Rating: 3.5 of 5
After a while, when you’ve seen a few movies by certain directors, you learn their style so well that you can be impressed but few things are unexpected.
The Dark Knight Rises is a Christopher Nolan movie and so it’s very well made, structurally sharp, intelligent and takes the time to actually say something interesting. But there’s very little emotion in it.
My first reactions as the movie played out was how disappointed I was that the internet rumors were true. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was Robin (though he wasn’t the next incarnation of Batman so at least that’s something). Liam Neeson’s in it. Cillian Murphy’s in it. And while I liked all of those elements and thought they served the story very well, I didn’t like that internet speculation took the surprise out of them. I hate spoilers. Even accidental ones.
But, the internet didn’t spoil the turn with Miranda Tate, which I thought added a great layer to the story and kept everything from being so obvious. My only problem is that the whole film focused on how the child had endured and been shaped by pain and suffering and I didn’t see that in Miranda Tate. I still liked that she was the bad guy, though.
Also, her tryst with Bruce Wayne seemed oddly out of place, even if in the aftermath you could explain it away as her using it to get closer to him. But it still came out of no where and I like at least a little bit of flirting or some acknowledgement of attraction and really didn’t see any of that beforehand.
Speaking of attraction, Anne Hathaway wasn’t as bad as I expected. She wasn’t great and sometimes her purring voice was trying too hard. But I liked the nuances she played between her self-interest and working with Batman; liking him and defying him. The Nolans gave her dialog that really helped her walk that frenemey high wire.
I loved that Bane broke Batman. It wasn’t surprising, but it was necessary because you can’t have Bane and not give him that iconic moment.
Though I didn’t love Bane’s voice. It wasn’t that it was difficult to understand, it was that it came out like some caricature of a British accent in a Masterpiece Theater show that was convoluted by being a very old recording. I acclimated to it eventually, but still thought it was just oddly out of place. I expected something more London underground menacing and less affected.
Some of the scenes in the prison were reminiscent of Batman Begins which I didn’t love. I just kept thinking it was the same thing we’d already seen and I wanted to see something new in this story. I mean, it was admittedly different. Bruce choosing to come back to life and embracing fear instead of finding himself and overcoming fear. But the scenery and the production design just made it look so much the same I felt we’d been there before.
Also, I was a little thrown that Bane somehow transported him halfway across the world in a night and then got back to Gotham. Nolan definitely played with time and for the most part it worked, but that threw me.
And when the old guy was telling him that they were chanting “Rise” it totally made me want to rewatch Kingdom of Heaven because of the whole thread about “Rise a Knight.”
Despite the extravagant stunts, the best thing about this movie is really the writing. Christopher Nolan anchors his stories in his characters; gives them time to talk, speeches that change the fabric of the story. And their words are worthwhile about humanity and society and aspects of these characters that are universal. Nolan’s world is populated with characters that are thoughtful and smart and unafraid to say what needs to be said. That’s interesting.
If only I felt something in the midst of such great writing. But Nolan is an intellectual director and he’s very good, he just doesn’t infuse his story with heart. The themes he’s dealing with, the things he’s putting his characters through, I should be weeping and terrified and overwhelmed with joy and relief. He’s truly made an epic film of substance but I just talk about it, I don’t feel it.
And so I like it. But I don’t love it.
Even though it ended rather perfectly. Batman both dies and does not. A hero still stands for Gotham in Robin which assures you that the story continues, somehow, even if we can’t see it. Bruce is free from Batman, free to live without the torment and responsibility. So his story is over. And this isn’t a comic book or a tv show where in some way it needs to continue so Batman has to exist forever. I like a world where Bruce Wayne can become something more than Batman.