By David Poland email@example.com
Review-ish: The Dark Knight Rises (spoiler-free)
I will see the film again on Tuesday and I intend to write in greater depth after that screening. But just to get a few ideas on the record..
The Dark Knight Rises is, finally, the best of the Nolan Batman films. For the first time, the 3rd act is the best act in the film. Some may feel that this is because there is some form of “conclusion,” a word you should not try to parse before seeing the film. I feel it is that Nolan finally allowed himself to make the movie he’s been after twice before.
In fact, you would not be unfair to argue that The Dark Knight is somewhat superfluous after this film, in which Nolan finally clears out the pesky comic book movie from his consideration of power and capitalism and the danger of losing contact with your core beliefs, on whatever side of the argument you live.
That is not to say that there’s not a ton of comic book in this film. Nolan has raised the cool stakes, usually without falling into the trap of showing off his costly toys too gaudily. This is another beautiful production. And I am not sure, 100%, which filmmakers Nolan is riffing on this time. The last time, there was a lot of Friedkin and Frankenheimer, writ huge. This time, it’s a little more Lumet, with more than a hat tip to Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers.
This film has, shockingly, a lot in common with this summer’s Spider-man reboot, in that there is a lot of talking, thinking, reconsideration, and for a very dark film, pleasure. I suspect there will be a lot fewer boo birds this time around, as this is still a piece of Nolan and it doesn’t ask fans of the series to reboot, so much as allow Nolan to fulfill his intellectual interests. Interestingly, this is, by far, the most emotional of Nolan’s films. The other comparison – which some will hate – is Matrix Revolutions, which fulfilled the filmmaker’s idea of what the series was really about, it was less satisfying for viewers who wanted it to come to a proper, cheer-inducing end. Nolan was not that self-indulgent. The close – which is loaded with spoilers – is powerful and audience generous (some will surely think way too generous). But unlike the Wachowskis, Nolan is no Buddhist… he’s a great artist and a pragmatist.
In fact, to sort out the politics of this film – which are much, much more complex than the incomplete themes of TDK – demand a second viewing to sort out.
None of this is to say that The Dark Knight Rises is a perfect film. It is certainly the best of the superhero movies this summer, mature in a way that Amazing Spider-man could become, and making the amusing, showy burlesque of The Avengers look as minor as it is. TDKR is too long, getting lost a little in the 2nd act, throwing so many things (including cameos) at the wall that the best of the new ideas can get less love than they deserve. But once the third act starts cooking, it pushes to the close with the best of the big movies.
Caine & Oldman get handed some really great moments here. Bale has more to carry than in TDK, reminding how terrific he was in Batman Begins. Anne Hathaway isn’t the traditional Catwoman here… but the role gets better and better as the film moves along. Joseph Gordon Levitt carries a lot of exposition and though he is terrific, he is part of the bogged down section of the film. But he’s put away boyish things and does great by Nolan. Marion Cotillard feels shoe-horned into the film most of the way, though she is lovely and interesting to watch.
Tom Hardy as Bane (whose dialogue tracks have been cleaned up since the IMAX event a few months back) is very Bond villain. I think they did the right thing with the character and Hardy is a true, pure heavyweight, but Bane spends most of the film as distant as a character as Heath Ledger’s Joker was intimate. One of the reasons why Bane is distant is the complexity and political nature of the screenplay. Like I wrote, I think they went the right way with the character, but it doesn’t make for the clearest iconic memories.
The Dark Knight Rises is the movie a filmmaker makes after they have earned the freedom to break the mold and to reach for something bigger than the franchise. Some people love that. Some people hate that. I am in the former camp.
More on Wednesday…