The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Christopher Nolan (Dir.), Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman…let’s be real, pretty much the cast of Inception.
Disclaimer #1: I can be slightly irreverent at times. Well, extremely irreverent most of the time. In this ‘review’ I’m going to use harsh language, sarcasm, overly extended metaphors and general jackassery. However, this is purely in the spirit of fun and film criticism. My jokes and nonsense are meant in no way to belittle the horrific events at the midnight screening in Aurora, CO. My thoughts and prayers go to the victims of this tragedy. If you want some light-hearted ribbing/brutal emasculation of a major film franchise, please read on…
Disclaimer #2: Another one. Sorry! Well, I’m not sorry. Deal with it. This is for everyone wary of the dreaded ‘S’ word. That’s right…Shitzus. None of those yapping little fuckers will appear in this review. There will, however, be spoilers. I have demarcated them clearly. You’ve been warned.
Here is a dramatization of me seeing this movie. Last time on ‘Andrew Meets Girls That are Actually Movies: Prometheus’
“Oh hey, I’m Andrew.” “Oh hey, I’m Prometheus. I’m pretty but I actually suck. Wanna make out?” “Any human contact is welcome. Even if you are simply a heavy-handed metaphor. Thank you!”
I’m back at another party, weeks after having surreptitiously exchanged mental saliva, if only briefly, with Prometheus in a closet. It turned out the movie/girl of my dreams was just that. An illusion. Well, the party is thumping but I’m standing in the corner gently swirling my beer in a shitty cup that is always red for some reason. Or blue. Any primary color other than yellow. I’m bored, checking my watch, ready to head home.
“Hey.” She’s right behind me, looking, for some deliriously (and wonderful) reason, like Anne Hathaway in a skin-tight cat suit. I am about to comment on how inappropriate it is based on our recent weather…and then I realize I need to shut the fuck up before I do something stupid, you know, like scare away a hot lady in a cat suit. “How’s it going?”
“Oh. Good. Thinking of heading out…”
“I just got here though.” She smiles at me. I’m interested (read: extreme understatement).
“What’s your name?”
“The Dark Knight Rises.”
I finish my drink. “I’ve heard about you. You’re supposed to be pretty amazing. But I’ve already been burned once this summer… Not sure if you know Prometheus…”
“That’s a shame. It’s also a shame that, not only am I hot, but I’m also surprisingly emotionally poignant, politically relevant and filled with Oscar-winning actors.” I take pause for a moment and consider the last item on the list. I’ve heard weirder things. I’ve done weirder things.
“That’s awesome and everything. But the last girl who said that wasn’t, well, all there…”
“Really? Not smart? Or deep? How about me? I’m a sprawling epic about class warfare, reminiscent of the French Revolution, all the while threading together a narrative of intense emotional destruction and, at the same time, extensively exploring these themes in relation to the concept of parental abandonment and societal isolation”
“Oh.” I grab someone else’s drink and down it. “Well…in that case…”
And then we make out. Everywhere.
We have finally reached it. After Nolan’s years of puttering with forms and structures, he has at last reached his eventual goal of inserting true thoughtfulness and literary considerations into a product so commercial it practically has a McDonalds ad taped to its nut sack. This is probably the closest we will ever get to a legitimate movie masquerading as a blockbuster film. Now, I know to some of you lugheads, that might not sound so appetizing and so, in response, I offer you this: Anne Hathaway in a fucking cat suit (#drool) and, for the ladies, Tom Hardy is only mostly disfigured (meaning he could still take on Matthew ‘Duller Than Matlock and Impossible to Spell’ McConaughey in a prettyboy-off with one check bone tied behind his back). There are action scenes! Joseph Gordon-Levitt is likable! Michael Caine cries! Twice! (It’s like watching an angel weep, if that angel has a grizzled British accent, has killed multiple people with a sawn-off shotgun and once stole a bunch of Italian gold). Apparently, Mr. Nolan decided to put in a little bit of everything for everyone which might explain why this movie is almost THREE FUCKING HOURS LONG. But I forgive him. I also forgive him for the fact that I only slept like three hours last night because I was so fucking excited about the end of the movie I couldn’t pass out, like a child terrified of closing his eyes in fear of wetting the bed once more (Editor’s Note: totally never happened to me. Totally never.)
