To start off with the blatanly obvious (because sometimes it's just FUN being able to say that "I was there, I was that dancer/college athlete/soldier/highly-decorated flasher/shrimping boat captain" for more reasons than one): I'm not the reviewer this movie needs and I'm almost certainly not the reviewer deserves, but I'll try anyway - because someone has to and since several people already have I'm going to do pitch in too because I love the thought of sharing my own opinions with people who care enough about the subject to pst about it, but not QUITE enough to hunt me down to scourge and purge me for a heretic.
But enough about me, on with the show.
Well, I won't lie, I have been a fan of Christopher Nolan's version of the Batman mythos since it began and nothing I have seen for myself or read about in those opinions others have shared with the community of the public at large has yet convinced me that this trilogy is NOT a wholly worthy and frequently wonderful addition to the rich history of the Dark Knight: this trilogy has given* an increased level of dignity to the cinematic incarnation of Batman, thanks to a level of care, craft and panache uncommon even in cinema as a whole, never mind what one might as well call genre cinema (as well as attracted an entire new generation of fans who one hopes will find this one particular Gotham an agreeable stepping stone towards the greater DC creation).
*I hesitate to say GIVEN BACK because I find it hard to say that he ever had it wholly stripped away; controversial as it may be to say this anywhere but within earshot of Chris Sims, but I cannot find it in myself to say Mr Schumacher's take on the Caped Crusader utterly lacked dignity - those costumes didn't exactly do his films any favours, but his take on the Dark Knight was seldom any less compassionate or courageous than Mr Nolan's even if he was frequently somewhat less well-dressed.
I would also like to note that when it came to sheer imagination, the mad and beautiful ideas which Superheroes in particular thrive on, Mr Schumacher's films still tend to leave Mr Nolan's prowling in their wake; think about how much of Batman one would lose if we confined ourselves to the very solid, formidably grounded Gotham we see in Mr Nolan's vision.
While we must certainly call the works of Mr Nolan, his Cast and Crew definitive, also that in my opinion at least this is a GOOD thing, we should not assume that they will forever be the last word concerning the Dark Knight and I would hope that we should never be in danger of forbidding future generations (or this one) for bringing new twists and turns to The Batman et al.
That being said and because I dislike this part of the review process so much that I want to be over and done with it before I get to the Good Stuff (and therefore cleanse my palate of it), I'll list here those elements of the movie which I felt were simply not up to the standards of the rest of it (frighteningly high, to be sure).
- The Score: As ever Maestro Hans Zimmer has turned in a pulse-pounding score which fits the movie; this is far from a bad thing, as several elements of his score suit my taste well enough to be palatable (for example I find The Chant hooked my attention to the point where it still refuses to let go and I'd argue that no other composer has quite managed to convey the sheer overwhelming FORCE of the Dark Knight in action as effectively as Mr Zimmer has), it fails to thrill the soul in the way the works of Maestro Elfman and the late, great Shirley Walker still manage to.
To put it succinctly, Mr Zimmer's score has considerable potency, but too little poetry for my taste; were there some elements of Opera/Swashbuckling Melodrama I would feel it suited the character better.
- The City: Again, while I truly admire what Mr Nolan and crew have accomplished in making the world of the Dark Knight so tangiable one can very nearly reach out through the screen and touch it, I must confess that I miss the more-than-slightly melodramatic splendour of that peculiar mix of Dark Deco and Gothic Masonry on Absinthe that so distinguishes Gotham City in the comics and some of the other media adaptions (Batman the Animated Series
, Batman the Brave and the Bold
and even the series of films which preceeded this splendid trilogy, although to be fair I suspect that none of them were perfect either, perfection being an aspiration to pursue and not a reality we'll ever enjoy, I fear).
Never-the-less, I appreciate the choices he and his creative colleagues have made, as well as being sufficiently moved to admit that I admire their decision to stick with it to the bittersweet end; if the city we see in these films does not quite match the mental image of Gotham I hold so dear in my imagination, it certainly suits these films admirably and remains impressive.
- The World: a final reservation regarding these films and one intimately linked to the last point above is that quite frankly the World Christian Bale's Batman inhabits is NOT the DC Universe I love (even if it IS a Batman Universe I like and admire) for the very simple reason that while it has considerable room for humour and imagination, it lacks the capacity to countenance Pure Fantasy which I consider the most endearing feature of Comic Book Universes.
While the universe of Batman a la Christopher Nolan is by no means without imagination and remains quite as far from Reality as it does Fantasy, one finds it hard to imagine this grounded take on Gotham ever playing host to The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and (amongst many others, but perhaps the absence most difficult to forgive whatever an in-joke might imply) Batgirl, Robin or any of the DC Heroes with whom Batman is most usefully teamed up, at least in any form which permits all concerned to work to their fullest potential without diminishing one another.
While this was deliberate and an entirely valid choice given the prevailing philosophy on superhero films at the time Batman Begins was made (still in force at the present time at DC, although hopefully not forever), which avoided mentioning other properties, even those associated with the same parent company, I cannot help but call any universe it which Batman will NEVER meet Superman or even seriously be allowed to entertain that possibility my particular favourite.
There's a reason my favourite adaption of the DC Universe to date is the animated series Batman the Brave and the Bold
folks (no, not THE Animated Series, although I love it dearly).
All this being said, while these elements impact my enjoyment of the trilogy it must be said that this impact is far from fatal and all of the choices which brought about these particular facets of the experience are entirely valid, no matter that I disagree with them.
For all that they temper my enjoyment of the Trilogy with reservations, they do NOT adversely affect the quality of the films to any meaningful degree of severity, at least in my opinion.
