REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

29 03 2016

I miss Christopher Nolan. Never mind that it has been less than four years since his final Batman film and fewer than 18 months since his most recent directorial effort, “Interstellar.” He understood that the scope of a sprawling comic book movie could be an epic canvas for ambitious thematic and aesthetic content, not just an excuse for bombast and branding.

He has, inexplicably, turned over the keys to the kingdom to Zack Snyder, a director full of sound and fury that signifies nothing. He has an eye and a knack for style, to give him some credit, but Snyder never deploys it in use of a story or an idea. He’s all showmanship for its own sake – surfaces above substance, declaration over development.

As if 2013’s “Man of Steel” was not nauseating enough, he arrives with an “Avengers”-ified sequel in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It’s roughly the cinematic equivalent of Kim Kardashian’s “Break the Internet” magazine cover. Call it “Break the Box Office,” if you will, as it’s already crushing at the box office this year. The film is practically incoherent and only gets more pointless and frustrating with each new turn. With each successive insipid development, the experience is as numbing as it is infuriating.

Snyder is more concerned that we notice the giant CGI pearls snapped at the murder of Bruce Wayne’s mother than providing context or rationale for this universe in which the film takes place. So two superheroes, Batman and Superman, have been living across the water from each other … and that was not worth mentioning in “Man of Steel?” While it’s nice that the film does not waste time rehashing an origin story, clearly Ben Affleck’s Batman is much different than Christian Bale’s. He’s more overtly villainous and cynical – but why?

Perhaps these questions might have been answered in the many scenes left on the cutting room floor. These crucial contextual bits are more important than ever as they could give the franchise a headwind as it launches a bevy of spinoffs and sequels. Marvel movies are bearable because their brain trust actually cares about their characters. They might ultimately succumb to formulaic plots, sure, but they at least understand that audiences want to get attached to these larger-than-life figures. Come and forget the action, stay and remember the characters.

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Random Factoid #527 / I’m a DC

6 01 2011

So Katie over at “Stories That Really Mattered” invited me to be a part of the meme called “I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC” (which should ring a bell from Mac/PC in your head).  I’m pretty noncommittal on the two comics powerhouses as I don’t read the books, and the movies just run together for me.

But, since she asked so nicely, I’ll make a commitment.  I’m a DC!!!

Why?  Three reasons.

  1. They had Heath Ledger.
  2. They have Batman and Christopher Nolan, who made “The Dark Knight,” the only comic-book movie worth talking about as anything other than a movie adaptation of a comic book.
  3. They have “Watchmen,” which was a pretty average movie, but a great graphic novel!  I only read it thanks to the movie, TIME magazine, and a friend’s recommendation, but I certainly did enjoy it.  I don’t know if I’ll ever read another one again, yet I certainly was enriched by reading an entirely different kind of literature.

So there.  Those are my reasons.  Take that, Spider-Man!  Turn off THAT dark!





NOLAN REVIEW: The Dark Knight

14 07 2010

After the modest critical and financial success with “The Prestige,” Nolan returned to the Batman franchise and released a movie that riskily omitted the name of the Caped Crusader – “The Dark Knight.”

Two years later, how do you review Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight?”  What hasn’t been said?  There’s no one left to convince to see the movie; if anyone hasn’t seen it, they aren’t worth the effort.

After watching and rewatching Nolan’s films prior to this, it only made me realize more that “The Dark Knight” is a perfect realization of all the themes he loves to explore.  It’s about the extent of rules and limits, something he touched on in both “Following” and “The Prestige.”  It’s about the blurriness of morality, a theme he examined in “Memento” and “Insomnia.”  It’s about fear and what it can drive us to do and become, something that we saw a lot of in “Batman Begins.”

But there’s plenty unique to “The Dark Knight.”  It’s a rumination on terrorism as the anarchistic Joker seeks to cause madness in the streets of Gotham.  Batman, the only person with any hope of stopping him, has to consider how far he is willing to go to eliminate the Joker before he himself becomes the villain.  As their fight escalates, Bruce Wayne becomes more and more uncertain that he is the hero in his own story.  Some have read into this undertones of George W. Bush waging war on terrorism against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.  That’s a rather extreme way to look at it, but it’s not too much of a stretch to say that this storyline did tap into the zeitgeist.  We ourselves have wondered where to draw the line in our fight on terrorism as to aggression.  How much counter-aggression does it take before we ourselves become the aggressors?

Of course, you can’t discuss the movie without heaping superlative after superlative on Heath Ledger’s The Joker.  It’s a role that deserves to take its place among the most iconic characters in cinematic history, something Ledger’s unfortunate passing sealed.  His complete immersion and stunning transformation overshadowed pretty much every other performance in the movie, which says a lot because there were some other fantastic turns.  Forget the deep, raspy Batman voice and Christian Bale is flawless, delivering a subtle portrait of Bruce Wayne’s affliction and inner torment.  Aaron Eckhart is compelling as Harvey Dent and Two-Face, as good at being the hero with a face as he is at being the villain with half a face.  There’s solid foundational performances from veterans Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, but the movie’s true unsung hero is Gary Oldman.  As the only truly noble man in the movie, he’s a figure to be admired and respected, and there’s a good chance you won’t even notice it.  But that doesn’t stop Oldman from putting any less sensitivity or emotion into it, nor does he try to overdo anything to make himself stand out more.

Still, it wasn’t Heath Ledger alone that drove the movie to extreme critical acclaim and some of the most enormous box office receipts in history.  Nor was it the look of the film – which, by the way, was spectacular, particularly Wally Pfister’s breathtaking cinematography.  It was Nolan’s script, full of intelligence and insight, that won audiences over.  Such intellect was so unconventional for a movie of the genre, and we had generally allowed ourselves to think that action movies don’t require us to engage our brains.  Yet Nolan challenged our assumption and delivered a movie that successfully blended smarts with action, and we loved the exciting and refreshing change of pace.  Now, we want every action movie to be more like “The Dark Knight.”

So call it a masterpiece.  Call it the most thematically rich and relevant movie in recent memory.  Call it the first shot in a revolution for the comic book, superhero, and action genres.  Call it the movie to define a decade not just of moviegoing but also of American life.





Random Factoid #295

19 05 2010

Yesterday, in my history class, we played a game based on guessing themes from movies.  The tunes ranged all the way from “Gone with the Wind” to “Avatar.”

My group got 29/40 (73%) but that still wasn’t enough to be top dog in my section (31/40) or in all the classes (34/40).

Here are some of the themes that slipped us up – AKA I didn’t know them:

“Ben Hur”

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

“The Bridge on the River Kwai”

“Out of Africa”

Shamefully, I missed the themes of four movies I had seen – “Batman,” “Forrest Gump,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and “The Terminator.”





Random Factoid #20 / An Experiment

17 08 2009

A major plus about the WordPress platform is the ability to see how people got to your blog.  I am often amused by the searches that send people my way, and I check it multiple times each day.  For instance, someone searched “Pee in Sink” and ended up here last week.  So, to see what people really search for on blogs, I am going to be tagging this post with some very random things that have nothing to do with what I am saying.

My inspiration for this is Judd Apatow for writing Leo Koenig in “Funny People.”  Leo records a YouTube video with him playing with cats because anything with “Cute Cuddly Kittens” in the title gets millions of views.  He attaches it to his account, and he postulates that people will click on his profile and check out his comedy clips.  It was one of the funniest parts of the movie, and thankfully they posted it on YouTube.

I’ll post the results of what got me the most searches in a week or so.  What’s your vote for the tag that will get me the most hits?  Comment, please!