Movie Review: My completely spoiler-heavy review of The Dark Knight Rises

“I trust Christopher Nolan”. That’s what I’ve been saying to pretty much everyone who has asked my opinion on what The Dark Knight Rises was going to be like all year. He’s pulled off the impossible time after time, and if the critical and financial success of The Dark Knight Returns and Inception isn’t enough to buy him some fan boy credit, I don’t know what is.

Unfortunately, it’s a statement that might no longer be true.

Here’s how I usually do my movie reviews. I sum up the plot of the film without spoiling too much, then add a few things I like, a few things I don’t like, then sum up the whole thing with a paragraph that I think is funny, but that no one else seems to get.

But summing up the plot of Dark Knight Rises in a paragraph would be like summing up the history of earth in a Tripadvisor comments section, so we’re going to try something different.

We start the movie with Bruce Wayne enjoying his eight year retirement from being Batman (apparently he didn’t watch the end of the last Batman film where Bruce Wayne said that he would never stop being Batman, ever), though instead of  a watch Wayne gets to be crippled, poor, and have beautiful women throw themselves at him for no discernible reason.

Christian Bale looking confused after having read the script to The Dark Knight Rises.

Then Anne Hathaway steals from him but she’s not really stealing from him and instead she’s working for this guy that’s working for another guy that used to work for another guy from the first movie. The first other guy works out a lot and has a mumbling problem, and wants to blow everything up because that’s what the second other guy wanted to do even though the second other guy soundly rejected the first other guy. Despite having almost no evidence that this first other guy even exists whatsoever, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman again on the advice of a handsome orphan who somehow figured out that Wayne is Batman because he saw him once. (Alas, I’m not exaggerating that even a bit) Batman gets told by Michael Caine that he’s a terrible person and that he’s going to lose to the first other guy. Despite that rousing pep talk, Batman loses to the first other guy, who then shows his brilliance as a super villain by hiding Batman in a hole in the ground, telling Batman how to get out of the hole, and then acting really surprised when Batman gets out of that hole at the end of the movie and somehow beats him using the exact same strategy he used the first time they fought. But not before the first other guy  kills the first guy, and the second other guy explains the whole thing in a dream sequence/training montage. Oh, and Batman sleeps with a woman that he has no chemistry with, the handsome orphan runs around the city yelling at people angrily, and Anne Hathaway does bad things, then good things, then bad things again for absolutely no reason, but we’re supposed to forgive her because she looks good wearing a pair of heels longer than Tom Cruises leg.

P.S. This movie is a godforsaken mess.

I feel bad for thinking that way. Kind of. Christopher Nolan was THIS close to finishing off the greatest superhero trilogy ever made in style, but he seems to have gotten utterly bogged down with useless plotting minutia that he completely forgot what makes this character so great. A weak cast only compounds the effort, with Christian Bale sleepwalking his way through most of this film, as if he can’t wait to get to his new career of making movies where he doesn’t have to dress up like a giant rodent.  Hathaway does attempt to put forth a solid effort as Selena Kyle. But as usual with Nolan’s films, his female characters are either whores or saints, and it appears as if he didn’t have the time to let her know which one she was supposed to be. The rest of the cast flail about with vigour, all in service to a plodding script that seemed to have made sense to only one man.

Christopher Nolan’s films are known for “the big reveal”, and he works so hard to keep that streak going here that I have to believe he literally wrote this movie backwards. Great scenes are conceived, but then 10 minutes of exposition are shoe-horned afterwards to ensure that the those scenes “make sense”, making for an overly convoluted mess of a script.  When we finally find out who the villain behind the whole affair really is, we’re so numbed by the constant over-explaining that we can barely find the energy to shrug.

Tom Hardy as “Mumbles McGee”.

Though Nolan’s attention to character development has waned as his movies have gotten bigger, DKR has to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Nolan somehow manages to strip anything interesting out of a character that has held our interest for almost a century. The Bruce Wayne that starts this movie has lost his mission. But despite having 2 hours and 45 minutes to play with, Nolan forgets to give Batman any real reason to get his mission back. His city is in danger, but no more so than it was when Wayne was despondent and suicidal. His character arc in this film can be best described as: Sad Sad Angry Ouch Angry Yay, which also happens to be the character arc your puppy has when it accidentally bites a porcupine.

And so this is a negative review, of a film that inexplicably seems to have garnered universal praise. But I’m not too sad. Nolan gave us two very good Batman films already, and can hardly be faulted for not being able to close the deal here. In a year, or two, or ten, another film maker will be given the reigns, and will start the whole process again. The character can handle one bad movie. And quite frankly, so can Nolan.

