The Dark Knight Rises: A Delayed Reaction

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. Because when it hits, you’re going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” Well, the storm hit. The wait is over and The Dark Knight Rises is finally out after four long years. Although it’s been out since July 20th and although I saw the trilogy at midnight, I wanted to give it a second viewing and allow a little time to gather my thoughts before writing a review. Plus, the first time I saw it was amidst a nine hour marathon, and immediately following The Dark Knight and Batman Begins.  So instead of two times, I’ve now watched it three times since it came out, and I think I can give it a more unbiased reaction.

Let me just say that the first time I saw TDKR, I didn’t like it. I thought it was absolutely the worst of the three. But I was unfairly comparing it to The Dark Knight, having just seen it. Having now watched it separately from the other two installments, I like it a lot more. I also realized that Christopher Nolan was constrained by the fact that this was the end of his trilogy. With BB and TDK, he basically had free reign over the story arc and character development. With TDKR, he was boxed into putting a definitive end to the trilogy. Additionally, Nolan had wanted to have Heath Ledger reprise his role as The Joker, but his untimely death made that impossible. TDKR was a perfect end to the trilogy. Nolan handled it with the class and skillful direction we expected him to. It wasn’t perfect, but by no means was it a disappointment.

WARNING! | THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

If you haven’t seen the movie yet you should probably stop reading because the rest of this will be riddled with spoilers. Also this is probably going to be really really long. Deal with it.

First, the good. A lot of people voiced concern about Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and to that I simply replied: “In Nolan We Trust.” I think I can safely say that
those fears have been put to rest. Nolan has an excellent casting director and typically never works with actors who are in the habit of giving sub par performances. Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle was maybe the nicest surprise of TDKR. She was sexy, stylish, and pretty kick ass. Plus her reveal at Wayne’s charity event was classic. “Oops. Nobody told me it was…uncrackable.” The banter between Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne, and between Bruce’s “powerful friend” and Catwoman was perfect, even if she somehow didn’t realize that Bruce and his “powerful friend” were the same person. Additionally, the scene on the roof where Batman turns around to look at the Bat (which was also really awesome to all the doubting Douglas-es out there), then turns around to find that she had disappeared was great. Plus that answers the question if Batman still talks to himself in the deep gravelly voice when he’s alone. Finally, I really loved that at no point was she referred to as “Catwoman.” Simply Selina Kyle, a jewel thief, or cat burglar. Bravo, Nolan. (Also, her piano-based theme is AMAZING. The best piece of the soundtrack I thought. Oh and when she steals Bruce’s Lamborghini? One of my favorite scenes.)

Another character that I really liked was John Blake, the Gotham beat cop turned detective turned hero turned vigilante, played by the always terrific Joseph Gordon Levitt. I figured he would be in this, since after his masterful role in Inception, Nolan would most likely want to use him. He was actually one of the people I thought would be pretty good as The Riddler. But, amazingly as almost all of my predictions were pretty accurate, he turned out to be another integral character in the Batman universe. After Blake visits Wayne Manor and reveals that he knew who Bruce Wayne’s alter ego was, I figured he would be a Robin, since one of them figures this secret out in the series (and especially after Batman suggests he wear a mask to protect those he cares about). Although I predicted that John Blake would turn out to be either the next commissioner, or Batman’s successor, I was hoping he would be a Terry McGinnis/Batman Beyond type character, and not Robin. Nolan had said that he would never have Robin in his movies, but technically since TDKR ended with a Batman Begins-esque Robin scene, and not with him donning a mask, Robin was never technically in the movie. Plus since Batman “died,” it could be assumed that Blake would become more of a Nightwing character, and not a sidekick. Regardless, like with the rest of the movie, it was handled as well as could be expected and was the first set up to the upcoming DC Comics Justice League movie.

Batman & Nightwing

Keeping with the reveals and my previous predictions, I pretty much expected Talia al Ghul to be in TDKR since I saw on IMDB that there was someone cast as a young Ra’s. I figured it would be Marion Cotillard (man Nolan loves to recycle actors) since ‘Miranda Tate” seemed like it would be an alias a la Henri Ducard. Also, she’s Batman’s major love interest through most of the series and hadn’t even been touched upon despite having Ra’s al Ghul as a character in Begins. However, it took so long to reveal her true character and role in Bane’s master plan that I was second guessing what I thought to be a sure thing. So although I kind of knew already, I was still surprised. Only a little though, because I knew that there was no way Bane was Ra’s’ son.

