Friday, February 27, 2015

Movie review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The_Dark_Knight_Rises_posterThe Dark Knight Rises should’ve been the second installment in the trilogy since The Dark Knight was so epic, so well-crafted, and so well-received by audiences and critics alike there really was no way to follow up, much less top it. But if you’ve got a winning formula, why change it, eh? And though I think The Dark Knight Rises is indeed a fun film, it doesn’t have the emotion or intellectual impact its predecessors had.

When I first saw this movie I was rather conflicted coming out of the theater. Did I love or hate what I had just seen? There were plenty of sequences that were fantastic to watch and really excited my inner fanboy, but at the same time I just couldn’t overlook the various flaws and plotholes that were prevalent throughout the movie. Roger Ebert once said that if a movie is “working,” you don’t notice these things, but when it’s “broken” you can’t not see them. If you absolutely love The Dark Knight (and a lot of be do, understandably so), I’d recommend you re-watch it after familiarizing yourself with all the plotholes and chances are you’ll overlook them and not let them distract you. The same cannot be said of The Dark Knight Rises, unfortunately.

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Now, there have been numerous articles, blogs, reviews, and internet videos made exposing the inconsistencies in this film, but of the whole lot of them I would cite Doug Walker’s “Bum Review” as being one of the most accurate and by far the funniest. See for yourself:

I think all those aforementioned commentaries lead me to believe I genuinely disliked this movie all along. Re-watching it last night I was pleasantly surprised by how well it held up; the moments that were fun in 2012 were still pretty fun in 2015. However, the corny parts, the completely implausible parts, and the glaringly obvious inconsistencies were much worse than I remembered. I had always considered The Dark Knight Rises to be a basically good movie with some problems, but now I see it as a surprisingly generic Hollywood superhero flick that’s well-made from a technical standpoint and still visually amazing, but leaves much to be desired, artistically speaking.
"When I looked at you I could just tell you were Batman" WTF
"When I looked at you I could just tell you were Batman" WTF
There’s nothing I can say to critique this film – good or bad - that hasn’t already been said, so let me just mention some moments that had me nerdgasming:
  • Batman’s return from retirement and his subsequent return from Bane’s prison are very Rocky-like in that he’s now the underdog overcoming all odds. It’s corny and clichéd, but I couldn’t help but find it riveting.
  • When Batman flies over the phalanx of police officers and makes them cheer and then rush the criminals.
  • Though the Batsymbol on fire on the bridge is completely implausible, it was still an awesome visual.
  • When Catwoman slips away from Batman and he says “So that’s what that feels like” made me laugh.
  • Just before Batman appears on screen for the first time and the veteran cop tells the rookie he’s in for a show.
  • When it’s revealed that Detective John Blake’s real name is Robin.
  • There are other aspects of the film I enjoyed, but other critics have already done a thorough job analyzing it much better that I can, so I’d recommend you read their reviews for those points.
  • When Batman faces off with Bane at the end, I was very much reminded of both The Matrix and the Star Wars movies (that battle should’ve been much more epic than it was).
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This fight would've been much better if it had been just the two of them... AND AT NIGHT!
The only serious problem I have with this film is the same as I had with The Dark Knight: it does come across as neoconservative propaganda.

The Dark Knight Rises was made right around the time the “Occupy Wall Street” movement began, so it’s blatantly obvious that when Bane sacks Gotham and tells the people to take the power back from the oligarchs, this is an allusion to that movement. Though I suppose you could view it as an allegory to the various socialist/communist coups that occurred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. As an ardent opponent of those political ideologies I appreciate that they are portrayed as villainous in nature, but it’s also a form of “reductio ad absurdum.”

Additionally, when Batman appears to sacrifice his life to save Gotham City, this is the second time in as many movies that it has ended with a clear-as-day parallel to Jesus.* Self-sacrifice for the greater good is a fictional trope that goes back centuries, so it’s nothing original here. That it turned out to be a ruse actually did the film a disservice. Yes, it’s nice to know that Bruce Wayne survived, but taking that route is a cheap cop-out and weakens the film, artistically.

People don’t look to Hollywood blockbusters for insightful political, philosophical or religious commentary (or at least they shouldn’t); they want escapism, so why be so obtuse about it, Mr. Nolan?

*I wonder if this inspired the Impractical Jokers? (sorry for the lousy quality)

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