With The Dark Knight having been as awesome as it was, I went into The Dark Knight Rises with very high expectations. The former had managed to find the fine line between drama and comic book movie (a line which I didn’t know existed, mind you) and one could only imagine that Christopher Nolan would create something even more magical, having found this cinematic sweet spot. Unfortunately, Nolan, being aware of how great The Dark Knight was, decided to make its successor essentially a clone of itself on steroids, weakly building on its strengths while exaggerating its weaknesses. TDKR tried to capture the subtle brilliance of TDK’s lengthy dialogues, the eerie believability of its action scenes, and the sensitivity of its more delicate moments, yet managed to be somewhat cheesy in its rendition of all three. It felt somewhat synthetic, as if the strengths of a great movie were being bulked up for a box office-smashing sequel. It’s sort of like the Mitt Romney of this summer’s movies; from afar, it seems to walk the walk but is much more staged and awkward at closer examination.
Don’t get me wrong – this was still close to as good as a comic book movie can get. The sheer awesomeness of the first two in this series makes us forget that we are still dealing a film in the same franchise as Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and a few other disasters. Having not seen the first two Batman films, I would maybe even have clapped at the end of this movie as 200 people at the premier I went to felt compelled to do. However, knowing the ability Christopher Nolan possesses to create a film which is both visually and intellectually thrilling for the entirety of its runtime, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed overall and even slightly cheated at times. Please excuse a quick caps lock moment – ****SPOILER ALERT**** – alright, presuming I’ve scared away those who haven’t seen it yet, let me more specifically discuss what I mean:
Simply put, the movie was too long. Action movies need not (should not?) be 2 hours 45 minutes. I don’t think the adrenal gland – action movies’ best friend – is designed to keep grooving for that long. It felt as if Christopher Nolan had set a hard goal on this number, because I feel a lot of the movies’ problems could have been solved by cutting down some of the more mundane parts. There were dialogues and sequences in the middle of the movie that felt excessive and superfluous, and plot twists which featured the unfortunate double-whammy of being both difficult to follow and difficult to stay awake for.
I wanted to appreciate the heartfelt monologues doled out by Alfred numerous times in the movie, but found my more perverse Batman-fan side yearning to see stuff get blown up. I wanted to understand what the deal with the prison-well thing was, but couldn’t figure out for the life of me why every single person wasn’t escaping from the prison if you just needed to jump. (You’d think they’d be doing squats in their free time) I tried to calculate how long it would take the Federal government to do something about Bane in the absence of any law and order in Gotham, and decided it would have been much shorter than the months it seemed that a crew of rebels and deadbeats had the city on lockdown. I even wanted to believe that Bruce Wayne appearing at the very end after seemingly sacrificing himself, the ultimate okey-doke in feel-good action movies, wasn’t just Christopher Nolan securing future revenue streams with a disappointing and sickeningly predictable plot twist.
Even the allusions to the struggle of the rich vs. poor felt half-hearted. While Catwoman’s various comments throughout the movie are clearly a parallel to the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’d prefer it was either discussed in more detail or not mentioned altogether rather than such a nuanced and controversial topic be glanced over as carelessly as it was.
Again, all of these are examples of things The Dark Knight did well. TDK managed to combine well-written and well-executed dialogues, a plodding narrative which took the perfect amount of time to develop, bits of social commentary that felt honest and genuine, and non-stop action which made the hair on your neck stand up, due to both how breathtaking it was and how real it seemed. The newest version tried to one-up itself on all of those measures, leaving much to be desired and a sense of Christopher Nolan having missed his chance to think outside the box.
In fairness Catwoman was cool, but ends up playing an awkward part-time role in the film, sort of like a summer intern at a big company. It’s a shame, because I would have really liked to see her and Bruce Wayne/Batman get weird. Just saying.