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Interstellar Movie Review – The Best Science Fiction Movie of the Decade

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Christopher Nolan’s big movies are overstuffed, wobbling shopping carts full of stuff that are always about to topple over. The Hitchcock and Kubrick shots, the frantic editing, the acting that varies between overwrought and flat, the plots that make less sense the longer they go on, but they’re still incredible to watch.

Interstellar is just that. A barely coherent mashup of 2001 and Contact, it’s a glorious mess that gets worse as it goes  along, that, like most big Nolan movies could have been 40 minutes shorter, and that’s still the best science fiction movie of the decade.

In an age of CG cartoons, Nolan is still trying to make movies and it shows. Spaceships, robots and explosions are in every other movie, but Interstellar is actually based on a science fiction premise, instead of playing with scifi toys.

Interstellar self-consciously references 2001, but also humanizes it. Interstellar may be much looser and messier than anything Kubrick would have tolerated, but it also provides the audience with human stakes in its stories about multi-dimensional evolved humans, black holes and temporal variances.

It’s an optimistic movie about the importance of space travel and human potential. It’s a science fiction movie that is about the strangeness of the universe.

The plot of Interstellar is a train wreck, but Matthew McConaughey drags it along with him in overwrought scene after scene with extra ham on top. He embodies the passion of a messy project. His character and his performance is Interstellar’s rejection of abstract idealism in favor of specific human needs.

Michael Caine’s Professor Brand and Matt Damon’s Mann prove to be unreliable sociopaths whose speeches about the greater good cover for their selfishness. But Cooper’s selfishness is always front and center. He leaves his family behind, not to save the world, but because he loves the idea of flying a ship. And he wants to leave the mission to get back to his family. It’s his human needs that allow a transhuman future to connect to his world.

It’s a subversive message that challenges the authoritarianism of so many science fiction movies.

2001 showed people becoming inhuman. Interstellar humanizes even the robots whose design abandons the humanoid form, but whose personalities pick up human traits. Becoming less human isn’t the path to evolution. Embracing our humanity is. It’s a clunky message, but there have been worse messages in movies.

Interstellar is badly broken and yet its ambition and dysfunction is a breath of fresh air. It has little in common with the usual Marvel or Hasbro toy line movie. Instead it’s a science fiction movie about messed up people making mistakes in a universe with a limited tolerance for human error, but also a universe with amazing possibilities.

And that is what science fiction used to be before it became the background for brand merchandising movies.

Mortdecai and the Critical Backlash Mass

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Mortdecai didn’t deserve all the hate thrown at it when it came out. It’s not a great movie, but it wasn’t anywhere as bad as the reviews which told everyone it was the second coming of Hitler, instead of a modern Pink Panther caper that sucked a lot less than the Steve Martin Pink Panthers.

But Mortdecai fell victim to the critical backlash mass.

A successful actor or director becomes known for one gimmick. The gimmick is irritating, but initially it’s also entertaining. Like Johnny Depp doing a wacky character, Robin Williams going for cheap tears instead of laughs or George Lucas making CG Star Wars cartoons. Then the backlash builds with every movie until it blows.

And it blows all over a movie that might not even deserve it. Like the critical backlash mass building against Robin Williams over Patch Adams and exploding over Jakob the Liar. Or Johnny Depp in Mortdecai.

The hate had built up with the fourth Pirates movie that no one outside China wanted. It hissed to a boil with Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger, both flopped, and then exploded in violent rage with Mortdecai.

Depp’s Charlie Mortdecai is the weakest part of the movie, but also the part that holds the rest of the movie together. The script isn’t great and the movie could have used a bigger and longer climax (one of the few movies these days that you can say that about), but most of the working parts were okay. Visually it looked good. The cast was good, especially Paul Bettany’s Jock. And most of the jokes worked okay if you like them big, goofy and obvious.

But all the parts rubbed up against Depp’s Mortdecai. And Depp wearing wacky outfits and makeup already rubbed too many critics raw. Imagine Mortdecai with Jim Carrey in the lead and it could have been even more annoying, but it wouldn’t have been showered with the same amount of critic rage. They reacted to Depp’s Mortdecai as an extension of every annoying mannered character from Willy Wonka to Sweeney Todd.

