Monday, July 23, 2012
Photo: The Dark Knight Rises poster, from its Wikipedia page.
One of the few movies I've ever considered going to the midnight screening for. I didn't end up doing that, but I did see it at noon of the next day. I've been waiting for this since the 500th time I saw The Dark Knight--and I listened to the CD soundtrack of The Dark Knight every day for almost two years. I'm not kidding. Still possibly the best musical score for a movie soundtrack ever made, and a true travesty that it wasn't even nominated for an Academy Award. Anyway, the pacing, the music, the style, the flow, the panache of that film all made it great, so that you could easily look past the fact that when Batman saved Rachel Dawes from the Joker, the Joker was still with Dent and all his company--in Bruce Wayne's penthouse!
So it was with great anticipation that I awaited The Dark Knight Rises. I went into the screening knowing that it couldn't possibly be as perfect as its predecessor--that kind of film comes along once in a director's career, and it did not happen again here. TDKR started off slowly in of itself, but especially compared to the explosive beginning of TDK. And where TDK didn't seem like a long film, because of the constant attack on the senses of the film, but it was long-ish, at two and a half hours. TDKR was two hours and forty-five minutes, just fifteen minutes longer, but it seemed much longer than TDK. And the MUCH slower pace doesn't help that overlong feeling. It honestly drags in a couple of spots, mostly in the beginning. (The second half's pace is much faster.)
Having said that, I don't want to sound like I didn't like TDKR. I did, and a lot, especially the ending, which I believe made the whole film. Whereas TDK was mostly about the Joker and the people of Gotham (the filmmakers said that Batman was the focus, but they were full of it; the Joker, and not just Ledger's performance, was the focus, as was the populace of Gotham itself), TDKR was fully about Batman. Bane is given slight shrift; Catwoman is given even slighter notice, to the extent that you never really know anything about her character at all. As it's Anne Hathaway looking eye-poppingly snazzy in the Catwoman outfit, and even more natural (and frankly awesome) on the Batcycle than Batman was, that's okay. The slight background we're given makes the Catwoman outfit more understandable, if you know what I'm saying.
Nope, here it's all about Bruce Wayne (more him than Batman) and Alfred, too. Speaking of Alfred, look for Michael Caine to get some consideration for Best Supporting Actor here. His scenes are by far the most effective in the film, and his part of the ending makes everything just right. In truth, the ending makes a good film into an almost-great film. I won't give too much away, but the ending provides an obvious open-door for a sequel (Nolan couldn't close the door all the way, even if he is leaving the room for good) as the Bat signal gets fixed (i.e., Call me if you need me). But the viewer also understands that any message sent to Batman may be long unanswered, if the call is returned at all. The signal might go up, but Batman, not being Superman, might not see it from where he is at the end. But, if so, that's okay; there's someone still in Gotham who'll pick up the phone.
More concerned about character and ending than about action, TDKR doesn't try to super-impress you with one awesome action scene after another as TDK did--though your eyes will pop when the Batcycle has to turn around; and there really aren't any surprises here, either, even with the "surprise" at the near-end that even a half-astute viewer would've seen coming from several miles away. It's as if Christopher Nolan purposely tried to do something different; having impressed everyone with the mind-boggling pace and action in the second one, how could he better himself here? He couldn't, and knew it, and probably wouldn't have wanted to, anyway. If the first film was about how it all began, the last is about how it all should end.
It's very fitting, and very good. What else were you hoping for? As the last film of the trilogy, you wonder where someone else besides Nolan could go with it. Nowhere, is my guess, despite the open door. Maybe another re-boot, but I hope not. If Nolan and Bale don't make a fourth one together (and both said they won't), I don't want another one made for a long while.
After all, what else is there to say? This one concludes possibly the best film trilogy ever. Only The Lord of the Rings comes close.