The Gaff #013: Ghostbusters, The Killing Joke, SDCC Trailers

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Who you gonna call? We finally get to discuss Ghostbusters (2016). Plus, all the big trailers out of San Diego Comic-Con and the controversial DC animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke.

WEEKLY REWIND:

Luke finished up Silicon Valley S3 and Veep S5. Sam checked out the Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition cut. The boys both saw Batman: The Killing Joke and let’s just say it didn’t meet expectations.

TRAILERS OF SDCC 2016:

A ton of trailers our of Comic-Con and we cover the big ones: Ash vs. Evil Dead S2, The Walking Dead S7, Marvel’s Iron Fist / Luke Cage / The Defenders, Doctor Strange, Kong: Skull Island, Blair Witch, Wonder Woman, Justice League.

TOPIC: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

In our very first episode we talked about the first trailer for this film, at length, and reasoned why it was such a bad preview. The film is much better than you would expect from that misguided marketing material.

During our debrief we cover the film’s tone and humour, its odd pace, the sci-fi/paranormal elements, cameos, Holtzmann, the missing dance sequence and the importance of the film whether you liked it or not.

CONTACT US:

Social (FB/IG/T): @gaffpodcast | Email the boys: gaffpodcast@gmail.com

Film Review: Jason Bourne

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Jason Bourne is a thriller in the truest sense of the word. On paper, it’s a continuation of the trio of Robert Ludlam adaptations that more-or-less defined Matt Damon’s career in the mid 2000s. In reality, the film is a more of a weird mishmash of sequel, throwback and soft-reboot. It’s as much interesting in updating the series as it is preserving the things that defined it, no matter the narrative cost. It’s a visual roller coaster ride to be sure, but the thrills feel very cheap.

Simply titled Jason Bourne, it sees the titular amnesiac spy dragged out of hiding and back into the crosshairs of the CIA. Since the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, he’s been living on the underside of society and haunted by the question of whether he has himself or his father to blame for the loss of his memories and identity. However, surprise visit by Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) forces the issue and pushes Bourne to learn the truth, foiling a shadowy conspiracy in the process.

Unfortunately, both this setup and the underlying subplot about Jason’s father ring hollow. Characters actions often feel ambiguous and guarded for the sake of it, leading to their decisions feeling more forced by the momentum of the franchise than anything else. Jason Bourne often feels like a bridge film more focused on updating the dynamics and context of the franchise than it is telling a good story in its own right.

In addition, the flashbacks themselves don’t leave a lot of room for speculation: As soon as you learn Jason’s father was killed in mysterious circumstances, the culprit becomes immediately obvious. Jason Bourne feel like the franchise is really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the secrets of Jason’s past.

In many ways, Alicia Vikander’s character is the most interesting element of this film. Heather Lee begins life as a rising star in the ranks of the CIA and by the time the dust settles, the film makes a reasonably compelling argument for her as a potential new adversary for Bourne. A better version of this film might have spent more time developing her, maybe framing the series’ flashback device around her.

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Beyond Vikander – the casting choices remain good, if a little uncreative. Damon is silent but deadly as Bourne, Tommy Lee Jones brings a gravelly arrogance to CIA director Dewey and Vincent Cassel makes for a good foil to Bourne as a rival agent with a score to settle. His performance really helps enable a great tension between the hunter and hunted throughout the film.

Stylistically, it feels like Jason Bourne integrates well into the legacy of the series. The return of Paul Greengrass to the director’s chair is felt through the energetic chases and kinetic action sequences. It’s all looks very impressive and feels true to the series’ past efforts, even if it doesn’t really top them.

Though Jason Bourne’s three major set pieces – Athens, London and Vegas – all feel pretty sprawling and visually engaging, they lack staying power. Conceptually, each of these locales has a lot to offer but, the blanket chaos of the Athens sequence aside, they don’t really deliver on it. It doesn’t help that the film is saddled with a final car chase that drags on too long and a climactic confrontation that’s way too short.

As much a throwback to the original film trilogy as it is a necessary updating of it for a post-Snowden world. There are social media moguls, clashes between protesters and police and professional data-leakers throughout but when all’s said and done it ends up feeling very flimsy and hollow. An unremarkable script really lets down the good casting and direction here. There’s a tight sense of scope that some will appreciate but, looking beyond that, it feels like Jason Bourne is pulling its punches.