Mortdecai needed its own Peter Sellers. An actor who could just dive into the role sincerely, instead of prancing around with a mannered, “Look at me, I’m acting so goofy” air of an unfunny class clown in a high school production of Pirates of Penzance. Maybe Robert Downey Jr. could have done it. But Depp can just do exactly what he’s been doing since that long forgotten good Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It’s all he’s ever going to do now.

But Mortdecai was still fun. It wasn’t a great movie. Or an especially good one. It wasn’t even Hudson Hawk. But it was up there with a decent Moonlighting episode. What happened to it is the difference between viewing movies on their own or as part of a dynamic cultural dialogue. And that’s how critics, and everyone is a critic now, see them.

Mortdecai stopped being its own movie and became an extension of Depp’s other wacky movies and that became an extension of a trend in movies that had to be stamped out.

Depp recovered and went on working. Big actors are hard to take down. And Black Mass was just more of the same. And there’s an unfunny Depp video as Trump and another Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

It’s the shakiest movies that are easiest to take down. Movies with no built in audience anyway. Like a caper about a wacky British art dealer and thief. Or a movie in which Adam Sandler plays a cobbler who can become other people. The stars go on, but the blowback destroys a smaller fun movie and the careers of smaller, maybe fun people.

Is anyone going to let David Koepp direct again? Would Tom McCarthy’s carer have survived if Spotlight hadn’t been in the can? Critics find a release in lashing out at annoying actors for being annoying, but the actors don’t go away, the people who took a risk and tried to make a different kind of movie and were lucky enough to get a major star to sign on, only to be wrecked by his backlash, who more often go away.

The Force Awakens is Bad Billion Dollar Fanfic

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Star Wars The Force Awakens is the same movie as the first AbramsTrek, a well-acted and well-directed jumble of fan service and incoherent story. J.J. Abrams and his team are good at milking nostalgia for the characters and look of a classic franchise. But all those callbacks and character moments are just paint on the hood of the same exact disposable incoherent CG fest that everyone else is making in which nothing makes sense and nothing matters.

The Force Awakens is a remake pretending to be a sequel. And it’s not a good remake. The Force Awakens marries the incoherent meaningless stories of the Star Wars prequels with a better class of acting and direction. If you ever wanted to see what the prequels would have looked like if they were made by a good director who panders to franchise fans, instead of tossing them aside for kiddie merchandising, the Abrams Wars movie is it.

And that’s all it is.

Harrison Ford is swapped out for Leonard Nimoy, doing his duty by passing the torch. But he’s just there to watch the brash young cast go through the motions of playing around in a theme park recreation of classic sets and moments.

The stories for Abrams Trek and Abrams Wars are so bad that they could be fanfic. But normal fanfic usually makes more sense. In Star Wars and Star Trek, the characters served the story. In Abrams Wars and Abrams Trek, the stories is just an excuse to bring characters together to remind fans of the original movies and shows.

It’s not all Abrams’ fault. But he somehow keeps making the same soulless movies that have no substance except to exploit the nostalgia and goodwill of someone’s else work.

The only thing that sets their stories apart from bad fanfic is the money and the cast. J.J. Abrams uses both to the maximum, squeezing out callbacks and references even when they don’t make any sense. And especially when they don’t make any sense. But he isn’t recreating Star Wars. He’s the kid who comes home from the theater after seeing Star Wars and makes up a Star Wars-like story in which there’s an even worse Death Star and a lamer Darth Vader, built on the biggest cliche in Star Wars fanfic and even its Expanded Universe, and some kids fighting to stop them.

And while Abrams’ fan service and callbacks look like shows of respect, they’re the prelude to covertly trashing a franchise. Abrams Trek I climaxed with the destruction of the entire Star Trek canon. Abrams Wars is moving toward those same objectives.

Abrams movies conceal their hatred for the original material they’re looting with a facade of respect right before they slip the knife in. Underneath all the flattering tributes is jealousy. As a director, J.J. Abrams hasn’t created anything new. He mashes up other people’s work and adds incoherent updates. He wants to be Spielberg, but he has no storytelling skills. He’s a good visualist, but like Zach Snyder and many other younger directors, a terrible conceptualist. He can capture the look of Star Trek or Star Wars, but not its substance. His movies play with big toys, but there’s no story behind them. There are character moments, but they don’t add up to anything bigger than the individual moment.

J.J. Abrams can bring in money for studios, but all he’s doing is turning bad fanfic into cutscenes for some video game that will never be made.

