Thursday, May 07, 2009

Christian Bale Losing Resolution. Too Many Copies!

When I announced I was seeing Terminator Salvation yesterday, I got a note from Rob, a longtime reader, which said
Let us know if the cinematography comes across as especially intrusive to the thespian process.
Heh. I am happy to report that unless Christian Bale's eyes are particularly sensitive to bleached colors and shadowy sets, Shane Hurlbut's lensing didn't intrude on his thespian process at all. But Bale intruded on Bale's thespian process.

I liked Salvation a lot more than this next statement will imply (here's the video review) but... John Connor was a dud. [editor's note: Isn't he always?] Christian Bale bored me silly. He used to be a thrilling and unpredictable actor. Now I feel like I'm seeing the same performance over and over again. It's like he's lipsynching to his own Arias of Intensity.

Since Bale has given at least one undisputably genius performance ("Patrick Bateman", American Psycho) I'd like to cut him some slack and blame Hollywood and movie audiences. Why is it that we need the same thing over and over again? Why do we need orphaned crime-fighting Batman to also be orphaned robot-fighting John Connor? Why do we need 4th and 11th versions of stories we've already heard? Why do we need a reboot of the Star Trek story which we've been hearing for over 40 years? For Christ's sake, why do we need a 8th season of American Idol? It's the same show every year.

Will we ever love something new?

I was thinking about this whilst perusing the internet yesterday and reading numerous gripe posts about X-Men Origins: Wolverine followed (in the same posts!) by anticipation of X-Men Origins: Deadpool or whatever they might call it. It's like we're goldfish or we're collectively stuck in a OCD moment, repeating the same cycle over and over again.

Instead of locking and unlocking our doors, we're swallowing hype whole, choking on it and then opening wide again "Give it to me!" It's basically Hollywood's ideal cattle herding loop. Even if we don't like a movie, we'll still go to its sequel.

But I'm spiralling off topic. In the case of Bale, I'm more concerned currently with Hollywood's (and by extension our) lack of imagination about who should play whom in franchises. I'm sitting there watching Anton Yelchin, who plays Kyle Reese as a teenager, and thinking 'Chekov from Starfleet impregnated Sarah Connor to stop Skynet?!?'

Shouldn't I be thinking "ooh, the young Kyle Reese!"?

Why did Chris Pine, suddenly get talked up for Green Lantern just as soon as people starting noticing he might not bomb as Captain Kirk? Should Captain Kirk really remind us of Green Lantern and vice versa? And then there's the problem of Samuel L Jackson. I've complained about this before but the Nick Fury casting really upset me last summer. It seems, scanning credits, like Marvel wants Nick Fury to be the connective tissue for all of their superhero movies. That would be a fun idea if it were a lesser or unknown actor but now all of these Marvel superhero movies will not only remind us of each other but of the following franchises or intended franchises (some didn't pan out): The Spirit, Star Wars, Shaft, Jumper, Afro Samurai, xXx, The Incredibles, S.W.A.T, Jurassic Park and even The Exorcist. I don't begrudge any strong actor a successful career but I really think there out to be a cap on how many big franchises one actor is allowed to appear in. Seeing the same faces over and over again (Jackson's) or hearing the same affected voice over and over again (Bale's) just makes all these movies seem more generic and copied and alike than they already are.

The internet was abuzz yesterday with the rumor that Bradley Cooper might play Hal Jordan / Green Lantern (the IMDB lists Chris Pine in the role but that's still only a rumor). I've mocked it up for you to the right. I forgot the mask but that's all Bradley there. Actors don't need padded muscle suits anymore. They have personal trainers and dieticians.

I like Cooper but I haven't even begun to ponder whether or not he'd be a good Hal Jordan. Still, better him than Chris Pine. That way I won't have to get used to Captain Kirk belonging to both Federation Starfleet and the Green Lantern Corps. Does Starfleet even allow dual citizenship?