Film Review: Star Trek Beyond

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Every time a new Star Trek movie hits cinemas,  it’s hard not to lament the idea of a TV or cable series with this incarnation of the Enterprise and its crew at the helm. As a franchise,  Star Trek has generally fared best when telling longer, more developed narratives. This was more-or-less why JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot was so well received. It didn’t just re-engineer Star Trek into a blockbuster, it re-engineered Star Trek into a great blockbuster. It gave the franchise a new lease on life (at-least until they fumbled with Into Darkness) and kind-of set the standard for what many consider a ‘good’ reboot to be.

Star Trek Beyond continues the series’romance with big screen adventures and, in a lot of ways,  feels like a genuine make-good for fans who felt burned after Abrams’ second adventure fell short. It feels like a movie length episode of what a TV show with this cast might have looked like and far more like a sequel to the 2009 reboot ever did.

Picking up three years into the Enterprise’s five year journey, the film begins with the crew beginning to grow stagnant and disconnected from each other and their mission. They take port in a nearby starbase, called Yorktown, to resupply and evaluate their priorities. We get to see a little bit of the crew’s various shore leave activities – but it isn’t long before the lone survivor of an unprovoked attack turns up on their doorstep seeking aid. Things quickly spiral out of control,  leaving the crew scattered across the surface of an uncharted planet.

There’s a change in pace here,  courtesy of Simon Pegg‘s scriptwriting. Everything feels a little slower, but in such a way that makes the excitement of the film’s climax feel more earned. Unsurprisingly,  Pegg has a deft hand with these characters – even if he leans a little heavily on the heroic monologues and platitudes.

On the other side of things, Justin Lin‘s direction manages to be energetic, even if let’s the film down in other areas. He lacks some of the visual punch of Abrams and feels a little out-of-sync with Pegg’s script in spots. Still,  his contributions to Beyond manage to be inventive and fun – even if he could stand to keep things a little less fast and a little more furious.

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Beyond also brings two new major characters to the universe in the form of newcomer Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) and the film’s villain, Krall (Idris Elba). The former, in particular, delivers some of the best lines of the film.  She’s fierce,  funny and a fantastic creation by the franchise – especially considering how wildly Into Darkness fumbled when it came to strong female characters. Keeping with the TV hypothesis: Jaylah feels like the kick-ass guest star who turns up for a two-episode arc maybe once a season.

Unfortunately, Idris Elba’s talents are almost entirely wasted here as Krall. He spends the film covered in prosthetics and stomping around menacingly. While the script does go into overdrive to develop his character during the last twenty or so minutes – you’re likely to have written him off long before then. Even with Elba’s growl behind him,  he’s just another fearsome looking big bad monster-man who wants to destroy the universe because reasons – and the world already has too many of those. Given the charisma and sense of character Elba can, and has, given to even mediocre films, it’s a shame.

It’s even more of a shame because Krall’s ideology feels so timely and relevant. He makes the case that without war, there is no struggle – and without struggle, we cannot grow stronger. It’s really interesting to see the pro-peace position that Star Trek takes come up against resistance like this. Unfortunately, like Idris’ performance, it’s all a little uneven and ultimately as forgettable as Nero.

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In terms of handling the original cast, it feels like everyone has at-least something going on – but it’s all very ancillary to the main plot. It feels like Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and even Chekhov (Anton Yelchin) are less of major characters here and more just characters who happen to be stuck in the orbits of Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Bones (Karl Urban).

All things considered, this really does feel like the proper sequel to 2009’s Star Trek. It’s a fun ride of a film with that pairs a smart script with a cast that still manages to find electric chemistry a third time around. There’s still a lot of technobabble but, really, where would the franchise be without it.

Film Review: Ghostbusters

In Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.

Rebooting Ghostbusters was always going to be a tough gig – even before the internet got involved.

Given the thirty-plus years of failed efforts at continuing the series with the original cast, a reboot was probably the only card really left available to Ghostbusters – and there’s really no point in doing a reboot if you don’t mess with the formula. If you don’t, what’s the point? You just end up with another Point Break or Robocop otherwise.

Paul Feig’s female-led Ghostbusters reboot manages to confidently steps out of the shadow of the original film while retaining some of the same quirk but, beyond that, it feels a little bit out of its depth. It’s got spark and spunk aplenty but quavers under the pressure placed upon it as Sony’s latest franchise blockbuster.

