Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Did The Dark Knight Rises Sink?

The Dark Knight Rises is an epic finish to a nerdtastic trilogy, but it’s not without fault. Out of the three movies, The Dark Knight Rises has the weakest story and situations that felt lazy. The climax, though action-packed and worth the price of admission, felt like it was torn straight from the pages of a comic book. It feels out of place in a trilogy so meticulously grounded in reality.

My biggest issue with The Dark Knight Rises was that it leaned too much on its predecessors in order to make the movie work. Batman Begins was a standalone movie. It didn’t set up a sequel and the story was contained to one film. The Dark Knight was another Batman adventure, but you didn’t need to watch Batman Begins to understand it. The Dark Knight Rises relies on events from those two movies in order for the film to work. Unlike the first two movies, you need to know about Harvey Dent to understand Bruce Wayne/Batman. You need to know who the League of Shadows were and what role they played in Batman’s origin. The Dark Knight Rises drags because of it. It calls back to both previous movies. It doesn’t explain things because it hopes you remember them. In essence, the story isn’t as self-contained like the first two.

I hate to say this, but the script wasn’t as sharp as I hoped it would be. Don’t get me wrong, the dialogue was great, but I felt things happened for convenience. For example, I didn’t like how characters magically knew when to show up in a scene. How did character X know character Y was under the bridge? And how did character Y know that character Z needed help at that precise moment when he was all alone? Pretty random and it broke the scene for me. This happened a few times. Also, some dialogue felt like it was wedged into the beginning so they could get the emotional response the filmmakers wanted in the end. It felt out of place and would have fit better in Batman Begins.

I didn’t see it on an IMAX screen the way it was intended to be seen. A good chunk of the movie was shot on 70mm film and for me, this slowed things down. IMAX is about four times bigger than regular film. The cameras are clunky and cannot be hand-held due to their size. They have to be on tracks or attached to a helicopter. I don’t think the average movie-goer could see this, but I could tell which shots/scenes were in IMAX. The action was slowed down. Fist fights weren’t as impactful as they should have been. They seemed slow and choreographed to me. I think I know why. With IMAX, you have to spend a few hours setting up a shot just to get a few seconds of footage. When the shot is complete, you have to spend a few hours moving the camera to set up another shot. There isn’t a lot of time to waste when filming like this. You can’t be as flexible as you might wish to be. I’m sure the filmmakers took careful consideration when setting up these shots, but to me, some of the action came across to me as tired and slow because of it.

Also – I’ve been here before. The climatic situation. The weapon. The villain’s purpose. Wasn’t this in Batman Begins?

But I’ll push that aside because I did like the movie. It’s better than Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and, most importantly, Batman & Robin. So what did work in the movie?

“…as a man I'm flesh and blood. I can be ignored, I can be destroyed, but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.” – Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins

This line from Batman Begins is most important when watching The Dark Knight Rises. This was the theme that carried the movie along. If you break the man, you also break the symbol. And when that happens, the villains are able to run loose without any opposition. What does it take to break Batman? How far can they go in breaking Bruce Wayne down? Where do you strike hardest to inflict the most pain? The answers to these are what make the movie interesting. 

What rogue in the Batman cannon is capable with inflicting this much pain? Bane, of course. Bane doesn’t have much back-story here, just the essentials to get you up to speed. Bane is a monster that wears a face mask over his nose and mouth, and has the muscular structure of the Hulk. He is brutishly strong. He is there to break Batman anyway possible. He is cunning too. He can out-think Batman. He’s usually one step ahead of him. And when he’s not, he can go toe-to-toe with the caped crusader and come out on top. This gives something Batman needs to rise up against. It helps us cheer him on throughout the movie. We want Batman to overcome Bane because he’s such an ominous and powerful villain.

Anne Hathaway portrayed my favorite Catwoman to date. She was smart, dangerous, and able to protect herself against Bane and Batman. Like all villains in the Batman/Nolan universe, Catwoman is smart and able to take care of herself. I liked her sketchy nature. But there is a big problem with her. Catwoman, while a pleasure to watch, was just “in” the movie. She served no purpose to me. If you cut her scenes out, the movie wouldn’t suffer. Nothing was at stake. It might have been better if they went with The Long Halloween version of Catwoman where she was the illegitimate daughter of Carmine Falcone (Tim Wilkinson in Batman Begins). That could have given her a reason to bring down Batman. Instead they didn’t, and Catwoman was just a burglar.

Finally, Christian Bale has been one hell of a Batman. He has given Bruce Wayne three personalities; all seem very real and plausible throughout this trilogy. His Batman is menacing and real. The public persona of Bruce Wayne as a billionaire playboy was spot on. No one in their right mind would ever suspect this is Batman. Then there is the real Bruce Wayne. One marked by the tragic death of his parents. This is the Bruce Wayne only Alfred sees. It’s the one we’ve been rooting for since the beginning. 

The ending is as perfect as I expected from Christopher Nolan. I had a giant nerdgasim when I saw it on screen. Fanboys everywhere will, or should have, rejoiced in what they saw. Maybe it was little forced and wrapped up too nicely. I can see that argument. Personally, I was hoping for more of an ending open for interpretation like Inception. But in the end, as I’ve said, it’s a perfect end to the trilogy. I just wish the rest of the movie was at that caliber. As a whole, this trilogy will go down as one of the best “comic book movies” arcs ever made, and The Dark Knight Rises will be held up only because it’s a sequel to The Dark Knight (the greatest movie of the superhero genre). Overall, this fanboy gives The Dark Knight Rises three Batsigns out of four.

Jason Wasulko
Contributing Writer 

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