That’s right, I finally made it out to see The Dark Knight Rises and there was a lot to like about the movie. It’s probably hard to tell by my general inability to actually get a blog post up on a single comic book movie thus far, but I love me some big screen comic book action and in a general comic book movie sense, The Dark Knight doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of action, lots of explosions, the hero gets knocked down and has to fight his way back to the top; all good comic formula. The movie is packed with talent and everyone mostly delivers. Anne Hathaway as “the Cat” is enjoyable and Gary Oldman as the Commissioner haunted by his own lies portrays a certain depth that a lesser actor probably wouldn’t have achieved with this material. Newcomer to the trilogy is Joseph Gordon-Levitt and he’s a fun addition as a smart beat cop who’s also a true believer in Batman. In all honesty, after seeing Inception a few years back, I made the decision that Gordon-Levitt should be in every movie. Filmmakers should just work him in there and I’m glad to see that quickly becoming the case. Who knew the kid from 3rd Rock could throw a punch (or demonstrate a practical application of geometry by ricocheting a bullet off a cement truck to shoot an attacker)? Unfortunately, as an audience member, one can only feel sorry for poor Michael Cain who was handed about the worst Alfred material of any of the most recent Batman movies. He chewed scenery like his life depended on it, but there’s not much you can do when you’re handed the nana role in a comic book movie.
The Dark Knight series has always been more of a gritty comic book movie, not flashy and colorful like Iron Man or this summer’s The Avenegers. It’s true of the Batman comics as well; they were based on some semblance of reality, featuring a real man with no superpowers – just some nifty tools and a lot of training, oh, and money. As such, the comic books and the Dark Knight trilogy have attempted to buck the comic book conventions, playing Bruce Wayne as dark and moody, the anti-hero. And there in lies the problem with The Dark Knight; it’s a little too formulaic. It’s predictable. When he talks, Bane sounds like Sean Connery gargling marbles and, while he’s physically intimidating, there is just no measuring up to Heath Ledger’s presence as the Joker. Bane lacks depth – he is not a three-dimensional character – and if you can’t guess the “plot twist” of who his partner is by half way through the movie, you have not been paying attention. That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t look great and there are a couple of fight scenes that are gritty, but at the same time, a quality of overkill permeates a lot of the movie. With The Avengers if was clear from the get-go what the audience was going to get, witty banter, a lot of sh*t blowing up, and some good fight scenes. In short, you expected a lot of flash and not a lot of substance and The Avengers delivered.
A lot of people want to talk about the capitalist (or anti-capitalist) themes in the movie, the pitting of the have-nots against the haves. Equally interesting is the hints at tyranny within Gotham itself. But the reality is, if you buy into that premise, then the movie presents only two options, tyranny or chaos and that is, of a course, a false premise so I’m choosing to wrap both of these themes up in one package; anarchy. We’re a law and order people; anarchy is not what we are used to and it is not what we want, but both of the last two films in the Dark Knight trilogy feature villains hell-bent on anarchy. But the substance of the Joker’s anarchy, the unpredictability of his actions, allows him to toy with the Batman in a way no other villain has been able to do and the terror in the streets he creates is so much more palpable. Maybe it is because you can’t be sure what the Joker’s end game is – chaos for chaos’ sake or is there something more? But Bane’s version of anarchy has no substance, it is based entirely in destruction, which is spectacular to watch, but won’t hang onto you the way the Joker did. It won’t work its way into your consciousness or have you puzzling over it hours or even days later. Of course, that is not a prerequisite of an entertaining flick, but if you’re looking for another The Dark Knight, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to keep on looking.