"I wonder if that was from the pastrami rueben I had yesterday?"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Dark Knight Mumbles

Due to the graciousness of my parents’ babysitting service, the wife and I went out to dinner and a movie on a fine August weeknight.  We watched the ‘final’ (meaning ‘give us two years for the release of the next reboot’) installment of this Batman franchise at the Stoughton Cinema CafĂ©, where you can stuff yourself on pizza or lasagna whilst watching costumed heroes eviscerate one another with high tech gadgets of destruction.
            I am ambivalent about the film still as I ruminate upon it the following day.  There is much to be liked in the film.  There are numerous nods to the comic book mythology, and just as many areas where it breaks from tradition entirely.  This is a radically different take on Batman/Bruce Wayne than I’ve seen before.  This is a Dark Knight on the skids, physically and financially.  The Wayne Empire has crumbled due to neglect.  The Batman has disappeared since the death of Harvey Dent (whose death was blamed on the Bat in the last film).  Bruce Wayne is a limping recluse who refuses to visit his own dinner guests at a party honoring the deceased Dent.  All this in the first 20 minutes!
This is a difficult movie for me to review because there is much I could spoil for anyone even more wrapped in baby-induced lethargy than myself who hasn’t seen the film yet.  I think I can safely say without spoiling anything that it was painful for me to stay awake throughout the 2 hour and 40 minute film.  This is only partially the film’s fault, as I’ve just started meds that cause drowsiness and my daughter is still only 3 months old.  I felt that the film does drag a bit, and I lay the blame at the feet, or rather the mouth guard, of Batman’s main nemesis in this film:  Bane.  Tom Hardy is perhaps hamstrung by the loss of his face.  With no expressions available to him except a hundred-yard-stare and an accent that at times stuck me as Scottish (?) Bane makes the movie more than a little dull.  I think the film could have been pared down to under 2 hours if his monologues were cut, and little of the plot would have been sacrificed.
            But I did say I was ambivalent, not antipathetic toward the film.  There were parts of it I thought were beautiful.  There are genuine surprises woven into the film with such subtlety I missed them entirely until thinking about it after the fact.  One big one:  not once in the entire film is the Selena Kyle character (played with an understated grace by Anne Hathaway) referred to as Catwoman.  Go ahead, watch the film.  They never once call her that.  They didn’t have to.  It’s assumed, it’s implied, and it’s a corny and unnecessary name, so director Christopher Nolan does away with the reference entirely.  And I didn’t even notice until I was walking home digesting my theatrical and gustatory repasts.
            I loved the ending (or one of the endings).  Batman seems to truly be laid to rest once and for all, and for me it was in a satisfying fashion.  I can forgive any mess that ends well.  There’s a lot I could have wished for out of Bane.  In the comic book rendition he’s the villain who not only bests Batman physically and shatters his spine, but breaks him mentally and spiritually as well. (Something of a spoiler ahead!) Batman’s recovery takes a whole series.  In the movie, Batman is broken in a single scene, and his recovery is handled pretty much in a single montage of push ups, sit ups, oh, and some guy pushing a vertebrae back in place with his fingers.
            But wait, I was talking about the stuff I liked about the film and I’m getting sidetracked again.  Bale is competent and did not break immersion for me, which is impressive to me since I was so ready to hate him this time around.  Oldman is practically cuddly, but I can’t think of a film I’ve seen him in that I haven’t liked.  Joseph Gordon Levitt steals the show as a rookie cop, perhaps by Nolan’s design even.  It’s an ambitious film, and I don’t believe it’s successful on all counts, but I’m glad to have seen it in the theater instead of on the DVD rebound.  I’m the son of the guy who publishes this newsletter, and I support this film.