The Dark Knight Rises
July 25, 2012
First, I’ll say where I’m coming from on this. I really liked Batman Begins, and I really hated The Dark Knight. Not because it was a bad movie, but because I just couldn’t take the relentlessly psychopathic level of violence (and the fact that it still managed to maintain a PG-13 rating by not showing blood and other tweaks, which is just flat cheating in my mind). And as someone who likes Reservoir Dogs and Robocop, that’s really saying something. The latter movies are ultraviolent, but they have heart. What little heart The Dark Knight had was a shriveled, stunted thing, and while I rationally understand that the psychopathy was part of the point, I don’t think it worked. I don’t think it earned out. It’s a shell of a movie. When I reviewed The Dark Knight, I didn’t use the title of the movie, I just called it “violence.”
All summer I’ve considered not going to see The Dark Knight Rises. I knew I wouldn’t be able to trust reviews because of how much (almost) everyone raved about the previous film. I had this wretched thought that Rises would somehow try to top its predecessor in terms of violence. But after Friday, I kind of had to, for catharsis and exorcism if nothing else. So I did.
And it’s completely disconnected from its predecessor in terms of tone, which I wasn’t expecting. We’re back to a fairly typical, decent but not spectacular comic book movie, where the violence is kinda cartoony and everybody gets redeemed and cheers at the end. The first act was slow, filled with portentous Greek Chorus monologues. Bane was not an entirely convincing villain to me. Michael Caine as usual rocks the house as Alfred, then vanishes. The first Batman action set piece was wonderful, but large swathes of the middle didn’t make a lick of sense and never really cohered. (I’m not a tactical genius by any stretch, but even I know sending every cop in the city into the sewers in a massive swarm is only going to end badly…) There’s a lot going on here, a lot of slogans and shallow politics. The last five or ten minutes were brilliant, chock full of the emotion and style that I didn’t really get from the rest of the film. What do I do with a jumble like that? I enjoy what I can and let the rest of it go, is what I do.
Taking all three films as a trilogy: Rises links back very strongly to Batman Begins, bringing the trilogy full circle. It refers quite a lot back to The Dark Knight — but only the Harvey Dent storyline. Not a single mention is made of the Joker. The Joker came out of nowhere, entirely occupied the second movie, and vanished again, without leaving a trace on any other part of the trilogy. This seems strange to me, structurally. Maybe it’s the point, and I just don’t want to spend time thinking about it to try to figure it out. For me, it only emphasizes the odd psychopathic nature of The Dark Knight as an aberration, existing to be dismissed as an aberration. And where’s the point in that?
One last thing: I enjoyed Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman quite a lot. I’m a fan of Hathaway, but the previews and photos of this Catwoman made me cringe. There was something very plastic and artificial about her in the bits I saw. But Hathaway did the job and brought her to life, so kudos.
Still, when it comes to Bruce and Selena, I will always love this scene: