Tag Archives: The Dark Knight Rises

Shame Day: Negativity

As some of you may know, I played a lot of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm last week. Having played the campaign from Tuesday to Friday, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was many, many times better than its predecessor, Wings of Liberty, and I only had good things to say about it.

Now, I am a person who thoroughly believes that a discerning eye is needed when approaching anything. Millions upon millions of people ate Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises up with a spoon, and shower it in praise. I haven’t personally taken the time to write this all of this out, but I’ve discussed it with friends for hours, and can leave it up to Christopher Sebela of Comics Alliance and “first black comics editor” Christopher Priest to speak on my behalf. Suffice to say, I was not terribly impressed.

You read that right. I did not like The Dark Knight Rises.

And, since The Dark Knight Rises was a film I thoroughly disliked, I should mention that I am very willing to find flaws in the things I love. The Avengers was a film that I really, really liked, but I’ll be one of the first people to tell you that Hawkeye really got the short end of the stick, and that [SPOILERS] the Chitauri just flopping over like a bunch of Trade Federation droids probably deserved some sort of explanation.

To get to the reason I decided to write this post. When StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty came out StarCraft Legacy writer Gradius put together a very extensive review of the single-player campaign, and he was not very gracious. I remember reading it three years ago and agreeing with him on almost every point, the story needed quite a bit of work.

Then maybe four or so hours ago I read his review of Heart of the Swarm, and he ripped it a new one. While I will admit that he peppers his review with positivity he ultimately ends up damning its entirety with faint praise. It leaves no stone unturned, and takes time to dub the game’s creators as being “juvenile” and utilizing “fridge logic.” I finished it and felt sick to my stomach.

I wish I could edit this to have Kerrigan shedding a single tear.

Why was I so upset? I have argued extensively about why I think a widely beloved film is objectively bad, does this make me a hypocrite? Have I taken something that other people hold dearly and spat on it, making them feel as I have?

No, I don’t think so, and it all has to do with how you say what you’re saying.

There exists a very popular series of YouTube videos reviewing the Star Wars prequels done by Red Letter Media. My housemates in college adored them, and I distinctly remember them watching the Phantom Menace review and having a really great time doing so. I didn’t really share in their enthusiasm.

The honest truth is that the reviewer acknowledges where the prequel films went wrong, and makes some incredibly insightful comments about simple storytelling structure within film; there’s some great stuff there. The problem for me was that his videos are dripping with sarcasm, disrespect, a smattering of immaturity, I could go on. It’s a fantastically written analysis packaged in a format that I found really unappealing.

When my friends and I saw X-Men: The Last Stand back in high school we walked out and broke down how it could have been improved. Highlight the relationship between Bobby [Iceman], Kitty [Shadowcat], and Rogue [does anyone call her by her real name?], make the mutant cure more of a topic of discussion among the X-Men, creating divisiveness within the team, etc. We did a lot of the same things that the reviewer did for The Phantom Menace, but we did so by focusing on how it could be better instead of why it was so awful.

We did.

I am a huge proponent of people thinking hard on what sort of media they consume, and processing whether or not it was actually good. On top of that, I also strongly value the ability to find the good in everything [The Last Airbender had good . . . costume design . . . there, I found something]. My mother told me for years that “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.” I slightly disagree. If you have nothing good to say, say it in a way that isn’t dripping with snark. Say it in a way that will convince people to see that no, it wasn’t good, and this is exactly why, and this is how it could be.

There are some things I downright disagree with in regards to Gradius’ review of Heart of the Swarm, but at it’s core I see a huge fan of the franchise who has ultimately been disappointed by Blizzard’s first two installments in over a decade. That being said, he doesn’t so much throw the baby out with the bathwater as he just chucks the whole tub out the window.

I love reading reviews. I love reading what other people have to say about films I’ve watched or comic books I’ve read. What I hate is when negativity seeps in, and when it actively seeks to prevent me from legitimately enjoying something that I once did. I appreciate your opinion, and I generally want to hear about it, but I also want you to give it to me straight, free of your spite and vitriol.

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Stop Fan-Casting Neil Patrick Harris

A long, long time ago, back before it was announced that Bane would be the “big bad” in this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, Bat-Fans everywhere were talking villains. Who would square off against the Caped Crusader next, and who would play him or her?

The most popular pick was The Riddler, as he was deemed the one most suited to Nolan’s gritty, realistic world. It didn’t take long after that for people to settle on the actor most qualified to take on the role: Neil Patrick Harris.

This was popular enough to warrant at least two separate Facebook petitions, fan-made posters [see above], and even a fake movie trailer. A month before the actual film hit theatres everywhere the people at ScreenCrush decided to announce that they too thought that NPH looks like the Riddler.  He was even the picked for the role in a post on this blog that I did not write; just a reminder that my fellow writers and I will (and do) not always agree.

Even more recently, I read a post on reddit titled “My personal pick for the flash.” The accompanying image was a photo of Neil Patrick Harris. I disagreed, and, before you fly into some/any sort of rage, let me defend myself.

