Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy hasn't been shy about kicking the shit out of its hero. Batman Begins tracked the inception of the bat-identity, from the crime alley mugging that made him an orphan through to an L-train showdown with the false father that shaped and tempered his vigilante impulse. The Dark Knight broke his spirit by killing his beloved, maiming his successor, and nuking his reputation. What anguish does this franchise closer heap on everybody's favourite fascist? It makes him older, lonely, and infirm from his brief stint punishing criminality. The Dark Knight Rises ratchets up this torture by giving Bruce Wayne an opposite, an opponent that is both his physical and mental equal. An anti-Batman.

Bane is the idea that Wayne rejected at his ninja graduation - a lethal disciple dedicated to the extinction ideals of Ra's al Ghul's multiracial mujahideen. Where Batman has placed his faith in technology, augmenting his broken body with electronic leg braces and metal rending slash hands, Bane has cultivated an armour of muscle and swagger. He operates in daylight, dressed in a shabby football manager's coat and surrounded by scurrying generics. Contrary to his comic book antecedent this Bane does not mainline super-steroids. His bio-mechanical mask doing nothing other than add an electronic inflection to a voice that sounds like Sean Connery playing a Nazi scientist. Despite this, Bane is a horrifying physical presence. He towers and growls, tugging at his own neckline, fingers restless, desperate to break. Interactions with others are short, stunted exchanges that usually end with Bane's hands darting to their throat. His power is absolute. Bane is a fully realised, focused individual - the perfect foil to a caped crusader who has found himself unnecessary.

Unlike a Batman that prefers to whisper to his ruling class associates from shadows, Bane surrounds himself with derelicts and has them build the means to level Gotham. In this sense, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises is as much the Mutant Leader from Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley's The Dark Knight Returns as he is Knightfall's luchador muscle-bomber. Like that character, Bane is (eternal?) youth, ferocity, and rhetoric. Qualities that have all but deserted a Bruce Wayne numbed by eight years eating soup in an empty castle. Although equipped with a variety of new toys, Batman is quite incapable of standing toe to toe with Bane. When first they clash, Batman rains blow after blow down on his opposite, barely able to stagger him. The Dark Knight arrived somewhere abstract and lawless during a protective custody sequence in which Harvey Dent's SWAT van came across a burnt out fire truck whilst invisible electronic insects buzzed on the soundtrack. The Dark Knight Rises does something similar with a sustained close-up of Batman wincing as Bane relentlessly hammers down on his skull. Teeth clenched, praying for it all to stop, he looks like a child. Batman, shrunken and utterly beaten.

It doesn't last. 
Bruce Wayne finds motivation down another well, and Bane's position as ultimate evil is retconned on the fly by a twist straight out of The World Is Not Enough. Bane and Batman's rematch is inconclusive, Bane's momentary wobble after Batman starts focus striking his breathing equipment leads straight into a rage power-up that allows him to put dents in marble. Bane is too big for this film. Too capable, too dangerous. Its heroes cannot stop him, he must be circumvented at a script level. Reduced to an idea, and subordinated by a deeper, more personal threat to Bruce Wayne's psyche, Bane becomes docile. A few moments later, he's jobbing for Catwoman. Bane isn't broken, or really even beaten. He simply leaves the frame, and the film, after he comes under artillery fire. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

MinionTV - When Skyways Are Highways

Body Count - Cop Killer

Spawn by Todd McFarlane


Transformers: The Headmasters opening episode gives us the 411 on the Cybertron wars. See! Literally millions of years of backstory condensed into less than two minutes! Hear! Spaghetti Western pistolero sound effects during battles on cosmic techno planets! Weep! As Optimus Prime takes a stray laser blast and instantly snuffs it!

Storm by Warwick Johnson Cadwell

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


I never thought I'd see this - Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Madhouse's sizzle reel for an as yet unproduced Ninja Scroll sequel. Apparently Kawajiri has been touring industry events for years with this clip, trying to secure funding to complete the project. Amazingly, no-one's interested. Fucking anime's a right shithouse at the minute. When I stumbled on Japanese animation in the halcyon days of the early 1990s, it was jam-packed full of leering supernatural pricks who smashed up robots with their bare hands. Wonderful. Now your average show seems to revolve around fey males and their pre-teen harems. Ugh and ugh. Kawajiri's directorial career seems to have stalled hard after the fairly rad Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. According to his wiki page, Kawajiri's been stuck key animating the super shitty Devil May Cry: The Animated Series, and storyboarding the occasional awesome like Shigurui.


