Saturday, July 21, 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - only to fall and get back up again

I decided to see the trilogy of Batman films, back to back, at the Palisades theater on Thursday. This, I believe, was a mistake. Christopher Nolan has to be one the most overrated directors working today. It's either I'm not clever enough to grasp his labyrinthine plots or the narratives are so unrealistic and so nebulous that one most transport themselves into a different state of being to live and breath in a Nolanian universe. For some directors this would be a welcome departure but it's not worth it when your deep thinking comes up vacuous. It's as if he comes up with some good scenes, films them quickly and crudely, and then just tosses them to the editor to make into a story. 

The man must be a genius because he has somehow convinced the entire population under the age of 30 that he is one of the best directors working today. His only truly good and original movie was Memento - it also happens to make sense which is a plus. Not all movies need to make sense, mind you, but if they don't then the effort and time spent viewing them should be worth the endeavor. Nolan's movies are a bit like Lost, at times absolutely riveting to watch but at the end no one understands how or why the plot ended up the way it did. Therefore, the fun trying to work through it and engaging your Sherlockian wits is completely wasted which I find rather insulting to an audience.

Batman is not a superhero - he is a disgruntled uber rich guy that happens to have a lot of smart friends that enable him to imbibe his intrinsic blood thirst - probably for the right reasons - to curb crime vigilante style. In some ways he is the best "superhero" of all because any man/boy could aspire to actually become him. I like Batman and I like the Frank Miller version of him - most do. I think most audiences enjoy more mature superheroes over camp and corn. I appreciate what was attempted with the trilogy but as mentioned above I think it's hype far overwhelms the actual quality of cinema viewed. No one I know even questions the fact the The Dark Knight was a good film, everyone loved it. I'm sorry to say, not me. As much as I tried and wanted too, I couldn't bring myself to say I liked it much at all. Of course nearly every scene with the joker was mostly fantastic but good scenes don't always make great movies. I think of it like Avatar - grand in scope with some truly great stuff in there but overall of poor quality compared to great cinema within the specific genre or even just films by the director early in his career. Would The Dark Knight be a great movie without Heath Ledger? Does his performance alone make it great in most minds? Does dialogue, direction, editing etc not count? No, yes and no.

Consider Bane who was the trilogies supposed final villain. His voice sounded like a Patrick Stewart possessed Darth Vader - utterly stupid. Much like the choice to alter Batman's voice. The plot twist at the end also completely undermines Bane's evil as a character and makes him appear weak and used which is a type of twist that many should find unpleasant and unsatisfactory. Not only that but his only superpower is strength and the ability to break necks in poor choreographed fight scenes - rather lame. Catwoman's story is banal and boring and rather superfluous - are Batman's two love interests in any way believable? I've said it before and I will say it again - yes this is superheroes, not real life drama, but a certain veracity must be achieved in the fantasy story you create to not break the rules of that universe otherwise it never feels right. Nolan's storytelling then is, I think, what drives me crazy. It's like he telling a story that only he and his crew understands and lets the audience in on bits and pieces at times far later in the story but by then you forget why you should care. It's just plain bad storytelling especially because it deceives us that it is exceptional. 

I'm sure I am nearly alone in my thoughts, which is ok, I usually am. All I will say is that I've read a couple hundred books on the subject, seen over 8,000 features and directed plenty of short films and music videos to know when I see good movies. I'm caught up in it - obsessed with it. I love nearly all art forms and consider cinema to be the greatest in the last century for it's unique ability to combine all others into one coherent awe inspiring spectacle. I value respect and intellectual discourse on aesthetics. I wish more people would take the time to critically evaluate the import of such things but not all of us have the time, energy or concern. However, visual stimulus affects us all and we would do well to put heed and credence to that which deserves deference and admiration. Nolan's Batman is nothing more than eye candy stimulation with little depth or purpose.

Recommended Viewing: Warrior - X2 - Batman (1989)

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.5   -   Subjective: 6.0
             MetaCritic: 78
 Rotten Tomatoes: 87
                      IMDB: 8.6

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