A few words on the subject
A few words on the subject
A Few Words On January 2012
A few words on seasons not in the sun, the name game and convenient fantasies
A few words on February, March and April 2012
Y’see, the thing is, there’s been other things going on.
I’m too full of listlessness to list them. But I’ve been up to all sorts of nonsense. Depending on how long I spend with you now, I may touch on the highlights, as Peter Stringfellow’s barber likes to say. But I may simply draw a line ‘neath the last ooooh, blimey, must be, cor blummen’ ‘eck, three months.
Three months. Jesus H Corbett, that’s a whole season. (Not that the idea of seasons frankly means anything anymore. Do you remember seasons? From when you were a kid? For those under 30 who are with us today, here’s what they were:
The year used to be divided up into 4 equal parts. Spring Summer Autumn & Winter. Each one got three months to call its own. Eg. Summer got to have June, July & August; Winter got Dec, Jan & Feb and so on. The segments were marked by something we used to call “changes in the weather.” Spring was showery and warm, Summer was hot and dry, Autumn was windy and grey, Winter was snowy and cold. And so it went on. I’m not really sure when seasons as an idea were abandoned. When it started being a bit damp and overcast with sunny periods and light showers pretty much all of the fucking time.
In the old days, t.v. weather forecasters (who used to be called “weathergirls” – what an innocent time) had an array of sticky signs they used to slap on Velcro boards. Suns, clouds, lightening and so on. These days they have one. And it looks like this:
Which is fucking helpful.
Finally on this tedious topic. There is, under 30s of you out there, a pizza topping called the “4 Seasons.” It’s been updated now to better reflect our climate. A bit of it is burnt, some is still frozen, it’s all a bit damp and, while it’s not bad by and large, it’s largely disappointing and not what you expected.
There was also a band, if I recall, called “Frankie Vallie and The Four Seasons.” I have just wikipediaered them. They were Frankie Vallie (vocals), Donna Summer (guitar), Bernie Winters (bass), Bruce “Spring”steen on drums and ….fuck this joke doesn’t work. Why is there no-one called Autumn?
Let me find out…
Ha! Okay, so here’s a treat for you. There is a marvellous web page where folks (mostly American women) have posted their thoughts on “Autumn” as a girl’s name. Here are my favourite remarks:
“Our daughter’s name is Autumn Rain and we have had a lot of people call her Adam also. But I love her name because it is not very common. My husband and I always had very common names and we didn’t want our daughters to be like that too.” –GeminiBear618
Excellent. “My husband and I always had very common names” says Gemini Bear. (Her husband Scorpio Elk declined to comment.
“My name is Autumn and I like it because it's not common. Also there's another girl at my school whose name is Autumn.”
Splendid. Autumn, you are a twerp. More utter drivel from scrapbooking clapboard-housed titwits here:
Sorry, I got distracted. I am slightly loving this website. I defy you not to put your own name in and click on the “comments” section on the right hand side. Here is a lovely, not in any way fatuous or sweeping or drivelly comment made about my name:
“I love this name, but unfortunately it’s associated with anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner who greatly influenced Hitler.” – bananarama 9/20/2008
Hmm, Bananarama is right, it’s a constant thorn in my side.
“Hello, my name is Richard Asplin.”
“Richard? Woah…like Richard Wagner?”
“But he, like, was an anti-Semitic composer who greatly influenced Hitler. You better watch your’self there, you…you…you Nazi Namesake.”
Oddly, the name “Bananarama” doesn’t appear on the website.
It is not surprising I allowed myself to get all distracted by a tedious website (much as you are now, in fact) as my reading alternative is too painful to consider.
You may recall I was embarking on a project to try and read as many novels from the BBC Big Read list as possible this year. You may not recall this, of course. It makes little difference either way.
Well I started famously, as my small review on this very site will attest. So far I got through nineteen of the fuckers. Highlight “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest” / Lowlight “Great fuckin Expecatations” (oh the irony). So there I was promptly plodding my way through some marvellous literature, a new book every 10 days or so. Reading on the bus, reading on the train, reading on the loo, reading sat up in bed, reading in the reading area of the lounge (a brown armchair under a standard lamp next to some bookshelves).
Well I’ll give you some reviews of the stuff I’ve read over the next few days or weeks before we get to the one that has absolutely stopped me in my tracks and made me question the whole damned exercise.
