Those are the two words that absolutely encapsulates the feeling I have at this exact moment.
I loved THE DARK KNIGHT. Since its release, I’ve watched it perhaps a good dozen times already. The only reason I want to see DARK KNIGHT RISES again, is to see the MAN OF STEEL trailer in front of it.
Make no bones about it – Nolan captures majestic imagery from time to time, but mostly it feels like he’s bored with the story and the characters. He and his brother have constructed a film which seems overtly designed to piss off anyone that loves this world and this group of characters.
I fucking love BATMAN. You’ll see the excitement I had when I taped my show last week. I’m practically vibrating with enthusiasm to see the movie. That was absolutely the case when I pulled up to the Bob Bullock IMAX here in Austin today. I showed up two & a half hours early for a film that I reserved seats for. Why? Because what if something went wrong? What if somehow, I didn’t get to see it? I can’t live with that, so I showed up early. I showed up early to talk with my friends, and there wasn’t a single bit of hesitancy about how much we thought we were going to love this.
After the Schumacher years, we fans of BATMAN greeted Nolan with open arms. Bringing a man known for his love of Film Noir and classical cinematic techniques… it was a marriage made in heaven. The first in the series was a wonderful start to the franchise. I liked it completely. DARK KNIGHT – DARK KNIGHT I found to be revelatory. At every level I loved it. There’s not a second of the film I don’t love.
DARK KNIGHT RISES…
The set up would have us believe that after the events of THE DARK KNIGHT, that Batman hung his cape and cowl up, because apparently the death of Harvey Dent triggered a series of sweeping law enforcement initiatives that completely shut down organized crime in Gotham. Some HARVEY DENT act was passed which apparently made it so criminals would never be paroled or set loose. So crime is no longer a problem in Gotham.
That isn’t why BATMAN has hung it up, it’s actually because of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character death in THE DARK KNIGHT.
I call absolute BULLSHIT on that notion right there. BATMAN/BRUCE WAYNE isn’t some soft-hearted slob that hides for the majority of a decade because somebody killed his girlfriend. If anything, that’s why he hits the street. The elimination of organized crime isn’t what pulls him off the street… it’s stopping street crime, any crime. He fights in the night so the only people that fear the streets at night are the cockroaches that prey upon fucking humanity. He’s fucking BATMAN. BATMAN doesn’t mope around his mansion unmotivated to participate in the fucking world. He isn’t that kind of person.
We discover Bruce walking around with a cane in his mansion. Seemingly still fit, but when he catches Selina Kyle stealing his mother’s pearls… He gets his legs swept and she heads out a window while he looks like a completely lost person. Bullshit.
Alfred leaving Bruce Wayne to handle this mess himself. Bullshit. Alfred Pennyworth is there to the bitter end. It’s his nature. Loyalty. Alfred is Bruce’s witness. The man who never fails to pick him up after a scrap. A man that would watch him fall, just to put him back together again. ALFRED does not throw a hissy and runs off. And certainly Bruce Wayne isn’t the type to let a letter by an ex-lover come between him in Alfred. TOO MUCH WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE.
BANE – I’m the guy that originally championed Tom Hardy as being in anything, because I fucking love Tom Hardy. Watching his performances in films from BRONSON to now – he’s never disappointed. He doesn’t disappoint here, the disappointment comes from Bane utter lack of ferocity. The fights are all toe to toe fights, Batman doesn’t use his environment. Bane never gets super-strength. Though apparently they can punch into marble & knock chunks of it out – but the multiple fights between BANE & Batman are the exact opposite of cinematic. They’re tracking shot fights. You never feel the blows. Every punch Mr. T or Ivan Drago threw in a Rocky movie would devastate BANE. The intelligence that Tom Hardy plays into BANE is good, but at no time do I get the sense that he’s on, oh, say… DOC SAVAGE’s scale – the character upon which BANE was originally built. No, this Bane, like in Schumacher’s BATMAN & ROBIN is again revealed to be a pet… essentially a guard dog. BANE is no longer South American. You never get a sense of the character’s ferocity. Every neck snap – every destruction of a human being is done off camera. The punches where he cracks Batman’s cowl are the only ones that elicited an audible reaction from the crowd. Every fight that Stallone has ever fought in any film in which he’s ever fought – is better than this. Taking VENOM out of the equation… taking the Superhuman out of Bane, the hoses into his body, the impossible physique it creates… it just makes it look like Batman is a pussy. Making Ra’s Al Ghul responsible for BANE’s training – is enraging. That for a bit, they want us to believe Bane is the son of Al Ghul…. Well I found that fairly fucking insulting too.
