I had been taking a little break from the hard hitting world of internet reviews and social commentary, mostly due to some work bullshit, but when the Dark Knight decided to rise from his self-imposed exile, so did I, feeling my work was not yet done. I requested this assignment from Fred because I felt I was the perfect person to review this film, not because I am a huge comic book fan or Batfan, but because I wasn’t. He told me Brent would most likely cover it, but I could go ahead and do the same… not only is a different perspective a good thing… but this is clearly the single biggest movie in the history of humanity…
of the year…
…of the week.
I for one was never a huge comic book fan… as a horror movie guy I very much preferred unstoppable masked killing things wiping out everything in their path… and thought a bunch of guys in underoos and tights sacrificing for others was a little queer… though I did have a little soft spot for Wonder Woman…
… but then came Batman… dark, brooding, mysterious, manly…
Anyway… he wore a mask and stalked people in the dark and that was close enough for me. Plus, he had cool gadgets, interesting opponents and had a thing for girls in leather who like whips, so I finally had one of these guys I could relate to. Superman and Spiderman still suck. I had gown up sporadically watching the goofy old 60’s series and seen all the Burton/Schumacher films. Eventually I married a huge Batnerd who owns all of the Animated Series, got me to dress as the Joker 2 years before he was popular again, played though both Arkham City and Asylum without stopping for oxygen, and gets absolutely livid when discussing how Arnold Schwarzenegger ruined the tragic story of Mr. Freeze.
Long story short (too late!!!) I am familiar with world of Batman, but not a fanboy to the point I had made up my mind about the new film before having seen it. I judge them all as I see them, and I thought in the name of full disclosure I would do a quick rundown of the other Batfilms, to give you a gauge on where I am coming from. Rather then judging whether or not I like the film, the question is… where does it stand when compared to the other films in a franchise that has become one of the most beloved of the last century? Now for a quick rundown of the films, on the 5 Batmask scale:
Batman: The Movie (1966)
It is exactly what you would expect of a movie version of the TV show. Fun, campy and totally ridiculous, but if you liked the old Adam West Batman, you will like this.
I have to admit I am a huge Tim Burton fan and this is where Batman gets bad-ass. I only wish Michael Keaton could have kept the role and the series would have kept this tone, because this series could have ended up one of the best of all time.
Batman Returns (1992)
While not quite as epic as the first, we still keep that great gothic Burton feel and the cast is outstanding. Though this is the point where they start cramming two villains into every film and my trend of really liking one and not liking the other begins. Catwoman was great addition to my puberty years, but does anyone really enjoy seeing Danny Devito? His Penguin is ok, for being completely disgusting, but the funeral with the sentient Emperor Penguins was a bit much.
Batman Forever (1995)
I hope you appreciate this review because I probably will get punched for it. You see this is my wife’s favorite Batman movie, but the point where this series takes an epic dive for me and the reason she loves it, is the same reason I don’t: Jim Carrey. He gets too much screen time and doesn’t play an interesting version of the riddler, he just plays himself. That goofy retarded Ace Ventura/Dumb & Dumber thing that I rarely find funny and often find annoying. I do like Val Kilmer in general, but he was an odd choice to take over for Keaton and the talents of Tommy Lee Jones go to waste. I don’t hate it, but it’s just too silly to be great…mainly because parents groups were outraged at the violence and sexuality of the last one (which was all the best stuff!!) Way to ruin Batman, parents.
Batman & Robin (1997)
This movie is retarded. In general I like Arnold, but the bad puns are too much… and he is the best character in the movie. Clooney sucks as Batman, Robin is never cool, Uma Thurman is about the least attractive leading lady in Hollywood and for a movie that was aimed at kids by the studio (which is why it sucked) there is an abundance of homoerotic nipple shots, crotch shots, and close ups of Bat-ass. Way to ruin Batman, Schumacher.
½ Batmask (and that’s only for Alicia Silverstone)
Batman Begins (2005)
Well it was about time for a reboot, because someone else needed to save the Caped Crusader for once, so thank God for Christopher Nolan. It was dark, gritty, and right up my alley. I really like Liam Neeson in anything, but while finding Ra’s al Ghul interesting, he was a little underwhelming for a Batman villain. Still, the Scarecrow was pretty cool, rest of the cast was solid, and it was a huge improvement over the last few entries in the series.
