It's interesting that no one has pointed out that this is the first Nolan film that is completely chronologically linear.
Or that he has significantly reduced handheld shaky cams since using it a fair bit in Batman Begins and a lot more in The Prestige.
(B) Logical holes
Some of which some people may find an explanation for. But the point is, it's interesting to note that there are so many incongruent story elements, some that are irreconcilable and some that can be explained if thought out further (but is missed coz the film moves so fast).
This isn't the place to say that "it's a movie, don't have to think so much". It's just an exercise for myself, a little bit of fun.
1. Doesn't make sense that an odd schoolbus can just pull out of a bank and join the schoolbus line without raising attention. Is there such a thing as a schoolbus line, btw?
2. The Joker seems to be everywhere all the time. Okay, so his minions could be doing half the work, but ...
3. Why do minions continue to believe him, considering most of them die on any one of The Joker's terrorist acts? Unless it's plausible none of them knew what happens to minions in his previous acts. But even if The Joker did indeed use ONLY Arkham's demented inmates as minions, there has to be a possibility of some percentage of them: (a) betraying him, or (b) messing up. Or even, when The Joker COUNTS on them to mess up, isn't there a chance that they won't mess up? This suggests ...
4. The Joker is omniscient, almost God-like.
Okay, digression. Clearly The Joker is more a functional plot construct than a proper character. Some people kept going on about how 'complex' The Joker is (or how 'complex' Heath Ledger's performance as that character is) - he isn't, and he isn't. He's simple. He is there as the unstoppable force to Batman's immovable object - or, to spell it out, THE JOKER AND BATMAN ARE CHAOS AND ORDER PERSONIFIED. So, The Joker HAS to succeed in EVERY one of his terrorist plots (in a manner of speaking, as The Joker does acknowledge he doesn't plan, he does) and never fail - not even once - to serve a story which requires increasingly higher stakes.
But my point is - no one went down this line of questioning how is it that The Joker can succeed every time. Maybe they're too tired at the end of the film and don't care. Which brings me to the next point - is anyone, Hollywood or not, learning how to allow plotholes in their movie and yet not raise the audience's ire?
5. Seriously, why the hell would the police force risk marching the Mayor down a street lined up with hundreds of windows when clearly The Joker has announced his intention to kill him? (I don't really buy the reasoning that that's because Lieutenant Gordon had to, well, you know. There are easier ways for that to happen.)
6. At what point did Dent and Batman come to an agreement that there would be this elaborate plan to bait The Joker to come after Dent so that Batman and Lieutenant Gordon can capture The Joker? We left the scene with Batman saying he will announce himself, next showing he had every intention of doing so, and then come to the action sequence as if the plan is all there. Or is EVERYONE just improvising? (Seems too thought out for that to be true though.)
7. After throwing the girl out of the penthouse, how did The Joker escape the tall building? Don't just say because he could.
8. Can a small mobile phone really generate that big a blast, that leaves ONLY The Joker unharmed?
9. Notice when Batman slams his (gloved) fist down on The Joker's hand, The Joker didn't even flinch? Or the numerous times The Joker was kicked? Does he not feel any pain?
10. Ramirez, when she calls Barbara, tells her to get out and that she will call off the officers outside the house for 10 mins. Yet clearly, her encounter with Dent didn't allow her to call off the officers.
11. Does a seatbelt suffice to stop Dent from getting harmed in the car 'accident'?
12. Why (and more importantly, how) is Dent's suit half-burned in the last scene?
13. I'm letting go the fact that Dent's voice didn't change after his burn injuries. Makes sense that Nolan chose to have the audience hear him perfectly, considering he has so many more lines, rather than to insist the more realistic outcome of hearing him slur. Also, I could buy that the eyelids were removed rather than simply burned, in preparation for skin grafts which ultimately Dent didn't want.
