As a fan of Batman Begins and a huge fan of The Dark Knight (best super hero film ever IMO) I was eagerly anticipating Dark Knight Rises. What a let down.
I originally gave it three stars but I’m lowering that to a two. It’s incoherent, there are gaps in the logic of the script, Bane is an uninteresting villain, people are stabbed and simply fine in the next scene. One character simply removes himself from the hospital at an opportune time, another character has a leg brace in the beginning of the film that simply disappears later. I HATED the surprise villain…that was a cheat. I hated the way Bane was summarily dispatched. Let’s face it folks….a nuclear bomb that is about to go off is a tired and cliche ridden plot device at this point.
The bets thing about this film was Anne Hathaway…..seriously.
I like Manohla Dargis’s review:
“After seven years and two films that have pushed Batman ever deeper into the dark, the director Christopher Nolan has completed his postmodern, post-Sept. 11 epic of ambivalent good versus multidimensional evil with a burst of light. As the title promises, day breaks in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the grave and satisfying finish to Mr. Nolan’s operatic bat-trilogy. His timing couldn’t be better. As the country enters its latest electoral brawl off screen, Batman (Christian Bale) hurtles into a parallel battle that booms with puppet-master anarchy, anti-government rhetoric and soundtrack drums of doom, entering the fray as another lone avenger and emerging as a defender of, well, what?
Truth, justice and the American way? No — and not only because that doctrine belongs to Superman, who was bequeathed that weighty motto on the radio in August 1942, eight months after the United States entered World War II and three years after Batman, Bob Kane’s comic creation, hit. Times change; superheroes and villains too. The enemy is now elusive and the home front as divided as the face of Harvey Dent, a vanquished Batman foe. The politics of partisanship rule and grass-roots movements have sprung up on the right and the left to occupy streets and legislative seats. It can look ugly, but as they like to say — and as Dent says in “The Dark Knight,” the second part of the trilogy — the night is darkest before the dawn.
The legacy of Dent, an activist district attorney turned murderous lunatic, looms over this one, the literal and metaphysical personification of good intentions gone disastrously wrong. (He looms even more in Imax, which is the way to see the film.) Eight years later in story time, Batman, having taken the fall for Dent’s death, and mourning the woman both men loved, has retreated into the shadows. Dent has been enshrined as a martyr, held up as an immaculate defender of law-and-order absolutism. Gotham City is quiet and so too is life at Wayne Manor, where its master hobbles about with a cane while a prowler makes off with family jewels (the intensely serious Mr. Nolan isn’t wholly humorless) and Gotham sneers about the playboy who’s mutated into a Howard Hughes recluse.
Batman has always been a head case, of course: the billionaire orphan, a k a Bruce Wayne, who for assorted reasons — like witnessing the murder of his parents when he was a child — fights crime disguised as a big bat. Bruce’s initial metamorphosis, in “Batman Begins,” exacts a high price: by the end of the second film, along with losing the girl and being branded a vigilante, Bruce-Batman rides virtually alone, save for Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the Wayne family butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), a fussy uncle with a remarkable skill set. It’s central to where Mr. Nolan wants to take “The Dark Knight Rises” that Batman will be picking up new acquaintances, including a beat cop, John Blake (a charming Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and a philanthropist, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).
Mr. Nolan again sets his machine purring with two set pieces that initiate one of the story’s many dualities, in this case between large spectacle and humanizing intimacies: one, an outlandishly choreographed blowout that introduces a heavy, Bane (Tom Hardy); the other, a quieter cat-and-bat duet between Bruce and a burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). After checking in with his personal armorer, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce-Batman swoops into an intrigue that circles back to the first film and brings the series to a politically resonant conclusion that fans and op-ed bloviators will argue over long after this one leaves theaters. Once again, like his two-faced opponents and the country he’s come to represent, Batman begins, feared as a vigilante, revered as a hero.
Informed by Kane’s original comic and Frank Miller’s resuscitation of the character in the 1980s, Mr. Nolan’s Bruce-Batman has oscillated between seemingly opposite poles, even as he’s always come out a superhero. He is savior and destroyer, human and beast, the ultimate radical individualist and people’s protector. Yet as the series evolved, this binary opposition — echoed by Dent’s rived face — has grown progressively messier, less discrete.
Much of the complexity has been directly written into the franchise’s overarching, seemingly blunt story of good versus evil. It’s an old, familiar tale that Mr. Nolan, in between juggling the cool bat toys, demure kisses, hard punches and loud bangs, has layered with open and barely veiled references to terrorism, the surveillance state and vengeance as a moral imperative.
In “The Dark Knight Rises” Mr. Nolan, working from a script he wrote with his brother Jonathan, further muddies the good-and-evil divide with Bane. A swaggering, overmuscled brute with a scar running down his back like a zipper and headgear that obscures his face and turns his cultivated voice into a strangulated wheeze, Bane comes at Batman and Gotham hard. Fortified by armed true believers, Bane first beats Batman in a punishingly visceral, intimate fist-to-foot fight and then commandeers the city with a massive assault that leaves it crippled and — because of the explosions, the dust, the panic and the sweeping aerial shots of a very real-looking New York City — invokes the Sept 11 attacks. It’s unsettling enough that some may find it tough going.
Watching a city collapse should be difficult, maybe especially in a comic-book movie. The specter of Sept. 11 and its aftermath haunt American movies, often through their absence though also obliquely, as in action films that adopt torture as an ineluctable necessity. Mr. Nolan, for his part, has been engaging Sept. 11 in his blockbuster behemoths, specifically in a vision of Batman who stands between right and wrong, principles and their perversions, because he himself incarnates both extremes.
Mr. Nolan has also taken the duality that made the first film into an existential drama and expanded that concept to encompass questions about power, the state and whether change is best effected from inside the system or outside it. Gordon believes in its structures; Bane wants to burn it all down. And Batman? Well, he needs to work it out.
So will viewers, explicitly given the grim, unsettling vision of a lawless city in which the structures of civil society have fallen, structures that Batman has fought outside of. In a formally bravura, disturbingly visceral sequence that clarifies the stakes, Bane stands before a prison and, in a film with several references to the brutal excesses of the French Revolution — including the suitably titled “A Tale of Two Cities” — delivers an apocalyptic speech worthy of Robespierre. Invoking myths of opportunism, Bane promises the Gotham citizenry that courts will be convened, spoils enjoyed. “Do as you please,” he says, as Mr. Nolan cuts to a well-heeled city stretch where women in furs and men in silk robes are attacked in what looks like a paroxysm of revolutionary bloodlust.
If this image of violent revolt resonates strongly, it’s due to Mr. Nolan’s kinetic filmmaking in a scene that pulses with realism and to the primal fear that the people could at any moment, as in the French Revolution, become the mob that drags the rest of us into chaos. Yet little is what it first seems in “The Dark Knight Rises,” whether masked men or raging rhetoric. Mr. Nolan isn’t overtly siding with or taking aim at any group (the wily Bane only talks a good people’s revolution), but as he has done before, he is suggesting a third way. Like Steven Soderbergh in “Contagion,” a science-fiction freak-out in which the heroes are government workers, Mr. Nolan doesn’t advocate burning down the world, but fixing it.
He also, it may be a relief to know, wants to entertain you. He does, for the most part effortlessly, in a Dark Knight saga that is at once lighter and darker than its antecedents. It’s also believable and preposterous, effective as a closing chapter and somewhat of a letdown if only because Mr. Nolan, who continues to refine his cinematic technique, hasn’t surmounted “The Dark Knight” or coaxed forth another performance as mesmerizingly vital as Heath Ledger’s Joker in that film.
