I Likes Me Sum DARK KNIGHT RISES

Good, but not as good as the Joker movie.[1]

SPOILERICIOUS AFTER THE JUMP

As a writer and film maker, Christopher Nolan has great virtues and grievous faults.  The virtues are an ability to add meaningful philosophical layers to what could easily be just popcorn munchers; good, complex characterizations; and smart, well written dramatic scenes.

The grievous faults include a tendency for his movies to turn into big gooey messes in act two; ignoring reality to the point where it derails his story; and unnecessarily writing himself into corners where it's nigh on impossible to write one's self out.[2]

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There ain't a bad performance in the pic.

Christian Bale is the best actor to play the Batman.

Anne Hathaway is the best Catwoman ever:  85% villain, 15% hero; just the right balance.

Tom Hardy does well as Bane.[3]

Michael Caine does well as Alfred but is poorly served by the script:  He punks out.  Alfred Pennypacker would never punk out.  He will bitch at Master Wayne, but he will always be there.

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There isn't a good action scene in the whole movie.

There are big, noisy, messy action scenes, but nothing really worth the effort.  The airplane hijacking that starts the film is stupid.[4]

The Batcycle tries to look cool, but violates physics so blatantly it really needs Adam West astride it.

The Bat (substitute for the Batcopter) looks okay, but makes precious little sense.

The Batmobile really needs to be a cool car, not a military vehicle painted black and tricked out with toys.

Crowding 3,000 policemen together in a narrow street and having them charge an entrenched fortified position armed w/automatic weapons?  Not a good idea.[5]

Surface-to-air missiles expend their fuel in a matter of seconds.  If Bats dodged the first volley, he doesn't have to worry about them circling around and chasing him.

The CGI work is okay; the miniature work is superb.

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The whole point of fusion reaction is to create energy w/o dangerous critical mass material.  You zap tiny little pellets of uranium or drops of deuterium to produce the energy, not shove blocks of fissionable material together.

At 4.5 megatons, Batman could not fly the unstable fusion reactor far enough away to not cause considerable loss of life to Gotham City, much less survive it himself.

If the objective was to blow up Gotham City with a nuclear bomb, just blow it up.  What's this "I'm going to make you watch me do naughty things on TV until I'm ready to nuke the city" crap?

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The Dark Knight Rises could have been much better shorter better if it had been shorter.

All the Middle East prison stuff could have been lost.

The big plot twist associated with the Middle East prison could have been lost.

I know that offends many Bane fans.

This will offend them even more:  Bane is a lousy villain.

He's not even as good as the Penguin or Poison Ivy.

Yeah, yeah, I know:  He broke Batman's back.

So what?

Batman got better!

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And that's another thing...

He's the gosh-darn Batman.

Not Superman

Not Wolverine

Not Captain Scarlet

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We've seen these locations too often over the course of 3 films.  Yeah, they mixed & matched Chicago, L.A., and N.Y.C. for Gotham, but we end up feeling we're stuck on the same basic locales.

If it's obvious when one sees the films over a period of several years, imagine what it's going to be like when they're all run together.[6]

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Which, BTW, is the obvious best way of presenting this story: Re-edit the 3 films together w/cut scenes & additional footage ala the TV mini-series edit of Godfather / Godfather 2.  They've already got 7.5 hours of film that could easily be re-edited into a minimum of 10 hour long episodes.

Nolan planned his films out well and cross-references / quotes from them throughout.  They're already designed to be viewed as part of one great seamless narrative.

That may be the best way of doing justice to this material.

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In more ways than one, it's a pity Heath Ledger died.

I can not imagine the Joker standing idly by once Bane takes over the city and frees the imprisoned criminals.  The Joker needs the Batman; he wouldn't let Bane kill him.

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Speaking of Bane taking over the city, Nolan drew from a number stories in DC continuity, including Frank Miller's Batman:  The Dark Knight Returns.

He also apparently drew from the late Edwin Corley's[7] first novel, Siege, in which a battalion[8] of black militants seize Manhattan by blowing up key bridges and tunnels.[9]

One of the really smart things in The Dark Knight Rises is the condemnation of corruption among the ruling class.  Bane passes himself off as a OWS advocate with teeth[10] even though his real motive is far more sinister.

It's hard to whip up sympathy of Gotham's elite.[11]

Conversely, Gotham's lower classes are virtually nowhere to be seen, with the exception of the occasional orphanage or tavern full of lowlifes.  It's as if millions of people just decided to stay indoors for three months after Bane seized the city.

