Monday, July 23, 2012

Reviewing The Dark Knight Rises

Opening weekend for The Dark Knight Rises has come and gone. It had a record breaking and then very tragic opening day. For now, I'm going to go into my spoiler full review followed by some character comparisons between the movie and the comics.

For my non-spoiler reaction, click here!

-----------------------------------Spoilers Live Here!-----------------------------

For a Batman (Dark Knight, whatever) movie, the Bat has less screen time than in either of the other films. The focus shifts heavily to the other characters (Gordon, Blake, and Gotham itself is almost a character in the film). That being the case, the action/fight scenes are limited, which is especially noticeable when following The Dark Knight. This was definitely not in the same vein of the other Super Hero movies we've been seeing.

That being said, the fight scenes are good for all that. They are definitely more brawls than anything, but this makes them seem more realistic, and goes along with Batman being older, more damaged. The cage match between Batman and Bane was a great fight, even if I thought the ending knee drop was muted. In the comic, they are able to give a perfect freeze frame.
In this film, happens quickly and is given no extra weight. You actually don't ever see the extent of the damage, other than Bruce appears to be in tremendous pain and unable to move once he's been placed in prison. This is obviously to preserve the potential of recovery without using comic book magic.

An issue with the film was the multiple time jumps the film does. At the start, it is set 8 years after The Dark Knight. I'm not really sure what they purpose of that specific gap was, other than to give Bruce time to become rusty and older and to give Bane a window to have made a name in the criminal underground. Through different parts of the film, more time passes. They are unusually poorly done -- it doesn't seem like much happens in the gaps of time. The rest of the world moves relatively slowly while Batman is recovering. Yes, Gotham is being torn apart, but it was reminiscent of a 30 Days of Night (film) time jump: one minute they are running from vampires, the next they've been hiding for a month in the basement.

My wife noticed a time error in the film as well. At one point, the Stock Exchange is invaded by Bane and his gang. It is in BROAD DAYLIGHT, as you see several times. It is stated, by one of Bane's gang members, that the download they came for would take NINE MINUTES (or something close to that). The gang ends up fleeing from the exchange, during the DAYTIME, while the download continues. A chase scene ensues, including the arrival of Batman. This chase, apparently, happens LAST AT NIGHT -- it is VERY dark outside. The download finishes during this chase scene. The NINE MINUTE download lasts from BROAD DAYLIGHT to LATE AT NIGHT. ... Don't mind the caps, just pointing out how glaring the flaw was.

The problem with the time jumps may be due to another issue with the film that I had: the plot was too grandiose, without reason for it to be so.

Supposedly, the villains want to destroy Gotham utterly, continuing the mission started by the League of Shadows. The rig a nuclear time bomb that prevents outside interference and turn Gotham upside down, allowing convicts and anyone willing to join Bane's army rule of the streets. A court is established to find the wealthy or previously well-to-do characters guilty and sentenced to exile or death (by exile). While I love the Scarecrow cameo, it didn't make enough sense for the villains to wait so long for the bomb to go off. Also, it didn't seem reasonable that Bane or Talia would be willing to sacrifice themselves for one city (seeing as how they never seem intent on leaving before the explosion). The League of Shadows was never Gotham centric -- they destroyed any corrupt city/society.

It was a very comic book set up, one that even included enough time for the hero to recover and find a way to stop them. Nolan avoided this in the past; yes, these were all comic book movies, but they were generally able to avoid the camp that comes with them. The drawn out evil plot is not something I expected to see, even though it has been a Batman staple since his inception. It just didn't seem fitting to me. The villains won and should have made it a complete victory -- Bruce watching Gotham destroyed in any fashion would have broken his spirit enough.

On the subject of camp, Bane's voice made some of his lines, even his great ones, goofier than anything. I loved the way they crafted the character, but that voice really brought the quality of the movie down for me. That I was even able to enjoy the character says something, I suppose.

All of the acting was great, really. I had issue with Selina Kyle's blonde friend, but other than that I think everyone did a phenomenal job and I enjoyed the characters they included and the general story elements of the movie. I'm fine suspending disbelief for a comic book film.

The title of the film, for me, was a misnomer. For the entire movie, Batman doesn't rise, he falls. First, he is out of the suit for eight years while his body atrophies. Then he is beaten handily by Bane and crippled. The next time Batman beats Bane but is stabbed by Talia, resulting in another loss. Finally, Batman dies in an atomic explosion because his plan to defuse the bomb fails. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, does rise. But I do not equate Bruce with the "Dark Knight". Maybe that is an error on my part, but this was definitely a movie about the death of Batman and the rebirth of Bruce.

