Allow me to mention once more how sorry I am for everyone in Colorado who lost someone or was injured or traumatized by this morning’s tragic events.
I appeared briefly on Midday with Dan Rodricks this afternoon, just to say a few words about my own experience watching The Dark Knight Rises at White Marsh at 3:45am, but otherwise the show was devoted to people’s thoughts on the shooting, as it should have been.
I will return to Midday next Thursday, 7/26, at 1pm, to do the show I was supposed to do today, on Summer 2012 movies.
Before the memory of The Dark Knight Rises fades, I’d like to write down my thoughts here, as I have done for the other films I watched over the past week.
First, though, one more reaction to Tyler Perry. I watched Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds on Thursday, on DVD, and liked it more than Madea’s Witness Protection. I didn’t love it, but I found it harmless enough. The mediocre shot choices bothered me less this time, although the mediocre writing bothered me just as much (especially that unnecessary pure-exposition opening voiceover). The best part of the film was the fact that both Gabrielle Union and Thandie Newton were in it. Both women are actresses of real power and charisma, and I am grateful to Tyler Perry for developing decent roles for them (especially for Thandie). I’ve been reading a lot about Perry and his career this week, and though I do not think he is a good filmmaker, I am very impressed with his stamina and confidence. He is truly a self-made success (well, OK, his fans helped a lot, but he assiduously courted them).
And now – on to the adventures of the Dark Knight …
The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, Director) Grade = B
How I feel about this film can be boiled down to this: the descent is better than the rise. The film has a duration of 2 hours and 45 minutes, and over half of that is the set-up and fall of Bruce Wayne/Batman. I thought that part of the film was brilliantly written and executed. But then the film started to feel rushed and over-edited, as if Nolan was told to keep it under 3 hours, and started cutting important information. As a result, we end up having confused geography and chronology which defuses some of the tension, since we end up spending time wondering how Bruce Wayne got back to Gotham (so quickly and without money), or how people flit effortlessly across the city in no time while the bomb is ticking away. Perhaps Nolan should have divided the film into two separate ones, allowing for better development of the second half.
The positives outweighed the negatives, however, for me, and I am glad I saw it. I enjoyed Anne Hathaway as Cat Woman, and always enjoy Michael Caine and Gary Oldman in everything. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a nice addition to the cast, as was Tom Hardy. I disagree with those critics who disliked Bane’s (Hardy’s) mask, as it creeped me out and really made the character for me (it did, however, make most of his lines unintelligible). Christian Bale was his usual excellent self.
The film could have used slightly less exposition, such as Selena Kyle’s speech to Wayne at a ball, where she spells out the revolution to come. In fact, any time any character (Bane, Gordon, etc.) speechifies, I say lose the speech.
I’m not sure about the politics of the film, nor am I sure that they matter. This is, in fact, typical of most comic books and graphic novels that I have read. They may seem deeply anti-authoritarian or anti-capitalist at first glance, but then they also flirt with fascist themes simultaneously. After all, who is Bruce Wayne but an angry Michael Bloomberg with muscles? And Bloomberg, for me, is a walking contradiction, often seeming libertarian in his approach to some issues (drugs, sexuality) and authoritarian in his approach to others (food, smoking). Love him or hate him, but you can’t easily pin him down.
But if you think about what the film means – or is trying to mean – too much, you may get so frustrated that you’ll hate the film. Nolan uses the visual iconography of terrorism, its villains and its aftermath to say … what exactly? That we are corrupt (whoever “we” might be)? That there is evil in this world? That we all just need a Batman in our lives?
So my advice is to not overthink it, but to go – if you go – and enjoy what Nolan is good at, which is the big sweeping moody comic book vision of a GOOD GUY (compromised though he may be) fighting a BAD GUY. On that level, it works (with the caveat that the first half works better than the second half).
The film has, as of this writing, an 86% rating among all film critics on the Rotten Tomatoes site (and 94% among fans), but just a 76% rating among so-called “top critics.” That means 1 out 4 “top critics” didn’t like the film. I found the negative reviews quite interesting, even if I didn’t share all of the writers’ opinions, so I thought I would post links, below, to a number of them, plus a link to one positive review:
Dana Stevens of Slate (negative) – read her review, as she mentions how Rotten Tomatoes had to shut down comments on the film, as fans were threatening those critics who wrote negative reviews … geez!
and the funniest … Rex Reed of The New York Observer (negative)
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times (positive)
Enjoy your own movie-going. And stay safe out there.