Northern Lights Philip Pullman (1995)
Right. Well first off, this was my own fault. This never should have made the cut. As you may recall, I deliberately culled anything that was a bit “fantasy-y” (swathes of Pratchett and a bucket of Tolkien) and anything remotely resembling a children’s book (Jackie Wilson, Hungry Caterpillars et al). For reasons passing understand however, Northern Lights (which is fucking BOTH) remained on the list. A mixture, I think, of it having bloody good reviews, being a fave’ of people I know and respect and some rumour I heard about it being a sort of pro-rationality/anti-religious epic. Which is guaranteed to light up my bunsen burners like billy-oh.
So I packed vol. 1 in my gunny sack and hauled Morroco-wards on my summer holiday with my charming missus. (I also had the new Stephen King, some Louisa May Alcott and a Stella Gibbons to tide me over).
But no. No no no. I should have trusted my instincts on this one. I don’t much like fantasy and I can’t much abide “teen” novels.
NOTE: There is an exception to the teen novel thing. This lies in the extraordinarily clever, witty, laugh out loud funny and gloriously subversive work by Louise Rennison. I can recommend with full throated joy any of the following:
Angus, Thongs & Full Frontal Snogging
It’s Okay, I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers
Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas
Dancing In My Nuddy-Pants
And That’s When It Fell Off In My Hand
Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers
Startled By His Furry Shorts
Luuurve Is A Many Trousered Thing.
If these titles don’t fill you with a warm sort of smile in the heart, then damn you to hell and back via Heston Services. NOTE OVER.
My problem with Northern Lights isn’t, however, in it’s teen-ness, nor it’s fanstasy-ness, which is odd. My problem is the writing.
“But it’s a kid’s book?!”
Nope. Not an excuse. A couple of examples to make my case:
Exhibit a – Oh too convenient manipulation of characters to fit the story.
Perhaps, she thought calmly, whatever moves the alethiometer’s needle is making the Aurora glow too. It might even be Dust itself. She thought that without noticing she thought it, and she soon forgot it, and only remembered it much later. pp.183
Well where to begin with this? In order to show Lyra’s intelligence, Pullman has her make a link between the glow of the Aurora and the needle’s movements. But annoyingly, if she knows this, it’s going to lead her to ask questions and make decisions later in the book which he doesn’t want her to make. So she conveniently forgets it for just as long as it takes for it to suit the story Pullman is writing, at which point she conveniently recalls this observation when it suits the story.
If you have created a smart character who is so smart they’re going to figure out key plot points too early GO BACK IN THE NEXT DRAFT AND MAKE HER LESS SMART. Or forgetful. Or absentminded. This way is just lazy.
Then she dragged a bag of flour from a shelf and hurled it at the edge of the table so it burst and filled the air with white because she’d heard that flour would explode if treated like that near a flame.pp.286
Right. She’d heard. Bloody conveniently as she’s in a tight corner.
Annoyingly it doesn’t take much to fix this. Just have her witness this experiment earlier on in the book, maybe at school or in a lab or whatever. “Be careful with the flour Lyra,” her teacher might say, “flour will explode if treated like that near a flame.” Righto, she says. Then later on, BING! We know what she’s doing and why.
Exhibit b – Oh too convenient “anything goes in fantasy books” to get you out of holes.
“Why didn’t their daemons find me though?” she asked afterwards and Ma showed her the lining of the secret space: cedarwood, which had a soporific effect on daemons; and it was true that Pantalaimon had spent the whole time happily asleep by Lyra’s head. pp.112
Oh I see. So there they are, surrounded by daemons which should be able to spot her. But that isn’t what Pullman wants to happen. He needs her to get through without being found. So a-ha! The box she was hiding in is made of cedarwood that puts daemons to sleep. Of course it does. Not that this has EVER BEEN MENTIONED BEFORE.
This is kind of my overall problem with books of this genre. Because the author creates the world and all the rules in it, rules can be invented on the spot to get people in or out of whatever situation the author has put them in.
Bond movies do this too, of course. But at least the writers are smart enough to go back in the second draft and add the “pay attention double oh seven” scene when he’s GIVEN all his emergency “tea-bag that turns into a scuba diving repair kit” gadget.
