Bringing Chris Nolan’s Bat-Trilogy to a satisfying conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises is probably not everyone’s idea of a comic book movie, but if it’s not yours, then you’re missing out. It may tell a complicated story and take its sweet time in the process, but it doesn’t waste that time in any way. For this last film, Nolan uses the canvas of the Batman universe to weave an epic tale, planting the comic book notions of good and evil in something that feels like the real world.
Comic book movies are all grow’d up and, boy, are they gloomy. Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to his brilliant Batman Begins goes beyond its predecessor and gives us a rich, multi-layered story with one of the more original takes on the comic book villain I can remember. With the creative success of this movie, we can officially write off the Tim Burton Batmans as an unfortunate detour (and the Joel Schumacher films as a large pothole in that detour).
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (hereafter called Azkaban) is the first Harry Potter film not directed by Home Alone helmer Chris Columbus. This time out Alfonso Cuarón called the shots, fresh off the beyond-R-Rated Y tu mamá también. He may seem like an odd choice to film a “veddy-British” and family-friendly PG-rated movie like this, until you recall that he also helmed the G-Rated A Little Princess.
Azkaban clearly has a much differently sensibility from the warmer, more friendly tone of the first two HP films. There is a more foreboding tone that suggest that Cuarón had a better handle on the darker elements of J.K. Rowling’s novels.
Oliver Stone‘s JFK is a movie as admirable in its technique as it is troubling in its agenda. Much like Birth of a Nation sought to rewrite the early history of the original Ku Klux Klan, JFK represents a concerted effort on Stone’s part to insert certifiable falsehoods into the historical record of the Kennedy assassination. He gets two basic facts correct. John F. Kennedy was indeed assassinated on November 22, 1963 and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison did actually prosecute businessman Clay Shaw for his role in an alleged conspiracy. After that, the facts and Mr. Stone have a strained relationship at best. I sincerely hope that this movie will be as routinely dismissed by future generations as Birth of a Nation is today.
The Fifth Element is a big, noisy, goofy piece of cotton candy, and I mean that as compliment. This is not a film that tries to be anything more than what it is and it’s a lot of fun. Director Luc Besson has put his own adolescent daydreams up on the screen and surrounded them with a dense, richly imagined universe.
The first two Batman movies may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but at least they were infused with director Tim Burton’s quirky sensibilities. The second two, directed by Joel Shumacher, were just a train wreck.
The fifth movie does us all a favor by pushing the big cinematic reset button and returning Batman to the beginning, placing him in a universe that has less in common with Edward Scissorhands and the 1960s TV series and more in common with the Batman of the comic books. In other words, the real Batman has made it to the big screen. Finally.