Tag Archives: the dark knight

Skyfall (2012)

A month ago, I had only seen one or two Bond films, one of them being Sean Connery’s You Only Live Twice. However, in preparation for the release of Skyfall, I snagged a couple of copies of the first two Daniel Craig James Bond installments and caught myself up. Casino Royale was a lot of fun, but Quantum of Solace was significantly less so. Nevertheless, I had high hopes for Craig’s third entry into his Bond legacy, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

(Though it should be obvious, I would like to point out that 1) I am not a longtime James Bond fan and 2) likewise, I am not a James Bond expert. I am not attempting to appear to be either of these in this review.)

I loved everything about this movie, from the exhilarating opening sequence, to the opening credits featuring the fantastic title song by Adele, to the character development, to the villain, to the final climactic action sequence. Daniel Craig was back in full force, giving us a Bond that was (to me) highly reminiscent of Christian Bale’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman earlier this year in The Dark Knight Rises: our hero is growing old and is struggling with physical tasks that were once easy for him, so he considers retirement before realizing that the situation is bigger than him and his wants. (Am I the only one who kept finding this parallel throughout, including lines referring to characters originating in “shadows” and “storms coming?”)

Though I’m sure it was a departure from the typical Bond film formula that has been in place since the first film 50 years ago, I appreciated the fact that romance didn’t play a huge part in this film as it did in the previous two. However, that’s not to say that Skyfall ignored the previous 22 films in the James Bond franchise; in fact, it seemed to me (though, keep in mind, I haven’t seen many Bond films and am merely assuming) that there were plenty of references to the older films, such as the classic car, Q’s quip about “exploding pens,” and several others that I’m sure I missed due to lack of education.

Where Skyfall especially succeeds is in the choice of its villain, Mr. Silva, played by Javier Bardem. He comes across as truly sinister, but he still maintains an air about him that allows for several laughs. What really makes him appear so evil, though, is the fact that he doesn’t make an appearance until the movie is halfway over. The first half of the film is filled with terrorist attacks, random murders, exploitation of sensitive information – and it’s all done by a villain who we haven’t even met yet. Bardem plays the role convincingly, with all of the malicious intent and residual hatred that we expect from a villain of his caliber.

From start to finish, Skyfall had me captivated, not only with its exciting action sequences and impressive character development, but also with the tremendous scope of the landscapes and locations presented throughout…it just looks good. Plus, with a terrific performance from Judi Dench, a nice sort of cameo from Albert Finney, and a promise of more Ralph Fiennes in the future, everyone stepped up to the plate and gave more than their fair share to help knock this film out of the park. Boosted by a wonderful score from Bond newbie Thomas Newman, Skyfall more than redeems the not-nearly-as-good Quantum of Solace and promises more to come…Bond 24 has a lot to live up to.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language, and smoking

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Thomas Newman, here!

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Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) – Alan Moore/Brian Bolland

I’ll start off with this: The Killing Joke is not for kids, and even teenagers should be discretionary. This is mature material..heck, the back of my copy even says “SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS”. You’ve been warned.

Also, I should note that I read the new re-colored Deluxe Edition. Same panels, different colors than the original.

The Killing Joke is short but far from sweet – in fact, it’s actually pretty disturbing. This graphic novel is more a story of the Joker than of Batman, giving us a glimpse into the back story of the character. The evolution of a failed comedian into a crazed madman are presented as flashbacks throughout. These flashbacks are presented in black and white with an occasional item colored in, which is fantastic: when the big first reveal of the newly-created Joker appears, the contrast of the stark black and white to the vividly green hair, red lips, and pale white face sends a chill up my spine.

In fact, I would say that the artwork/coloring of The Killing Joke is the best part. I haven’t read the original from the 1980s with the different colors, but a comparison can be found here. Just based on those quick comparisons, I must say that the recolored edition looks so much better than the original; for me, the colors seem more realistic, and making the flashback sections primarily black and white helps to better follow what is and isn’t “present-day”.

All of that being said, though, the story is pretty interesting as well. The story revolves around the Joker trying to make Commissioner Gordon go insane. Why? Because he’s the Joker and that’s the kind of thing he does. Christopher Nolan actually gave Heath Ledger a copy of The Killing Joke as a reference for the character before filming The Dark Knight. Some men just want to watch the world burn – this graphic novel definitely shows that the Joker is one of those men.

