Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Batman ends (I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises)

When I wrote the last post about the new Spider-Man movie, it dawned on me that I forgot to mention that I saw the latest Batman movie like a week or two ago. Here are my thoughts...

Most people who give a shit about Batman have probably already seen The Dark Knight Rises. What can I say? I'm a slowpoke. Going to the multiplex often fills me with as much dread as getting up for work after a night at the bar. Now that we have Blu-Ray players and TVs that are actually capable of reproducing the deep blacks you get from a projected image, what's the point, man? At home I don't have to wear the cheap 3D glasses, the popcorn tastes better, and I can pause whenever I need to visit the bathroom or—and this is becoming a lot more frequent as I get older—when I need to take a nap.


I didn't fall asleep once during The Dark Knight Rises. I'm not saying I expected to, but I had lowered my expectations enough not to be disappointed. I wasn't expecting to be disappointed, either, but after seeing the second in Nolan's trilogy, I knew there was no way to top it. Or equal it. I was right.

This is just the opinion of a guy you don't know, which is a dime a dozen on the Internet, but as far as comic book movies go, I enjoyed Dredd more than Rises. I may have even enjoyed The Avengers more than this one. I don't know. One thing I do know is I don't regret that I watched it. Sometimes that's the best you can get. People complain that movies suck today, but I counter with the argument that movies have always sucked, we just don't remember them as much as the recent suck-fests...

Like Iron Man 2. But I digress because I find myself in the awkward position of wanting to see part three.

I have the feeling Nolan wasn't ready to make the third film in the series. If it took him so many years to write Inception (didn't he claim it was twelve?) I can see how one could be pressured into wrapping the series up.  I certainly wouldn't envy anyone in that position. I'm just saying, if I had gotten the job to write the third film, I'd feel like I'd need several years to come up with something worthy of its predecessor. I mention all this because Nolan did a remarkable job considering. The dark forces behind the scenes probably kidnapped his wife and sent him a finger in the mail each week he didn't turn in a script.

The Dark Knight Rises opens with an airborne heist. We've seen that a million times in the movies, including a few James Bond films. Other than the introduction of Bane, the film's villain, there really isn't much to see here. I mean, they're not hijacking gold bars or nuclear launch codes or anything as tired as like that, but it just wasn't all that exciting.

Cut to a charity event at Bruce Wayne's manor. We learn it's been eight years since the last film. Gotham is mostly crime-free thanks to the Harvey Dent Act, Commissioner Gordon comes this close to telling a crowd of people that Dent turned into a psychopath, and Bruce Wayne has become a reclusà la Howard Hughes. That night, Wayne catches a cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) stealing his mother's pearls.

That's where the movie lost me. Forget comparing Catwoman's character to the context of the other films—in the context of this film, the character is too goofy, too Hollywood, and far too unbelievable. I've seen Schwarzenegger films with fewer one-liners. Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises is like the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. This piece just doesn't fit here, not like this.

That's my biggest complaint. My second biggest complaint is Wayne's love interest in the film, Marion Cotillard, who you'll remember from Inception. Movies need more class acts like Cotillard (she's on the level of Johansson and Portman), but her character in this movie is pretty lifeless and dull. And then there's Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I love this guy in most movies, but here he's a little too predictable. We all knew it when we saw the trailer, so let's not even pretend the following is a spoiler: He's Robin.

Then there's the lighthearted comedy relief. It's not as bad as, say, Johnny Knoxville in any non-Jackass movie he's ever been in, and it's not even bad, really. It's just not right for this film. I know Rises was actually intended to be lighter than the last film (alluding to Dent's speech about it being darkest just before the dawn and, hey, whaddyaknow? this is the dawn!), but the second heist in this film, and the ensuing car chase, struck me as a little too routine. And the scenes where Batman and Catwoman fight side by side are way too reminiscent of Batman Returns. I really hate comparing Rises to the other films, but damn it, all of its action sequences would fit better in the previous Batman series.

My complaints are all out of the way... well, other than the choice of casting when it comes to Bruce Wayne's doctor, who informs the vigilante he has no cartilage left in his knees. The moment you say "Hey, it's that guy!" you get pulled out of the movie a little bit.

The rest of the movie is pretty good. Tom Hardy as Bane makes very interesting choices. His voice is just as jarring as Christian Bale's voice was in the first film. I love villains as they make or break these kinds of movies more than any other ingredient. This is a good villain. Bane has the distinction of breaking Batman's back in the comics so you know he's a tough SOB. In this version, he's downright menacing. Nothing like the cheap piece of shit he was in Batman & Robin... damn it, there I go making comparisons again.

About halfway through the movie, Nolan begins dropping hints to the conclusion. He wants us to know what happens in the end because there's more to it than what you would expect. It's vague, sure, and when I saw it it didn't necessarily work for me. But thinking back on it... yeah, it works, I guess. It kind of grows on me the more I think about it. Let's face it: as far as the third entries in trilogies go, Rises is among the best. That's a rare honor even if the competition isn't all that thick.

If you give a shit about Batman, and you should, go see it. Or wait for it on Blu-Ray. World won't end if you wait, dude. 

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