Nerdy Nameless Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises
[OGIE] Dear reader, in a departure from our previous style of review, Andrew and I have decided to let each other make our points all at once… And when I say that, I mean Andrew wrote a massive review, and covered a boatload of stuff before I could get in my two cents, so my portion is going to be after all of his.
VERY IMPORTANT: While not absolutely critical to the move-going experience, THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!!! That being said, you’ve been warned.
[ANDREW]: The delay of this movie review is entirely my fault as I had to go and have a kid the morning Ogie and I were going to go. Inconsiderate…but seeing how adorable he is, I hope you’ll forgive me.
On to the review!!!
As you probably know, The Dark Knight Rises is the epic finale to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. Consistent casting finds Christian Bale reprising the role of the Dark Knight, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. New to the franchise we have Tom Hardy taking on the role of masked brute, Bane, Anne Hathaway portraying Catwoman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing police detective John Blake. Set in Gotham City 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight, a new bad guy, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s police and forces Batman to resurface and protect a city that has branded him an enemy for the supposed murder of DA Harvey Dent.
[ANDREW]: For a piece of cinema, Christopher Nolan doesn’t disappoint with this finale clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes long. He fits action, adventure, character development, explosions, romance, and redemption all into a neat package that fits snugly into a convincing storyline. And not only that, he ties it exceptionally into the previous two movies. That being said, I was sorely disappointed in The Dark Knight Rises as a Batman film.
Where Batman Begins and especially The Dark Knight brought the Batman comics to life, I believe The Dark Knight Rises fell short and with so many golden opportunities to make this installment every bit as good as the other two. We won’t leave it just like that, of course. As the Nerdy Nameless Review, we’ll share with you, friend readers, exactly what did and didn’t sit well with us!
One immediate complaint is the movie title. “The Dark Knight Rises” was the best option? I mean, the redemption elements and the prison sequence talking about “rising” makes sense…but without even being the slightest bit creative, I’m going to do better…Knightfall. That’s not me being clever, that’s the actual name of the comic series where Bane broke Batman. Awesome, right? Our good friend Patrick made the argument that they probably wanted to tie this movie into the success of The Dark Knight. Where that is probably true, this is Christopher Nolan’s finale to his Batman trilogy…he could’ve called it “The Man-Bat Learns to Ride Rainbow Unicorns” and people would’ve still lined up to see it!
I actually loved Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman. Nolan was careful never to use the term “Catwoman” but instead showed newspaper clippings for the “cat burgling” and had her burgling goggles look like cat ears when set back on her head. Not having the cheesy cat references made her much more believable and seemingly competent as a thief. The crazy high-heels didn’t even throw me off, they just seemed to fit with her persona.
One of the most enjoyable portions of the movie was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, John Blake. But then again, I think he’s a great actor and am always excited to see his roles. Blake’s street-smarts and compassion really resonate throughout the film. He’s consistent in a way that none of the other “good guys” are and he becomes a moral compass for the audience throughout the turmoil in the film. He basically calls out everyone else’s messes…Wayne’s apathy, Gordon’s lies, the fear of some of the other police. The only “iffy” part of his character is at the end where it’s revealed what his real first name is. I understand that Nolan was creating a tie-in to “Robin” without ever the possibility of seeing the red costume with the green short-shorts. However, it would’ve been even better to have Blake’s real name be any of the actual Robins’ names…Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne…but again, that was my only issue with this character.
