Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): 9/10

It was four years and two days ago when I walked out of the Carmike 20 with a tremendous headache, and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. The Dark Knight certainly was a story of epic proportions where every little plot detail, every line of dialogue, and every frame contributed to the film’s skill and intelligence. Within The Dark Knight was a kind of magic that can be harnessed by a mad-genius director, but only once in a generation. It was a magic I recognized those years ago, and still continue to cherish whenever I feel the need to speed up 2 and ½  hours of my life. Reason for the headache? The result of being jacked up on too many Sno-Caps, and being enthralled in a constantly unfolding tale of anarchy.

Like myself, Christopher Nolan too was skeptical about making a third installment in his Batman franchise. Nolan said he would make it if he, his brother Jonathan Nolan, and writer David S. Goyer, could come up with a story that would either match or top the craftsmanship of The Dark Knight. While Nolan certainly has the ambition to top himself again, he at least meets the high expectations of the audience anyway by transforming a 2 and ¾ hour spectacle into an astonishing piece of art. In true Nolan fashion, the 2 and ¾ hour running time never sags.

This is due to Nolan’s idea of what a plot should be. Those who are familiar with his works already know that Nolan is a fanatic for puzzles. When he applies this to his movies, the plot constantly unfolds as a result, therefore it is a real story where you immerse yourself and go with the flow of the pacing. We as the audience are captivated because we know by the end of the movie the plot will all make sense, but how will it unfold? Sometimes we’re not sure if towards the end, the puzzle is even going to be solved at all. But when it all comes together, we leave the theater feeling as though we were enlightened, not robbed. And I really needed enlightening after having my faith in superhero/action movies in general being shook by bloated situation action/comedies like The Avengers, and the one that still makes me hate nearly all action movies to this day: Transformers- Revenge of the Fallen.

For all of the wonder, inspiration, and adventure that is within The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan’s tremendous ambition does weigh down certain aspects of the film. For instance, in Nolan’s attempt to assemble a puzzle movie, there are plot elements that are unclear to us in the beginning, but fortunately he recovers by explaining it towards the end. Just like with The Dark Knight, I know I had to watch it a couple more times to fully understand the broad scope of what the movie wanted to cover. I’m sure the same case applies to this film as well because even a mere half an hour after the movie ended, I’m still trying to put pieces together for myself. This is standard for a Nolan film. That still says a lot about his filmmaking prowess that if we still leave the theater feeling satisfied and happy, but still feel as though there are aspects of the movie left to be pondered. My main complaint with most action movies these days is that they pander too much to the superficial standards of the audience. Nolan wants us to have a great time watching his movies, but we still have to pay attention and (gasp!) think about what’s going on if can expect to not feel ripped-off.

Another aspect to the film that is not the best is Bane himself. Of course, he is a big, brutal bastard of a character whose anarchic nature ranks up there with the Joker, but unfortunately, his personality, as well as his voice, only goes so far. In test screenings, one of the only complaints the audience had for the film was that Bane was not very intelligible. While I’m sure Nolan & Co. improved Bane’s speech a bit since then, it’s still not perfect. Nevertheless, Bane helps retain the darkness that is prevalent and important to the series. However, between the mask and his accent, I’m sure his character would be much more menacing if we could understand what he was saying at all times, rather than vaguely most of the time.

We find that this film also has political elements to it, both intentional and tragically unintentional. It was particularly awesome to see rich people being beat the hell up and put on trial where they were given either exile or death. There’s also the concept of wiping the slate clean on all money trading investments, and the 99% so-to-speak rise in their own way against those who have far more than enough. In regards to the shooting that took place early on Friday, the gunman, James Holmes, who is a 24 year-old Neuroscience Major, was assuming the identity of the Joker as a part of his plan to shoot up that movie theater. As we all know, the Joker truly was a character of meticulous calculation, dangerous menace, and chaotic evil. I insist Ledger’s Oscar was not merely a pity award. His character and quotes are still immediately recognizable and will be for years to come, but what does this terrible incident say about the Joker’s notoriety and impression on already mentally unstable people? What does it say about the Joker’s character in general seeing as though this is also the role Heath Ledger essentially died for? For a man who has an incredibly gifted brain to study Neuroscience, why did the Joker’s influence get the better of him and make him think the character of the Joker would condone his actions? In The Dark Knight, the Joker never killed anyone unless it fit perfectly with his plan. Though it has only been 24+ hours since the tragedy occurred, and we still have yet to learn more details of Holmes’s true motives, it seems as though this is another case of a young man who just wanted to senselessly shoot a crowd of people just for kicks. Don’t be surprised to hear gun laws being discussed politically in the weeks to come via, your friend, the media.

Which is partially why we don’t need another character like the Joker in a movie like this. Bane’s villainous character, along with the character’s of the others, will undoubtedly leave their mark on cinema history, but it will be a modest one compared to the Joker’s. That’s essentially where The Dark Knight Rises earns its accolade for a fitting continuation of a series and a fulfilling ending. There’s no distracting over-the-top violence that other action movies consistently and constantly use as a crutch. As deadpan serious as this film can get, it still has room for lighter and funnier moments that are intelligent compared to most action movies. There’s only the need to demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit, overcome near-impossible adversities, and make you empathize with the extraordinary qualities of these characters that also appear in people we encounter in our day-to-day lives. I shall leave you by saying the keyword to this whole film is: Rise. 

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