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What’s Wrong with the Dark Knight Rises

….Spoilers, obviously.


1. Omnipotent Villains, Dumb Heroes

The Joker was a little too close to omnipotent, but at least Batman in the Dark Knight seemed equally competent. Bane is twice as omnipotent as the Joker and Batman and the police are as dumb as bricks. Batman doesn’t get a single thing right in this movie. He gets beaten twice by Bane, he loses his fortune and Commissioner Gordon nearly dies and gets the entire Gotham PD killed by sending them all into a tunnel. Bane isn’t brilliant. His schemes all involve blowing things up. The movie just takes place in a world where everyone lets him to do it. Including Batman. The only thing Batman is any good for is finally getting the bomb out of the city.
The Dark Knight Rises Poster


2. Batman

When the closing credits rolled on The Dark Knight with Batman as a hunted villain, forced to go back to protecting Gotham from the shadows you expected the next movie to open with that Batman. Instead The Dark Knight Rises opens with no Batman. What that does is make the big conflict of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne looking to retire and hoping that Harvey Dent can make Gotham safe meaningless.

Harvey Dent made Gotham safe in death by extending sentencing for criminals. What Dent’s Law had to do with Batman isn’t obvious. Batman wasn’t in prison. How was increasing sentencing going to help prevent Harvey Dent from being killed again?

Batman was able to retire for eight years making him and the entire conflict basically unnecessary. But retirement just means he mopes around because the death of a woman that he seemed only marginally interested in completely robbed him of his will to live. Batman’s big conflict in The Dark Knight Rises is to have to want to live again. That’s not Batman. That’s a chronically depressed emo teen in a bad song.


3. Bane

The last two villains of the Nolan Batman movies had plans for Gotham. Bane seems like he does, but the whole thing is actually a revenge ploy. Gotham is only targeted because Batman happens to be there. And Batman isn’t even Batman anymore.

All of Dark Knight Rises is a complicated plan to kill Batman. Do Bane and Talia really need a nuclear bomb and a takeover of Gotham City to do that? I know, they want to rub Batman’s nose in his failure to save Gotham. So to do that she enlists Bane to start an uprising, seize control, grab a nuke, hold revolutionary tribunals, kill a whole bunch of people and then eventually the nuke would go off.

This is a really stupid plan. It makes even less sense because Talia remains undercover even once Bruce Wayne is in a pit in another part of the world that no one but her had ever escaped. Why even keep up the charade for weeks or months just so Bruce Wayne can get a few more scraps of CNN talking about how awful Gotham is now?

Talia wants to kill Bruce Wayne because he killed her father, even though she never knew him and he abandoned her in a pit in exchange for his freedom. (None of this makes sense either.) So what does Bane want? We have no idea. He’s just a puppet. That makes him the lamest kind of villain.


4. Catwoman

Selina Kyle is being written as the girl from the streets who’s good at stealing and on the run from Bane. When did this happen if Bane was a mercenary operating in another country? Why is Bane so scary? We have no idea. He’s strong and backed by a lot of men from the League of Shadows. But we never see Bane actually do anything Joker style that would spread fear.

Catwoman is supposed to be street, but Anne Hathaway plays her like a nervous uptown girl. This is more her fault than the fault of the script, but the script has more basic problems.

Catwoman is supposed to be a pivotal player, but there’s very little background. She wants her identity erased for some reason. She’s in trouble for some reason. She does things randomly, betraying Bruce Wayne several times and then bailing him out at the last minute. She’s terrified of Bane but then gets into a confrontation with him. She doesn’t seem to care for Bruce Wayne, but for some reason does the right thing at the end.

Catwoman is just as big an enigma as Bane. Talia is the only one of the three/four villains in this movie with a clearly defined and consistent motivation. And it’s dumb and simple by the standards of the villains from the previous movies. Revenge.

