The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by Christopher Nolan

 

I know I’m a little late here, and that if you haven’t already seen the movie you’ve probably at least read the reviews, but I would be remiss if I didn’t publish my thoughts on the latest Batman picture. I mostly review books, but The Dark Knight Rises has such a literary quality to it that I thought it would be appropriate. Actually, that’s BS. It’s my blog, I do with it as I please, and right now I’m going to talk all things Batman.

I saw this movie with some friends at midnight on Thursday, as I did The Avengers and The Hunger Games earlier this year, and The Dark Knight four years ago. Incidentally, though this is the way to see blockbuster movies now, it turns out to be a young man’s game; waking up at eight in the morning sucks if you go to see a three hour movie at midnight. I ended up tired, with a mild headache, just waiting for the movie to end so that I could sleep.

You might be saying, well if the movie was good, you wouldn’t feel that way, so you must not have liked it. It’s true, I left the theater a little disappointed, but when I saw it again on Saturday (yes I did) I was able to enjoy it without worrying about sleep and shit. I liked it much, much better.

Yes, I saw The Dark Knight Rises two times this weekend. I am a Batman fan. I want to talk about the movie without worrying about spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

Obviously nobody could ever do what Heath Ledger did as the Joker. That was a performance that had been building buzz for months, and it still blew everyone away. The Joker is Batman’s foil. As he himself says to Batman in The Dark Knight, “You complete me!” The Joker’s absence from the film was missed, and I think that for this reason the filmmakers chose to include a villain that would be as different as possible, and ended up going with Bane. The contrast is obvious: the Joker is nihilistic, alienating, and mainly reliant on his wits to defeat Batman, while Bane is loyal, ideological, charming, and can best Batman with his body as well as his intellect. Ledger’s Joker was riveting, but Tom Hardy’s Bane is just as fun to watch.

Staying with actors here, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman didn’t turn out so bad. Yeah, you could argue that she was pretty irrelevant and unnecessary. But she’s hot, and Catwoman is almost as important to the Batman story as the Joker. And they couldn’t let Halle Berry have the final word on such a cool character. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was awesome as John Blake, which was to be expected. His character was both interesting and important to the plot, and JGL played him perfectly. Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate, on the other hand, I could have personally done without. I didn’t see La Vie en Rose, I hated her in Inception, and I don’t give a fuck about anything else she did. Go away, Marion, there’s already another pan-European it-girl to take your place. Her name is Noomi, or something, and they’re already trying to force her down the public’s throat, so clearly your time is up.

Moving on. I don’t think any sequel could have been as iconic as The Dark Knight, and, just as they try to contrast Bane with the Joker, the filmmakers offer a starkly different tone in The Dark Knight Rises. Rather than feeling like a dark crime/terrorism thriller, this one feels like a comic book movie, in both good and bad ways. Let’s do bad first, just because.

The ending image of Batman hauling away the nuclear weapon on a plane was stupid. I think the fact that Batman wasn’t himself experiencing some physical trauma at what was supposed to be an emotional moment kind of ruined it. And then it was pointed out to me that the ending was basically the same as that of The Avengers. The only difference, so far as I can tell, is that nobody thought Iron Man was going to die- partially because Iron Man 3 had already been announced. It works in The Avengers because it’s supposed to be a more light-hearted story. It doesnt work for The Dark Knight Rises because it’s supposed to be dark and realistic, and Batman’s sacrifice turns out to be less emotionally powerful than Iron Man’s. I just spoiled two movies.

Even so, they handled the pace of the ending just about perfectly. Batman’s death scene might not have been great, but Bruce Wayne’s funeral was powerful. Only those who knew his secret identity showed up, indicating that Wayne had made his sacrifices long before Batman died. But Alfred’s crying cuts quickly to the division of Wayne’s estate, and then to Lucius Fox’s (Morgan Freeman) furious efforts to determine whether he could have saved Batman. Hope slowly starts to emerge, and builds over just a couple of minutes, and the mood shifts as we realize that the Batman legacy will live on, one way or another. Note to Hollywood: We don’t need the eleventy-seven endings you gave us in Return of the King; entertaining us for several hours does not ‘earn’ you the right to make us sit through some self-indulgent bullshit ending.

As for why the comic-book-yet-still-dark tone does work, I will point you to one scene. After Gotham is taken over by Bane and his army, a kangaroo court is set up to sentence cops and one-percenters to death. At the head of this court is the Scarecrow, the batshit (wordplay!) insane villain from Batman Begins. This is probably my favorite scene of the movie: Bane hanging out in the back while the Scarecrow assures defendants that Bane has no authority in the court; the Scarecrow’s perverted sense of justice; the idea that the villains are running the city; and all of the revolutionary imagery that abounds in the scene. Bane wears a jacket that makes him look like a cross between Napoleon and Castro, while Scarecrow wears something similar, only with straw.

There were other little things I liked, such as the way, even though they never called her Catwoman, characters would speak about Selina Kyle as if she were a cat. Blake throwing away his gun after a shooting: foreshadowing? References to Batman Begins that hint at Miranda Tate’s true identity. These little things, added to the big action sequences and art design, made the movie pretty entertaining. At least for me.

From what I can tell, Nolan was kind of just making the story up as he went along, but he ended up with a pretty solid third installment. Not as iconic as The Dark Knight, but I’d put the trilogy up there with the best of them.

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