Set in modern New York, the film sees university professor Erin (Kristen Wiig) chase down her former-friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy)  after the book they wrote together arguing for the existence of the paranormal threatens to capsize her career. Throw in Kate McKinnon as the zany physicist Jillian Holtzmann and Leslie Jones‘s New York history aficionado Patty and you’ve got the new team.

Performance-wise, it has to be said that McKinnon is the clear standout here. A mischievous powerhouse of creative energy,  she’s almost worth the entire rest of the movie put together. While Wiig and Jones hold their own, McKinnon’s infectious energy can’t be downplayed. The film’s overall identity owes a lot to her.

If anything, McCarthy feels like the weakest of the four just because of how inseparable the actress’ persona feels from that of her character. That said, it takes about half an hour for you to get a feel for what parts of Abby are McCarthy riffing on the material and what parts are the written role. Once you get there she improves notably – partly due to her dynamic with Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin. Hemsworth’s comedic timing is nothing short of show-stopping and he’s the only person really playing in the same league as McKinnon.

Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Erin (Kristen Wiig), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty (Leslie Jones) in Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.

Then there are the cameos sprinkled through the film. Each manages to be funnier than the last, with Bill Murray‘s being the cleverest and Sigourney Weaver’s playing out as the funniest.

If anything drags the film down, it’s the villain. Neil Casey is flat and boorish to watch. He’s clearly intended as a play on the kind of internet trolls that so reviled the production of this movie but beyond that there’s just nothing to him. He monologues to the camera within what feels like five minutes of being on screen. It says something about his performance that the sequence wherein he possesses a series of main cast members is probably the highpoint.

Casey aside, there’s a great chemistry to the cast in this film. It’s fun to watch them bounce off one another and it felt like most of the gags land – though your mileage may vary. The first act is really tightly constructed and a strong showcase for economic storytelling and character development. Unfortunately, these strengths are let down by the SFX-heavy third act sequence that sees the team throw down with an army of ghosts.

The Ghostbusters Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones) in Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.

Further frustrating things is the film’s vagueness about the rules of engagement. Aside from their own scientific interest, there’s not really a solid and consistent reason for the team to capture the supernatural forces let loose in New York. Unlike the original film, ghosts are seemingly able to be vanquished by blasting them with proton beams alone. As a result, the whole process feels a little like a redundant carryover from the original. That said, Feig’s willingness to depart from the source material suggests the series ‘ legacy is working to service his movie not the other way around.

Like the original, this new Ghostbusters works as both a comedy and an action flick. However, it’s the franchise-blockbuster aspect that overtakes the film in its final act that ultimately does it in. If you expect to hate it, you’ll probably enjoy it more than you expected to. If you expected to love it, you’ll likely find yourself a little disappointed. It’s a fun watch – but not the slam dunk it probably needed to be.

The more and more I think about it, I can’t help but think the thrill of the film will wear thin on repeat viewings.  That said, there’s definitely a lot I liked about this film and it’s probably still worth seeing. The Ghostbusters are back – I just don’t know if this incarnation has what it takes to endure. 

Feature: The Ultimate Cut of Batman v Superman doesn’t fix the film but it does supplant it

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There’s been no shortage of opinions about the state of DC’s upcoming movie slate since the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier in the year.

While I came away from it tentatively-positive the first time around, many came away disappointed and angry with the film. Zack Snyder’s second mainline superhero epic was hardly the resounding success it needed to be. Still, with a global box office take of almost $900 million dollars, it’s hard to dismiss it entirely and easy to argue that Batman v Superman didn’t get at least something right. That’s kind-of what makes the Ultimate Edition of the film such a compelling concept. There are plenty of great films cut down to size by a theatrical edit – why can’t this be another one of them?

If you’re watching the Ultimate Edition cut expecting it to magically resolve all of the issues you had with the film, you’re probably going to be disappointed. That’s not to say that this cut of the film isn’t better – it definitely is. It’s just not better enough. A longer run-time makes the foundations of the film more solid but it can hardly change the shape of what’s being build on top of it. 

As you might expect, the extra scenes allow the narrative to flow better and the world constructed around the titular conflict feels better realized for both Superman, Batman and everyone caught in-between.

