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Tomas Gallucci

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Thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises [Aug. 1st, 2012|06:58 am]
Tomas Gallucci
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The trailers didn't excite me.

I'm not a comic book kind of guy, so I didn't know who Bane was and the trailers didn't make me care to get to know him.

Again, not knowing the story line caused me not to know who or what Catwoman is. From the trailer that I saw most often, the best I could figure is that she was some kind of Occupy archetype because of the way she went on about Bruce Wayne having so much and the rest having so little.

There just wasn't anything in the trailers to give me a reason to go to the theater, especially when compared to The Dark Knight trailers. Seeing the Joker for the first time, hearing that maniacal cackle, the association my brain made with the Joker clapping his hands and flipping a tractor trailer truck thanks to slick editing–those were reasons to go to the theater. On opening night. On a flat IMAX screen. Two hours away. In Nashville.

I had already skipped what was until The Dark Knight Rises the biggest film so far of the year–The Avengers. I couldn't get excited by that film either. The more I thought about it, the more I said, Hey wait a minute, don't you remember swearing to trust Nolan?

And of course, I did. Recall that I didn't go see Batman Begins in the theater because I thought it was just another cheesy piece of shit film made by committee, but that a good friend of mine convinced me to watch the film with him and we spent hours afterward talking about the writing behind the film. I had nothing by high praise for The Prestige but ehowton thought it was C-rate studio competition. Now it's true that I'm not a big fan of Insomnia. I couldn't get into Inception, partly because of the bad taste that Ellen Page left in my mouth after she ran hers.

Then there was the incessant mocking when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Oh, how I scorned that decision! Surely it was a joke to get people talking about the film, right? And boy was I wrong. So wrong.

And while I've only ever seen Memeto and The Following once each and thought they were a re-telling of the same story, I was impressed with Nolan's creativity both as a filmmaker and storyteller. For instance, when Nolan was making The Following, he was employed at a film processing plant. He would save a portion of his paycheck knowing exactly the length of film that would buy and in turn the run time of that film. The Following was a story written in such a way that it didn't have to be continuous. Thus, if a weekend shoot got canceled at the last minute, it was no big deal that the "set" had changed three weeks later. In fact, the more changes, the better–to a point.

With a thumbs up on five out of seven films, I decided it was time to trust Chris Nolan. Of course, it helped that there is now an IMAX theater in my fair city. (Although I questioned if it was as large as IMAX theaters are supposed to be because I wasn't wowed with the screen size when I walked into that particular theater. That could be the case that the other IMAX theaters I've been to don't put a lot of distance between you and the screen–those theaters are designed to make the screen be the largest thing in the room for effect.) And the fact that I could schedule a viewing on Saturday morning so I didn't have to disrupt work and sleep schedules, I decided to take the plunge.

Too much frontloaded exposition…kinda like this review
The film gets off to a slow, offbeat start. Quite frankly, there was too much exposition for my taste. Many times I was bored and found my thoughts wandering. A thought I did have sitting in the theater was that for a drama/action film, the beginning of this film didn't seem to have much of either. For instance, I thought that the opening scene on the plane in Rises had less action than the parking garage shoot out that kicked off The Dark Knight.

Masked men and their unintelligent voices
I couldn't understand Bane's dialog on the plane. I caught somewhere between fifty and seventy-five percent harking to a rumor that was circulating on the internet claiming that Nolan had been at odds with Warner Bros. over the Batman voice and Bane being "unintelligent" to borrow a phrase from The Eagle Has Landed. Allegedly Nolan said he wasn't going to re-record any of the dialog. Whether there was any re-recording or not, I don't know. I found Bane's dialog to be hit or miss with enough misses to feel like I didn't get my money's worth.

The Batman voice was ok in this film.

In what was the most climatic scene, Nolan parodies himself. Remember this:




Yeah, well to go along with the rumor of dialog problems, towards the end of the film, Batman flips out on Bane and makes the scene with the Joker look tame.

The Catwoman catastrophe
Catwoman's character had an interesting dynamic: on the one hand, she was out for herself. In a strange way, through her thievery, she was acting as a capitalist: she had a set of skills she was capitalizing on in the hopes of making a profit. On the other hand, try as she might to convince herself and others otherwise, she wasn't some cold-hearted bitch. This is evident in the fact that while she initially wanted Bruce Wayne's money, she also wanted Bruce Wayne.

