Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I'm not as excited for The Dark Knight Rises as you are...

While the rest of movie fandom hyperventilates over every bit of rumor and every bit of random casting ("Wow! The dad from Make It Or Break It will be in The Dark Knight Rises!"), I just can't quite find the passion that everyone else seems to be feeling.  Yes, I know I dealt with this a little back in December, but I don't think it's the whole 'getting old and cynical' thing this time around.  I have little doubt that The Dark Knight Rises will be a rock-solid Batman film and that it will contain fine acting, top-notch production values, and hopefully a dollop of social relevance.  I am even heartened by hints that seem to imply that it will indeed be a Bruce Wayne-centric story that will perhaps confront that whole 'Bruce Wayne acts like a selfish idiot so no one suspects he's Batman' shtick that the comics have forced on us for decades.  But, as good as it may be, The Dark Knight Rises will just be another Batman film.  Its predecessor was the culmination of pretty much everything I wanted to see in a Batman movie.  With The Dark Knight, Chris Nolan gave us exactly what we craved in a near-perfect concoction.  The Dark Knight was THE Batman film.

Batman Begins remains a supremely well-made Batman picture that worked as a standalone motion picture that was more intelligent, more thoughtful, and frankly more openly moral than most action pictures.  The film stressed justice versus vengeance, the sanctity of human life, and the moral responsibility of the upper-class to do their part to create a sustainable society.  It is different enough to stand side-by-side with the Burton Batman films (which I still adore), and Batman Begins remained a terrific interpretation of the Batman mythos.  But The Dark Knight was arguably the Batman film that we had been waiting our entire lives for.  It promised (and delivered) an epic, sprawling, real-world crime drama starring the lynch pins of the Batman universe - Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon, Harvey Dent, and Batman's defining antagonist, The Joker.  Yes, Heath Ledger is great, but Gary Oldman delivers one of his best performances which anchors the rest of the cast in lower-key plausibility (Ledger made us gasp, but Oldman made us believe).  The film works as an action picture, a film noir crime drama, and arguably the defining film of post-9/11 America.  Nolan and company angrily argue that America basically was so traumatized by 9/11 that we spent the next decade turning on each other and on our own homegrown moral compass.  It is a socially potent, emotionally powerful, gloriously epic action drama pitting Batman against his definitive adversary for the soul of Gotham (and, by proxy, America).  It is, arguably, the ultimate Batman film.


But, come what may, The Dark Knight Rises will be just another Batman movie.  The pure visceral thrill of seeing Batman, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent matching wits with The Joker cannot be equaled by watching Batman square off against Bane.  Whatever plans Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer had in store for a would-be trilogy went out of the window once Heath Ledger died and/or Chris Nolan decided to play out Dent's arc in The Dark Knight in case he didn't come back to direct a third film.  This was not the natural third chapter of an organic narrative, but a sequel to a film that made a surprisingly large amount of money that thus financially required a third chapter.  We can all speculate how this film came about (the cost of financing Inception, along with agreeing to 'mentor' Superman: Man of Steel, etc), but quite frankly the series could very well have ended as it did in the last installment.  And frankly, that would have been the bravest and perhaps most artistically honest choice of all.  Whatever financial rewards may be reaped, is it really worth the risk to end up with a Chris Nolan Batman variation on The Godfather part III?  

The Dark Knight
ended not on a cliffhanger but with a new status quo, one that made sense within the world that Nolan created.  We no more need to see Batman 'redeemed' in the eyes of the public than we require a Green Hornet sequel where Hornet and Kato's true nobility is revealed to the masses.  Those who clamor for 'Batman's redemption' have a clear misunderstanding of the explicit and proactive self-sacrificial choice that Bruce Wayne made at the end of The Dark Knight.  All of this will be irrelevant on July 20th, 2012 (or whenever I am able to see the film).  I have little doubt that it will be a fine motion picture and I can only hope that it provides a fitting finale to a so-far triumphant bit of super hero storytelling.  But The Dark Knight Rises is quite simply not the event that the previous film was.  It was not 'the one you've been waiting for'.  No matter how pruriently appealing the idea of Anne Hathaway dressed up as Catwoman may be, it is not Batman and Gordon vs. the Joker.  I have only envy for those who are as excited this time around as I was this time back in 2007.  But I've already seen 'the greatest Batman story ever told'.  This time around, The Dark Knight Rises feels like just another issue, just another episode, just another Batman movie that I will hopefully enjoy.  I suppose that is enough, but I do truly miss the goosebumps.

Scott Mendelson

12 comments:

Mr. Watson said...

Now that its almost certain that there will be supernatural elements in this film (and I'm excited to see how Nolan does them), I can't help but be a little bit worried. He has said time and again that Superman isn't part of this universe, and that is proper science fiction. If he wasn't willing to do that and now he's handling the full on supernatural, then...

obin_gam said...

The Dent in the third film idea was scrapped BEFORE Heath died.

Jerika said...

I honestly, absolutely hated The Dark Knight. If it weren't for 3 certain people being cast (think Inception), I would never even dream of going to see The Dark Knight Rises. For me, being different than The Dark Knight is a great thing.

Diane said...

I was really disappointed with the plot holes and inconsistency in The Dark Knight. I just really had a hard time back-tracking how The Joker could have plotted everything out beforehand, and the excursion to Hong Kong just seemed to be an excuse to show something breathtakingly beautiful in IMAX (Lau wasn't terribly important to the plot).

I really enjoyed Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight, I just wish the plot was better. I'm hoping this last installment will have that sort of plot quality and consistency that was lacking in The Dark Knight, because everything else was so well done.

Talli said...

the problem is, you assume that by Rises, Nolan means redemption.


What does the spirit do, when a man dies?


I think this is gonna be the best of the 3 movies (i prefer Begins over TDK)

Rick said...

Well, it is kindof hard to be excited over a movie when we don't know any actual plot details and has had internet bullshit piled on top of it since TDK"s opening weekend. Really, ignoring everything that pops up on the 'net about this movie isn't harsh or cynical, it's just smart

Rick said...

Well, it is kindof hard to be excited over a movie when we don't know any actual plot details and has had internet bullshit piled on top of it since TDK"s opening weekend. Really, ignoring everything that pops up on the 'net about this movie isn't harsh or cynical, it's just smart

Talli said...

the problem is, you assume that by Rises, Nolan means redemption.


What does the spirit do, when a man dies?


I think this is gonna be the best of the 3 movies (i prefer Begins over TDK)

Jerika said...

I honestly, absolutely hated The Dark Knight. If it weren't for 3 certain people being cast (think Inception), I would never even dream of going to see The Dark Knight Rises. For me, being different than The Dark Knight is a great thing.

obin_gam said...

The Dent in the third film idea was scrapped BEFORE Heath died.

Mr. Watson said...

Now that its almost certain that there will be supernatural elements in this film (and I'm excited to see how Nolan does them), I can't help but be a little bit worried. He has said time and again that Superman isn't part of this universe, and that is proper science fiction. If he wasn't willing to do that and now he's handling the full on supernatural, then...

Asilver01 said...

I bet you could never be less excited about DK than I am.

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