24 July 2012

DARK KNIGHT LEGEND: The Dark Knight Rises [2012]


proudly presents


The Dark Knight Rises

At the time of this writing, I've only had one screening of the movie to build my thoughts on. This is not enough. Therefore, instead of structuring this as a real, thoroughly written review, I'm going to resort to the simple and elegant Liked/Disliked format. Also, before continuing, people should know that I like to discuss a movie as a whole, which includes lots and lots of plot details. Thus, if this must be said, there are spoilers ahead.

I fully expect my opinion and outlook of The Dark Knight Rises to change after time, so perhaps before the month is out I will write a detailed review of the movie (like that would be necessary by that point, but it's worth posting for the sake of writing it as a Batman fan), but for now, enjoy the following, and hand me your thoughts!

I Rise

- Selina Kyle very easily owns this movie, as played to perfection by Anne Hathaway. It's funny, that the single aspect I had the most trepidation about ends up being the single aspect I am most readily giddy to praise. If not for Hathaway, the costume, and the character's arc, I'm not sure exactly what my #1 answer of what I liked would be. She's surprising in her delivery, she's swift in her ass kicking, she's brutal in her performance - she's everything Selina Kyle needs to be. And her rapport with Batman is nothing short of fantastic. Similarly to Heath Ledger, it's always the people Nolan casts that I find most bizarre that end up blowing it right out of the water. She is stunning, not only in her absolute gorgeousness, but the ferocity she brings to the role and the flirtatious side she has with Batman. I love with Michelle did with Selina in Batman Returns, but I think we just may have got our true, definitive Selina Kyle. After all, Hathaway's doesn't die and is resurrected by magical cats. Cat food for thought.

- Flying solo this time, Hans Zimmer had a lot to live up to after the brilliant score for The Dark Knight (co-written by Begins collaborator James Newton Howard), and he more than lived up to expectation. Although, in all fairness, any movie that frequently uses a tribal chant to create a sense of all-out war and terror has already booked me. I love me some chorus work, especially when it's all epic-sounding. And on a sorta related topic, I do want to make brief mention of how I like the deliberate absence of score during the first Batman vs. Bane fight. It added immensely to the uncomfortable, eerie, brutal melee that went down. There's tons of cues from the previous movies, and tons of brand new cues for this flick to make this movie feel like the tying up of a cohesive whole. A listen to just the soundtrack captures that same mood splendidly. Great job, Zimmer, great job.

- However, Zimmer, now I'm friggin' chanting 'Deshi deshi basara basara' all frakkin' day long!

- Cinematography was, once again, top notch. Nolan seems to favor medium shots over all other types, and I think it serves him quite well. Gives his movies a style all of their own.

- Like everyone else, I knew John Blake was more than meets the eye. He couldn't just be some idealist cop who makes it good with Alfred. Nah, there had to be more to it. Plus, casting Joseph Gordon-Levitt for just a bit part? Forget it. But even before the final minutes reveal - JoGo made me Believe in John Blake, and wherever his character was going, I was following. Wherever Warner Bros. brings this series after Nolan's tenure is long gone, I'm confident in thinking that this is the last we'll see of John Blake, or anything related to the Nolanverse. Which is a shame, because this would be a brilliant direction to continue forward. That said, if this is, indeed, the only appearance of Levitt and Blake, it was presented in marvelous fashion. Reminds me to say:

- I really, really liked the dialogue-heavy scene between Blake and Bruce Wayne, where he flat-out tells Bruce that he knows he's Batman, and lists why. The dialogue here is spectacular; talking about being an angry child, and how people can tolerate that anger for only so long before they grow tired of it, so to make everything alright in the world, he had to adopt a smile, to hold that anger in, and it's a similar face to the one Bruce Wayne, billionaire orphan of Gotham, wears wherever he goes. One hell of a strong scene.

