Browsing all articles tagged with Batman

I’m still not sure what I thought of The Dark Knight Rises; it was too good to be bad, but too muddled and choppy to be unreservedly good. But if there’s one thing I learnt from Baleman’s last go around it’s that nothing takes away the sense of danger and urgency more than a film’s protagonist being in possession of a flying armoured tank equipped with machine guns and EMP cannons.

Batman may possess the knees of an octogenarian, and presumably his Howard Hughes-lite lifestyle has taken a considerable toll on his constitution, but all that is moot when he can tear-arse around Gotham City in this…

I have this, therefore your threat is invalid.

By the end of the film I started to feel a bit sorry for merciless warlord Bane. He’d spent months befriending homeless people of Gotham – not an easy task when you sound like a posh horse playing the bagpipes – and evicting the selfish 1%. He’d also spent ages stealing Batman’s playthings, including tanks and a giant ticking doomsday device, but all that is swiftly nullified when Batman swoops in with his giant flying death plane.

On a more serious note, it seems The Dark Knight Rises, like Prometheus before it, has been chopped down considerably before reaching cinemas. The pacing seems a little off and there are plot-holes and leaps in logic that you wouldn’t expect from a filmmaker like Christopher Nolan. Unfortunately, Nolan isn’t the kind of filmmaker to re-assess or release alternate cuts, so what we see in the cinema may well be his last word on the film – despite the possibility of there being a stronger telling of this story out there somewhere.

Anyway, I’m probably going to go and see it again to make my mind up, so maybe Nolan has discovered a new way to mess with our tiny little minds while ensuring Batman’s last go-around garners enough money to keep him in IMAX cameras for the foreseeable future. Which makes The Dark Knight Rises like a real-life version of The Prestige. Maybe he is a genius, after all?

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Great vigilante, terrible beautician.

Like most people with eyes I was in awe of The Dark Knight upon release. To paraphrase the abiding message of Batman Begins, it elevated itself beyond the sum of its parts to become something much more rich and meaningful. In this case it was undoubtedly more than just a film about a rich nutter dressing like a bat to stop crime. And while its predecessor dealt with themes of fear and revenge, The Dark Knight dealt with escalation, both thematically and literally – using a broad canvas to explore, among other things, the impact of terrorism and how fragile humanity can be when pitted against the unerring will of a psychotic clown.

But with an overriding exploration of terrorism and its fallout, what once made The Dark Knight a transcendental contemporary thriller could also now confine it to a real world time and place. Like Steve Guttenburg, Chris O’Donnell or the word ‘Ninja’, some things are so indicative of a certain time that their addition is set to forever date the film in which they appear. Conversely, The Dark Knight’s predecessor actually featured ninjas, but holds up better, at least on a thematic level. I suppose ninjas follow the basic tenets of narrative: show, don’t tell, which would make sense because, like most people, I wouldn’t attempt to tell a ninja shit.

It’s likely that in a few years we’re going to roll our eyes at the prevalent themes of early millennial entertainment – like we do today with pop-socks or Alan Sugar’s E-m@iler – especially if it’s true that the death of Bin Laden has seen global terrorist incidents fall to 0.00%. This isn’t really going to help The Dark Knight’s legacy. And to compound matters further the film also features Batman engaging in levels of phone hacking that might have even raised a ginger eyebrow in the News of the World offices circa 2000. While this may have seemed like a necessary invasion of civil liberties back in 2008, it now makes the Caped Crusader look like a ruthless privacy-violating cock-end.

Still, tasteless invasions of privacy notwithstanding, The Dark Knight is undeniably superior entertainment and any problems it might have are caused by over-reaching ambition. Perhaps we’re so engendered by summer blockbusters that we need moments of levity, or the kind of fromage-laced dialogue that, when recited in the real world, would cause instant vomiting and/or a swift punch in the gob. Or maybe that says more about my own base levels of expectation. Regardless, It was a brave choice to make such an unremittingly bleak blockbuster. But it’s perhaps even more telling that audiences decided that this was exactly how they wanted to be entertained in the summer of 2008.

We don’t know much about The Dark Knight Rises, save for the recently released teaser trailer (below), but its voiceover suggests that it picks up some of the threads from Batman Begins. Whether that’s due to the fact that The Dark Knight’s themes are lacking in relevance, that there’s little left to explore, or because Heath Ledger is no longer around to pick up the antagonist’s mantle, we can’t be sure. But since the majority of new footage consists of Gary Oldman complaining in a hospital bed it’s possible that Christopher Nolan has chosen a new real-world crisis to explore: the one in the NHS . That would certainly make for an interesting rogues’ gallery. And even if The Dark Knight doesn’t soar like he once did, 2012 still can’t come soon enough.

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“Rich? Yes. Handsome? Undoubtedly. Art? Erm…Look! A shiny thing!!!”

Just back from a brief paternity hiatus and what better time to take on an incident from Twitter that happened over a month ago? In Twitter land this is something like 65 million years ago, which makes me like a less charitable, less wealthy and less impressive Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park. And while there may not be any mind-blowing dinosaur factoids in the article below, I can still do a better Scottish accent. So suck it, Lord Attenborough.

