Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Knight’

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The Dark Knight Rises

July 20, 2012

 

The Dark Knight Rises

This being Christopher  Nolan’s last Batman film, it ended up being more of a farewell tour, then a soundly put together movie, that relied more on bringing back everyone they could, then developing a well focused story.  He wanted to go out with something epic but didn’t have a strong enough bad guy to carry the film and while it has some of the same visual and scoring impact, there were lapses in sound editing that took the audience out of the film.  It doesn’t live up to the strength of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The story, a convoluted one, is one that we’ve already seen before, in fact, it is basically the same as the first two.  Batman has a problem, he faces the problem, he fails, he gets broken, he comes back stronger, someone teaches him something to make him even stronger still, and he wins at the last minute.  This film basically followed the same plot line with the added bonus  of John Blake, another member of the police force who gets to work with Commissioner Gordon.  It also suffers from the extreme backstorying, not of the people who completely matter, but of Bruce Wayne from the previous movies.  Most people seeing this either won’t care that much about the back story or already know it, it was about 20 wasted minutes of flashbacks that weren’t needed which seriously hurt the pacing of the story.

The acting in this film is considerably weaker then any of the other films.  Bane, played by Tom Hardy, is extremely forgettable.  He is physically imposing muscle wise, but seems tiny on the screen, he doesn’t ever seem like someone who people should fear on the screen.  His voice also was very disconnected and poorly done (and mixed) from the rest of the film.  The first few scenes he is in, it seems more like a voice over then the actual character talking.  Marion Cotillard is also weak as Miranda/Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter.  Her romance with Bruce Wayne is very forced and very quickly done in the film, people complained about Jane Foster and Thor in Thor, this had about half the set-up that one did.  Then the “great” twist that she is evil gave us some of the most poorly delivered monologues in the film that were pretty well devoid the the emotion that you were hoping for, and illogically placed.  I realize it shouldn’t be compared to the Avengers or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Joss Whedon does one thing very well, when something major is going on in a battle and someone dies, it isn’t focused on, here no one dies, but everything is separated greatly and needlessly.  The hero versus villain battle that we get between Bane and Batman is in a larger ongoing battle, but apparently all the police know not to even look at Bane and all of Bane’s minions know not to look at Batman.  This is normal for most movies, but in a film that is supposed to be tougher, more realistic, and grittier then your average superhero film, it fails.  Gary Oldman is done no services as Commissioner Gordon, all the previous work developing his character is swiftly undone in this film, wasting Oldman’s talents as he becomes a device to move a plot forward, not an actual character.  Christian Bale is also a disappointment in the film, but that is kind of expected, his forced gravelly Batman voice works about as well as Clark Kent putting on glasses so people don’t know he’s Superman, except with this we have to listen to it the whole time, which becomes very old quickly and Bale becomes more of a caricature then an actual superhero.  This also doesn’t touch on the fact that Bale can be okay as Batman, but is worse as Bruce Wayne providing none of the emotion that one would expect to see from this film.  Anne Hathaway is another disappointing character, which I blame more on writing of Catwoman, than on Anne Hathaway.  The role is meant to be seductive and sexual, which Hathaway pulls off quite well at various parties and galas which she has broken into it, but towards the send of the film, all the shots of her are overtly sexual and  completely objectify her character, and remove the ability to see her as a serious performance in the film.  There was a good performance though in Blake, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as he showed off some acting chops and showed character change throughout the film, unlike basically anyone else in the film.  And it looks like he could be used in films going forward, so that gives me some hope for a franchise that should be moving forward still, even without Nolan and Bale.

Critically this film had much of the look without any of the flare.  Nolan got lost in the fact that this was his last film trying to create this grand plot that would allow him to reference extensively the previous two films.  This film seems to be his good bye and he leaves major issues with the timing of the story, figuratively and literally, where Batman is trapped in a prison called the pit, gets out, and in 6 hours is back on Gotham which is shut off from the outside world.  Or Batman being in one place in Gotham, showing a time counting down, at another place in Gotham and considerably too little time has passed.  The music also isn’t as tightly done as it should be and as one would expect it to be.  It doesn’t take the audience out of the film, but it doesn’t drive them deeper in.

