The Dark Knight Rises was a flawed but perfectly apt capper on Christopher Nolan’s Batman miniseries, a true trilogy in the sense that it’s an integral continuation of developments and themes from the first two films and wraps up loose ends we didn’t even realize were unraveled. Its marathon length was no deterrent to me, but some of its minutes could have been used to better effect.
Internet flame wars are no rare occurrence, but I was surprised to see them in the headlines again, not just in a headline’s poorly moderated Comments section. Entertainment Weekly reported Wednesday on the decision of the colossal movie-review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to revoke discussion privileges for any and all reviews of The Dark Knight Rises, opening nationwide this weekend. The drastic measure, whether temporary or not, was invoked after a few early negative reviews spurred a combined thousand-plus responses from diehard fans of either Batman or director Christopher Nolan behaving in a manner allegedly on the scale somewhere between junior-high-snotty and creepy-terrorist-threat.
The official statement of RT editor-in-chief Matt Atchity seems well-reasoned, polite, diplomatic, and firm about the situation. Clearly this man has no place on the Internets and should not be taken seriously unless he calls out his opponents using misspelled epithets from all the worst R-rated comedies.
The release of the final film in Nolan’s Bat-trilogy is doubtlessly a sensitive time for our nation. Batman Begins stood above all else as a remarkable turnaround from its Bat-predecessors. The Dark Knight was, regardless of its flaws, the apex of Heath Ledger’s film legacy. Between the two, they’re prime examples of what happens when a super-hero movie attempts to transcend such singular classification without necessarily failing at it. Geek America would love to see lightning strike a third time and herald the very first successful super-hero trilogy. Fantasy fans had Lord of the Rings. Animation fans had Toy Story. Horror fans had Evil Dead, and maybe George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and its sequels (I only saw part of the original). Adventure fans had Indiana Jones. Spy fans had Jason Bourne, any three favorite Bond films of their choice, and Mission Impossible if you skip the second and include the fourth instead. Comic book fans have, at best, several records with two-hits-and-a-miss. Just once, a successful hat trick in our genre would be a wonder to behold.
I read through some of the preserved responses to the reviews by Christy Lemire and Marshall Fine, two of the most heinous criminals targeted in the War on Negative Bat-Reviews. I’m not convinced that assailing naysayers with playground tactics will somehow result in a better movie. I’m sure more than one fan wishes they could have the power of li’l Billy Mumy from that famous Twilight Zone episode and force everyone to agree with them on everything. Alas, God’s gift of free will and the nonexistence of super-villain cornfields permit otherwise.
I won’t have time to see DKR for myself until at least Sunday afternoon, but I plan to keep an open mind in every sense. Nolan has an impeccable track record with me thus far. Then again, once upon a time, so did Pixar. DKR may the Greatest Film of All Times. It may be Nolan’s weakest film to date. I may go home afterward and rethink my life. I may spend all three hours comparing Tom Hardy’s performance unfavorably to Gail Simone’s superlative version of Bane from DC’s Secret Six. I may or may not reevaluate my lifelong indifference to every version of Catwoman ever (yes, including even the great Julie Newmar’s rendition). I may hang on its every word and quote portions of it for days afterward, or I may have to suppress the internal MST3K track that clicks on in my head when a film begins to crash and burn before my eyes.
I truly have no idea what reaction to expect, and refuse to form my opinion until after I’ve seen the movie for myself. Whatever my personal results, I don’t plan to spend my free time heaping scorn upon others for their own reactions, questioning their credentials, besmirching their integrity, or scrutinizing their kinder reviews of other, lesser films for signs of hypocrisy. Not even those notorious critics that I consider to be the anti-Me.
I’d like to think I can be honest in my response without fear of being bullied in return. I would hope the Internet can sustain isolated safe zones where the notion of civil discourse isn’t more radical than any concepts DKR has to offer.
Please allow this old newcomer to practice inserting video links. Chances are you’ve already seen this one. Nothing for you to lose if I screw it up, then.
I was viewer #303 when that landed on YouTube circa 11:30 p.m. EDT Monday night. Bragging rights for being slightly ahead of the curve for that brief moment are mine.
And yet…my head failed to explode. I’m trusting the finished product will be exciting and as vital as any other Nolan film. Maybe the ads for this year’s Best Picture winner, Marvel’s The Avengers, have desensitized me to awesomeness. Whatever the reason, I have yet to burst into Caps-Lock cheers or pound my exclamation mark key until it cracks.
Mostly what I see is:
Bale grimaces and suffers. His two previous Bat-performances were much more than that, especially when he wasn’t being outshined by all those elderly Oscar vets. The evidence for this installment is thus far concealed. Again, I trust all the meaty soliloquies and jump-cut brawls are being saved for the actual viewing experience.
Bane sounds stilted instead of garbled. I’ve enjoyed Bane as a comics character in recent years, particularly as a demented father figure among younger villains in Gail Simone’s unfairly canceled Secret Six. There, he was well-spoken and had a twisted sense of honor that spurred him into the most unpredictable decisions in any given situation. In this trailer, his two lines wouldn’t sound out of place in any other Batman film or TV show. Any of them.
Anne Hathaway does martial arts. I’ve had a hard enough time coping with the reality that Princess Diaries graduated to nude scenes. Seeing her perform snippets of rehearsed chop-socky was only slightly less disorienting. In her defense, it doesn’t help that I’ve never cared for Catwoman as a character, not even Julie Newmar’s version. It’s one of my many secret shames that bars me from attending all the really good comic conventions.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is mysterious beat cop. I suspect his average-Joe character will bring unto the film Great Meaning. Either that or he’s undercover Dick Grayson, and/or by film’s end he’ll be the new Batman. His nebulous nature frightens and confuses me. Let’s hope it was worth walking away from playing Cobra Commander.
Batplane Returns. Whether live-action or animated, nine out of every ten Batplane appearances follow the same pattern: Batman flies somewhere he would normally drive. He activates one or two weapons. He fails to win. Sooner or later, it explodes. Spread across his appearances in various media, Bruce Wayne by now has spent hundreds of billions on single-use disposable Batplanes. The Nolan version looks sleeker than most previous versions, but is doubtlessly just as fragile.
Midair plane stunts! Between Bane’s apparent jailbreak and the BatKamikaze, TDKR looks to stay airborne at length. After the accomplishments we’ve seen in the occasionally intersecting oeuvres of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, are there truly any new stunts left to perform above the horizon?
There shall be Occupying. Please, no.