Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Movie – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I might as well address the elephant in the room right away.  There was no special security at the movie theater this afternoon when I went to see The Dark Knight Rises.  It was pouring outside, so I had to use an umbrella to get from my car to the building.  I was wondering if I would be asked to open it just to show nothing was concealed in it, but no one did.  I’m not proud of this, but I do admit that when a lone man walked into the theater about 10 minutes after the film started I watched him all the way to his seat before I turned my attention back to the movie.  I’m not sure if this says more about me or the times we live in.  I suspect it’s a bit of both.

In more positive news, The Dark Knight Rises is an entertaining summer popcorn movie.  It gives the Nolan Batman fans everything they could want.  In fact, Nolan seems to be following the standard action sequel script to a T – remind audience of where we left off, introduce new characters, establish the badassness of villain, give hero initial challenge which he fails, have hero go on spiritual journey, have bigger explosions, hero meets villain part 2, “surprise” reveal for people who haven’t been paying attention, noble sacrifice, set up story for sequel, roll credits.

Comparisons to the movie that came before are unavoidable.  On the plus side The Dark Knight Rises has far fewer silly plot points than The Dark Knight; on the negative side there is no single, standout performance in The Dark Knight Rises like there was with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.  I’m not saying the newcomers (Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer Blake, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Miranda, and Matthew Modine as Captain Foley) were bad.  They all did decent jobs, with Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt being the best of the bunch.  I did have trouble taking Bane seriously for a while because Hardy chose to use a voice that sounds like Sean Connery trying to do an Irish accent.  It just seemed really silly, and not at all related to the physicality of the character.  I got used to it after a while, though.

They join returning actors Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Q, uh, I mean Fox, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Nestor Carbonell as the Mayor.  By the way, anyone else remember him as Batmanuel on The Tick?  I got a kick out of seeing him in a Batman movie when he showed up in The Dark Knight, so I was glad they brought him back for this film.  There are also a couple of familiar characters from earlier Batman movies making brief appearances.  Finally, keep an eye out for some cameos by real football players and coaches during the football scene in the film.

The Dark Knight Rises opens with eight years having passed since the events of The Dark Knight.  A new law giving the police unprecedented powers to arrest and imprison criminals has left Gotham a quiet city.  This law was named after the late Harvey Dent.  The truth about him has never come out.  More importantly, Batman has never been seen again.  The character of Bruce Wayne has also become a recluse.

A new tide of evil is coming and it is named Bane.  He is a physically powerful man with dreams of completing Ra’s Al Ghul’s plans to remake society (see Batman Begins).  He plants explosives all over the city.  Also arriving new is a cat burglar named Selina Kyle who is hired to get Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints.  She intrigues him and her actions finally get Wayne to leave his mansion.  The two cross paths several times during the film and she alternates between being a friend, a foe, and a potential lover, depending on the situation.

Gordon is injured while pursuing Bane’s henchmen and a policeman named Blake becomes his eyes and ears into investigations on Bane.  Blake has a lot in common with Wayne in regards to their childhoods.  Meanwhile, now that Wayne is getting back out in public, his business partner Miranda corners him into discussing their clean energy project that he shut down.  It involved a fusion reactor. Gee, I wonder if this reactor will play an important part later in this film?

Bane invades the Gotham Stock Exchange and this finally brings Batman out into public.  With Gordon in the hospital unable to stop them, the cops are far more interested in capturing Batman than Bane.  The two confront each other, and in a moment right out of the comics, Bane seriously injures Batman.  Like any good movie villain, he doesn’t just kill him, though.  No, he establishes this elaborate trap for Wayne that he figures Wayne will never get out of.  That takes time, though, so in the interim Bane sets off the explosives in Gotham, cutting it off from the outside world.  He threatens to detonate a neutron bomb that was made from the fusion reactor (don’t ask) if anyone tries to enter or leave the city.  He then sets all the prisoners free to roam wild in Gotham, taking what they want from the rich.  There’s one tiny problem; the bomb’s material is decaying and will explode on its own in a few months.

For me, the best parts of this film were Hathaway’s appearances as Catwoman.  She’s not channeling either Michelle Pfeiffer or Halle Berry.  She makes the character her own, with enough attitude to make her quite interesting.  Oh, and she looks pretty good in the outfit, too (less dominatrix, more dancer/acrobat).

In regards to issues with the movie, I mentioned above that this film had fewer silly plot points than The Dark Knight.  That doesn’t mean that it had none.  At one point Catwoman was put in a men’s prison “because she breaks out of women’s prisons” and “she can hold her own with the men”.  It was just an awkward way to keep her trapped in Gotham with everyone else. 

This movie showed me that an exposed vertebra can be healed by punching it back into place then exercising a lot.  Also, highly trained CIA field agents don’t look at the faces of people whose heads are covered before bringing them onto a plane.