The ferocious, perversely uglified Mr. Hardy, unencumbered by Bane’s facial appliance, might have been able to dominate this one the way Mr. Ledger did the last, but that sort of monstrous, bigger-than-life turn would have been antithetical to this movie’s gestalt. The accomplished Mr. Bale continues to keep Batman at a remove with a tight performance that jibes with Mr. Nolan’s head-over-heart filmmaking.
After repeatedly sending Batman down Gotham’s mean streets, Mr. Nolan ends by taking him somewhere new. That’s precisely the point of a late sequence in which he shifts between a multitude of characters and as many locations without losing you, his narrative thread or momentum. His playfulness with the scenes-within-scenes in his last movie, “Inception,” has paid off here. The action interludes are more visually coherent than in his previous Batman films and, as in “Inception,” the controlled fragmentation works on a pleasurable, purely cinematic level.
But it also serves Mr. Nolan’s larger meaning in “The Dark Knight Rises” and becomes his final say on superheroes and their uses because, as Gotham rages and all seems lost, the action shifts from a lone figure to a group, and hope springs not from one but many."
Also, nothing too substantial, but a neat featurette:
Dargis in the NY Times: “(Nolan’s) playfulness with the scenes-within-scenes in his last movie, “Inception,” has paid off here.”
I can’t begin to imagine the mindset that can describe Nolan’s work in general much less INCEPTION in particular as being in any way “playful.”
Well, this is his most playful film, believe it or not – in addition to seriousness that would likely make (or if you’ve seen the film, made) the two of you cringe, etc. And I feel that Nolan actually has a lot of fun crafting spectacle. But to each their own.
Nolan’s work displays all the playfulness of the war in Iraq.
I’ll admit, I chuckled. I sympathize, but I see glimpses of playfulness in some of his films, for sure.
I don’t really think Nolan is as deadly serious as everybody says. I mean, he’s serious, but there are always some jokes in his movies. There were a bunch of jokes in TDKR.
My biggest problem was that at the beginning Wayne has to use a cane to get around and a doctor tells him the cartilage in his knees is almost gone, but then……..
I think perhaps the “playfulness” being referred to in the review does not entail anything involving a lighter tone (though I would say that this film does have its occasional chuckles). Rather, the editorial precision required for the multiple planes of action through cross cutting in the dream levels of Inception can be displayed in TDKR as well.
There are two instances of this. The first involves the cross cutting between Bane and his mercenaries terrorizing the stadium, the bridges surrounding the city collapsing, the cops being trapped underground in pursuit of Bane, and John Blake racing to find Jim Gordon in the hospital.
The second instance of playfulness involves the parallel editing (since I’m not sure that it occurs simultaneously) is the cutting between Bane’s monologue in front of city hall and the various events occurring around the city, such as the breakout of the prisoners, the kangaroo courts, and the ransacking of the wealthy homes and buildings throughout the city.
So I think what that part of the review is getting at is the EDITORIAL playfulness that worked so well for Inception also succeeds in TDKR. It certainly does for me, since the two aforementioned scenes are among my favorite in the film.
One thing I noticed about The Dark Knight when I rewatched it before TDKR is just how much humor is in the screenplay. Ignoring the Joker’s morbid sense of humor, Bruce and Alfred love to banter back and forth – even when Bruce is about to give up being Batman he still quips, “I’m gonna tell them it was all your idea, etc.”
I really don’t think Nolan is as dead serious or poe-faced as many of his detractors claim. He also deals with violence and the ramifications of violence in a much more sobering and humane manner than someone like Michael Bay (who Nolan has been compared to lately on Mubi for reasons I can’t even fathom).
“Inception” might be the exception since that movie takes place in the subconscious so all the goons being shot aren’t real people.
Christian Bale showing up in Aurora unannounced to the media to visit the shooting victims and memorial site was a classy and dignified gesture.
“I think perhaps the “playfulness” being referred to in the review does not entail anything involving a lighter tone (though I would say that this film does have its occasional chuckles). Rather, the editorial precision required for the multiple planes of action through cross cutting in the dream levels of Inception can be displayed in TDKR as well.”
Roman, no doubt that’s what Dargis had in mind. The manipulation of the assorted dream levels in INCEPTION was masterfully done, even I as one of Nolan’s strongest detractors will have to say that. But playful? Sorry. No. Playful is the last adjective I could ever use to describe Nolan’s output.
Will get to this thread later on, but
the one thing I really wanted to say about this movie, upon leaving the theatre, is that considering the previous entries, Rises was actually the most ‘comic book’ like. I found Tom Hardy’s voice at several places to be cartoonish and silly.
And I enjoyed the movie for it.
I thought it was the best of the bunch, though I give the first one 2.5/5 and the others 3/5.
Definitely WAY more ‘comic book’ going on, for sure… (and to its very great detriment!)
I know TDK is the “prized pony”, but for me it’s all Batman Begins. The less “sensational” shit going down, the more I can believe the people / universe. What began in a great and powerful simplicity escalated into every classic superhero film ever. All that money and all that pressure, I guess its hard not to fall into the trap called “go bigger. Next time, go bigger”.
Or, the idea of “power creep”.
I just thought the script and the acting were the weakest there. But we’re splitting hairs.
You’re right Polaris. Bane’s voice and even the delivery of most of the lines was British comedy at it’s best. “What a lovely voice” indeed.
The film itself sufferes from the same problems that all Nolan’s stock has recently; the motivation of certain characters (especially after twists) are weak, there’s too much narrative clutter and mediocre action, male-female relationships are hackneyed (to say the least), and some of the philosophical musings are a bit too junior high school material, lacking in genuine human depth and complexity.
However, their were alot of laughs in this one, (mainly unintentional by Nolan regarding Bane, possibly intentional from Tom Hardy). There was also more of a sense of ballsiness from the characters, tackling their moral struggles head on (rather than just succumbing to them ala TDK), a convincing moral reawakening and conviction coming out of Batman’s soul punishing captivity (also some nice metaphorical stuff with the safety rope).
At least this time Batman ignores his pesky ethics (or at least don’t let them get in the way of his objectives) by actually going toe-to-toe as soon as possible with Bane (finally learning from his languid procrastination in TDK) and Nolan brings some truth to power by critiquing the very dubious final act of TDK involving Harvey Dent, as he and his characters learn from some of their mistakes, a shit extended coda notwithstanding.
On Bane’s voice: anyone else think that Hardy sounded like Sean Connery in Dragonheart? I did…
Alright. Going through this thread bit by bit then, Risselada style! Or Jazzahola, ’cause I get those two confused sometimes.
Joking Riss and Jazz. I’m riffing off of
“I always keep in mind what either Polaris or HoL said once (I always mix the two up for whatever reason)”
@Taka: I’m the one always ranting and going on about the filmmaking process itself. HoL is the sexy moderator what cuddles like a real man should.
@HoL: “Takkaawesome gets me and DiB confused. Hear that, Polaris? You lucky dog.”
I know right! I’ve never felt so sexy!
Right then. On subject:
Agreed, that picture is a perfect representation of Nolan’s self-seriousness, even to the level of camp.
@Jacob: It’s like fucking Intolerance.
Well actually Nolan’s work is a lot more narratively mature than that, in the technical sense of narrative, not the thematic. What I mean by that is that Intolerance is certainly daring and even experimental in its building of cross-cutting beyond what Griffith had developed before, and so he set the foundation for things like Pulp Fiction or The Dark Knight to be coherent at all. But as those movies show, we’ve built narrative up enough and trained the audience well enough that strictly speaking, Inception really isn’t that far out of left field to follow. So in one sense, modern cross-cutting is a lot more coherent than Intolerance managed to be, but it’s also significantly less experimental or risky as Intolerance was.
