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Archive for July, 2012

On The Dark Knight Rises – warning: spoilers within!

July 20, 2012 1 comment

I cannot remember the last time a film has been so hyped up, or even the last time I have been so excited about something.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one: despite arriving over an hour early for the midnight premiere, the theatre was already packed.  Back in the summer of 2008, I remember watching The Dark Knight in awe, shocked again and again by Heath Ledger’s astounding performance and the film’s moral traps.  These were dark situations, darker than Batman Begins, and surprisingly thought provoking.

So, standing on the shoulders of an amazing second installment, The Dark Knight Rises had a lot to live up to.  Yet, despite this potential, in a position unrivaled by any other superhero movie of recent years, Rises not only fails to rise to greater heights, but it falls from them with a crunch as devastating as Bruce Wayne’s falls while attempting to climb out of prison.

What was it that made The Dark Knight Rises such a disappointment?  It drew upon the same themes that the first two films did, and had the same taste of moral questioning.  Yet, after being thrilled by these tricks in The Dark Knight, I craved something more – I expected Nolan to push farther, ask better questions than the ones that he had already so thoroughly combed through.  The film was filled with these moments that repeated things we had already learned in The Dark Knight, and failed to fly of its own accord.  The titles themselves speak of this – from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight there’s a pleasant change of words, but from The Dark Knight to The Dark Knight Rises, we only get hastily tacked on addition that might as well have been The Dark Knight Rises Part II.

With regards to the story – a plot this complicated required a great deal of explanation, and a large amount of compression to fit into an exhausting three hours.  I remember The Dark Knight flying by, despite its length, challenging us and propelling forward at the same time.  The same is not true of The Dark Knight Rises.  There were far too many heart-to-hearts with the wisdom spouting Alfred Pennyworth, in heavy-handed dialogue that may have worked if it appeared in lower quantities.  The movie needed Bruce Wayne to get out of his house, and so Alfred gave him some very heavy prods.

There’s a slew of new characters in this movie, and giving them all appropriate backstory takes up valuable time that could have been better spent in the present, or even cut out from the movie, which dragged and grew boring about halfway through.  There’s only so much back and forth we can take as an audience.  Nonetheless, Anne Hathaway was surprisingly fitting as Selina Kyle, though I was greatly surprised at her being cast in a role that I assumed would be more fitting for the likes of Angelina Jolie.  Likewise, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great as a little burgeoning sidekick, although his deduction also felt forced and not entirely believable.  Tom Hardy’s Bane had a costume that tried too hard to bring Hannibal Lecter meets Darth Vader; it muffled his voice more than lending it any sort of intimidating factor.

Overall, 3/5 – this is a long, winding, heavy-handed film that fails to surpass or even stand alongside its amazing predecessor.  Too many characters trying to do too many things in too short a time, The Dark Knight Rises is still entertaining in its own right, but a great disappointment coming after The Dark Knight.

I hope I haven’t upset anyone who really loved the film – if you liked it, please comment about which parts you thought were good.  I wanted so badly to have the same experience that I had with The Dark Knight!

Thunder buddies for life: on childishness and uncomfortable humor in Ted

When I heard the premise of the movie, I was very skeptical of it having any chance of being good.  Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, directs and voices Ted, the story of a teddy bear come to life to be a little boy’s best friend.  Fast-forward 27 years, and they are both grown up.  Ted is incredibly crude, has absolutely no sense of limit, and is overall a pretty terrible bear.  Ted and John (Mark Wahlberg) like to stay home, get high, and watch Flash Gordon.  What else would you expect from MacFarlane?

What’s most (or least?) surprising is the humor in the movie.  There are jokes that are just so terrible, one can hardly imagine them being written, much less broadcasted in a (packed) movie theatre.  Is humor the answer to barriers in society?  By making fun of something entirely not PC, does that make people more okay with touchy subjects?  I don’t really think MacFarlane is trying to push a more progressive and open outlook on life with his style of humor, but there’s something underneath the cheap laughs that’s actually sort of optimistic.  There are moments that are entirely random, that come out of nowhere, and catch you off guard.  I’m not sure how much I would have laughed had I watched this by myself, but as it was, the audience was roaring with laughter more often than not.  There are quite a few bits that are over-the-top, reminiscent of Harold and Kumar, but the funniest moments are all in snappy conversations that make very little sense, really.

The plot is simple: Lori (Mila Kunis) wants John to grow up, which he can’t do when their third roommate is a gruff, hard-partying teddy bear.  John loves Lori, but hasn’t outgrown his childish mindset, despite being 35.  Also, bros before hos.  The relationship turmoil is surprisingly believable, and although the territory is familiar chick-flick ground, throwing a talking bear into the mix made things interesting.

What is Ted?  Is he the personification of childishness?  Is he the perfect lifelong bro?  Why did it feel like this movie seemed more realistic than it should have?  Also, I feel so old, because this is exactly the kind of movie that seems like it should be for kids, but is entirely not.  Having watched Pixar’s Brave yesterday, I cannot imagine two more dissimilar movies both about bears (thanks to Weixia for pointing that out!).

In his 3.5/4 review, Roger Ebert called Ted the funniest movie of the year, adding, “I know, this also was hard for me to believe.”  Though I haven’t watched many comedies this year, I have to say that Ted completely exceeded my (albeit very low) expectations.  Anyway, it was loads better than The Dictator.

Overall, 4/5 – I really can’t believe I’m giving Ted such a high rating, but honestly, it was enjoyable, humorous enough, and surprisingly uplifting.

Best regards,

Apple

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