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The Dark Knight Rises - My Thoughts on the Film


Knowing that The Dark Knight Rises is supposedly Christopher Nolan's last Batman film in this series, and that this third movie is how Bruce Wayne's story ends, one of my biggest questions was, how is Chris going to end it so that you're left thinking what happens after the movie is finished? (Which is something Chris likes to do with his movies - leave you thinking about how the story continues).

SPOILER ALERT! This is not a movie review. I'm assuming you've seen the film, know the story, and have seen all the reveals. I won't be outlining the plot here. If you haven't seen the film then I highly recommend you do then come back here. This is my thoughts on the film as a long time Batman on film fan ('on film' being important as I've never followed the comics... ever).

I was very impressed with how this movie ends because it makes you want to see that movie. The movie in which Detective John 'Robin' Blake takes over the mantle of perhaps Batman... or maybe someone else... Robin (doubtful), Nightwing (maybe?). Whatever... I'd just like to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the superhero that Bale's Batman promised but didn't quite deliver - the intelligent and strategic Batman.

Nolan and Bale's Batman has been very much about brute force more than detective work. Sure there's plenty of detective work through out the trilogy but it's kind of taken a back seat to Bale's 'force of nature' style Batman.

This is a Batman that takes on Bane in a fist fight for a second time after being decisively beaten - with ease - the first time around. It's like doing exactly the same thing again and expecting a different result (like, what one can only assume, is a lucky punch to Bane's face that breaks his mask). Sure, the second time around Batman is fitter - clearly they feed people well in that prison he was in, along with free medical too - but Bane won decisively the first time. How much fitter could Batman possibly get whilst harboring a stuffed knee and weakened back?

Bane is pretty smart too. He pretty much predicted Batman's every move in the first match up yet he doesn't do a lot to protect his own face the second time around.

Despite that The Dark Knight Rises is quite possibly my favorite in the series because we get to see Batman being a 'brute force of nature' in the day time. None of the dark lighting of the previous two films where you can't really quite see what's going on during a fight. It's Batman being awesome, right out in the open.

Plus this film has the coolest bit of Bat tech ever created since the 1960's Batmobile (yes, I said 1960's Batmobile), 'The Bat'. No silly aeroplane shaped like a Bat symbol, just a very functional and futuristic looking helicopter style machine.

How awesome is it that
they built a full size 'Bat'
Set photo by iFanboy
I need one of those to do my grocery shopping in!

So back to Batman being awesome. One minor issue I had with this film is that in the final act, where Batman returns to Gotham. He started to become a little omnipresent. Somehow, in a city as big as Gotham, he knew where to find all his allies and be there to save them at just the right moment. That's just a tad too awesome but, in a movie that's nearly three hours long, you don't want to get bogged down explaining every little detail. (Thank goodness 'cause I had a sore butt after this movie - how anyone manages several screening back to back I'll never know!).

At this point in the article I took a couple of days break from writing and listened to a lot of other people's thoughts on the movie in podcasts that I regularly listen to including Modern Myth Media's TDKR round table and Kevin Smith's Fatman on Batman TDKR Smodcast. Some of these people, including Kevin Smith, said that they cried and had moments that seemed almost like a religious experience to them. I'm not that invested in Batman.

I certainly picked up on some of the same moments that these people seemed to get emotional about but my reaction was mostly 'yeah that was a cool moment' or 'what a really interesting idea'. The closest I got to being emotional was the ending - and that was because, at this point, I know we're probably not going to get that movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as, possibly, Batman. Here's hoping the next director at least gives some thought to casting Joseph.

To digress for a moment... as someone who doesn't read comics I highly recommend Modern Myth Media's Podcast Round tables. Their knowledge of the comics does increase my enjoyment of Nolan's Batman because they can at least tell me which comics were referenced by the films and how much the films have added new ideas to the source material. For example, John Blake's back story is actually a composite of several different 'Robins' from the comics.

If you don't read the comics either but would like to see some of the ground breaking must read comics on film, Warner Brothers and DC Universe is currently animating some of the most talked about works in straight to DVD/Blu-ray movies. Already available is Batman Year One (which informed some of Batman Begins and includes a glimpse of the Cat Woman TDKR version is based upon) and Under the Red Hood in which you'll learn about at least one lesser known (in the mainstream) Robin and see a lot of Nightwing (A.K.A. Dick Grayson) and meet Ra's al Ghul. Soon to be released is Frank Miller's classic graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns which informs some of The Dark Knight Rises.

Getting back to my thoughts on the film.

I really enjoyed Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman. Thankfully I haven't come across too many people comparing her performance with Michelle Pfeiffer's in Batman Returns. Partly because it's like comparing Heath's Joker to Jack Nicolson's - both their performances were really great for the style of the film they were in - and partly because I really like Michelle's performance as Catwoman too.

