(***Spoiler Alert: There be spoils.)
I LOVED The Dark Knight back in 2009. Even with the awful ferry sequence, I loved it. I've seen it a couple times since. And I watched it again about five days ago to prep myself for TDKR. I loved it all over again.
And then, this past Saturday, I saw TDKR. And I didn't love it. I tried. I really did. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun movie and there's much there to like, admire, and respect. But it didn't thrill me in the same way. I got restless in the middle of it. And I was pulled out of the movie many times.
A friend told me to take a few days, that it warmed up for him over time. I did, and it hasn't. There's too much that bothers me about it. I think /Film does a good job listing a lot of the problems with it. I don't agree with absolutely every one of them, but I'm on board with 90% of them.
Personally, my main problems with the movie are (and this goes from my immediate reaction up till now) :
- A lot of TDKR seems to work against TDK. TDK was largely about the sacrifices that are made by those who are trying to be heroic and do what is right. While TDKR seems to cast all those same sacrifices as errors and lies that need to be corrected and accounted for so statues can be erected.
- Sex and a love triangle for plotting purposes alone is awkward and strains believability for all that follows. The whole thing with Cotillard comes out of nowhere (which I'm sure they viewed as a narrative twist). But c'mon. When you have Batman and Selina Kyle in the same narrative space, and Kyle is played by Hathaway in a skin tight leather suit, then we all know where the chips are falling. Substituting Hathaway/Kyle hotness with awkward sex is never a good idea.
- Don't give me Wayne with a limp and then an impressive leg brace to solve said limp and then break a dude's back only to have him bounce back Eastern medicine style with no leg problems and no leg brace.
- Plot holes galore. How did Bane know about Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences? How did Bruce Wayne get from god knows what country back to the US without nothing but earth tone third world prison wrags and then make it into a completely closed off city? Why does anyone believe Bane has a letter from Gordon? More importantly, why is Bane making speeches a la the 70's Batman TV show? How is Selina Kyle in deep to Bane? Why does no one link Bane's breaking into a securities exchange and Gotham's richest citizen going bankrupt over stupid securities trades? Did you really just tell me Blake knew Wayne was Batman from a "look?" Etc., etc.
- I'm on board with Blake. Despite all the blah blah blah about Robin, I'm on board. I'm on board with JGL. But give me one moment where we see that he's capable of taking care of himself in a fight and for some ungodly reason doesn't need training to be Batman.
- Was Alfred in on the whole final co-pilot thing? Why is he not surprised to see Bruce in Europe? I think for all the weight given to the awkward good-bye scene between Bruce and Alfred, a little more weight given to this return-from-the-dead moment would have been nice.
- Big obvious corny moves: 1) Let's send all the police under the city at the same time! 2) This machine has no auto-pilot, but I'm sure YOU can fix it. 3) Bane is a big, strong, dangerous man who must wear a mask and if it's broken he's a wounded kitten. And he needs the mask because something happened in a prison and some doctors did something... I think. 4) We love Batman but we used to hate him. Let's erect a ridiculous statue because he's dead now and LEGEND ISN'T ENOUGH. If I saw a statue of Santa Claus in a city, I'd have the a less severe reaction. But it's still be stupid as hell.
- Batman's biggest opponent was himself. Bane was fine. He was OK. His voice didn't bother me as much as his speeches did. Selina Kyle was better executed and Hathaway worked in the role, but she never congealed for me as a character into something truly great. Her best moments were clever tricks, fight scenes, or throw-away lines. Even when she throws him to the wolves the characters cast that aside as nothing but some more flirting when they next meet. We never got any good glimpses into her character or raw exchanges between her and Batman. It's all coyness and play. She shines but she never comes alive. And I think there was the potential there. And while the protagonist as his own antagonist is common and is very much a part of the Batman mythology, I would have liked a better external antagonist. And I think Selina Kyle wasn't quite there.
Part of me wonders if I'm forgiving more of the issues with TDK because Heath Ledger's performance had so much vitality, verve and serendipitous magic. You can't expect a performance like that. It's organic, it's a phenomenon, it's lightning in a bottle. The greatest actor's in the world can't create that. They bring their amazing talents and roll the dice. Ledger did, he committed, Nolan trusted him, and it paid off big time. I mean look at this:
So I think this is a bigger issue. I think TDKR is weaker than TDK. I keep thinking of the way Nolan and the sound design backed up Ledger's performance. Everything just felt more cohesive to me in TDK.
But, like I said, TDKR is still an impressive film. Maybe they just tried to fit too much in. I think it could have been 30-45 minutes shorter.
ps. Either way, see it, decided for yourself. Then rewatch TDK.