The Dark Knight Has Risen *Spoilers*

The Nolans are cinematic wizards. I only say it because it’s true.

Their Batman trilogy has far exceeded any other films featuring the caped crusader. (“Why do you blaspheme?” Tim Burton devotees cry). The main reason is the emotional heart put back into the story. Batman Begins does not start with a man in a cape jumping from rooftops…instead, we see the murder of a young Bruce Wayne’s parents, and the declining state of Gotham. We watch his transformation from an angry young man to wandering soul to imprisonment in a series of well-crafted flashbacks, and then understand his choice of cape and cowl. Once we have been fully won over to the hows  and whys  of the Batman, one of the characters sarcastically pokes fun at Bruce’s dramatization. “Well, well. You took my advice about theatricality a bit… literally.”

Each film resounds in it’s own fashion. Themes of Fear and Courage, Pain and Love, Betrayal and Trust are not simply spoken of; they are meshed into every turn of the plot, and woven into every interaction between characters. In Christopher Nolan’s own words, Batman Begins focuses on “Fear”, while The Dark Knight deals with “Chaos”. The third and final film brings these old focuses back, and brings harmony and completion to the series.

The acting is phenomenal. Christian Bale brings the Dark Knight to life with great talent. Michael Cain’s Alfred Pennyworth is what holds much of the movie together with his strong fatherly presence, and Morgan Freeman’s character makes the Batman’s acquiring of unrealistic gadgets entirely believable. Gary Oldman plays Jim Gordon, the future police commissioner of Gotham city, who becomes a great ally to the Batman. The selection of DC Villains is also superb, with Cillian Murphy playing a genuinely creepy weirdo, and Liam Neeson playing a mentor with an agenda.  Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is nearly as disturbing as the clown from It, and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman and Marion Cotillard join the cast in TDKR. Tom Hardy’s Bane brings us beyond the normal Villain/Movie Viewer relationship into one of understanding.

These villains show that this Batman series has forsaken lame, albeit classic bad guys, such as Killer Croc and the Penguin. Also, the translation of the mystical into realistic was done fantastically. Ras Al Ghul (meaning “Demon’s Head” in Aramaic) was originally ageless, thanks to the bubbling Lazarus Pits. But cinematic Ras Al Ghul was made more human, and given an actual death. His comic-book self was given several nods, however, both in movies one and three. Near the end of Batman Begins, Bruce is taken by surprise by his old mentor in a crowded room. When Bruce questions this mentor’s presence, he replies, “But is Ra’s al Ghul immortal? Are his methods supernatural?” This is also addressed in the newest installment, The Dark Knight Rises.

I also note that the plot of Batman Begins can be found in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series  in which the Scarecrow gases Gotham State University with Fear Gas.  In Batman Begins,  Ra’s al Ghul intends to use a Wayne Enterprises invention (a Microwave Emitter) to release a psychosis-inducing hallucinogen into the atmosphere, causing Gotham to be torn apart by its own population.


After Batman Begins came The Dark Knight. This movie focuses on what every Batman series has focused on–Bruce’s struggles against the villains that beleaguer Gotham. However, Heath Ledger’s portrayal is unique. He makes a truly horrifying Joker, a deranged man thoroughly equipped to disarm Gotham’s peace. The Joker’s stirring of Gotham’s criminals results in the fall of the city’s so-called White Knight, Harvey Dent (a “two-faced” politician–heh heh), and the death of Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s first love. Batman manages to foil the Joker’s schemes, but not without compromising his own ethics in the process. Driven by grief over his injuries, Dent, tipped over the edge into his insane alter-ego, Two Face, jeopardizes the legal victories he had previously won. Batman and Commissioner Gordon conspire to keep his madness a secret, with Batman taking the blame for his crimes instead.

Despite this film’s boldness with a controversial ending, and contrary to most of the population’s favor, this is my least favorite installment in the series…which isn’t to say I dislike it, but rather that  I find the Joker so very disturbing that his criminal antics go beyond entertainment into a dark spiral of movie watching. The movie accomplishes what it sought out to do, however, in showing that none of Batman’s actions go without consequence. This is perhaps the most powerful theme in the films.

With Dent’s sins forgotten, the fall of Batman’s good name will be addressed eight years later, when the start of The Dark Knight Rises shows us a Bruce Wayne overshadowed by guilt and shame.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Harvey Dent’s death is still being mourned. Dent is remembered as a hero, and has been honored with a holiday in his name–Harvey Dent Day. Batman is not remembered as kindly; having taken the fall for Dent, the Batman has vanished from Gotham’s streets.  The only man aware of the truth of things is Jim Gordon, whose police career may be over soon.

