Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Ramble Review Thing

(note: I should point out that a) I did overall enjoy the film as a kind of awe-inspiring look at a really talented director shooting too high, and b) this probably could use editing, but it just poured out of me.  Hopefully it reads better than I typed it.  I should point out overall I enjoyed Nolan's Batman trilogy, especially Begins, but it's just a strange way to end it all - with a plot that begs the question, 'What happened to the other four boroughs of Gotham?)


The Dark Knight Rises is full of stupid-crazy storytelling, some soaring (TOO high) moments of epic-ness, actually competently filmed action, a good Anne Hathaway performance, and... what else?  Man, where would I begin?  It's both sadly conventional (once again we get the ticking time-bomb) and logic and plot gaps that just become infuriating if you think about them (I may have face-palmed - many times).  As my wife said, and she was quoting what someone else said about Newt Gingrich being a dumb person's idea of a smart politician: this is a dumb person's idea of a smart movie.  

It thinks its so clever and daring, but it's not, at least not really.  And Bane, for all that Tom Hardy tries for (and he does despite or because of that gas mask to be fair), it's just not a compelling enough villain.  He's a big brute and he's forceful, but what does he do that, say, the Joker couldn't of except on a bigger (but, surprisingly, FAR more implausible) scale?  Anne Hathaway - good actress, liked her performance, it's not Catwoman.  How is this Catwoman?  It's a cat-burglar, to be sure, but I didn't see a Catwoman on screen.  And some of the twists and turns, even seemingly small ones, just show how big Nolan's hubris was for people to think the audience would not only accept it but go along with it without question.  

In terms of the story - and I mean past the halfway point, although the 8 year gap just seems to be too much and unnecessarily so without really filling in much of what went on in those eight years - it's a mess.  I just watched it wondering what was going on.  And then it's all hinged on a ticking time-bomb plot that has been used in countless other films and TV shows, and the only difference here being... I'm not sure what.  Didn't I see this plot in the last Die Hard movie?  Only this time there's a football field.  Nice.  And the League of Shadows returns, which is fine, but there is still the same generic goal as in the first film.  What happens here makes up the bigger overriding conflict and one that is really what the film is up upon, what happened from the first story where Bruce faced off against Ra's Al-Guhl does apparently make a big difference.  But I never really felt that much conflict going on because I could depend on Christopher Nolan to suspend disbelief once again (sometimes to an okay extent, usually not) to get things moving along.

Aside from the momentum lacking - by the time of the climax I was glad to see Batman back, but maybe a little 'too little too late'? - the script is full of speeches.  Monologuing.  Monologues within monologues.  Even side characters who don't have much to do with the rest of the film have long stretches of words to say that even in a comic book any decent editor would look at and slash away.  And despite (or in spite of) getting used to Bane's voice, or Hardy's Ian McKellen-like diction in speaking, we get speeches from Bane as well!  Who needs super-long speeches from a character like Bane?

But no, no, I don't want to get into nit-picking like that.  No, with a film like The Dark Knight Rises, there's stuff to pick apart for maybe TOO long.  A certain prop that is used as foreshadowing that shouldn't really be so, and is paid off to an extent that is as mind-boggling as the most illogical points in 2008 Dark Knight film (let me posit this briefly: why does the public believe psychopaths?  why take their word?  And why not pin, say, a series of murders and other bad business on a psychopath in white make-up and scars as opposed to Batman?  But I digress, I guess).  When it comes to their plots as well, as in a lot of these films of these ilk, so many follow to the tune of a madman who is looking to blow everything up anyway.  What would be left in the chaos?  Do any of these minor characters as henchmen ever think for themselves?  Is this real or some kind of real-fantasy-Inception-dream state?

Other twists happen late in the game that suddenly need explaining.  And they are explained, at length, in monologues and speeches, but not to a point where it makes up the initial WTF-ness.  It's just poor, clumsy, crazy storytelling on Nolan and his brother Jonathan's end.  At any point was this questioned past *movie* logic, where as this is supposedly set in a 'real' world?  The entire Holding-a-City-Hostage-for-Month plot hangs on so many variables that it makes the Joker's questionable schemes in TDK look downright peachy by comparison.  And while Nolan does imrpove on some fronts - on a technical level I could actually tell much clearer what was doing on in fight and set pieces, though it was not to an effect where it was so mind-blowing past fisti-cuffs - or on showing small things like the disintigration of the bond between Bruce and Alfred, it's little good points amid the chaos of the second half of the film.

Maybe a great director (and I am using that term for Nolan, god help me) to go this far.  Nolan is not a hack, and he has too much passion for this world of Batman to do anything less than what he does for his ever-expanding world.  He has big ambitions for this world of Batman, the world of Gotham (which changes city I guess every other film since consistency matters less than metaphorical locale), the psychology of, um, conquering and using fear and darkness and so on.  Hell, they even use a physical location from Ron Fricke's Baraka!  But for all of the fine cinematography, for all of the grandiose moments, for all of the Epic McEpicness intended... it's a failure in terms of progressing a story in cinematic terms.  And yet for the kind of failure it is, I was highly entertained, engaged, and wanted to see where the fuck it would go.  And that's something, I guess.

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