Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

1. Short review: 

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The character development. The Bat.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Roller coaster.

2.2. What I did not like:  The length. The unbelievable docility of the Gotham police. The stupid excuse for a plot.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Christopher Nolan fans.

2.4. Is the movie appropriate for children to see? Yes. Sex hinted at but not shown. Movie violence; that is, gunshot dead people without entry wounds. No blood.

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? I think The Dark Knight Rises wraps up the Christopher Nolan trilogy. I might pay to see another one, but I would probably show up late to the party like I did this time. I don't know if I can stand any more of Christian Bale in the role of Batman. He plays serious as Batman and Bruce Wayne. No difference. I liked Michael Keaton's portrayal better. He gave Bruce Wayne/Batman different personalities.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:
-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more. 
-- Worth first-run theater price once. <-- The Dark Knight Rises
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again.

Running time: 165 minutes.

2.6.2. The plot in a nutshell << SPOILERS >>:
     Bane (Tom Hardy) escapes CIA custody in an aerial capture: a C-130 overtakes the CIA turboprop in which Bane is flying and a four-man team rappel down to the turboprop to dismantle it in mid-air. (My thoughts at this point: The 130 has an N number painted on the fuselage which means it is registered with the FAA. Maybe these guys are criminals but they keep their licensing straight. And why turn to crime when you can afford to buy, maintain, and operate a C-130?)
    Eight years after Batman defeated the Joker, Gotham City celebrates Harvey Dent Day and the Harvey Dent Law that the Mayor credits with imprisoning thousands of criminals, thus making Gotham safe. (One cop jokes that they will be reduced to collecting overdue library book fines.) Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman)* knows the truth about Dent -- he was a bad, bad man -- but will not expose it. Why? 'Cause Gotham City needs heroes.
     In a mishmash of scenes that serve only to introduce characters, we learn that 1) Wayne Enterprises is broke, 2) Wayne Enterprises R&D department created a working fusion reactor (!) that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) mothballed, 3) Bruce Wayne believes Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) can save Wayne Enterprises and the reactor project, 4) Bruce Wayne is a physical wreck (one character alludes to Howard Hughes's reclusion), 5) Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) knows more than he lets on, and 6) Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) is a charming yet dangerous thief.
     Bane's henchmen shoot Commissioner Gordon, but he escapes and ends up in a hospital bed. (When the henchmen bring Gordon to Bane, Bane kills them both for small mistakes. Is this the kind of leadership that inspires the troops? If I were one of the henchmen, I would look for other work. Bane's retirement plan really sucks.) Bane then breaks into the stock market to bankrupt Bruce Wayne. Why? He's already broke. I guess worse than broke is broke2.
     In short order, Bane isolates Gotham from the rest of the world, traps 3,000 of the police underground (Why does Gotham need 3,000 police, anyway? The mayor said the city had no organized crime, so why keep 3,000 cops on payroll? Jobs program, I guess.), and releases the criminals from the jails. Bane steals the fusion reactor and turns it into a six-megaton bomb.
     Batman comes to the rescue, only he doesn't. Bane beats the crap out of him. (You know, for a couple of guys who were trained in martial arts, they seem to fall back to old-fashioned toe-to-toe streetfighting most of the time.) Bane throws Bruce Wayne into the prison-pit where Bane had been. Bruce Wayne starts the long process of healing.
     Five months go by. The released criminals hold sentencing courts. There are no trials to establish guilt, just sentencing. The fusion reactor is slowly failing and will soon go critical. The cops are still underground. (I know. Gotham's finest show less initiative than a pack of paraplegic cub scouts, but, hey, I didn't write it. Talk to Christopher Nolan.) Bruce Wayne escapes from the prison-pit, returns to Gotham, and asks Catwoman for help in exchange for a clean record. She betrayed him once, but, hey, let by-gones be by-gones. She betrays him again.
     Finally, the cops climb out of the sewers -- looking like their faces need a shave and their suits need a press but not like they have been living in the same clothes for five months. They storm Bane's boys with pistols. Bane's boys let 'em have it with automatic weapons. Bane's boys are bad shots. They machinegun an elbow-to-elbow crowd of cops and kill TWO of 'em, by my count. Everybody drops guns and starts the slugfest, including Batman and Bane. Batman, who lost a bout of fisticuffs with Bane before he spent five ill-fed months in the prison-pit, hammers Bane. Hey, that's it! Hit him in the mouthpiece! Why didn't Batman think of that before? 
     Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Commissioner Gordon and his gang of blues are tracking the reactor through the city. For reasons known only to God and Christopher Nolan, Bane chose to motor the reactor around the city. Gordon et alia ambush Bane's motorcades until they find the one with the reactor. Gordon places a jammer next to the reactor so that Bane cannot set it off. All this work buys him 11 minutes more before the bomb detonates.
     Batman attempts to torture the fallen Bane into revealing who has the detonator, but, being Batman, he's really bad at torture. Miranda Tate knifes Batman and reveals 1) she is the daughter of Ra's al Ghul, 2) she was the child who escaped from the prison-pit, 3) Bane was her protector in the pit, 4) she, too, was a member of the League of Shadows, and 5) she has the detonator. I dunno, but I thought this was a lot to say while she twisted a knife in Batman's guts. Why are villains always so talky-talky? (I did not see this coming. Really. Miranda Tate as the evil genius behind all these shenanigans came as a surprise.)
     Catwoman arrives and blows away Bane. No toe-to-toe bare knuckles for her. She uses 20 Mike-Mike. Tate escapes to die in a truck crash. Batman flies the reactor-cum-bomb away from Gotham; it explodes. Not quite the end.
     The presumed-deceased Bruce Wayne leaves coordinates to John Blake who traces them to find the Bat Cave. We find out that John Blake's first name is Robin. So the Boy Wonder starts out a 30-year old man. Hmmm.
     Alfred goes to a cafe in Italy and sees Bruce Wayne at another table. Smiles. Roll credits. 

