Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The circle is finally complete, after 7 years and three films Chris Nolan's journey through Gotham has come to a close. It's been a pretty crazy week when the fictional world was interrupted by an unfortunately real act of cowardice, terror &  murder. I don't want to go much into the events that happened in Colorado which is being covered to an overwhelming degree on your televisions. Having seen the film it is hard to separate the two of them, they are unfortunately tragically linked. Since this is only an entertainment site and frankly there is enough oxygen being spent on the whys and hows on the 24 hour death channels, so we'll leave it to them. If you click here you'll get a thoughtful look into the debate about guns. As for the film itself this was for all intents and purposes one of the most brutal PG-13 films I've seen in quite a long time. This is not the Avengers or Spider-Man. If my son Nathan is lucky he might be able to see this film when he turns 18, if I have my way.
Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) has been on the sidelines for 8 years after the events in the Dark Knight and he appears to have lost his desire to interact with the new world he helped to create in Gotham. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman)  agreed with Batman at the end of the last film that former DA Harvey Dent's turn to madness and death would be covered up and that he would remain the beacon of hope he started and with the Batman taking the blame for his demise. This in turn led to the Dent act which put almost all of Gotham's worst villains behind bars. Gotham has prospered in those years but there is a storm coming as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) tells Bruce and that storms name is Bane (Tom Hardy).

As I stated above this was an incredibly dark and brutal film almost like a Mike Tyson fight. It was incredibly ambitious and there admittedly was some glut in this almost 3 hour film, but make no mistake about it, this was a phenomenal film that, in my mind, closed the door on the trilogy in great way. All of the performances were right on the money. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake was fantastic. There is more to his character than just a simple beat cop and Nolan wove his story perfectly into the chaos. Morgan Freeman and Marion Cotillard  were great in their backup roles. I was really impressed with Anne Hathaway I was so sure she was going to be the weak link in the film I found myself enjoying her scenes with Bruce/Batman the most. Those trailers honestly did not do her justice. She was truly a great Catwoman and I wouldn't mind her strapping up in tight spandex again. I also enjoyed the twist at the end even though I wished it was fleshed out a bit more. But then I guess they would have had to tack on another hour on an already long movie. There were long stretches where Batman was rebuilding himself, after he is broken by Bane, we are left with Blake and Gordon stuck in an occupied Gotham very reminiscent of the Great Escape.  Now I know a lot of critics hated this long stretch, for Batman fans I can understand it, but this is Bane and all Batman fans have to know the consequences of what comes with him. In the comic like in the movie Batman and Bane have a devastating showdown that was intense and like in the comic Bane breaks the Bat over his knee. These critics like Harry from Aint it Cool News bemoaned these fight scenes as merely tracking shots and then he cried that he just couldn't feel the blows. I'm sorry, you couldn't feel the blows? I'm assuming Harry wanted Nolan's Batman to leap around Bane using the cape and grapple hook. What we got was Batman in over his head, we got an arrogant Batman, a complacent Batman this is a Batman with a death wish, who on his first meeting with Bane gets his ass handed to him. I know it's hard for Harry to grasp Batman as an actual human being with actual flaws. If you look at the history of this series it's fairly consistent on this point. Which is also why I like it.  Flash has never been a large part of these films, as Ras Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) tells Bruce Wayne as he beats him up in the first film, "This is not a dance!" We got a hard nosed boxing match by two men with the same training and yes, I could feel it.

Speaking of training, why would it enrage you that Bane was trained by Ras Al Ghul? I love the Batman comics too but Harry needs to learn to differentiate the page from the screen. Nolan's Batman is attempting to live in our world not the comic book world.  Bane's Venom, which acts as instant muscle growth, would seem otherworldly here in Nolan's world and it wouldn't work, trust me on this. Also thought one of the best dramatic scenes in the film when Alfred calls out Bruce for his inability to move on with his life and tells him flat out that he won't watch him commit suicide was quite frankly Oscar worthy on Michael Caine's part. So Alfred walks out on Bruce and apparently many critics had a flip out about this as well. Why did this action enrage fanboys so? It was a truly heartfelt scene that I thought played into the larger themes about Bruce Wayne and his journey. Alfred is one of the strongest willed characters in this trilogy as he has been with Bruce through all the craziest that Gotham has to throw at them until the the death of Rachel in the second film and he realizes what Bruce won't that her death has shaken him to the point that he doesn't care whether he lives or dies. Alfred, who for all intents and purposes, is his  surrogate father and he doesn't have the strength to stand by while Bruce kills himself. Makes sense to me.

There were issues though with the film and some of them were a little glaring for one, Chris Nolan needs to pick an archetype for the city of Gotham and stick with it. In Batman Begins, which looks the best, the city looks like a big urban city without looking like any real one you can recognize. You had distinctive landmarks of Gotham like the Narrows, Arkham Asylum, Wayne Tower and the high speed rail that connected them all. Most or all of that disappeared in the second and third films and real cities like Pittsburgh and New York took its place. It's most glaring in this last installment as they show wide shots of the Island of Manhattan that take you out of the action a little bit. Gotham has always been a character in these films and it's sad to see it more as a mish-mash of cities rather than the unique visual we got in the first film. I think the Wall Street scenes benefited the most from shooting in downtown NY as the disparity from rich and poor is amplified. On that front I was also disappointed that Nolan didn't go far enough into these themes as he just touches on them rather than hit it head on. He started to explore the disconnect of Bruce's wealth to his mission to protect all classes in Gotham but then Nolan refuses to actually show the poorest of Gotham especially after Bane takes over the city. We saw the rich elites being dragged from the homes and thrown into the streets which was supposed to remind us of the Nazis evicting the Jews from their houses during the war. It's a powerful image but it strikes a bit false when you don't show the same scene for the less fortunate. This is especially glaring when he exposes the gap really well in Batman Begins.

As you can see there is so much to talk about and discuss about the film whether you loved it or hated it. It solidifies in my mind why Chris Nolan is one of the best Director/filmmakers in the world right now. He still hasn't made a bad film, which is pretty damn impressive. I'm planning to see it in IMAX this weekend so I'll be sure to post whether its worth your time.  I would be surprised if it doesn't work. But if you for some reason haven't seen it, you've gotta go, good or bad, it will certainly keep your brain humming long after you leave the theatre.

Grade: 4 Buckets    

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