- Bane is not as strong as a presence as he has a right to be, and when all is said and done, he's basically Talia's bitch, but I would be remiss to put this in the negative column. Although Bane didn't live up to everything he could be from a character/story standpoint, my god, if Tom Hardy didn't deliver perhaps one of the most chilling performances. And I cannot state enough how much I am deeply in love with the Bane voice. Screw the complaints about it being muffled and shit, it's spine-chilling, it's unusual, it's sorta Darth Vader-y, and it's the voice of "pure evil." Freakin' A, Hardy and that voice were pure brilliance.

- Bringing things full circle was a very clever idea. So, major kudos to the writing crew for making that decision. I love when endings harken back to the beginning.

You Fall
- The single most important function of The Dark Knight Rises is serving two masters, two stories that are of the utmost priority: the resolution to Bruce Wayne and his journey as The Batman, and the stability of Gotham City. One of these are addressed, the other is unfulfilled. Bruce Wayne finds the peace he deserves, he finds the strength to die as Batman and to live as Bruce Wayne. But Batman was born to save the city, to bring it out of its corruption and the devices of evil men. With Bane's revelation of the lie the city's peace was founded on - the lie of Harvey Dent murdered by Batman - there should be outcry, or at least a major consequence. After all, hundreds (if not thousands) of inmates were imprisoned under the Harvey Dent Act, that alone should have ramifications for the future of Gotham. Where we leave Gotham at the end of this movie is a place that still very much needs help, that's in some form of disarray. And although I have no problem with the path they have set for John Blake, I do have problem with Bruce Wayne officially retiring before his single goal had been fulfilled: his peace should be directly linked to Gotham's prosperity, I feel. Perhaps I am alone in this feeling, but I think Gotham didn't get the resolution it deserved.

- Compared to the previous two movies, Gary Oldman's Commissioner James Gordon seems very off from the place of a performance. Even his voice doesn't seem the same, it's changed movie to movie. But despite how he was acted, which I didn't like, I thoroughly enjoyed how he involved himself in the narrative. Gordon was very kickass and instrumental in everything after his brief stint in the hospital. 

- Batman has been entirely out of work for eight years? So, okay, the lie was established to create something for Gotham to be united in, to create peace, blah, blah, etc. Got it. And the cops would be after him, leading to some danger if he were to go out and do his thing. But he's Batman, ladies and gents, and this is the one and only time I feel Nolan didn't get a grasp on the character. Batman needs to be out in Gotham and fight crime. He has to. Okay, fine, peace is in the making, but there's still a mugging a few streets away, there's still a child who will be a orphan one night because The Batman wasn't there to save his soul or what have you. The Batman was very much needed, and Bruce hanging up the cape and cowl for eight whole years, becoming a recluse - that part just doesn't make sense to me.

- Overall, what was the purpose of having Taggert in this story? I mean, I know his plot functions, but as far as unnecessary characters are concerned, Taggert could easily have been cut in favor for more time with Bruce.

- So for five months Bane takes control of Gotham, although he's telling the people of Gotham that it's a free city, do with it as you please, seeming like the good guy, yet all this time he's planning on having that nuke go off and everything (including himself and Talia) get blown to bits? Why not just blow the shit out of Gotham right out of the ballpark? Maybe I'm missing an integral part of the plan (wanna 'xplain it to me?), but it's Bane and Talia's whole 'Screw over Gotham' thing that just...doesn't jive well...

- This is more of a nitpick that I noticed: the opening introductory scene for Bane (widely regarded as 'The Prologue') features a far different dub than what previewed before Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol in December. At this point, I've memorized the tonality and inclinations of Bane's dialogue in that prologue, and with the exception of two lines, Bane's voice was different in the movie than it was back in December. After all the backlash Nolan got for making his voice too muffled and nonsensical, his solution was apparently to up the sound quality of Bane a hundred percent over the necessary limit and choosing alternate takes from Hardy that didn't quite capture the same menace from Bane as before. Sigh, oh well.