Have you read the Terminator Retro Special?
PART ONE: Tech•Noir (The Terminator)
PART TWO: Model Citizen (Judgment Day)
PART THREE: Terminator Salvation Discussion (passed on rewatching Rise of the Machines after all)


FrenchGirl said...

you need to see "i'm not there" and "rescue dawn" or "the machinist"!


I've seen those.

I used to love Bale. But this Batman/John Connor thing is dullsville. He needs to do somethign challenging again. It's not good to be the least interesting element in a movie that you headline.

adelutza said...

Well, as long as Hollywood keeps playing the same movie over and over again we will go see it over and over again. Because we love cinema and we can't live without it. Somehow they caught up with that.

Derreck said...

I'm disappointed to hear about Bale's performance, because i thought he would've been a badass in the role. I thought the same thing when he was cast as Batman, but he just turned out to be dull like Nat said.

But with The Dark Knight, i think it was just a case of having way more interesting villains and storyline. Batman/Bruce Wayne was surprisingly almost a supporting character in that movie.

I still want to see Terminator: Salvation though. I happen to love Bryce Dallas Howard (who rocked in "The Village", no matter what people may say) and the whole theme of the technology turning against the human race has always been super-intriguing to me.

and that Green Lantern pic with Bradley Cooper is making me think dirty thoughts.

Anonymous said...

The one big time movie I loved Bale, as in big budget, was The Prestige, which he is amazing. The rest of it has been bleh.

Derreck said...

btw, Nat or anyone else, who would you cast as John Connor?

and with all the failures, I have to wonder, is it that difficult of a role? He's a man who grows up to be the leader of the Resistance against the machines. He's had to deal with the loss of his mother who was basically his everything, had to grow up rather quickly, and had to face the pressure of measuring up to this vision of a leader that he's supposed to be. Not to mention that he has had to trust a machine, the enemies of his future and one that was supposed to have killed him.

Sounds compelling to me. So, what's the problem?

Brian said...

The problem with originality is that if it gets bludgeoned to death by marketing and numbers.

One word: Firefly.

Guy Lodge said...

I love how some people assume that a person who runs a site called "THE FILM EXPERIENCE" hasn't seen "I'm Not There," for example.

I'm so with Nat on this. Lately, even when Bale lands in an interesting movie ("I'm Not There" for example) he doesn't do especially interesting work in it. If I were a schoolteacher, I'd say he's "not applying himself."

john said...

Wow Nathaniel! You pretty much summed up my feelings on this subject matter in a much more comprehensive and articulate manner than i could ever have done!

Liz said...

Off-topic, but will anyone go to see Little Ashes this weekend? I admit, i have zero interest in the story but a part of me feels guilty for not doing my bit to support one of the only gay high-profile film coming out this year. Reviews have been mixed, though Roger Ebert liked it.

Fernando Moss said...

I think Bale is waaaay better in films with no uber big-budget, maybe he gets pressured by it.

Liz: I don't know about Little Ashes, I mean an english playing the best director ever!?! I don't know how good can that turn.

Anonymous said...

I think the article has some good points as to the current state of movie industry, mean the only original character to grace the movie screen in the last couple of years was Ledgers Joker. But just a couple of things bug me about the article. 1st why are you singling out Bale from this movie? I have feeling that if the things that transpired 2 months ago had never happened you would be looking at this movie as whole and not just at one actor. The simple fact that someone asked you to look and see if the lighting and whatever was a distraction leads me to believe that you went into this movie looking for exactly that and not actually watching the movie. 2nd the character of John Conner is nothing more than a catalyst for the movie, and the character is as you said boring, so how exactly is Bale supposed to do anything more with the character than react to the war torn environment he's supposed to be in. Edward Furlong wasn't nay better in this same role and as a matter of opinion he drove me up a wall with his insistent whining. The stars of those movies were the machines play and simple. And other than effects, the story was nothing more than a nightmare come true. Replace Arnie with a guy in a mask and you have the basic concept of all the Friday the 13th and Halloween movies. Scary guy cashing scared people that are running for their lives. The only real twist was that the bad guys were sent from the future. I know I'm going to get yelled at for this comment but of well. I think Bales other movie Public Enemies will show at little more range for the actor and I think his upcoming movie Fighter sounds like the type of role he was made to play. That said still can't wait to Terminator.