Thursday, 12 July 2012


Oh well, Eurocom's blown it. Rather than try to engage with chimeric nature of the Bond films, they've opted to dump Daniel Craig into any old adventure. I suppose this is symptomatic of a wider held belief that tie-in games are forever to be quicky cash-ins - why bother ponying up some extra dough for past actor likeness rights when you can just repurpose what you've already got? So for the 007 Legends stab at On Her Majesty's Secret Service you can forget about George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, and most especially Telly Savalas, whose bruiser Blofeld has been mutated into a composite lump of visual cues from wildly varying sources.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter by Bengus

Billy Kane by Shinkiro



Activision's latest trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops II seems to pitching for right-wing reassurance, a not too surprising sales tactic given that the last few entries in this record-breaking franchise have been heaving with branded assault rifles and Jeep product placement. Tune in for a vague run-down on the Latin American bad guy who has wooed the American left-wing, leaving the country ripe for a kicking. Stupid pinkos! You can't trust the disenfranchised poor! Luckily, some beardy secret service psychopaths armed with billion dollar prototype weapons are on hand to make right with might. I wish I was making this up.

It's interesting that this Raul Menendez chap, rather than spearhead his own high-tech army of unmanned drones, has to high-jack Uncle Sam's. Is this how America deals with its position as a military hyper-power? The only possible way to level the playing field, and have the US resemble something like an underdog, is to cede their TekWar bullshit to the insurgents - in this case a hacker Hugo Chávez. Also, is it me or does Menendez bare more than a passing resemblance to Alex Mason, the amnesic SOG operative from the last Treyarch entry? Given that we're playing as his son David Mason for the lion's share of the campaign, does this mean that Call of Duty's gone all Oedipal on us? I also think I remember reading somewhere that Alex Mason is the player character for some Cold War set flashback missions set in and around Afghanistan. 1980s Central Asia is as good a place as any for a CIA spook to have a 'patriotism stinks!' meltdown. Maybe Treyarch are taking a leaf out of the Hideo Kojima handbook and setting son against father, Metal Gear style?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

X-Men vs. Street Fighter by Bengus

X-Men: Children of the Atom by Bengus



A 13 minute hype reel for The Dark Knight Rises that stresses the raw physicality of the production. Christopher Nolan's trilogy capper looks to be obsessed with vertical scale - corpses of planes dangle nose down beneath bigger planes, and Bane's terror cell abseils down a set that looks like something out of a DW Griffith picture. All these plunging action lines likely existing to better accentuate the height and endemic squareness of the 1.44:1 IMAX frame. Elsewhere, Batman 3 promises several riot scale scenes featuring clashing hordes formed from either side of the law.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Noriko Sakai - Active Heart (Live)



Just-teen weekends were often spent gawping at unaffordable Japanese consoles in Liverpool's première import rip-off den Chipshop 2000. Even alongside an acknowledged classic like Super Mario 64, Sonic Team's NiGHTS into DREAMS... (don't blame me, those ellipses are part of the full trademark title) was fascinating. Whilst Mario (deftly) translated 2D platforming into a 360-degree dreamworld, NiGHTS dabbled with a new-ish input system, requiring a chubby new controller with an embedded analog joystick that allowed the on-screen jester chap to glide effortlessly around lush, primary colour environments. My previous experience of flight in video games was other Sega games like Space Harrier and After Burner - both basically untethered racing games were your input is limited to shifting a vulnerable sprite around a flat surface to avoid hazard graphics. In comparison, NiGHTS was futuristic, even slightly unfathomable.


