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Old 07-26-2012, 01:04 AM
Formal review time. First, my final score for rises: 9.5/10. I thought Rises was in between Begins and TDK, in terms of quality. I've been reading some of the critics on this thread today, and I gotta say, suspension of disbelief is something that seems relevant here. Every single movie ever made has these technical problems, every movie has the "how did Bruce get back from India?" question. Movies, as a constraint of the medium, have these flaws because there simply isn't enough screen time to vet these details, and, even if there were, people would probably find the details of how Bruce got back to be "boring". If you want to be "epic", and have a grand scale, details slipping through the cracks is a part of the package. In an epic tale, there simply isn't the space to go through and explain every detail. In that case, you'd have a ten hour film, and even then, things would get skipped.

Its a lot like what Shim said about the conversion process from comics to film. Comics are a unique medium in that you get 22 pages a month, no more, no less. Everything you want to say for that month has to fit in those 22 pages. If it doesn't, you have to wait until next month, or just leave it unsaid. A writer and an artist are, therefore, trying to leave out the stuff that they think audiences will "get" on their own. Movies and comics are very different, but at their heart of hearts, they're both sequential art. Movie directors are doing the same thing: trying to go over the important stuff to construct a narrative and leaving some of the details, that they "think the audience will get" out. Its not sloppiness on the part of the filmmaker, its the reality of the medium.

Part of that "leaving stuff out" is the implied contract between audience and filmmaker. The audience will give a certain level of suspension of disbelief if the stuff that filmmaker presents is plausible within the framework of the film. Plausibility means different things based on different subject matter. Back in the day, Gotham was destroyed in the comics every other week, but it always popped back up, the same as ever, in time for next month's issue. That obviously strained credibility, but we're talking about a universe where Superman welded a building back together with his heat vision. Most of the nit-picks I'm seeing listed with regard to TDKR are not unplausible with regards to the universe Nolan has created, they're just not explained in the film. There is a difference. You leave something, as a filmmaker, to the intelligence of your viewing audience.

Much has been said about the way Nolan ended this movie, in fact, I said quite a bit about it myself. I indicated that the "all alone" version of Batman's end was popularized in the mid 80s. Even in DKR, we saw the logical counter-point to the "all alone" version of Batman's end: the "all together" version. Batman strikes me as the kind of person who would build robots to enforce order in his city (like he did in Kingdome Come). Batman strikes me as the kind of person who would realize, after fighting crime for some time, that the job of protecting the city was too big for any one person. He strikes me as the type who would build his own personal army (like he did at the end of DKR). Its the reason why Batman Inc. makes so much sense to me. Batman is a symbol, it makes sense he would franchise that symbol around the world. Batman strikes me as the type who would hire a full time staff for the bat-cave and then, have those people monitor every aspect of Gotham, and move out his knights to the places they're needed most. Batman strikes me as being smart enough to figure out that a "one man war on crime" is a loser strategy, for any man.

Which is why I think self destruction is such a big part of this movie. I probably don't have to point out the thematic narrative that Bruce is a mess at the start of the film, and that Bane breaks down every single part of Bruce. I think, in a weird way, that the Bruce Wayne of the first part of the movie, if asked to cart of the nuke in a plane so it explodes over the ocean, wouldn't WANT to survive the explosion. He has to hit rock bottom, which he does, before he can rise, and build himself back up.

I think this is what Alfred sees, and this is why he quits. He thinks Bruce is suicidal, and that, eventually, he'll do something that brings about his own demise. Alfred is trying to shake Bruce out of it, but bruce doesn't listen. However, in an odd way, old Alf is wrong too. Its the reason why Bruce and Selina makes so much sense: Alfred thinks its either get the girl or be Batman (which is why he brings up Rachel's letter) Selina represents an alternative: get the girl and be Batman. I could easily see Bruce settling into an Oracle role (like he does for Terry in Batman Beyond) and moving his troops all around the city. That is to say, I don't think Bruce's time being involved with Batman will end after this film. I think Nolan left the ending ambigious enough: If you wanted to believe Bruce passed on the cape and cowl, you could, if you wanted to believe he was recruiting a "Nightwing" and planned to return to continue his war, with Selina also at his side, you could do that too. I think the name Robin would lend us to suspect the second hypothesis. However, there are details that suggest the first.

As an aside, to anyone whose ever read Homer's Illiad, one of the most powerful things about the poem, for me, is the inherent logic in what Homer is doing. The word "Illiad" translates to "a poem about Illum", and Illum is Homer's name for the city of Troy. What's interesting to me, and what confuses the hell out of young students, is where Homer decides to stop the narrative. At the end of his poem, Troy is the same as it was when the poem started. The Greeks haven't made the Trojan Horse yet, the city hasn't been burned down yet. The war, at that point, is still a good year from being over. Yet, Homer chooses this line to end his poem about Troy with:

"And there the Trojans buried Hector, breaker of horses"

The last line of the Illiad is the burial of Hector. In Homer's mind, Troy and Hector are one and the same, the city and the man are linked. The death of one means the death of the other is inevitable, so the mechanics of how the inevitable actually occur don't interest Homer. When Hector dies, Troy's fate has been sealed. I would argue that in the mind's of many of the citizens of Gotham, Batman and Gotham are linked in the same way. Without its champion, Gotham will decscend into chaos and disorder. I think coupling of a man and his city is very strongly represented in Nolan's bat-verse, which is why I think that in a future film, Bruce will take up the cowl again, and he will save his city again. However, I think he's also figured out what Hector figured out: I can't take on the Greeks by myself. Despite his circumstances, Hector never gets down on himself, and his moment in book six with his wife and son is beyond touching. I think at the end of rises, Bruce realizes there is room for others in his life, a woman, and an apprentice. Its what Alfred really wanted, and I can see a whole new Batman in the next film: a Batman who fights crime with his allies, whose still a dick most of the time, but a Batman who realizes that life does have its moments.

