I’ve been wanting to write something for my blog in the way of a review of The Dark Knight Rises, but when the time came to sit down and actually do so, I frowned at my computer for a moment or two, a familiar feeling tickling the back of my brain. I recognized it as the feeling I get when I come up with an idea.
In this instance, the idea was to get together with a couple of my friends and do a tag-team review/chat about the movie, and then post it here for the edification of untold future generations. It took several days to get our schedules to sync up, which is the reason for the delay. However, that has produced the side benefit of allowing me to feel a little better about the degree to which we spoil some of the surprises of the movie. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, know this: we do not in any way hold back. We’re assuming you’ve either seen it, or don’t care.
First of all, introductions. You know me, of course, but joining me are Trey Sterling (who runs the blog Blackout) and Cody Dearman (who also gets his blog on once in a while, at Slightly Disoriented). They’re both passionate movie lovers, highly opinionated, and prone to be correct way more often than not. And, like me, they’re both Stephen King fans! (Not that you'd know it from this particular chat. Oh, well; maybe a King-chat will be on the books for some future installment.)
We had a long palaver about the movie, so without further ado, let’s just dive right in. You will note that for a while, it’s just Trey and I, but don’t worry; Cody shows up later, and brings the goods when he does.
Trey: Greetings, fellow nerd. I'm going to put Batman Begins on in the background.
Bryant: Greetings and felicitations … and (I believe it's pronounced) "tally-ho." If you get THAT reference, you win ALL of the nerd points.
|It's from the first-season episode "The Squire of Gothos," but I always think of the Cort and Fatboy show...|
Trey: Nerd points serve no purpose, and therefore seem ... illogical.
Bryant: Well done. Alright, here's the plan: we'll just chat about this Batman stuff until one of us gets tired of doing so. Sound good?
Bryant: Okey doke. So, first question: is this a movie you expect to love twenty years from now, or is it a movie you expect to feel indifferent toward twenty years from now?
Trey: Twenty years ... I guess it depends. Burton's Batman is twenty-three, Donner's Superman is thirty-four, and I still enjoy them, for the same reasons I always have. Superhero movies are a Catch-22 in this department: if the film provides a compelling vision of the hero, it can last that long; however, the likelihood of reboots is ever-present (who knows how many more Batman movies there will have been by then) and each one creates the possibility of overshadowing its predecessors.
The best I can say is that yes, I personally love this movie, and will probably watch it for years to come, but I'm not average-Joe moviegoer.
Bryant: Fair enough. My personal theory is that a good movie is a good movie is a good movie. Reboots will happen, or they won't, and they'll be good, or they won't, but either way, they won't change work that is fundamentally good.
Trey: What do you find most compelling about this iteration of Bruce Wayne / Batman?
Bryant: Good question! I think I'd say that the most compelling aspect of this trilogy is that it takes the character (and, by extension, comic-book-style storytelling) completely seriously. There's an argument to be had about whether it gets certain aspects of the character right, and we'll probably get into those later; but from a standpoint of simply taking the character seriously, this trilogy is really the first time that has happened on film.
Batman is a symbol of fear, used by someone who is taking his own fear, internalizing it, and then repurposing it to strike fear into the hearts of people like the ones who hurt his parents. It's a very psychologically complex idea, and Nolan gives it all the seriousness it deserves. And yet, he also manages to keep it light enough that it doesn't become a Saw movie, which is where that idea leads logically!
Trey: That answer caught me completely off-guard, but not in a bad way.
Bryant: That's why we're doing this! Why did it catch you off-guard?
Trey: I've never approached the films from that angle. But the realism is part of my own answer: I like these movies (and The Dark Knight Rises especially) because we are dealing with a living, breathing, aging man who not only is physically incapable of always being Batman, but who doesn't always want to be Batman. From the end of Batman Begins, Bruce has hope for a time when he can move on, especially in relation to Rachel. I think his reaction to her death and Harvey's turn to evil is completely understandable: he lost both the method to stop being Batman and the reason to do so. Without that hope for himself, he lost the ability to try and bring hope to others.
Bryant: Right! This, of course, is part of the reason why the movies don't work 100% in relation to the character in the comics. In the comics, you mostly get the sense that Bruce will never, ever, ever stop being Batman. I know they've tried to do the story of Bruce hanging up the cape and the cowl a few times, and my sense is that it has never really worked.
But it works in these movies, because it seems plausible that Bruce is able to allow himself to pass the idea of "Batman" on to someone else.
Trey: Right you are, there. I think there are numerous ways to answer my question, because these movies ask you to examine the "why" of Bruce's decision to be the Bat. Each film challenges and changes what the Batman is and needs to be for Bruce, the people, the police, the villains, Gotham, and society.
Bryant: Exactly. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious douchebag, I'd also add that characters like this help to define our thoughts (meaning our society's/culture's collective thoughts) on the idea of what it means to be a hero. Example: in the '60s it was seen as a foolish idea to be a hero; so we get the television series, and it fits that era. Nolan's movies ... well, Batman Begins seemed to me like a near-direct response to 9/11. Here's a terrible thing that happened; here's how to respond to it. Let it change you, sure; but only if you let it change you for the better. (Editor’s note: that movie came out in the summer of 2005, which also saw the release of two other films with different takes on the same theme: Revenge of the Sith and War of the Worlds.)
All of the villains in Nolan's Bat-movies go through some version of the same dilemma, and they all fail, which is why they are villains.
Trey: Well, except the Joker.
Bryant: Doesn't he?
Trey: Fail? I don't think so. Sure, the ferries don't blow, but he turns Harvey, which leads to the cover-up, which leads to Bane being able to call Gordon out on it, which leads to the people welcoming a little chaos.
Bryant: I'll buy that, I suppose. Let's shift gears a bit. Clearly, you and I are both fans of this movie, and the trilogy overall, so let's get into some of what doesn't work so well about it. I'll start by asking a simple question: is the Gotham City Police Department the dumbest police force on the face of the planet?
