Friday, August 17, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises to the Occasion Part 2

This is part two of my look at The Dark Knight Rises. Click here for part one. 

The Dark Knight Rises is a hell of a flick. I have seen it three times and I will surely wear out the Blu-Ray when it comes out. However, like I mentioned in part one of this post, there were a few things that bugged me that I’d like to talk about here. It’s what we fanboys do.

WARNING: Major Spoilers ahead!!

The Dark Knight Rises is the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy; a film series that revived Batman from the coma that films like Batman Forever and Batman and Robin had put him in. The trilogy was grounded in reality, and though there are plenty of fantastic elements at play, it tries to keep Batman’s boots planted in the real world. No super powers, no aliens, no freeze rays or hypnotic plant drugs. This “real world” take on the Caped Crusader gave it an edge and weight like few other movies in the genre ever have. Also, because it was a self-contained story, with a beginning, middle and end, it did what few other movies or comic books could do; have a definitive ending to the Batman story.

For the record, The Dark Knight is my favorite film of the trilogy. Bane and Catwoman are great villains but let’s face it, nothing can beat Heath Ledger’s Joker and what he brought to that movie. But I could also write an article with nitpicks about that film too. So having said that, let’s discuss what worked and what didn’t in The Dark Knight Rises.

Catwoman: As I said before, I was leery of this character being in this movie, but the writers nailed it and Anne Hathaway hit a home run with the role. I really enjoyed her and my only complaint is I wanted to see more of her.

The Action: A lot of people will like this movie more than Batman Begins and a large part of it is because there is simply more action. You have an army of bad guys at war with Gotham City, lead by a masked madman and you have Batman flying around in a cool new vehicle, The Bat. There are some awesome action sequences in this flick.

The Last Hour: The climax of this movie was tremendous. The action was a blast and the ending of the movie was a completely satisfying conclusion to this story.  The nice thing about a finite, self-contained story like this is that we can have a definitive ending and it can be happy. There are no happy heroes until the true ending of a story. If the series continues, Batman must press on. Here we can finally enjoy seeing Bruce Wayne at peace….and with Selina Kyle. Like Ross and Rachel in Friends, they can’t end up together until the show ends.

The Fights with Bane: Okay, this is where I start to nitpick. Ever since the synopsis of this movie came out I figured it was going to follow the structure of Rocky III, with Bane in the Clubber Lang role. (Except great as Tom Hardy is, he ain’t no Mr. T.) Initially, Batman would face Bane after a long layoff and with a weakened spirit and he would get his butt handed to him. Then he would go back, train and recapture the “Eye of the Tiger”… that hunger and passion that fuels a champion, and he would win the belt back.

The first fight with Bane is really good. Batman gets his back broken (or dislocated), similar to the way Bane did it in the famous Knightfall comic book series.  Bane is brutal and he can see that the Dark Knight’s fighting skills are not up to the usual League of Shadows standards. Bane even says, “Victory has made you weak.” 

Batman vs. The Mutant Leader in The Dark Knight Returns
It‘s the second fight I was a little disappointed with. Go back and look at Batman’s fights with the mutant leader in the Dark Night Returns graphic novel. In the first fight Batman is nearly killed because he tries to “fight like a young man”, as they put it. When he gets his rematch, Batman fights smarter, not harder and vanquishes his savage foe. Same thing with Rocky with Clubber Lang; he comes back with a better attitude and an adjusted fighting style. When Batman returns to fight Bane, we know he has rediscovered a “fear of death” that will give him the edge he needs, and we know he’s going to target Bane’s mask this time around, but that’s about it. We don’t really see Batman fight any differently the second time around. And the fight is nowhere near as dramatic or entertaining as the fights in Rocky III. You feel every blow in those scenes and the dramatic payoff is amazing. Look at The Patriot if you want another example of a great climatic fight. Mel Gibson faces the British General that killed his sons amid a pivotal battle between the Colonists and the Red Coats. Again, we have a very dramatic fight, in which you can practically feel every slice of the General’s sword. When Mel makes his move and defeats the General, you are cheering in your seat. The second Batman/Bane fight happens a bit to quickly and could have been filmed a little bit better, in my opinion.

