((((THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS OR WHATEVER))))
"I caught ur fist. Aren't I badazz?"
SO THE ANTICIPATION PROGRESSION FOR "DARK KNIGHT RISES" the 3rd in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy went something like this:
- The title. "Dark Knight.... RISES?" "That's the same name as the last film but with... another word."
- The villain. People speculated about a lot of cool stuff including Philip Seymore Hoffman as the Penguin, inclusion of the Riddler, or even Dr. Hugo Strange. Instead we got BANE. "BANE.... really?"
- Anne Hathaway as a Catwoman that barely resembles Catwoman. "Hmmm..." sayz everyone.
SO... with all that uneasy anticipation, how did the final product turn out? WELL I DUNNO WHAT TO TELL YOU GUYS, but I think our worries were warranted.
I caught the opening 10 minute prelude thingy half a year ago when it surfaced on the internet and I was blown away. I pretty much thought that opening with the airplane hijacking was cooler than anything in Inception, and that's saying a lot.
Sadly, the movie never reaches those kind of heights (literally or metaphorically) again.
SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM with "RISES"? I think it has to do with Nolan himself. This director is one, despite having crazy innovative ideas, his style is very "grounded" and "based in reality"... And in this case, it did not work in his favor at all.
There are two things RISES SORELY lacked (even compared to the first two films); a couple buzzwords I'm gonna throw out there, but then explain what they mean: "STANK" and "SWAGGER".
Fig. 1: "STANK"
See: BATMAN BEGINS. Remember that part where Batman infiltrates The Scarecrow, grabs his Fear Poison thingy, snarls "TASTE OF YOUR OWN MEDICINE, DOCTOR." then shoots it in his face. Right after that, BATMAN (through Scarecrows eyes) is an ALL BLACK DEMON, GUSHING BLACK SINEW FROM HIS MOUTH, SNARLING LIKE A GODDAMN DEMIGOD.
That, my friends, is STANKY. That is some high-grade STANK right there... Coming from a director who is mostly chill and laid back. That scene stuck out to me INSTANTLY after I saw Begins for the first time, and solidified it as a unique Batman experience (along with all the great performances, solid origin story, etc).
Fig 2. "SWAGGER"
See: THE DARK KNIGHT. Swagger is abundant throughout DARK KNIGHT. In fact, I'd argue that the movie is PURE SWAGGER from start to finish. But for a LITERAL EXAMPLE of the swagger, simply examine THE JOKER. Heath Ledger's performance was nothing but swagger and genocide.
Even Julia Roberts' cray cray brother had swagger in DARK KNIGHT
NOTHING in The Dark Knight Rises displays anything remotely close to those aforementioned levels of STANK or SWAGGER.
And when it comes to BATMAN. Despite however "REALISTIC" you want to interpret him-- DUDE'S GOTTA HAVE AT LEAST ONE OF THOSE TWO THINGS. He is a COSTUMED COMIC BOOK CHARACTER after all.
What was the Batman in RISES like? I don't really remember... He's in like two scenes. I could tell you the entire character armature of BLAKE WHATSHISFACE (Joseph Gordon Levitt) coz clearly Nolan has a thing for JGL, as he seems to be in the film FAR MORE than Bruce Wayne OR Batman.
The Joseph Gordon Levitt Rises
All I can fairly say about Batman himself in this movie, is that he's pretty much a pussy.
After DARK KNIGHT, I THOUGHT we'd get a look at Batman being a vigilante truly hunted by the cops while still cleaning up his city. Instead, right after the DENT fiasco, he was just like "Eh. Guess I'll give up crime fighting! They have DOGS, Alfred!" flash forward to 8 years later, Bruce Wayne is totally uninteresting, and remains that way for the whole film-- and subsequently, so does Batman. He gets his ass kicked a lot, comes back, then punches BANE in his OBVIOUS WEAKPOINT then like, that's it (well, save for the incredibly shitty ending-- but I'll get to that).
How about his gadgets? There's one gadget (the Paparazzi Nullifier) that was one of the film's ONLY laughs (oh ya, in case u didn't know already-- this movie is WAY TOO FUCKING SELF-RIGHTEOUS). Then like, a bigger version of that I guess? The light gun thingy he shoots at a motorcycle?
"plz don't bother me I'm shooting @ ducks"
When I saw DARK KNIGHT, I thought his putty explosive gun was kinda silly (and he used it in like 4 scenes!)-- But that gadget is like totally badass and functional. After the LIGHT GUN in Rises, I fully embrace the Putty Gun.
