Review: The Dark Knight Rises

•July 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

TDKR has been the subject of an enormous amount of hype, speculation and more recently tragedy, so it was with trepidation that I ventured out to see it late last night. The film is pretty damn long (164 minutes), particularly when the screening only starts at 11pm and you’re still quite hungover. There are multiple openings (a bit like the end of Return of the King), introducing characters old and new and giving a tantalizing but far too short dose of Aidan Gillen, who’s always a nice surprise.

The film plods on, moving through set pieces in which Tom Hardy‘s enormously hench Bane and Batman trade heavy blows and dialogue in silly voices with only the thinnest motivation on the part of the caped crusader’s latest foe. Anne Hathaway‘s Catwoman is sleek and appropriately catty, if  hammy and slightly cringe-worthy in her opening scene. These two adversaries take turns making a nuisance of themselves in slight, but not fully realised, combination, whilst Bruce Wayne sulks around being injured and shirking all his responsibilities. The general absence of Batman from the film has been noted by many critics, and gives TDKR‘s director Christopher Nolan some opportunity to engage with the emotional cost of the previous two installments on the Wayne/Batman character, whilst also setting up Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the heir to the bat-throne.  This introspective tone sets the film apart from the recent slew of superhero films, and as Roger Ebert‘s review notes, results in the fact that the film “isn’t very much fun”. This isn’t to say that all superhero films should be as camp and frivolous as Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, but The Dark Knight Rises does take itself far too seriously, resulting in an uneven and underwhelming final product which fails to fully deliver as either an action film or a ‘serious’ drama. Issues are touched upon, characters are vaguely introduced, but the film doesn’t follow through with many of the potential opportunities for character development or social commentary. As ever the visual effects are excellent, but the film relies on high production values to carry some excruciating lines of exposition (the final revelation that Gordon-Levitt’s character is actually named Robin is chucked in with a horrible forced one liner) and gaping plot holes; it’s as though Nolan et al are hoping you won’t think through the problems surrounding disposing of an atomic bomb in the waters outside Gotham (ok, so it didn’t blow up the city, but the fallout is still going to be a pretty massive freaking problem) because you’re still drooling over Anne Hathaway’s skin-tight outfit and reeling from the sight of bridges and buildings exploding.

Roger Ebert’s review states that the film comes “uncomfortably close to today’s headlines”, and this proximity to issues of great importance and controversy and the film’s utter refusal to engage with them in any critical manner was my biggest concern both during and after the screening. Watching TDKR in light of the recent Occupy movements, examples of police brutality in dealing with protesters across the world, and a global recession made for uncomfortable viewing, as the film ultimately reasserts conservative discourses. The nature of Batman as superhero has been discussed repeatedly, with The Big Bang Theory even sending up the notion that all you’d need to be Batman is tonne of cash, and TDKR continues the tradition of portraying Batman as the ultimate consumer. All of the Dark Knight’s power comes from his financial situation, his ability to buy bespoke armour and weapons and his subsequent status as a brand. Bruce Wayne is a man who lives completely out of touch with the Gotham he tries to protect, isolated in his stately home, oblivious to the financial difficulties that his company is in and the repercussions that his financial situation has on his philanthropic pursuits. Bruce Wayne is the 1%. TDKR pits Wayne/Batman against a feisty jewel thief attempting to work herself out of the criminal world, and a faceless madman bent on the destruction of Gotham as we know it and the redistribution of wealth. Bane’s long speech decrying the disparity between those who have it all and those who have nothing echoes the criticisms being laid against the elite across the world, particularly in the US and UK, and creates an uncomfortable alignment between current social equality movements and the anarchic thuggery that this super-villain promotes. The film offers no mid-ground in its Batman/Bane, Conservatism/Anarchy constructions; the general populace is remarkably absent, and the audience is left with either the staunch and noble police force sided with Batman, or a hoard of criminals wielding machine guns with which to identify. There is no hint at discussion of why society is so divided, or whether there should indeed be a reassessment of the current status quo, as those who attempt to engage in social activism are wholly portrayed as mindless criminals who will use their new found agency to destroy the establishment instead of reworking it into anything new or progressive. Weirdly, TDKR ignores and elides the issues which the previous installments of the trilogy have raised in regards to corruption within the justice system to present a united front in which the establishment stands firm against the troublesome maniacs attempting to disrupt Gotham.

This half-hearted incorporation of current affairs seems to me to be lazy, and really quite exploitative film making. It capitalizes on real world unrest and issues which are in need of serious treatment and incorporates them into a conservative discourse, slyly justifying the discrepancy between the affluent and the less well off by aligning those advocating change with thuggery and anarchism, and ultimately justifying the film as a cultural product in itself; the wealth and power of Hollywood is vindicated through the final triumph of corporate and conservative forces over those annoying kill-joys who question (and attack) the dominance of what Ebert identifies as “our society’s twin gods of money and pro sports”.

Step Up 2 The Streets

•April 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I have just one question: WHERE ARE THESE STREETS EXACTLY?

Everything Is More Important Than My Dissertation Part 3 – Compact Review: Leap Year

•July 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here’s the thing. I love Amy Adams. I love Matthew Goode. I love John Lithgow. I love Adam Scott. I lovelovelove American presentations of British life, especially little rural British (Irish in this case) towns. And I most of all love those awful predictable films where two characters hate each other when they meet and fall in formulaic love over the course of the film. So this film should’ve instantly become my favourite guilty pleasure. Except for one thing. It was so, so dull.  It could’ve been lovely.  It should’ve been lovely.  And yes it was okay, the protagonists were nice and the subsidiary characters were alright and the story was quite sweet, but the script tried too hard and ended up being slightly worse than all those other films just like it. If only it’d been as short and sweet as this review.

