Jun 112013
 
I'm in ur head, removin ur brainz

I’m in ur head, removin ur brainz

June 11, 2013

Every few months, I get on this Lovecraft kick that often lasts weeks. To satiate this urge, Mary and I watched The Whisper in Darkness, a full-length movie by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, the same people who brought us the short film adaptation of “The Call of Cthulhu.” This was a different film since it was a “talkie” in the style of 1930’s horror films.

So, what’s the verdict? A little background…

The Plot

Albert Wilmarth is a professor of folklore at Miskatonic University. He has doubts concerning the stories coming out of Vermont regarding strange creatures from other worlds washing down the river after a massive flood. After public humiliation following a debate with an anti-science advocate who believes in the stories, Wilmarth is approached by George Akeley, son of Henry Akeley, a man who’s been writing to him for months regarding strange creatures in the hills. George presents Wilmarth with evidence that the creatures are real and forces the academic to doubt his own sanity.

After months of frantic letters, Wilmarth receives one final letter from Henry Akeley asking him to come to Vermont with the evidence. Akeley furthermore claims that his panic over the creatures was unfounded and he now has a deeper understanding of their goals.

Upon arriving at the isolated farm, Wilmarth faces the shocking truth about the creatures and their plans for humanity.

The Good

Much like “The Call of Cthulhu,” this film was shot in “old-school” style, making it look like a 1930’s horror film. The special effects do incorporate some CGI this time around. While the effects do look somewhat cheap, it doesn’t make them less creepy. In fact, it adds to the charm of the overall film. They’re really only showcased in a few shots towards the end, anyway.

The acting is appropriately theatrical given the genre. Perhaps one of the most intense, and nerve-wrecking, moments in the film involved Wilmarth, played by Matt Foyer, simply looking at a door while strange, and possibly alien, voices, moved about outside his room.Having read the story, i knew what would happen, but I still found myself clutching Mary’s hand as tightly as she held mine.

Lovecraft is often celebrated for his imagination, but the original story did end quite abruptly, albeit it with a twist. It was also mostly a series of letters between two characters and some conversation, an exposition of things that had already happened. The filmmakers decided that this was fine, but it also served as a first act to a larger story. Normally, I would be very disappointed in someone thinking he or she should “improve” on the original story, but in this case, it worked.

The second half of the movie starts with what is the original story’s twist, then takes it in a direction closer to a thriller and a race against time. And yes, it does end with the usual dark, forbidding Lovecraftian ending that really seals the deal and creates a feeling of dread.


Mi-Go, the Fungi from Yuggoth by *Cloister on deviantART

The Bad

The aforementioned changes in the story, while pleasant and entertaining, can be a turn-off for die-hard Lovecraft fans. After “The Call of Cthulhu,” a wonderfully faithful adaptation, some might feel this one takes too many liberties with the source material.

There are also times in the movie where things just sort of… stop. It can get a little slow in several sections towards the middle, but it eventually picks up again. The beginning also takes a bit too long in getting to the main story.

The IA! IA! CTHULHU FTHAGN!

This was an enjoyable movie, creepier than I would have thought, and it was nice to see the Mi-go on screen. I would love to see the HPLHS do more of these films, maybe with bigger budgets. They’ve certainly showed they have a knack for bringing the dread and eeriness of Lovecraft’s world to the screen.

Like I said before, though, the change in story at the end might not be for die-hard fans. For casual fans, it’s still a good film. For people new to Lovecraft, I think it serves as a good introduction to the mythos.

If you’re curious, here’s the full trailer. Sweet dreams…

May 222013
 
 May 22, 2013  Posted by at 10:17 am Funny, may, Movies Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
First sign of trouble? Cover vs actual still.

First sign of trouble? Cover vs actual still.

May 22, 2013

As I looked through horror movies to watch this week, I came across Fingerprints, a low-budget horror movie based on a Texas urban legend regarding a train crash. The legend goes that a school bus stalled on a set of train tracks as a train was about to pass. A few kids managed to escape, but most died when the bus was hit by the train. Now, if a car stops near the tracks, the legend says the car will move, on its own, past the tracks. If you put talcum powder or something similar on your car, you’re supposed to be able to see the fingerprints of the ghost children who push you to get you to safety.