The Dark Knight (2008)
This is where Nolan really takes the gloves off… this movie is all around epic. Heath Ledger’s Joker really steals the show as one of the best villains in film history and this movie really makes us question the thin line between civil society and complete anarchy along with making us question what we might do in a morally ambiguous world. This is one of my favorite movies of all time.
On to the reason we are all here, The Dark Knight rises…
Well I think Brent covered the high expectations of the film, so no need for me to rehash that. I also don’t need to get into the plot because odds are you have already seen it, or will and don’t want the spoilers so we will jump right into my thoughts on it, and I must say…
It’s great. I really enjoyed it, Nolan and company did a fantastic job of really capping off the trilogy. The entire idea behind a trilogy is structure… Act one: Introduce the characters. Act two: Put them in the worst situation possible. Act three: The climax and resolution. Most recent trilogies butcher the structure by just trying to make things bigger and more ‘explodey’, cough*thematrix*Xmen3*cough, but they don’t understand the rules of the trilogy, so for an explanation let’s look to Randy from Scream 3:
“Is this simply another sequel? Well, if it is, same rules apply. But, here’s the critical thing. If you find yourself dealing with an unexpected back-story, and a preponderance of exposition, then the sequel rules do not apply. Because you are not dealing with a sequel. You are dealing with the concluding chapter of a trilogy.”
“Because true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn’t true from the get-go. Godfather, Jedi, all revealed something that we thought was true, that wasn’t true.”
“So if it is a trilogy you are dealing with, here are some super trilogy rules. One: you’ve got a killer who’s gonna be superhuman. Stabbing him won’t work. Shooting him won’t work. Basically, in the third one, you’ve gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up. Number two: anyone, including the main character, can die… Number three: the past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest! Any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you.”
So clearly, in order to be a successful trilogy, you need to go back to the beginning, reconcile old demons, learn the real truth behind whatever walls you have put up, and come full circle on the main characters story arc. Christoper Nolan must have taken Randy’s advice because he does just that. He moves the story forward, but goes back to the beginning. Without giving away major plot points, Bane (whom much of the movie was riding on) is not just another wacko, but is strongly connected to the events of the original film and the origins of this incarnation of Batman. He is a force of nature, not the power of chaos like the Joker, but cold and calculating. Being both incredibly strong and intelligent he is the perfect mirror for Batman, much as the Joker was in the context of order and chaos.
This film stays true to the style, tone and pacing of the first two in the series… and while I walked in thinking no villain could be as interesting as Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hardy’s Bane is probably the next best thing. Second place, but a close second and much better then I expected. Physically and intellectually imposing, and mirrored in the most haunting and memorable voice since Darth Vader himself… cold, metallic and inhuman… though without the deep guttural tinge that has become commonplace… the man behind the mask sounds as high minded and studious as Hannibal Lecter. While no one could beat the legacy of Ledger, this is a respectable follow-up.
The primary cast is solid, with Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and Fox as solid as ever and even the choice of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (which I originally bemoaned) turned out to actually be better then I expected. One surprising part of this film, I found was the absence of Batman. The character himself is in a state of quasi-retirement for a good chunk of the beginning of the film, and spends the much of the middle of the film in a place where he can’t do much Batmanning… so Nolan does what he did so well in the last film, makes it a movie about us, about society. Several characters point out that anyone can be a hero, while also questioning who would be the one to rise up and take that mantel. Well the phase “Rises” is given several meanings here.
I won’t say the film is without it’s flaws. With a 2 hour 45 min run time, it could be seen as overly long. I don’t feel that way, it kept my attention the whole time, but I could understand that critique. The weakest two aspects I felt were the over-use of a certain piece of flying technology which seemed to be a bit of a cheat, when so much of the earlier two episodes were about using your mind… and the fact it couldn’t really top the middle entry, but other then that I think Nolan did a great job at avoiding the main pitfall of a trilogy… making sure the last episode doesn’t suck. Over-all, after The Dark Knight, this is probably my 2nd favorite Batman movie, and a must see.
Though, unfortunately it seems this film’s legacy will forever be marred by a tragic event as a group of people who were sitting down for what should have been a nice night at movies when they came face to face with real life evil. We will look into that, how art imitates life, and vice versa in “A City Under A City Under Siege Part 2: Our Darkest Night”.