Trey: Yes. Without a doubt. The ineptitude they show in the second and third movies especially is just kind of staggering. Like the big chase in The Dark Knight Rises: what police-commissioner-hopeful in his right mind would go after someone who had just rescued two hostages instead of a known terrorist, and why would the ENTIRE force go along with him?
Bryant: "Hey, guys! There's a terrorist maniac running a massive operation in the sewers! SEND EVERY COP IN THE CITY DOWN THERE AFTER HIM!"
Trey: They weren't even in tac gear, or using formations, or anything! They were just hoofin' it through the tunnels! Three thousand of them, supposedly, right?
Bryant: Yup. All of them remarkably clean-shaven after being trapped down there for five months.
Trey: What do you think is the most unbelievable aspect of the Bruce / Batman "secret"?
Bryant: The whole thing is unbelievable. The thought that nobody would make 2+2=4 on that is laughable. Same as with the Clark/Superman thing. But that's an example of the type of thing you simply have to embrace if you're going to read comics or watch comic-book-inspired movies. If you get hung up on that too much, you probably ought to just steer clear of comic-book movies.
Trey: I guess so. My biggest gripe is with Gordon not knowing by the third movie. The man is supposed to be a fairly decent detective, after all. He can't piece together years of clues, but Bruce mentions the jacket thing, and BOOM!
Bryant: Agreed. Speaking of detectives, the comics have led me to believe that Bruce is the world's finest. And yet, Talia Al Ghul is literally right beneath him and he can't figure it out? Does Bruce figure out ANYTHING in any of these movies?
Trey: No. He never sees the bigger picture. The closest "detective" work we get is the scene with him finding the bullets in the bricks in The Dark Knight. And even as an avid CSI junkie, I have no idea what he discovered or how he did so. I will step to the films' defense though by saying that they never claim anything about THIS Bruce's detective skills.
Bryant: That's fair. It doesn't bother me, particularly, anyways, but it’d a complaint I’ve heard from a few Bat-fans out there. Here's a question: do you buy the story of how Blake figures out Bruce is Batman?
Trey: He ascribes it to a child's intuition, which is something I'd buy. As stated previously, it's not a difficult connection to make. You could say that young Blake saw what adults missed because he wasn't distracted by the flash and flair of Bruce's playboy persona. He saw through it to the reality underneath. I'd buy that any child who ever encountered any superhero would be able to know them out of costume.
Bryant: That's probably the best defense of it I've heard. I buy it in real-world terms, but I have trouble buying it in terms of the movies themselves, in which everyone seems oblivious to things like that. It didn't bother me, but frankly, I could have used a scene in which we simply saw a young Blake putting the pieces together. It's the old show-don't-tell thing. I'm okay with it, though.
Trey: How the fuck does Batman get to these crazy vantage points to stand there and look all cool? These are places that are inaccessible even with more equipment than a utility belt can carry. I only ask because I was just watching such a scene in Begins.
Bryant: Simple: he's Batman, and that's what Batman does.
Trey: I then watched the scene where Bruce encounters Rachel after swimming in the hotel fountain, and it's impressive the degree to which it captures the desperation he feels in wanting to be a man Rachel could be proud of.
Bryant: Yeah, I remember thinking that the love story in the first movie came off really well; way better than, say, the Vicki Vale stuff in Michael Keaton’s first movie. (Which isn’t a criticism; that movie was doing a different thing in a completely different era, and it did it pretty well.)
Do you think the trilogy overall was hurt by recasting Rachel?
Trey: Not at all. You?
Bryant: I do. Gyllenhaal is by far the better actor, but I think the continuity would have been better-served by keeping Holmes. Not a big deal, but it causes slight disconnect between the movies.
|Katie Holmes in Batman Begins|
Trey: I think Katie does perfectly well in the capacity required of her in Batman Begins, but I would not want to watch The Dark Knight without Maggie; that roles calls for so much more out of the actress.
|Maggie Gyllenhaal and Christian Bale in The Dark Knight|
Do you think the character of Gotham City remains consistent from one film to the next?
Bryant: That's an interesting question. I have a hard time seeing Gotham as a "character," per se, although I get what you mean by that. I think it does remain consistent, in that it consistently needs to be saved.
Trey: I find it interesting that the people of Gotham never take a real stand as a unified body. Sure, you've got pockets: the people on the ferries in The Dark Knight, the cops in The Dark Knight Rises. But as a city, they never collectively act for good. They do, however, show a willingness to act for evil: trying to kill the Batman snitch guy in The Dark Knight, most all of The Dark Knight Rises. I know that's supposed to say something about us as a society, and it worries me.
Bryant: I think there is definitely a sense that the people have to be saved from themselves, as much as from supervillains. Bruce, I think, sees "Gotham" as the good people within it, and treats the bad people in it -- who are arguably just as vital to it -- as cancers that need to be removed. That's a poorly-formed thought on my part, but I think there's something there.
Trey: I think the trilogy is working toward a way in which Bruce can use Batman to teach the people to rise (pun intended) and I think Blake represents the next step in that. Batman Begins: Batman saves the entire city, but no one really knows how dangerous things were. The Dark Knight: Batman saves the city, but he decides that Harvey is a more important hero, and so gives Gotham a sacrifice that, by its tainted nature, comes back on him. This also leaves the city without any active heroes. The Dark Knight Rises: Batman saves the city, everyone knows it, the sacrifice is a clean one, and someone remains to carry things forward.
Bryant: Would it be fair to say that the underlying moral of this story is that a hero is only as worthy as the extent to which he is able to inspire others?
Trey: So long as it is the proper kind of inspiration. Although, that begs the question: Are the Bat-boys at the start of The Dark Knight wrong in what they're doing? Should they not be trying simply because they're not billionaires who can fuck off and learn ninjitsu for years and so have to use guns and hockey pads?