This being a state legend, and since I’m still buzzing from Charcoal Streets and those stories, I decided to see what this little film did with the legend, so I pulled it up on Netflix.

And the first thing I see?

Review1

…Comic sans? Really? Okay, so it’s not EXACTLY comic sans, but it’s pretty close. Maybe it’s just the first card.

Review2

Nope. They just keep going.

So, what about the title card itself? Surely they were smart enough to at least put in some weird effects. Or maybe they wanted the titles to look like a little kid drew them, just to hammer the point home that there are going to be creepy ghost children in this film?

Review3

…Wow. They just didn’t care.

First impressions are very powerful, and if my first impression of this movie is that the designers didn’t even bother to find a creepy or even serious font, I’m not even going to bother with the rest. Sorry, Fingerprints, but you actually lost me in three title cards. Bravo.

Apr 292013
 
 April 29, 2013  Posted by at 12:01 am April, Funny, Movies Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Yes, the chainsaw's back.

Yes, the chainsaw’s back.

April 29, 2013

Mary and I finally saw Evil Dead on Friday and were not disappointed. Of course, since this is a remake, everyone’s going to want to know how it stacks against the original, and let me tell you that as someone who grew up with thoughts of Ash kicking zombie ass for many years, this movie does not disappoint. In fact, I welcome it to the Evil Dead family.

Basic Rundown

Evil Dead is about Mia, a young woman trying to kick a serious drug addiction, and her friends and brother who have taken her to an isolated cabin in the woods to help her detox and quit cold turkey. As usually happens, they find an artifact of ancient eldritch power and one of these people is stupid enough to read from a book bound in human skin and filled with images of dismemberment and demonic possession.

Cue an hour and a half of five people trying to figure out how to stop the demon possessing them one by one until it claims all their souls and can escape into the real world.

The Good

Is it the same plot and characters as the original?

Of course not. It’s a retelling, a modern take on Raimi’s original idea. The special effects are updated and make as little use of CGI as possible. Actually, that’s a lie. While I know CGI was used, it’s not noticeable. It’s subtle make-up as opposed to a mask. Not to mention that practical effects just make the kills that much more painful to watch… in a good way.

Best of all, the music and gore are an homage to 1980’s horror movies. Think of it like an old, classic car that’s been given a new paintjob and wax job. Even better, the sound system is updated and the seats got new covers and cushions.

It’s pretty much what I wanted in a horror movie. It’s brutal and bloody without being cartoony. Okay, maybe a moment or two are cartoony, but the movie does a good job of creating tension and using gore to create an unsettling effect, not just for gore’s sake. It manages to keep raising the stakes and still feel believable. The tension keeps mounting for the last two thirds and it works.

Combined with good sound effects, the movie is scary, creepy, and it plays its few jump scares right.

The Bad

No Ash.

Okay, this one isn’t really the movie’s fault, but it’s following in the footsteps of a very famous movie series. Comparisons are bound to come up, but I say let the movie stand on its own. It can do it. As a horror movie, it works.

As a remake… well, I think it works as well as a remake can work. It takes some elements from the first two Evil Dead movies and strips the comedy, something that really made the originals memorable. Gone are the quips and the one-liners, though, which could really have helped move the movie from good to great.

Final Verdict?

Much like The Thing, this movie is a good attempt at trying to follow a series of movies that have colored the horror genre for more than thirty years. This remake/ retelling is its own animal, and by itself is a very creepy, very atmospheric horror movie, if formulaic.

The fact that the people who made the original worked on this as well, and there are hints that this remake may crossover with the original films (and Ash!), there’s a lot to be hopeful for if this series continues.

Check out the red-band trailer below and tell me what you think if you’ve seen it. You can also check out the original on Netflix instant right now if you’re so inclined.

Nov 262012
 
 November 26, 2012  Posted by at 3:10 pm Art, Movies, November, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »

Just your average screw-ball romantic comedy featuring genocidal madmen and Nazi superweapons…

November 26, 2011

How long is long enough for “too soon” to be long ago enough?

