I love Christopher Nolan’s style of filmmaking along with Wally Pfister’s / Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography style. I really enjoy cutting together short compilation projects and can’t believe it’s taken me this long to think of creating this (previously I focused his ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy). I tend to find a piece of music first and then think of key images/quotes to define the theme of an edit. I find cutting to music so much more effective. I need to refine my dialogue isolation skills, but I’m proud to now showcase my latest project. I cut this together just using iMovie (I need to renew my Premiere Pro license!).
All clips property of Warner Bros.
Music: “Time” by Hans Zimmer
We’ve reached “one year from now” that closed the teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan’s epic sci-fi space voyage, Interstellar. Unfortunately, we had to wait the old fashioned way on Earth time rather than finding a wormhole to the end point. I went into an opening night screening and came out 166 minutes later a different cinema viewer. I walked out the cinema with my jaw in my hands. When I finally managed to regain cognitive motions, the first words to escape my mouth were, “F***. Me.” Interstellar and its themes are mesmerising, epic and down right beautiful.
Naturally, there be spoilers ahead.
I’m a huge fan of Nolan’s work. Outside of The Dark Knight trilogy my favourite Nolan film is The Prestige. How far are you willing to go to be better than your rival? I feel that’s a consistent theme throughout his work. With The Dark Knight it questioned what extent we would go to triumph over terror. Interstellar questions what lengths we would go to for survival. I was worried that the hype would ultimately be too much with Interstellar. However, it’s another ambitious and cerebral film with its visuals (somewhat) grounded in reality, primarily by avoiding CGI whenever possible. The future isn’t stylish and grandiose but instead utilitarian and worn out. As expected, this isn’t a standard film about saving the planet. Interstellar follows in the ambitious footsteps of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is an epic space voyage to places thought beyond human reach, and Matthew McConouhguy is the explorer. Along with the amazing TARS to help him (question: when will we have the action figures!).
What I love ultimately about the film is that it’s a story about a father wanting to preserve a future for his daughter and keep his promise to return home to her (not to sideline the son or anything). There are some loose parallels to Inception whereby Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, just wanted to return home. He was willing to do what is necessary. It’s a testament to the human spirit. Then there’s the question of when Cooper and Murph will reunite. The closing scenes left a lump in my throat and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. It was both somewhat tragic and optimistic at the same time. Although I would have liked to have seen more of a reunion between Cooper and Murph. She’s had two father figures leave her (the second being Professor Brand), I felt that the emotional envelope could have been pushed a little more here.
Interstellar is a film that asks a lot of questions; some existential and some moral, returning a lot of satisfying answers and leaving the right things ambiguous. Nolan never spoon feeds the audience unless he must; interpretation is the key. That’s the genius of his films. He trusts the audience to think for themselves, and thankfully the studios trust him. I’ve read, spoke with and heard people frustrated by the plot holes and scientific accuracy. Then there’s the others who I simply have no time for; before I could even fully open the door when leaving the screening, someone instantly brought the claws out for Anne Hathaway (“You take that back!”). At the BFI IMAX too, I thought they could screen these people out at the ticket desk. I’ve always been fascinated when science fiction films play with timelines and intersect them, much like Lee Smith’s editing. Interstellar has a field day with this and plays with relativity, wormholes and the 5th dimension. Even a week after viewing it I’m still contemplating the theories of the overall timeline. I don’t always need a film to provide me with defined answers of where the characters end up, just the sign posts will do. I can take it from there…
Matthew McConaughey shines and hits the right notes as a father and a space pioneer. The McConnaissance is still in full swing. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck and a well-cast John Lithgow (from 2001‘s follow up, 2010) all bring their A-games. A real stand out is Mackenzie Foy (young Murph), who really excels in a heartbreaking scene when she asks McConaughey “when” is he coming back. A pleasant surprise was to see Matt Damon emerge from cryosleep as Dr. Mann, “the best of us.” I thought it was a clever idea to introduce a big name actor at this point of the film to keep engagement high.
Needless to say, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is another superb entry into his epic discography. His scores are characters in their own right. There are a couple of other tracks used in the trailers too that are of equal standing, and I mistook them for Zimmer’s until I read the track listing fully. Unfortunately Nolan’s long term Director of Photography, Wally Pfister, was away working on his own directorial debut, Transcendence. Hoyte Van Hoytema created some beautiful shots, maintaining that real and gritty look that is associated with Nolan’s films. The special effects are really something too, and the scope of them is on par with Kubrick’s 2001 (‘relatively’ speaking, see what I did there). Big, bold and epic space movies have unfortunately been absent from my box office showings. Some have come along, such as Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, but these have been few and very far between. Maybe this is a result of studios remaining safe in the Marvel effect, who knows. It’s difficult not to mention it again, but I’m glad that I’ve been able to experience this generation’s A Space Odyssey.★★★★★
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
Why the world needs Superman.
