Sunday, 22 July 2012


Every film studio's marketing agency tries to bill their latest effort as "the most anticipated movie of the year!" Well, this time, one company have the right to use that slogan, but haven't. Now there's confidence for you!

2005 saw Christopher Nolan turn the superhero genre on its head with his realistic, reality-based Batman Begins. It wasn't until his 2008's The Dark Knight that the world woke up to the fact that Nolan had not only turned the genre around but would have redefined it for all of those that were to come. Now, the finale in Nolan's Batman trilogy is upon us and the pressure to not only perform to the standards of The Dark Knight but to also manoeuvre into the rare slot of "perfect trilogy" along with the likes of Toy Story and The Bourne franchises is all too real.

He's done it!

From the beginning reel, this is all about spectacle, story and surprise! For those of you that have recently watched the first two outings you will be rewarded with  a story arc that goes full circle and will have you smiling and nodding in appreciation at the cleverness of the script and its execution. It's that good. It's that engaging. It's that close to celluloid perfection. Each cinematic visit to Gotham has shown Nolan's increasingly deft hand at the action sequences as they, along with the scripts and performances, have built up to more and more breath-holding, armrest-clutching and mind-bending proportions. It now comes to the point where, especially when viewed in the IMAX format, that you seriously wonder how Warner Bros could reboot the Batman franchise and who would be brave and stupid enough to try.

The opening sequence here involving a Federal plane being hijacked whilst in flight is enough to equal, if not top Dark Knight's Joker-fuelled bank robbery for sheer visual opulence. The "jump-straight-into-the-story" scenario of a mid-flight kidnapping is something that any of the Bond films would sell Moneypenny to have on their CV and is made all the more enveloping to the viewer by being one of the many extended scenes filmed in the IMAX format. Here, Nolan along with his regular cinematographer Pfister, uses that format to fill the entire frame with a controlled cacophony of colour, conundrums, chaos and carnage. The stakes are the highest that they've ever been for the Batman and this is reflected in the set pieces that fill the screen and the imagination.

After such a striking intro, some audience members could feel that the following 45 minutes feel like abit of a "go slow" but this is where Nolan and co-writers Goyer and brother Jonathan Nolan take the time to introduce the new key players in memorable style and lay the groundwork for the finale by going over key points from Batman Begins and Dark Knight. One such player is Hathaway's Selina Kyle/Catwoman. By still keeping everything grounded in a heightened sense of reality, here the Pfeiffer interpretation of Catwoman in Burton's Batman Returns that sent hormonally overcharged males over the edge is a gone-but-not-forgotten memory. The overtly sexual chemistry that she delivered opposite Keaton's Batman is replaced here by Hathaway's coolness and banter with Bale's broken Bruce. Hathaway treads the thin line between help and hindrance to Bale's out-of-practise hero with the single goal of solitary survival - it's this characteristic that makes her so watchable without any camerawork that lovingly follows her form in the skintight catsuit.

Then of course there is Bane, the Bat's baddie this time round. Original fears that circled around the characters hard-to-understand voice are mainly unfounded - all is clear, and those lines of dialogue that aren't are easy to establish with Hardy's body language and his motivation - destroy Gotham and its protector, the Batman. Here, the threat to Bale's broken Bruce/Batman is all the more credible than before - Ra's Al Ghul wanted to mentor him; Joker wanted to play with him; Bane wants to destroy him. There is, especially tied in with the fact that this is Nolan and Bale's final Batman outing, a real sense that the Bat could bow out at any time whilst on the receiving end of Bane's fury.

The returning cast members, in true Nolan tradition, all have their own story lines and their parts to play in the return and the Rise of Batman. Caine, as loyal Wilfred, is still the anchor of reason and humanity for his master and as well as delivering alot of the humour still, this time he gets to hit the emotional target for the audience as he tries to speak some sense into Bale's heart-broken billionaire. Freeman as the Q of Bruce Wayne's world has the most diminished role of all the regular cast but still has the dry sense of wit that makes him a welcome addition each time he appears on the screen. The best revelation is Oldman's increasingly grizzled Gordon. With the knowledge of Harvey Dent's true demise haven eaten away at him for 8 years, Oldman gets the more accomplished story arc and remains the strongest link through all three films. That, plus he gets to have one of the more emotionally charged reveals in the final act.

What we have here, is the perfect end to a perfect trilogy. Nolan has delivered what many feared that he couldn't do - a film that could be equal to what was considered one of the best sequels committed to celluloid and the best superhero film of all time. Each fan will have their personal favourite out of the three adventures but they will like all of them regardless, and that is what separates these from the rest of the wanna be's. A film that has definitely been worth the wait and worth the hype.

