The Dark Knight Rises is probably the biggest film of the year. At least in terms of the discussion taking place around it. As such I’ve waited a little bit before even beginning to put my own thoughts on the matter down. With so much media being devoted to ancillary issues surrounding the film, be it the midnight premiere shooting, the insane arguments about the political aspects of the movie, etc. It’s definitely a beast of a film with so much going on that touching on everything would be an impossibility. I know The Avengers brought together plot threads of multiple movies but thematically speaking The Dark Knight rises has just as many irons in the fire. Nolan and company work off of plot threads left dangling from Batman Begins and weave them into something that leads to a very satisfying conclusion. I can’t think of any film trilogy that pulls this sort of cohesion off and doesn’t fumble everything at the last minute. This review should try to examine exactly why that is.
I think the first thing I need to bring up is that there is the constant influence of Christopher Nolan. When a series swaps out the creative forces behind them, the franchise loses focus. How different might things have turned out if Richard Donner had remained onboard for another Superman film after number two? Or if James Cameron had been in charge of the third Terminator film? A steady hand at the till goes a long way. That is why the previous Batman franchise faltered. There isn’t any consistency to them from film to film. Even from the ’89 film to Returns, you can see a shift in the way the people writing the damned thing feel about the character. Thematically, those films seem to fight against each other for validity. With Nolan’s trilogy, there is a logical escalation and cyclical nature to the writing and the overall story. By returning to the League of Shadows in The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan effectively reminds us that Batman Begins was more than just a simple setup film. One of the things I had said before The Dark Knight Rises hit screens was that The Dark Knight felt almost entirely removed from Batman Begins. As a standalone film, it works quite well. You can watch it without having seen Batman Begins and there isn’t enough of a thematic connection that you feel like you have missed anything. The Dark Knight Rises is equal parts a continuation of the themes developed in Batman Begins AND The Dark Knight. The rise and fall of Harvey Dent sets the stage for the action but it is Bruce Wayne’s personal journey that he undertook in Begins that drives his conflict with Bane in this installment. By going back to the beginning in this way, The Dark Knight Rises is a film that focuses on the idea of enduring legacy. Bane is attempting to foster Ra’s Al Ghul’s legacy of destroying Gotham. Bruce Wayne is trying to ensure that Harvey Dent’s legacy as a hero isn’t tarnished. Bane does so through calculated action. Bruce Wayne does so through a calculated lack of action. Both of them received the same tutelage from Ra’s but they implement it differently.
In The Dark Knight Rises Nolan puts the focus on the idea of deception and the cloudy morality surrounding bending the truth. Obviously the biggest example is Batman and Gordon’s lie surrounding the death of Harvey Dent, but there are several other deceptions that drive the film. Bane’s entire plan is centered around deception. Whereas Joker in The Dark Knight was as straightforward in his implementation of chaos, Bane has a separate plan for multiple people and they often contradict each other. He tears apart Gotham as part of his attempt to break Batman, but his plan is only allowed to take root because he lies to the population of Gotham and maneuvers them into playing along with his game. Bane turns the people of Gotham into villains the way Joker wished he could have in the third act of The Dark Knight. In many ways, Nolan is showing how much more effective Bane is as a villain than the Joker was. The Joker was unable to turn the people of Gotham against each other. Bane pulled it off. Nolan shows how powerful a lie can be. Lies have power. That is the crux of the film. Everybody in the film is lying. A major lie from The Dark Knight comes back around to drive a wedge between Bruce and Alfred. Selina Kyle’s actions are guided by a promise that turns out to be a lie. In a film about a man that wears a mask, this is a powerful theme to work through.
Essentially, The Dark Knight Rises is a great bit of filmmaking. It does stumble in some respects. But the parts of the film that make up the whole really pop. Anne Hathaway is an amazing Catwoman. She’s the finest movie version of the character since 1966 and really manages to pull off the dichotomy of wounded, confident, and sexy that the character requires. Joseph Gordon Levitt puts in his usual good work as a character who could have sunk the movie if they had played it differently. If we are going to talk about what works in the film, the character work is definitely tops. Michael Caine and Gary Oldman put in their best work of the series, without a doubt. And since we’re talking about character work, let’s take a moment to discuss Tom Hardy’s Bane. Heath Ledger put in a memorable turn as the Joker, that’s true, but Tom Hardy does something wholly original with the character. The Bane in this film takes elements of the character in the books and evolves him into something else entirely. The Bane in the comics is a cold and calculating man with the same level of intelligence on display here, and he does have the ties to Ra’s, though not identical in nature. But in the animated world as well as that abomination in Batman & Robin, his strength has always been the primary focus. Here, Tom Hardy gives us a man of belief and conviction, one trying to leave a lasting legacy. He plays him with bombast and intensity. I think over time his Bane will be regarded as one of the most interesting comic film villains in history.