And also who can ever forget Batman, the 1966 colour motion picture in which Batman as attacked by a shark and pulls from his utility belt some Shark Repellent Bat Spray.
But this is a JOKE. A campy silly preposterous turn of events to have us groan and smile.
JK Rowling doesn’t escape this either which is another reason I find her teen-wizard adventures just too damned easy. They have spells? Right, so why not cast a spell that makes all the students learn a year’s worth of study in 5 minutes? Or why not have a gobstopper that makes everyone who eats it learn at twice the pace? Oh, because magic doesn’t work like that. Right, Joanna. Right. Because of immovable rules of magic or because it would fuck the plot into a choosing hat? Magic and mystery in bad fantasy does whatever the writer NEEDS it to do so they can tell their story.
And it’s annoying, that’s all. Annoying.
“But it’s a book for kids?!”
Piss off. That’s not an excuse. Mr Tickle doesn’t need this sort of crowbar nonsense.
Anyhoo, I’ve got myself all riled now which wasn’t the point.
And I’ve kept you too long. So I’ll wrap this up.
Lots more to discuss later, including two marvellous books with “The Day Of...” in the title. So I’ll see you again soonish.
Love to all
Well it’s Sunday afternoon, just around the twelvty thirty point. I return in damp weather from the gymnasium where I have fannied and spasmed and twitched and not in any real way controlled my “core” as I bent and lifted and benched and pulled and whatnot for an hour plus stretches.
It’s annoying that it’s so damp and rainy as I had every good intention of getting out in the garden (aka the balcony bit outside our kitchen), rolling up my sleeves (aka wearing a short sleeved shirt) and tidying the garden (aka throwing dead tomato plants into bin bags and sweeping fag butts down the drain). But in this weather it doesn’t seem a smart idea.
So I’m here, in the study, next to a John Lewis wooden clothes horse draped in wet denim, sipping tea, talking to you and trying NOT to have a cigarette.
It seems odd that I’ve not guffed out any thoughts whatsoever on the little Sports Day we’re having in the park at the moment. That’s because I don’t really have an opinion on it of any value as a. insightful b. educated c. funny in a sort of sarky way. I really don’t. Perhaps I’ll try and have one now.
(time passes...Richard stares into space...it starts to rain again, or the people in the flat upstairs are draining their washing machine down the guttering, he can’t be bothered to check which...)
I mean, like many confused middle class people, I am conflicted about many aspects of the Olympic event. Here are things that bother me:
1. I don’t know what schools or teachers cost. I don’t. But I still posit you could get quite a lot of them for £10billion. Which would be a better thing to spend the money on.
2. Durr, there wouldn’t be £10billion to spend on schools or teachers as much of the money surely has come from private firms and advertising and whatnot. Who want to build Olympic Parks. And don’t really want to build Biology blocks or boys toilets. So that’s moot and daft.
3. I know it’s moot and daft.
4. If you took all the time that Olympians spent working-out, training and beefing themselves up to shave a tenth of a second from a time or add a tenth of a centimetre to a distance, and asked them to do charity work instead, the world might be nicer.
5. But it actually wouldn’t be nicer. Because despite ALL sports people, without exception, being utterly self obsessed and training your body for 8hrs a day to be able to throw a javelin isn’t remarkably different to tattooing yourself 8hrs or day, tanning yourself 8hrs a day or mainlining Viagra and masturbating for 8hrs a day frankly, many folk find them inspiring.
6. When I was at school, sporty types had broad shoulders and fine manly arms and by and large weren’t very interesting. Similarly, folk who really love their sport of choice (soccer, cricket, rugby and such) find it hard to understand why other people don’t. And as a consequence, when I respond “no, I didn’t watch it, I’m not really interested,” to their opening gambit about the 6 nations/FA cup final/Ashes etc, will – more often than not, go on to talk about it. A lot. As if the reason I don’t care who can hit a ball further than anyone else is that I haven’t understood it. Which I have. I’m just not interested.
7. Despite all the tedious anti-sport drivel above, I did catch the women’s cycling yesterday in which Team GB beat the team from the US at pursuit and I sort of choked up a bit and I don’t know why. But I felt a bit patriotic and proud and also a bit cross with myself for being sucked in to the whole jingoistic flag waving nonsense of the whole thing.