Overall this isn’t a bad film, it is entertaining, but it isn’t anything special for several reasons.  Firstly, the story got to big on Nolan, he wanted to make an epic swan song for him to leave on, and he drew it out too long and added things that weren’t needed.  This is fairly understandable though, it was an entertaining 2:45 film, but would have been a better 2:00 film.  Secondly, Batman is more about the villains then the hero, Batman himself isn’t all that compelling, he is a man on a mission to take down bad guys, he doesn’t have a huge personality of his own.  His villains do, however, and with Ra’s Al Ghul, Scarecrow, and The Joker, we got that, with Bane we got none of that.  There are at  least 3 Batman movies better then this one.  But go to it not for critical prowess or expecting it to be as great as The Dark Knight and you should enjoy this film.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B-/C+

Overall Grade: B-

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X-Men:First Class

June 6, 2011

X-Men: First Class

 

This was a well crafted fairly serious superhero film.  It is a set-up story like that of Batman Begins where we find out the history of many of the key players.  But it is brought together much better than Wolverine was brought together and focuses in much more on the characters in the film as compared to the action in the film, which is enjoyable to watch.  Matthew Vaughn does a good job directing this well crafted story.

The story is  the origin of Professor X and Magneto and their friendship and how that fell apart.  It starts with Erik (Magneto) is a Nazi concentration camp where he is separated from his family.  His powers are then revealed to a German guard who tries to train Erik to use his powers.  At the same time Charles Xavier comes across Raven who has broken into his house to find food.  She is like him in that she is a mutant and he takes her under his wing and they grow up together.  Things come to a head when Moira (in this telling a CIA Operative) runs across some interesting people and she goes to Xavier as one of the top genetics experts to solve her problem.  This leads to a team up with Erik who has been tracking down the German who killed his mother and trained him.  Xavier rescues Erik as he tries to attack Shaw, the German, and is going to die.  They team up and together locate some other mutants with the help of Hank McCoy.  They form a team and go after Shaw and his team of mutants, but they have a different way of looking at things.  Erik wants mutants to rule since they are superior beings whereas Xavier wants to live in harmony with the humans (if that is possible).  This comes to a head and Erik kills Shaw to become Magneto.

The acting of the two leads is superb.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender shine as Charles Xavier and Erik respectively.  McAvoy has a boyish charm and optimism about him and he turns into a sort of charisma with how he can influence people.  Fassbender shows off a nice dark side where you feel sorry for him but don’t completely trust his intentions all the time.  Raven (Mystique) played by Jennifer Lawrence is great as well.  She plays a very conflicted character torn between the fact she doesn’t look normal but she can change her appearance to be normal and the dichotomy of the two positions.  Kevin Bacon is also very good as Shaw.  At the beginning of the film when he is playing the role at the concentration camp he is simply brilliant, his performance falters a tiny bit as the movie progresses, but he is very strongly evil.  The cast wasn’t all perfect though, January Jones as Emma Frost was beautiful to look at, but quite poorly acted.  Considering that she is supposed to look like a sex symbol, that isn’t the worst thing in the world, but when paired with some of the great acting in this film, she does stick out as a weak point.  Nicholas Hoult also struggles in her performance as Hank McCoy (Beast), he isn’t bad, but the role was played so perfectly by Kelsey Grammer that Hoult seems to come up just short.  He has some fairly emotional scenes that he pulls of well, though.  The rest of the cast is solid, but not completely memorable.

Visually this film shines through as well.  It has an older quality feel to it as it takes place in the 1960’s for the most part.  Vaughn does a good job creating this world where the mutants exist but humanity doesn’t really  know about them.  Ashley Miller, Zach Stentz, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn do a great job putting together this screenplay.  The story is wonderfully character driven and while they show off a nice array of powers, they don’t get lost in showing everyone.  If they had tried to, it would have becomes a mess like the second Transformers movie.  But they keep it simple enough and they don’t go over the top with any of the characters.

Overall this is one of the better superhero films that I’ve seen.  It has some lighter moments that makes me appreciate it more than I do a film like The Dark Knight, but it takes itself a bit more seriously than a film like Iron Man or Thor.  I’m very hopeful that they can keep this cast together and make more films because it would be very enjoyable to watch and see how they end up developing the story.

Entertainment Grade: A

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

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The Crow

April 28, 2010

The Crow

This is a film that people seem to love or hate, which I mainly attribute to the fact that the people who love it make it out to be something more then it is.  This film is simply a dark super hero film with some fun action sequences, some symbolism and not much else in terms of a great underlying message.  It has a strong music score and is entertaining to watch.

