July 21, 2012

MOVIES: "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES"



After the horrific massacre/maiming at a cinema in Colorado, this film will ever be associated with tragedy. Our prayers will continue for all those swept up in this nightmare.



“The Dark Knight Rises” is the last in the Batman trilogy of films that will be helmed by auteur-director Chris Nolan. Nolan is one of those directors who pack theaters because he IS the director, and DKR is a challenging journey inside HIS highly moral* and labyrinthine mind. (Nolan was born in London in 1970. His wife, Emma Thomas, has produced some of his films. They have three children. Nolan’s brother and a writer, Jonathan, with whom he collaborates on his films, attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.)

DKR is a continuum of Nolan’s first two highly-acclaimed Batman films. Although the female actresses in each film keep changing, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman has been deliciously consistent through the three films. Nolan stated that he wanted Bale because he had so many other things on his mind as director, he wanted to just entrust the role to someone who could totally run with it without a lot of supervision, which, of course, Bale did. Bale has that mysterious star power that attracts both men and women, and even when he’s at his most understated, you can’t take your eyes off him. He seems like someone who could have done something OTHER than acting, and so, as devoted as he is to his craft, you feel his mind is also somewhere else at the same time, and that he could take or leave acting. But I could be totally wrong.


We left the Batman seemingly weak and defeated at the end of the second film: “The Dark Knight” (2008). He has become a recluse, wounded in body and spirit, but Gotham is suddenly challenged by a new foe: “Bane” (not to be confused with “Bale”--played by Nolan’s fellow Londoner and “Inception” actor, Tom Hardy) and his treacherous sewer-dwelling army. What convinces the Batman to come out of “retirement”? The ever-faithful Alfred (Michael Caine) has a lot to do with it, but one of the sparks is a new Catwoman-jewel thief (Ann Hathaway). When I first saw the stills of the upcoming film with Hathaway as Catwoman, she seemed so awkward, miscast and laughable. Boy, was I wrong. Hathaway slides into the role with ease. Her felinity is played down; her martial arts skills, scrappiness, ego and ruthlessness played up.

The film IS and feels very long: 164 minutes! But we don’t care because we love the story, the Batman, Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. The tables are constantly turning and the dilemmas get stickier and stickier. Each character has a rich back story, including the villains. EVERYONE is tainted in Gotham and beyond. And yet, a sad childhood or a Catch-22 situation may serve to give us insight into a personality, but they are never an EXCUSE for doing the wrong thing. There are many inchoate themes running through DKR (Hope! Despair! Failure! Moving on! Sacrifice! Torture! Justice! Darkness! Light!). Thoughts tumble over other thoughts and ideas, and there are A, B, C, D and E stories. A multiplicity of characters, crowds? The more the merrier. Almost Cecil B. DeMille-ish. There’s a sort of largesse and generosity (rather than grandiosity) in not wanting to exclude anyone or fail to tell their story (The orphan boys! All those people in the pit!), which leads to an inability (obviously) to edit anything out or down. :]

The takeaway seems to be: We’re all trying to make something of ourselves (however twisted that turns out to be). We are all desperately trying to accomplish something. But no one lives in a vacuum—we all influence the people we live with, even the strangers around us. Some people have been pretty thoroughly distorted by life’s cruelty and lash out to destroy all around them (Bane), and others are still on the fence: as the Batman says to Catwoman: “There’s more to you than that.”

Although the Batman saga is definitely set up at the end for many more sequels, Nolan gave us a very satisfying conclusion to his take, and has both raised the bar and deepened the lore of this chiaroscuro superhero forever. So much so that the audience in my theater applauded heartily.

OTHER STUFF:

--It WAS rather jarring to see explosion after explosion, gun battle after gun battle, murder after murder, slaughter after slaughter in light of Aurora, Colorado.

--How do I feel about extreme violence like this in films? As a woman, I hate it, and I don't find it at all entertaining. I just endure it and hope they get on with the story soon. (Some violence can be well-placed and germane to a story, but Nolan's is pretty extreme, gratuitous and just plain overused.) WSJ critic is impressed by the "sustained level" of violence in DKR: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303754904577530792153262270.html

Of course, people don't just go out and imitate what they see, but we ARE all desensitized simply by our exposure. The only people that just imitate what they see are 1) crazy people 2) children. And here's where it's REALLY sad. One massacre is one massacre too many, and children are now GROWING UP with the most incredible, realistic, sadistic, torture/violence/killing-not-as-sideshow-but-as-main-dish-ENTERTAINMENT. What about the ratings? Ratings be damned, we know. Kids routinely get in to grown-up films, and of course there are no restrictions on what can be viewed at home, at friends' houses, on iPads, cellphones, etc. If "it takes a village to raise a child," why does this not apply to media?

--Was the Batman PART of the League of Shadows at one time? I’m confused.

--Lots of “Inception” actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard….

--Gary Oldman plays the Commish with such dull restraint when we KNOW he can be such an outré, scary crazyman!

--Men tend to have more detached, steelier nerves than women. But it’s so scary when they use it for torture, death and destruction. Because they feel nothing. Because they can.

--Bane looks too much like Hannibal Lecter. Distracting.

--DKR doesn’t seem to have any recognizable screenplay story structure. It just goes on and on. And we love it like that.

--Love the theme of boys NEEDING real heroes.

--Cops are ordinary, everyman GOOD GUYS in DKR.

