It’s no secret that I have a bias towards #TeamBatman. As someone said to me after asking my opinion of the film; even if Batman just sat silently on a chair in a room, I would have liked it.
When Ben Affleck was cast at the caped crusader, for a moment I thought it was an April fools’ joke. After his unfavourable turn in 2003’s ‘Daredevil’ I was surprised to think that he would want to tread in this territory again, and that studios would take the risk to cast him. I had faith though; this Batman would reflect more of Frank Miller’s mature, grizzled and vengeful ‘Dark Knight Returns’ Batman. Affleck has had a dark and angry side to some of his roles; he made the character his own and pushed the envelope further than I expected. Batman was much more demonic than what we’ve seen on film before; hiding in the shadows and aggressively beating criminals to a pulp. There’s clear influences from his fighting style in the Frank Miller comics and the fantastic ‘Arkham’ video game series. Batman stabs, kills and snaps bones; this has polarised the internet, who firmly believe that killing is against Batman’s moral code. As a Batman fan this didn’t offend me; it’s another interpretation of the character, just like how Frank Miller interpreted it, and just like how Tim Burton did too (he changed the suit, changed the origin, and mounted machine gun canons to the front of the Batmobile…). This is a gritty movie and quite a hard action film, certainly setting a different tone to the light-hearted moments of Marvel. Even from the opening origin of Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered, the gunshots from the steely Colt .45 are painful and brutish to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing the action toned up for the R-rated cut that’s rumoured to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray, rather than it just throwing in some extra profanities. Even for a PG-13 the envelope is pushed. Snyder has made a film for the fans and I have to applaud him on pushing this through.
Zack Snyder is a great action director. BvS feels fresh amongst the director’s back catalogue. We’re thrown in to a thrilling opening sequence set amongst the ‘world engine fight’ from ‘Man Of Steel’, and from the lucid white title card we feel how alien the arrival of the man from Krypton is (more so than MoS). The film feels quite kinetic, and Snyder’s visual style is perfect for this, but the trade-off is that it feels like there is just a shoe string of a plot thread. It’s lots of small visual sequences stitched together with some exposition. The visual style is great and cut together quite well with the pulsing soundtrack.
The other part of the holy trinity, Wonder Woman, was probably the best female superhero I’ve seen on screen yet. Gal Gadot was commanding and confident; I thought she was fantastic. Jesse Eisenberg was surprisingly terrifying as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons was also a great version of Bruce Wayne’s butler/guardian/foster father and Batman’s quartermaster.
There are some really interesting questions for debate raised in the film but they didn’t really get followed up. What should a superhero’s duty be? What effect does a Jesus-like alien from another planet have on the human psyche; a species who believed that they were the only special and self-aware entity in the universe?
The lack of a coherent plot thread is the real villain, and you can feel the difficult task that the editor had. There are some moments, such as Bruce Wayne’s Darkseid dream sequence, that even to someone familiar with the universe seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Snyder and the writers seem to have planned the movie (and perhaps filmed it, given the time it has take for it to arrive on our screens) in spread out chunks and encountered problems in the editing room. There’s no doubt that Warner Bros. got it hands involved and forced too much in to the movie in the pressure to build the DC Universe, but after a second viewing I feel that Snyder actually handled it all quite well. There’s a lot crammed in to this movie and it can be quite exhausting once the final credits roll. Jesse Eisenberg was surprisingly terrifying as Lex Luthor, but I never really caught his motivations of setting up the two titular protagonists, other than that he was a bad seed. Plus, we lingered on Granny’s Peach Tea a bit too long…