8. As I’ve just come back from the gym, so you can pretty much ignore everything I just said as confused hypocritical tosswipe of the first order.
My wife has tickets for the athletics on Friday however I have given my one up to a friend who will get much more excited about people running and jumping than I will. I’m sure they’ll have a grand old time.
ASIDE: I was just outside for a moment enjoying a cuppa in the wet summer sunshine and I got chatting to our neighbours. A black family, the father of who was out in a singlet glugging bottled water and who’s young daughter was doing that talking-to-herself amusement thing that little kids do that is quite charming.
I greeted the dad with my now-standard “hey boss,” which I guess is sort of patronising but gets me through sticky spots with strangers / plumbers / taxi drivers / men with bigger forearms than me.
He responded “hey, big man.” Which is a fucking first I can’t imagine will catch on.
The young girl then approached the fence that separates our two scrappy concrete dead-pot-plant outdoorsy-bits and asked me my name. I told her. I then asked her her’s.
“Foster,” she said proudly.
I told her this was a very cool name and that she was the only person called “Foster” I had ever met. She went back to her smiling dad singing her name.
It wasn’t until I was draining my teacup that it occurred to me that, yes, Foster is a kind of cool name for a young black girl. But if he’d then introduced me to his other kids and they were called “Adopted, Drunk Mistake and Marriage Patcher,” then Foster would stop being cool and actually be pretty unpleasant. ASIDE ENDS.
I posted my collected book and movie reviews on Amazon last week in order to spread the drivel and ill informed arsewash of my opinion into the wider world. If you’re remotely interested, they’re collected here:
Since then I have had 1 person tick my review of The Thirty Nine Steps as “helpful,” which is nice. And one other person add a comment to my review of Pride & Prejudice saying that, as it appears I prefer Jeffery Archer (which, if you read the review it rather does suggest...as a fucking joke), that “it explains it all really.”
This comment was posted by someone calling themselves Jane Austen. I’m not kidding. Look, here it is:
I doubt therefore, I’m getting much a distanced or detached viewpoint. Ahhh the web. Starter of bickering snipes the world over.
Finally, because the sun is out and the garden definitely needs some love and care (aka scraping up and binning en masse) I’ll sling you my thoughts on two of the most splendid days you might ever want to spend.
The Day Of The Triffids (John Wyndham 1951)
Now for some of you, this will mean one thing. A rather frightening (but not actually sure if it IS frightening as I haven’t seen it since 1981 when it was broadcast) BBC TV adaptation. Here’s what I remember about it:
1. A man with a beard wandered around a still and spooky empty London town.
2. The plants were a bit Dr. Who but made a dolphin-y clicky noise.
3. I have no idea how it ended or anything more than the above.
The younger of you will p’raps recall a more modern version with Eddie Izzard in it back in 2009. I watched some of this hoping it would be all scary and haunting like my 1981 memory. It wasn’t. I’m not blaming Eddie Izzard for this. Merely the folk who cast him.
Anyhoo, the book appears on the BBC Big Read list at the excellent spot of 120. (Between Clavell’s Shogun and Wilson’s Lola Rose). And it is, by and large, brilliant. Wyndham creates a genuinely eerie empty England, full of bleak deserted streets and wind blown litter, punctuated by the desperate shrieks of the blinded staggering about helplessly. The plants are oddly chilling, hovering as they do in sinister groups, developing consciousness and hunting patterns. Our characters struggle with coping without government or supplies, groups cropping up claiming to lead the survivors into a new future and we get many philosophical ideas about what it is to be human, survival over living, our fellow man and other thought provoking whatnot, all the while the clicking and rustling of man eating plants shuffle at the end of the drive waiting waiting patiently to strike. A fantastic chilling apocalypse of a story with a very British bleakness to it. Check it out.
The Day Of The Jackal Frederick Forsyth (1971)
Let’s be frank here. If your weekend was two days, one of the of the triffids and the other one of the Jackal, you’d probably have to have your blood pressure checked. This is where folk like Lee Child learned to write nerve-shredding suspense, techie gun-play, gripping step by step set ups and cat and mouse mindgames to rival Tom and Jerry at their most inventive.
