Critique: The Dark Knight Rises (and all of Nolan’s Batman series)

Posted: August 29, 2012 by Mat Festa in Comics, Misc, Uncategorized
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Critique by Mat Festa

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matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

Castor and Pollux are two friends with conflicting taste in movies. Castor loves mainstream fare while Pollux prefers pretentious art films. A quirky miss matched roommates sitcom is in the works.

BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

CASTOR&POLLUX: Wow!

POLLUX: That was amazing. I had no idea what to expect when I heard Nolan was making a Batman movie but that was excellent. The level of depth and complexity in the character development, the intricate layout to the structure – going back and fourth through time to show his growth as a person and evolution into becoming Batman simultaneously, and what a cast! Neeson, Watanabe, Oldman, Murphy, and Bale was as pleasant a surprise as Nolan.

CASTOR: I know! And the Joker is going to be in the next one! I’m so excited. I mean this one wasn’t perfect-

P: Yeah, the camera was too close and shaky during some of the fight sequences, but that’s an endemic problem for action movies these days. And that scene where Batman’s holding the guy upside down and threatening him getting a little over the top. Look, we know you’re Batman and you’re hardcore. You don’t need to growl at people. Meh, I’m sure they won’t do that in the next one.

C: What? I was talking about calling him Ra’s al Ghul. It’s pronounced “Raysh.” “RAYSH!”

P: Well, “ra’s al ghul” is Arabic for “the demon’s head” and “rass,” the way they say it in the movie is the Arabic pronunciation and the character was an Arab in the comics so… hey, come to think of it why do they have a Japanese guy in Tibet with an Arabic name?

C: The animated series called him “Raysh.” Dennis O’neil created the character and he pronounces it “Raysh!”

P: Whatever, we’re nitpicking. This was a great film. I can’t wait to see what they do with the next one.

C: Oh man it’s going to be so great!

[Three years of nerdly fawning, discussion, and praise ensue, and then….]

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

C: Holy sh-

P: Yeah, that was okay.

[Castor glares daggers at Pollux.]

P: …what?

C: This was incredible! It was mind blowing! So much better than Batman Begins. It was one of the best sequels, best movies ever! What could you possibly complain about?!

P: Whoa, ease up there, fanboy. It was a good action movie. It had the same sort of atmosphere of Batman Begins that I loved but the whole movie was paced and edited like an action sequence. Any sort of emotional impact that some of the scenes could have had just get glossed over because it races from one scene to the next. Not to mention all the weird little things that just didn’t make any sense.

C: Oh come on! This was so incredibly written. What didn’t make sense?

P: Okay, how about the fact that Alfred is the prim and proper English butler who has served the Wayne family for generations except for the summer he took off to be a mercenary in Burma?

C: You’re just looking for things to complain about. You can’t deny the amazing performance Ledger gave as the Joker.

P: Oh yeah, he was the saving grace for a lot of the movie. I love how of all the people to play the Joker over the years they’ve each had such a completely unique take on the character. …huh, look Heath Ledger died. That’s a pity.

C: He died? …THIS WAS THE GREATEST MOVIE VILLAIN THAT EVER WAS OR EVER WILL BE!

P: Speaking of villains why was so much of the movie spent on how Batman won’t go all the way and kill the Joker if it comes down to that – the Joker who has murdered who knows how many people, blown up buildings, and been terrorizing the entire city – but he murders Two Face without a second thought?

C: He was pointing a gun at Gordon’s kids!

P: So he couldn’t push the boy out of the way? Or knock the gun out of his hand like he does to criminals all the time? Or just jump in front of the kid since he’s wearing body armor that already stopped a bullet when Two Face was aiming right at him? Come to think of it why was Dent only Two Face for the last 20 minutes of the movie?

C: You’re the one always harping on about the importance of character development. They had to establish who he was to show his tragic descent into becoming Two Face.

P: Yeah, they keep going on and on about how perfect and valiant he is. That he can clean up Gotham and do a better job of fighting crime than Batman without having to be a vigilante. (And we always say “face” twice when talking about him and calling him the “white knight” because Batman is the “dark knight.” Aren’t we a clever little movie.) Then his girlfriend dies so he decides to become a mass murderer?

C: But there was just so much more to this one. May the Movie Gods forgive me for uttering this horribly overused word, but it was EPIC! Batman Begins never had any jaw dropping moments like the truck flipping scene.

P: What was up with that, anyway? Batman hooks a cable onto the front of the truck, drives under it, sprays it with his trusty Bat-Anti-Physics spray and it magically flips over head first.

C: Come on, that was incredible! You can’t tell me you weren’t shocked when you saw that.

