Verdict: Oscar bait-y. Decent story that’s ruined by meta-story and melodrama. Has its moments, but is at other times plaintively manipulative. Judy Dench does have some fine bits in it, but that’s about it.
Verdict: Oscar bait-y. Decent story that’s ruined by meta-story and melodrama. Has its moments, but is at other times plaintively manipulative. Judy Dench does have some fine bits in it, but that’s about it.
It’s Oscar baiting season, so I’d like to start off with my favorite so far.
There’s a great short story by Jo Ann Beard called The Fourth State of Matter (you can read it here on the New Yorker’s site). In it, she describes working at a science magazine when a gunman walked in and shot up the place. She was out of work for the day because her husband had left her. A good number of her coworkers died. Since she moved to the area and no longer had a husband, she had no one to talk to about this, despite a few people who sympathized. She uses the idea of floating in space as a metaphor for the constant turmoil, numbness, and disconnection she experiences after the event.
Gravity is gonna be remembered for its visual effects and not its story. That’s a tragedy because Gravity is one of the best movies with a message I’ve ever seen.
Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Stone. She’s more or less an astronaut mechanic sent to fix the Hubble telescope. Some space debris collides and tears apart her ship, as well as some of her coworkers. It shatters her reality, sending her adrift in the atmosphere as she loses all contact with anyone that can help her. The movie is about her finding her way safely back home. This entire thing, including the visuals, is a metaphor.
George Clooney plays veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky. He likes to tell stories. While floating in the majesty of space, he calls himself a bus driver, cognitively reframing that, even though this seems like an enormous and rare mission, there’s nothing special about it other than it’s happening above the earth. As things fall apart, he maintains his role as navigator for Stone, helping her adjust amid the turmoil and helping he get back home, often acting supremely casual in terrifying circumstances.
In essence, the film is a meditation/narrative on surviving trauma. The movie very clearly sympathizes with Bullock, who fights every inch to save her life.
A lot of the action in the movie is a metaphor and a sort of facsimile of cognitive processing therapy. The metaphor here is that she experiences a major trauma: people around her are killed and she’s sent adrift into the atmosphere with no guidance. Kowalsky navigates her back to the ship. She then relives these horribly traumatic moments as she jumps space craft to space craft. The tumult and agony for Stone of just trying to survive is great and costly. She loses people important to her on the way until she’s the only one left.
This isn’t just a narrative about trauma itself, but a metaphor of the greater process of trauma. Surviving trauma is similar to Stone’s story. People who survive the initial trauma often get out of it (with some help), but then begin isolating, self-preserving, withdrawing. This is when, for a number of them, they commit suicide.
It’s a tough thing to grasp for people who haven’t been through it (or seen someone go through it) and it can come off as overly simplistic and a little sappy for those that haven’t. I think that’s the case here.
At the lowest point of the film, when Stone finally finds the Russian escape pod, but can’t figure out how to get to the Chinese one, Stone begins to withdraw. She contacts a guy through a ham radio. The guy doesn’t speak her language (metaphor). Think of all of the times you were at your worst, horribly in the dumps, and you start talking to someone and they’re not even close to understanding what you’re going through at that moment. Stone goes through this and withdraws and accepts her fate, resigning to suicide.
She then talks to a mental projection of Kowalsky, who cognitively reframes this whole situation. He navigates her back to fighting for her life because life itself is worth living. She fights perilous scenes and survives. She comes back down to earth (metaphor). She takes her first step on land (metaphor).
This is the problem. Because it’s such a simple story of loss and navigating through trauma, the film comes off as overly simplistic and shallow. The panic and high stress and anxiety in the film are channeled to the viewer and it is SUPER INTENSE watching it on an enormous screen and that distracts from the film’s subtleties, yet enhances its overt (and seemingly simple) message: trauma happens, but it’s survivable and makes the person stronger.