He’s a strong film maker, and although this movie makes about as much sense as Christy Clark’s energy policy of “I’m against the rape of natural resources unless I get a cut”, I think that I still have to say, that “I trust Christopher Nolan.”

Just not with Batman anymore.

Rating: D-

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man directed by Mark Webb

At this point, we needed another film adaptation of the Spider-Man story about as much as we needed a movie that showed the secret stripper origin of Channing Tatum. Alas, this summer we somehow ended up with both.

The story is this: Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield, whose seems to think that he was actually rebooting Sleeper, since his entire performance here is a tribute to early 70’s Woody Allen)  is a really good-looking white kid from a middle class family who happens to be the second best science student at a high school that actually has science in its name. And so he gets crowned president of the school, and spends the rest of the film being carryed around on the backs of his fellow pupils. Oh wait, no. He actually gets picked on by the other kids, which is a little like Noam Chomsky being teased at an Occupy Wall Street Rally for being a little too far to the left .

That joke was originally a sports metaphor, but then I realized that no one would believe that I knew anything about LeBron James. Which is true.

But I digress. Parker lives with Martin Sheen and Sally Field, who have been taking care of him ever since his family abandoned him for a plot device to be named later. He happens to find some formulas (forumulae? Forumulets?) left by his dad, which leads him to look up his famous scientist father on Google for the first time ever. Or was it Bing? Or Yelp. Maybe ChristianMingle. One of those. So he tracks down his father’s science buddy, gets bitten by a irradiated spider, and then proceeds to gain spider powers. There’s also a talking lizard, and a love interest that’s actually somewhat believable, and Uncle Ben dies. Or was it Uncle Ben dies ? Damn spoiler buttons.

Anyways, here’s what I liked:

The relationship between Peter Parker & Gwen Stacey.  I put this first, as it’s the best part of the movie, and the strongest case Sony (and Webb) have for convincing me that this project needed to exist. Emma Stone & Andrew Garfield have a sexual charisma that is not only rare for this type of film, but is actually so palpable that one finds himself hoping that Sony realizes these two should have been remaking 9 1/2 Weeks instead. In every scene they’re in, they look like they can’t wait for the camera to turn off so that they can screw like bunnies.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, 5 minutes before making Peter Parker a man in the Midtown High bathrooms.

Secondly…Umm…I just realized that was the only thing I really liked about the movie.

It’s not that there is anything “wrong” about this piece. It’s fine, really. But if you are going to “reboot” a franchise in which the last film only hit theatres 5 years ago, you better have a pretty great reason for doing so. Sony has about 750,000,000 great reasons for doing so, but none of them matter very much to me. And it’s not as if I have fond memories of Sam Raimi’s bombastic trilogy either. There was plenty of fromage in all 3 instalments (though slightly less in the second, to be sure), with the last one being one of the worst superhero films ever made. There’s less that’s “wrong” here, and I think a strong case could be argued that the tighter dialogue, and stronger cast, definitely made this a slightly more accessible offering than Raimi’s films.

But there’s nothing here that screams out “I NEEDED TO BE MADE” here, and nothing that wouldn’t have fit in (with some tweaking, to be sure) as the fourth film in an existing franchise. It’s a slightly fresher take on the origin, but not so fresh as to convince me that Webb’s vision is so different from Raimi’s (As Nolan’s on Batman was from Burton’s, for example) that this film needed to be made.

That really doesn’t matter though. What matters is this: Does this movie stand on its own two legs as a credible adventure movie? The answer is sure. Barely, but sure. As stated, the characters have a depth to them that allows me to forgive the inexcusably bad CG (Seriously. How Sony can justify CG this terrible in 2012 is beyond me. I know Webb is a character guy first, but there’s really no excuse for the poor rendering, and choppy action sequences).

And the nice tweaks to the Uncle Ben sub-plot (The only absolutely indispensable part of any Spider-Man origin), as well as the very strong motivations for Peter post spider-bite, make up for the hackneyed “LET”S DESTROY EVERYONE JUST CAUSE ARGH!!” motivations of the villain. Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone, and Martin Sheen are the bedrock of a solid cast, and a decent script and some nice direction from Webb made this a fairly well-rounded summer action movie. It’s just not one you need to see. The action scenes don’t have much action in them, and there’s never any real sense of danger to any of the cast, even for the ones that actually die. In fact, it’s only when this action movie stops pretending to be an action movie, that it works on any level at all.

P.S. Peter Parker should not be cool. Ever.

Rating: B-