Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The Dark Knight Rises
Let's look at the evidence: I'm a big geek. I read comics. I love movies. And when the two mix, that's just awesome. And look at Nolan's track record with these Bat-movies. Batman Begins was amazing. The Dark Knight was almost as amazing.
Don't get me wrong, Part 2 was really awesome. But I admit I have my issues with the overall story. I have some issues with the story in The Dark Knight Rises as well, but those issues don't take away from my opinion that this movie is an awesome end to a pretty definitive trilogy.
There be spoilers ahead. Seriously, if you haven't seen this movie and don't want to know the twists and turns in the plot details, stop reading. Right now. I mean it.
Now, for the rest of you who have either seen the movie already or flat out don't care about spoilers, here's what I think about the movie. Other than it was awesome. I won't do any kind of synopsis of the movie. I'd really rather just go into this thing as if I'm having a conversation with someone who has also seen it.
First of all, I'd like to go on record as saying that Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle was an excellent casting call. She stole pretty much every scene she was in. Appropriate since she played a notorious cat burglar. She had great lines which she delivered well and she looked incredible. But she was never actually called Catwoman in the movie. At least, I don't think she was. She was simply Selina Kyle, jewel thief.
Christian Bale was more of the same. I still think his voice is over the top, but it is what it is. I thought he did all right as a Bruce Wayne who's been out of the game for eight years.
Tom Hardy as Bane... hmmm... Okay, I'm one of those guys who would like to pretend that Batman & Robin never happened. And, therefore, the portrayal of Bane in that Bat-film would be null and void. This Bane was much better. He was more the Bane that was created in the comics as a character who would break the Batman. He was a master strategist and a physical powerhouse. The point of Bane's creation during the Knightfall story in the comics was to break Batman's body and spirit. He succeeded in doing so in the comics, and very nearly succeeded in the movie as well.
During the initial teaser trailer, a lot of people complained about Bane's voice. They said you couldn't understand what he was saying. I think I liked the confusing garble from the teaser more than the finished product heard in the actual film. I mean, I get why it was cleared up. He had a lot of important things to do and say. It really is important to the plot to understand what the villain is up to. I just couldn't get past the thing in my head that made me think it was just a bad impression of Sean Connery. I'm probably the only one that heard it that way.
But was Bane really the mastermind? Nope. He was doing it all for the love of a woman. A woman that the audience was supposed to think was one of the good guys. Marion Cotillard was great as a secret villain. Between Inception and this, I have to admit I'm developing something of a crush on the French belle. Through the majority of the movie, she was known to the world as Miranda Tate. In the climax of the story, she reveals herself to be Talia al Ghul, daughter of Batman Begins villain Ra's al Ghul. Did that blow your mind?
As a good comic book geek, I wasn't too terribly shocked by this revelation. I know that Cotillard and Nolan both said, repeatedly, that Miranda Tate was not Talia. But come on. Going into this thing, we knew that it was the final chapter of a trilogy. And what does the final chapter of a trilogy do? If it's a good one, it brings the story full circle and wraps it up in a neat little bow. That means we find that connection to the pivotal story of Batman Begins. They tried to make us think that Bane was the son of the demon for a while, but that's what those Hollywood types call a "red herring."
I would be remiss to leave out Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Detective John Blake. I thought this was a pretty nice origin story for this guy. I knew this kid was going places when I first saw Angels in the Outfield. But seriously, this John Blake character is someone I'd be willing to see in another movie. The set up for the detective to become Batman was perfect. I'm not sure how I feel about his legal name being Robin. I know it was meant to be another nod to the comics, but it seemed a little on the cheesy side.
I know that couldn't have just named him Dick Grayson. Or Jason Todd. Or Timothy Drake. These are all three characters who have been Robin to Bruce Wayne's Batman. But John Blake took on characteristics of all of those past Robins. He lost his parents at an early age, like Grayson. He grew up as an orphan in a boys' home, giving him the same tough exterior as Jason Todd, who grew up on the streets. Add the fact that Blake and Drake both deduced that Bruce Wayne is really Batman? You've got the makings of a likely candidate to inherit the cape and cowl.
Something we get with the comics is a Bruce Wayne that never ages. For 73 years, the guy has been dressing up as a bat and scaring the bejeezus out of Gotham's scumbag criminals. He's perpetually in his early to mid 30s. But in the real world, he wouldn't be able to carry on forever.
That's something that Nolan seemed to be doing with his trilogy. He kept the Batman grounded in a realistic world. When Batman disappears into the night at the end of The Dark Knight, he stays away for eight years. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne becomes a recluse for that same amount of time. He ages. His body begins to fail him after the abuse he put himself through in his years of training and the time he spent fighting crime.
This is something that Nolan made clear in Batman Begins. Bruce himself talks about how a man has limits. But a symbol can live on. This theme came up again in Bruce's conversation with Detective Blake. Anyone can be Batman. It doesn't have to be Bruce Wayne.
To have Bruce Wayne fake his own death and pass on the secret location of the Batcave to John Blake was a great way to end the story. Because for once, we've been able to see a definitive end to Bruce Wayne's story. He did what he set out to do. He created a persona that he was able to use to strike back at Gotham City's criminal element. And when it was time for him to stop, he was able to do so.
The Dark Knight Rises wasn't perfect. But the overall trilogy, I thought, was brilliant in its handling of the Batman story.