Glenn said...

All this Green Lantern stuff is confusing me lately. Wasn't Michel Gondry meant to be making that with Seth Rogen?


anon 4:21... even before Bale's breakdown on set went public, I was worried Because I thought he let himself be the least interesting thing onscreen in The Dark Knight.

and another movie where he's the least interesting? (er, well. Bryce Dallas Howard just kinda stands there as well in this one)


Glenn. I know. It's kinda like the Avengers movie. I'll believe it when I see it.

I still think a movie is the wrong way to go with Green Lantern. It'd make such a fab sci-fi series "Green Lantern Corps"

Alex Constantin said...

oh leave the man alone. He needs to make some money. He cannot live on The Machinist, Rescue Dawn or other indie stuff.
I think he's doing the best he can with the roles he IS receiving.

People got spoiled by directors like Peter Jackson who can also tease us with one or two great performances. I don't think big movies made for money (and which actually work) should be character or performance driven.
Of course you expect above average, as you do with any film in terms of actors, but don't search for greatness where it wasn't meant to be in the first place.

And a bit of boo for picking on American Idol. :) of course WE NEED an 8th season. It makes money, it's a decent show, it has a positive light, it really does help some kids and everyone involved it happy. We need it just like we need a 6th season of Project Runway, the 18th season of Survivor or the 14th of The Amazing Race.

Derreck said...

Nat and Glenn,

Seth Rogen is supposed to be involved with the Green HORNET movie, not Green Lantern.

and Bryce Dallas Howard just standing there? no. this fan refuses to believe it.


How is AI a positive show? I am always curious about this defense of it. Basically it asks performers to stay in tiny stereotypical boxes, it makes fun of weird, unattractive and untalented people, it's homophobic, and it pretends that karaoke style singing is just as rich as any style of singing and better than some (I don't truck with the show's obsession with belittling Broadway talent. It practically makes me foam at the mouth). Plus it rarely freaking varies it's routine (though I do applaud that they know let people play instruments and such. Good move). I know I'm in the .001 percentile on this but I cannot believe that people still put up with its 15% show / 85% filler format. Millions upon millions of people just listening to the same banter every week or a few times a week between the same 4 people.

I don't get it.

I occassionally tune in (usually about thrice a year to see if I still hate it -- I think i've seen 4 episodes this year -- and I still hate it. I'm so glad I got out (I did used to watch it regularly) after Jennifer Hudson got the boot.

I'm sorry to offend 95% of my readers (i sometimes think i'm the only one who can't stand AI) but that's just how i feel about it.


But more importantly: i object to the notion that sci-fi and action movies aren't meant to contain great performances. I've seen plenty that do. Plus, I know Bale is capable of greatness so why shouldn't I expect it of him?

adelutza said...

Nate, I am with you in the .001 percentile when it comes to AI.
Moreover I can say that in my opinion a movie, either a sci-fi, action or whatever its genre may be is basically the sum of its story and performances.If either is missing, then we don't have a movie.

Gabrielle said...

I've got two questions for the writer of this article.
1. Apart from the voice what similarities are there between Christian Bale's John Connor and Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne/ Batman?
2.What exactly about John Connor did you find dull? Was it that he was wirtten badly or acted badly? They're two different things. We all know that Christian Bale is a fantastic actor so maybe in this particular film he wasn't given much to work with.

Alex Constantin said...