I Don’t Get the Killer Joe Hype

I haven’t seen the William Friedkin movie, but I did see the Off-Broadway play that it was based on and the kindest thing that I could say about it was that it wasted my time and the time of some talented people. If you can imagine a cliche about rednecks and noir crime, it was probably there. If it wasn’t there, it was only for lack of time.

killer joe poster

I’m sure Friedkin has ladled on some visual style and it’s easier to sell an over the top performance on the big screen than it is in a theater, but there still isn’t an interesting story here. I’m glad Matthew McConaughey may have finally found his calling as a villain, but seeing an actor step out of his comfort zone does not justify this level of interest.

My memory of Killer Joe is vague, but not so vague that I don’t remember it being as subtle as a siren and as deep as a pool table. This is a play that began by spotlighting Lori Petty’s ass, literately using the lighting for that effect, and then went on to cheesy accents, murder, corny catchphrases, more murder, and that was it, along with some unnecessary nudity to go with the unnecessary murders and the whole unnecessary play.

Killer Joe has no deeper ideas. It’s just tacky for the sake of being tacky and somewhere in all that shock value is supposed to be depth. Well it’s not there. The only line I remember from it is the one about the snake.

Whatever people seem to like about the movie I have to believe was added in the production. And even that is just going to leave the same cheesy white trash family drama turned killing spree, except much less interesting than I’m making it sound.

Ruby Sparks = Hipster Weird Science

Is it just me or did Weird Science just get remade as a hipster version with Ruby Sparks?

It looks like almost the same movie. Guy makes girl. Together with other guy their experience with making a girl appear teaches them important life lessons. But then again I read Kat Howard’s “A Life In Fictions” in a Gaiman collection and it has a similar concept but from a female point of view. The idea isn’t unique but Ruby Sparks still looks a lot like hipster Weird Science.

The Dawn of Red Dawn

Red Dawn looks okay except for the ridiculous North Korea thing. They would have been better off making it a nameless country than trying to sell something that stupid. North Korea has a population of 24 million which makes it less than tenth the size of the United States. During WW2 Imperial Japan had more than twice the population.

red dawn cast

It’s like the Breakfast Club… with guns

North Korea does have the world’s 4th largest military and if you go by size alone it doesn’t look completely hopeless, but an invasion of millions means that you need to have the capacity to move something like 300,000 troops into the United States. If you think about how tough moving US troops into Europe was during WW2. And unless the defense grid is neglected for twenty years or the whole thing gets taken out by pulse weapons, the tech difference is just too great.

I could say something about the trailer, but it’s not really a trailer and there’s not much to say about it except that it looks like they’re going for a feel more influenced by Iraq and urban warfare. Also I have no idea if this thing is going to be any good, but I’m glad they’re finally getting around to releasing it.

Is there any reason to be optimistic about the Red Dawn remake?

The Red Dawn script was written by John Milius as in the guy who inspired The Big Leboswki’s… nah just kidding. Despite reports, Milius did not write the script for this or Homefront. The actual Red Dawn script comes from the writer of The Cleaner and the writer of Disturbia, the Last House on the Left remake and Red Eye. It’s probably not the worst resume ever, but meh. (In an unrelated story, what is it with so many Xena writers going on to have major careers?)

So feel free to ignore everything in this post but check out the subversive Breakfast Club style poster of the cast of the original Red Dawn.

The Dark Knight Rises movie review

When working on The Dark Knight Rises, a movie about Batman, the Nolans forgot one minor detail. Batman. The Caped Crusader doesn’t show up until about 50 minutes it and shows up so incompetently that he might as well not have. It’s only 2 hours in that Batman actually arrives and that’s also the point at which The Dark Knight Rises become a watchable movie instead of a montage of violent scenes and shots of Christina Bale brooding in the dark.

Rarely have a superhero’s appearances felt like a cameo in his own movie. But The Dark Knight Rises, like The Dark Knight, isn’t really about Batman. It’s about how we rise and fall and how we solemnly talk about rising and falling. It’s not really about anything. Like artsy commercials, it’s a really expensive way of getting your attention and then once it has your attention, The Dark Knight Rises has nothing to say.

