Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Spoiler. Alert.

I loved it, first of all. I am a full-on Batman fan. Not the biggest one, but a true one. This movie appealed to me. The movie has brought about buzz for a number of reasons: plotholes, length, telegraphed twists, larger picture statements and more plotholes.

I was afraid that this Batman wouldn't be the perfect idyllic conclusion we all assumed Nolan would deliver. As more audiences saw it and grew to have opinions on it, conversations escalated to debates, to arguments, to achieve the polarization we sit at now in the response to the film. But I think in the end, it is not what this movie was about overall or the hidden subtexts, it's what this movie caused that we will remember.

 A week ago, I had not seen The Dark Knight Rises. The following ideas did not exist in my universe:

Anne Hathaway as a damn good "cat" burglar.
A broken back healing in 5 months.
John Blake, a Batman named Robin, or what the hell Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character was going to be.
A Batman saga without the Joker.
The Bane voice.
Dun, dun, dun-dun, dun-dun, (repeat).
Gotham City facing a nuclear bomb threat.
This critical, cynical, dare I say why-so-serious backlash to the film.

Do you remember people poking so many holes in The Avengers? It's insane to think the Avengers didn't have anything to "live up to" in the way that TDKR did. The Avengers was teased at in like, six movies over five years. Yet the plotholes aren't so magnified in what is looked at as more of a joyride than an Oscar prospect.

Nolan's Batman began with Begins. It presented a fresh believable superhero world, with a couple military technology-related leaps of faith (such as those of the Tumbler from rooftop to rooftop). The movie was a quiet killer. Shows no caution in presenting a full-on origin story without pulling any punches, and clocked in at 2 hours, 20 minutes.

The series continued with The Dark Knight, which brought a reimagined Joker into the fray, included modest upgrades in technology from Begins, and took superhero films to a new level. Heath Ledger didn't merely portray a comic book character, he acted the shit out the Joker. And his death nearly derailed the series. In fact, why didn't it derail the series? Had it been Christian Bale and not Heath Ledger that died, this series would have ended. It would have been impossible to continue the story without Batman.

As it stands, and so many people forget, it was near impossible to continue the story without the Joker. Yet, dimming the bright light shining upon Nolan's artistic control of the series, the American public demanded that the show go on. Nolan obliged, per his large sack of change and promise of more millions.

Chris called his brother John, and together they attempted to put together a new image from the puzzle pieces that remained. As it turned out, there were plenty of ends to tie up.

Shocked, we should be, that they sniped every hanging thread from the two previous movies — except one, obviously, being that of Ledger's Joker. A dead elephant in a room full of people who claim to be snubbing their noses at something else. This was not Nolan's baby. This was his adopted child.

"This is a time bomb story," one critic wrote, as if he had left the showing when he found this out, deeming it thusly unworthy.

Others didn't like the film's tone, which means absolutely nothing if you think about it. "It hasn't earned its darkness," said a Rotten Tomatoes top critic. In essence, his complaint is that since this movie lacks the Joker, and instead has a more practical superstrong warlord as its antagonist, it is not allowed to be as frightening.What he wishes, is that Nolan submit to the idea that the Joker was the only way to achieve a level of darkness, and that sans Joker, the film has to be less threatening. The point of this movie is that things can still happen without the Joker. Darkness can endure. Havoc can be wrought. The stakes can be raised.

"The 9/11 subtext is more explicit than ever here," wrote CNN's reviewer, of course.  Superheroes needed to prevent catastrophic genocidal plots before 9/11, you know. If there's an attack on Gotham City (or New York, Spiderman) in a superhero movie, it's probably because it's a superhero movie, not because of Osama bin Laden.

"Bane’s intentions with regard to Gotham and its protector go from uncertain to outright contradictory over the course of the film, with the character flip-flopping between a desire to empower Gotham’s populace (at times seeming like the spokesperson for the real-world Occupy movement) and an urge to obliterate every living person in the city." - A critic who didn't get it. Bane explicitly told an imprisoned Bruce Wayne that he was going to destroy Gotham, but give it hope at first that it could survive (so long as no one crosses that fucking bridge).

The reputation of realism that precedes this film is the bane of its critical interpretation. This movie is just as fun as The Avengers. Except you have your fun in the villain's successes as much as the protagonist's rise to stop them. The bigger the wave, the more awesome the surf. For instance, it is when The Joker blows up a hospital that The Dark Knight goes from good to great. In Bane, people are expecting a step down in scale, I guess? Bane blows up a football stadium, and does it a hell of a lot more credibly than Joker sneaking in barrels and barrels of explosives to a hospital. No one cares that Bane's blast was bigger and more realistic than the clown's, because they miss the clown, and he's the best.

A lot of criticism has been lobbed at the lack of actual Batman in the film as well. The movie is called The Dark Knight Rises, so I don't think that leaves room to complain of his precursory downfall. The point is to see what happens when Batman is incapacitated. See how much Gotham City needs Batman. They hadn't needed him for eight years. Batman had won his war. Batman leaves Gotham after the first stroke of Bane's revolutionary decree is made, and comes back 18 hours before his initiated and carried-out plan is complete. It is essential that Batman be gone this long, so that the problem can loom so large and ending need to be executed so hastily.