So those are my thoughts on the matter. I could probably spend another couple paragraphs on the film but I think I’ve hit the major points. I figure everyone has seen the film by now, but if you haven’t you should check it out, in IMAX if you can. The film is very well shot and plays well on a bigger screen. The Dark Knight Rises is one of the finest cappers to a trilogy you could ever hope to find. I certainly can’t think of a better one off the top of my head. That’s one of the finest compliments I can pay the film.
This trailer is expected to hit in front ofThe Avengers on Friday but it hit the net unexpectedly this morning. I will say that it gives us some more snippets of what to expect but all in all I’m still pretty blind as to what sort of turn this film is going to take when it finally hits theaters. It hints that Bane really does break the Bat the way he did in Knightfall and that we may be getting a sort of absolute finale for the Batman character when the credits roll. I know Christopher Nolan is an unconventional filmmaker to say the least so I don’t expect a simple resolution. Not by a long shot.
Christian Bale’s creepy beard thing here is destroying my psyche.
It’s Friday. Time for the final installment of the costume showcase theme. I’ve saved…whatever I had left for last.
I learned something this week. Comic books are not an easy habit to downgrade. While last week I remarked that due to my financial situation, comic books would have to be scaled back for a little while alongside other things like blu-ray movies and steak dinners in order to help me build up a little extra cash in the bank, this week I found out that I can’t seem to stop myself from throwing stuff on the pile. Let me just say that while I still am going to try to restrain myself, hard as it may be because there is so much good stuff out there that I really want to read, I’m not going to hamstring myself either. If you can’t enjoy your hobbies the way you want, they sorta cease to be hobbies in my opinion.
ACTION COMICS #889 3.99
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #629 2.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA #605 3.99
DEADPOOL #22 2.99
DETECTIVE COMICS #864 3.99
FALL OF HULKS RED HULK #4 (OF 4) 3.99
FANTASTIC FOUR #578 2.99
GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #11 2.99
HACK SLASH SERIES #32 A CVR SEELEY (MR) 3.5
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #25 HA 3.99
JLA DELUXE EDITION HC VOL 03 29.99
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #38 2.99
LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME #2 (OF 3) A CVR MALEEV (MR) 4.99
MIGHTY AVENGERS #36 SIEGE 2.99
NEW AVENGERS #64 SIEGE 3.99
PREVIEWS #260 MAY 2010 (NET) 2.7
PUNISHER #16 2.99
RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE GN (MR) 6.99
SHUDDERTOWN #2 (MR) 3.5
SUPERMAN #699 2.99
SUPERMAN LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON #3 (OF 3) 3.99
THOR #609 SIEGE 2.99
TRANSFORMERS ONGOING #6 3.99
ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS 2 #1 3.99
X-FORCE #26 XSC 2.99
And now, your weekly biased opinions.
I love a good one-off Deadpool story in which all kinds of ludicrous wackiness ensues. When you try to go epic with this particular character you can either get some amazing results like the Cable/cult stuff in Cable & Deadpool or you can get something like Deadpool Corps which doesn’t have quite the same *oomph*. This story has Deadpool being Deadpool somewhere in Georgia and wreaking vengea-justice against some corrupt backwoods hillbilly cops. It’s not high art in any way shape or form, but it feels like Deadpool, moreso than any universe-hopping counterpart he may have in another book.
In all fairness, this is the only Deadpool book on my list now. I cut off DPC and Team-Up because I wasn’t caring for them at all. They felt empty and bloated at the same time and didn’t give me anything that I was looking for in the character. Merc With A Mouth is still mostly excellent but it ends in three issues, so it might as well be gone already. I’m going to hold off on the upcoming Wade Wilson’s War mini-series, despite my immense love for Duane Sweircantspellhislastnameski because I’m pretty sure they’re gonna make an oversized hardcover for it that will look nice next to my Suicide Kings hardcover. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the aesthetic of a bookshelf brimming with Marvel hardcovers.
My point is that the main Deadpool book is actually better than it gets credit for, and that I find it interesting that writers at Marvel, like the fanbase, have such wide and varying ideas of what a Deadpool book should be like, given that a few short years ago, Deadpool was one of the simplest characters to write. But exposure has forced multiple interpretations and I’m glad that I found the one that works for me. Maybe Deadpool Corps is the one that works for you. I can’t say. I barely made it through the first issue without vomiting in revulsion.