For all that Zack Snyder is a comic book fan and did a great job bringing ‘Watchmen’ to the screen, I don’t think that he fully understands why we love(d) the character of Superman. I was sold on the angle that was taken with ‘Man Of Steel’ of portraying him as an alien with a constant inner torment of who he should be in life (should he follow the life of his Earth foster dad from Kansas, or the destiny of his biological father from Krypton?). This was a major focus in the teaser trailers that got me really excited, but it was never really developed in the final film. The long and short of it is that Superman is actually quite boring; audiences can no longer relate to him because he’s indestructible unless there’s some handy Kryptonite around. The Christopher Reeve era was no doubt a high point in the character’s screen career, but the character was still fresh back in the 1970s. Snyder was brave to ‘kill off’ Superman at the end of the film but you always know that he’s going to come back. Someone needs to be braver with defining Superman for a 21st century audience and re-writing the rules for his character. He needs to be more vulnerable and shock us. I don’t think that killing Zod had the desired impact the writer’s thought it would. They also need to be realise one of the key reasons why we love Superman; because he can fly. What’s at the top of many childhood superpower wish lists? The audience got to fly with Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh in ‘Superman Returns’, and even Dean Cain in ‘The New Adventures Of Superman’. As much as Henry Cavill embodies the character we’ve yet to join him in the sky as he’s taking ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ a bit too literally. This surprises me given the amount of stylised slo-mo trademarking in the director’s filmography. Just a final dig whilst we’re on Superman; the hammy dialogue of Superman whilst he had Batman’s iron foot on his throat could have been improved just a little bit….(“Martha….Save……Her!”).
We went to Picturehouse Central to see a 35mm screening, but it was blurry and out of focus around the edges of the screen. The Picturehouse manager tried to blame it on the print. I’m aware it’s difficult with digital projectors, but 35mm is a selling point and people pay specifically to see it in this format (in this case, £18 per ticket – ouch). He was on the defensive, but after a little more persistence we managed to get 2 free tickets (beautiful cinema though – great sound system too in screen 1).
Finally, the trailer revealed way too much. Doomsday should have been the film’s ace card.
…..and The Verdict
A superhero action film I was expecting, and a superhero action film is what I got. I knew going in that it wouldn’t be in the same league as the entries of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but Ben Affleck & Zack Snyder’s iteration of Batman was thrilling and refreshing to watch. Better than ‘Man Of Steel’ but could do with more heart.★★★★★
UPDATE (July 8th 2016): Just watched the 3 hour Ultimate cut. It presented a better moral conflict of Superman, more depth, more mean Batfleck and less confusion! Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Featured image © Warner Bros. and DC.
Much like the backlash that Daniel Craig received being announced as the new 007 back in 2005, Heath Ledger took some heavy hits following his casting as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Every year there seems to be a tribute gallery shared from various movie sources, but the images of Ledger in this one from Moviepilot was very striking. In particular, the one of Ledger pointing he gun to the camera. He looks so unbelievably sinister, I can’t even recognize the Ledger that I knew from A Knight’s Tale or 10 Things I Hate About You. If there’s any image that justifies his incredible casting, it’s this one.
The small Moviepilot Tribute can be seen here.
Coinciding with the release of the Batman: Arkham Knight video game, a free pop-up exhibition appeared in Shoreditch, East London at Kachette last week. Around 20 different capes and cowls were on display, all designed by different collaborators ranging from fashion model Jodie Kidd to British TV/radio presenter Jonathan Ross. Each design was wildly different to one another; some were fasion-led, some were treated as an art installation and some just channeling their passion and inspiration from the iconic superhero.
Plus, getting to stand inside one of the head cowls was pretty awesome too! I need to work on those shoulders a bit more though.
As you may have guessed from rummaging around my website, The Dark Knight is a pretty big deal in my DVD collection. I started playing around with iMovie on my MacBook for the first time, and was surprised at how well it ran compared to Adobe Premiere running on the same machine. Zero lag when scrolling through HD clips. I guess that’s one of the benefits of the entire hardware and software coming from one developer.
