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The Thing About Batman…

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) by Christopher Nolan

So, I watched The Dark Knight Rises on Saturday. It’s actually a little weird to say that because after the last Batman-movie I promised myself to never watch another one of those. Why?

The thing about Batman is… that I really don’t like him. As a character. Bruce Wayne is altogether too serious and too snobby to be really likable. I like to compare him with Tony Stark because they are both insanely rich and orphans but Stark is sarcastic, has a wicked sense of humour, while Batman takes everything to heart, is obsessed with saving people. It seems he has to ultimately fail because he will never be able to save his parents. Of course, this comes from someone who is no expert on comic books at all.

Let’s talk a little about the movie then. It was long, and it was also good. What I take from the franchise under Christopher Nolan’s supervision is that everybody is just a person. Nobody has superpowers, some are freakishly disfigured but by some miracle still alive – and are incredibly angry. People are hurting. Our hero is hurting, too, but he still finds it in him to want to make the life of others better.

Gotham seems to be a pit really… this city seems way beyond saving.  And maybe this is another thing about the whole Batman-franchise that I do not like: the dreariness, the bleakness, the darkness. Gotham City is depressing, like some 1930s film noir New York or Chicago, it has too many shadows and in every single one of them lurks an even darker shadow that sometimes wants your money, sometimes your life.

But then there are also things I like about Batman: Everybody is wonderfully three-dimensional. The character development within the franchise is great. The villains are evil because they actually do evil – not like some wannabes who never get their act on (right, Loki?). And then there are some who are not even evil but merely… criminals. Like Catwoman/Selina Kyle in this new installment. And let me tell you – she is glorious. But then she always was. Think Eartha Kitt, think Michelle Pfeiffer, okay, don’t think Halle Berry… Anne Hathaway owns the catsuit and she looks mighty fine in it. She was the reason I watched the movie and I am not even a little disappointed – she can act and she does and she looks good doing it. The one regret I have about her – she and Bruce/Christian Bale had zero chemistry… it happens and maybe it shouldn’t be forced…

Marion Cotillard’s role as Miranda certainly was surprising but it was also very well acted. At first I thought she was wasted as love interest but I had another thing coming and it was gooooood. I guess it is not really surprising that I found the women of the movie more compelling than the males. Though I must say: Blake (or Robin)… Joseph Gordon-Levitt has becomes such a capable actor. And why not continue with only him and have a Robin-movie. This is actually something I would like to watch – despite my misgivings about Gotham City. And I guess I don’t have to mention the awesomeness that were both Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, right? I mean with those two it’s a given.

So, yeah, it was a good movie. It sure had its lengths but I liked the various topics within the movie about whether the Dent-Act is still valuable even if Dent was not the hero they made him into. And also the socialist component, the question if people like Wayne (rich people) have any purpose…

And then there was this and it made a good movie into a great one:

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Just dropping a note: Contagion

Contagion (2011) by Steven Soderbergh

The one thing everybody agrees on about Contagion is that it has a great cast. In Jane Austen-speech this mean: Lizzy Bennett, Marianne Dashwood, and Emma Woodhouse in one movie – for non Austen-speaker: Jen Ehle, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow. Adding to these actresses we have Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, and Jude Law. Who wouldn’t wanna watch? And let’s not forget that Steven Soderbergh directed.

But does a great cast a good movie make? Well, it doesn’t make a bad movie, that’s for sure. It has a solid story, of which I think Jude Law’s character was the most surprising. But there was nothing we haven’t seen already – including the fact that Kate’s character dies and that is always traumatic and I wish they wouldn’t do that.

Also, I think in a world where we have all these awful diseases, do we really need Hollywood to invent just one other? Somehow I thought Outbreak was much better and even Quiet Killer – a tv movie from 1992 starring Kate Jackson – had more appeal. I am not even sure why that is. The trailer looked good but maybe there is just not more to tell about diseases and outbreaks. And not even a cast of superstars can change that.

One word about Jen Ehle because she was probably the least known actress among all these big names: she was amazing and she is the hero within the film. And if you haven’t seen her in Pride and Prejudice – the 1995 BBC version -, do. She’s a brilliant Eliza Bennett – and in everything else she’s done…

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I don’t know about men in the US but in Germany they usually frown at you when you say that you like Leonardo DiCaprio. They seem to only remember him from “Titanic” while he was in some quite successful dick flicks as well. And he is a good actor, everybody who has watched The Basketball Diaries and/or This Boy’s Life knows that. Still, there is resentment on the men’s part. Is it because he is good-looking, or all his girlfriends are supermodels… okay, yeah, I can see it clearly now, it’s just envy.

And he is only one in a list of actors I like or found likable in this movie (a real surprise was Cillian Murphy because I remember him as pretty scary from the The Dark Knight but he’s actually quite beautiful.). Since I usually watch movies because of the female cast-members this was no different and it was because of Ellen Page. She makes this movie about mental thievery a good version of Ocean’s Eleven where women are not only there to distract the men from their jobs and keeps the myth of their heterosexuality alive. She is a serious player in this game, she’s the architect.

To discribe the plot is next to impossible and it is one of the few movies I wish had been in 3D – but maybe that would have been overkill and we would all just have had a stroke. Maybe it was because I was very tired myself but the movie seems like a dream to me (luckily I never fall asleep infront of a screen) and it was incredibly hard to get out of it when it ended. I was actually dizzy for the remainder of the evening. The effects were mindboggling but director Christopher Nolan also created a group of characters who really create the story. Add a very good cast and it is no wonder one is so mesmerized by it.

I am trying to convey the feeling I got from watching it not the plot, ’cause it is too confusing to retell. You should just watch it yourself if you haven’t yet.

On another note, Ellen Page’s wardrobe was criticized for being “a little boy[‘s]” by New York Magazine’s blog “Vulture“. Hmmm. The look works for me but then again, I’m easy. I just think it is sad that some people cannot look beyond the “asexual sidekick” quality of Ellen Page’s character and see her integral part within the plot. And why is a girl not dressing in high-heels and tight jeans recognized as a boy? They could have just said that they think she plays a lesbian instead of beating around the bush… But you can’t say that, can you? Why don’t we just label her “tomboy” and be done with it?

Okay, enough with the stereotypes…