Also, when Batman and Catwoman first fight together on the rooftop, they run away when Bane and his henchmen show up, because they are out numbered and out gunned. I thought it would have been great if Batman and Bane had a quick tussle here, before their big backbreaking encounter.

I guess that’s of another one of my nitpicks. I would have liked to have seen a little more Batman in this movie. He’s only in the bat suit about three or four times in the movie.

Batman’s Career: Another thing that I was not quite thrilled with was the idea that Batman had been inactive for eight years. That means that after training for about seven years, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman for about a year or two and then retires for eight. I thought that lessens the legend of Batman in this universe. Why did it have to be an eight-year period? Why couldn’t he have been active as Batman for a while longer and chased by the police, as suggested at the end of The Dark Knight? After all, the criminals are now under the impression that the Batman kills. His one rule against killing was pointed out as a weakness in TDK, so wouldn't this perceived threat make criminals think twice about messing with Batman? I understand that they wanted to do a “coming out of retirement” story similar to The Dark Knight Returns, but I thought the idea of the Dent Act simply wiping out organized crime was a bit weak.

Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb.

Another thing that bugged me a little bit was Bane’s plan. He successfully defeats Batman and secures a nuclear device that can level the city. He gives the trigger to an ordinary citizen so they can detonate it if the army tries to stop him or anyone tries to flee the city. So as soon as he learns that Batman has returned, after a generous five month healing period, he does not simply detonate the bomb. Why not? Was the detonator a bluff? Could they not set it off until the reactor melted or could they set it off whenever they wanted? Seems like they could set it off at any time. Also, did Bane and his crew plan on dying in Gotham the whole time, or did they only resign themselves to death once Batman intervened? It was not clear if they had an exit strategy or if they were a death cult. Seems to me, the guy who started this whole “destroy Gotham” thing, Ra's al Ghul, did not plan on killing himself when he attacked Gotham. So why would Bane’s gang want to? I know they said they wanted Gotham to experience false hope before they were annihilated, but it still seemed like they got caught “monologuing”, as they would say in The Incredibles.

Also, the whole disposing of a bomb thing was great, but I could not help but think back to the greatest instance of Batman performing such an act. The immortal Adam West said it best when he uttered those famous words, “Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb.

John Blake’s Intuition: I had no problem with the John Blake character and I loved his arc. I actually wished he had been a little more involved with the final battle, but I understood the importance of what he was doing with the school bus and the orphans. My only gripe was the way he knew that Batman was Bruce Wayne simply by a look on Bruce’s face. It was a little too simple and I wished they had added a little detective work to the mix to help him verify his suspicions. This was a minor thing, but I think it took people out of the moment during that scene.

Cops In the Sewers:  Here is one more thing that bugged me a bit. You mean to tell me ALL of the cops go into the sewer system? ALL of them? And despite the fact that we see them being supplied with food and water, they all emerge from the depths relatively healthy and clean-shaven. Maybe they could have had half the cops in the sewers and the rest of them in hiding because of bounties on them or something. I don’t know. Like I said, it just bugged me a little. Then they rush into a crowd of well-armed thugs with pistols and nightsticks. It looked cool, but they would have got mowed down.

Okay, enough is enough. You get the idea… great movie but a few things that maybe could have been thought out or executed a little better. However, The Dark Knight Rises is the triumphant conclusion to the best super hero trilogy of all time… and it’s certainly one of the better comic book movies ever.  It is also one hell of a Batman story and the most satisfying ending a Batman movie has ever had.

So what did you think?

1 comment:

byramjoe said...

Agree 100%. And if i may pile on- I'm no nuclear physicist, but I'm pretty sure the detonation of a nuclear bomb 6 miles off the coast would have created a tsunami. Maybe not a big one, but big enough to deal out some death and destruciton. And the Braveheart-esque battle scene was a little silly. As for John Blake knowing Batman is Bruce Wayne- how could he not? To quote Jack Nicholson, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?" They should have thrown that in there, but the reason they did it that way was so they could get Robin to talk about his parents.