Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Hooooo boy, there's a new least favorite Nolan Batman in town. Remember that whole thing I said about 'distance'? Its harshest lesson lies within a movie you thought was good, not great, and finding out much later that you were sorely mistaken. I owe a very small apology to Batman Begins.

We pick up seven years after The Dark Knight, a timespan too short and a movie too early. Batman hasn't appeared since that whole Joker incident (??) and after a brief shame-explosion directed at Nolan's cancelled Howard Hughes project, he and Goyer cut up select pages out of The Dark Knight Returns and try to fuse it with sequel requirements and some shockingly terrible instincts. A world where everyone seems to know Batman's identity, where a magic rope can cure a broken back, where Bane inexplicably is political mastermind as well as a brute, where we spend too much time on an ancillary character we don't like and don't care if he gets redeemed in an already crowded script. Where scenes are interesting one time only.

Those who thought the second Batman went too far and indirectly resulted in an actor's death are in luck: this film takes no risks. Gotham isn't left out in the cold for too long, Batman's fans are numerous in spite of the last film ending with a different assertion, the opportunity to kill Bruce Wayne is not taken. "We couldn't get the actor playing Two-Face to return, but don't worry, we have something just as good: a note!" Nothing offensive happens, therefore nothing exciting happens (unless you, like me, were offended by Levitt accidentally killing a guy with a ricochet and then throwing his gun away... the fuck?) Even the execution of these simple story tasks feel like they were done from someone yawning at the wheel. Nolan has been taken to task previously for not being much of an action director, and this film provides the perfect ammunition for that theory. Sparks go off when guns aren't pointed at them, a motorcycle chase somehow lacks kinetic energy, the minimal effort of one-punch knockouts, Hathaway nowhere near able to break that prisoner's hands, and -- dear god -- keep your eyes on the two leads and away from the crowd of Pennsylvania amateurs playing pretend in the giant brawl.

At least there's the skeleton of a great story in there somewhere. Peace as complacency is a fertile theme -- crime can bide its time while you get old and weak, or like they say in The Wire, "Nothing kills cops more than boredom. Make it boring out there." There are select moments that succeed on an emotional level, but all of which belong in a better film that you can easily write in your own head.

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