Posts Tagged ‘Michael Caine’

Nobody knows his face, but everybody knows his name (and story): Revisiting Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’

December 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 6, 2014

Everyone knows the basic setup of the world of Batman, one of the great comic-book heroes. Heck, millions of people could recite it in their sleep. It goes like this:

Bruce Wayne, the only son of billionaires, was orphaned by a gunman at an early age and raised by Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family’s loyal butler. Determined to fight the endemic crime of his native Gotham, the so-called Dark Knight dons a cape and cowl and equips himself with a cornucopia of fantastic gadgets in order to help Jim Gordon, the city’s trustworthy police commissioner, apprehend bizarre and menacing villains.

In 1989, the quirky director Tim Burton launched a Batman film franchise, featuring an unlikely choice — mild-mannered comedic actor Michael Keaton, a.k.a. Mr. Mom — in the lead role. Burton’s quirky, sometimes over-the-top gothic realization of this noir-ish comic-book universe proved to be immensely popular. Batman garnered $40.5 million in its first weekend, dwarfing the previous best opening of a superhero movie (Superman II, which took in $14.1 million in 1982).

Burton’s quite excellent Batman went on to total earnings of more than $250 million and helped spawn a legion of superhero movies. They included Batman Returns, which saw Burton and Keaton reuniting for a decent 1992 feature, and two extremely cheesy, greatly inferior further sequels: Batman Forever (1995), directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Val Kilmer in the title role; and Batman & Robin (1997), again directed by Schumacher but this time starring George Clooney.

When, in 2005, Christopher Nolan came out with the insipidly named Batman Begins, a cinematic reboot of the Caped Crusader, I wondered why, exactly, the movie was necessary. What novelty could be mined from the genesis of Batman, whose origin story even the highest-browed of potential moviegoers knows by heart?

I never did see Batman Begins in the movie theater. But I did watch it, on a fiasco of a date, at a free outdoor screening in Raleigh’s Moore Square Park in the summer of 2005 or 2006 (if memory serves).

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‘Interstellar,’ a space-time odyssey: Christopher and Jonathan Nolan project human destiny through the prism of one man’s journey

November 29, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 29, 2014

Interstellar, the new science fiction drama from director Christopher Nolan, is a domestic drama that takes place across the reaches of space, time and physics.

The ostensible hero of the movie is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widower who farms an increasingly desolate homestead in what may be rural Texas. The ostensible heroine is Brand (Anne Hathaway), a scientist whose drive to salvage humanity is sometimes undermined by her usually tightly controlled sentimentality. I don’t think the film ever reveals Cooper’s first name; Brand’s given name is Amelia, but it’s seldom used, a very deliberate omission that marks the character’s emotional coolness, underscoring the distance — real or figurative — between her and the people for whom she cares, and who care for her.

If the movie, which the English director co-wrote with his younger brother, Jonathan Nolan, ever specified the time in which it takes place, I missed it. The story seemed to me to begin a generation or two after our present time. In this dystopian future, climate change has evidently occurred, bringing with it massive dust storms and global crop failures. The ensuing famine and population collapse bring a singular focus on feeding and expanding the human population at the expense of nearly everything else.

Cooper is a relic in this world. Currently a farmer, he once had an abortive career as an astronaut. He’s bitter because the advanced technology that is now all but officially eschewed includes magnetic resonance imagers, which if available might have detected the cancer that killed his wife. He’s also angry because his children — Tom, who’s about 16, and Murph, 10 — are being taught almost exclusively about agriculture.

How narrow-minded is the emphasis on survival? It’s suggested, rather improbably, that the world’s military forces have disbanded. Also, we’re told that federally approved textbooks describe the 20th-century moon landings as a clever hoax that the U.S. government perpetrated to goad the Soviet Union into wasting enormous amounts of resources on space exploration.

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An atomic supervillain conquers Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s impressive, oppressive ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

September 23, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 23, 2014

Pity poor billionaire Bruce Wayne. At the start of The Dark Knight Rises, the 2012 blockbuster feature film based on DC Comics’s popular characters, the former bon vivant is a recluse with a limp and slightly shaggy facial hair. The troubled metropolis of Gotham has cleaned up its act in the eight years since the death of district attorney Harvey Dent at the end of The Dark Knight.

But Wayne (Christian Bale) keeps to himself, either unwilling or unable to move on after the Joker killed the love of his life, Rachel Dawes. And Wayne’s crime-fighting alter ego, Batman, whom most Gothamites unfairly blame for Dent’s death, hasn’t been seen since that the prosecutor’s demise.

The eponymous dark knight will be needed, however, because a new menace is approaching. The chief villain of British director Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie is Bane (Tom Hardy), a mysterious masked man whose ruthlessness, strength and intelligence are only matched by his (and Nolan’s) ardor for labyrinthine plots. The Dark Knight Rises’s fast-paced beginning introduces Bane through an impressive midair hijacking in which he captures nuclear physicist Leonid Pavel and kills the CIA crew that had taken Pavel into custody. Bane also leaves behind one of his minions, noting that the authorities will expect a certain number of bodies in the wreckage. The henchmen obeys willingly, thereby enhancing the caper’s already ominous air.

There are a few other new characters (or new to Nolan’s Batverse, anyway). One is the impossibly limber Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a seductive thief whom we first see flirting with a local congressman. Moments later, she spars — verbally and otherwise — with the reclusive Wayne while attempting to steal his late mother’s string of pearls. Wayne is understandably captivated by the cat burglar, whom even casual fans will recognize as Catwoman despite the word not being uttered onscreen.

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