All up, it makes for more coherent viewing but it’s not the game-changer idealistic fans of Snyder’s work or DC superheroes might have hoped. That said, if you’re in the minority that came away happy with BvS‘s theatrical release, the small additions here are sure to cement the Ultimate Edition‘s pre-eminent placing in any pre-Justice League marathons.

If you’re going to watch this film, this is the best way to do it. Batman v Superman is already a long film – this cut doesn’t change that. What it does do is make more of what length feel earned. 

The narrative padding makes easier to see and understand the things that Zack Snyder is trying to accomplish with this film. Furthermore, it shines a spotlight on why it all goes wrong and buckles under the pressure of its own ambition.

Like the title somewhat-suggests, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a four way struggle between Batman, Superman, setup for 2017’s Justice League and an adaptation of the infamous ‘Death of Superman’ story arc. There’s an astounding amount of stuff going on here, even before the Ultimate Cut adds into the mix. Where the original cut fell drastically short of these intentions, this version gets closer. Even if it still doesn’t quite make it over the line.

The biggest beneficiary here is likely Lois Lane (Amy Adams). While Lois’ investigations into the desert shootout that acts as the film’s (third) prologue felt like an afterthought in the original film, they feel more developed and justified here. It feels like her investigations serve a purpose beyond just ensuring she has something to do between being romantically involved with Clarke and being abducted by Lex.

Beyond Lois, there are a number of other new characters and subplots in the mix. We get a better feel for the harsh world in which Ben Affleck’s Batman operates and spend more time exploring the fallout from the events in Africa. All up, these parts of the film feel like they contribute more and more meaningfully to the overall arc of the film than they did in the original version.

There are also number of scenes that further clarify why people assume Superman is responsible for the attack at the Senate and why he was unable to see it coming. Unfortunately, these smarter additions are counter-weighed against a more-puzzling sequence wherein Superman helps the wounded after the attack. It’s not Superman’s actions here that are puzzling – it’s very true to his character  – but they further complicate the way the world reacts to the explosion.

The first half of Batman v Superman is a film that takes a cool direction and asks interesting questions but the second half suggests it doesn’t care enough about the answers. The conclusions it finds to its big questions it tries to ask about the nature of gods, monsters and heroes manifest as the same old ordinary CGI-blockbuster punch-up you’ve seen a dozen times before.

Interesting;y, the Ultimate Edition really suggests that – while the film draws on the comics aplenty – the audience maybe shouldn’t. Both the Batman and Superman here aren’t quite the characters we know. At least, not yet. Batman is painted as a brutal vigilante. Superman is fallible and perhaps starting to get caught up in the myth around him.

Given just how much of Ben Affleck’s Batman dominates this film, it’s easy to lose sight of what Snyder is trying to do with the Man of Steel. The tension in this story all comes down to the way that Lex, Bruce and Clark see one perceive the power and perspectives of one another. Both Lex and Bruce mythologize Superman as a divine figure but Clark’s entire arc in the film is about him not being able to live up to that.

Batman v Superman is as much about the both of them discovering some shared humanity in one another as it is them coming to blows. Snyder’s Batman is one who has only ever encountered the worst of people and is almost unable to see Superman’s actions as genuine. Presumably, the idea is that the Batman we’ll see in future films is one inspired by Superman’s death and that Superman, when he returns, will be similarly humanized.

Batman v Superman wants to be a lot of things – but it can’t pull this balancing-act off. It wants to be a dark reintroduction for Affleck’s Batman. It wants to be an even-darker and politicized middle chapter in the story of Henry Cavill’s Superman. It wants to redefine our understanding of Lex Luthor to one that echoes Victor Frankenstein as much as it does Mark Zuckerberg. It wants to be the world-expanding film that sets up the rest of DC’s filmic universe and it wants to be the mainstream superhero blockbuster that everyone goes to see. There’s an immensity to the film’s ambition that makes it an engaging and interesting watch, often in spite of itself.

However, with so many different intentions at play, it’s no surprise the film fails to properly deliver many of them. If you’re expecting the Ultimate Edition to amend this, you probably weren’t paying enough attention to what went wrong with the film in the first place.

There’s no simple fix to be found here. The foundations of this film are fundamentally unsteady. However, there’s often more interesting sentiments to be said about failure than success and (if nothing else) the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman provides plenty of those.

Feature: How Do You Make The Man of Steel Work?

