Bidula’s Last Word: The Dark Knight Rises

Harry Knowles of wrote a review, dropping geek bombs of death all over The Dark Knight Rises.

Reviews like this are the reason I continue to write my own reviews and post them here. As a matter of fact, reviews like this are the reason I started writing reviews in the first place. The problem with most professional critics (and, I stress most, not all) is that the longer they’re at it the more jaded their voice becomes.

In the case of Harry Knowles, a long-trusted voice of the geek community, completely crapping all over Christopher Nolan’s penultimate Batman movie, this has never become more evident.

I am not completely condemning Harry Knowles for this, however, I would point out that the entire basis of his review compares apples to oranges. He’s going back to the source material and calling the movie out on not staying true to the comic. While I understand this and often explain to my wife after most movies based on comics or other pop-fiction which I’ve read/followed/obsessed over that the details in the movie were a bit muddled and here’s how it happened in the original property, I am a strong believer in the separation of Print and Screen.

Nolan’s Batman has never been the real Batman. No cinematic Batman could ever be the real Batman because the DC Universe has taken 73 years to establish. Most movies, especially big-ticket comic book franchises, are made for instant consumption and only have less than three hours at a clip to shove the entire history of a character down your throat to make the average uneducated movie-goer understand. This is no easy feat and is often the cause of potentially great superhero movies falling flat right out of the gate. Green Lantern is a great example of this because there is just too much involvement in the lore of the whole thing for the average consumer to really get it after only a 2-hour romp of what should have been titled Ryan Reynolds and the CG Costume Fiasco.

I digress.

No Batman can be the true Batman because Batman is a character who exists mostly in print. Printed-page characters, no matter how much illustration accompanies them, are always better in the mind of the beholder because it takes your imagination to get them to move around. No matter how many actors fit those parts dead on (Dan Radcliffe’s Harry Potter, Jen Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, et al), if you’ve read the source material – if you’ve obsessed over and re-read the source material and you’ve come to know the characters in a way that only you can really understand – when they hit the screen, they’re still not going to be that character to you 100% no matter how good a job they do. Print and Screen are two distinct entities and, though one may borrow heavily from the other, they must still be viewed as separate-but-equal entities.

TDKR is going to be a polarizing point in geek-movies for a very long time for this very reason.

As most of you reading this know, I am and always have been a huge Batman fan. Pre-Burton, Pre-Animated Series, Pre-People Born After 1986. I feel sad that I have to qualify myself as such to make this review seem credible, but such is the case in modern geekdom.

TDKR was not a masterpiece. It did not unseat its predecessor as the jewel of the Bat-Nolan franchise. The Dark Knight, in my mind, remains the best of this trilogy, joining many other second-movies as the peak to which all others must aspire.

That said, TDKR, if you are a fan of the Nolanverse, is certainly worth your time and your money. Please don’t believe the naysayers (of whom Harry Knowles is but one) who will tell you that it was totally garbage and will scream and thrash and wail about how this movie isn’t a real Batman movie because of the aforementioned objections and comparisons. If you liked Begins, if you liked Dark Knight, you will like TDKR if you keep an open mind.

As I mentioned, this was not a masterpiece, but its ambition was great in scope. Nolan went into this movie knowing that he wanted to bring the trilogy to a conclusion but also knowing that there is a wealth of Bat-Stories that would make for a fantastic movie, specifically a movie that he would want to make. The result is a brilliant mash-up of storyarcs, kind of a greatest hits, drawing from the last 35 years of the comic book that kept me, as a fan, watching every detail to see where things would go next.

The main plot of the movie is a combination of Knightfall, Son of the Demon, and No-Man’s-Land (that gives you enough hints without spoiling the flick for the uninitiated). Bits and pieces of other things are thrown in for flavor, namely some latter-day Catwoman details, as necessary.

On Catwoman: Though Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is outstanding and, in all honesty, much better and less punny than Michelle Pfeiffer’s turn under the ears (the name Halle Barry has no place here), it seems like she was an afterthought in a bigger game. The character is used as a combination MacGuffin/Deus Ex Machina more than getting any true development. However, in the gigantically evolving plot of the whole thing, it was unfortunately easy to relegate her role to something simpler. Honestly, I think it’s a shame that a strong female character like Catwoman gets boiled down to Batman’s sidekick/occasional ass-saver. I suppose some sacrifices must be made for the betterment of the story.

Some to-do was also made regarding Catwoman “just being a professional thief.” Guess what, critics? Catwoman IS a professional thief. That’s her gig. It’s been her gig forever. Just because you had a boner for Burton’s stitched-up, vinyl, vengeance-driven version makes you disappointed? You’ll complain that she’s “just a professional thief” when that’s exactly what she was supposed to be all along? For shame, fanboy, for shame. Again, things are a bit different in the Nolanverse and you just have to cope. I don’t know what you were really looking for beyond this.

