Christopher Nolan

Blast From The Past: Batman Returns (1992)

Before Christopher Nolan all but completed the Batman franchise with his reimagining of the legendary comic book figure, there was the gothic interpretation, with Tim Burton directing and Michael Keaton returning as the Caped Crusader, after the 1989 Batman film.

One of my local cinemas occasionally puts on films of yesteryear, usually cult classics, so I’ve started a new segment called ‘Blast From The Past’ and this is the first one I’ve caught. Batman Returns was probably my favourite Batman from the 90s, but all I remember was that featured the grotesque-looking Penguin villain.

I forgot how dark the opening is, as a young Cobblepot is born but discarded into a river on Christmas. Fast-forward 33 years, and there are rumours floating around, that a Penguin-Man has been sighted and living in the sewers. And in true Tim Burton style, the film is filled with gothic stylisation and shadows aplenty. From the opening scene with costumes the Cobblepots are wearing, to the tall shadowy buildings that surround Gotham City, Burton has really dressed the screen in his gothic imagining.

Michael Keaton continues his role as Batman and protecting Gotham City, but doesn’t actually show up until the Red Triangle Gang cause havoc during the annual turning on the Christmas tree lights, with a speech by Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). Shreck is kidnapped and blackmailed by The Penguin (Danny Devito) in the aftermath, to make sure he becomes an up-standing citizen of Gotham City after being cast away by his unknown parents.

The character of The Penguin reminds of Nolan’s interpretation of The Scarecrow, being a character that has a dark persona hidden by the public figure, especially as he discovers his true name of Oswald Cobblepot. Shreck in an effort to get his dodgy power planet authorised pushes Penguin to run for mayor so they can aid and abet each other. And Danny DeVito and Walken play these characters to perfection, as you become to dislike them as people and their slimy exterior.

And of course Tim Burton continues to dress the screen in dark colours throughout the 2 hours+ running time, otherwise would it even be a Tim Burton film? But some of the sequences included within Batman Returns are incredibly dark and strange. I mentioned the opening scene, where the child is abandoned to the sewers, but also Selina Kyle’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) transformation into Catwoman, but as Hello There transforms into the statement Hell Here is just brilliant imagery by the director.

Selina Kyle does becomes integral in this story, as she discovers why Shreck is a dodgy dealer when it comes to the power plant, but also the transformation becomes one of the key turning points in the struggle for Gotham City. And that’s what happens, you become wrapped up in this film and feels like you’ve been there for hours, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because of the enjoyment from watching a nostalgic classic on the silver screen.

That being said though, Tim Burton loves to drag out an ending doesn’t he? The climax of this film feels like it does drag on for a good half hour, but this is probably down to the three narrative interjections coming to a close. There are some cringey moments within Batman Returns from it’s one-liners, to the tight clothing of the Princess. But these issues do not necessarily overshadow the film as a whole.

The choreographed action sequences are what you would expect from the early nineties, but they are fun, especially the aerial efforts from the Red Triangle Gang. It was fun to see this film up on the big screen after all those years of not watching it, and it’s richness in texture and laced with the gothic imagery that Tim Burton just adores.

The film is not one of the classics, it’s fair to say. It’s just not. It hasn’t aged well at all. But it doesn’t matter, because the enjoyment trumps that completely. It’s two hours of over-egged performances from the star-studded cast, but it’s a fun way to spend two hours. And it’s not just Christian Bale that seems to be a moody Batman, Michael Keaton does his best at this as well.

6.9 Bats out of 11.

Dunkirk (2017)

War is hell. Absolute hell.

And that is exactly what Christopher Nolan has chosen to portray in his latest venture, Dunkirk. However, unlike Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge with their glorious actions sequences, Dunkirk rather takes on a subdued approach to the war.

Christopher Nolan is an absolute visionary of a director, with his back catalogue including Interstellar, The Prestige and the Batman trilogy. It’s an absolute change of pace from showing the quest to leave the planet, to the evacuation of Dunkirk, a key point during the Second World War for the British forces.

