I want to have fun at the movies and I didn’t have the urgency to see something serious. I I’d already saw one of those… it was called ‘The Dark Knight’, and it was an EXCELLENT film, superhero or not. That was actually a surprised to me because, to tell you the truth, I didn’t really like ‘Batman Begins’ a whole lot. I’ve been reading Batman comic books for years and unfortunately, I didn’t see a whole lot of new things in the movie. It wasn’t terrible, but it’s hardly the masterpiece people seem to think it is. You can’t say that re-telling an origin story to a “new audience” is a good excuse. Batman has been around for years. He’s been done to death in film, TV, animation and video games. There isn’t anyone out there over the age of six who doesn’t know his story. Where else can you take this character?
That’s where the director, Christopher Nolan, comes in. He’s had a list of successful and imaginative films that have hit the screen. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy all of them. I thought the effects of “Inception” were amazing, but I couldn’t stand the story. It was flat, and had more techno babble than an entire season of Star Trek the Next Generation. Lastly, I couldn’t identify with a single character in the film. His past attempts like Insomnia and Memento are films where Nolan is at his best. He produced a sense of mystery and intrigue. Most importantly, he placed you inside the character’s head. You really believe that chewing gum will keep you awake, or piecing together unrelated photographs will lead you to your wife’s killer. In terms of the Batman franchise, I wasn’t inside his head until “the Dark Knight”. It was a revelation; I learned something new about Batman. So where does that bring us now?
Let me start out by saying that no one is going to hate this film. Okay, some people might, but I can honestly say that it isn’t a bad sequel. There was a lot of cash thrown into this film, and it looks like it was spread out to produce an overall good movie going experience. I saw this film as a special preview screening that a friend invited me to (thanks Jill). We saw it in a normal theater without IMax, 3D, or any other tricks. The film would sink or swim for me solely on how well it told its story.
The first act of this film’s pacing was very awkward. We first meet Bane during a plane heist to recover a scientist. This happens mid air to prove Bane’s thugs are resourceful and not your average hired muscle. Meanwhile in Gotham City, it’s been years since the incidents of “The Dark Knight”. Bruce Wayne is a “Howard Hughes” like recluse. In fact, it is not unlike how he was portrayed in “Batman Beyond.” The only difference is that Alfred is alive, and watching like a disappointed parent on how his surrogate son hasn’t found a wife yet. Now, all he does is walk about his mansion with his cane, watching other socialites enjoy festivities that celebrate the success of the “Harvey Dent Act”. Details aren’t really important on how this act works, basically it reminds us that pretty much all of the criminals of Gotham are kept under lock and key. The act was established through the efforts of Jim Gordon, who hid the truth about the fate of Harvey Dent and kept Batman a fugitive.
Catwoman…I’m sorry Selina Kyle is introduced when she tries to steal a pearl necklace that once belonged to Wayne’s mother. Because Bruce hasn’t been under the rigorous training as Batman, she easily takes him by surprise and eludes capture. We soon discover that Catwoman’s interest was actually grabbing Bruce Wayne’s finger prints so that she could give them to Roland Dagget, the man out to get a controlling interest in Wayne Industries. Meanwhile, Lucius Fox is trying to save Wayne Industries from bankruptcy by developing a version of the Arc Reactor from the first Iron Man film. Unfortunately, the Batman version of the Arc Reactor could be perverted into a horrible weapon. So it’s not quite ready to be used for the benefit of mankind. As all of this is happening, John Blake, a Gotham Police Officer, is wondering when Batman is going to reappear again. His only thought is, “won’t some think of the children!”
That’s not even the entire first act. As you can see there’s a lot of stuff happening, and unfortunately not presented very well. Characters have a tendency towards long-winded monologues and conversations. Alfred goes into “storytime” mode every other line. The worst exchange of dialogue is between Bruce and Catwoman while they’re waltzing with each other on the dance floor. We’re supposed to feel some kind of mutual
She’s sexy and she knows it!
Speaking of Catwoman, Anne Hathaway’s performance is passable. She comes off as a version of one of the many Catwomen portrayed in print and that oh so great “Batman Animated Series”. People who haven’t seen a lot of Catwoman past the Halle Berry movie will think it’s a fresh and new approach. For the comic nerds, it’s something that you’ve seen a million times. She’s sexy, she steals things, and Batman loves her for it because beneath this criminal is a heart of gold.