More specifically, when can we start using real-world events for fiction? I recently managed to catch a piece of the film Iron Sky, a dark satire of modern world events, American attitudes, and racism that tells the story of Nazis on the moon who have decided to finally invade Earth after hiding for 60 years.

Yes, Nazis. On the moon. With spaceships. Just try to not make too much sense of it.


Iron Sky Wallpaper by ~Dominator501st on deviantART

The movie has its moments, such as the gorgeous space battle between weaponized space satellites and the Nazi fleet, the Sarah Palinesque American president and her shallow bid for reelection, and one moon Nazis conflict with her own morality after learning the true history of Nazism. Overall, not perfect, but it did get to me wonder.

When did Nazis become acceptable as comedic villains? As dark as the movie could get, the villains were over-the-top and as comical as villains on any old movie serial. Nazis have been fodder for pulp action for decades now, and Mel Brooks led the charge, I believe. He once stated that his goal was to make Hitler so ridiculous that no one would take him seriously as a leader. Maybe it’s worked. Brooks, though, is also a World War 2 veteran and was at the Battle of the Bulge, so as far as rights to mock Hitler, Brooks is covered.

But when can we start making fun of modern-day despots and terrorists? The Film Four Lions tried to do this and was met with positive acclaim. The sting of terrorism, though, it very much fresh for many people. Nazism pretty much died with Hitler, and although modern-day Nazis still exist, they are labeled as nuts and whackos, radicals without a home who have been fought and defeated, yet they still cling to an ideology that sent the world into war.


+iKillu+ by ~MadmanV3N0M on deviantART

Terrorism, though, is much more complex. It still exists today, and between drone strikes and invasions, there are many who view it as a legitimate tool to fight oppression and bring vengeance upon the enemy. American imperialism is also very much tangled with exceptionalism and other extreme patriot movements.

The key is that comedy is aimed at the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, not the victims or the crimes themselves. For example, I’m not sure anyone would seriously think a comedy about the holocaust would be either appropriate or funny. Comedy based around terrorists, then, must be about the perpetrators, not their crimes.

Unless you’re racist.

Likewise, it seems we’re not too preoccupied about making movies based on recent events. How long did it take for 9/11 movies to come out? A few years? Television shows set in the modern world obviously had to address these concerns, but how soon is too soon to make a drama about terrorism? 24 was well into production when 9/11 occurred. Now, we have Homeland.

It’ll be interesting to look back on this time from twenty, maybe thirty years from now and see just how our entertainment dealt with a dark period in our history. Will we groan at our dash to capitalize on tragedy or see terrorists reduced to inept, albeit scary, movie monsters?

Just something to think about.

In any case, here’s a group of people who really wish they’d stayed in bed. See you later, and keep sharing posts!

Oct 302012
 

If you read horror with more than one light one, you don’t DESERVE HORROR!

October 30, 2012

While horror movies are all fine and good for this time of the year, nothing really tops a good book in a dark room while you’re wrapped in a blanket. To that end, I picked up a copy of Specter Spectacular and read through it to get my ghost story fix on.

The Good

The stories range from the witty to the macabre, so there’s something for everyone. Those stories that go for creeps certainly deliver on this promise. “Alabaster” has a suitably atmospheric cabin in the woods and a mysterious location, as does “The Little House at Bull Run Creek” with its abandoned Southern manor and mysterious noises. The beginning story, “My Rest a Stone,” has a suitably creepy child narrating the events on a life boat as everyone loses his or her mind.

The stories that really handled description well were my favorites. Horror is all about putting yourself in the characters’ situation, empathizing to the point where you actually

Perhaps my favorite story, however, was “Death and Taxes,” about a ghost desperate to be scary. The very British humor would not have been out of place in a Monty Python sketch, and while I may have been thinking Harry Potter, I could very much picture John Cleese as Jeck, the hapless ghost. On the other end of things, “Wendigo” was very subtle and had wonderful characters to latch on to, as well as a story that was equal parts unsettling and sad.

The Bad

As far as ghost stories and scary tales go, few of the entries in the anthology actually gave me chills. Then again, I’ve been pretty desensitized to those sorts of things and it takes a lot to scare or creep me out. That’s not to say, though, that this is a terrible thing.