BATMAN/BRUCE WAYNE – I like Christian Bale’s performance as this character. I hate where the Nolan’s took his character for this story. The “breaking of his back” is handled in a manner of least power. I mean, if you know the KNIGHTFALL story – you’re gonna roll your eyes. After the film, I went out to dinner with some friends that attended and the aggravation with the film was felt throughout the table.
I love this character. One of my best friends is Paul Dini, he was a groomsman at my wedding. I’ve spent countless geeky conversations talking Batman and these characters with him – and watching this “FINAL” story play out. It’s just fucking ridiculous.
I put SPOILER WARNINGS ALL OVER THIS – BECAUSE I HAVE TO DISCUSS THE ATROCIOUS END OF THIS TRAVESTY…. But this is where I’m going to go into it. So do not scan down, do not read the talkbacks. If you want to know – go ahead, but steer clear otherwise….
OK – now we’re talking about the final act of the film. OH WAIT – before that, let’s get into the boring as fuck middle of this travesty. The first act of the film is slowly building the coming of BANE. Gotham has come upon a new day, crime free. So they’re completely unprepared for what’s coming. The Football incident we’ve seen in the trailers, yeah… That is indeed the biggest thing that happens in the film. Bane doesn’t blow up the city, buildings do not topple. That straight up shot of the city going to pieces and the light becomes the bat symbol? That’s just a promo image – we never see that scale of devastation. No, what happens is that Bane blows all the bridges but one. Basically turning Manhattan into an island. He’s got a bomb that’s blast radius of 6 miles essentially means – everyone on the island will die… eventually. Bane introduces his master plan at that football game, rolls out the largest Nuke device I’ve seen in a flick since the original bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only one person in the world can disarm it and Bane kills him in front of everyone, telling the world that there is a regular citizen in the city with the trigger… but the device will go off all on its own in like 90 days or so.
At this point BATMAN is in a prison somewhere in the world (shot in India – it’s supposed to be the same place that BANE was raised in – but is definitely not Caribbean in nature) This is done so quickly that you’re not really sure how or when exactly Bane decided to take Bruce Wayne to the other side of the world, before flying halfway around the world again to destroy Gotham. His back apparently has a vertebrae protruding out of socket, but after the prison chiropractor hits the vertebrae back in place, it just takes Wayne a few weeks to get back on his feet.
Meanwhile all the Gotham police are stuck in a sewer for the same amount of time, but don’t worry they’ll emerge looking clean and healthy. Except for Joseph Gordon Levitt and Gary Oldman’s wounded Commissioner Gordon… oh and Matthew Modine. I’m not real sure what the brilliant plan by the cops where – to send every cop in the city all through the same entrance of the sewer – all at the same time was. But there’s not much brilliance at play here.
Bane’s holding the entire city hostage – and if anyone from anywhere tries to do anything, ka-boom. Not real sure how the citizenry of any city would get behind a Lord Humongous type, especially if his way of introducing himself was to blow up your local football team – athletes that apparently people paid to watch play – and at the very least – you’ve fucking ruined the game they came to watch.
When the film hits this section, logic goes every which way. You never really get a sense of the passage of time. Apparently garbage pick up is still going on, because the streets don’t seem clogged. In fact, everything seems to be running fairly normal – even if you’ve been cut off from the world. There’s some FEMA trucks with supplies.
It is just at this stage that the film loses all sense of urgency. I mean, you have a city with a strange respirator men with an army of thugs and every hardened criminal in the city – and it doesn’t end up looking like Old Detroit from ROBOCOP? I mean – there’s 1000s armed bad guys and the city isn’t being raped and pillaged. Instead they set up courts to make people walk on ice?
Anne Hathaway is fine in the role, but Catwoman is more or less just a jewel thief with a dislike for the well off folks of the world, but she never gets the showy scenes or lines that Michelle had in BATMAN RETURNS. She doesn’t particularly seem to have any history, besides files to be read, but little of it can be read upon her. Certainly not enough to justify what allegedly in going on at the very end of the film. But more on that later.
Joseph Gordon Levitt is the best single thing about the film. Until they call him ROBIN at the end, where I just call BULLSHIT, but even before that because man – if you thought there were multiple endings in RETURN OF THE KING, wait for all the reveals at the end of this.