@HKFanatic: "As thematically cohesive and laser-focused as the screenplay for “The Dark Knight” felt is about how sprawling and unwieldy this sequel is. "
I actually think each movie in this trilogy was subsequently more focused. Begins was an absolute mess through and through, which really comes to an anticlimactic head once Scarecrow is dispatched and dismissed in a single zap; Dark Knight is my favorite of the three and I love it but damn, it has two fourth and fifth acts! This one was actually quite simple and focused in comparison, mostly I think because Nolan knew he had to tie everything together neatly and was more interested then in the wrapping up the causality of the previous films than creating his interdigitated phantasmagoria.
@Joks re: “I heard they have been showing the new Superman trailer at the start of Dark Knight Rises. Does it look any good hehe”
Eh, it’s a teaser. Focuses on the “Who is this wandering, faceless figure… wait.. .is it…. could it be… OH IT’S SUPERMAN!” Didn’t quite work for me but meh. Visually looks more like Nolan (producer) than Snyder (director). I don’t know if I will see it. As clear, I like Nolan and I like how he’s exploring these superheroes, but I’m officially after much ambivalence and consideration no longer able to handle most of Snyder’s bullshit. So I’m going to have to see whose ‘vision’ dominates before I watch it, because I’m pretty much not in the mood to watch anything by Snyder anymore.
@Jirin: “They never justify their villains having access to the resources they do. Joker’s massive loyal army and inexhaustible resources are only explained by a one off line ‘These kinds of people are attracted to leaders like Joker!’, which doesn’t really do it for me, and it’s the same deal with Bane. I think they’re just leaning on the viewers’ prior knowledge of Batman mythology: Bane has access to all these things because he’s bane, and he just does.”
Here’s an interesting point. The Joker’s force-of-nature style and the way he burns the money (“You know what I like about these things? They’re cheap.”) sort of shows that it’s not so much an issue of investing but using what he has, and the forward momentum of his character carries forward his resources. I think it works.
Bane “IS the League of Shadows”, which if we remember is something like some thousand year old secret society of rich resources. I think that’s sufficient explanation.
“Does it make sense that somebody would go from pure good to pure evil that quickly and easily because he lost somebody he loved? Absolutely not.”
No no no no, Harvey Dent’s corruptible nature is given due justice in earlier sequences. The courthouse scene with the gun shows he’s reactionary, much of his dialog and characterization shows an underlying sense of narcissism, and whenever he’s not in a place to be considerate and careful in his White Knight conversation, he’s brash and demanding. The overall point is that Wayne and Gordon miscalculated when they both “believed in Harvey Dent”, and it lead to the lie that forced them to lose everything just to maintain the White Knight myth. Thus the third movie where the lie comes to light and they actually, both of them, are required to be honest heroes, instead of antiheroes, again. I found this overall arc to be very satisfying.
Which is one point I wanted to bring up about Rises. Someone here once complained, “The Batman of my youth was a hero, goddamn it!” And truly the previous two movies show a much less heroic, much more broken Batman/Wayne. This is the one where he actually had to just be a hero, which is sort of the point I saw behind that “You have to be afraid so that you will have the will to live”: he has to actually have something to fight for than just ‘his precious Gotham’, but also his self and the people he loves, which requires him having people to love, and so on and so forth.
I liked that.
@Axelumdog: "That’s pretty accurate to how I feel about his films. This one in particular was just so greedy. He wanted it all, he wanted to play up Bane like he was big bad Joker 2.0, he wanted this Catwoman subplot, he wanted this catwoman romance between her and bruce, he wanted romance between bruce and this “miranda investor”, he wanted all these throwbacks to his previous batman films (scarecrow, liam neeson, the pit, ect.) He wanted his robin subplot, he wanted his commissioner gordon / new commissioner (wtf) subplot, he wanted his “Talia twist”, he wanted his “self-sacrfice batman dies J/K”, He wanted this massive scope of “city-wide military panic” that had to trump The Dark Knight, He wanted this “war” between the police and these carbon copy “bad guys”, I mean how the fuck would you expect to cram all that nonsense into one film and expect it to have any focus whatsoever. I would’ve picked maybe two of all those things, and made the film about that.
Again, I say… Greedy."
He wanted all those things… and got them! AND IT WAS AWESOME!
Hey, if I had the resources Nolan had, I’d try to make ‘big’ movies too.
I did in another thread mention that if I were doing the third Batman, it would be a tenth as complex as Nolan’s in terms of number of characters et al, but that’s the thing: it’s Nolan’s style, now, and I think he handles it well. I honestly couldn’t think of a single scene to be cut from The Dark Knight and while I haven’t played that thought experiment with Rises yet (I’m going to wait to see it again, though I don’t think I’ll watch it as often as the previous installment), from my perspective it was actually simpler and more focused than the other two were. All of the events follow.
@Jirin, re: “I also felt like he was trying to make some kind of ‘Babel’ statement about Western excess, but that statement was extremely unfocused”
? Didn’t get that reading myself.
“That’s another example of relying on the fans’ knowledge of the comics… If I didn’t know that, would I have found that reveal believable?”
You know what? I’m getting into Batman comics THROUGH Nolan’s films, and so I rarely know these events. I did know about Bane’s infamous breaking of Batman’s back scene, but I knew nothing about Talia and I didn’t know Two Face’s ‘real’ name. I found these reveals to work, and I know more of the audience has not read comic books (that would require this thing called ‘reading’, and you know how popular that is, even in picture-books….) than has. They seem to be responding well to the twists, I think.
I will say that the Catwoman/Batman romance felt almost like fan service. I would consider it so but I don’t think Nolan does that, at least intentionally. Catwoman has always tightrope walked between sides but part of the fun in her character is that she flirts with Batman but they never can come together. It’s like James Bond and Moneypenny. Oddly though, them literally being together in the end was totally satisfying to me and didn’t feel like breaking the rules of their relationship at all. I kind of like to imagine the two of them getting by by being international jewel thieves, even though Batman wouldn’t stand by that!
And I loved how Anne Hathaway played that character. She played off the feminine mask/dropped mask side of Bruce Wayne (NOT Batman, we’re talking Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s discussion of the mask of rage) exceptionally well.
@Simon: “One man’s greedy is another man’s ambitious?”
Yeah. I mean sometimes it gets a little annoying to hear a movie get criticized for being big. I understand the more technical side of what’s being said: lack of focus, top-heavy, all that. But that needs to be considered in light of whether he successfully balances all of the elements, which I think he does. Other people disagree, so that’s where the discussion comes into play over what elements worked and which didn’t, and why. But signing it off as ‘greedy’ is sort of missing the point, or at least overly dismissive.
Billy the Poet follows this up really well: "I believe it is one of the main characteristics of any director. It has to flow in blood of every filmmaker, who strives to achieve something. There is nothing negative about it. Your all-time favorite directors like Kubrick, Welles and many others were all disliked for their great and ambitious works. "
I don’t think it’s really important or even true for every director to think big. Many think small and do brilliantly with it. However the Kubrick point, specifically, is important to me. That is a man who made big movies and that is what he did. His level of control and insistence on multiple takes and perfectionism and so on could be considered amazingly wasteful and despotic, and has been on various occasions, but it served a purpose and the world is a better place for the pieces he created.
Modern society is less impressed by the monolithic anymore. We grew up with skyscrapers, so the Burj Khalifa is now mere trivia fact (‘tallest building in the world’) than ambition-defining experience; whereas for the country that contains it, only 40 years old and very recently gotten beyond tents and oases toward villas and paved roads, it is a significant symbol of human endeavor (I should know, I ate under the shadow of the thing for two years and it was the third world nationals and locals that adored that building, the Westerners gave it an appreciative snapshot and moved on with their lives). We have also discovered that big can be very wasteful, very damaging to the environment, and can in fact get hit by a single plane to go Babel. So as we sort of retract our focus from the Bigger the Badder toward ideas like sustainability and elegance in design, as we get tired of the noise of the world and look elsewhere for silence, as we miss small businesses and distrust big corporations, all of those related things, ‘big’ is gaining a negative connotation it needn’t necessarily contain.
