Tex Goes to the Movies: The Bane of Batman
The latest and last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy opened Friday in theaters “everywhere.” The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) is full of action and moral ambiguity. It succeeds in its promise. Its violent villain Bane does not disappoint, and he has a lineage to prove he’s a worthy villain. If you wonder if the villain was named Bane because Romney started venture capital firm Bain, you can stop wondering. The Bane character first appeared in 1993 before anyone ever thought Romney would get the nomination for President the same year a movie featuring Bane would be released. And Batman's Bane is not pro-capitalist. Bane is a violent anarchist that has the power and the plan to take the city back for the people from the rule of the corrupt bankers, police and politicians.
TDKR is cloaked in the trappings of a vengeance drama, but with a twist. It is not the hero who is going to take his/her revenge on the villain, it is Gotham City itself, along with Batman, that is going to face the wraith of those that hate the decadence of the modern world. The movie is filled with dystopian themes of apocalypse, rebirth of humanity, and chaos versus civilization, among others. The themes are similar to the other two movies in Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
The questions the movie poses are: is humanity corrupt or just its institutions? Can civilization be redeemed, or should we tear it all down and start again? Is there such a thing as good capitalism and bad capitalism or is all capitalism doomed to create a slave class and a ruling class that exploits those below? Can violence ever be the solution in a failed state? These themes are never present in Superman, Die Hard movies or most action films. The filmmakers shouldn’t be self-congratulatory though. They are, after all, making money through capitalism. Perhaps they are the good capitalists?
The multitude of plots and subplots in TDKR do not confuse us as they do in other movies. And the variety of characters doesn’t overwhelm us as they did many people who saw the X-Men movie, The Last Stand. The plot elements fit together and create a coherent whole.
As often as I criticize screen writers, I want to give Chris and Jonathan Nolan credit for a script with clear action almost completely free of terrible one liners. Several lines are throw aways, but if you’re paying attention, they are enlightening and funny. And the writers aren’t showing off, they are inside jokes to hard-core fans of the movies. One of my favorites is when Cat Woman stealthily disappears and Batman says, "Now I know what that feels like."
One of my movie pet peeves is when opposing forces capture one of their enemies and decide to torture him or her rather than kill them. This is typical plot element of all James Bond films when Bond gets captured, and the villain has to be sporting and torture him first. It also happened in the The Dark Knight. Batman has the chance to shoot and kill the Joker, but he fails to do so. We are left wondering how stupid Batman is. However, in TDKR, we fully understand this type of action and we aren’t left thinking how stupid the character is being. It’s a testament to character development that this situation isn’t irksome.
The characters are well written and succeed in carrying the action despite the lack of full development. However, the acting is sometimes lacking. For example, Sir Michael Caine who once more plays the role of Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s servant, is too melodramatic.
I respect Mr. Caine, he has been in some of the my favorite movies, but why all the maudlin acting? His emotions were appropriate but over the top in many cases. Subtlety would have done him some good. Mr. Caine plays his scenes so melodramatically you would think he was playing the hyper-villain Bane. I have some advice for acting legend Michael Caine, in haiku form:
over the top is
not the man servant’s way
you are Caine, not Bane
Anne Hathaway holds her own with those that played Cat Woman in the past. The movie doesn’t give us much background on the character, and that’s okay. Her motives are mostly clear and her background was not crucial to the action. Here’s my take on Anne Hathaway, aka Cat Woman, in haiku:
Cat Woman you are
trust? never. must keep eye on
you in tight cat suit
(On a side note, I give the director credit for not featuring long ogling shots of Cat Woman in her tight suit for cheap thrills.)
Christian Bale (Batman, Bruce Wayne) redeems himself as an actor after being out-done by Heath Ledger in the last Batman movie. And for Christian Bale, aka Batman:
Bale, you got better
as Batman talked less and as
he suffered more
One weak spot in the movie is the female super villain. She doesn’t kill people with her bare hands like Bane, nor does she fight like wild cat, Cat Woman. She is smart and deceptive, but one wonders how someone so apparently weak made it as a top super villain. Her prowess is based on one event from years earlier, and we are supposed to believe that makes her super. In her last part in the movie, the actress fails to hold the drama the way the scene calls for. Part of that is a failure of the writers to give her good lines and action, and part of that is the fault of the actress.
The sets are amazing, and the computer effects of New York, I mean Gotham, under attack are impressive. Nolan didn’t have to make this set gloomy too convey the pending doom. The look of the movie, the costumes, and the effects are impeccable.
Nolan’s dramatic use of silence and quiet between action scenes enhances the drama, and he is smart to not overuse this device. The moral ambiguity of the plot is taken further by the moral ambiguity of the characters. Batman is clearly morally ambiguous, but so are the other characters in TDKR. No one, with perhaps the exception of John Blake, is without morally questionable actions to their name. Even squeaky clean Commissioner Gordon has his troubled past. This ambiguity is refreshing for those of us who are tired of the simple-minded Star Wars type movies with the light and dark sides of the force.
The main problem I have with the movie is the over-abundance of foreshadowing for the next movie. The ending scene is a bit pat, and that is annoying. Moreover, the cute little hints about the next installment went a bit too far. Another minor issue is that Batman forgives too easily the transgressions of one of the main characters, and frankly, most of us would call anybody who almost gets killed by someone and then trusts them thirty minutes later (in movie time), a “sucker.” There is no clear explanation for his forgiveness. For a man who is so tough in the movie, it doesn’t fit.
It would be a spoiler, so I won't tell you what movie I think they will make next. One wonders if that boy detective John Blake won’t be robbin’ us of future Batman movies. Let’s hope the creators Wing it and send the Knight into the Night.
I can honestly say that the worst thing about this showing of the movie was the damn Superman trailer I saw before the movie started. Who can root for a superhero who can’t die? Not me.
Rating: Full Price
Ratings system from best to worst:
5. Pay full price, see it twice
4. Full Price
1. See it only if they pay you