I'm sure other meanings can be made to fit the word "Rises", but I'm not willing to play Devil's Advocate at the moment.

The ending of the film and how they handled it did redeem some of the issues I had as well. The revelation of Bruce's faked death was foreshadowed nicely and Blake's finding the Batcave makes an excellent cliff hanger... though it is more of a tease with this being the end of the series and everything I've read saying the next Batman film will be a reboot. If that's the case, they wouldn't have anyone other than Bruce Wayne as Batman, so the ending is mostly just there for flavor, which works.

For now, I'm going to move on to character comparisons. If I feel like adding more to above, I will at a later date!

Batman: This film pulls from the Knightfall series of comics. They feature Bruce Wayne having his back snapped by Bane. Unlike the movie, Bruce is then replaced by Jean-Paul Valley (also known as Azrael). Eventually, Batman gets better and takes the mantle back. In the film, he never relinquishes the cowl and simple (ish) gets better. I thought that the character of Blake was going to end up being Azrael. With the ending, it is possible he does end up becoming the new mantle, though nothing of Blake seems similar to Jean-Paul. I think they way this movie did it was fitting for Nolan's trilogy.
Azrael as Batman

Bane: In the comics, Bane is a genius level criminal that becomes a test subject for a powerful drug called 'Venom', which greatly increases his mass and strength. The movie removed the Venom but kept the genius and made him a skilled fighter, skilled enough to handily defeat the Dark Knight. The movie's back store for him (but attributed to Talia) does pull snippets from the comics: comic Bane WAS born in an underground prison, and the potential candidates for his unknown father were also accurate. Ra's al Ghul was NOT one of them, though an English Merc was a possibility.

I like that they chose to take elements from the comics and I think they chose the correct ones. The plot twist with Talia being the actual child prisoner was interesting and surprising to some fans (though not anyone who knows Ra's only has a daughter). I don't care for (comic) Bane, but I did very much enjoy (Nolan) Bane.
Bane with Venom tubes visible

Catwoman: (Comic) Catwoman has several styles and has had her origin rebooted at least once. As a general description, she is a friend and foe of Batman, similar to Spider-Man's Black Cat. She acts as sex appeal and a female icon in the Batman roster, as well as an off and on romance with the Bat.

(Nolan) Catwoman is never called Catwoman. She is Selina Kyle only, and a burglar who happens to steal from Bruce Wayne and come to work with the Batman. The character is complex and done well in a single serving, which isn't always interesting to do. Surprisingly, I liked Hathaway in the role, which I didn't expect to, though I think this is because the character was re-imaged for the movie.
A modern image of Catwoman

Talia al Ghul: This is one of the characters I do not think Nolan did well with. In the comics, she has a conflicted relationship with her father and Batman. She is one of the Bat's major romances -- she is actually the mother of his son, Damian, the current Robin. Her conflicted character make her an interesting villain. (Nolan) Talia did not have any conflict. She was fulfilling her father's wish. They made her backstory interesting by mixing it with (comic) Bane's, but that is about it.

I think the watered down, one-dimensional villain was a poor display of the Talia character, and I didn't care for the actress they chose. One of the worst death scenes I have ever seen, I think.
One example of Talia, a woman of many outfits

Robin: I really liked the character of John Blake in this film. He was an interesting counterpoint to Batman and Gordon.

He is also the character I have the most issues with.

'John Blake' as a character is NOT from the comics. The tie in is that his first name is 'Robin', leading us to attribute him to Batman's sidekick (the first name isn't revealed until the very end). This was a weak attempt at misdirection and a wasted character spot. Blake's back story of being an orphan could have easily fit (with slight tweaks) the characters of Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or Tim Drake, the first, second, and third characters to take the Robin mantle, respectively.

My understanding was that Nolan refused to do an actual Robin story. I dislike when a director chooses to let personal opinion change integral characters. I'm not much of a Robin fan, but I know many have their favorite iteration, not a one of which was represented with any faith.

Good character, could have easily been accurate to the comics and been that much better for it.
An image of the many Robins they had to choose from

That's all for now. If anyone would like to see a different character show, say something! I'm leaving out Gordon and Scarecrow because of my disinterest in the former and the limited screen time of the latter. If there's someone I missed, I'd be willing to add them.

Any questions, comments, or concerns, I'd really like to see them! And, if you think I write about anything interesting, follow me! I'd love the support!

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