@Deckert, re: “Nolan has put in ways to make your mind work, whether or not you like it. I don’t feel he’s telling me how to think, he’s showing me this piece of work he’s put together”
Well I have not read many but I’ve read a few interviews of Nolan about his movies and overall while we criticize him for ‘sophomoric philosophy’ he tends to be, in his own way, just working with contemporary material and subjects and working it into these musings. I’ve noticed in people a general tendency to try to discern his ‘politics’ but whenever he talks about such things directly, he seems much more in a ‘well this is what’s going on in the world right now, I can’t help if bad things happen’ sort of position.
Which brings me to an idea I’ve been thinking about for a few years now and have had a hard time defining. Two filmmakers in specific stand out for me in terms of the contemporary world and how it operates, and they are Nolan and Olivier Assayas. More specifically, if you watch their movies you see a contemporary form of ‘globalization’ underlying their narratives, but it’s a purposefully corporate globalization. To detract from ready attacks on Nolan, let’s focus on Assayas. Irma Vep is a movie about filmmaking, but the dialog is almost all business terminology. Demonlover is about pornography and popular culture (by Assayas’ own statement, that latter idea) but the dialog is almost all business terminology. Clean is about drug addiction in the music world but again, the dialog is almost all business terminology. Carlos features a character who knows, uses, and resists such terminology… in Assayas’ rethinking of that character, Carlos the Jackal comes to his beliefs through (an anachronistic) awareness of where at-the-time new developments were heading, globally and corporately speaking.
One of the things I think went way over the head of most people watching The Dark Knight is how much business culture is in it. Inception makes it almost hammer-to-the-forehead clear. And I think Nolan is doing that from a familiarity he has but not many other do of these dialogs (after all, how else does he gain the money to make these huge epics?), but it’s not from the side of defense or belief in them, just awareness and presentation of them (much like how on this site I will try to break down a sort of ‘why’ of this or that aspect of Hollywood, and then get told ‘But that’s not the way it should be!" when I never said it was. What the world IS and what the world SHOULD BE are two entirely different considerations). I think a lot of what gets missed in Nolan’s filmography is his IS versus SHOULD BE. He makes it harder for his characters to succeed by forcing them to take concessions. It’s not realism but representationally it’s realistic.
END PAGE 1.
I have finally got to watch The Dark Knight Rises today.
I have been closely following Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy since the announcement of the first film’s production back in 2003. Not only that Batman has always been one of my top superheroes, but that the franchise was now being helmed by one of the most promising directors of the last decade. I remember enjoying Burton’s initial duology, which, in spite of storywise flaws, were visually spectacular movies for me. I was far more impressed by the later Batman: Animated Series, one of the best animated TV show ever, and certain comic book series I had the chance to read. However, with Nolan, not only Batman’s film franchise took a radically different turn, but so did the entire genre of films about superheroes. From the first time I watched his Memento and Following, I easily grasped the high-scale potential of this director. His later films only reinforced my confidence and trust in him. What changed many things as we used to know them was the release of Batman Begins, a new role model for any superhero origin story and the prime example of how to make proper reboots. Three years later, Nolan came back with The Dark Knight, and this film became one of the most unforgettable experiences for me personally. It was faithful to its themes, added more depth to characters and raised the bar for not only sequels, but also all other subsequent summer blockbusters.
Now, four years later, we come to the conclusion of the trilogy about a man who once rose to become legend for people he believed in. In comparison to its predecessor, The Dark Knight, which I had no doubt in to turn out as a master work, I was far more doubtful about certain details in this film. Although I was more or less excited about Bane and Catwoman picked as the main antagonists at that time, soon more details appeared rather dubious to me. Firstly, I was not glad with the addition of Cotillard as Miranda (I immediately sensed Talia) and Levitt as Blake. I was fraid the film would be overpacked with too many characters and storylines, whereas its main purpose was to focus more on the arc Bruce Wayne/Batman, instead. Secondly, I was not confident in Hathaway as a choice for Catwoman. I never really viewed her as anything close to the character. And, finally, I completely disliked the idea of returning to the League of Shadows. It was the point, when I started slightly changing my mind of whether the film would meet mine and many others’ expectations.
After watching the film, I can only conclude that The Dark Knight Rises was good film, fell short of being anything on the same level as the previous two films. It was a worthy conclusion, but executed on a mediocre note. It was massive in its themes and ideas, as well as symbolism. Nonetheless, it was clumsy and disappointing in its credibility and plotlines. As I was afraid, Nolan causes congestion with many different characters, yet not even enough time for the viewer to stay alone with Bruce Wayne or be on the ride with Batman. Moreover, most characters were handled poorly, as their motivations were not believable, while their actions made little sense. I particularly mean the way the protagonist was given justice this time. Wayne undergoes many unreasonable and even laughable mistakes that his character would never let happen in the previous two films. Firstly, no clear reason is given as for why he became crippled and left his mantra for eight years since the night Harvey Dent died. Secondly, this time Wayne acts rather naïve, as he trusts too many people. He suddenly helps out Catwoman just to fall for her trap, then stay captivated in the Pit for the subsequent five months, and then come back to trust her again in his final showdown with his enemy. He also quickly accepts Miranda in his personal life and, out of nowhere, spends a night with her, in spite of spending a far larger part of his life for Rachel. He is also then betrayed by Miranda, and, interesting to note, it again takes place prior to or during his confrontation with Bane. I am still surprised he fell so quickly for two women in one film; and, he was twice stabbed by them, both literally and figuratively. Finally, Wayne prefers to keep silent, when Blake suddenly reveals his suspicion that Wayne is Batman and not guilty for the crimes committed by Dent. Bruce never attempts to deny anything, but, instead, clearly signals that Blake is right with his silence. This is not easy to relate to the face that he spent over ten years keeping his alter ego as a secret from 99.9% of Goatham’s population. What was the point of all that ‘fabulous life of a playboy’ that he acted all that time in public? He goes on to entrust Blake his legacy and ‘inspire’ him to replace Batman some day. This would make sense, only if the previous sequel had not spend the entire film to have Wayne realize all the danger Batman may cause to Gotham’s civilians when posing as a symbol and role model. I believe that this would have actually worked, if Nolan never let Blake hold Batman’s legacy and Batman rising to represent rather hope and the idea that every person can be a hero without wearing a mask.
I do understand the idea of having many characters fall as preys of Bane’s antagonistic deeds. I understand that, before the rise, Wayne has to confront his inner weaknesses on his own, without anybody’s help. I understand that before he saves the day, he has to be abandoned and stay alone in this fight, because he fights against himself and his fear. However, I have to say that the execution of this powerful idea is rather faulty and barely satisfying in what I have seen. Alfred finally decides to leave Wayne, having no more patience to tolerate his master’s striving to face danger and sacrifice himself continuously to protect the city, or, to actually prove himself that he can win the war once again. However, I was not really drawn by their ultimate dialogue exchange prior to the butler’s leave. The tense mood was rather forced and Wayne did not sound like what he would say. Moreover, on the course of the film, most words that Wayne says are not exactly what we are used to in the previous films. It is as if he was suddenly switched to Wayne of another mode, from another interpretation. Furthermore, it may appear really lovely for Alfred’s dream to come true. However, this was overexaggerated and figured more as a plot device, leading to banal ‘happy ending’. To add, it is interesting to see Wayne ending up with Selina, who would never fit him in any other previous versions, whether films or comics. She is the least trustworthy and faithful person, and, yet, he again makes the choice in favor of her.