Some stories also felt forced. “The Haunts of Albert Einstein,” for example, felt like more of an overtly-long description instead of a story. There were other missed opportunities for great stories. For example, “The Secret of Echo Cottage” was all about a World War II site that was now a home to a pregnant couple. The final twist in the end was obvious, at least to me, but by playing with those expectations, each story could have easily been something different and much more subtle.

The Final Word

While it didn’t give me nightmares, it certainly was fun to read. I enjoyed the patchwork of stories and styles and many of the stories, especially the funny ones, were a good change of pace. If there’s a sequel, I’m defiantly buying it.

Overall, a good read. 8 out of 10.

You can pick up a copy here and see what others have said.

And speaking of ghost stories, let’s see if the remake of Evil Dead is any good. It has all the players behind the camera, but I still think it needs Ash. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Oct 162012
 

For your viewing pleasure.

October 16, 2012

It’s Halloween season again! It’s like Christmas, but watching movies about idiots getting butchered is not frowned upon, so I’m good.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been helping students from several classes, but one class in particular is making students write their review essays on a horror movie. You can imagine my excitement. However, not everyone is willing to just sit down and watch a good dismemberment. And that’s fine. Here are a few films to watch this Halloween season if you don’t want to see blood and gore but would like to see what all the hoopla is about.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

An old manor somewhere in New England has a dark secret, and a father and his daughter, along with Daddy’s new girlfriend, are moving in while the happy couple restores the home to its former glory. However, something has been let loose in the basement, something small and with teeth.

The story has a bit of violence, mostly with one unfortunate victim of the creatures in the basement, and aside from a brief moment in the beginning and the hint of blood, it relies more on suspense and character development. It definitely looks like a Guillermo del Toro movie, too, which is just icing on the cake.

The Last Exorcism

A pastor who specializes in performing exorcisms hires a camera crew to follow him around so he can show them just how the game is played. He’s tired of conning people in the name of God and wishes to show what exorcists actually do. A worried father writes him a letter saying his daughter is possessed, but as soon as our intrepid preacher arrives, he thinks this case is different. This one might be real.

While not the greatest exorcism movie out there, it’s light enough on the blood and gore to still meet expectations. What blood there is mostly shows after the fact and the camera moves away from anything too graphic. The primary horror comes from the mystery of whether or to this young woman really is possessed or if she’s playing an elaborate trick on everyone.

Fair warning, though. The ending really divides people.

Mimic

Another Guillermo del Toro flick, this one has his trade-mark bugs and slime. As a plague seemingly moves to kill every child in New York City, a group of scientists identity common roaches as the problem. Using some slightly unethical genetic engineering, they create the Judas breed, a new insect whose only mission is to destroy the roaches… And it works.

Fast forward a few years and something’s hunting people in New York City. It’s big, strong, and looks oddly bug-like.

Being a horror movie with a monster, of course there are plenty of deaths and eviscerations, but they’re off-camera and mostly in the shadows. There’s blood, but nothing you wouldn’t see in an episode of CSI. It also has plenty of creepy crawlies.

Bubba Ho-Tepp

This is perhaps the best example of a weird idea that just works. Elvis is in a retirement home after having faked his “retirement.” The man in the home is an impersonator, or so everyone thinks. The man in the unassuming room really is the King of Rock after he paid an impersonator to take over his life.

But now, something is stalking the halls of the retirement home, and it’s up to Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy, also in hiding, and now black, to save the day.

The movie is pretty light on horror at first, being more of a character study, but when it gets going, it gets going. This may not be the best “party” movie, but it’s certainly great once you get a few drinks in you and you want the kind of movie that just screams “acid trip.”

Lo

Man loses girl. Man summons demon to find out what happened to girl. Demon proceeds to give man the It’s a Wonderful Life treatment with a theater set that seems to break the universe’s fourth wall with everything from poorly-staged productions to dance numbers. It’s equally sappy, narmy, and disturbing, but it has a sense of humor about itself hat just oozes class.

It’s fairly trippy and very dialogue-heavy. Watch at your own risk. Honestly, I can see people getting bored with it early on, but if you stick with it, the payoff is worth it.