- I was a little disappointed by the fights, not going to lie. But by the same token, I understand from a story level that we can't have a long-dormant Bruce suddenly able to offer something of a worthwhile brawl with a strong, lethal, calculating Bane. That said, and maybe this calls more to how it was filmed, but the rematch was nowhere near as epic as I was hoped it to be, either. This was the literal fight for Gotham's soul, I expected it to be something more - amazing. Still, parts of it were quite spectacular, such as a growing ruthless Bane just swatting about, laying everything he's got at Batman, who isn't ready to back down.

The Journey
If there is one single thing about all else that I very, very much like/love from The Dark Knight Rises, it's the prison subplot. It's ingenious, I feel, one of the most brilliant strokes of the entire Trilogy. What this subplot represents on a thematic level, let alone character level, is staggeringly genius. We begin with Bruce Wayne very much in a prison of his own making, a recluse, whispered by society as a crazy man with scars and golem-like features. The first level of 'rise' we get is Bruce deciding to get back into the game after Gordon's hospitalization, but it's not entirely successful. He hasn't thought things through. He's a bit reckless. He's not the man he once was. He was unprepared, and in his rush to aid Gotham, Bruce ended up with a dislocated vertebra and locked in Bane's prison thousands of miles away from Gotham. Broken in body, desperate in soul, with the aid of fellow inmates, Bruce begins to rise.

"Sometimes, a man rises from the darkness" is what Alfred tells Bruce concerning the backstory to Bane. Supposedly only one has ever made it out of the prison, and that was a child. The why is the secret. In one of the TV Spots, Bruce remarks "I'm not afraid, I'm angry." After being purged of that fear in Batman Begins, he's used fear as an instrument, but he wasn't subject to it. The wise doctor in Bane's prison reveals Bruce's folly: how do you strike harder, fight faster and longer, if you aren't driven by the biggest human motivator - the fear of death. He needs to tap back into that fear, the fear of loss, of failing the city, of dying in Bane's prison. And without a rope, without aid, Bruce make a third and final climb. And when we arrives at the most important moment of the narrative, Bruce looks at where he needs to jump, and from behind him, in the wall, a group of bats burst forth and startle him. Whether they're real bats or just a part of Bruce's psyche doesn't matter, what matters is that he's feeling fear again, he's tapping into it, and that will be his saving grace. He closes his eyes. He breathes. He jumps. He catches.

Bruce Wayne rises.

Bruce rises from the pain of Batman, of all the tragedy and the loss in his life, and Batman rises from the criminal nearly every member of law enforcement sought to capture or kill to become a symbol of hope and inspiration. The hero Gotham needed. He never became the "hero with a face", as many surmised may be the case after all the emphasis on that notion in The Dark Knight, where Gothamites fought alongside Bruce Wayne on the steps of City Hall or Bruce the billionaire saving the world in a shinning mirror of Harvey - but we did get a different iteration that, for Gotham, they don't need the face underneath, they have their "hero with a face", and that face is Batman.

Thematically, and from the title alone, rising from the ashes is what this whole Trilogy is about, originating with the 'Why Do We Fall?' line from Begins. And this movie, I think, would have benefited just a little bit more if time was spent with Bruce in captivity, because this scenario wasn't ever one I'm sure fans were treated with before.

However Batman has left Gotham, whatever Bruce Wayne does with his life, and whatever becomes of John Blake and the choices he makes - Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer have crafted a trilogy that is to my generation what the Original Star Wars Trilogy no doubt was for the earlier generations.

Thank you, Chris, Jonathan and David, crafting one of cinema's great epics, 2003-2012.

T H E     E N D

1 comment:

ruth said...

Nice Batathon, Andy! Hey, I too had trepidation about Anne Hathaway but she ended up impressing me. I don't know if she stole the movie, but there were certainly scene-stealing happening, but then again she IS a thief :)

I thought the music was way too loud for me to enjoy though, maybe if I listen to the music on its own I'll enjoy it more. Overall I thought it was a compelling ending and a formidable effort from Nolan & co. but there were enough flaws here that prevents it from being a masterpiece work. It stands as the weakest of the trilogy to me, but then again Nolan had set the bar very, very high for even himself.