The Dark Knight Rises Poster

While the last two movies ended with Batman doing his shadowy thing, The Dark Knight Rises begins with no Batman and Christian Bale living alone and walking around with a cane. Something that he’s been doing for years. The way the story is usually told, Batman broods and Bruce Wayne puts on a grin and goes to parties. There’s a reason why the story is usually told that way and it’s not just because Christian Bale can’t act and can barely get by with a dopey playboy, but is completely unwatchable as a moper.

No the reason is because that character, the one who spends almost two hours of The Dark Knight Rises whining, is not the one that people want to see. It’s not just the whining. This version of Batman is almost superhumanly stupid. No I take that back, he is superhumanly stupid. This Batman has worse combat skills than Catwoman and has trouble figuring out how to get into his own mansion. His detective skills instantly enable him to deduce that Catwoman is after his fingerprints, they just don’t lead him to disable any forms of authorization that depend on his fingerprints or pass them along to a proxy. After noticing this interesting factoid, he doesn’t do anything about it except unsuccessfully ask Catwoman why she stole his prints. The man who is capable of immediately detecting a plot to steal his fingerprints never considers what things out there might require his fingerprint authorization.

But that’s okay because this is also a movie where all the good guys are superhumanly stupid too.

Just to get your head around this level of stupidity, no one on the Gotham Police Force believes Commissioner Gordon when he describes being attacked by Bane, even though Bane was being hunted by the CIA and had managed to kill a number of officers. After walking into one explosive trap in the sewers set by Bane, the Gotham PD dispatches thousands of police officers, most wearing no protective gear, clumped closely together into the sewer. There they fall victim to another explosive trap. In the culmination of their role, the Gotham police charge unarmed at Bane’s gang who are armed with machine guns.

In possibly the worst piece of stupidity in this entire movie, the Gotham police and Lucius Fox are aware that the nuclear bomb will go off anyway. Instead of getting on the radio and conveying this information to the outside world so that the US Army will step in and liberate Gotham, they only tell it to a few special forces officers who get killed right away, which leads the military to blockade Gotham.

In The Dark Knight, the Joker was an evil genius. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane isn’t a genius. He just has a gift for being in the right place at the right time. His enemies just happen to be retarded.

Total creative control can be a bad thing. It’s a very bad thing in the case of The Dark Knight Rises which is too long and too pointless. About half of its problems could have been fixed with some major cuts to the first act, which feels like a long slow commercial for a product that you really don’t want to buy. The other half could have been fixed by nuking the whole project from orbit.

There are unnecessary flashbacks to the previous movies that don’t contribute anything to this movie even if you didn’t see the previous movies; the exception to this is the flashback to Gordon with a young Bruce Wayne. And then there’s the dialogue which consists of blocks of emotive speeches that might work in a play but sound ridiculous in a movie. Every actor gets to deliver his or her own soliloquy. And the dialogue handed to them veers between the ponderous and the cliched. “His only crime was that he loved me” is an actual line of dialogue in the movie.

It’s all too easy to point out what’s wrong with The Dark Knight Rises. There’s three bad accents, from the occasionally incomprehensible Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard’s nearly equally horrible accent and Christian Bale doing his usual ridiculous Batman voice. But the really incomprehensible part is the plot.

The plot for The Dark Knight Rises looks like it never got past the scene cards stage. It’s stupid and too complicated at the same time. Sure Gotham could just happen to have a nuclear reactor nearby, but instead we have to spend 15 minutes discussing a Wayne fusion reactor project and why he shut it down. Bane’s backstory is equally messy and told in the most complicated way possible. Nothing goes from A to B if it can instead get there by way of F.

The degree of improbable events and coincidences are even worse. Bane discovers that Harvey Dent was a madman when he finds a speech admitting the lie by Gordon who had just been carrying it around with him. Blake figures out that Bruce Wayne is Batman because he saw that Bruce Wayne is angry on the inside. No seriously, that’s it.

