WARNING: This post will contain my personal thoughts on Christopher Nolan's third and final installment of his vision on the Batman franchise. Haven't seen 'The Dark Knight Rises' ? Take note, major spoilers await you below. Oh, and please direct all hate mail, English lessons, and death threats to my "Contact" section. I'll be sure to post my favorite ones.....if anyone actually reads this.
Fuck, where to begin....I guess i should preface this post by saying I normally do not ridicule ,mock, or question the intelligence of anyone who happens to like something that I do not. You cannot please everyone. It will never happen. And as much as I would like to think that everyone on this planet loves Led Zeppelin, coffee ice-cream, and watching the Kardashians go bankrupt, the truth is.....some people may not care for Jimmy Page's riffs. Some may simply hate coffee. And some people out there may truly gain some sort of priceless, urban knowledge by watching the Kardashian family embarrass themselves on TV. To this, I say "To each, his own". Or any other cliche you want to toss out there. Like what you want, hate the rest, and allow me to waste about 10 minutes of your life explaining to you why I felt The Dark Knight Rises wasn't a great film.
I really wanted to like this movie. I loved Batman Begins, I liked The Dark Knight, but I just didn't fall in love with Rises. Since I am not a professional writer, nor do I possess an immense vocabulary, I will refrain from trying to "sound" smart in order to make my point, and simply list below the problems I had with TDKR.
1.) Bane's Voice: I'll first begin with the term "Self-Reflexivity" or "SR". When I was an undergrad at UC Irvine studying film & television, I simply thought SR was a fancy, elitist way of saying "Hey, look, that movie just referenced itself to the audience, and this is all bullshit." It's actually a cool technique when used correctly and is a great way to deliver any punchline. Problem is, TDKR is not a comedy. And during an intense drama, if anything takes you OUT OF THE FILM, and reminds you that "Yes, this is all fiction, I am watching a movie", chances are, you'll notice it, and something quite won't feel right. The first thing I noticed about TDKR is Bane's poorly mixed audio. When you COULD make out what Bane was saying, I actually found the dialogue to be quite menacing and powerful, however, most of it sounds like poorly mixed, audio-dialogue-replacement (ADR) which was later added in post. Thus, I was constantly asking myself, "Is that ADR? It kinda sounds like it.", and as I pondered this very question, I often disengaged from the film for a few seconds.....seconds in which I may have missed something very important. My problem isn't with ADR, it's simply that 90% of Bane's dialogue SOUNDS like ADR. (Even though mixed reports claim there is none, whatsoever). Regardless of how the audio was recorded, it sounds like some of Tom Hardy's speaking-lines are out of place, and belong somewhere else, thus....taking you out of the experience.
2.) Audio In General: There was also something off about the musical score in relation to the films dialogue. I love Hanz Zimmer, and I've always appreciated his rhythmic "kettle drums of doom" which organically compliment the dark tone Nolan has set for the series. But there is definitely an imbalance between the composer's music and the dialogue spoken in TDKR. I made certain to see Rises in an IMAX theater, hoping to experience Nolan's final chapter with crisp, clean sound, and stunning visuals. Is it possible I drew a bad straw, and got a shitty IMAX auditorium? Yes. Is it likely the reason I had problems with the audio? I doubt it.
3.) The Action: Most of it just seemed stale. We saw better car chases in The Dark Knight, and much better choreographed fight-scenes. In TDKR, I felt certain sequences were recycled and thrown into the drama with the hope that the audience wouldn't notice. Batman also seems slow & lethargic. I understand this was a very important plot device within the story of Batman's road to redemption, but the Batman I have come to know and admire is always training, and is always preparing himself for the "What if...." case-scenario. I am currently reading Frank Miller's graphic-novel, The Dark Knight Returns, and if you have yet to read this masterpiece, I strongly urge you to pick it up immediately. THIS IS BATMAN. For something that is over 25 years old, it's quite remarkable how well this story holds up. It is also a clear and defining example of just how resourceful and dedicated Batman was as a vigilante crime-fighter. I won't spoil anything here, but just to make my point: In the graphic novel, Batman is 55-years old, and still kicks ass. In TDKR, Bruce Wayne's League of Shadow's training is EXTREMELY rusty, not to mention holds very little resemblance to the style of fighting I witnessed in the first two films. I could be wrong, and perhaps I should go back and re-watch Begins and TDK , but the fighting in TDKR appeared to be slow and sloppy.
4.) The Gadgets: Can someone please explain to me what the hell Batman threw at Bane's chest that sparkled and blew up like a poorly fused Roman Candle in his first encounter with the masked-terrorist? It had no effect whatsoever, and looked incredibly amateur. Remember in the 1989 Batman when Jack Nicholson as The Joker bares witness to the Dark Knight using his vast inventory of gadgetry to rescue Vickie Vale from the clutches of Joker's henchmen? And then he responds with that great line, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?!". Where the hell was that scene in TDKR?. Basically, we are left with Lucius Fox who needs to PERSUADE Bruce Wayne to use any new gear or gadgets to get the job done. This felt a little out of place to me. I don't mind Fox being Wayne's version of Q in the Batman universe, but let's see a little more enthusiasm when your business manager all of a sudden reveals to you that they have a fucking stealth helicopter at your disposal. (Or whatever the hell that was). I just wanted to see more toys. I never once said "Holy shit, that is awesome!" Instead, all I got was an ineffective sparkler, some weird EP gun, and tranquilizer darts shaped as bats.