What’s always been interesting in Nolan’s filmmaking is that he shows a diverse range of how to tell a story from Momento to The Prestige. He chooses to have Dunkirk shown in a linear method with three intersecting stories from the air, the sea and the ground. And that is where we find Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) running the streets of Dunkirk eluding German fire as ‘We Surround You’ flyers cascade around him in one tense sequence.

And the tension doesn’t stop there. For the entirety of the film, the tension never takes it foot off the pedal. The constant changing of the tempo between the land, the sea and the air was crucial to keep the tension at boiling point throughout Dunkirk.

Christopher Nolan also manages to convincingly display glimpses into the hellishness of war, channelled mostly through Cillian Murphy’s shell-shocked soldier and his apprehension to continue heading into battle. But also the recognition from the civilian perspective, as Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his father, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), share a nuanced nod to not disclose information to the shell-shocked soldier aboard.

The narrative choice is possibly one of the most interesting choices, but it is key for the tension to be kept at a high level. But what is more interesting there is a certain absence of a traditional protagonist held within the film, but rather having The Mole, The Sea and The Air being characters within their own right and having characters placed throughout.

Normally Christopher Nolan allows the screen to be drenched in the characters, giving them time to be invested in, but the narrative method doesn’t allow this as time became a key factor in each of the segments. But there comes in the brilliance of the cast behind Nolan’s Dunkirk. Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh managing to exhibit the perfect amount of emotion that is needed regardless of how bleak the situation is and regardless of the screen time, especially when Home arrives.

Long-standing music collaborator Hans Zimmer chose to intertwine his score with occasional ticking, giving that reminder time is incredibly precious in these situations. This motif is carried throughout the three segments, as Farrier (Tom Hardy) keeps a close eye on the time to gauge his fuel.

Dunkirk is an incredible piece of filmmaking and Christopher Nolan showed a wonderful skill of narrative structure as the film progressed through it’s 100+ minute runtime and the motif use of time. The cast gave unbelievable performances, especially for the screen time each member received. It is potentially the tensest I’ve been in a cinema when watching a film and it was incredible.

Without the need to show the explicit war sequences, Christopher Nolan managed to give Dunkirk an incredible feel for the war by the incredibly loud action sequences from the get-go. By having the air sequences shot incredibly close to the nose was great and incredibly effective for what was needed on the screen. Overall, there’s little to dislike with Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan continues his incredible visionary filmmaking and remains one of the best directors in the business today.

Batman v Superman: The Dawn Of Justice (2016)

The long awaited sequel to Man of Steel and the re-imagining of Batman has finally landed on our screens and it’s all thanks to Zack Synder. After being disappointed with Man of Steel, but excited for Affleck’s Batman I braved a screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice among the dire reviews the film has been receiving.

Due to the reimagining of Batman, the origin has to take place, but this time it settles for a quick snapshot of scenes of how Bruce Wayne became an orphan. However, the basis of Dawn of Justice takes place 18 months after the battle in Metropolis between General Zod and Superman. Superman becomes a controversial figure during this battle as his warpath ruins people lives. (namely those working for Wayne Finanical) 

Thus out of the wreckage is born the rivalry and hatred emanating from Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck). My biggest fear for this film, after hearing the introduction of Wonder Woman and Aquaman was it to become a big glut of superheroes each competing for screen time, much like Avengers Assemble. 

It’s safe to say, this did not happen, as the bulk of the story relies on this rivalry (and I mean rivalry in a very loose term) as Synder only teases Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman story enough for the mystery to remain unsolved regarding her true nature. This all comes about as Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) pits Batman and Superman against each other leading into the big hurrah. I won’t say much more due to potential spoilers in the story.

The story and how it unfolds was completely different to what I was initially anticipating. I struggled to think how Lex and Diana (Wonder Woman) would fit into the story as the two men waged war on each other, but the story flowed nicely teasing and introducing their characters at apt times and even packed out the action sequences to good effect.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN

Understandably this film is not perfect by any means. For me, there seemed to be a lot of ‘filler’ like Bruce Wayne training whilst cutting the kryptonite. The film is a whopping 151 minutes, and when it boils down to the last 15 minutes or so, it begins to wear thin as they set up for the upcoming Justice League film.