I'm not gonna battle on American Idol. I've been watching it fulltime for 2 seasons now. By positive I meant bringing some people to light and national/international fame (everlasting or not so much). I see kids like David Archuleta becoming role models. I see honest cool guys like David Cook making it. and Carrie Underwood and many others. Even someone who was eliminated after 4-5 weeks got his chance of fame and saw his dream coming to reality, as cheesy as it sounds. but that's just my opinion. I think some good (and there's plenty) covers up the whole business aspect of it or the negative.

first of all, not all sci-fi is box office material. and yes, I'm keeping my thought that THE FOCUS of a big budget film is NOT on the performances. If it so happens to have excellent performances - yuppyyyy. But if not: it's not a make or break thing.

(again, not talking about bad performances; just ok, and not excellent)

Alex Constantin said...

if I am watching Star Trek for example, I'm not happy if Chris Pine is super excellent oscarish whatever mega talent IF the effects are shit, the story makes no sense, the camera work is not so good and it looks like it was filmed in a bathtub.

However, I don't care that Chris Pine gives just an ok performance and not more AS LONG as the visual effects are brilliant, the story is so crazy captivating, the direction is sharp, the cinematography great & believable.

cause I knew I was seing Star Trek and not Ingmar Bergman's Face to Face (1976).

FrenchGirl said...

reduce Bale's acting to one movie is reduce Hugh Jackman 's acting to "Wolverine"!
Reboot Terminator Franchise is interesting for me why? because i love the 2 first movies! if you wanted to see Terminator or Dark Knight only for Bale,i can understand your disappointment!

Wayne B. said...

Nathaniel - BRAVO on your rant @ 5:33 about American Idol. You managed to sum up what's wrong with this show that jumped the shark a long time ago (like five years ago, after FANTASIA! won.)
It honestly bothers me that out of 100+ finalists, there has been ONE openly gay contestant. WTF? Really?

I see what you mean about Christian Bale getting a little repetitive with his performances; I think the directors have more to do with it though. I did like him in "The Machinist" and "The Prestige" but my favorite aughts performance of his so far has been "THE NEW WORLD", its nice to see him play a decent character without a dark alter ego. Great change of pace for him. :)

Unknown said...

I scanned the comments to see if someone had already said this, but they haven't so:

Three actors have been tied to iconic sci-fi franchises in major roles (probably a lot more) but you don't hear bitching about them. I'm thinking of Scott Bakula (Sam Beckett/Jonathon Archer), Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard/Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf/Magneto).

Now, having said that, Christian Bale shouldn't be laying down on the job. Personally, I'm MUCH more excited to see him in Public Enemies than Terminator. Let's face it: John Connor has never really been the most compelling (or even second most compelling) element of the Terminator franchise.

And on another note, there's a huge difference between summer fluff blockbusters and really good, artistic films. I mean, I like McG, his films are fun, but did you really expect Hamlet?

The best coming out of California right now is on television, not film.

Anonymous said...

How is American Idol homophobic?

Arkaan said...

1. The reason you don't hear much bitching about McKellan and Stewart is two fold. (A) They aren't the anchors of their particular franchises. X-Men and LOTR are both massive ensemble films, and Stewart left Star Trek a long long time ago (on tv, anyway). (B) They're not uninteresting. I don't think Bale's uninteresting in Batman (I like his grave wit and I believe him), but I'm not interested in Terminator right now anyway.

2. Nathaniel hates Hollywood casting directors, you've gotta know this by now. They're the reason Kerry Washington hasn't ascended. They're the reason he got sick of Cate Blanchett. They're the reason that Glenn Close/Sigourney Weaver/other 80's stars don't get as interesting roles (because they all go to Meryl Streep).

3. Frankly, I don't care that much because I'm not gonna see half these movies ANYWAY. If Hollywood's being uninteresting, then don't fork over your cash.

4. I'd like to know how AI is homophobic as well, though I'm asking from the perspective of someone who hasn't seen an entire episode because everything about it is unappealling.

ana said...

Don't you remember how they treated that very androgynous kid with the hot mom, who's now a very attractive amateur gay porn star (the boy, not the mom). I saw him in a video with Jason Crew. Good stuff.

Arkaan said...

I don't doubt that it is, I just don't know how. And know, I don't remember anything you said, ana.