The Killing Joke, as mentioned, is disturbing, but it’s interesting and compelling all the same. Though it explores the origin of the Joker, easily the most famous Batman villain of all time, it also explores the relationship between the Joker and Batman. In fact, it starts with Batman visiting the Joker’s cell in Arkham Asylum to talk about their relationship – about how they’re probably on a path to killing each other, a sentiment that is echoed in Nolan’s The Dark Knight when the Joker says, “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” It’s a combination of the artwork, the Joker’s origin story, and this relationship between Joker and Batman that makes The Killing Joke such a great Batman graphic novel.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

-Chad


Batman: The Long Halloween (1996/1997) – Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale

Continuity-wise, The Long Halloween sort of follows Year One‘s story-line, continuing Batman and Gordon’s quest to rid the city of crime. The Long Halloween, like Year One, was a huge influence on the Christopher Nolan films Batman Begins and  The Dark Knight; in fact, there are a couple of scenes in the graphic novel that were translated directly to The Dark Knight. While Year One introduced Batman and Jim Gordon, well, The Long Halloween introduces pretty much everyone else, from Catwoman to the Joker to the Riddler and so on. We even see Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face! 

Christopher Nolan, director of the newest Batman film trilogy, called The Long Halloween an “epic tragedy”, and that description is right on the mark. A murderer who comes to be known as “Holiday” starts killing people on holidays, and everyone tries to figure out who is doing it, including The Joker and The Riddler…a “this town isn’t big enough for the two of us” kind of thing. It’s bloody and dark.

The art in this graphic novel is fantastic. Everything is so sharp and dense and, though I hate to use this word, gritty. It’s got a sense of realism that makes the story all the more compelling, and the limited color range of the artwork adds to this even more. The darker, more bland color scheme gives a sort of crime noir feel to it.

Bottom line: The Long Halloween is one of the top 5 best Batman comic story arcs of all time, and it heavily influenced the Nolan Batman films that we all love. It’s dark, brutal, and completely engrossing; if you’re a Batman fan at all, you’ll love it.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

-Chad


The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight, though it is a “superhero movie”, transcends that stereotype and becomes something so much more: it’s a crime epic.

Let’s be honest: Heath Ledger’s Joker is what makes this film so good. Not that the rest of it isn’t good…that’s not what I’m saying. But Ledger’s Joker is the first thing that people remember about this film, and for a good reason. Ledger dedicated himself more fully to the role than I’ve ever seen an actor do before, and it certainly shows onscreen. This interpretation of Batman’s most infamous adversary is scary and twisted; from the grimy hair and smeared makeup to the gruesome scars to the obsession with knives, The Joker is a character that you so badly love to hate. Despite how unsettling the character is, Ledger delivers his lines with a dark humor that makes you laugh in a “why-am-I-laughing-at-this-this-is-horrible” kind of way.

Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face is great as well. Watching Dent throughout the film is interesting because, if you’re verse in Batman-lore, you know that Harvey Dent and Two-Face are the same person, but you don’t know if he’ll get there in this film or not. For the first half of the film, we see how strong and determined he is to clean up the city, but, as things get worse, he begins to change. Eckhart does a fine job with showing his character’s deterioration; in a way, it reminds me of Anakin Skywalker’s decline into Darth Vader. It’s his love for Rachel and his anguish at her death that drives him into madness, and Eckhart plays Dent’s strong emotional downfall fantastically.

Batman’s incorruptibility is put to the test in this film as he faces both of these men; he doesn’t know if it’s something that he can survive or withstand because, for a while there, the more days go by that Batman doesn’t reveal his true identity, the more people die because of him. Bale brings all of Batman’s emotions across magnificently in this film, a certain improvement over the previous film when there was little emotion to come across.

Overall, The Dark Knight is what every superhero film should strive to be: dramatic, personal, and real. We see the best of people (on the cruise ships with the detonators) and the worst of people (The Joker), but Batman stays strong through it all and stands for what he knows to be right, no matter whether it reflects on him in the best light or not. With Heath Ledger’s best performance ever and a supporting cast of incredible actors doing an awesome job, The Dark Knight is a force to be reckoned with.

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of violence and some menace

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, here!


The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Here’s a brief spoiler-free review of the final film of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

Taken as a whole, this film was fantastic on nearly every level, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have any faults. I had problems with understanding certain characters, from Bane (especially) to Miranda Tate to Jim Gordon to Bruce himself. A couple of the plot points in the first half confused me a bit, but the second half was so incredible that it made these and any other minor faults seem like nothing. Initially, I didn’t agree with some bits of the ending, and, because of that, I decided that it was slightly behind The Dark Knight in terms of quality, but I’ve been mulling things over since the movie ended – it’s starting to grow on me, so the final film of the trilogy may end up being my favorite. Old faces and new faces alike do an awesome job onscreen, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake and Tom Hardy as Bane standing out as particularly great. Overall, it’s an outstanding film; if you enjoyed the first two, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you enjoy this one as well.

