Movie Review: “The Dark Knight Rises”

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 24, 2012

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Lots of spoilers. I am about to be Spoilery McSpoilperson, so if you are going to see the movie, and don’t want to know what happens, then don’t read the rest of this post.

The rest of you decided to stick around, eh? Okay. I guess that I should note that much of my review is going to include self-plagiarism from my social media status updates regarding the movie and what I thought of it–with some polishing up of the language.

I should start out by noting that I love Christopher Nolan’s movies. I think that he is a superb director and producer. Memento was great. The first two Batman movies were marvelous. Inception was so tremendously good that I considered turning my Holy Quartet of favorite movies–Patton, Amadeus, Godfather I and Godfather II–into a Holy Quintet. (Ultimately, I put Inception in the honorable mention category, but it made a serious play for a place in my own cinematic Valhalla.)

And The Dark Knight Rises? I guess it was a good movie. I guess it was an interesting movie. And I guess it was in some ways a fun movie. But it wasn’t a great movie. And that ultimately made it a letdown.

The good and the bad of the movie follows below.

Characters

1. Michael Caine: As always, a wonderful performance by one of the finest actors to ever grace the screen. I never get tired of watching Caine in any role, and he is a marvelous Alfred.

2. Christian Bale: Another fine actor, but in this performance, he phoned it in. For most of the time, he played glib and cocky, which is strange given that in The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne is a recluse mourning the death of Rachel Dawes. Bale’s Wayne doesn’t seem to be suffused with loss and grief, however. Mostly, he seems to be his old self, but a slightly paler, lesser version of his old self, who has to be reminded of his reasons for melancholy. Only when he is reminded does Bale’s Wayne wrap himself in the cloak of sadness, but his sadness shouldn’t be a cloak. Rather, it should be a second skin. He lost the woman he believed was and would be the love of his life, and yet, he fails to convince us that he is all that broken up about it.

3. Anne Hathaway: I think that she is divine as a person, but as Selina Kyle, both her seductive personality traits and her efforts to seem tough and fierce appeared forced. She has given very good performances in previous movies so I am not prepared to write that she is a better glamour figure than she is an actress. But I am tempted to.

4. Marion Cotillard: A lovely villain. But she was far more compelling in Inception. Also, given the thuggish representation of Bane as a dimwitted henchman in Batman & Robin, I was looking forward to seeing a masterful, brilliant, and dangerous Bane have his day as Batman’s arch-enemy in The Dark Knight Rises. Too bad we had to find out in the end that Bane was–once again–just a henchman, though at least, we got a much better representation of him in this movie. Don’t get me wrong; Talia al Ghul would have made for an excellent arch-enemy for Batman, but there was no need to introduce Cotillard as Talia so late into the movie, and there was no need to reduce Bane yet again to a dumb bystander when she revealed herself.

5. Tom Hardy: Granted, it’s tough to emote behind that mask, but Hardy’s Bane didn’t awe me nearly as much as I hoped that he would. I guess it doesn’t help that for much of the movie, I struggled to try to make out what he was saying.

6. Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Appropriately earnest and compelling. I like the way that he was introduced as Robin.

7. Gary Oldman: Like Caine, wonderful as always.

8. Morgan Freeman: He did fine, but he hardly stole the show.

7. Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy: Look, I like cameos as much as the next person, but what was the point? The film barely made use of Neeson’s considerable acting talents; most of the scenes that he was in had him looking pensive. To be sure, Neeson does pensive better than most, but he also does other things, and it is a shame that we weren’t allowed to see him do those other things. And as for Murphy, um, why is Scarecrow still allowed to run wild, unless he was one of the prisoners released by Bane? In any event, for one who appears in a cameo, Murphy hardly made an impression. Bringing him back only served to turn the movie into Bruce Wayne: This Is Your Life.

So much for the characters. Now, let’s get to . . .

The “Do You Seriously Expect Me to Believe This?” Portion of the Movie Review

And wow, were there a lot of instances when I rolled my eyes so far into the back of my head that I thought they would land in the lap of the person sitting directly behind me. I recognize that one has to suspend disbelief a bit in a movie, but Nolan asked me to suspend it way too much.

For starters, it is fascinating to find out that if I ever break my back, my dislocated vertebrae can be smacked back into place with a couple of hard slaps to the lumbar region–sans anesthetic, mind you–and that I can rehabilitate by being hung by my armpits with rope until I can teach myself to walk again. Once I teach myself to walk, I will be able to do push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups, which will be shown on film as a montage of Rocky Balboaesque moments (without the inspirational 80s synthesizer music, but hey, we can’t have everything) in which I train to do battle with the guy whose gluteus I am supposed to kick. Once the montage is over and my training is complete, I will presumably be prepared to defeat a member of the League of Shadows in hand-to-hand combat. Great way to bring down health care costs . . . until of course you factor in all of the aneurysms that neurosurgeons around the world had while watching a movie that tells you that delicate spinal surgery can be a do-it-yourself-and-do-it-on-the-cheap affair.