That message was well delivered. Cuaron capitalized on every bit of action in the movie. It was meaningful. It’s one of the few truths of the human experience. It was a goddamn impressive piece of work.
It’s a shame most people aren’t seeing that, though.
Found my tape recorder with some old interviews on it. Discovered one with Clayton Kershaw from this game here.
What was your best sequence of the game?
I don’t know. I threw a couple change-ups [to Soto] to get back to 1 ball, 2 strikes. The third curveball, you know, he took for strike 3. That was the best sequence, I guess, using all of my pitches.
Do you feel the curveball broke particularly well, or did it fool him, or was he not looking for it?
Yeah, he wasn’t expecting it, especially for a strike, so um. Any time I can throw off-speed for strikes that gives me something else to throw.
Sorry to ask about this, but that home run to Soriano, what was the sequence? Slider, fastball, fastball?
Yeah, he hit a 2-0 fastball out of the park. I’d rather give up a home run than walk him. That’s just the way it is.
Was it mislocated?
[smiling wryly] I dunno, I’ll look up the film and let you know tomorrow. A homer’s a homer.
Funny how different he sounds in his interviews today. Good kid.
Let’s be honest here, you’re not seeing this movie for the acting–and that’s great, because despite a pretty solid cast and a few surprisingly good performances, the story and the acting are … not great. I love Idris Elba and there was nothing he could do for this. I don’t like Charlie Hunnam, and although he wasn’t awful, he couldn’t stop himself from playing Jax Teller again (bleugh). This isn’t their fault, though, as there just wasn’t enough time to tell this story. One movie was clearly not enough.
You are seeing this movie because robots and monsters. And it’s awesome. The fighting sequences are incredible–balletic, almost. They’re intense and at times I found myself squeezing the armchair a little too hard. They hold your attention and make the boring dialogue palatable.
There isn’t much to say about this movie outside of that, except for one thing (which I’ll get to in a second). The story, the acting and most of the things that help a movie tell its story were lacking. Everything was crunched together, tightened so hard that a number of things were left out. You had to wonder how much was left on the cutting room floor–and how much was cut out of the first script.
There’s a much bigger issue here, though. In a movie era where everything is made to fit a trilogy or more, here comes a movie tailor-made for a trilogy and it gets one movie. Del Toro and Beachem packed in so goddamn much that an entire script’s worth of movie was explained in the first two or three minutes. They even laid out how this would’ve worked for a trilogy:
1. First kaiju attack + first jaegers and the first victory over kaiju.
2. Kaiju getting stronger and stronger (Empire Strikes Back kind of ending).
3. The majority of this movie.
And it could’ve been really, really good. Like, legendary good.
There was so much to unpack in this movie that the world of jaegers and kaiju came off as stunted. I honestly wanted more background here, and I don’t say that for a lot of movies.
Regardless of what you thought of the acting and the script and all that stuff, this movie promised robots and monsters fighting. And it was awesome. We’ll remember it for being fun and cool, but there’s a part of me that’s always going to wonder why this one didn’t get a multi-movie deal and a chance to spread its wings.
My father once sat me down before a synagogue service, I think it was Yom Kippur. I wasn’t religious and I was starting to show it. I was 18 at the time.
He said, “I don’t go to services because of religion. I go because when I go, I feel close to my brother.”
His brother, my uncle, died when I was 9, after a five-year battle with cancer. They were close. They were best friends and business partners. They were Dodger fans together.
I never felt what he did at temple. I’ve lost more than half my family in the last seven years and I never felt it at all sitting in those uncomfy non-folding chairs with the high backs in the last row, listening to a rabbi talk about being a good son or daughter to your parents. In fact, it was the opposite. I felt further from them, because I knew my heart wasn’t in it and the only person I was fooling was myself. The holidays only made me wish they were still around so they could chide me for not having faith.