“Superman is boring”  it’s a common enough refrain that’s it’s almost as much of a cliche to write as it is to read. His powers are too strong, his personality too uninteresting and his weakness to kryptonite laughable (especially in live-action form). All these criticisms have various degrees of accuracy but it’s not hard to imagine them being emboldened by the mixed-reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Sure, many angsty comic fans have strung Zack Snyder up for not “getting” the character but in his defence, Superman is a hard character to get right.

However, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that in the right hands, there’s a lot of potential to be mined here.

Disqualifying Man of Steel on account of its own divisive-reception, the last live-action take on Superman that didn’t immediately turn audiences away was CW’s Smallville. Though by no means perfect, Smallville understood that beneath all the powers and alien origins, Superman is still a person – and a fallible one at that.

Unlike the supervillains-in-training of Gotham, the Clark Kent we meet in the first season of Smallville is one with plenty of room to grow before he becomes the hero of Metropolis. He makes mistakes. He goes through his edgy emo phase. He engages in healthy relationships, as well as unhealthy ones. Like a lot of teenagers, the only constant for Clark is doubt about his future. As much about the burdens of superpowers as it is the benefits, Smallville offers up a portrait of Superman that’s unquestionably humanist in nature, even if Clark isn’t.

More oft-than-not, the problem with Superman adaptations is that they copy the character over to live-action but fail to correctly translate him to suit the medium. In the context of a comic, it’s easy to use Superman to explore what it means to be an alien and to have such incredible powers. There’s no special effects budget to worry about and the passage of time becomes more malleable. In those conditions, Superman CAN  be everywhere at once. However, once we’ve made the jump to the big screen, that version of the character becomes a harder sell.

Smallville tackled this head-on by making Clark’s control over his powers a work-in-progress. We see him gradually develop and struggle to control each of his powers and come to terms with the responsibility they bestow. What’s more, we see that – like any good origin story – the hero (and person) that Clark becomes has as much to do with the people around him as it does his own intrinsic abilities.We see his friendships with Chloe and Lois inspire him to follow journalism by day and, later, his partnership with Oliver Queen pushes him to embrace crime fighting by night.

And then there’s Lex.

Lex Luthor is pretty much “the” Superman villain, and Smallville builds on this idea by positioning the unlikely friendship between him and Clark as a pretty major element of the series. The first six-or-so seasons of Smallville are as much about Lex’s path to the dark side as they are Clark’s own journey to become Superman. The show doesn’t just hint at the idea of a future rivalry between the two, it actively leverages it to the benefit of both characters. Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex is a fantastic match to Tom Wellington’s Clark Kent and we see the seeds of the people they will become in every interaction.

Looking back, the confidence of Smallville in the notion of growth is what makes it work. Unlike the last couple of Superman films, it isn’t afraid to let Clark grow. Same goes for the show around him. After three seasons of Buffy-esque high school adventures, the characters graduate to college and then go onto more adult lives. In comparison, Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent isn’t really built on any complex emotional journey – he simply is who he is. He’s the action-figure version of Superman that we’ve collectively trained ourselves to expect, and that’s why we get so quickly and easily bored of him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Smallville is always looking for the natural next step –  be it introducing Clark to the world of journalism through a job with The Daily Planet or group-based vigilantism through an early incarnation of the Justice League. Like Clark, the show is slowly evolving into the thing it was destined to become.

What’s more, these steps always feel earned. They feel like logical evolutions and transitions in Clark’s greater arc towards becoming the figure we know he will become. The inevitable payoff of watching Clark finally don the iconic red-and-blue costume lands better than any other plot beat presented by Superman’s big screen counterparts precisely because it is so earned. Unlike a film, Smallville has more than enough screentime to line up the dominos and to focus on sticking the landing.

The moment that Clark becomes the hero we all know is the moment usually the moment we lose our human connection to him, it’s the moment he becomes less of a person and more of a symbol. Fortunately, the final episode of Smallville is less about him becoming a hero and more about him realising he already is one. He doesn’t become Superman because he’s supposed to, he becomes Superman because he realises that’s who he already is.

The takeaway for whomever takes up the task of directing Man of Steel 2 is pretty simple. The key to telling good stories about Superman is to find the humanity in him. As tempting as it is to deconstruct the Man of Steel as an allegory of Christ – it’s so much more rewarding to explore and reconcile the idea of him as a person. To the people around him, Superman might have the powers of a god but, from his perspective, he’s just as flawed as the rest of us  – and there’s a lot that DC’s cinematic universe could learn from Smallville when it comes to capturing the dramatic potential in this.

