Documentary Review: The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of the Dark Knight Trilogy

Details: You can watch this for free on YouTube. More information can be found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3138282/

Score: 6.3/10

The Fire Rises is a look at Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy of films. It goes behind the scenes and interviews producers, writers and various people connected to the Batman franchise in relation to Nolan’s Batman films. It doesn’t go very in depth and mostly serves as marketing material for the films, but it is nice to get some behind the scenes opinions if you’re a fan of the films.

Nolan’s Batman movies changed a lot of what people thought about superhero films and they did this simply by being great films. While these films had humor, they were primarily dramas. In the past, superhero movies required a certain amount of jokiness and flamboyance in order to be believable to fans. Nolan’s Batman movies got rid of a lot of that flamboyance and successfully portrayed a much more realistic, believable superhero story.

In watching this drama, it becomes clear just how much new ground they broke with these films. Batman Begins was a franchise reboot, something that had not yet been done for superhero movies. I remember that at the time Batman Begins was released, I had no interest in watching it. The prior few Batman movies were so cringeworthy and out there that I just gave up on the idea of watching another Batman movie. To my surprise, all my friends who had seen it loved it. So I watched it and to my surprise, I found a story that somehow successfully told a fairly realistic, believable superhero story.

But Batman Begins was an origin story. The Dark Knight was a true Batman story. I remember I was hyped about this film until I heard that Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker. That was incredibly confusing because at the time, Heath had only been in roles as a teenage heartthrob. I’d never seen him in anything more serious or not romantic. Plus, I and everyone else anticipating this movie could not imagine how the Joker would be portrayed. Jack Nicholson had left his mark on the character and anyone else doing the role was hard to imagine. Suffice it to say, I and everyone else who watched it were blown away by Heath’s performance. It was a gritty, realistic, yet entertaining take on the character that no one had yet seen. Heath stole the show and elevated that film to the superhero classic that it is today.

They don’t talk that much about Dark Knight Rises and rightfully so. That wasn’t that great of a film.

Overall, this was a nice walk through memory lane. It’s not in depth, it doesn’t have any big reveals about scandals that went on behind the scenes. It was just a nice chat about some of what went into the films behind the scenes and the thought processes behind many creative decisions.

Movie Review: Momento

Details: Released in 2000. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano.

So I just reviewed Resevoir Dogs. In continuing with classic movies that I’ve never seen, I decided to move on to Momento. Momento is arguably Christopher Nolan’s first big movie, before the Batman movies at least.

Momento is about a man who can’t form new memories. He suffered head trauma a while back and ever since, the only memories he has are from that incident. The only thing that drives him in his life is the memory someone killed and raped his wife and he wants to catch them, despite his condition.

Momento is structured interestingly and, like Reservoir Dogs, has some of the director’s stylistic tropes in it despite being such an early film in his career. Nolan likes to build a mystery with some big, trippy reveal at the end. The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar come to mind. He also likes messing with narrative gimmicks and editing to have an effect on the audience. For instance, Inception was a dream within a dream where each dream was set moving at a different speed and Interstellar had the black hole altering time. Prestige was interesting because it was story about a magic trick while the plot itself was a trick.

So there’s often a plot progression or editing gimmick. In Momento, there are two storylines: there is one story line that progresses normally and mostly consists of him talking on the phone. The second and arguably primary story line is told backwards, where we see the most recent event and we watch each prior event in hopes of elaborating on what we saw in the very beginning. It’s an interesting attempt at something that mostly works. My only issues with it is that it is a gimmick and that it was boring for me to watch the same gimmick for two hours. This film should have had half an hour cut from it’s run time.

The actors do a good job. Guy Pearce always puts forth an effort no matter what he’s in, and he does so here. It was nice to see some of the actors from The Matrix again. Those guys were okay. It’s a small cast and everyone does their part.

Overall, I enjoyed the film even though I felt bored at times. The reveal at the end was predictable in that Nolan always wants to go for that big trippy reveal. If anything, this film is a good indicator of Nolan’s style and what he’s capable of.

Score: 6/10

Movie Review: Interstellar (2014)

Details: A science fiction, adventure film starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Run time is almost three hours.

Love transcends all. At least that’s what Christopher Nolan wants you to believe.

Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s attempt at something along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I walked into this film hoping for something along those lines. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The strongest parts of this film are the visuals. However, as in the Star Wars prequels, special effects alone do not make a great movie.

The story is hard to believe. The characters are not developed all that well. The main plot points lacked emotion, force or meaning. The performances weren’t fantastic, but science fiction is hard for actors. Not a lot of points of reference to the human condition. Plus, they sound silly when they try to explain science they don’t understand.

Another weakness of the film is that Nolan has fallen into the trap of trying to explain science to the masses. The truth of the matter is that most people are too dumb or don’t care enough to want to go to a physics class during a movie. Movies are meant to be entertainment. Here, Nolan tries his best to interject real science rules into the film with yawn-inducing results.

My favorite science fiction movies focus on two things: world creation and character development. Most members of an audience are unlikely to be able to grasp the math-intensive theories of science and physics. Instead, a director should spend time making the characters relatable, showing their motivations and struggles. The character development here was not exemplary.

Furthermore, effort is needed to make that first act really express the nature and rules of this world. I don’t mean the actual natural laws, but movie rules. For example, in Inception, one needs a totem to remember that they are still within a dream. A great rule that adds to the suspense of wondering whether the protagonist is in the real world or still dreaming. Here, Nolan tries to use natural laws similarly, but the reality is that these are too boring, complex, and (ironically) unconvincing for use in entertainment. What we needed were fictional movie rules like the use of totems in Inception.

Lastly, most great science fiction films make some sort of existential statement or theme that leaves the viewer feeling as if they gained some philosophical knowledge which bettered them. Something that makes you think. The message here is that love transcends all. It felt like something from My Little Pony. I walked away from this movie feeling like I gained nothing at all.

Score: 5/10 Not Nolan’s greatest film. He tried to create a masterpiece by cramming in too many themes, ideas, and science into one film. He instead created a three-hour film that drags and disappoints. Plus, the ultimate theme/conclusion isn’t science fiction, but wishful thinking. Great visuals though.