I love How I Met Your Mother. That being said, I really, really enjoy the character of Barney and the nonstop energy and enthusiasm the actor brings to the role. It’s how most people know the guy, and I can see why most people are struck with how, well, awesome he is. But after I saw the aforementioned post on reddit and composed a reasonably put response, I knew what I had to do:

To start with, let me list the last few movies in NPH’s filmography, in descending order:

  • American Reunion [2012]
  • The Muppets [2011]
  • A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas [2011]
  • The Smurfs [2011]
  • Beastly [2011]

Comedies and children’s films. To be fair, Beastly appeals to more of a younger, Twilight-loving crowd, and it’s also where Harris plays his most serious role: a blind, wacky, wisecracking tutor.

That’s not to say that he can’t pull off emotional depth. HIMYM‘s Barney doesn’t go through every relationship like it’s nothing, and more than a few times has to face the fact that maybe he does want love, or at least stability. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which you should all watch if you haven’t, is a really enjoyable musical about a supervillain, but also has some deeply heart-wrenching moments.

In spite of all that, I just don’t think Neil Patrick Harris has what it takes to take on the role of a member of Batman’s rogues gallery, or don the cowl of the Fastest Man Alive. Just because he voiced Nightwing in the very well-done animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood doesn’t make him qualified to do anything similar live-action. The headlining role in an independently done musical is not the same as a film in a huge franchise.

If his HIMYM co-star Cobie Smulders’ performance as Maria Hill in The Avengers is any indication, he won’t do a terrible job, he just won’t do great. Neil Patrick Harris is an immensely talented actor, singer, and dancer, but I don’t believe he’s not the next big thing in comic book movies. Feel free to disagree.

Nolan, Jefferson, and The Batman

Keep on reading, this’ll make sense.

In the year 1820 Thomas Jefferson shared with a number of his friends a book
he had put together entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It was, in essence, the four gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John] in chronological order. What truly differentiated it from the Bible was the omission of all references to angels, prophecy, references to Jesus divinity and resurrection, and miracles.

In the year 2005 Christopher Nolan’s film Batman Begins made its way into theatres, spawning a trilogy and getting the ball rolling for dozens of “grim and gritty” remakes. In an interview with The Guardian the director said that he “[tried] to do it in a more realistic fashion than anyone had ever tried to [do] a superhero film before.”

The parallel I’m trying to make should be obvious to any Batman fan, either of the comics or the animated series. Having finally seen The Dark Knight Rises this Tuesday and finishing the trilogy, I can finally say this with confidence that Nolan has done to the Batman canon what Jefferson did to the Bible.

These two men have something against the improbable.

To make things clear, I like Nolan’s Batman movies. He took a concept as seemingly ridiculous as a vigilante crimefighter who dresses up like a bat and somehow grounded it. On top of that he forced us to accept the fact that comic book movies can be more than entertaining, they can be awe-inspiring as well.

An issue that I had with Christopher Nolan and his films was the staunch inability to embrace anything even vaguely fantastical. The problem with that being that the concept is, as I just mentioned, a vigilante crimefighter who dresses up as a bat. With that in mind, maybe the imagination can be stretched just a little more to accommodate a psychopath whose makeup can’t wash off, or a badly scarred man with a deeply split-personality.

Furthermore, by thinning the line between reality [that of the audience] and art [the film being watched] questions are forced to arise. If this is the real world, why didn’t the kidnapping of a Chinese national from his homeland spark an international debacle [The Dark Knight], and <SPOILERS> how is Bruce able to make the jump to escape the prison given the damage in his legs [The Dark Knight Rises]? The films lower our suspension of disbelief, and with our guard down we become quick to ask why.

In his film Captain America fought pseudo-Nazis with energy weapons and tanks as large as houses. The audience never questioned this because although the film had some sort of anchor in a real-life event [World War II], we still understood that this was a world with one foot in the fantastic. If we can believe that a scrawny kid from Brooklyn ingesting a “super solider serum” can help the Allies win the war then we can just as easily believe that Hitler’s “deep science division” is led by a man whose face looks like a red skull.

Taking the “magic” out of the Batman mythos was no easy task, and Nolan threw a lot out when he decided what his approach to the canon would be. Scarecrow’s fear gas got the go-ahead, but not the Joker’s laughing gas, or the Venom that Bane uses to grow stronger. Batman could be called by name, but not Catwoman. Batarangs can be seen, and used, but the Batmobile must be free of any visual associations with the character.

Nolan was free to pick and choose what he wanted, and in many ways simply used Batman and his world to tell the stories that he wanted to tell. This is somewhat lost in the third film due to its connections to actual events in the comics [Knightfall and No Man’s Land, though that’s a post for another time], but for the most part he co-wrote the stories and screenplays for all three films. In another interview he states that “I don’t think our Batman, our Gotham, lends itself to that kind of cross-fertilization,” in response to a question about heroes co-existing between films akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Having stated that, I must admit that I have to view Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films as- something else. Something not Batman. Batman would never kill purposefully [letting someone die, Batman Begins], accidentally [tackling Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight], or not react to the deaths of others [all throughout The Dark Knight Rises]. I guess I view them as Batman movies about as much as I view the apocrypha part of the Bible. They can be good, and even beneficial, but ultimately miss the mark somehow.