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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises: An Ominous Disappointment

Here: TDKR trailer

Okay. I’m saying it now. We got some problems.

Years ago, as a big fan of “Batman Begins,” I had to stem my excitement for “The Dark Knight.” I had to keep my expectations low, even though after the teaser and trailer, I knew that TDK was going to be something special. It was actually exhausting to not get carried away. And afterwards? I wanted no more sequels. I felt Nolan’s Batman had run its phenomenal course and that the two films balanced each other just fine. Adding a third film would be gratuitous or, at best, an imbalance. This was like Terminator, not Star Wars. Two can be better than three.

Now we have a trailer, and now I feel like I have some ammunition I’m not excited to unload.

As the trailer sets up, the opening of TDKR will parallel its predecessor with a wanton act of destruction. In this case, blowing up a football field (Bane’s back story has something against groundskeepers apparently). We’ll come back to this, but I just wanted to mark an additional point that TDKR may be a response to TDK, rather than a complete movie unto itself.

One of at least two, masked beautiful women is at Bruce Wayne’s place. She's there using her sultry voice to read from discarded Occupy Wall Street protest signs. Revolution for poor people! Who does Batman stand with? As seen in the two previous films, Batman is much quicker/able/willing to save rich people before the poor (cops and impersonators are killed, rich campaign donators are saved, etc). Additionally, most of the criminals he punches are poor. Regardless, explosions are a more fun form of protesting than achieving a consensus with jazz fingers.

Criminals breaking out of prison with machine guns? Kind of a weak and easy pool to pull from for Nolan. The obvious filmmaking advantages are:
1) Implies murderous intent, even though 2/3 of those criminals were likely incarcerated for simple drug possession.
2) Unites criminals, even though race, age, income and charges notoriously segregate prisons.
3) Plays into fears that prisons need more security, even though studies link increased freedom with good behavior.
4) Making the bad guys look similar de-humanizes them, which makes them easier to hate.

Really, a terrorist would have more luck (and indeed have had more luck) drawing supporters from disenfranchised, over-educated, young people and pre-armed, under-educated, small-town reactionaries. Unfortunately both of these groups (and not inmates) buy movie tickets and so it’s best not to call them the most likely to be corralled by a madman.

The field collapsing was a so-so visual but with Hines Ward turning around in the end zone, the shot played like a sick joke. Ha, ha, ha! He thought he had just scored a touchdown but now those players are dead. Wait, what? And he dropped the ball…because he’s shocked--in the world of comedy, that's a button. Frankly, I don’t know why Nolan just didn’t go all out and have Hines Ward dance in the end zone for twenty seconds before turning around. Also, Hines Ward hasn’t outrun a defender in eight years, which makes the shot doubly confounding in its details and intentions.

“When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.” Stock villain line. No personality, no emotion or individuality. Though Batman probably will die.

Anne Hathaway has a hat! But where’s Morgan Freeman?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is opening a door! And likely walking into a tee-off of becoming a new Gotham vigilante.

But where is Morgan Freeman? The guy won an Oscar, people! Come on!

Batman fighting Bane in the daylight: interesting? Not if it’s just a fight scene. What’s the tone of the movie? What’s the ideology or concept? Bane’s strong; good for him. Bane has a winter jacket stolen from a Scottish soccer fan; okay, whatever. None of this feels right to me.

And then the freakin’—obligatory—money shot: some flying contraption behind the Bat-tank . Lame. Not a fan at all. On a whole, I also didn’t care for the music throughout. Compared to TDK, Inception or even The Prestige, this trailer just did not strike me viscerally, it didn’t freeze my blood or in any other way rivet me like previous Nolan outings.

The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t need to be the best movie ever, but I think a lot of details are adding up to the truly unspeakable…a disappointment.

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