Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Frank Review of “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)

The Short Version? Batman Beyond Knightfall
What Is It? Super-hero spectacle
Who Is In It? Patrick Bateman, Bronson, Lureen Newsome, Cameron James, George Smiley, Hoke Colburn, Dr. Wilbur Larch, Edith Piaf, Pvt. J.T. 'Joker' Davis
Should I See It? Maybe

I saw Batman Begins at the theater in 2005, and despite buying the DVD for $2 at a garage sale a few years later, have yet to bother rewatching it. I liked The Dark Knight a lot better, but hadn't revisited it four years later, when my girlfriend insisted on watching half of it on cable. We came in late, left early, but it was pretty good overall. Cesar Romero has yet to be topped as the live action Joker, certainly not by Heath Ledger impersonating his The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus* co-star Tom Waits in an alternate universe version of The Crow. That aside, I dug all the political stuff and the romantic subplot, and the movie's cohesive construction from so many disparate elements was impressive. Not seeing a too long delayed sequel before its third weekend of release impressive, but... yeah.

If little reviewed seven year old memory serves, The Dark Knight Rises is the second best Nolan Batman film, but I probably enjoyed it less than several premillennial efforts. Like entirely too many third entries in a series, the filmmakers try to squeeze too much in, so that each individual component is given short shrift. Nolan has managed to juggle multiple villains before, with the Scarecrow being a concern across three movies, and the Joker creating Two-Face in the conjoined self-sequel that was the previous film. Here though, the weight of expectations tying all three Nolan pieces together, too many friends and foes, fan service from the greater franchise, plus kindly setting up whoever succeeds in continuing the series (no reboot necessary, please) turns this thing into an uncomfortable three hour dinner of undercooked meats and ill-considered spices tossed haphazardly into a soup.

For no good reason, twice as many years have passed within the movies as without. Crime has been virtually eradicated in Gotham City thanks to draconian measures drawn up in memorium to the lie of Harvey Dent. As should be expected from a big pussy manchild crying himself to sleep every night over his parents' deaths decades after the fact, Bruce Wayne used the death of a sweetie and his hobby being rendered unnecessary to mope around Wayne Manor in his smoking jacket. I guess he acquired a limp too, which totally matters when you fly around in an urban assault vehicle like Tony Stark with claustrophobia spiked with saltpeter. Catwoman shows up to prove she can rouse Wayne's useless cock from the grave way better than Marion Cotillard could manage, but she's really only around to set up the arrival of Bane. Even though we've been in a global recession since 2008, nobody in Gotham got taken by Bernie Madoff, and blue collar workers chose to build an underground terrorist network instead of collecting welfare like in every other major U.S. city. Bane inspires this underclass to reenact the reign of terror, because that's where that goddamned Frenchy socialism got started, Amerrrrican is ruined, and Batman dances a jig over having an excuse to dress like a randy fuckboy bottom again.

I'm not sure if the politics in this thing are more vile or stupid. There's an insinuation that Bane forms a working man army that drags their white collar betters from out of their homes, but demographics show that at least half of those guys would be Dittoheads who would use their stockpile of 2nd amendment protected firearms to actively protect their aspirational role models against their own interests. Maybe they're all supposed to be the homeless, like in The Cult, but crazy people who piss themselves drunk on MD 20/20 make for lousy foot soldiers. Whoever these guys are, they manage to keep thousands of helpless police officers and millions of citizens at bay for a ridiculously long time without the military or the Gotham equivalent of the Crips ever extracting their thumbs from their asses through the writerly magic of "because I said so." There are allusions to the Occupy Movement and the abdication of noblesse oblige, but Bane seems to be more libertarian in his views toward government and individual rights. I'll amend my opening statement and suggest that Nolan was smart enough to set up nothing but vague straw men that could represent whatever the viewer is against so that they can cheer the downfall of their projected irritants. Neither leftist nor right wing, this flick is pure commodity.

Christian Bale offers his best Bruce Wayne yet, mainly because his American accent has improved and he's stopped trying to play a dude playing a dude. Wayne is boring and weak and crippled by paranoia that his every action will lead to negative consequences, but at least he's not so smarmy this time. A lot more time is spent on Bruce, blessedly, because I now cringe at the sound of Bale's oft-ridiculed Batman voice. I never saw Batman and Robin, but I can say that the Caped Crusader has been the weakest element of every other Batman movie since 1989. That has never been more true here, as I literally thought "Oh no, it's The Batman" each time he showed up.

Batman is matched and surpassed in awfulness by Tom Hardy's Bane, confirming suspicions that he is the least desirable movie villain ahead of only Hush. I think the Bane of the comics, with a little elbow grease, could have been a solid foil. Here though, Bane looks dopey as fuck and Hardy's accent is laughable. People who find it creepy have a pathetically low fear threshold, because he sounds like Mr. Humphries from Are You Being Served? talking through a T-Pain novelty Auto-Tune microphone from Target. I guess it's some sort of accomplishment that through an inexpressive mask and a hulking body Hardy yet manages to convey mincing. It is unintentional hilarity when the Bat-voice meets the Bane-modulation in poorly choreographed combat where even forced perspective fails to disguise punches thrown feet from their target. If only they could have staged a battle in Jim Gordon's hospital room, where his mustache assures that even the hearing impaired cannot discern what these motherfuckers are saying through lip reading.

