Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, a trilogy review

Yes, spoilers.

Seriously.

I watched the trilogy, all in one sitting and watched this third installment right at midnight.

For comic book geeks, it was a hectic mix of Knightfall, No Man’s Land with pinches of Dark Knight Returns here and there (specifically the one scene with the older cop and the younger cop, “You’ve never seen Batman? Slow down, kid, yer in for a show.”).

Watching the trilogy left me wondering a few things:

Gotham City

Gotham is a character in any Batman fiction and in the first of the trilogy we see the rail system, built by the Waynes and the Narrows, a rough part of town where Arkham Asylum is located. The rails are never seen again in the trilogy and the Narrows are never mentioned again. I would have liked a throwaway line about the rails having to be scrapped after the League of Shadows shenanigans of the first movie if the city suddenly does not have trains.

In Rises Catwoman could have been from the Narrows…something, some kind of a sense of continuity of Gotham as a consistent character, the city worth saving no matter what league of ninja, clown-faced psychopath or masked terrorist might attack it.

NOTE: A G+ buddy said that he could see the 3-tiered rail system in Rises, particularly in the IMAX version of the film. Nice!

Batman

Bruce Wayne/Batman does not have an original thought in his head. Almost all of his lines are quotes from other people, taken out of context and run through his cowled head so that it has to do with his quest for justice. Watch them again, when he does something inspired by someone else, he almost always quotes that person verbatim so the audience will remember where he got his idea.

Themes

All in all, where the first movie was saying, “Gotham is worth fighting for,” and the second movie said, “People will still do good even in the worst of situations,” the third seemed to say, “Poor people will rise up, bath in rich people’s blood and steal their shit if there are no police there to stop their psychopathic tendencies.”

Maybe it was just that Rises didn’t have a Ledger-caliber performance to off-set its philosophy 101 questions.

The WTF’s

Why do they bother with a fake Asian Ra’s al Ghul? Why does Dark Knight stop in its tracks so that Batman can grab a money launderer in China? Rises has too many WTF’s to narrow down to just one sentence.

Fighting

The only fights I really liked in the whole trilogy was when Liam Neeson’s character picked young Wayne’s fighting style apart and the Joker went bat-shit crazy on Batman at the end of Dark Knight. The rest of the fights felt unnecessarily frenetic. There was good stuff going on but I was missing it in the shaky-cam.

I wanted to see an older, wiser Batman pick Bane apart as Bats did the Mutant leader in Dark Knight Returns but I didn’t get a sense of why Batman won the fight at the end of Rises. He was hitting Bane’s mask but he was hauling off on Bane’s mask in the first fight too. I want fight scenes that are cool and say something about the characters fighting. And when Bane laid hands on a mofo, I wanted to feel it the way I did when Joker did the pencil trick. It wasn’t Hardy’s fault, I thought his physical presence was solid. It was the way Bane’s violence was shot.

The Ladies

Man, I don’t like the Rachel Dawes character. The ladies who played her were fine and I respect her decision to love Dent over Wayne but when she told Bruce that she liked Batman but didn’t like Bruce…man, that felt just mean. I’m glad that Selina Kyle could come along and let Bruce know that his brand of crazy was okay (even if it really isn’t).

What is good in Rises?

Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt do great work as the Catwoman and a young Gotham cop.

Does it Rise?

No, sometimes, Bruce, when we fall down, it is because we made poor creative choices and did not have the editing skills to get back up again.

I thought all of the Nolan’s Batman movies were a big, glorious mess and didn’t expect anything different from this one. This one felt like a bigger mess than usual and that could’ve been okay but it didn’t quite hold together.

I liked this take on Bane and liked his link to the al Ghul family. I saw it coming but I enjoyed it all the same. This Bane had an intimidating physical presence and was a good choice after Ledger’s amazing Joker.

All in all, we’re left with what all three of these Batman movies leave us with, some fun action scenes and some half-assed thought on heroism. The action scenes were alright and the thoughts on heroism were just plain repugnant.

