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:


7 Responses to “The Dark Knight Rises”

  1. sef Says:

    I’m in the minority, and did not like the movie. For lots of reasons — too long, too violent, others — but the main two have to do with Batman’s characterization: this was not a man known as “the Great Detective,” and this was not a man driven and focused to the point of insanity.

  2. Carrie V. Says:

    Exactly. We’ve spent about 25 years, ever since Watchmen and Miller’s Dark Knight, pathologizing superheroes — they must be crazy, there must be something wrong with them. Nolan’s trilogy I think is an ultimate expression of that.

    Contrast with Captain America and the Avengers where the heroes aren’t insane — they’re good people who are trying to do good, despite their flaws. Daniel Abraham has a theory/rant about how this take on superheroes has now become subversive and punk. But I think he’s right, and I do like movies with heart.

    Whether people prefer Dark Knight Rises or Avengers better is becoming something of a litmus test for people’s aesthetic taste.

  3. Doruk Says:

    One thing I can’t get over is how these are gritty, dark, and realistic movies about a man who dresses up as a giant bat to beat up criminals. I enjoyed the first two movies, though not to the same degree that many apparently did, so not feeling a strong urge to see this one. I may, but I won’t make a special effort for it.

  4. Doruk Says:

    Oh, and I loved Avengers, so litmus test away 😉

  5. Shara @ Calico Reaction Says:

    One thing I did hear about this film is they intentionally did not mention the Joker as to respect Heath Ledger’s memory. Right decision or wrong, I understand why they made it.

    I am curious, though (and we’ll never know the difference), what difference the Joker would’ve made to this story had Ledger not passed away….

  6. Re: Shara – originally the third film was supposed to be about the Joker on trial, from what I’ve heard, anyway.

    Re: Carrie – it’s possible for one to like both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises on their own respective terms? I know I did.

    I’ll also argue that The Dark Knight had heart, in the scene where neither ferry’s passengers take the Joker’s sadistic choice, thus proving that not everyone is as twisted as him deep down. As Batman told the Joker, “This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.”

  7. Nice review.

    I liked TDKR for the way Nolan brought the story of Bruce Wayne full circle. This movie had lot of plot holes and excess characters.
    Bale was fantastic as Bruce Wayne though.

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