[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] T [/dropcap] he Dark Knight Rises is the much anticipated bi-sequel to The Dark Knight and Batman Begins. It is written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who wrote both other hits as well as Inception and Memento. We know Nolan has a flair for complexity and layering, but it’s fair o say at both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were pretty understandable. Rises, on the other hand, is long, complex, hard to follow and a bit too jumbled to claim to be understandable. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that this film borrows the dark brooding mood of The Dark Knight and adds so many new sub-plots that even Leonardo (DiCaprio OR DaVinci) could not untangle them.
It has all the recognizable stars starting with Christian Bale and Michael Caine. They both do a good job, but Bale is simply getting too old and stringy to do another Batman and Caine seems less and less pleased to be serving this master….taking on a John Gielgud persona from Arthur. Anne Hathaway as Bale’s Catwoman paramour worked quite well and Tom Hardy of Warrior fame plays a genuinely scary villain even though he was a direct Road Warrior rip-off. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordan, was flat and not his usual interesting self while Joseph Gordon-Levitt seemed mostly there to help explain the things that were happening and to prepare us for the obvious sequel…Robin Also Rises….Early….And Gets The Worm.
Now this film had a nice financial angle. Watching the NYSE get attacked by Bane (not, not Mitt and Bain……the Road Warrior Bane) was great, but seeing Bruce Wayne get hoisted on the put writing petard and losing his fortune was really designed to remind all the hedgies and maybe a few people left at JP Morgan’s Investment Office in London that taking the wrong end of the asymmetrical risk stick is no fun and should not be tried at home.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] T [/dropcap] he Flowers of War is Christian Bale’s return to the China of Japanese occupation…..only instead of being lost in Shanghai as a pre-adolescent, he is a full-grown man caught in Nanking under siege. And instead of being holed up and learning about life from criminals in a detention center, he is holed up in a cathedral and learning about life from concubines and schoolgirls. It has all the richness of Empire of the Sun, but perhaps lingers a bit too long on the pain and irony of the path to salvation…..or, more accurately, they linger too long on the Godliness of the choral performances of both the schoolgirls and the courtesans.
Now let’s stop and consider the amazing economic and cultural development of China since the days of 1940…..only 70 years ago. Think about that, it’s only two generations and yet this country has gone from one that could be dominated and vanquished by the much smaller (and meaner) Japan, to one tsp has conquered it’s population burden (perhaps the most amazing sociological achievement of the millennium) and created an economic miracle tat few doubt will dominate this century. This film highlights the Chinese as both a pliant culture and a gutsy one at the same time. We need more positive images like this if our children are to be attitudinally prepared for the dominance we will see in the coming years. Now all we have to do is do more of this for Islam.
But as for The Flowers of War, this is a classic story of a hardened realist (Christian Bale as a mortician…..can’t get more real) that falls prey to the goodness in his heart and takes up championing the put-upon schoolgirls and courtesans. Think Han Solo in Star Wars. Think Two Mules For Sister Sarah. Think True Grit. It was good enough for Wayne, Eastwood and Ford, so Bale is in good company. It works and it worked well here. The Flowers of War is an uplifting story and a fine and pure story of goodness from unlikely sources.