Ok, I was wrong…

I’ve never had a resistance to super hero movies. I can remember the first time I saw Superman as a kid sitting transfixed, wide eyed and amazed as Christopher Reeve, god rest his soul, went about his daily business in a rather gawky manner whilst saving the world in his spare time. Not only saving the world of course but reversing time. I’ve never once heard Steven Hawkings disprove that the Superman method wouldn’t actually work.

On growing a little older the genre lost its charm for me. Example after example of comic book adaptation was pumped into cinemaplexes with huge promises of never seen before action. It all came crashing to hard nosed conclusion for me on release of HULK…. I was a great lover of David Banner as a kid, this was the “you won’t like me when I’m angry” TV David Banner of course, played wonderfully by Bill Bixby with Lou Ferringo as the frightening yet lovable monster. The movie was, and I’m an admirer of Ang Lee, HORRIFIC.

My good friend and workplace adversary Matt Etheridge (He loves his Blu-Ray) convinced me, through his relentless enthusiasm for the release of THE DARK KNIGHT to revisit the superhero movie and, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s right.

Christopher Nolan’s reinvention of this particular character is bursting with depth, conflict and, most importantly, bloody good storytelling and filmmaking. It’s not often you get such a cast fitting so well together to make what should be a formula Hollywood film, but is anything but. Christian Bale is fantastic, if you haven’t seen RESCUE DAWN, then do. Herzog and Bale seem like perfect collaborators considering their collective fondness of the physical extreme.

Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman also feature prominently and to great effect, Kate Holmes manages to keep her face looking not too weird by resisting that Cherie Blair thing that she sometimes does but the one appearance that REALLY floated my boat was Tim Booth of Indie legends JAMES fame as a villain who turns up a few times in the picture but says NOTHING… He looks the part, granted, but I don’t know if Gotham City was frequented by mancunian indie frontmen which was maybe a reason for having him mute. By the way, as I was googling Tim, I for some reason put an “e” at the end of his christian name and ended up at, what is probably the most boring website in the world….. see it here.

The scene below is one of my favourites in the film and really gives a sense of what I’m talking about in terms of craft. Bruce Wayne meets Ducard for the first time which proves to be a turning point that will change Wayne’s life forever.

Roll on Dark Knight……..

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4 responses to “Ok, I was wrong…

  1. Ah music to my very ears (or should that be eye’s?).

    “Begins” is indeed a fantastic re-boot of what was a horribly abused franchise by all who had gone before.

    Whilst Burton’s movies may well have been visually stunning and his Gotham certainly had an appeal for those of us steeped in the Batman mythos that was where his connection to the DC legend ended. His Wayne in Michael Keaton was believable enough but his Dark Knight was most certainly not. Jack Nicholson’s Joker may well go down in history as one of cinemas great villains but he wasn’t the Joker I knew and as for killing him off in the first film, this was an act of heresy in mine and most other fans minds. Those that came after Burton showed an even greater disregard for cannon and worse still equal disregard for the characters themselves (nipples on the Bat-suit for heavens sake)!

    Nolan has done that thing (with Begins and Dark Knight) that only he and Guillermo Del Toro seem to do. He has taken the source material and rather than ignoring all those things that made it interesting in the first instance as so often seems to be the case in Hollywood (Constantine being the prime example) he has immersed himself in it. Taking influence from the comic book greats like Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Denny O’Neil (not only a seminal writer but the greatest of all the editors DC has placed in charge of its greatest title) and put them to good use.

    It felt new again and very rooted in reality. And that’s the thing with Bats, of all the comic book icons he is the only one you feel could be out there somewhere, stalking the night streets. The one that, as a kid, you could dream of growing into as long as you ate all your greens, studied REALLY hard, learned kung-fu and if your folks would hurry up and win the pools.

    As for Del Toro his work on Blade and with Hellboy prove that these kids books really can be put up there on the big screen to outstanding effect roll on Golden Army (and of course the Blu-Ray release of Dark Knight)!!

    http://www.hellboymovie.com/

  2. It’s interesting that you should mention Del Toro alongside Nolan as I, on digesting The Dark Knight, also started drawing comparisons between the two. I’ll happily take your word on the treatment of the source material, your love for the comics knows no bounds after all. It was more their use of CGI that got me thinking about them in a common light.

    CGI is, and always should be, secondary to the story and should never dictate the aesthetic of the picture. Modern cinema, and especially the superhero genre (I again refer to HULK) has been awash with lazy attempts to startle us, amaze us and prepare us for buying the XBox360 game of the film…. all of this at the sacrifice of basic interesting narative.

    Del Toro and Nolan use this tool in a completely different way….. You don’t notice it as you’re too wrapped up in what’s actually HAPPENING on screen, you care about what’s going to become of the characters so don’t find yourself searching for something else to hold your attention… That’s not to say they’re not INCREDIBLY impressive looking. Del Toro takes it one step further of course and organically creates elements you think should be CGI… the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth for instance.

    I’m really looking forward to Hellboy 2 but have contacted my friends at lovefilm to hit me with the first installment before it comes out.

    “and if your folks would hurry up and win the pools.” …… Ah, those golden days of trying to find the elusive score draw. Don’t you just hate the national lottery?

  3. I just noticed I misspelled my username! How embarrassing.

    I certainly agree with the notion that Nolan and Del Toro use CGI as a storytelling tool as opposed to someone like Michael Bay or Paul W. S. Anderson who seem to use the story as a bridge to move the plot on to the next CGI set-piece.

    Funny you should mention the Hulk in reference to the movie being an extended advert for the tie in 360 game as in the games industry they have a thing called the “Uncanny Valley”.

    The valley is the gap between what CGI can achieve in bringing ever more realistic “human” effects to the small (or big) screen and those thousands of little human things that aren’t really noticeable to the human eye but are picked up subconsciously. Be they the tiny movements of the tongue over the lips, the dilation of the eye, the subtle change in the jaw or the dozens of shifts in stance we make during a conversation.

    No matter how good looking the CGI model is, until all these little things are built in they will never pass our built in human BS detectors. So even with the phenomenal CGI models in latest Japanese CGI Anime like Advent Children they still look no more REAL then Mickey Mouse back when he was playing Willie and driving a Steam Boat.

    And for that reason no matter how good Hulk or Iron Man are technically those CGI performances are still light-years away from jumping the Valley.

    That I think is where Del Toro’s genius in CGI use comes to bear. His CGI performers aren’t human and his Humans never need CGI. Thus Pan is totally convincing and so is Ofelia. They don’t get in each others way unlike Peter Parker/Spiderman or Bruce Banner/Hulk.

    Until directors like McG or Roland Emmerich understand this or CGI makes its next quantum leap forward I’m afraid we are going to see plenty of this dross.

  4. “The Workplace Advisory” …. So you’re a union man then?

    Couldn’t agree more.

    It makes me feel a whole lot better about the future. With Nolan and Del Toro so revered in the industry, they’ll hopfully become the benchmark / blueprint Hollywood looks to when considering films to be put into production. The dross won’t go away and, despite the rose tinted spectacles I look through when discussing classic Hollywood, it’s well known that the dross percentage was high back then too, in fact it’s always been high.

    As long as there’s enough genuinely good stuff being made to redress the balance, I’m kind of happy.

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