14. I see the point now, why The Joker seems to blow up other cars instead of the one car he SHOULD be blowing up.
15. Are Gambol's minions so dumb as to not check The Joker's pulse as they bring in his 'corpse'?
16. Are the ship's crew or any other rescue/authority team so dumb as to not check the ferries before allowing people to board - considering they took care to seal off all bridges? Also, when they found that there were no bombs on the bridges (or if there were, must be someone taking care of it), why not let people pass?
17. How were so many bombs planted in that one hospital - and a busy-looking hospital at that?
18. One more. This one is moralistic/concerning ethics so is highly subjective anyway. Batman himself acknowledged that he's seen what he needs to become in order to stop The Joker. When The Joker finally informs Batman what his ultimate plan was, why couldn't Batman just ... let The Joker plunge to his death? One could argue that becoz Batman has to keep his conscience - well, no. Just listen to all that stuff about 'the Batman can take it' in the final monologue. The Batman should be able to take on this one murder - in this case justified because unlike isolated terrorist cells, the state of the anarchy is generated ENTIRELY by The Joker (a consequence of him being a simple personification of Chaos/Anarchy), so killing him ends it all.
Again, all these are not really important. Just some things to consider if one wants to.
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It seems like Chris Carter overcompensated when he took the advice 'focus on character development' to heart.
Because this X-Files movie is no longer about paranormal mysteries, or at least, it takes a backseat to what the movie focuses on - the changes to the lives of Mulder and Scully and their relationship. So this is what Chris Carter expended much effort to keep secret from the public. Avid fans probably expected some sort of really revelatory events, or at least a damn good mystery - as would anyone.
Surprised? Well, I was, so Carter achieved that. But satisfied? Unfortunately not.
I may come off shallow saying this but I don't think all films need character development to be good, or even great. Many do, most do probably, and a few would argue all do.
But what is (good) character development for? I believe it is to make the story more solid, more grounded (or 'realistic'), and thus more entertaining and memorable. There, I just revealed my preferences in the debate between plot vs character - I side with Aristotle.
Why do I say that the film is deliberately about Mulder and Scully? Because we follow one main plot about disappearing young women that Mulder was tasked to help investigate, and a subplot about a sick child that Scully commits herself fully to save; but spend a good 30% of the film watching Mulder and Scully argue about faith and God and Mulder's obsession and how that affects their decisions in each case. As in, it doesn't even pretend to try and make the abduction cases interesting, the way we used to love about the X-Files series. The case is downright mundane by the standards of any X-Files episode, almost real life. Only in the end does something very strange (and disturbing) turn up about the case, and even then much effort is used to make it plausible.
The case with the sick child is just there to strain Scully's conscience.
Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully are straining too hard to be interesting. Serious interesting.
But, what we love about the X-Files isn't who Mulder and Scully are - it's what they do that hooks us.
What is well done about the film is the atmosphere, a terrible sense of tension that permeates the film without letting go. Both stories involve surgery and other medical-related incidents - amputations, head surgeries, stem cell therapy. I won't say I'm very squeamish around such things - I remember the delight I got hearing other people squirm when they saw the leg surgery scene in Black Hawk Down - but I did feel very uncomfortable watching this film.
In short, by giving us a character drama with mystery elements rather than the other way round as we've come to expect from the X-Files, Chris Carter has made an un-entertaining film. A misfire.
How Good The Film Is: 4.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 3/10
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In ten thousand years human beings have gone from hunting to farming to cities to cyberspace. Behaviour is screaming forward, and it might be nonadaptive. Nobody knows. Although personally, I think cyberspace means the end of our species. Because it means the end of innovation. This idea that the whole world is wired together is mass death. Every biologist knows that small groups in isolation evolve fastest. You put a thousand birds on an ocean island and they'll evolve very fast. You put ten thousand on a big continent, and their evolution slows down. Now, for our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behaviours. We innovate new behaviour to adapt. And everybody on earth knows that innovation only occurs in small groups. Put three people on a committee and they may get something done. Ten people, and it gets harder. Thirty people, and nothing happens. Thirty million, it becomes impossible. That's the effect of mass media – it keeps anything from happening. Mass media swamps diversity. It makes every place the same. Bangkok or Tokyo of London: there's a McDonald's on one corner, a Benetton on another, a Gap across the street. Regional differences vanish. All differences vanish. In a mass-media world, there's less of everything except the top ten books, records, movies, ideas. People worry about losing species diversity in the rain forest. But what about intellectual diversity - our most necessary resource? That's disappearing faster than trees? But we haven't figured that out, so now we're planning to put five billion people together in cyberspace. And it'll freeze the entire species. Everything will stop dead in its tracks. Everyone will think the same thing at the same time. Global uniformity.