For Tom Hardy’s Bane, I liked almost all of Nolan’s changes alllll the way up until the end. There were changes in post-production to his voice because it was apparently too muffled and difficult to understand. The decision to make him sound like a British mad scientist was interesting…especially since he was born and raised inside of a South American prison…but I’ll let that slide because everything else was really good. True, they ditched the Venom injection that made Bane so beastly strong for a gas pain-reducer. I get Nolan wanting to make it more realistic and a steroid concoction that doubles his size wouldn’t be very possible…but I could’ve suspended my disbelief for a few minutes if he could’ve met in the middle. But again, not a huge deal. The reason why I hated Bane at the end of the movie was because they turned him into a lackey. In the comics, the Knightfall storyline was one of most epic Batman storylines of all time. Bane shows up with a cadre of talented minions and over the course of a few months by releasing the lunatics of Arkham Asylum and coordinating attacks with these madmen, strategically breaks down the Batman until he is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. He does all of this to show his ruthlessness and intellect. Then he faces off against Batman and breaks his back, showing his physical superiority as well. Bane is supposed to be the single most dangerous criminal mastermind/kingpin Batman has ever faced. And all throughout TDKR, he IS that mastermind…until you find out he is simply taking orders from his mentor’s daughter who it looks like he just has a crush on. In a moment, Nolan took this beast of a villain and made him into the same Bane we saw blindly following Poison Ivy around in Batman & Robin (ugh).
Talia herself was a disappointment because her character could’ve had so much more depth than just revenge and following daddy’s orders. Plus, in case you didn’t notice, Marion Cotillard played the EXACT same character in Inception.
My biggest issue with this movie was something that was just hinted at but never said. Batman was “born” in Batman Begins and he battled both Scarecrow and Ra’s Al’Ghul. In The Dark Knight, he defeated The Joker (and Scarecrow again) and Two-Face. And in TDKR, he battled Bane and Talia Al’Ghul. With basically zero time unaccounted for between the three films, that means that though The Caped Crusader fought 73 years worth of villains in the comics, Nolan’s fought a grand total of 6 in the movies (not counting the lackeys or mob bosses, obviously). When you look at that overall…it’s a little pathetic.
That ties into one of my nerdier beefs. Where was the nerd love in this movie? In the first flick, Nolan made mention of Zsasz and showed him briefly before being admitted to Arkham Asylum. Zsasz is a longtime DC villain of Batman’s who is a serial killer that carves a tally mark on his own body for every kill. In the brief time he was shown on screen, you could see tally mark scars all over his body, disappearing under his prison jumpsuit. None of that was explained, but comic book nerds rejoiced that a minor villain had made a cameo appearance! In the courtroom scene where citizens were being tried by convicts, why not throw out some other characters instead of using Scarecrow for the judge? Why not introduce the Honorable Edward Nigma as the judge? Or show self-election posters for Mayor Oswald Cobblepot? Have some reference to Freeze? Or Ivy? Or Harley? Or Hush? Or The Mad Hatter? Or even Calendar Man, fer crying out loud?!?
[OGIE]: … YEAH!
Oh, I actually have to make points now? Okay…
One massive success in my eyes, and one of the points I agree with Andrew on is Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. I will be honest, this is hands down the character in the Batman universe that I despise the most. The different ways they try and weave her in and out of Batman’s life are annoying, and the character herself was always annoying to me. Plus, a device that got used a lot in comics (and actually was incorporated to Batman Begins) was the ability for a given figure with an animal connection having the ability to control that type of animal. It’s obnoxious and adds nothing. Thankfully, nothing about Catwoman in TDKR uses any of those old devices. She doesn’t purr or screech like a cat based on her emotion. She’s not even really referred to as “Catwoman”. She doesn’t use a whip or have claws to scratch people, and shy of one scene where she whispers in Bruce Wayne’s ear, she barely looks cat-like at all (except for what Andrew mentioned). She is cunning, intelligent, and brings a certain appeal to the movie without being over-the-top smutty (I’m looking at you, Megan Fox/other girl from Trasnformers 3!). Even her suit, in comparison to her predecessors is relatively tame. No shiny weird latex, no cleavage. It looks almost like a wet suit or rash guard suit someone would use for MMA training. Is it form-fitting? Yes. But it’s not degrading or insulting. Why am I focusing on this so much? Because it’s nice to see a woman in a superhero movie be strong, intelligent, and not be patronized based on her looks. I really like what Nolan & Hathaway did with this character. For someone who gets typecast a lot, she did an excellent job, and at least for me, afforded me the chance to really focus on all the movie without using sexuality as a distraction, or be so annoying and campy that I erupt into a white-hot rage.
