The Dark Knight Rises Syndrome
Even mature, educated types who feel they have more nous than those ‘fick people what have become an irritant on twitter’ would have headed to see the new Batman film with the sort of stirring in their y-fronts not experienced since they stayed up past 11 to watch the Red Shoe Diaries on Channel 5 as a teenager.
The first film is actually pretty decent, but given the mediocrity of comic book adaptations to that point, making a film which doesn’t p**s $200 billion away on crass CGI and is fairly well acted creates the sort of anticipation that greeted the markedly superior follow-up. Heath Ledger’s mesmeric performance, as well as the sad events which followed the film’s production, was enough to paper over any failings (which nobody wanted to be the one to mention), and so we had what many comic-con geeks hailed to be the greatest film, ever (sorry Flash Gordon devotees!) – and Chris Nolan the most admired director working in tinseltown…well, ever (obviously).
As long as Nolan took up the reins on the third film (and Sam Raimi’s ego was allowed nowhere near), then the PR machine could have ticked all the boxes (drip feeding poster art, production shots, YouTube teasers – maybe get Christian Bale abusing the old tea lady), and they’d have ensured a few months making the sort of money at the box office that keeps the rest of the industry afloat to bring us less commercial, intelligent and challenging fare (John Carter and the like).
Of course, us world cinema devotees feel quite smug and superior that we aren’t limited to watching what mainstream media dictates.
What they probably didn’t expect was for every critic working in the UK to develop what is commonly known as ‘Be Here Now anxiety’ (you know, where you kind of thought the first two releases were okay, but the overwhelming success that followed dictates that whatever your true feelings on this third effort, you just have to give it 5-stars and hail it as the greatest creation of our time – you want to say it’s not that good but THINK!! If you slag it off and then it goes on to make another billion, you are going to look like a bit of a plonker. More importantly, who knows how many freebies you’ll miss out on in future?!). So now, even those who pick up a DVD from an ailing Blockbuster store once a year on a ‘treat night’ were going to be heading to their local overpriced popcorn retailer for a chat and to clean the soles of their shoes on the seat in front expecting ‘that film what goes with it’ to deliver on gargantuan proportions.
It’s little surprise that many people have come away from the new Batman movie feeling a little underwhelmed. They’ve still got the same crappy job; their still going through the motions in their relationship; there’s not much money (in fact, even less now they spent £40 on popcorn, with a movie) – the film really hasn’t delivered on that life-changing ‘promise’.
The film is in fact excellent, and rewards far more on second viewing (to relive the Dark Knight Rises, head over to casino.ladbrokes.com to play the new Batman slots game. Can you save Gotham City and win the jackpot?) when you aren’t expecting the conservative party to have been ousted from government and the economy to no longer find itself on its knees, and not just in that ‘good for Hollywood’ kind of way (a Coen Brothers film, for instance). Of course, us world cinema devotees feel quite smug and superior that we aren’t limited to watching what mainstream media dictates, and thanks to being treated royally over the last twelve months with the likes of A Separation and The Skin I Live In, all this fuss has been a bit, well, meh – but even foreign films can fall foul of the hype machine.
Here, I count down the 5 films which truly failed to live up to the hard sell (no synopsises necessary, surely?)…
05. NIGHT WATCH
This was before I really fell in love with world cinema (when I could still make it to the end of a Keanu Reeves movie). I remember seeing a trailer, likely before some Bruckheimer produced diarrhoea, in the cinema and thinking this was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Dark, twisted…and completely bonkers!
This initial impression was only reinforced when the reviews began to surface, comparing the film to the likes of the Matrix, and with talk of the forces of light vs darkness and a potential trilogy to match the LOTR saga – sorry, I thought these were good films at the time, shoot me.
In fairness, the film does look good – in fact, it lives up to the trailer’s promises, but that just makes it impossible to follow! And for a film which should have struggled to cram as much as possible from a fairly sizeable novel, it spends a whole lot of time telling us nothing and going absolutely nowhere.
Clearly the prime concern was to make a big blockbuster film which looked great, but like the Bruckheimer film I was probably about to watch when I saw the initial trailer, it lacks any substance.
Sequel Day Watch followed just two years later, and is actually even more muddled than the first entry (again, it looks fantastic), and despite both films faring well at the box office, it seems everyone concerned wisely chose to cut their losses whilst they were still ahead, and the final instalment, Twilight Watch, has yet to go into production six years on.