So there you go. Some nice, non-gory horror. And now, for those of us that remember good, old horror, let’s see if the first teaser for the Carrie remake lives up to its source material.

Also, all the previous movies are currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Sep 172012
 
 September 17, 2012  Posted by at 7:17 pm Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »

Restraint? Plot? Characters? What’s that?

September 18, 2012

I did it. I finally sat down and watched Transformers 3.

And there isn’t a drug on this planet that will make me forget what I just saw.

Let me be perfectly honest. I detest Michael Bay movies. They’re vapid, shallow affairs that could only ever be truly appreciated by a 14 year-old boy who’d never seen a breast in real life and has an unhealthy fascination with fire. Also, it helps if said 14 year-old thinks fart jokes are funny.

That being said, this movie was a big step up from Transformers 2. That compliment, however, is a bit like saying that getting kicked in the happy sack by a steel-toed boot is better than getting kicked in the happy sack by an out-of-control 18-wheeler. You’re still getting kicked in the happy sack.


Go Away, Michael Bay by *LadyVenomMyotismon on deviantART

I’m not going to go into too much detail, mostly because I have Charcoal Streets to edit and I need to find a BIG drink. Suffice to say, at least Bay wasn’t jerking the camera around like the was jerking… you know what? Too easy. I’ll just say that at least I could see the action. I’m fair. Plus, the music was pretty good.

Everything else sucked a fat one.

It’s bad enough this movie somehow managed to get good actors. It’s worse when the movie makes blatant references to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and somehow thinks its subtle. It’s bad enough when every woman aside from Sam’s mom looks like a model and somehow manages to wear clothes one size too small. It’s bad enough when the human stories feel like they’re tacked on and the movie has five or six genres it tries to get off the ground, kind of how Bait 3D tried to cram five movies into one.

In short, the only way to watch this movie is to fast forward to the fights. That’s it. End of story.

Speaking of “end of story,” the film just ends with a devastated Chicago and the heroes standing around with a “huh” look on their faces. I’m sure I had the same look on mine.

It’s sad.

Let’s wash that feeling away with a trailer for the new horror film Mama. Let’s hope it’s good.

Sep 142012
 
 September 14, 2012  Posted by at 12:01 am Art, Movies, September Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s OH DEAR GOD RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

September 14, 2012

I’ve made my distaste for Superman known before. I think he’s an overpowered brute that’s too far removed from humanity to really matter. He’s as close to a physical god as DC can show and still remain viable as a recurring character that won’t break the story.

And yet…

I was pleasantly surprised by Superman vs. the Elite. If done properly, I believe nearly any story idea can work. Well, almost any, but you get the point. I was intrigued because the movie is based on a Superman storyline, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” that asked the eternal question.

“Why is Superman still relevant?”


Two down, two to go! by ~BaSHeL1K on deviantART

The Story

Superman fights the Atomic Skull on the streets of Metropolis and causes millions in collateral damage. To draw Superman out, Skull nukes several civilians. At a meeting of the UN, Superman is asked how he can keep just locking up supervillains when he could easily just take care of them permanently. He counters that his ways don’t involve killing, that he wants to show the world that even if all his power, he can be better than a common thug.

Some, however, feel that Superman could be doing more to keep dangerous super-powered criminals down.

Enter the Elite, a group that vocally supports Superman’s efforts to rid the world of crime, but their tactics are much more brutal. And they’re not afraid to kill. After seemingly putting an end to several catastrophes ranging from super-powered villains to terrorists to a possible war in Eastern Europe, the world sings the praises of the Elite over Superman, but Supes thinks the world may regret it…

The Good

The story is an interesting one for me from a thematic standpoint. Does Superman really matter anymore? Do we need the “Boy Scout?”

Yes, the movie says. Like I said, Superman is as close a god as the DC Universe has to offer (aside from those other gods) and puts criminals away. He doesn’t kill, which means villains have a chance of coming back. His adherence to the law means that he’s constantly tied down by bureaucracy and politics. The Elite, however, have no qualms about such things and easily stop a war and deal with Atomic Skull in the most permanent way possible.

They blow his head up in a public execution. This is just one of many times where the sound effects and animation really sold the fact that, yes, these are demigods we’re talking about, but they’re still getting hurt and it SHOWS.

