• Tag Archives John Blake
  • The Dark Knight Rises: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

    Christopher Nolan has given the world a new milestone in superhero movies … again.  Like with Richard Donner’s Superman and even the more recent film The Avengers by Joss Whedon, there are some superhero movies that can make you believe the impossible actually exists.  In this case, though, it’s not the comic book elements or even the characters themselves so much as it is the situation that Nolan has built, drawing on elements at once both fantastic and deeply rooted in reality.  The final chapter in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, brings all-out war to the streets of Gotham.  The world’s greatest city finds itself literally cut off from the world and left to become an urban battlefield on multiple levels.


    The most obvious level is superhero versus supervillain.  Batman (played once again by Christian Bale) has never faced a more deadly foe.  Bane (played by Tom Hardy), as we learn in the movie, was rejected by the League of Shadows from Batman Begins, ostensibly because he was too extreme.  Like Ra’s al Ghul, his mission is to bring Gotham to its knees, to watch it destroy itself while he lurks to deliver the final blow.  Like the Joker from The Dark Knight, he holds the city itself hostage, making its citizens dance to his maniacal tune.  (He shows the self-proclaimed agent of chaos what a man with a plan can really do.)  And, as far as going one-on-one with the Batman himself, there’s no doubt that Bane is a far superior foe than either Ra’s or the Joker.  In short, he’s the perfect villain with which to close the trilogy.


    The second level of warfare is between the cops and Bane’s men.  We’re shown from the beginning that his men will die for him, literally, before they do anything that might betray him.  The cops, on the other hand, are at least facing a bit of dissension in the ranks.  With Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) being hospitalized, Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley (Matthew Modine) has a bit of trouble inspiring the same level of loyalty, especially when he decides that capturing the reemergent Batman is more important (at first) than tracking down the terrorist Bane.  This puts him directly at odds with Detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is not only loyal to Commissioner Gordon but also the Dark Knight himself.  When Bane arms his troops with stolen weapons, including multiple Tumblers and a nuclear explosive, the police find themselves outmanned, outpositioned, and quite outgunned.


    All-out war in Gotham City


    The final level, and most controversial of them all, is the class warfare at work in Gotham.  Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, warns Bruce Wayne that a storm is coming, one that none of Gotham’s wealthy can hope to escape or endure.  Anne Hathaway puts to rest all fears about whether she could play the sultry and at times deadly anti-villainess opposite the world’s greatest detective.  And, far from Catwoman simply being a convenient choice for a love interest following the death of Rachel Dawes, she is a clear representative of the people of Gotham itself.  While Batman is the hero whom the city reviles and Bane is the criminal who “frees” them to govern themselves, Selina is the unaffiliated rebel who stands to the side and reaches for what she wants while others quibble over right and wrong.  She looks forward to the storm, but when it hits, she sees the high price Gotham is forced to pay and in the end learns what a true hero must be prepared to do.


    As has been noted before, Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, along with David Goyer, drew much inspiration for the plot from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the hundred and fifty year old novel that show us class warfare is nothing new in the world.  Though lacking a decent superhero-supervillain brawl, it shares many of the themes explored in TDKR, not just about social justice, but also love and sacrifice.  If you haven’t read the novel, then now is an excellent time.  And then, watch (or rewatch) TDKR to see the similarities.  That’s what really changes the game, as they say.  Superhero movies don’t have to be about powers or gadgets or special effects; those are just icing on the cake.  As this website has noted numerous times, the great talent of science fiction is to tell old stories in new ways.  Surely, for Gotham, this is the best of times and the worst of times.


    Stephen Monteith is the founder of Fourth-day Universe.  He’d be Batman any day of the week, but considers Charles Dickens to be a close second.  You can read his original fiction on Yahoo! and Lulu.com.

  • Trailer Roundup 12/22/11

    When it comes to raising sci-fi awareness, there’s nothing like a good blockbuster franchise to stir up the fans.  In this Roundup, we’ll be examining six movies that are either already part of established franchises or hope to be the installments that make the difference between a franchise and a blockbuster that happened to make enough money to spawn a sequel.  As usual, these trailers are ordered by their movies’ release dates.


