Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises (2005, 2008, 2012)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer, Jonathan Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Heath Ledger, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy
Doc wishes to emphasise that his view is not necesarily shared by the other writers on this website!
Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Commissioner James Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organized crime from Gotham City, but feels guilty about the cover-up of Harvey Dent’s crimes. While following a lead in the abduction of a congressional representative, Gordon is badly wounded and his confessional speech falls into the hands of terrorist leader Bane, a powerful villain with a cruel plan. Batman seems to have disappeared and so has Bruce Wayne, living as a virtual recluse in Wayne Manor, though Wayne Enterprises is crumbling after he invested in a clean energy project but shut it down after learning that the fusion core at its heart could be modified to become a nuclear weapon. After Bane attacks the stock exchange and bankrupts him, Batman has to return, but he now also has Selina Kyle, a devious cat burglar, to deal with………..
It makes me feel like an outsider, it really does. It seems that if you are one of those people who thinks Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is anything less than brilliant, you are considered a little odd. If , like me, you actually consider them very flawed and nothing special and, dare I say it, quite poor in places, than you are often considered an idiot who knows nothing about movies. I feel I have a reasonable knowledge of films and have developed reasonable critical faculties, but just cannot understand what the fuss is about with these three films. And frankly, it totally and utterly sickens me when I look at the IMDB and see that The Dark Knight is ranked the third best film ever and Batman Begins is ranked the eight. There are people, and lots of them, who are calling Batman Begins a ‘masterpiece of cinema’. I think this is a disgusting insult to creators of truly great films such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg etc. But then we live in a world where fans of these films are willing to threaten critics who dare to give them bad reviews with death.
Batman Begins. Well, for a start I didn’t think that Batman And Robin was as bad as all thought, just a bright, silly children’s movie with a considerable amount of heart [you may have read my ‘Guilty Pleasures’ review on it]. Nonetheless, they decided to start all over again, and I distinctly remember how bored I was during the first half. Nothing wrong with build up, but Batman Begins’s was just so dull and tediously meticulous in explaining everything on Batman’s costume [yet still failed to convey to me why he dressed as a bat] that the result was just laborious in the extreme. But then Batman Begins is a dreary mess of a movie which half-heartedly tries to make a ‘comic book’ tale ‘realistic’ yet still fills it with conventional comic book movie and unbelievable aspects such as a secret society of ninjas and an immortal villain with a doomsday machine. The film just doesn’t gel, and it almost seems ashamed with having to put in action with its lame Spiderman 2 climax and its atrocious fight scenes where having a caption saying BATMAN WASTES FIVE VILLAINS would have been preferable to the incompetent stuff we get. There was one really good element though; Cillian Murphy’s scary the Scarecrow, who belonged in a different film and actually seemed to almost be in one, one that was far better than the film we got.
Joe Public seemed to respond positively though, so The Dark Knight was put into production, and this was a film people seemed to be raving about before they’d even seen it. The death of Heath Ledger seemed to make everyone praise his Joker to the skies, despite the fact that to my eyes he was ‘good’ rather than ‘great’, could have been played by several others and wasn’t a patch on Jack Nicholson. Then again, he wasn’t helped by a weak script which failed to give him, a character called the Joker remember, any actual jokes. In fact, his whole part of the film was botched, almost everything he does relying on the most ridiculous of coincidences [in fact he’s basically a fortune teller], but the film as a whole just repeated variations on the same situation and vastly preferred long sequences of people in rooms talking to actual action [of which there must have been about ten minutes]. Despite it pretending to be realistic, it was full of absurdities, from the bus scene near the beginning which defies all kinds of logic to that stupid ‘phone sonar’ moment where Batman can see everyone in Gotham. And then, just when you think the bloody thing has ended, it starts up again, to conclude with such hysterical melodramatics I alternated between laughing and saying to myself “is this is, is this what people are saying is so great”?
So we come on to The Dark Knight Rises, a film I was almost dreading to see because of all the arguments I would have about it. However, and I am happy to say this because I do prefer to find the positives in films rather than negatives, I do believe it is a better film than its predecessors. The first third is definitely slow but allows for some good performances especially from Christian Bale [funny Batman voice notwithstanding] and Michael Caine, who does well throughout, and the rest moves at a furious pace which makes the almost three hour running time fly be. There is a considerable epic feel to the film and Nolan is getting better with each film at shooting action, of which there is a huge amount in this movie, culminating in a climactic chase which really is very thrilling indeed. The sequence where the explosives are going off all over the city floored me with how well executed it was, and the timely commentary on the way certain things are going in the world today is also very good. As for the twists towards the end, they may not all make sense but they’re certainly fun, and for once Wayne’s latest girlfriend is not wasted!