One big triumph for me is the fact they haven’t relied on the slapstick and comedic flair that has become a natural part of Marvel films. DC on the other hand relied on the action-packed sequences and creating these strong, intriguing characters and not to mention taking a serious approach to these characters. Affleck’s rough-around-the-edges Batman was fantastic and seemed to show a relentlessness toward villians. (Bale’s Batman specified no killing) Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was strange. I am by no means an avid comic book fan, but Eisenberg’s Lex seemed over the top and far too easily agitated. I expected a smooth, slick and composed Lex Luthor, not one showing sporadic thoughts and continually venting nonsense throughout his scenes.

maxresdefault

Synder has a talent of creating these vast worlds and the cities of Metropolis and Gotham are as dizzying and immersive as expected, the true triumph however is the ‘dream’ sequence and Superman’s montage of saving people, as these are some absolutely gorgeous scenes. This coupled with Hans Zimmer soundtrack is always bound to add to the enjoyment factor, but there was something else about Zimmer’s soundtrack, creating intoxicating beats, including one track that wouldn’t go amiss in Mad Max: Fury Road. 

As I said, this film is by no means perfect, but it’s still really enjoyable. A creative reimagining of the Batman franchise, with Zack Synder heading the charge and the creation of worlds is a joy to watch unfold. For mainly plot reasons and spoilers, I don’t want to divulge in the story, but apart from a few standalone points, the story is enjoyable and carries itself over the rather daunting 151 minutes. Unlike the Marvel films, this is the beginning of a serious approach to the superhero universe, rather than the lighthearted undertaken by Marvel.

I left the cinema feeling rather positive, but a little confused with a few of the plot points including the dream sequence, Lex’s peculiar behaviour and why they included the Rocky-esque montages. Background knowledge seemed to have played a part when visiting this film, but doesn’t hang too heavy over the films head, but may help with a few of the more finer plot points. That being said, with the strong characters, immersive landscapes and gorgeous Zimmer soundtrack, the positives outweigh the negatives for me.

Affleck’s Batman was everything I wanted it to be and was possibly my favourite thing about this film. 

My Top Films From 2012

I realise this should have been posted before the end of 2012, but oh well. I was going to go see Life of Pi on New Year’s Eve, but I ended up working and what not, so unfortunately it will not be included.

It was a good year for films, with the beginning of The Hobbit being unveiled, to the continuation of the James Bond saga and the capping off the Christopher Nolan trilogy. Of course, actually choosing my favourite film from the past year is difficult. For one, I cannot remember all the new films that I have seen, and also many great films did come out. There were many great films that came out, but I thought I could narrow it down to a top five.

Number 5: 21 Jump Street

For me, 21 Jump Street was good. I enjoyed it. Coming from knowing no knowledge about the original television series, so I cannot tell whether or not it was anything reminiscent of the old series, all I know is that Johnny Depp, who was in the original series, cameos in this film. The enjoyment came from the laughs provided, in particular the chicken lorry that blows up, after a series of gas trucks and other stuff not exploding. It was refreshing seeing Channing Tatum appear in a comedy role and not be a pretty boy that he appears to do, Magic Mike, need I say more? Either way, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum make that classic role, the brains and the beauty. And they do it really well, becoming brothers, in more ways than one. If you like films that have those funny consequences, then this film is one for you, the two out of favour, rookie cops are sent undercover to a high school to break up a drug ring. You expect laughs and consequences and that’s precisely what you get. Can’t fault it, aside from the ending as it opens up on to a possible sequel, which I believe wouldn’t work, or would just be terrible.

Number 4: Moonrise Kingdom

I found it tough to place this film fourth, as I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan and have loved every single one of his films. For some reason, when I watch his films, I know what to expect, but I don’t know what to expect at the same time. Moonrise Kingdom includes an all star cast of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Bill Murray to name a few! It’s just an excellent film, that I thoroughly enjoyed, in which we experience two children who decide to run away after falling for each other. Of course it being a Wes Anderson film is has a very nostalgic feel generally, as well as being set in the 1960s of course, coupled with the acting abilities of this cast, it makes one excellent film for 2012, and would definitely be in my top 5. It could be one of my favourite Wes Anderson films.

