A film of many surprises.
This film did indeed surprise me in many ways, both positive and negative. There were aspects I expected to suck that exceeded all my expectations. Then there were aspects I thought were going to rule that ended up sucking. There were also stealth surprises, in that aspects of the movie I had no opinion of one way or another jumped up and bit me on the ass.
The big positive surprise was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I have said several times that I didn’t think she could really play either the Cat or Selina Kyle. I didn’t think she had the role in her. I could not have been more wrong. She inhabits the role like she plans to raise six generations of Hathaways there and more or less dominates every scene she is in. Her portrayal is superlative and I honestly will have a hard time seeing anyone else in the role. Also, I have always had a thing for her (even when she was doing garbage like One Day I found her a real turn on) and no matter what she is doing in this movie she is dead sexy.
The big negative surprise was Bane. I really expected to like him as a villain but honestly found him to be really kind of boring. He suffers in comparison to the Joker in the Dark Knight of course, but even without that bar to hold up I would have found him boring and two dimensional. His plan seems vague and a little pointless, and he just doesn’t have the dialog and compelling nature of even Two Face or Scarecrow from the other movies. He more or less translates as slightly better than a muscle bound thug. (Bane image courtesy of the Batman T Shirts)
One of the surprises that really caught me off guard was Bane’s voice in the movie. Somehow they made him sound suspiciously like Alfred Pennyworth with a mouth full of loose gravel and spoken through 100 yards of steel pipe. It was really, really disconcerting. Honestly the whole time I felt like his voice had been dubbed over, really robbing his dialog of any import or strength. Plus I spent about half the time trying to understand what the hell he had just said. I’d like to not say “I’m not saying the voice doesn’t work but…” but honestly, that’s exactly what I am saying (without the but).
I have seen other critics call the story and plot ludicrous and to be fair to them, it pretty much is. The story borrows but from but does not really tell the stories from Knightfall, Breaking the Bat, No Man’s Land, and a half dozen other Batman comic story lines and as a result fails to tell one complete story. It definitely feel fragmented, convoluted, and lacking in continuity. Months of movie time are covered in the space of a few minutes and very little motivation is given for any of the supporting characters to do pretty much anything. Excellent supporting characters such as Catwoman or Alfred disappear for huge swaths of time only to reappear when the plot needs them. However, I saw the Batman Marathon at the local Regal and saw this movie after watching Batman Begins and the Dark Knight and I can say that while TDK is a brilliant story with amazing character interaction Batman Begins is ludicrous with a capital L. Ra’s al Ghul’s plan, if you recall, was to spend months injecting a fear causing hallucinogenic into the water supply and then microwave it into steam to cause the city to self destruct and teach the world a lesson or something. It doesn’t get much hokier than that.
That being said, the story does seem to lack focus and drifts from story to story, even reprising Ra’s al Ghul in order to give Bane something to do. This is a mistake in my opinion. Bane was always much cooler and more interesting in the comics when he just had a personal axe to grind with Batman. If you read my (brilliant, IMO) post on why The Wrath of Khan is the best of the Star Trek movies you might see what I mean. When the bad guy’s plan is to blow up a city (or the world) Hollywood seems to think we are going to somehow be personally connected to the story and feel some kind of kinship for all the people threatened. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is we connect with a specific character in the movie and feel more involved when there is some kind of personal vendetta going on. This is one of the many reasons the Dark Knight was so cool. Joker wanted nothing more than to screw with Batman. The threats to the city were incidental. When I watch a movie I want to feel like I’m Batman fighting to save my life, not one of the squirming millions of unwashed masses he is trying to protect.
All that being said, this movie is definitely worth watching. It drags at places, and you will feel every one of the self indulgent 164 minutes (mostly in your numb butt and full bladder), but visually stunning and the action is pretty damned good.
I’m not going to get into the story too deep as I expect pretty much everyone reading this to watch it and don’t want to hand out any spoilers. Sufficed to say Batman has been in hiding for eight years since taking the blame for the death of Harvey Dent. Bruce Wayne has been a recluse until Catwoman pulls him back to reality by robbing his safe. There is a lot of complicated, convoluted non-action in the first 45 minutes until Bane finally takes over the city No Man’s Land style. All hell breaks loose, and Batman is more or less broken. Stuff blows up. There is a massive riot. More stuff blows up. The end.
The stars. Batman movie. Two stars. Comic book movie. One star. Catwoman was pretty damned impressive, not to mention uber hot. One star. Almost all the supporting characters delivered at least a good performance, if not great. One star. Visually stunning. Expect to see some technical Oscars for this one. Two stars. While the pretty much used canon as a doormat, they tried to keep all the characters except Bane true to themselves. One star. I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a really good choice to introduce as a new character, and his role added a lot to the story. One star. The action was pretty impressive all around (not to mention brutal), especially any fight between Bane and Batman. One star. Overall entertaining as hell. Two stars. Total: twelve stars.
The black holes. Long, long movie with non-action portions that seemed to really mire the plot down. Pacing could have been tightened up a lot. One black hole. The main villain was pretty damned boring, which I am going to ascribe to breaking too far away from canon. One black hole. Bane’s voice. One black hole. The story was very much overly convoluted, with myriad sub plots that seemed to go no where. Too much source material in my opinion. One black hole. Some off putting continuity issues, and characters that disappeared for a while. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of seven stars. Decently good, and well worth watching. I will put this one on par with Batman Returns but well below The Dark Knight. It is a good ending to the trilogy, but I honestly did not walk away with the sense of satisfaction I had hoped to have. Should you see it? Absolutely. Spend a few extra bucks on IMAX. This is a must see for any Batman fan and a should see for everyone else. Just don’t expect to be riveted to the seat by a Heath Ledger like performance. Date movie? Only in the sense that even women should see this film. There is nothing going on here that will encourage her to take off her clothes with you, and having you geek out next to her might actually hurt your chances. See it with your friends IMO. I think you will enjoy it more. Bathroom break? Pretty much anywhere in the first 45 minutes would be fine, but if you are looking for a time later in the film I would say any of the the first two climbing out of the pit attempts. You will know what I mean. Not only is Nolan joining the “excitement through repetition” crowd but that whole sub plot adds absolutely nothing to the story except for more continuity issues.
Thanks for reading, and sorry I couldn’t gush more about this film. It was good but not gush-worthy. Worth seeing for sure, but honestly I don’t think I am motivated to see in in a theater a second time. I’d actually rather go see the Avengers again. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to post comments about this movie or review here. Any off topic comments or suggestions can go to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.