    Ghost Rider:  Spirit of Vengeance (February 17, 2012)


    The trailer promises two things easily:  more action and lamer puns than the first movie.  But is there more to this sequel than just Nicolas Cage on more fire than usual?



    Opinions are somewhat divided on whether this trailer looks “cooler” than the first Ghost Rider (I can’t be the only who’s annoyed by the “road kill” line, can I?).  But there’s certainly an interesting plot at work.  Ciarán Hinds (The Sum of All Fears) plays the role of the Devil seeking a new body to inhabit; one that could allow him to break down the barriers between Earth and Hell.  Idris Elba (Thor) enlists the Ghost Rider to stop a black rite that would allow the Devil to take human form.  While Marvel fans still eagerly await the release of the Avengers film and the Spider-Man reboot, this movie will no doubt serve to wet their appetites for a summer of comic book films.


    Wrath of the Titans (March 30, 2012)


    The sequel to 2010’s Clash of the Titans, this story features actual Titans from Greek mythology.  That’s not to say it will necessarily be better than either the original or the remake, but it does give it a leg up on the series.



    The remake, while it followed the path of the original, also clearly forged its own path.  It seems now that path could lead in interesting directions.  Ten years following the events of CotT, Perseus (Sam Worthington) learns that his father, Zeus (played again by Liam Neeson), has been betrayed to the Titans by Hades (Ralph Fiennes).  The Titans, long the prisoners of the Olympians, will certainly not be content with merely exacting revenge on the King of the Gods; they’ll unleash their wrath on the whole world.  (This is shaping up to be a good year to spotlight apocalyptic fiction.)


    Men in Black III (May 25, 2012)


    This threequel has Agent J (Will Smith) leaping forty years into the past to save the life of Agent K, played in the present by Tommy Lee Jones and in the past by Josh Brolin.



    Okay, first of all?  Josh Brolin’s impression of Tommy Lee Jones has to be the best one I’ve ever seen.  In twenty years, they could use each other as shaving mirrors.  All right, now that that’s out of my system, let’s talk time travel.  Not since Back to the Future have I been willing to give time travel stories a real break (Star Trek notwithstanding); I always make them work for it.  MiB 3 is no exception.  The franchise is about secret agents protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe.  Time travel is a bit of a left turn for that sort of premise; although it could be just the left turn the franchise needs to make this threequel an equal.  On the other hand, it could just be an excuse for them to show a “younger” Agent K.  We’ll have to wait and see.


    G.I. Joe:  Retaliation (June 29, 2012)


    Like another movie franchise adapted from a cartoon that was adapted from a line of toys, G.I. Joe did better at the box office than it has with fans.  You know what that means:  it doesn’t really matter if the sequel delivers or not (just kidding):



    Retaliation seems to have borrowed its plot from Mission Impossible 4:  the Joes, America’s secret weapon, have been framed, disavowed, and placed on a seek and destroy list by their own government and now must prove their innocence and save the world at the same time.  The good news is, they have Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and the original Joe (Bruce Willis) on their side.  Let’s hope that’s enough.


    The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012)


    Okay, you’ve had the appetizers; now it’s time for the main course:



    If there’s one thing Christopher Nolan does well, then it’s packaging more details, more characters, more plot threads and twists into less room without making it seem (too) crowded.  Such is the case with the latest TDKR trailer, as well.  Fans have seen and heard much lately about Bane (Tom Hardy) and his place in the Nolanverse, but not so much about Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman.  Well, now we know, or can infer, that she sees herself as sort of a vengeful Robin Hood figure in Gotham.  It’s not an unusual position for Catwoman to take, and it does leave open the possibility that she and Batman could find themselves allies (maybe even more).  And, as Heath Ledger did with his Oscar-winning performance, Hathaway seems poised to dispel all criticism that she can fill the role of a Batman villain (or, at least, anti-hero).


    So, with many of the questions answered about Hathaway and Hardy, that leaves Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, in their innocuously-named roles as John Blake and Miranda Tate.  We hope to see and learn more about them in the coming months, as well as the circumstances that find Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in a foreign prison and Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) in the hospital. 


    The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey (December 14, 2012)

    Have we saved the best for last?  Possibly.  The Lord of the Rings is, perhaps, the greatest epic fantasy of the 20th Century.  The Hobbit duology is based not only on the book of the same name but also on other Middle Earth-oriented writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.  It takes place several decades prior to the events of LotR.