It’s a surprise I stuck with world cinema, but then I wouldn’t have seen…
It seems harsh to criticise a film which is highlighting such an important issue, and Tsotsi is not an awful movie by any means – at least, unlike Night Watch, it was delivered in a way my small brain was able to comprehend and could follow (but then I was still watching the Hollyoaks omnibus religiously every Sunday morning at this point for my ‘drama’).
In fact, had I not seen City Of God a few months prior, it may well have not found itself on this list. Fernando Meirelles’ depiction of the gang lifestyle many of Rio de Janeiro’s underprivileged youths are forced into is unmissable, and the comparison for Tsotsi is unavoidable. With Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA success in the bag also, the film really had to deliver in a big way. You know where this is heading…
It’s almost as if the Academy realised they failed to duly reward City Of God three years earlier (missing out on the four gongs it was nominated for – and not even making the final cut in the Foreign Film category), and took the next available opportunity, whatever the quality, to put things right. They didn’t seem to care that the acting is passable at best, the story is contrived, at times cringe worthy, and the production lends the air of soap opera to many scenes.
If this was a made-for-TV film showing one afternoon on Channel 5, I could see my cheap TV guide awarding it 3-stars (which roughly translates to “surprisingly good and watchable, all things considered”), but the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film? I don’t think so…
03. BATTLE ROYALE
I’ve met very few world cinema fans who do not rate Battle Royale as one of their all-time favourite films. In fact, even non foreign language film fans may have seen and enjoyed this film. And if you read the synopsis, or you’ve seen Jonathan Ross’ comments, it all makes sense. How could it not be insanely brilliant?! Have you read the synopsis?!
Ultimately, the premise promises far more than the reality. Perhaps I’ve become desensitised, but for a film loved and loathed for its graphic violence, the kills are unspectacular, growing quickly tiresome given their frequency – and it’s really nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. Yes, we know it’s making an ‘important’ comment on society today (or yesterday – it is twelve years old), and the dangers of reality TV (that was covered in the first twenty minutes)… It’s still repetitive and boring – and that takes some achieving considering how energetically everyone involved throws themselves into a short running time.
The only saving grace is the performance of Beat Takashi, who somehow always manages to steal the show despite doing very little – and doing that very little the same way in every film.
02. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
Okay, let’s ignore the slightly dodgy premise for a comedy. In fact, the premise promises a film that will live up to that Oscar success and the gushing praise from all and sundry, because who would have the balls?!
The jovial, almost slapstick humour brought about a few smirks early on, but the goofy, attention seeking antics of Roberto Benigni becomes unbearable – it’s like laughing at something your 6-year-old niece has done, and then she does it over, and over, and over, and over…! We spend half the film with this irritation, before the ‘serious second half’ where the plot holes and the lack of any semblance of realism ensure the point is seriously missed!
It’s clear what the intention was for this film, and had that been realised I could understand why this film is so adored, but the ‘funny’ half is not funny, and the serious half is unable to generate any empathy for its characters. You can forgive Roberto for trivialising these events because you have to believe his heart is in the right place, and perhaps that is what has won it so much favour (how could you not like it?! Do you not have a heart?!), but as a comedy, it’s not funny – as a film, it’s just not very good.
Don’t get me started on the ending!
01. THE ARTIST
Many of the best films from yesteryear are silents. The likes of Metropolis and Nosferatu didn’t need cleverly scripted exchanges, painstakingly crafted for months on end by a group who could never have had time to have an actual conversation in real life, to manipulate audiences – and in the age of talking bulls**t, it made sense that the alternative would be a return to simpler times.
Okay, I didn’t initially have such lofty expectations for The Artist – if you’ve seen the likes of OSS 117, Ca$h and Lucky Luke, you’ll understand why. Jean Dujardin, good looking chap he may be, makes Rob Schneider look like a comic acting genius. But no, everyone assured me of this film’s brilliance – and every award ceremony was falling over themselves to press upon me how this was a return to a golden age of movie making magic (I guess I should have learned my lesson already).
The ear-splitting music and over-the-top facial expressions and actions begin to grate almost immediately, but 10 minutes in I could feel my blood boiling – and very few films make me angry. This wasn’t the graceful and subtle mastery I was used to from my silent movie favourites – this was silent movies made for the generation that needs everything to be in their face, spelt out for them…a silent movie shouting as loudly as possible in every other way available to it. And it’s still dull!
It may well be Jean Dujardin’s best film to date, but (even) Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo this ain’t.
Let us know which films you’ve seen that never delivered on the hype in the comments section below.
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