Third time’s the charm

Have you heard that there’s a new Batman movie out? In other words, did you not grow up in an isolated foreign hell-hole prison? Yes, it’s the hugely hyped, long awaited, and greatly reviewed…The Dark Knight Rises.

Seriously, everyone has an opinion on this film. If they don’t now, they will soon. I can’t imagine that too many people out there won’t end up seeing this movie between it’s theatrical debut and it’s arrival on DVD and Blu-Ray, not to mention spout their feelings on how ‘amazing’ or ‘disappointing’ it is. So, why bother reviewing it? Well, it’s cause I’m bored and opinionated.

Where to start? Well, how about with two of the new central characters?

I was really excited to see how Anne Hathaway would play Catwoman. It may sound obvious, but it’s important for Catwoman to be a perfect blend of dangerous and sexy. She’s a strong tease…much like every woman i’ve ever been attracted to, urgh. This makes her, on some weird level, an important character to me. I wanted to see her portrayed right.

Anne made a valiant attempt at it, but in the end I wasn’t sufficiently impressed. Her introduction was a nice witty one and I liked the way she manipulated the emotional reactions of others to her advantage, but beyond that she came across as a very typical ‘bad girl with a secret heart of gold’. Not terrible, but not wonderful either…

…and who could blame her? The best Catwoman performance has already come and gone with Michelle Pfeiffer. Come up on stage Ms. Pfeiffer and collect your Oscar! Batman Returns remains as the best Batman film largely because of your formidable portrayal of Selina Kyle. It was erotic, baiting, and unpredictable – exactly the way it needed to be. I’m convinced that it will forever be unbeaten.

Here it’s the exact opposite.

Bane was done a serious injustice in 1998’s Batman & Robin. He was played by a wrestler for christ’s sake, uttering grunting noises and single words. They treated the character like a buffoon, a mindless thug with endless strength, who did nothing but follow orders. In the comics he’s a mastermind as well as a considerable physical threat to Batman.

Above all he’s a tragic character, born in a prison and doomed to serve out his fathers life sentence. This is what The Dark Knight Rises got right! Bane has a sad history, having lived through the most excruciating hardships, and it only serves to make him a more ferocious antagonist. Oh, and also…

Bane is fucking scary in this film! With Heath Ledger’s Joker there was a definite sense of conniving irrationality, which served to ratchet up the fear of what he might do at any given moment. Bane, however, is just a towering menace. He looms large around every other character and his presence is instantly felt in a room. The voice, the accent, and the rhetoric he exercises gives you the exact opposite of the Joker. He’s calculated and precise, meaning that every outcome has been planned from the get-go and you know it. Tom Hardy nailed this one!

Alright, that’s it for the fresh new faces. There are of course a lot of new characters, not just Bane and Catwoman, but frankly they’re too plain and spoiler-ish at the same time for me to go into detail about them. However, speaking of characters, it’s a good time for me to bring up my first big narrative complaint – there are too many characters! There’s no need to introduce so many new people when you’re doing the final act of a trilogy. Cut down on some of the players, tighten it up, and the movie would improve drastically.

Alright, so as with every Nolan film, there’s a lot of good punctuated with some bad. None of the Christopher Nolan films I’ve seen, besides Memento, has been perfect. This one fits that rule like a glove, right in the middle it begins to suffer.  It has basic plot holes and pacing issues.

When the movie begins it blows you away with an outrageous stunt, made all the better by the fact that it’s a giant practical effect instead of CGI. The introductions of both Bane and Catwoman are fun in their own way, kicking it off to a good start. Then – it begins to drag. A lot of story and character points dictated through a lot of exposition makes it almost grind to a hault, but then it’s saved by an incredible scene which is by far my favourite. Let’s just call it the ‘break’ scene, hopefully that won’t give away too much for those who haven’t seen it. It’s possibly my favourite Batman scene in the whole trilogy and gives the ‘truck’ scene from The Dark Knight a run for it’s money. Then…

…it drags again. This time it drags badly. I can’t go into details, but the story begins to split apart into individual character arcs. The problem is that this entire section is dedicated to pure character building, and that results in bad pacing. It doesn’t make sense on an entertainment level, but even more importantly – it doesn’t make sense on a plot level. There are logical issues here which – ugh, whatever. Avert your eyes from the red if you haven’t seen the movie yet:

Ok, the spoiler are over, relax. Basically, it dips a lot in the middle. The times when the momentum steps away in order to give room for the character’s developments is when it falls down. The trick is to keep these two things going at the same time, which Batman Begins did pretty well and The Dark Knight did fantastically up to a point – before ruining everything with one scene. Here is a graph to help illustrate my feeling on this matter:

The last act, on the other hand, is truly spectacular. It brings all the themes of pain, anger, and of course “rising” together into one beautifully poignant ending. To be honest, I’m not sure the trilogy could have concluded in a better way than it did. It was, for lack of a better word, perfect.

So, in the end I liked it. I really liked it! It has certain huge problems at times, but does push things to an extraordinarly blissful level at others. Overall I’d say that it’s tied with Batman Begins, making these two the great “Batman bookends”.

So now that the trilogy is complete, I’d like to put up another graph to once and for all explain to the world my feelings on the entire thing. I do not hate the Nolan Batman films, I just have a fluctuating relationship with them. Here you go:

– Rant Over!

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