Monday, July 23, 2012

Full of Bat Sound And Bat Fury

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Part of me wonders if I might have been less hard on The Dark Knight Rises if I'd seen it before that madman used it as the backdrop for his shooting spree. I'm only human and it was inevitable, less than 48 hours after that happened, that I'd have that on my mind as I sat watching the film, and view it colored by those real life horrors... all of which did the film no favors. Nolan tries to signal great thoughts with the relentless blaring of the soundtrack and the portentousness of every single grimaced face, but he really doesn't back it up with, you know, much in the way of thoughts. There's a lot of posturing about being Serious, Oh So Serious, but it's about as brainy as a bowl of Count Chocula in the end.

I realize that it's unfair to hold the film against the madness in Colorado, nothing could withstand that pressure. But then I read this review in The New Yorker and I don't think I'm being too hard on the movie after all - I just wanna point and yell 'What he said!" Choice bit (and really I think the entire review is choice from start to finish and extremely jealous that I didn't write it):

"The film may have been made in part on location in New York, but nobody is in danger of getting dog poop on their shoes. Neither on the grand nor the intimate scale does the movie allow for accidents or coincidences. Gotham is the city without serendipity.

Nolan doesn’t hang dollar signs on his screen; he’s not looking to impress viewers with the colossal scale of his project, but, rather, with his own grim and relentless labors. “The Dark Knight Rises” is not a movie of conspicuous consumption but of conspicuous production, with Nolan himself playing the unfortunate Atlas who bears a cinematic world of dour doings on his lonely shoulders, all the while needing viewers to know how hard he’s working for them. The problem with the movie isn’t any lack of warmth or humanity (qualities that don’t need to be displayed because they’re often effectively evoked through cold and inhuman means) but a lack of wonder. Nolan never seems to surprise himself, and his own inventions have little inspiration but, rather, a sense of a problem solved."

This movie is just so flat and claustrophobic... in those moments when a little flair is called for it feels incongruous - whenever Anne Hathaway would smirk off one of her half-hearted one-liners I felt as if I'd switched channels for a second. It's too bad because Hathaway wasn't bad and fit Selina into the Nolan world better than she might've, but any stabs at lightness here just had no place.

The exception is Tom Hardy, who was wonderful as Bane; theatrical and over-sized while entirely backing it up with body and voice work that made him terrifying and very very funny at the same time - the only time I smiled was when he on-screen, and he even wrung genuine emotion out of nowhere from a late twist that had no right generating any real emotion at all.

I'll never relegate Nolan to the status of a Michael Bay, of course - he's not dumb, he isn't just surface flash. But he's not the Kubrick he thinks he is, either - none of his characters have ever felt as alive, as human, as any of those weighted down by the supposedly icy heartlessness Stanley's blamed for displaying. People give lip service to their passions in a Nolan movie but, I mean, was I supposed to have an inkling of any fire between Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard before they started mashing their faces together? And those are both very fine actors! In service of growling bad dialogue and flop-headed death scenes.

I'm sure other people watching the film this weekend sat down with Colorado on their mind and were swept up just fine - my theater broke into applause when it was over, and everybody seemed fairly happy walking out - and so in the end I feel fine prescribing my problems with the film to the film itself and not these outside concerns. It's just an empty batsuit for me.
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11 comments:

Will H said...

Well, I'm glad you enjoyed Bane. I personally couldn't understand what he was saying.

I liked Hathaway a lot, but I felt like the movie might have actually been stronger without that character, at least on a narrative level. Would have given more time for the Bruce/Miranda relationship that really needed more set up to earn the pay offs.

The only part of te movie that worked for me without reservation was JGL and his character arc. The place that character ends up was very emotionally satisfying and did a pretty good job of playing into the central themes of the Nolan bat universe.

Jason Adams said...

I had less trouble with Bane's voice then I worried I would when I saw the first clip months ago; there were only a couple of lines that I didn't get.

You're right on about Catwoman needlessly taking away time from the Bruce/Miranda relationship. You never even got a sense of it being a triangle or anything. I lay a lot of blame on Bale too - I have no idea ninety percent of the time what his Bruce Wayne wants, except to be miserable.

Which brings me to the ending, which I can quite possibly say I hated with the passion of a thousand suns. From the cheesy "You should use your first name!" reveal to that fucking Italian cafe, UGH. (Although I do agree that JGL did a good job keeping things low-key as best he could and had the closest thing resembling an arc. I just found it distracting how his character was always in the right place at the right time, as if there were a dozen of him. There were so many scenes taking place between cop characters that he had no reason to be in the middle of, and yet there he was.)

Will H said...