None the less, here’s the result of my first use of iMovie. Sure does beat my previous efforts using Windows Movie Maker on my old PC :p
O-M-G! (regulate breathing). Zack Snyder has revealed the new Batmobile and Ben Affleck’s Batman on Twitter. Both are different to the Frank Miller grey/black suit and tank I was expecting, but the Nolan/Burton combination that it appears to be looks awesome! There even seems to be a drop of Schumacher’s Batman Forever in the vehicle too. The suit looks less reliant on armour now and more fabric, suggesting a physically stronger Batman this time around. This makes sense given he will be going toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel. Batfleck looks mean and moody too.
— ZackSnyder (@ZackSnyder) May 12, 2014
As an avid Burton and Nolan Batman fan, everything so far looks positively exciting. I still have some hesitation over Wonder Woman and Cyborg being thrown in to the mix for the Justice League link. However, based on these updates I’m warming to the idea.
Shooting with the cast has been rumoured to have kicked-off this week. May 2016 couldn’t come round any sooner.
The Dark Knight Begins, Falls & Rises.
I remember seeing Batman Begins in 2005 and being completely stunned. “Did that just happen?” Batman was rebuilt, re-configured and we finally got a chance to know the man behind the mask; what drives him to don the cape and prowl the night-time rooftops of Gotham. He became just a man that we could relate to in not knowing his place and purpose in the world, and in the end becoming, “more than just a man.”
After the loss of his parents, Bruce was in search of a father figure, and in the end found 4 “foster fathers”. Jim Gordon was the nurturing and caring father-in-the-making, Ducard provided him with direction and the means to become Batman, Lucius Fox was the fun father with all the cool toys, and Alfred is the worldly-wise side with unconditional love for Bruce. It’s hard to find anyone unaware of the critical mauling the series took after Joel Schumacher’s films, and I was intrigued before going into the cinema to view Christopher Nolan’s reboot, merely going along because I remained a loyal fan and hadn’t given up on the Bat yet. During scenes such as the training on the ice lake, the Tumbler chase and, “Why do we fall?”, it was cementing the foundations of a change in the series and films in general, such as Casino Royale. The reconstruction of the south-east wing was under way, if you will.
[Oh yeah, SPOILERS!]
After the closing scene, The Dark Knight was inevitable, but no-one could have predicted the massive cultural impact that it had in 2008. Heath Ledger’s tragic and unfortunate death shortly before it’s release cast a big shadow over it’s release. Of course the sequel would be bigger, but this defined the superhero movie genre whilst simultaneously breaking all of the rules, finally, after becoming an industry itself since 2000 with Bryan Singer’s X-Men. The good guy got corrupted, the girl died, and the main hero became an outlaw. Some critics thought the Harvey Dent/Two-Face storyline bloated the film, but I found the character arc to be tragic, but also gripping at the same time. One of the fundamental questions it asked, was how far are you willing to go for justice in the state of adversity, and at what cost? Echoing Ducard’s words in Batman Begins, “Are you willing to do what is necessary?” Batman sticks to his guns and uses the symbol he has created to take the fall for Harvey “Two-Face” Dent’s crimes. Then, for me, the greatest cinematic sign-off ever, riding off into the night as an outlaw.
20th July 2012, The Dark Knight Rises is released. How does Nolan top his 2008 entry into his Bat trilogy? If “fear” was the theme of the first film and “chaos” of the second, the conclusion is ultimately about “pain”. Mentally, Bruce Wayne is still mourning the loss of Rachel, and physically suffers critical injuries from both his previous and current encounters with Gotham’s scum. Alfred cannot bear seeing the boy he has cared for all of his life destroy himself, Commissioner Gordon is injured by Bane’s thugs, and Bane himself is in constant pain which can only be suppressed by his mask. The film also deals with current themes in society as the great divide between the rich and the poor, in a very Dickensian “A Tale Of Two Cities” way (which happened to be a key influence on the film, according to Nolan).