The problem was that either her character or Anne Hathaway had more internal conflict to deal with, and, as such, came across all over the dynamic range. Some have criticized Hatheway's performance because of this but it's difficult to tell if the problem is with her acting or the material she was given to work with. My guess is that it's a bit of both.

Political propaganda or straight from the source material?
I was shocked by the scene in which commissioner Gordon decried the fact that he was not being given due process. I would think that the concept of due process would be lost on liberals–particularly the Occupy crowd. And really, the lack of due process is the ends of the Occupy movement. The occupy movement, after all is anarchy.

Perhaps that bears explaining.

While I've already went political with this review, I don't wish to take what's left of a review and turn this whole piece into a political diatribe. To that end, I won't rehash what has already been discussed by melvin_udall.

I do, however, wish to make that point that this video makes: that anarchy–that is to say, no government–always ends in dictatorship and dictatorships always end in anarchy.

There's a saying in Latin, which reads something like, "When in war, the law ceases to exist." A more modern phrasing would be "All is fair in love and war." To that end, when in war, partisanship is all that matters. It's Us vs. Them. If you're not one of Us, you're one of Them. If you're one of Them, you're evil and have no rights. Said differently, "in war, all that exists is a vacillation between dictatorship and anarchy with democracy hiding the extremes."

So when Cillian Murphy (a Nolan favorite) is acting judge in the Sophie Scholl-like proceedings, it's not at all absurd that the proceedings weren't trials, they were sentencing hearings. I'm sure that there were many in the Occupy Movement who, in that moment of the film, vicariously held their own sentencing hearings for those they thought were the scum of the earth.

Ergo, it should follow that when Commissioner Gordon made his comment about Due Process not existing or being afforded, those who agreed with the premise of the hearings must have found the concept foreign, something to be ignored, attacked or overlooked, but definitely not something that should be given any consideration.

And while, in a later scene, the cops stand up to Bane and his thugs (yannow, the way that Americans used to stand up to thuggery even when caped in terrorism), to Occupiers, the thought process must have been "yeah, is the 99% rising up!" the fact of the matter is that the police were ultimately putting the kabash on the Occupy movement has done and would like to do, namely riot, loot and otherwise disrupt polite society.

So while it's true that the film is a product of its time and therefore was influenced by current events, upon reflection it becomes clear that this isn't a piece of propaganda: the source material must have been similarly construed. An interesting corollary: even if Nolan et. al. set out to make a film that was in agreement with the Occupy crowd, Batman as a comic book character is anti-Occupy. Ergo, the rioting mob destroying wealth loses in the end and law and order is restored.

And that had to be the hardest scene for Occupiers to sit through: the destruction of Wayne Manor. Sure, it's true that they got to loot the place, but what's left after looting? Nothing but shambles. And if you're rioting because you feel you're one of the have nots, what do you have to look forward to when you go home after a day of rioting? More have not. Only now, since you've destroyed wealth instead of helping create it, you're doomed to wallow in your misery for much longer.

Grab bag
The most rememberable experience of this film was how oppressive the film became after Bane's story finally got going. The more you learned about Bane and his plan, the more dystopian the film became. It wasn't just bleak, it was pitch black dark.

It's worth pointing out that while both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight dealt with Batman's rule of never killing anyone, Batman's line to Catwoman urging her to consider abiding by this rule comes off as an afterthought. It's as if Batman/Bruce Wayne doesn't care if people die, so long as order is restored. I can't quite put my finger on it; it's a sort of x-factor that takes a core principle of Batman and casts it aside to get lost in the shuffle.

For those of you wondering, no Bane's mask never does come off, though it comes close. So that trope doesn't play out fully.

I will say, however, that Marion Cotillard is the one to watch in this film. Films I know her from are Inception (but she didn't have much of a role in that film), Big Fish (again, more of a supporting role), Public Enemies, but the role I always think of her in is Fanny Chenal in A Good Year. Note that, in all of the films I have listed, she plays the role of a wife or girlfriend. While I don't intend to spoil the plot, I will say that there were two major twists at the end of this film–one which involved her character, the other involving Bane–that I did not see coming. And while I'm sure that Cotillard always had it in her because she is a human being and an actress, I was pleased to see her embody viscousness, something I had never seen her in her previous work. I've always thought she was an actress to watch, but now I'm doubly interested in her upcoming work.

