Will Preston

Archive for August, 2012

Batman or: How I learned to stop worrying and love Nolan

by on Aug.16, 2012, under Films, Review

Can anyone name me any third film in a trilogy that stands out from its previous releases? Indiana Jones and the last Crusade, possibly. Maybe even back To The Future Part III? Now how about third films which pale in comparison to their previous titles? No! Wait! I can’t hear anything with all of you yelling at once.. I think I heard Godfather Part III the loudest…possibly even Alien 3. But even when a third film reaches its mixed climax, you are assured that this will be the final outing for the saga. Which begs to ask how do you end a superhero film series? With so many changes in history and resurrections, the comic book world is completely foreign to the notion of letting protagonists retire.

He's tall enough without standing on a car

The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final outing for Nolan’s grim spin on Bob Kane’s answer to vigilante justice. So far, the series has reinvented the character to (almost) exist in the real world and has proved that even comic book films can achieve academy awards (well, Heath Ledger did anyway). So now it’s finally time to do that tricky stylish dismount that plagues the directors attempt to leave us with a well rounded set. After all, Nolan has set the bar for himself with the astounding Dark Knight. Also, what Batman villains can you use before the series takes a turn for the Schumacher…I mean worst. After using Scarecrow, The Joker, Two-Face and the “immortal” Ra’s Al Ghul, what nemesis can give the bat a beating without pushing the film into ridiculous territory?

8 years have passed since Gotham City was terrorised by The Joker and Harvey “Two Face” Dent and life has never been better. Thanks to the events that exploded in the previous film, the city has given its police force better means to take out organised crime. So, with no crime to Batarang and batter, Batman has been left in a lock up, with Bruce Wayne feeling empty and useless after his one true love, Rachel Dawes, perished in the previous film. The first time we see Christian Bales playboy billionaire enter the scene, he’s a dishevelled, Howard Hughes of a man, who is 1 walking stick step away from urinating in jars, obsessively counting his peas and getting paranoid about freemasons. For a man who regularly turns from wealthy buffoon to an icon of righteous justice at the flick of a searchlight, this is one transformation that is hard to take in.

Nothing say's "Gritty reboot" like rain and leather

The film’s opening scene introduces us to Bane, a masked mountain of a man who has so much brains to his brawn, you’d think he was storing extra cerebellum in his biceps. Tom Hardy’s portrayal has him wearing what appeared to be Darth Vader’s bondage mask, so a lot of his acting came from his inhumanly booming voice and use of statuesque gestures. Bane is a terrorist leader who wants to see the most corrupt city in America – Gotham – razed to the ground in the name of natural order (sound familiar?). Leading an army of misfits in the sewer, he is known as an urban myth until his earth shattering reveal where he announces himself as Gotham’s reckoning. But back to his opening scene. In the comic’s Bane reached his near-superhuman levels of strength thanks to a wonder drug called Venom. Rather than sacrifice even more realism from the movie, this aspect of Bane is removed completely, leaving us with a villain we can believe in. Anyway, back to the opening scene.

It’s an airfield in a foreign country. A CIA operative (played by Aiden Gillen AKA Tommy Carcetti from The Wire) is buying the lives of 3 masked hostages in order for one of them to spill the beans about the location of Bane. Once they’re in the air, one of the hostages reveals himself to be Bane and overcomes his captors. Half a minute later, a larger aircraft looms over them with a team of highly trained soldiers rappelling down to the CIA plane, storming it in midair. So far, it’s a pretty impressive opening, but it doesn’t stop there. Attaching their cords to the CIA vessel, the soldiers allow the mystery plane to yank their target aircraft out of control, until it helplessly faces downwards – with the ill-angled drag stripping it of wings, fins and pretty much anything making airworthy. The back of the plane is ripped off before Bane steals a Russian scientist on board – what he came after in the first place – before attaching himself to the cord and disconnecting the ruined plane. As opening scenes go, it beats any James Bond movie hands down.