What’s it about? I refuse to give away much (like some other phallus-gobbling reviewers out there. I’m looking at you ‘The Guardian’ and David ‘How Have You Been Doing This For So Long?’ Letterman). So. Batman. He’s sad. Bane. He’s evil. Bane wants to fuck Gotham up. Batman doesn’t. Gotham gets fucked up. Batman gets fucked up. Aaaaaaand Anne Hathaway helps a generation of boys become men. That’s all I’ll give you. It’s as complex as a Dickens’ novel, if Nicholas Nickleby used his armory of ultra-tech to do battle with a severely steroid-jacked Oliver Twist (Note to Self: TV series idea. I’m thinking…Lifetime Channel?) It also, structurally, has about five fucking acts packed to the gils with twists, turns, ups, downs, side-to-sides and Anne Hathaway in a cat suit, as well as a half-way point that basically screams INTERMISSION. I expected a Pythonesque curtain to descend and John Cleese to try to sell me an albatross. Alas, that dream shall continue to go unfulfilled. This thing is so long and all-encomapassing that you eventually leave the theater a crushed shell of your former self, as though Bane has pummeled your innards into a veritable pea-soup of fanboy glee. Sense, patience and the ability to stand long monotonous barrages of tribal drums will be melting out of your fucking ears as you stumble from the multiplex. If that doesn’t entice you, stay the fuck away. This shit ain’t The Avengers. Yes, there are some witticisms (this should be fucking shocking coming from Christopher “Humorous as a Holocaust Vigil” Nolan) but this is an EPIC. Not in the sense of assholes with backwards caps and popped collars going for the record number of jaeger shots to be ingested by way of their rectums, but in the Homerian sense of omnipotent narrative brutality. It’s a marathon. If you don’t train and prepare, bringing with you acceptable sustenance (a jumbo popcorn, a hotdog, three packs of snow caps and a roast turkey should do it) you might die. No joke. It’s that draining.
As the years have passed, Nolan has been secretly weaving together a tapestry of immutable acting talent and, like that fungus at the bottom of my pantry, is growing with each delicious morsel that he consumes. I’m not sure if he signs a contract for these actors’ souls or if he’s just pleasant to work for, but Nolan’s Harem of Beautiful Men is on full display here. We have Tom “Watch Bronson Right Now, You Little Whores” Hardy acting the fuck out of this thing, even with Darth Vader’s fist lodged in his mouth. Also, there’s Morgan “God – I will keep making that joke because it is still funny to me” Freeman given more to do than simply point and spout at fancy gadgets. Marion Cotillard is back as Nolan’s shadow, steadily murdering all of his dreams and driving him mad with boner-popping desire (she is a very attractive woman, even if she a frenchie). Also, finally, Mr. Oldman is allowed to come into his own, truly stretching out those Oscar-pants he so graciously tried on earlier last year in Tinker Tailor This Sounds Like A British Porno Spy, and offering up a performance packed with so much heartbreak you’d think it was a bad day in the trauma ward (my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families affected by Grey’s Anatomy day at Northwestern Memorial Hospital). I would also like to say, for all of the attractiveness of Ms. Hathaway and her figure that simply will not quit, even if you take it’s stapler, stop paying it and move it down to the boiler room, she delivers one hell of a performance. While most of the film is a mirthless cortege of unending barbarity, Ms. Hathaway is positively delectable as Selina Kyle, expertly adapted to stick just close enough to the comic’s conception without ever dipping into the realm of painful punnery or Pfeiffer whippery. She seems to be the only person here enjoying herself, constantly gobbling each scene with cat-like don’t-give-a-fuckery and impenetrable confidence. Both she and Cotillard aid in a pleasant departure from Nolan’s usual sausage-fest offering, providing at least two women in Gotham who can be classed at a level above ‘District Attorney/Wet-Blanket Barbie’ (Side Note: there was a limited edition of Wet-Blanket Barbie’s released in the mid-90s to help with menstrual education. It was a limited edition for a reason. Side Side Note: There will never be a ‘District Attorney Barbie’ for the obvious reason that legitimate employment hurts chances of marriage). We must also offer her the age old honor of ‘props’ for making herself both likable and engaging enough to survive some of the more ridiculous shoe-horning of her character into the latter half of the film. Honestly, she has no place being there…but no one is going to argue. Trust me.
There are two standouts, however. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as shiny as a new nickel playing the ingeniously conceived John Blake. From a structural point of view, the wide-eyed and almost impossibly intuitive cop provides an emotional spine for a good deal of the movie while our heroes, Oldman and Bale, are otherwise indisposed (which really sounds like they’re on a sex holiday. That would have been incredible.) In the hands of another actor, Blake would have been limper than a penis in a Phyllis Diller convention.
