Weekend Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
August 3, 2012 3 Comments
I went to see The Dark Knight Rises at the Grove and could tell that I was in L.A. because the screen and sound was super awesome. It made for some great visceral fun. Planes in the air! Explosions underground! Chase scenes through the streets that didn’t bore me! So, uh, that’s my review in a nutshell. What follows presumes that you’ve already seen the film — probably before I did! — and I talk a lot about the movie’s politics, so if that spoils the fun you find in watching grown men wear capes, please do not make the leap…
When Rush Limbaugh suggested that the movie villain Bane was chosen by Hollywood liberals as an attack against Mitt Romney because of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, Limbaugh was appropriately mocked. The creators of Bane were amongst those letting the air out of Limbaugh, a conservative talk show host and recovering drug addict.
“The idea that there’s some kind of liberal agenda behind the use of Bane in the new movie is silly,” [Chuck] Dixon told ComicBook.com. “I refuted this within hours of the article in the Washington Examiner suggesting that Bane would be tied to Bain Capital and Mitt Romney appearing. Bane was created by me and Graham Nolan and we are lifelong conservatives and as far from left-wing mouthpieces as you are likely to find in comics.
I think Dixon is right, and in fact there’s a definite conservative streak in the movie. Mind you, I think it’s fine for summer blockbusters to be political. I’m not necessarily turned off when the films don’t share my personal politics. Raising my standards too high would keep me out of the cinema, and wolfing down big buckets of buttered popcorn at home alone just isn’t the same. It’s sad, although the butter takes off some of the edge.
The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t even hide its politics, particularly when it comes to class and crime. It’s a world in which the police just need to be let loose and not held back by rules in order to contain crime. (In the real world, policies such as stop-and-frisk lead to targeting minorities without reasonable cause, as opposed to white talk show hosts with a known history of illegal drug use.) Of course there’s no mention that we already lock up more people than any country has in the history of the world, ever, because that would ruin the picture and they’re not writing a policy paper. As we often do in the real world, the makers of this movie create a world in which all of those held in prison are pure evil – psychopaths, really.
The Dark Knight Rises also glorifies wealth. Of course, lots of Hollywood films do this, and that’s one of the pleasures of watching blockbuster movies. Like many people, I get a vicarious thrill watching all the pretty people in their pretty clothes and cars. The rich can also like what they see. Bruce Wayne is rich because he is good, and he’s good because he’s rich. It’s similar to how he gets out of that exotic foreign prison — he can make the leap because he fixes his moral failings as well as his back. There’s no other possible ending than Wayne enjoying the good life in Europe, because that’s what happens to heroes.
We also know that’s how wealth must be distributed because of how wrong it is when the rich are tossed out into the street. The rich being homeless is a much greater injustice than the poor being homeless, because of the brutal manner in which it’s filmed. Plus, the ad hoc courts that spring up to dispose of the rich are inane. It’s the French Revolution, Batman-style! Don’t worry, there are some good servants, like Alfred, who know that it’s proper for them to to sacrifice themselves for their employers.
I kid, I kid! Well…my points are serious, but the film does offer us some complications. Batman has a no-kill policy and a concern for due process. He deeply cares about the social welfare of the entire city. He wants to make sure that the power-thingie his firm constructed is not used as a nuclear bomb, and the movie even makes an implicit argument against our ever-increasing militarization of the world, as pretty much all of the weapons Wayne has made get turned against him. Writer-director Christopher Nolan also complicates the narrative by mirroring Batman and Bane.
Both Batman and Bane appear to be driven by anger. We eventually learn that Bane was driven by love, but that was an intriguing idea, that Batman is actually like an angry twelve-year old, emotionally speaking.
The casting was terrific. In the previous two films, I found Christian Bale’s Batman voice to be grating, but here it seemed more in character, rather than an affectation. Anne Hathaway is superb as Catwoman. Hathaway is a terrific actress and knows what the role requires, whether it’s her excellent comic timing or how she even moves her body differently depending on the situation and what her character wants in the moment. And how good is Tom Hardy to be able to act through that mask?
Jospeh Gordon-Levitt is definitely likable and it became somewhat obvious where they were going with his character once they spent half the movie avoiding his first name, but with him I’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next film. I kind of liked the hokeyness Robin being a circus performer in the comic books, but I understand that it’s tricky enough to have that character on screen without it becoming camp.
What worked for me most in The Dark Knight Rises were the characters. The plot was interesting but I don’t necessarily look to Batman for bigness. That’s more Superman’s terrain, with his invulnerability and all that. I look to Batman for emotion, which is why I found the more compelling elements to be the back story about people’s relationships, both the good guys and the bad guys.
It may surprise some people that I have political critiques but nevertheless feel that my money was well spent. Hey, a movie has got to be doing a lot of things to my liking if it’s 2 hours 44 minutes and does not drag. The Dark Knight Rises gave me plenty of adrenaline rushes along with lots to consider, and as I wrote above, I don’t expect my entertainment to mirror my politics at all times. I’m glad I wound up seeing it, and I look forward to seeing what’s done next, with cats and/or robins.
VictorsMovieReviews: “Dark Knight Rises” (2012) – IMAX – Movie Review