Christopher Nolan has said that this would be his last installment in the Batman franchise. While I hope that is not so, I will say that the film left an out for continuation of the story line.

There were a lot of melodramatic moments early in the film that were setting up for later, particularly Alfred's speech about expecting to see Bruce Wayne sitting at a cafe he went to on holiday or how Alfred didn't want to bury any more of the Wayne family.

I choked up many times during the film. Nolan definitely hit an emotional nerve with this film, even early on during all of the aforementioned laborious exposition. But because I didn't want to get caught up in the ethos of what I thought would be a political film whose message I disagreed with, I resisted tears. If, on a second viewing, I can reach the same emotional fervency, I won't hold back.

Parting Remarks
Would I go see this film again? Absolutely. Both for the entertainment value and to re-evaluate the film from the perspective of the film itself, not preconceived ideas. I had wanted to see the film twice before writing this review; a second viewing will just have to wait until this weekend.

While I think there's something for every thinking adult in this film, along with enough popcorn munching action and romance for the teens, this is definitely NOT a family film. I cannot adequately describe the oppression the film instills in the viewer. I don't think there is anything visually too violent for children to see–the oppression is psychological–but still, it's not the kind of burden you want to put on young children.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: newmistakes
2012-08-01 12:39 pm (UTC)
I should have known your take would be very unlike any of the other reviews I've read of this film. I've yet to see it but when I do I might appreciate a few more things about it now than I would have. Usually I go for the popcorn munching action and romance :P
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[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-08-02 02:16 am (UTC)
Yannow, I thought I had you trained before you disappeared on me. Of course I'm going to be different from everyone else out there. Why else would I be on your FL?

I'm glad that I can highlight things you wouldn't have noticed before. That makes writing this review worthwhile.
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[User Picture]From: newmistakes
2012-08-02 11:20 am (UTC)
Trained??! TRAINED????!!!! You are definitely different, but you’re on my friends list for a much more simple reason than that – I just like you. And if you suddenly thought what everyone else thinks I’d be baffled, but I’d still like you :)
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[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-08-02 11:55 am (UTC)
I just like you
Awwwwe! I usually pay tens of dollars to hear that. *muah*
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[User Picture]From: newmistakes
2012-08-02 12:20 pm (UTC)
Haha I thought you'd be getting more bang for your buck!
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[User Picture]From: gradumacated
2012-08-01 03:23 pm (UTC)

TDKR

Given everything that has gone on, I'm not surprised you took a political look at this movie, and I'm glad that you went to go see it. Texas and I are going to go see it soon, hopefully.

I always thought that the political take on it was more than a little ridiculous, and really a great stretch to even try and make it stick. I think it was just coincidence that the villain of the movie (who would have been cast/written months before) was comparable to the name of the capitalist venture group that Romney was a part of.

It sounds like it would be a decent movie, and I've also heard that it can be a little slow to get going - like the Avengers, really. That's worth a whirl too, at least come September when it comes out on DVD.

The whole tenor of the Nolan Batman trilogy has been darkness and fear, so it's not too surprising to hear that he's now focusing on oppression.

Nice review!
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[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-08-02 02:25 am (UTC)

Re: TDKR

I had been looking at this film politically ever since I saw the first trailer. I am, however, curious to know what specifically you were referring to when you wrote this:

I always thought that the political take on it was more than a little ridiculous, and really a great stretch to even try and make it stick.

Do you mean my political take on the film? That would make for an interesting discussion between friends. Speaking of, did you see my comment on your Xanga? I agreed with Ron Paul 95% of the time. Shocker!

Rush should have kept his mouth shut about the Bane/Bain thing, though I must admin that the thought crossed my mind. Of course, the Bane character comes directly from the comic books, so there's no way that the association could have been planned. On the other hand, if you are skilled in the art of subliminal messaging (and if you call yourself a filmmaker and do not possess this skill, you need to quit calling yourself a filmmaker) then it would be possible to create some subliminal messaging by tying a character to some political opponent. Exhibit A

It sounds like it would be a decent movie
It was

it can be a little slow to get going
It was

The whole tenor of the Nolan Batman trilogy has been darkness and fear
The other two films have nothing on this one.
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[User Picture]From: darkest_writer
2012-08-01 03:51 pm (UTC)
Yay! you not only went to see it, but you wrote about it too!!
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[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-08-02 02:17 am (UTC)
2215 words, to be exact.
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