Tag Archive | Christian Bale

Bidula’s Last Word: The Dark Knight Rises

Harry Knowles of aintitcoolnews.com wrote a review, dropping geek bombs of death all over The Dark Knight Rises.

Reviews like this are the reason I continue to write my own reviews and post them here. As a matter of fact, reviews like this are the reason I started writing reviews in the first place. The problem with most professional critics (and, I stress most, not all) is that the longer they’re at it the more jaded their voice becomes.

In the case of Harry Knowles, a long-trusted voice of the geek community, completely crapping all over Christopher Nolan’s penultimate Batman movie, this has never become more evident.

I am not completely condemning Harry Knowles for this, however, I would point out that the entire basis of his review compares apples to oranges. He’s going back to the source material and calling the movie out on not staying true to the comic. While I understand this and often explain to my wife after most movies based on comics or other pop-fiction which I’ve read/followed/obsessed over that the details in the movie were a bit muddled and here’s how it happened in the original property, I am a strong believer in the separation of Print and Screen.

Nolan’s Batman has never been the real Batman. No cinematic Batman could ever be the real Batman because the DC Universe has taken 73 years to establish. Most movies, especially big-ticket comic book franchises, are made for instant consumption and only have less than three hours at a clip to shove the entire history of a character down your throat to make the average uneducated movie-goer understand. This is no easy feat and is often the cause of potentially great superhero movies falling flat right out of the gate. Green Lantern is a great example of this because there is just too much involvement in the lore of the whole thing for the average consumer to really get it after only a 2-hour romp of what should have been titled Ryan Reynolds and the CG Costume Fiasco.

I digress.

No Batman can be the true Batman because Batman is a character who exists mostly in print. Printed-page characters, no matter how much illustration accompanies them, are always better in the mind of the beholder because it takes your imagination to get them to move around. No matter how many actors fit those parts dead on (Dan Radcliffe’s Harry Potter, Jen Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, et al), if you’ve read the source material – if you’ve obsessed over and re-read the source material and you’ve come to know the characters in a way that only you can really understand – when they hit the screen, they’re still not going to be that character to you 100% no matter how good a job they do. Print and Screen are two distinct entities and, though one may borrow heavily from the other, they must still be viewed as separate-but-equal entities.

TDKR is going to be a polarizing point in geek-movies for a very long time for this very reason.

As most of you reading this know, I am and always have been a huge Batman fan. Pre-Burton, Pre-Animated Series, Pre-People Born After 1986. I feel sad that I have to qualify myself as such to make this review seem credible, but such is the case in modern geekdom.

TDKR was not a masterpiece. It did not unseat its predecessor as the jewel of the Bat-Nolan franchise. The Dark Knight, in my mind, remains the best of this trilogy, joining many other second-movies as the peak to which all others must aspire.

That said, TDKR, if you are a fan of the Nolanverse, is certainly worth your time and your money. Please don’t believe the naysayers (of whom Harry Knowles is but one) who will tell you that it was totally garbage and will scream and thrash and wail about how this movie isn’t a real Batman movie because of the aforementioned objections and comparisons. If you liked Begins, if you liked Dark Knight, you will like TDKR if you keep an open mind.

As I mentioned, this was not a masterpiece, but its ambition was great in scope. Nolan went into this movie knowing that he wanted to bring the trilogy to a conclusion but also knowing that there is a wealth of Bat-Stories that would make for a fantastic movie, specifically a movie that he would want to make. The result is a brilliant mash-up of storyarcs, kind of a greatest hits, drawing from the last 35 years of the comic book that kept me, as a fan, watching every detail to see where things would go next.

The main plot of the movie is a combination of Knightfall, Son of the Demon, and No-Man’s-Land (that gives you enough hints without spoiling the flick for the uninitiated). Bits and pieces of other things are thrown in for flavor, namely some latter-day Catwoman details, as necessary.

On Catwoman: Though Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is outstanding and, in all honesty, much better and less punny than Michelle Pfeiffer’s turn under the ears (the name Halle Barry has no place here), it seems like she was an afterthought in a bigger game. The character is used as a combination MacGuffin/Deus Ex Machina more than getting any true development. However, in the gigantically evolving plot of the whole thing, it was unfortunately easy to relegate her role to something simpler. Honestly, I think it’s a shame that a strong female character like Catwoman gets boiled down to Batman’s sidekick/occasional ass-saver. I suppose some sacrifices must be made for the betterment of the story.

