Man-Children Comic Book Fans May Have Made It A Blockbuster, But Nolan’s Long-Anticipated Finale Simply Fails As Cinema In Virtually Every Regard
Look, I’m no movie snob. There are plenty of big-budget, stupid-ass action movies that I really enjoyed, including “Terminator 2,” “Aliens,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Robocop,” and even the last Nolan Bat-movie. The thing is, while I would consider all of them “great films” without hesitation, I wouldn’t consider ANY of them fine works of human art, at the best, looking at them as pop culture artifacts that are more well-constructed - or subtext-laden - than a majority of popcorn flicks.
While “The Dark Knight Rises” is certainly subtext-filled, it’s so sloppily done that you really have no clue what the director’s trying to say with the movie. Throughout the film, there are indirect references to all sorts of recent events, all of which are so poorly expressed that that it just seems like the producers were trying to be “timely” for the sake of being “timely.”
Bane’s gang of henchmen - an army of janitors and delivery boys, apparently - seem to be a reference to the Occupy Movement, whereas Bane’s quasi-socialist rhetoric (condensed into stereotypical, undeveloped “CAPITALISM IS THE REAL EVIL” nonsense) seems to be a form of awkward commentary on the rise of social democracy in Europe over the last few years. There’s even an out-of-place jab at WikiLeaks, when Bane begins reading a secret memo from Commissioner Gordon over a PA system at a pro football game (and if there’s anything out there that better describes a patently American form of mass consumption than the NFL, I can’t think of it.)
My favorite sliver of blunt-as-a-sledgehammer commentary comes in the form of Bane’s super-duper “doomsday weapon,” which, at several times in the film, can be construed as a stand-in for everything from the national debt to Obamacare to green energy programs. In fact, Bane’s entire “reign of tyranny” may more or less be a paranoid critique of the Obama Administration, as eight years after “change” came to Gotham City, it turns into a fascist, poverty-ridden hellhole that looks suspiciously like Eastern Europe circa 1988. The fact that Gotham City is instantly doused in an out-of-nowhere blizzard when Bane takes control isn’t just hammy writing - it’s almost assuredly a knock on the “socialist regimes” that have begun sprouting up all over Eastern Western Culture as of late. All the movie is missing, really, is a scene where an old man looks into the camera and proclaims “I never thought it could happen HERE” while looking at the empty shelving at Costco.
|In 1920, this man - an ardent anti-capitalist - allegedly perpetrated an on-horseback bombing of New York's Financial District. Clearly, Christopher Nolan has never heard of such an event...|
“The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t just a pro-capitalist film, it’s a GLORIOUSLY pro-capitalist film, the kind so wrapped up in the “virtue of wealth and commerce” that you wonder if the Koch Brothers didn’t have a hand in writing its screenplay. In the film, the “downfall” of the rich and powerful constitutes the collapse of society as a whole, a not so subtle suggestion that as long as corporations and bankers stay rich and successful, it’s totally OK for the huddled masses to be starved and unemployed. The line of thinking here would be tragic, if not for the fact that so many people believe it to be a truly moral argument: yes, people are poor and starving now, but they would be even poorer and more starved IF the knights of Wall Street took a tumble, too. That’s pretty much the “gist” of Nolan’s new film - in that, it’s one of the most cheerfully fascist movies released by the Hollywood-Industrial Complex in quite some time.
If the heavy-handed politics weren’t enough to make “The Dark Knight Rises” a laborious undertaking, the film also flails and falters as popcorn-entertainment. My, where to begin here? Should we start with the absurd running time, or the hackneyed dialogue, or the countless plot holes that make the movie feel like a piece of Swiss celluloid? How about the rapidity in which the film leaps from action sequence to pseudo-philosophical monologues back to action sequence? This movie is basically a three hour long Nirvana song - loud part, quiet part, loud part, ad infinitum.
This is just a clumsy movie, from start to finish. Batman and Catwoman’s “crime fighting” relationship comes together so seamlessly that it’s utterly contrite, and the emphasis on Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character - who TOTALLY isn’t Robin guys, really - just slows the movie to a crawl. Not that it really needs to be said, but nobody in the film puts on a performance on par with Heath Ledger’s in the last flick. Hell, for that matter, nobody in the film really puts on a performance on par with Jack Nicholson’s in the 1989 movie, either.
Perhaps the movie’s greatest flaw is, shockingly, a technical one: the audio. In most scenes, there are so many explosions and gun prattle going on that very rarely can you understand what the characters are saying. Even worse is Bane, who is pretty much inaudible for 95 percent of the movie. Whenever Bane and Batman were on screen, I seriously had no clue what the hell they were saying to each other - it was like listening to Rocky Balboa and John Rambo have a rap battle with marbles in their mouths.
