Friday, July 20, 2012

It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me

Those of you who have heard any references in  pop culture in the last few years will undoubtedly recognize this quote as probably the most famous line in the first Batman movie that Christopher Nolan directed, Batman Begins.

If you haven't been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you will know that the final installment of Nolan's trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, came out at midnight yesterday. I, being a huge fan of the franchise, was of course there to see one of the first showings. Now, I've not read every batman comic book, but I know his general story. And I like Nolan's 'realistic' take on the series, and I was trying not to expect much from this movie- I expected some action and violence, some freaking Bane speeches and some raspy growls from Batman. I of course expected it to be awesome, but let me tell you, it was beyond amazing.

I'll keep my thoughts on it mostly spoiler free, and just let you know my general impressions.

The film takes place 8 years after the ending of The Dark Knight. Batman hasn't been seen since the death of Harvey Dent, aka Two Face, at the end of the last movie. I was hoping Two Face would make an appearance, because he was fantastic in the last movie, but I guess the realism of the series comes in where the villains don't keep reappearing because they can actually die.

The Joker, out of respect for the late Heath Ledger, is not mentioned in the film. Nolan wanted us to respect the real life tragedy of the death of an amazing star, and I applaud this decision. I am glad the Joker doesn't reappear in this film, as again, like Two Face, Batman's enemies are not invincible.

Neither is Batman himself. Having hung up his batcap and powered down his batcave, Bruce Wayne lives as a recluse in his expansive home, playing up the 'eccentric billionaire' side of his personality. We do see the toll that being the caped crusader has taken on him- he must walk with a cane and in a short hospital scene, we are quickly told that his body has taken a beating and that it won't handle tough physical activity that well.

Gotham has been in a period of calm after Dent's death allowed the passage of the Harvey Dent Law or something, so things are peaceful. Gotham has moved on from the chaos, but Bruce hasn't. He still just mopes around the house until the two enemies of the film surface and start to cause trouble.

Bale is and has been fantastic at playing both Bruce Wayne and Batman, even though his Batman voice is unintentionally hilarious sometimes. He's super easy on the eyes but his acting is also top notch. I can't imagine anyone else playing Batman, though in my heart Christian Bale will always be Howl to me. His scenes as actual 'Batman' are limited by the plot, but he plays the reclusive Wayne well through his journey back to protecting the streets of Gotham.

They are:
Catwoman- though the name is never used in the film, Anne Hathaway does an amazing job portraying a sly, conniving, intelligent thief that has gotten in too deep. She isn't cartoony. Christopher Nolan has a talent for including comic book sounding lines without making them sound hokey or stupid, and Selina Kyle. Though touted as a 'love interest' for Batman, it isn't overly so. They make sense as a pair though- they both operate outside of the law pursuing their morals. They are cut from the same cloth but have gone on different paths. I liked it, and Bale and Hathaway have great chemisty

Bane- Bane is most famous for his iconic 'break batman's back over his knee' scene, which Nolan thankfully but realistically includes. Bane is terrifying in the film because he seems unstoppable and Gotham's end seems inevitable- Batman gets his ass kicked a number of times in the film, showing that he too is not invincible and that he cannot remain the caped crusader forever. Bane's one issue is his speech. Tom Hardy chose a specific gypsy accent to portray the character, but with the crazy mouthpiece and vocal distortion, his lines really do sometimes need subtitles. In multiple viewings I may be able to catch more of his dialogue.

Let me just say there is action, adventure, fear and more twists and turns than I expected. It's a great film, and at 2 hours and 45 minutes is the longest of the series, but the pacing is so well done that I didn't even notice the length. I was glued the entire time.

Nolan brings the series to a wonderfully satisfying ending with the film, tying up loose ends without overkilling the message of the film. It feels real and intense and keeps you on the edge of your seat, but the action is interspersed with poignant, emotional scenes showing the toll that being Batman has taken on many people's lives.. The film has the same dark and gritty tones as the preview installments, but it never is overdone. Nothing felt like a waste in the film and I would definitely say it's the best film I have seen all year. It wasn't flawless, but it was pretty close.

And in other news, my heart goes out to the victims of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. What a terrible tragedy that has marred what was just supposed to be a fun night out for many people. My thoughts are with the victims and their friends and families.

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