Some to-do was also made regarding Catwoman “just being a professional thief.” Guess what, critics? Catwoman IS a professional thief. That’s her gig. It’s been her gig forever. Just because you had a boner for Burton’s stitched-up, vinyl, vengeance-driven version makes you disappointed? You’ll complain that she’s “just a professional thief” when that’s exactly what she was supposed to be all along? For shame, fanboy, for shame. Again, things are a bit different in the Nolanverse and you just have to cope. I don’t know what you were really looking for beyond this.

On Bane: Tom Hardy. What do I say to you? You’re awesome in everything. You made Inception watchable. This, however, I’m not so sure about.

The obvious comparison is first drawn: Was Tom Hardy’s Bane as good a villain as Heath Ledger’s Joker? The obvious answer is no. This is not Tom Hardy’s fault, however. He played Bane as I believe Bane should be played – cold, calculating, uncaring, brilliant, evil. The problem with Bane that we don’t experience in the comics is the issues of human expression while wearing a mask that covers your entire lower face. Artists can add a greater deal of expression through artistic license when drawing people like Bane (who wears a full face mask in the comics). Tom Hardy cannot conceivably be as expressive as Heath Ledger when his nose and mouth are caged under hard plastic for the entire movie not to mention the fact that all of his dialogue had to be overdubbed in post-production, not allowing much for subtlety of pitch or volume to his lines.

Tom Hardy didn’t fail Bane’s characterization through his acting. Chris Nolan didn’t fail Bane’s characterization by putting the mask on him. Bane, as a character, requires a mask to let us know that he is Bane. They allowed Hardy’s eyes to be exposed, but even then, the character is a remorseless, cold-blooded terrorist with a thousand-yard stare. Tell me he can use those peepers to maximum emotion with that shit going on.

Did I mention this was a VENOM-free Bane? This is a VENOM-free Bane. The concept works for this movie and, honestly, the whole VENOM plotline would have added another half-hour to the already epic 2:45 running time. You can believe from the spoilery bits of background they establish that Bane can still break the Bat. You’re left with a bit more hope that Batman could eventually take him than you were in Knightfall.

Yes, that scene is in the movie. No, it’s not as epic as the original comic book cover. Nor are the consequences. You just couldn’t have Bane in this movie without that particular scene. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, good on you and enjoy the show.

The rest of the cast does an exemplary job, including Bat-Noobs Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard. It’s really too spoilery to go into their backgrounds and I may have said too much just by saying that. There are also two sweet (one serious, one hysterical) cameos from the previous flicks. Keep your eyes open.

In the end, you have to take the Nolanverse for what it is. It’s a different representation of Batman, it always has been. I’d like to say that Batman Begins was the first movie to coin the term “Gritty Reboot” but I might be wrong. The point still stands that this franchise was not built on the mysticism and legend of the mainstream DC Universe. Nolan’s vision for this franchise has always been grounded slightly more in reality. Slightly.

Part of that reality is that Bruce Wayne/Batman is a human being, not an ideal as he’s portrayed in the comics. That has always been one of my main problems with the DC Universe – their characters are too perfect. They are without flaw and without fail 90% of the time. We’ve become so used to seeing DC heroes in that light that we’ve forgotten that they could be real people if they were written that way.

That’s what Nolan has done throughout this Trilogy. He’s explored the duality of Bruce’s character and the struggle to maintain that double life. In this movie in particular, he explores the problems of Bruce and Lucius Fox within Wayne Enterprises to keep the Bat-Tech they developed out of the wrong hands. People have problems. People have feelings. I should say that people have feelings other than the desire for justice at all costs. The DC Universe presents us with the incorruptible and unrelenting quest of Batman. Nolan explores the emotions behind that quest and some think the character weaker for it.

I’ve always found this version of Batman interesting because they allowed Bruce to be more of a human being. He had love interests, he has emotions, he has wants and needs, he has cares for something other than the quest. His regret turns to anger which drives him to do what he does. Batman Begins started exploring that emotion and TDKR wraps it up nicely.

Anyone bashing this movie because Nolan Batman isn’t “real Batman” needs to stop taking things so damn literally. Yeah, they effed with Batman lore. They effed with it hard. But, ask yourself: does it make sense in the context of the film? If you answer anything but yes, I’m curious if we were watching the same movie or if you accidentally wandered into the late showing of Magic Mike down the hall. Also, get over yourself and look at things differently. The written source material will NEVER be the movie, it will only be a shadow or an interpretation of that source material. Take it for what it’s worth and admit that, while this wasn’t a masterpiece, this was a pretty god damned good movie and certainly one worth seeing.

Bidula’s Last Word: 8/10. Shut up and see it.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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The Bat, The Cat, and the Breaker: Dissecting “The Dark Knight Rises”

In case you’ve missed the blurbs, it landed smack in the middle of the internet this past Wednesday that Christopher Nolan plans on using Bane and Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises – the 2012 “conclusion” to the revitalized Batman movie franchise.
Along with the character reveal landed the actors selected for those roles – Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway, respectively.