Right, my grumbles being duly put on public display, now it's time for me to praise the film with Great Praise and almost equal brevity (a man has to SLEEP hang it all).
There is a great deal to enjoy in the Dark Knight Rises, but in the interests of avoiding serious spoilers and my sleeping patterns I'll do my best to boil it down to the essentials.
- The Talented Characters: Let me put it quite simply, Mr Nolan continues his noble streak of putting together a veritible Murderer's Row of acting talent and putting it to superb use - for all that one can quibble with the interpretation of any given character or the suitability of any given actor for the role they have been given and really, these ARE quibbles in my opinion, no matter what others may say.
To begin with, what one might call the recurring players of Nolan's Gotham (Bale, Caine, Freeman, Oldman) all continue to fill their allotted roles with considerable vigour and their usual splendid displays of the talents that has made them sought after.
For all the eyebrows Mr Bale's bat-voice continues to raise, he remains quite simply the finest all-round actor to occupy the role (Mr Kevin Conroy remains simply the finest actor, but I feel he yields the title of all-rounder to Mr Bale simply because he has never had to simultaneously voice Batman/Bruce Wayne AND physically incarnate the character), intimidating and inspiring and remaining wholly human all at the same time.
For all that I fear that Alfred is perhaps less in this movie than he has been in the other two parts of the trilogy, he remains a strong presence none-the-less and Michael Caine remains maginificent in the role, as he has subtly remade it to suit his strengths (If I continue to imagine other actors in the role it is only because Batman's Batman is even more fun to cast mentally than his master and foster-son, if only because Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Christoper Lee are probably a bit too old to play the Batman and Garry Oldman looks better with a moustache).
Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox remains the Q we've been missing since the late (although thankfully not the last) Major Boothroyd suffered his unfortunate demise, continuing to make Lucius Fox a supporting character just as worthy of Bruce Wayne as Alfred Pennyworth (or very nearly - this IS Batman's Batman after all).
Garry Oldman, of course, continues to convey why Jim Gordon remains Gotham's Greatest Hero (even if he isn't quite it's biggest bad---, gracefully conceding that honour to the Batman in the interest of the serving the public trust in a manner consistent with decent Law Enforcement while presenting a considerable challenge for it). As you my have noticed, Oldman is even better as an actor than critics might say Gordon is as a role (we audiences are frequently wise to ignore critics, literary or otherwise, because they're so busy being critical they forget to look for FUN, rather than weaknesses).
Even if some secret corner of my mind wonders what he'd look like as Alfred or even if Bruce Willis will ever get the chance to carry the role I'd argue he's been training to play since a certain Heroic Everyman cop made his debut in Die Hard
If I omit certain actors and their characters forgive me, but I refuse to spoil the fun of running into them in your own time - have a good one!
As for the new talent, the actors recruited to this movie do sterling service in their own right - a series of minor supporting roles are played by actors who make them rather more, Marion Cotillard makes for an intriguing Dark Knight Damsel, Matthew Modine's performance is as commendably solid as his character's decisions are occasionally lamentable, Joseph Gordon-Levitt all but flourishes his card as a deserving action hero in his own right, Tom Hardy simultaneously stamps his Bane indeliably both over Gotham and into my conception of the character (really, no Villain with a breathing apparatus has presented such a viably deadly peril since Darth Vader).
Oh and quite frankly Anne Hathaway's take on Selina Kyle shamelessly insinuated her way into my affections, then ran away with my heart within the space of Catwoman's first appearance and has yet to return all the scenes she stole over the course of the film; she might well play my favourite take on the Feline Fatale in an adaption to date.
-The Creative Vision: Quite frankly Mr Nolan and his team have alternately chilled, intrigued and thrilled for a series of splendid reasons - the coherency and thoughtfulness they have brought to the creation of these films is matched only by the Marvel Serials that led in to this year's Avengers Assemble
; even if their achievement plays out on a slightly smaller scale, I do not believe that the comparison diminishes either party. One can only hope that future Live Action films featuring superheroes can live up to the very best in the examples presented by these films, Trilogy and 6-part Serial.
On another level, the very grounded take on Gotham given in these films (while also being one which I have had issues with at intervals) continues to be so convincing as to be nearly tangiable - thanks to rock-solid costuming, location work and best of all the practical special effects which Mr Nolan has made Batman's own, in combination with occasional flashes of CGI.
If it can be said to lack the flourishes and gleeful fantasy present in other adaption, it can be said that those adaptions can be in dire need of a more coherent grounding to prevent the clouds from blocking the view of those heads watching who plan to become talking heads later.
I also admire the Mr Nolan's willingness to acknowledge when he has said all that he wishes to say about the character and walk away at what I would say is the height of his powers - I wish him the best of British luck (and all that he can find in foreign markets) to him in his future cinematic endevours.
To round up, I am hugely impressed with Mr Nolan's take on Batman in general and The Dark Knight Rises specificially, even if I nurse the odd reservation, and I do not resent the fact that it will define the character (if only in the minds of those amongst the cinema-going public who went to see them without preconcieved opinions about the characters and worlds depicted, who STILL get to enjoy Mr Nolan's while they work to put their own on screen or down on paper).
Now all that remains is to ask whether any Live Action auteur will be able to follow his lead or make the Batman Universe their own in their own right to quite the same degree before Christian Bale grows old enough to play Alfred Pennyworth himself. I wish the best of luck to all those concerned with this trilogy in their future choices and endevours (even if they don't make one quite as wise as this one!).
Founder of H.E.R.O.I.C, Complimenter-in-Chief, Co-Arch Henchman to the Grin, Servant of the Hoff!
Rule Brittania! Praise the Hoff and the Grin!
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