At the risk of sounding like the cantankerous old man from “Up,” I just do not see what all the fuss is about with Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. Now, you may be saying, this post isn’t that timely, considering the final film came out almost one year ago. But since “The Dark Knight Rises” has been on HBO on what seems like an endless loop the last week, and since I’ve seen it a few times now, it’s on my mind and I figured it was time to write about it. Besides, it’s my blog.
So. “Batman Begins.” I thought it was fantastic. Christian Bale shaded Bruce Wayne very well, the origin story was bold but also fully informed the audience of who Batman/Wayne was as a character, and the supporting cast was terrific. In particular, I thought Gary Oldman was a stand-out (and I’d praise the entire Gotham City PD for their performances in all three movies: Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Matthew Modine). Nolan got actors such as Eric Roberts (and Anthony Michael Hall in “The Dark Knight”) to make the most out of minor moments, and people like Tom Wilkinson and Cillian Murphy to show off true villainy, in a comic book movie, in a grounded and real-world setting. I had high hopes when a sequel was announced.
And then everyone began fawning all over “The Dark Knight.” And I have to be honest – I just don’t get it. First of all, it’s not a Batman movie – it’s a movie about Harvey Dent. I’d argue Batman is the 4th-most important person in the movie, plotwise: Dent, the Joker, Commissioner Gordon and Rachel all have more powerful roles that develop and engage the plot. Really, what is it about this movie that makes it so that everyone calls it the quintessential Batman film? Batman flies to Hong Kong unnecessarily, brings back a bad guy, decides that Harvey Dent (the real star of the movie, played wonderfully by Aaron Eckhart) is the person around whom Gotham should rally, and then…realizes Dent’s gone mad. In fact, that’s what I hate most about the movie: That most fans know that Harvey Dent eventually became Two-Face, but that rather than saving that transformation for the 3rd film, Dent spends all of 8 minutes of screen time (approximately) as Two-Face before being killed off. That’s it. So what do we have? A Batman movie where Batman watches the main character fall from grace, and he swoops in at the end and takes the fall. I understand that comic book movies don’t always have to have a “fun” ending, but Nolan spends 2+ hours building up Dent’s turn, and then the movie ends basically five seconds later. And what is the resolution with the Joker? That he pushed Batman to his limits? You hear again and again how the Joker was “an agent of anarchy,” but what, he made Batman make one machine that sort-of violated civil liberties? Which Batman then quickly destroyed? That’s less of an abandonment of Batman’s already murky principles then, say, [2013 summer movie SPOILER ALERT] Superman killing Zod by snapping his neck.
“I am Gotham’s reckoning.” Oh, Bane. If I could only understand a word you said, maybe you’d be a better villain. The plot holes of “The Dark Knight Rises” have already been pointed out, but let’s just lay a few out again briefly: Bane flies Bruce Wayne to some random prison in the middle of nowhere, from which Wayne escapes; Bruce, penniless and in rags, enters Gotham undetected ONE DAY before some major bomb is going to go off, and is able to rescue Commissioner Gordon et. al from certain death on the ice, stop Bane and Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul, fly the bomb to safety, and woo Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle. Just…stop. In fact, while I’ve praised the supporting players in this trilogy before (and should also mention Morgan Freeman, Nestor Carbonell and Michael Caine), this movie just ends so stagnantly. And, what? Robin takes over as Batman? Bruce flies to Italy to be with Anne Hathaway? What was the point of any of it? Batman took the fall at the end of the second movie to surround the people with hope, and then those people finally have a (real) hero seven years later?
On top of all of that, how poorly paced is this movie? The opening scenes take place over the course of a few days. Then all of a sudden it’s eighty-four days later? I remember being a sophomore in college and taking a short story class, and my professor telling us that the most important thing for writing a good story is making sure the reader follows you. Now, you don’t want a reader to anticipate every twist and turn, because then your story is derivative and bland. At the same time, you can’t just ask readers to take certain leaps without you filling in the gaps. In my opinion, Nolan does a terrible job filling in the gaps in this movie. Batman’s gone, and Bane takes over, and I guess there’s martial law, although people still get haircuts, and trash still gets picked up, and somehow the police survive underground for months at a time, and there are Special Forces ops (!) who come to Gotham only to get killed….this should have all been handled deftly, but instead was rushed into half an hour of an over-stuffed movie. And, if I can lodge one more complaint, where is BATMAN in this BATMAN movie? He makes one quick appearance 45 minutes in, then fights Bane for 5 minutes, then comes back at the very end. At least Superman is, you know, Superman for the majority of his film. I just feel like Nolan got along really well with a lot of the cast of “Inception,” took Gordon-Levitt, Cotillard, and Tom Hardy and said, “Hey, let’s just make some money.” Because I can’t think of a way that someone didn’t reject this script, and this iteration of Batman’s story, without Nolan reminding them that “Dark Knight” made over $500 million in the US, and that he has carte-blanche.
All in all, none of these are bad movies. I really enjoyed “Batman Begins.” And I want so much to like the other two. There are fine acting performances spread out across the three movies, and again, Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is pitch-perfect throughout the trilogy (although who would expect less from Sirius Black?). But while fans lament the fact that this Batman is over, and that a new one will inevitably be rebooted, I’m looking forward to it. To more Batman in Batman movies. To proper pacing. To the fact that I won’t think of the new movie as a semi-sequel to “Inception.” To not having to hear how everyone loves Nolan for being Nolan. Look, I love Memento – I think that’s one of the ten best movies ever made. But “Insomnia” actually put me to sleep, “The Prestige” is not a prestigious film, and “Inception” basically rests on its soundtrack and stunning visuals.
I may not have gotten the Batman movies I wanted, but I’m hoping, in the future, I get the Batman movies I deserve.