This issue featured maybe one of the most horrible and obvious plays on words that I’ve ever read in a comic book. I mean, it was too easy and it was telegraphed a mile away and I can’t believe that Paul Dini wrote it. The rest of the comic was pretty damned good. But I keep going back to that one cringe-worthy panel, which I would totally scan if my machine weren’t on the fritz. (Yeah, that’s why the panel of the week segment got cut, because I spend too much money on comics to afford a new scanner. I have no shame.)
The majority of this issue centers around Selina and Harley searching for a lost dog while Poison Ivy makes a first impression at her new job. I will say I was surprised by how that little section of this issue turned out. It looks like they’re not going with the secret identity idea for Poison Ivy as a long-term idea, which I was interested in seeing play out over the course of a few issues.
I think this is a good book. I really do. But this issue is a definate drop in quality from the last arc with Riddler. But then again, that could be on account of my epic Riddler-positive bias. I truly do love the Riddler, I think he’s underappreciated and misunderstood. Thankfully, Dini gets the Riddler better than just about anybody and I think he’s got plans for him down the road.
The heroic age is here. Kind of odd that Siege still technically hasn’t ended and we’re already moving on to the aftermath. Better than holding up all the books while we wait but still a bit odd. This issue is just about everything you could want in an Iron Man comic. Matt Fraction might be God, I’ll have to ask his wife if their new baby was immaculately conceived in order to prove my hypothosis. (Congrats to the both of them on that, by the way)
One thing I think that is immediately noticeable about this book is the timing. A week before the new film drops and we get a comic featuring the return of Hammer Industries, the company founded by Justin Hammer, a prominently featured character in the new movie. Coincidence? I doubt it. Just as when this book launched in the wake of the first film with a story featuring Ezekiel Stane, Fraction has organically found a way to grab the interest of any new readers who might jump on board following the release of the new movie.
The tone of the book has reverted to the same sort that it had around it’s launch. Whereas the last arc was very hyper-real with a good chunk taking place in Tony’s mind, we’re now back to the corporate warfare and industrial terrorism actioner vibe that started in The Five Nightmares. It’s a tone that really works for Iron Man, and even with all the changes Stark is going through, he seems to fit into the puzzle with ease. This truly is some of the best Iron Man writing in ages.
Here’s one of the books that proves my point about the inevitability of my comic collecting nature. I didn’t know this book was coming out this week. I completely overlooked it. But when presented with it, I took one look at the cover, saw Palmiotti and Gray’s name on the credits and tossed it on the pile. If there ever were a dream-team of comic writers, those two are it. Right up there with Brubaker/Rucka as far as I’m concerned. I mean, have you read Jonah Hex? Power Girl? Those guys are amazing.
This book utilizes what they know about the comic book business and builds an effective meta-textual story that comments on the world of comics from the inside and out. From publishing to the fans that read the product, to the media that capitilizes on its burdgeoning popularity. At the same time they manage to make a statement about the current state of the horror genre, both in the world of film and in the graphic literature medium. It’s a mixed message that they put out, I’ll admit, but then again that mirrors the content that they’re deconstructing here. Honestly, the book feels very cinematic. It has a very clear first, second, and third act and is illustrated in such a way that I felt like I was reading an adaptation of a mini-series on HBO.
I’m not going to say that this is their best work, but it is an interesting read. My only real complaints stem from the fact that due to the nature of the book, which seems to be a deconstruction of the modern horror story, the plot turns seem telegraphed and predictible. A problem that seems to plague a great deal of horror movies/novels/comics nowadays. Aside from maybe The Walking Dead, I can’t recall being shocked by a horror title in a long time. Crossed came close, but Garth Ennis can’t stop himself from being Garth Ennis, so a good deal of that book felt predictable as well, sad to say.
However, in the case of Random Acts of Violence, I can say that for the price tag, you get your money’s worth and then some. It’s a very meaty book, it feels full and complete without the need for decompression or rushed…anything. It’s simply a well put together book with a few slight snags applied due to the nature of the beast.
Optimus Prime gets dropped out of a helicopter onto Swindle. Of course I fucking liked it.
See you next week….maybe. I’m taking a trip to Louisiana that weekend and I might space out between the middle of next week and the following Monday.
Because I seem to get a great response from the random posting of cosplay girls, I have decided to make this week “Cosplay Appreciation Week” in the hopes that the hits will propel us to another record month. Day one begins with Catwoman, because…hey, Catwoman!
If you have any suggestions for what character should come next, be sure to hit up the comments section or message me on the twitter.
Yeah, it’s that time again…
You see? And I did it without going to the “Wonder Woman well.” I imagine if I did this entry would have over 15,000 images, and I imagine that would be the number of page views as well.