Also interesting: I like how the one police officer–Blake’s/Robin’s partner, I believe–who was trapped underground and who was responsible for retrieving messages from the above-ground folks, never had his crew cut change one iota in the five months that he was confined to subterranean life. Apparently, one of the cops trapped with him had the presence of mind to bring electric razors along to keep everyone’s hair line at regulation length. Oh, and it was also nice to contemplate the possibility that a police force whose members were compelled to endure undesirable underground living for nearly half a year and who were deprived of sunlight, sanitary living conditions, medical care and clean air–among other things–could still emerge to the surface and with little turnaround time, engage a well-disciplined, well-nourished, battle-trained army of mercenaries who had access to Bat-weapons. Of course, it is also utterly and completely ridiculous to think that such a phenomenon is even remotely plausible, but we are expected to believe that it might have some connection with reality because Matthew Modine painted his face blue and white and cried that while Bane and his band of mercenaries might take the lives of Gotham City’s police force, they would never take the policemen’s freedom dressed up in his official policeman’s uniform and said that there was only one police force in Gotham City–by which he presumably meant the one he was part of.

Now, let’s go nuclear. Seriously. I  invite the calling of shenanigans on my analysis, but I think I am on safe ground in stating the following:

1. It is sufficient to note that the decay rate of an “unstable” neutron core that has been removed from its reactor cannot be calculated to the exact second, per quantum theory. Even the decay chain won’t give you the exact point at which a radioactive substance undergoes decay. All of this should be enough to overwhelm any reasonable suspension of disbelief. Dayenu.

2. Even if we could calculate the decay rate to the exact second, it is sufficient to note that we can’t just pick a random moment in the decay chain at which point spontaneous fission–and a nuclear explosion–occurs. All of this should be enough to overwhelm any reasonable suspension of disbelief. Dayenu.

3. Even if we could pick a random moment in the decay chain at which point spontaneous fission–and a nuclear explosion–occurs, after having calculated to the exact second the decay rate of an “unstable” neutron core that has been removed from its reactor (in defiance of quantum theory), it is sufficient to note that a substance undergoing radioactive decay would give off ionizing radiation, which would put the people who come into contact with it in danger of getting a raging case of aplastic anemia and dying the Marie Curie way. And yet, it is also sufficient to note that for whatever reason, the people who came into contact with the “unstable” neutron core did not wear any kind of protective clothing to prevent themselves from being subjected to ionizing radiation. All of this should be enough to overwhelm any reasonable suspension of disbelief. Dayenu.

4. Even if the people who came into contact with the “unstable” neutron core wore some kind of protective equipment to prevent themselves from coming into contact with ionizing radiation, and we could pick a random moment in the decay chain at which point spontaneous fission–and a nuclear explosion–occurs, after having calculated to the exact second the decay rate of an “unstable” neutron core that has been removed from its reactor (in defiance of quantum theory), it is sufficient to note that we cannot magically and temporarily stop decay for eleven minutes by attaching some kind of device onto the “unstable” neutron core. Now, when I made this point on Facebook, I was reminded by Mike Krempasky that the device in question did not technically stop decay so much as it blocked the remote detonation signal. Fine, and mea culpa for my error. But this still doesn’t tell us why we need remote detonation if presumably, the free neutrons decay to the point of spontaneous fission. In any event, and my error notwithstanding, all of this should be enough to overwhelm any reasonable suspension of disbelief. Dayenu.

5. Even if we could magically and temporarily stop decay for eleven minutes by attaching some kind of device onto the “unstable neutron core, and the people who came into contact with the “unstable” neutron core wore some kind of protective equipment to prevent themselves from coming into contact with ionizing radiation, and we could pick a random moment in the decay chain at which point spontaneous fission–and a nuclear explosion–occurs, after having calculated to the exact second the decay rate of an “unstable” neutron core that has been removed from its reactor (in defiance of quantum theory), it is sufficient to note that there was no point whatsoever in waiting five months–with an extra five minutes to fully disclose the villain’s past and scheme to Batman and the audience–before simply detonating the device and blowing Gotham City to Kingdom Come. If Bane was really interested in playing Robespierre and champion of the 99%, it would have made sense only if he were working to plan for the long term establishment of an ideal society. Playing the role of Robespierre, however, makes no sense whatsoever if one is planning on annihilating Gotham City when everything is said and done. And giving the Occupy Gotham movement five months in the sun to prove to the rest of us that they are a bunch of barbarians does not in any way, shape or form justify waiting to detonate the device from the villains’ perspective. All of this should be enough to overwhelm any reasonable suspension of disbelief. Dayenu.

I really wish that I could like this movie better. I like it kinda. Sorta. Enough that I might see it on IMAX and get the DVD, I guess. But as one who would watch a home movie Christopher Nolan made for one of his kids birthday parties, and as one who thought that the Dark Knight trilogy could be one of the best to ever grace the silver screen. It is unfortunate that the product he put out was only pretty good, and thus, so disappointing.

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