Sadly though I still noticed a huge amount of flaws, far more than there should be. Bane is a boring villain saddled with a voice that sounds like a posh Darth Vader with a throat infection and is sometimes inaudible. Selina, who is never actually called Catwoman, is only slightly more interesting. She’s just a normal cat burglar who can fight well and undergoes unconvincing developments throughout. The script throughout is full of holes, and I’m not even going to get into the ridiculous airplane opening [remember folks, this is supposed to be a realistic movie]. Why does Bruce trust a certain person who he would surely have checked up on? How does he get from the Pit [with no money] to Gotham City when that is supposed to be impossible? What’s the deal with that stupid open-air prison anyway [yes I know it was explained but I didn’t ‘buy’ it one bit]? Is it really that easy to recover from a broken back? How on earth can people who are buried underground for three months emerge clean shaven and ready to fight? Wow, very realistic, ay? Some of this stuff would fit better into one of Joel Schumacher’s movies.
Some of this may just seem like nit-picking, and most films show flaws after you’ve seen them and had a think, but if I was too aware of all this during the film them it wasn’t doing its job properly. Batman is not in the film nearly enough and lazy scriptwriting has him saved by his new toy at least four times. The fights are often very lame, making it dreadfully obvious that punches are not connecting. Then the film seems to end, and seems to end well and even quite movingly too, until it adds on another few minutes which leave things open for another film. I thought this was supposed to be a trilogy? Why the hell can’t movies like this actually end anymore. It smacks of Nolan and his two co-writers being told what to do by Warners.
But in the end, there’s nothing about The Dark Knight Rises that is really awful…..except for its music, which is quite simply the worst film score in ages. Hans Zimmer, the third highest paid Hollywood film composer and on the evidence of this score the third least talented, seems to have written it in a couple of days, because quite simply three quarters of it is either the same string patterns or the same synthesised drum loops played over and over and over again with no variation. How the hell can this be considered good scoring? If this is what it has come to, than I fear for the art of film music, and no, I don’t require every film to be scored in the old-style Classical manner, nor do have a prejudice against electronic music; in fact, I love quite a lot of it, but this score is simply abysmal, brain numbing in its aggressive dumbness, and it never shuts up either, with droning notes playing under almost every dialogue scene. Zimmer, even though I find his way of scoring bizarre [record an archestra, than record a synthesiser over it to almost drown the orchestra out], detest his Media Ventures empire which is dominating and destroying film scoring, can sometimes write half-decent scores, so maybe the blame lies with Nolan, who has never had a good score yet in his films.
Now I’m not going to say they are awful films because they are not; far worse come out most weeks. However, to hold these up as the pinnacle of the ‘superhero’ flick just baffles me. It seems that anything realistic is automatically better than anything that isn’t, but, as I have already explained, they don’t even succeed in being that. Likewise, their supposed ‘darkness’. If a film is dark it’s considered better than a film that isn’t, but these films aren’t even that dark. Though both of them were in my opinion unsuitable for a 12A rating [a most pointless and dangerous rating], they tend to pussyfoot around ‘real’ darkness except for with their villains, and even then there is the feeling of holding something back. I would have actually loved to have seen Darren Aronovsky’s Batman film. Now that would have been truly realistic and truly dark!
Now I probably sound like I hate Nolan. I don’t. I think much of his non-Batman work is fairly good and actually I loved Inception…..well, except for its score. I respect him and actually agree with him on many things, from CGI [should not be overused] to 3D [is a pointless gimmick] to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [the best James Bond film!]. But his Batman films just don’t do it for me. I have tried and tried to see what others see, and have failed. No amount of raving will convince me that these aren’t fairly ordinary and very flawed films which have been ludicrously blown up out of proportion. Nolan is producing the new Superman film, and Zimmer is doing the music. Sounds like they’ll royally screw up The Man Of Steel, which is a subject where a half-hearted realistic approach just wouldn’t work. Still, I expect everyone will say how brilliant it, and I’ll be crying “why” and trying to work out why such mediocrity is so loved.
Rating: Batman Begins
Rating: The Dark Knight
Rating: The Dark Knight Rises
Read Matt Wavish’s review of The Dark Knight Rises here; http://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/2012/07/the-dark-knight-rises-released-20th-july-in-cinemas/