I rarely go to the theater anymore, because it’s expensive and I have a perfectly acceptable A/V setup at home that allows me to avoid the screaming dullards that inhabit our nation’s cinemas. (That’s a lazy generalization, but I’m a lazy generalizer, and anyone that disagrees with me is stupid and inferior). However, I tend to make exceptions for certain things: The films of Tarantino and Scorcese, or Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers. I also make an exception for the Batman movies of Christopher Nolan, because they are loud and shiny and cool and an intriguing take on the one comic book hero that interests me. It’s strange…I’m so damn sick of superhero movies, but I had to see the conclusion of Nolan’s trilogy in the theaters on opening weekend. I watched it on a Saturday morning on IMAX, and left the theater invigorated by the loud, busy nonstop sturm und drang of Nolan’s latest.
After seeing the movie a couple of more times, I think it’s safe to say that I was wrong, and this movie kinda sucked. I hate the “kinda” addition, like when people say “I kinda hated it.” Either you hate it or you don’t, Mr. Too Many Extra Words. Still, The Dark Knight Rises is only kinda terrible. There are parts of this movie that I LERRRRVE. Anne Hathaway kills it as Catwoman, Tom Hardy’s Angry-Walrus-With-A-Gas-Mask performance as Bane was fun and memorably odd. I found a lot of the action to be much clearer and easier to follow than The Dark Knight, despite TDKR’s dopey story.
And that’s the thing: The story is dumb. Well, maybe not “dumb”, per se, but so convoluted and silly and jam-packed that it becomes like homework, and it was especially tough to sit through when I rewatched it. Dark Knight Rises is one of the most rushed three-hour films I’ve ever seen. It’s like they had a six-hour story, but they had to cram it into a too-short running time. It’s the exact opposite of Peter Jackson Syndrome.
I hate to break this down with a checklist, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do, so maybe I don’t hate it all that much? Anyway, here’s what I liked and didn’t like about Dark Knight Rises:
– Anne Hathaway. I always thought Anne Hathaway was a good actress, but she never gave me a case of the “DAAMMMMMMN GIRL!”s until this movie. She’s funny and sexy and calculating and pretty much perfect, as perfect for Catwoman as Ledger was for Joker, although I concede that Ledger was in a better film.
– Batman gets a happy ending after 8 hours of grim grimness. I thought this was actually the ballsiest possible ending: A Batman movie that ends with Bruce Wayne being (GASP) happy? I found it unexpected and earned. Wayne spent 3 long movies getting his ass kicked. He deserved a vacation.
Some thought it was cheesy, and maybe it was, but many of those people also thought dressing up like Ledger’s Joker was cool. We’re all lame for different reasons.
– When the Batplane goes PEW PEW PEW and the other stuff goes KA-POW! The action in this is big and bombastic, a satisfying capper to the end of a comic book trilogy. I also cringed when Bane broke Batman’s mask. It was as thorough a beatdown as you’ll ever see, which makes their mano-a-mano rematch twice as silly. (More on that later.)
– Tom Hardy and that weird-ass voice he uses. I was especially impressed with the way Hardy used his eyes to convey so much of what Bane was thinking. His stuffy British professor voice was an acquired taste, but I liked it, although I recall his voice being much muddier in the theater; his lines have been noticeably overdubbed for the Blu-Ray.
– The Joseph Gordon-Levitt storyline, to a point. It was an interesting idea to attempt an origin story in the middle of wrapping Bruce Wayne’s story, but I don’t think it was as effective as it could have been. It feels muddled, and giving the guy the middle name of Robin made me groan. Like the other subplots, it isn’t given enough time to be fully felt. This movie could have been a trilogy by itself.
– The callbacks to Batman Begins. I especially liked Bruce Wayne being trapped in a pit of doom similar to the Bat Cave in the first movie. Another idea that works on its own but ends up being muddled once all the other crap is piled on top of it.
ME NO LIKEY NO WAY UH-UH
– The lack of Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. I would have rather spent time with them than with Matthew Modine’s awful character.
– The “just go with it” pacing. As I said above, this film is overstuffed, and there are moments where it feels like the authorial fast-forward button is pressed just to get on to the next thing.
– Bane destroys Batman in a one-on-one fist fight, and Batman comes back and beats him in a one-on-one fistfight. Really? That’s all he had to do? Punch harder? Bane threw him around and smashed him to bits, but in the rematch they have equal strength? Oh wait, I remember that Batman dislodged Bane’s mask thingie. None of Bane’s other hundreds of fighting opponents tried to do that in the last few decades?
– Bane was in love all along BA-DERRRRRP. So it turns out that Marion Cotillard’s character is Talia Al-Ghul and Bane’s her guardian protector and zzzzzzzz. I would have preferred that this had been revealed earlier rather than delayed for the sake of mystery; as it is, it comes across as a cheap twist. I kept thinking, “So why have we spent 9/10th of the movie with Bane?” It’s something I might not have quibbled with from a lesser film, but this all felt so sloppy.
– Bruce Wayne’s Magic Spine. One good kick to the vertebrae and just like that, he’s good to go!
– Nolan Ain’t Funny. Nolan often goes for those “movie” comedy moments, like the old cop in this one saying “YER IN FER A SHOW TONIGHT SONNNN” or whatever, and they always come off awkwardly. I hate bad jokes in action movies, because they’re almost always spotlighted, and when they fumble, they fumble badly. Like that callback joke in Batman Begins: “Didn’t you get the memo?” OH SHUT UP
– The Mincing British Kid Singing The Star-Spangled Banner. Maybe the most tin-eared moment of Nolan’s often tin-eared career, the fact that Gotham would hire Oliver Twist to sing before a damn football game made me wish, nay, demand that Bane would take over the city and box the ears of all its citizens.
Flawed and bombastic, exciting and silly, The Dark Knight Rises is filled with flaws, but for me, the loud outweighs the dumb. Of course, while I was typing this, I was sent a video that sums up the movie’s flaws much faster than I could. (“HIEST”?)
[embedplusvideo height=”337″ width=”550″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/j2tE-BCwZtw?fs=1&hd=1″ vars=”ytid=j2tE-BCwZtw&width=550&height=337&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep1963″ /]
NOTE: The Blu-Ray version of the film cleans up Bane’s voice a lot. This led to complaints that Bane’s voice was TOO clear. You can’t win on the Internet.
SHILL: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Batman Begins / The Dark Knight / The Dark Knight Rises) [Blu-ray]
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