On The Dark Knight Rises
The following review is spoiler-heavy. Please click away if you haven’t seen the movie.
It was a good movie. I don’t think it was a great movie. 7 out of 10. Sorry?
And I don’t mean about the length although it was certainly too long for my taste, but the length wasn’t the problem. Let’s not start there though. Let’s start with the women. Because, well, I’ve not received one email from anyone hahaha-ing about how sh-t Anne Hathaway was at Catwoman. She was not sh-t. She was great. She wasn’t Michelle Pfeiffer’s disaffected, world-weary Selena, nor was she Halle Berry’s campy whip-snapper. She was minxy and playful and sweet, selfish, sexy, smart, complicated, and God the way she looked in that suit was all kinds of sick. And, given that we’ve been debating it for months, how did Christopher Nolan write this girl? Well, she bailed on Batman all the time, sold him out, steals his belongings, and saved his ass near the end there with Bane, didn’t she? Of course he saved her too. But I appreciate that in this story what they needed from each other wasn’t forced. Bruce’s problem with women is that he glorifies them in perfection. Rachel was a selfless civil servant, Miranda Tate an environmental crusader. What he avoids in love is the duality that he finds a hard time confronting in himself. There’s a nice symmetry here, especially in that it concludes the trilogy.
As for Marion Cotillard’s Miranda - it’s obvious why Nolan chose her, and waited for her, for the part. In many ways, Miranda is Inception’s Mal. Soft and vulnerable, but angry and self-destructive, cleverly deceitful and still, irresistible even as she’s driving a knife into his side. Ironically though, Miranda’s great reveal as the film’s master villain, while certainly plot twisty and awesome in that moment (even though I think she received some really poor direction when she dies - GROSS overacting, non?), essentially became Bane’s emasculation.
This, perhaps, was, at least to me, the disappointment of The Dark Knight Rises: Tom Hardy. Not exactly Tom Hardy, but how Tom Hardy was wasted on this character. First of all, that voice box was a joke. Some of his intonations were so Yoda-y, I actually laughed, only to be glared at by the nerd sitting next to me. What? It was terrible. As was that f-cking mask that ended up obscuring most of his eyes too. Which meant that he could only really “act” in one scene through the entire film. Those were the eyes that cried from love. For Miranda Tate. His boss. And so we learned that Bane was acting out of love. As the strong arm of his vengeful lover. And therefore not terrifying at all. I saw The Dark Knight Rises and Savages back to back. Savages was a f-cking disaster. But I tell you, Benicio Del Toro is a lot more frightening as a bad guy than Tom Hardy was allowed to be as Bane. Frankly, aside from that one tender scene between him and Marion Cotillard, I’m not sure the rest of it had to be Hardy at all. You just needed a ‘roided up dude with a bald head.
Is it fair to compare Bane to The Joker? Is it fair to compare performances? Well... yes. Beyond the origin story, or the first film when Bruce begins his Batman journey, every other story is centred on tension and conflict. The fight is only as good as the adversary. Batman needs a formidable adversary. He only exists because of his adversary. This is why The Dark Knight was a masterpiece. Because the adversary became a legend.
And not just because Heath Ledger was so incredibly transcendent in the role but also because The Joker’s motivation made us uncomfortable. He didn’t want money. He didn’t want to destroy for personal gain. What he wanted was to expose the true nature of the human condition. The Joker’s position is that we are fundamentally dark and damaged. That our selfish impulses inform our decisions, and that those decisions fracture instead of unite. When The Joker wreaked havoc on Gotham, it was a social experiment. Which was what made it more than just a superhero movie. This wasn’t simply a madman with potions and bombs. The Joker was a human behavioural scientist who used violence as a catalyst to prove his hypothesis. What was unsettling about Batman’s victory over The Joker then was that in defeating him, he proved The Joker right.
How do you match that? In The Dark Knight Rises, they tried. And there was some potential. We all would have seen the similarities between Bane’s destruction of the economic hierarchy with what happened so recently during Occupy Wall Street, right? What does a new world order actually look like? We didn’t really get to see. During the Rule of Bane, when everyone was on lockdown, there was barely enough time to observe how the citizens were coping. Alternatively the Resistance Movement was a very, very clever detail, with Blake communicating via sewer system to the cops trapped underneath, and the complicated and unexplained hookup with the outside army delivering supplies into the city, but exploring that further would also have been too much plot in a plot that was already too much. In the end, it all boiled down to ...Daddy Issues.
To tell you the truth, I had a hard time caring after that.
It’s an enjoyable, entertaining movie. And it has a lot of super crazy fun wow moments. But a truly great movie, and it was capable of being one, needs to offer something truly special, truly insightful. It’s kind of what we’ve come to expect from Nolan anyway, isn’t it?
Some other observations:
-Commissioner Gordon’s devotion to the Batman and his undying faith in his hero’s abilities remains one of the strongest elements of this franchise. Gary Oldman plays this part with a youthful innocence that is incredibly endearing and moving. It’s not Batman who is the antithesis of evil in these stories. It’s Jim Gordon. Jim Gordon IS Hope. And Oldman’s work in conveying this is criminally underappreciated.
-Wasn’t really feeling JGL. I mean... that was totally telegraphed, right? Who he’d become?
-How beautiful was Cillian Murphy? The way they shot him from below like that? I’ve never found him so attractive.
-I’ve also never been more attracted to Christian Bale. He was hot this time around. And a little funny too. And, um, his chemistry with Anne Hathaway was... palpable, right?
That’s all I can think of for now. Let me know your thoughts!