Bryant: That's a fair question. I don't know that the trilogy answers it definitively, because the answer given in The Dark Knight Rises seems to be a different answer than the one given in The Dark Knight. It's also worth pointing out that what the League of Shadows is doing is philosophically not that dissimilar. The morality of these movies is really rather slippery, but I think that's on purpose: the idea seems to be that there might be a thin philosophical line between good and evil, and yet we all know evil when we see it.
Speaking of evil you know when you see it, here's something I’ve been wanting to ask someone: what's up with Bane's mask in this movie? What does it do? Does it give him powers? Is he smokin' dope through it? How does he eat? Does he say weird shit just to amuse himself sometimes?
Trey: All we know for certain is that it "eases his pain," so my assumption would be that it's pumping some kind of narcotic into him.
Bryant: Let's talk about Catwoman. How did you like Anne Hathaway in this movie?
Trey: I'm going to borrow from the Punisher for a second: In one of the more popular arcs, there is a C-plot about people “inspired” by Castle. While some of them are doing it for the wrong reasons, several are on track, except for the fact that they don't have the training, experience, and skills Frank does. As a result, they end up killing innocents, something which Frank cannot abide. Which of course is my way of saying that Anne Hathway should be Frank Castle... wait...
Bryant: I'd watch that movie.
Trey: There's an awesome arc in Punisher Max called "Widowmaker" about a female punisher taking out mob wives who are trying to take out Frank. They fuck, so we'd get to see Tom Jayne fuck Anne Hathaway. Please, please be spying on this conversation, Marvel.
Bryant: I thought Anne Hathaway was great, personally. No surprise; she always is.
Trey: One of the most important aspects of Selina / Catwoman has always been the bipolarity of her nature. With Bruce, you know one side is a lie; with Selina, there's no telling. From sexy to vulnerable to deadly to meek to heartbroken, a Catwoman actress needs to capture them all, and I think Hathaway does splendidly.
Bryant: I think this makes for a good way to transition into talking about the end of the movie. Do you buy the idea that Selina Kyle would run away with Bruce Wayne? Or, for that matter, that Bruce Wayne would run away with Selina Kyle?
Trey: I don't, but Erich [Editor’s note: a mutual friend] and I have discussed this already, and I see no proof that they "ran away together." All we know for sure is that they are there together when Alfred sees them. If that IS the case, though, I do think they could be together, because these iterations don't have the fundamental paradox that exists in the comics, where Selina is always going to be a criminal, and Bruce is always going to be Batman. Between the "clean slate" program and Batman's "death," I think the door is open to these two people finding a future together.
Bryant: I've heard the theory put forth that the movie would have been better if we hadn't actually SEEN Bruce and Selina sitting there; that it would have been better if we only saw Alfred's reaction, without seeing what he was seeing. Thoughts?
Trey: If this was Inception or Blade Runner or etc. I'd agree. But it's not. It's a superhero movie. I'd compare it to Aunt May knowing / not knowing about Peter in The Amazing Spider-Man; some movies just need that extra bit of certainty.
Bryant: I agree with you 100%. Seeing them also puts us in the perspective of Alfred, since we're just as happy for Bruce to still be alive as Alfred would be. Seeing Alfred’s reaction and nothing else would simply put us in the position of being happy for Alfred, rather than for ourselves. Seems like a subtle difference, but it isn't.
Trey: Very well-put. I'd failed to take our desire to see him into consideration.
Side note: I had somehow completely forgotten that the "Bat theme" made so popular in the trailer for The Dark Knight is in Batman Begins. That just makes that piece of music so much better. We should talk about aspects like that if we get the chance.
Bryant: I'm all for talking about the music; that was on my list! We should save that for when Cody gets here, though.
Trey: Why does Batman save Joker but not Ra’s?
Bryant: Because he feels superior to the Joker, whereas he is scared of Ra's Al Ghul. I think. The real answer, of course, is that Joker action figures sell better.
Trey: I always ascribed it to the fact that Ra's put himself on that train, whereas Batman knocked Joker off of the building. But you're right, it also has something to do with each one's relationship to Batman. I think he saves the Joker because he has to prove -- maybe even to himself -- that he IS superior. That he can rise above the chaos.
Bryant: I think he also probably feels like the Joker is insane, and therefore needs mental help; whereas he feels Ra’s Al Ghul is operating from a place of sanity, and is therefore responsible for his own actions.
Trey: Want to talk production aspects?
Bryant: Definitely. Whatcha got?
Trey: I'm currently watching the opening IMAX shot of The Dark Knight. That one shot, with that one sustained note of music, is still one of my favorite things in the entire trilogy. Then the scene itself, with the music slowly building in the background as the crime escalates, sets the tone for the entire film... at it's NOT a comic book tone. It's a gritty crime thriller tone. Like I'm watching Heat, or The Town, or The Untouchables or some shit.
Bryant: It's all about immersing you in the story, and it works. The scene in The Dark Knight Rises in which the plane is hijacked is very similar. And that's basically just a scene from a Bond movie. It's insane, but from a technical standpoint, it is nearly flawless. The score in that scene is awesome, too.
Trey: I need to watch Rises several more times. Not working at a theater this time around makes that difficult.
I think my favorite part of the score in these movies is just how many cues it takes from The Animated Series. Not that it's surprising, since the overall work is soaked with TAS goodness.
Bryant: Can I make a confession? The only thing I know about the animated series is Mask of the Phantasm. But until Batman Begins came out, I always claimed that as my favorite Batman movie, and even now it's #4. Great stuff.
Trey: It is still my favorite. Because, for me, it gets "Batman" the best.
