Henry IV (II.v.425–439)
If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
William Shakespeare From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats
The Dark Knight Rises review (spoilers)
Marvel’s The Avengers and DC’s The Dark Knight Rises sit on opposite ends of the tonal spectrum. Where TDKR is gritty The Avengers is glossy. Despite these differences the parallels between the two movies are clear. They are the flagship of their brand towing the lesser films in their wake. Christopher Nolan was taxed with introducing a whole new roster of characters to the DC universe: Bane, Catwoman, Robin and Talia al Ghul. Unlike Joss Whedon, Nolan didn’t have the canon of films to call upon, meaning he couldn’t simply welcome characters back with a well placed quip. His success in introducing these characters was varied. Bane’s motivations may have seemed unclear unless you remember the conceit of Batman Begins. He aims to rid the world of the corruption of Gotham, which he deems to be in an irretrievable state. Christian Bale’s Batman believes that Gotham isn’t beyond repair with this forms the conflict between the two characters. No review of Batman will get too far without mentioning Heath Ledger so there his name is.
Anne Hathaway has received a lot of plaudits for her role as Selina Kyle (never referred to as catwoman, presumably to maintain realism.) Hathaway plays an empowered female cat burglar who is frequently referred to too highlight the theme of privilege versus the poor. Catwoman can be played as both a villain and a hero and Nolan choose to split the difference and cast her as a hand for hire. As Hathaway says in interviews she lives by her own code of ethics (no shit right?). Her acting is fine in this movie and is certainly better than Katie Holmes in the first. The pay off to her character was slightly disappointing, I found her returning to save Batman to be predictable and would have rather she didn’t have to go through a moral journey throughout the movie. I blame Stan Lee for the incessant morally questionable character to do gooder shift. In the lineage of Catwomen (Catwomans?) she is certainly better than Halle Berry who proved that Catwoman wasn’t a strong enough character to carry a movie.
Talia al Ghul’s character arc mirrors Selina Kyle’s. We think her to be an executive on the board who is romantically interested in Bruce Wayne, this romantic interest culminating in a laughable Women in Love fireside scene (why would Talia al Ghul do this? Was she punishing Batman?). She turns out to be the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and is the brains behind Bane’s brawn. So well done to women in this movie. I suppose there can be more to a female character than Scarlett Johansson’s fantastic behind (see We Built a Zoo review) or the arrow firing temptress’s of The Hunger Games, Sucker Punch and Brave. In fact you can map the trajectory of the strength of women over the three Batman films. We start at the low point of the soppy doting Katie Holmes, then the more lawyerly Maggie Gyllenhaal to the peak of Hathaway/ Coutillard femme fatale empowerment. Coutillard is in vogue at the moment what with Inception and Midnight in Paris and she is better in those two roles as the wide eyed manic pixie dream girl. Just like with Hathaway I didn’t find her turn believable but that may be due to all the exposition they invested in Bane and the lack of investment in her.
John Blake/ Robin’s involvement seemed largely superfluous. He was a replacement for Commissioner Gordon in terms of his role in the plot and in his relationship with Batman. This unnecessary involvement meant that the film was far too long and left characters like Talia al Ghul underdeveloped. I can’t fathom what Joseph Gordon-Levitt did to warrant his casting in all these Nolan films, maybe he’s got beer flavoured nipples or something. When the time came to reveal that he was Robin it felt a little hollow and was one reveal too many. Why not let people wonder if he was playing Robin or not? His role as John Blake fulfilled one of the most frustrating comic book cliché’s, that of the heroic cop. This was a shame because in the Dark Knight the police were displayed as a bureaucracy that would cripple under pressure. On a similar point to John Blake, the reprisal of Dr. Jonathan Crane irked me. It felt like a piece of tokenism to cast him as the judge. Why would Bane think he was worthy of that role? Had he watched Batman Begins? Also if Crane had been let free then surely the Joker would have been as well. His role, good as Cillian Murphy is, only added to the saturation point of characters.
