A Picture’s Worth #89: “The Dark Knight Rises Movie Review: Tragedy and Triumph”
All contents ©2012 Mike Pascale. Visual content ©2012 their respective owner(s).
We interrupt the “Comic-con Wrap-up” series to review the new Batman flick, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Final in the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale trilogy (note that’s two uses of the word “Christ” in Batman’s credits. I’ll let you philosophy and theology students and professors out there find the connections).
Sadly, it’s difficult to mention, let alone review, the film without acknowledging the sick and tragic events in Aurora where evil briefly overcame good. While I’ve tried to avoid as much of the coverage as possible, one cannot escape, nor should one ignore, the occurrence. The irony of it happening during the Dark Knight movie (and in a city with the same name as a classic pop culture model maker in the 60s) is hard to escape. Thankfully it had nothing whatsoever to do with the movie, the character or the comics (yes, I heard the killer allegedly dressed dyed his hair red and was dressed as the Joker, but that character was not in the film, and as we all know, Joker’s hair is green!).
Thankfully, it won’t for a second stop the largely irresponsible, illogical, incompetent and ghoulish media from making all kinds of imaginary and sensational connections anyway. (Some a-holes are even referring to the event as the “Dark Knight Murders”–gotta have that dumb, catchy pop culture title to get ratings, clicks and advertising money!) In today’s 24-7 “newstainment” culture, journalistic integrity has all but vanished as a necessity. It’s about clicks, not class.
Some will undoubtedly—if they haven’t already—place some blame on “violent” superhero movies, video games and comic books, or guns, rap music, rock ‘n’ roll, red meat, fracking, global warming, or high fructose corn syrup.
But just because others are losing their logic and reason, please don’t give up yours. Speak out for not-so-common sense and logic when you can. Stick up for comics and characters and the movies you like. If you and I don’t, no one else will.
End of soapbox screed. Onto the flick.
The MAN OF STEEL TRAILER looked…okay. Nice shot of Superman flying at the end but after the last fiasco, I’m keeping my enthusiasm in check.
As for Bats, here are the pros and cons as I see ’em (from someone who thought the previous Nolan films were the best screen version of the character yet):
–A little too long. At two hours and 44 minutes, it could have used a little tightening up. Oddly though, it didn’t seem nearly as drawn-out as the shorter AMAZING SPIDER-MAN movie, which really suffered from too much padding.
–Christian Bale’s “berry”. Seriously, this drove me nuts. Bruce Wayne has a small skin tag/mole on the bridge of his nose near his right eye. Once I saw it, I couldn’t stop noticing it. During the scenes with dramatic lighting, it was even worse—like a miniature third eye staring back at me! You’re telling me a billionaire like Wayne (or a millionaire leading man like Bale) couldn’t afford a couple hundred bucks to have it removed? (I’ve had a couple removed in the past and it literally took all of 30 seconds.) Good grief! Look at other billionaires and leading men—Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr.—all berry-free.
–For some unknown reason, Batman appears to develop Wolverine-like mutant regenerative abilities at one point.
–Credits part 1: No storyboard artists listed (that I noticed). Nice to see veteran Gabe Hardman listed as one of the illustrators, but no boards? I hope it meant Nolan did his own and not that he chose not give credit where it was due.
–Credits part 2: The contracted “Batman created by Bob Kane” line was there, but NO mention of co-creator Bill Finger. (I’ll have more on him during my Comic-Con wrap up, from the excellent panel by Marc Taylor Nobleman, author of the excellent book, BILL, THE BOY WONDER: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, available now) And no mention of Chuck Dixon and my former Kubert School classmate Graham Nolan as creators of Bane. (Note that even Marvel listed a bunch of artists and writers on THE AVENGERS and IRON MAN movies and Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN flicks. When Disney does a better job of listing creator credits, that says a lot.)
–The scene in the stock market of terrorists shooting people was hard to watch given last week’s events. Not a flaw of the film, but just a word of caution.
–Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. The character was written well and jibed with what I recall from the comics; Hathaway is a good actress and gave a commendable performance. But she doesn’t have the essential Catwoman sexiness the character has always exuded, nor does she have the physique needed to carry out the Black Widow-style fight scenes. (Bru-Hed will no doubt appreciate the cat’s callipygian camera shots, but you’ll have to check back Thursday to see what he says.)