 

The Gaff #012: Sydney Film Festival 2016 (Part 1)

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THIS WEEK:

Back from hiatus we discuss a bunch of films we saw at the recent 2016 Sydney Film Festival! There’s a little something for everyone and it comes soundtracked by farts, funk, jazz, metal and Polish pop.

WEEKLY REWIND:

Sam talks about the cheesy goodness of the blockbuster with a boss battle; Independence Day: Resurgence. He’s also started watching HBO’s The Newsroom. The boys also both reveal their current celebrity crush.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK: SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2016

We talk about a great many things this week and a great many films. Up for discussion by who saw what:

Sam: Everybody Wants Some!!, Captain Fantastic, War on Everyone, Born to Be Blue, Goldstone

Luke: Patchwork, What’s in the Darkness, The Lure, Halal Love (And Sex), Suntan

Both: Swiss Army Man, Devil’s Candy, Personal Shopper

As well as touching on: Maggie’s Plan, Demolition, Blood Father, Land of Mine (via Amy) and some other non-SFF titles: Everest, Bernie, Vacation, Ghostbusters and Martyrs. Be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 where we continue our film festival coverage.

CREATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS:

If you’ve got any stories about film festivals – your first time, best film discovery or chance encounter with a star – send it through. We’ll read it out on the show and showcase it on our social media.

CONTACT US:

Social (FB/IG/T): @gaffpodcast

Contact the boys: gaffpodcast@gmail.com

Feature: How to fix The Dark Knight Rises in four easy steps

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To me, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises was a major disappointment. Sure, it grossed over one billion dollars at the box office and provided the second biggest action spectacle of 2012 behind Marvel’s first Avengers film. However, it didn’t really live up to the bar set by The Dark Knight – one of the scant few superhero movies that’s ever managed to walk away from awards season with anything other than a nod for special effects.

In fact, it didn’t even come close. Where Batman Begins and The Dark Knight boldly brought Nolan’s vision of the caped crusader to life, Rises failed to end the trilogy on a high note. It abandoned the series’ earlier focus on telling thematically-driven stories grounded in realism for an overly-convoluted superhero movie like any other.

The Dark Knight Rises forsakes the series prior concerns with fear, anarchy and justice – reducing the challenge Batman faces as one of primarily physical strength. The first two films in Nolan’s trilogy work as standalone stories but The Dark Knight Rises hinges upon its place as the final one.

Years have come and gone since the film’s release but it’s always fun to playing “devil’s filmmaker” and imagine what a more successful iteration of the film might look like – especially in the wake of Ben Affleck’s debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

  • A Tale of Two Batmans

Bloated runtime (all too common to comic-book movies) is one of the more direct criticisms you can aim at The Dark Knight Rises. The film throws half a dozen new characters at audiences from the get-go, most of whom feel forgettable and disposable alongside the returning cast members. The others spin their wheels and fail to really come into their own until past the two-hour-mark.

The solution here is simple – split the film into two parts.

Although Hollywood has often been a little hasty (and greedy) when it comes to splitting franchise films into two installments, The Dark Knight Rises is arguably a film that would have benefited from such a structure. The three-month time skip that precludes the film’s finale would be the ideal spot for the first part to end – creating dramatic tension and allowing the story’s final act to feel less rushed. The film’s thematic scope would also benefit, with each half given more room to properly examine and explore its ideas in the same way that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight did.

  1. Geography!

Gotham has always been the center of Bruce Wayne’s story but The Dark Knight Rises is constantly taking the plot elsewhere. Sure, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight had their own globetrotting asides but the heart and soul of those films is in Gotham, not in some vague Middle-Eastern pit. Same goes for their villains.

With the exception of the Joker, the other villains of Nolan’s trilogy all have a direct link to Gotham. Scarecrow, Two-Face and the criminal underworld are native to Gotham, while R’as Al Ghul’s efforts to destroy the city are pretty central to his own narrative. In comparison, Bane feels like a cheap villain manufactured for action-figure’s sake.

The sewers are introduced early-on as Bane’s base-of-operations but the film abandons them too quickly for the imagery to latch onto Hardy’s performance. The idea that they represent a ‘darkness’ or part of Gotham that doesn’t belong to Batman is a compelling one but it’s one that the film never acts upon aside from that one throwaway line.