As far as setting the tone, the scene in the parking garage is the same way. It establishes VERY clearly "this is Batman for this film. He may not be Batman as you know him, or even as he was in Batman Begins. But this is him this time." The chase scene in Rises works that way as well, but I think the message there is how much Gotham may not be ready to take Batman back.
Bryant: That scene in the parking garage is great; just fucking great. So great that I don't mind how little Batman is in this particular Batman movie. When he's that awesome, it's okay for him to only show up every now and then.
Trey: He's in The Dark Knight Rises even less!
Bryant: True. And I've seen some criticism of that. But for me, it's fine, and that's a sign of how well the movie works overall. Also a sign: that movie does not feel anywhere NEAR as long as it is. The pacing is close to flawless. (My only complaint would be that the five-month Occupy Gotham thing feels a little wonky, time-wise. But only a little.)
Trey: It's wonky when you're thinking about it later; for my money, at least, I gave zero shits about the timeline while engaged in watching it.
Bryant: Going back a bit, are you a big fan of the animated series?
Trey: I adore the animated series. When I was growing up, that WAS Batman. Even as a kid, I understood that the Adam West version was silly; fun, but silly, and not what Batman was supposed to be. My dad instilled in us that Batman wasn't always shiny and happy, and the Burton movies reinforced it, but TAS was our grail.
If you want good animated Batman, buy Gotham Knight, Year One, and Under the Red Hood. Each one is fabulous, and includes several TAS episodes that tie in with the feature introduced by Bruce Timm. Also, Batman Beyond kicked ass, and Return of the Joker is fucked-up awesomeness.
Bryant: I've recently -- um -- borrowed all of the animated series. So I'll get around to watching it someday, probably relatively soon. I also saw Year One, but to be honest, I didn't like it at all.
Bryant: Hated the animation style, and felt like it was too short to be anything but a Cliffs Notes version of the awesome comics it's based on. I dread the prospect of The Dark Knight Returns being done that way...
Trey: I'm a fan, but I do agree on the brevity of the feature. Thankfully Returns will be two parts, so we'll see.
Bryant: I should maybe give it another chance.
Trey: This talk has me wanting to buy every awesome Batman thing I don't own.
Bryant: Yes, the danger of a big nerd-out like this is wanting to increase your collection.
Trey: Favorite supporting character in the trilogy?
Bryant: My favorite supporting character... Do villains count?
Trey: Of course!
Bryant: Easy: Bane. Which surprises the hell out me, but I think it's true.
Trey: I'm very interested. Please elaborate as much as you like. I'll wait.
Bryant: Well, I think it comes down to a couple of things: first of all, the voice. I loved the voice. I loved the choice Hardy -- or Nolan, maybe -- made to have him sound a little bit like Sean Connery playing Gandalf. What a weird decision that is! I also enjoyed most of his dialogue, and the weird little mannerisms (like the "sup?" head-nod he gives somebody during the stock exchange scene. Most of all, though, I think it's just because he's kinda like the big Schwarzenegger-type of relentless. Makes it SO much more satisfying when Batman starts whoopin' his ass.
[Editor’s note: At this point, Cody joined the conversation.]
Bryant: "Welcome to the party, pal!" said John McClane.
Trey: Bryant was just telling me why Bane is his favorite supporting character. I was thinking about my response. Mine's Gordon. He's the everyman, the good cop trying to make a bad city a better place and losing everything in the process. He has none of the advantages Batman has, and yet he never gives up. When Bruce hides in his mansion for eight years, Gordon's still doing his part of the job.
Bryant: I have no problem with Gordon; he’s pretty awesome in these movies. As hard as it's going to be to find a new Batman in the reboot, it's going to be next to impossible to find a new Gordon.
Cody: I completely agree with both of you about Gordon. My favorite supporting is John Blake. He proved to be the catalyst for both Bruce and Gordon to really get back in the game, because while Gordon was doing his job, I think that it was Blake who reminded him of why his job needed to be done and how important he really is to Gotham.
Trey: Blake is a fantastic character, and if they don't use him for more films, it's a massive waste. He's the logical next evolution of Bruce and Gordon: the good cop plus the hero's toys.
|Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Dark Knight Rises|
Bryant: Blake is a great character. No doubt. Cody, one of the things we talked about earlier is something I'd like to hear your take on: do you accept that story about how Blake figured out Bruce is Batman?
Cody: With how sincere he tells it, it's easy to accept it. But there's that huge question behind it: if it was that easy for even him to figure out who he was, then how didn't more people figure it out? Even people that weren't in Blake's situation could see how much Bruce was faking it, and at the very least, that he was hiding something.
Bryant: That's my problem with it. I can accept it as a valid story, but it brings to mind the question of why someone else couldn't figure it out. Ultimately, though, I can live with it. Now, Trey's point is a good one to talk about next: should the series continue with John "Robin" Blake as Batman?
Trey: Not Batman. That ruins the sacrifice.
Bryant: But isn't that what Bruce wants?
Trey: Nightwing? Sure. Robin? No worries. Hell, he can be Spoiler for all I care. Bruce wants Blake to be a symbol. Doesn't matter what he's called. But if Batman comes back, that sacrifice means less. But yes, I want more movies with this character in a post-Batman city.
Cody: My opinion on this actually relates to what Anne Hathaway said about returning as Catwoman. She said it would be difficult because her portrayal exists in Nolan's universe and that's where it needs to stay. I'm halfway with her on that. Because "Robin" (and let me stress the quotes on that) was introduced in Nolan's Gotham, a Blake film will be more difficult since it was Nolan's. But if Warner Bros. does a transition phase for the first, maybe even second films, then I think what we'll see is better.
Have the first film be Blake trying to find people he can rely on and convince them to trust him (i.e. Lucius, Alfred). It's still Nolan's world, but it can start to be phased out here. Then film two could potentially completely transition to the new setting by the end and have Blake the new reigning hero in the city, and successfully make a new interpretation of Gotham.