Moving on to the entire plotline of the return of the League of Shadows, ruled by Talia as a successor of her father, the mentor of her nemesis and offender of her true lover and protector. I have to admit that the story of Talia and Bane seemed to me more as a beautiful tale with some Shakespearean elements. But, was it really relevant? I do not mean their backstory, but her character at all. I was never convinced it was really important to add her to the story. Neither the film changed my mind in regards to the importance of the League of Shadows. I think both the connection of Wayne with Ras Al Ghul and the League, and his time spent in the prison were well enough handled in Batman Begins. With making parallels in The Dark knight Rises, I felt these were redundant and nothing of new to me. Especially, when Bane’s prison is not as intimidating as I expected. To be honest, Bane’s whole plot of spreading panic in the city, taking over it and then simply exploding it in pieces and ruins, had little point. I mean, for what reason would you care about the city you are going to blow down anyways? Despite that, I have to say Tom Hardy as Bane was a great addition and I definitely enjoyed watching his character. His acting was excellent even with the mask on.
By the way, I still cannot see Nolan’s real point as for why the film has Ghul, Dent, even Scarecrow, but not the Joker. I remember reading that Nolan decided to avoid mentioning him, as it was sorrowful of the loss of Heath Ledger. I also believe some people viewed the death of Ledger to have an impact on The Dark Knight’s box office performance. In spite of all that, I personally believe it would have been far more respectful to mention Ledger’s character in the following film, instead of skipping him as something that never took place in the history of Gotham.
I was wrong on two points, though. Hathaway was great as Catwoman, always keeping the enigmatic vibe with her presence in every other scene. The other one is Levitt as Blake. He was energetic and daring, and certainly a good pick as a representation of the young generation of orphans in this avaricious and cruel city, where children are left on their own to survive. Nonetheless, I still could not buy Blake as someone to replace Batman. I noticed in his character short temper, high degree of emotionality and little caution. He is too young and too inexperienced. He would better fit Gordon’s role, as he grows little older, than Batman’s. He is not fully aware of how much is behind being a masked vigilante.
Thematically, The Dark Knight Rises touches upon many interesting subjects. It does test the protagonist, as he is taken away all his wealth and properties, he is abundant by the close ones, he is put in the prison far away from his home, he has to watch his city struggle against its fate. The problem of the film was that it failed to show Wayne in a way that makes it believable that he actually experiences all the hardship of who he is on his shoulders. Due to flawed script and improper characterization, Bruce is thought to suffer, but he does not appear in such way at all. There is not enough tragic feel there. There is not enough time spent with Bruce in intimacy. There is not enough exposition in a whole range of feelings he undergoes, as he is continuously in pain over and over again. The result of all this suffering is a surprising healing. Suddenly, he can easily walk, in spite of his problems with the leg and the back and bones in many other parts of his body. Most importantly, the entire scene of his escape from the pit, just like many ‘meaningful’ moments in the film, looked to me more as something I would see in Rocky or Karate Kid, but not in Nolan’s Batman. People hail, they clap and cheer, as if giving the audience signs of how to react to every event in the film.
As for action sequences, I thought the very first fight between Batman and Bane was easily the best scene in the entire film. It looked very tense, with no music, but only sounds of each hit. It absorbs you and makes you easily feel for Batman. Another scene that thrilled me was the first appearance of Batman and the chase between him and the police. In spite of some cheesy lines and moments, the scene was well-filmed and exhilarating to watch. Sadly, the same cannot be said about any other scenes involving action. Only several shots from the last sequence with the Bat following Talia’s truck would stand out. In addition, I was just plain shocked when watching Talia stabbing Batman and later dying in the truck. These two were awfully done.
All in all, the movie was decent, but not close to what I would at least tolerate. To be frank, I have noticed how the cast and crew got worn out and tired of the story that, to their own surprise, has spanned for two more films. Nolan’s film is big in scale, but not in depth. It is the first picture when I see how little of effort he gave to. I really appreciated how he added so much to Bruce Wayne’s personality. It was fascinating to see the protagonist develop from his origin to his end. I particularly would like to mention the idea of having Bruce resemble Howard Hughes in his behavior and even look. It completely fit in and was a very interesting stage in his life. In many ways, it can be arguable said that Hughes’ eccentric lifestyles, enormous ambitions and continuous suffering from his own ideals and mistakes, only expand the character of Bruce Wayne to a new phase of his persona.
I would give this film 3.5 out of 5. It had many flaws, particularly related to underdeveloped script and weak characterization, as well as loathsome editing work. Nevertheless, the film presents various themes that keep it on a higher level. It is not easy not to spot certain associations between the story and the current economic and political conditions in America. Yet, it should not be confused and taken as a film with political agenda. Although I did not like the depiction of upper class as victims of the raging masses, blinded by Bane’s speeches, I refuse to accept this as a deliberate intention to hide a subtext in relation to the contemporary formed climate in the sphere of economics and politics of the country.
The great ambitions are there. What is missing is the spirit. The Dark Knight Rises is a good summer blockbuster, although it is two steps behind Nolan’s previous films. A satisfying conclusion, yet disappointing execution.
@Cody Hoskins: “Blake is obviously a potentially future Batman or “Robin”, which would have been overkill if he became Robin and made the story about Batman and Robin instead of Batman fighting his own struggles.”
YES, I loved how he’s essentially both — Robin in name, but ‘Batman Beyond’ in potential. Allows further helmsman of the series to work with something new if they don’t just revamp the whole enterprise, which they probably will (be interesting to see the result….)
The rest of your breakdown is accurate and better representative, I think, of Nolan’s ‘intentions’ since again, from his interviews, he tends to approach talking about the movie in terms of the story structure and use of characters.
@Joks: “Must we qualify everything we say on here at all times? Do we have to say ‘oh yeah, most blockbusters are stupid, but you know, let’s not be too hasty because the occasional one has something interesting and intelligent to say’? There is too much sensitivity around this issue imo.”
I sympathize because I often feel like I have to qualify everything here too. Like above: “I’m saying it’s the way it works, not the way that it ‘should’ or ‘could’ be.” That type of stuff.
I think the frustration some people feel is that when one of those 1-in-50 blockbusters with brains comes out, a la Nolan’s Batman franchise, they get dismissed outright as blockbusters by some (not everyone here, and not always intentionally) and whatever ‘thoughtfulness’ they have is snarkily deferred as ‘sophomoric’ or basic, when the same can be thought about a lot of arthouse cinema (I find Lars von Trier, for instance, to be philosophically very basic).
Nevertheless, I use to be a lot more reactive to this type of dichotomy and lately I’ve been observing that most members that have been around here long enough have already prequalified many of their positions that they’ve come toward the middle: I’m not saying that blockbusters are great movies, I’m saying that they could be, you’re not saying that blockbusters all suck, you’re saying they mostly do. My roommate borrowed The A-Team, Prince of Persia, and The Green Lantern from his parents and I watched all three with him, and they all weren’t very good, as in they achieved standard and basic narrative needs and visual spectacle but who the fuck cares, they gave us nothing new or really exceptional, so for all intents and purposes I could defend the logic of the storytelling or whatever but there’s no justice fighting someone who says it sucks, because for many audiences, they did. I could care the least for them, so I wouldn’t be going through a discussion on this site one page at a time dealing with different aspects of those movies. I wouldn’t.
So when I care enough to actually talk about a movie like Rises on a page-by-page basis over five pages, I am merely hoping that people have consideration and respect enough for my perspective to understand that I do see valuable things worth talking about in it, and not automatically dismiss the movie as vapid and infantile. And the fact is, most people on this board are actually that respectful, it’s just that we always have one or two that stir up the pot and then we end up having the same qualifier-heavy conversation over and over again over what is or is not appropriate behavior, discussion, topics, and movies to have on this board.