RC said...

I love the blockbuster loop - very nice!

Andrew David said...

I love your blockbuster loop, and it sums up how little I'm keen for just about every summer blockbuster. Sure I can get wowed by impressive CGI like the next guy, but pretty quickly I forget it and as a result it tends to bore me. The problem is the cliched formulas of these movies, coupled with the fact that we're seeing the same character again and again, albeit sometimes with different actors or a darker tone.

Star Trek is one I'm going to see, but even watching the "At the Movies" review of it, I'm left thinking that it looks terribly formulaic and forgettable. JJ Abrams does that well, I think... I really liked Mission Impossible 3, it was really enjoyable and both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Billy Crudup came out of it looking good, but it was still a movie of the usual action formulas, and it faded into obscurity in my mind pretty quickly. I'm predicting that I'll really enjoy Star Trek, and then forget about it a week later.

I really like American Idol. Season 8 is the only one I've seen, but I'm loving it. Of course I'm aware of its limitations -- eg. I'll probably never buy the album of any alum from the show; even though they sometimes pick songs I really like, my taste in music is not catered to by the show; my favourites probably won't win. etc.

Yes, they rip into Broadway, but I guess the point of the show is that they're not trying to make a Broadway actor, a band's lead singer or even a rockstar, they're trying to make a pop star. As for the karaoke argument, being "karaoke" is a major criticism -- they're meant to rearrange the song or put their own vocal mark on it.

But Adam Lambert is doing well to break down some of the negatives, as he is a musical theatre actor and thus gives really theatrical performances. He's also a gay man, and the fact that he's tipped to win says a lot. Unfortunately, I don't think he's going to win... I think Danny Gokey (Mr Talentless) is the safe, obvious American Idol, so in a way homophobia is going to get Adam Lambert in the end.

Andrew David said...

Although yes, I can certainly agree that American Idol fits into your blockbuster graphic... we all have our favourites in the season and are devastated when they get eliminated or ecstatic when they win... and then next year we forget they ever existed so we can be devastated or ecstatic over our new favourites.

Maybe this will be the only season I ever watch. :)

Alex Constantin said...

"It honestly bothers me that out of 100+ finalists, there has been ONE openly gay contestant. WTF?"

don't take that out on American Idol. if you wanna blame someone, blame America/ the voters. I don't think AI is homophobic; not at all. At most, they're trying to protect the contestants and bring more votes in.

I honestly don't think they'd have a problem with a contest who'd openly say he's gay. Only that they know he'd kill himself in the competition.

the voters at home are homophobic, not AI.

Nate Tyson said...

In defense of Jackson's casting as Nick Fury, if you look at the Ultimate Marvel comics, Nick Fury is actually based on Jackson. The casting of Jackson is a direct allusion to the most recent comic book incarnation of the character.

In one issue, Fury even says he would want Jackson to play him in a film.

I agree with your point, but I think Jackson's casting was somewhat inevitable, and holds meaning within the Marvel universe itself.

Pfangirl said...

Love the Blockbuster loop, Nat. Just brilliant! Sadly it also seems to apply to the video game industry these days as well.

Anyway, probably the part of the process that upsets me the most is when a sequel is announced just days after a film is released; sometimes even before. I find that pretty distasteful actually.

Pfangirl said...

Oh, and as someone who gave up on Idols a LOOONG time ago, I would like the American Idols dislikers/haters to be grateful.

I don't know about other nations but here in South Africa not only do we have to endure our local version of the series, but delayed broadcasts of the US show as well. I find it unbearable yet I know so many people who watch both series religiously.

Ali Arikan said...

Oh, Nathaniel; my dear Nathaniel. Dissing on La Bale? Newsies will get you tonight - 'cos they're professional!


I didn't really expect people to be confused by the AI is homophobic comment. I thought it was something every knew / agreed on though I also thought people didn't have much trouble overlooking it.

the basic reason that it's homophobic is that they

1) ask people to stay in closet
2) consistently make fun of anyone during audition rounds that comes across as flamboyant
3) simon & ryan's continual dynamic (just steps away from you know how I know you're gay...")