I felt them at Dodger Stadium, though. I felt them–I heard them talking again–looking through baseball archives and watching games from the ’80s and ’70s and ’60s. I felt their presence watching the 1960 World Series clips and watching Hank Aaron hit no. 715. I could hear my grandpa talk about Ron Cey and Tommy Lasorda and my dad calling for a pinch hitter any time Todd Hundley came to the plate (he hated Hundley).
I hate this time of year now. I hate Passover and I hate opening day.
I hate it because it represents the inverse of what it once was. It’s a reminder that my family has split apart. It’s a reminder that my dad has died and I’ll never get to talk to him again and I have no one I can talk to about baseball. It’s a reminder that my brother doesn’t live here anymore and probably never will be again. It’s a reminder that my sister has been able to move on with her life while my mom and I haven’t.
After my father’s death, in my grief, I started looking up baseball stuff, just all sorts of shit. Heck, you can find it in the archives of this very blog. And I sat in front of this very computer and rationalized all of the shit that I was going through and all of the heartbreak and all of the pain and suffering and tried to give it reason.
In the process of symbolically trying to reconnect with a dad I would never speak to again, I alienated the rest of my family. I grew further from them. I lost myself in the ether.
The sport is no longer rewarding. With 30 teams, 29 will not win it all. If we’re watching baseball because it’s rewarding in that casual sense, then that’s just plain old idiotic.
And godforbid it ever does become rewarding. If I’m being completely honest with myself, any victory will taste like ash. It’ll be spent without the one person who made it matter and after hearing for YEARS how awesome it was to watch 1959, 63, 65, 81 and 88 together as a family, I can’t have that now? That’s some bullshit.
Jon Weisman once said this time of year is the start of summer. He opens up his lawnchair and gets a glass of lemonade and takes in a big breath of fresh green hot air and he relaxes and he’s happy. For me it’s the opposite. It’s a source of anxiety and pain. it’s a bitter pill I have to swallow every year.
I find no more joy in this time of year. I thought one day that might change and it hasn’t. I don’t know if it ever will.
It felt good to say that.
As I started this blog up some years ago, I did it with the expressed intention of finding what drove me to this sport–what was compelling me to still watch this sport and why. I thought the answer would be family, but it’s not. It’s because I enjoy the play. I enjoy watching the tension. It’s Shakespearean on some level. I enjoy it because it’s the most beautiful artform of modern society and it’s rife with gorgeous history.
My family got me into it, though. That’s why it’s painful right now, but, and this is the weird part, only the Dodgers. I love watching other games, I just have no interest in watching the Dodgers right now. I can’t tell if that’s just something for this moment or something that’ll be forever. I hope not forever.
For now, though, I can’t write anymore about baseball. Maybe someday I can pick it up again, just not now. I’ll keep writing movie and TV reviews here, though.
I need to start experiencing shit. I need to get out of my house and go do things and spend time with my niece and sister and brother-in-law and I need to travel. I need to go have fun. I can’t remember when that last was. It feels like forever ago.
It’s time for me to move on now.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for linking and supporting and being excellent people. I appreciate everything you’ve done, even when you challenged me and asked questions. You never really know the quality of a person’s character until you’ve challenged them and I learned I’m a much stronger person than I’ve ever thought.
I cannot tell you how much I’ve appreciated having this and how helpful it was in some pretty awful times.
Take care and thank you again.
So in my lifetime, I’ve seen probably triple digits-worth of romantic comedies, a good number of them directly romantic and most of them dressed as different styles of movies–spy movies (Duplicity) or action movies (Knight and Day) or kids movies (Princess Bride). Occasionally you get a decent movie out of one of these that’s kinda schlocky, but funny, and has a personal piece in there that’s touching. Most of them talk about idealized love or detail-oriented love and come up with maybe one or two universalisms about pain and hurt and love and so on.
And then there’s the other kind of romantic movies, the ones that try to make them serious and usually get either extremely depressing or end up unfulfilling–your Leaving Las Vegases, your Blue Valentines, your Revolutionary Roads, etc. Eugh.