While I thought that Catwoman, Robin, and Talia’s reveals were pretty well done, I really didn’t like the way Bruce revealed himself to Gordon at the end of the movie. I get that it was supposed to mirror the scene with Rachel in Begins, where she says: “Wait. You could die! At least tell me your name!” To which Batman replies with a quote Rachel had said to him earlier in the movie: “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.” However I thought this really crucial moment was too awkward. The line he used about draping a coat over a young boy’s shoulders was way too long and a little cheesy. This should have been handled better. Plus I always thought Gordon sort of knew after Bruce crashed his Lamborghini to save Coleman Reese in TDK. Adding to that, there were WAY too many people who knew who Batman was by the end of the movie. Just off the top of my head: Alfred, Lucius, Talia, Bane, Selina, Blake, Gordon, Alfred’s sister’s mailman, the DPW guy who never showed up, etc. Come on. I know he faked his death, but it was getting a little out of hand.

To be honest though, I didn’t like Gordon anywhere near as much as I did in BB or TDK, and I’m still unsure whether it was supposed to be that way. I don’t know if Nolan tried to change the character’s motives, or if Gary Oldman just came at the role in a different manner, but he was extremely un-likeable in this. In the other films he was sort of a hapless, loveable, goofy hero and in TDK he was an emotional force, but he came off very blunt and disconnected in TDKR. If it was meant to be this way, I assume it was meant to reflect the turmoil associated with keeping the Harvey Dent secret for eight years. Propping him up to be a fallen hero, when it was really Batman who saved Gotham. Then that whole rift between him and Blake after Bane reads the speech. (“Your hands look pretty dirty to me.”) Even when he helped save the day at the end of the movie I still didn’t really like him, which is unfortunate because he was one of my favorite characters throughout the first two installments. I just didn’t like him being portrayed as a dirty cop or a tragic character. It didn’t work and it made all the scenes with him seem weird.

Now. On to Bane. I don’t know if it was just the theater sound system, but I was really frustrated the first time I watched TDKR, because I had an extremely tough time understanding Bane’s lines. The second and third times through it seemed a lot less muffled, but that might have just been because I knew his lines better. Either way it was doubly frustrating because other than Bruce Wayne’s witty lines (which I thought were the best of the three), Bane’s dialogue was the best of the movie. I loved Tom Hardy’s delivery, and the accent (which I hope was actually his). It sounded almost Scottish, as if Captain Jean Luc Picard did a voice over for him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tom Hardy, who must have gained about 50 lbs of muscle for this role, and who’s acting was probably constrained by how hard it was to speak through the mask (You have to enunciate!). The whole role seemed very Shakespearean, even if his motives were a little hackneyed and the underlying theme was quite obviously a statement about the 99%. (“We take Gotham back from the corrupt…the oppressors  The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests and cast out into the cold.”) But if it was about the 99%, the overall message is muddled since if the League of Shadows were portraying the 99%, they’d be the enemy. Woo go one percenters! Get a job hippies!

The fight scenes between him and Batman (especially the first one) were perfect. In true gritty brawler style. Also, his fur lined coat is awesome and I want one. Clearly I plan on being Bane for Halloween this year, though it’ll make it pretty tough to drink with that mask on… (“If I take that off, will you die?” “It would be very painful.”) In the series, Bane is not only Batman’s most physically formidable foe, he is also a genius. Unfortunately this wasn’t really portrayed in TDKR. He was more of a one sided villain. Merely a foe for Batman, and a new leader for The League of Shadows. However his backstory and connection to Talia were very cool. A thousand times better than the Poison Ivy / Bane storyline in the Batman & Robin travesty.

I really disliked the fact that there was a “doomsday device.” Yes, I realize this is a superhero movie and I should suspend some level of disbelief. But I feel like I was forced to suspend my level of disbelief a lot more in TDKR than in BB or TDK. A doomsday device seems way too campy for a Nolan Batman film, which are typically more grounded in reality. Also, the idea that Bane said he would give the bomb trigger to an “ordinary citizen” is preposterous. Why would that person ever blow up a neutron bomb!? Plus I hated the stadium scene because Ben Roethlisberger’s stupid rapist face was in it, though I guess we have to assume he died. Also, I only just noticed in my third viewing that Bane blew up the box with the Mayor in it. Why wasn’t that highlighted better? Isn’t that kind of a big deal?