At the point where we got a shot out of TRUE LIES (which did it better) of a Nuclear Blast off in the distance. First off – given what we know of radiation – there’s a very good chance that everyone in Gotham is gonna have cancer over the next few decades of their lives. But what is it with heroes and atomic bombs these days. Everyone seems to be pulling an Iron Giant.
Of course any of that emotion is bullshit, because the way this movie takes back anything definitive throughout the rest of the film…. Well, it’s like it wants to say… “Haha, we didn’t mean it. They’re all ok! See see, we could do another one if we ever wanted to!” The film just didn’t have the courage of its convictions.
And no, I didn’t want fucking BATMAN to stay dead. I think it’s bullshit to even try to claim you’ve killed a Superhero. I don’t want TRILOGIES – I want sustained series – like what we have with JAMES BOND. But I’m happy they want to end THIS Batman series.
Nolan is so caught up on making it real, that he only makes it real mediocre. We have a Utility Belt in this film that never has anything of particular use upon it. The toe to toe fight with Bane is the most unBatman fight you’ll ever see in your life. The choreography was not dynamic. The character motivations all feel like scripted bullshit. By the time Batman is completely disabled by a 2.5 inch blade in the lower rib area… My eyes were exhausted with rolling – and there was so much more to come.
Then when they decide to unveil Talia al Ghul – and then just apparently kill her. And yeah – it just pissed me off. Talia Al Ghul is a great character. Here… she’s just a convenient plot twist. That’s all.
Liam Neeson’s cameo hallucination is also vaguely unnerving. Especially since he looks older and his beard is styled differently, but maybe Bruce’s imagination is just really good at that sort of thing.
For all the talk about this being the END of Batman. For all the talk that this will be impossible to follow for any filmmaker. They’re insane.
This isn’t an embarrassing chapter. But it is by far the most inept of Nolan’s run. The lack of impact this film gave me was genuinely shocking.
When the rep asked me for my thoughts immediately after the film, I was at a full head of steam and spouted that I thought it was a fucking waste of $250 million and BATMAN. It’s just such a deflating film.
At least if you know the kind of stories and action that are inherent to this property. I found the film to be, essentially a mess. I expected a lot more out of this. A lot more. I found it to feel exactly like what happens when someone that thinks they’re better than the source material gets a hold of something and just is in the process of washing their hands with it.
Ultimately I’m sure many will enjoy it. Already I’ve heard from friends that have enjoyed it. I’m not sure why all my friends that I saw it with tonight came out angry at the film, while they loved it and were completely smitten.
There is no apocalyptic vision on display here. Pretty sure more people actually died in THE DARK KNIGHT. That film was certainly a much sharper tale – and nobody comes close to delivering the iconic performance that Heath Ledger did.
Let’s find a director that loves Batman, that gets the different ages of the character, the different scopes that the character plays on – and doesn’t do something so plainly one note. There’s some beautiful shots here, the stunt work is exceptional on a couple of key things. I like most Bruce Wayne moments, until he’s in the prison, which is just ridiculous bullshit start to finish. Love Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character, Gary Oldman’s Gordon – like Anne Hathaway, but Bane as the Lord Humongous – just didn’t do it for me. The film felt exhausted, Nolan repeats so many themes, as though he had nothing new to explore. That’s a good reason to leave the series, but really – after watching it, I wish Nolan had left at two like Burton. Maybe 2 is the lucky number for BATMAN directors. BUT nobody should ever try to continue their work, just start over from scratch.
We need someone that isn’t afraid of any aspect of the Batman universe. Someone that knows that MANBAT & CLAYFACE could be awesome. A BATMAN movie doesn’t have to hinge on saving the whole of a city. Nor the world. BATMAN can be about something that happened in a single night, or over years. BATMAN is incredibly flexible – and BATMAN doesn’t give up. He isn’t a quitter. He is so much more than what Nolan has made him. So much more than Hollywood has even begun to hint at.
We haven’t seen a BATMAN movie that kicked RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’s ass. But we could. One day. BATMAN deserves so much more style and flourish than this drab flick.
If some how you find you love the film and were blown away. I envy you. If you did love the film – if you think this just kicked everything you’ve seen this year away. I beg you, go to a comic shop, buy some BATMAN comics… Order the BATMAN ANIMATED SERIES… Play ARKHAM ASYLUM. Learn more about the character, you’re going to smile so much. This really is in many ways the greatest character in the history of comics – and he’s so much more than what the feature films that Hollywood has given us. DARK KNIGHT is the pinnacle. Somebody, kick its ass… I dare ya.