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The Dark Knight Rises

A documentary extra on the deluxe Blu-ray DVD release of The Dark Knight Rises showcases the colourful history of The Batmobile. It's worth a look, and not just for gear-heads. (Car fans should consider it a coming attraction however. A little bat tells me the next World of Wheels exhibition in Winnipeg in April 2013 will feature four different Batmobiles!)

The doc functions as a pretty good history of Batman on film, from the days of the early movie serials to Christopher Nolan's newly wrapped trilogy. In a way, each Batmobile reflects the different takes on the masked vigilante. The '60s TV Batmobile (and yes, Adam West is on hand to offer his recollections) was low-tech masquerading as high-tech: The fire-spewing rear exhaust pipe was a repurposed paint can. The Batmobile of the Tim Burton movies was sleek and Gothic. Joel Schumacher's neon-lit Batmobiles were as gaudy and ridiculous as his movies. And finally director Chris Nolan's variation of Batmobile, a.k.a. The Tumbler, was a versatile, military-looking piece of hardware that looked nothing like anything that preceded it.

That's in keeping with Nolan's real-world approach to the mythology. Reasoning that Batman doesn't have any mutant/alien/supernatural super-powers common to the superhero genre, Nolan jettisoned the catchphrases, the campy villains and the black-and-white moral landscapes that are the coin of the realm of the superhero in general, and Batman in particular.

In that spirit, we find our hero (Christian Bale) a shadow of his former self, semi-crippled, and living in seclusion in Wayne Manor, exiled in the eight years since the conclusion of The Dark Knight. After Batman took the rap for the death of crazed district attorney Harvey Dent, Gotham City has cleaned itself up with the help of some draconian laws enacted in Dent's memory. Since Batman is now a wanted man, the black rubberized batsuit has been mothballed.

Enter Nolan's interpretation of Catwoman: she doesn't use a whip, she never makes a single pun on the word purr and indeed, she is never actually called Catwoman. She is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), an especially cunning cat burglar who robs Bruce Wayne and subsequently warns the dissipated one-per-center of an impending class war: "A storm is coming, Mr. Wayne." The storm in question is embodied by the imposing Bane (Tom Hardy), a ferocious terrorist bent on the destruction of Batman's Gotham City. Enlisting the subterranean exiles of Gotham and his own private army, Bane launches an assault from within Gotham, cutting the city off from the rest of the country.

The middle section lags, but by the thrilling final act, all is forgiven. Nolan satiates his taste for the big action set piece, but all is grounded in an intricately woven world of fierce loyalty and even more fierce enmity.


Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXV

MST3K's stock in trade is the bad movie, and this latest boxed set delivers as usual. But in this 50th anniversary of James Bond on film, please note Operation Kid Brother (also known as Operation Double 007 before studio lawyers were presumably sicced on this Italian spy spoof).

Starring Sean Connery's charisma-free non-actor brother Neil Connery as a reluctant spy named Connery, this was a blatant cash-in benefiting from appearances by Lois Maxwell (the original Moneypenny), Bernard Lee (the original M), Daniela Bianchi (the Italian Bond girl of From Russia With Love) and Adolfo Celi (the Bond villain of Thunderball) to lend some bogus credence to this knock-off.

In short, this is the kind of movie meant for MST3K's brand of heckling, and Joel Hodgson and his robot pals duly deliver one of the best episodes of the series.

Also on the collection: Revenge of the Creature (watch for a young Clint Eastwood as a scientist), the sublimely titled Kitten with a Whip (Ann-Margret as a teen delinquent), and the Italian shlockfest Robot Holocaust.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2012 C13

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