Now, onto the review FILLED with spoilers, so, if you haven’t seen the film yet, DON’T READ ON. (skip to end for spoiler-free conclusion)

There are two key bits of speculation that have been circulating the Internet for quite some time now that proved to be correct: 1) Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul and 2) Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the man who will take over for Batman. Good job, Internet people! Also, Batman did technically “die”, so there’s a third speculation come true.

Bane proved to be one of my favorite film villains of all time. Sure, I had trouble understanding him at times, but Hardy’s presence onscreen was bone-chilling and terrifying. I’m not going to sit here and waste time comparing him to Ledger’s Joker, but both had a quality about them that made it difficult to look away – no matter how badly you wanted to at times. The most fascinating part about this character is that he is the first villain who could physically best Batman…and he does in an awful way. Though we couldn’t see most of his face, Hardy did a fantastic job with communicating through his body language exactly who Bane was and what he was capable of. I wish that there had been more of a defeat of Bane by Batman, but I suppose that the defeat we witnessed was the only one that mattered because the title of “head villain” was passed on to Miranda Ta- oh, excuse me – Talia al Ghul.

Hathaway as Catwoman was very good as well; in fact, I managed to watch the film thinking, “hey look! It’s Catwoman!” instead of thinking, “hey look! It’s Anne Hathaway!”, which is a plus for someone like her who hasn’t done a film like this before. She looked the part and did a fine job with the character.

I was very impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his character; he came out of nowhere, but he certainly exhibited the detective abilities and physical skill needed to be a future Batman…more on that later. The leadership he showed in gathering the forces in Gotham to fight and bringing Batman back to the city was outstanding, and I really felt myself rooting for the character…and not just because he was on Batman’s side.

Since I’ve read both of Michael Caine’s autobiographies now, watching him onscreen in The Dark Knight Rises was a particular treat, especially because we got to see him display a wide range of acting ability in this film than we did in the previous two films. When he cried at the end of the film, I nearly cried; Caine is a wonderful actor with a career spanning decades, and seeing him deliver such a powerful performance in this film at his age (he’s 79 years old) was a great thing to witness.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Not much to say here, but they both did a fantastic job with their roles, especially Oldman.

Christian Bale’s as Batman was admirable in the sense that we see him truly fight for the first time – not physically, necessarily, but for his life, something that we hadn’t seen from Batman before this film. He’s a man who has been through quite a lot both physically and emotionally, and he has suffered in just about every way that a man can suffer. Bale does a great job with truly showing Batman’s humanity in this film…for the first time, the person who wants him dead knows his true identity, so there is no way for him to hide or use theatricality to his advantage. It’s man vs. man, and there’s no darkness to hide in anymore. Bale displays Bruce’s resolve to give the city all that he has and makes not only Batman a hero, but Bruce Wayne a hero as well.

Aside from a slightly confusing first half (which, thanks to Wikipedia’s Plot section of the film’s article, isn’t all that confusing anymore) and the occasional problems with the voices, my only issues regarded the ending. I knew that I didn’t want Bruce to die, so that’s nice, but I wanted him to return to Gotham and have an emotional reunion with Alfred. At least, that’s what I wanted at first. Walking away, however, and taking some time to think about it, I was actually pretty satisfied with how they ended it. Batman is no longer a villain in Gotham but a hero instead, and Bruce Wayne has reached that point in his life when he no longer needs Batman…he is finally at peace, living out his life the way Alfred wanted him to. That being said, I still wish that we had seen more than just an acknowledgement between the two.

I also don’t know how I feel about the whole “(Robin) John Blake is the new Batman” part of the ending; if it was just meant as a teaser that will be left alone, cool. I like it. BUT I really don’t want to start a new franchise with Gordon-Levitt as the focus – Chris Nolan has made it pretty clear that he won’t be doing any more Batman after this film, and I don’t want a sequel trilogy or whatever to be made and it pale in comparison to what Nolan has done with Bale in these three movies. Who knows…maybe it could be good, but I don’t really want to take that chance. Of course, the decision isn’t up to me, so we’ll just have to see where Warner Bros. takes it from here…if anywhere.

***SPOILERS OVER***

I’m having trouble with deciding which film I like more: The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises. On one hand, I don’t want to like this film more just because it’s the last film of the series. On the other hand, I don’t want to like The Dark Knight more just because of Heath Ledger’s Joker; I’m trying to find a balance between the two so that I can make a decision excluding those factors. Though The Dark Knight Rises didn’t end the way I wanted it to when I walked into the theater, I walked out of the theater thinking that maybe, just maybe, Nolan’s ending was better than the one that I had fantasized for the film on my own. So, for now at least, I’m going to call this a tie, but it’s entirely possible – and highly likely – that the finale of the trilogy will come out on top.

