Spoiler alert! 1) the legend ends 2) the dark knight rises

There will be no spoilers about The Dark Knight Rises here. Just the news that I really liked it, thought it was better than The Dark Knight and on a par with Batman Begins, and surely a four-star movie (not a three-star movie, according to many critics here, and certainly not a two-star movie, which the critics in the Mail and the Evening Standard seemed to think it is). So no plot details, just the really basic building blocks that are pretty much spelled out in the trailer: a man in a mask threatens Gotham; another man in a mask returns – or rises – to stop him. Two hours and 40 minutes pass while this happens, and there’s a nail-biter of a climax, with a couple of revelations that will surprise you if you haven’t read about them online, or in “long reviews”, as they are technically known. It’s a worthy end to the three-part saga.

I’m not one for revealing endings, or key plot points. In my weekly Telly Addict review for the Guardian, I try to make a point of taking clips from the beginnings of things, as I’m sensitive to those who might not yet have seen the episode I’m reviewing. (At the S2 climax of Game Of Thrones recently, I ran a clip in which Alfie Allen’s character Theon Greyjoy gave a speech to his men, and was knocked out by Ralph Ineson’s Dagmer. I think some people thought he had killed him, and thus cried spoiler. But he hadn’t, or else I wouldn’t have run the clip. You can see what a minefield it is.)

If you wish to avoid spoilers, whether to a film or an episode of a TV show, it surely goes without saying that you really have to tread carefully on the internet. Stuff gets out. It’s a long time since we enjoyed the luxury of seeing things without warning, preamble or carefully stage-managed hype. The one I always trot out is Blade Runner; I saw it at the cinema in 1983 with not a clue as to what I was about to receive. The poster, such as it was, gave little away, other than a futuristic setting and Harrison Ford. What unexpected delights it concealed. I loved it, and part of that was down to the surprises in store. These days, especially with sci-fi, I’d be hard pushed to get that much fresh pleasure from such a big movie. You have to bury your head to achieve that kind of consumer purity.

I understand the Guardian found itself at the centre of a spoiler row over The Dark Knight Rises – specifically Xan Brooks’ first-off-the-blocks overnight review. It’s a big below-the-line talking point, fuelled by a recurring allegation against the paper’s chief critic Peter Bradshaw of writing “spoilerific” lead reviews, where more words are spent and more plot is necessarily rolled out. Also, much more concretely it seems, David Letterman revealed the ending while interviewing Anne Hathaway on his chat show, the fool. This is far more of a crime: a vanilla promotional TV interview should be a spoiler safe-place! In print, and especially with lead reviews, you take your life into your own hands.

I am a disciple of Sight & Sound, renowned for providing detailed synopses along with its reviews, which are never short, and addressing key plot points with filmmakers when the films have only played at film festivals. But they always flag these up. And you’d have to be a masochist to read the synopses anyway. (I should know, I do this often.)

Anyway, the film is very good indeed; you should go and see it, if you haven’t already. I thoroughly enjoyed Batman Begins and approved of Nolan’s reboot. I wasn’t totally blown away by The Dark Knight: two films welded together that didn’t quite hang for me (but that’s just my opinion, which is worth re-stating when Nolan devotees are around), and felt a little indulgent. Begins was leaner, and had more work to do. Anyway, I risked the wrath of the disciples by awarding The Dark Knight three stars in Radio Times, a 150-word review so controversial it has since been upgraded to a four, and rewritten by one of my colleagues. I’m glad to have wrestled myself free. Rises is far better. Its self-indulgence is justified, for the most part. It’s operatic stuff, with only about two borderline witty lines to remind us that there was once camp hereabouts, since obliterated. But I find myself admiring Nolan’s cast-iron sincerity.

The baddy, Bane (Tom Hardy), is proper bad. With his face scrunched into breathing apparatus that might have been designed by HR Giger, he is not camp. Although I did like Hardy’s – and Nolan’s – brave decision for him to speak, through the Vader voicebox, as if he was in an Ealing comedy. At times, it felt like the apocalypse was being threatened upon Gotham by Rowley Birkin QC. Quite, quite sinister.

Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman, all present and correct; Hans Zimmer’s portentous score seemingly “on” the whole time; Anne Hathaway gave convincingly corm to Catwoman; hardware spectacular. Can’t discuss the politics – essentially conservative, in lines with most blockbusters – without giving away act-two plot points, so I’ll refrain. Go and see it. We’ll discuss it when the fuss has died down.

Horrible business, that shooting in Denver, but the film’s worldwide box office will not be harmed by this terrible, depressing association. It’s big. It’s an event picture that actually provides an event onscreen, and not just in among its own hype. Perhaps best of all, with it, Christopher Nolan strikes an important blow against
the commercial orthodoxy of 3D. This film doesn’t need a technological mask to breathe through. It has dimension enough already.

It’s better than The Amazing Spider-Man, because it is actually amazing in places. And the song-and-dance number at the end is a masterstroke.

“There’s nothing now until Tintin”

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is the first of three planned “performance capture” 3D adaptations of the Belgian comic books from Steven Spielberg. It is released in the UK on October 26, and is already generating a lot of eager fanboy anticipation in this country because of the involvement of our own Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish in the script department, and the presence of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the cast. The reason I bring it up here, two months before its release, is because of a conversation I overheard on Tuesday morning, around 10.15am.

I was in the Odeon, Leicester Square, waiting for the press screening of Cowboys & Aliens to start. Produced by Spielberg, it is very much this week’s blockbuster, with a huge budget, high concept and heavyweight cast (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford; James Bond and Indiana Jones). Its budget, just so you know, is estimated at $163 million. I’m not going to review it here, as the quality of the film is not the point. This is the point: I always sit by myself at press screenings, partly because, as a part-time film critic, I exist only on the periphery of the London film critics’ circle. I drop in and out of their conclave as and when I am required. I actively avoid getting caught up conversation at the croissants table, chiefly because I will only ever have seen a fraction of the films the rest of them have seen, so feel inadequate. But I overhear them, and all they talk about is the films they have seen.

This is understandable; it’s what they have in common, whether jaded, pot-bellied old veteran from one of the nationals, or eagerly panting nerd from a magazine or website. I respect their devotion to duty. If one day a newspaper invites me to be its film critic, I might find out what it’s like on the inside. For now, I’m on the outside. On Tuesday morning, I overheard a group of young men having the standard conversation. In the half-light of the auditorium, I couldn’t see who they were, but detected the “nerd” end of the spectrum in their very male enthusiasm for Big Films. They swapped opinions about Captain America and Super 8 and other recent Hollywood blockbusters. This was their area – either by choice or because that’s what the publications they write for are focussed on. Cowboys & Aliens was right up their alley. Me? I’m nearly always disappointed by blockbusters – as indeed I was disappointed by Cowboys & Aliens. Now, I’m not saying for a minute that these young men had no critical faculties – indeed, one of them deemed Captain America to be “lacking something.” They were just catching up. They made me feel antisocial.

Anyway, looking ahead at the slate, the most vociferous of the three – the one leaning over the other two from the row in front, always an alpha position in such situations – made this chilling observation:

There’s nothing now until Tintin.

There’s nothing now until Tintin. There’s nothing. Nothing of note to get excited about at the cinema between the penultimate week of August and the last week of October. I caught his drift. He means there are no Hollywood blockbusters between now and Tintin. Nothing with a budget north of $150 million, big stars and bigger special effects. Nothing in 3D. Nothing with Spielberg’s name on it. Nothing designed to appeal to the broadest international audience possible, at a split of roughly 40% domestic (ie. American) and 60% “Rest of the World” (self-explanatory), which is pretty much the ratio of a global hit these days.

In fact, just as there are eight films released in the UK this week, if you include the reissue of Kind Hearts and Coronets, there are eight films released in the UK next week, and a massive 14 the week after. It’s starting to add up, isn’t it? Some of them are bigger than others – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on September 16 looks pretty big, although it’s not quite Cowboys & Aliens or Captain America – but what’s thrilling is that so many films are being released: documentaries, foreign-language films of every stripe, indies, British thrillers, reissues of West Side Story and Kes … No offence to Tintin, which I’m looking forward to as well, but I’d like to make this controversial statement:

There’s loads until Tintin.

Let us not measure out our lives, professional or personal, in Hollywood blockbusters. That way lies crushing disappointment and sore eyes from the 3D glasses.