I won't disagree with a lot of that, at least in terms of the JGL charcter popping up randomly (pretty much every character does that ... Nolan has a weird sense of place and time). The 'Robin' thing didn't really bother me. I just thought it was a cute bit of fan service for a devoted Bat audience that isn't me. I just like the idea that Batman is a symbol, not a man, so I thought the last shot of the movie of JGL rising up on the platform in the cave was pretty impactful

Adam H. said...

Hathaway was by far my favorite part. Didn't think she felt out of place at all and frankly would rather have done away with Miranda if forced to choose between the two. Every time Selina was on screen, I was transfixed. Needed more! Didn't have a problem with the levity she brought. I don't need a grim movie to be relentlessly bleak. JGL was fine, but unmemorable. I liked Hardy, but had a hard time understanding him and frankly he felt a bit one note. That was more the writing than anything, but still.
To me, this one was about on par with TDK. Liked both, though they each had an assortment of problems. Ending struck me as a bit off at first, but I've liked it more as time has gone by.
I should mention that I saw this before hearing about the tragedies. Went to the midnight on the east coast.

notthebeachboy2 said...

Oh my goodness! I'm so glad that I'm not the only one feeling this way... I really did love some parts of this movie (Bane and Catwoman, natch - I loved that Bane actually terrified me, and that Hathaway was able to create such a unique take on the character..) but in the end the whole movie fell flat.

And that ending - aside from not caring about it at all (and ruining the arc of Bane - "he's just a puppy, nothing more!") that cafe scene really had me worried that my eyes would roll right out my head!

I just didn't think this one could clear the hurdles left by TDK, which I think set the bar quite high...

Anonymous said...

I don't remember reading your views on batman begins or dark knight because I hadn't yet discovered your blog. I don't think these movies did justice to the character of batman. I think Nolan used batman to tell his stories. BB was okay. a bit soft but tdk was a horror movie with dry and soft characters and cheap thrills that had nothign to do with batman. We disagreed before about the strangers. when I said that characters like in this movie and Joker that have no reason to just their actions, simply psychopaths. Are bad role models to people who watch and idolize them with their poor mind. This is exactly what happened with Batman, who was a character for 10-99 year olds and warner got themselves PG13 for when it should have been R (The dark knight. I haven't seen this movie yet) Media do affect people in the worse way

Sal

Doug said...

Gotham looked too much like NYC to me. For this reason, the shots of exploding concrete (football field, bridges, etc.) were very troubling. It was a disturbing reminder of 9/11, and the whole terrorist thing seems quite out of place, even in a "dark" superhero franchise. I'd like to think the storytelling could have been as good as it was (or better) without the bomb threat and the too-realistic gang of baddies. After all, if Batman is so over-the-top and requires so much suspension of disbelief, the villain(s) should, too.

Anonymous said...

I would have preferred either Miranda or Selina being in the film, but not both. Since Catwoman is a bit more fun and Bale had great chemistry with Hathaway, I'd have chosen the latter. Also, I don't think you can fault Christian for problems with the writing. I was just glad that he was given more to work with this time around.


weary one

Shags said...

Absolutely did not like this movie. I went in with some hype of my own but tried to remain reserved... my only complaint going in was that I was still not happy with the casting of Hathaway in the role. I didn't loathe her performance but I also don't feel she really added to it. However, I don't think it's her fault as much as it was the the fault of the script.

And that script was pretty bad. It was trying too hard to be something multi-layered but ended up being very ham-fisted. From all of Blake's "happening to be in the right place at the right time" moments to 99.95% of the Gotham PD being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I could not deal with Bane's voice. It sounded like Sean Connery doing an impersonation of Sean Connery. I get what they were going for, but I did not like it. Also, I don't know if it was just where I saw it (which has really good audio) but it seemed like his vocals were all the same level of volume and quality no matter which direction he was talking. Even with a bag over his head it sounded like normal. It was kind of distracting to me that it seemed obviously done in post production.

Damian said...

My favorite part was when Talia Al Ghul killed Tom Hardy.

Mac said...

I wonder if I'm the only person leaving a comment from this side of the pond: Edinburgh, Scotland. Not sure even if distance or nationality makes a difference. Just thought this was a too-long, dull, bloated mess with lots of portentousness masking....nothing much. Bale was grim without offering any insight into why. Hardy was a one-note thug. Hathaway was good in what the script offered her but seemed to have drifted in from a different film in a different universe. JGL was decent at being decent but, as others have commented, had unaccountble abilities to be everywhere at once. I think it's problematic when a film arrives having been hyped like the second coming of Jesus H Christ but even putting that to one side, this was not great film-making.