The comma (and bracket) filled thoughts of Sam Coleman.

Monthly Archives: July 2012

(Note: I would suggest seeing the Dark Knight Rises for yourself first before reading this; as I would any other film. I would hate for anybody to accuse me of spoiling the film for them, so take this as a disclaimer.)

This is it people. This is the one we’ve all been waiting to see. Honestly, can you name a film as anticipated as this? Christopher Nolan has turned Batman from a camp 70s icon into the biggest fictional bad-ass on the planet. Dark Knight Rises brings the trilogy to an end before Nolan goes to help Zack Snyder reboot Superman… But does it leave you wanting more or much, much more?

+ Positives

+ Selina Kyle

The Bat family is arguably as important to Batman stories as Batman himself. Robin is as much of an icon as Batman is and characters like Nightwing and Batgirl in recent times have become just as important. It’s odd then that Nolan hasn’t used any of Bats’ supporting cast until the casting of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. Now you see that ‘saving the best for last’ isn’t just an expression. She steals pretty much any scene that she’s in. A lot has been made of how women are portrayed in films and games recently;  nobody can accuse Nolan of misogyny. There was some outcry about Hathaway’s casting as such a vital character but all of it was misplaced. She’s witty, sexy, determined, scheming and a whole number of other adjectives every time she appears. Borrowing character elements from Frank Miller’s Year One has brought Catwoman to life, making her appearance one of the high points.

+ Joseph Gordon-Levitt

As Officer Blake, Gordon-Levitt would probably have stolen the show if not for Catwoman. His character’s destiny is obvious from the moment he steps onto the screen but he adds the humanity that Bruce Wayne often lacks. Having been an orphan in Gotham, he is the hothead that drives the middle section of the movie, giving us a ground-eye view of the city. It’s kind of a shame that the character wasn’t introduced earlier – he really could have become as important to the trilogy as Batman. They really should have just named the character Dick Grayson or Tim Drake though.

+ It’s Batman.

There are just things that make a Batman film better than any other film. Beating ten guys in hand to hand combat simultaneously. Driving really fast in a Lamborghini. Using a range of gadgets that you can’t even begin to imagine in reality. Heath Ledger has rightfully taken much of the praise for the success of The Dark Knight, but the style of Nolan’s films are evident in all three. You kinda hate Bruce Wayne but you really, really like him. Jim Gordon would have retired years ago if he existed but his perseverance lets him roll back the years. You pay your ticket price to see Batman get overwhelmed but inevitably rise (see what I did there?) from the ashes: this is why Christopher Nolan is so celebrated for this trilogy. Batman used to wear spandex and have a stupid theme song –  Nolan has made him into everybody’s favourite hero. When Batman is riding around on his motorbike shooting rockets and evading the police, it’s hard for anybody not to be enjoying it.

– Mixed

– Bane

Overall, Bane’s a threatening villain. He differs hugely from the venom riddled monster from the comics but it suits the overall tone of the movie. However, it sacrifices so much of what makes the character unique. You could replace Bane with any typical thug and little would change. Large portions of his character are stripped away by the plot twist near the end and he pretty much becomes a sideshow. For a trilogy that’s put so much emphasis on building its central villains (Ra’s Al Ghul, The Joker, Two Face), it’s almost remarkable how bland Bane is.  Good in places, but expect no Best Supporting Actor awards for Tom Hardy I’m afraid.

– Plot

I read a comment just after watching the film and it basically summed up the direction for me perfectly. It said that the Dark Knight Rises should have been named Gotham City (although I would say Gotham City Rises would be much better overall). Obviously the film would never have been called GC, but the point remains: this isn’t a film about Batman. Of course, without Batman there is no film but in no way is he the only focus of this movie. Commissioner Gordon has been a vital character throughout the trilogy, but new characters Miranda Tate and Officer Blake also take pivotal roles within the story. It’s not a bad thing; it just leads to a lot of jumping around, particularly in the latter stages of the film where the film darts around to wrap everything up.  Apart from this the plot is pretty good, with classic stories Year One and Knightfall clear influences, particularly with Catwoman and Bane. It’s just a shame that a 2 and a half  hour film can feel rushed.

– Negative

The Ending

I’m going to attempt to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. The cynic in me always struggles to feel completely satisfied at the end of a movie but I felt flat-out letdown by the Dark Knight Rises’ final ten or so minutes. The plot twist arrives from seemingly nowhere to introduce a classic Batman character. Bane is built as the masterful villain until the new character arrives to unceremoniously push him aside. There’s no real feeling of a Batman triumph and it kills any sort of momentum towards the finale. The ending scenes were so predictable (in particular, one involving Alfred’s holiday) that it was hard to feel shocked or surprised. As a cliffhanger for a sequel, it would suffice. As the end to a trilogy, its barely satisfactory. A certain character’s discovery at the end makes it evident that this world will be revisited – so it’s hardly a goodbye at all. Perhaps it will all lead to a Dark Knight Returns-esque storyline, but for now, I feel a little disappointed.

