Mixed Review: Glenn and Mike and “The Dark Knight Rises”
As with The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, Glenn and Mike saw The Dark Knight Rises separately to do this Siskel and Ebert style review. We were going to run this last Friday on the movie’s opening day, but as we’re sure you can appreciate the events of Friday morning in Colorado demanded we delay this publication to give our readers more time to see the film.
Again, we offer our standard disclaimer: there are all sorts of spoilers in this review. And this time around, there is an observation that may actively ruin the end of the film if you haven’t seen it and you intend to do so.
Mike Gold: The movie was pretty much what I expected – better than most threequels (Spidey, X-Men, Godfather), but not surprising. I think the performances were absolutely terrific, but I expected that. Except for Talia. She sucked.
The movie could have lost about 15 minutes, half of that from the pit scenes and the rest little trims here and there. I would have offed the gratuitous Robin reveal: if you didn’t figure it out by the time they did it, you wouldn’t get it anyway. The score was a tad relentless; they could have used a nice theme song from Randy Newman.
Glenn Hauman: I had a similar response: the pacing seemed off from the first two films. Granted, I’m on record thinking that The Dark Knight was an absolute monster of pacing, so matching that was going to be tough. And sadly, Christopher Nolan got me again with a reveal. Not that Miranda Tate was Talia, that was so far telegraphed I probably owe Western Union extra money – that she was the child that climbed out instead of Bane was what I missed. Again, Nolan uses the hardcore fan knowledge to mess with expectations.
Mike: I think the movie was purposely claustrophobic. That was pretty much the whole point of the thing. That’s why they shot this one in New York, where the buildings are closer and the streets extremely narrow.
Glenn: Claustrophobic? In an IMAX film? Interesting choice.
Mike: Wasn’t the IMAX decision retroactive? I thought they shot most of the IMAX scenes afterwards, by and large, maybe as a trade-off to prevent somebody from 3-Ding the movie.
Glenn: Nope, it was IMAX from the start. Nolan and Wally Pfister, the movie’s cinematographer, are huge fans of the IMAX format.
Mike: Well, the tight environs really worked for me. It made me more in touch with Wayne’s feelings.
Glenn: This actually leads to one of the few problems I had with the film: Wayne’s feelings and motivations. He takes himself and Batman off the stage for eight years? And at the end, he retires? Sorry, I’m with Neil Gaiman on this one: Batman never retires. He never quits.
Mike: That didn’t work for me either. It plays against his need to become the Batman. Once he tosses the cowl, that’s it: Bruce gets laid, raises a family, runs for President on the Republican ticket. We don’t know if Batman retired. The Robin reveal plays against that, but what they don’t tell you in the movie really isn’t ours to surmise.
Glenn: I was looking for an ending, and I really don’t believe Bruce Wayne/Batman retires of his own free will. On the other hand, if he never retires, we never get Batman Beyond, and that would be a tragedy. Eight years of retirement just seemed arbitrarily long. I would have believed the four years between films easily.
Mike: I agree. I don’t even see Batman keeping himself off the scene even for four years. The Dent thing wasn’t worth it. I have an even harder time thinking Bruce would stay in his room brooding for eight years. Alfie – sorry, Alfred – would have kicked his ass outta the joint.
Glenn: Which leads us to Bane. Could you understand what he was saying?
Mike: I understood Bane just fine. The voice thing fine worked for me.
Glenn: I’ve heard it described as Patrick Stewart with a megaphone. I personally kept hearing W. Morgan Shepperd.
Mike: Naw, it was James Keach. (OK, that’s a Lone Ranger joke. You had to be there.) I think Hardy showed great courage as an actor. Don’t know where he borrowed that body from, but only a few moments without the mask? And with that voice? I don’t think a lot of actors would go for that.
Do you think Catwoman got lost in the shuffle?
Glenn: Not really – I thought Ms. Kyle (Anne Hathaway did wonderfully, by the way) played very well, played ambiguous and very very real – as compared to Burton’s head case.
Mike: Burton’s Catwoman didn’t bother me. It was the rest of Batman Returns that bothered me. I agree about this version, but I would have liked to see more of her (get your mind out of the gutter; I mean her character).
Glenn: If anyone got short shrift, it was Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, I think.
Mike: I think Oldman dominated every scene he was in, and the story was more about him than Wayne. And his reaction to the Dent affair was more credible than Wayne’s.
Glenn: Really? Maybe I feel that way because he spent a large hunk of the film in bed.
Mike: Even in bed, he dominated those scenes. And you knew he was going to rip out the tubes and hit the street. The whole Robin relationship was as much about Gordon as it was about Batman. If anybody got short shrift, it was Morgan Freeman. And then, only a little.
Glenn: Let’s go through the rest of the new cast additions. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was very solid in the film in a moderately tough and thankless role. And he really played well with everybody.
