Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: The Return of Bat Lazonne

My husband and I got to see The Dark Knight Rises on Saturday morning (I can’t remember the last time I hit an 11 am show, but it seemed like the only time we could get a ticket on opening weekend) when my brother was watching the kids, and I just HAD to write something on it. I was seeing all of these 4-star reviews and critical praise (with the exception of Entertainment Weekly, who gave it a mediocre B rating) and was intrigued. On the one hand, it’s a superhero movie. We go to those for the awesome, not for complicated storylines. On the other hand, it’s helmed by Christopher Nolan, who wrote one of our all-time favourite movies, Memento, and has become one of the most innovative auteurs in Hollywood. And those first two films were pretty fantastic, so the third should be pretty good, right?

No, it wasn’t. It was AMAZING. I’ve managed to see a lot of films this year, and it was easily my favourite. Oh sure, I’ve seen The Cabin in the Woods twice and have the DVD release date marked on my calendar so I can buy it and rewatch it repeatedly, but it was funny and fluffy and didn’t come close to matching the brilliance of this film. It had the action that a superhero movie should have, it was fast-paced, yet it had complex character development (character development! In a superhero film!), intertextual storylines that brought in the first two movies in subtle ways, and a plot that brought the entire trilogy full circle. WOW.

I’m not going to go into too much detail, and don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t yet seen it, so I’ll just mention a few things I loved:

Tom Hardy. As Bane, he spends the entire movie in a mask that covers three quarters of his face. I kept thinking, “I must have misread things… that just can’t be Tom Hardy.” First of all, who casts the perfection that is Tom Hardy (best lips in the movie business) and then pops a mask on his face?? Secondly, I don’t remember him being that… huge. They took the smouldering Ricki from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

and turned him into Vic Mackie from The Shield.

But sure enough, it was him. Amazing. And despite the mask, Hardy is able to show a range of emotion, from pure, unbridled rage to real emotion.

The performances in this movie across the board were rather stunning, actually. Christian Bale is quite extraordinary, in that he maintains a quietness throughout the film, conveying the real pain of Bruce Wayne through his eyes and movements. Anne Hathaway did a great job (I actually quite like her, but I wasn’t expecting her to be that good), playing Catwoman in all her devious glory, from annoyed muttering to cooing insincerity. Joseph Gordon Levitt is someone who I always expect to be great (tell me you have all seen Brick, please) and who I think I’ve loved in every movie… okay, I’ll confess I loved him on 3rd Rock from the Sun, which I watched all the time when I was younger. And he doesn’t disappoint here, in a sad but earnest cop who needs someone to believe in. Michael Caine returns to the Cockney Alfred, and brought me to tears in one of his scenes. Wayne lives with the horror of having watched his parents die right in front of him, without realizing that he’s had a father figure his whole life who has continued to watch out for him in a way his parents never could have, even if they’d lived. And Marion Cotillard is understated but brilliant as Miranda Tate, a part that starts out small but she pulls off some great stuff by the end of the movie.

And Gary Oldman. What is really left to say about Oldman? One of the most underrated actors of his generation, easily one of the greatest (I had the biggest crush on him circa Immortal Beloved it was kind of embarrassing), and he is WONDERFUL. Oldman is so good he risks stealing every scene he’s in, and yes, he’s been in many a movie where he’s completely chewed every inch of the scenery around him, but in this movie he, like the rest, plays his part with a great deal of subtlety. Nolan clearly wanted his cast to be understated, and it works.

Usually in a movie that’s pushing three hours, my husband and I emerge from the theatre talking about what could have been edited out. But I can’t think of a single thing that I would have removed. No, it’s not note-perfect — there are a couple of things in there that had us scratching our heads (did he just go to Uzbekistan and back in under three hours?) and a few other things that seemed just a little too convenient, but those are minor nitpicks in an otherwise awesome film. The action sequences are edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. And for Lost fans, watch for a scene that’s reminiscent of the fuselage destruction scene, and also keep your eyes open for Lost folks throughout the movie.

I loved The Avengers, and I liked The Amazing Spider-Man, but The Dark Knight Rises just took the superhero genre to a new stratosphere.

It's hard to talk about this film without mentioning the tragedy in Colorado last week at the opening night midnight screening. I've written three different things, and keep coming back and changing it, and I've just decided there are no words to express the horror and sadness I feel about what's happened. So I'm deleting everything I wrote, and instead I just want to say my heart and prayers go out to those who have lost someone they love, to the families of the dead, and to the injured who are trying to come to terms with the horror they’ve witnessed and experienced. May you one day feel comfortable enough to walk back into a movie theatre without fear. And may the world one day be a place where we don’t have to wonder if we’re next.

For a well-thought-out discussion of the depiction of violence in popular culture and the questions we need to be asking about it, check out Henry Jenkins' response here

And just so I don’t have to end this post on that note, as many of you who follow me on Facebook know, my four-year-old son insisted that the bad guy in this movie was named “Bat Lazonne.” I told him it was Bane, and he said no, he’d seen a commercial and he was definitely named “Bat Lazonne.” This has become such a running joke in our house that when we first saw him on screen, I think my husband and I whispered to each other simultaneously, “It’s Bat Lazonne!” and then dissolved into giggles. At first I thought the commercial said someone battles on, but now I’m thinking there must be an ad out there with a voiceover that says, “The bat lives on.” That’s the only answer I have. But if you have a better one, please let me know! ;) 


Ashlie Hawkins said...