Number 3: Prometheus

Prometheus, visually, was the superior film for me. Some of the shots that were included astounded me. It was simply immersing me in a whole new world. Michael Fassbender was fantastic in this film as David. However, the story progression left many frustrated as ‘answers’ so to speak are not given. But if it gives Ridley Scott the chance to leave us in awe at this whole new world, I would enjoy that. A lot. Set as a prequel to the Alien series, two doctors find a constellation in which a moon could be hospitable. They believe this could be our origin and go searching for it funded by Weyland Coorporation, they find something, but obviously I don’t want to ruin it. For the visual spectacle that has made the sci-fi genre stronger recently, this film is top dog. Unfortunately the only thing making this film a top five for me is the visual spectacle put on show. Only David (Fassbender) stand out massively in an acting role for me as he is brilliant. He perfects the role of being a robot that is meant to be a human, but obviously as you can tell there is something peculiar about David throughout the film.

Number 2: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Being a massive Lord of the Rings fan, this film was always going to be in here somewhere, but I decided not to have it top, even though this film is absolutely fantastic. Only due to reading the book before hand did I pick up a few errors, but then again I cannot be too critical as there this is the usual case. For one, I loved the ending of the The Hobbit and thought it fantastic. Freeman was also fantastic as Bilbo. I am certainly excited to see the next part, however I can only imagine a few areas will be left out due to the amount of the story they have to cover within the second film. Alas, I believe that Lord of the Rings fans will only be able to bear with The Hobbit, as it is long and in some parts slow and I can imagine if you didn’t like Lord of the Rings trilogy, you wouldn’t like The Hobbit. The sequence in which the dwarfs are singing about Erebor sent shivers down my spine as that was just a fantastic scene as well as the scene with The Pale Orc and the tree. The second part has been nicely set up and I cannot wait for it.

Number 1: The Dark Knight Rises

Someone asked me what my top film was, and it was between The Hobbit and The Dark Knight Rises. When they said I could only watch one, I have to choose The Dark Knight rises as I will never tire of the brilliant sequences and Bane’s terrifying character. It is the end of the trilogy by Christopher Nolan and it is a spectacular one. Admittedly, it’s not the greatest ending and neither is it to the trilogy as majority of people will say The Dark Knight is a better film. I am impartial as I really enjoy all three films for their different aspects. The opening scene in The Dark Knight Rises however is one of the greatest things I have seen. Of course, there are some annoyances but that is of course natural to the films. My big annoyance was Bane being killed off so simply and there was no reference to him afterwards. Granted it was Talia’s grand scheme of things, but still, he was really badass. The ending was not brilliant due to the open questions left in place, such as how did Bruce Wayne really survive, will Joesph Gordon Levitt take over as Batman, or become Nightwing? What will happen to Gotham now? It was quite frustrating to say the least, but the most well-rounded film I believe after the great visual displays, exciting action scenes, a shock – albeit not a great one, but a shock nonetheless – and great acting displays by Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Gary Oldman and also Anne Hathaway.

Well, they are my top films. I’ve made a kind of pact with myself to see as many films as I can that come out this forthcoming year, although I’ve already got my heart set on few, such as Lincoln, Life of Pi (I know it came out last year, but I’ve got to see that), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Gangster Squad, Only God Forgives and Man of Steel – This list is near endless. So I’m going to try and get a post out for every one of them. I can see a different take on Fairy Tales can be a theme for next year, as Jack The Giant Killer has popped up and Snow White and the Huntsman last year. We shall see on that one.

A mention for The Avengers, as many people enjoyed it and what not. I did not. I just found it a reason to make money as Superheroes were making money at the box office at the time. The last half hour of The Avengers and Dark of the Moon were very similar and it just annoyed me as they are two totally different films. For me, it just lacked on a whole massively and could have been improved in various degrees.

Thank you for reading, I would love to know what you think of my selections and whether you agree, or disagree with them. All feedback is welcomed!