What movie was that...?

23 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

directed by Christopher Nolan

There seems to be very little in-between when it comes to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy ending Batman film, with haters on one end dashing its preposterous plot progression (which bordered on silly, honestly) and fan geeks on the other end extolling the virtues of Nolan’s ability to instill his films with “grand themes.” While I admire Nolan as a filmmaker and find him to be very capable, and I surely respect the divergent opinions concerning TDKR (what kind of snob would I be if I didn’t?), I found my already wary optimism quite deflated this evening after having finally watched Mr N’s whale of a comic book film. Is the film bad? Well, that depends on how you look at it, and frankly I’m not one to bestow such a moniker on a film like this, but it there were more moments in this film that culled a sigh and a head shake from me than I had fingers (and possibly toes, yeesh) to count. Even so, I would not say it was bad, either. But I am getting ahead of myself…

TDKR finds Gotham City safer, and more boring, in the near decade since Dent’s death and Batman’s self imposed exile (after taking the blame for Dent’s freak out). As Bruce Wayne hobbles around his mansion like an ex wrestler, the city is on the verge of having its ass handed to it in the form of Bane, played with maximum genius by Tom Hardy. Bane’s facial cod piece is another source of contention (either you loved it, or you hated not being able to see his face), but a tremendous talent like Hardy uses it to his advantage. His body language is subtly menacing and poised, until he unleashes the typhoon of his fury, and his eyes do more than enough to invest you in his zealous villainy. Props go to JGL (Mr Levitt, if you’re nasty) as well, who finds the sincerity in what could have easily been a hammy and otherwise flat character. Oh, I almost forgot about the reliably annoying Anne Hathaway and her ability to churn snark and grit into the kind of bland nagging the librarian used to dish out when you were too chatty in the nonfiction section. And there were a few moments in the film when I forgot that Michael Caine was playing Alfred in this film, because it looked like he was doing an impression of a 7 year old boy trying to tell his dad about how some mean kids ripped the tassels and flag off his bicycle.

As far as the plot is concerned: I can abide a great deal of inconsistencies, plot holes, and gaps in logic when my disbelief is suspended (as they say), but I cannot abide so many from a writer who clearly has better sense. This wasn’t some Chuck Pfarrer mess or a standalone action film vehicle for Jacob from Twilight. This was the final chapter of a trilogy helmed and navigated by the skillful hands of Christopher Nolan, and Nolan should have known better than to allow some of the things unfold in his story the way they did. The film did feel rushed, not in terms of running time but it terms of trying to cram too much crap into one film and trying to get it out there in due time. I’m sure there was tremendous pressure to get this film out, to round out the story, and without the Joker as the nemesis the Nolans had their work cut out for them. And surely what started as a “we’ll figure something better out for that part” kind of battle plan deteriorated into an exploration of ideas rather than making a story that seems plausible, however fantastical.

In that vein, I think Nolan did a nice job of presenting the dichotomy of Bane’s aims versus Batman’s, and how, again, we see that Batman’s nemesis is a dark mirror reflecting back to him a not wholly different sort of monster. Nolan had more success with this concept in TDK with Ledger’s Joker, but not for lack of trying this time around. Hardy is a titan in this film and truly the primary reason why I didn’t altogether dislike the film (though ultimately the character of Bane never totally thrilled me like Joker). The action sequences were characteristically spectacular when they actually occurred, and the fights between between Bane and Batman were tooth rattlingly intense (thanks mostly to Hardy).

Okay BC, enough with the long winded review! All things considered, would I rather be in Philadelphia? No, definitely not. The film was worth watching, and I would watch it again, but it didn’t electrify me like the first two Nolan Batman films did, and it certainly wasn’t as much fun as The Avengers (nice work, Mr Whedon! Why didn’t I review you?). Those of you with a Bane fetish will, I think, find in Tom Hardy the enigmatic core of the intelligent and deadly colossus. Hell, those of you with a Tom Hardy fetish should get you down to the theatre just to relish in his ability to convey so much under such limitation. Give it a chance, but don’t expect too much. If you are like me, that first trailer dashed any hopes you may have had about this being a classic.

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