There’s little doubt in my mind that this is the worst film in the trilogy, although not by much. Of course, it is still a damn good movie. It just couldn’t live up to the expectations put upon it. My problems with Bane may not ruin the movie, but a stronger villain would have been a benefit to the film. Largely it’s the final act that annoys me so much about the Dark Knight Rises. Admittedly, I’m a cynic that has perhaps read too many comics, but I just find it hard to believe that the predictable conclusion was deemed the best one. A great movie then; it just could have been so much more.

(Edit – Jonathan Crane makes an awesome cameo in this movie and it is by far my favourite part.)

Agree? Disagree? Tweet me – @colemansa.


Having entered July, we are now right in the heart of summer blockbuster season. This year, the highlights include two of the biggest superhero franchises going head to head: Spider-Man and Batman. While we must wait another two weeks (not that I’m counting down) for The Dark Knight Rises, reboot The Amazing Spider-Man hit cinemas this Tuesday. Here are my mostly spoiler-free thoughts on the film (read ahead at your own risk!)

Positives

+ Cast

Largely, the cast in the film is pretty good. Andrew Garfield looks and acts more like Spider-Man/Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire with near constant wise-cracking, erasing all fears that his age (28) would make him useless at portraying a teenager. Emma Stone is an engaging love interest as Gwen Stacy, but it’s the roles of Martin Sheen and Sally Field that are a highlight. Sheen as Uncle Ben makes the most of his character’s short time, bringing the philosophy the character is renowned for but adding an extra steel in his lecturing of Peter. At first, I couldn’t shake the connection between Sally Field and Mrs. Gump, but in the second half, despite a lack of screen time, she fits a classic role well. Rhys Ifans as Doctor Connors does fairly well, though a large number of his character’s plot points are left under-developed for the inevitable sequel.

+ Plot

The plot to the film was well done, despite the obvious problems with rebooting a franchise (see the negatives). Doctor Connors made for a compelling villain, borrowing a lot from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for good use. It leaves a lot of the plot open for a sequel but satisfies you with what it concludes here. Fan pleasing details such as Spider-Man’s web shooters link back to the comics far better than Raimi’s films. Richard Parker (Peter’s deceased father) is often an underused character in Spider-Man stories but here he plays a large part, although much of it is yet to be revealed. Some may argue there’s too much Peter Parker and not enough Spider-Man, but for an origin story, it’s a pretty good balance.

+ No Osborn

Norman Osborn (or the Green Goblin) is used in nearly every Spider-Man origin story I’ve ever seen, due to his role as Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis. Thankfully, to prevent re-releasing Sam Raimi’s 2002 movie, Norman Osborn is left out of the film for The Lizard to take the central villain role. Osborn still presides over a lot of the film’s plot but all from an off-camera position. There’s no doubt he will be showing up in a future sequel due to his position in the plot, but for now, the film feels like a proper reboot without his appearance.

+ Easy on the eyes

Visually, the film is very impressive – any trailer or screen capture of Spider-Man flying over NYC will prove that. There are a couple of sequences where the camera takes Spider-Man’s view point, which capture the visuals of the city best, although the change in perspective can be off-putting at first. A scene where Peter handstands on top of a building to check his balance had my fear of heights racing – that’s when you know a film’s visuals are working for it.

Mixed

– Action

In places, the action scenes were really well done. The scene on the subway with Peter taking out five or six guys without even realising was really good. However, in some places I was reminded of Transformers’ awfully confusing action scenes. Spider-Man moves at such a quick pace that sometimes you can hardly keep up with him. In general as well, the film is less about action and more about Peter’s romance with Gwen. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just odd for a Spider-Man film to not have an action sequence that steals the show (think the scene with Spider-Man stopping the train in Spider-Man 2).

Negatives

– What’s old is new again

The main problem with this movie is the amount of retreading it does, with scenes almost directly taken from Raimi’s Spider-Man. Of course, the Spider-Man origin story is fairly set in stone and a little repetition is guaranteed, but perhaps the first movie’s plot is still fresh in my mind. In particular, the fifteen or so minutes before Uncle Ben’s inevitable death gave me massive déjà vu despite the differences in location and scenario.

– 3D?

I’m not the biggest fan of 3D anyway, but Amazing Spider-Man uses almost no 3D. In fact, the only scene I can remember actually using 3D properly is the final shot. Sure, you can argue that the 3D improves the visuals overall, but with a lack of depth of vision or memorable 3D shots, it’s just an easy cash-in really.

– A whole load of questions, few answers

Peter’s relationship with his father (or lack thereof) is explored in this film, although it is largely stunted by the other stories running through the film. In particular, Doctor Connors association with Richard Parker and his implied involvement in his death is mentioned but unexplored. A mid-credits scene reminds you of this, but opens even more questions up. Obviously it is intended to interest in the sequel but for now, it leaves too much unexplained.

In many ways, The Amazing Spider-Man feels like it’s a challenge to DC Comics’ upcoming release. It raises the bar for Spider-Man films in general and repairs a lot of the damage done by Spider-Man 3. It will be interesting to see how the series proceeds from here, particularly with a scene during the credits raising even more questions. Overall, the film is a blast and reminds me a lot of how Christopher Nolan’s slow start with Batman Begins. I look forward to Spider-Man’s Dark Knight equivalent.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below or tweet me – @colemansa.