What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There's no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told - and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their 'beliefs'. The reason is that beliefs guide behaviour, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behaviour may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion.
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I didn't have particularly high expectations for this. First of all, because it's John Woo. Okay, that's it, really.
But I came out surprisingly having enjoyed myself. My dad said it was a bit slow - don't worry you Americans, you're getting the 2 1/2 hour version, whereas we're getting the two-parter which equals 4+ hours. It is, but it also has a half hour-long battle sequence, which makes it the longest battle sequence ever in any movie.
The Battle of Red Cliff is a wisely chosen historical event on John Woo's part for his Chinese comeback. It is at once fun and dramatic, known for the numerous brilliant tactics of warfare that still inspire awe today - it surprises us when seeing it onscreen, even when we've read 三國演義 - as well as its awesome battle imagery that the film is obviously made to capitalise on.
The things that irk me are the music, which only works for the battle scenes when it sticks to drums but not so well for the non-battle parts (yet another Japanese composer), and some of the editing. Even when given a running time of over four hours, we still get ... montage sequences? And I thought the montages could be better edited, with more poetry and style. Then there's the bit with the gu zheng sequence. Freeze frames?? Come on. Also, I'm not happy with the Star Wars-style frame wipes. However, I can't fault the editing of the battle sequences. For the most part, they work, in that I understood what was happening.
The actors are well-casted - interesting given I don't know half of them. The top two, certainly: Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro. As well as for the characters of Zhang Fei and Guan Yu and Zhao Yun and Liu Bei and Cao Cao, in that they all look their part.
One thing that DID feel out of place was Zhao Wei's character, Sun Shang Xiang, displaying some precocious feminism in an era which would hardly had known that it exists if it got swat off to a side.
So far, John Woo's done a good job. Not Hero excellent - the fighting sequences here aren't particularly imaginative, but at least they weren't particularly boring either - but good enough. I can't wait to see Pt. 2, which will be out on Christmas this year or on Chinese New Year next.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 7.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 8/10
Before I say anything let me just say that I’m very biased towards movies I watch, whether it’s for or against. But as you’d have known, unless you’re a fool: it’s a fool who says and believes that his or her opinion about movies is the absolute right or wrong ...
... and an even bigger fool if you’re one of those Internet users who prowl forums and movie review sites to leave comments about how dumb the reviewer/critic is for his or her opinion.
Now, specifically, I bias downwards for movies which receive exceptional attention from critics and fanboys. For example, I didn’t think Pan’s Labyrinth was that great when I saw it at an early screening; after that, the glorious outpouring of hot love for Guillermo Del Toro and the film just made me hate it - it was my most hated film of 2006, if I remember correctly. Similarly, I hate the Harry Potter films, the Lord Of The Rings films and the Star Wars movies, because so many people worship them ... but in each case I also have other reasons for hating them - they suck in one way or another. And similarly, while I would have thought that Batman Begins was a very well made if not particularly memorable action comic superhero film, now I just think it is average, thanks to the excess inexplicable praise it has gotten. (Stress the word ‘excess’.)
Another review puts it this way, which echoes my sentiments exactly:
"The Dark Knight" is the most anticipated movie of the summer, partly because it's Nolan's follow-up to the fiercely adored "Batman Begins" and partly because it features Heath Ledger's last performance, as the Joker. That makes one good reason to see it. As much as I disliked "Batman Begins," finding myself not just unmoved but bored by its alleged darkness and moral complexity, I concede that it was at least a real movie, with a thought-out structure, a reasonable degree of character development and, most significant, an adherence to visual logic that was at least workmanlike.