UK release date: 20.07.12
Certificate: 12A

Thursday, 5 July 2012


A mere 5 years after the release of the luke-warm received third outing of the friendly neighbourhood's Spider-Man, the arrival of the web-slingers reboot has, not surprisingly, met with some resistance from the fans. "Too soon" came the cry across the Internet as the memory of director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maquire's Peter Parker still echoed around the minds and DVD players of people everywhere.

And, the thing is, for once, they're not that wrong. For anyone who has watched and liked any of the three Raimi-led adventures that spanned from 2002 through to 2007, there may be a definite feeling of deja-vu being served up by the new team of director Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield's Peter interpretation. The effects may have moved on in leaps and bounds - and trust me, there are leaps and bounds a-plenty to be seen throughout its 136 minute running time - but the story and its staging have not.

Sometimes its not fair to make comparisons, but some films just seem to call upon you to do so. When Nolan's Batman Begins arrived, no one sat and compared it to or thought about Burton's earlier franchise reboot simply titled Batman - 16 years separated them and also a totally different approach to not only the telling of the story, but the actual storyline itself. Those two major factors stopped all comparisons until The Dark Knight allowed people to compare Nicholson's original Joker with Ledger's depiction. Here though, the luxury and the sanity of those two fundamental factors, have been somewhat over-looked.

Webb, who delivered the wonderful (500) Days Of Summer showed that love in all its forms - doomed, destined, demented, demanding - was something that he was adept at portraying. This has not left him as the love story aspect of The Amazing Spider-Man comes through strong and thusly very engaging. Garfield's Parker isn't as nerdy as Maquire and Stone's Gwen is more alongside Dunst's love-interest Mary-Jane rather than Bryce-Howard's throw-away Gwen, but when the two share the screen together, they almost make you forget that upside-down kiss in the rain....almost! Garfield nails the awkward teenage boy asking the hot girl out at the beginning, but all-too-soon his shy side seems to disappear only to be replaced with a fairly confident man who has no persecution from the press or the Police for that long - no J.J. and The Daily Bugle to help keep him grounded and on his toes here, and Leary's Captain Stacy hardly works up a sweat for the vigilante.  That level of confidence took Maquire 3 outings to reach, and even then it was enhanced through a dangerous black-slimed Spidey suit.

Comedy is on-hand to help speed the proceedings along with most of it aimed at Garfield's reaction to his new powers - the crushing of an alarm-clock, the impossible task of applying tooth paste to a brush whilst half asleep, the knocking people out that want to cause him harm and apologising to them whilst doing so - which is then replaced with borderline cockiness - the "you've found my weakness - it's small knives!" line as he gets to grips (mostly on walls) with his abilities.

All this however is just smoke and mirrors to those who want to see a Summer Blockbuster and not some version of (500) Days Of Spidey - it's an adventure film with a superhero battling a big bad villain. Which is where Webb and co run out of steam alittle. Ifans' Lizard makes its appearance quite late in the day and never seems that hell-bent on destroying our hero - their eventual fights seems more perfunctory rather than prolific. The action sequences are good but that's not what most people will want after handing over their cash to the box-office... the likes of Avengers Assemble, Iron Man, Thor and The Dark Knight have all raised their own respective bars in the action-stakes and the ones here seem adequate as opposed to Amazing. And who wants to see The Adequate Spider-Man?

So, it's good but it needed to be better than that to comfortably sit apart from its slightly older sibling rather than squat in its shadow. The rally of the New York populace to Spider-Man and his plight to save them that featured in Spider-Man 2 gets a pale imitation here which has less of an impact since no one is really against him apart from The Lizard so why should we find it that stirring then? Oh, and the main reason why this has been advertised as a new beginning to the Spider-Man story where we find out that Peter Parker's parents had a secret that led him to becoming essentially orphaned and ending up with Uncle Ben and Aunt May - forgotten about and then ignored until a snippet that occurs during the end credits (so don't leave straight away if you see the set-up for the inevitable sequel.)

For those who have never seen the recent original trilogy, you will be pleased and in some places, awed at what Webb has done. For those of you who have seen AND liked them, you will find yourself mentally ticking off the comparisons whilst doing the occasional good laugh (Stan Lee's obligatory cameo is fantastic this time round) and semi-smile through-out.  With new franchise comes great responsibility.... MUST. TRY. HARDER.

UK release date: 03.07.12
Certificate: 12A