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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Let the force be with you...oh wait

Let me start with the disclaimer that I have never read a comic book in my life. Yep, that's right. I'm one of those. I get swept up in the buzz of a new blockbuster film and get my thrills and my education from that. I like cool special effects and morally tortured heroes. I like raised stakes and pumping music and when all the best bits of crime films and thrillers are blended up with a ton of CGI and fantasy. I don't know who is the best villain of all time, I don't reeeally know the difference between Marvel and DC, and I certainly couldn't tell you what happened in issue three of the Batman comics. I have almost zero prior knowledge and I therefore expect and even welcome your scorn.

However, I as such also represent the majority of the public. I enjoy the bickering between camps about what's legit and what isn't, the hysteria of the testy comic book know-it-alls as the release nears...I like the hype. And maybe by not knowing all of the backstory I do miss out on some of the little nods and nudges that has the comic fans creaming, but it also means that I enjoy these films just on their merit as a film. I am Joe Public.

With this in mind, I must also confess that I love Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy. A lot. I mean, I really, really love it. I went to see The Dark Knight four times at the cinema, and I do not go to the cinema often due to the price, being a student, and it not being socially acceptable to sit there in my jim jams. Nolan was the exception (or, it may be more accurate to say, Ledger was).

Saying that though, I was half on board the scepticism train with the new Dark Knight Rises venture. The trailer got me hyped, but not as much as The Dark Knight did. This Bane character didn't get my blood surging or my heart rate pumping the way the Joker did. And then friends' reviews came in, mixed, saying that it was boring, too long, they didn't understand it…was my new found faith in the superhero flick about to be rudely ripped away from me? Is the genre really just too damn exclusive for a newbie like me?

Wrong! I LOVED it. I spent three hours turning to my long-suffering boyfriend and friends going, "This is awesome…DID YOU SEE THAT…how awesome is this film?!" etcetera etcetera. Maybe it's because I prepared myself to be disappointed that I was so pleasantly surprised. I mean, how was anyone ever going to live up to Heath's Joker? But Tom Hardy doesn't try to, he doesn't even attempt it - he just does a bloody good job of being Bane. Acting with your eyes alone, with a voice distorted beyond recognition (and sometimes into incoherence) shouldn't leave any room for real acting, but Hardy does it. His presence has gravitas, his character is multi-layered (call me soft-hearted, but I pitied him), and he offered a moody, wounded, terrifying figure that changed the tone of the scene the minute he walked into it. His Bane is more ruthless than the Joker, whose insane love for destruction was always followed by a hysterical giggle; Bane just silently punishes, then walks away.

The realism of the Nolan films is what I have always loved. I find Spiderman hard to buy into with all of the CGI flying-through-the-air-in-lycra and eight-armed big green baddies. I know, I know, the point of superhero films is that they're fantasy, that the monsters can be proper mythical impossibilities and no one is supposed to bat an eyelid because the whole thing is ultimately nonsense anyway, right? But I just can't get fully on board with that because it breaks that wall of suspended belief too damn much for me. I sit there enjoying myself and then someone survives falling off a building or grows an extra leg and I'm lost to it. I like that Nolan's Batman series is dark and cerebral and takes itself really ridiculously seriously, because it makes the audience do the same. The new flying Batmobile is ridiculous, of course it is, and the first time I saw it I allowed myself a small snort of derision, but we're swept off so swiftly, so joyously, into the world of Gotham, into another plot twist, that I almost immediately forgot about it. Next time it popped up, my eyebrow remained un-raised. Nolan's decision to minimise the CGI and hoik up the realism makes this a superhero film I can totally, totally get on board with. With bells on.

There are negatives, of course. The middle section of the film, mostly Batman-less, drags a little, and too much time is devoted to Alfred's emotions about the Wayne family. Alfred and Bruce Wayne's relationship is never given enough screen time to make the separation feel particularly heart-wrenching, and all it serves to do is to lose some of the film's momentum. Anne Hathaway makes a great Catwoman – seductive and smart but nowhere near perfect at her craft, unlike so many superhero characters Hollywood would have us believe in. She is a breath of fresh air – so superior and so well suited for the role that it begs the question – Halle Berry who? Maybe it was just me, though, but I never got all that much chemistry between Hathaway and Christian Bale other than a few scripted witty one-liners. But then maybe I just like my superheroes wounded and lonely.

Despite its flaws, I genuinely was not bored once, and that says a lot for a film this length. The mixed reviews tells me that this is a Marmite flick, but I recommend taking a chunk out of your day and getting lost in the world Nolan has painstakingly created. As far as I'm concerned, no one has done it better and three is simply not enough. On the way home we all discussed whether there'd be more…a spin-off series, if you will (trying not to spoil!). I truly hope there is. My friends, who do read comic books, then proceeded to tell me all the villains there are that have yet to be featured. They sounded pretty awesome, I'm not gonna lie. I think whether Nolan decides to make more totally-awesome Batman films or not, I might have to give the comic book hype a try.


1 comment

  1. I loved this film! I really want to see it again!


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