As fans of Batman, we all have Christopher Nolan to thank for bringing this incredible character to the big screen in such a big way and for dedicating himself fully to finishing what he started. Batman Begins was groundbreaking, The Dark Knight was breathtaking, and now, with The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has brought a third, final film that ends the trilogy in a hugely satisfying way.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of violence, intense sequences of action, language and some sensuality

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Hans Zimmer, here!


The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Hans Zimmer

I don’t have much time to type this out before I go to the theater for the Batman trilogy IMAX screening, so I won’t be going track by track.

Though some of this music is taken from the previous two films’ scores, Zimmer introduces some pretty cool new themes that add a lot to the character of the album. “Gotham’s Reckoning” starts with a rhythm of two duples and two triples, which repeats through the rest of the track. This rhythm serves as Bane’s theme, and it is the musical version of the chant heard in the various trailers for the film. Sure enough, the chant comes in about halfway through the track, adding a level of anxiousness to it all; presumably, this is being chanted by Bane’s army, which, along with the random bursts of brass and aggressive percussion in the background, makes this track all the more terrifying.

Another highlight is the following track, “Mind If I Cut In?”. It opens with some eerie strings which moves into a lengthy piano solo. It brings a bit of a chill down my spine. A later track, “Despair” is really cool because it contains the best instance of the Batman theme (ascending minor third) that I’ve heard out of all three soundtracks; it’s just so pure and heroic-sounding, despite what the title may imply.

Speaking of titles implying things, “Necessary Evil” leaves me stumped – who is the title referring to? Is it Bane’s way of justifying his crimes? Or is it Batman realizing that the only way to stop Bane is to break his one rule, i.e. kill him? I sort of doubt that it’s the latter because Batman “truly [is] incorruptible”, but the track provides the emotional sound that could accompany a weighty decision like that.

There are lots of great moments to point out and talk about, but I could go on and on and on. It boils down to this: this is Hans Zimmer’s best Batman score yet. It features a pleasant mix of old and new, with new bits of music that give a glimpse into the kinds of difficult decisions and situations that Batman must endure in the film, and it concludes the trilogy in a truly impressive way.

Since Newton Howard didn’t return to collaborate on this score, Zimmer tackled it all on his own. I was worried that it would be too “Zimmer-y” for me, but he did an overall fantastic job. In fact, I’d say that the score for The Dark Knight Rises is better musically than its predecessor. As for how it enhances the movie…well, you’ll have to wait for my movie review tomorrow!

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

1. “A Storm is Coming” 0:37
2. “On Thin Ice” 2:55
3. “Gotham’s Reckoning” 4:08
4. “Mind if I Cut in?” 3:27
5. “Underground Army” 3:12
6. “Born in Darkness” 1:57
7. “The Fire Rises” 5:33
8. “Nothing Out There” 2:51
9. “Despair” 3:14
10. “Fear Will Find You” 3:08
11. “Why Do We Fall?” 2:03
12. “Death By Exile” 0:23
13. “Imagine the Fire” 7:25
14. “Necessary Evil” 3:16
15. “Rise” 7:11

16. “Bombers Over Ibiza (Junkie XL Remix)”  5:50

17. “The Shadows Betray You”  5:21

18. “The End”  6:13

Total Length: app. 69 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


The Dark Knight (2008) – Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard

“Why So Serious?”

Opening with eerie sirens, this track doesn’t have a lot of organization or anything like that to it – that is to say, it’s chaotic, which defines the Joker. Played during the opening of the film when we’re first introduced to the character, the various sounds that range from aggressive to contemplative to insane give us our first impressions of who the Joker is and what he is capable of. Even the percussion beat that we hear throughout gives you the feeling of chaos.

“I’m Not a Hero”

Featuring a low string melody that is heard throughout the film, the coolest part about this track is that you can hear the Batman theme (the ascending minor third that I mentioned in yesterday’s Batman Begins post) played lightly in the background. This Batman theme repeats over and over again as the track goes on. Toward the end, there are a couple of random bouts of action theme with echo-y sounds and light rhythmic percussion underneath. The last 30 seconds or so are more heroic sounding, which fits in with this scene in the film; I believe this track is played as Batman makes his visit to Hong Kong and…well, I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

“Harvey Two-Face”

This track contains the theme for both Harvey Dent and Two-Face, if you couldn’t guess that from the title. Played in the strings, this melody is weighed down with responsibility, and the occasional horn solo adds a bit of a heroic tinge to it. Percussion is introduced about 2 minutes in, and everything becomes a bit more driven with purpose and emotion, possibly indicating Harvey’s transition from noble district attorney to corrupted government official. The last 3 minutes or so drops into a slow piano theme, followed by the string melody heard at the start which gets more and more intense as the track draws to a close. As a whole, this track gives us a glimpse into the conflict within Dent.

