Saturday, May 4, 2013

In short: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

After watching the final film of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, I've worked through various pieces of criticism about it, and I have to agree with about fifty percent of it. So yes, I agree this is a perhaps overlong, often overreaching and internally conflicted film. However, I actually think these things aren't bugs here, they are features; indeed they are for me what makes this a great film.

The thing with the film's overreaching, the way it wants to be about three or four films at once (one of them even a superhero version of A Tale of Two Cities) really comes down to what you expect of your multi-multi-million dollar movies: a tight, slick product, or an actual creative endeavour that sometimes won't be able to fulfil everything it tries, but that makes up for the moments - in this case about twenty percent of the time - when it fails with a willingness to go to interesting, sometimes even surprising, places between the spectacle and loud melodrama the blockbuster business affords. In other words, if we as an audience want our mainstream entertainment to take risks, we also have to accept that not everything in it will work out perfectly and slickly, that there will be roughness, but also honest excitement and actual ideas when things work out, which is what happens in about eighty percent of the movie.

The Dark Knight Rises is a film full of conflicting impulses in its narrative, its politics, its emotions, even its concept of heroism; despite being a superhero movie, it's a film lacking moral certainty (especially in the few moments when it pretends to have it). Things here are messy, and clear-cut answers are not to be found; this is about striving and asking questions, and questioning answers which for my tastes fits the character of Batman much better than making him a barrel-chested 70s love god and international adventurer or a grim and gritty psychopath. It's these cracks and the breaks in the film's structure and meaning that truly make the film work for me, its imperfections working as a reflection of the messiness of reality as well as the messiness of dreams.

Despite the remaining prevalence of Michael Baysian crap, it's a pretty exciting time for blockbuster cinema right now, when movies as different and great in their own ways like this or The Avengers can be made and will be watched by millions, movies that have no problems with pushing all the spectacle buttons while still being ambitious and aggressively non-dumb.

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