Now, with The Dark Knight, the stage is set for me to hate the film, such is the level of anticipation towards the film. What I know is, no matter what happens, the film will not be bad, as it's pretty unanimously agreed that Christopher Nolan's a dependable filmmaker, and the film will do well at the box office, without a doubt.
So having seen it, how does it stack up against expectations?
The Dark Knight is the best film since The Bourne Ultimatum.
It exactly matched my expectations.
It is a morally-complex tale with an unusual plot structure that is all about exploring something no other superhero movie has done so far. Actually, other superhero movies come close - the difference is, other superhero movies set their priority on entertainment (fun), whereas The Dark Knight's more like entertaining (serious). The one exception is Ang Lee's Hulk, and here, I have to say, Christopher Nolan has done something Ang Lee didn't quite achieve.
He made the first comic book film that is worthy of multiple Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
Never mind about Heath Ledger's performance, we've heard enough already and will hear about it again in 6 months' time. The Joker is an absolutely awesome character construct - mostly coz I've been constructing a similar sort of villain for stories I wrote and will write. The Joker is the sort of villain I don't remember seeing before - and as such the film does its bit to ease the audience in to it, with lines such as "some men just want to see the world burn" or "I am an agent of chaos". Well, that, and the numerous interviews and discussion about Ledger and The Joker before the film opened.
A character like this goes out of its bounds in terms of its effects on the other story elements. It actually forces story elements to distort, just like The Joker forces all other characters to react differently. The first casualty is the plot structure. I read somewhere that Nolan says that this film has five acts. It must have, at some point in the development stage, scared the shit out of some studio executives at Warner and Legendary. And, as I anticipated, a lot of the audience I was in were squirming in their seats after the third act - they thought the film was done, but there was in fact 60 mins of the film left, with more drama, more conflicts, more action sequences (3 more, as a matter of fact).
Chup. Let's get one thing straight. Most of the Malaysian viewers sitting their asses in the cinema to watch the film don't deserve the film. However, they will get their money's worth.
Setups and payoffs. Everything in the film is properly set up, and there are many, much more than I expected. This is a thoroughly planned-out script. Right down to when Lucius Fox tells Bruce Wayne that there are gaps in his new Batsuit which may not be able to stop the bullets but it does make the suit leaner. It affects the audience's subconscious in the last confrontation scene, in a way which most won't even notice. The more obvious set-ups are like, for example, the young accountant coming to Lucius Fox with a terrible blackmail.
The editing. Now I remember what irked me about the first one - as much as I thought it was an excellently-executed film, I always felt there was something off about the editing: it was accelerated. There were far too many ellipses throughout that film, and so it is here as well, especially more so because of the amount of story it had to tell. It's not something that sinks the film, but it means that we don't really get to connect to the characters.
The characters. They're all very well-casted - but you know that already, especially since most of them are back from the first one - with the exception of one, and this is a surprise: Maggie Gyllenhaal. Now we all know she's a good actress, but somehow she doesn't fit the character in the film. She seems to be smiling a lot, and that just didn't work for me at the interrogation room. It's perhaps sacrilegious to suggest that putting Katie Holmes back would've worked better (she rejected the role out of alleged scheduling problems) but here's why I suggested it: the audience and critics would've been so pre-occupied with all the other characters and the story that they wouldn't have paid attention to her if indeed Holmes didn't improve; and more importantly, it would've shed less attention to the role of Rachel Dawes. Those who've seen the film would perhaps know why that's important.
Nolan promised an ensemble film, and that is what we got. Batman stays in the background for huge portions of the film; Lieutenant Gordon rises into a quiet form of heroism; Harvey Dent gets introduced and pushed into the forefront. The butler and the advisor remain where they are. Actually, the mafia boss Maroni played by Eric Roberts seems to get as much screen time as, say, Lieutenant Gordon. The Joker, however, stands out because his influence is onscreen even when he's not. The Joker is all about fear and chaos, and it works.
