Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dark Knight Strikes A Cord...With Reviewers

As FanBoyWonder eagerly awaits the coming of the weekend so we can hook up with our best pal and all around Kemosabe then journey to the multiplex to view the much anticipated Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight, we have noticed with great satisfaction the overwhelmingly positive reception by film reviewers.

Our excitement, already building toward a fever pitch, has been placated not at all as we read the reviews—carefully avoiding spoilers whenever possible.

Below are some samplers:

See you at the movies!

Joe Neumaier—New York Daily News

Comic-book fans may point to earlier mixtures of adult themes and real-world subtext ("X2: X-Men United," "Spider-Man 2," this year's "Iron Man"), but "The Dark Knight" is something else.

The ax-grinding, soul-churning, thought-provoking sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins" dives down and dirty into the unholy mess a society sinks to when fear is its driving force.

Without sacrificing thrills, it finds sober excitement inside the ticking time bombs people can become. It's the "Unforgiven" of superhero movies.

Kyle Smith—New York Post

The highest praise I can give a superhero movie is that it makes me forget about its 10-cent-comic-book soul. "The Dark Knight," unlike its superior predecessor, has some absurdly improbable scheming and sputtering one-liners. It also lacks the chord of ancient evil found in "Batman Begins."

Not least among the welcome features of the new edition, which ventures into shadowlands unknown to "Spider-Man" and the rest, is its references to "the bat man," a distancing touch. He's not one of us, someone you're on a first-name basis with. He is a weird loner who doesn't care what you think of him. Batman is obsessed, unrepentant and excessive. Batman is cool.

"The Dark Knight" benches a lot of weight for an action flick. It creates an experience either less fun or less silly, depending on your taste, than, say, "Iron Man."

Tim Teeman—The Times Online (UK)

The title of this new Batman is revealing: he can swoop over the city all he likes, but he gets no pleasure from meting out justice, or playing the big guy. This is one gloomy superhero whose navel gazing is accentuated by his glottal, laryngitis-like growl.

The genius of The Dark Knight is that Christopher Nolan, the film’s director, producer and co-writer (with brother Jonathan) has not only produced a stunning, amazing comic book movie, but also one with an intellectual heart and a tough, unresolved message at its end. Nolan, who directed the last Bat-movie (Batman Begins in 2005), has a masterful grip on his hero.

Sara Vilkomerson—New York Observer

The much-buzzed-over performance of the late Heath Ledger in this lead role has propelled anticipation for the July 18 opening of The Dark Knight from regular fanboy excitement into full-throated frenzy.

Don’t be fooled by the PG-13 rating: The Dark Knight is no kids’ movie. Rather, it’s a terrifically bleak affair—as weighty, dark and complex as it is thrilling to watch. In fact, the film is a closer relation—and not just i n running time—to last year’s feel-bad Best Picture nominees, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, than to fellow superhero summer blockbusters like Iron Man, Hellboy II or Hancock.

Though the bad guy might wear purple pants and streaked clowny makeup, and our hero likes to don a bat mask and cape, the issues this film grapples with—identity, incomprehensible violence, a society living in terror—feel awfully familiar, and urgent.

David Ansen—Newsweek

Even darker and more relentlessly serious than "Batman Begins," Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" pits the troubled superhero (Christian Bale) against his most troubling foe—the Joker. As played by the late Heath Ledger, with tangled greasy hair, grotesque white makeup, darting mad eyes and an obscene tongue that keeps licking his slashed, painted-on smile, this Joker is an agent of chaos so arbitrarily evil he strikes terror not just in his foes, but in the mobsters who hire him to eliminate Gotham City's caped crusader.
It's a stupendously creepy performance, wild but never over the top. He cuts a figure so dangerous that you wonder if Batman is up to the task—or if our hero himself will have to become as ruthless as his foe. When you're fighting an enemy who plays by no rules, do you have to abandon your own moral code to vanquish him?

Nolan dispenses with the stylized Gothic sets we're accustomed to in the series: he makes no attempt to hide the fact that Gotham City is modern Chicago. Gone, too, is the antic sense of humor that Tim Burton brought to the show. There's not a touch of lightness in Bale's taut, angst-ridden superhero, and as the two-and-a-half-hour movie enters its second half, the unvarying intensity and the sometimes confusing action sequences take a toll. You may emerge more exhausted than elated. Nolan wants to prove that a superhero movie needn't be disposable, effects-ridden junk food, and you have to admire his ambition. But this is Batman, not "Hamlet." Call me shallow, but I wish it were a little more fun.