The mythology surrounding the crow is that when someone dies a brutal death, a crow, can bring them back from the other side to exact judgment on those who killed them.  In this case, Eric Draven and his fiance are murdered by a gang who is running the town.  Draven comes back a year later, on Halloween, to exact his revenge.  He takes on a colorful group of bad guys working almost along side the law but just outside of it.  Only one police officer and Sarah, a young girl who was a friend of him and his fiance know who he is and what is going on.  Eventually the bad guys figure out that the crow who is following him around holds Draven’s life and is giving him is undead powers.  They go after the crow and lure him into a trap by using Sarah.  Draven must then fight to save her from Top Dollar who is running the whole city.

The acting in this film is pretty nondescript.  Eric Draven, who has the most screen time, is played by Brandon Lee who does a solid job in the role.  Brandon Lee died during a mishap on the set of this film so a few of the scenes of Eric Draven aren’t actually Lee but recreated from other footage in the film.  Sarah is the next biggest character, in terms of screen time, and she is played aptly by Rochelle Davis who, for a child actress, does a good job and this is the only film that she has been credited with working on.  Bai Ling shows up in this film as a sex crazed and just crazed half sister of Top Dollar and while her performance is poor, as are all her performances, she is probably the most recognizable name in this film.  Ernie Hudson plays the police officer who Draven works with at times and Michael Wincott plays Top Dollar.  Their performances are average at best.

What really makes this film entertaining is the visual aspect.  The film is based off of a comic book, so much of the action is over the top and absurd.   James O’Barr was the original writer of the comic series and strip.  Basically all the film is shot in a series of dark images and at night giving it a properly creepy feeling.  Alex Proyas, director of Dark City, I, Robot, and Knowing, does a solid job of creating an eerie atmosphere for this film.  And while this film is shot in a gritty light, realism isn’t something that it strives for, when you have an undead killer and over the top action, I don’t think it would be possible to have succeed.  I can’t forget to mention the music as the strong rock soundtrack really amps up the energy in the film and meets the over the top action and styling perfectly with music from the Stone Temple Pilots, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Rage Against the Machine.

I am one of those who likes the film, but not because it was some great dark comic book/superhero masterpiece.  It isn’t that type of film, Batman Begins would be the only film I qualify as that.  The Crow, while gritty and dark, is much more over the top in terms of action and in terms of the characters.  Someone like the Joker is obviously a crazy villain in Batman, but Top Dollar and everyone under him are more in line with a villain from Dick Tracy then anything.  This film is meant to be enjoyed as a fun dark comic book film and nothing more.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B (It gets too much critical love because Brandon Lee died in the making of the film, much like The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger get too much love because he died just after making that film)

Overall Grade: B

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The Invisible

April 12, 2010

The Invisible

The Invisible

Not a film that a ton of people heard of, but this was a surprisingly good film.  It comes across as a little pretentious, but it is a fun story and surprisingly well acted.  Probably a film that I’ll like better then most people, but I know of a number of people who like it at as well.

The story is about Nick Powell, Justin Chatwin, a graduating student from high school and he has a good life, even if he doesn’t like everything about it.  Things go wrong with a friend of his gets into trouble and he tries to help by going up against Annie Newton, Margarita Levieva.  He ends up getting beaten and tossed down into a storm drain when Annie and her gang believe that he is dead.  Nick isn’t dead and ends up in a state of flux, basically as a ghost hanging in between life and death.  Annie, who is used to trouble, doesn’t know what to do and Nick can almost contact her at times until she realizes that he is alive.  Then it becomes a race against time to save him.  The story comes off as a bit pretentious, but it is a well created story.  And the film has a message that it wants to get across and that works with how the story is told.

Justin Chatwin does a solid job in this film.  He plays a fairly pretentious character who believes that he knows it all, at the beginning of the film, but he comes down to earth throughout the film.  Margarita Levieva is the start of this film.  It isn’t the best performance I’ve seen of hers, but she is a solid up and coming actress and this film is a good starting point.  She was previously on the TV show Vanished, which lasted for half a season, and then the film Noise in which she was very good.  The cast is generally unknowns, but they do a solid job in this film.  There aren’t many bad acting performances but none of them of all that memorable.

Visually this is a pretty good film.  They do a good job of keeping Chatwin separate from Levieva in the world of the living and the dead and how Chatwin tries to interact with her juxtaposed to her not being able to see him.  It is shot in a straight forward style and it works.  David S. Goyer, writer on such films at The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, and The Dark City (which I’ve previously reviewed) and the TV show FlashForward, does a good job directing this film and making it engaging.

This isn’t a film that everyone will enjoy simply because it is somewhat pretentious.  Also, don’t let my use of the word ‘pretentious’ scare you away if you are interested.  It is a much better story then the critics would make it out to be, mainly because they want to be the ones judging as compared to being judged by a film.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: C+

Overall Grade: B