When you make a master opus and when you get recognized for it in your lifetime, then you should consider yourself lucky. In the world of film and television, such fame can come too late but recently more talents actors, directors, and writers have been get notoriety before their peak is over, and one such individual is Christopher Nolan. His only problem? His master opus is pushed between two other movies.
With everyone going to see The Dark Knight Rises this weekend, reviews have been muddled. Some people love it, others hated it, overwhelmed or underwhelmed, excited or bored. In my last article, I said a large number of viewers would take the movie as an experience on the whole, and not just the individual bits and parts like critics, but then that wasn’t 100% percent accurate. So was it good? Bad? Great? Terrible? Let’s take a look at the Caped Crusader’s latest feature.
I’m going to start off with my opinion this, if only so the rest of the piece can be filled to the brim with all the many spoilers that need to be discussed. I didn’t love it. It was okay, I liked well enough, probably going to go see it one more time, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. And I knew that was going to happen – a movie like The Dark Knight has the most punch when you’re not expecting it to impress. But it did impress, which really meant this movie was either going have to push it to a new level, or fall short no matter what. I kind of hate being right – if only cause this time I wanted to be wrong, really, truly, mind-blowingly wrong. We’ll do cinematography first and I’ll tell you it’s impressive. The editing is great, the sights and costuming are awesome and the fight choreography is clean, if not a little simplistic for my taste. If you like the Batman franchise, go see it. It’s not a waste of cash, and since everyone’s talking about it anyway, you might as well be in the loop. Spoilers begin next paragraph – you’ve been warned.
Our story takes place 8 years after the death of Harvey Dent, with Bruce Wayne in retirement and with so many health problems, it’s a miracle he can still function without major aid. The movie’s first third, maybe even first half, goes through the plot like a speeding train on fire. We meet Selina Kyle, we learn about Bane, we learn about Bane’s sewer army, we meet John Blake and Commissioner Gordon, Gordon is in the hospital, Kyle sells Batman’s finger prints, we meet the big bad weapon to be, etc. Also, Bruce Wayne has sex with some random corporate lady who we’re supposed to care about but we’re all wondering where the Hell she came from. There’s no room to stop and breathe – everything at a mile a minute. I get you need to start telling the story quickly when the film itself almost 3 hours long, but this was just ridiculous. When you rush, there’s no flow, and without flow, it just feel like you might as well be watching a series of vignettes, or a super condensed recap. All I know is, I am sure there were hours of footage cut out.
Bane beats the crap out of Batman after Selina Kyle, in exchange for a program that will clear up all her previous offenses, led him there. After getting this hard-to-watch beat-down where his back is shattered, Batman then get thrown in the prison Bane previously escaped from – a pit where prisoners are allowed to climb out, if they can. While blowing stuff up and taking over the city, Bruce Wayne must get his strength back and escape prison to save the city he loves. But then, after freeing the police from the sewers and almost destroying Bane, we find out Bane isn’t the mastermind, Talia (the random corporation-lady) is Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter who came to finish her father’s work from Batman Begins. What, you don’t remember that movie? Yeah, neither does anyone else. Doesn’t matter, she dies literally five minutes later.
Oh, right, and Detective Blake has been acting with a small resistance force in order to take back Gotham and was piecing out everything bit by bit and even tries to save kids. That old little tag-a-long plot.
Batman kills himself to save the city, Catwoman saves citizens before making out with him, Detective Blake finds the bat cave and becomes Nightwing/Robin off screen (maybe?), Gordon installs the new Batman sign, and Alfred, whose travelling the world, sees Bruce and Selina, alive, in a little café. Yeah, they did the whole fake out death thing, because lord forbid anyone let Batman die.
The plot is…jumbled. Oh so jumbled. We have lots of little plot threads that connect in various ways but it never feels like a whole story. The whole twist with Talia is too sudden, and makes little sense. The pacing is all off, and there are plot holes you could land an airplane through. I mean, for one, when Bane releases all the prisoners, why do they all decided to follow him? And why is Gotham not turned into a wasteland in minutes? And further more, why DON’T people actually escape? You can’t fool me into thinking no one even tried. Thirdly, how DOES Batman get stronger? His body is shot to hell – you can’t regrow knee cartilage you know! And how does he get back to Gotham so quick? And why throw him in the prison at all, where he can easily escape?