I was amazed-- I tell you amazed-- that Anne Hathaway did not suck as Selina Kyle. She occasionally lapses into her normal high pitched little girl, put through pure ACTING! she showed the potential to become the best ever Catwoman. Hathaway had Kyle's attitude down, played damsel and vamp with equal affect, and looked fucking amazing in her costumes (whether '50s Hitchcock femme fatale or fetish fancy.) Unfortunately, Hathaway wasn't given enough screen time to steal the role from Michelle Pfeiffer or Eartha Kitt. Despite elevating every scene she's in, Hathaway isn't in all that many scenes. She ends up being an unconvincing third act love interest, after I'd spent most of the running time wondering if she was supposed to be a secret lesbian like Hathaway herself. It's infuriating that Catwoman is rendered subservient to the needs of the Dark Knight, and I came to resent all the time wasted away from her character.

Marion Cotillard plays the primary love interest, Miranda Tate. The character was forgettable enough that the fact that she was going to become a major character snuck up on me as the movie progressed. She has a nice turn in the third act**, but she ultimately squats down and squeezes out a dainty little shit over large portions of the flick. She almost kind of sort of ruins the entire movie.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt does his best to save it as Detective John Blake. JGL is one of my favorite current actors, and he's so great that I didn't even realize what a Marty Sue cunt his character was going to turn out to be until the epilogue. Gary Oldman phones in Commissioner Gordon, probably because they gave all the moments Jim would have had in the prior installments to John Blake. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine play themselves cashing a fat paycheck. Matthew Modine does what he can with an awful, inconsistent, dumb asshole part. Ben Mendelsohn is not Tim Blake Nelson on Slimfast, and after I was ready to applaud Tim Blake Nelson for not playing a goofy fucker for once and everything. It would take forever to send shout-outs to all the great character actors like Nestor Carbonell, many of whom have toiled in the background of all three pictures, but they do better work than some of the leads.

Generally speaking, I do not like the Nolan trilogy very much, and I'm still waiting for a great Batman movie. The Dark Knight Detective is the least perceptive major character in this film, with the possible exception of Jim Gordon. I loathe the military industrial complex tech porn in these flicks, and the retarded helicopter thing introduced here is the worst of an ugly, chubby lot. The plot didn't make a lot of sense when they used it in Batman Begins, and the variation here is imbecilic. Not one of the onscreen romances work. The Choose Your Own Ending multiple epilogues pummeled aesthetics worse than anything Bane threw at Batman. I do wish Bane had been a bit more true to the comics. His silly British accent only heightens the sense that this is a pretentious Roger Moore era James Bond flick, and like most Bond villains, he's kind of a little bitch. Sure, he takes out a flabby retired Batman and cannon fodder, but he does neither with any visceral impact. I think I'd have liked this movie better if it started with Bane breaking Batman, Wayne crawling into a hole, and having to spend years recovering. Instead, Wayne is a chump wallowing in lazy depression, and then he has to cram Knightfall and No Man's Land into the second act, straining both credulity and my patience as a guy in need of an energy shot suffering through a three hour movie that feels it.

Batman and Robin came out in 1997, followed by Blade and then The Matrix. When I look at The Dark Knight Rises in the wake of the Marvel Studios films, it feels like a relic of an earlier, clunkier time in super-hero cinema. Selina Kyle is too self-conscious to actually refer to herself as "Catwoman." Bane dresses more like a rogue gunman than a super-criminal. The master plot is contradictory nonsense whose logic a third grader could unspool meant only to put characters into certain positions at set times to fulfill obligations in the minds of the Nolans. Supporting characters wink and nudge as they reference previous movies, leaning on nostalgia instead of innovation, recalling tired latter-day sequels like Lethal Weapon 4. It reminds me of when I tried to show my girlfriend Superman: The Motion Picture, which takes me back to joy from the single digits of age, but she found tedious with leaden acting and moronic construction. In twenty years, this flick will be indefensible without the warm fuzzy remembrance of your dedication to it way back in 2012.

*I saw Imaginarium at an arthouse in 2009, and regret never having gotten around to reviewing it. It is so much easier to write up bad movies than swell ones, and I would say that at the very least it was better than any Christopher Nolan flick I've ever seen.

**I was diligent in avoiding spoilers, so this actually did surprise me. First in a good way, but not so much by the unintentional comedy of the end.


Robby Reed said...

Great review. This movie was truly awful.

Diabolu Frank said...

It wanted with all of its might to be so dark and dense. It was indeed soooo dense, and deep in the dark.


Blog Archive


Surrender The Pink?
All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks and/or copyright of their respective rights holders.