Unlike Heath Ledger’s Joker, we’re not really seeing anything new here. We’re even given a cheesy cat related line which I wish they didn’t include, “Cat got your tongue?” GROAN! I’m not sure why the Batman series has such a tough time creating romantic interests. It seems they’re just a means to an end in each film.
Tom Hardy as Bane does bring something new to this series. When Bane first appeared on the scene of the comics, according to his creators, he was supposed to be the dark version of Doc Savage. A villain so vile, his physical strength is equaled by his cunning. In this version he comes off like the demonic brother of The Humungus from “The Road Warrior,” mixed with Darth Vader and an Evil Captain Picard’s voice (FYI Hardy played an evil clone of Picard in Star Trek Nemesis). As the story progresses he becomes Gotham’s Warlord. Hardy plays the role brilliantly. His first confrontation with Batman is a wakeup call to the viewing audience that this man has the power to break him. He also has this great character trait in which he is always donning his mask. This is where various other superhero movies falter. For some reason we need to see emotion in the faces of the people behind the mask, and the only way to do that is to have them actually take it off in times when they shouldn’t. It’s explained that he always needs to wear it to stop the pain of previous injuries. We don’t need to see his entire face; this is a man who shows you the coldness of his soul with a mere stare.
The second act of this film is where the film starts coming together. The odd pacing is still present, but the tale injects some giant action set pieces so that we’re spared the insane amount of exposition. A real treat is how Bane finally outsmarts and outfights Batman, and presents him with his own personal hell. He literally puts him in a hole with no possible way to climb out. Inside the hole is a television where Bruce is forced to watch all the destruction that he’s causing in Gotham. While there, Jim Gordon and the newly promoted John Blake try to form a resistance against Bane and his forces. But without Batman, it’s an uphill struggle.
It’s really not until the third act where this movie really comes together. The finale is like a war film mixed in with a heist film. We have Jim Gordon trying to diffuse the Arc Reactor turned atom bomb and Batman leading a charge of Police Forces again Bane’s soldiers. The confrontation is absolutely huge, and suddenly well-paced. All the awkwardness is finally left behind. In the end, there are enough callbacks to the film to justify A LOT of the monologues established in the beginning of the film. If you’re not into the Batman mythos, there is a twist that even might take you by surprise. I’ll leave that for you to find out when you watch the movie. Overall it’s a good movie watching experience.
I say good, but not great. There are a lot of things that don’t work in the film. For example, the action is bit uneven. The first two movies kind of established this realistic style of action. This film tries to keep that up. At one point it’s brutal, Bane stomps around like behemoth, and when he throws a punch you feel it off the screen. Then we’re given 90 lbs of Catwoman knocking out Bane’s once thought to be highly trained thugs by just throwing them to the ground. It’s not very convincing.
In the opening sequence, Bane is revered by his men with honor, and they worship him like a God. They’re willing to die for him at his orders. Then we’re given a scene where Bane casually kills his men because he is angry with them. All of the sudden he’s a Darth Vader type and rules with fear, why are these guys following him around? I could go on with this list, but in the end it’s just nitpicking details that people probably shouldn’t care about. Nonetheless, these scenes kind of stuck out to me, and they did lower my respect for this film.
In the end, I kind of got what the Avengers delivered in their own film. There was total war. The battle was hard fought, and there was some decent character building moments in the midst of the chaos. My personal favorite moment was between Alfred and Batman where the man servant basically was fed up with his behavior. I’ve never seen it portrayed in that manner before. Both sides are hurt, and you really feel it. It probably helped that it was coming from Academy Award winner Sir Michael Caine.
Here’s the consensus for this film, if you know nothing about Batman besides these film, you’ll love it. If you’re a comic fan, you’ll probably see stuff coming a mile away and you’ll either think it’s good, or you’ll be a part of the small minority that won’t be partial to it at all (there’s no pleasing you by the way). If you’re a Nolan-phile, you’ll like it, no matter what…. That’s why you’re a Nolan-phile (some people are blind to all reason). I’m still more of an Avengers fan, but this deserves to be checked out on the big screen. As I said before, it’s a good film, but not the prize that many reviewers are claiming it to be.
Chuckingdice is a writer and fantasy roleplaying enthusiast since he was in third grade. He currently resides in Los Angeles, and often quotes Brando from Apocalypse Now in his one bedroom apartment when he’s not making internet video reviews. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @chuckingdice.