Film #62: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

20120806-171616.jpgdirected by: Christopher Nolan
language: English
length: 164 minutes (almost three hours)
watched on: 1 August 2012

This film has had a lot of hype surrounding it recently, although not nearly as much as the latest Spiderman and The Avengers, both of which I’ve sort of eschewed – although even if I’d wanted to see it, The Avengers isn’t actually out in Japan yet, as I found out to my mild surprise when I saw the poster in the cinema going to see this film. It seems that The Dark Knight Rises (confusingly called ダーク・ナイト・ライジング – ie, “Dark Knight Rising” – in Japan) and The Amazing Spiderman were both released “on time” in Japan – indeed, Spiderman was released here before it was in America and The Dark Knight was released only a week later. Anyway, I’ve kind of made that choice because I saw Spiderman 3 and hated it, although I’m aware that the newest film has a completely different set of actors and storyline, and because I got sick of seeing posts about The Avengers on Facebook and various other places on the internet. Plus, Christopher Nolan is a very vocal supporter of IMAX technology, and I’m not the kind of person to let slip an opportunity to go to an IMAX cinema.

However, IMAX cinemas here are surprisingly thin on the ground. It was either Toshimaen, near a theme park, or Urawa, which is not technically in Tokyo, although it was the one I went to because it was more convenient for my friend. Both are run by United Cinemas. There may be one or two more but they were even less accessible. There is simply no equivalent to the prominently-positioned London IMAX, which also proudly boasts a 20m high screen – in contrast, this was only just noticeably bigger than a normal screen (although to be fair, the adverts at the start took up a very small proportion of the screen). The image quality was pristine, though, and filled the entire screen during the important action sequences (during unimportant scenes, the image quality was lower and the screen was letterboxed).

As for the film itself, it was roughly the same as the previous two films in the series; fun action sequences, Batman, and pretty people. This time in particular they added Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, and JGL as some cop who Believes in Batman. There was also that French woman who was the evil wife in Inception… I think Nolan seems to be getting a high retention rate with his actors these days; all that was missing was DiCaprio to make this a “Who’s Who” of the Inception cast.

The storyline, unfortunately, was a bit unmemorable in places, although the main bit is easy enough to sum up: it’s about seven years after the last “Dark Knight” film, and Batman is in hiding, and there’s a madman called Bane who wears a mask, almost like Darth Vader but it doesn’t cover his face completely and looks like an insect, and he holds the city of New York Gotham to ransom with a nuclear bomb, which was somehow derived by taking the reactive core out of one of Bruce Wayne’s research projects. So Batman has to come out to save the day. Wayne ends up being captured by Bane and thrown in a prison pit somewhere in… India, or Arabia, maybe? And Catwoman, who’s basically a scoundrel and a robber, becomes involved along the way somewhere. Twists and turns abound by the end of the film, and are executed well. It did end up getting too complicated and contrived, though (although not too difficult to understand for someone who’s either not seen the previous films or forgotten them), so I just sat back and enjoyed the moment.

Anyway, the visuals, as I mentioned, were excellent, especially in IMAX, and the film itself was very enjoyable, if a little confusing in the plot department. I guess it could have been cut down a little bit, as almost 3 hours is a very long film, although I was generally satisfied with the length.

The character of Bane presented a few problems to the film, chief among which is that he can be very difficult to understand, and there were at least a few lines where I just didn’t catch what he was saying. This is because of some kind of distortion on his voice from his mask. Actually, I’ll have to mention the other problems later, because they’re kind of spoilers.

So anyway, I’d recommend this film. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s pretty good, and definitely worth paying the extra to see it in IMAX. Go on, go now, because then you can read the next paragraph. It’s got spoilers in it, I’m afraid. I do put a warning at the top of the page on my blog, but just in case you don’t bother to read that, I just want to reiterate it again.

So, you’ve been warned. If I had to pick out one thing that I disliked, it is that later on in the film we start seeing all-but-direct comparisons of Batman to Jesus, with references to Gotham as a city of sinners, and, as you can perhaps guess once you’ve noticed that, a sacrifice/redemption plot point at the end. I guess I don’t buy into this idea that people are sinners and “deserve” punishment – yeah, to be fair, this is the line of the villains, but the idea that then someone else has to bear the brunt of that punishment for them is rampantly christian and to me it’s a boring point of view. It’s kind of left open whether Batman is actually dead or not, in the same way as Inception did with “is the world real or not?”

