July 31, 2012

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises: A Tale of Two Blockbusters [Review Time]

Since the incredible hype surrounding The Avengers and its box-office smashing release this summer, the biggest question on everybody's lips has been how The Dark Knight Rises, the final instalment of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, will hold up to Joss Whedon's comic book movie. The Avengers made $207 million in its opening weekend, beating The Dark Knight Rises at $160.8 million. A lot of people are making excuses for TDKR such as that the midnight launch massacre in Colorado scared people off, and that TDKR didn't benefit from 3D ticket sales, but I will concede to the facts: The Avengers won in the category of opening weekend box office scores. But here's another fact: box office numbers are not proof of movie quality.

Don't believe me? Check out this list of opening weekend box office records. You'll find some real stinkers on there, for example, all of the Twilight movies (may I mention that Twilight (2008) suffers from a 5.3 user rating on IMDB.com), Spider Man 3 (which has a 6.3 on IMDB), the worst rated Indianna Jones movie (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has a 6.4), the worst rated Pirates of the Caribbean movie (On Stranger Tides at 6.6), and the worst of the Matrix franchise (Revolutions with a 6.6). Sure, there are great films on there as well, but let's all stop pretending that the box office scores were some kind of definitive proof that Avengers > Batman.

For the record, here's what I thought of The Avengers.

As for The Dark Knight Rises, I think it was the most tense 164 minutes of my life. I once read a good bit of practice for writers is to always brainstorm ways to raise the stakes, and I think screenplay writers Christopher Nolan and brother Jonathon Nolan took that exercise to the fricking extreme - just everything that can go wrong...

Batman is in bad condition after taking the fall for Harvey Dent's murder. As you figured, Gotham is mad at him, but beyond that, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, and his years of fighting crime have taken a toll on his body. Imagine a wrestler 8 years after retiring. I mean, your joints are just not going to be great and you're going to be a little out of shape. That's our Batman at the beginning of this movie. And then he gets beaten to a pulp by Bane. No, a pulp doesn't cover it. Oranges don't have spinal cords. Bruce Wayne does.

Without spoilers, it's difficult to convey just how bad things are going to get for Gotham. I left the theatre with a stomach ache from being so stressed out. Tense is the only way to describe it.

As a literature student, this review would not be complete without divulging all of the delicious parallels with between The Dark Knight Rises and A Tale of Two Cities! Any book nerd you had with you in the theatre already whispered it in your ear when Alfred read from a thick paperback at a certain not-to-be-spoiled funeral that those were the famous last lines of Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

People have tried to pick it apart and discover flaws, plot holes, and failures in suspension of disbelief, but unlike The Avengers, it holds together against the criticism. If you go into it trying to pick the plot apart, you're probably not going to enjoy it; that goes for any film. I went into it just waiting to see what Nolan would throw at me, and I wasn't disappointed.

July 2, 2012

The Matrix Live: Film in Concert with the Seattle Symphony [Review Time]

Welcome to the real world.
On June 28 and 29, the Seattle Symphony put on two performances of The Matrix Live. After seeing an ad for this on a bus, I found myself asking something very similar to Neo's driving question: What is the Matrix Live? Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix Live is. You have to see it for yourself. Okay just kidding. It was a showing of The Matrix on screen with a performance of the original film score by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, live. And it was awesome.

If you can't remember what the Matrix score sounds like, here's a video of the opening that should tickle your memory:
As far as film scores go, this one, composed by Don Davis, is pretty fantastic and original, not to mention a perfect fit for a steam-punk instant classic. I'm not a music expert, so my purpose is mainly to recommend seeing The Matrix in this format (no matter how much you have to pay), because it is probably the ultimate nerd experience. I mean it's exciting even to see The Matrix in theatres. I was 10 years old when it came out, so I did not. And on top of that, the music is incredible. It's interesting to watch a film and pay extra special attention to how the music complements it. And of course, it was worth it to see a crowd full of leather trench coats and sunglasses. There was even at least one near-perfect Trinity look-alike.

I was also incredibly excited to see the Seattle Symphony, and they did not disappoint. The sound was absolutely perfect. It was conducted by Don Davis, the original composer, himself.

If you think you're replicating this experience with your 7.1 turned to max, you're dead wrong. And you should probably go to hell. If ever you see a city near you performing The Matrix Live, I highly recommend you don't pass up the opportunity to see The Matrix on the big screen with the score performed live.