Dark Knight

July 22, 2008 by  
Filed under Movies

The last few summers have been laced with superhero movies. We’ve been inundated with your Spidermans, your Supermans, your Iron Mans, and your Hulks…and get ready for the train to keep rolling–”Watchman” (a DIFFERENT kind of superhero story) is coming out next March.

But it seems as though all of those films were leading up to this, the most anticipated superhero flick possibly in the history of film mainly because of one tragic fact: one of the cast members ultimately died from the intensity of his role. Guess who? Answer at the end of the show. Yes, we all know the ill-fated Heath Ledger will cast a tragic cloud over this film, which is a pity. But on a positive side, he provides the most ambitious and outstanding role of his career, as the Joker. Nicholson, tip your cap.

Now how about the film? Well, with the hype surrounding pretty much every film this summer, this one certainly took the cake. But finally we have one that lived up to it. “The Dark Knight” is a movie that deserves to be recognized as more than just a comic book movie, but as a great narrative about being a hero, the glory AND the tragedy. What you have to sacrifice, which is what “The Dark Knight” surrounds itself with in theme. Everyone has a price to pay.

Everyone, that is, but the Joker. The Joker, comic book’s most devilish anarchist with no real regard for human life (not even his own), used to be more stylized and powerful (Nicholson’s Joker in 1989’s “Batman”). But in this case, Christopher Nolan offers a more stripped down, and homicidal maniac version of the Joker. The kind of Joker that Frank Miller and Alan Moore envisioned decades ago. This kind of Joker is the scariest type of villain because he doesn’t want or need anything. As one character in the film says about these kind of people, “They just want to watch the world burn.”

The film looks and feels as big as it was advertised, and there are some absolutely breathtaking sequences involving our beloved city. The storyline of the film is just as big, but not over the top and awkward the way “Spiderman 3? was (could we really follow all those plot lines?). Here, Nolan , his brother, and co-writer David S. Goyer (”Blade”, “Dark City”) paint a masterpiece of narrative, involving very credible subplots that include Bruce Wayne’s former squeeze and the always likable Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. Wayne’s own personal demons are understandably pushed aside as most of his woes have been covered brilliantly in “Batman Begins”–and we finally really see the actual Batman emerge as a prominent character rather than just a cool looking dude in a suit who beats up bad guys. Batman has to sacrifice as well, to be a hero.

There are not too many scenes in which you can relax–there is so much action going on that it sometimes feels like a roller coaster. But there is never a moment where the story is betraying your intellect, nor is there a point where you feel like the filmmakers are just showing off their big budget special effects. It is easily the fastest two and a half hours I’ve spent in a theatre.

Ledger will most likely get an Oscar nomination out of this, and I think that’s a bit cynical now. It’s not Hollywood’s fault that he wouldn’t be around for the award ceremony but it is part of an institution that he obviously couldn’t handle. I’ve seen actors play much more intense roles and LIVE (think of his co-star, Christian Bale, in “The Machinist”). However, he does realistically deserve consideration. His part in the film is probably the most rewarding; he’s not only maniacal and pathetic and skin-crawlingly creepy–he’s also hilarious and he’s a total scene stealer.

But in all honesty, this film deserves at least a Best Screenplay nomination. It’s simply one of the best written films I’ve seen from a big studio in quite a while. It’s a shame this will be only noted as “the best comic book film of all time”, which would be an appropriate annotation, because it’s so much more than that. It looks deep into the human soul, and wretches out the best and worst of us all.

And I haven’t even gotten into Harvey Dent’s story. But you know, I think it’s important not to give too much away. But let’s say his isn’t disappointing whatsoever. And ultimately, lends more to the theme as well. Consider his name, “Two Face” Harvey Dent, and how the two faces of a coin, and two sides of a story, good and evil are two sides–you get the picture.

This is what big blockbusters are meant to do. Deliver and go beyond. Unlike “Hancock” and “The Incredible Hulk” which still relied on style and aesthetics rather than a deep narrative, “The Dark Knight” gave us what we were looking for.

And that’s heroic.

My rating: :grin:

Family value: Unless your boys are over the age of 12 and/or can handle some intense moments, I would say skip this and take them to see “Get Smart”. Use discretion. But treat yourself to it!

The Incredible Hulk

July 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Movies

A few years ago, they tried this experiment. Ang Lee was to direct “Hulk” starring Eric Bana (also known as the half-Ryan Theriot, half-Vinny Del Negro clone) as Bruce Banner, one of the biggest conundrums in super hero history. His super ego, the Hulk, was both a hero…and a villain. He wasn’t a bad villain but he caused destruction and had no control over what he did. It was your Jekyll & Hyde for a new age.