With all due respect to Mr. Ansen and to quote the immortal Don Rickles—“That’s your opinion and you’re annoying me.”

By Kirk Honeycutt—The Hollywood Reporter

The Dark Knight" is pure adrenaline. Returning director Christopher Nolan, having dispensed with his introspective, moody origin story, now puts the Caped Crusader through a decathlon of explosions, vehicle flips, hand-to-hand combat, midair rescues and pulse-pounding suspense.

Nolan is one of our smarter directors. He builds movies around ideas and characters, and "Dark Knight" is no exception. The ideas here are not new to the movie world of cops and criminal, but in the context of a comic book movie, they ring out with startling clarity. In other words, you expect moralistic underpinnings in a Martin Scorsese movie; in a Batman movie, they hit home with renewed vigor.

Peter Travers—Rolling Stone

Heads up: a thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan's absolute stunner of a follow-up to 2005's Batman Begins, is a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up. There's something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe.

Striking out fr om his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension. Huh? Wha? How can a conflicted guy in a bat suit and a villain with a cracked, painted-on clown smile speak to the essentials of the human condition? Just hang on for a shock to the system. The Dark Knight creates a place where good and evil — expected to do battle — decide instead to get it on and dance. "I don't want to kill you," Heath Ledger's psycho Joker tells Christian Bale's stalwart Batman. "You complete me." Don't buy the tease. He means it.

Justin Chang—Variety

With the Bruce Wayne/Batman backstory firmly established, “The Dark Knight” fans out to take a broader perspective on Gotham City -- portrayed as a seething cauldron of interlocking power structures and criminal factions in the densely layered but remarkably fleet screenplay by helmer Nolan and brother Jonathan (stepping in for “Batman Begins’” David S. Goyer, who gets a story credit).

Using five strongly developed characters to anchor a drama with life-or-death implications for the entire metropolis, the Nolans have taken Bob Kane’s comic book template and crafted an anguished, eloquent meditation on ideas of justice and power, corruption and anarchy and, of course, the need for heroes like Batman -- a question never in doubt for the viewer, but one posed rather often by the citizens of Gotham.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hulk Film Franchise Smashed?

Riddle us this fanboys & girls,

What does The Incredible Hulk and Superman Returns have in common?

Each comic book character film was neither a sequel nor exactly a re-boot but were kind of remakes but each felt as if they were on very familiar storytelling ground.

These comic book film franchise echoes were in some ways as good as their predecessors (while decidedly NOT in other ways) but not quite better—or at least better enough to satisfy fans who wanted something new, not just different.

Superman Returns didn’t quite fail at the box office but it underperformed because audiences found it underwhelming when compared to the original Richard Donner-directed Superman film.

Now it would seem that this summer’s Incredible Hulk staring Edward Norton is on track to suffer the same non-success as suffered by the Ang Lee-directed 2003 HULK staring Eric Bana.

A Hollywood Reporter story by Carl DiOrio (picked up by Reuters’ wire service where we read it) speculates that the odds of a sequel to Incredible Hulk (which would make for a THIRD Hulk film) are looking pretty long based on the anemic box office returns so far this summer.

From DiOrio’s article:

“Five years ago, "Hulk," the first movie based on Marvel's hulking green comic book character, rang up $245 million in worldwide box office but was widely dismissed as a commercial failure. The second attempt, "The Incredible Hulk," amped up the fun factor and dialled down the brooding of director Ang Lee's original but is unlikely to gross significantly higher than its predecessor and might not spawn a sequel. And it's been dubbed a success.

After four weekends, the Louis Leterrier-directed "The Incredible Hulk" has earned $125 million, the same as what "Hulk" had pulled in at the same time in its run. "Hulk" finished with $132 million, and its successor is unlikely to do much better.

“Its foreign rollout is still in progress, with comics-friendly Japan among the territories the remake has yet to bow, but it appears likely that the Edward Norton starrer will struggle to reach $130 million internationally. The first film tallied $113.2 million overseas.

“Despite the similarity of the Hulk films' theatrical runs, industryites suggest the lighter tone of the second film makes it more the vehicle to generate sequels, and some suggest the remake will prove a more lucrative DVD title than the Eric Bana-starring original. On the other hand, production costs and marketing expenses were steeper the second time around, totaling more than $200 million. The first film cost about $150 million to make.”

To put things in perspective, Iron Man has earned more than $560 million at the box office world wide.

FanBoyWonder hopes the folks at Warner Brothers are taking notice and trying to learn the lessons of the Hulk mistake as they prepare the Superman Returns sequel The Man of Steel.
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