January 8, 2013
Is it just me or did The Dark Knight Rises suck? And, I don’t
mean “suck” as compared to the mathematically-improbable-to-top
The Dark Knight, but “suck” as in This Was A Bad Movie On Its
Own Terms. If I’ve distilled the plot correctly, there’s a
fairly bland bad guy whose costume looks even more ridiculous in
broad daylight than Christian Bale does in the batsuit. He has a
boring fight with Batman early into the second act, who stands
toe-to-toe against an allegedly superior fighter—though Bane’s
fighting skills seemed pedestrian, like me and my mailman duking
it out in the park. This was followed by over an hour of stuff
that was way more interesting in the Chuck Dixon comic book,
followed by another flat-footed punch-out in broad daylight
which makes both the hero and villain costumes look even more
ridiculous and in which Batman either suddenly gets the idea to
rip out Bane’s breathing tubes or finally has the opportunity to
It’s possible the film made so much money because people did what I did—went back to see it again, hoping it was just my imagination and that the film couldn’t possibly have been as bad or as boring as I thought it was. Coming as a follow-up to Thriller, most people were let down by Michael Jackson’s Bad, but Bad was actually a better recorded, better conceived, more even and more mature album than Thriller. Bad holds up better than Thriller and remains fairly playable even today, while Thriller sounds a bit like a record for a child’s Halloween party. It may well have been impossible for Christopher Noland to top The Dark Knight, a film flawed only by self-indulgent and overly-long speeches by the star toward the end—Batman doesn’t make long, stupid moral speeches—but The Dark Knight Rises was a deep disappointment.
Idle thought... how on earth did rail-thin Tom Hardy (Shinzon from Trek: Nemesis) bulk up like that?
The obvious (to me, anyway) follow-up would have been Johnny Depp as the Riddler and challenge Depp to reinvent the character, if not the villain genre, the way he reinvented pirates. Depp and Bale had recently faced off in Michael Mann’s brilliantly underrated Public Enemies, and somehow, in my feeble mind, I’d assumed a Bat face-off between the two would have been a natural idea to float out there. It’s possible Depp either wasn’t interested or was too busy putting on war paint for The Lone Ranger, but my assumption is they could have handed those two actors a 30-page outline and had them improvise the whole movie and it would have been more interesting and artistically invested than the hugely-overblown Rises. I actually burst into laughter when I saw recent half-page ads for Rises in the trades shilling for a Best Picture nod. Yet another very expensive CGI and pyrotechnic geek fantasy where absolutely no expense was spared, but they forgot to buy a decent script.
On The Prowl:: The only reason to see this film. Hathaway's scenes with Bale in the first act
promised way more than the film could deliver.
Bring On The Empty Chair
The first act, set eight years after the Batman’s last sighting,
delivers an out-of-shape and genuinely hobbled Bruce Wayne in a
brilliant encounter with Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle. The scene
promised far more in terms of personal conflict than this
blowhard of a film could deliver. Wayne’s return to action goes
far too smoothly. There should have been more struggle and
Batman should have gotten walloped on his first time back: an
out-of-practice pianist taking the stage. I assume the producers
didn’t want the audience to sit through two disparate Wayne
rehabs, but the one they chose just bored me to tears. We all
knew Batman would rise—it says so, right there in the title. The
lunatic from Frank Miller’s eminently superior The Dark
Knight Returns, pulling on the batsuit and going on obvious
suicide missions, would have motivated the film much more
efficiently. Alfred’s walk-out would have made a lot more sense
had two-thirds of the movie featured a clearly out-of-his-league
Batman, too angry or too proud to hang it up for good or who
needs the humiliation to break through psychologically to the
mental state required to resume his career. They could have
saved millions on CGI effects and silly explosions had they only
written an actual script.
Gary Oldman: wasted. Morgan Freeman: wasted. Michael Kane: a valiant effort at actually being of interest, but he’s trying too hard to force meaning into this ridiculous script, so his Alfred comes off too conveniently extreme. The while film felt like a pilot for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Nightwing or what have you, when my preference would be for Director Christopher Nolan to sign off and let’s get some fresh horses into the Bat stable.
The two obvious Bat ideas, to me, are Depp as the Riddler and Clint Eastwood in a note-for-note film adaptation of Frank Miller’s masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns. I doubt Eastwood, deeply wounded not by his doddering GOP convention performance but by his having come down off of the perfectly balanced high horse of his Chrysler “Halftime” ad, would even consider putting on the Batsuit. A splendidly-written version of TDKR—and, by splendidly, I mean, don’t touch a word of the original graphic novel—would be a perfect Eastwood vehicle. Now, maybe combine the two thoughts and have Eastwood face off against Johnny Depp, and the lines would start forming now.
Christopher J. Priest
1 January 2013