Obligatory sexual tension

As is the tradition with most of the recent Batman films, there is never one villain. Well, I say villain. Selina Kyle (played by the stunning Anne Hathaway) is a highly skilled thief – a cat-burglar, if you will. Posing as a waitress at one of Bruce Wayne’s many functions at the rebuilt Wayne manor, she infiltrates Bruce’s bed quarters and successfully steals his prized pearl necklace that belonged to his late mother. In his partially crippled state, Bruce is unable to fight back, but thanks to precautionary measures (the old “GPS tracker in the necklace” and “dusting for fingerprints” tricks) he is able to track down the thief that the press has referred to as “The Catwoman”. Anne plays her part like a typical femme fatal and uses extreme cunning to get what she wants. Not to mention she spends most of the film in a figure hugging leather cat suit (Woof! …I mean meow!). technically speaking, she’s not a villain. Think of the typical thief with a heart of gold…but crossed with a sexy ninja. She is a mix of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman (minus the camp insanity) and half the cast of The Matrix – a perfect match and partner for Batman.

Thankfully, all the old cast is included in the film. Michael Caine’s Alfred once again makes the role his won and gives one of the films best performances, especially towards the end (there were tears from everyone). Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) plays a very active role alongside Batman as he works together to stop bane. Oldman almost seems to have aged into the role and gives a fine performance. The new faces on the scene include John Blake – Gotham’s up and coming detective – played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt looking ever so much like a young Robert Patrick, and Miranda Tate – Bruce’s first love interest since Rachel’s’ death 8 years ago. There are a couple of surprise cameo’s from characters in the previous films, but I’m not going to ruin them for you here.

...I told you he was tall enough

The tone of the film is the darkest yet. Batman Begins showed fear and hope, Dark Knight conveyed chaos and the tricky definitions of good and evil, whilst Dark Knight Rises reeks of despair of an apocalyptic nature. The film’s main plot shows Bane and his army holding a majority of the city under a violent siege with scene’s evoking memories from films like Escape from New York and certain levels of the video game Modern Warfare 3. Shots of a city fallen past chaos and into an anarcho-city state run by criminals provokes quite a shocking response. There was a slight sense of realism woven into the fantasy nature of the film. Sometimes I forgot that I was watching what is technically a comic book film. Most of the movie showed Bane’s plan slowly coming together with all the enforcement the US could us being cut down by his scheme. I reached a point where I genuinely felt there wouldn’t be a happy ending.

Nolan managed to unleash some jaw dropping plot twists that spanned the entire series without resorting to retconning his own story. It’s almost like he had the whole trilogy planned before the release of Batman Begins. Simple throwaway lines that were uttered in the first film echo back later in such a reverberation that you almost applaud such wonderful execution. It’s almost as if Nolan has surpassed the achievement of making an Oscar-winning superhero film and has done the near-impossible – perfect a trilogy. At the time of writing, I am still questioning whether this new release surpasses The Dark Knight. I only have 2 quibbles with the movie. First of all is the pacing. What made the first 2 films such an experience to watch was the fast paced story against a long film. You left the experience feeling like a lot happened in a decent space of time. Plenty happens in this new release, but some of the time, the story doesn’t feel it’s moving as fast as it should do.

The other niggle is the length of the film does end up feeling like an endurance test. At nearly 3 hours, it’s technically an epic on the most objective basis possible. But superhero films, by their nature, are quick fixes on a Friday night. Popcorn fodder. Yes, Nolan has busted out of this convention and delivered what is the best comic book film ever, but it’s almost like he’s trying to break away from the simple action film loving crowd who surround the Batman franchise. Thankfully, this doesn’t ruin a superb action monolith, but does leave you feeling out of breath when you drag yourself out of the cinema. Marvel Comics. Joss Whedon. Stan Lee. You can stop now – superhero perfection has been achieved.

Leave a Comment more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!