Monday, July 23, 2012
The Dark Knight Rises Review
It's always so great to see awesome original storytelling on the big screen. We all know 'B' movies exist and are so named mostly due to mediocre writing. The A-list movies, which recently have been oft-helmed by the great Christopher Nolan, make the movie-going experience more than worth while. As a writer, I go to the movies or watch television with not only the desire of entertainment but also of learning for my own writing. I try to take in the best characters, plots, and conflicts and apply them to my own work. (In fact, I've heard many writers say they use "research for their writing" as an excuse to watch more T.V./movies, and I'll admit to having exploited this little habit a few times myself.) I can't tell you how often I get writing ideas WHILE in the movie. You might think this signifies boredom, but the opposite is true. The really great movies inspire me and I come away excited to sit down at my computer.
The Dark Knight Rises was just such a film!
1) The characterizations were awesome!
I think the reason book series are so prevalent these days is that people want to see the dynamics of a character over time. We want to see them grow and change and become better over years, not just hours or days. In terms of Bruce Wayne, the film definitely delivers! It opens eight years after the events of the second movie, The Dark Knight. We see Bruce's very human side. We see him yearning to be useful. We see him lonely and stuck in a rut. He's let his body go a bit, but his cunning, lightning fast mind is still there. He just needs to restore confidence in his own abilities; in his own worth. Welcome to the Dark Knight Rises!
Anne Hathaway's Catwoman was awesome! She managed to do the (admittedly somewhat cliche) tough-girl, Angelina-Jolie-butt-kicking chick thing really well, but she did it with such flare and believability that it didn't seem cliche at all. She had enough humanity that we were rooting for her to come over to the good side, but enough edge that we weren't sure if she would. This Catwoman definitely deserves her own film. An origins story perhaps?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake was the heart and soul of the story. He was the every-man who saw all kinds of injustice and enslavement going on around him and simply couldn't stand to sit still. He had to find a way to rebel...and he did! I felt his pain ALL through the movie and loved his character.
Of course there was Michael Caine's sweet Alfred. He's the one who'll have you in tears so look out!
And then of course Bain was a freakin' AWESOME bad guy! Even when you hated him the most I totally loved him! There's a scene (I won't say when or why) that he sheds a few tears. They leak down his face around his Darth Vador-esque breathing mask, and I couldn't help but think that Tom Hardy had just displayed the best villain I've seen since Heath Ledger's Joker.
2) The conflict had layers.
That's right! Actual layers! As a writer, trust me when I say, that takes skill! By the time you think you have it all figured out (especially Bain!) Nolan turns everything on it's head. There's an audible gasp moment when the audience glances at one another from side to side with their mouths hanging open. When I'd managed to shut my trap and work up enough saliva to swallow, I whispered to my brother, "I didn't see that coming." Eyes big as saucers, he whispered back, "Me neither." And then we settled in to absorb the climax of the film.
3) The story-telling was epic!
Okay, so if you saw the trailer you probably figured this, but it was true on so many levels. I love the way Nolan sets us up for so many payoffs in both the long in short term. Alfred's story of his French holiday early in the film was the most subtle. I didn't see the payoff for that coming until it was upon me, and then I got the biggest rush of warm fuzzies! Awesome! Then there were three thousand trapped cops who were probably going to die and not be able to defend the city they'd sworn to protect and serve. And there was a defeated, imprisoned batman. Will he be able to overcome his own inferiority complex and protect what matters most? (Well, if I say duh! and you consider that a massive, un-called-for spoiler, you really don't have much faith in the story-telling community, do you?) There was the above-mentioned gasp moment, which we were set up for, but we never saw it coming. (Which, of course, was the point!).
And finally, there was the ending. No worries, I won't spoil, but suffice it to say that the title speaks almost directly to the ending. In truth, though it's hard to see at first, this is an origin story. It's hard to see because this is the third film of a trilogy, but actually the entire trilogy is one great big origins story. I've always thought that prequels are innately hard to pull off. Because they're prequels, we already know what happens later, so it's difficult to make the story stand on it's own uniqueness, which can spell death at the box office. When a prequel is done well, it's worth it's weight in gold (or at least the ticket stub's weight in gold :D). Suffice it to say that the end of this film has such a feel of absolute prophecy about it (again, warm fuzzies!) and sets us up to see in our mind's eye every comic, cartoon, or other installment set forth of the batman saga, that we can't help but smile knowingly.
When the credits finally rolled, there was actual applause in the theater! You can't ask for a better movie-going experience than that!
4) A word on theme
I know this is getting long so just a word and I'll close. The theme that ran through this film was one of hope and endurance. (Not so different from the first two films, actually). It was about never losing hope and never ceasing to fight, even when you already know you're going down. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I think these themes are important in our society today. Despite our technology and increasingly prevalent means of education, there are still many weak-minded people in the world. There are plenty of people who want to control others. I am a writer and a firm believer that good literature can help weak minds become strong and closed minds become open. That's why I do what I do. Movies, when made right, are no different.
It's such a shame that a real life Ted Kaczynski-eque villain tried to shatter that hope by opening fire in a movie theater. (See my blog post on the subject.) I can only hope that audiences will be certain that he fails in his endeavors both by helping his victims and would-be victims and by embracing this film and it's essential themes.
Bottom line: GO SEE THIS FILM! You won't regret it! Anyone else seen it yet?