How about "THE BAT", Batman's new flying machine? Alright. When we first saw The Tumbler in 2004 or whatever-- most people groaned that it didn't look ANYTHING like the Batmobile (myself included). But when the movie came out, we got to see it's raw, beast like stealth power (sure, a FIN or something really couldn't have hurt it's BATMAN-ness-- but whatever). Then in DARK KNIGHT we still had the Tumbler, and eventually the "Batpod" (which I think is the shittiest name for any superhero vehicle ever). Honestly I was never that stoked about the Batpod, but the overall badassness of DARK KNIGHT glossed over any uncertainties I had about that silly looking, Ninja Turtles-esque motorbike (and he DID take out a Semi-Truck with it so right on Batpod).
WELL, Nolan's subdued, weird taste in technology comes full circle with "THE BAT". Our initial fears about the Tumbler are fully realized in this silly piece of equipment. It's completely gaudy, bland, un-creative, and OVERPOWERED. Batman depends on this thing like 6 times in the movie. Further, for me at least, it really put a dent in Nolans "grounded in reality" motif of Batman. How the fuck does this thing work... Sure, Luscious Fox said a couple fancy words about it... But I dunno.
I feel like the reliance and BLANDNESS of "THE BAT" is reflective of all that is wrong with the film itself.
Remember that part in the original 80's Batman where he flies his Batwing in front of the moon, signifying that he's about to tear some ass? That, to me, is one of the definitive images of the original Batman movies, and of Batman himself. Imagine if you tried that with "THE BAT". That hypothetical image over the moon, is pretty much how this whole movie feels. Clunky and complicated like some rorschach nobody asked for and VERY NOT BATMAN.
you won't see anything this iconic in RISES
While we're on the notion of his gadgets, let's talk his SUIT.
I'm a fan of the original Batman Begins suit. Christian Bale himself even commented on the PANTHER-LIKE quality the hulking cowl had. Once again, Nolan's "function over form" got in the way in DARK KNIGHT, when Batman was given a new suit that looks more like a spraypainted black motocross suit than something a DEMONIC AVENGER OF THE NIGHT would wear. So yeah, after that, Batman can move his NECK now (YAY I GUESS) so he starts swiveling his neck around like a valley girl all over the place. NBD tho, as that movie, again, was pure awesome.
still the king
I held out hope that PERHAPS Batman would be given a new suit in this one. NOPE. Chris Nolan could really give a fuck about appeasing "fanboy" notions, so-- GEE, OF COURSE, WHY WOULD BATMAN have a new suit?? Listen, come on, it's just like-- STANDARD. NEW MOVIE = NEW SUIT. Make some shit up. Luscious Fox coulda been working on some new prototype IN CASE Batman ever came back? Something like that? Anyway, the same-ol MOTOCROSS SUIT in RISES is, to me, worn out and lazy. Say what you will about Joel Schumacher, but Val Kilmer's original batsuit in FOREVER is FUCKING BADASS. (SEE ALSO: KEATON'S BATSUIT = BADASS). Giving Batman a new suit or SOMETHING (besides "THE BAT") would've given me a reason to cheer... Instead, there are literally no cheer-worthy scenes / moments in this movie.
Man is this film bleak. Just, man. So stark and STERILE. Seriously, the locales, emotions and storylines have about as much appeal as a doctor's office.
Before I get into the ENDING, let's talk about one thing that WAS surprisingly entertaining in this movie: CATWOMAN! (or "The Cat" or whoever the fuck she's sposed to be in NOLAN-VERSE) Anne Hathaway totally held her own, was slinky, sexy, smart & powerful. Her scenes were by far the most entertaining in the movie. Cat-Kudos to her.
Bane? He's a fucking bald dude in a mask. He's literally of no interest. Sure, Heath's Joker is a tough act to follow.... But man.... Bane. YEP, that was a shitty choice. And Talia Algul? WAY TO DENY SHE'Z IN THE MOVIE, NOLAN. It was so goddamn obvious.
SO ANYWAY... THE ENDING.
It absolutely baffles me that people are claiming the ending was "powerful". What the fuck? By this time, I was ready to completely dismiss the movie as a total failure if they ACTUALLY KILLED BATMAN.
BUT, they didn't even have the balls to do that.