The story pounds along with pace and verve and tourniquet-tight plotting without a wasted word or flabby scene to be found. For those not in the know, the story involves a militant right-wing group called the OAS who feel betrayed by Charles De Gaulle’s grant of independence to Algeria. To wipe him out, they must hire an assassin from abroad who spends the entire book avoiding capture, planning his hit, getting false identities, advanced rifles, swapping cars and identities while the global authorities who have got wind of the plan chase him about Europe, always 5 minutes behind him.
It’s a “dad” book in the best possible way. The assassination is played out in skin itching real time and one has to remember to breath out during the finale for fear of dropping dead. I urge you to give it a try whether you’re a fan of a thriller or not. This is how it’s done. Bourne, Reacher and the rest are the sons of The Jackal. Find out how it began.
Okay so I did the garden. I now have 8 heavy weight grey refuse sacks full of dead plants, gravelly sopping muddy mush, split plastic flower-pots and broken bamboo. Lord knows how one gets Southwark council to take this lot away. I don’t think I can put them out with the regular bins. So no doubt they will sit there getting damp and withered and crappy all “summer” until they inevitable split and put me right back where I started.
Right, that’s it from me. Just time before dinner to log on to Facebook and scroll through 957 identical posts that say “Yayy! Andy Murray!” Sigh.
Love to all
A few words on Olympiads/Olympi,
and two very memorable days
Okay, hello all.
This was never meant to be a “richard’s half baked reviews” site, as early adopters of my particular brand of mindless areswash will attest. However once in a while cultural events that I need to spout guff about occur so, with that little explanation, here are some thoughts on the movie I saw last night.
Well off the bat, (an unintentional pun and I expect not the only one you’re going to get) we should establish my relationship with Batman.
When I was about nine years old, I took classical guitar lessons from an old Greek fellah who’s name was pronounced Mr Kakouli. I have no idea how it was spelled. I expect not Kakouli. Anyhoo, once a week I would go and sit in a warm room upstairs at the Harrow School Of Music and for half an hour he would nag me about my fingering, my lack of practise, my inability to concentrate, my clumsy arpeggios and general half assedness. This was mainly because I wanted to play guitar like Hank Marvin and Chuck Berry, and struggling with a woody acoustic guitar and a small footstool plucking “adagio #3” with thumb and fingers while trying to remember that all good boys deserved fish didn’t exactly rock my world.
However, one Saturday evening, the Harrow School Of Music was putting on a little concert in a local hall and I was due to be clumsily twanging out “adagio #3” to a fidgety crowd of yawning parents. Regrettably on this Saturday afternoon, I managed to get my finger trapped in the big door to the lounge and my nail went a nasty black colour and I feared this was the end of my performance. I pleaded with my mother that my finger was too sore to be able to play. It wasn’t. I mean, it hurt like buggery. But I wasn’t as crippled as I made out. My main reason for overplaying my distress was that ITV was showing “Batman – The Movie” starring Adam West and Burt Ward at 6pm that night and I muchly wanted to watch this instead of sitting infront of a yawning crowd of fidgety parents.
Postscript: I did the concert. I don’t remember much about it. Apart from thinking then, as I do now, that all the parents would have probably preffered to stay home and watch Batman – The Movie on ITV.
And thus began my love for Batman.
I had a number of Batman Annuals as a boy, lovingly purchased from Jumble Sales (which were indoor car-boot sales, if you’re under 30). The art from these was by the guy who pretty much defined how Batman looked in the 1970s, a talented chap called Neal Adams. He brought a dark, realistic, angry look to Gotham and its inhabitants and, even now, is regarded as one of the finest illustrators to work on The Dark Knight Legend.
Here, for you delight, is what I refer to:
Glorious, I trust you’d agree.
I also recall, at a younger age, I was the proud owner of a brittle plastic mask that my mother bought for me, very much based on the classic Neal Adams look. (The rubber band on the back of that mask, that was a quality item there wasn’t it? The thinnest grey rubber in the world. Copyright Jerry Seinfeld). In my head, as I ran about the scrappy dry garden singing na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na...it looked like this:
Whereas it actually looked like this:
My next and fondest Bat-experience took place at the age of 14 when I sat reading YOU Magazine (the Mail On Sunday colour supplement) one morning over my Cornflakes and stumbled across an article about a new Batman comic book – or “graphic novel” as it seemed it became compulsory to refer to them as – that had taken the US by storm. I stared in wonder at the full page image from this just-released epic with a feeling of shock and awe and overwhelming excitement.