    The Hobbit was one of the first books I read as a boy.  I’ve always preferred it to the Lord of the Rings, with its easier narrative flow.  I love the songs the Dwarves and Elves and even Goblins sing throughout the book, and the trailer confirms that at least one song survives onto the screen (I hope they all do).  The trailer also confirms that Martin Freeman is the correct choice to play Bilbo Baggins, the eponymous Hobbit.  His unexpected journey in the company of 13 Dwarves and one itinerant wizard will change his life forever.  It’s unclear from the trailer how deep into the book the first movie will go before cutting off, though we know it will at least see the “first” appearance of Gollum in the LotR universe.


    There you have it.  Six new trailers in the last week or so, all for either sequels or prequels.  Some called 2011 the year of sequels, and we have quite a few more slated for 2012.  And you know what?  That’s fine with me.  Each of these films, even Ghost Rider, has the potential to be a huge success in theaters, and not just at the box office.  They all have interesting plots, strong actors and actresses, and great source material.  As 2011 draws to a close, 2012 looks like it could be an even better year for cinema.

  • (Belated) Batman Roundup 04/26/11

    With the recent (persistent) rumors about Doctor Strange still being a possibility for The Dark Knight Rises, this seems like as good a time as any to do a Batman roundup.

    Pittsburgh with fireworks

    First of all, we know that a significant portion of the movie will be filmed in Pittsburgh.  This is more than a bit of a departure from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which were mostly filmed in Chicago, New York, and London, with some notable scenes in TDK being filmed in Hong Kong.  When it comes to visuals, some locations are simply unmistakable.  Pittsburgh can be just as recognizable as Chicago, in some areas.  This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, since Gotham City is fictional, and the movie could simply be set in another part of town.  We are (hopefully) moving back from Bruce Wayne’s penthouse to the rebuilt Wayne Manor, which burned down in the first movie.  And Christopher Nolan has said that he has “been able to find everything we were looking for” in Pittsburgh.  “Looking for” implies there was something specific he needed that he couldn’t find in Chicago or New York, but that he could find in Pittsburgh.  Maybe he’s planning on having Bruce visit the Andy Warhol Museum.

    Casting has also taken a decided upswing in recent weeks.  Even though we know all the big names from the previous films will be in the new one, there’s a particularly interesting returning character:  Ra’s al Ghul, rejuvenated (no, not in a Lazarus Pit).  Josh Pence (The Social Network) will take on the role originally played by Liam Neeson in BB.  The official explanation is “flashbacks”.  Now, you’d think that would mean including Talia al Ghul in TDKR, because she’s the most natural choice for including flashbacks of Ra’s as a younger man.  Who else even knew him when he was younger?  You’d be wrong, though (we’ll get to that in a moment).  Having Ra’s al Ghul return does confirm the new movie will bring the trilogy full circle, though, taking us right back to the beginning.  Perhaps Bane was once Ra’s’ student, a rejected candidate to lead the League of Shadows, which would only be a slight variation from his character in the comics.  Perhaps Bane’s come to Gotham to take revenge on Batman for killing his master.  Of course, Talia was also a part of Bane’s involvement with the League in the comics, so you’d think she’d be part of the story, as well.  Again, we’ll get to that in a moment.

    In other casting news, Nestor Carbonell (Lostwill likely return to his role as the mayor of Gotham City.  Joining the forces of good (presumably) are Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me), Diego Klattenhoff (Mercy), and Burn Gorman (Torchwood) in such unspecified roles as cops and SWAT Team members.  And Juno Temple, who will play Queen Anne in the forth-coming The Three Musketeers movie, is cast as a “street-smart Gotham gal”.  This isn’t exactly extras casting.  While I don’t doubt that anyone would jump at the chance to join this cast, either as a gateway to greater roles in the future or simply for the chance to work with Nolan and company, there are rarely “small parts” in Nolan movies that feature at least marginally recognizable actors; and these actors certainly have their own followings.  Maybe the “cops” are part of a special team assembled to capture the fugitive Batman.  Maybe Temple, as is all but certain, will play Holly Robinson, Catwoman’s younger companion in Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”, on which much of BB was based.

