Thursday, July 26, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

I don’t do a movie entry on everything I see, of course, but some of them I feel compelled to share my thoughts on, usually if I have strong feelings one way or another, and I have strong and mixed feelings about this one.

This was a highly anticipated flick, not just for me but for everyone.  The Nolan Batman trilogy has been a great take on the Batman character and legacy.  In general, I expect the third of a trilogy to let me down.  They can rarely meet the expectations of the audience or fulfill the promises made by the first two, especially after a marvelous second movie (the Spider-Man and Matrix movies come to mind).  This actually is a great movie.  No matter the criticism I’m about to make, it was awesome with deep storytelling and was better than I expected... but I was still disappointed.  While this was a great movie, it really wasn’t much of a Batman movie.  (A sentiment I’m about to repeat several times...)

It comes full-circle.  One of the great things storytelling-wise about this movie was that it linked so well not only with the second movie, but came full-circle back to a lot of the first movie (Batman Begins).  The downside of that (at least for my wife, who was watching with me), is that if you’re not as familiar with the first as most of us geeks are, you miss a lot of good stuff.  (But hey, it’s the third of a series, you better have seen the other two, right?) 

Lots of good characters; too bad Batman isn’t one of them.  This one draws in a lot of characters from previous movies and gives us some new ones, including a lot of classic comic book personalities.  Catwoman was great, Bane was great—both very well portrayed with cool looks.  New characters were introduced, well developed, and got lots of screen time.  Gotham came alive with good characters.  My main complaint here is that Batman wasn’t one of them.  Of all the characters in the movie, Batman probably got the least amount of screen time.  One of the things I liked about the first movie was that Bruce Wayne was as much a character as Batman.  And while that also contributes to the coming full-circle idea here, I was gravely disappointed with the severe lack of Batman.  Bruce Wayne is a troubled character with a lot of stuff going on, and that’s all well and good, but by the third movie, we want more Batman.  There was a lot of Dark Knight Returns to this movie and it starts in a cool place with Batman retired and he has to find his way back.  That’s great story.  And the first time we really see him come back on he’s on the Batpod bike and he materializes out of the darkness and BAM! there he is.  I got all excited—everyone did.  Alright, he’s back!  But that didn’t last.  Most of the time that he was Batman he was in his new flying car, which was great for flying contraption fans, but not so great for Batman fans.  I came to this flick to see Batman kick ass.  Unfortunately, most of the time, he was on the receiving end.      

This movie is epic, dark, gritty, realistic... depressing, dismal...  and not really a Batman movie.  It is a great movie.  It is.  Awesome story, but it certainly was darkest before the dawn and just kept getting darker all the time.  This became almost more of a dark utopia type of movie than a Batman flick.  And while in the second movie we had the comic book flare of the Joker and Two-Face, any flare was strained out of these characters.  I did like Catwoman’s look, the visors that looked like ears when pushed up on her head, her attitude and selfish portrayal (Anne Hathaway did a good job—and looked good doing it too, by the way).  And I loved the dark theme and drive of the League of Shadows stuff and supposedly turning Gotham over to the under-privileged and all that.  I thought I wanted just the gritty, realistic Dark Knight kind of movie Nolan’s given us here but...  Somewhere in making it more realistic, he lost the fantastic.  Somewhere in translating it to match our world, he lost the fun, cool, super-heroic aspects that made it what we wanted to see: a Batman movie. 

Despite all that, I did like the ending.  Dawn does finally break and the resolution of everything is pretty cool.  Lots of strings that get tied off (or left untied) in ways that contradict the usual Hollywood norm.  Everything in the ending was very satisfying to me. 

All this said, it is an excellent, epic, dark, realistic movie.  Well done in almost every way.  It just doesn’t come off to me as much of a Batman movie.  In fact, this might be the most appropriate poster I could find:

To score it, I’d say 4 of 5 stars.  (4.5 as a movie in general, with a penalty of minus 0.5 points for not being the movie I went to see.)

(this blog entry is being simul-cast, by the way)

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