So begins what I hope to make a semi-regular segment reviewing all sorts of things. Probably film. Or TV. Or a book. Yeah, because I totally get time to read.
Bad, Better, Best: Because “Good, Better, Best” doesn’t leave any space for me to have a good old-fashioned whinge.
First on the agenda: The Dark Knight Rises. SPOILER ALERT. SERIOUSLY. Ok, you’ve been warned.
Let’s pretend you haven’t read one million plot synopses in the past week. Eight years after Batman took the blame for Harvey Dent’s death and crimes, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is tapping into his inner Howard Hughes and indulging in a bit of shut-innery. Then a new resident bad guy, Bane (Tom Hardy), appears on the scene to unleash anarchy in the already-dysfunctional Gotham landscape.
1. The ending. I know, I’m doing this backwards. But honestly, pretty much the only thing preventing me from saying this is one of the best films I’ve seen all year is the way it all comes together in a neat and tidy ribbon-wrapped package. It’s TOO neat. I like a happy ending as much as the next girl, but the whole point of Nolan’s epic franchise is it’s about as gritty and realistic as a film based on a comic book character can be. For a whole ten minutes (I’m not kidding about there being spoilers – seriously), I thought Christopher Nolan had ditched convention in the bin, bitten the bullet and done what few before him have dared to do: killed his protagonist. And as much as it sucked, it felt right. Batman and Bruce Wayne go through plenty of trials and tribulations before getting to this point and his ultimate self-sacrifice seemed tragic and inevitable and poignant (if, it’s been pointed out to me, it would be a little self-indulgent for Mr Wayne to go out with a bang as a martyr). BUT NO. LET’S GIVE HIM A BIG, HULKING, STUPID AND UNLIKELY HAPPY ENDING.
2. THAT blooper. Anyone remotely paying attention to this film will know precisely what I’m talking about already. There’s a scene towards the end of the TDKR’s first third where Bruce goes to visit the immensely wonderful Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and talks over a couple of things with him. Bruce, something of a cripple, uses a swanky walking stick and takes a seat on a couch. The camera changes viewpoints as the conversation progresses. Over Bruce’s shoulder, we see at the bottom of the screen his hand clasping the top of the stick. When the camera cuts beside Lucius’ arm, he’s holding it much lower, spinning it slightly between his fingertips. I and half the people in the theatre seemed to spot it straight away. I hoped as the scene progressed it wouldn’t keep coming up – but it did. ALL THE TIME. And it was a really unfortunate, painfully simple error I wouldn’t expect from a team like Nolan’s.
3. “His only crime… was loving me.” <– An actual line of dialogue from the actual film. Amiright?
4. Selena Kyle’s predictable response to a thug’s question: “Don’t those heels hurt your feet?” Yeah, she stamps on his foot and says, “I don’t know, do they?”
1. It’s epic. I realise I’ve already used that word and probably will again, but it’s the only adjective that consistently applies to the Caped Crusader’s story the way Nolan tells it, and TDKR is no exception. Yes, it clocks in at close to three hours, which is pretty insane in itself, but from the moment the stunning opening sequence unfurls with precision and grand spectacle, you know that whatever transpires over the next few hours, it’s going to be BIG. And you’re not wrong.
2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Yes, he’s in this. Yes, he brings a really interesting new dynamic to the whole film as an idealistic young policeman who’s something of a hero in his own way. Yes, I am still trying to convince myself I liked where his character went In The End.
3. The parts that made me gape. In places, my jaw actually dropped. I stared at the screen like an idiot, amazed. Familiar faces reappeared in convincing and slightly thrilling ways. The plot went places I didn’t expect but did enjoy. Things blew up. On the whole, there’s a lot of awesomeness to be had.
4. Bane’s voice. I’m still trying to work out a few shreds of dialogue (I think he said “ggnmmnggggrgeggeeddgah”), but Bane’s super-gurgly, computer-generated gravelly tones weren’t nearly as difficult to work out as the first trailer would have you believe.
5. The script. Nolan isn’t known for his screenwriting abilities. He wrote TDKR with his brother, Jonathon, and in some places it shows (see above). And yet, it has its moments. Mostly where Alfred’s involved. Which brings me to…
1. Alfred. Alfred, Alfred, Alfred. And Michael Cain. But mostly Alfred. His climactic argument with Bruce Wayne, in which he admits to burning the letter Rachel wrote him in The Dark Knight before she died, actually had me tearing up a little. I know, I’m soft.
2. Selina Kyle’s first two scenes. I did not hate Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. I still probably prefer Michelle Pfeiffer’s take in the Tim Burton film, but that has a lot to do with the decidedly excellent writing her character enjoyed (“I am Catwoman, hear me roar”). But Hathaway was largely all the things a good Catwoman has been: sexy, sly and smart. She’s also pretty ruthless and selfish but, naturally, has a little Bat-induced change of heart and eventually gets behind the Greater Good. But she gets one of the better character introductions I’ve seen in a long time, even if it is fairly innocuous. And then her second scene – where she plays the victim with one almost comically overdone girly scream – is also decent.
3. The Twist. It floored me, and then it seemed so obvious, but I still kind of loved it. And I managed to avoid ALL spoilers, reviews, opinions, etc. before I saw the film and was 100 per cent surprised. I highly recommend anyone else taking the same approach. Having said that, you’ve read this.
4. It makes sense. Ok, there are a few things that don’t, but mostly The Dark Knight Rises does everything audiences seem to expect of it: it ties things together, it makes an ending, it awes and entertains, and it provides further bar-raising for the legions of directors undoubtedly to follow in Nolan’s footsteps. I pity those people – and I hope they don’t pick up the gauntlet too soon, a la The Amazing Spider-Man.