But this boy is erect as hell (That metaphor went to the wrong place). Joe Levitt is that wonderful intersection of young talent, endless charisma and 3rd Rock From the Sunness that we need in our new acting generation. Never once does he lose believability and literally every time his character is threatened onscreen, the audience gasped. They didn’t even do that for fucking Batman and the movie is named after him. On that note, let’s talk about Bale. Yes, the bat-voice is still here, intermittently. Finally, though, he has crafted a human being on screen that we actually are interested in. No longer is the hot-headed billionaire-jackass but a reclusive drinking-his-own-urine type of shut-in (you know, like that famous one…Hugh Hefner.) He’s hurt, physically, emotionally and metaphysically; and he’s looking for a way out. Instead of seeing the Bat as this infallible machine of pure ass-kickery, we get a glimpse of the human underneath and the fact that nobody’s physical form can take that kind of depreciation and still face off against Tom Hardy. His performance truly forms the missing piece of the emotional puzzle, bringing his arc into full-body over the three films. Though we barely even see the Bat throughout the nine hours of this film’s length, we see a shit load of Wayne. And it couldn’t be more necessary.
Of course, since this is Batman, we must discuss the villains. While the last we saw of Bane was the Hulk as though he’d been roped into an impromptu S&M convention, this one is simply a bastard of such dickish proportions he’d give Stalin a run for his proletariat, with arms the size of my head and a mouth with more metal than a Slayer tour. It’s an interesting, though not wholly sense-worthy, departure from the manic insanity of Heath Ledger’s divinely-inspired Joker. This antagonist is deliberately sadistic, fully in control of his hatred and completely lacking in anything resembling empathy. While there was an irrational sense of safety in the fact that there was no rhyme or reason to the targets of the Joker’s malice, Bane is coolly calculating and evisceratingly vengeful. When he has your number, he will pound your ass harder than a fist-ended jackhammer. Granted, his plan to turn Gotham into a sinewy fiefdom is so far-fetched it makes the horizon look close but it certainly makes for some exciting cinema. Especially the hilariously out-of-tone court hearings overseen by a gleefully disheveled Cillian Murphy. In the end, however, this villain is far closer to the heart for Bats than the mad-dog off the leash, even if the titanium crab attempting to emerge from his esophagus does reduce his facial emotive capacity to zilch. There is nothing comparable to the Joker, but the rest of this film beats the hell out of Harvey “Your Yelling Voice is Kinda Whimpy” Dent and Eric “Smarmy Ass #4” Roberts. Advantage: Rises.
Alrighty, boys and toys, ladies and babies (Editor’s Note: no baby should see this movie on account of having to explain the fact that Selina is in a momentary lesbian relationship that never really comes up again. Though babies have a keen sense of lesbianism and alternative sexuality, their capacity for disjointed character traits is nil) have you all seen the movie? If so, continue. If not, STOP READING AND WATCH IT. IT’S AMAZING. If you don’t plan on watching it, well, then, I guess…to each their own. Batman ain’t for everyone. Well, intrepid readers, ahead thar be plot-points! Tid-bits! In-depth discussions of thematic arcs! Jokes about Inception! You have been warned.
Now, the big thing that people are doing is directly comparing this movie to The Dark Knight. This isn’t fair for a multitude of reasons. Dark Knight existed in a vacuum, providing something rarely seen in the span of human existence: intelligence in blockbusters. It discussed some stuff in an adultish manner, had thru-lines, characters attempted to exist and the Joker was in-fucking-credible. What The Dark Knight Rises does is tie together the disparate elements from both the first and second movies which, to be honest, seemed so fucking divergent they could be a Chicago-based young adult novel. This is the keystone, holding together this at-once muddled mass and at-twice a sprawling examination of chaos/order/fear/parental loss. We all watched Nolan wrap his lips around the massive sausage that is this franchise, expecting him to gag on it, predicating a vomitous explosion of akin to the Schumacherian efforts of the earlier series. However, unlike any other Brit in existence, this gentlemen seems to know how to chew after biting off too much. He artistically deep throated this comic book, bringing it to a climax so titillating you can…well, we’ll leave that metaphor to finish itself (INNUENDO). Not only that, but like the master of the shadows it portrays, this movie stands alone, without any aid from its predecessors.