Why use William Fichtner for only 3 minutes of the film? Cillian Murphy for even less seems okay - gives the film continuity with its predecessor. And I wonder how many Malaysians know how to look out for Edison Chen in the film?
Very few action films have its villains push its hero into a moral dilemma that is truly problematic. Spider-Man did it - the Green Goblin forces him to choose between Mary Jane and a whole tram-load of people. Here, The Joker CONSTANTLY pushes all the characters to make difficult choices - it is his raison d'être. And because the film does my favourite thing where it doesn't tell you everything so that it's more subtle/intelligent and less "HERE'S THE CONNECTION" - the audience often doesn't know exactly what The Joker's plan is - or, for that matter, how Batman and company will save the day. We are constantly at the mercy of the film. And because it allows such a pure villain, we are NOT sure that Batman CAN, in fact, save the day.
If only more films had done that. It is hard. Very, very hard. The Nolan brothers did well.
Still, the thing with the ferries was a bit of a conceit. It depends on your beliefs of society at large, of course, and the point in the film is The Joker believes in one and Batman believes in the other. For me, to believe that any individual is capable of good is possible - there is a high enough possibility for a person to make the right choice in a morally-critical matter. But to expect a large population people separated into groups (that last bit is key) to cooperate for the betterment of humankind - that's pushing it. It is essentially the Prisoners' Dilemma portrayed on screen, a more advanced kind. (And Prisoners' Dilemma is a form of game theory.)
Now, what is the solution to Prisoners' Dilemma - two convicts locked up in two different rooms given the same deal by the detective where any one convict snitching offers a not-too unfavourable outcome but with a higher probability than both convicts not snitching at all? The solution is to snitch. Is it possible for both convicts to not snitch? (So that BOTH get out without jail.) Yes. It's possible. However, let us now consider probabilities. You have two massive groups of convicts locked in each cell. They talk. They suggest scenarios. They complicate and project into the future. Do you hear the probabilities of both sides not destroying each other dropping like a thud? I do.
Heck, if Kennedy and Khruschev didn't have a private phone line back in '62 ... Got my point?
And here's the brilliant thing about the film. It got me talking about economics. And history. Or, at at baser level, it prompted me to reveal my worldview. Which is at the pessimistic side.
A film that surprises. That goes deeper than most films dare. That allows itself (and is allowed) to be sophisticated.
If only HALF of our films are like this. (We need the other half to be funny.)
To Benji: I still don't think The Dark Knight is 'the best film in the history of film'. Come on ... Titanic is still the perfect (as in more than best) example of filmmaking. Also, do you see know why Franka Potente is killed off in The Bourne Supremacy? It creates more drama that the rest of the film feeds off on - just like in The Dark Knight.
To Arivind and Lu: I am fucked. I can't use the bomb-in-the-stomach gimmick anymore. My heart sank when I heard the words "My insides hurts ..." about 1 3/4 hours into The Dark Knight. This is why you never wait to do a script ... Also, I have to admit The Joker beats The Algerian hands down ... I think?
How Good I Think The Film Is: 9.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 8.5/10
Oscar Noms That It Deserved: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing
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A lot of bloggers will say tonight that clearly Anwar is the better debater and that Shabery is a coward for relying on personal attacks and frequent mentioning of Anwar's past history. It is true. But most bloggers are PR supporters.
I think about this from a different angle. I think Shabery is a huge improvement over our previous Information Minister. He's not as eloquent as Anwar, alas - but thanks to the really low standards set by Zam, boy, I'm beginning to like this guy a bit more. First of all, give credit where it's due - Shabery facilitated the Parlimen broadcasts and this public debate. He's not as confrontational (read: foolish loud-mouth who sounds off before thinking ... which Zam definitely was in the interview with al-Jazeera), and although clearly he wasn't as cunning or clever as Anwar, at least he wasn't childish, which so many of our politicians were. (Prime example: Samy Vellu.)