The idea that Bane could hold an entire city hostage, and that the world would watch for five months as it’s greatest city descended into anarchy, as Blake says, “like some failed (African) state” is also pretty absurd. There is NO WAY that the United States, United Nations, NATO, whatever, would look on and allow this to happen, with the only response being to send in a disguised band of inept special forces. And alright Nolan, we get that you like to re-use your actors and that you pretty much had the entire cast of Inception in this other than Ken Watanabe and Leo, but the Scarecrow cameos needed to stop. Those court room scenes were unbearably bad. “Death…by exile!” Really?

Two more things that I meant to add when I published this. There was no way The Bat would have made it six miles into the “bay” (aka the Atlantic Ocean) in a minute and thirty seconds. Additionally, I say aka the Atlantic Ocean because after about halfway through the movie there was little effort made to disguise the fact that the majority of this movie was filmed in Manhattan. Nolan had said after TDK that he wanted to do a better job to disguise what city the movie was filmed in because it was too obvious that it had been filmed in Chicago. Gotham, while originally meant to represent New York, is a fictional city. There are blatant shots of the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, World Trade Center site, and Saks Fifth Avenue. At least the scenes filmed in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh were a little less recognizable. If you’re giving up trying to make Gotham seem like a nondescript place, at least be consistent and keep it in The Windy City.

Finally, I didn’t like that the ending was so different than the first two. I think it would have been great to have ended this one with another Gordon – Batman (or maybe Bruce) scene. Maybe that would have made me dislike Gordon a little less. The final rooftop scene in Batman Begins is my second favorite scene in all three movies, save for the Batman – Joker interrogation scene in TDK (“Look at you go!”). The “Wait. I never got to thank you.” “…and you’ll never have to” final lines give me chills every time. Plus, I wish Gordon would thank Batman (or Bruce), who would finally accept it. However I liked that they do a play on this in all three movies. In TDK Gordon thanks Batman at the end, who replies with “You don’t have to thank me.” To which Gordon graciously states “Yes! I do!” Now while it was a little more subtle than the previous two, there is a point in TDKR where Blake thanks Batman for coming back to help them, and Batman goes: “Don’t thank me yet.” I enjoyed that little tongue in cheek reference. There were a couple subtle allusions like this throughout TDKR, which I definitely appreciated. Another I picked up was when the stock broker was getting his shoes shined in the stock exchange, the one guy asks how he chose what stock to buy or something and he says “I flipped a coin” in reference to Harvey Dent.

So, after having enough time to absorb the movie and write an unbiased review, I have to say that I ended up really liking it. To be fair though people jumped all over me when I said I thought it was the worst of the three after my first viewing. That wasn’t meant to be a slight to TDKR in any way. It’s not like I’m calling it The Godfather III. The other two installments are SO good that this being the worst of the three by no means makes it a bad movie. It definitely felt a little too over the top and un-Nolan-like at times. Some parts came across too much like an Avengers style superhero movie and less like a gritty crime action/drama. Loved Bane and the epic showdown. Disliked the anarchy/doomsday concept. The Ra’s and Talia backstory was really cool, and the her reveal even had me a little fooled. I really enjoyed JGL as John Blake and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. They both did outstanding jobs. I particularly liked how Nolan pretty much stuck to his guns about not doing Robin, but still set up the character (hopefully Nightwing) in a classy manner.

After three viewings, I have to say that I still think The Dark Knight is the best, but that The Dark Knight Rises is slightly (only slightly) better than Batman Begins. I give The Dark Knight Rises a solid 8/10 and the Coug stamp of approval. Flame shield activated. Do your worst, trolls.

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Four Years In The Making

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day. Twenty four hours from now I will be sitting in a movie theater at the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, two hours into my nine hour Batman Trilogy experience. During this marathon I will witness Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the caped crusader, his fall from Gotham’s good graces and his return from seclusion to triumph over a new foe. Or maybe, just maybe, his tragic death. Only time will tell.

The Coug Nook

I apologize for the recent lack of posts. It looks like I’ll be doing about a post a week instead of one every other day. I just don’t seem have the spare time due to my recent employment! Yup, that’s right. I’m a working Coug now. Last Monday I began my career in social media and honestly, I couldn’t be happier. Originally I was frustrated, thinking that my social media manager duties would take a back seat as I learned the ins and outs of the coin business. But seeing that I was basically given free reign over whatever accounts I would run for them, I actually haven’t even had enough time to get everything accomplished. You’d be surprised how much time building community bases and driving engagement takes up out of an 8(+) hour day. In less than two weeks I already have our Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts up and running, with a modest follower base. I even launched our first social media campaign yesterday, trading a free coin submission for a Facebook like, Twitter follow, or Google+ add. And a big thank you to all my friends who have followed our accounts. I can’t give you any rare coins, but I can give you a kick ass high five.