The ending is similar to anything you'd see in any 80's action movie. Dude grabs bomb, flies away with it, seemingly dies, but actually doesn't. lol
I mean, in the ending, Batman LITERALLY flew off into the SUNSET, followed quickly and unceremoniously by a seemingly STOCK FOOTAGE shot of a mushroom cloud. COME ON, that is LAUGHABLE. And apparently he like, jumped out of The Bat before it exploded? So he swam to safety? What an unheroic image of Batman, jumping and swimming to safety, to secretly escape away to Paris to bone Catwoman. Inspiring. I am inspired. ((((SARCASM))))
You wanna cite a powerful ending? Look at The AVENGERS, which had a very similar thing happening, but the way it was executed was far more awesome. Tony Stark proved to everyone he wasn't just a self-centered playboy, saved New York and obliterated an alien hoarde all in one heroic stroke. THAT IS HEROISM. **THAT** is why these movies transcend. Not some post-911 political message, just an evoking of the human spirit we all strive to be like.
So, apart from the laughable ending, there's a lot more unintentional comedy in RISES. The little pube boy singing the national anthem? Everyone in the theatre was holding back chortles. I'm pretty sure at one point a character said of Bane "He learned to heal". SMASHING DIALOGUE LOLLL!!! And SO many long, awkward, silent parts in the movie, too. I was so tempted to just let a nice juicy fart go during those parts, to give the audience a much-needed jolt of entertainment.
MEH. So there you have it. ABSOLUTELY the weakest of Nolan's 3 Batman films. No contest. Fact.
But was it actually terribly SHITTY? Nah. It still.... "did the job" I guess. One review I read said they felt that Nolan (and Bale) were just done with this franchise... And that's kinda how this movie felt on the whole. Halfway through I was pretty much just ready for it to be over.
And really "your real name is ROBIN"? So, what, is he gonna fight crime under a monicker like "DICK".... or "DICK MAN"?
So, thanks Nolan for those first two films... But now it's official: My body is ready for a TRULY BOMBASTIC Batman, suspended a bit from reality, with a touch of GOTH PLZ. Enough with the patented sterile bureaucracy of the Nolan Bat Films. Take a cue from Marvel: STANK & SWAGGER THAT SHIT UP.
FINAL GRADE: C
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ADDENDUM (7/22/12): I REALIZED I focused a lot on the fanboy aspects of Batman, his cool factor, his gadgets, etc. I didn't get TOO CRAZY about the story of RISES in this review-- mostly coz it's an overcomplicated, uninteresting mess (and/or retreaded material already done in BEGINS or DARK KNIGHT)-- But I will say one thing that kind of sums up my entire feelings about the story in RISES:
- If Batman's entire "redemption" hinges on him making a JUMP a little girl made years before... Um. Uh... No offense to little girls but... This is fucking Batman. PRETTY SURE Batman can jump as far as a little girl.
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ADDENDUM 2 (7/22/12): I've decided to compile a list of the individual, unique COOL FACTORS of all 3 Nolan Batman films (excluding things that were in all 3 movies like Morgan Freeman & Gary Oldman, The Tumbler):
- Batman Begins: Liam Neeson (+5), Ken Watanabe (+2 (he's not in it that much)), Ninjas (+5), Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone (+5), Original Batsuit (+5), Katie Holmes giving a great performance (SORRY HATERS +5), "DO I LOOK LIKE A COP?" (+5)
- Dark Knight: Heath Ledger's Joker (+10), Aaron Ekhart as Harvey Dent / Two Face (+5), Eric Roberts as Sal Maroni (+5), Maggie Gyllenhaal (+5), New Batsuit (+5), Batpod (+1), CELL PHONE BAT SONAR (+5), "WHY SO SERIOUS?" (+20)
- Dark Knight Rises: Tom Hardy as Bane (+2 (you never get to see his luscious lips so that hurts his score), Marion Cotillard as the TOO OBVIOUS Talia Al Guhl (+1), THE BAT (+1), Football Explosion Scene (+5), pubey little boy singing preceding scene (-5), Joseph Gordon Levitt (+5), Joseph Gordon Levitt being in the movie more than Batman (-10), No new Batsuit (-1), Alfred disappearing 1/3 into the movie (-5), Commissioner Gordon also playing a major back-seat role (-5)
SORRY IT'S MATH
You can't argue that Hardy's Bane was any more villainous or sinister than Ledger's Joker, or Ekhart's Two-Face. Ya just can't.
we miss u (hey look! it's Joker in a Nurse's uniform! Yet more iconic imagery laced with the STANKY SWAGGER you'd find in the first 2 films, that is totally absent in RISES)