Posts tagged the dark knight
Marvel is at a point now where it has already released movies starring their most popular superhero characters to mostly positive results, and is now reaching further, either restarting franchises or putting slightly more obscure heroes into the limelight.
Which isn’t to say that Cap is obscure, but he is when compared to Spidey or Wolverine. Fortunately, he turns out to be a refreshing addition to the list of big screen superhero A-listers.
I went into this movie not knowing exactly what to expect, but I nonetheless expected a decent amount of chest-beating American bravado (given the title). I was right, and I am glad that I was, because this spirit of American pride works very well within the framework of that good vs. evil struggle that was the Second World War.
However, what I was not expecting (given I knew nothing about Captain America himself) was an exceedingly modest “nice guy” who gains the opportunity to become a superhero because of his strong morals rather than muscles.
This modesty is very refreshing in the wake of other, much more arrogant superheroes such as Tony Stark, Thor, or even Bruce Wayne. I found it was often times easier to root for “the little guy” than the billionaire playboy.
Speaking of billionaire playboys, the fantastic Iron Man has found a definite equal in Captain America. Though they are very different characters, the quality of the two films meets the same high mark. Of course, neither reaches the absolute upper limit set by The Dark Knight, but it is easier to focus exclusively on Marvel’s own properties.
The thing is, Marvel’s library of properties on film is rapidly expanding to the point that movies like Captain America can begin to feel like just one of many; it becomes harder for it to stand out.
In fact, the buildup present in almost all of Marvel’s recent films towards The Avengers does excite me but also leads me to worry that it will be difficult to devote equal focus towards each Marvel hero. What does the “guy from Brooklyn” bring to the table that super-high-tech Iron Man or literal-god-on-Earth Thor does not have?
My hope, of course, is that Cap’s humility is the answer. His humble origin as the skinny Steve Rogers is unique among superheroes, and could serve as a bit of a wake-up call for more arrogant heroes.
Of course, just because Cap lacks the high tech or mythical powers of his comrades does not mean that he is not incredibly satisfying in action. In fact, the simplicity of his shield-based combat (hit, block or throw) is satisfying in the same way that his modesty satisfies in terms of personality.
It is a thrill to watch Cap do his thing in battle, and the “clang” that resonates from his shield upon every hit is incredibly satisfying in a very comic-book kind of way.
What was a bit less satisfying was the background and end of the villain Red Skull. I had a distinct “that’s it?” feeling after his final showdown with Cap, but I still must give Hugo Weaving his credit for selling the character when he was on-screen. I just wish he was not written to be such a cookie-cutter villain.
There are going to be a lot of heroes vying for screen time in the Avengers movie, but it is nice to know that at least one of them will be focused on just getting the job done. Definitely check this one out to get your superhero fix while waiting for The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers.
If you like Captain America, then try:
- X-Men: First Class (another Marvel superhero story focused on teamwork).
I’ll cut to the chase: this film is not a pleasure to watch.
Don’t get me wrong; as a nominee for the Best Picture Oscar and probably Natalie Portman’s best work to date, Black Swan is by all means an incredible film. But it does depict, in terrifying detail, the grim reality that great art can come at a great price.
I noticed that I was tensed up for most of the movie, which I guess is why it’s a thriller. Still, it was the most uncomfortable I’ve felt while watching any thriller.
It’s easy to feel uncomfortable when seeing a story through the eyes of an unreliable narrator like protagonist Nina. Similarly to Memento and Insomnia, Black Swan constantly keeps you questioning what is real and what is a figment of Nina’s nervous imagination.
The film’s over-the-top sexual scenes and crazy dramatics, combined with her dizzying hallucinations, are big reasons to feel distressed watching the film, but there is a more profound reason why the film shook me.
When you break it down, Portman plays an incredibly ambitious, disciplined dancer who puts so much energy into mastering her role (two roles, actually, that are literally as different from each other as black and white) that she ends up being consumed by the role, for the worse.
What chilled me about this is that great art, unfortunately, often does demand great sacrifice or destruction. In the real world.
Now, I won’t admit that I may not know the whole truth about the brilliant Heath Ledger’s (far too) early demise, but it sure sounded to me like it was not unrelated to his work for The Dark Knight. The fact that he worked so hard to fully become someone as dark and twisted as The Joker sure brings to mind the emotional process that Nina had to go through in order to become the black swan.
The premise of Black Swan isn’t all that far-fetched: it appears that artists can, like Ledger, undergo self-ruin similar to that which Nina experiences.
Bet you didn’t think of that.
As a Brother of a fraternity (Kappa Kappa Psi) that is dedicated to serving the bands (music=art), it distresses me to watch other artists lose themselves in the pursuit of artistic perfection, a major theme in Black Swan.
However, the tension, anxiety and distress that made me feel so uncomfortable are the same elements that made the movie a Best Oscar Picture in the first place. It is undeniable that Portman and director Darren Aronofsky achieve great art through the tragedy of the film.
One particular element that impressed me was the strong symbolism: dance instructor Thomas’s reflection is shown in double at the corner of two mirrors during his speech about the dual role of the swan queen, and I swear they set former dance star Beth up as a fallen angel (during a scene the features an angel statue very prominently).
Ultimately, Black Swan distresses with its sadness and bizarre psychological intensity while delighting with its great quality and sense of artistic purpose. Consider the dark, distressing elements to be the black swan to the beautiful tragic quality of the white swan. Definitely check out this thrill ride if you can take a bit of heartbreak with your ballet.
If you have already taken this ballet thriller for a spin, however, let me know what you thought of it! I have a feeling that there is a pretty wide range of opinions on this one. What did you think? (Please don’t forget to keep comments spoiler-free, or indicate clearly if they do have spoilers).
If you like Black Swan, then try:
- Open Your Eyes/Abre Sus Ojos (psychological thriller that requires viewer to constantly question what is real and what is not).