Trey: Keep in mind that Nolan ended a movie called The Dark Knight Rises with a shot of Blake rising up. And that he is now in charge of all DC film ventures.
Bryant: I like Cody's idea. That could work, and it could also be used as a means for Bale to come back at some point so that he could be integrated into a Justice League movie. And there's nothing that says Nolan couldn't be at least a consultant on that.
Cody: Yeah, bring in Bale as a kind of bookend for film two and then that could set up the Justice League film even more. If we're lucky.
Trey: Let's hope DC is also spying on this conversation.
Bryant: DC is busy figuring out the most effective way to fuck up the marketing on Man of Steel.
Trey: If I were them, I'd focus entirely on the beard.
Cody: I happened to enjoy the teaser trailer for it. Was it the best teaser they could have released? No. But it was a good start, at least.
Trey: The tagline can't be worse than "A Fire Will Rise."
Bryant: You say that, but it can ALWAYS be worse.
Trey: Okay. Focus. Batman.
Bryant: I'd be okay with Blake becoming Batman, I'd be okay with Blake becoming Robin; I'd be okay with Blake becoming Batman, then Bruce coming back, and THEN Blake becoming Robin. There are multiple directions they can go. It'll be interesting to see if they do that, or go with a straight reboot, and honestly, I'm not sure what I'd LIKE to see.
Cody: I agree with Trey about him becoming Batman. It completely negates the sacrifice, so a reboot with him as Batman wouldn't work for me. I'd prefer Nightwing, honestly.
Bryant: After the party scene at the beginning, what happens to the rest of the staff at Wayne Manor?
Cody: That's a good point. I like to think that Alfred whisked them away on another cruise like with the Broadway cast from the last movie.
Trey: They go back to filming Downton Abbey? Bruce makes it clear that he doesn't trust them anymore, and shortly thereafter loses his means of paying them.
Bryant: Works for me.
Does it seem likely that in order to take over the sewers, Bane first had to defeat the Lizard?
Cody: Lizard would have cowered in fear of Bane's sheer size alone and ran away.
Trey: Obviously the Lizard would be protected by all the little lizards in his army ... wait, they didn't do that ... they were coming to him as the dominant predator ... no, then he'd just eat them... why the fuck were the stupid CGI lizards there?! Also, there's a Killer Croc reference in The Dark Knight Rises, so fuck yes.
Cody: What reference?
Bryant: There's a Killer Croc reference?!? I missed that; details, please.
Trey: The not-commissioner-yet asks if Gordon saw anyone giant crocodiles in the sewer with Bane's army.
Bryant: I didn't think that was a reference, but you might be right. It's funny either way.
Trey: I'm going with reference. Just like the new batsuit in The Dark Knight should "do okay against cats."
Cody: I never caught that, Trey. That's fantastic!
Trey: In The Dark Knight Returns, there's a shrink who claims all the super-villainy is Batman's fault. How does that pan out as an idea in this iteration?
Bryant: Well, I think that idea is implied clearly by the end of Batman Begins, right?
Cody: I think it brings it up more in this one because had Batman never shown up, theoretically, we would never have Joker, Bane, Catwoman etc. and Ra's plan from Begins would have been unchallenged and succeeded.
Batman's presence in Gotham, while good, is also detrimental to its continued growth because villains will always come out of the woodwork to take him down, and a lot of collateral damage happens along the way. It's the problem that every hero faces. No matter how much good he/she might do, there's always going to be another bad guy.
Bryant: Here's a question one of you ought to be able to answer: why does the League of Shadows hate Gotham so much?
Cody: I think that was brought up in Batman Begins. Ra's explains that Gotham is a basically a festering pit that needs to be taught a lesson by being destroyed. And in this film, Bane's just trying to finish the job Ra's started.
Trey: It's a familiar plot thread in science fiction. Gotham is paradoxical Zion over Sodom; the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and crime reigns as a result. The people who should and maybe could do something don't because they're concerned for their own safety, or that of their families. They've obviously never seen the end of The Wrath of Khan.
Bryant: Speaking of Khan, I thought about that movie during the funeral scene at the end. I croaked "The ship ... out of danger?" Nobody heard me, though.
Bryant: Here's a question: Marion Cotillard is awesome. Okay, that's a statement. HERE'S the question: given how awesome she is, how come she sucks so bad in her death scene?
Trey: I'll try and ascribe that to the only explanation I can accept for why Bane just disappears from the film: the movie is done with her. The bomb is the villain at that point.
Bryant: I don’t know the character of Talia at all apart from this movie. Does it treat her fairly? Or is she kinda tossed off (which is how it seems to me)?
Bryant: I don’t know the character of Talia at all apart from this movie. Does it treat her fairly? Or is she kinda tossed off (which is how it seems to me)?
Cody: It's about 50/50 with Talia, for me. She is Ra's daughter and she is the new leader of the League Of Shadows with Bane, but the tricking Bruce into trusting doesn't really happen because she honestly does love Bruce in the comics. She wants to be with him and rule together, but because she kill, they can never be together.
Trey: This movie tosses her off. Talia is every bit as capable as Ra's or Bruce, and exceptionally more ruthless. She would never have risked Batman escaping.
Bryant: I suspected as much.
Trey: Bane's disappearance after Catwoman shoots him was so startling it pulled me out of the film.
Bryant: You mean you think it didn't work?
Trey: No, I didn't like it.
Trey: She shoots him, he flies to the side, and that is IT for the character you built your fucking conflict around. Not even a few wheezey breaths and a one-liner. He's just no longer in the film. Is he alive? Dead? A Mexican wrestler now? I certainly don't know.
Cody: Bane's disappearance is jarring, but it didn't take me out too much. It was out of nowhere and a bit rushed, yes, but even if he didn't die, it was a good way to "defeat" him, at least for me.
