Saturday, July 28, 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - Love, Hate, and one incredible journey.

Where to even begin? This film is incredible. I'd say it lived up to its hype, and gave fans of all descriptions at least some of what they wanted. But here's one thing I wanted to get out there immediately: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN MADE A DECENT FIGHT SCENE! I can't begin to tell you how surprising this fact is, but it is one of pure pleasantries. This movie is everything a batman fan needs, and though it isn't perfect, its one I doubt anyone will soon forget. Most people are raving about this film, and whilst they're a little over the top, they're not entirely wrong.

This film is part of a trilogy. A somewhat unintentional trilogy but a trilogy none the less. Christopher Nolan's vision of the Dark Knight doesn't need the previous films to be brilliant, though I'm not convinced it was done on purpose. I left the cinema feeling that knowledge of the two previous films wasn't a pre-requisite in the slightest. The plot for this film is a little over the top and feels a bit like Tom Clancy decided to poke his nose in. Sure, it's a simple formula - super villain (in this case, Bane) comes around and threatens to ruin the whole city. The way this was done though had elements of a Batman film that didn't belong there at all. The CIA, the US Special Forces? Too much. I also feel like the way Gotham was physically held hostage was just over the top. That whole plot just felt like they were trying to hard. As a result, the suspension of disbelief wavered and it became pretty easy to see where things were going in a few places. As for the rest of it, hold on to your seat because this is a thrill ride like no other. Yes, the plot is over the top and a bit silly, but ultimately you won't care. Each new twist and beautifully shot action sequence will send adrenaline cascading through your veins and leave your heart fluttering in your chest. It's that exciting.

What at first disappointed me was how slow this film started, though not for lack of trying. There are moments of comic relief that just feel entirely forced. Furthermore, many of these moments just felt like they were in the way of all the cool stuff going on. A lot of things are entirely disregarded after being shown as significant. A moment where Bruce Wayne is told he has some crazy issues with his joints is then tossed aside entirely after his soul searching act is completed comes to mind. He then manages to get a passport, cross an ocean, and save the city in less than 24 hours with nothing more than a can of beans and some cloth. It seemed that some of the plot devices were not really thought through, but ultimately it's a nitpick because its still exciting and entertaining. If you want to be super critical and analyze every little thing it would be very possible to come up with a lot of questions regarding the plot, but hey - he's Batman.

You remember when I said earlier that Nolan made a decent fight scene? Well despite you scoffing and dismissing this insane notion - it's true. Not all of them are good, but the ones that are good are fantastic. The first bout involving Anne Hathaway's Catwoman had me rolling my eyes, and when Christian Bale joined her as the Dark Knight for a roof top scrap, I had all but given up hope. Enter Tom Hardy as Bane, enter awesome. You'll feel crippled after a grueling struggle between Hardy and Bale, the punishment feels almost tangible. Nolan somehow managed to not have shaky cameras, ultra-fast and blurry editing, or cut away shots. All of it added to the barely contained violence that Bane's character so mercilessly radiates. And if you think the fight sequences are good, the other action sequences will leave you attempting to shut your graping jaw. There is zero lack of excitement when things get heated on the screen, the only thing that takes it away is things that don't feel like they belong in a Batman movie - and yes, I'm talking about the world's worst homing missiles fired at the Bat-UFO. Some parts left me with the impression that Michael Bay had directed this film instead of Christopher Nolan. Does that make it less entertaining? No. Just a bit silly.

The characters in this film are many. Some are old, many are new. Overall though, the way most of them play out is fantastic. One thing I've loved over the scale of all three films is watching Gary Oldman's portrayal of Commissioner Gordon. The first time you see him in Batman Begins, he looks like a scrawny suit who knows nothing but a desk job. And throughout the trilogy he pleasantly surprises you, each and every time I think he's had it, he shows he's a strong, dedicated man of the law. Hearing him tell a rookie to check his corners made me grin from ear to ear. Indeed there is no shortage of great acting in this film, Michael Cane again reminds us why he is a Sir and one of the most respect actors in the world. The emotional bond between Alfred and Bruce Wayne is very strong(especially if you saw the previous films), and I was saddened to see it downplayed. Cane's role in the film almost felt like a glorified cameo, but he doesn't disappointed. Whilst the acting throughout the film is fantastic, there are a few exceptions. Matthew Modine's performance felt...cheesy. It was also cheapened by some ridiculous moments in the film's first and final acts that will leave you shaking your head and glad that the obviously coming moment is finally out of the way.

While the character of Foley was a bit redundant, the character of Bane was not. Bane is menacing, violent, and pure evil. It's just a shame your average grandmother manages to convey more malice with her voice. I made it a point to look, and indeed I could see the jaw moving behind the mask. Hardy was definitely speaking his lines. Unfortunately, you have to make a very conscious effort to notice, and even if you do notice the voice of the character is clearly a voice over and not a good one. For all his muscles, all the power his presence commands, and all his evil - if you closed your eyes you'd think he was just a crotchety old man who had a hip-ache and was waiting for a hot beverage from his nursing home staff. Bane's voice is so bad that it not only warrants comment but takes away from the character in a very significant way. It was almost laughable, I'd go so far as to say that his voice should be re-done for the DVD/Blu-Ray release.

On the subject of audio - Hanz Zimmer, of course, never fails to deliver. That said, there are degrees of success, and this is not his finest work. Don't get the wrong idea, the huge bombastic themes and heavy percussion will still be ringing in your ears long after you've seen this film. The soundtrack itself is like a sequel to the previous installments. However, I wanted more. The percussion is sometimes overwhelming, and a tiny voice in my mind was reminded of Bear McCreary's (amazing) work on Battlestar Galatica. I wanted more of the big brass moments, the racing strings, and the subtle yet pulse pounding bass and percussion. And there were a few moments where I got what I wanted. The rest of the time I just felt like I was waiting for that big crescendo and triple forte part of the score. Again, Hanz Zimmer took me on a roller coaster ride, and I loved it. I just didn't love it as much as I could have.

And so, the end of a fantastic trilogy of films comes to an end. Not just three movies, but three distinct journeys into the dark heart of Gotham City, three inspired artistic vision of the Dark Knight. Like any journey, its not without trials and tribulations. Unforunately the end of this journey left me scratching my head. The movie is hugely entertaining. It looks great, it (mainly) sounds great, it unfolds into a true spectacle that may leave you requiring a defibrillator to stop your heart from pounding our of your chest. Christopher Nolan's Batman is an incredible creation and I'm sad to see this saga come to a close after only three films. And really, I could have done with more closure - the ending becomes very obvious far to quickly, and don't forget gratuitous scenes involving the word "Robin" to leave it open for a possible spin off or sequel. Ultimately, this is an epic film that was a little disappointing. I love the elements of it, the action, the excitement, the emotion. I hate the feelings of how un-refined it is, the sloppy plot, and the hashed-together feel of it all supposedly ending a trilogy. Bottom line? I'd see it again in a heart beat.

What I loved: A great sense of closure, pulse pounding score, incredible action sequences, and not only one but multiple decent fight scenes from Nolan
What I hated: Absurdly over the top plot, Bane's voice overs, lack of continuity.

Final Rating: 4.5/5 stars, or 90%, or A-. Worth paying full price at peak time, multiple times. 

I welcome your comments on this movie and this review. Please, share this blog if you liked it, and enjoy!