I love the feeling of being productive all day and actually getting paid to do something I love. The idea still blows my mind. I’m getting paid to do this! I’ve already become a regular at the Bedminster Starbucks and Bedminster Pizza and Subs (and foursquare Mayor of course haha). I’ve always wanted to go to a place so often that I can just order “the usual.” Because, you know, I’m a nerd.

I was hoping this post title would have a dual meaning so I could make some awesome link between The Dark Knight Rises being four years in the making since The Dark Knight and my love of social media also being four years in the making, but then I realized that I created my Twitter account in 2009 and not 2008. Oh well. This post is more about Batman anyway. There was only a three year gap between 2005’s Batman Begins and 2008’s The Dark Knight (both of which I saw in theaters multiple times), while The Dark Knight Rises has been four years in the making due to the filming of Inception (seriously though, I don’t think Nolan could make a bad film even if he tried. Insomnia was his worst and even that wasn’t that bad.)

As I give Hans Zimmer’s masterful The Dark Knight Rises Soundtrack a listen while writing this (leading up to another
screening of The Dark Knight later), I get hints of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, as well as a little Sherlock Holmes and even The Rock, which was also scored by Hans Zimmer. My favorite tracks so far are “Mind If I Cut In?”, “The Fire Rises”, “Nothing Out There”, and “No Stone Unturned” from the Bonus Digital Edition…which I….paid…for……. Overall this might be my second favorite of the three Hans Zimmer Batman scores, with Batman Begins being the undisputed masterpiece. I still owe this one a few more listens, but it looks like The Dark Knight will be a close third. The Batman Begins soundtrack was just so much more orchestral. It flowed together like a sweeping symphony that could easily be listened to on its own. TDK and TDKR are very obviously tied to individual scenes. Still Batman. Still Zimmer. Still amazing. No complaints.

So, after learning a bit more about The Dark Knight Rises’ plot since my last post. I think I can safely say that most of my predictions were way off base (though I’m sticking with my R’as & Talia ones). But I caught flak for not even mentioning Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character. The reason for this was that I just don’t think he’s going to be anything mindblowing or some big reveal. I actually thought he’d make a pretty good Riddler when we were all speculating about who the villains would be. After watching the previews over and over, I’m thinking that because Commissioner Gordon is tagged as a “War Time Hero” and “this is peace time,” that JGL’s character, John Blake, might be the choice to supplant Gordon as commish. Also while he does seem like a good fit for Robin, Nolan has said numerous times that there would be no Robin in his Batman films.

But here’s what I’m thinking. On Nolan’s IMDB page, it had previously said he was on board as producer for an untitled Batman reboot project. Do you remember the WB series Batman Beyond? Where an elderly Bruce Wayne mentors the next Batman? Well it was freaking awesome and you should check it out if you’ve never seen it. But either way, I believe Bruce is going to be riddled with injuries through most of this film and probably even more so after he takes down Bane (if he doesn’t die). The possibility is there for Bruce Wayne to hang up his cape and cowl and pass them on to a younger successor, John Blake.

Obviously this is all speculation, but I think it’d be pretty damn cool. But for those of you seeing The Dark Knight Rises tomorrow at midnight, you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because there’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne.

The Dark Knight Rises: Speculations

I was hoping to get this post done during work today, but I couldn’t find enough time to give it my undivided attention. Oh yeah. If you didn’t know, I actually got a job…in social media…with no formal marketing/advertising/social media background. I’m the social media manager for a small company in Bedminster, NJ and will be working towards growing their brand and social media presence. So to all the agencies, brands, and start-ups who didn’t want to take a chance on me: your loss. Coug is on the prowl big time and you’re going to wish you snapped me up when you had the chance. #kanyeshrug

Anyway, on to the real post.

