Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (Christopher Nolan, 2012)

For such an irregular graphic novel reader, the Batman film series has always played an important, somewhat unusual part in my life. My laissez-faire relationship to the comics aside, I have a strange bond with their celluloid sisters stepping back through childhood and beyond. Eight years ago, the first few days of University, my friendship with Luke Allen (most recently of grew from our mutual love of David Goyer’s leaked screenplay for Batman Begins. Months of anticipation followed, culminating in the joyous fulfilment of that scripts potential the following summer. A couple of years later, my partner and I cemented our future together through multiple viewings of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. It’s not possible to overstate its mysterious importance to our shared life.

Now. 2012. After ongoing critical acclaim shared by few other series, the Christopher Nolan Bat-trilogy comes to its conclusion. Last weeks disastrous Spider-Man reboot seems, by comparison, trite and worthless – a horrifying step back for comicbook adaptations in a world where Nolan has done so much to inject them with vigour and integrity. With such a depressing spectacle in the near past, can Nolan remind us why we watch these things in the first place? He can. He does.

Even when the film lags between the first and second act, briefly afflicted with a mild form of bloatitis, it’s easy to forget how sophisticated and intelligent Nolan’s series is. There’s plenty of (what first appears to be) extraneous material hanging around the midpoint that more judicious editing could’ve exorcised and slimmed down by some twenty minutes. Whereas most filmmakers suffering from terminal bloat stuff their overcooked bird with redundant action sequences, I can at least credit Nolan with padding his own with more interesting material, whether it be seemingly irrelevant plot strands that pay dividends in the final act or neat character beats that permit the huge ensemble to each have their own, complete arc. If truth be told, I was actually quite surprised by the palpable sense of enormity to the film. Lured into a sense of false security by its modest summer contemporaries, and even the previous two entries in the series, The Dark Knight Rises might be the only blockbuster so far this year that really earns that over-used ‘epic’ tag splashed all over the marketing. The various strands from that mid-section sag weave together with the first two films building and building to a finale of almost unparalleled scale. Nolan understands that a sense of size and significance comes not from the magnitude of the budget or the audacity of the special effects sequences, but by constructing brick-by-brick a rich, compelling universe then making you feel each blow as he smashes it down.

The triumph of Nolan’s work here is never more apparent than in the performances of his cast. Traditionally, actors of the ilk of Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman et al, supplement their more cerebral, interesting work with the mortgage-paying popcorn bit parts. This Batman franchise is unique in balancing the spectacle of mainstream entertainment with a flexibility for those actors (Neeson, Bale, Murphy, Caine…it goes on) to play about with characters every bit as meaty and well written as the arthouse fare but – and here’s the gimmick – in the façade of a colossal, multiplex-centric juggernaut. Chris Nolan blockbusters are, ultimately, more than just a few hours of throwaway fun, but a bright white vision of a better industry producing better work. His aggressive defence of practical stunts, traditional location work, 2D celluloid, and a group of bold, technically proficient colleagues (Wally Pfister, Hans Zimmer, Lee Smith etc), bound together by fearless, unconstrained scriptwork. At seemingly no point does anyone have much respect for previous ‘expectations’ of the more juvenile demographic that these sorts of movies usually gear themselves toward. If more directors were given this sort of freedom, mainstream film would be in a much better shape. I sure hope whoever inherits the franchise is as stubborn as their predecessor.


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Summer Blockbuster Review: The Dark Knight Rises (dir Christopher Nolan, released July 20th)

LA: Possibly the most anticipated film of the year.

DC: I’m a little surprised how long it’s been since the previous movie. 4-years is a year out of kilter for a current franchise. It’d usually be out after three. I guess Nolan’s shot films between each new instalment though. He hasn’t raced through at two year intervals like Bay with Transformers. Batman Begins came out in 2005, we waited three years for the sequel, then four years for this one.

LA: I like this about Nolan’s career. He makes something like Batman Begins, his biggest movie by far at the time, but before rushing into a sequel he steps back and makes another quiet, interesting thriller like The Prestige that has, at face value, more in common with his first three films. After he’s made a billion dollars with The Dark Knight, Warner Bros offer him a $150 million to make whatever the hell he wants and he pops up with a puzzle-box like Inception. At the same time, Warner’s did a similar thing with Zack Snyder and threw money at his Sucker Punch film. Superficially, not dissimilar ideas, both exploring the idea of escaping into a dream world, but these two guys – effectively the two big frontrunners for Warner Bros at the time – and their output is operating at polar opposites of the spectrum in terms of quality and restraint.