--When watching a Chris Nolan film, one must turn one’s brain to “extra sharp,” hang on for the ride and try to keep up.

--Had to turn my ears onto “extra sharp” also, to catch Bane’s Darth Vader-like voice through the contraption on his mouth. And he’s very chatty.

--Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) can relate to the Batman because he feels that “anger in his bones” masked by polite smiles….

--I swear I saw a saint statue and a saint painting in weird places in the background of non-religious settings.

--Just so you know, when The League of Shadows wants to “restore balance”?—it’s in a bad way.

--OK, the film is long, but it’s like our modern-day Gilgamesh or Odyssey or Iliad or something.

--Too little Cillian Murphy!

--Totally random having Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911”) in very serious, tiny role as doctor. Distracting. People laughing in my theater. Maybe that was the point.

--Definitely a few plot points that no make-a sense. Why is Catwoman soooo concerned about getting a “clean slate” in a near-apocalyptic world? Why does Batman trust Catwoman? But most plot points pretty darn water-holding solid.

--The “-stans” of the world are now cool: Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc.

--In this film, it sure looks like Bruce Wayne has sex with a particular woman (I’m not sayin’ who). Kinda off-handed and disappointing (although treated discreetly). Shouldn’t it at least have been a bigger deal? See this interesting  blog post about celibacy and superheroes:  (My understanding has always been that most superheroes are celibate. But I'm no comic book expert.) http://saintsuperman.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/love-and-celibacy-among-the-super-powered/
To those who say: But Bruce Wayne isn’t the Batman, I say: Yes he is.


--Why do I love the Batman? Good clean dark gothic brooding gravelly-voiced fun. But I wish the body count was waaaaaay less.

BATQUOTES:

--“I still believe in the Batman.” –Officer Blake

--“What if the Batman doesn’t exist any more?”  –Bruce Wayne

--Catwoman: “I was warned about getting in cars with strange men.” Batman (VOICE): “This isn’t a car.”

--“Maybe we should stop trying to outsmart the truth and let the truth have its way.” –Alfred

--“I am Gotham’s reckoning. I am necessary evil.” –Bane

--“The point was, the Batman could be anyone.” –Bruce Wayne

--“You wear a mask, not for yourself, but to protect those you love.” –Batman

--Catwoman: “These guys are not your average brawlers.” Batman (VOICE): “Neither am I.”

--“Fear is why you fail.” –prison doctor in The Pit

--“It only gets fixed from inside the city.” –The Commissioner

--Batman (VOICE): “Don’t thank me yet.”

--Catwoman: “You’ve given these people everything.” Batman (VOICE): “Not everything. Not yet.”


___________
*As far as posing intricate moral dilemmas/rules/principles for characters to deal with.

Interesting link on the extreme, new kind of violence introduced in "The Dark Knight" (second film):
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/2461820/Our-attitude-to-violence-is-beyond-a-joke-as-new-Batman-film-The-Dark-Knight-shows.html



10 comments:

  1. Sister! Yes, Bruce Wayne was trained by the League of Shadows in Batman Begins. But I think you could say he failed his initiation because he wouldn't "do what it takes" = kill.

    Thanks for writing this. Prayers for them all.

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  2. This film had me from start to finish and that was just exactly what I wanted, especially from the last installment in this perfect trilogy. It’s going to be a shame not seeing Christopher Nolan doing Batman flicks anymore, but maybe this will allow him to pull off some more original flicks like The Prestige and Inception. Look forward to his future. Good review Sister.

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  3. Yes! Look forward to OTHER Nolan movies. Loved "The Prestige"! "Inception" was great, too.

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  4. I agree with you about film violence. The good thing about the violent parts is that they provide time for a bathroom break!

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  5. Sister - you noticed statues and paintings of saints?
    I saw a MONSTRANCE.
    I stared at it on the IMAX screen and couldn't believe what I was seeing.

    And I took the unnecessary non-marital sex scene as a sign that Batman truly hit a low point, gave himself away to his lusts, his enemy, and his weaknesses - and betraying his worthy future beloved (Selina Kyle) in the process.

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  6. Ev! I would love to have seen it in IMAX! Nolan is a Catholic lad, so I wouldn't be surprised. I totally agree with your take on the sex scene.

    Nolan is one of the FEW film purists left. He shoots on film and on IMAX film (most IMAX films are just slapped up there and weren't shot on IMAX film). IMAX film: 6 feet of film advances in 1 second when shooting.... Each frame 8 1/2 x 11

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  7. Sister,

    With regard to comic book characters and celibacy, as a self-proclaimed comic book geek, I have to burst the bubble on that. I will say in film versions that might come across more in that direction, but in the comic books Batman has multiple relationships of a sexual nature. Johnny Storm, in Fantastic Four, is also understood to be a carouser, which is somewhat shown in those films. I will say that those story lines did increase in the 80's whereas there were more wholesome relationships before that, even during and after the sexual revolution. What began to change that, in my estimation, was The Watchmen, which came later as film.

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  8. Dear Colonel,

    Thank you for this clarification--really! You seem to pretty well sum it up. Haven't seen Watchmen, but there was such a buzz about it (in a bad way) when it come out and for quite some time after: about what a departure it was: uber-violent, sexy, etc....

    I always need help in the super-hero, fantasy and sci-fi dept from the geeks! (Anything with a mythology, really.) :]

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