16 August 2012

Thoughts On: The Dark Knight Rises

This is going up late because I saw The Dark Knight Rises during my August vacation.

Dealing with all the Internet-nuttery first: I’m not surprised Christopher Nolan’s Batman films ignite such vitriolic defense from their admirers.  After all, Batman is the super-hero of choice for aging comic book nerds who insist that the medium’s use of swears, bloody violence and clumsy political metaphors have made it all “deep and important”.  On top of that, Christopher Nolan is rivaled only by David Fincher as the premiere filmmaker for ever-younger film fans in thrall with visual panache and narrative futzing as true “cee-nee-mah”...

Ultimately, the films just aren’t worth all this debate.  They’re disposable fun, much as any other popcorn movie, albeit they're more “concussively emotional” than true emotional, and I find them entertaining primarily in a sensory overload type of way. 

Sure, Nolan flicks usually have some weight to them--or at least the trappings of true weight--so they don’t completely disappear when you take a second hard look at them. 

Beyond that, I cannot say, cause I have yet to revisit one a third time.

To drag out the bad first, once again Nolan has crafted another “haunted protagonist” film.  And while this shouldn’t be too surprising--he has never not done this--it hurts this production, no doubt about it. Batman’s kinda built on being “haunted”, but this is doubling down to the point of kookiness.  In the film, Bruce Wayne, having lost of the love of his life (like Guy Pierce, Hugh Jackman, and Leo DiCaprio, before him) is a walking shell of a man.   He’s so wounded by the death of his beloved Katie Gyllenhal to violent crime that he... uh... cannot go on being Batman.  Which is weird, right?  Loved ones lost to crime was kinda the reason he began beating up muggers until they pooed  themselves in the first place, no?

It really gets in way of the story being told in this one.  Cause when you do a “hero gets bested and tortured and comes back” plot, it hurts the final effect when, y’know, the hero begins the movie pre-bested and pre-tortured.

Other not-so-great stuff: again, the editing (and if you wanted to see Nolan trounced on this score, blogger Jim Emmerson’s The Dark Knight dissection from a while back can’t be beat.)  Ditto the continuity, with a constantly freezing and unfreezing river.  Ditto the plot “huhs?”, even as Nolan's deftness allows us to forgive them.

On the good side, Nolan still likes to slam his movies into your face with his gorgeous combination of crime-film chiaroscuro, audio cacophany, and relentless action editing, his Michael Mann-meets-James-Bond-flash, only with his foot clamped down more heavily on the pedal. 

I wish Nolan were a little more eager about building up to large scale action scenes,   but that’s clearly not his bag.  He likes momentum in his action and plottiness in his plot, and he’s pretty start-and-stop about mixing them.  Hence the by-now standard Nolan progression of talky-talky-talky, then cue the thunderous score and the caffeinated editors. 

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