When Superman decides to show the Elite just what their methods will lead to, he seemingly kills each member one by one, until only their leader, Manchester Black, is left. The true horror of an enraged, vengeful Superman has to be seen to be believed.

The best part?

Superman. Bitch-slapped. Manchester Black. Repeatedly.

Seriously, it’s both awesome and hilarious as Black just loses it and actually cries, begging for his life. Of course, that’s not the end of the story, but I won’t give the ending away.

Oh, and did I mention the SWEET intro sequence?

Overall, the movie goes back and forth between very dark action and black comedy, mostly courtesy of Manchester Black, a villain with style and the rage to be both hilarious one moment and sociopathic the next. I figure if the Joker got telekinesis and tried to be a good guy, he’d be Manchester Black.


Manchester Black by *CaptainUnobservant on deviantART

The Bad

The dialogue can get pretty cheesy, especially at the very end with Superman’s monologue. I’m sorry, but it sounds too much like a motivational poster. Up until that point, I was rooting for Supes, but then I had the urge to put up fliers for the elite. The sentiment was there, but as much as I wanted to side with him, he came off like a bad after-school special.

The Weird

Overall, the movie was fun, but I was actually kind of shocked at the level of violence in this one. People get twisted until their arms and legs break, Manchester Black gives a couple of terrorists strokes (complete with blood from the eyes and mouth), and let’s not even mention Atomic Skull’s victims.

This movie has more cursing and gore than other DCAU movies out there, so it’s really better for the adults than the kids.

Overall, a nice romp. It can get a bit preachy, but I think it delivers in the end. ESPECIALLY in the end. I’m talking of the last twenty minutes.

Final rating? 4 out of 5.

Check out the trailer below.

Sep 112012
 
 September 11, 2012  Posted by at 12:48 pm Art, Movies, September, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »

Readings indicate a “Braga” did this.

September 10, 2012

Last week marked the 46th anniversary of Star Trek. That short-lived series spawned an entire culture, but for me, Star Trek was about more that cool ships, ham and cheese, and cool effects.

Star Trek taught me how hard heroes can fall.

It was 1996. I walked into a movie theater and saw the trailer for Star Trek: First Contact. Soon afterward, I tracked down where I could watch Next Generation and, within three years, I’d tracked down stations showing Deep Space 9, Voyager, and the original series. I rented the movies at Blockbuster and read about the making of the show, bought books on the artwork, technology, everything. I couldn’t ingest Star Trek fast enough.

As I grew up and new movies and series got off the ground, something felt off. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. As I re-watched old episodes, I didn’t feel the same excitement. Yes, I enjoyed the episodes, but there was something missing, and it was the same feeling I was getting from the newer episodes of Enterprise and the later movies like Insurrection and Nemesis.


Spock, Star Trek by ~Hanger-18-shirts on deviantART

By the time Enterprise was cancelled and Nemesis flopped, I finally figured out what it was that had bothered me for so long. Part of it, I think, was the fact that Star Trek was no longer about analogues to real-world problems or philosophy. Episodes like “City on the Edge of Forever,” “The Measure of a Man,” and “In the Pale Moonlight” are classics that asked big questions about ethics, the nature of sentience, and the morality of war.

By the time Insurrection, Nemesis, and Enterprise came around, Star Trek was about Star Trek. Voyager was probably the worst offender. Every other word was made up and made sense if you knew the internal science on the show and had a complete disregard for actual physics and engineering. Characters were there to function as set pieces. The biggest slap came with Enterprise’s final episode, a supposed grand finale to the story that was really nothing more than a chance to do a B-story to a Next Generation episode.

I was crestfallen.


Star Trek Abbey Road by ~Rabittooth on deviantART

Don’t get me wrong. I do still love Star Trek, warts and all. My friends and I made it a game to pick out the production errors or blatantly wrong scientific terminology. I still think it made a huge impact on my love of science and speculative fiction, and I have fond memories of finding out my mother was a Trekkie in her youth, watching the redeeming 2009 movie with my now-fiancé, and the shared geekness that links me with millions of people around the world.