DC: Sucker Punch is a disaster. Every element of the production fails. The damage done to individual careers, the financial loss, the offensively poor quality of the film. It’s cataclysmic. It’s a failure in the truest sense of the word. A bomb.

LA: You give your two biggest directors of the time a giant pot of money and complete creative freedom to do whatever the hell they want. It’s funny that Christopher Nolan is now effectively helping Zack Snyder get his career back on track from a position of total superiority in terms of reputation and financial clout.

DC: Nolan as a producer hiring Snyder for the Superman job?

LA: Yeah. You make a hit like The Dark Knight and then roll straight into a film as financially successful and critically lauded as Inception, and you’re basically king of the world so far as the studios are concerned. They’ve given him $250 million to make The Dark Knight Rises.

DC: It cost that much?

LA: It does indeed.

DC: Wow, so that might be the most expensive of the bunch. Excluding John Carter.

LA: You know he’s not going to squander that money though. It’s a sure thing.

DC: There’re quite a few beasts this summer. Big price tags. The difference I guess is that Nolan won’t have had a day of flab on the shoot of his film. It’ll be on time, on budget and the movie will be very profitable. Tight, controlled, came in on date. He’s not just pissing money down the drain like the Battleship guys or Stanton’s John Carter film.

LA: Christopher Nolan, his entire career, he’s brought every film in on time, on budget. Something like The Dark Knight Rises might even have a few quid spare.

DC: He’s efficient. There’s no ego. That was Snyder’s problem and it exploded in his face. Enormous damage to his reputation, and the current perception of his previous work. The community would look back much more fondly on 300 and Watchmen had Sucker Punch not imploded. His abilities will be evaluated again when his Superman film comes out next year. I hope he’s exorcised some of the demons that were plaguing him on Sucker Punch. That whole film is like a two-hour art installation where he smacked about and indulged in his worst and shittiest habits. Now it’s time to get on with some real work. His Superman could be great.

LA: It’s been filming for fucking ages.

DC: They started in like August 2011. It isn’t out until bloody June 2013! I thought Men in Black III started filming early, with a Winter 2010 through to May 2012 release. That Superman shoot is absolutely crazy! It’s a monster. I wish them the best of luck. I hate to say it, but that’s a series that genuinely does need to start afresh after the failure of Bryan Singer’s effort. Scrap that film and begin again. I have faith!

LA: We saw The Dark Knight together in IMAX in 2008.

DC: With a black guy? A black guy was there.

LA: I’d never seen a movie in IMAX before that, so I was really impressed by the scope. Almost a third of The Dark Knight Rises is in IMAX format. 55 minutes or something stupid like that. Have you seen the opening?

DC: A dodgy internet version with terrible sound.

LA: I saw it with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

DC: Was it good?

LA: Stunning, absolutely stunning. The 35mm stuff will be cropped down on the IMAX screen, but the full 70mm scenes will look just amazing.

DC: Wally Pfister’s a great DOP. I heard he’s directing a movie soon.

LA: Really?

DC: Yeah, next year. I don’t know anything else about it. Moneyball was pretty. He shot that.

LA: Really? I didn’t see it.

DC: He rarely works away from Nolan, but Moneyball looked fantastic.

LA: Pfister was saying when he was filming The Dark Knight, they were conscious of the fact they’d be showing the IMAX footage on a lot of normal screens, they wasted a lot of stuff at the top and bottom of the shot. You don’t notice that at all when watching footage from The Dark Knight Rises. There doesn’t seem to be anything wasted. In terms of content, there’s a similarity with the prologue of The Dark Knight. Both introduce a new antagonist, but you’re not reminded of Heath Ledger’s Joker for a second. It makes you realise how much of an intimidating character Bane is. He couldn’t be any more different than the version featured in Batman and Robin.

DC: I absolutely trust Chris Nolan, and I’m sure I’ll be corrected on all counts, but I have a few niggling issues with the film that’re winding me up at the moment. To start with, I don’t like the title at all.

LA: The title is rubbish.