In the last decade, I can name one romantic movie that pulled us in and disturbingly hit the right chords of funny, endearing, sweet, beautiful, terrifying, painful, and personal and it was so loaded half of it wasn’t even about actually being in love (Eternal Sunshine). (PS, fuck When Harry Met Sally.)
Celeste and Jesse aims just below that and hits its target, showing a sweet love that’s personal, and ultimately painful, but without trying to actively show us a horror story.
Celeste and Jesse promoted itself as a movie about two best friends who were married and got divorced and them working through that. This is kind of true. They divorce. Celeste plays with Jesse a bit and, after one night where they sleep together despite being divorced, he thinks he’s back in and she spurns him. So he gets up and leaves.
It shakes her world. The movie then follows her meltdown.
While he moves on, wisely, she struggles to adapt. It doesn’t play with us or try to make a Love Hurts montage; he clearly wasn’t treated as an equal in the relationship and was the one to realize it first instead. Celeste, who’s clearly in denial about a number of things, denies it and is devastated when he decides to move on with a different woman.
Jones plays the part jarringly well. She becomes a hot mess. When she cries, you cry. Her neurosis isn’t quite our neurosis, but you sympathize for her without being her. You feel bad for her because she’s done this to herself and her self-righteousness–which is softly pointed out by a potential love interest here and there–keeps her from realizing it.
Maybe the finest part of the movie, and the truest to life, is how Celeste can sometimes navigate through her world and sometimes can’t. Emotions are presented as tethers on a string and not a narrative. She hates dating, she’s nervous, she’s anxious, she’s angry, she’s depressed, she’s anxious and then when she’s dealing with a date, she’s kind of charming again. She doesn’t overcome immediately. In fact, it takes a huge portion of the movie, which is about the right amount. She does, however, manage to handle work decently, in spite of a pretty big slip.
The pain of a break-up is universal, which is why it’s in movies so often, but it’s so rarely made personal for us as it is in this one. Instead of trying to make it universal, the movie makes it particularly personal, which is what MAKES it universal.
There’s one particular scene where Jesse comes to her and his life is kind of out of order too and he’s unsure of what he’s doing. They make out a little and then he makes the smart decision to leave. When they meet up in the next scene to talk about it, she puts her heart on the line, offering it up to him, which she’d denied the entire movie, and he rolls his eyes and leaves. They fight and she sees red and says self-righteous little bits that are meant to be hurtful but aren’t because he’s seen this dog and pony show before. He sees the bigger picture and she still hasn’t at that point.
She reminded me of an ex or two. She’s an ubiquitous woman whose details are so specific we’ve all known her at some point in the movie, even as she changes in the movie. If Samberg’s character was developed more, you could see the same thing on his side.
And then the movie hangs a lot onto its subtlety, often having the characters just do something that goes against their character. (As opposed to most movies where a straight-laced character shockingly does Y and best friend character says “Jamie, you never do Y!!”). The great news is the movie finds that gap between showing too much and not showing enough and having to explain. If not for that, the movie completely wouldn’t work.
Celeste and Jesse ends up being about self-discovery and recovering from a disrupted world view, but through a personal lens. Celeste isn’t some weak-willed woman who’s wilted by losing a man; she’s a strong woman whose world has been shaken to its core. She overcomes.
Tackling love as an evolving, changing spectacle of highs and lows is an extremely dangerous endeavor, especially in movies, which only get an hour and a half of your attention. C + J doesn’t try to accomplish all of that, but it covers the desperation and the myopia people experience in their own relationships. When that myopia is challenged, worlds fall apart. That’s what makes this movie universal, understandable, painful, sweet and personal.
You can almost see if this movie wasn’t handled so directly by Jones and McCormick, who both star in it (McCormick is the second male lead), it would’ve been half the movie it is.