The Trilogy

We have a huge, sprawling mess that folks are going to insist is going to be impossible to top. The origin movie was a fun primer. The second film was a great Harvey Dent/Joker film and a mediocre at best Batman film. I’m a sucker for the first ten minutes that felt like something inspired by Heat.

And Rises takes the mess of the first two films and makes an even bigger mess.

It is not going to be long before someone launches another Batman franchise. Nolan did a better job than Burton and Schumaker but I think a better Batman series of movies can be made.

P.S. I’ll post re-boot thoughts in a future blog post but I think it would be cool to base the first movie on the first Detective Comics with Batman, even set it during the 40’s and tell the origin during the opening credits.

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9 thoughts on “Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, a trilogy review

  1. It’s a shame Gotham is not more of a character in these movies, since they reduced Bruce/Batman to a simple thug. He’s not a detective. He’s not a scientist. He doesn’t design or make his own gadgets. He just an angry spoiled rich boy that beats people up and calls it justice.

  2. A friend and I discussed doing a Batman film that’s a real mystery. It would be a film noir thriller that followed a cop named Gordon. And in the edges, in the darkness, spoken of in whispers, speaking from the night, never seen more as an outline, a quick movement, the results of his actions, would be The Batman. You could film the whole thing on a dime, because it would be all mood, shadows, and mystery, with him as a real detective going places and doing things the police can’t.

  3. Rises was even worse than …returns. Man, I’m disappointed. It looked like everyone – director, actors – were thoroughly bored, and I couldn’t muster any interest for any characters or story stuff at all. What a turkey. I’m going to go back and re-read Dark Knight Returns and Year One just to clear my pallet.

  4. FWIW, I really enjoyed TDKR. I can understand the various criticisms I’ve seen, but I was floored by it nonetheless.

    Calling it worse than any of the Burton-era films, though… that’s going a bit too far. Those films were garbage.

    Also, I believe they do mention the Narrows when Bruce goes to visit Selena’s apartment.

  5. I agree with johpowell6 above, as well as Buzz. I really liked the Dark Knight Rises — I even liked it more than the Dark Knight after my first viewing, though I now attribute that to the relief and joy of seeing such a nice wrap-up to the trilogy. The Dark Knight still takes the cake, for me.

    Frankly, the only issue I had with TDKR is one my friend raised: editing. The editing was poorly done. It felt like they didn’t know where to cut or when. Quite a bit of the first act felt disjointed, though it pulled itself together quite quickly, though still felt short in terms of smooth and natural-feeling editing.

    The Dark Knight is good but it’s not beyond criticism. We all just think “OMG! Heath Ledger was great… and he’s dead now, so… I guess we have to think this movie was EXTRA awesome so we don’t sound insensitive to that fact.” There were god-awful lines in the Dark Knight. GOD – AWFUL. Some poor scenes, as well. However, the pacing was exceptional. That’s what I felt didn’t carry over into the Dark Knight Rises, and it’s definitely felt.

    I actually liked Bane more than the Joker. The issue I have with all of the Batman villains is that they’re universally pussies and Batman spends all his time playing Clue, trying to find them. Once he does, it’s no-contest. Bane is both intelligent but also extremely capable, physically. The scene in the sewers between Bane and the Batman was probably the best scene in the entire trilogy. It showed desperation and vulnerability in a character who otherwise always does everything perfectly, all the time, a la James Bond: “oh, hey… here I am, right on time and with the right gadget.” It gets tiring, and Bane shattered that (uhhh… as it were).

    I also loved how Tom Hardy portrayed Bane, right down to the voicing and inflection. It was amazing. Having only his eyes and general physical bearing (it’s amazing how much expression is conveyed by muscles around the mouth), he did a phenomenal job.

    This is running much longer than I wanted, so in summary: While the trilogy hit its peak with No. 2, it didn’t fall flat with Rises.

  6. I thought the opening section of The Dark Knight was the best made bit of the whole thing, too. Didn’t think about the Heat connection but now that you mention it…yeah, it almost feels like that bit is a pastiche of Heat.

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