Terminator Genisys, Jurassic World: Time to Kill the Abrams Franchise Reboots

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J.J. Abrams wasn’t the first to do it, but there’s no doubt that his Star Trek reboot influenced the giant pile of crap that Terminator Genisys became.

The conventional reboot was bad enough. The J.J. Abrams flavor of reboot played at paying tribute to the original, throwing in fan service and original cast appearances, and then used some flavor of time travel to eliminate the original.

And the Abrams reboots are even worse because they pander to fans of the original before showing their dislike for it by trashing it. A vanilla reboot would be satisfied to just sex up and retell the story. An Abrams reboot has to show you that the original never happened and it’s the only game in town.

Terminator Genisys was running on the same sensibility. Take chunks of the original, freshen them up in a way that’s deliberately insulting while appealing to someone’s idea of what millennial audiences want to see, and then use the story to nuke the original premise.

Abrams got away with it. At least once. Genisys didn’t.

Jurassic World is smashing Genisys to pieces with a template for making a sequel that’s not a reboot and shows affection and respect for the original.

If Jurassic World was the Abrams Genisys kind of reboot, it would have time traveling raptors undo the original Jurassic Park. And then it would reveal that Hammond was a raptor in disguise.

Hollywood execs are taking the wrong lessons from the Terminator Genisys failure about franchises. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t the problem here. The problem was a movie that tried to play to two audiences while alienating both.

Fans of the original movies were being teased with promises of a continuation and given a reboot instead that trashed the originals and everything that made them work. The Transformers audience was being promised robots smashing things only to get a workup of a bunch of movies they never saw or cared about.

Like casting a pale skinny Tumblr friendly Englishman as Khan in Abrams Trek II, there’s a huge disconnect between taking a bad actress from Game of Thrones and trying to use her petite self to replace Linda Hamilton while making her a ninja warrior.

Like all the Khan callbacks in Abrams Trek II, the echos infuriate fans and bore new audiences. No one is served.

If you’re going to reboot, then just reboot. Don’t give us an origin story with time travel that undoes the original. No one wants it or needs it. If you have to blow up Vulcan or turn John Connor into the enemy, that’s not storytelling, it’s spite.

And why reboot?

Jurassic World dropped the characters, kept the dinos and made huge money. J.J. Abrams could have made a movie in the Star Trek universe with new characters. It would probably have worked even better with a sequel because Abrams Trek II suffered from not having any of the goodwill of the classic characters coming together from the first.

Terminator Genisys didn’t need to obsess over Sarah and John Connor. Someone else can be the savior of humanity or at least fight time traveling killer robots. Emilia Clarke could have played some British girl who has to be taken out in the UK for Skynet to win.

The Abrams reboot is a dysfunctional relationship with an original franchise that the newbies hate, but can’t let go of. They do fan service that they hate and then alienate the fans and new audiences.

It’s stupid and maybe the success of Jurassic World and failure of Terminator Genisys will bring some changes.

Don’t make more Abrams Treks or Abrams Terminators. Make more Jurassic Worlds. Even Abrams is going that route with the Star Wars sequels.

It’s time to kill the reboot.

The Hobbit Doesn’t Work if Bilbo Baggins Isn’t a Fat Coward

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I haven’t seen any of the 500 Hobbit movies, The Hobbit: Attack of the Nine Barrels, The Hobbit: Bilbo vs. Frankenstein, The  Hobbit: The Legend of Bagger Vance, but I did see some clips last night.

The most obvious problem, aside from Jackson taking the style that made the Lord of the Rings movies and beating it so far into the ground that not even an army of dwarves could dig it up again, is that the titular Hobbit isn’t in any of the movies.

Bilbo Baggins is a fat coward.

That’s the one joke that keeps the book going. He isn’t Frodo. He’s not towed by the ring or desperation. He wants to prove that he isn’t a joke. And Tolkien eventually lets him do it. It’s a kindness that helped make the book beloved.

Bilbo comes into existence as a joke. He’s a fat cowardly little man who is allowed to be something more.

The Hobbit movies discard this central theme from the start because it’s okay for your hero to be a few feet tall, but he can’t be fat.

And yet when he isn’t fat, there’s no story. The whole plates gag is vaudeville comedy. It works if it’s built around a little fat guy who loves his stuff. It doesn’t work when a vaguely nervous and skinny Martin Freeman is in it.