Unlike other people I was never in doubt that Anne wouldn't give a good performance as Selina but I did think her casting was an interesting choice. All I really knew her from was the Princess Diaries movies (not that I've watched them but I noticed them because it was the first time I'd seen Julie Andrews act in anything for years). Though now that I've seen Anne's profile on the Internet Movie Database I've actually seen her in quite a few more movies than I first thought.

The character of Selina was definitely written fairly well, showing off her extended range of abilities, tactics and general outlook to life. As much as I know Catwoman and Batman have a kind of romantic relationship of sorts in the comics it didn't quite seem right that Bruce ends up with her at the end.

No matter which way you look at it Selina's more than just a cat burglar. She's done some pretty ruthless things and assisted the League of Shadows but apparently Bruce can overlook all that because she's trying to get out of her present predicament and start fresh. To be honest I can't see either of those two settling down to the quiet life.

Tom Hardy's Bane was really quite impressive. I knew the previous screen incarnation of Bane in Batman and Robin was nothing like the comics so I was interested to see what Nolan's take on the character would be. Aside from that scene where he apparently fails to protect his mask from Batman's blows I thought he made an awesome foe.

There's been a lot of complaints by fans that Bane's role is reduced to a Henchman - just like he was in Batman and Robin - once Miranda Tate is revealed as Talia. The best argument I've heard against that is that no one would consider Darth Vader from Star Wars to be just a henchman even though he is under much tighter control of the Emperor than what Bane appears to be under Talia.

I'm surprised Nolan went the whole way with the iconic scene from the comic of Bane lifting Batman over his head and dropping him over his knee. Obviously not breaking Batman's back, like in the comics, but getting as close as you can without putting him in a wheel chair for life. Presumably Batman's armor had a lot to do with it - since it's twice saved him from some seriously high falls in The Dark Knight.

Not a big fan of how Bane is beaten or how Miranda screws up any chance of an epic fight by sinking the dagger into Batman's side. After spending all that time setting up Bane as the immovable object to Batman's unstoppable force the final fight kind of fizzles with a double twist of a one time ally turning on Batman and a one time foe helping him out (turns out behind every great man there is a great woman - Bane and Batman included!).

I would have much rather preferred Batman go after Bane the second time with more of a strategy than just a head on fight focusing on breaking Bane's mask. With all Bruce Wayne's resources he didn't need a washed up prison doctor to tell him why Bane wears a mask - heck he found out virtually everything he needed to know about Selina Kyle within hours of meeting her. The prologue to the movie shows that the CIA are already looking for Bane so would have at least some information... and, if a washed up prison doctor knows the legend of Bane then some police force somewhere must know it too.

The only part of this film that really made me groan was the nuclear device. Even though it wasn't a nuclear device in the traditional sense i.e. a missile stolen from the military (perhaps?), it still lacked originality and dragged that element of the film back to being a comic book movie for me.

...and at this point in the article, I took a break from writing it of a few weeks, in which time I went to see TDKR a second time. Still a lot of fun on second viewing and I was able to pay more attention to things that I missed first time around.

In particular I paid closer attention to Batman's first fight with Bane and noticed Batman got in a few head punches. Not particularly focused on breaking the mask but, let's face it, Bane's mask didn't seem particularly strong. Talia clicked his little tubes back into place with very little effort in the final fight. Not a pair of pliers in sight.

Movie parody site How It Should Have Ended has also released a wonderful parody of TDKR highlighting many possible directions the film might have gone had only certain scenes been different. In particular, I never thought about how Batman could have dealt with Bane.. if only he'd worn the right utility belt that day... (watch the video below).



There really is a lot to talk about and/or debate about this movie. There's plenty of plot holes that could have changed the course of the movie if the characters had made the connections we get to make as an audience. However, despite all that, the movie as whole is so much fun you can kind of forgive the problems... why? Because he's BATMAN! (Watch more of How it Should Have Ended Superhero film parodies and you'll come to love the Superhero Cafe Scene at the end of the above video - it's become a tradition. I love the Iron Man one especially).

Overall I liked one particular theme of the movie which was "Batman can be any one". It plays well into the idea that Batman is the only one of the most iconic superheroes that an everyday person could be. In this case it also brings to the table the idea that Batman can be everlasting as a symbol - as Bruce stated in Batman Begins.

To Conclude... Finally!

Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy has been a fun seven plus years. As much as it broke out of the formula of the previous Batman films (Burton/Schumacher era) it still followed the formula of giving us at least two major villains per film as you can see in this trilogy image below (some might argue Talia should be there too).


I really do have to thank Christopher Nolan and his team for bringing Batman back closer to reality than the films that came before it. Chris realized that the audience for Batman is much broader and more sophisticated than your stereotypical, early teen, comic book fan boy.

In doing so he gave us a final send off for Batman that my partner, who isn't particularly a Batman (or any superhero) fan, walked out of the cinema and said "I want to see that again!" I rarely go see movies a second time in the cinema - even movies I really like... and she never said that about the previous two Batman movies I dragged her along to see... and she's a Heath Ledger fan! As mentioned above we saw it again.

As much as Christopher Nolan says this is his last Batman film, he knows, that should he, Jonathon Nolan and David Goyer find another Batman story they want to tell, they can take it straight to the bank. Especially if future Batman films by other teams start to lead the franchise astray into Batman and Robin territory.

That said it will be nice to finally be free of Nolan's strangle hold of the character for the last ten years. Maybe now we could see a live action Batman series on TV so that the character can once again become part of our daily lives, to find a new batch of fans, like Adam West's show did. Only this time, let's do the serious detective/crime show Batman that you just can't do justice in a major event film that requires big action.

That's where I'd like to see Batman next. On the 'small' screen. Get in some good detective/crime writers and CSI Batman could be the best show on TV. Maybe I should start a website to campaign for such a show? The people's superhero should be more accessible than a movie every 3-4 years. Who's with me?

Comments

  1. I always liked Batman as a child, the old comicbook Batman for all ages where his abilities were more in the detective work rather than in blowing up the baddies, but somehow, apart than Frank Miller's re-invention of the character, I didn't follow up with him.
    Maybe that's why neither Tim Burton or Nolan's film - and certainly not the other director - had that huge appeal to me. I mean, I really liked the Burton first and Nolan's second films, but... I am not passionate about them as some people are. For instance, I have never understood why Nolan's Batman had to raise either admiration or hate.
    About the movie, or should I say the Trilogy, I was left expecting more from two great actors: Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Maybe it was not their fault but their roles, but these are not their best works. I never felt much for Batman's cause in the last movie. In fact, if you haven't seen the previous one - or as my wife, you forget everything about a movie as soon as you leave the cinema -, the film asks you to assume too many things. It doen't make any effort on trying to make you feel sympathy for Wayne... At least in the previous movie you felt the conflict... Here the situation is so... serious???... Batman needs to save the day, there is no option. I don't know if it was that or not, but I felt more for Gordon and Robin than for Batman...
    Still, the movie didn't feel long. A great movie, and yes, I agree I would had liked to see what Robin made of it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My partner didn't rewatch any of the two previous movies when we went to see TDKR and not only did she love it, it was her idea to see it again. As a third movie in a Trilogy I think it's earned the right to assume the viewer has seen the previous films... especially when the second film was so commercially successful. I personally liked the references to the earlier films (with exception to the Ra's Al Ghul dream flashback - he's not an immortal in Nolan's world and there's no reason for Bruce to imagine him speaking new dialogue).

      I was happy with Michael Cain and Morgan Freeman's roles in terms of what they had to do. Not a big fan of Afred's crying though. He's ex military. You'd think he'd hold back just a little bit. I go to a Batman movie because I want to see Batman do his thing. I hope for a good script and good actors giving good performances. If I get that I don't really care if a couple of great actors in supporting roles don't have a lot to do (and I'm a Michael Caine fan).

      Although I've enjoyed Nolan's run on Batman I'm kind of glad it's come to an end. I'm not a big fan of Bale's Batman, or the armored suit he wears. I'm looking forward to seeing a new Batman.

      The one Batman that hasn't really been explored on screen is the Detective Batman. Unfortunately that Batman is difficult to depict in a feature, blockbuster film. Everyone says Batman is one of the greatest minds in comics... let's see it. Preferably in a TV series with a story arc that spans the series, and clues that the audience can maybe pick up on, so that we can interact and speculate about what happens next with our friends etc.

      Delete
  2. What do you think of the animated series? I think they are quite good, but maybe a bit too many approaches?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only have 2 DVD's of 3 episodes each from the two older series (i.e. Batman: The Animated Series, and The Batman: Animated Series). I've also seen many episodes from the latest animated series: Batman - The Brave and the Bold.

      All of them have a lot to like about them but at the end of the day they're all kids shows that are very watchable even as an adult.

      Some of the new animated direct to DVD movies that are adaptations of Batman's most famous comics are more adult orientated. I'd almost be happy if an adult animated Batman series spring boarded from these into prime time but...

      ...there's something really cool about watching a live action Batman movie or show that animation can't match.

      Delete
  3. Great Read! E,

    I was completely entertained by the film and the minutes passed effortlessly for me. The only thing I'm sad about is that I didn't see it again while I still could on the big screen.

    As a romantic, I'm sort of hopeful Batman and Catwomen are enjoying the sun and sand somewhere tropically peaceful.



    ReplyDelete

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