You may be able to imagine what a picture like this does ...
to a boy who grew up with this:
I went out immediately and bought it and devoured it in an afternoon and suddenly Batman was a fierce, angry, sixty year old powerhouse of a man, more reminiscent of Dirty Harry or Robocop than silly SOK POW OOF pantomime.
Next: Summer of 1989, the release of Tim Burton’s eagerly awaited Batman movie starring Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton.
Is it possible to explain how excited I was about this? Those who knew me at the time will attest to my utter sartorial devotion to the upcoming blockbuster, draped as I was in Batman baseball cap, t-shirt, badges and – I shudder to recall – a black and yellow Batman bandana that I tied cowboy style about my neck. Christ, who’d be sixteen again? I collected every article, review, magazine, postcard and tie-in piece of crap I could. This included buying both the Prince BATMAN album (ahhh, that was quite a summer) and the Danny Elfman Orchestral score album – both prior to seeing the movie.
I queued up with wriggling anticipation on the warm Friday evening of August 11th 1989 outside the ABC Cinema in Harrow with my good pal Paul and watched in slightly-disappointed “oh...is that it?” as Burton’s gothic motion picture flickered before me.
Like a good fan-boy I queued up to watch the caped crusader’s diminishing returns in Return in 1992, Forever in 1995 and & Robin in 1997 in a technicolour garish neon car-crash of a horror show. (...ranks among the worst superhero movies of all time... Wikipedia). At which point, my love faded and he became something I thought of fondly as part of my youth.
When precisely Superman, Kal El, The Man Of Tomorrow/The Man Of Steel popped his kiss curl above the parapet and took over my costumed hero fantasies, I frankly haven’t got a clue. I mean, it wasn’t an all the time thing. I recall my good buddy Phil purchased for me a handsome Superman bust as a housewarming present from the now defunct Warner Bros Store on that there London’s Regently Street. Which is the first bit of Superman guff I can remember having.
Question: If I didn’t own any Superman Craporama before this, why did he think this was a good gift? If, however, I DID have lots of Superman guff before this... why? I didn’t watch The Adventures Of Lois & Clark, I didn’t watch The Animated Series? This was about 10 years AFTER the last Superman movie (Quest for peace) and 10 years before the next one (Returns). Where did this loyalty come from? Answers on a Kryptonite postcard if you will.
Anyhow, that doesn’t really matter. Because we’re talking about Batman. For a change.
In 2005 Director Christopher Nolan exploded onto the screen with his debut Caped Crusader feature “Batman Begins.” I, like most, who had distant memories of George Clooney’s rubber nipples, Ahnold “you’re not sending meeee to da coooooler” Schwarzawhassit in glittery makeup and noisy neon nonsense, hoped that this would not be another Joel Schumacher campfest.
And it wasn’t. It was, by and large, absolutely marvellous. And here, fanboy style, are
4 reasons Batman Begins is marvellous.
1. It starts from scratch and takes us from the origins, ignoring ALL movies of all qualities that came before. As far as it is concerned, this is where it starts. No prior knowledge really required.
2. He does his best to cover all the “yeah yeah yeah but how come...” silly questions that spoil the layman’s understanding. Where does he get his costume? How did he get his batmobile? How come he’s so good at fighting? Nolan treats the story with a cold realism alongside the fantasy of a billionaire bachelor using military hardware to wreak revenge on criminals who killed his folks.
3. Michael Caine is one of the worst actors ever to grace the screen. I mean it. No, really, I mean it. He’s awful. Whether he’s bawling and shaahting in Sleuth, talking to himself in Hannah & Her Sisters and Alfie or muckin’ abaaaat in The Italian Job, Caine may be a lot of things but he’s not convincing. And then he pops up in Batman and is a joy.
4. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon. Lifted almost wholesale from Frank Miller’s “Batman – Year One” (as much of the movie is), he brings heavy grey married career-cop weight to Gotham and fixes the fantasy into a firm reality.