I propose removing the prologue in Africa and perhaps replacing it with Gordon’s own misadventure. The emotional stakes of starting the film off here make a lot more sense than they do in Africa. It could also offer Nolan the chance to not reveal his hand too early as to how much of a threat Bain represents to Batman – lending their confrontation more impact.

  1. The Man Himself

Speaking of Tom Hardy, Bane’s role in The Dark Knight Rises is much more vague and less evocative than that of Bruce Wayne’s previous antagonists. I think the key to making him a more interesting villain lies in making him a better rival for Gotham’s affection. The notion of a figure who seeks to supplant Batman as Gotham’s hero is a lot more interesting than (yet another) one who seeks to dominate him.

Though the film’s latter half does concern itself with Bane co-opting this struggle and using the power of the mob to take control of Gotham, it doesn’t really sell Bane as a figure that anyone would actually want to follow – save out of fear. The mask is a nice start but I think there’s a lot of interesting ideas that Nolan could explore by not just making Bane an appendage to the series’ existing mythology but a mysterious persona in his own right. The film touches on ideas like class struggle through the Robin and Selina’s plotlines but could be so much more effective if Bane’s own backstory tied him to the economic plight of Gotham.

There’s a lot to be said for a good mystery. The identity of the man underneath the mask could have been another compelling angle to explore with the character of Bane, not to mention a great reversal of superhero tropes. A key theme of Nolan’s films is escalation and it’d be fascinating to see Bane realised as an extension of this. It’s easy to imagine a version of Rises that paints him as a malignant cancer whose growth below the streets of Gotham is fueled, at least in part, by Batman’s crackdown on crime.

  1.  Lack of thematic spine

The Dark Knight Rises relies too much on being the third chapter of the trilogy, foregoing the powerful themes and ideas expressed in Nolan’s previous films to become just another superhero movie. In an ideal world I’d have loved to see Nolan’s completed series be one that gave three windows into the life of one of the world’s most celebrated characters – less of a trilogy and more of a triptych. In lieu of The Dark Knight Rises’ preoccupation with pain, anger and supposed-critique of socialism and class warfare, I’d like to propose a different set of ideas for Nolan to dissect.

Framing the film around an older Batman worked well in Batman v Superman and it would have been fascinating to see Nolan tackle this angle. Perhaps Bruce’s efforts to support the police department during his post-Rachel depression see him struggle against a more militaristic police force when he again dons the cowl? Batman may be a symbol, but Bruce is a man and can’t live forever.

This is obviously where John Blake / Robin comes in. It would have been fascinating to see a second half of The Dark Knight Rises where Blake takes the lead, and an aging Bruce is forced to let go of the symbol he’s created. We’d get to see a Bruce struggle to let of go a desire for vengeance against Bane and the physical costs that being the Batman has wrought, while also exploring the idea that his legacy will live on through Blake.

What do you think? How would you go about ‘fixing’ The Dark Knight Rises?

The Gaff #011: Cleverman S1 Premiere & Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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THIS WEEK:


Two much-anticipated titles are the topic this week, as the boys talk about Taika Waititi’s charming new film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and the first episode of ABC’s indigenous, sci-fi, superhero drama Cleverman.

We have a brief discussion about Event Cinemas’ In The House screenings, get excited over Hayden Orpheum Cremorne’s Hitchcock Festival announcement, talk about Festival Jenga, and Sam even numbers off his Top Ten films of the year so far.

WEEKLY REWIND:

Sam saw Robert Eggers’ The Witch and Shane Black’s buddy cop comedy noir The Nice Guys. Luke mentions new graphic novel adaptations for TV; Preacher and Outcast.

DOLLARS FOR DOCS:

The Wolfpack; about a reclusive family of brothers for whom movies were their only escape. Plastic Galaxy; a nostalgic look at the vintage Kenner toys that Star Wars fans in the ’70’s held in such high regard. The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin; that aims to explain the digital currency and its journey toward acceptance. Sam chimes in with his own doc recommendations.

TRAILERS OF THE WEEK:

Absurd or appealing? As we look at the early announcement teaser for Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Will the upcoming release of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition improve upon the already-long theatrical release?

We talk about our local classic cinemas and how you can support them, in light of the New Beverly-centric classic cinema doc; Out of Print.