Eight years have passed since Batman’s name was tarnished. Bruce is now a shell of himself. He roams the East Wing of his mansion in true Disney‘s Beast fashion, hiding in shadows. Only when a Beauty (Catwoman) breaks into this sanctuary and makes off with a family heirloom does he come out of his depression. Alfred informs Bruce of past hopes he once held; that Bruce would find peace, and leave the cape and cowl behind.

When terrorist attacks led by the League of Shadows resurface, however, Bruce knows his time as Batman has not come to an end. Alfred gives a heartfelt ultimatum; he will not bury another member of the Wayne family. The attacks increase, however, and Bruce dons the cowl of Batman once more, leading to an abrupt departure of Alfred.

This movie brings the villains of the Nolan trilogy full circle. The leader of the terrorist attacks is Bane, a man so foul Ra’s al Ghul himself had excommunicated him from the League of Shadows, and indeed, he is perhaps the most intriguing villain in the trilogy. His character is laid out openly, and then challenged, leaving the viewers to see each new layer in turn. Bane not only challenges Batman physically, but mentally, and the result is disastrous. Since Ra’s death, Bane has come to Gotham to complete Ra’s failed mission. But not every villain shows themselves in the light. Batman will team up with Catwoman to fight against the terrorists, and seek out the part of himself that he had lost.

I absolutely love these movies. They ask questions that can be applied to any of us, and leave us with sentiments worth remembering. From Rachel Dawes’ line in Batman Begins “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”, to the idea that “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat over a little boys shoulder to let him know the world hadn’t ended,” these films speak with wisdom.

The Nolans have created the Classic superhero films of our time.

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© 2012 Amanda Newman All Rights Reserved

This Blogger’s Top Movie Picks of 2012

Well, friends, it’s nearly New Years, and like most, I’ve got some resolutions for 2012. Firstly, I’d like to resolve to eat less frozen yogurt. It’s an addictive habit that’s honestly gotten the best of me. Another resolution would be to hit the theater every month, like a good, devoted geek.

It’s such a good time to be alive!! There’s plenty of upcoming challenges coming to America’s shores, and although times might get rough, I have my top movie picks to look forward to with bated breath.

1) THE HOBBIT!

For those of you who have read the “other” blog (the link can be found in the post entitled “Shameless Marketing for the Other Blog”), you’ll know that I’m deeply in love with The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again.  Peter Jackson gets a big slice of that love. The man’s vision rings so true with the pictures Tolkien painted with his words! *Checks watch* Insert excited screech now.

2) THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

When I found the gift set box for Batman Begins in Lowes, my jaw fell open, and I was this close to doing a happy dance. After seeing the darkness that The Dark Knight left Bruce Wayne in, I have great faith in this, the third installment of the only Batman series worth its salt.

3) RED TAILS

A WWII tale from Lucas Films, a story of over-coming segregation, this trailer stirred my patriotic blood. This is no wait-for-Pay-Per-View movie, this is a go-to-that-theater event.

4) THE GREY

A man, stranded in the Alaskan wilderness, staving off wolves with broken bottles taped to his knuckles? AMAZING!

5) THE WOMAN IN BLACK

Can you say bone chilling? That phrase is certainly in my vocabulary after watching this movie trailer. I’m not normally a fan of horror flicks, nor am I overtly fond of Daniel Radcliffe, but this movie seems like it should induce quality tendrils of fear running down my spine.

6) BATTLESHIP

First we received the gift of Cowboys vrs. Aliens. Now we get to watch Navy vrs. Aliens? Is anyone else pumped for this?

7) WRATH OF THE TITANS

Confession: I slept through the the first movie, Clash of the Titans. But this sequel may just have a story-line, and, (dare we hope?), a lame robo-owl. Bubo, we love you!

8) JOHN CARTER

Yes, it’s going to be bad. But I’m sure I can chalk John Carter up with all of my other favorite, cheesy sci-fi movies. Interesting factoid: Had this movie come out in animated form back in 1930, it would have beat Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If I were to put a guess to the plot, I would say Planet of the Apes meets Conan meets Avatar meets Tatooine from the Star Wars series.

9) THE THREE STOOGES

Can I even dare hope this movie won’t disappoint me? What can beat the old series, where three lovely girls were inexpressibly head over heels in love with the Stooges? Where Larry, Curly, Moe (and sometimes Shemp) would get into gun fights that lasted twenty minutes, that mostly consisted of face slaps and eye pokes? Just keep my  Stooges clean, film-makers, that’s all I ask of you.

There’s no trailer out for this one yet. As soon as I find one, it will be posted here in an edit of the post. Fingers crossed on this movie!

10) THE AVENGERS

Every super hero from the last decade, smashing enemies together? If the film makers can keep the action taut, and the story line going strong with all those conflicting main characters, then they’ll have my applause.

11) ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER

Abe Lincoln inspires me. His speeches rouse my spirit. His memory gives me the will to become a greater American. So the fact that they’re making him into a vampire slayer in this day and age, when dumb Twilight vampires rule the hearts of every pre-teen in this country, is a little bit relieving. At last, we’re coming out of vampire-drama and putting fictional blood-suckers back in their place, which is under a wooden stake. Don’t worry, Abe, you’ll still live in our hearts as President.

Extra Special Features

What is it about unwrapping a brand new DVD on Christmas morning that’s so exciting? Is it the fact that we now have unlimited access to that movie we’ve been obsessing over? For me, not so much–it’s the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that gives my heart that extra thrill. Deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, original TV trailers, fight scene choreography, long monologues by prop makers and foley artist excerpts? Booyah!

Things like this make me excited to be a movie viewer. And don’t even get me started on the Director’s Cut discs–oh, the sweet pleasures that feed my soul.

The Qui-Gon Jinn Paradox

“Remember, your focus determines your reality.”

Qui-Gon Jinn. Whether  you love or hate him, he played a pivotal role in Darth Vader’s rise to evil, life-support-dependent geriatric. And why even write such an article? Because it’s a very real discussion…and I’ve always leaned toward caring about inconsequential movie strife. 😉

I admit, most of my love for the character comes from my geeky love for Liam Neeson. If you were to trace a line between some of the things I find cool, Neeson would be a connector. He helped save the world of Krull atop a fire mare, inspired my Fallout 3 character to selfless greatness, conducted a fear experiment on Catherine Zeta-Jones, made a certain list, wore a kilt, possesses certain skills that make him a nightmare for people “like you”, raised the child of Fantine, trained Bruce Wayne in the ways of the ninja, knighted an estranged son (and slapped him silly),  released a kraken, and will soon be fighting off wolves in Alaska. Plus, he’s Irish.

When word of the The Phantom Menace came out, fans were holding their breath. This was certainly Lucas’ Star Wars, but was it their beloved Star Wars? There would be no Han Solo, no Leia in her overly revealing slave outfit–would it tank?

This blogger doesn’t think it did. I heard once that the older generations prefer the old trilogy, while my generation prefers the new trilogy. If this is true, then I spit on my age group! (Metaphorically, of course.) I love all five equally, (that’s right, I just discounted the Clone Wars–Hayden Christensen totally bugs. The fight between Yoda and Dooku salvages the movie). The action is taut, with a pod-racing scene that makes you feel like you’re flying. Differing from A New Hope on, the light saber action is explosive–to quote George Lucas, the fights were no longer being done by “crippled half-man half-droids and young boys learning from old men.” In fact, cut out unnecessary Jar Jar Binx scenes and you’ve got something extremely entertaining.

But we’ve all seen the movie. I return to my beginning statements. Is Qui-Gon Jinn a worthy Jedi? Or is he just the man who began the fall of the Jedi, and got shamefully stabbed by a Sith with a circus clown make up complex?

Despite his seeming inability to “sense” trouble in the beginning of the film, and his failure to obtain Jedi mind control over Wato (who obviously was not weak minded enough for such a trick to work), I believe that Qui-Gon is the noblest of the Jedi featured in the films.  In a scene on Naboo by the lake that conceals Otoh Gunga, Qui-Gon gives his apprentice a heartfelt sentiment, telling Obi-Wan that he is a wiser man than his master. Obi-Wan goes on to survive the Jedi massacre, survive alone on Tatooine, and make sure that Luke gets the training he needs.

(Qui Gon worst Jedi ever by coldpizza1)

If Obi-Wan had not had Qui-Gon as a mentor, he may have lost hope in his isolation on the desert planet, had he not been able to commune with Jinn through the Force. Some even argue that had Qui-Gon Jinn survived, he may have kept Anakin from turning to the dark side, (seeing as he had already experienced betrayal from Xanatos)…but that’s an argument for another time.

But looking at concept art for the movie, one often will not find Jinn. One can see Obi-Wan facing the Trade Federation without his master by his side. According to the Special Features on my coveted DVD, the Jedi was added in later on.

Personally, I heart Jinn. Is he the most pivotal Jedi? Was it wisdom, or foolishness that fueled his determination for Anakin’s training? All I know is, without Qui-Gon Jinn, Star Wars wouldn’t quite be Star Wars.

All the same, the videos above and below have made me LOL. Pardon the expression.

If you’re searching for a more complimentary view of Qui-Gon Jinn, I suggest you join this awesome fan-site:

http://qui-gon.howlingmoon.net/biography.php

But let no one think that any movie in these six installments of heaven can be more loved by this blogger than The Empire Strikes Back. Who doesn’t love Luke’s face as he learns his of his dark parentage? I only wish Lucas would have filmed a scene found only in the original script, in which Vader feeds his unknown “pets” upon the Death Star.

Remember, kids–the Force will be with you. Always.