Everything Is More Important Than My Dissertation Part 2 – When A Stranger Calls

•July 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So there was no need to do a remake of When A Stranger Calls.  It’s a story as old as time itself, it’s practically on the modern folkloric level of that one about the escaped lunatic with a hook for a hand, and a couple find the hook hanging from their car door, and I think someone gets decapitated, but there are a lot of versions.  But everybody knows the story about the babysitter who gets a bunch of threatening phone calls and then the police are like THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE and then she gets attacked and sometimes dies but usually is saved, depending on who tells it.  There was no need to run us through this again.  But for some reason whatever film studio decided this was a good idea.

And props to them, for some part.  The first three quarters of an hour or so were pretty creepy.  The music worked, the house (VERY like the house in Chloe actually, all plate glass and clean lines again) was perfectly unnerving with its floor-to-ceiling windows on all floors, a creepy guest house, and weird aviary-slash-aquarium in the middle of the structure.  But then action happened that was meant to be scary and everything just went terribly.

This film suffered from key problems three.  First off, I have never seen an actress so uncommitted to her climactic scream.  Most slashers, the heroine finds her first body and it’s like “yyyeahh my time to shine, I’mma scream my lungs out”, but this girl just seemed slightly embarrassed doing it which really retracted from the effect.  Secondly, throughout her time babysitting she hadn’t met the children.  She then finds the children in a BOX and they’re all “hello stranger, a different stranger locked us in a box, but sure, we’ll do everything you say”.  For a brief second I thought the children had been murdered, which would’ve been so …refreshing almost.  Controversial, thought-provoking, and much more horrific, but SPOILER obviously children do not die in films like this.

But the biggest problem with this film was the reaction of the authorities.  Sure, OK, girl phones up about prank callers, it happens, they did all the standard stuff really, monitored the line and all that, and the policeman she talked to just seemed pretty indifferent about the whole situation which, fair enough.  Teens will be teens.  Yet during the ending montage we’re told that this particular killer has been attributed to the deaths of fifteen – that’s FIFTEEN – young girls in the area who had been terrorised with threatening phone calls the night of their death.  You’d maybe have thought the police would’ve caught onto the trend and bucked up a little by this point, even if they didn’t know that THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE just yet.

But really, who gives a shit?  We all know the story and don’t particularly need some pretty American girl in a tight t-shirt to act it out for us.  Short and sweet conclusion: failure once again for mainstream American cinema.

Though just to show you how tight a t-shirt, here’s a quick frame of what was pretty much the entire film:


“Oh Em Gee stop calling me I’m waiting for my ex who cheated on me to call and you’re blocking the line” – actual thing this girl said. Sort of.

Everything Is More Important Than My Dissertation Part 1 – Compact(ish) Review: Chloe

•July 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I should’ve really read about this film before watching it.  First of all, finding this girl:

sexually attractive was one of the more unsettling experiences of my life.  She will no longer simply be “Karen from Mean Girls” or “that one from Mamma Mia”, she has earned ‘learning her name’ privileges in my book.  (It’s Amanda Something).

Secondly, I totally missed the memo on how erotic this film was.  It was reminiscent of those late ’80s/early ’90s sexy thrillers, but thankfully skillful direction made it less horrendous and sleazy than many of those were.  The film itself was very aesthetically pleasing: we were given luxury hotels and modern-art-style glass houses and offices framing beautiful people in more beautiful clothes, all clean lines and soft colours.  Though I can’t help but feel that it’s a problem when that is one of the best parts of a film.  Although this isn’t necessarily a criticism. Amanda Something was fantastic as Chloe, and Julianne Moore was wonderful as the unhappy wife (although I hope one day she will be in a film not about cuckoldry).  The story itself worked very well, we were led by the nose through quite a tangle and – maybe I’m just dense – I did not see half of what happened coming, but for some reason it fell a little flat as all the drama and suspense and WTF-ARE-YOU-DOING built you right up to… not very much.  However, any film that inspires me to write a review the day after watching it is worth a look in (unless that film is Altitude), so yes, go for it, if just to see Karen from Mean Girls all grown up.

H.

The Future According To: Johnny Mnemonic

•June 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In a new segment here at the erratically updated ‘Film is Good Too’, we examine the future according to various sci-fi films.

The first of such instalments comes from the 1995 classic Johnny Mnemonic. This contains spoilers.

 

1. Bars will play opera-hop and have very poor security. 

2. Lasers will be used for odd and arbitrary places, such as whips hidden in rings and the insides of bins.

3. The internet will look like Tron and be controlled with hand gestures, such as shaking the air to hack into things. (see image)

4. The army will have trained dolphins to hack and these powers combined with drugs will be able to hack Keanu Reeves’s brain.

5. ‘low tech’ will be an insult, with vague racial connotations.

6. Not only will dolphins be trained to use computers by the army, they will also understand English and combine these haxxor skillz to kill Dolph Lundgren in a fittingly pseudo-biblical style. = Dolphins will (already do?) understand irony.

 

 

 

Altitude: Compact Review

•April 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Don’t watch this film.

Like, it wasn’t even good high.

 
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