Friday, March 15, 2013
The Dark Knight Rises
I was surprised by how much I liked it, actually. Or maybe I was just surprised that I even liked it at all, considering how luke warm I was on the first of this trilogy, and how much I actively hated the second. But this one was good. I enjoyed it. I liked it. I was glad I saw it. It had something the first two films were lacking: It was actually kind of fun.
For the most part. I mean, it is a Christopher Nolan film, so it's still needlessly complicated, overwrought, overlong, and pretentious, full of odd plot holes and lapses in logic. But it is a Christopher Nolan film, so it's beautifully shot, has a great cast, tremendous production values, an epic story, and is interesting and unlike anything you've seen before. Well, unless you've seen the previous two Batman films, that is, since all three are basically remakes of the same story: Some Bad Guy wants to create chaos that will destroy Gotham City, and only Batman can stop him. Then again, that's the story of every Batman story, so that's not really a complaint.
So they're all the same story and they're all the same film. This just happens to be the first one that Christopher Nolan did right. That is to say, this is the first of his Batman films that actually sort of maybe has a character who in some small way bears a passable resemblance to some character from the comics named Batman. Sort of.
Batman Begins was neat, and a really interesting, well intentioned attempt at a Batman film. It was clear they didn't really understand the character or care about being faithful to the character from the comic, but it at least was a well thought out, brilliantly produced production about a sort of Elseworlds version of the character. It was neat seeing Bruce Wayne's transformation into the character, and the film was lavish and lovely to look at it. But it wasn't Batman, and the voice given to him by the always bland Christian Bale was laughable and the idea that he received most of his training from terrorists was almost offensive. But, as I said, it was a neat movie.
Then the Dark Knight was just awful. I know it's me against the world on this one, but it was just one of the dumbest, most boring, most illogical, unfaithful adaptations I've ever seen. Say what you will about the craft and production values and some of the acting performances... that wasn't a Batman movie. If you have about five hours to spare, you can read my original review of that film here.
So I will admit I didn't have the highest hopes or expectations going into this third film. In fact, I never even really intended to watch it at all. I skipped it in the theater and skipped it when it first came out on video (it's still called video, right?), but I finally broke down and rented it last night because the Redbox didn't have that new Tomb Raider game and I wanted to do something.
Boy... that was a long introduction. Who wrote this review? Christopher Nolan? Zing!
See... this was a long movie that too a long time to get going... and then it took a long time in the middle and even longer at the end. Bloated is a word that comes to mind. Self-indulgent are two others.
Anyway, this movie won me over right from the beginning, with a show-stopping plane highjack that was just about the coolest thing I've ever seen. It was epic, clever, scary, exciting, and so gorgeously shot it made me wish I had seen the film in IMAX. It didn't matter that it made no sense because it was so cool.
Then from there the movie kind of meandered along for the next hour or so, introducing too many characters and too many plot points to mention. Why was Mathew Modine in this movie? Why did we have two good guy cops when they really only needed Commissioner Gordon? Why was Littlefinger from Game of Thrones in this movie for only one scene? Why is Morgan Freeman in these movies? Couldn't all the science and inventing stuff he did be done by Bruce Wayne? You know.... like in every other version of the character?
And why does every villain want to blow up Gotham? I can understand why the Joker wanted to mess up Gotham because I guess he lived there already, but the Lord of Shadows people seemed to be based in Tibet or somewhere so why do they care? Because it represents the worst of humanity and is too full of sin to live? Wait... Gotham City is worse than, say, Bangkok? Isn't that the sex-trade capital of the world? When you're looking to eradicate the world's most disgustingly depraved, sinful city, go for the one with the words "bang" and "cock" in the name.
And all of those questions are just from the first third or so of the movie. Don't get me started on all the spoiler plot holes I could bring up (like how the hell did Bruce Wayne get back to the city from that prison?).
So now you're probably wondering, "So, Donald, if you hated the first two films and thought this was just more of the same with an identical plot and structure, what made you like this one?"
Uh... I dunno. But I did.
I think maybe because with each film the action gets a little better and Christian Bale seems more like Batman. In the first film, there was a cool sword fight on the ice, but other than that the action was terrible and filmed in such extreme closeups that you couldn't follow anything, maybe because the suit Bale wore was so restrictive he couldn't move. The second film actually had some cool action sequences, like the big chase with the semi, but the fighting was still pretty weak. But this film was action-packed and actually had real fights with actual choreography.
I liked the first fight between Batman and Bane so much I rewatched immediately before moving on with the rest of the film. It was just a great scene.
And with each film, the horns on Batman's cowl get a little more pronounced. This is the first film where Batman actually looks like Batman in my opinion.
And I actually even kind of liked Christian Bale. He was good. I even didn't mind the Batman voice, which seemed either toned down or I was just more conditioned to it. I dunno. Or maybe it was just that he seemed like just one character in a huge ensemble cast that I was less annoyed by him because he was almost never on screen. In any other Batman film, not having enough Batman would be a huge drawback, but in these films Batman is usually the least interesting and entertaining character.
This film totally belonged to Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Tom Hardy as Bane, both of whom were amazing and seemed to understand they were making a big summer action movie and not some serious art film. They were both clearly having fun, so they were fun to watch.
Hathaway is just a great actress and she's gorgeous, but she gave what was a somewhat cliched character a lot of depth and grace and emotion. And she just kicked a lot of ass. I didn't find her character arc totally believable, but that was the fault of the script, not her performance.
And then Tom Hardy as Bane was just the best character in movie history. Or, at least, the silliest and the most entertaining. I didn't understand this character at all. I don't mean his voice -- I understood every word he said perfectly, and I'm confused about how so many people claimed they could not -- but his very character, intentions, motivations, accent, whatever. Who was this guy, why was he so mean, why did he have a tarantula strapped to his face, and why did he sound like Elmer Fudd doing an impression of Orson Welles?
I later learned on the "internet" that because of his injuries during that prison fight years ago he was in such pain so they made a mask that pumps a constant flow of analgesic gas to keep him functioning. That's the dumbest thing I've ever read. A lot of people suffer from chronic pain and I've never seen any of them strap a mask on their face for the rest of their lives. Has Bane never heard of Vicodin?
But whatever. He was hilarious to watch and enthralling every time he was on screen. I loved his voice and I loved his nonsensical, overwrought dialogue. And he was just a big, scary monster. He actually scared me, and the fight scene where he tore Batman apart was epic and terrifyingly intense.
So I liked it. I even recommend it. No, it didn't make sense, and yeah, it was pretentious, over-plotted, and way too long. Also, this still wasn't a Batman movie, even though he's finally starting to almost look the part. The Batman in these films trained for longer than he spent as Batman, and he keeps quitting at the end of each movie, which I don't understand and seems totally contradictory to the core of the character. Bruce Wayne became Batman do seek justice for the murder of his parents, but at the beginning of this film it was revealed that he quit being Batman after the murder of his girlfriend. Huh? That makes no sense, and it sure isn't in line with the character of Batman... not even just the one from the comics, but from the other films.
But whatever. Check it out. It's good fun.