These are silly, but they are minor.  Describing my biggest issue with the film means revealing something that would be a spoiler.  I will have a warning below, then an “end spoiler” to let you know how far to skip reading if you have not seen the film.


SPOILER WARNING

My biggest issue is with the reveal of Marion Cotillard’s character as the real villain who is running things.  First, I had her pegged as a bad guy after the second time her character appeared (rule of thumb, if most everyone’s bad except one altruistic character then the altruistic character is the one who’s really bad.)  Second, it seemed obvious to me from the physicality of the child and the protector in the pit that the child was female and the protector was Bane.  Third, the other characters treat her like she is not their leader, and she does not act like anything other than a victim, even when she is alone with them and no good guys would know.  This makes no sense except to try to fool the audience.  (The rules of “the prestige” work in movies, too.)  Anyway, my issue isn’t really with how little of a surprise it was, it’s with what it does to the Bane character.

First, let me say that I have no particular love for the Bane character.  He came along after I stopped reading Batman comics.  However, in the 1997 Batman & Robin movie where he was a simple lackey of the real villain, Bane’s fans went nuts.  They hated the portrayal.  In The Dark Knight Rises Bane is shown for a good chunk of the movie as the main villain, coming up with the plans, being evil, etc.  Then it’s revealed he’s just a servant of the real villain, Talia Al Ghul (Cotillard’s character).  She starts ordering him around just like, wait for it, a simple lackey.  It really undermines the Bane character, and all for a twist that really isn’t a surprise and that adds nothing to the film.  The motivation that was driving Bane (remaking society for the people) just seems lame when it comes out of her character’s mouth.  At one point she literally says that even though she’s one of the super rich that she is trying to bring down, she’s still one of the people.

Hero movies are really only as good as the villain the hero must overcome.  What was the best thing about The Dark Knight?  The Joker.  The Dark Knight Rises also had that until the reveal that Bane wasn’t the big bad after all.

On a lighter note, while I’m in the spoiler section I’ll also mention that when Batman is trying to get the bomb out of the city I couldn’t help but flash on the original 1966 Batman movie where he is running around trying to find a safe place to throw a bomb and he laments, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”

END SPOILER


If you loved the prior Nolan Batman movies then by all means see this one.  I expect you’ll love it, too.  If you’re not that crazy about superhero movies then I don’t think this one will change your mind about them.  For everyone else, I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray

9 comments:

  1. This is a very brave piece of work here given by Christopher Nolan and he shows that he can pull-off a near-perfect trilogy, even if a lot of people don’t want to see him go. Hopefully, this means he’s off to doing more original pieces of work like Inception or The Prestige. Good review Chip.

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    1. "Hopefully, this means he’s off to doing more original pieces of work like Inception or The Prestige."

      I agree. While the Batman films were entertaining, I would place Memento and Inception as his two best films.

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  2. Fantastic entry! You really write beautifully. It's bloggers like you that make me realize that I really need to step up and stop writing in stream-of-consciousness format and really treat writing my entries as if I were submitting to an actual editor. Hahaha. One of these days (hopefully soon) I'll get it right.

    Anyway, you're spot on about a lot of things, and I see we really agree with what we thought of the movie. In fact, you basically echo my thoughts exactly, only you word it MUCH better. :)

    Hope to see you around my site again sometime, and I will surely keep an eye on yours.

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    1. Wow! Thank you very much for the kind words.

      To be honest I hadn't picked up a "stream of consciousness" vibe from your writing. As long as it's got punctuation in it to break up the stream, it comes across fine. It's when someone writes in a pseudo-texting format that I sometimes get the urge to ask for a translation, although I never do.

      If this helps, I first write the post in a Word document on my computer, rather than directly in the blog. This serves two purposes. First, it lets me get my initial thoughts out, which I then re-read and edit. Second, it provides a backup of the post if anything should ever happen to the blog.

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  3. Great review Chip! I agree with most of the things you said, I wasn't that impressed either- probably a 3 out 5 from me, too! Putting up my review soon!

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    1. Thanks. I look forward to your review.

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  4. Good review! Bane sounded like Connery too but I didn't mind that. I think you did because you focused on physicality - Bane was actually intelligent and in comic books he knew languages and a great deal of things. He wasn't jsut violent force. I really liked the reveal and the fact they gave him humanity - he was fighting because he loved her. Hardy's acting was exceptional in this scene. The Joker as great as he was didn't have humanity, maybe it made him scarier but it also made him simpler. For me the fact that there is no stand out performance is a plus - in tDK The Joker was so good everyone looked average in comparision. Here it's more balanced.

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    1. Thanks for the info on Bane. Your comment was much more relevant than the unpunctuated one from "Anonymous" that followed you. Apparently this positive review wasn't positive enough for that Nolan fanboy.

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  5. Chip is a douche

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