Thursday, November 22, 2012

Totally Messed Up Rising

The grand finale of the Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises, is a complete mess. The 2.5 hours have a plot that's a maze where the first to get lost were the scriptwriting brothers Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, the latter of which was also the director. That didn't help.

The film got lost already at its prequels, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The whole thing with a secret cult of vindictive martial artists had little to do with the Batman archetype, but seemed to be an accidental mix in the clipping board with some Hong Kong kung-fu spectacular: Bruce Wayne becomes Bruce Lee. Didn't work.

The very essence of Batman is the “Lone Ranger” in the big city, an archaic figure refusing to adapt to the modern world and proving that there's still room for him. One man on a personal mission, flamed by his childhood trauma and the rage it created. His motifs are questionable, taking the law into his own hands and punishing the criminals swiftly, without the least consideration to fair trial and all that.

The Dark Knight of Christopher Nolan's films is a social creature, although griping. He cares for the city as if secretly dreaming of becoming its mayor. That makes him hopelessly entangled in society, by which his behavior tends to be as megalomanic as that of the cult he rejected. And just as predictable.

So, the film doesn't have much to work on, from a dramatic perspective. There's a big threat introduced – as big as possible – and a lot of struggle overcoming it. Not enough for 2.5 hours.

It's obvious in the script, which tries telling a lot of stories on the way, almost like starting over repeatedly. It would be better as a miniseries for TV, where it would be graced by our forgetfulness between each episode.

In the dramaturgy of it, the main character is the policeman Blake, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. He is increasingly frustrated by the impotence of the police force system, finally throwing away his badge and taking the steps towards becoming the next Dark Knight – be it as Robin, the sidekick of the comic strip.

I wouldn't be surprised if there will be yet another Dark Knight movie with Levitt as a Batman incarnate. As an actor, Levitt is definitely better equipped for the role than Christian Bale has proven to be. But only if the character is allowed to bleed internally from waves of self-doubt and the anguish of ghosts from the past.

In this film, though, the metamorphosis he goes through is far too minute to carry the dramatic incentive of the story. He's an honest heroic cop from the beginning to the end, simply taking the consequences of this. For the drama to work, he would have needed to make much more of a quest.

No one else in the film goes through any process to mention. They are what they are, from beginning to end. They act as they would. So, what's to keep the audience interested, except for the mass scenes, the frequent musical crescendos and countless explosions? I kept watching in the fading hope of having a real story starting at some point. It never did.

I don't think the film can make any lasting impression.

Hollywood has great trouble when putting comic strip heroes on the screen. The well-chiseled mythical ingredients of the comics seem to escape the movie producers. They probably want the films to grow up from the boyish comic strip settings, but lose the powerful symbolic patterns in the process.

They would do better to invent new superheroes directly for the movie screen. But then they would need creative minds, something mainstream Hollywood is not particularly famous for. So they stick to squeezing old fruit from other gardens.


  1. Who wouldn't love being the cape crusader? Bruce Wayne aka 'Batman' has been one of my favorite DC superhero ever since I was a child because of his strength and intelligence. But, the most important thing I admire most about Bruce Wayne is his natural affinity to almost every woman in Gotham City. How I wish I can have that charisma also.

    1. Maybe you would, if you had his bank account.