Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Complicated Rise

Christopher Nolan's Epic Batman-Trilogy Tie-up is a Stunningly Complex–and Confusing–Take on The Hero's Journey.

SPECIAL NOTE: We here at The Boxed Office are saddened and dismayed at the sheer brutality and stunning loss of life and innocence in the wake of the tragic and deadly mass murder in Aurora, Colorado on the opening night of this movie. Our prayers, thoughts and condolences go to everyone affected by this tragic and unnecessary loss of life. As fellow fans, Americans and human beings, we bow our heads and say God-speed to those poor souls taken from us all too soon.


This movie was destined for greatness from the moment the lights got dim. I saw this movie twice, once in IMAX–a necessary effort if you are to absorb this entire movie. Director Christopher Nolan's tragic trilogy comes to a climatic conclusion with one of the most ambitious super hero tales ever told on the big screen. Tying up a powerfully dark and gripping story arc, this movie–while not without some significant flaws–borrows from some the greatest Batman stories ever told. With the rise of Bane and the unveiling of the Talia al Ghul as well as the elusively flat characterization of Catwoman, this movie's rich and complex story line is a fitting conclusion to what has got to be one of the greatest trilogies in this genre–EVER. Pontificator, how say you?

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): They only continuity to speak of is within the trilogy itself since they abandoned coherently following the stories presented in the comic books a long time ago. Now, speaking from that perspective, this film picked right up where the last one left off...making the continuity superb for the story presented, even as there were elements of Knightfall, the Dark Knight Returns...and No Man’s Land story arcs.


All the usual suspects return to reprise their roles and while all do a commendable job I will jump right to my thoughts on the newer characters. Flat out, Bane is terrific. Terrifying, single-focused and intimidating, my only reservation here is that I all but just don't get his motivations. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman? Meh, not a fan. For certain, the beautiful Hathaway's portrayal of the notorious Selina Kyle was decent but given the depth of the villain's schemes, the character was forced, flat and was laughably morose. Miranda tate/Talia al Ghul–good but kind of a shoulder shrug for me as well. What's more, Nolan's story is so huge, it doesn't fit into the 2 hour and 45 minute run-time. Also, Nolan's shooting in three different primary location; Pittsburgh, New York and Chicago, makes this movie hard to identify with. It comes off as an almost completely different Gotham than the first two films.

TP: I can sum this section up in one word... excellent! The casting was great as Christian Bale reprises his role and brings some depth to his character. Tom Hardy was a great choice for Bane and he really delivered a ruthless and lethal presence. Anne Hathaway was the best Catwoman to date, capturing all the qualities of the character without overdoing the “cat” aspect. Michael Caine was the one actor that took his role to another level...and delivered a passionate performance that made Alfred relevant to everything that was Batman. The direction was superb, making 165 minutes simply fly by as if in half the time.


The mark of a great effects-based movie is that the effects are seamlessly part of the experience. Such is the case here. From the wide-angle cityscape shots to the highly stylized dungeon scenes, this just movies looks great. While there a number of notable effects shots throughout the film, the one that stands out the most for me is the gaping maw that swallows up the playing field in the football game as Bane reveals his plan to take over the city. The shots of the hovering flying bat (or bat-copter) are noteworthy as well. Ponty?

TP: Well Vader, this movie not being delivered in 3D will probably effect sales, but I don’t think it diminished from the film at all. I never found myself missing it.... or wishing for it. I was too enthralled with the simplicity and smoothness of the action, which is a testament to the excellent special effects work. There was no new ground broken, but when the film makes everything you’re watching real... then all the old lessons have been perfected.


It is because I am such a fan–of Chris Nolan's vision, the Batman and the super-hero genre–that I am going to appear to be harsh here but it is what I saw. This movies has so many holes, we could rename it, Rename it "The Dark Knight Rises–Through Swiss Cheese".

Again, great movie, but I will give you a handful of what is a list of dozens of questions I have; How can Blake, Miranda and Bane figure out Bruce Wayne was Batman when Gordon couldn't do it in eight years? What city puts 90% of it's police department into the sewers for a "training exercise"? And how are these cops able to survive more than five months with no light, sanitation or proper accommodations? Why doesn't Batman ever go after Selina Kyle? She stole his Mother's Pearls, stole his car, sold him out to Bane who breaks his back and sends to some middle-eastern hell-hole. The audience is expected to piece together the incredible lapses of time in this movie, something audiences have proven consistently unable to do. How is it the reactor could be weaponized in few moments by someone who had NEVER seen it before? After escaping the prison, how did Wayne get back to Gotham from the Middle East when he was flat broke?

Lastly, I loathed the ending. I wanted Bruce's death to be a mystery. A passing, half glance in the crowd. Not Bruce and Selina holding up glasses of wine to an Alfred who just gave Bruce a tearful eulogy just a few days earlier. Christopher Nolan is a far better director than this. Okay, both barrels are now empty, you're up old friend.

TP: So... tell me how you really feel Vader. I will address my take on your questions in the comments section.

This film was a lot more serious than I thought it would be. The best films have elements of comedy, drama and action... usually in equal parts, but that’s just a general model as this film was very heavy on drama and action...taking many opportunities to explore the human condition of love, passion, fear, desperation, hope, tenacity... all intertwined between the clear philosophies of good and evil. There were improvements since the last film...most notably the “Batman” voice of Christian Bale wasn’t nearly as raspy as the last film. The fight sequences were taken more seriously, showing plausible fighting techniques. There really weren’t many detractions for me... except I would have liked to see Batman use more stuff from his utility belt, especially when tasked with facing a wrecking machine such as Bane. Speaking of Bane... simply awesome how he was utilized, and the obvious change to his character made to the film version kept him serious and sinister.


Probably one of the greatest cheese-ball endings ever, though I couldn't help but crack a knowing smile as "Robin" Blake discovers the Bat-cave under Wayne manner (I fully expect he won't be the last since the house is now populated by hundreds of mischievous boys). This vain but likable story development leave the audience to assume an ex-cop will now become the prodigy of the traveling/retired Batman. Okay. I applaud the vain Hollywood flair but no points for originality. I hope that future Batman efforts will embrace many of Nolan's efforts and keep future Batman films (and yes there will be many more!) grounded in mystery, dark purposes and divisive plots. This film certainly still held on to that. 
TP: This was a trilogy... so there will be no direct sequel, but there doesn’t have to be. The film left us with closure for Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle... and Alfred, and left us to wonder about the next chapter... but not enough to leave us yearning to see it. As you said Vader, the ex-cop prodigy angle holds no interest for me. I was content that this was the last film.


ARTH VADER rates The Dark Knight Rises:
Alright, so I probably come off as a hater in this post but I did like this movie–a lot! Plenty of action and loaded with star-power with an over-ambitious story you probably are best NOT to think through too deeply, The Dark Knight Rises is a Batman movie that doesn't disappoint. While not his best, Nolan's trilogy tie-up is fun and undeniably cool. If you are one of the 86 people in North America who has not seen this movie (even after reading all these spoilers!), then go. Now. It's not to be missed in theaters, and in IMAX if you can. With one-eye left open and a whole lot of lingering questions, this true believer shines 8.5 busted blocs into the night sky over Gotham.

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates The Dark Knight Rises: I try not to go into film with great expectations... but with a film like this, it’s hard not to. I was elated that it didn’t disappoint and actually surprised me in many areas. It paced itself well and made me take it seriously by really exploring the human condition. It is one of the best Batman films to hit the silver screen... exploding 8 1/2 busted blocks.

The Dark Knight Rises: 8.5 Busted Blocks

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