And also new people come along and bring in some of the same basic statements that need to be qualified so that we understand their specific perspective better, despite generalities.
So we’re all friends here, even if you think Nolan sucks! :)
@Billy: “I understand that a major prooblem is when mainstream films have greater chance to win bos office than the independent ones. However, this is not determined by films, but by audience. Thus, it would be more logical to drop off agression about films that were made for general audience.”
For what it’s worth, audience is more determined by marketing than quality. And that sucks.
Most of the rest of Page 2 is more of the same. Just to react to
House of Leaves, re: “Inception’s script is kind of dumb, especially anything with Juno in it—man she’s not a very good actress. Too much exposition and not enough heart. It’s clever but not smart. It’s fun, but it’s empty.”
Some criticisms of Nolan I agree with: expositional dialog, overscored (and overbearing score), and like Assayas sometimes his characters are dead fish and almost disturbingly antisocial, unintentionally. It really does say something when the Joker and Bane, respectively, are the most compelling and charismatic of characters in The Dark Knight and Rises. Finally, Nolan struggles with women characters (I don’t think it’s entirely his fault I just think he’s bad at them, and for what it’s worth I think Catwoman is so far the best female character he’s written whereas Talia still sucked), and his use of Michael Caine as The Voice of Concern and Wisdom is getting really fucking tired. In Inception it was downright laughable, homeboy literally appears out of the blue JUST to say his fatherly moral-of-the-story and then doesn’t appear again until the end.
However, I do think Nolan’s films are smart and more than just ‘clever’, and it has to do again with how he organizes the broad characters and storylines and themes and representations and does so in what to me is an accessible and understandable manner. Again, throughout this thread people have been complaining about the ‘bigness’ or ‘greed’ (I have a love/hate relationship with that word choice in this case) of his movies but you have to keep in mind he balances how many levels of dreams in Inception and they all edit together smoothly? As in yeah, they aren’t profound dreamscapes, more like James Bond set-pieces, so they aren’t Deep Thought®™, but in any given point in that movie that rapidly crosscuts between vastly different situations, you know where in space/time you are and it’s all balanced and flows smoothly? C’mon guys, that takes skill and forethought and a level of intelligence and control over directing a film that the average filmmaker does not have. Flat out does not have.
The filmmakers behind Green Lantern, A-Team, and Prince of Persia cannot do what Nolan can do. I cannot do what Nolan can do. You have to be smart to pull of his vision. And I’ll maintain that platform.
“I don’t know how anyone was confused by Inception.”
Eh, for many mainstream audiences it was a lot more novel and twisted than it was for people like us, who’ve grown up intellectually on Lynch and Ruiz and Roeg. That’s sort of what Joks is saying when he talks about how frustrating it is that these big movies succeed automatically but little movies struggle. In a world where most people were film literate, Inception wouldn’t have been all that special or novel of an experience for most audiences, so I even share that feeling of gut-dropping disappointment when I left the theatre and heard grown adults saying, “WOW NOTHING LIKE THAT HAS EVER BEEN DONE BEFORE IN CINEMA.” Nothing?! Fuck you, I could list movies that did ‘that’ and better for days!
Honestly I think Inception is his worst movie, by the way.
“All that being said, the 45 minutes of the four-layer dream heist sequence (climaxing with the father/son moment) is fantastic, despite some dodgy snow action shooting. That part of the movie is really great.”
You know, now that I think about it, the first half of Inception is Batman Begins and the second half is The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan has a very difficult job to pull off, if you think about it: establishing himself so that he can even do whatever the hell he’s going to do later on. I think maybe that’s what he needs to work on the most, finding methods of establishing the rules so that he can do what he wants, without the rules establishment section of his movies dragging down and messing up what he’s doing. Hard to pull off with these types of audiences.
That said, the primary reason Inception sucked is that we suffered through the rule making for a fucking HOUR, and then he broke every. single. one of them. That really grated. “Didn’t you say NOT TO DO THAT, Leo? AND NOT TO DO …! GAH AND NOT TO DO THAT EITHER!”
@Jupiter, re: "When they first introduced him I literally thought that he was talking in a voice over. Am I tripping? Did this hurt the character or help it? It was such a distant voice coming from a non-moving face. Very contrasting to the Joker. "
Uh, you try capturing good audio in all those environments and sets and from a guy with a mask.
But more in agreement to your point, that early scene was mixed weird and differently from the rest of the movie. I remember that scene was released early, too, which means I think they hadn’t quite figured out the appropriate balance with Bane’s voice. They get it better later on. Also, as has been commonly pointed out about Batman’s sub-bass growl, they obviously do a lot of post-mixing of audio that is going to create that quality.
I thought it made Tom Hardy’s voice cartoonish, myself, but as I said above, I actually ended up liking this movie as more ‘comic book’ like than either of its predecessors.
One thing I will say is that of all the scenes in the movie, the opening sequence was unsatisfying and really did not pull off the reveal quite the way Joker’s opening in Dark Knight did. And notice that Nolan tried the same thing: establishment scene, establishment getting attacked, establish the masked villain behind a second mask. I will agree that Bane did not have the ‘presence’ Joker did, but I didn’t expect he would (frankly, Heath Ledger’s performance was by definition exceptional) and the movie didn’t need him too. It was actually better, I think, to have the villain that much more low-key, because it made those wide city destruction shots feel all the more saddened. Bane is not a character that comes screaming out of the tower to fuck shit up, he slips through the underground passages and pulls off everything in advance to its reaction, and that was definitely the point. Most of what happens diegetically he built and prepared for before the movie started.
“As unsubtle as Bane’s character was the class struggle/financial crisis theme at the film’s core. Thoughts on this? It seemed like a hasty and unsophisticated characterization of our nation’s current issues that only pandered to the audience and did nothing for the film.”
Yeah, sort of like the 9/11-reference shots in The Dark Knight. I don’t think Nolan really has much to say about it short of he points out that that people may not want what they really want. Bane’s whole, well, frankly, communism ( ;-p ) is just a lie he has no intention of following through with since his real goal is the complete destruction of Gotham, but Selena Kyle’s character change in regard to her class anxiety seems more to the point of what Nolan is doing with it: she wants to help her neighbor, not drag Wayne out from under a bed and force him to take a long walk on thin ice. In this sense, Nolan sympathizes with sides. You could see the entire movie as being against the 99% (“See, if they had control the criminals would run free and innocent billionaires would suffer!”) but you could also read it as being against the 1% (“This is a stock exchange, there’s no money to steal here!” “Doesn’t stop you guys.” …. “This is everybody’s money!”. Also, the guy who tries to steal Wayne Enterprises, and his corrupt underling).
I think Nolan’s being cheeky about it, honestly. This movie is not nearly as concerned with issues of representation as The Dark Knight was, it’s more clearly trying to tie up loose ends and throws in the representation for good measure. My opinion.
@Axelumdog: “But since Inception, I wonder if the budgets and the “scope” of his films isn’t getting just a little bit beyond himself.”
Batman Begins: mess. Dark Knight: mess established, learned something, moving on. Inception: mess. Rises: mess established, learned something, moving on. Looking even earlier, Insomnia: mess. The Prestige: mess established, learned something, moving on. I haven’t seen Following but it’s because of this aspect of his filmography that I feel it’s probably ‘looking forward’ to Memento especially in regards to budgetary freedom.
Between movies he discovers something and then plays with it for a bit, then keeps it or leaves it. For a while there he was ending every movie with a cut to black on the final word of the movie, and on Rises he differentiated that ending with a diegetic wipe-to-black and no final word. It was nice to see him change that up a bit, even if only slightly. But he’s obviously found his punch-out ending and wants to stick with it.
He’s a learnin’ robot, is what I’m saying.