But let’s go even before that, to when Stan Lee first invented the Hulk back in the 70’s. You can pretty much place almost all Marvel Super heroes in one category: emo. Every single one of these guys are suffering, every day people who happen to be given a great gift and a great curse. It’s true with Spiderman, it’s true with the X-Men, and it’s true with the Incredible Hulk. It all had to do with gamma rays and nuclear explosions and radiation…such was the times. Everyone was in fear of greatness, everyone was in fear of horribleness. Everyone should have been afraid of the 80’s.

Let’s go back to the “Hulk” movie: it was lame. That was that. Decades of hype, having to deal with Lou Ferrigno, all leads up to a CGI mess that disappointed me in Marvel, Eric Bana, and most importantly, Ang Lee. There was no identification of who Bruce Banner was, or who the Hulk was, except a CGI giant.

So, I suppose someone thought this was too much of a travesty to just let go, and they green lit (green eh?) another “Hulk” picture. But this wouldn’t be a sequel. Nope, they were going to pretend that other “Hulk” movie didn’t exist.

They did the right thing. With all the origin stuff pretty much being thrown at you during the opening credits, we glide through the back story with crackles and pops and cool green effects, and are ready for a new, fresh story…beginning in…Brazil. Great start!

Bruce finds himself ostracized, but not just because he is a lonely guy. He’s also hiding from the military. And he wants to get back home, but he needs to find the cure to his “Hulk” issues. He starts speaking to a “Mr. Blue”, someone he probably found through craigslist while looking for a friend, and is of course, “Mr. Green”. Mr. Blue wants to help Bruce but he needs data captured from the original experiment that turned Banner into the Hulk to begin with…but Banner doesn’t have it, and thus needs to get back “home”, to the university where it was created.

There is a problem, however; in a small mishap at work, Banner accidentally bleeds into a bottle of some kind of Brazillian juice at the manufacturing plant he is working at–and the bottle is shipped to the USA…and an unknowing purchaser of this elixir finds there’s more punch to the juice than the name claims. The pay off of WHOM this affects is pretty amusing.

That alerts the military, and then all hell breaks loose in Brazil (for once, not caused by a soccer riot) and Banner becomes the Hulk, and for the next few months, disappears and actually gets himself to America, and back into the arms of his old sweet heart, of whom we know nothing about, Betty Ross.

That’s problem number one. While it’s nice to think that everybody by now knows the story of the Hulk and trust me, the theaters will be packed with fanboys who will know more about the Hulk than medical doctors know about the human anatomy–it still doesn’t mean the screenwriter gets off the hook for not setting up a relationship story better. Zak Penn, I expected more out of you.

The script is much crisper, much more thought provoking, and MUCH more fun than the previous “Hulk”–but by saying more thought provoking, I’m putting more of an indictment on “Hulk” than I’m giving credit for “The Incredible Hulk”.

There are some nice inside jokes here that I think most people WILL get, especially if you grew up on the show (watch for a nice little cameo of someone you’ll remember from the old “Incredible Hulk” series, happy to receive a free pizza while on duty as a security guard). But aside from that, this film suffers from just about every other super hero movie and that is…it degrades into a fanboy circle jerk fight scene between Mr. Super Hero and Mr. Nemesis…and Mr. Nemesis is MUCH bigger and scarier.

Now, didn’t we JUST see this with “Iron Man”? Look I know that not all studios know what’s going on in each other’s litters, but the fights between the Grey Hulk and the Green Hulk are RIGHT out of “Iron Man”. It’s as if the designers just grabbed stuff from “Iron Man” and replaced the two guys fighting each other.

And while there’s a bit more heart and humanity in this film than “Hulk”, there is so much more to Bruce Banner and the tortuous story he has that is left out of this film. But trust me, Ed Norton does about as good a job as you can expect.

And as for the Hulk itself? Well, it definitely looks better. When he’s standing there, not pulverizing things, it does look like a living, breathing CREATURE. However, when he SPEAKS…eye rolls galore. Not necessary and takes away from the mystique.

Overall, this is a movie kids will LOVE, so Dads–take your boys to see this immediately. They will absolutely love it. You may enjoy it as well.

The last scene is probably my favorite of the whole film. It links two super hero movies together that I hope does come to fruition in the future because it features my new favorite super hero right now…which I’ve probably given away already. But it’s a real treat the way this film ends.

I’d still recommend “Iron Man” over this, but if you’re gonna see one comic book movie you may as well see them all because there are more to come this summer.

:grin::grin::smile: out of :grin::grin::grin::grin: