Monday, August 06, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)

Well, the short version: I liked it.  It's my least favorite of the three, mostly because it feels the least superheroic, but it fits nicely in the trilogy, as sort of a summation (and escalation) of the themes introduced in the first two films.  And, like the first two films, it had a lot that just irritated me. I'll get into some details here, and of course, there will be spoilers.

Supervillain as Terrorist
This is the central idea of the Nolan movies.  9/11 really gave us a context in which supervillains make sense.  In the past, there always seemed to be difficulty in making any logical sense out of the motives of supervillains.  Occasionally they would come up with some needlessly elaborate plot to rob Fort Knox or something, but usually they just seemed to have some kind of grudge against society that they followed through with flamboyant acts of terrorism.  And sometimes it wasn't even that.  I remember one episode of the old 60's Spider-Man cartoon, where there was this giant robot that was basically a huge furnace on wheels, with two tentacles grabbing stuff and putting it in it's "mouth" as it rampaged through New York.  There was no explanation of who made it, or what they possibly hoped to gain by it.  It was just this thing that Spider-Man had to deal with.  Which is kind of cool, but even as a kid I remember thinking "why would someone do that?"

9/11 changed that, because 9/11 was totally a supervillain plot.  A bunch of henchmen committing this violent, showy crime for a criminal mastermind.  And this is the model for the Batman movies.  Bane, The Joker and Ras Al-Ghul are all Osama Bin Laden-type terrorists.  So orient everything around that idea: they are striking terror in the hearts of the good folk of Gotham (which gives you that nice resonance with Batman, who (according to comic lore) chose the bat outfit because it's silhouette produced fear in the criminal element).  Increasingly through the trilogy, the villains are primarily concerned with watching everyone get scared, watching society break down, and knowing that they caused it. 

The Best Catwoman
I'm sure this won't be a popular opinion, but I really thought Anne Hathaway was the best Catwoman ever.  It's just a fantastic physical performance.  She moves like you'd expect Catwoman to move.  And goddamn, can she rock a pair of heels (my choice of image above betrays my sympathies!).  My favorite image in the whole movie was of Selena disarming a cop with her heel.  I noticed that they never showed a wide shot of what was happening in this scene, probably because it was completely physically illogical, but it made perfect sense in comic book logic.  Speaking of which...

This Shit Don't Make No Sense
Logic has always been the hurdle that these films stumbled on, and this one is maybe the worst offender.  Almost everything having to do with the bomb was nonsense.  And yes, I'm going to get into spoilers here.  First of all, it's a reactor, but we are told that it's core will eventually become unstable and it will blow up.  OK, I'll buy that.  But that doesn't seem like the kind of thing that you could time down to the second, much less have an actual timer!  So the bomb is about to go off.  And I mean, this is a fucking nuke.  It's a serious situation.  The clock is ticking.  But before he can get rid of it, Batman has to kiss Catwoman, then he has to make this big inspiring speech (which nobody can understand in his fucking Batvoice anyway).  I couldn't hold myself back from yelling at the screen: "Worry about the fucking bomb!"

So then, OK, that busload of kids is on the Gotham bridge, and Batman takes the bomb 20 miles out and it blows up over the ocean, and everyone's happy.  Hello, that's going to produce a fucking tsunami that's going to wipe those kids out!

Oh, and the way the doctor fixes Bruce Wayne's back. What kind of magical doctor bullshit is that?

The funny thing is, there are probably more things in The Avengers that don't make sense.  Hell, NOTHING in The Avengers makes any goddamn sense.  But you don't notice it, because The Avengers is right up front about the fact that it exists in a comic book world.  Nolan's attempts to place Batman in the real world require us to notice these lapses in logic.

This is the Most Right Wing Comic Book Movie Ever Made
Even more so than The Dark Knight, or Iron Man 2, or even 300!  The Occupy Movement (and I realize that they began making this movie before such a thing existed, or at least before it had a name) is here portrayed as a mob, a new incarnation of the Reign of Terror, pulling rich people out of their houses to be executed.  And of course, they're all being manipulated by an outside agitator whose real goal is to destroy the American way of life.  At one point, someone actually uses the world "appeasement."  During the reign of Bane, Gotham suddenly begins to resemble the Soviet Union, with tanks patrolling snow-covered streets.  And the only line of defense is the benevolent millionaire and the loyal cops.  As I've said before, I'm OK with this.  Batman is an inherently right wing character, so if you're going to explore "deep" political themes through the character, they're going to be viewed through a right wing lens whether you intend them to be or not.

I Hate the Vehicles
This is just a personal pet peeve, but I never liked the vehicles and hardware in these films.  Another by-product of the "realistic" approach, they make more sense for the urban combat of these films, but they just don't have the slick, black Bat-aesthetic that makes Batman cool.  (I always thought the bulky body armor didn't really fit the character either, and prevented him from really moving like Batman.)

Specific Things I Hated
Everything that happens after the funeral.  The whole backstory of Bane's origin and the prison and the twists involved in piecing that together.  I know Nolan likes the puzzles, but none of this made Bane more interesting.  It was just a waste of time. 

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