The Dark Knight Rises (US, 2012)

Men fighting

I need to stop watching Hollywood blockbusters… well I already said that re The Avengers. However I am an admirer of Christopher Nolan, and thought The Dark Knight was great, so I forfeited a few hours of my life again and was bored…

The Nolan brothers, the film’s co-scripted by Chris’ sibling Johnathan, are adept at placing contemporary references into the Batman universe. In The Dark Knight this was through the use of torture, the Bush administration’s interrogation technique. In Rises the destruction that bankers have wrought is included. ‘People’s justice’ is meted out to them but, and this firmly places the film in Frank Miller’s right wing world, the judge, malevolently played by Cilian Murphy, is clearly shown to be several screws short of a full brain. Yes there’s the schadenfreude of seeing those who remain untouchable in the real world being punished but aren’t we meant to be relieved when batman, inevitably, regains his manhood and restores the status quo? Thus the punishment becomes wrong. Well that’s wrong, these bastards that have screwed the economies around the world for their personal gain should pay (with time not their lives).

Avengers Assemble (US, 2012)

The $1bn question?

What’s the point? $1bn and counting… I hereby declare I am too old to review ‘popcorn’ movies as I’ve seen too many of them. That’s not to say this is a bad movie, just when you get north of 50 there are many better ways of spending three hours of your life.

X-Men: First Class (US, 2011)

Reinvigorating a franchise

I enjoyed Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies as they combined pyrotechnics with a thoughtful presentation on the effects of being different. The openly-gay Singer celebrated getting a ‘coming out’ scene (ie the mutant telling his parents) into a mainstream movie. By the third of the trilogy there were more yawns to the buck than excitement so it was reboot time. Like JJ Abrams’ reworking of Star Trek First Class takes us back to when the crew were first put together and so is set during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

It repeats Singer’s success with a terrific group of younger actors; Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is particularly compelling. I’ll be surprised if there’s a better superhero movie about this summer and there’s a marvellous cameo by Wolverine (who has his own movies now).

Thor (US, 2011)

Oedipal shenanigans

Yet another male having to prove himself to his father… yawn. Oedipus and Freud are probably the fathers of Hollywood. Are Hollywood execs yearning to prove themselves to their fathers? Are their lives so empty that they constantly seek self-realisation in the resolution of the narrative? So why am I bothering to blog this film?

I’m not familiar with the Marvel comic source material but the film version does offer, at least, a slightly more subtle version of masculinity than, say, Schwarzenegger’s Conan. Chris Hemsworth’s pretty boy musculinity does manage to find a non militaristic way of being a man. I won’t be giving the film away by telling you that the catalyst for this is a woman: Natalie Portman’s attractive (under-statement) scientist.

Visually the film’s OK; by that I mean it’s pretty stunning but CGI’s ability to do anything has rendered it virtually incapable of creating genuine spectacle. I ended up in the 3D version which only confirmed that, for this type of cinema, it is entirely unnecessary; something multiplex audiences are starting to agree with by choosing the cheaper 2D versions this summer over the 3D offerings.

The Dark Knight (US, 2008)

Interrogating evil

Interrogating evil

It’s heartening that the year’s big movie is going to be such a thoughtful film. Of course that doesn’t mean the millions of people who’ve seen the film have necessarily thought about it but at least it raises interesting questions compared to, say, last year’s Transformers which, despite some witty dialogue, merely painted by (American) numbers. The Dark Knight is an event movie on a number of counts: enormous hype built, partly, around Heath Ledger’s death; the immense box office (currently 2nd biggest non-adjusted at the North American box office); two and a half hours of superb blockbuster cinema.

The highlight for me was the ‘stand-off’ between the ferries; it doesn’t take much imagination to see this as a critique of the ‘hit ’em first’ philosophy that governs western (and Russian) foreign policy. And Ledger will probably deserve the Oscar he’ll get as it is a tremendous performance (best as a nurse destroying a hospital) – a sad loss.

There’s been a debate about the certification. When the BBFC introduced the 12A (in response to Spiderman (2002), they should’ve retained the 12 for films such as this as it isn’t suitable for most children under 12. However I don’t see the problem with 12+ with an adult.

Ghost World (US, 2001)

Thora Hird rightly received the plaudits for this; Scarlett Johansson is now the star. Excellent adaptation of the comic satire; sensibly extending its episodic nature with the Steve Buscemi character. Interesting that the US has a thriving counter culture (or is that phrase too ’60s?); a reaction against the suffocating mainstream? (DVD, 2)