The rest of it doesn’t work either.

Tolkien wrote this for kids. Bilbo Baggins is given a name that’s one step away from Fatty McFatster. He’s a broad joke. If you replace the joke, you replace the story, which is what Jackson seems to have done anyway. And there’s nothing to hang it on.

All of Peter Jackson’s changes in the Lord of the Rings movies were bad. Now he seems to have built a bunch of movies that are nothing but changes while casting Tumblr friendly actors. He’s gone as deep into CG as George Lucas so that it all looks like one big video game cutscene and has no point. The remaining actors, mainly Ian McKellen, are doing broad pastiches of their old roles. And there’s nothing at the center because there is no center.

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo feels like some obscure fifth hobbit from the Lord of the Rings movies. A fifth wheel who might have joined up without being wanted. The movies drown him in CG battles in a desperate attempt at distracting everyone from their emptiness.

Tolkien told a very simple and appealing story. Jackson killed its simplicity and appeal.

Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? It’s A Comic Book Stunt?

Superhero comics run on the old serial narrative. Hero faces death. Hero is threatened by death. Then Hero saves the day. And then after a few hundred issues you have to give the threat some credibility by killing the Hero. Then you replace him with something else. Then you bring him back.

Four Supermans. Three Batmans. Doc Ock as Spiderman. And then once you’ve shaken things up, cleared the ground, you use that 8f_118056_0_SupermanVol1250HaveHorseWillFlas an opportunity to give the whole thing a fresh look before going back to the way things were all along.

Nothing really changes in comic books. That’s truer than ever because the comic book audience is now 40 year old males and they want more sophisticated storytelling without changing the stuff they grew up with. Those two are irreconcilable. And this is how you reconcile them. You make big changes and then reset them. Spiderman reveals his secret identity and then makes a deal with the devil to undo it. Big stuff happens and then it doesn’t. Everything changes and then it doesn’t.

The one thing that comic publishers fear for their IPs, even big ones like Spider-Man, is that they will be shelved and ignored. Event comics are a cry for attention. Making big changes gets readers to browse it on their iPads one more time. They make it seem like the comic is going somewhere when it’s not. When it can’t.

What can you really do with an iconic character that hasn’t been done before? Nothing.

Every comic book character has died, been replaced, had to kill, been accused of murder, lost the loves of their life, been defeated, had their identity exposed etc…

There is nothing else to do. Not a thing. Oh you can make him gay. That’s about it. And then change him back. See Vampire Slayer, Buffy. And once every comic has done its gay love story, there will be even less out there.

Superhero comics stopped being relevant a while back. Even Spider Man, one of the younger of the top superhero comics, is out of it. These aren’t stories, they’re IPs. Like Mickey Mouse or the Simpsons they’re just around because people remember them and kids buy the merchandise. That’s it.

There are no more stories left to tell. Just lunchboxes to sell. Or Apps. And the kids who buy Spider Man gear aren’t reading the comics now, they’re seeing the cartoons or the movies.

The comics began it all, but now they’re just this odd relic tagging along. Disney isn’t interested in Spider Man because it wants to sell Spider Man comics, but because it wants to make Spider Man movies.

DC and Marvel are relics full of characters to be monetized by movie studios who put movies first, games second, cartoons third and comics zeroth. Their target audience is 17. The comics audience is 37.

Batman, Superman and Spiderman comics have become the ugly stepchildren of their own IPs. Their audiences are too old, their medium is dated and they have to pull off new stunts that their audience is familiar with because their audience is pushing 40 and grew up on those stunts.

Comics aren’t dead, but the big boys are irrelevant. And being irrelevant means fighting harder for oxygen. It means more stunts which get reset and alienate whatever audience remains after the initial buying frenzy for the issues that aren’t going to be worth anything in twenty years dies down.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s a dying industry trying to pull off one more comic book stunt. Peter Parker dying in Doc Ock’s body is a metaphor for the entire industry. Old fans. Old characters. No reason to go on.

Die Hard Must Die

A Good Day to Die Hard? That’s not my title, that’s the actual title of the next Die Hard sequel. Sure they could just call it Die Hard 5 or Die Hardererer, but this is dumber.