At the curtain’s close, after the sneakily named-Robin wanders into the Bat-cave and we get a glimpse into Wayne’s new freaky-deaky life as Bonersaurus Rex alongside Sexelina Kyle, just pounding it out Florentine style (with some added Alfred action) we have been treated to a comprehensive view of this hero, a fully-developed arc stretching all the way from the homicidal little ass who gets the shit slapped out of him by Katie Holmes to the infringer of basic civil liberties while fighting the Joker to the broken shell of a man who almost loses all principles in search of final vengeance. Going into this film, they clearly hint at Wayne’s demise, offering a thematic thread of a man who is seeking his own destruction before realizing that death is by far the simplest option. That, coupled with his unhealthy obsession with a woman my friends described as ‘Sarah Jessica Parker on a good day’, is beautifully juxtaposed with the twisty tale of a forbidden love affair between Talia and Bane. It’s the only moment of humanization Hardy is afforded in the entire film, just a ephemeral glimpse of that angelic face before being maimed in the name of love (not the Bono name of love, the name of love where you are vigilantly stopping an entire prison from raping a small girl. You know, Twilight love). In that second, this codification of the purest of evils transforms into nothing more than a star-struck lover, a guardian of the only thing in life that he cares about. A love that would blow up a fucking city. Yo, Bella, would Edward take an entire metropolis hostage with a weaponized nuclear core and systematically murder dissenters just out of pure affection? No? Bane’s a real man. Also, he’s a psychopath. So…he’s like pretty much every dude after their balls drop.
I will say that I had some issues with plotting etc. Batman’s ‘death’ was a little too reminiscent of both The Avengers (without the wit) and Heroes season one (without the terribleness). Also…if he was vaporized by a neutron bomb…what the fuck did they bury at the end? There was a patch of disturbed ground under his tombstone… Did Alfred bury his Wayne sex-doll as some sort of perverted effigy? We all know he has one. Also, we harp so hard on him getting his shit wrecked, when he easily just appears at the end with Selina, I expected the camera to pan down and see a spinning top spinning away. It just seemed so easy in comparison to the rest of the film. No doubt, my inner fanboy was pissing himself with relief, as this continued to confirm the fact that Batman is, in fact, immortal. Seriously, though, if I were Alfred, after the emotional fecal maelstrom Wayne had put him through over the course of this 20-hour ordeal, I would have walked right the fuck over to that table and punched Bruce in the nut sack. Then hugged him. And then the nut sack again. What a cock.
Finally, here is a list of absurd plot devices throughout the film that didn’t fit too well into reality: the fact that the core decays in EXACTLY the amount of time Batman needs to heal his spine; the fact that Batman is suffering from a decay of cartilage (a chronic disorder) which is then completely ignored after his back is miraculously healed…who are these guys, the dudes from The English Patient? Geographically, it makes sense, temporally…not as much. Also: why does no one ever shoot Bane? Or Batman? There must have been stray bullets going everywhere in that final fight. None made contact? None? Also, I know Robin is meant to be the ‘Boy Wonder’, but that doesn’t make him fucking Miss Cleo. How the hell was he predicting all the bullshit he goes through?
But I can forgive all that. Why? Because Batman, that’s why. Because this is thoughtful, delicious entertainment of the highest order. Because watching this movie is like a 2 hour 45 minute Swedish Massage, it’s gonna get that deep tissue and it’s going to fucking hurt…but a pretty lady is touching your naked back and the next day you feel like a million bucks.
Nolan’s come a long, long way. So often his films are pretty and heady as hell, but lacking the emotional core required to draw in someone of my particular tastes. I, shock and horror, didn’t care all that much about Inception. It had a shit load of style, it was kind of smart in places, but it’s a soulless demon of a film experience. Even The Dark Knight felt unfairly manipulative in its designs. You felt as though Nolan was more on the Joker’s side than the Bat’s, gleefully obliterating hope and life in the goal for more excitement. Here, however, you never once doubt that Nolan is with the Bat, pushing him along, praying that he’ll win out against this foe so evil, even Aleister Crowley would be reticent to invite him to a goats-blood and virgin-rape party. This movie, unlike anything Nolan has really produced in the past, is about people. Hurt people. People searching for redemption. And we want them to get it.
Hopefully, this movie changes things. Hopefully, we’ll finally get the better class of blockbuster we, as a people, so deserve. Perhaps audiences will reconsider seeing Transformers 4 in favor of something a little less intellectually necrotic. This is the new wave and Batman is the banner man, charging into the darkness of popular taste, waging war against mental sloth and lackadaisical pop-shit gluttony. We need more Nolans. We need more Whedons. We need the good shit to be the norm. And we need to celebrate it, unfettered, unadulterated and unashamed. Go see The Dark Knight Rises. Let movie companies know that this is what we want. Tell them to shove their What to Expect While You’re Expecting and their Expendables 2 up their rectal channels, along with the rest of the shit they plan on laying out over the next few years. This is a revolution. A revolution of the smart blockbuster.
Also, I hear the IMAX is awesome. That’s not part of the revolution. That’s just pretty.