July 29th, 2012

breaking bad

The Dark Knight Rises

I went to see The Dark Knight Rises on the first day it came out. I had fairly high expectations, and they were disappointed. I ended up falling asleep, which I have only done once before (Van Helsing).

You don't decide to dislike a film because of its political subtext or its narrative incoherence. Because really that isn't what is happening. I'm not enjoying something and then my inner critic says 'Oh, I just spotted incoherence' and so I dutifully reject any pleasure it gives me. Or 'This embodies values I don't agree with. I'd better not enjoy it then.' I think sometimes people think that's what viewers are doing, because that's how they describe the causality in a review.

But the experience of the causality is the other way round. I am watching a film and it just doesn't grip me, and my emotions disconnect, and in this case my subconscious actually stepped in and switched me off completely. I think I was snoring (I was sitting next to my son's girlfriend and she's a bit too tactful to say). And then when you come out of the cinema you ask yourself 'What went wrong?' and then you start thinking about narrative incoherence or whatever.

The other thing is: what about people who did enjoy it? For example my nephew has 24/7 personal carers, who are good decent people. One took him to see TDKR and they both loved it. Are they wrong? 'Up until now Transformers was my favourite film, now this is.' Is that wrong? No, it's two young guys who approach the spectacle with open hearts. Good luck to them, but in another way they are technically 'wrong' in that the film really is incoherent.

Actually there were good aspects to the film. The actors did well with what they were given. Catwoman was good: ultra sexy without being exploitative. There were some interesting ideas (delivered cack-handedly). But the plot was ridiculous, and the dialogue was absolutely terrible. Just awful. And the values were confused so you didn't have a consistent emotional reaction, unless your reaction is just 'Oh flying cars and explosions!'

If a story is fantastical it's good to present it on a bed of authenticity. That was what I liked best about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, particularly the Fellowship. Batman Begins was like that. But TDKR doesn't make you feel the authenticity of the frame in which the story happened. That was the biggest problem for me.
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ETA Abigail's review here describes the elements that made the film fail - such as the incoherence and confused values - and that is the type of analysis I am alluding to, explicating what went wrong. I suppose in my review here, which isn't really a review at all, I am trying to say why that matters. Because if it was all terrific fun it wouldn't matter.

I wonder whether Nolan was fed up with doing Batman films before he finished this one.
breaking bad

Opening ceremony

BTW people are saying the Olympic opening celebration wasn't left wing, because right wing people liked it. I think it was left wing, and more people share those left wing values than we might think. Some people who call themselves right wing or conservative love things (like the BBC or the NHS or access to the countryside) which the Conservative party rejects and wants to dismantle. Truly right wing people hated the opening ceremony, and they said so. I bet Cameron hated it, but he couldn't say so. It was described on Twitter as a "£27m party political broadcast" for the Labour party. The Daily Mail said “The NHS did not deserve to be so disgracefully glorified in this bonanza of left-wing propaganda" (not a link to the Mail) and:
This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family.

Can you believe that? What a debased way of thinking. Most people in this country don't think like that. Later in the article he calls the opening ceremony an example of 'Social engineering'. But this is wrong. Support for the NHS does not need to be 'engineered', people living without racism does not have to be 'engineered'. Community will arise organically from the natural processes of social life, if people are given a chance.

The Mail, and the Tories, are way out of step with majority British opinion. Or rather they are out of step with the best we can be, which is tolerant and mutually supportive and creative. And if celebrating those values is an advert for the left wing, then everything good becomes an advert for the left wing. And then we have won.