he’s got layers of character which haven’t been hinted at in the pre-publicity and their unpicking on-screen is a delight, giving this unaccountably posh berserker man-mountain an array of quotable and – get this – easy to understand dialogue.  It’s a strong actor indeed who can command the screen and hold the attention with much of his face replaced by a high-tech dog muzzle and Hardy manages to do it consistently – he’s helped, of course, by his imposing physical presence.  The words ‘Brick’ and ‘Outhouse’ come to mind.

Is this a good ending to the Nolan trilogy?  I would say so – but it’s not without some dodgy moments.  I thought that we were going to have a retread of  the second film’s “Which boat shall we blow up? The one with the rapists and murderers or the ‘Ickle Kittens and Orphans’ cruise?” moral non-quandry at one point, but we got past it swiftly.  There’s some fairly on-the-nose dialogue to contend with, too – you may wonder if Bane’s job is to defeat Batman or engage in some kind of unorthodox, “The Game”-style Billionaire Life Coach programme with him, given the steady stream of tough love aphorisms he delivers in their scenes together.   And Hans Zimmer‘s score is so overwrought that any metalhead listening will wonder why they didn’t save a few bob and just sling some Dimmu Borgir on the soundtrack – the aural, cumulative effect is noticeably similar.

I will want to revisit this film, but I suspect that a little distance will certainly help me to appreciate it all the more – it’s big with a capital B and such an endeavour deserves to have a little gulf between viewings, I think.  If “The Avengers” was like the best chocolate cake ever (with extra sprinkles), “The Dark Knight Rises” is like a delicious pasta dish with such a rich tomato sauce that you can’t face any other course afterwards.

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Batman meets his match…

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If you’re going to see “The Dark Knight Rises” this summer, you had best come prepared.

That’s because studio Warner Brothers have confirmed that the running time of Christopher Nolan‘s eagerly anticipated, trilogy capping, final instalment of the Dark Knight saga has a two-hour and 45 minute running time.  If you factor in the blitzkrieg of advertisements, concessions stand blurbs and trailers before the film, my Saturday July 21st 2012 trip to the cinema is going to run to three hours and 20 minutes.  Add on travelling time and Nolan is getting a fairly sizeable chunk of my weekend.

Insert ‘alternative use for large-sized popcorn tub’ gag here, gross humour fans.

I imagine that it will be worth it, but my recent trip to see “Prometheus” at my local multiplex has taught me a valuable lesson regarding my seating comfort during long films.  One of these babies is going to be rather useful:

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Geek-centric cinematic event of the summer or cruel and unusual punishment for us Indoor Kids?  I’m genuinely not sure…

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Separated at birth…

Batman's terrifying nemesis Bane...

 

Hilarious "Futurama" sad-sack Dr Zoidberg

As documented by Buzzfeed“The Dark Knight Rises” big bad Bane is a dead ringer for “Futurama” alien doc Zoidberg, the essential difference between the two being that you can usually understand what Zoidberg’s saying at any given moment.

Sorry, Chris Nolan, but it had to be said.

 

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The Best and Worst SF Movies of 2011.

Sucker, Punched.

My very favourite blog in the world (clue: irony is being employed here), i09.com today breaks down their list of the best and worst SF movies of the year, because it’s the law to make these kinds of lists at the end of the year.

It’s illustrative to me personally that I’ve seen one of their top ten best films – the Marvel adaptation, “Thor”, and have a bunch of the other titles on my DVD rental list: Do I share a taste in films with my enemies?

The year's most underrated movie?

It’s a bummer that they couldn’t find a place on their list for “Source Code“, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to “Moon”, as I felt it did a lot to confirm that Jones could make mainstream, science fiction-inflected adventures as well as occupying the more art house territory of his debut – is “Limitless” really that much better?  “Source Code” had provocative ideas about the notion of the self, our Western responses to terrorism, personal freedom and found time to balance intellectual concerns with pulse-racing action, a romantic sub-plot which didn’t make you want to gnaw off your limbs in annoyance and some great acting work from Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga, amongst others.