     You have to see Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to understand this movie. Really, you do.
* Gary Oldman has been a favorite of mine since I first saw him play a coked-up DEA agent in The Professional. (Rating: ) Jean Reno played the title character. The film introduced a 12-year old Natalie Portman to the screen. (She was twelve when Luc Besson made the movie; thirteen when he released it.)
2.7. Other:

     I enjoyed this movie. I should not, but I did.
     I liked the characterization of Alfred Pennyworth (Sir Michael Caine). Alfred loves Bruce Wayne. He doesn't want him to be Batman. He wants him to live and enjoy life and raise up a family. Alfred cannot stomach watching the boy he raised destroy himself, so he leaves.
     I like the characterization of John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Underplayed but always strong.
     I enjoyed Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), but I did not like her. I saw her change from a thief to a defender of civilization in the movie. Bane and Tate are amoral. Catwoman is immoral and knows it. She needs an ordered society to thrive. The egalitarian anarchy that Bane creates offers her nothing.
     There are many, many things about this movie that I don't like. For instance, it is manifest that Bruce Wayne is as competent to judge character as a pig is to judge wine. He sleeps with Miranda Tate but does not know she is Ra's al Ghul's daughter? Nor that she is a trained Shadow warrior? How do you keep those little telltale movements from showing? Have you ever really watched a Navy Seal move? They have a different air about them. Bruce Wayne ran a five-minute trace on a caterer's maid to find the Catwoman, but he did not trip to the fact that the woman he intends to turn over Wayne Enterprises to is the daughter of his old sensei and nemesis? And then Catwoman betrays him not once but twice. I tell ya, when it comes to women, Bruce Wayne thinks only from the waist down.

     I was sittin' in the theater, watchin' the movie, mindin' my own bidness, when all of a sudden Nolan started throwin' politics at me.
     Baddies are takin' out the stock exchange. The chief of police says he will
not risk cops to save the broker's money.
     The broker says, "It's not my money. It's everybody's."

     Bane -- when he frees criminals, traps the police, and isolates Gotham -- claims he is giving the city back to the people. He rules in the name of the people. The result? Bread lines.

     At one point, seeking shelter in what was a mansion before Bane took the city, Catwoman says to her accomplice, "This used to be somebody's house."
     Accomplice responds, "Now it's everybody's."
     Catwoman's face looks like she just smelled the back end of a gassy goat.

     I am reminded of Macdonough's Song.


2.8. Links:
IMDb review
Rotten Tomatoes review

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