Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

This is a movie of epic proportions.  Epic, disastrous, proportions.

Chris Nolan is the genius who brought us Inception, The Prestige, Memento and Insomnia.  Oh, and not to mention The Dark Knight, which is arguably one of the better superhero movies of all time (I personally would say the best is the first Superman).  Nolan recently took a bunch of directors to view portions of this film on film, to convince them to keep shooting film over digital.  He also does not do 3D, which I commend.  He's championed as a traditionalist.  And today, he has brought us one of the messiest films I have ever seen.  

The Dark Knight Rises is a 2 hour, 45 minute trailer.  There's no actual movie.  Just past the Bond-like action vignette that introduces you to the film, the film moves onto a mess of short clips with little to no natural transition, pause or tension.  The entire story is told this way.  Only the fight sequences are allowed to hold a shot.  Everything else can't hold a shot, much less a scene.  Too much is going on.  Lines are being stepped on by edits.

To give Nolan credit, I contemplated this while watching the movie.  Was he trying to cut the movie like that of comic book panels?  Was he trying to give us the rapid-fire dialogue of older films, which the Coens emulated so well in The Hudsucker Proxy?  Here's an example of that kind of dialogue from Rebecca.  Probably not the best example since Joan Fontaine can't act worth a damn.

But no.  Nolan is not trying to do this with the dialogue.  I have to assume he was not because, if he was, he failed.  In fact, I could never figure out what he was trying to achieve with the editing in this film.  It was so sloppy, so overdone, that it was intolerable to watch.

The basis of good filmmaking not a scene, it's a sequence.  When you see amateurs try to make a film, that's what is inherently wrong with their work and what throws you off when you watch it.  They are not contemplating the sequence, only the scenes right in front of them one by one.  This is why storyboarding is so important, so you can get an idea of what it is you're putting together at a larger scale.  Here's one you might recall, from a movie that was storyboarded like mad in order to make some of the best action sequences ever recorded on film.

Spielberg is famous for having his storyboard artist with him, working out everything ahead of time.  He figures it all out, then throws the storyboards away and shoots the film -- he can probably do this because he's a prodigy genius, but most mortals are likely to need to refer to the boards again to pull it together.

The Dark Knight Rises fails to pull together nearly any sequence, ever, over the entire nearly three hours of the film.  It is a jumbled mess of scenes, cut together with non-stop score.  We see Commissioner Gordon, lamenting something or another, interspersed with a heist by Catwoman, with a trip to an orphanage by Gordon-Levitt-kid.   Nothing conclusive, nothing transitive.  It, my friends, is a trailer.  Not a film.  Maybe a half dozen times in the movie does enough coherency pull together to really sit back and savor something happening on the screen.  Mostly fight sequences.  No character is actually allowed to develop.  They are a technicality.  They are Deus Ex Machina.

Anne Hathaway is the only reasonable bright spot in the film.  She plays Catwoman brilliantly.  I think the only reason that Nolan allowed her to develop a strong character is because he must love her.  She is fortuitous to get enough of a lingering camera on her to show some emotion, or thought, or anything, without a cutaway to Gordon-Levitt-kid or Comm. Gordon or Bale doing non-Batman things.

I can't take credit for this observation... one of my friends with me ("LM") noted this.  But how contrived is it that a plot that takes months evolve comes down to the last few seconds before disaster?  That alone should illustrate what a disaster this film is.

A twist comes in the last half hour, but it's too late by that point.  The 2 minutes of the twist is entertaining, but there was no build-up to the twist.  It's no Usual Suspects.  It's the kind of twist where you go "Oh, OK.  Well, that's interesting.  Moving on."

Lastly, I want to say Batman is barely in this film.  He is on screen at most 30 minutes of the 165 minutes of this film.  Even Joel Schumacher understood his audience better than Chris Nolan.   Batman Forever had a lot of Batman.  How this movie is #10 on IMDB at the moment boggles the mind.  Hopefully the internet will correct this egregious oversight.  If I could take my face out of my hands, I might actually try to vote it properly.

JSS Rating:  A Bad, Good Movie.  It was supposed to be good, but it was actually bad.  This is Chris Nolan's first entry into the category that I can recall.

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