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The Dark Knight Rises

I loved Batman Begins. When The Dark Knight was announced, I was nervous. Sequels are almost never the equal of the original after all. But then The Dark Knight was amazing too. So when Nolan announced The Dark Knight Rises, I was just plain excited. I wish I'd held onto my normal sequel reservations, because I think I wouldn't have been quite so disappointed if I had.

Act two dragged. And dragged. And dragged. I was actually rolling my eyes and sighing in frustration at points, just wishing they'd close the act and get back to the action. And the flashbacks to the first two movies? Gods, the film might have been 20 minutes shorter if they'd trimmed the flashbacks. And I don't necessarily mean cut them entirely. On the one hand, we've all seen the first two movies, and probably don't need the reminders. On the other there are times you want to illustrate that a character in the here and now is recalling something, so fine. But limit it to a few, telling frames. I don't need an entire shot.

The worst of this was, unsurprisingly, in the second act while Bruce is locked up in Crazy Hell Prison. I suspect most viewers had put together on their own that the Mercenary Father in the inmate's story is Ra's Al Ghul. But you want to make it clear that Bruce has put it together, and maybe clear it up for anyone in the audience who's still confused? Fine. A flashback to Ra's Al Ghul's story in about his wife and child being taken from him seems appropriate. It was entirely unnecessary and irritating, however when Liam Neeson showed up in Bruce's delirium dream and had a whole, brand-new-for-this-film conversation with him in which they rehash everything we were just told/shown.

Oh, and they forever tainted my favorite line of his from Batman Begins ("Ah, but is Ra's Al Ghul immortal?") by having Ra's say "I told you I was immortal," in this new conversation. Bull shit. You never even told him you were Ra's Al Ghul, not exactly. You made a lovely, subtle reference to the Lazarus Pits of the comic book world without ruining the gritty feel of Nolan's Gotham. And then you shove a ham-handed reference into this utterly unnecessary sequence as if it was specifically designed to piss me off.

Also completely unnecessary to the film? Bane. You know, the big bad. There had to be a character in this role, but it could have been any random thug. I imagine they used Bane because his comic book back story (being raised in a prison since a very young age) made some of Bruce's bad assumptions seem plausible, as well as explaining Bane's protective attitude toward Talia (since he knew what she was going through better than anyone else). However, as an opponent for Batman, he could have been any League of Shadows thug. Bane is supposed to be brilliant. And maybe this Bane was. Or maybe Talia was just pulling the strings. Hard to say. Bane is also supposed to possess incredible, almost super-human strength. And although he beats the crap out of Batman when they first meet there's nothing about that encounter which can't be explained by the fact that they're both League of Shadows trained, and Bruce is 8 years out of practice. The drug from which Bane gets his strength never even makes an appearance.

But enough complaining about the villains... Let's complain about Officer/Detective Drake Blake! Before I get into this, I just want to say that I feel Joseph Gordon Levitt turned in a fine performance of a well-written character. I don't have any issues with his portrayal or the character's choices or anything like that. I'm just baffled by his name.

Comic continuity for those of you who may not know: There have been several Robins over the years. Dick Grayson was the first and continues to be the best known in pop culture. He got the gig when his acrobat parents are killed by a mobster and Bruce Wayne takes him in; the rest is history. When Grayson grows up and moves on (becoming Nightwing) he's eventually replaced by Jason Todd--another orphan whom Bruce takes in. Due to overwhelming hatred from the fans he's killed off and Bruce, full of guilt, decides not to take on any more Robins. And then Tim Drake, a local teenager, takes on the mantle of Robin. How, you may ask, since Bruce isn't taking in any more orphans? Tim Drake is, to the best of my knowledge, the only person in the comic continuity to figure out Batman's secret identity through pure detective work (no special hints, no dramatic reveals).

So when Officer __ake saunters into Wayne manor, demands a meeting with Bruce, and reveals that he long ago figured out the Batman's true identity... Well, I assumed I'd misheard his name. Clearly this is movie-verse Tim Drake. A good deal different from his comic book counterpart (a grown man and an orphan at the outset), but clearly the same character. As the movie progresses it becomes more and more obvious that this officer of the law is on the verge of going vigilante. Even though his name is said several more times throughout the movie I continued to be half convinced that I was simply mishearing it. At the movie's finale when he resigns from the Gotham PD, his legal name is revealed to be Robin, and he seeks out the secret entrance to the Batcave under Wayne manor... I though for sure I misheard his name (every time).

But no. They created a whole new Robin (which I guess I'm basically okay with), then gave him a name that rhymes with the only comic book Robin with whom he shares any characteristics. Why Chris Nolan, why?

All that being said, it wasn't all bad. The performances were excellent, the plot twists adequate, and the denouement fulfilling. While I doubt anyone will ever unseat Michelle Pfeiffer as my favorite Catwoman*, Anne Hathaway turned in a stellar performance as pragmatic jewel thief and part-time vigilante, Selina Kyle. Cillian Murphy made a short but entertaining cameo as Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow, and Burn Gorman (Torchwood's Owen Harper) even showed up in the role of a weaselly business man. The League of Shadows angle made an interesting bookend to the series and although I feel it's the weakest of the trilogy, by-and-large I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises.

*Despite having almost nothing to do with the comic book version of this character, her portrayal in Batman Returns is a big part of why I own so many Catwoman comics and collectibles today.


( 2 Mourned — Mourn )
Jul. 28th, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
spoilers too
I couldn't STAND how he magically travels from the close-by city conveniently located within manageable walking distance to the completely closed off, watched-by-the-military-and-renegade-citizens Gotham. And in nice clothes even.

Or how the cartilage, which they made a point of showing us an xray of!, has completely magically grown back into his knee. Ugh.

I love how they handled Catwoman, never actually calling her Catwoman. Her visor/ears were cute. And, I completely agree with you about the Tim Drake thing!!
Jul. 30th, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
Personally I liked Bane (except for his voice which seemed out of place [because it was]) and I didn't mind the blake/drake thing because I'm sure he didn't want it to be too obvious.

I did have a lot of issues with the film. Despite all of what I'm about to say I did like it though.

* Gotham is basically based on Manhattan (they showed manhattan ever time they needed to show the city) and there are 12 million people there which they said several times. If you closed off all traffic going in and out of Gotham, why the hell weren't people dying of starvation? People should have been dead EVERYWHERE.

* When cops go to bust someone, they usually have guns. Why the hell did they get into a fist fight when they finally came out of the tunnel?

* If they were trapped underground for 5 months, why were the cops clean shaven when they came out.

* If you set off a bunch of explosions in manhattan, and don't have an active fire department, it will probably burn to the ground

* Why billionaire doesn't have an offshore account somewhere in case something bad happens . . . especially if your batman and you occasionally have to go to foreign countries to do some shit.

* Bruce Wayne is crippled and requires a leg brace to walk because his knees are fucked. Ok I can go with that. He gets a super brace. Ok still cool. He gets his back broken, and they take his suit from him. At that point while he's in the pit, I don't see the brace anymore. I'm willing to accept the back healing, but did he magically grow the cartilage while lying in bed?

I'm sure there are some other things. I had like an hour long conversation with Dave Chosid on all of the things we found that were just retarded, but we both still liked the film. Just didn't love it.
( 2 Mourned — Mourn )

Take This Book In Your Hands

Like it or not, witches are drawn to the edge of things, where two states collide. They feel the pull of doors, circumferences, boundaries, gates, mirrors, masks. . .
. . .and stages

--Terry Pratchett, Maskerade

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