Hello everyone! It has been a busy summer, but I am ending my hiatus and getting back to doing what I love and forcing myself to grow as a writer, thinker, and artist. I will have a future post about the things I have been up to this summer, but right now I would like to jump right into my thoughts about The Dark Knight Rises. I just got out of the midnight premiere and I want to write this before I talked to anyone else. I had a very strong reaction to this film and I want to get my thoughts out now. I am writing this mainly stream of consciousness so bear with me I will attempt to organize my thoughts as coherently as I possibly can after an almost 3 hour movie and a 11 hour day of work. But first we need to qualify everything I am going to say.
My History with Mr. Nolan and his Batman Franchise
I can already tell where this movie is landing with the general reactions of this film. I was in the theater I watched the twitters and the facebooks explode. I didn't have anywhere close to the same reaction, but in an attempt to not have everyone tune me out I want to explain where I was on Nolan and Batman going into this movie.
I have been an advocate and defender of Chris Nolan for many years now. I think he has released incredible work and consistently manages to release work that is commercially successful, but also challenges its audiences. When Nolan's name is in the credits I feel confident that I am going to get something more than your average run-of-the-mill summer popcorn movie (NOT that there is anything wrong with those. I've seen Avengers twice now and loved it even more the second time). I also think that through the years Nolan has received unfair levels of scrutiny and his films have been nitpicked to death by the cinefile community (admittedly a minority of the film consuming audience).
I have felt like there is this unwritten rule in Hollywood. Option A is making work that challenges it audiences and gets critically rewarded, but dies in the obscurity that is the indie and small budget film circuits (e.g. Tree of Life or Coriolanus which are both films criminally under seen). Option B is releasing massive budget blockbuster movies that are cash cows for the studios. The price an artist pays for this of coarse is creating the least controversial fluff possible that acts as escapism at best (e.g. The Avengers or Hunger Games). Nolan's movies, especially Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception have managed to bridge a gap and have massive budgets and massive box office success while delivering the audience with something more (in theory).
The massive popularity of these movies make the cinefiles nuts. Michael Bay movies do 300 million at the box office. How can Inception be as visionary, groundbreaking, and challenging as everyone thinks it is if its massively popular? And so the cinefiles start to nitpick the shit out of Nolan holding him to a level of scrutiny that directors like Steven Soderbergh or David Fincher aren't held to, even when they release movies like Magic Mike or Girl With the Dragon Tattoo respectively.
I have defended Nolan over the years. Is the Dark Knight or Inception the greatest movie ever made? No there are flaws and problems with both, but they are great movies. I would take movies with these kind of vision and ambition over Hollywood popcorn any day.
Also less professionally I am a HUGE comic book nerd and a HUGE Batman fan. So now that you know I went into this film being a Nolan Defender and Batman fanboy the gloves need to come off. I need to say my piece and make an appeal to the more reasonable and logical part of your brain as you digest this movie.
(^ you were warned no fanboy rage cause I ruined the movie. Also don't read reviews before you see movies you are passionate about.)
The Dark Knight Rises
Let me start this review with explaining why the Batman predecessor worked so well for me. It really boils down to four major things:
- Realism- Nolan worked hard to make it clear these movies are meant to be taken as realistically as possible. The universe he sets his franchise in operates with the same rules as our own universe. It is in some ways a rejection of the superhero genre. Unlike in comic books, characters die. Violence is earned and felt as opposed to WHAM and BOW and sassy one-liners. Villains though extreme are believable. They don't have super powers. Batman's gear while heightened isn't far from what we have.
- Characters- the characters in these movies are well developed. Characters like Lucius Fox though having little screen time are three dimension.
- pseudo rejection of CGI and 3D madness- Most of the action in these movies is shot for real. That semi scene in Dark Knight is so powerful because it is a real semi. Batman throws real punches and hits real people. Instead of Web-slinging around green screens and punching CGI'ed giant lizards.
- The question of morality- these movies stop and ponder what kind of person throw on a costume and decides the take the law in their own hands. Actions have REAL consequences. Batman's choices result in an entire section of a city getting gassed with a permanently mind altering drug. It also results in people dying including the love of his life. Unlike Thor who levels a small town with no recourse or Spiderman whose superhero hobby results in hurting his school work, job, and girlfriends. When Mary Jane gets tossed off a bridge we KNOW she will make it. When Rachel and Harvey gets strapped to bombs we don't know if they will (spoilers they don't).
And now why the Dark Knight rises was not any of that....
The soul of Gotham
This whole trilogy is suppose to chronicle the Batman's struggle for a city in desperate need of saving. This film opens with victory. If we have won and the city is safe then why do we have a movie? It is ridiculous as an inspirational Sports movie about a team that has everything, is the best, and has no way to improve. There is no conflict if Gotham's soul is won. The next turn is completely unbelievable. Bane blows up two buildings and then gives a speech and then the whole city pretty much agrees to overthrow any sense of rule of law. If Gotham was won the authorities should be able to handle Bane's threat.