CPS-2 fans rejoice! Forthcoming back catalogue rummage Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is set to feature the first arcade perfect home port of Marvel Super Heroes, a candy coloured seizure fighter from the mid-90s. Marvel Super Heroes originally lurched onto both major fifth generation consoles in 1997 - the PlayStation port suffered from slow down and missing animation frames (this from a console Sony initially deemed too bleeding edge for 2D riff-raff), and whilst the Saturn version could boast more complete animation cycles and some nifty level effects, it was still prone to occasional frame rate chug despite making use of the 4 MB RAM cartridge that later allowed for a string of arcade perfect Capcom brawlers. Marvel Super Heroes is joined in this bundle by the original Marvel vs. Capcom. Pointedly not included are the rest of Cacom's House of Ideas fighters X-Men: Children of the Atom, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter. No doubt Capcom are holding them back for an Origins Volume 2.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Pre-release hyperbole held that The Amazing Spider-Man would give us the real juice on Peter Parker. We'd get to see the secret history lacking from the incredibly recent Sam Raimi films. Early trailers suggested an origin tied into a lightly abusive relationship with Parker Snr. Teenage Petey, nursing all manner of ego slights and abandonment issues, finds his father's totem object - a spiderweb spy kit. This was just about enough to get me interested in seeing another Spidey flick before the corpse of the Raimi model was even cold. Naturally, only fragments of this idea make it into the final film. Although this Parker's ascension is tied into his father's scientific tinkering, for the most part we're getting a room temperature, Coldplay scored, read through of the same origin we got in 2002.

In fairness, the condiments are slightly different. This Parker is flavoured with the kind of lingering rage issues that prompt him to dress up and bounce heads off asphalt. Here, the birth of the Spider-Man identity is dictated by the need to equalise the situation with Ben Parker's murderer - a corner shop stick-up artist. The macro altruism usually displayed by Peter Parker is boiled down to the dogged pursuit of one tattooed criminal. There's very little evidence that this Spider-Man is particularly interested in solving any crime that doesn't involve dirty blonde muggers. Again it seems like the film is heading somewhere interesting, Spider-Man becoming obsessive and violent to placate his festering guilt. Peter Parker as a spandex night prowler, endlessly beating street and building psychosis. There's also something about a gangly teenage boy hopping around in a skin-tight body sock at midnight that just screams rapist. This nastiness coupled with Andrew Garfield's hyper-mobile, James Dean-ish take on Parker threatens to take the film into 3 Dev Adam territory. God help that mugger if Spidey ever catches up with him!

Except he never does, that thread is left to dangle, presumably for the next franchise instalment. Instead, our hero eventually butts heads with The Lizard, an enemy that Raimi painstakingly embedded in his films, but never delivered on. With a threat equal to Parker's new powers established, The Amazing Spider-Man settles into a routine back and forth, pitting the two super entities against each other in environments with ever-escalating potential for collateral damage. Rhys Ifans's bad uncle Curt Connors disappears into a CG action figure that wouldn't make the draft for Masters of the Universe, with downtime schizophrenia ticks borrowed / stolen from 2002's Green Goblin. Their endless battles do reveal a few nifty ideas - Spider-Man building a web to track his foe, and later scurrying all over the surface of Lizard's body whilst knitting him into a silk cocoon. Unfortunately these conceptual pops are few and far between. Pitched as a bold new take on existing material, The Amazing Spider-Man quickly settles into dull blockbuster machinations, and takes over two hours to see them to completion.


The Man with the Iron Fists isn't RZA's first shot at 42nd Street cinema. The Abbot spent a decade or so in his garden shooting this lowest-fi tease for Wu-Tang vs. The Golden Phoenix. If Iron Fists is even a billionth as fuck-awesome as this camcorder catastrophe, we're in for a treat. Bonecrusher!


Whatever film The Man with the Iron Fists turns out to be, the sheer wackiness of potentially seeing a Brooklyn drawling RZA thump his way through a series of kung fu archetypes is enough high-concept to get my bum on a seat. Word around the campfire is that the first assembly edit of this flick totalled over four hours. I wonder what a Heaven's Gate length fight flick directed by a hip-hop mogul would look like? Awesome, probably.

Spiritualized - Little Girl


When I first saw this I presumed Gonzo, the studio behind the Afro Samurai series, had been drafted to keep Black Dynamite's brand awareness chugging along. Turns out we have Titmouse Inc to thank for this instead. Titmouse's other work includes some 70s flavoured TV ads for Honda, and Motorcity, a charming little series with a visual design stuck half-way between Jamie Hewlett and Bill Peet. Motorcity has just begun its run on boy's own cable channel Disney XD. Check out an action reel for the series here