P: Yeah I was. Shocked. Surprised. Confused. He didn’t even attach the other end of the cable to anything. I thought Nolan’s whole thing with his take on Batman was “realism.”

C: It was awesome!

P: But it didn’t make any sense! So if in the next movie Batman tosses a stick at the Riddler and his head comes flying off like he whacked him with a broadsword you’ll start cheering in the theater?

C: …Yes.

P: Okay, that would actually be kind of neat, but you know what I mean. Anyway, all I’m saying is that this wasn’t as good a film as Batman Begins. It was an okay action flick with a great antagonist but that’s about it. Oh, but you want to know something else that really bothered me about this one?

C: Not really.

P: Here’s a hint.  **ahem** …WHERE ARE THEY?!!

C: Gah! Don’t do that!

[Four years of ridiculing Christian Bale’s vocal cords, and then….]

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

P: Well that was a steamy pile of-

C: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE!

P: **Defeated sigh** You’re kidding me, right?

C: This was beyond fantastic! Genre transcending!

P: Holy plot holes, Batman. Where should I even start?

C: How about with how you insist on over analyzing everything and can’t just enjoy a movie?

P: If you want to start on a positive note then it is impressive that Nolan managed to make a movie even worse than Inception. Had to be really embarrassing for Caine, Hardy, Gordon-Levitt, Murphy, and Cotillard though. Sort of like bumping into someone you know at the VD clinic.

C: What are you talking about? The cast was remarkable! Bane was such a powerful chilling villain.

P: You mean the guy who sounded like he was doing a Prof. Farnsworth impression with a bucket on his head? “Wif no shurwivors!!” What’s so intimidating about a villain who talks like a kitten poster?

C: Bane was the apex, what all of this was leading to. RAYSH al Ghul was the beginning, the ideals which Wayne opposed, everything the lead him to becoming Batman. Then the Joker was the embodiment of chaos, all the madness that was inevitable once someone like the Batman came into being. Now Bane is Batman’s only equal, the strength, cunning, planning, everything that Batman is turned against him!

P: You know who Batman’s most dangerous enemy is? A therapist. One good session of grief counseling and his entire reason to exist will vanish.

C: Bane was the mastermind behind all of this!

P: Right, and remind me what his plan is again.

C: He was finishing what the League of Shadows started in the first movie!

P: Don’t they open the film by saying that all the crime, mob activity, and corruption that was the whole reason they wanted to destroy Gotham is gone? And seriously, what was his plan? First he isolates Gotham, which he can do because apparently Gotham is an island now.

C: They set that up in the first movie!

P: Right, “the narrows,” which they established was the small crime riddled slum that Batman was trying to clean up. Now the entire city – banks, mansions, football stadium, hospitals, everything – is all on that island. Anyway, so he cuts off the city from the rest of the world, makes Bruce Wayne go broke for some reason, releases all the criminals from prison except the Joker who apparently doesn’t exist now-

C: Are you so determined to not like a fun movie that you’re going to attack Nolan’s leaving out mention of the Joker out of respect to Ledger?

P: How is that respectful? This is a mentality that’s become more and more prevalent in recent years. It started with 9/11 after which the media started removing the twin towers from everything. It’d be like if when you were in your 40’s your parents died so you start saying you grew up an orphan. And on the subject of orphans, Robin knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman because the first time he saw Wayne – a man whom he already knew grew up without parents – he could see by looking in his eyes that he grew up without parents? Was this something like the last Harry Potter movies where the screenwriters went out, got drunk, left the script under a table in the bar and had to rewrite the entire movie at the last minute?

C: Want to get back to Bane now, Captain Tangent, or would you like to keep taunting orphans and 9/11 victims?

P: Right, so Bane releases all the criminals that the League of Shadows wanted to get rid of in the first place, arms them with assault rifles, and lets them terrorize the city so he can blow it all up (himself, the woman he loves, and all his henchmen included) with a nuke. Your master tactician hard at work.

C: It was to torture him! He wanted Batman to suffer seeing everything he worked for tear itself apart. That’s why he had him watch the TV in prison.

P: Yes, the “hell on Earth” prison in Fakeistan so mysterious it’s existence is only a legend but sits so close to a city you’d be able to see in the windows of the buildings the second Wayne climbs out of it. Considerate of Bane to put him in a prison with a personal physician and its own built in escape route by the way. At least all the prison scenes gave us another 50 chances to hear the “ketchup ketchup fish fish” chanting because the 90 times prior to that weren’t nearly enough. You know how Zimmer only used the “Batman theme” in Dark Knight twice because he said he didn’t want to have a catchy tune people would leave the theater humming? So glad he changed his mind on that because hearing “KETCHUP KETCHUP FISH FISH” every time Bane came on screen never got annoying at all.