Then there's the 15 botherances posted by /Film:

1. How does Bane know who Batman is? You answered it yourself. He found out because of his longstanding affiliation with Talia Al Ghul and the League of Shadows.
2. How does Blake know who Batman is? Nolan paints Wayne's playboy personality, but doesn't focus on it enough for people to get this: there's no fucking way Bruce Wayne would be Batman. Blake sees through this mask Wayne wears because he knows how it is able to be concocted. Sometimes superheroes identities aren't known to the public. Prove that real life dictates otherwise, if you feel so empassioned.
3. Why does Batman fall and rise twice in the movie? Yeah, he faces multiple obstacles. What? I don't even.
4. Alfred's goodbye scene wasn't good enough. This happened. Sorry you wanted it to be more cinematic.
5. Why didn't the SEC void the trades Bane made? "Long term we'll be able to prove fraud." -Lucius Fox. But seeing as the trades were made by Bruce Wayne's fingerprints. They are temporarily true. Bane wasn't trying to bankrupt Wayne for the future, just temporarily and to give control to Dagget. Almost.
6. Why did Bruce and Miranda Tate do it? Talia wanted to infiltrate Bruce Wayne's privacy. And she's fucking hot. That's how it happened.
7. Why did Batman take time to make that burning batsymbol? It was a rallying cry heard by the entire city, a burning beacon of hope. Instrumental in mobilizing the police force against Bane's gang. (LOL Banegang.) Also it was awesome, so shut up.
8. Why did Bruce Wayne stop doing background checks (on Kyle and Tate, specifically)? Why would this bother you? Why do you care? And he's been out of the game for eight years and been without enemies.
9. Why did Bane fly with Batman to the pit? Because Batman is the single most important element of resistance against his plan, and worthy of his concern.
10. How did Bruce Wayne get back home in days with no resources or money? He had a month and he's resourceful. Also it's a movie. He figured it out. Calm down.
11. Why does the prison exist in the way that it does? The prison is an awesome idea.
12. Gotham post-Bane revolution wasn't realistic enough? Compared to what?
13. Were the GCPD and CIA really that stupid? Yes, I guess they were.
14. The fighting sucked. I disagree.
15. Too much happened at the ending. It's a Nolan movie. Look at you talking about it though.

I think this movie wore on people due to its length, lack of the Joker, and outstanding preceding installments.

I think of it more as a connecting line. A conclusion to tie everything together. What would bring everything to a final resting place? And the result is more "does it do it?" than "what is done?" I think this movie did it. It tied it up. It solved the puzzle, missing Joker piece and all.

A lot went into this movie. The stakes were as high as could be. There were obstacles in making it work. Yet we found someone to break the Dark Knight. And he found a way to rise.

They passed the torch to JGL, and the future of the story is open for interpretation. The point is, Bruce Wayne is done. He killed his public self, but is still alive in Florence. There will be no sequel. But life goes on, as Bruce Wayne's end is not crime's end, and so the symbol must continue breathing.

Critics viewed this movie deductively. I think it was fucking great.

--Eliot Sill

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nick - True Stories About Jellyfish, Part 1

For a three or four year period in my childhood, my family would rent a house and vacation in Seaside, Florida for a few days out of every year. It was a nice location, the beach being only a block away, and we would spend our time hanging out in the water and finding creatures.

I was probably about 10 years old the year that we saw the dolphins.

They were out a ways from the shore, and we could see their dorsal fins popping out of the water. Of course, the natural thing to do was for me to try and convince my dad to swim out there with me.

So we swam and we swam. Turns out the dolphins were quite a ways farther away than it had seemed from the shore. I got tired and my dad carried me on his shoulders. Finally, we started to close in on the dolphins.

Understand that, at this point, my dad is swimming with a large child on his shoulders at an incomprehensible distance from the shore. (I don't know how many or what fraction of a mile it was because I have no concept of distance in the ocean.) This is when we learn why the dolphins are out there in the first place.

Slowly at first, and then closing in before we could move, the water in front of us begins turning pinker and pinker, the bright color encroaching on our location.

"What's that, dad?" I ask.

Before he has time to answer, the shapeless pink mass reaches and surrounds us: jellyfish. Thousands of jellyfish. Square miles of jellyfish, so densely packed that they simply look like pink sea from above.

So densely packed that I couldn't find a comparable image on the internet.

So my father, still holding me on his shoulders, swam through a swarm of jellyfish so densely packed that they rubbed against his skin on all sides for probably half an hour before clearing the gelatinous armada.

Not a one of them ever stung him, but imagine how horrible it would be to be stung by even one jellyfish at that distance from shore, let alone a whole fleet of them.

My dad said that they irritated his skin where he had just been brushing up against jellyfish for half an hour, but I think we got out of that one pretty lucky. Anybody else would have hurled me from their back and swam for their life.

Until next week,