In exactly nine days I will be knee deep in a nine hour Christopher Nolan Batman extravaganza with a couple of the biggest Batman fans I know. It’s a little over a week until The Dark Knight Rises premiere and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a movie in my life (other than Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2), and I plan on watching both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight more times than I care to admit before next Thursday. As I said in my Avengers/Batman Rant post, if you plan on seeing The Dark Knight Rises and you haven’t watched either of the first two installments, you…you just have to. I’ll personally screen them for you. Seriously, come over to the Coug Den and we’ll crack some brews, eat some snack packs, and watch them.

The only reason I haven’t seemed more excited about TDKR is that I’ve been so busy with my job search. The fact is, I am unfathomably excited. As I said before, I’ve always been a big Batman fan and have read the comics and watched the WB animated series since I was a little tyke. More than that, I have enormous respect for Christopher Nolan as a director. Memento, Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige speak for themselves. I love the dark, cerebral style of his films, his passion for realism (even with superheroes) and how he digs deep into his characters’ psyches. The man is a visionary and one of the greatest directors of our generation. As I’ve been accustomed to saying when any of my friends express doubt about TDKR: In Nolan We Trust.

WARNING! | THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

For anyone who has been trying to steer clear of any TDKR gossip (or if you still haven’t seen Begins), you might not want to read this. Save it til after you watch it…like a time capsule. I’ve basically been doing research on TDKR from the moment it was announced. I’ve watched every trailer about fifty times and delved deep into the rumor mills and IMDB to see if I could gather any clues. Speculating about who the main villains would be, who would play them, etc. The only big teaser I didn’t watch was that opening scene that was played in front of select IMAX screenings of Mission Impossible 4. It’s since leaked on the internet but I didn’t want it to be ruined by shaky cam.

As disappointed as I was that Nolan didn’t choose The Riddler, Batman’s most cerebral foe (and imagine Daniel Day Lewis playing him), I’m still very happy with Bane and with the choice of Tom Hardy, who Nolan also worked with on Inception and got JACKED UP for this role. The 1997 abomination Batman & Robin (“You won’t put me in de coola!”) completely misrepresented Bane, who in addition to being freakishly strong is also one of Batman’s most intelligent adversaries.

In the comics, Bane is the only villain that can truly match Batman in hand-to-hand combat, in addition to breaking his back in an epic showdown. It’s my prediction that this will also happen in TDKR. In various photos you can see Bruce Wayne with a cane and scraggly beard. Additionally, on IMDB there are actors cast as Young Bruce Wayne, Young R’as al Ghul, and Young Talia al Ghul (I’ll get to her soon). I’m thinking Batman and Bane will have a scuffle early on, in which Bane will break Batman’s back. After this, Batman will be crippled and have to recover, allowing for a number of flashbacks, in which his early love interest, Talia al Ghul will be introduced.

Throughout most of the comics and cartoons Batman’s flame was always Talia al Ghul, the daughter of his mentor and friend R’as al Ghul. Although Marion Cotillard, also of Inception fame, is listed as playing someone named Miranda Tate, that’s most likely an alias for Talia, as Henri Ducard was for R’as al Ghul in Batman Begins. Speaking of which, Liam Neeson is listed on IMDB as playing R’as again, but it’s unclear whether it’s in a flashback or a return from the grave (“But is R’as al Ghul immortal?”). I actually think R’as comes back, perhaps to aid Bane’s terrorist campaign against Gotham.

“Your punishment must be more severe.”

Finally, in typical Nolan fashion, I’m predicting that Batman will actually die. I think after he recovers, he and Bane meet again in a final showdown and Batman is forced to kill Bane in order to save himself, which he has sworn to never do. Just imagine how heart wrenching it would be to reach the end of Nolan’s Batman saga with the death of the Dark Knight. The story comes full circle from Batman Begins, and once again Batman isn’t prepared to do what is necessary to defeat evil, paying for it with his life. As sad as it would be, I really hope Nolan went this route. “You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.” “Not everything…not yet.”

Also, I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the inclusion of The Bat-Wing (just called The Bat in TDKR). It’s gonna be awesome. Just get over it. Oh and I guess Catwoman will be alright. I’m meh over Anne Hathaway, but the addition of Selina Kyle as another vigilante/Bruce Wayne love interest is pretty cool.

So when all is said and done, The Dark Knight Rises is going to be batshit awesome (ha!), and while it might not dethrone The Dark Knight as the greatest superhero movie of all time, it will still be a cinematic masterpiece and a perfect conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy. So go watch Batman Begins. Now. Then watch The Dark Knight. Over and over again.

Wait. Here’s another trailer just for good measure.

All Star Game time. Coug out.