Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shawna's Summer Movie Review - The Dark Knight Rises

**Warning, nothing serious is discussed, there are a few spoilers within**

This may come out as a bit harsh, but here are my impressions on the film.

The first half seriously drags with a convoluted and largely hard-to-follow plotline. Too much time is wasted setting up the scenario that in the 8 years since the last film Bruce Wayne has not been seen and is a recluse (limping badly on a cane) who hides out in the a section of the mansion, completely out of touch with what is going on in the world and with his own company.

Bain (our villain) is brought into the story, yet the director fails to give the audience a clue as to who and what he is, so unless you have access the comics (or to a geek who has read the comics) you will be hopelessly lost. We do learn more about Bain's character, but it leaks out in hopelessly slow dribs and drabs.

In order to appease the comic book fans (who know the Dark Knight's destiny with Bain) we are introduced to a further convolution in which Batman is taken out of action, literally, for a chunk of the film. This side plot which takes Batman out of Gotham is long, overly drawn out, confusing and serves only to divulge one piece of information that surely could have been handed out in a much neater fashion.

Instead we are subjected to a series of bad edits that are supposed to convey the passing of three months. Batman perseveres and somehow manages to sneak into a Gotham that is completely on lock-down. We are not privy to how he did it, but he then commands police detective Blake to save as many people as he possibly can by getting them out of the city.... you'd think he'd start by mentioning whatever secret method he used to get himself back in.

There is a tiny subplot involving a shelter for abandoned boys, but its mostly to add a sense of "oh no, those poor children!" into the story, otherwise they don't add a darn thing except to give weight to Detective Blake's back story and to provide yet another way for him to show off he's truly a guy who has his heart in the right place.

Looking back it seems that more time was spent discussing a certain pearl necklace (which wasn't a crucial plot point, but was interwoven throughout the story) than there was on cluing the audience in on just what was happening.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman is good at action, and its obvious that she's worked out, pouring herself into an unforgiving skin-tight spandex suit, and still managing to be lythe and cat-like, but there is no chemistry between her character and Bale's brooding Batman.... a Batman that seems to have taken on a single note this time. I know that Bale wants out of the franchise, but its almost as if he got himself fit and in prime condition for this final installment only to phone in his performance once the cameras started rolling.

Marion Cotillard is her usual sleepy self, and fades into the background in nearly every scene she's in, but Morgan Freeman is as delightful as always. Ras' Al Gul (in a cameo played by Liam Neeson) also does nothing for the story (unless its just to remind the audience of who his character was), but at least he looks as fabulous as always!

The real breakaway star of this film is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young hot-headed street cop named Blake who is quickly promoted to Detective by Commisioner Gordon (the ever-wonderful Gary Oldman). I had a suspicion about Detective Blake that turned out to be true (hooray!) but the character could have easily been lost amidst all of the turmoil that takes place in this film. Joseph provides us with a rich, and entirely believable character who could easily carry a film of his own. His convictions will have you believing in "The Bat" while the world falls apart.

Look for Cillian Murphy reprising his role of Dr Jonathan Crane (aka Scarecrow) from the first film. While its a nice treat, there really is no point for it, and only serves to bulk up an already massively bloated storyline. While its nice to see Torchwood's Burn Gorman in a major motion picture (and he's an evil delight whenever he's on the screen) his role is sadly lacking in any depth whatsoever and is seriously wasted.

Don't get me started on all of the pointless additional characters tossed in to make the story ever more complicated.... Selina's blond pickpocket sidekick, the congressman, and a chunk of the Pittsburgh Steelers team (including their old coach) who play (wait for it) a pro football team that has absolutely nothing to do with the story but to take part in a rather bad chunk of CGI.

So is there anything good about this film?

Surprisingly yes.

The final half of the film picks up immensly from the plodding, plot-riddled beginning, and that is where the roller coaster begins..... this is where we are finally shown the Batman we have come to appreciate in Christopher Nolan's previous installments. Sadly, the plot twist villain reveal isn't much of a shocker, but was fairly obvious from the start.... but its still quite the chase through Gotham to bring this baddie down. Batman is lost (or is he?) and as the city mourns another steps forth to take up the baton (that is, if another director steps forward to take up the gauntlet as this was Bale and Nolan's last installment for the Batman franchise).

There is no need to stay through the end credits, as Nolan gives us all the answers before the credits roll..... but stick around until they do if you want to know Batman's fate and who has been handed the torch.

All in all I'd give this 3 out of 5 stars.... all thanks to the wonderful second half. I highly recommend re-watching the first two films before going, as there are a lot of references (and vague flashbacks) back to previous characters, though, out of respect for Heath Ledger, the Joker was not even referred to in this film as the director thought it would be crass to pull old footage of Ledger just for the movie's sake).

The movie runs a ponderously long 165 minutes, and I have to say, if you have any problems with your hearing, wait for the video release where you can watch this with closed captioning as the sound is pathetic. Bain, played by Tom Hardy, is hard to understand at most times because of his mask. In fact, dialogue between characters is drowned by the music and special effect sounds more often than not.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

As the world burns....

Thank goodness we've had some rain and cooler temperatures these last few days....  anything to help out as this summer has been nothing but wildfire after wildfire.  A couple weeks ago there was smoke literally rolling out of the canyon here in Orem, and the mountains in that direction have been obscured by a smokey haze for what seems like a month now. 

We've had fires to the south, fires across the lake, and on Tuesday I snapped this shot of a fire burning just to the north... Alpine may be on the other side of the mountain, but its not far at all as the crow flies.  The shot was taken just a few blocks from where we live.  Yikes!  A lovely shot, but what a terrifying situation for those whose homes were being threatened at the time.

And this is just what's going on in Utah, and not what is happening in the rest of the country... after all half of Colorado appears to have gone up in flames.

Still, this summer truly feels like an episode from As the World Burns....