I do realize that I'm going to be in the vast minority with my stance on The Dark Knight Rises, but I'm used to that, so I'm just going to go with it.
I have one thing to say for Christopher Nolan: he's a magician when it comes to making movies. I mean that in a very literal sense. He uses flashy action to distract us from the holes he leaves behind in the story. We can't see them, because we're too busy looking in the other direction.
Or maybe it's just that Marvel has set the bar so high with their string of excellent adaptions that I'm just no longer satisfied with interpretations. Maybe if it was more explicit that these are interpretations, I'd be happier. DC/Warner Brothers could just slap their Elseworlds label on these things, and I might be more accepting of them. As it is, though, there are so many things that aren't Batman in these movies that I have a hard time dealing with it. Like in Burton's Batman when Alfred brings Vicki Vale down into the Batcave. What?
Unfortunately, Nolan has plenty of those moments himself. Like in Batman Begins when Wayne allows Lucius Fox to know that he's Batman. Whereas that was almost acceptable in that movie, those inconsistencies with the source material have continued to snowball to the point that by the time we get to Rises, I can't accept them. I mean, by the end of The Dark Knight Rises half of everyone knows that Wayne is Batman. And we're just supposed to believe that some random cop walks up to Wayne and just knows? Seriously. I get that Nolan needs that for his story, but, give me a break, he knew because he saw it in Wayne's face? At least Tim Drake did the research to figure out that Wayne is Batman. And I don't want to give spoilers, but having his actual name be Robin? It just makes me cringe.
However, the big issue for me, the thing that set the big disconnect for me, is that we're supposed to believe that this is 8 years later. That Bruce Wayne just quit being Batman and went into seclusion. I get that Nolan is trying to give us a sense of Miller's Dark Knight comics in which Batman had quit and was in seclusion, but that was because he got old. He even gives us a cane like Wayne uses in Batman Beyond, but, again, in those he got old; Nolan wants us to believe that Wayne just quit. I can't buy it. I absolutely can not buy it.
This is where I understand the difference between me, someone that grew up reading Batman comics and was heavily invested in Batman lore for...well, longer than I should have been, and the vast majority of people out there that don't have that same investment. These details aren't important to them. I get that. I also get that I am not really the target audience for the movie. I was the target audience for Batman Begins, because that one was more focused on the fans of the comic, but these last two, after hooking everyone in, have been focused on the general consumer.
Even so, the idea with Nolan's Batman is that he is set in the "real world," and, as such, I still can not accept this 8 year hiatus. He wants us to buy into too many unrealistic ideas:
1. After 8 years of no Batman, people are still talking about him. Give me a break. Culturally, we barely hold onto anything for 8 days, and Nolan expects us to believe that people are still saying, after 8 years, "is he coming back?" Not to mention the fact that he has kids, like 10-year-old kids, talking about Batman as if he's a reality to them. Or was a reality to them. Yes, all of this bothers me, because none of it's how the real world works.
If he'd made it a year after the events of Dark Knight, maybe even two, it would have been plausible.
2. There's a Harvey Dent Day and people care about it. See point 1. No one would care after 8 years. Well, they wouldn't care beyond the fact that it was a day off from work. And it's not clear that they, the common people, do get a day off from work.
3. After 8 years, Wayne just puts the suit back on, and it's like he never quit. There are so many problems with this:
- There is an implication, a strong implication, that Wayne has been doing nothing to "stay in shape" during his seclusion (except, maybe, shooting some arrows). He's just been sulking about. Bodies deteriorate pretty quickly. After just a few months, he would have lost his edge and begun losing muscle mass. After a year, it would have taken considerable training to be able to get back into shape. After 8 years?
- Aside from the staying in shape aspect of it, Wayne has definitely not been sparring or doing any kind of combat training in those 8 years. As an example of what not sparring can do, you can look at the Foreman/Ali championship fight. Foreman was unable to spar for the entire month leading up to the bout due to an eye injury, and just that one month of not training threw his fighting off so much that he couldn't compete. (Ali won and refused to ever allow Foreman a re-match.)
- On top of all the not staying in shape and not sparring, Wayne has suffered some sort of debilitating injury that has caused him to need a cane to walk. His body is in bad shape. No, it's in horrible shape. So... 8 years of lounging in seclusion and he can't even walk under his own power, but we're supposed to believe that a high tech knee brace returns him to fighting form? Are you kidding me?
If Nolan wants us to believe that this is a Batman that could be in the real world, he needs to keep him in the real world. And don't get me started on the "fusion bomb," because all of that was just bad science. I'll buy into Wayne creating a fusion reactor, but not turning it into a "time bomb" in the way it was done in the movie. They're equating it to a meltdown in a nuclear reactor, and those things just don't happen on a schedule. Not to mention the last minute save after 5 months. It just doesn't get more cliche than that.
Nolan also uses sleight-of-hand to hide facts from us. I don't have an issue with this in a general sense, but it takes away from the enjoyment of watching it again. He did this very successfully in The Prestige, because, in that one, he gave us the clues to figure out what was going on so that when the reveal happened it was your own fault for not figuring it out. I like that kind of cleverness, and doing it that way does make for good repeat viewing, because you can go back and see where the clues were that you missed (like in The Sixth Sense). I dislike, though, when not only is the information hidden but the fact that there is information hidden is hidden. Of course, then, when you do see that coming because you have more lore than the average viewer, there's no surprise, so that twist didn't throw me at all, and that made the viewing experience... less than it could have been.
Having said all of that, don't take it that I'm saying that it's a bad movie. It's not. It's a good movie, and I'm glad I saw it in the theater. The acting is good (Oldman is still great as Gordon, Hathaway was good, Gordon-Levitt is quite good), and the action and fight sequences are spectacular. But the movie, if you look beyond those things, is not great.
Here's the way I look at it:
After I saw The Avengers, I wanted, immediately, to see it again. After seeing it the second time (opening weekend), I wanted to go back and see it again. I still want to see it again. I have no desire to see Rises again.
I had the same experience with The Dark Knight when it came out alongside Iron Man. I saw Iron Man three times in the first week and still would have gone back to see it. I could barely sit through my second viewing of The Dark Knight because I got bored even though I'd been on the edge of my seat during my first viewing. After 4 years, I barely want to re-watch Dark Knight and that desire is only related to the release of Rises (in fact, I have not seen Dark Knight again since I saw it last in the theater even though I own the movie). I've seen Iron Man numerous times in the intervening years and talking about it makes me want to go put that one in right now. That, to me, is what makes a movie great, the desire to watch it over and over again. I just don't get that from Nolan.
I've said that I'm not in favor of re-boots, and I'm not, but I would certainly be in favor of a Batman re-boot. As long it's more in line with the comics. I really don't want someone coming along and trying to continue on from the point where Nolan left things. Of course, that's part of why Nolan left things the way he did (by his own admission).
I'd say that maybe I'm just getting crotchety in my old age, but that's just not it. In truth, I've always been like this. Even in high school, my friends would be upset because I'd point out inconsistencies in movies. I'd enjoy them just fine anyway, but, then, I'd pop their bubbles of the movies by pointing out the flaws, and they would lose enjoyment of them. So... I like Rises. It was a good movie, certainly big enough to be worth seeing in the theater. It just wasn't great, and it wasn't great because it lacked in the story department. Anyway, I'm not trying to make anyone else not like the movie, but I would like to peel back the whitewash of "greatness" that has been slapped onto it so that people can see past the action smokescreen.
[And, remember! I have a contest going on! Check out yesterday's post for details.]