As for Bane, the other problems with his character included breaking some of the conventions of film. The number one issue was that his mask was never taken off. Even with Darth Vader we got a look in in the third movie. It’s kind of like Chekov’s Gun, the convention that dictates that if you have a gun in a scene in a film, it should go off by the end of the film; here, if someone has a mask on, they should take it off at some point. So I was waiting around for Bane’s mask to come off, and when it didn’t, I left a bit unfulfilled. Bane’s introduction also came a bit too early in the film for my liking, leaving it difficult to build up any mystery or intrigue around him, although in fairness, this can highlight the sheer bluntness and brutality of his character, that he’s able to simply muscle into the film without much fanfare in almost the first scene. And as for his death, it was too anticlimactic. I know Nolan is a “visionary” director who likes to play with the “language of cinema”, but I think some of these conventions become expectations, so they certainly left me disappointed.

Oh, and the other thing that filmmakers need to stop doing is only showing the title of the film right before the ending credits. I WANT AN OPENING TITLE CARD, DAMMIT!

But just to reiterate, good film, and I liked it.

TV: Father Ted (1996-1998)

Created by: Graham Linehan & Arthur Mathews
Language: English
Length: 24 episodes of about 25 minutes and 1 double length episode
Finished watching on: 26 July

An old favourite, and a great show from Ireland. Or was it Britain? Not really bothered, to be honest. The characters can be a bit one-dimensional at times, and there isn’t much development between episodes, so it lends itself to the style of just being watched irregularly on TV whenever it’s on. So this is the first time I’ve watched it through from the beginning. Except that I didn’t, because I actually watched some of the episodes on a compilation DVD around Christmas before deciding only a couple of months ago to actually watch the rest too.

Anyway, I was kind of surprised to discover one or two episodes that I wasn’t sure if I’d seen before. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, though, since the show has been around for so long.

The comedy is almost sublime in certain episodes. The writing managed to become so tight that in at least a couple of episodes – the racism one jumps to mind – everything that happens in the plot becomes one contrived coincidence after another to make Ted look like a racist. It’s things like that that make the series great.

Sadly, a combination of “British Brevity” (the TV Tropes name for the phenomenon of short series in Britain, and conversely long series in America) and the premature death of its star a day after filming of the final episode means that there’s only 25 episodes, which is far too short! I want more! On the other hand, the episodes are perfectly rewatchable, so I’m not going to worry about that too much.

Film #61: The Hangover (2009)

20120802-192030.jpgdirected by: Todd Phillips
language: English
length: 97 minutes
watched on: 25 July

Awful, racist and homophobic.

I guess I’ll never understand the American straight guy tradition of the bachelor party. OK, so we have the tradition in the UK, too, but I’ve never been close enough to someone to get invited on one. This was just some kind of exploitative rubbish that got churned out of someone’s dick the other year.

To some extent their situation is relatable for me, in that I’ve certainly had drunken nights that I can’t remember, and the hyperbole (they find a tiger in their bathroom and a baby in the cupboard) is indeed a standard comedic device which has the potential to work. Overall, the premise could quite easily have made a good movie. However, they didn’t pull it off. It’s just like all the Judd Apatow movies (and that is, to be fair, what I expected of it, so I guess it didn’t underperform on those expectations, but still!), only those weren’t so bad. I mean I remember laughing more than twice in the entire movie at those ones… After a while I kind of sat in dull disbelief at what I was watching.

Apart from the racism and homophobia, which I can’t really be bothered going into in much detail (the main antagonist is a camp Chinese man, along with the incessant “no homo” type gags), it also rehashes some very old and demonstrably false stereotypes about Las Vegas – particularly that you can get married on such short notice while steaming drunk. Also, what is a beautiful woman like Heather Graham doing with a cunt like whoever the fuck it was she married, who was off his face when they met? And the plot is almost exactly the same as that episode of The Simpsons from ten years earlier.

It’s just not worth anyone’s time – don’t bother!! Unfortunately, audience figures were still high for the movie, enough that they made a sequel. No thanks.

TV: QI Pilot

20120802-190110.jpgProduced by: John Lloyd
Language: English, and Dutch for some reason
Length: 45 minutes I think
Watched on: 18 July

It’s always interesting to look back at the earliest version of a show you know quite well and this is no exception. This version of QI, only released on DVD and not broadcast on actual TV, uses a completely different set to the main show and has no screens, but all the other elements are there: for instance, Alan Davies, the General Ignorance round, and individual buzzers (although it was Eddie Izzard who got the “joke” buzzer, and they were mechanical things like kazoos rather than electronic like in the main show).

In form, it is mostly the same. There are more “named” rounds (presumably they decided that cutting it to just General Ignorance would be less confusing). Mercifully, Stephen Fry doesn’t spend too long reciting anecdotes, which he does more often in series “A” – a feature that they later cut down to one per episode (as a “stinger” just before the credits).

Anyway, it was a good panel, for years it was Eddie Izzard’s only appearance, plus it also has Bill Bailey and some other guy I didn’t recognize (Kit Hesketh-Harvey… or something), who hasn’t been back on the main show. What also amused me was when Fry announced that they had to end the show because they were running out of tape… now of course this would never happen because the show is so successful and has a presumably massive budget…