Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, a midnight showing.

Let me start right off with two things: 1) I don't want to talk about Aurora, please don't mention it, and 2) I'm not an intense Nolan fanperson, so please no whining about my criticisms. Also spoilers ahead. So, set 8 years after the events of the last film, The Dark Knight Rises proposes a Gotham that's practically crime-free after Harvey Dent's faked martyrdom ushered in new laws against organized crime. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, but is eventually coaxed out of hiding by problems at Wayne Enterprises and the appearance of a snarky thief (Anne Hathaway) who's taken records of his fingerprints for nefarious purposes. Eventually it comes to light that mysterious criminal powerhouse Bane (Tom Hardy) is amassing a ragtag army in the sewers, with plans to bring Gotham's elite to its knees.

Whew, where to start with this one? Whenever friends have been asking me I thought, I've generally responded with "I liked it, but I want to see it again. There were a lot of little things that bothered me but I think as a whole it was pretty good." I haven't had the chance to rewatch it yet but more and more of those "little things" have been coming to light since last Friday as I reflect more on the film's plot. Specifically, that most of it doesn't make any goddamn sense. It starts off mostly ok, and there is a very exciting climactic-type scene when Bane takes over the city. Explosions galore AND class commentary! I liked it! But then... there's still like an entire hour left. And Batman has to be shipped off to some isolated prison in Asia(?) and we've gotta watch everything being shitty and nonsensical for a long time and then he's gotta get rid of a nuclear bomb or whatever. Eh. It's not that the movie falls apart, it just stretches its logic too thin and it's harder to overlook the parts that don't fit together. I can deal with a lot of wackiness in my movies, but Nolan seems to be trying to create a more realistic world here so it was off-putting when so many things didn't make sense.

Luckily there are enough cool parts and characters that I could deal with most of the narrative drawbacks. The opening action scene with the plane is ridiculously rad, and I loved the football stadium scene. Batman and Bane's fights were appropriately brutal, and the motorcycle chase after the stock exchange is thrilling. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a welcome addition to the cast, though his character is sort of one-note, and Marion Cotillard brings the sexiness. Her reveal at the end wasn't a huge surprise to me (the second she started making out with a miserable, penniless Bruce Wayne I knew she was some sort of manipulative villain-type) but it was still pretty cool, especially since it totally changes how we view Bane as a character. I also really liked how dark the film is overall, particularly how the villain's big world-ending threat that would usually be narrowly avoided in another superhero movie, actually comes to pass. Gotham gets super fucked up in The Dark Knight Rises and it's pretty awesome, especially since the entire premise is basically about the 99% being pushed too far. Bane's whole anarchic thesis made a certain kind of sense, and the city probably would have done ok if not for the hordes of killer criminals patrolling the streets.

The biggest issue I had coming into this film was of course, Catwoman. Nolan is not known for creating strong female characters and I am really not a fan of Anne Hathaway, and had trouble seeing her in the role. Luckily, she did an ok job. I basically feel that she was wholly competent but didn't bring anything distinctive to the part, and while I don't necessarily have complaints about her performance I do think there are other actresses that could have done a better job (HELLO, ZOE SALDANA, LET'S DO THIS). As a character I liked her a lot though, she's got her own thing going on and doesn't rely on Batman for her story to progress. Plus I liked how her goggles were also cat ears? BUT can we please desist with the stiletto heels, my goodness. Some dude even cracks a joke about it in the film. Sigh. Anyway I just wish she was in it more. Her character kind of disappears for long spurts. Also I was way disappointed with the romantic angle, for most of the story it was so nice to see a male/female duo that weren't romantically/sexually involved, but that stupid, cop-out ending ruined it all. It didn't help that for some reason I was convinced she was dating the blonde lady (Juno Temple!) who lived with her. Took me by surprise when she started making out with Batman, I can tell you.

Final word: I must give an enthusiastic shout-out to Cillian Murphy, whose cameo as the Scarecrow is hands-down my favorite part of the film. It's the most comic-booky moment, and I love it! More of that please!

3.5/5 (ruminating on this one has me lowering my score from 4 to 3.5)

Pair This Movie With: The ending obviously had me thinking of the old Batman: The Movie ("Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"), but I was also in the mood to revisit Batman Returns for more Catwoman action.


  1. totally agree that zoe saldana would have done the role right! not a perfect movie, but the greatness totally outweighed the petty flaws, to me.

  2. "...most of it doesn't make any goddamn sense
    we've gotta watch everything being shitty and nonsensical for a long time and then he's gotta get rid of a nuclear bomb or whatever. Eh...."

    Here here, nice review Alex, I was hoping for something closer to my opinion but I've hardly seen a review that wasn't mindlessly gushing so this was a nice surprise.

  3. With a little fat trimmed all those inconsistencies and head-scratches mightn't have been so pronounced. "Begins" didn't have me picking it apart because it was clean, concise, simple fun.

    "Rises" has larger aspirations, to be sure, but it's not quite agile enough to carry the extra weight without showing some strain.

  4. Candice: I'm glad you agree about Zoe Saldana! I've dreamed of seeing her as Catwoman for a while, she just seems so perfect for the role.

    Toby: I've seen some other people with the same criticisms as me but yeah I think it's still being getting over-lauded.

    Stuart: Perfectly worded! If the film wasn't aiming so high, its flaws would have been less striking.

  5. I already have such a weird relationship with this movie. Like, frankly, it's terrible, and it parades everything Nolan does poorly. But it also pushes his awful plotting, haphazard editing, removed acting and clumsy, half-baked ideas into something so epic I have a weird appreciation of it. I feel like I almost liked this movie ironically but I did get some genuine enjoyment out of it even though it's a full hour too long.

  6. I'm kind of in the same boat as Jake about this movie.

    Halfway through this movie, I just thought to myself, "This movie is kind of ridiculous."

    I think I'm torn with the idea that I really, really want to like this movie and I try really hard to find things I like (and I did find them), but then there are just some really illogical things that aren't as coherent as they should be. And the film as a whole doesn't really feel put-together enough. It has so much to say about so many things with so many characters and so many subplots that I kind of wish Nolan just selected a few that he knew he could sufficiently flesh out.

    So I think I agree with your main criticism of the movie, but your final rating is a lot more generous than what I would rate it.

  7. The plot did get long and ridiculous, but this is one of the few Nolan films where there were character moments, mostly involving Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne. Like, who knew people in that universe could smile? Also, Cillian Murphey FTW.

  8. I think that the narrative issues (which to me are minor) come from Nolan trying too consciously to tie this final chapter back to the previous movies, rather than focusing on making the best stand-alone movie he could. He worked too hard to bring that Liam Neeson character (sorry, don't remember his name) back into the story, and he kept unnecessarily name-checking Harvey Dent like he was a major plot point. Still, I quite enjoyed it and think Nolan is maybe the only director capable of making superhero movies for adults, with complicated plots and character development and stuff like that...

  9. Good stuff Alex. I actually loved the film but you could call me a Nolan fanboy. I was surprised by how good Anne Hathaway was...I was unsure she'd be right for the role but it turned out okay.