Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

“The Legend Ends”. That is the tagline for The Dark Knight Rises. And with most trilogies, the third installment is usually the weakest. And despite what most “In Nolan We Trust” Christopher Nolan fan boys will say, TDKR is NOT an exception.

Let me explain myself a little with the love/like relationship I have with Christopher Nolan. I absolutely LOVE some of his films. I thought Memento was great, I thought Insomnia was okay (I did last see it 9 years ago), Batman Begins was pretty cool, I have not yet seen The Prestige, The Dark Knight was GREAT, and Inception was okay. And I still need to watch Following (which has been sitting in my Netflix queue since I’ve had the damn subscription). But anyway, back to why TDKR is a disappointment.

With any movie, hype is ALWAYS going to help and hurt the film. It helps, because it puts people’s asses in those seats, and makes the money. It hurts because, most people already made up their minds as to what they want to see. And when the film doesn’t deliver what’s in their mind, it automatically sucks. But that isn’t the case with this for me. I got a different feel from The Dark Knight that I was expecting, and I liked that. The film SHOULD feel different. I mean, hell, it HAS been 8 years since TDK in this film. But what I wasn’t expecting was how the film was crafted.

When I watch TDK, the story moves along smooth enough to really engage what is going on. And almost anything that happens is tied directly with The Joker and his plans for Gotham. His “social experiment” as it were. With TDKR, it just feels overly choppy and messy.

First off, the opening pretty much sets how the rest of the film is cut. It opens with Gordon praising Harvey Dent and all that he has done at the anniversary of his funeral. Then it cuts to the introduction of Bane’s character from the IMAX prologue before Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol back in December. What I liked about TDK? It just said, “Here. This is the fucking Joker.”. That’s all we needed for Bane. “This is who Bane is. Fuck off.”.

Once Bane is introduced, we get a plethora of re-introductions and new introductions. We now learn Bruce Wayne is broke, then we meet Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, then we meet Selina Kyle/Catwoman, then we learn how she plays into all of this. Most of it worked, but something just didn’t feel right. And I wasn’t sure what that was until it really started picking up.

Essentially what Bane wants to do, is break Batman and destroy Gotham. And for the most part, he pretty much pulls it off. But once he does that, it goes somewhere that doesn’t seem to quite fit. For about 15/20 minutes it goes back to a Batman Begins-esque sequence. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just didn’t feel as if it fit. And unfortunately, I cant really go into what happens due to it being spoiler territory.

Okay, lets get to the more positive notes about the movie. First, Bane. I really liked the Bane character in this film. Casting has been half of each Batman film, and TDKR isn’t an exception. Just to set the record straight, Tom Hardy’s Bane is not better than Heath Ledger’s Joke. But that isn’t to say he isn’t fucking rad. When he was first cast, I was pleased because I had already started to like him as an actor. I liked him in Inception, he was great in Bronson, and from what I heard in a Mel Gibson interview, he said Hardy was the perfect choice to play the new Mad Max Rockatansky in the fourth installment of Mad Max (you get Gibson’s approval , you get mine). But I did have one reservation. His size. I grew up with the hulking, venom-filled, beast-of-a-man Bane. But I knew I had to wave goodbye to that interpretation, and embrace the newer “Nolan-verse” Bane. But after seeing the film, I can get past his size, because he was still a brute force to be reckoned with. I remember there was one scene in particular that showcased his strength, and it probably didn’t even register to most people. But there is a scene where he’s fighting Batman, throws him over a railing, and climbs down a chain after Batman. The way he climbed down the chain just looked inhuman. Almost spider-like, rather. Like I said, it was small, but very effective.

One thing I WILL defend that most people are nitpicking: Bane’s voice. Personally, I thought it was rad. It does have a few elements that are a little silly, but they all come together well, I think. It has a nice eerie robotic tone to it, but without losing the commanding power that his voice has. And yes, it is a little hard to understand at times, but think about… His character is wearing a mask afterall. If it was crystal clear, it was be known as a “goof” on IMDb trivia or something. It’s REAL. The only nitpick that serves as a double-edged sword is when his voice has a higher tone. Sometimes it sounds really creepy, and sometimes it’s very cartoonish.

Catwoman/Selina Kyle. Going in, I was VERY weary as to how her character would play out for me. We already had Bane, so where did Catwoman fit in? That was one major flaw that The Dark Knight had, it crowded the last half with The Joker and Two-Face. The Joker was all you needed. Two-Face could have had his own film. The same goes for Bane. He was fine by himself. But surprisingly enough, she was pretty decent. I think Anne Hathaway served the character well. That isn’t to say she NEEDED to be in the film, but that’s something entirely different. Her Selina Kyle was spot-on. In fact, I thought she was better as Selina Kyle than as Catwoman. But that isn’t to say that I thought her Catwoman was terrible.

Hans Zimmer's score. As always, Zimmer delivers. In fact, the score for this film is probably the most flawless aspect of the film. Zimmer's Batman film scores are always very percussion-driven. And it's no different here. Bane's theme alternates from this eerie Bernard Herrmann Psycho-esque theme to this very heavy percussion section that got me amped everytime it would appear. And of course "The Fire Will Rise" chant that plays through out is incredible. But one theme that surprised the hell out of me, was Selina Kyle's theme. It's another eerie section. It's this piano bit that plays during the reveal of her character. It almost reminds me of something Zimmer composed for his Hannibal score for Ridley Scott. It works really well! And of course all the other themes used through out the previous installments find their way into TDKR.

Aaaaaaaaannd... Back to what doesn't work about the film. I dont want to say it gets too big for it's own good, it just didn't feel as if it co-existed with the rules Nolan created for his previous two installments. And again, Im not going to spoil anything, but there is a device used in TDKR that seems like it should only appear in The Avengers or another Marvel film. I don't want to say it was silly... But... It was silly.

Another issue: The duel between Batman and Bane. The trailers sold the battle as the gold at the end of the rainbow. Guess what? That's the half-way point of the film, and the fight sequence was poorly done. It's literally just Bane and Batman punching each other, then Bane punching Batman a little more, then Bane punching Batman a lot more. The only action sequences revealed in the trailer that lived up to how they sold them, was the "cops vs. criminals" showdown, and most of Bane's terrorist attacks. I thought then New York Stock Exchange kidnapping was killer, and the football field sequence was just as badass as in the trailers.

In the end, the film is GOOD. Just not NEARLY as good as it should be. And it's a VERY good thing that Nolan called it quits after this entry, because I dont think there was anywhere for him to go after this film. Especially given the world he created.
Click here to read the full article...