–As has become typical of DC films in general and Nolan films in particular, this one was (pardon the pun) very dark, virtually devoid of humor and completely devoid of any cameos or cool buttons like Marvel employs so well. There are a precious few chuckles (and one unintentional guffaw, at least from me, regarding a bouncing bomb). No DC artists or writers I could see. And no reason to watch the credits other than to satisfy your curiosity of who had the envious title of “Batsuit Wrangler.”
–Bane’s mask wasn’t so much intimidating as curiously weird and obstructive. Thankfully Nolan took a cue from George Lucas and Darth Vader and overdubbed the character’s voice so we could (mostly) understand him. I realize today’s generation may think it looks “steampunk” but no real explanation was given for it and it didn’t make much sense. (I kept waiting for a Saturday Night Live-type skit gag where everyone he talked to would say, “What?” and ask him to speak up.) He did look impressive physically at least.
–Plot holes and flaws:
1. The excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character of John Blake (no relation to Don of THOR fame) was conveniently deductive for no reason other than contrivance;
2. While I know nothing of giant nuclear explosives, I’m pretty sure having them (literally) bounce around in a metal container or on the ground would result in something more than silence;
3. There’s something called “fallout” which was never addressed;
4. Several scenes show people trying to climb out of a pit that are supposed to be dramatic, but because there’s never an explanation or clear view of what’s needed to escape, the drama is disappointing if not confusing. (At least make it look tougher than it does! From what I saw, any professional mountain climber wouldn’t have had a problem.)
5. If you have under two minutes to save the lives of 12 million people, you would probably run rather than walk, and not stop to kiss and chat with people. (You’ll see what I mean.)
Little things yes, but they add up to something larger.
–Lastly, Batman’s noble desire to remain anonymous to impart the message that “anyone” could be the masked hero and save lives ended up becoming more like, “Anyone with the money to build amazing, colossal, technologically-advanced-beyond-all-current-capabilities machinery”, which is hardly empowering to the “99 percent” he’s trying to inspire.
That said, the PROS:
–Excellent performances all around, as usual. Especially from Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Thomas Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The twist involving one character was brilliant. Only wish they had used a name from the comics.
–While our hero never got to drive any of three Batmobiles (now called “The Tumbler”), his Batcycle stole the show. Watch the horizontal-rolling tires!
–Two cameos by other villains. One was incidental and added nothing but the other was welcome.
–No mention whatsoever of The Joker, but plenty of Harvey Dent. In an interview, Nolan said it was out of respect for Heath Ledger, but frankly that makes no sense to me. He should have mentioned the character out of respect for his audience.
–The airplane scene near the beginning was very well executed and suspenseful. Even if it later didn’t make much plot sense. The stunt folks definitely earned their pay here!
–Didn’t see most of the plot twists coming. And the predictable ones weren’t that bad.
–You don’t need to see the first two films to refresh your memory. (Though it definitely helps if you’ve seen them at some point prior.) No doubt you’d pick up more on certain things, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything by waiting.
–I don’t know if this (or any) Catwoman could hold her own franchise or even full film, but I definitely would like to see this character in more films.
–Loved the football stadium scene, but sadly, what you saw of it in the trailer was pretty much it.
–Great ending, even though the very last shot wasn’t needed (obviously dictated, probably by the studio execs for the “less than enlightened” crowd who needs to be hit over the head).
That said, on my scale of “Own It”, “See It”, “Rent It”, “Catch It” or “Skip It”, I’d give THE DARK KNIGHT RISES a “See It.” Worth a regular matinee ticket. Don’t see a big benefit of IMAX, and though it would be fun in D-Box, I wouldn’t pay the extra six or seven bucks my theater charges. [Note sure if Mike is aware, but nearly half the movie was filmed in 15 perf 70mm IMAX. If you see it in a proper film IMAX theater (not that crap digital mini-imax), you’ll see it in it’s full screen glory, much like Nolan did in his previous outing The Dark Knight. – Craig]
What did you think? Please comment below.
In the meantime, I’d be happy to draw another Batman commission like those below. If you’d like one of the Caped Crusader (any version, including one with yourself in the cowl!), just ask Craig here.