The never-ending ‘video games as art’ debate reared its ugly and boring head recently (ahem) when Roger Ebert took to Twitter and said that they weren’t. Someone who liked them then said that they were. Someone else agreed and then Ebert said that he didn’t know and everyone took a deep breath and went back to wondering which of the trending celebrities had just died (or is that just me?) and re-tweeting 140 characters of the kind of life-affirming twaddle that should reasonably contradict sitting in front of a computer, re-tweeting life-affirming twaddle.

My own take is that art has somehow moved beyond its common definition to now basically mean a collection of useless and worthless crap that only becomes expensive when you combine the magic ingredients. Kind of like a Voltron sculpt made from dogshit that magically transforms into a platinum robot when you finish sculpting the 12th set of lion’s teeth. Or something. A bed by itself is worth exactly what someone would pay for a bed, but once Tracy Emin pays someone to wank on it, it’s worth a trillion pounds – and not because man-sap has suddenly become a precious commodity. At least as long as The Handmaid’s Tale remains a work of fiction or until Octomom reveals the secret process for turning said ingredient into a fortune.

But something is only worth what people will pay for it. So while a rich idiot may spend a fortune on a piece of crap (Voltron shape, optional), there will always be a richer idiot to sell it to. It’s like Liam Neeson said in The Phantom Menace: “There’s always a bigger fish (richer dickhead)”. Though I personally get more day-to-day usage from “Let’s get out of here before more droids (dickheads) show up.”

But I digress.

You don’t need to re-mortgage your house or sell your collection of Beatles masters to afford a video game, unless you’re one of those people who buys sealed NES carts of games that weren’t good enough to mass-produce in the first place. And if you are such a wealthy proponent of staring into the electronic middle-distance, I’m sure there’s better ways to kill the time until your cloned dinosaur eggs hatch than reading this nonsense.

Video games are art and you don’t need someone to wank over a copy of Fifa 10 to increase its artistic value (Which is a shame, because I’m sure Tiger Woods would be more than happy to oblige his EA Sports brethren). But that’s not to say that there aren’t steps that developers can take to elevate the very best video games into art.  Take Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game I recently replayed due to a perfect storm of the annual summer games drought and baby related wallet chastening.

Arkham Asylum is masterfully directed, with incredible voice work (as far as video games go) and art direction. But it’s only on the second play-through that I truly appreciated this thanks mainly to my first go being dominated by the gaming trope that’s harder to kill than the theoretical lovechild of Jason Voorhees and the Queen Mother: the collectible item.

Ever since Pac-man chomped his way through a series of scenarios involving cherries, ghosts and pills, game designers have been obsessed with players collecting things. Pac-man is absolved of blame however, as his very existence is determined by his ability to collect random crap. Plus he had a wife and child to support, and I’m sure we’ve all done far worse for our loved ones.

Super Mario is another one who’s beyond reproach. While it appears he went to the Mushroom Kingdom to woo the Princess, he seemed to spend most of the time exterminating wildlife and stealing coins. But can we really blame him? Obviously the plumbing wasn’t really working out and how else could he afford to keep his brother in green dungarees? It’s not as though they’re part of the Blue Harbour collection at M&S (Though I’m approximately 8 years away from confirming that).

So while Mario may have been the original cyber-criminal, his hand was forced, again, by the demands of his family. Batman on the other hand is different; he doesn’t have a family, so the fact that he spends a large part of Arkham Asylum crawling round darkened ventilation shafts looking for glowing question marks and chattering teeth, when he should be stopping the Joker, makes him irresponsible, if not a complete tosser. It also takes the player out of the experience, which is probably the worst crime on display, in a game about super criminals, set in a prison.

But whatever Arkham Asylum’s collectibles take away from the narrative experience they’re still one of the more seamless examples of collectibles in video gaming. I’ve spent countless hours exploring every nook and cranny of a generic futuristic warehouse looking for Wolverine’s socks or a piece of concept art that has no value whatsoever, even within a fictional world with no established laws of commerce.

Perhaps that says more about my virtual obsessive nature, but if video game designers are all about being inclusive with video games, allowing old people (the Wii), young people (Modern Warfare 2) and sexual deviants (Second Life) to have fun then is it too much to ask that they make similar concessions for those with electronic OCD?

If a protagonist’s journey could be stopped every few minutes while they chased after some glowing crap in their peripheral vision, and such actions did not compromise a project’s artistic worth, then you’d probably see Brian Sewell tackle Avatar instead of the Turner Prize in his next investigative documentary. Therefore losing video game collectibles would not only help cure mentally defunct paddle-monkeys like myself, but it might also help to elevate video games into a legitimate art form.

Then again, if we had to queue up at an abandoned power station to have a go at Ico because Charles Saatchi had bought all the remaining copies, perhaps we’re better off where we are. Maybe Roger Ebert’s opinions on video games are irrelevant? Perhaps this article has been an equal waste of time? Though conversely, this may also mean that spending hours of real time chasing virtual collectibles isn’t as worthless as I thought all those paragraphs ago. And in that case, I’m cured. Huzzah!