Saturday, August 11, 2012


So I got round to seeing TDKR, and I said this blog was going to be positive and I'm known as a hater of the Nolan Batman adaptations, which I don't think is true, but inevitably because I take an adversarial role in critiquing them and almost everyone else I talk to will assume the defensive, I guess this is how it's gotta be. So let's get the negativity out of the way:

1. Nolan needs to learn the 'show don't tell' principal in dialogue, nobody else seems to notice that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises consist almost entirely of characters delivering a constant stream of dissertations.
2. Act I = Act II minus the hubris (as I will concede to my brother) alternatively Act II = Act I minus the humility. The scenes where Alfred implores Bruce not to go up against Bane in Act I reminded me too much of Jimmy imploring Rocky Balboa not to go up against Clubber Lang, it was like Rocky III had been sandwiched into the film.
3. It could be my personal dislike of Ann Hatheway, and the fact she is constantly presented by Hollywood as a 10 when she is at best a 6, but I picked up no sexual chemistry between Catwoman and Batman.
4. Less is more, I didn't care about the inevitable twist, in my view you could have cut Act 1 completely, lost the entire league of shadows, focused it on Act III (Gotham under siege) and it would have been a better film.
5. I've never waited longer in a movie nor wished harder for a character to die than Blake. I would have ditched his character completely, he necessitated sidelining the compelling James Gordon so he had something to do and is furthermore just an annoying fucking twerp.
6. Transformers 3 and the Avengers all had the same 'Act III' city under siege, hereos go to war under the threat of Mass Destruction, and Nolan didn't do it better, even with the virtue of having better characters than those franchises. The cops charging the league of shadows for me is Nolan's second attempt to recreate those moving scenes from Spiderman 1 & 2 where the New Yorkers rally around their hero, and he just fails to hit the emotional frequency Raimi did.

Done, and longer than I would have liked. Here then is what I like and admire about Nolan.

Firstly, and most significantly, while not a fan of twists Nolan has created a new way of introducing twists specific to the comic adaptations. The twist in TDKR caught me geniunely by surprise, but the thing is that to most of the viewing public, the twists should come across a bit deus ex machina like, because I think most of the viewing public would never have heard of Bane, he is a second, if not third string villain in the Batman Rogues Gallery, and similar to Doomsday in superman was litterally pulled out of somebodies arse to fulfill a marketing function.

The first thin Nolan does, is create twists in the world of IMDB websites, and constant cast leaking by officially listing actors as playing characters they are not, namely in Batman Begins listing Ken Watanabe as Ra's Al Ghul and Liam Neeson as Ducard, as far as I know this is the first time such a tactic has been pulled that feeds directly the fanboys desire for sneak peaks into the film during the production phase. You got a bunch of photos of Ken Watanabe dressed up in a very traditional looking Ra's Al Ghul costume.

The Dark Knight, saw the first cutting of film clips to conceal the movie you were actually seeing, all the promotional photos, posters and trailers showed a film that was purely and simply Batman versus Joker. Then when you went to see the film, Joker was kind of incedental, a cog in the machine, you can still call him primary antagonist in terms of screen time spent as an antagonist, but the climax was centered around Two Face, the plot all driving towards the creation and destruction of two-face. The story was ostensibly Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb's 'the long halloween' but simplified to the point where Joker played the function of the entire Rogues Gallary, the mystery of Holiday was dropped and essentially it was the Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent alliance that caused Harvey to go off the rails and become a very short lived Two Face.

TDKR combined both, I think by now you should have been able to actually see the film, but in case the twist functions around screwing with your knowledge of Bane's origin (a child born in prison) and the fact that it isn't a faithful adaptation to succeed, as well as miscasting. Then also combining this with trailers that feature footage almost entirely from the 3rd act, the city under siege such that the film I saw was not the film I expected to see, and the twist caught me off guard.

All this is to say, that the tactic is new, it probably has limited application to adaptations of comics that skew towards realism (and thus reinterpretation of characters that by necessity have to break cannon). I personally don't like twists, and the twist in TDKR caught me off guard, which was beautifully done, and with so much investment and foresight in order to do it, but alas ultimately elicited the response of 'and why do I care?' which is why I could have done with at least an hour (and two characters) being cut out of this film entirely.

Second, Bane is probably the most compelling villain I've seen post original Starwards Trilogy. Or Colonel Kurts in apocalypse now, and I like him because he is incredibly simple done well. He achieves what George RR Martin achieves with Gregor Clegane in A Song of Ice and Fire (Now better known as 'A Game of Thrones') in that Tom Hardy's performance of him makes you feel sick and anxious whenever he is proximate to any other character.

The opening 'signature' scene didn't have the impact of Bane's (I think) second appearance where you immediately know what you are dealing with when he crushes the throat of one henchman with almost no warning and instructs the other to 'search him, and then you will die' which the guy complies with. Bane is in essence a 'Type B' villain, being a strong thug, that DC tweaked into a 'B+' by giving him nefarious scheming powers, and in the comics, he is fairly crap. Bruce Timm in the excellent Animated series of Batman reinterpreted Bane well by actually reducing him to Type B, and just made him menacing and kept his appearance to one episode ever.

Tom Hardy and Nolan succeed in creating this menacing incarnation of Bane, that you just don't like characters interacting with at all, because you don't know who he is going to hurt or kill. Furthermore, structure wise, he's an improvement on the Joker, because it's established early that Bane's followers are fanatics, whereas I found it implausible that the Joker from TDK would inspire loyalty in anyone given that in most scenes he needlessly killed his own henchmen and indeed his motiv was killing people for fun, where your chances of being killed increases with your proximity to him. With Bane you got the sense that for his henchmen it was an honour to die in service to his cause, or alternatively be justly killed for displeasing him.

All my favorite scenes involved Bane, the best probably being when he reveals to his rich backer that he was never in control, Bane was. Even the dissertations made sense from Bane, he was the character to lecture becuase he was the character with the most far reaching agenda.

Thirdly, vehicle designs, I don't give Nolan enough credit for his vehicle designs, they are a highlight of the films, The Batmobile, the Batbike and the Batwing are all just way out there, way cool interpretations. The Batmobile as 'Tank' I'm sure comes from the least credited inspiration for Nolan's trilogy 'the Dark Knight Returns' by Frank Miller, but I mean it took guts to choose this reimagining of the most iconic car in comicbook history, and kudos to him he did.

The second movies revealing of the Batbike and the thirds Batwing, the give you something truly new and impressive to fire the imagination.

Fourth, while The Wire can be forgiven for it's finale montage, TDKR would have been improved 40% if it had cut the last 5 minutes of the film, but I'm glad that Nolan at least used the opportunity of a concluding film trilogy to give us all hope the Bruce Wayne could escape his own grief and achieve a life of normalcy, in that he let Bruce have Selina. And even though I find Ann Hatheway unappealling, it's a kind of relief Tim Burton denied us with the tragic ending of Batman Returns, (and the more tragic continuation of that franchise) it makes me happy, because in terms of mental health the neverending holy war of Batman against crime in Gotham makes for a poor role model for children, and induces pessimism. I'm glad he got to find some happiness.

I also look forward to Nolan working on his own intellectual property, so I can enjoy it without emotional investment.

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