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Thursday, August 23, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises", Batman needs holidays

The Dark Knight Rises
Hollywood's machinery, as well as the critics' unbalanced massive reviews on the grandeur of "The Dark Knight", the second part of Christopher's Nolan trilogy on Batman, are probably the ones to the blame. Indeed, the film easily ranks among the best ever made based on a superhero. And agreed, it was not only a bombastic, spectacular action hero film, but a more complex and dark, and therefore endurable entertainment, miles away from the average blockbuster. But many made quite pedantic references to Dostoevsky, philosophy, theory of chaos, existentialism, democracy and political theory when valuing its virtues. It's always exciting to speculate/discuss around motivations on cinema and they succeeded giving another, more prestigious dimension to the film, but they went too far.

So, probably as a consequence, the announced end of the trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises", had to be even better: bigger, bolder, more spectacular, more epic (careful with the thunderous, repetitive soundtrack) more complex and profound. But it is not. Nolan tries, too hard in my opinion, with unsatisfactory results.

I'm a script moviegoer. It's the most important part of a film to me. I need stories, and they have to grab and keep my attention. The script gives complexity and richness to the situations and characters, allowing the actors to show their abilities. "Batman Begins" had an interesting focus on the reconstruction of Bruce Wayne's complex and tortured character, letting us know his pretty obscure and mundane motivations. The "The Dark Knight" an even more intriguing, even sophisticated confrontation between Batman and Joker (brilliantly played by Heath Ledger), so the distance between the hero and the villain wasn't that far away, plus a fantastic end in which the hero has to be defeated, blamed, to "save" the city. "The Dark Knight Rises" doesn't have such an "anchor", such a story. The plot is seriously lame by comparison.

And linked with the script weakness, the other major factor. A terrible management of time. "The Dark Knight Rises" begins eight years after Batman's takes the blame for Harvey Dent's death in order to put in practice the "Dent's Law" (quite similar to the ultraconservative Patriot Act it seems?) against crime in Gotham, but time has only taken its toll on Bruce Wayne (solved with a good shave and a couple of beatings), not in Alfred, Comissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox, the major, etc... Anyway, Bruce doesn't want to go back to his Batman's job: he's bitter, reclusive, heartbroken, but he will "have to", desperately, after he's informed of the apparation of the super-villain Bane, while he deals with the sexy thief Selina Kyle and tries to decide what to do with his failing business empire, which involves the also sensual Miranda Tate.

So, there's when time management really fails. On a double level. First, on the length of the film itself, extremely long, with many situations/scenes that after presented, are poorly developed or left behind, while others consume a considerable amount of time being, with the Bane's and Bruce's common origin and the escaping from the hole/prison on top, quite dull and unnecessary. Second, and as I saw on "Inception", Nolan might have a problem of megalomania, a tendency to excess. He wants to film a "race against time" thriller with an unexpected twist, but also aims to give a political background to it, with Bane's artificial revolution (a pure dictatorial regime), while he shows how far Batman has to dig inside himself to find the way to defeat the monster. He tries to include a social comment, the downturn of economy, the people's discontent, romance (wait, wasn't Bruce too devastated?, wasn't that bad then, I guess), a noble young policeman who knows his secret identity and has a common background with Batman., a visit from a "ghost", lots of spectacular gadgets, thousands of extras, the destruction of Gotham (a more recognisable NY than ever).... Time shifts brutally, five months turn into 23 days, next scene into hours... I could go on and on, pointing the amount of unresolved or incongruent missing little pieces of this puzzle, but I guess you get the idea. "The Dark Knight Rises" is chaotic.

Then it's probably better to review "Batman III" as a mere entertainment, so there's plenty to praise. The action scenes are pretty spectacular: the stock exchange, the bridges collapsing, the implosion of the tunnels and the stadium are stunning ones. Bane, played by Tom Hardy, might not be as memorable as the Joker, but is a very remarkable villain, with a powerful screen presence (wasted in my opinion). Christian Bale does all he can with such a tortuous script for him, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman are solid as expected as the "good cops", while Michael Caine excels again in his few but emotional scenes (he might be the only character with credible human feelings). But the two girls, Anne Hathaway as an irresistible, "down to earth" Catwoman, and the always magnetic Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, are the ones who steal all the scenes in where they take part. I didn't like the flying Batmobile, but the Batbike looks great with Catwoman's on it.

As a mere entertainment, a superhero action film, if we compare it with "Thor", "Iron Man" or "Captain America", "The Dark Knight Rises" is still far superior and more enjoyable. But it is also a disappointing last chapter of Nolan’s trilogy, with its length and lack of measure resulting in a seriously unbalanced film. It's probably time for the holidays, Batman.

SCORE: 5,5/10

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