As we know, not all BN politicians are bad. One thing this last election result has allowed us to do is that we have more choices in terms of politicians to pick for our MPs. This current 5-year period is a good chance for us to see the performance of those who are picked now. And I believe, just as there are PR MPs that we want to drop, there are some BN MPs that we want to keep. At least for now, Shabery is one of those I would like to see voted in again.
Now, Shabery's style of argument IS weak. This is what I think. The difference between Anwar's style and Shabery's style is that Anwar's is more Western, or proper, if you will, whereas Shabery's is very Malay, rather similar to what you see in the Parlimen.
What I mean is, Anwar would pull out facts and figures, in particular points that are as relevant to the matter at hand as possible, and call out to attention when the opposition doesn't do so. Stay away from comments of a personal nature. Elaborate, and support your points. This is, well, the correct way to debate.
There is one point when Anwar was being cheeky: when he was to ask a question of Shabery, he spent 80% of his 'question' attacking Shabery's points, who obviously noticed and asks "Ini soalan ke atau ...?". The question is slightly vague as I recall and Shabery definitely screwed that one up with more personal attacks.
Now, when I say Malay style, it's just that I notice it is inherent in Malay culture to stoop to personal attacks, usually in the form of sarcastic or ironic comments. Sindiran, you know? I still find it odd today, whenever I watch the Parlimen broadcasts, that MPs would stand up and comment on the previous MP in a sarcastic tone (deadpan, or with a cheeky smile, etc) before going into his statement. What the hell is the point of that? Oh, I know, MPs in the British parliament do that. However, it sounds smarter there (just watch how Tony Blair does it, it's fascinating) - but in Malaysia it just feels like a cheap shot.
Now, that really doesn't work in a debate, when you have time limits. Why waste your precious seconds commenting on the opposition, when you are supposed to win over people to your point-of-view?
The only other explanation is that Shabery is using the opportunity to discredit Anwar by pointing out inconsistencies between old Anwar and new Anwar - similar to Bush calling John Kerry a flip-flopper and thus successfully pushing Kerry down the presidential contest. Or perhaps Shabery thought he was going into a US-presidential style debate, while Anwar rightly figured he should stick to the ISSUE as close as possible to present the right image to the people watching the debate.
One more thing. Shabery quite often goes off-kilter and doesn't actually answer the question. In fact, he repeated the same points throughout the debate. At least Anwar brings in different facts and different points of view at each speech - I notice how he hunches down to consult his notes occasionally. On the other hand, if you pay very close attention, there were moments when Anwar wasn't answering the question as well - or at least going a big round before touching upon it. Which isn't breaking the rules.
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Here are a few that you should definitely consider buying. Some sample music tracks included here to prove to you how good these scores are.
Example Track: Why So Serious?
The first minute of the score made me doubt that what I was listening to was indeed the music to The Dark Knight, which is not technically released till 15th July. It sounded like Zimmer and Howard have suddenly turned into Jonny Greenwood and scoring There Will Be Blood instead. It was only the second track that the music began to resemble - but still not entirely - the score to Batman Begins.
In fact, this first track, Why So Serious?, obviously accompanies the bank robbery sequence in the beginning of the film by The Joker - and it's as if The Joker had hijacked everything about the film so that it no longer resembles Batman. 3.5 minutes into the first track, there's a naughty little thing it does there where the music just disappears and first-time listeners will think it's a glitch - in fact, the music resumes after a while.
Throughout the rest of the score, you will hear bits and pieces of The Joker return, as if to push out Batman's space and reclaim it as its own. But then, much of the rest of the score does something completely different from Batman Begins. You will hear bits and pieces of motifs from the first film come in, and then it disappears or varies into something new.
Actually, I hear a little bit of Zimmer's The Last Samurai as well as The Da Vinci Code in parts of the score.
I wasn't exactly a big fan of the Batman Begins score, and used to be perplexed and bewildered as to why a whole generation of people who don't usually listen to scores got obsessed over it. This time, I found the music interesting - mostly I'm drawn to the oddness of The Joker's intrusive theme - but otherwise there isn't a lot of exciting or heroic music going on.