Tell me if I’m off-beam here, other viewers of this film – it was as good as I remembered it being, wasn’t it?

Meanwhile, in the realm of terrible films, io9’s blogger really didn’t like Zack Snyder’s fetish farrago, “Sucker Punch” and I can see where they’re coming from.  It’s a difficult flick to recommend to anybody as it shoots for the moon and misses primarily because it makes some utterly inexplicable, divisive choices in the process of doing so.

We’ve got a cast of young actresses playing young girls who are essentially imprisoned in a 1950’s reform school/mental home only to find that they’re now victims of what we might call people trafficking.  Yeah, I know – Friday night fun for your multiplex demographic!  In order to escape the very real horror of their surroundings, each girl escapes into a fantasy world which sees them transformed into super-cool, uber-skilled warriors battling all manner of sci-fi/high fantasy bad guys in order to retrieve dream world totems which become real world items which will allow them to escape.

Sounds like trashy fun – but it really isn’t.

The major problem for most thinking viewers of this film will be the way that it spends a lot of time getting leery over these young women, dressing them up in lingerie (not exactly practical for the battlefield, last time that I looked) and then photographing them in a way which makes Michael Bay’s soft-porn “Victoria’s Secret” adverts look like a Jane Campion film.

It’s that old chestnut – when does empowerment become exploitation?  If you answered “When a film director old enough to know better has his cast inexplicably dressed up like anime schoolgirl hookers”, that’s probably the correct answer.

Elsewhere on the list, you’ve got your usual candidates for terri-bad viewing during the year.  “Green Lantern” gets a nod, for mostly eschewing the cosmos-spanning comics lore in favour of a desperately dull, earthbound adventure with supremely dull characters.  “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is cited, mostly for being shrill and still persisting with the idea that Shia LaBeouf is an actual leading man.  For the record, I could do without the human beings in the film (noted exception, the glorious Alan Tudyk) and felt that the action sequences were frequently extraordinary – it’s just a shame that the movie they appeared in was so unlikeable.

I would have to say that “Green Lantern” was my pick for the worst film of the year – as much of a missed opportunity as “Sucker Punch” was, it at least managed to provoke you to object to sections of it and had some bravura action (Baby Doll’s fight against the Giant Robot Samurai, the steampunk WWI Nazi Zombies, the dragon battle) to distract the audience momentarily from it’s profoundly misguided sexual politics.

They're letting anybody be a member of the Green Lantern Corps nowadays...

“Green Lantern” was chuffing terrible.  Sexless, character-free, action-light, played broadly by a cast who seem alternately bored, uncertain as to their role or believe that they’re in a pantomime and that mugging is therefore perfectly acceptable (For shame, Tim Robbins, for shame!).

It’s not entirely the fault of the actors – the script is wretched, the cinematography bathes the on-screen action with a murky green tinge that makes on-screen action hard to see and Martin Campbell shows so little interest in the character that he flashes back to the hero’s father’s death a matter of minutes after we initially saw it, apparently in the belief that the audience has nodded off in the intervening moments.  Of this film – which is apparently getting a sequel – I can say only ‘Ugh!’ by way of summing up.

Let’s hope that 2012 offers a few more things to look forward to – on the evidence of trailers for “Prometheus”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, dark superhero ‘found footage’ tale “Chronicle”, part one of  “The Hobbit” and even Greek Mythology sequel to “Wrath of the Titans”, things are already looking a lot better.

 

 

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“The Dark Knight Rises” trailer now live


Yes, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” is so much more impressive when you can see what the hell’s going on.

 

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“The Dark Knight Rises” – trailer and prologue reaction

If you thought that Christian Bale's Batman was difficult to understand, you'll love Bane...

The slight matter of the prologue for “The Dark Knight Rises” only playing in select IMAX cinemas in the UK and the teaser trailer being attached to prints of “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” wasn’t going to be an impediment to me seeing them today.  Oh, heck no.