    A couple of important roles that aren’t unspecified, or at least no longer are unspecified but are still ambiguous, are the ones being filled by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard.  Rumors have been as varied as they have been persistent about JGL’s possible character.  People have speculated that he could be Harvey Bullock, Nightwing, the Riddler, or the Black Mask.  The most recent rumor centered around the character of Alberto Falcone, the son of Tom Wilkinson’s character in BB.  His similar looks have even spawned rumors that he could take over the role of Heath Ledger’s Joker.  Marion Cotillard, of course, has only ever been assumed to take on the role of Talia al Ghul.  None of these rumors are true, though.

    Apparently, they’re playing two good guys.  Cotillard will play Miranda Tate, another Nolan-created Batman role.  Tate is a member of the Wayne Enterprises board, and is there to assist Bruce in contuining his father’s “philanthropic endeavors”.  I guess Bruce needs something to do now that he can’t masquerade as Batman anymore (at least not as much as he has).  Gordon-Levitt is cast as John Blake, a cop on special assignment for Commissioner Gordon.  Maybe he’ll lead the trio of new cast members mentioned above in the manhunt for the Dark Knight.  Regardless, this news hasn’t halted the rumor mill.  There’s still speculation that Tate is simply a pseudonym for Talia; her father had a dual-identity as well, if you’ll remember.  And Blake could be a form of Night Scourge, a cop from the “Batman: Prey” storyline in the comics.  While intriguing possibilities, neither is proof; and if they were true, it would certainly make the movie rather villain-heavy.

    The big question, though, is why a new Gotham DA hasn’t been cast in the wake of Harvey Dent’s and Rachel Dawes’ deaths at the hands of the Joker.  This movie is supposed to weave together the entire trilogy, after all, and preserving Harvey’s prosecution of the entirety of Gotham’s mobs was the whole point of Batman taking the blame for the murders Harvey Two-Face committed.  Surely Nolan hasn’t forgotten that important point, and surely whoever takes over the prosecution will be an important character, as will whichever mobster attempts to gain control in the wake of the Joker’s power vacuum-inducing killing spree.  In other words, rather than villain-heavy, this movie seems a little hero-heavy.  We’re hearing about a lot of cops being cast, but not a lot of robbers and no lawyers.  Considering how big a role both robbers and lawyers played in the first two movies, it’d be quite a departure indeed to not see much of them in the third.

    And now for the rumor that wouldn’t die.  With Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard officially no longer in the running for Villain of the Year, Doctor Hugo Strange has, um, “risen” back to prominence in the rumor mill.  Despite the lack of unspecified big name casting, which you’d expect if Dr. Strange was part of the movie, he’s back on everyone’s mind.  For those who don’t know, Dr. Strange is one of the few DC Comics characters, either good or bad, to learn the Dark Knight’s identity.  And a posting on My Entertainment World, a website for movie industry professionals, has this to say about the upcoming film:

    DARK KNIGHT RISES, THE (aka MAGNUS REX & FOX HILLS GREEN) – Mid June, 2011 – India & London, UK & New York, NY & Pittsburgh, PA. STORY: As Batman deals with his new status as a wanted vigilante, Dr. Hugo Strange, a villainous psychiatrist, concocts a plan to destroy him and become the new Batman. (Posted: June 17, 2010. Revised: April 14, 2011)


    Now, this posting isn’t the same as official news; in fact, this posting and official news aren’t even in the same galaxy as each other.  Why does the rumor persist?  Because, unlike with the Joker and Riddler rumors, Nolan hasn’t officially denied this one.  So, while I don’t think that many people believe it, it’s enough for those who like to speculate.  And who knows?  It could be true.  Dr. Strange could have been brought in to help with the hunt for Batman; or he could be Bane’s prison doctor and the one to unleash him on the Dark Knight.  Personally, though, I wouldn’t believe it unless they cast another big name star.

    On the other hand, the post was right about them shooting in India.  Strange, isn’t it?

    Oh, one last thing.  Yesterday, Batman turned 72.  That’s right, on April 25, 1939, DC introduced Batman to the world, and evil has not had a good night’s sleep since.  Happy Birthday, Batman.