Trey: Catwoman deus-exes his machina, and that's all she wrote.
Cody: Technically, we never actually see Ra's die either. We just assume he's killed in the explosion, but because he's immortal, there's always that tinge of doubt behind it.
Bryant: I assume Bane is dead. The dude got shot with a cannon that is powerful enough to move a hill of stacked-up cars. Unless he's The Hulk, he now has a hole in him the size of a portapotty. The scene wasn't filmed/edited as well as it could have been, but it didn't bother me.
Trey: I agree with you on the force of that blast, Bryant. But I feel his pieces were still too connected.
Cody: Speaking of poor editing, did anyone else get the feeling that the Pit Prison scenes felt more like only a few days and not months as it actually was?
Bryant: Yeah, that whole stretch of the movie felt that way to me. But that bothered me WAY less the second time I watched the movie.
Trey: One second we've got five months of bomb-time, then "Holy shit! Eighteen hours until go time! We've gotta Jack Bauer this shit!"
Cody: It's one of the biggest complaints I've received about the movie. Those scenes just did not add up the way they should have. For starters, no back injury would ever heal as fast as what it appears to be.
Bryant: The back thing is dumb. But it's so dumb that it's awesome. That, to me, is the Nolan equivalent of something like the scene in Return of the Jedi where Chewbacca makes a Tarzan noise. Dumb, but I just don't care.
Trey: I really liked the scene where the doctor tells Bruce just how broken he is.
Cody: Yeah, that was a nice splash of humor thrown in there.
Bryant: Let's talk about that: I'm not a fan of that element of the movie. Is there something I'm not remembering from the previous two movies?
Cody: What do you mean?
Trey: Define "that element."
Bryant: I didn't think it added much to the movie for Bruce to be all gimped up. It seemed a little pointless to introduce the idea of physical deterioration, only to cast it aside 100% later on in the movie. It isn't a bad idea, it just doesn't end up being useful in any way; the broken back accomplishes the same work.
Trey: Well, the other injuries, as well as Bruce's willingness to let technology work them out, are part of his loss of belief in my mind.
Bryant: Was he injured at the end of The Dark Knight and I just don't remember it?
Trey: It's possible the fall with Harvey did it.
Cody: Oh yeah, when he fell at the end he landed on that leg and we heard a crunch, I believe. And then he was limping away as he reached the Batpod.
Bryant: See, I wondered if it was something like that. I need to watch the first two movies again.
Now, though, I want to return to the subject of the grooming standards of the GCPD.
Trey: Clean shaven? Check. Clothes not tatters of cloth? Check. Not completely emaciated from living off of bare rations in a goddamn sewer for five months? Check.
Bryant: In my mind, here's what happens: Bane decides to make razors and mirrors part of the regular care packages, partly because he hopes they'll all just cut each other’s throats. But then the ranking officer, whoever that is, orders everyone to shave daily so as to maintain morale. There needs to be a spinoff comic that is all about five months’ worth of enforced beard groomings. Like the gunnery sergeant in Generation Kill who keeps hollering at the Marines about how their “moostash hairs is in violation.” Awesome.
Cody: GCPD has a horrible, horrible track record. It goes hand in hand with the question "Why would anyone still live in Gotham?" This one is "Why do we even have police here?"
Bryant: Which is coolest: the Tumbler, the Batpod, or the Bat?
Cody: The Tumbler, hands down for me. But I think that's because we've had so much more in depth with it. If we'd had as much attention to the details as the Batpod or the bat, maybe it would shift. We never see what they can really do, except for the "OOO LOOK AT THAT! THAT WAS SO COOL!" stuff.
Trey: Batpod. Everytime the wheels do that sideways thing I feel like a kid watching a stunt show.
Bryant: It's the batpod for me, too, but only because of how awesome Anne Hathaway looks on it. Homina-homina-homina…
Alright, gentlemen: rank Rises relative to all other comic-book movies ever made.
Trey: By "all" you mean ones we can think of within reason, right? Or do you want me to explain how it stacks up against Tank Girl?
Cody: Hah, Tank Girl ... oh, fond memories of that one.
Bryant: I absolutely want to hear your thoughts about Tank Girl.
Trey: I'll write you an essay later.
Bryant: MUCH later, I hope...
Cody: It's in the top five for me.
- The Dark Knight
- Spider-Man 2
- Captain America
- The Dark Knight Rises
Bryant: I like the placement of Captain America on that list.
Cody: It's by far my favorite of the Phase One Marvel films.
Bryant: Mine too. Maybe not "by far," though.
- The Incredible Hulk
- The Dark Knight
- The Avengers
- The Dark Knight Rises
- Sin City
- Iron Man
- Spider-Man 2
- Batman Begins
- Captain America
Bryant: Hey, lookit the love for The Incredible Hulk! Nice!
Trey: Yes, you saw that. I fucking love Incredible Hulk.
Cody: Oh that movie is wonderful. And Kick-Ass. Both are in my top 10
Bryant: I liked The Incredible Hulk a lot, too. Still bummed Norton wasn't in The Avengers, although Ruffalo was fine, and I didn’t miss Norton while Ruffalo was on screen.
Trey: Is it as fine a film? No. But the action is fucking great, I like all of the characters, and the pace never, ever slackens, even on multiple viewings. Concerning the acting: neither actor would have been right in the other's role, for me.
Cody: I was very pleased with Ruffalo and am perfectly okay with him playing Banner for a while longer.
Bryant: I'll take a crack at it, too:
- The Dark Knight
- Captain America
- The Avengers
- The Dark Knight Rises
- Iron Man
- Batman Begins
- Spider-Man 2
- X-Men 2
Honorable mention: The Incredibles, which would be #1 if it had been a comic-book first!
Trey: The Incredibles is arguably the best comic-themed movie ever.
Cody: Oh, hands down.
Bryant: I think The Incredibles is INarguably the best...