There are great moments in The Dark Knight Rises and the movie picks up once Bane seizes control of Gotham and fully comes to life when the true villain is revealed. But it’s hobbled by the same old problems. Nolan still can’t direct action and the movies are too long, but this time there are no saving graces. There are hardly any ideas in The Dark Knight Rises worth discussing. There are no moments here to compare to the ferry scene or the hospital scene in The Dark Knight. And the movie, like Bale, spends too much time alone in a dark room.

There are good ideas somewhere in the script. Turning the Lazarus Pit into a hole in the ground prison had potential. Forcing Bruce Wayne to learn to walk and climb out of his prison also had promise. Even the takeover of Gotham occasionally works. But unlike The Dark Knight, we don’t really get to see much of the ordinary people grappling with the moral dilemmas posed to them, and Bane shouts a lot about the people, but we have no idea how the people react to it.

Moving Batman’s defeat up to the first act, instead of spending hours wallowing in Bale’s misery, and then playing out the takeover, might have made for a stronger movie. But this is the movie we got. It’s not the movie we need, but maybe it’s the movie we deserve.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a standout performance and steals major chunks of the movie. I wouldn’t have said it before, but if WB decides to replace Bale with him, it would be a major improvement. Anne Hathaway isn’t completely terrible, but she is out of her league and her performance is uneven. The role she’s supposed to be playing is street, but she can never sell it. Marion Cotillard is irritating until you realize why she’s in the movie. And that provides the only surprise and one of the few strong moments in the film. It’s Nolan’s prestige act, but it’s also all he has to offer.

There might be a good movie lurking in The Dark Knight Rises. A good edit might even bring it out. And had The Dark Knight not achieved mythical levels of success, WB wouldn’t have let The Dark Knight Rises out of the gate in this condition. But it did and the critics are in no mood to talk about any of the shortcomings of an inevitable film.

The Dark Knight Rises is brilliant because it must be, because everyone says it is.

The Spiderman Reboot… it Bombed

I never saw any sense is such a rapid reboot of movies that were doing pretty well, but Sony knew better. Sony was so smart that it cast some Twilight emo kid and decided to make a worse version of the same movie that they made 10 years ago. That was a move intended to capitalize on teenagers who were just learning to walk when the first Spider Man movie was released and who were just trying to make it to puberty when Spider Man 3 was released and can’t be expected to relate to a thirty something Spidey.

the Amazing Spider Man poster

It’s like the Dark Knight… but with more teen angst

But studios forget that they’re not the only audience out there.

The original Spider Man cost half of what the Spider Man reboot did and made more faster. The original Spider Man hit 400 million bucks. The Spider Man reboot got plowed under by The Dark Knight Rises and made 11 million over the weekend bringing its total to 228 million dollars out of a 230 million dollar budget and unknown promotional budget.

That’s not quite a bomb bomb, but even with foreign box office those are bad numbers. Spider Man 3, which had an oversized 258 million dollar budget still had a 336 million total and that was enough to trigger a reboot. Spider Man reboot probably won’t clear its full budget domestically and while its opening weekend is big enough that much of the money doesn’t go to the theaters, this is still bad.

As usual the Spider Man reboot has made more money in the foreign box office than the old domestic one, but the Amazing Spider Man is underperforming internationally too.

Does this mean Andrew Garfield will be sent home, along with Marc Webb who went from directing a few TV episodes and music videos to a summer tentpole? Will Sony give Sam Raimi a call?

Probably not. In their defense a chunk of the problem was releasing this puppy right before Dark Knight Rises and after Avengers without figuring out a way to make the Amazing Spider Man into an event movie.

The original Spider Man was an event movie. The new one would have done better in a barren season, but this summer had actual event comic book movies and it couldn’t compete.

Why the Hobbit Trilogy is a Disaster

Warner Brothers loves money. Peter Jackson loves money too. I can’t blame them because I also like money and candy and trains that go really fast. But The Hobbit isn’t about those things and it’s not a trilogy. It’s not even two movies, but now it’s being turned into three movies.

The Hobbit

“So you’re saying we’re going to have to make three movies to pay for all this?”