“Batman flies away an A-bomb into the ocean in a BS climactic self-sacrficing effort to get get the old heart-strings strumming, uh, give me a fucking break. Oh wait, gotcha, he’s not dead, like they would ever actually have the guts to let batman die. And you’re not even going to give us a real ending, all your going to give us is some shitty studio mandated “set-up” for some fucking robin nonsense? How is this not Michael Bay exactly?”
Whoa whoa whoa hey. Nolan CLEARLY ESTABLISHED in Batman Begins that Wayne had no intention of staying Batman and Alfred had no intention of letting Wayne die. This was about Bruce Wayne, not Batman. Batman will never die, is the whole point of the whole fucking trilogy, even if Wayne did. But it serves no purpose for Wayne to actually die. The symbolism of the sacrifice was his escape route, just like the lie about Dent in Dark Knight, except this time he’s learned from his mistakes and knows he doing it to live, not to retire.
“The entire point of Bruce Wayne’s arc (especially in TDKR) is to establish that he needs to move on, past grief, past his obsession, past wearing a mask, past having a death wish, past everything that’s been keeping him emotiomally/mentally crippled for years and actually live a real life for really the first time since his parents died. It has nothing to do with “not having guts” to let him die – thematically what they did makes the most sense.”
“I agree, he’s less compelling than Ledger’s Joker – but he serves his purpose well, which is to say he poses a legitimate physical threat to Batman for the first time in any of these films. And he also ends up doing the most severe damage to Gotham.”
I feel Taka is giving these movies a good approach by focusing on the foundational structure of the stories themselves, rather than a representational one. Again, it more closely aligns with Nolan’s stated approach, and whereas the representational cannot and should not be dismissed, it is informed much more by how he works out his characters and stories than what ‘he means to say about’ things like, for instance, class warfare.
“His development was a bit lacking, and I wasn’t really satisfied with the way he’s dispatched so quickly..”
ALSO this. Kind of annoying to watch an entire movie featuring this guy and just shove him off at the end with a quick rocket to the stomach, ALSO by dismissing Batman’s whole ‘no guns’ thing with a workaround of having Catwoman pull the trigger and be snarky about it. C’mon, Batman can be matched in brawn and brains by Bane, but why not wit and tech?
(There are good counterarguments to that: the first fight reveals Bane has Batman’s wits and tech, but I still think Batman is a better character for not relying entirely on muscle, which this movie does too much).
“As for the 99 percent/1 percent stuff – I took it as window dressing. "
Also this. However that article you post right below is spot on the nose. I too was wondering where ‘the regular Gothamite’ was in the Bane-ruled city. Nowhere to be found, apparently, it was only his cronies on the streets and the police below them. Apparently all the people Batman was trying to save just stayed inside for several months?
“institutions will fail us again and again”
Re: my whole thing about Assayas’ and Nolan’s corporate globalism. Also underlying these methods of representation are the fact that institutions will claw their way back up into significance again. It’s really never ending.
END PAGE 2, but I really have to go make myself lunch, so it’ll take a while before page 3.
I think Catwoman is so far the best female character he’s written whereas Talia still sucked
I agree with that, and I found it supremely annoying that Wayne slept with both of them. At first I was thinking, “okay great, Talia seems to be a really strong and intelligent character!” And then she slept with Wayne, ruining all of her business credibility and then, yeah, character reveal…
I thought Catwoman was pretty good though, and her (presumably) sleeping with Wayne at least made sense for the characters and story.
i must be getting sensitive in my old age. i was planning on seeing this but can’t make myself go. i just think about sitting in the dark imagining those people watching the film in colorado and i feel sick … :(
^ I had a really hard time for like the first hour of it, Ruby… it sucks.
^ I sympathize with the concept of external elements bringing unneeded baggage to a film. It certainly contextualizes the film which imo is unfair to the filmmaker.
@Shocked, re: "This summary that you linked of The Dark Knight’s ending is nothing short of awful….(though I like the summary of the newest film).
It’s a apologia? Nolan supports Patriot-Act/Bat-Sonar? We must ‘trust’ these men? Ugh. That’s not Nolan’s point at all in 2008’s The Dark Knight."
Um, if you read the rest of the article the author takes great care to qualify and differentiate his statements from what you assume he’s saying. I think your reading and his are basically coherent.
@Billy: “Besides, in Nolan’s films I rarely ever see a certain strongly held point. He rather prefers to leave it for the audience to choose in the line between several sides. He shows you what here is at stake, but never tells you that the decision to be made is the right one.”
Me too, and in Rises he makes clear that Batman’s and Gordon’s bad decisions are coming back to screw them.
“why does the film end with handing over the mantle of Batman to Joseph Gordon Leavitt?”
Because Blake is Batman, he makes clear when he calls Wayne out for it. That moment, and the moment at the end when Batman reveals to Gordon his ‘true identity’, are Blake saying, “I am going to take over for you” and Batman telling Gordon, “He is going to take over for you”, though the receiver of the message doesn’t get that second meaning until later (Gordon, assumedly, in the next film).
“That film went very far out of its way to make the brilliant point that having Batman be seen as this “symbol of hope and justice” is actually deeply flawed and dangerous to the population…”
No it doesn’t. It goes out of its way to make the point that Batman can only be seen as a symbol of hope and justice when society is in nighttime — that during the day, a White Knight must reside.
It’s not insignificant that Batman fights Bane, finally, in the day and broad open.
“See, that’s why Batman took the blame for Harvey Dent’s death. As a way to stick it into people’s heads that what he does – though well intentioned – is far too morally dubious. Dangerous, even.”
What they specifically say is that they lose all that they worked for if Harvey Dent is found to be corruptible, and that Batman is the one who can handle being seen as corruptible. That’s a significantly different point that trying to inform the public that he’s morally reprehensible. But as Rises astutely shows, the lie itself causes even Gordon, the replacement White Knight, to be corruptible because their lie and also shows that Gotham is suffering for believing Batman is bad and not acknowledging what he did. So when he ‘Rises’, he has to come out of the shadows and reveal all the hope and justice that he originally intended. It makes a good three act play with Begins and Dark Knight — establish the symbolism intended, the ultimate failure and regret, reclaiming the symbolism anew as something stronger and more powerful.
“By having Robin take up the mantle, it’s simply starting the previous cycle of escalation again. Escalation that will create a void that will be filled by freaks like Joker. It will make people want to take the law into their own hands. It will create a world without rules. That’s Nolan’s own framework.”
Batman is becoming an institution.
And, as stated on the previous page…
institutions will fail again and again, and rise again and again.
“But it’s as if he cannot come up with a solution to that very dilemma (that he, himself, brought up) so now he’s just ignoring it. So, I’m perplexed. It’s like Nolan’s film is going around in circles….”
The answer is in the question! :)
@Darkmatters: “I wish somebody in Washington could/would type their name in and self-destruct the machinery Bush set in motion!”
Haha, political aside, Wall Street did do that.
@Jirin: “Let’s be careful not to confuse complexity with intelligence or depth. Nolan movies are a lot more complex than the average Hollywood movie but the behavior of the characters is always so base and reactive, that complexity breeds more length than genuine insight.”
A fair point, but the complexity Nolan balances often deals with the characters’ own decisions and limitations. This is just good storytelling. One thing that that article points out about John Birch and the idea of the evil coming ‘from outside’ is that Nolan is aware, again from this corporate globalism perspective I discern, that the falling apart of institutions comes from both within and without.
Hence, Bane is in complete control of the destruction he wrecks upon Gotham. Fine. But he also discovers, does not plan for, Gordon’s speech of admission to the lie. That makes his takedown that much more perfect, and that much more complete. The rocky foundations were from within an without.
