Observations On All Things Dark Knight (Again)
REACTION:When an audience claps in appreciation at a movie, not just at the end but also during key parts of the movie, you know the director has done his job well. This is especially true if there is no one associated with the movie present at the screening and the audience is sober. In many cases, it is a reaction to building tension that is finally alleviated or when a character so disliked in the movie — gets their comeuppance. Sitting in a packed theater last night, where many remained seated through the credits, you would be right to assume that Christopher Nolan has a crowd pleaser on his hands.One can surmise that Nolan, having filled the coffers of Warner Bros. many times over, was given carte blanche to fulfill his vision of the Batman mythos. Though at times it seemed like the movie was getting too big to be contained, Nolan does an expert job of wrapping up the trilogy, answering open questions and tying up loose ends in a satisfying way for Batman fanboys and the casual viewer alike. This is a feat that is more daunting than we realize because when the first movie in the trilogy Batman Begins debuted, Nolan had yet to map out the story arc for all three films.There will be many who will dissect The Dark Knight Rises, much like they did its predecessor, nit-picking at details and lamenting in extended anti-TDK/Nolan diatribes. Some of these reviews are so scathing, one has to think that the authors just might revel in the negative comments generated by their contrarian views. They of course are not entirely wrong. But, no matter, most of us do not take notes or dissect a movie as we are watching it. We do as was intended and we allow it to wash over us. We experience the film as a whole. Only after the experience will we giddily turn to ask our fellow movie goers and ask, “What did think?!!” In the case of this movie, we most likely did not bother to listen before we blurted out our own opinion laced with superlatives. Nolan has gone the full distance and brought us a final installment of the Dark Knight Trilogy that informs us about our own state as a people, connects us in shared emotions and entertains the “muther-effing” heck out of us. It’s also the first movie this summer that I knew I wanted to pay to see twice. (Which I’m secretly hoping to do right now. Even as I type this review on an iPad having ditched church for the matinee showing — God forgive me.)
NOTABLE PERFORMANCES:Anne Hathaway, who plays Selena Kyle aka CatWoman, turns in a heroic performance. Her version of CatWoman embodies all the qualities that would be appealing to a man used to roaming the city in black body armor and a cowl. Hathaway’s performance transcends Michele Pfeiffers turn in the Tim Burton helmed original and obliterates Halle Berry’s turn in the Razzie winning movie. Selena Kyle is a renowned master thief. Hathaway plays her as an independent and resourceful woman with no need to be rescued nor desire to play the damsel in distress. Those distressed by early PR photos of the CatWoman costume will be glad to know that her outfit, despite the four-inch heels, looks the way it does because of function. In action sequences within The Dark Knight Rises it becomes clear why production designers took this tact — after all CatWoman spends more time kicking-ass and no time playing sexual dominatrix. Hathaway truly becomes her character, convincingly slipping in between the villain/anti-hero enigma that is Selena Kyle.Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is an inspired choice to play John Blake. Blake is a young police officer with instincts beyond his years and an intelligence to see the dichotomy of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Levitt plays the character with all the necessary conviction to illustrate the idealism that was once a cornerstone of Batman’s crime-fighting mantra. It is Blake in contrast with Wayne that we begin to understand just how much Batman has strayed from his original mission. This leads us to wonder if the future of Gotham belongs in the hands and hope of a younger generation.As Bane, Tom Hardy turns in an understated but, effective performance. This is remarkable because his emoting must be done primarily though his eyes and his actions. At times he is hard to understand because his character wears a respirator that feeds him pain killers but, Hardy’s performance gets across the gist of his intentions even if the dialogue is muffled.Nolan brings back a host of old friends, family, bit-players and nemesis in flashbacks and present day interactions. Comfortable in their roles, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Christian Bale focus on moving the story forward and pulling on our heartstrings. Even Bale’s “Batman Voice” has become less gruff and is a bit more understated.CONCLUSION:Equal parts detective story, action-movie spectacle and noir-enhanced superhero narrative, Nolan injects us in a world fully formed and realized with enough realism that we suspend disbelief for a few hours and indulge in the fantasy of what we could do to fight crime — had we billions of dollars, extensive training and all those fabulous gadgets.