Viewing posts tagged batman

An Accurately Named Trilogy III: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises offers something with no counterpart in Nolan’s career: it’s a hot mess. That is not to say it’s a bad film, and certainly not to say it’s the worst of Nolan’s career (that’s clearly Interstellar). But there is a mad unruliness to it that is utterly uncharacteristic of Nolan’s work. Nolan is, as I’ve said before, an enormously fussy director. His work thrives on constantly trumpeting his presence as an auteur, inviting the audience to feel smart for keeping up with him. This is not inherently a bad thing - it’s nothing that isn’t true of Steven Moffat, for instance. It’s just how Nolan rolls. When it works, as with The Prestige, the result is a gripping puzzle box. When it doesn’t, as with Inception or Interstellar, you get something more akin to a stupid person’s idea of what a smart movie is like. But The Dark Knight Rises is neither of these things. Instead it’s a film Nolan simply loses control of - that becomes a sprawling tangle of competing ambitions that doesn’t know what it wants to do even as, at any given moment, it’s doing it with characteristic hyper-focus.

To some extent this is visible ...

An Accurately Named Trilogy II: The Dark Knight

It seems silly to start anywhere besides the Joker. We’ll set aside the cynical but not entirely unfounded question of whether the performance would be as celebrated as it is were it not for Heath Ledger’s untimely death and the ghoulish speculation (since refuted) that the psychological intensity of the role was a cause. Sure, it’s tough to imagine a Batman film winning an acting Oscar under less tragic circumstances, but that’s in no way what’s interesting here. What’s interesting is that Ledger and Nolan took the most oversignified character in Batman mythos (and yes, of course I’m including the big rodent himself) and offered a game-changing take on him. The hunched, disheveled figure with a Glasgow smile is a new angle, skewing the Joker towards a materialism that is generally precisely what’s discarded in other efforts to make him more grandiosely crazy. Ledger and Nolan offered a new way for the Joker to be.

By some margin the least interesting parts of this are the most often remarked upon. Yes, Ledger’s schlubby maniac was an easier fit for a certain strain of geek masculinity than the more overtly queer portrayals that came before him. But frankly, anybody who needed ...

An Accurately Named Trilogy I: Batman Begins

It may be an accurately named trilogy, but its edges are both fuzzy. The Dark Knight Rises ends by gesturing forwards to an unrealized draft of DC’s film aspirations. Batman Begins, on the other hand, is inexorably tethered to the Burton/Schumacher films its title declares its separation from. Batman begins because his franchise had been driven into the ground by Batman and Robin eight years earlier. The choice of villains is perhaps the clearest remnant of this - two villains who had not been used in the previous series, including the Scarecrow, who was going to be the villain of a fifth Batman film ever since it was going to be directed by Joel Schumacher and called Batman Unchained. Even Hans Zimmer’s score interpolates Danny Elfman’s.

Even considered purely within terms of the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins is odd. Again, the title is a clue - it’s the one part of the trilogy not to have the phrase “Dark Knight” in it. But more to the point, it’s the only film in the trilogy to be directed by Christopher Nolan, promising young director coming off of Memento and Insomnia as opposed to Christopher Nolan, director of major blockbusters. And this shows ...

Sensor Scan: Batman

Yeah, yeah, I know-Another retrospective on the 1989 Batman movie. As if the world needs another of the bloody things. It *is* a major cultural signifier of the summer, though, and is furthermore at least partially responsible for the malaise of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: We can't exactly ignore it, so just bear with me and I'll try to make it worth your while.

As I've said elsewhere, US superhero comics are not my medium of choice. I have no emotional attachment to them and are blissfully unaware of the comings and goings of DC and Marvel beyond the bare minimum of what is absolutely required so as not to be persecuted by Nerd Culture. So frankly, I couldn't give a neutrino's emission about how Batman stacks up as a comic book movie: Comics and comic culture are entirely peripheral to what this movie is and what it did. This was a legitimate pop culture phenomenon with viral marketing and everything and remains a cultural touchstone for generations of filmgoers regardless of the frequency of their patronage of comic shops because, difficult as it seems ...

Fall and Rise

There was a fair amount of media chin-scratching last year about a supposed glumness and seriousness creeping into popular movies.  The real trend, I think, is not towards the 'serious' but towards the reactionary.

For one thing, there's recently been a spate of popular, lauded films and TV shows re-inflating Islamophobia (again) in a 'nuanced' form acceptable to liberals as well as to outright bigots.  The much-lauded Argo depicts a heroic CIA rescue of American hostages in Iran.  Always handy, being able to demonise Iran.  (Modern Iran's origin is, of course, a long and complex story, and does not present 'the West' in a good light... which is why nobody balanced and objective ever mentions it.)  The much-lauded Zero Dark Thirty depicts torture as being both effective and morally conscionable, with the only negative consequence in sight being the discomfort of the torturers.  It misrepresents 'enhanced interrogation' as being a valuable technique leading directly to the location of Osama and, by means of ambivalence and ambiguity (disingenuously used as a defence by the director), it effectively sides with the torturers.  To be neutral about torture is to be effectively pro-torture.  ...

Legless in Legoland

I've become mildly obsessed by this image:

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!"

How do you get a Lego figure to look traumatised by the death of the woman it loves, and the supposed deaths of its newborn children, and the loss of its legs, and third degree burns over all of its body?

And what kind of a culture is it that even tries?

(Of course, as Richard Pilbeam - who brought the image to my attention in the first place - remarked, the Lego figure does a better job than Hayden Christensen.)

It strikes me that, the more Lego tries to cope with reconstructing scenes from movies - especially from movies like the Star Wars  prequels or the later Harry Potter  movies, that are self-consciously 'dark' - the more it has to bring in elements of painful 'realism', i.e. scars on Anakin's face... but the addition of such features to the Lego aesthetic has an unfortunate effect... it starts to make it look like they're taking the piss, South Park  style, by representing things like serious injuries in crude, cartoon form.

This is particularly evident in the way the figure above simply has no Lego legs provided.  Is there any child ...

The Dark Knight Propagandizes

I see the first big trailer for the next installment of Nolan's Batman franchise has been leaked.  It looks consistent with the previous films.

Remember in Batman Begins, the League of Shadows claim to have caused the recession that crippled Gotham when Bruce was a kid. So recessions happen not because capitalism is inherently prone to them but because nefarious Europeans and Orientals come over from outside and artificially create them.

Of course, recessions are something that happens to capitalism, not something that capitalism can't help itself causing... we know this because Bruce's Dad is a noble, wise, kindly man who happens to be hugely wealthy and own a massive mega corporation, so wealth and corporations must be just fine and dandy per se. Papa Wayne has even helped the city... by building a massive elevated train system. Hmmm, that'll help the people who can't afford tickets (or homes) anymore. And naturally it was all done at his expense and he made no profit... something that is even less likely in reality than flying bat-costumed ninjas.

Sure enough, we later learn that corporations are only bad when run by unscrupulous individuals like Rutger Hauer ...

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