Batman Begins appears even BETTER than it is because a year later, don’t forget, Bryan Singer came along with “Superman Returns” which was sort of meant to bring Superman up to date to match Batman so DC had two solid franchises. However Bryan Singer completely forgot how to make an engaging motion picture and decided to do The Wonderful Adventures of A Moping Flying Strong Man” instead – forgetting (or, eek! Not realising?!) the least interesting thing about Superman is his Superpowers. Oh look a man carrying a car. Oh look, a man carrying a plane, oh look, a man carrying a woman, oh look, a man carrying an island made of Krypton. Stick a forklift truck in a cape and you’ve got Brandon Routh. Yawn.
2 years after that of course, Heath Ledger (who’s name always sounds like a big book that Hampstead land owners do their taxes in) popped up, pranced about and popped his cork in the name of The Dark Knight and everyone pretty much fell over themselves.
This was a Batman movie to end ALL Batman movies. It had everything. No longer bogged down with origin exposition, it hit the ground running (or actually, hits the Gotham rooftops running) from the explosive opener and never stopped to take a breath.
I loved Ledger’s Joker. I don’t think it was Oscar worthy, in the sense that he’s just twitchy and shouty and doing “stock nutjob #3 from The Ladybird Book of Psychos. Anthony Perkins, now THAT’s a scary performance. (No, I said Perkins. Not Hopkins. Perkins. Psycho. If you don’t think Perkins is marvellous, then ask Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man) who’s Peter Parker is a carbon copy of Perkins’s Norman Bates performance. Honestly, it is. Watch it. Uncanny. When he’s talking to Gwen in the corridor at school, he’s a web’s length away from suddenly saying “a-a b-boy’s best friend is his m-mother...”
Fucking hell this is taking a long time isn’t it. By my count, 1700 words and nothing much has happened yet in the way of the new Batman movie. This is a lot of shit to wade through in the promise of a glimpse of the new Batman movie.
How fucking apt.
The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros 2012 dir. Christopher Nolan)
Okay, so here’s the problem. There are going to be some pretty massive fucking spoilers in this. So if you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises, then I’d give this a miss. Or if you saw it and really loved it, similarly. Because this will just annoy you. Much like my review of Northern Lights apparently did.
1. Batman isn’t really in it
He’s not. He really isn’t. Bruce Wayne is in it. A lot. However the amount of screen time devoted to the character of Batman, all suited and gadgety and doing his elbowy-headbutt punchy thing, is surprisingly small. Now that, in itself isn’t that much a problem. After all, David Niven isn’t in The Pink Panther that much. But even when he’s on screen, he doesn’t do what he needs to do. Let’s put it this way. Bane is meant to be his big super undefeatable Nemesis. Bane almost kills Batman. Batman comes back for revenge. Bane is shot by somebody esle.
2. Batman isn’t fucking called Robin
Yeahhhh, this was clever to the point of clever and then stupid. This is as clever as
Mutt picking up the fedora at the end of Indiana Jones 4 but 460 times less subtle. Oh I don’t have a problem with setting up John Blake as the man who takes over Bruce’s mantle and runs the batcave and uses all the gadgets and becomes the next Batman. But calling him Robin? It’s a pop-culture car-crash. Actually, now I think about it...I don’t mind it that much. Maybe it’s actually adorable and cute. Yeah, forget that one.
3. Batman strolls from Nepal to a locked down under-seige Gotham
I KNOW it’s just a movie. Okay? I KNOW it is. I KNOW that there’s no point picking holes in this. “Yeah but how come, yeah but how come...” and so on. I KNOW. The issue here however is that Christopher Nolan has set his stall out as adding enough realism to the legend to make something silly like his stroll from Nepal to Gotham (Gotham that is CUT OFF FROM ALL CIVILISATION). In scripts as good as Nolan has had before, this is the sort of plot point that needs addressing.
4. Why not climb the rope out of the prison?
Yeah, I think I’ve misunderstood this. There’s a rope dangling down from the wall in the prison. You tie it to your waist so, if you fall, you simply drop down and swing, rather than die. Okay. Seems a bit of a risk to give prisoners that option, to be fair, but hell, what do I know. But the prisoners (by themselves, there do not appear to be guards or staff), tie this rope about them and begin the rocky climb against the wall. Why not climb up the fucking rope? And it doesn’t matter if the rope doesn’t reach the top, it’s still got to be easier to get halfway up by rope than scrabbling about on thin ledges?