Anne Hathaway practically steals the show as Selina Kyle, effortlessly switching from her “regular gal” persona to scheming cat burglar, really showcasing her fantastic acting ability. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great addition as GC cop John Blake and, some fans may hate this aspect of the conclusion, earns his stripes as Batman’s potential successor. Tom Hardy is absolutely menacing as Bane, both physically and verbally. I dismissed all of the initial criticisms of his voice issues with the mask after seeing the 6 minute prologue earlier in the year; I could understand everything he said, and when I heard the petition to alter the voice I was a little disappointed. Even so, viewing this film with a good sound system is a must. During the confrontation between Bane and the Bat in the sewers, it really conveyed just how sinister and devoted this villain is to his destructive plan. How can we also forget the man of hour, Christian Bale. Ever since his American Psycho performance, he as continued to impress. He has been fantastic as Bruce Wayne and really steps it up several gears for TDKR; you can feel his emotional wounds that continue to haunt him day and night. More so in this film than the previous two. However for me, Michael Caine hits the emotional notes of the film. His turmoil of seeing Bruce destroy himself and failing to protect him really put a lump in my throat in the cinema! When he and Bruce go their separate ways, eventually leading to Alfred’s worst fear, it’s very rewarding right at the end to see Bruce find happiness and succeed in making the Batman a symbol, whilst hanging up the cape and passing the torch. During the closing scenes, I was a little scared that it would be an Inception-style cut away to the credits. Thankfully, Nolan finds closure and doesn’t leave any stone unturned.
The sheer scale of this film is unprecedented; Gotham City is locked down and at war. Whilst other summer blockbusters in the last year or so (such as The Avengers and Transformers 3) have bloated the destruction of a city at ransom with CGI, this felt somewhat fresh. Wally Pfister’s cinematography of Gotham in the winter snow is somewhat beautiful but harrowing at the same time. It feels like it actually could be your city. The set pieces are very impressive too and it was hard not be stunned by the Batman’s triumphant return in the Stock Exchange attack. Along with the parallels to the Knightfall story line from the comics, it was nice to see Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns be one of the key plot influences too in Batman’s eight year hiatus (“Son, you are in for a show tonight!”). Christopher Nolan and the writers clearly know their source material well, more so than previous directors, and it pays off immensely. The parallels to Batman Begins were well utilised; linking it back full circle with the League of Shadows and the resemblance of climbing the pit to climbing the well at Wayne Manor as a child.
As trilogies go, this sits at the top of the bill. Fantastic writing from Jonathan & Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer, stunning production design all captured by Wally Pfister’s beautifully natural cinematography. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s excellent soundtracks are a character as much as Gotham City itself. They continue to impress more and more with every viewing. The sequels may have been unplanned, but the film-makers have been uncompromising in creating fantastic characters that have gone on a thrilling journey with moments that have seared into our cortex’s as well as celluloid history. It’s a superhero trilogy with a soul, even if it is a tortured one. I feel privileged to have been able to see all three from beginning to end in the cinema and see the effect that they have had. The overall story arc focus of Bruce Wayne (as opposed to previous films where the focus was on the Bat) from mourning the loss of his parents, finding his purpose and creating the symbolic legend was pitch perfect. My only wish? That I can watch them all again in the cinema for the very first time. This bat trilogy was more than we deserved, and the one we needed.
Batman Begins ★★★★★
The Dark Knight ★★★★★
The Dark Knight Rises ★★★★★
The folks over at the Dark Knight Rises.com have kick-started the viral campaign in the run up to the movie’s July 20th release date. From the link, it’s a collection of police files and an arrest warrant on “the vigilante know as Batman” from the desk of one of Gotham City’s finest. At the end of the document it details a list of locations across the world, 5 of which are here in London. Every time someone tweets a picture with the hashtag #tdkr07202012 of the findings at the location, a frame is unlocked from what looks like the final trailer for the film. The nearest one to me would be the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane in Shoreditch which I investigated earlier and is the image for this blog post.
I was going to say that hopefully within a week or two, the new trailer will debut online in full HD glory. However, looks like the world has rushed out to these locations quicker than expected; the trailer was online as of this morning and is embedded below!!
Meanwhile, trailer #2 can be found on my previous post.