A slight irritant was the choice to have the wmd as a system for clean energy that can be turned into a bomb. As a social commentary this seemed unnecessary and it would be nice to see a director be braver in choosing a more realistic method of destruction. The Amazing Spiderman has the same issue, the villain attempts to spread a mist over the city to turn people into half lizards like himself and even Batman Begins used some form of psychedelic mist. Of course , chemical warfare exists but the deadly mist has been overplayed at this point. With Bane’s terrorist comparison being so explicit it may have suited the film more to have more rudimentary forms of attack that are relatable and plausible to the audience.
The plot in this movie was Nolan’s typical stutter paced meanderer that may have left the more dull witted of viewer befuddled. People have tried to point out the plot hole of Batman being able to get back in to the bridge less guarded city of Gotham. I had no problem with this at all. We just saw a guy escape a impossible to escape prison we can cut him a little slack in getting over a bridge filled with the military. I don’t want to say “he’s Batman” but, yeh, he is.
Nolan has clearly become more adept at fight sequences as he continues as a director. The scenes in Batman Begins were too close in to the action and the cuts between them to be to frequent. I hold up the corridor scene in Oldboy as the perfect action sequence and I think with the tone of realism in the movie Nolan might be advised to use more fixed camera shots. The Avengers has the right to use sweeping camera angles, such as the famous sweep round all the hero’s in a circle. The horrid extension of this style was used in The Amazing Spiderman where the camera does The Matrix styled slow motion hold on Spiderman as he swings through. This is one of the biggest annoyances in modern cinema. The technique is justifiable in The Matrix because they are in a fucking matrix and Neo has the ability to slow things down. Any time it happens in another movie it is gratuitous, unimpressive and stupid. Anyway, TDKR’s fight scenes improve upon BB but lags behind TDK. Nolan’s style makes sense in TDK because it suits the anarchic style of the joker. It is more out of place in TDKR particularly when Bane and Batman fight in the sewer though I concede that scene illustrated the physical prowess of Bane.
So this films not as good as The Dark Knight, big surprise. I overheard someone say “you can’t compare it to Avengers, they’re different films.” We’re really fucked if we can’t compare superhero movies to each other so here it is. The Dark Knight Rises is better, fuck you Joss Whedon and your over indulgent ‘nerdgasm’ shots and flimsy dialogue. My final thought is that I can’t help but feel this film would have been better placed as being the second in the trilogy. Christopher Nolan was right in identifying that third movies are historically hard to do. You only need to briefly glance at films such as Back to the Future III, Home Alone 3, The Return of The King, Karate Kid 3 etc… As it is this film is good and the series is great. Hopefully it won’t be scarred by DC desperately trying to claw back some ground on Marvel and churning out another Batman with a different director. Do the Green Arrow already.
Your Turn- Charles Lamb
When the queue folds away
When you are ushered to the front
And the dry, folded face asks without speaking
What it is you would complain about
How will you whittle down the list
How will you force in to their face
The hyperreal images that float in front of yours
How will you tell them exactly of each tree
You know the ones you’re thinking of
And the feeling of your feet on that path
The look in an eye, and the leftovers in a glass
When your heart is still called a heart
When your heart is inflamed with memories of burning rooms
And a soft whisper, grown quiet over time,
For no one ever spoke softly to you
In the right words, in the right way, in the right place, at the right time
How will you formulate the right words you never heard
How will you say that it meant so much
Because it meant absolutely nothing
Precisely because it meant absolutely nothing
None of it meant anything and that is why
That is why it means so much
Because it was supposed to, wasn’t it,
And it didn’t and it was supposed to
You were told it was supposed to
You felt it surely must, soon, it must, it must be supposed to
How will you look through, between sentiment and irony,
At the raw facts of your rented life
And list your complaint in a comprehensible tongue
When you never knew it yourself
But just knew, as you know now that you don’t know,
That there was something to complain about
And about that, you are right, its no question
But how and why and what and will you tell
Before the queue gets restless
Before we really must be getting on
Before, come on now, we really must be getting on
Before you have to go to the back and start again
Before you have to go back and start again when you can’t go back and start again