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Non-Review Review: Free State of Jones

Free State of Jones does a decent job approximating the feel of a prestige picture.

Free State of Jones feels almost like writer and director Gary Ross is running through a checklist of all the elements expected from a successful prestige picture. It deals with heavy subject matter, unfolding primarily during the Civil War and touching upon Reconstruction. It is paced indulgently, never rising to more the a sitting trot. It is anchored in performance by a critically-acclaimed Oscar-winning actor who dominates the film. Its cinematography is uncomplicated and stately. It is laboured with a framing device that offers the illusion of depth.

When the dust settles...

When the dust settles…

Free State of Jones plays as an imitation of a much bolder and provocative film. There are points at which the film brushes up against potentially brilliant ideas, only to back away. For a film about slavery, Free State of Jones finds itself unable to look beyond its white leading character. The framing and scene composition is clearly intended to seem dignified, but instead feels lifeless. The film’s perspective is limited, in both a literal and figurative sense. There are a lot of interesting ideas inside Free State of Jones, but none of them are allowed to grow.

There is a heavy earnestness to Free State of Jones, but it suffocates the story.

Riding shotgun on secession.

Riding shotgun on secession.

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Absolute Identity Crisis (Review/Retrospective)

This January, I’m going to take a look at some of DC’s biggest “events.” This week I’ll be taking a look at Brad Meltzer’s impact on the DC universe.

Identity Crisis is the first in the trilogy of stories that built off the original Crisis on Infinite Earths to offer a fairly significant reevaluation of the modern DC universe, examining where the characters and the fictional landscape was as compared to where it had been decades before. I’ve argued that Marvel went through a similar period of introspection from House of M through to Siege, but DC seemed to engage with the concept on a more direct level. Written by best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer, Identity Crisis is an attempt to explore the rather fundamental changes that occurred in superhero comics during the nineties, often as a direct response to The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen, giving us a more cynical depiction of the concepts and characters that we take for granted. It’s controversial – as any similar reimagining would be – and, to be frank, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

However, it’s always fascinating, even if it is grimly so.

Time to hang it up?

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Building a Better Batman: Is The Dark Knight a Deconstruction or a Reconstruction?

This article is part of the really wonderful Christopher Nolan Blogathon, which is being run by Bryce over at Things That Don’t Suck. It’s a week of Nolan-related madness in the run-up to the release of Inception this weekend. Pop on over you daily fix.

Christopher Nolan’s new film Inception is being released this week, and I’m pretty excited, I’m not going to lie to you. Anyway, I figured that the release of Nolan’s latest summer blockbuster justified a retrospective look back at his earlier summer success story, the rather wonderful The Dark Knight. In particular whether, whether the film, which stands as perhaps the most defining example of the superhero in cinema. However, is it a successful deconstruction of the genre, or an attempted reconstruction of the superhero on film?

Nolan certainly took Batman under his wing...

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The Twilight of the Superheroes?

We’re a bit late to the party, but this week we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of DC Comics, with a look at the medium, the company and the characters in a selection of bonus features running Monday through Friday. This is one of those articles. Be sure to join us for the rest.

Earlier in the week, I wondered if the dominance of the comic book medium by superheroes was affecting the general  perception of the relatively young medium. Is the time of the superhero long gone?

Some characters take this "superheroes as pagan gods" schtick a bit too seriously...

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