But Star Trek did force me to admit that even that which we love can betray us. Oh well. We’ll always have Vulcan.

Oh, wait…

Jul 232012
 

It’s going… going… IT’S GOOD!

July 23, 2012

I waited three days before writing this review mostly because I knew I was going to fanboy all over it. I’ve waited for this movie for over three years. I wanted to see what Nolan would do with the story since the end of Batman Begins. When the first film was announced, I wanted the Dark Knight to get redemption from Batman and Robin and, to a lesser extent, Batman Forever.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was not only satisfied with the finale of the Dark Knight Trilogy, but utterly blown away by it.

The first half of this review will contain zero to minimal spoilers, or at least spoilers that should be obvious to anyone who saw the trailers or is familiar with Batman lore. The second half, which will be CLEARLY marked, will contain MASSIVE spoilers, so keep going until the end at your own risk.


The Dark Knight Rises Poster by ~visuasys on deviantART

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

The story begins eight years after The Dark Knight. Bruce is broken, both physically and mentally, following the ordeal with the Joker and Two-Face. He’s been retired for years, but Gotham has seemingly gotten by without him. Because of the events in the second film, the Gotham Police Department has been reformed and crime has dropped to historic lows. However, when a mercenary called Bane arrives in Gotham, all bets are off. He’s as trained as Bruce, as unpredictable as the Joker, and more dangerous than Ra’s al Ghul.

And that’s just the first fifteen minutes.

The movie did a lot of very good things with both story and characters. Bruce, for example, is showing the real emotional and physical toll of crime fighting for years. His leg is busted and he’s retired due to the events at the end of The Dark Knight. His reluctance to return in this movie shows that Batman may be the peak of human training, but he’s still human. His desire to become a symbol has succeeded and Gotham is safe (at least until Bane arrives), but in the end, Batman must succumb to Bruce Wayne’s own human frailty, both physical and emotional.

At first, the movie felt like it was moving way too fast, but then I looked at it through the point of view of traditional narrative structure. The entire Dark Knight Saga can be seen as one massive story, so in this third act, we can do away with traditional structure. It’s definitely a movie that needs the first two in order to make sense since every bit of backstory is based on those films.


The Dark Knight Rises by ~darroldhansen89 on deviantART

But how does it stack next to The Dark Knight, a movie few think can be topped as far as superhero movies are concerned?

Bane is no Joker, but that doesn’t make him any less interesting. He’s scary. He’s the intelligent, manipulative, BRUTALLY effective warrior from the comics, not the mindless ape from Batman and Robin. While he’s a bit difficult to understand with his mask, he’s not unintelligible and it’s easy to pick up his patterns. I don’t see Tom Hardy winning an Oscar, but I don’t see him NOT taking a place among the great villains in movies. When he speaks or appears, he steals the scene, and his humor, while dry, is very creepy.

Story-wise, the movie moves quickly. It takes bits and pieces from Batman lore, such as the iconic storylines Knightfall and No Man’s Land. One review I read already said the second half of the film doesn’t do the first justice, but I think the author missed the point. The movie is split almost entirely in two due to a single event around the halfway mark that should be obvious to those familiar with the Knightfall story. From that point until the end, the movie moves in a very dark, and very epic, direction. The review in The Atlantic complained that instead of going for the realistic noir approach of The Dark Knight, Nolan went for the epic comic-book feel of the first film.

I think this had to be done.


Why do we fall by ~lerms on deviantART

Like I said, this is the third act. This is where everything comes to a head, and despite Alfred’s insistence that Bruce had to find another way aside from being Batman, he was wrong. The city needed his example many years ago, and right now, he’s the only one who can save them from Bane’s master plan. These films are a deconstruction of the superhero myth. They break down what it would take to be a superhero, then they built the myth back up. The Incredibles did something similar, and the big payoff for the audience in this case is that yes, Batman can be real, and yes, he’s a symbol that’s larger than life.

Make no mistake, though. This movie is the last for Nolan and Bale. This is the end. There will be no fourth Nolan Batman movie. As such, the movie has the massive task of ending Bruce Wayne’s story and Batman himself, and without giving anything away, I firmly believe Nolan pulled it off with grace and a sense of believability. Others have tried to write how Bruce Wayne would end his career as Batman. One of the most famous, The Dark Knight Returns by fallen hero Frank Miller, showed an aging Bruce Wayne taking up the mantle one final time before finally succumbing to age, but not before he fought Superman to a standstill.

