The Dark Knight Rises

There was a time when I would have said that Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was the perfect example about how to do a comic book movie. He took the material and removed the idea that comic book films needed to be campy: that there was no way that you could approach it from a serious angle. That's how we got all those crappy adaptations we did back in the 70's, 80's, and 90's. Remember Adam West's Batman? Remember Schumacher and the Bat-nipples?

Batman Begins not only re-booted a dying franchise that was killed by that idea, it also showed people that the material could be taken seriously and you could appeal to a larger audience that wasn't indoctrinated into the inner circle of geekdom and steeped in decades of Batman canon. It showed us that a movie based on a superhero didn't need to be outlandish fantasy: that these legends could, in fact, be real.

However, Nolan's new The Dark Knight Rises makes me feel that maybe this wasn't the way to go.

Here we have that idea taken too far. The film feels like it's left the source material behind. There's no longer any sense of the fantastic in the third installment, no more of the bizarre that we love about the stories in the comic. If you took this movie and replaced Batman with any other action hero, and took Bane and replaced him with any run-of-the-mill terrorist, it would probably still work. It wouldn't make as much money as it's going to, but it would still make sense.

Look at it this way: the first movie had ancient temples in secluded mountains. It had ninjas and secret societies and nefarious plots. The second movie, The Dark Knight, had Joker, who by the nature of the character is bizarre enough. Though the treatment he was given by the filmmaker and script was to anchor him in the real world, he still felt like the same unstoppable insanity that he is in the comics.

Bane, on the other hand, is simply a particularly violent terrorist. That's not to say that the things he does to Gotham aren't as scary or damaging as what the Joker planned: it's just that there's no real signature to it, no "theatricality". In real life, the situation would be terrifying for the people of a city. As entertainment?

Not so much.

Another thing that bugs me is that the film has too much going on.

The Dark Knight had both Joker and Two-Face in the mix, and following both plot lines and their crush towards resolution was a fair job for the audience. At 152 minutes, it can be a chore to wade through the amount of exposition that they had to get through. I think they did a great job of it, as it kept my attention through my first two screenings: I didn't fall asleep until I watched it the third time.

This one however, managers to top that runtime at 2 hours and 45 minutes. A great deal of that is characterization and dialogue. A lot of explaining and very little actual action. I mean we've got the whole Bane/Batman thing going on, we've got the Wayne Enterprises stuff, a budding romance with Marion Cotillard's character, the thing with Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), the stuff with Gordon (Gary Oldman), the stuff with John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)... the list goes on.

Is it any wonder that there isn't much room for fight scenes?

The Avengers gave us a pretty good idea about how good it could get, and for me, gave me a lot more bang for my buck than this one did. It took the continuity established in the earlier movies and gave us satisfaction with some rousing action set pieces. The Dark Knight Rises has a few, but there aren't enough of them to balance the movie out.

Now, don't get me wrong. Despite this ranting review, I liked the movie. It's a good film, made by people who know what they're doing. The casting is near perfect (I'm turned off by Hardy's Bane's contrived accent and odd mannerisms), the script isn't bad, and have I mentioned how good Anne Hathaway looks in her skintight catsuit leaning over the Batpod? Rawr. I also like how the plot comes together, tying this film to the first one and wrapping it all together in one big pile.

It's just that it takes too damn long to get there.

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