“Aggressive Expansion”

The start of this track is just as aggressive as the title implies, but then it slows to some atmospheric stuff that probably accompanies a dialogue-heavy scene or something like that. The aggression returns at the end of the track, bringing us a light version of the heavy action theme heard later in the score.

“Always a Catch”

Opening with the sirens used throughout the film that indicate that something SERIOUS is about to happen, it soon moves into a quiet bit of music that fades to the end. Perhaps a lead-in to the next track –

“Blood On My Hands”

This theme is played on the lower strings at first, and it has a heavy sort of emotion to it. Taken from Batman’s line in the film about how he’s already got enough “blood on [his] hands”, this track gives a theme to Batman’s worry that he’s not doing the right thing.

“A Little Push”

Starting with a simple enough bit of ambient music, about halfway through it becomes corrupted and twisted…much like the character of Harvey Dent.

“Like a Dog Chasing Cars”

Featuring some more of the Batman theme over a heavily rhythmic background, the main theme in this track is introduced by the French horns before being joined by the strings. It gets more and more action-y as it goes on, and we hear some of the cool brass parts at about 2:10 or so, which goes on until the last minute or so. In this last minute of the track, we hear what I sort of consider to be an anti-Batman theme; there is a sustained note that, instead of ascending a minor third, descends a whole step.

“I Am the Batman”

Mostly atmospheric, this track is played during the scene when Alfred tells the story of the jewel thief in Burma…not much to talk about here. A nice ambient track, though, and it ends with something similar to the siren at the start of “Always a Catch”…perhaps communicating the moral of Alfred’s story – “some men just want to watch the world burn”.

“And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad”

This track features the action-y theme, and it also contains something interesting: there’s a sustained note that you would assume to be the Batman theme, but it never goes anywhere. You get the sustained note, but that’s it.

“Agent of Chaos”

Most of the stuff heard here is stuff that we’ve already been introduced to, but it’s all mixed together to start with a brooding, anticipating action theme that moves into the sirens, meaning WATCH OUT! And, sure enough, we go into MORE action-y stuff that actually contains some new themes, including high string quarter notes over a lower string melody – a very cool effect. The ending is depressing though, as it features another slow piano solo and sad strings underneath. The contrast between this and what was heard earlier really makes this ending feel pretty heartbreaking.

“Introduce a Little Anarchy”

This is the coolest track on the album. It features the full-fledged action theme with an awesome underlying cello/bass counter-melody kind of thing, along with several interjections by the Batman. This track embodies all that is awesome about Batman – well, the fighting side of him, at least, and it’s non-stop action from start to finish.

“Watch the World Burn”

This track can be heard during the scene when Harvey has kidnapped Gordon’s family. You can hear the emotional tension between Dent, Gordon, and Batman as they try to negotiate the safety of the children and beg Harvey to blame the men most responsible for Rachel’s death. It ends with emotional-sounding strings that are a bit chaotic, again representing what Harvey has become.

“A Dark Knight”

This track is really long (more than 16 minutes) and features lots of different stuff…so I’ll let you listen to it on your own!

OVERALL

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard have come together to create something even better than their score to Batman Begins. Though I would only give the music itself about a 9, the way it is used in the film is extremely effective and pushes it over the top. This album, like its predecessor, does a fantastic job with capturing both the emotional and action-y sides of Batman. Also, make sure to check out the bonus digital disc available on iTunes, containing almost an hour of new music!

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  1. “Why So Serious?”          (9:14)
  2. “I’m Not a Hero”          (6:34)
  3. “Harvey Two-Face”          (6:16)
  4. “Aggressive Expansion”          (4:35)
  5. “Always a Catch”          (1:39)
  6. “Blood On My Hands”          (2:16)
  7. “A Little Push”          (2:42)
  8. “Like a Dog Chasing Cars”          (5:03)
  9. “I Am the Batman”          (1:59)
  10. “And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad”          (2:28)
  11. “Agent of Chaos”          (6:55)
  12. “Introduce a Little Anarchy”          (3:42)
  13. “Watch the World Burn”          (3:47)
  14. “A Dark Knight”          (16:15)

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

I used this Wikipedia page to figure out when each of these tracks is played in the film.

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!