In terms of reactionism in the characters, Nolan pretty commonly sets the characters one step behind the events. In Memento this is like, literalized. The only movie of his I can think of where the characters’ escalation is from their own forethought is Prestige. The rest of the time, the movies are essentially all in media res, the inciting incident has already occurred before the movie begins, even if the characters aren’t aware of it. The sewers of Gotham were laced with explosives before Batman knew Bane existed.
How’s he supposed to be anything but reactive with everything stacked against him? To criticize that structure would be the same as criticizing Buster Keaton’s characters from not pausing to take a breath and think ahead once in a while — typically it’s already too late.
“Even if Nolan wanted to make a film that really addressed that issue, he couldn’t, because it’d rub most of the audience the wrong way and interrupt their vigilante thrill ride.”
To be fair, Nolan is British, not American, so his value system is going to be shifted at least some amount; and also as someone said earlier, he’s more interested in showing the stakes than coming to a conclusion.
But also, neither the Joker nor Bane are ideological. They use ideology against people, but at heart they are both nihilistic. Which I guess is it’s own ideology but it’s sort of a counterpoint to the ideologies the characters are bouncing off each other. Half the conflict in Nolan’s Batman series are the heroes struggling against each other as they try to work out ‘the right way’. Institution within and without. I’m liking this concept more and more. Here is how complexity serves depth in his movies.
@House: “My biggest problem with TDK was that one of the ferries should have blown up. To make it consistent with the Joker’s character, the civilians should have decided to blow up the convicts, but the detonator should have blown up their own boat instead. That would have been thematically the strongest move to make. Instead nothing happens and Batman gets to growl about how the people chose “good”. Yuk.”
That was the expectation but I think Nolan’s choice on this matter was cleaner. Not necessarily Batman’s summary of it, though.
The point presented is this: Gotham is a dark and horrible place. The mob rules until Batman comes and does his morally ambiguous justice, which causes some Gothamites to get the wrong idea and opens up a void for the Joker. The Joker exploits that void because after all, as he points out, human beings are naturally chaotic and (Jirin) reactionary. He sets up the boats to prove it deterministically. It doesn’t work. In other words, the Joker is wrong: Gotham is inhabited by citizens, too, who would actually like to have a safe life without villains blowing up their city every eight years, thank you very much.
If either boat blows up, we have that sort of Biblical narrative without Lot. There’s no ‘good person’ therein, so Ra’s al Ghul is correct in his ‘destiny’ to destroy the din of evil. Batman’s role in all three movies is to return order so that the average citizen needn’t be destroyed — real justice, not the Vengeance of God type.
Which is why Rises suffers, as the article writer points out, by featuring nary a single ‘average Joe’ Gothamite.
@Axelumog: “Is it so much to ask for an actual ending as opposed to… set up the next film, set up the next film, set up the next film…”
Does real life have clearly defined endings?
Not arguing that these movies are ‘realistic’ (as some people do, errantly methinks), but obviously Nolan could give a rat’s about tidy resolutions. And I think his movies would be much worse if he did.
Finally, I think the ending in Rises gives ‘the next film’ options. Nolan won’t be involved (well, there’s always the chance that Warner Bros could get desperate and pay him bofo cash to do another one and he will eventually find a story he likes and decide to go with it), so the next helmsman can either build on Blake or revamp (they’ll probably revamp). OR, Robin can have a spin-off. Honestly not that bad of an idea.
I doubt the next movie will use the last ones, except maybe with a few nods or even cheeky references.
“Uncrossable emotional barrier? If it’s you or them, you’re going to press the detonator. If someone is trying to kill you and you have a gun, you’re going to shoot, I don’t care how nice of a person you are or what kind of “emotional barriers” you have to cross.
When the chips are down the will to survive and fear are stronger than “morality”, clearly."
That’s your philosophy and I’m sorry you feel about humans that way. Humans sacrifice themselves to save each other all the bloody time.
It’s one thing to defend yourself. Killing someone else is a whole different principle.
@Jirin, re: "If somebody were pointing a gun at me, I would shoot before he shot me.
But if somebody were holding a gun to my head and said “If you shoot that innocent person over there I’ll let you go, if you don’t I’ll shoot you and let him go”, I would not pull the trigger.
And I think it’s easier to say you would in the abstract than it would be to go through with it if you actually faced that situation."
Aha. This is what I’m saying.
Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and imagine that few of us are military, ex-military, or have ever been in a situation that involved the possibility of actually pulling a trigger and killing somebody. I do know that one user on this forum has been and has much clearer personal things to say about it. So most of what we’re talking about is personal thought experiment, unfortunately…. fortunately? Fortunately. I don’t ever want to have to make that decision.
“Ok, but regardless of whether or not anyone would personally “press the button”… isn’t it more interesting for Batman to be defending a people who are maybe a little flawed, a little bit scared, maybe even a little bit shady?”
Uh, the guy who publicly stands up and gives the, “They made their choices!” speech. Entirely believable, in that he sees them as criminals being ‘their choices’ but his potentially criminal act of killing them justified, until he decides not to because he realizes his own ‘choice in the matter’ but essentially because he’s too much of a coward to go through with it, at just about the time they start to realize the fireworks don’t seem to be going off anyway. The delay of the decisionmaking giving everyone in both boats enough time to notice, “Well they aren’t killing us, so……….”
The unfortunate thing is that the people from either side never say, “You know what? I’m not playing the Joker’s game.” Unfortunately realistic: very few people seem capable of refusing to let terrorists determine their attitudes and actions.
@Taka: “Bruce escaping the pit was one of my favorite sequences…”
About the hole, I do have to admit it was pretty difficult as a snarky filmgoer to see Batman’s back broken and then him fall like that TWICE and he still can get up and fight Bane and is not paralyzed for life! I mean, I was able to do the ‘suspension of disbelief’ thing for his fall from Wayne tower in Dark Knight, based on the idea that ostensibly he was positioning himself during that time to cushion the blow (fake, but hey, that’s why the sequence is so long), but I mean this guy is already falling apart physically at the beginning of the movie!
Contrived, well, again ultimately with all Nolan is trying to do, sometimes he has to throw in a “Not only does Batman have a computer program capable of reconstituting a shattered bullet, but the Joker knows it and plans in advance to misdirect Batman via a fingerprint placed on it” moment because holy lord, how much time do you think Nolan has to work these things out in more realistic set-ups? Bane makes clear what his intentions with Batman are, and Nolan wants to send Batman to hell so that he can learn to want to live again. Narratively and thematically it susses out.
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@ Billy Great post, just one note. He hurt his leg in the fall at the end of Dark Knight. Took me a minute to connect the dots while viewing but I thought it was a nice touch that they didn’t explain it through dialogue. Even lent itself further to the Howard Hughes references. Maybe Nolan figured he would never get to make his HH movie so he put those elements here. Probably not but just a though.
Christopher A. Cook, Thank you!
As for Wayne’s leg, there is one problem I have with believing it was due to the fall in The Dark Knight. If you watch the film’s ending again, you will notice that Batman is more than fine with running and even driving his pod. He runs away from dogs, gets on the pod and drives into the night. I love that scene, by the way. It is very iconic. To add, even if it was due to the night when Harvey Dent died, he would heal within less than a year. With his training in the League, he would heal even sooner. One thing that seriously bugs me in The Dark Knight Rises is that Bruce suddenly has his leg fine, when trying to escape from the pit. He even proceeds to have another fight with Bane, get stabbed and survive nuclear explosion.
I just wonder what would take him years to heal his leg, considering how healthy he acted in the later scenes of the film.
By the way, as for the reference to Howard Hughes, I believe this was the point. Nolan’s version of Bruce/Batman is a cross between several characters and real life figures, starting from James Bond and ending with Hughes. I pretty much like his taste in protagonists.