I saw it on Saturday morning too and thought the same - it's just fantastic, and so much more than a "superhero movie". I'm seeing it again tomorrow (in IMAX!) and can't wait. Also - Tom Hardy. God damn. I love him - and I was so glad that we get one quick glimpse of those lips! Also, for further "Tom Hardy is a monster of a human being" reference - watch Warrior. He is jacked beyond belief. Well worth your time, I assure you.

Jeremy said...

Did you notice that the CIA agent in the introduction was Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger in GOT)?

Nikki Stafford said...

Yes! The moment they showed him I said to my husband, "It's Carcetti!" Then about a full minute later he looked at me and said, "That guy is Carcetti!" (It takes him a little longer...) ;)

The Question Mark said...

I loved Bane's voice. I spent the whole car ride back from the theater doing Bane impersonations for my friends! LoL

Great movie, fantastic plot, and an emotionally rocking ending. Applause all around, Mr. Nolan. Now please make an Inception sequel! :D

SenexMacdonald said...

Justin and I (plus 2 friends) saw it on Friday morning. We heard about Aurora before we left. I have to admit it left me a little unsetted as we sat in the theatre waiting for the film - we were the first in the theatre.

So let me begin with this: @Nikki said, "And for Lost fans, watch for a scene that’s reminiscent of the fuselage destruction scene, and also keep your eyes open for Lost folks throughout the movie."

Justin and I had seen this sequence, out of context, as an extended trailer for the film. It made me gasp then and it made me gasp again in the film. The power evoked by it; the resolution of Bane and the insight into what he was capable of doing was very powerful. Never have I seen a villain in a film introduced in such a way. I am not familiar with the comic book character so I had no expectations but this made me sit up and take notice!

I completely missed that the CIA agent was Littlefinger from GoT! Good thing I am seeing the film again tomorrow night so I can see for myself ... if I don't get caught up again in that sequence. lol

Tom Hardy, along with the rest of the cast was exceptional. I only knew who was playing Bane when I saw him interviewed at Comic-Con. I nearly flipped when I tried to put this man with this character. The difference in body and voice. Wonderful range of emotions demonstrated through his face, and that body!!

I completely agree that the actors's portrayals were understated and subtle but each conveyed so much of who they are as people, whether hero or villain. Standouts for me especially were Anne Hathaway, whose Selina Kyle (not ever referred to as Catwoman which I applaud!) in manner and dress reminded me of Lee Meriwather from the 60's Batman series. Soooo sexy!! Also Joseph Gordon-Levitt who has been brilliantly cast in films lately, including Inception, 50/50 and, the first film I saw him in as an adult - Brick!

I also cried at Michael Caine's performance. I am sure I will again tomorrow. I cheered for Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon raising above the stupid bureaucracies of the police department and city hall. Like we, as ordinary citizens, don't see that day to day in our own politicians.

I so enjoyed this film. I cannot recommend it highly enough to people I know. Some people will disagree, as is their right, but, I agree, @Nikki that this film puts superhero characters in a place they have never been before on film - fully fleshed out people with faults, dreams, experiencing a complete range of human emotions.

Hopefully, we won't fall too far back in those areas and other directors/writers will rise up to the challenge set by Nolan with this trilogy.

Oh, and before I forget. In addition to all those lovely "cameos" ... if any of you like Star Gate, look for an SG1 actor in the film and pay close attention as you might not realize who it is at first!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Excellent film with some obvious flaws and, except for one stunning and exciting reveal, a very predictable plot. But those performances... Fantastic!

Best Joseph Gordon Levitt film with a guest appearance by Batman I've ever seen.

Though I saw Moonrise Kingdom yesterday and liked it more.

Blam said...

We had... different... assessments of The Dark Knight Rises, Nikki (and fellow commenters). I think that my disappointment in the film is not just due to my being a lifelong comic-book reader and Batman fan, because my problems with it were generally less in the arena of "That's not Batman" — after all, I knew what to expect from Nolan's Batman given the previous entries in his trilogy — than they were in the arena of "That's problematic storytelling". And lots of comic-book / Batman aficionados I know loved the film. I admire Christopher Nolan a great deal both for what he attempted to do with Batman and for his work on Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and his little-seen first feature Following [reviewed on my blog at that link], but — while all three films have almost uniformly great acting and fascinating ideas to explore — the promise of most of the first film hasn't been followed through the later two, made all the more frustrating by some standout, totally committed performances, great action/adventure set pieces, and lofty goals.

Joan Crawford said...

I saw the Bat Lazonne commercial today! It's an ad for "kinectex" (or some such thing) Batman toys. In one of the scenes, it shows Bane and the announcer says, "The battle's on!" and I said, "Wrong! The Bat Lazonne!"

Nikki Stafford said...

We saw it, too!! I keep meaning to post on here to say the mystery has officially been solved, but my son was watching Scooby-Doo and all of a sudden he screamed, "MOMMY!!! This is the Bat Lazonne commercial!" When he armors up and the voiceover says, "The battle's on!" I couldn't stop laughing. Brilliant.