Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

The Dark Knight Rises (and Falls) in 2016

As it draws to a close, there has been considerable reflection on the fact that 2016 has been a very “strange” year.

Of course, “strange” is perhaps a polite way of phrasing that sentiment. “Harrowing” might be another. “Depressing” could also fit. The year has been physically and emotionally draining for virtually everyone. It was the year that audiences around the world bid farewell to talents as diverse as David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. When it was determined that December 2016 would receive a “leap second”, it felt almost like an insult. Why should 2016 last one second longer than it absolutely has to? (Not that 2017 promises to be better.)

The hole in things.

The hole in things.

However, the biggest shocks of 2016 were political. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump shook the world to its core, and not just because the pollsters somehow failed to predict them. Those public votes were seen as stern rejections of liberalism and progressivism, of an angry and disenfranchised class striking back at what had been seen a disconnected and aloof elite. It was presented as a strike back against the establishment, against vested interests, an expression of rage – whether racial or economic.

Some of the best films of the year helped to capture that sense of anxiety and resentment. The Hateful Eight suggested that perhaps the United States had never reconciled itself following the end of the Civil War and perhaps it never would. Green Room suggested that there was still a primitive savagery lurking just off the main roads, nestled snugly in the heart of the country. The Girl With All the Gifts dared to suggest that those who reacted with panic and fear to change were likely to find themselves consumed by it.

Everything falls apart.

Everything falls apart.

However, the movie that most successfully embodied 2016 was not released in 2016. It was released four years earlier. That film was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion to his groundbreaking Batman trilogy of films. Batman Begins had been released in 2005, and its meditations on fear made for a potent superhero story in the midst of the War on Terror. The Dark Knight was released in 2008, and seemed the perfect film to close out the Bush era. It was even described as “the first great post-Sept. 11 film.”

In some respects, The Dark Knight Rises was lost on its initial release. It seemed rather out of place, with audiences unsure how best to read the film. It was not the sequel that anybody had been expecting. Indeed, it seems fair to observe that it was not the sequel that Christopher Nolan would have been expecting as he worked on The Dark Knight. That had been a crime epic with political undertones. The Dark Knight Rises was a revolutionary epic and war movie, an odd combination for a film released in 2012. And yet it feels perfectly in step with 2016.

"Okay, maybe Batman vs. Superman wasn't everything that it could have been."

“Okay, maybe Batman vs. Superman wasn’t everything that it could have been.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Sully – Miracle on the Hudson

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson has a certain Frank Capra quality to it.

To be fair, a lot of that comes from the casting of Tom Hanks in the title role. Hanks radiates a certain ineffable integrity, a “Hanksian Decency” that informs his performances in films as diverse as Bridge of Spies and Inferno. It is tempting to think of him as “America’s Dad”, particularly given the grey hair and the moustache that he donned for the title role here. However, it is also tempting to think of him as a latter-day Jimmy Stewart, the embodiment of a certain type of fundamental American decency that lends itself to this sort of narrative.

Hanks for the memories.

Hanks for the memories.

Similarly, director Clint Eastwood has a similar philosophy. Eastwood’s films tend to be organised around strong moral principles. Often those principles are articulated in terms of personal responsibility, particularly the responsibility that individuals have for others whether in a professional capacity (J. Edgar) or a personal capacity (Million Dollar Baby) or simply by virtue of being there (Gran Torino). Eastwood’s recurring fascination with individual responsibility makes him a quintessentially American director.

This combination is ideally suited to Sully, which is constructed as something akin to a modern-day American fairytale.

"Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing."

“Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing.”

Continue reading

American Nightmares, Part I: Old Frontiers… (The Revenant/The Hateful Eight)

Trying something new. Or rather something old. Been a while since we published an old-fashioned thinkpiece on here, and been thinking a lot about America as filtered through film in 2015-2016. We’ll be publishing a series of these articles in the coming week. If you’d like to see more of this sort of content, please comment or share or facebook or tweet, so we know you like it.

The United States of America is a relatively young country.

Like all other countries, it has its own history and mythology. As with many of those countries, that history and mythology intertwine. The European settlers may have inherited some of that mythology from their ancestors across the Atlantic or appropriated some from the indigenous population, but a lot of that history and mythology was cultivated wholesale. The American Dream. Manifest Destiny. The idea that this was a wild continent to be tamed through the sheer strength of will of those rugged early settlers.

westerns9

Britain has knights. Ireland has rebels. America has cowboys. It is tempting to look upon these archetypal mythic figures as something far removed from the modern day, something so far in the distant past that they may never have existed as all. Particularly given the historical decline of the western genre in recent decades, it is easy to consider the cowboy a historical artifact covered in centuries of dust and disconnected from the modern world. Billy the Kid does not seem so far removed from King Arthur, Wyatt Earp from Brian Boru.

Of course, the reality is much more complicated. The overlap between the history and mythology is striking; these stories seemed to be mythologised before they were allowed to fad into history. The Great Train Robbery was released in 1903, and generally considered to be the first cinematic western. Although past its prime, the era of the American frontier was still in progress. Oklahoma would only become a state in 1907, with Arizona and New Mexico would become states in 1912. There is a sense that the country was still forming as the mythology coalesced.

westerns3 Continue reading