Mike: Thankless only if he doesn’t get a gig in a sequel. He was terrific. Very convincing in a role that just as easily could have been clichéd.
Glenn: What sequel?
Mike: Oh, yeah. Right. There’ll never be another Batman movie. Or Justice League.
Glenn: I mean, there are obvious set-ups for a sequel, but I’m not sure Nolan wants to do it, and I’m not sure anyone else would try for a direct sequel. On the other hand, James Cameron thought he could outdo Ridley Scott. And he was right.
Mike: Nolan says he won’t and I believe him. But the next Batman movie couldn’t happen until after Justice League anyway, so there won’t be a direct sequel. If they’re smart, something Warner Bros has avoided with the other DC properties, they’d be consistent with the Nolan trilogy.
Mike: Best line of the evening? That’s a trick question. It happened Wednesday evening on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart said “My eight year-old already watched it on his computer – in 3-D!”
Glenn: It is a trick question. The best line was uttered 46 years ago by Adam West. “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”
Mike: Oh, well-played, Glenn!
Glenn: I swear to Rao, when I saw that Batman was going to take that bomb out to sea, I was looking for a Salvation Army band, two nuns, a baby carriage, and a flock of ducks.
It’s ironic that executive producer Michael Uslan, who’s spent so long pushing against the 60s television version of Batman, indirectly referenced what might have been the worst excess of that era.
Mike: I question how much Michael had to do with that scene. I’ll admit that the whole dump-the-bomb-bit was anti-climatic. I was looking for more of a big James Bond finish to the movies.
But for me the worst part of the evening was The Man of Steel trailer. Adriane Nash didn’t even realize it was Clark Kent until half way through, and nothing gets past her. If this is the best they can do, when it opens I’m sleeping in.
Glenn: Man Of Steel – considering this is Zack Snyder, this is the most understated I’ve ever seen him. So I’m intrigued by that, if nothing else.
Mike: That turns you on, huh? It showed me they don’t have a story worth teasing. Just a well-modeled logo. This trailer had all the impact of a jammed projector.
Glenn: It’s a Reeve thing – underplay a bit. Come to think of it, I think most of the Superman trailers have been underplayed.
Mike: And for the second superhero movie in a row, everybody and their mother knows the superhero’s secret identity! I am Batman! I am Spider-Man! I am Iron Man! I am Spartacus!
Glenn: Well, it was a surprise to Kyle.
Mike: Selena was surprised, but that’s because she found out. Maybe secret identities don’t work in movies. Maybe they strain credibility.
Glenn: It was blown by Bane for Kyle. It doesn’t count.
Mike: It counts for me. By the end of the movie the only person who didn’t know Bruce Wayne was Batman was … oddly … Alfred!
Glenn: Because we’re fanboys, the question must be asked: where does this one rank in the pantheon? 2, 3, 1?
Mike: I think comparing the Batman trilogy to the Avengersverse is apples-and-oranges. I’d say 2, 1, 3 – but close to 1, 2, 3. The Two-Face thing wasn’t as strong as it should have been, and it ran on too long.
Glenn: Agreed, an Avengers comparison is just silly. But does it work as a cohesive trilogy for you? I think the entire thing holds together, even acknowledging that endings are a bear.
Mike: I don’t see it as a real trilogy. Certainly not with the “Eight years later” thing. They’re as much of a trilogy as the first three Bond movies: continuity, common elements, references out the yin-yang, but three separate stories. It ain’t Lord of the Rings in structure.
Glenn: I think it works as a trilogy – which reminds me, I was so happy to see Dr. Jonathan Crane in this movie as well.
Mike: Why is it a trilogy for you?
Glenn: There are enough hooks between all the films, and there really is an arc for all of the characters that make it through – from Officer Jim Gordon (nicely referenced at the end of this film) to Alfred and even Bruce himself. Even the evolution of Gotham City, to an extent.
Mike: Yeah, but it’s three unique stories. Characters evolve – that’s great, and the way they did it was their real strength; that and the fact that the actors had the chops to pull it all off. But they were three totally stand-alone stories. Character evolution doth not make for a trilogy alone. Given the track record for threequels, we really don’t want to sanctify a “Thou shalt make three movies and then move on” commandment.
Glenn: Believe me, I’m against that commandment in books too.
Mike: Define evolution. Gotham City got trashed. Even Tony Stark couldn’t float the bond issue to fix up the joint.
Glenn: But that’s one of the arguments for it being a trilogy: the lead character has been given a pretty definitive ending.
Mike: His ending was definitive in Dark Knight but he came back and he can just come back after this one. It won’t happen with this cast and crew (Gordon-Levitt possibly aside), but Batman will be back and Bruce will be rich and there will be a cool vehicle and impressive villains. And there will be a Justice League movie… if Man of Steel doesn’t kill it.