Monday, 23 July 2012

The Dark Knight... Begins?

Note: I have done my best not to reveal any significant plot or character moments from The Dark Knight Rises, and you won't learn anything from this blog that should spoil your enjoyment of the film if you have not seen it. However, if you simply must not know anything at all, I recommend you get yourself to the cinema, pronto, and then read this afterwards. The same probably goes for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, though f you haven't seen that by now, you really aren't trying.

There's a great bit in the film  Ferris Bueller's Day Off where Ferris and his buddies go to an art gallery and zoom around taking a look at the paintings, as would any normal, healthy teenagers on a day off school. Here's the scene. You don't need to watch it, but it's very nice.

Anyway, the bit I really like is the bit near the end where Cameron - played by the awesome Alan Ruck - get's lost in a painting, his gaze (and ours) focusing closer and closer on the image until all we can see are the fibres of the canvas. The meaning of the image is gone, all that is left is colour and shape.

I like it for a number of reasons. It says something about Cameron himself, of course, and the lack of centre his character has. There's also a kind of abstract aesthetic beauty to the scene which is a satisfactory end in itself. And then there's the reason I'm thinking of it now. Some things, it seems, are impossible to make sense of until you move away from them. I guess for Ferris and his friends, his 'day off' would be one of them - a flutter of inconsequential moments that would gain significance the older they got. Imagine Jim McAllister from Alexander Payne's Election, looking back on his carefree youth, seeing it anew from his compromised, trapped, older point of view. Time and distance lend perspective, give things shape.

I saw The Dark Knight Rises on Friday, and I have to say, I feel like Cameron in my reactions. Too close to the canvas to really understand what is going on. There's a film there, yes, and I sort of have an opinion on it, but I can't quite see it yet. I'm too near, too involved in this moment. If you ask me what I think, I'll probably praise it to the heavens - I did really enjoy it - but that will be kind of a cheat because I don't really know what it means yet.

I'm not like this about every film, you understand. I didn't sit through 'Bad Teacher' ruminating on the existential nature of my viewing experience. I thought "This is slightly better than I thought it would be," and "I don't really fancy Cameron Diaz any more'" And then I forgot about it. It didn't matter. I think TDKR does matter.

For one, and most obviously perhaps, there was no way to watch the film without being aware of the cinema shootings in Denver not 24 hours before. There are - and this should not come as a spoiler to anyone - some scenes in TDKR featuring gunfire, and people screaming. It was impossible to watch without wondering at what point in the film that Denver audience found themselves wrenched out of fantasy violence into its real life equivalent.

Once leaving the cinema, it is still impossible to disassociate the movie from the shootings. Scores of idiot speculators are scrambling over each other to find causal links between a comic book movie and the cowardly actions of an idiot with guns. We won't be out of these particular woods for some time, largely due to the desperation of some Americans to blame gun crime on absolutely anything but guns. But just in case someone near you even tries to blame 'these kind of movies' for the actions of cowards with guns, here's an argument you can use for free. Director Christopher Nolan's films are not about the power of weapons, or of armour, or even of strength. They are about the power of hope, The Dark Knight Rises especially so. There are at least two scenes in TDKR which unarmed individuals advance in the face of gunfire - vulnerable, heroic, believing that doing the right thing is more powerful than superior firepower. The film is behind these people and gives their actions worth. It is against the men with guns. Against. Them.

Moving on from these events, the biggest struggle TDKR has is the shadow of its immediate predecessor - the similarly named The Dark Knight. And while there are a number of 'brilliant things' about TDK that TDKR might struggle to emulate, there is really only one that people are talking about - can Tom Hardy's Bane match Heath Ledger's Joker? The latter performance is one of the greatest pieces of character creation in living memory, elevated into instant legend by the subsequent death of Ledger. And it is an issue that will not leave you during a viewing of TDKR. Bane is not The Joker, Hardy is not Ledger. You will not find any satisfaction trying to locate 'Jokerness' in this film.

And this is the problem, isn't it? Nolan has ignored the great rule of sequels - do the same thing again, but different. It's not just that Bane is not The Joker. Gotham has changed. Batman has changed. The genre, pretty much, has changed. The entire tone and feel of this movie is different from what has come before. And  I will admit that, having rewatched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in the run up to TDKR, I did occasionally find myself, as I watched the new film on Friday, wondering, 'Is this... as good?'

Like Cameron, I need to step away from the canvas. TDKR is not 'as good' as those two films. Neither is it better that them. Or worse. It is part of a larger canvas, one I can't properly see yet. One that takes in a bigger idea of heroism, hope, madness and society than one film can properly express. We are looking at a series of films that will, one day, transcend its individual components and even the tragic circumstances of its birth. What it will then be, I can't yet say. I'm just too close.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Star Wars Trivia

Every now and then I have one of those glorious days where I don't have to speak to anyone at all. This is ace, because most of what people have to see is a huge waste of my time, but it does have a drawback. When I finally do see someone, and try to speak to them, I find myself utterly unable to remember how people are meant to communicate.

One of two things then happens. Either I mutter staccato, incomprehensible sounds, blinking at them like a fish transformed unexpectedly into a human, having completely forgotten how to talk. Or, worse, I babble like a madman, wittering at high speed about everything that has ever happened to me and what it might mean. Neither of these makes for a delightful spectacle, unless you hate me and want to see me look like a fool.

I mention this 'not speaking' thing because I've not blogged for a while and may well have forgotten how to speak to you, the beloved denizens of internetworld. Please don't be put off if I bark and howl, or make a noise like a spanner banging about in a washing machine. I'm sure I'll be back to normal before long. In the meantime... have this:

Klaatu Barada Nikto

Some time ago I embarked upon a dictionary of what I considered to be the most important things about Star Wars. I got as far as 'O' and then kind of drifted off topic and started bitching about the BBC. Well, I thought I'd do some more. Should you wish to remind yourself of the previous entries, I believe you can access them by clicking on 'Klaatu Barada Nikto' somewhere towards the end of this blog. Or I suppose you could trawl through the entire backlog of my written nonsense, and forget about whatever it was you were doing before you came wandering into this dark corridor or my mind.

So, then...

P is for Padme

Unused screenplay extract from ATTACK OF THE CLONES. PADME, who is also called AMIDALA for reasons that are never entirely clear, is talking to a PRETTY LOOKALIKE.


Hello, would you like a job with the ruling elite of Naboo?


Yes please!


Well, how would you feel about wearing this big special hat?


But that’s your special hat, your royal prettiness.


 Yes, well, never mind that. Just put it on. That’s right. And now paint your face



But maam , now I look just like you…


Yes, that’s right. Now. I’m going to stand over here, looking normal, and I’d like

you to wander over there, towards that bomb.




Did I say bomb? I meant spaceship.


You said bomb.


No I didn’t.


You did, you said bomb.


Do you want this job or not?


I’m not sure…


Look, just walk towards the shiny, lovely, very safe spaceship.


Well, alright. Why are you running away, your highness?

Spaceship explodes. Good triumphs over evil. Padme/Amidala runs away and becomes a famous ballerina. Possibly.

Coming soon - Q is for Qui-Gon Jinn.