Here's a few articles on the AI homophobia issue

Associated ContentLA TimesThe Free LibraryMSNBCAbout


Nate... but was that Ultimate Marvel really before Samuel L Jackson was cast? Because if so that was stupid of Marvel... talk about giving Samuel extra leverage for his already enormous salary demands.

Sammy said...

"American Idol" at least renews itself every year with new contestants. That shouldn't be lumped into this generalization of re-doing the same things over and over again. Why was there 15 seasons of "ER" or 14 seasons of "Dallas"? Someone found some worth in it to continue watching all of those years, and that's the same case for "American Idol."

I figured the new Terminator movie would be a dud, but I wasn't going to see it in the first place. It wouldn't have killed them to find another actor to play the adult John Connor, especially after Bale just had his huge success and recognizability factor going with "The Dark Knight." Lost interest in "Wolverine" after the poor reviews. Poor Hugh Jackman. Can't wait to see "Star Trek" tonight though.


i don't think the new Terminator is a dud. It's pretty good. Way better than #3. I just think Bale is the dullest part of it is all.

Nate Tyson said...


Ultimate Nick Fury looked like and declared his love of Jackson at least as far back as 2002.

The book was The Ultimates, which is actually a pretty damned good reimagining of the Avengers.

I'd suggest checking out Ultimates 1 & 2, but skip anything past that.

Wayne B. said...

Alex in Movieland - I respectfully disagree; I think American Idol is homophobic. Homophobia is defined as "unreasoning fear of or antipathy(repugnance/aversion) toward homosexuals and homosexuality." NATHANIEL @ 7:33 gave some great examples of how they're homophobic. The show is guilty of it because the producers and network have it within their power to affect change in the gay movement and they CHOOSE NOT TO. If the producers actually encouraged their contestants to be open with the audience; it could help young closeted people realize that they're not sick or wrong because they have open gays on "AI" to look up to. I know when I was in high school Jim Verraros was an inspiration to me to come out.

"don't take that out on American Idol. if you wanna blame someone, blame America/ the voters. I don't think AI is homophobic; not at all. At most, they're trying to protect the contestants and bring more votes in."

So in order to be popular and accepted by the general masses, people should just remain stifled, closeted and unhappy? That's an awful status quo to live by.
I find the idea of blaming an entire country and its population futile; I'd rather hold responsible the people (producers/network execs) who are in charge of the content of the show and can make changes.

LOL That was a mouthful; I get really opinionated when it comes to discussing homophobia. :)

Anonymous said...

Despite Bale, how was terminator?


i will write up a review soon. I liked the movie. It just wasn't 'great'. good action, etcetera but not great.

Anonymous said...

Wow did people get off topic or what? So, back the original subject of the story Bales performance.

The John Conner character has always been the architect behind all the movies. I’ve heard that the Marcus Wright character is the juicer role but Conner is the foundation and you need a good actor to play that and not give an over the top performance. You need an actor who’s willing to be apart of the film not its shining star and from what I’ve seen of the trailer and heard from other sites that’s what Bale dose. Its what he’s good at.

And after reading this article I'm of the belief that you went into that movie with tunnel vision. You singled out Bale because someone on your staff told you to.

As for the rant if everyone would stop bringing it up every time they wrote story about the movie it would die the death it needs. i would love to see someone write a review that didn’t include the words, “leaked audio” or “on set explosion”.


"someone on my staff" tells me things all the time. I have this horrible habit of barking orders at myself in the mirror.

but they're usually more generic like:

'get it together, nathaniel!'

and less:

'diss Christian Bale!'

I agree that actual reviews should probably ignore the onset incident though.

annabelle said...

Christian Bale is such an amazing hollywood actor. I love to watch Christian Bale movies. My favorite of Christian Bale is "Dark Night"..