Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

I’m not going to call out SPOILER ALERT because there is nothing in this film the average fanboy/girl did not already know about (myself included). So I was fortunate enough to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES two days prior to its release at a special screening at The Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. Special thanks to Chris P for hooking me up with a ticket. I have never seen a film in IMAX and it was truly a remarkable experience. I wanted to reach out and touch the screen; it was so close and encompassing. Over an hour of the film was specifically shot in IMAX. You never really noticed the scenes that weren’t IMAX which was amazing. The cinematography is just sensational! I really wanted to like this film and for the most part I do. I have a love hate relationship with Nolan, but I am interested to see what he does next. I made it a point going into this film to not judge it by continuity, but by the actual nature of the film. On the surface, it’s a really good film. There are some truly amazing actors (Oldman, Cotillard, Bale, and JGL), it’s visually stunning, and the story fairs well. Now to the meat of the matter: I don’t necessarily think this is a film strictly about Batman or his rumored demise. I think Nolan is trying desperately to make a statement about the socio-economic climate in the US which is an interesting concept coming from an English fellow. Keep in mind this film started shooting a little more than a year ago when the Occupy Movement really started gaining momentum. We had already seen the stock market crash (which is a huge plot in the film) and bank bailouts take place. In the film, the key phrase is, “there’s a storm coming.” All across the world, there really was a storm approaching. As much as this film highlights these events, it also misses the mark at times with dialogue that can be construed as a bit trite. So what happens when the 99% take back what’s there’s? According to Nolan, pure anarchy ensues. This is where I disagree; you cannot divide the world into two categories: good guy/bad guy. People are a lot more complex than this. Wherever your opinion stands on the Occupy Movement, there are a million other presumptions about it. Like Nolan’s assessment, they should all be taken with a grain of salt.
Batman was always my favorite superhero as a kid. I still think he’s the most important and powerful superhero. He isn’t a mutant, alien, lab rat, freak, or science experiment gone array. He’s a regular ass dude who by his own will becomes extraordinary. Obviously, regular ass dudes are not generally billionaires, but that’s a whole other story. All the same, Batman gave regular ass kids (like me) something to believe in: themselves. Anyone & everyone could be exceptional and that power only exists within you. I think Christian Bale really captures this theme. He does a phenomenal job of encompassing Batman’s complexity. In this storyline, Batman is supposed to be 55yrs old and retired. I guess adding a couple gray streaks to Bale’s hair are supposed to achieve this. My only complaint with this performance is the lovelorn pining he does throughout the trilogy. The real Batman would never let this weakness consume him. It’s lonely being a superhero, but that’s all part of the job.
I’m not going to rant about Bland Hathaway. Obviously, I was disappointed in this casting choice. She wasn’t as bad as I expected, but her breathy purr got a little annoying at times. I was also disappointed in the Juno Temple character (Holly Robinson) because it was completely misplaced and unnecessary. I love Juno Temple and really feel like she’s going to do big things soon, but this was definitely a waste of time for her. I also didn’t really feel the chemistry between Bland & Bale, not like with Keaton & Pfeiffer.
Marion Cotillard was great as Talia al Ghul. It was no surprise to me that the Miranda Tate character was really Talia; IMDB had already cast the child version of Talia who looked remarkably like Cotillard so that wasn’t too hard to figure out. In the comic book, Talia is also a very complex character, often times blurring the lines between hero & villain. Having grown up with the League of Assassins and a father like Ra’s al Ghul, she has an affinity for the criminal life. But, falling in love with Batman has pulled her in another direction. Later on we see Talia become the baby mama of Batman. We also see their son, Damien, become Red Robin.
I’m a little indifferent towards the Bane character, not to disregard Tom Hardy (he’s a wonderful actor). They really could have brought a little more savagery to the character. I realize the reason they chose not to was to keep a PG rating. We must remember that Bane is Batman’s mortal enemy. Their showdown could have been a lot fiercer; this is the character that literally breaks Batman! I think Bane is the most dangerous villain in the Batman universe following the Joker. My initial thought was that the fight scenes between Bane & Batman were a lot tamer than Rocky v. Drago/ Drago v. Apollo. I also wish there were subtitles because I couldn’t understand a fucking thing Bane said.
Some added touches I loved in the film include the Scarecrow cameo. Cillian Murphy did such a fantastic job in that role; it was great to see him back for a brief moment. Also, one of the orphan kids was supposed to be Tim Drake. Drake later becomes Robin as well in the comic book. Gary Oldman is great as always; he can do no wrong and neither can Commissioner Gordon. I was always a bigger fan of Michael Gough’s Alfred, but Michael Cain really got me this time. His climatic scene was probably the most moving thing in the entire film. Nolan always said he would never include Robin in his trilogy. Bale even said he wouldn’t do the movies if there was a Robin. Why is everyone so averse to Robin? Robin is an incredible character! I think it’s because Schumacher turned Robin into an irresponsible frat boy which couldn’t be further from the truth. I really wanted Robin in this film because he’s a pivotal part of the story. Initially, Batman enlists Azrael to take over following his near fatal battle with Bane. This causes a huge rift between the dynamic duo. Robin resents Batman for overlooking him. What Robin doesn’t realize is that Batman only wanted to protect Robin and deter him from taking on Bane himself. Even before I knew JGL was cast in the film, I thought he’d make a great Robin. Nolan quickly dispelled that rumor. Then I saw the very first trailer released with the football scene. The message boards pointed out that a particular fan sign in the stadium spelling out R-O-G-U-E-S (the fictional Gotham City football team), the "R" just happened to be in the same font as the Robin comic book. Sometimes such conspiracy theories turn out to be true. The more I thought about it, the more I realized JGL had to be Robin! The scene where he reveals his “real” name is none too subtle. He should have used one of the other aliases like Jason Todd, but then no one would have known who that is.
I still think the Burton Batman films are the best. Burton brought the darkness back to the bat. Prior to this, Batman was very kitschy (not to disrespect Adam West). Even Caesar Romero’s Joker was a little more comical than and nowhere near as menacing as Nicholson. Nicholson really brought out the sinister side of the Joker. And if you read the comic books, the Joker has done a lot more fucked up things than shove a pencil through some guy’s head. I’ve said before that I do not appreciate Ledger’s performance so I won’t get into it again. It’s just so hard to condense years (literally) worth of story into one film which is why TDKR is almost 3 hrs long. Keep in mind that Nolan’s trilogy is basically the Cliffs Notes to the Knightfall & No Man’s Land storyline. I’ve read some of the negative reviews and I am not really surprised. There are only two kinds of people who watch this film: the ones who read comic books & the ones who do not. Remember that Nolan wanted to make a film for both audiences so it is impossible to make everyone happy. Overall, TDKR is an enjoyable film. It may not be totally accurate, but nothing is without flaws (except Tarantino). Yes, they leave the door open for someone else to pick up the franchise but what do you expect? Nolan did what he could with what he had. Would you prefer to have Zack Snyder or Brett Ratner direct? Or god forbid another Schumacher train wreck! This trilogy showed me that it’s possible to separate yourself from a film and still have fun watching it. If anything, TDKR made me want to go back and buy all the seasons of the Animated Series from the early 90s. I’m certain this trilogy will inspire a whole new generation of Batman fans just like the Burton ones did for me. My only hope is that it also inspires people to dive into the rich history of Batman through the comic books. After all, everyone needs something to believe in.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, lady. I agree TDKR is an enjoyable film. I didn't love it, but I did like it.

    Oh and yes, it really made me want to go back and re-watch the Animated Series from the early 90s.