Other versions, such as the one from the DC Animated Universe, showed Bruce also retiring when his body simply couldn’t take it. He eventually passed the Batman mantle to another and served as a mentor for many years.

Nolan doesn’t really go that route, but it’s a wonderful ending to Bruce Wayne’s life as Batman. The movie is, in its entirety, amazing. There was ONE little moment where I chuckled at an inappropriate moment, but I’m sure my mouth was hanging open the entire time. I would see this movie on loop for a week if given the chance.

Solid work all-around.

SPOLIERS AFTER THE IMAGE! STOP READING IF YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!


Bane’s secret by ~MacAddict17 on deviantART

The complaints I’ve heard so far has been with the second half of the movie. It’s too bright and Batman runs off with Selena Kyle and abandons Gotham. Also, we have the ridiculous accusations from both sides that Bane is either a stand-in for Romney and the Bain Capital fiasco or a condemnation of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

First off, the movie HAS to be bright. Think about it. Bruce has lost his fortune. His secret is compromised. For all intents and purposes, his life is over, but he can still give Bane one final fight. Batman can’t operate in the darkness after the League of Shadows cuts Gotham off from the rest of the world. He can’t just be a symbol. He must be a symbol and a man, someone who leads by example, and sure enough, there he is at the end, fighting in broad daylight with rescued police officers to reclaim the city. Fittingly, the final battle takes place at dawn, during a new day, and as the movie showed in the beginning, Gotham itself is entering a new day.

Batman won. His crusade overcame fear, anarchy, and iron-fisted order to create something better.

As for Bruce running off with Selena, this one’s trickier. How much longer can he remain as Batman? The doctor told him it would be dangerous, and he’s already suffered broken vertebrae and his leg is busted. He can want to do this all day long, but his body just can’t take more. This is perhaps the most realistic aspect of the movie for me. Bruce realized, like the beginning of The Dark Knight, that he would eventually have to step aside. While Harvey Dent was a massive failure in that regard, when the city as a whole came together, they did what one man could not do. With the Wayne fortune gone, Bruce really has nothing but burned bridges behind him. Faking his death after saving the city from the nuclear bomb allowed him to move on. Bruce Wayne and Batman are dead. No one will look for him, and he could leave confident the city would survive with its new protector: Robin John Blake.


Bane’s Bain by ~fiendfilms on deviantART

As for the accusations of what Bane is supposed to represent, this one is not as clear-cut.

Some on the Right are mad because he’s supposed to represent Bain Capital. I already said why this was such an idiotic theory. However, the speeches about Gotham reclaiming its wealth from the rich and Selena’s speech to Bruce about how the wealthiest people can’t live that way for too long make it sound as though the villains are supposed to stand in for the Occupy Movement.

That is also extremely stupid for a number of reasons.

Bane is “liberating” the city by taking out the police, much like Republicans have stripped police departments across the country of resources and manpower. His idea of freedom is to get rid of every social program and structure and just let people fend for themselves. The regular people are at the grip of courts run by the most powerful. Military hardware is being used against those who would oppose them, much like anti-riot hardware such as sonic weapons were used against Occupy. The final fight sees police fighting armed thugs. The police, in this case, are the people. They are the ones who have been powerless. If anything, Bane represents the establishment, status quo. This is even more explicit when you remember that Bane is working to fulfill Talia al Ghul’s plan of getting rid of Gotham because of its immorality, a line often parroted by right-wing fundamentalists.

So, no, Bane does not represent Romney’s former company, but he does represent a lot of the things the people on the Right do. It’s not a perfect analogy since the tactics he employs are superficially similar to what Occupy did, but the results and rationale are vastly different.

That’s my interpretation at least.

The movie rocked. I’d see it again. Now to wait and see if the next DC hero, Superman, gets a similar resurgence. The first teaser already looks wonderful, shot realistically, and has two versions: one with Pa Kent narrating and one with Jor-El.