I think the title works for the movie. In my opinion (yeah, I actually spell that out! No SMS nonsense up in here!) it was needed to bring closure to the series. Nolan made it clear this is the last time he would helm a Batman film, and at the end of The Dark Knight, Batman was on the run, hunted like a criminal for the murder of Harvey Dent, and taking the blame for some of the carnage Dent caused after his alter ego, Two Face, assumed control. For this to truly be Gotham’s swan song, for the whole city (a commentary on our own culture) to be redeemed, it’s great hero had to rise. “Rise” becomes a theme laced throughout the film, which clearly was directed towards Batman. The need for him to come back to defend the city he traveled the world to learn how to protect (see Batman Begins) after his eight year exile was necessary. No one else was capable of what he can do for the city and people he came to love. Above all, Bruce Wayne deeply desires to protect those afflicted by fear and intimidation by turning fear against those who spread it. While Bane’s goal was based around liberating the marginalized, he utilized fear; through violence, intimidation, psychology. While it seems that during the siege, those who have not began to take back what they should have, he is really only interested in seeing Gotham’s inevitable downfall. Gotham is his Rome, his Constantinople, his British Empire. Those in power suppressed those who serve, and his endgame is to show the world that this cannot stand. He is the total opposite of The Joker. The Joker sought chaos, Bane seeks to control those who control. Fear is fear, and Batman stands in opposition of fear. The movie tries to show the need for justice to continually rise and rise again over injustice, regardless of the circumstance. This move did just that.
It would have been difficult to try and work in another big name Batman villain into the picture, and using Scarecrow/Crane as a common thread throughout the Nolan series worked well for me. Scarecrow uses literal fear, the thing you fear most, to control. He isn’t cunning enough to run Batman through the ringer like The Joker. He cannot impose himself the way Bane can, and he was not enough of a leader to accomplish what Ra’s Al’Ghul did. If we learned anything from Sam Raimi’s Spiderman movies or from Batman & Robin, if you try and throw in too many villains, the movie suffers.
That’s a lotta bad guys
The truly iconic remaining Batman villains would have been too much for this picture. Truthfully, when I heard rumors that Nolan was looking to tap Johnny Depp as The Riddler and Phillip Seymour Hoffman for the final installment, I got really excited! What great villains for Batman to face, especially if teamed together. When I heard about the change to Bane, I was hesitant, until I remembered some of the great parts of the Knightfall storyline. But if there’s one thing us nerds know, its that we will never get a straight re-telling of our favorite stories from the comics… and that’s a good thing. It’s a movie, it can’t go on forever. Nolan’s near 3 hour picture really does fly by, but to cover all of Knightfall, it would have to be divided between at least two films. You take the parts you can, really emphasize their importance, and then you have to find other ways to tell the story so that the layman, non comic nerd can play along with the rest of us. Watching Bane break Batman’s back was amazing! It looked just like it did in the comic. I loved it. But you couldn’t grab everything and fit it in to the story. There is too much back story to cover before and in between that just wouldn’t translate to film. If we, as nerds, want to continue to watch GOOD comic-based movies, we have to be willing to sacrifice for those who aren’t nerds. We, on our own, can’t support the needed revenue to continue the trend. Other people can have fun at the movies too, nerds. Let’s share our toys. It’s not just our sandbox.
I totally agree about where Bane gets his orders from. A waste of time in a movie that didn’t need the character, and the tie in kind of weakened him some. But Bane was a true force in the picture, and I give Tom Hardy massive props for his work!
All in all, it really was a great movie. In my opinion, it was a pretty close #2 in the series behind The Dark Knight Rises. I hope that someday, when the world is ready, Gotham’s Dark Knight will dawn the cape & cowl again to save the day. Maybe even with a little help from his friends…
But that’s another story all together.
[ANDREW]: Obviously we agreed and disagreed on many points, but the beauty of this movie was that it was a fun outing for both of us (even if one of us had more fun complaining about it after, lol). If you haven’t seen TDKR yet (and you are still reading all these spoilers anyway)…go see it! And don’t forget to comment below what YOU thought!
[ANDREW & OGIE]: Nerds Out!