The other obvious comparison to this movie is 500 Days of Summer. What Summer accomplished was finding the humor in the pain because it’s universal. But C + J figured out why that pain is there and exposed it: break ups happen because someone realizes something before the other. While Celeste realized when they got divorced that he wasn’t shaping up, they both strung each other along. When Jesse realized he would never be his equal while they were together, it hit something at her core. And that’s what made this movie so funny, terrifying, painful and personal. It’s what makes this movie the second-best romance movie of the last decade.
See it when you get a chance.
I know I don’t usually post things about the arts here, but I think it’s time I did.
Best TV Series — Game of Thrones
This was an easy pick. Although TV’s been getting better and better with its selections of programs and entertainment, both in ambition and the finished product, Game of Thrones was the most ambitious and the best finished product by far. The cast is enormous, the plot is a tumultuous grab bag of awesome, the characters are distinct snowflakes, the action is there, the drama is there; there are awesome good guys to root for, conflicted good guys who make (understandably) bad decisions, power-hungry bad guys that pull empathy out of the viewers and power-hungry bad guys that are easy to hate. Game of Thrones combines the best in television: roiling, moving plots with roiling, moving characters. The show changes with its world and its characters. It’s a beautiful thing.
Breaking Bad deserves some credit here too, but I’ll save that write-up for when they finish next season.
Worst TV Show — NCIS
My mom loves this show and makes me watch it now and again when we spend time together. I know there are some shows that are just like day jobs for some people, where they go in and film and they give the viewers what they want and everyone goes home happy. This is the antithesis of TV show making for me. It’s sloppy and hackneyed. The characters are husks. One in particular uses pop culture to define himself. This show has always seemed like an excuse to have another procedural on the air and nothing it’s ever done has convinced me otherwise.
Most Surprising TV Show — Justified
I’m a little biased on this one since I had to review it for IGN. HOWEVA. Justified had a really great season. It was a show with a purpose.
Justified’s entire premise is more or less slice of life Kentucky law enforcement and country vs. city living in the south. While there’s always been something there from the start–something to build on–it wasn’t capitalized great in the first season. By the second season, they created Mags Bennett and Mags was freaking awesome. Good ol’ country law-breaking, moonshine makin’ Mags.
And then they killed her.
That’d normally be a terrible idea. A character of Mags’ discretion, build, influence and attitude–and one as superbly acted as this one was (Margo Martindale)–is tough enough to build for any series. To kill her off would be to kill off interest in the show.
And yet, it was the exact opposite. While Mags was put to rest, we were introduced to several moving parts–Quarles, a carpet bagger from the north who saw a hole in the power after Mags’ death and wanted to take advantage; Quarles was a deeply fucked up character and his style and panache were just so creepy and off-putting it was hard not to like him for being so weird. There was also Ellstin Limehouse, played with a sweet southern drawl by Mykelti Williams, and the resurfacing of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and the rise to power of Wynn Duffy (played by one of my favorite character actors, Jere Burns).
I don’t like to throw around the term “chess game” much when talking TV because most TV writers would be freaking terrible at it if they actually played, but Season 3 was a chess game. The writers knew where they stood at the end of Season 2 (with a power gap in the seedy underbelly of rural Kentucky and no one capable of filling that hole yet) and knew where they needed to be by the end of Season 3 (a multi-player power structure run by the locals already within the show). By introducing Quarles, all of the other power players saw the movements and jumped on in.
I’m not doing a great job of describing this. If you love watching great technical skills in TV writing, watch this show. If you like character TV, watch this show. There’s very few reasons to not watch this show now. My only hope is they keep it up for Season 4, which starts in a week.
Most Disappointing TV Series — Dexter
I haven’t watched Dexter in years–I quit after I think Season 2 or 3–and this season sounded promising. Deb found out. Dexter was in deep shit. The big shit-hit-the-fanning was upon us.