There’s nothing wrong with making a single children’s book into a three film epic that can’t be fixed by making it into a single movie instead.

Peter Jackson is justifying the decision to rape The Hobbit and the childhoods of some 90 year old men by claiming that J.R.R. Tolkien would have wanted it this way. And I know that’s true. If there was one thing that Tolkien loved and trusted it was Hollywood. Also the Huns. And I think the old man was in love with modern technology.

But what does a three film Hobbit really mean?

Have you seen the three Lord of the Rings movies? It’ll be like that, except with a much poorer story. Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies already went too ensemble and diminished Frodo’s role and Gandalf’s role.

The Hobbit trilogy will do the same thing to the max. It’ll go as ensemble as it can to show us all the other stuff going on. Cut from Frodo riddling with Gollum to show us Gandalf leading the dwarves away and the Goblin king’s son vowing revenge for his death and then cut to what’s going on in Mirkwood and the Dale.

Obviously we’re going to need a female warrior in this, because girl power! So maybe work in Rohan or just bring in a female warrior elf. The only people who will care are nerds and they’ll be drowned in wankfic about L’io’rasalluma, the new female elf who can backflips and rescues Bilbo seven times before the trilogy is over and Gandalf once.

Oh sure that probably won’t happen. Except no, it totally will. Unless you think Jackson and Warner Brothers hired Lost’s Evangeline Lilly and flew her out to New Zealand just to spend two days shooting a scene or two as Bilbo encounters Galadriel. No Lilly won’t be playing Galadriel, she’ll be playing Tauriel.

“She is a warrior. She’s actually the head of the Elven guard. She’s the big shot in the army. So she knows how to wield any weapon, but the primary weapons that she uses are a bow and arrow and two daggers. And she’s lethal and deadly.”

…because Girl Power!

Now I don’t object to girl power, but The Hobbit is not a story where the characters are expert weapon wielders and spend a lot of time kicking ass. It’s a book about a Hobbit who goes nervously on an adventure with some dwarves and a mysterious wizard.

The Hobbit is not going to be THE HOBBIT TRILOGY because there’s no room for that small quiet story in the belly of the horrible epic trilogy beast. The Hobbit is going to be drowned in the epicness of WB and Jackson making their money.

What Peter Jackson and Co. will do is make up their own poor copy of Lord of the Rings, wedge it into The Hobbit story, make the whole trilogy as epic as possible with more monsters and battles. It’ll be like Clash of the Titans but with some hobbit stuff thrown in.

Jackson will expand the conflict at the end of the book and stretch it out through the whole movie, find ways to bring in Mordor, and a ton of monsters and references from the Tolkienverse to play up to fans. And then instead of Gandalf tricking the Trolls into arguing and turning to stone; Tauriel will leapfrog over them, shoot one with her bow, stab another one with her dagger and then set a First Edition of The Hobbit on fire… because that’s what the Hobbit trilogy is really about.

Here’s a thought.

Maybe Peter Jackson and the WB can drop that Hobbit name which doesn’t really communicate epicness and rename the trilogy to something cooler. Like “Clash of the Hobbits”. No, still too Hobbity. Okay, “Clash of the Titans.”

Yeah that works. And it’s what J.R.R. Tolkien would have wanted.

So I Guess This is Superman?

It doesn’t feel like Superman. It feels like a WB drama but Smallville was probably more successful than the Bryan Singer Superman so that almost makes sense.

Anyway Superman teaser trailer. Not a fan of the flight effect.

Batman is not a Republican

I don’t like to talk about movies before they come out, but since The Dark Knight Rises is a sequel to a movie that I did see and that had the same political interpretations attached to it, let’s go for it.

Was The Dark Knight a commentary on the War on Terror? Obviously. But was it a commentary on the War on Terror? No.

Wait what? Exactly.

The Dark Knight was a commentary on the war of ideas, not just the obvious ones, like can I rendition a guy from another country or eavesdrop on cell phones. Like all the Nolan movies it was about the tug of war between those who are trying to destroy the city and those trying to hold it together.