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It's easier to be a raiding party than an occupying army.

A lot easier.

That's one of the key points Corley made in Siege.

Nolan chooses to ignore this, and it undermines the efficacy of his film.

Okay, enough bad / dumb stuff. Let's talk about what the movie did right.

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Like the previous Joker movie, The Dark Knight Rises actually calls on audiences to think.

Nolan gives us a lot to chew on, both in terms of individual human responsibility not only to their culture but themselves, as well as a pretty damning indictment of money's influence on politics.  Bane may be evil but he sure ain't wrong.

Nolan carefully laid clues not only through the film but through the PR releases before it premiered to keep the audience informed yet misinformed, allowing him to spring surprise after surprise yet be able to justify them through an earlier line or scene.

The philosophical scale has been cranked considerably higher than in the previous film.  The Joker in The Dark Knight was acting out a personal love / hate relationship with the Batman; that's pretty much pushed to the side so Nolan can focus more on the general corruption & utter unworthiness of the society as a whole.

It's a pretty stunning indictment and Nolan gets away with it because it's all part of the smoke and mirrors; make-believe even by the standards of make-believe.

But it is a real topic and one that needs more and better airing in the world today.  Nolan's signature accomplishment with this movie may be getting the topic out there in a manner that let's audiences think about it w/o compelling them to take sides.

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Nolan also asks a lot of penetrating questions about the necessity / desirability of heroes and whether those heroes really need to exist or can just be presumed to exist.

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In short, not a bad movie, certainly a good one, but a good one that could have been an even better one.

It brings Nolan's trilogy to a satisfying close, though I would hope WB has enough sense to just let the story lay closed and not try to continue it on with Joseph Gordon-Levitt assuming the Batmantle.[12]

Somebody else can reboot the Batman and start the epic all over again.

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Bonus!

The trailer for Superman:  Man Of Steel accompanies The Dark Knight Rises.  Other than looking like a cross between Terrance Malick's The Tree Of Life and Discovery Channel's The Deadliest Catch with a little Alex Ross thrown in, I have no idea what it's about.

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[1]  I liked it, but will I watch it again?  Unlike The Dark Knight and Batman, probably not.  I would rank The Dark Knight Rises higher than all the other Batman movies, none of which I will probably watch again, either.  (I am unlikely to ever finish watching Batman And Robin.)

[2]  How, you ask, can a writer / director with such strengths also show such weaknesses?  Good question.  El Dorado, Howard Hawk's remake of his own Rio Bravo, has superior individual scenes to each corresponding scene in the original movie, yet Rio Bravo hangs together as a film far better.  Likewise Sergio Leone's Duck, You Sucker a.k.a. A Fistful Of Dynamite has better individual scenes that any of his Dollar movies or Once Upon A Time In the West, yet that film fails to gel as a cinematic whole.  It's like planning a banquet where each dish is superb, but none of them really go with one another.

[3]  WB's PR dept. would have us understand he supplied Bane's voice as well.  Okay, I'll play that game...

[4]  How stupid?  Roger Moore era James Bond stupid, that's how stupid.

[5]  BTW, if you should ever imprison 3,000 cops in a major city's sewer system and opt to keep them alive as hostages instead of just killing them, may I suggest limiting their food intake to 300 calories a day?  You want them alive but not strong enough to fight back.

[6] Nolan also did a poor job of keeping track of the time of day in this film, too.

[7] Corley was an imaginative & inventive writer whose life ended much too soon at age 50.  He specialized in taking oddball, offbeat ideas and following them through to their logical conclusions, such as The Jesus Factor, in which atomic bombs turned out to be one vast international hoax, or Acapulco Gold, in which Madison Avenue and Big Tobacco vie to take over the marijuana market and legalize it.

[8]  Roughly 1,000 men, same as the number of prisoners freed in the movie.

[9]  They wanted to ransom Manhattan for the state of New Jersey, which would then become an African-American only independent nation.  Their demand had a certain amount of sense:  New Jersey was large enough to grow enough food to feed the then current African-American population of the U.S. as well as containing numerous industries and factories to support the new nation.

[10]  Big, sharp, metal teeth.

[11]  That a well known pundit missed this & chose to focus on Bane / Bain speaks volumes, which I will let constant reader figure out for themselves.

[12]  Yes, I am ashamed of myself...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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