The entire series had to do something about this at some time; it was becoming obvious that having a Serial Killer of the Year and Dexter finding him/her and hunting her down just wasn’t going to sate viewers. Something needed to come to a head. And so Deb found out about Dexter’s serial killer ways.
Something needed to get this show out of alternative development hell and make it interesting again. The only problem was nothing changed.
Things come to a head at the end of the season. Laguerta finds out about Dexter and is doing a good job of actually prosecuting him. Dexter’s track-covering is getting sloppy, but he’s still got Laguerta running circles. Until finally this and that and the other thing and Bob’s your uncle, Dexter has to kill Laguerta. OK, fine. He gets her all ready for the killing and Deb finds him and points a gun at him and after some Sophie’s Choice moment, Deb kills Laguerta.
It was maybe the safest possible ending for everyone and probably the most gutless. Laguerta was expendable. The only interesting thing for next season is what people think happened to Laguerta, but I’m not interested in it that much to actually watch.
What I would’ve rather seen would’ve been maybe Dexter has to go on the lamb, and following that until his eventual arrest. This is basically what Homeland will start doing next season. Alternatively, having Doakes come back from the dead would’ve been a better possible ending for this season, even if there was no explanation. It would’ve taken some guts to kill Dex there, but that would’ve just thrown the whole show into chaos.
My colleague at IGN, Matt Fowler, has been defending this show for a while and he and I had distinctly opposite reactions. Literally. On Twitter, I immediately posted: “Meh.”
His response was “this was excellent.”
I respect Matt and he’s been watching the show a lot longer, so I trust huge Dexter fans loved this as well, but it didn’t bring me back into the fold.
Partial shout out to Homeland, which was set up for failure for Season 2. There was absolutely no way Carrie and the gang was going to top Season 1 from start to finish, but at least the writers have set themselves up for what looks like a good Season 3.
Best Movie — Silver Linings Playbook
There are few movies this day and age that present a situation–a plot–where the whole world is topsy turvy and yet suck you into that world. SLP was outstanding from beginning to end, hilarious when it shouldn’t have been, heart-breaking when it should’ve been and overall just a great, uplifting movie.
The basic gist is this: Pat (Bradley Cooper) has bipolar type II. He’s coming back from the mental institution. He meets a girl who has bipolar type II (Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence) and they get each other. While the world around them is kinda nervous to see them and doesn’t understand what they’re going through, they get each other.
The entire story is more or less a Cameron Crowe romantic comedy. Guy is in love with ex-wife. He meets this new girl. New girl hooks him in via a quid-pro-quo. Guy falls in love with new girl despite ex becoming interested again. You get it.
The difference is, SLP understates the love story because the love story isn’t worth much. What’s stated is Pat’s every day battles with being bipolar and the world perceiving him as crazy–same with Tiffany–in a world where he wants to be normal.
And Pat’s world is wonderfully exposed here. Pat goes off his rocker a few times, and it’s not how you’d think. It’s jarringly real. He becomes obsessive; it’s a little frightening to his family and friends, who keep trying to deter him from contacting his ex-wife. He gets oddly aggressive about things that seem inconsequential. But his attitude is positive and because the film is shot as manically as Pat’s behavior, you root for him. You are in his world and you want him to come out in the end.
There’s so much more to talk about this that I can’t even begin to explain. David O. Russell absolutely NAILS what it’s like having someone with bipolar type II in the family and the every day fight against it. He presents it unapologetically. And yet, they live in their own world; a world that other people with bipolar get, but a world you and I don’t really understand. That’s why this movie works so well.
All right, you’ll have to go see it, I can’t explain it better than that right now.
Worst Movie — Battleship
I seldom go see movies I don’t want to see, but this was an exception.
As with any movie, there were some good things in this. Taylor Kitsch was actually pretty funny in it and it would’ve been a lot cooler if this movie didn’t kill his career. Peter Berg, despite being given a shit sandwich, directed it well. Rihanna was not a terrible actress.