There are lesser problems, to be sure, but so many of them that they end up harpooning the movie entirely. I loved the fact that the plot didn’t even BOTHER explaining how Bruce Wayne managed to get back to Gotham from the Pakistani mountainside, let alone how he was able to SUCCESSFULLY SNEAK into a demilitarized zone flanked by police from all sides (and monitored by both NORAD and the bad guys that took over the town) without being noticed by anybody. Really, Bane’s “hostile takeover” was just absurd in general - you mean one dude manages to take over New York City, and the ONLY officials that respond to the crisis are LOCAL POLICE OFFICERS? You mean the military, the national guard and the federal government just REFUSED to insert itself into the equation, when the nation’s largest city was being threatened with nuclear weapons? Shit, when one dude in Texas claims to be Jesus and has too many Uzis, the ATF shoves a platoon of tanks up his ass less than a week later. It’s not just unrealistic - it’s comically absurd.
Another thing I loved about the movie was when the city’s police force - trapped in the city’s sewer system for about a week - were finally rescued, and what do you know? All of them were rocking speckless, unsoiled uniforms. The only thing stupider was the big finale, with Batman tasked with disposing the nuclear weapon in a matter of minutes - clearly seeing the urgency of the moment, he spends a good minute or two making out with Anne Hathaway and giving a philosophical lecture to Commissioner Gordon instead of hopping into his CGI Transformer-plane and flying the WMD out of harm’s way. Some outstanding, self-appointed, authoritarian protector that Bruce Wayne fella’ is, huh?
Not only is the political philosophy here just jumbled, it’s kind of hypocritical, too. I suppose one of the movie’s key messages is that we need “law and order” (but only on the LOCAL level, apparently), but didn’t this Batman asshole literally come about BECAUSE he didn’t think the local police were effective enough? There’s a mention of this thing called “The Dent Act” - apparently, a piece of legislation that gives the GCPD a little more wiggle room to ignore federal and state mandates - which gives Batman a “reason” of sorts to go into retirement. It’s a completely contradictory message, on several fronts: is one supposed to take the law into his or her own hands because the “powers that be“ can‘t get anything done, or is the path to “true order” only obtainable by suspending one’s rights and liberties to authorities so that their job can be done? It’s something that just doesn’t vibe with the movie’s anti-Federalist message - really, is “local” fascism any more “moral” than fascism on the state or national level? So it’s all right to cede authority to the neighborhood cops, but HORRIBLY UNAMERICAN to cede power to federal legislators? It just doesn’t make any sense to me, folks.
|Remember kids: the police are your friends. Also, your friends may sometimes kill you, because they feel like they really have to.|
And THEN there’s that whole thing about “the citizenry” being dependent on high-rolling capitalists. Bane, that federal moocher he is, just ups and takes away Batman’s weaponry, even though he paid for it with his own money. Well, technically, he used investors’ money to purchase weaponry that some dude stole from the military (which is NOT AT ALL an act of treason, if you were wondering), but clearly, that’s nowhere near as wrong as GOVERNMENT DEMANDING THE SAME COMPENSATION FROM BUSINESSES AS IT DOES CONSUMERS. Cue a scene with Commissioner Gordon declaring Bane’s “people’s government” a “failed state,” and this thing’s political agenda becomes painfully apparent.
As a philosophical text, “The Dark Knight Rises” is juvenilely simplistic. Batman and the police force represent “social order” and are therefore good, whereas Bane and his cronies represent “social disorder” and are bad. Anybody that talks about the “pathos” and “existential” aspects of the movie are probably idiots, children, or the kinds of losers that sent death threats to critics that gave the film negative reviews (not that there can’t be any overlap between the three, of course.) Sure enough, there are some people that think the film’s “humanity” is the core of the movie’s perceived “greatness,” and I find such an opinion not only absurd, but downright insulting. How anybody can look at “The Dark Knight Rises” and see anything that resembles flesh and blood humanity - human emotion, human insight, human character, human anything - is simply astounding, and quite frankly, a little horrifying. Right now, adventurous cinema-goers have the option of seeing films like “Bill W.”, “China Heavyweight,” and “Whore’s Glory,” all remarkable films about truly adult issues and complexities that are dealt with and explored with the complexity associated with being an actual adult. These are all great films that stand out as authentic works of art, because of their complexity, and their realism, and their refusal to childishly simplify things for the sake of titillation and half-assed politicking.
Simply put, “The Dark Knight Rises” is nothing more than mass-marketed, infantilized claptrap for the unsophisticated and the undemanding. It’s perhaps acceptable amusement for children that need their moral tones and themes severely simplified, but if you’re over the age of sixteen and consider this artful commentary on the human experience…well, let’s just say you have a lot more to worry about than bitching about some dude telling you that a movie you like isn’t that any good.
A lot of people may be wondering if there is ANYTHING I liked about "The Dark Knight Rises." Well, if there is ONE THING I can praise the film for, it's probably the fact that it inspired this AWESOME blueberry-flavored Mountain Dew variation. Here's a video of me trying out the newfangled soda - I suppose many, many Nolan fan-boys likewise require a sip or two to get the taste of this review out of their mouths...