The Dark Knight Rises has been out for a while now, so this post might seem a little late, but people are still debating Christopher Nolan’s third installment of the Batman trilogy – and quite vigorously. Before I get to said vigorous debate, here’s my opinion on the film.
It was fine. It’s certainly better than most super hero films, but it also certainly doesn’t live up to The Dark Knight, the previous film in Nolan’s trilogy. DKR suffers from a clunky first act, a lack of character development (or too many characters to fully develop them properly), and a few plot holes. That being said, once Bane’s plan gets going, it’s quite the entertaining film.
Tom Hardy’s Bane, while no where near as entertaining as Heath Ledger’s Joker, is a capable, and at times, terrifying villain. To the movie’s credit, it’s the first time in any Batman film where Batman feels totally vulnerable. You get the sense that Bane could squash him at any moment. The one problem people seem to have with Bane is his voice – and it is a little bizarre. He talks in a muffled, upper class British voice that seems to be front and center no matter how far away he is from the camera. At first the voice is a little off putting, but I was able to get used to it. It actually kind of adds a creepy quality to Bane.
The problems really have to do with the script. The first act is far too long (it seemed like it was a good 40-45min) and it mostly consists of scenes either introducing characters or getting us up to speed on old characters. There doesn’t feel to be much of a narrative drive during the first act. It’s merely a collection of scenes. And, frankly, it’s a little boring. Nolan really could’ve cut out a character or two and streamlined the first act. Matthew Modine’s dickish police officer seems to be the most unnecessary character. He really doesn’t do much at all except to stand in opposition to Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon (which makes little sense given Gordon’s heroic status on the force).
If Modine’s character is the most unnecessary, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s is the second most unnecessary (I know a lot of JGL fanboys/girls won’t like to hear that). JGL’s Blake only seems to exist to (spoiler!) set up future Batman films. To be fair, he does get Batman to return from retirement – sorta. However, that scene is so improbable (he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman based on his fake smile? Really?) that it’s ridiculous. Blake’s subplot during Bane’s siege of Gotham might have been gripping (though a little clichéd – saving orphans?) had we been given more time with Blake to care about him. Despite the lengthy first act, not enough time is given to these many characters to really care about them. Does anyone really believe the romance between Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne? Does anyone even care about Marion Cotillard’s character? It’s not any of the actors’ faults. They all do fine. It’s the script. Nolan doesn’t give enough time to these new characters for them to feel like real, three-dimensional people. They are all reduced to cardboard characters who bluntly state their goals, back story, etc in awkward, expositional scenes.
However, these are common problems in most super hero movies and DKR is, after all, a super hero movie. It’s not supposed to be a dramatic art house film. Super hero movies are about the spectacle, and DKR does a pretty decent job with that. From the opening scene to the scenes involving multiple explosions crippling all of Gotham, DKR does offer up some breathtaking scenes. Bane’s take over of Gotham is particularly great. He brings the entire city to its knees and it’s pretty awesome, dark stuff. Nolan also does a pretty good job tying together the two previous films into this one.
So overall, not a bad film. It just simply doesn’t live up to TDK – an almost flawless film – and that’s where the problem comes in. TDK was so great that DKR couldn’t possibly live up to it, but it also created so many die hard fanboys that any criticism, no matter how small, would be met with vicious backlash normally reserved for blasphemers. And, like any fanatic, you just can’t talk any sense into a righteous Batman fan.
And here’s where we get to the crux of the issue. Everyone either seems to love or hate the movie, with very few opinions falling in the middle. It’s either the best movie ever or a piece of crap. Before the film was even released, before any of the public had seen it, some diehard Nolan fans were issuing death threats to critics who had the audacity to give an unfavourable review to DKR. No doubt those issuing the threats would never follow through on their actions (and no doubt the majority of them are either naive teenagers who really don’t know anything about film or 35 year old virgins living in their parents’ basement). It’s still worrying to see that type of angry rhetoric being used over a movie, though. Does it really matter that that DKR doesn’t have 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes? And aren’t people entitled to their own opinion? Try telling that to some of the fanboys, though, and they’ll go off – “how could you say that?” “you just don’t get it?”. That last line is a favourite for the same diehard defenders of Nolan’s previous film, Inception (it’s not that hard of a film to get, dude). The fanboys are incapable of allowing any sort of conversation regarding DKR other than whether it’s the greatest film of all time or the second greatest.
Then there’s the other side of the coin: the haters. This I put down to two things: sky high expectations and just wanting to go against the grain. TDK, as I said, was an almost flawless execution of a super hero movie, and people rightly loved it. It set the bar insanely high and people had expectations for the next one – absurd expectations. Of course DKR wasn’t going to be as good as TDK. How could it? Anyone who expected DKR to equal or surpass TDK was deluding themselves. Walk into a theatre with those kind of expectations and you’re going to be disappointed. I get that DKR was a little disappointing, I do, but ‘terrible’ and ‘worst movie ever’? Really? Ever see Transformers (or any Michael Bay film for that matter)? DKR is still a decent film. To gloss over what Nolan achieved with this film in favour of indignant rage is unfair to Nolan and the film itself. Take it for what it is: an above average super hero blockbuster. DKR could have been a whole lot worse. Why people expect so much from Nolan is also a bit of a mystery to me. The guy’s an excellent technician who makes semi-intelligent action films. He’s no Orson Welles or Igmar Bergman. He’s not trying to make a profound, artistic film. He’s more like a hip, modern day Spielberg. He’s just trying to entertain you. Some people may claim that they didn’t expect anything from Nolan and that he and his films just suck, but those people just relish playing contrarian to popular opinion. I suspect they really don’t believe what they’re saying.
No one in either of these two camps seem capable of discussing the film intelligently and with nuance. You’re either on one side or the other. This is a troubling trend that is not only limited to movies either. It’s present in almost anything that involves developing an opinion about – television, music, politics, etc. Maybe the term ‘developing’ is the wrong word to use here. The problem seems to be that no one actually develops their own opinion. They simply latch on to one side of the issue and stand firm. It’s far more simple to stick to one belief or ideal rather than critically think about the issue – it’s easier to think in black and white than shades of grey. Look no further than the current state of US (and even Canadian, to an extent) politics for a prime example of this. People are more fiercely divided than ever along party lines. Part of the reason for this extreme divide can be blamed, paradoxically, on the Internet.
For a tool that gives us all such a wealth of information and resources, it seems strange that opinions are becoming increasingly black and white. It may have to do with the sheer amount of information out there – that people would rather simplify than process it all. The Internet seems to have spawned it’s own version of A.D.D. Rather than think about things, or read in-depth articles, people condense their opinions to blurbs or 140 character tweets. They quickly come to a conclusion – ‘sucks’ or ‘awesome’, ‘left’ or ‘right’ – and move on to the next bit of stimuli. What does it say about a civilization that thinks (or doesn’t think) like this? It can’t be good.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet. I think it’s an amazing and important tool for humanity. I just wish it didn’t breed such simplistic thinking. Is there a remedy for this problem? I don’t know. But what I do know is that dumbing down our critical thinking skills only serves to dumb down our society.