C: THEY WERE NOT SAYING KETCHUP FISH!!

P: And where did Bane get these legions of devout adoring followers? All his brilliant plans just amount to blowing stuff up and his masterful combat skills consist of swinging his arms around like an eight-year-old throwing a dodge ball. But enough about Bane. Let’s talk Catwoman.

C: I am so glad Hathaway didn’t ruin the movie. Man was I worried when she was cast.

P: She gave what would have been the one interesting performance in the whole movie. Would have been nice if there was any point to have her in it. Another wonderful filmmaking innovation from Nolan in recent years: never show with one scene what you could say with long protracted speeches and half a dozen extra characters. It gets so needlessly convoluted that almost every scene she’s in the bulk of the time is spent with other characters rambling off justifications for her to even be there. If they’d just given her a prominent role and let her have the breathing room to act I think it would have been just as memorable performance as Ledger’s Joker. …even thought the writers thought so little of the character that she’s the only person in the whole movie dim enough to not know Wayne is Batman. Come to think of it did they ever even refer to her as “Catwoman?”

C: Get over it. What, are you going to complain that they called it “the Bat” instead of “the Batwing” too?

P: Actually-

C: Dude.

P: Fine, you want to stick to story points? How about the fact that the entire second and third acts of Dark Knight were devoted to trying to find out who Batman really was but in Dark Knight Rises everyone already knows and doesn’t seem to care.

C: Not everyone knew.

P: Gordon, Robin, Bane, Talia/Miranda, but you’re right not everyone knew. All the people who had it handed to them on a silver platter like Catwoman and the police whose job it’s been for the past eight years to figure it out would have had an easier time solving a Rubik’s Cube with oven mitts on.

C: Why do you have to pick everything apart? If you want to overanalyze every last shot of a movie go watch a von Trier film or something. It’s just a simple fun action movie. What’s so wrong with that?

P: There isn’t anything wrong with just pure entertainment flicks but Nolan’s whole intent with Batman, which he carried out so beautifully in the first film, was delving into a truly realistic depiction of a concept as operatic as a superhero, an idea which the Batman title is perfectly suited for. Now everything is goofy, implausible, ridiculously over the top as ever but it still maintains the pretention of being “realistic.” Except now in place of sincere and well-developed characters and plausibility we get Bush quotes and pseudo-political ramblings. It’s like all the 9/11 references in Transformers 3 or the abortion talk in Twilight; as if shoehorning in pathetically trivialized versions of actual social issues will somehow legitimize works that are so inherently silly.

C: What was so ridiculous about this movie?

P: Bane, someone who was so horribly beaten and poorly healed that he needs to be constantly fed painkillers through a facemask, punching through cement walls. One man dangling a string through a sewer grate providing enough food, water, shaving supplies, and laundry detergent to supply hundreds of people trapped underground for months. Gordon being bedridden and hospitalized for months because he fell in the sewer but then getting up and being perfectly fine when it’s narratively convenient. Batman harping on and on about how he won’t take anyone’s life when he’s already killed dozens of people-

C: ONE! One person. He killed Two Face to save Gordon’s kid.

P: Yeah, Two Face, Ra’s al Ghul-

C: He didn’t kill al Ghul. He just left him on the train and-

P: PASSIVE GUILT! Jigoku!

C: Stick to movies more than five people have seen, please.

P: As I was saying: he’s killed Dent, al Ghul, Watanabe, and all the people trapped in al Ghul/Watanabe’s house when he burned it down. Plus no one seems to care about the murders of the police that he took the blame for to protect Dent’s memory, which was the whole point of the finale of Dark Knight. Everyone thinks he’s just taking the blame for murdering Dent. Of course he’s taking the blame for that! He threw him out a window!

C: Look, the simple fact of the matter is that this was an action movie and provided exactly what action movies should: ACTION! It was fast, exciting, and just fun, and – brace your pretentious brain for this one – that’s what most people go to the movies for! They don’t want to spend their little free time on the weekend away from their tiring, frustrating jobs going to see some depressing drek that you need a masters in ancient literature to understand.

P: And there is nothing wrong with that. But if you want to call something “pretentious” aim it at a silly action flick with more plot holes and goofy characters than a fourteen-year-old’s fan fiction that forces in speeches about morality and politics every third scene, and still claims to be a paragon of “realism” when a billionaire who dresses like a rodent gets into screaming matches with a body builder wearing vacuum cleaner spare parts on his face.

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