Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Been a point of view of mine for some time that if you are going to go off model, make sure that your version, your vision is strong enough and compelling enough to warrant it. When Ditko did something decidedly different with the Blue Beetle from what went before, his Ted Kord creation was that much better than what was being done by Charlton before. When Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan did The Question it was very different than what Ditko had created, but they ended up like Ditko creating a series that was unlike anything else at the time.

Nolan's Batman films are along the same lines. Much of the character is still there, still recognizable under that padded armor. In some ways, his Batman is an outgrowth of Tim Burton's. The suit, the sci-fi look of the vehicles. Yet the difference in the storytelling makes it as different from Burton's as Burton's was from the 60s television show. Nolan sees and wrings out real story from the mythos. The characters are fleshed out, each having their own story, their own point of view. More importantly, he never loses sight as to whose movie this is.

So, I can forgive the liberties taken from the comics, because while watching I am fully vested into the story. I am impressed with how this movie ties into the other two, making them all feel as one narrative yet each one still stands well enough on its own. At almost three hours in length, other than the needed bathroom break, it didn't feel that long. There was just that much story going on.

Unfortunately, it's after getting out of the theater and thinking about it that the problems do come to mind. Where the themes that movie espouses on one hand are completely undercut by the movie itself. The one flaw that comes to mind while watching the movie is the ridiculousness of the suit. He is so armored that the flimsy cape is obviously a completely different material and looks out of place. Imagine Iron Man painted gray and then someone puts a cape of gauze and you get the general idea. The armor interferes with movement and having any really good choreographed fight scenes and then when he really needs armor... he is very easily stabbed.

I don't like guns but I will use cannons. A lot. He makes a point to Selina Kyle that he doesn't use guns. But, he in fact uses them quite a bit as all of his vehicles come equipped with deadly offensive weaponry and we see them getting used a lot. He even has weapons that look like guns, they just don't fire bullets.

Batman is a symbol. Anyone could be Batman. Providing they have access to millions and weapon prototypes. Tony Stark could be Batman. But, hardly anyone else. Special fighting skills not really required. Yeah, a recurring problem with the movie is that there's a lot of Batman using and fighting from vehicles. He mentions several times and the ending plays out the idea is for Batman to be a symbol, to inspire people to take up the good fight (not necessarily to become Batman themselves per se). But, for most of the movie, his being Batman is because of the cool toys he has, toys that he won't share. This is further underscored near the end when comes back after being sent away by Bane and he has lost his fortune, vehicles and weapons. This would have been a prime time for Nolan and Batman to prove what he's been saying: that he puts together a costume, one of cloth and simple leather and still fights back and wins the day. Instead, luckily Lucius had a few spare items for him and his flying vehicle is parked on a roof where no one has been able to see through the camouflage that doesn't look anything like what's around it.

Bane: I must break Batman physically and spiritually even though he's already broken. Maybe Nolan liked this theme so much, that's why it's in there twice. Bane makes a big spiel about beating Batman, not just physically but spiritually. He busts Batman's back and sends to the hell-hole of a Middle-Eastern prison that he's from. The problem with this is the movie starts off with Batman already broken. His leg is busted, he's been a recluse for years as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He's a man just waiting to die. For the most part Bane defeated a man that was already defeated. In reality, his escape from the prison isn't about him escaping from the prison Bane sent him to but the one he already was in. This kind of lessens Bane as a villain though. He doesn't defeat or arrange a defeat of Batman at the top of his game, he doesn't really push Batman into a place he wasn't before.

 I am the world's dumbest detective. He seems oblivious to many things and has to be told about them as opposed to figuring them out for himself. A couple of revelations would have worked better if we were shown Bruce Wayne figuring them out as opposed to being told to him, one while a knife was in his back.

Ok, they have references to Selina Kyle being referred to by the press as a thief called the "Cat" but nowhere is that really explained. In fact, about the one type of thieving she doesn't commit in the movie is cat burglary. The movie also has her friend, Holly Robinson, but I don't recall the character being called by name once during the movie. Something that is increasingly becoming a pet peeve, characters with names in the credits but never named in the actual film. But, how they can get her costume pretty close and hugging every curve, not at all realistic for a cat burglar and Batman is heavily armored and padded. Beyond her being a gorgeous woman.

Another area where the film kept me guessing to the end was Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role as the policeman named Blake. Incidentally, what's up with IMDB having spoilers to one character's story arc in the credits but not another? The problem here is that there's a character named Blake that is part of the Batman comics already ie that's the real name to Catman. Someone, somewhere should have pointed out that his name needed changing. The final revelation was a bit stupid, a little too cutesy in a movie that otherwise stayed away from such stuff. Hire a woman and make the character Montoya. Or keep Levitt and name him Bradley, Corrigan, Harper, Richards, Garrett, Bard, or something. But, his being named Blake was almost as much of a distraction as recognizing so many of the supporting actors popping up in roles and trying to place them such as Burn Gorman (no relation). I kept expecting that there to be a reason for him to be named "Blake".

All in all, this is a very good movie that's close to being great. Many of the problems were easily fixable just by making the costume closer to being something a person could easily move in and have Batman do a bit more hand-to-hand and less from a cockpit.

A neat little nod, or maybe it was just me, but the logo and mascot to Gotham's football team? A dead ringer for the Shadow only with a  yellow scarf instead of red. The plot itself of Bane taking over the city, criminals holding court against cops and ordinary citizens? Straight out of several Spider novels to the point that at times I felt like I was watching something that would almost work better as a treatment for the Spider.