Both of these pairs of choices are being received as a relatively mixed bag.

Bane, for those of you unfamiliar with the character, was born and raised in a South American prison. He was subject to a law within a corrupt government which required him to serve a life sentence in place of his father, a revolutionary who ran away from the country when he was convicted of treason.
Through his years of imprisonment, he became a world-class, ass-kicking tough-guy from constantly lifting weights and getting into prison fights as well as a super genius due to his constant study of the prison’s library.
Years later, he becomes “king” of his prison. His rule over the prisoners makes the power-sapped wardens volunteer him for testing of a new drug, Venom. This drug killed all other subjects but, due to his ability to take punishment, Bane gains the benefits without death; drastically increased superhuman strength. This leaves Venom as his only weakness, as his body depends on a dose every twelve hours to keep it from collapsing under the strain of catastrophically fatal withdrawal.
Bane first stepped in to the DC universe as “The Man who Broke the Bat” during the early-90s Knightfall storyline which left Bruce Wayne with a broken back (after Bane cracked him over his knee like a twig) and a psychotic Jean-Paul Valley in a souped-up Batsuit taking over for the injured Dark Knight. Of course, Bruce battles back, rehabs, and takes his city back from Valley who had defeated Bane in Bruce’s absence by separating Bane from his Venom supply (slashing a hose that gave him a constant supply from a pack on his back). Valley beat the living piss out of Bane, but left him alive (because, as Bruce had taught him, Batman should never kill).
Bane went from top-of-the-charts to B-list Villain to, of course, his notable stint as Poison Ivy’s borderline retarded bodyguard in the one big smirch on the Barman franchise’s record: 1997’s Joel Schumacker Debacle Batman and Robin.

This could make for some interesting plot. I wouldn’t doubt if there are shades of the Knightfall story within the script.
Will they change the background to fit Tom Hardy’s overtly British character, or will they make Tom Hardy speak with a British/Spanish/Portuguese accent to fit Bane? Either way, we know that CG will probably be used to create Bane’s ridiculously huge physique. I don’t care how much you people love Tom Hardy, he’s not that big, and no one in the world could ever get that big, I don’t care how much time they’ve been spending with MLB Physicians.

Then comes Anne Hathaway as Catwoman who, in the official WB press release, is referred to as Selena Kyle, in an effort to portray Catwoman as a company cuss word ever since Hally Barry went and shit all over it. Regardless of how the Brothers Warner wish to disguise it, it’s still Catwoman and it may still be a bit too soon to put the multiple Razzie-Award Winning candidate for worst movie of all time behind us. Hell, I read the comics and when someone mentions Catwoman, the first thing I think of is the poster for that movie. Sad, isn’t it?
Most of you will remember Ms. Kyle as she was portrayed in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns; a mousey secretary who is nearly murdered by her corrupt boss for snooping around in his private files, but is mysteriously resurrected by a bunch of alley cats (really?). She then cuts up a vinyl trenchcoat and rough-stiches together the Michelle Pfeiffer costume which dominated the minds of the Male 18-25 bracket (and beyond) for the next few years.
The comic book story is much more confusing yet infinitely more proper for a character often portrayed as the one constant love interest in Bruce Wayne’s life. We’ll cut to the chase and say that it’s not nearly as “supernatural” as Burton made it and Selena was a rather strong woman who fought back against adversity to become one of the best thieves in the world.

The prospect of seeing the lovely Ms. Hathaway don the leather of the Cat (I envision a costume reminiscent, if not dead on, with the latter-day comic book Selena) is something that causes many fanboys to shiver in antici… pation. Strictly on a visual basis, I’d call this a winning proposition.
Still other detractors of Anne’s acting skills thing she’s the wrong one for this job. I’m inclined to disagree. I think she’s got the chops and, more than that, she’s good at being believable, which is what Nolan’s Bat-stories have been about since this all began.

These two characters are looked upon by some as a poor decision for what Nolan swears will be the last entry in the Bat-Franchise which he will direct.

The whispers of the Johnny Depp Riddler and the Phillip-Seymour Hoffman Penguin had people on pins and needles for official word. While I am among the masses disappointed that neither of these fanboy fantasy castings took place, I can understand how neither character fits with Nolan’s overall vision of a (relatively) more realistic superhero scenario.