This being the age of internet Kung Fu and impeccably coded bread crumb trails concealed within forum posts, I was able to hop around the interverse for a few minutes and got to enjoy both slices of Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming conclusion to the Batman trilogy.

Yes, they were in borderline-imperceptible, somebody’s elbow-in-the-frame, gritty and grainy cam-vision but that’s neither here nor there.  SPOILERS for the preview footage follow.

The prologue, first.  This is the six-minute sequence which introduces the threequel’s villain Bane and does even more than the extended snow level did in “Inception” to surely position director Christopher Nolan as a future Bond helmer.    The action is huge, seems admirably practical in staging and offers a wonderfully frustrating teaser as to Bane’s motivations, back story and character.

Hardy is fantastic in this most brief of glimpses  – a brute of a man who is none the less intelligent, methodical and possessed of a deadpan sense of humour (his one-liner when asked about the goal of his plan is a classic).  If there is a problem, its that Bane’s headgear and electronically processed voice makes it difficult to understand much of his dialogue – a problem compounded when his hench persons rappel down to the jet he’s being transported on (from their own transport plane, as one’s L33T hench persons are wont to do) and proceed to systemically dismantle the bloody thing whilst it’s in mid-air:  It’s a bold gambit and one that I support completely.

The thing is, when you’ve got an already difficult to understand character, heavy-duty sound effects competing for attention in the audio mix and all kinds of visual chaos going on (and you’re relying on this to be your big introduction to the character who will be the main antagonist in the film), it would be nice to be able to understand the bulk of what he’s saying.

It’s a simple but presumably easy to fix post-production problem, which will hopefully be achieved by the time that we get to hear the final sound mix in the release prints.  Because, and call me crazy here, I’m not sure that I want to see a film where both of the main characters are nearly impossible to understand.  It’d be like watching those two titans of elusive diction, Miley Cyrus and Chris Tucker acting together on-screen.  The horror – the horror!

The trailer gives a real sense, meanwhile, of Gotham City’s slide into anarchy and injustice without the Batman on hand to cause massive property damage and beat up fellow costumed neer-do-wells.

We’ve got a football stadium being blown asunder by Bane’s forces, prison riots, mass disorder, the Tumbler being pursued by Batman’s Batwing, Bane standing triumphant and even some business from Anne Hathaway’s Selena Kyle, whose dialogue suggests that Nolan is going to deal with the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and anti-globalisation protests in some fashion.  Rather him than Michael Bay, I guess?

Glib internet snarking aside, the trailer is quite heady stuff, even when seen in the murkiest quality possible and suggests that Nolan has lost none of his gift for translating the heightened reality of comic book characters and settings into something which approaches a convincing reality – it’s always seemed as though Christopher Nolan was directing the sort of genre movie which Michael Mann is so skilled in,  but interpolating his take on Bruce Wayne into a story of obsessively dedicated professional criminals and the people who try to catch them.  With more gadgets and a key to the dress-up box.

That may seem inordinately daft to some readers – why is he wasting his obvious talents on Batman when he could be exploring the territory that he brought to the screen in “Memento”? – but the seriousness and grounding that he brings to this character and this world feels just right to me.

If nothing else, he’s managed to almost wipe this rather terrible memory from my mind and for that, I thank him.

 

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“The Dark Knight Rises” prologue non-spoiler news

Hmm...brooding.

Empire’s bloke across the pond was invited to an early screening of the “Dark Knight Rises” prologue footage which is going to play in front of the IMAX prints of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” this Christmas.

And he’s quite enthusiastic about it.

This Nolan fellow?  Apparently, he’s quite good at directing big-scale action sequences, introducing iconic comic book bad guys and using the large-screen IMAX format to its best advantage.

The footage plays in front of IMAX prints of “Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol” in Bradford, Glasgow, Manchester and London – which means that I’ll probably be waiting to see it on the internet with the rest of you.  Curse you, large format exclusivity!

 

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