Krypton’s greatest son has dropped back into our box offices this weekend with an almighty sonic boom. Zack Snyder is behind the lens, along with Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer on executive producing and writing duties. Whilst the film takes a much more darker and sombre tone to it’s predecessors, what it loses in bravado it certainly makes up for in scale. Right from the very moment to opening titles dissolve we are thrown into a doomed distant planet of Krypton. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) realises his people’s fate and decides to launch his newly born son, the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries, to the distant safety of Earth. Along with baby Kal-El he includes the planet’s genetic codex, an item which General Zod (Michael Shannon) seeks to acquire for his own gain once he escapes the destructing planet. Zod and his team are apprehended as they watch Kal-El’s pod launch and are banished to the Phantom Zone. The pod escapes as Krypton implodes and hurtles toward Earth, crash landing in Kansas to be found by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and, well, you know the rest…
This films starts very strong. Other directors of summer blockbusters have attempted to throw the audience in without a chance to breathe, but Zack Snyder achieves this effortlessly. No stranger to the action or comic book adaptation, he presents glimpse of Krypton not given the right amount of screen time it deserves before in the Hollywood exports. Every child of Krypton is genetically created with a pre-determined purpose in an organic chamber, but Kal-El is the first natural birth to occur on the planet in centuries. He is free to determine his own path and have a luxury that no other Kryptonian has; choice. We get a chance to understand where the Man of Steel hails from and what he seeks to understand, and it’s a thrilling and emotional sequence by the time he leaves the doomed fate of his parents behind. However, Snyder only likes to allow the audience a brief amount of screen time to try and catch their breath.
The non-linear plot that follows certainly has the benefit of avoiding all of the rudimentary origin stories that we’ve seen before. Screen time isn’t wasted with the Kent’s discovering Kal-El’s crashed pod once again. I’m a big fan of this method of story telling as it engages the audience so much more; we’re given pieces of a puzzle to put together. Clark Kent/Superman is such a fascinating character to study. He’s torn between two personas from two very different, but good willed, father figures. The Clark side has been raised as a farm boy with high moral values and to hide his superhuman powers for the greater good, whilst the undiscovered Kal-El side is intriguing but advised to use the god-like powers to lead mankind. It’s nature versus nurture. Which father figure does he lean toward more? Was his real father a good character or bad, and is his DNA coded for the same future? Clark seeks to know himself and whilst roaming the earth as a nomad, he feels that finding his people will answer the questions that have been plaguing him for so long. For me, the heart strings were tugged when Jor-El made the hard decision of letting Kal-El go, and Jonathan Kent doing the same during the tornado sequence. This film is as much about ‘what a father is’ as well as discovering who you are. It’s quite fitting that the film was released on the same weekend as Father’s Day here in the UK.
Henry Cavill brings the gravitas and responsibility that the role requires. He stands tall and you can sense his goodwill and empathy, and he physically embodies the Superman physique. Hats off to his dedication and the fact that no smoke and mirror “ab suits” were needed. The suit itself looks great in the muted dark colours, with notable influences from the Action Comics style. Amy Adams shines as Lois Lane, playing here as ballsy as the character has always been. I was really disappointed with the character in Superman Returns, I thought she was more Mary-Jane Watson than a go-getter Pulitzer prize-winning reporter. Although the real stand out performance is Michael Shannon as General Zod, whom he plays with pure and absolute conviction. Every line spoken by Shannon has a feeling of serious intent behind it. His message demanding the surrender of Kal-El was a brief switch in genre to horror and very effective. Antje Traue is also beautifully menacing as Zod’s second in command, Faora, and is reminiscent of Blade Runner’s Pris and X-Men’s Mystique as statuesquely dangerous.
The Terence Malick-inspired macro shots work beautifully during Clark’s early years and really ground the character. There’s also an echo of the Dr. Manhattan imagery from Watchmen (Snyder’s 2009 superhero magnum opus), when Lois and Kal-El are standing opposite each in the desert. Man of Steel is also action-heavy as you’d quite rightly expect from Zack Snyder, and there is a slight feeling of CGI overdose as you near the end of the 148 minutes. The scale of this movie is HUGE and quite rightly so. I wasn’t keen on seeing yet another finale of a city under attack but it somehow manages to create more destruction. Think of the formula for the Metropolis showdown as Matrix Revolutions + Transformers 3 + Avengers Assemble. Kal-El is thrown through an entire block of skyscrapers and the screen is painted with rubble and explosions. As for the somewhat controversial ending with instead Zod kneeling before Superman, I thought it was surprising and intriguing. Superman doesn’t kill, but why? He was forced into a corner by Zod and is immediately haunted by the decision.
I was worried that the pressure of a DC Universe film would intrude on the individualistic story of the film. I prayed to God that there wouldn’t be an end credits sequence like the Marvel films, but I thought the subtle DC easter eggs were well placed (such as the Wayne Enterprises satellite and the Lex Corp tanker/building). The closing scenes of the Kent’s proudly watching a young Clark play around in a red cape, and present day Clark embarking on his induction at the Daily Planet (along with the perfect “Welcome to the Planet” line) was inspiring with Hans Zimmer’s score pounding in the background. Man Of Steel isn’t quite the in-depth character and morality study a lot of us hoped for, but it is a valiant entry amongst the ocean of Superman interpretations. I’m already looking forward to the sequel.★★★★★
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 ★★★★★