The Riddler, Johnny Depp or not, would have made for a more boring “conclusion” to the Nolan Years. A dark, evil, twisted, Johnny Depp Riddler would make the Nolan-verse into Batman vs. Saw. Riddler was all about the thinking-man’s death traps. I’m sure this would have been key and, as I just mentioned, Saw has been doing that for a grating six (SIX!) movies now. There won’t be any surprise twists and the plot will not snake. Batman fights death traps, wins. Batman finds Riddler, fights Riddler, wins. Credits. Sorry, Johnny.

The Penguin, while an extremely interesting character in the DC Universe, didn’t even play out well with a truncated origin story and Danny Devito behind him in Batman Returns. Yeah, the character was grotesque and had some awesome one-liners, but in the end, there were penguin rocket troops. Really, Tim? Really?
Phillip-Seymour Hoffman would do the darker nature of the character justice, but there is hardly enough time to establish him as the organized-crime kingpin that DC made him into via No Man’s Land (which was, truly, the first time the character became interesting since Burgess Meredeth quacked). Though, this is more plausible than the Riddler due to the Nolan-verse’s recent power vacuum in Gotham’s underworld (spoilers: Joker killed ALL THE BOSSES in The Dark Knight. Remember that shit? Yeah, you didn’t, did you?). The Penguin’s modern Mafioso persona would have been able to play right into that spot and fit right in with the “more real” Nolan-verse. Might not have been a bad movie, either. The only issue: Batman has taken on the mafia in the last two movies. Let’s see something different.

Other people have suggested different villains, such as Talia Al-Ghul, Ra’s’ daughter, which would bring a delightful symmetry to the movies, but again, Nolan is not one to repeat. The motives would be the same (burn down humanity), the random thugs would be similar (ninjas), and everything would drive toward an even more romantic story than the one Catwoman will probably bring. Also, Talia was not mentioned in the previous flicks and would almost be a stretch to believability if she suddenly showed up claiming to be the Daughter of the Demon’s Head.

At least one person suggested Black Mask, recent star of Batman RIP, building off of that story line, and exposing Thomas and Martha Wayne as careless sex fiends and social deviants to attempt to draw Bruce out and ruin the legacy of both him and Batman. My response: A wonderful idea for a year-long story arc, a terrible idea for a two-and-a-half hour long movie. Too much premise needs to be established and that leaves too little action.

Another one was Harley Quinn, which would be strictly off-limits due to the Joker association.
If you don’t think the studio is trying to avoid anything to do with the Joker, look at the fact that they killed Harvey Dent in the end of The Dark Knight. Why do that when a)Two-Face is awesome, b) the beginning of The Dark Knight proved that villains can continue to exist in the Nolan-verse (as opposed to being ruthlessly killed off in the Burton/Schumaker-verse) by having Cillian Murphy reprise Scarecrow for three or four minutes of screentime, and c) Aaron Eckhart was willing to do whatever they asked him to get even a bit part as Harvey in the third picture.
The news broke that Eckhart had been told by Nolan that Harvey was dead, even though he fell from a height that may not have killed him. Harvey’s origin was tied directly to the Joker and his presence in the sequel would remind people that the Joker was also left alive, hanging from the penthouse window of a half-constructed building, at the end of the last movie. Kill Harvey, no appearance. Joker’s legacy remains ambiguous, we move on to the next detective story. Bring Harley into the mix and you’re rubbing salted lemon juice into the Chelsea Grin wound Heath Ledger left behind.

Personally, I think Hush would have made an awesome villain, but he’s nothing without the grand conspiracy which surrounded his identity and nothing without the Riddler essentially behind it all. Not to mention the cavalcade of associated villains working, knowingly or not, in sync to make that arc quite possibly one of the best Bat-Stories of all time. It would be an Avengers Movie like feat to get that one up and running (considering that it included Superman as well) and would be a fanboy wet dream. At least for this particular nerd.

Other villains not mentioned would neither be strong enough to carry an entire movie nor would they fit the “no sci-fi” creedo of Nolan’s vision. Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Ventriloquist and Scarface, Clayface… none of them would work.

My conclusion is that Nolan has the right idea. A master thief and (essentially) a super genius on performance enhancers come in at slightly more realistic, not to mention action-based, than any of the others. He wants his franchise to go out with the same bang which heralded its arrival. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, but you watch the movies to see Batman whupping whole-sale ass. You read the comics for the mystery and the thrill of the page-turn. It’s this very principal which makes Hush and RIP two of the best story arcs, but not very fit for the silver screen. It’s also the reason that Nolan wants to leave the detective stories to the funny papers.

I’ve kept you long enough while nerding out. If you have any varying opinions, by all means, feel free to debate me. Just know that I have a PhD in Batman and a MFA in Joker Studies.

You’re damn right Joker Studies is a Fine Arts major.

Keep fighting the good fight.

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