As far as performances go, let’s talk about Christian Bale. He’s good as always, but I like how there was a lot more Bruce Wayne, and less Batman. Some people thought that was a negative, but like it because it showed how Bruce didn’t need Batman to hide behind anymore, that he could shed off the costume and be great as himself. He was so natural and fluid in this movie, that I think it’s one of his best performances to date. Also, bless Michael Caine and all he does.
Anne Hathaway was probably my favorite part of the movie, even though she was the one everyone was worried would fail. She played the harsh, manipulative “Cat Woman” (though we never see her take on that name in the film) with ease and grace, transforming into the character before your eyes. You don’t watch the movie and think “Oh, Anne Hathaway,” all you see is Selina, a woman whose resourceful and merciless under that sweet, innocent face. However, all the material she was given wasn’t golden. There’s a one point she and Bruce as dancing where she leans in close and whispers something dark in his ear…and then they keep dancing for a couple of seconds more…awkward.
Joseph Gordon Levitt as “Robin” Blake was also super convincing and well played. I’ve heard some people even claim he’s more the hero of the movie than Batman, which I wouldn’t outright disagree with, but it’s a notion I didn’t get. I was hoping he’d be the Riddler instead, losing his mind by the end of the film, but the little surprise at the end works well too. He’s everything we’d want in a Night Wing/Robin and he’s a “good guy” without being over the top cheestastic.
Tom Hardy as Bane…had problems. First off, the voice. When you have a masked/semi-masked villain, a scary voice is top priority. Darth Vader was scary and menacing, most Batman incarnations are intimidating, even Scarecrow used Cillian Murphy’s voice to imbue a sense of anxiety but Bane here? He sounds like a proper British gent. Yeah, real threatening there, ole chap. I get that there’s supposed by a disconnect from the brutal force and the politeness of Bane, but this wasn’t the best way to go about it. And every time he stands to gaze out, he holds the edges of his vest, which bothered me for whatever reason – why did he need that anyways? The mask is explained, but the metal torso piece? He’s not the worst villain, but it felt like they were trying to reproduce the Joker, especially in scope and grandeur, and it just didn’t work. I would call his performance good, at best.
Talia/Miranda is….well she’s Marion Cotillard, her performance is fine. I don’t even know how to deal with the uselessness of that plot twist. Yes, it’s in the original comic. Yes, it more of a shout out to the comic book fans than anything else. But the plot didn’t need it – remove that one bit from the movie, and nothing changes at all. She wasn’t all that well blended into the narrative either. In fact, when I was watching the beginning of the film I was like “Woah…hello there…someone’s appearance here is a wee bit suspicious” Plus, it means Bane was never our big bad which sucks – one, he was cooler, and two, if you’re going to make a queenpin/have a woman as the plotter than just have that, but don’t give us the “oh, it was her all the time.” There was no way she was going to turn out as terrible as Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy – that’s guaranteed. I wonder if they felt they needed to tie the movies all together and that’s why they chose to add her.
I think that can sum up a lot of the problems with this movie – too connected to the first film. It like with the Silent Hill series – you got the first game and the third game really tied together as a series, the second game is a stand alone. Is there anything wrong with that? On a technical basis, no, but it was a jarring shift. The tone of the film was much more Batman Begins, which makes a stark contrast to The Dark Knight. And for those of us who expected something a little more dark and intellectual, it was a disappointment. Lots of action but no real subtext or density.
The movie looks clean and well put together – the action is much better edited and it really feels like an epic even if it doesn’t turn out to be one. Personally, I love the whole look of the film and it seems Nolan really flexed his directing muscles to the max. And the updated tech looks amazing – if I was a millionaire, I would totally own all of this shit.
Overall, if you go into The Dark Knight Rises with the hopes of another Dark Knight, you’ll wind up disappointed. But on its own merits, it’s a good movie that is worth the watch if only cause it’s one of the biggest movies this season. Is it a fitting end to the Dark Knight trilogy? Eh, I’ll let time decide that one. For now, it may not be my favorite Batman flick, but it’s good enough to see a second time, just to look for the whole scope of the story.
Next week, who knows? As the summer draws close, so does the blockbuster season, so whatever I get dragged to next. Isn’t life just more fun with surprises?