On Bane: Tom Hardy. What do I say to you? You’re awesome in everything. You made Inception watchable. This, however, I’m not so sure about.

The obvious comparison is first drawn: Was Tom Hardy’s Bane as good a villain as Heath Ledger’s Joker? The obvious answer is no. This is not Tom Hardy’s fault, however. He played Bane as I believe Bane should be played – cold, calculating, uncaring, brilliant, evil. The problem with Bane that we don’t experience in the comics is the issues of human expression while wearing a mask that covers your entire lower face. Artists can add a greater deal of expression through artistic license when drawing people like Bane (who wears a full face mask in the comics). Tom Hardy cannot conceivably be as expressive as Heath Ledger when his nose and mouth are caged under hard plastic for the entire movie not to mention the fact that all of his dialogue had to be overdubbed in post-production, not allowing much for subtlety of pitch or volume to his lines.

Tom Hardy didn’t fail Bane’s characterization through his acting. Chris Nolan didn’t fail Bane’s characterization by putting the mask on him. Bane, as a character, requires a mask to let us know that he is Bane. They allowed Hardy’s eyes to be exposed, but even then, the character is a remorseless, cold-blooded terrorist with a thousand-yard stare. Tell me he can use those peepers to maximum emotion with that shit going on.

Did I mention this was a VENOM-free Bane? This is a VENOM-free Bane. The concept works for this movie and, honestly, the whole VENOM plotline would have added another half-hour to the already epic 2:45 running time. You can believe from the spoilery bits of background they establish that Bane can still break the Bat. You’re left with a bit more hope that Batman could eventually take him than you were in Knightfall.

Yes, that scene is in the movie. No, it’s not as epic as the original comic book cover. Nor are the consequences. You just couldn’t have Bane in this movie without that particular scene. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, good on you and enjoy the show.

The rest of the cast does an exemplary job, including Bat-Noobs Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard. It’s really too spoilery to go into their backgrounds and I may have said too much just by saying that. There are also two sweet (one serious, one hysterical) cameos from the previous flicks. Keep your eyes open.

In the end, you have to take the Nolanverse for what it is. It’s a different representation of Batman, it always has been. I’d like to say that Batman Begins was the first movie to coin the term “Gritty Reboot” but I might be wrong. The point still stands that this franchise was not built on the mysticism and legend of the mainstream DC Universe. Nolan’s vision for this franchise has always been grounded slightly more in reality. Slightly.

Part of that reality is that Bruce Wayne/Batman is a human being, not an ideal as he’s portrayed in the comics. That has always been one of my main problems with the DC Universe – their characters are too perfect. They are without flaw and without fail 90% of the time. We’ve become so used to seeing DC heroes in that light that we’ve forgotten that they could be real people if they were written that way.

That’s what Nolan has done throughout this Trilogy. He’s explored the duality of Bruce’s character and the struggle to maintain that double life. In this movie in particular, he explores the problems of Bruce and Lucius Fox within Wayne Enterprises to keep the Bat-Tech they developed out of the wrong hands. People have problems. People have feelings. I should say that people have feelings other than the desire for justice at all costs. The DC Universe presents us with the incorruptible and unrelenting quest of Batman. Nolan explores the emotions behind that quest and some think the character weaker for it.

I’ve always found this version of Batman interesting because they allowed Bruce to be more of a human being. He had love interests, he has emotions, he has wants and needs, he has cares for something other than the quest. His regret turns to anger which drives him to do what he does. Batman Begins started exploring that emotion and TDKR wraps it up nicely.

Anyone bashing this movie because Nolan Batman isn’t “real Batman” needs to stop taking things so damn literally. Yeah, they effed with Batman lore. They effed with it hard. But, ask yourself: does it make sense in the context of the film? If you answer anything but yes, I’m curious if we were watching the same movie or if you accidentally wandered into the late showing of Magic Mike down the hall. Also, get over yourself and look at things differently. The written source material will NEVER be the movie, it will only be a shadow or an interpretation of that source material. Take it for what it’s worth and admit that, while this wasn’t a masterpiece, this was a pretty god damned good movie and certainly one worth seeing.

Bidula’s Last Word: 8/10. Shut up and see it.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

One thought on “Bidula’s Last Word: The Dark Knight Rises

  1. Harry Knowles is a fuckwit. Always has been, always will be. He is even now taking his childish anti-Nolan crusade even further by removing the pro-TDKR reviews from his site, closing all Talkbacks on the film and permanently banning anyone who calls him on his dickish behavior. He’s now lost whatever slim margin of credibility he had left. Hopefully his joke of a website will soon implode and disappear like it should have done years ago. The man needs to vanish into total obscurity and spend his days fondling his collection of memorabilia and muttering to himself in his father’s basement.

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