Example Tracks: Mortal, Death And Transfiguration
John Powell's score to Hancock more than certainly lifted the film beyond what it was if it had been scored by someone else. The score encompasses a much more dynamic genre range than most films - from comedy to action comedy to little suggestions of bittersweet romance to drama to the bombastic superhero music which only appears at the last ten minutes of the film. In other words, this isn't a typical superhero movie, as many viewers found to their chagrin. It's not even a comic-book superhero origins film. Our superhero only finds out the meaning of his kind of life at the end of the film, which is when he realises how to be a superhero and the music accordingly discovers its bombastic heroic voice.
The result is a pretty eclectic score. The comedic tracks remind one of Powell's The Italian Job, with very playful but powerful percussions driving it all the way. And then there are the poignant bits, which definitely made the scenes emotional. In particular, the track Mortal, which starts off with loud percussions narrating the bit when Hancock is in unexpected trouble, before it evolves into a bittersweet guitar melody. This track is so beautiful, no other track I've listened to this year has obsessed me so.
One reviewer said that the film didn't have enough superhero music. For that I just need to direct your attention to Death And Transfiguration. The music starts off slow, but quickly builds itself to a series of rising crescendos with increasingly faster beats, as if leaping onto higher and higher launchpads. It is the most emotionally heroic theme Powell has written since X-Men 3.
The best film score of the year thus far.
Example Track: The Greatest Tragedy
Stop-Loss is a little known film by the director of Boys Don't Cry. It's pure drama, involving the lives of US soldiers, set in Texas, and deals with the Iraq war. Here Powell has written a beautiful theme that weaves in and out of the score and then develops into a triumphant rendition in the last track, The Greatest Tragedy. This theme is very touching, alternately led by violins, then piano, then the trumpet, and underscored by military drums.
Example Tracks: Eve, Foreign Contaminant
Thomas Newman first scored a Pixar film when he did Finding Nemo - in fact, the first time a Pixar film wasn't scored by his cousin Randy Newman. Then, I was absolutely gobsmacked by how Newman had somehow retained the Disneyness of the music while still sounding very much like a 'Thomas Newman score' with its eccentric quirky style. The score was at times relaxing, touching, nostalgic, sad, determined. It was a remarkable achievement that deserved its Oscar nomination.
Wall•E, however, was disappointing as far as a Newman score goes in that there wasn't a single memorable track out of 38. The best track, surprisingly, was the film's theme song sung by Peter Gabriel, Down To Earth.
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I first heard about Hancock about a year ago when some of my film school classmates mentioned about a Will Smith and Charlize Theron movie shooting down at Hollywood Blvd in front of the Kodak Theater - causing jams as they had to seal up the road for the shoot, just like for the Oscars. That didn't make sense to me coz I thought 'Hancock' would be about the historical figure which lent the word 'signature' its nickname. So I IMDb'd it and found that it's an action comedy about a superhero named Hancock. That's where I left it.
(Short note. I lived about 4 mins walk away from where Hancock dumps the car in the opening action sequence, while the Kodak Theater was barely 25 mins walk away.)
Returning home to Malaysia, I've seen a little more than half a dozen movies at the cinema now and more than half of them feature the trailer to Hancock. (Though I wished they had shown the teaser instead, with the cute kid going 'Hancock!', wham, 'Hancock!', wham.) Probably the most aggressive marketing campaign around here, along with Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D.
Then reviews trickled out from the US that the film is Will Smith's new Wild Wild West - i.e. will be much derided. So I entered the cinema with rather lowered expectations.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. American film critics should be shot. (Not all of them. And they're not the only ones I disagree with.) 35% at Rotten Tomatoes for this film ... and they gave Wanted 72%. C'mon!
Hancock is a solidly-scripted movie aided by a capable director with a cast chosen based not just on star power but also their ability to perform onscreen. What? Some of you say.