Why should you look forward to A Good Day to Die Hard? It comes to you from the writer of Wolverine, Hitman (the movie not the game) and the A-Team. All three of those movies were horrible failures. But he did Swordfish ten years ago. And it comes from the director of Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix and Max Payne. Those are at least better movies than Wolverine and Hitman.

But that’s not the problem with A Good Day to Die Hard.

Do you know who John McClane is? He’s a cop. Ordinary guy who somehow stumbles into extraordinary situations and stumbles through them while running with bloody feet and cursing. That is what made Die Hard work. Then John McClane got jammed into an adaptation of a novel that wasn’t about him, but it still worked a bit. Then he got dumped into a buddy cop movie in the middle of New York City. That didn’t work that great, but it sorta worked. All of those movies were on some level still grounded in the ordinary nature of John McClane, who can kill a dozen bad guys, but does it by the skin of his teeth and never intended to dive into this.

All that came to a complete end with Live Free or Die Hard. It’s coming to a bigger end with A Good Day to Die Hard which is set in Russia. Yes Russia. Because when you think of John McClane, you think of Russia.

Now A Good Day to Die Hard is very obviously borrowing from Taken. But it’s actually worse than that.

Q. What can you say about the story?

A. McClane and Jack are very estranged, but like any parent it doesn’t matter how estranged you are from your kid, you still feel for them. He discovers that Jack is in trouble in Moscow and he goes to try to help, but he’s got the wrong end of the stick. Jack is not the person he thought he was and he’s mixed up in some very serious international business, and John finds himself in the eye of the storm. He finds himself in a situation that he, at first, screws up for Jack, but ultimately finds himself in a position where he helps Jack put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Q. Fox chairman Tom Rothman said that Jack was more badass than John. Is that fair to say?

A. I think it’s probably fair to say that what was accidental in McClane Sr., coming face-to-face with international turmoil and bad guys who stay up late at night coming up with very clever stuff, is very much much a career choice for Jack McClane.

So get this FOX is making a Die Hard movie that’s about John McClane’s son being a superspy whose goal seems to be to turn the Die Hard franchise into a Bourne franchise starring McClane’s Australia son. FOX couldn’t have done a better job of missing the entire appeal of Die Hard if it had set a bunch of giraffes on fire and filmed it as a romantic comedy.

I don’t know about you, but what I really wanted was not just a Die Hard sequel, but a Die Hard sequel in which we discover that John McClane’s son is Bourne.

It’s obvious how this horror was born. Studio executive looks at Bourne and at Taken, two top action movie franchises. Then he decides to marry them and graft them onto an existing IP. Mission Accomplished.

This is a different kind of fix. This is for people who get a kick out of the Bourne movies.

So says John Moore. But easy question, why not just make a Bourne movie? Because FOX doesn’t have a Bourne IP available. They do have Die Hard.

This is why Die Hard should have died long ago.

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.

Art and Games

In a post at The Verge, Brian makes an important point about how seductive art or the illusion of it can be to game reviewers.

I think the reason critics fell for it was because they were perfectly set by the nature of their position as professional reviewers to be hooked by it. The game is (according to some, I’ve not played it) a poor execution on the mechanical level. The controls are poorly implemented and the game takes ‘real is brown’ to a ludicrous extreme.

Critics and reviewers, and I speak as one of the breed, want to talk about the meaning of things. We want to find the meaning of things. But often games are not about meanings, they’re about experiences. There are bad art games, the way that there are bad art films and bad literary novels, works that exist only to make some higher point while providing a miserable and unpleasant experience, but they have even less reason to exist because a game is an interactive experience.

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops the Line fails mechanically as a game. It plugs that failure by referencing Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad and setting up an absurd cliched ending that most of us have seen done in movies before. But this blew away game reviewers, even ones who would have laughed off Spec Ops the Line as a movie, because it was moving gaming forward, in their minds, to some wonderful world where games would be deeper works of art instead of murder sims.

Unlike Day Z, there really isn’t much talk about Spec Ops the Line, even by those who like it, because there isn’t much to say about it. Unlike Day Z it doesn’t provide moral choices or a complex experience. It is just a student film cover for incompetence. But that cover makes people feel smart and critics like feeling smart.

The seduction of the critic is that trap of fake intelligence, whether it’s reviewing what a game should have been instead of what it is or reviewing a game positively because it made you feel smart, not because it was a good experience.

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.

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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.

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