Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Banefinger!

A film review with SPOILERS A-PLENTY!!!

Director Christopher Nolan's latest film ("Dark Knight Rising") is out, and it is destined to be as talked about as it's predecessors.  If it's action and controversy that you seek, well here you are, come and get it!  But if you want a coherent plot with logical characters, look elsewhere.  The supposedly realistic superhero trilogy comes to an end with a dull thud, as the characters make stupid decisions, followed by plot loopholes, followed by foolish decisions, followed by cliches, etc.  The worst part was that it felt more like a lame update of a '60s James Bond movie than a sequel to the riveting "Batman Begins".

The film's main antagonist ("Bane", played with daft sincerity by Tom Hardy) is an update of the Bond villains Goldfinger, Blofeld, and Viktor "Renard" Zokas from the "World Is Not Enough".  Picture Blofeld as being young and muscular, with a masked strapped to his face that makes him sound like Goldfinger talking into a plastic cup.  Bane's plot:  capture Batman & Gotham City, torture them, and then kill the city while making a broken Batman watch.  And Bane will be in the city when he blows it up, killing himself in the process.



Like all Bond villains, Bane tells the hero the plot before sending him away to die in an inescapable prison (on the opposite end of the globe no less!).  Batman (played earnestly by Christian Bale) does not die of course; instead he is healed by a prison chiropractor with a magic rope and then escapes the inescapable prison.  Magic-healed Batman then apparently is instantly teleported back to Gotham all better from his broken back, now capable of punching out the same dude who bare-handedly broke his back earlier in the picture.  But oh, the realism.

So yes, the villain is not realistic.  But surely the story must be realistic.  I mean, if someone foiled your mentor's plot to destroy a city, the most realistic thing to do is hold the city hostage with a neutron bomb until you get bored and blow it up several months later.  And if you were a homicidal maniac claiming to have a neutron bomb that could take out the city, surely the realistic thing for the government to do would be cave to your every whim and do nothing to stop you, because maniacs never lie.  Surely if a maniac tells you your society is built on a lie, the realistic thing to do is to believe the maniac is telling the honest, factual truth.  Surely if you were a superhero who was betrayed by a criminal seductress ("Selina Kyle", played convincingly by Anne Hathaway) to said homicidal maniac, the realistic thing to do would be to trust her with your life again and again.  Surely if you were a criminal trapping the entire police force in the sewers so they could not foil your plans, the realistic thing to do would be to provide them with enough food and water so they would be strong enough upon release to take down your henchmen.



OK, while that scene did not appear in the film, I kept expecting it to.  I also expected Scotty Evil from Austin Powers to show up and say "No Bane!  Just kill them already!  We've got the guns!"  I mean seriously, the plot hinges around Bane's asinine attempt to blackmail the U.S. government into letting him kill a city, for no other reason than revenge.  "Give in to my demands or I will blow up the city!"  "OK, what are your demands?"  "Let me blow up the city!"  Surely an acclaimed writer/director can come up with a more "realistic" plot than that.

And surely if you were a director who wanted to tell a relevant metaphor to today's issues, you would make your Dickensian analogy more clear to all people, as Bane is no Robespierre.  Surely if you wanted to tell a tale of two cities, you would not make a film that indulges the Fox News audience in their thought that our economic choices are unregulated capitalism or Stalinist communism.  And surely a director with both ambitions and a cinematic bar set as high as Christopher Nolan would spend more time on plot and less on IMAX action spectacles.

Director/writer Nolan (with co-writers Jonathan Nolan & David Goyer) seems to have attempted to be as thought-provoking as in the "Dark Knight".  But where DK made you think about the war on terror, "Dark Knight Rising" makes you think about... um... class warfare?  Nihilism?  It's hard to tell, because while the villain in DK -- an anarchist and self-labelled "agent of chaos" -- was clearly bent on instilling terror in Gotham's citizens, the villain in DKR talks the class warfare talk, he clearly wants to kill everyone the city regardless of status.  In the first film of the trilogy, "Batman Begins", Bane's mentor  Ra's Al Ghul wanted to destroy Gotham because it was corrupt and crime-ridden and it needed to go away.  But by the time of DKR (set some 9 years later after BB) Gotham is now uncorrupt and peaceful and Bane only wants to destroy the city out of spite, killing himself in the process.

So no realism, or logic, or usable metaphors.  There are a few redeeming features, such as the performances of Hathaway, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as earnest Detective R. John Blake.  Some of the action sequences are indeed very gripping, as is the score by Hans Zimmer.  But none of those features make up for the muddled mess of this film.  Nolan didn't gives us a deep, resonant meditation on the war on terror (as in "Dark Knight") or even a rousing superhero story (as in "Batman Begins").  In this film, Nolan just gives us the Banefinger.

1 comment:

alex-ness said...

Sad to have a final entry in a series suck, or be mediocre.