Its the thing Bruce has never allowed himself. His parent's death consumes him, and he never has let himself enjoy the moment. Its part of what gives Batman his appeal, and its a function of his parent's murder: Bruce believes, deep down inside, that any happy moments will be taken from him, so he guards against having any. That ethic is why Dick Grayson is not the same Batman as Bruce, but, as a father figure for Damian, its why Dick is a much better Batman than Bruce. Dick went through very much the same tramatic experience that Bruce did, but he hasn't let it prevent him from having some joy in life. That's what I like about Nolan's ending, particularly as an ending for the Bruce Wayne/Batman dynamic, the idea that even Bruce Wayne would eventually stop and see where the path he's heading down leads, and muster the willpower to make a change.

Okay, good things and bad things, first the bad things:

-I don't think TDKR did anything truly "bad", but there were some things that could have been better. I liked Hathaway's take on Selina, and I Hardy did and an exellent job with Bane, but I would have liked to see Bane's motives fleshed out a little bit better.

-The opening airplane sequence. While it was a cool use of action filmmaking, I don't think it added a whole bunch to the overall film, in terms of plot. It was there to showcase Bane as a villian, which it did well, but it did but perhaps that screen time could have been used to fill in details in other places?

-I agree with the comments that editing seemed off a bit in places. Whatever awards this film wins, best film editing likely won't be one.

-I'm not a fan of plot devices, like a ticking bomb, to move along plot. It takes a movie's plot and boils it down to a cliche. I like films that don't talk down to me, and the whole saving the city from the fusion bomb was very cliche. This is probably my biggest problem with the film, and its pretty much the same issue I had with Batman Begins.


Okay positives:

-Acting was superb. I liked Tom Hardy's Bane, I found his performance very sound. However, as a villian, he wasn't as good as Heath Ledger's Joker (who is?) and, as a Villian, he isn't as good as Liam Nesson's Ra's Al Ghul. Third potato in a very strong race.

-Catwoman was one of the highlights of the film for me. I know I'm in the minority, but I didn't particularly care for Michelle Phiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns, because I found it too over the top, Hathaway nailed Catwoman, the "gray" character, the one who you never know which side she's on, or what she's going to do in a given situation. Some would say that poor writing, to have a character change motivations so quickly, but that's what Selina's been in comics for decades: the x-factor, the person whose always on the same side, her own. Hathaway did a better job of conveying that than Phiffer did.

-I liked the new leg brace that Bruce got that helped him walk without a cane. That Brace seemed eerily reminisent of the nano-tech inspired, strength and speed enhancing, suit that Bruce Made in Batman Beyond.

-Nice to see a shout out to Robin. I had no problem that Blake could figure out Batman = Bruce Wayne. In the comics, a young 10 year old Tim Drake figures it out. I think that Blake is an ammalgamation of all the Robins (hence the name) and that he's a composite character.

-I also like all of the little details from the comics that Nolan incorporated. I saw details from a wide variety of stories (some of which I've mentioned) in the film, I saw a ton from No Man's Land and Cataclysm (in which Ra's released a plague in Gotham, and the federal government quarantines the city, nobody in or out. Sound familiar?) as well as Broken Bat (and the wall of Arkymn come tumbling down).

-I like the supporting characters. I like how Gotham is a city of both everyday heroes and everyday villians. How Bruce Wayne thinks he's alone, but he's really not in trying to find a way to save his city.

-I like that Batman finds a way to tell the most important people to him that he's alive at the end of the film (Blake, Gordon, Fox, and Alfred. They deserved to know) I find the notion of Batman "dying" at the end of the film to be very overrated. In comics, death is used primarily for shock value and to push sales, very rarely for story reasons. Maybe I'm jaded, but I don't particularly care for main characters dying at the end of a story. I don't see how that would have made this a better movie.

-I like that there was a point to this film, philosophically, but that the film wasn't heavy handed. Some critics have maintained that the film has a message it wants to get across but that the message collapes under its own weight. I never understood that. The last two matrix movies collapsed under their own weight. A good director has to know when he's crossed the line between having a point and getting preachy. You need to make your point fast and succintly. And if you can hit a bunch of them with precision, all the better. If you can also hide the more complex implications, even better. I felt that TDKR was a film with a message, and that the message was subordinate to the overall plot. Too many films make the mistake of being the other way around: they pick a message first, and then, construct a plot around it.

-something my friend said when we were leaving the theatre last night struck me. Now that I've seen TDKR, Amazing Spiderman looks like a piece of shit in comparison. TDKR is so much better, in just about every way, and is a superior technical acheivement. I enjoyed Amazing Spiderman, but could never shake that "cookie cutter" feeling when I was watching it. I could never shake the feeling that the execution of the film was subpar.

So, all in all a pretty great movie, up there with Avengers for the best I've seen this summer. 9.5/10 sounds about right.
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