However, this was a very clear moneygrab. Everything was off from the start. Battleships aren’t even used in war anymore. Everything in the movie aimed toward this one scene where they tried to shoehorn in the actual game play. It was sloppy and if it’s sloppy with Peter Berg at the helm, you’ve picked the wrong movie to make into a movie.
The basic premise of this movie was shit from the start and nobody in the middle of the process thought “you know what, maybe we’re stretching too far on this one.”
Most Surprising Movie — Amazing Spider-Man
So you’ve got Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone rehashing a franchise that was done (excellently) by Sam Raimi only a few years ago. Why? Probably because The Avengers need Spider-Man eventually and so just throw it in a pot and see if it boils. If it doesn’t, you have a Spider-Man for the next Avengers movie anyway, so what the hell.
Here’s the odd thing: I would’ve rather seen this Spider-Man series more than Raimi’s. And I love Raimi and that series.
Amazing Spider-Man did what basically no other Superhero has done in a world of gritty reboots: it developed Parker’s teenage and formative years.
Peter Parker is the perfect superhero to do this to. He’s a sensitive guy, good sense of humor, and had a pretty tough upbringing. His uncle, the closest thing he has to a father figure, is killed.
This seems like a slam dunk to develop and yet no one really has. Because this one did, it made his rise to superherodom more authentic. You feel his pain and his compulsion to make the world right.
Some of Parker’s pain was utterly real. Parker saves the last voicemail he received from Uncle Ben and he listens to it in two important parts in the movie. As someone who’s lost a father figure at a young age, holy shit. I’ve done the exact same thing.
And then we watch Parker evolve into Spider-Man. He’s at first a decent kid. His world is thrown into chaos when his uncle died and he becomes despondent and angry and all the feelings that go into that.
While you feel his pain, you see the rationalizations that eventually turn him into the regular good guy Peter.
For a story about an awkward teenager finding his way through chaos into becoming a man, this was a well-thought out, well-produced, well-directed, well-packaged movie. It was painful, but cathartic. It was fun, and yet meaningful. It was a great story.
Most Disappointing Movie — The Dark Knight Rises
You watched the first two almost definitely, right? Re-watch The Dark Knight. Once you stop watching for Heath Ledger’s performance, there’s a lot of holes in it.
Unfortunately, TDKR doesn’t have Heath Ledger’s performance in it.
Tom Hardy is a fantastic Bane and I’m so very happy that Nolan decided to reintroduce Bane into the movie franchise after the awful Batman and Robin take. Bane is awesome in this one. The opening scene is particularly killer and we see early on why people follow Bane so readily. His eerily calm voice in a chaotic situation is the metaphor needed to project why his followers follow him so ardently.
The biggest problem with TDKR is everything else.
There’s a very clear War on Terrorism parallel here about intelligence and breaking laws to save humanity in the face of terrorists who want nothing but power. Unfortunately, it’s completely dehumanizing and overly simplistic on every level.
There’s even a parallel about using guns as a means of protection. It’s kind of disturbing, especially after the Aurora shooting.
Even discounting the political motivation, the movie lacked coherency. It was all over the place, trying to stuff too much info into too little time. (Strangely, had Nolan ditched the War on Terror strings, I think it would’ve been far more coherent). A single thread about battling Bane, with the RISE scene, and without Joseph Gordon-Levitt would’ve probably been smoother. Alternatively, taking out Catwoman probably would’ve helped too, but Anne Hathaway was great in it and I wouldn’t want to do that to her.
In the end, the whole thing is kind of a mess. This happens sometimes with trilogies where the first two are about the rise to power and fighting the good fight and the third one doesn’t know where to take it from there. Evil will continue to exist after Batman in the Batman universe, so having the trilogy end doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And there’s our conundrum.
OK, that’s this year in review. Hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to disagree with me and post what you think was the best/worst/surprising/disappointing.