Trey: It does completely encapsulate all aspects of superhero lore, characterization, and storytelling.
Cody: I think that it's one of the best movies ever made, period. Comic-book themed or otherwise.
Trey: I forgot Superman! It goes ... after Thor.
Cody: And that's where Superman goes for me too.
Bryant: It's a sentimental favorite; I don't actually think it's AS good a movie as most of those others, but I can't have it anywhere other than at the top of my personal list.
So, back to The Dark Knight Rises: what we're saying, overall, I think, is that this trilogy has permanently raised the bar for superhero movies (assuming Batman counts as a superhero, which he does).
Cody: Absolutely. It's the best series DC has produced in nearly thirty years and set the path for all the other superhero movies we've gotten since Batman Begins.
Trey: I agree. No Batman Begins? No Avengers. It's not enough anymore to have high-profile pretty people put on rubber / CGI suits and dully pretend that their characters are anything more than pieces in motion toward action moments. Anyone who disagrees hasn't seen Green Lantern.
Bryant: What do you guys think of Bale's "Batman voice"?
Cody: It was ... better this time. It wasn't as garbled and jumbled as The Dark Knight, and I noticed it actually kept improving as the movie went on, but that may be because I got used to it.
Trey: I love the voice, even though I mock it and laugh at spoofs. I think it's transformation in The Dark Knight comes from his desperation.
Bryant: I guess a lot of people hate it, but I love it, too, Trey. So goofy, so fun to imitate! And I love that even when he's talking to nobody other than himself, Bruce uses the voice when he's in costume. What a weirdo.
Cody: I like that little detail too. It's like he thinks that they'll tell the world, and most often, it's with people who already know who he is when he keeps using the voice. I can't help but think "SWEAR TO ME" every time I talk about the voice!
Trey: The voice is a point in favor of those who can't figure out that it's Bruce.
Bryant: Anybody cry during this movie? I didn't, but it was close.
Trey: I didn't, but I have to fight it during the final scenes of The Dark Knight.
Bryant: I was listening to Kevin Smith's podcast about it, and he kept choking the fuck up just talking about it. It was rad.
Cody: I teared up in a few parts, but didn't lose it completely.
Bryant: Fair enough. Y'all some manly mufuckas. Let's talk Hans Zimmer.
Cody: He is the unsung hero of this franchise for me.
Bryant: Well, let's sing him now, because I agree.
Cody: This series wouldn't be what it is today without the amazing scores that he created for each one.
Bryant: The one scene in Rises that almost got some tears out of me was when all the cops -- those well-groomed cops -- were standing in the street, and then start charging Bane's army. The music in that moment just kicks ass, and it nearly unmanned me.
Cody: Nolan doesn't fuck around with choosing composers. And the cops coming to Bane's army was beautiful and so moving.
Trey: Watching the first two tonight, I'm struck by how often there is music just simmering in the background of a scene, waiting to either spike or cut out when the climax hits. And as I mentioned earlier, that one sustained note he uses several times in The Dark Knight is just surreal.
Cody: His one discordant note for the Joker is a stroke of genius and always unsettled me because it was a lot like the idea behind the Jaws theme. You knew something horrible was about to happen.
Trey: I makes my teeth hurt, in an awesome way.
Bryant: As I think you both know, I'm a massive John Williams fan, and Zimmer's approach is very, very different to what Williams does. And to what Elfman did on the Burton/Batman films, for that matter. When I first heard he (and Howard) were scoring Batman Begins, I just rolled my eyes, but then when I saw the movie, I thought the music fit it totally. It only got better as the series went along. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what he'll do with Snyder on Man of Steel.
Cody: If the first music we hear from it is actually from The Lord of the Rings, then we have a winner. That piece was used perfectly in that teaser.
Trey: Cody makes a good point about the cues he uses to create themes for certain characters or idea. I mean, I know that's Score Comp 101 stuff, but so rarely do composers get it right, especially over trilogies.
Cody: And that's what makes Zimmer so great for me. He never faltered at all in this trilogy, but instead kept turning in better and better music.
Bryant: I like how the score for The Dark Knight Rises is basically just developments of that chant from the pit that means "rise." The music itself is basically either whispering, or chanting, or shouting "rise" at you the entire movie; it works tremendously well.
Cody: Zimmer wanted to get the fans involved this time so he hired thousands of people to come in and do the chanting for that piece and it paid off tremendously.
Trey: Did you notice that the chant is Bane's theme exclusively at first, but then gets mixed in with the Bat theme after Bruce returns? Genius.
Bryant: I did not notice that about the mixing Batman's theme in; not consciously, at least. I totally hear it in retrospect now, though. Brilliant!
Cody: That only adds to the idea that they are truly equals.
Bryant: The music is also used a couple of times to illustrate when Blake, or the cops, or whoever, are "rising" to some moment of heroism.
Cody: Oh, I didn't notice that. I am a big Williams fan, but I'm going to have to rank Zimmer as my favorite composer.
Trey: MG for the win! And point to Bryant for that observation.
Bryant: Cody, I will come through this computer and fuck your ass up if you say something silly like that again. Recant!
Cody: Don't get me wrong, Williams is up there. A verrrrrry close 2nd on my list
Cody: And we have a new contender!
Bryant: Giacchino is good, but he's no Williams. Yet.
Trey: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sound of the StarWarsSupermanJurassicParkMarsByHolstTheme.
Bryant: I’m just going to let that go. Alright, what else have we got to talk about regarding the Bat?
Cody: What did you guys think about the love story, before the betrayal of Talia? Did it feel natural or forced?
Bryant: Forced as hell. Bruce is in so much grief over losing Rachel, but he gets right to the fuckin' with Talia? I mean, she's Marion Cotillard, so it's hard to blame him; it would've made more sense for that to happen earlier.