Luke Scott, son of Ridley, helms his first film, a ‘geneticists play God’ thriller that looks to meld Splice and Ex Machina; Morgan. An Australian satire, likely to be extremely controversial, about the day after the Cronulla riots; Down Under.

TOPIC: HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

We get stuck into Taika Waititi’s new New Zealand classic; Hunt for the Wilderpeople. We look back at What We Do In the Shadows, and look forward to Thor: Ragnarok. Luke covers Wilderpeople tidbits revealed in the Q&A screening he attended with Fergus.

The film looks beautiful thanks to the New Zealand landscapes and is utterly charming and funny thanks to its talented cast. We don’t want to spoil the movie, so we move right along to another thing we’ve been waiting for…

TOPIC: CLEVERMAN S01E01


An Australian production, an original indigenous story brought to life with a largely aboriginal cast. That alone would be amazing but it’s also a high-quality, kick-ass, sci-fi, superhero drama.

We cover everything in its first episode from the opening Australian hip hop title music through the censorship of the Sundance broadcast, Sam and Luke’s favourite secondary actors and the world-building on display in the show’s slang, visuals and production design.

The show is extremely well-written and a great pilot to setup the show. Ryan J Griffen created this show for his own kid and both he and everyone involved should be proud. Hunter Page Lochard and Rob Collins carry the show with a believable brotherly dynamic that promises to be the highlight of the series.

We break down the catalyst moment in the show’s opening few minutes and theorise about which direction the show might take over the season and the series. We talk about casting choices Jack Charles and Iain Glen.

This is an ambitious series and we encourage you to check it out before listening to our discussion. Let’s hope there’s even more high production value shows in Australia’s future.

CREATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS:

If you’ve got mad Photoshop skills, mock up a movie poster or blu-ray cover for “Beauty and the Chew” starring Emma Watson alongside Peter Mayhew as The Beast, and send it through. We’ll showcase it on our social media and give you a shoutout on the show.

CONTACT US:

Social (FB/Twitter/IG) : @gaffpodcast
E-mail the boys : gaffpodcast@gmail.com

The Gaff #010: Cinematic Games & Our Gaming Histories

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THIS WEEK:

We discuss cinematic games, which leads to our gaming histories through consoles, handhelds and computers where we name check some our favourite games and moments.

WEEKLY REWIND:

Sams tells us about creepy supernatural doll horror, The Boy. We muse over whether The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan has what it takes to be a final girl. Sam talks about braving more horror films lately including classics Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. We also refer to The Conjuring, The Evil Dead, The Loved Ones and The Tunnel.

Luke’s been finishing out the seasons for a slew of superhero shows and calls out the Ultron reference in Legends of Tomorrow, as well as the coincidental plot point of using holograms in both Agents of SHIELD and Legends.

TRAILERS OF THE WEEK:

Our first episode revolved around the much-maligned first trailer for Ghostbusters. This week we talk about the much better second trailer and speculate about the plot. Will it be a Star Wars: The Force Awakens type deal? Will they give us Vigo in the sequel? Can Luke sell Sam on Star Trek Beyond which also had a controversial first trailer?

Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG gets a new trailer, complete with CGI Mark Rylance from Bridge of Spies. We’re also intrigued by the trailer out of Cannes for Olivier Assayas’ next film with Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper. Plus Sams has a secret trailer to share with Luke.

TOPIC OF THE WEEK: CINEMATIC GAMING & OUR GAMING HISTORIES

What starts as a discussion stemming from Sam playing Uncharted 4 on cinematic games, evolves into an overall recap of our gaming histories. We cover the consoles, handhelds and games that meant the most to us and our gamer status today. It’s not too specific, but fans should enjoy hearing about our interests in the gaming sphere.

While we name check a number of individual titles and franchises, we also cover a number of gaming topics: evolution of graphics and its effect on narrative, handheld vs console, adventure games, open world sandboxes, annual franchise instalments, first-person shooters, LAN parties and online multiplayer, emulation, immersion, soundtracks, building a gaming PC, nostalgia, and the updated Playstation on the horizon.

CREATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS:

If you’ve got mad Photoshop skills, mock up a game case or gameplay still for what Sams and I would get up to in digital form, and send it through. We’ll showcase it on our social media and give you a shoutout on the show.

CONTACT US:

Social (FB / IG / T): @gaffpodcast

Mailbag : gaffpodcast@gmail.com