Solidly scripted, because before the movie reaches its halfway point, we've seen pretty much everything that was shown in the trailer - which was indicating that the story would be about the prodigal superhero. Then things change; as many noted, there is a twist in the story. Now, don't complain, because the twist is very, very well foreshadowed. It's a surprise, yes, but don't say the filmmakers didn't prepare you for it.
Instead of a prodigal superhero movie, really, we get something different, a story which didn't have a template or previous incarnation as far as I can remember. And what that allows is a story that is completely unpredictable - I don't know what's going to happen next, and I certainly don't know how the story will end.
Now, that doesn't mean the filmmakers are out of the water at this point - they still need to deliver an ending that is satisfying. Guess what? They did. You can disagree with me on this point, doesn't matter - but you have to concede that the filmmakers went for something original ... and probably got burnt for it. It'll be interesting to see how the film fares throughout its theatrical run in the US. (It won't flop in the technical sense, that's for sure, as Will Smith is one of a handful of star actors that can guarantee a box office success.)
The comedy works, and the lines are generally funny. There wasn't a lame joke present in the film - at least that's how I felt. In fact, some of the comedy is downright black, not something you see in Hollywood comedies often. I have to say though, it's annoying watching this in a Malaysian cinema, when they allowed one 'fuck' to get through but censored the 35 mentions of 'asshole'.
The actors were great. Will Smith, as usual, brings his charisma into the role, and plays the character exactly as it should be played. As for Theron and Bateman, there was a moment where I was thinking about the fact that they were both together too in the first half of Season 3 of Arrested Development, playing very different kinds of characters. That didn't last long. Again, both completely suited to play their roles, and they pull off a good job.
The music ... I was trying to place who it was, and kept going towards Danny Elfman as Elfman composed for Peter Berg's last film, The Kingdom - a very different film, by the way. Turns out it's my favourite composer. The music was touching and exciting at turns, but usually just falls back into the background and allows the movie to tell itself.
Now, Peter Berg. He utilises his own brand of shaky handheld camera style - different from Greengrass, probably slightly similar to Michael Mann whom he's often associated with lately. It's interesting to use it here in this action thriller (which, by the way, costs more than Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven), though I don't think it would've been better or worse if a less shaky camera style (and thus more acceptable to the general audience) was used. His direction is good in that I did not notice it.
I thought I saw Akiva Goldsman somewhere ...
It was mentioned that the film was sliced down from its R-rating to the current length of about 90 mins. Shame on the studio, its Jumper all over again. It sounds like the extra length would've gone further to explain some of the loose ends that were left at the end of the film for the viewers who needed it. That's why you get comments such as "... the film is full of empty patches: not plot-holes exactly, but spots where it seems we aren't getting a full movie."
Another comment by a film critic was that he didn't like the plot twist because it was "as if an entire new movie starts up halfway through the film". You betcha, baby, that's what makes the film interesting and in this case, I actually think it works.
While I wouldn't saw the film is flawless – just that the film is so entertaining that its flaws are negligible – ultimately, I have to say that this is one of the best films of the year.
"Hancock" is an original creation, not based on a comic book series. It lacks the fable-like quality that comic book adaptations have at their best, but it also lacks the compressed, frenetic, action-packed-nonsense quality of comic book adaptations at their worst. Not limited by what some writer thought up 40 years ago, the filmmakers attempt to break into new territory with "Hancock." They look at the whole superhero thing with fresh eyes, even to the extent of examining - to the degree the blockbuster form permits (not much) - the spiritual implications of such beings walking the earth. In "Hancock," the word "superheroes" is merely a secular term for what a more religious age called "angels" and the pagans called "gods." Nice idea.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 7/10
How Much I Liked It: 8.5/10
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And all I have is one little credit to a short film that I did the sound editing for.
However, hone into the words '1 nomination'.
Now, an Awards section on an IMDb page is harder to muster. You would have to, for example, at least get your film (feature or short or documentary or animation) to a film festival and be nominated for something, or be part of its selection.
So, as small an accolade as this is, it does feel gratifying. So there.
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