The Dark Knight Rises is about the same thing.

I have seen essays pushing The Dark Knight as Bush boosterism. Bullshit. The Joker got to make his case and make a convincing case. His case, like Ra’s al Ghul’s case, like Bane’s case, is that Gotham didn’t deserve to survive. That Gotham was too rotten and didn’t have a single good thing in it. The only way to fix it was to destroy it.

Batman never denied Gotham’s problems. He denied that it was hopeless and he rejected the extremist solution of blowing it up. And he was willing to do anything to stop it. That’s what a vigilante does. He breaks the law for a greater good.

How does that line up with Democrats and Republicans? That’s subjective. Batman = Bush looks silly now that Bush is gone and we’re raiding other countries and killing terrorists with remote drones every month.

Remember Two Face? The great politician. The bridge between Batman and the Joker. Batman thought Dent would do his work, but Dent became like the Joker instead.

The twist is that Batman and the Joker are the same person. Batman has to break the rules to stop the Joker who doesn’t believe in rules. But break enough rules and there are fewer differences between Batman and the Joker except character. And the Joker kept trying to prove that character doesn’t matter. That one big decision and one bad day can break anyone.

Chaos and order.

Bane is Batman. He’s more Batman than Ra’s al Ghul and the Joker who wanted to clean up Gotham by destroying it. Bane wants to make Gotham a better place. He’s a vigilante like Batman. He’s making Gotham a better place by beating the hell out of the people he thinks make it a worse place. But like Ra’s al Ghul and the Joker he has the wrong prescription.

Bane, the Joker and Ra’s al Ghul are all one step over the line. They show what Batman can become.

Is Batman a Republican? Sure. He’s also a Democrat. And he’s none of those things. He’s the guy at the top who sees a problem and breaks the rules trying to fix it. He wants to bring back hope, but he does it by punching people in the face.

He’s a superhero.

In the Nolan movies Batman is always fighting villains who have a big picture. They have a vision of life and the world. But he doesn’t have those things. All he’s trying to do is hold on to one city.

Batman has no politics. He doesn’t care about abortion, oil drilling or gay marriage. He has no opinion on 99 out of 100 issues. When Ra’s al Ghul talks history or the Joker talks about foreign wars or Bane talks economic justice, Batman doesn’t care. Those things mean nothing to him. The Nolan Batman movies are about ideas, but Batman is a helpless player in their wars of ideas. He knows that he has to become larger than life, but unlike Ra’s al Ghul, the Joker or Bane, he doesn’t want to be more than human. He has to be more than human for the sake of his mission.

Gotham is Batman’s political agenda. It’s his only political agenda. And he’s fighting to protect it from men with big ideas who would tear it apart over those ideas.

End of the Nolan Batman

batman dark knight

I can’t say that I’m sorry to see the end of Nolan’s take on Batman. What Nolan did with Batman was “interesting”, in the way that what Michael Mann or Michael Bay might have done with Batman would have been interesting. It was interesting in the wabatmany that what Tim Burton actually did do with Batman… was interesting.

But it wasn’t Batman.

To Nolan, Batman was a way to comment on urban sociology. It was a superhero story last and a take on the modern city first. Again the results were interesting. Just as Tim Burton viewing Batman through his gothic fairy tale lens was interesting. But interesting isn’t meant to stick around, because none of those things are really Batman. They’re what happens when someone decides to play around with Batman.

Tim Burton’s spookhouse approach to Batman and Nolan’s urban dysfunction approach to Batman went in opposite directions from each other, but were within the outward circle of what Batman is. Batman is a bit spooky and he deals with urban dysfunction. But he isn’t a spookhouse or a sociology text. And that’s where the Burton and Nolan movies break down.

Batman is more than these things. And Batman works best when he is all of these things and more. When he can be the dark knight and the billionaire playing politics and the superhuman fighting machine and the soul of a wounded city. Nolan limited Batman to being less than a superhero. Now that the Nolan movies are done, Batman is free to fly again.

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