DC: I don’t know who authorised it. Did Nolan choose it? They need someone to shout in their face and let them know what a poor decision they’ve made. The fan community is almost subdued in shock and unwilling to kick up a fuss. It’s awful. A real shame as The Dark Knight is a brilliant, brilliant title for a Batman film.

LA: The fucking ‘Caped Crusader’ would have been a better title than The Dark Knight Rises.

DC: The Dark Knight Rises is too wordy. Batman colon something. Batman Rises?

LA: Batman’s colon? That’s definitely worrying.

DC: Secondly, none of the material I’ve seen beyond the dodgy youtube prologue, which I’m sure was spectacular in IMAX, has impressed me. The two short trailers haven’t impressed me. Part of me thinks it’s just a case of exposure, and as the marketing rolls on it’ll give a better impression as to the scale and size of the thing. Nothing about Tom Hardy’s character impresses me at this stage. I’m sure I’ll be wrong come July 20th. Anne Hathaway, I don’t necessarily object to the casting as much as some people, but I don’t like the costume much. It’s the goodwill built up around the franchise and built up around Chris Nolan that gives me reason to think it’ll be good. On this material alone, I’m not feeling it. Compared to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I thought the material put together for those two films was spectacular. By this time of year in 2005 and 2008 I was beyond excited. Photos, posters, trailers. Everything was fantastic. I saw both films four times. I haven’t got that feeling yet with this one. I’m waiting for that explosive trailer that pushes me over the edge. Compared to Prometheus, where each piece the studio drops is incrementally building this enormous hype, The Dark Knight Rises team aren’t doing their job well enough yet. Perhaps it’ll kick off in April?

LA: The only part of the teaser that intrigued me was the football field blowing up, but even that stuff looked very CGI.

DC: Not a good money-shot. Something missing.

LA: Look at it this way. Even after a great performance in Brokeback Mountain, when they cast Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, I was sceptical.

DC: I can proudly and smugly say I defended the Ledger casting from the beginning. Nolan had cast his first few films impeccably, and Ledger had been brilliant in everything. I didn’t doubt they knew what they were doing. I was sure Ledger would give an interpretation of that character every bit as memorable as Nicholson or Mark Hamill, and I was pleased that the team didn’t let me down. I’m sure the cast of The Dark Knight Rises won’t disappoint either, but they haven’t given me a taster of it yet. They’ve yet to show anything from Hardy or Hathaway that can touch the materials being released at this stage showing off Ledger’s work. The campaign needs to get its act together. They need to have people like me waking up in cold sweats by summer.

LA: I’m interested in how Catwoman is played. It’s the thing I liked most about Batman Returns. I like the Batman/Catwoman dynamic. She shouldn’t be an antagonist. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, but she’s not a villain like The Joker is. She’s not afraid to kill. She’s a Batman gone rogue.

DC: Self-serving. None of the resources, twice the balls?

LA: Yeah. My two favourite Batman graphic novels are The Long Halloween and The Dark Victory. Batman and Catwoman are sexually attracted to each other, but Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle don’t know of their secret identities. That dynamic appeals to me. I know there’s a concern about there being too many villains, but I’m not worried as long as they use Catwoman properly.

DC: I’m amused that Nolan seems to have cast the entire same troupe from Inception. I know it was a massive hit, but it’s getting ridiculous! Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy. All you need now is for DiCaprio to stroll in.

LA: I think it’s one of these cases where I’m extremely intrigued where the story is going to go. I had so much speculation about The Dark Knight, and it was nothing like I’d expected.

DC: One thing that worries me, and I know it’s negative thinking, but Nolan is due…

LA: …a bad movie.

DC: A bad movie. It happens to everyone in the end. He’s had an unusually good run. At some point it always collapses. It happens to everyone. There’d be something strangely fitting about it being a project as high profile as this one. Eventually there’s going to be something that doesn’t quite hit the mark. People like you and I have this total expectation that it’ll be great. If it’s just okay, just pretty good, we’ll be devastated. Superhero films don’t have a great history of trilogy cappers. The third film is always a disappointment. If he turns in a great movie he’ll be the exception. People are expecting something as good, if not better than The Dark Knight. That’s a tall order. It hasn’t been done before.

LA: It’s not just superhero movies, there’re very few threequels that are as good as the first two.

DC: Let’s hope he has it in him!

Thanks again to Luke Allen of MovieFarm. See you tomorrow to chat about The Bourne Legacy!

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