5. Let’s let all the organised criminals out.
So Bane announces to the world’s media that the law passed after the heroic death of Harvey Dent was a travesty. Dent was a murderer, not a hero. So therefore the law passed in his name – that presumably you can lock up organised criminals without trial on masse (this is rather confused, but anyway) – should be overturned. “Yayyy,” apparently the terrified people of Gotham think, “ that’s what we want. Dent was a bastard. Let’s show how cross we are by letting every violent criminal out onto the streets.” Nobody attempts to stop Bane doing anything which rather suggests Gotham are on his side. I mean even The Joker had to strap a load of grenades to his chest to stop himself getting shot. What does Bane do? Zip up his fleecy collar?
6. Doesn’t this prove the Joker’s point?
And on the subject of Heath Tax-Ledger. In The Dark Knight, The Joker attempts to prove that the only sensible response to the madness of the world is craziness. That, when pushed, folk will turn on each other, destroy each other and save themselves. Politeness, manners, charity, altruism and civilisation are a joke. However the good people of Gotham prove him wrong by not killing each other on the boats. Civilisation wins. Until 8 crime-free years later. When, given half the chance, the entire city decides to Occupy itself, smash the state, turn on each other, execute its wealthy and run rioting in the streets like mentalists in the face of a bit of Bane’s woop-wooping.
7. Bane’s voice
I can’t decide who Bane sounds like. Some folk have said Scooby Doo, but that isn’t quite it. A British upper-class Darth Vadar perhaps. I don’t know. Anyway, a lot of the time it’s unintelligible, and when you can hear it, it’s silly.
8. Being strong isn’t much of a “villain” thing.
Last 2 issues. And these are the clinchers.
In Batman Begins, the villains were a huge powerful team of black-arts Ninja killers with weapons (The League Of Shadows) plus a crazy Dr scientist type with poison gas that sent the world mental. Okay, happy with that.
In The Dark Knight, the villain was The Joker. A mysterious, elusive, insane sadomasochistic terrorist with access to bombs and an agenda to “watch the world burn.”
Bane is a wrestler. That’s it. A strong man. He’s just a big strong man. Since fucking when has the size of your biceps had ANY FUCKING THING to do with how dangerous a criminal you are? What is this, the middle fucking ages? He’s just a mumbly man. “Oh he’s really strong.” Really? Then fucking shoot him in the knee, you twunts. This fist fighting nonsense. Batman is finally defeated by a big man stronger than him? He was never meant to be the strongest man in the world. He’s meant to be powerful and a brilliant detective (note: Batman doesn’t really do any detecting in this movie, but he doesn’t really in any of them so that’s okay). Oi Bruce, you know that Tank you own? And the fact the city has been taken over by a man in a sheepskin jacket? Why not RUN HIM OVER IN YOUR FUCKING TANK during his fucking press conference?
9. Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb
And this is the final word. (I realise, by the way, that written down, my gripes about TDKR don’t add up to a hill o’beans in this crazy world. But I didn’t like the movie and I should have so I’m trying to work out why).
The movie ends with a big round ticking bomb. It isn’t black with a sparkler in it and have ACME BOMB written on the side, but it might as well. It’s ticking and about to go off. How on earth will they get rid of it? Batman comes to the rescue and grabs the bomb and flies off with it.
This is EXACTLY what happens in Batman – The Movie (dir. William Dozier 1966) that I wanted to watch the evening I banged my finger in the door. Adam West finds a big round bomb and spends a silly three minutes running about Gotham Pier trying to get rid of it (he runs into a marching band, a group of nuns, some ducklings, each one making him change direction. Adam West’s finest comedy moment). He looks to camera and says “some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” And then jumps in the sea and blows up. Cue everyone thinking Batman’s dead. But he pops up, all okay. He threw it away and hid before it exploded. Ahhh, what a relief.
46 years later its’ the same fucking scene. More expensive, more dazzling, more expansive and in glorious IMAX. But it’s the same fucking scene. In 1966 it’s a throwaway bit of slapstick. In 2012 it’s the fucking finale.
No, Christopher. No, no, no, no, no.
Anyway, that went on too bloody long didn’t it. Sorry about that. My wife liked the movie, as it appear did almost everyone else who saw it. Just me, then.
That’s it, Batfans. Tune in next week. Same Bat time...same Bat channel.
(Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor...)
Love to all
A few words on The Dark Knight Rises but needn't have bothered