5.) The Plot: I don't want to bore you to death here, but the plot to TDKR is a jumbled mess. And for a film that is almost 3 hours long, the movie felt a lot longer; another "SR" moment, in which I often found myself looking at my cell phone to determine just how long I had been in the theater. Some of Nolan's choices for action and drama may have been a tad over-the-top, or simply unnecessary. Whereas the opening sequence that introduced us to Bane was extremely cool (I still have no clue how the hell they filmed that), was it really necessary? Did Bane really need to get caught to to identify what "so & so said scientist said to so &so said CIA agent, whom we both don't give a shit about?" Are we really supposed to believe that Batman would so easily trust Selina Kyle, AGAIN, after she betrayed him? Their on-screen chemistry was either non-existant, or it had no chance to develop with Wayne trapped in a deserted prison for what felt like an hour. And what about Alfred abandoning Bruce Wayne? The man that once told Bruce " Batman can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice...", suddenly decides he can no longer stand by Bruce Wayne's side, and watch him defend Gotham? Really? There are plenty of other things that bothered me, which include the absence of Batman for what seemed like an eternity in the second act of the film, and his sudden cure to what was diagnosed as a dislocated / broken vertebrae. Granted, I know this is Hollywood, but it just seems like lazy writing. The acting performances were fine, but the material felt rough and bobbled. Add to that a complete cheese dick ending, in which Alfred smiles and nods after he sees Bruce Wayne enjoying a cappuccino with the woman who fucked him over (all this after he freaks out and is in tears during Bruce's funeral), and you have to ask yourself what the hell was Nolan thinking? And did Nolan have to get all Spiderman 3 on us, and whip out Bruce Wayne's EMO side for an hour?
6.) The Characters: My biggest problem with Nolan's take on Batman is that of the 3 films he has directed, only one feels like a Batman movie. (Batman Begins). The Dark Knight is more of a Joker film and TDKR feels more like a social commentary on the Occupy Wall Street Movement. And whereas I applaud Christopher Nolan for taking on deeper themes, and amalgamating them into the main story of Batman and his quest to save Gotham, I often find myself not giving two shits about his characters. I loved Bane, and Selina Kyle kinda turned me on, but that was about it. I saw Batman for what felt like once an hour. Morgan Freeman's performance as Fox seemed mostly wasted, as did Marion Cotillard's performance & twist as Talia ah Ghul. Joseph Gordan-Levitt's depiction of Blake was good, but his character was mostly unbelievable, nor did I really gave two shits about what happen to him. We're supposed to accept some rookie street-cop was able to identify Batman as Bruce Wayne simply because they're both orphans? Seems far-fetched to me, and again, took me out of the movie. Throw in a few random cameos of the Scarecrow and Commissioner Gordon (who was largely out of commission for most of the film) and my emotional ties to the characters in TDKR quickly loosens. (I know Heath Ledger is dead, but the fact we saw Scarecrow and not the Joker seems a little ridiculous.)
I didn't HATE this film. Trust me, there are far worse movies out there one could bombard with negative criticism and I definitely enjoyed certain aspects of TDKR:
- Not calling Selina Kyle Catwoman
- The witty exchange between Batman and Kyle about his stubbornness on refusing to use guns to kill criminals.
- Tom Hardy's performance as Bane.
- Anne Hathaways' perfectly formed ass.
But the entire time I sat there watching TDKR, something didn't feel right. It took me a while to gather my thoughts, and discern what was bothering me so much: Am I wrong? Is this film truly amazing? Do I not get it? Or is this just uninspired film making? Did Nolan rely too heavily on this reactionary movement to bring social equality to everyone? Are we suppose to accept that millions would flock to Bane's "revolutionary" position even after Gotham had been experiencing a dramatic drop in crime over the last 8 years? Who knows......as I get older, I find myself questioning certain aspects of story-telling more and more, and I won't argue that it IS POSSIBLE I am being too harsh on this film. TDKR does feel the most "comic-booky" of all three Nolan Batman films, and of those three, this one is my least favorite. The "comic book" rationalization and explanations of certain events just seems to be a huge departure from the darkness & realism I've come to expect from Nolan's previous Batmans. Despite my dislike for TDKR, I do appreciate what Christopher Nolan was trying to do. It's hard to gauge how Heath Ledger's death may have affected the outcome to Nolan's vision, nevertheless, I think Nolan is a smart man, and made the adaptations necessary to bring this series to a close. And whereas I may not LOVE Nolan's Batman trilogy, one thing is certain: He did a far, FAR better job than Joel Schumacher. And thank God for that.