Cody: My thoughts exactly. I couldn't buy the two of them together because it felt like Bruce was going "hey, you're hot and you're there; sit on my dick.” Way too forced.
Bryant: Mm-hmm. It's another example of Nolan making a secret Bond movie. Which, frankly, I'm okay with.
Cody: If Nolan does ever get around to making that Bond film he's talked about, I will shit a brick.
Bryant: Nolan making a Bond film is maybe the best idea anyone has ever had, but it won't happen; he's want more control than the producers would be willing to give him. I'm curious to see what he DOES do next, though. (Duh.)
Trey: Bruce = living heterosexual male. Talia = Marion Cotillard. Math = math. Bruce had just lost even more of "everything." It's not hard to imagine him wanting something back.
Bryant: But that's also kinda the point: shouldn't he have been all up in that shit WAY quicker?
Trey: He just met her! He had been avoiding her and didn't know what she looked like. At best he had the opinions of two old and probably gay men.
Bryant: Yeah, good point.
Cody: That's another thing: did everyone just suddenly become matchmakers in this movie? Yeah, I get that they wanted Bruce to move on and be happy again, but they were both laying it on a bit thick.
Trey: Speaking of which: Alfred was stellar as ever, but I felt Lucius was left out of the "people giving Bruce speeches" club.
Bryant: Not his style. He's more of a "lead the horse to water" type.
Trey: Maybe. I just know how much I like the scenes concerning the giant radar device in The Dark Knight.
Cody: Yeah, Lucius was sadly underused this time. How much is Lucius used in the comics, if at all? And does it serve him justice?
Bryant: I'd never heard of Lucius prior to the movies.
Cody: Neither had I.
Trey: Fox has been around since '79.
Bryant: Favorite single moment in the movie: go!
Cody: It's a tie between "So that's what that feels like" and the scene where Batman comes back to Gotham and all the police chase him through the city. So really that entire 10-15 minute sequence.
Trey: The end of The Dark Knight from Harvey's fall onward.
Cody: Oh, are we doing Rises or the entire series?
Bryant: I meant from Rises specifically. But feel free to say what your favorite moment from the entire trilogy is, too.
Trey: Ooooooh. The end of Cody's scene when the Batpod's wheels do that sideways thing into the alley.
Bryant: Yeah, that's pretty great.
Cody: From the trilogy, the interrogation room from The Dark Knight.
Trey: My favorite trilogy "moment" is Batman jumping down the stairs with the bats all around him in Batman Begins.
Cody: That one ranks high for me, too.
Bryant: From the entire trilogy, for me, it's the shot of the one guy who's fucked up on Scarecrow gas looking up and seeing Bruce AS a living bat.
Trey: That one is fantastic, because it captures the essence of the psych elements you talked about when I asked about your favorite aspect of this Batman.
Trey: And since that guy is a citizen, it provides us with an insight into how the populace might feel about him, since they don't know for SURE that he's a good guy.
Bryant: Good point!
Cody: And Begins (with that scene especially) set up so much of the psychological aspects that this film tackles so well and perfectly. What's your favorite from Rises, Bryant?
Bryant: Bane's line -- which I can't remember now! -- about how the darkness makes him stronger, after which he turns and stops Batman's attack to put an exclamation mark on the sentence.
Cody: I love that scene.
Trey: "The shadows betray you."
Bryant: "What a lovely, lovely voice!" I'm going to memorize all of Bane's dialogue so that I can use it on my cats at home.
Cody: "When your water is gone, you will have my permission to pee."
Trey: Bryant is now required to say that to me in Bane Voice while I'm in town.
Bryant: Can do. Speaking of weird voices, I want Pee-Wee Herman to dub the entire movie.
Cody: I can only think of the part where Pee-Wee says "Your punishment must be more severe." I crack up every time.
Trey: Anyone else notice the scar on Bane's spine?
Cody: I saw that!
Trey: Injury in the prison or venom nod?
Cody: I like to think it's a venom nod. It never really goes in depth with it though.
Bryant: Alright, guys, final thoughts on the movie. I’ll start: this is a GREAT piece of entertainment, one with a large number of plot holes, but with so much emotional honesty and so many awesome moments that I think you’d have to be a real grump to do much of anything but love it.
Cody: It's not the ending to the series that we hoped for, but it's the ending this series needed, and marks it as the best, most satisfying superhero trilogy to date.
Also, for Bryant:
Trey: It's a perfect sequel to two films that I always felt were only tentatively connected. It succeeds in wrapping both stories up, while (like Spock) having to be a child of two different worlds. The plot holes and comic-book nuances can be easily overlooked in the face of the raw audacity of telling a Batman story that is essentially a commentary on post-9/11, post-Occupy society and pulling it off swimmingly. Hardy's full-body acting as Bane steals every scene he is in, Hathaway gives us a Selina we can root for more than usual, and JGL as Blake makes me feel like anyone, not just the Batman, can make a difference.
Cody: Very well said.
Bryant: I like to refer to him now as "JoGoLev." And yes, that was well said.
Trey: Thank goodness, because I can barely keep my eyes open, and I keep typing not just misspellings, but entirely incorrect words.
Cody: Haha. It worked out nicely.
Trey: I appreciate it. And I had a blast doing this. I'm starved for good movie talk up here.
Cody: We should definitely do this more often.
Trey: If you guys want to do one of these for The Avengers and the ones leading up to it, I would love that.
Cody: I'm down.
Trey: Also The Lord of the Rings.
Cody: And by extension The Hobbit. Sounds great, man
Bryant: I'm in.
Trey: All three movies! THREE! I’M SO FUCKING EXCITED!
That note of geeky enthusiasm seems like the right note to go out on. Obviously, we had fun doing this, so don’t be surprised if you get another installment at some point. Heck, we might even find time to talk about Stephen King at some point!
I’d like to thank Cody and Trey for participating. Check out their blogs, won’t you?