The movie ends with Batman swooping and saving the day at the sacrificing of his own life (just kidding... but I'll get to that). From there it is hard to see how Gotham can be saved. The masses overthrew the ruling class and elected a system of anarchy maintained through violence and intimidation. But after Batman saves the day, Nolan just kind of sweeps the whole movie under a rug and Gotham's order and rule of law is restored. If the city's soul is a character then why it's arch in this movie is a circle and no one learned anything. The next time a terrorist attacks Gotham the city will be in shambles again and Batman will need to reteach it the same lesson.
The Bomb and other Suspension of disbelief issues
In the Dark Knight there was a high level of chaos. The Joker had a master plan and was always several steps ahead of the law enforcement. But we saw a response of the law enforcement and they seemed to being acting in a reasonable manner with logically choices even though the joker was ahead of them the whole time. They responded to a terrorist how our society would.
Bane gets to a place where he is basically holding the city hostage with a bomb that is basically an atomic bomb. If anyone tries to interfere with Gotham or leaves the whole cities goes up in flames, but even if everyone follows the rules and let the oppressed oppress people... everyone goes? 1) It is a no-win situation where is the moral complexity or angle? 2) More importantly where is the state government? or the federal government? NATO? UN? SHIELD? An international terrorist takes hostage one of America's largest cities with a nuclear bomb and the global community's response is: fuck it let the nut job in the Bat costume handle this shit.
Another major point in the movie where my suspension of disbelief hit Transformers levels (yes I went there) was Bane's instant rise to power. The movie dwells on the fact that Gotham is won. There is no organized crime left. And yet Bane blows up TWO buildings and then the entire law enforcement branch falls in line and elected officials submit their power. Again all while the global community does nothing.
There was also a heist that kind of happened that didn't happen. Bane kind of used Wayne's fingerprints to hack the Gotham Stock Exchange (strikingly similar to the NY stock exchange) and bet big on futures that don't come through. Which would in theory destroy Wayne enterprises which is also apparently bankrupt because they sunk ALL funds into one energy project and then Bruce refused to green light the final product. You know like GM put all its resources into building a hydro-electric car and gets a prototype and then says never mind and does nothing. I know Bruce Wayne is supposed to be negligent but there is an entire board of directors that does nothing? Giant commodity's future scandal and the bankrupting of a multinational S & P 500 company and the global financial communities' response is... Nothing?
Ok back to the bomb. Batman takes the atomic bomb out of the city about a mile into the ocean that didn't exist in the last movie and then it explodes. I'm no expert on atomic weaponry, but I know enough to know that the distance he got it out of the city in time would have still leveled the city. He also somehow SURVIVES a nuclear explosion? You know like Indiana Jones! I guess the Batwing had a refrigerator he could hide in.
Finally Bruce Wayne himself. He opens the movie with a limp and cane (no explanation). Later he goes to the doctor who tells him he has no cartilage between his bones from all of the massive beatings I guess. Now this happened to my grandpa. He literally has worked all of the cartilage out of his knee joint and could barely walk until he got surgery. Wayne puts on knee brace and can then fight and be Batman... ok. Then Batman gets his back broken and then thrown down a well that is as deep as skyscraper (with a broken back) and he survives. He gets his back fixed by a monk punching a vertebrae and he trains and he is back to normal... again.
Any sense of realism of the first two movies is completely gone in this film.
Let me go through Character quick fire
- Bruce Wayne- socially a hermit and then not. He goes through the same arc and learning curve of the first movie.
- Catwomen- She is in this movie as an after thought. Her plotline go nowhere and she is in this movie to where sexy leather, kick ass, and act as a love interest in the finale because Nolan murdered Rachel. Props to Anne Hathaway though best Catwoman even with very limit writing and screen time
- Lucius Fox- Why are you in this movie?
- Albert- You get mad at Bruce and say you're done and you cannot handle burying Wayne. Then you bury him and cry (an overact) a lot. But then it is all undone cause Wayne is alive healthy and gets a happily ever after.
- Joseph Gordan Levitt Character- This character just got shit. He ran around the whole movie acting as one of the only people trying to do his job as a cop and the entire time had superiors step on him and condescended. He also got equal screen time to Batman (the title character) even though it was all about setting up the new Batman for the next franchise (studio goes caching caching). It also made no sense how or why he knew who Batman was. NO sense.
- Bane- annoy voice kind of hard to understand. I missed the joker a lot. Not just for the performance but for the actual master plan and the fun.
- Marion Cotillard- This character was the least believable and had one of the worse death scenes I have seen in a movie in a long time.
So if you love the Batman movies for the explosions and action scenes and you just love Batman go see this movie. If you followed these films because they are smart and clever and maybe made you think a little prepared to be let down.
As always I encourage and want discussion. These are my views and opinions and a dialogue can help me find the weak points of my arguments and even change my opinions on things I got wrong. Look for more content soon.
The Dark knight Rises ended up being the film the studios needed not the film the fans deserved
PS: Totally called Joseph Gorden Levitt being Robin. Everyone said I was wrong. I win!