Thursday, July 26, 2012

Journey’s End

I have heard it said that there are only ten plots in all of literature. With all respect to whomever said that I submit that there is only ONE plot. The Journey. Think about it. Every book, comic, movie etc. asks you to take a journey with a character or characters from where they are at the beginning of the story, to where they are at the end. How they get there are plot devices, or as Hitchcock loved to call them…Maguffins. The Maltese Falcon was a maguffin. The STORY was about the journey that Sam Spade took and the changes he went through in his pursuit of the Black Bird. He could have been chasing ANYTHING. The STORY wasn’t about the falcon, it was about Sam.
And so it is with Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

Over the course of three films we have watched Bruce Wayne’s personal journey from an angry young man focused on revenge for his parents murder to someone whose dedication and conviction was so great that he would willingly die to protect his city. He went from (you’ll excuse the expression) avenger to PROTECTOR. It did not happen all at once, and it did not happen without consequence. And that is why the films in this trilogy, and DKR in particular work so well.

Nolan gave us a three dimensional protagonist. A real man who carried real scars. If Batman could exist in the real world, he would probably be very much as Nolan and Bale have envisioned him. We see a Bruce Wayne who feels his defeats both physically and mentally. A man who actually gave up on his alter ego after the events in Dark Knight and becomes a recluse for eight years. We see the physical toll that being Batman took on him and the rebirth he must go through for the Dark Knight to rise again.

Dark Knight Rises is not a great comic book movie. The Avengers is a great comic book movie. Dark Knight Rises is a great movie….period. The drama is very real. The tensions between Alfred and Bruce play intense and absolutely believable. This is not to demean the Avengers in any way. Avengers was a wonderful movie and perhaps the perfect comic book movie. But it was clearly comic book, specifically Silver Age, in it’s sensibilities. It was all primary colors and bright. The conflicts were superficial and the destruction was comic book destruction.

I LOVED the Avengers.

But by contrast, The Dark Knight Rises seems far more real. Nolan’s approach was to take a comic book character and put him in the real world (as much as you can ever put a comic book character in the real world). The color pallet of the film was almost sepia toned, relying far more on blacks, grays and browns. The images of destruction were far more disturbing than in the Avengers imagined and actually invoked memories of 9/11. The film had a gravitas that The Avengers did not because Nolan went out off his way to avoid CGC, 3D and primary colors. He went for grit…and got it in spades.
The Dark Knight Rises is not a movie I can say that I “love” in the same way as the Avengers. I admire it greatly. It moved me and completely invested me for the entire 165 minutes. It also disturbed me. It seemed…real.

Because of this, Bale’s reactions to the events of the film played more realistically his journey rang truer than it would have in a more comic book setting. Christian Bale has had his hits and missed in the first two films but he is spot on in the final chapter. Everything he says and does rings true.

One of the main reasons the film rings so true is the wonderful performance of Tom Hardy as Bane. I always thought of Bane as a second tier villain. Just a lot of muscle with a clichéd back story. He was no Joker! But, as played by Hardy, Bane combines the urbane evil of Goldfinger with the physical menace of Darth Vader. (I can almost hear him saying “No Mr. Wayne…I want you to die!”) Hardy’s Bane is an instant classic and is very much on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker.

For long time Batman fans it is easy to see that Nolan took elements from No Man’s Land, The Dark Knight Returns and Nightfall in crafting The Dark Knight Rises. But on the lighter side there was also a dash of James Bond, especially in the person of Bane and in the opening sequence of the film.

While there is a real tease for a sequel this film also, very satisfyingly, CLOSES Nolan’s story as well. Yes, Nolan COULD come back for a fourth film, but he doesn’t need to,

If there was ever a film based on a comic book character that should get Best Picture consideration from the Academy , it’s The Dark Knight Rises.

That’s 30!


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