Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
The Dark Knight Rises

I might be dating myself here, but as the lights dimmed and the opening title commenced on "The Dark Knight Rises" with a foreboding Paul Verhoeven-like  echo of anxiety in cobalt blue, I found myself saying in Boy Wonder speech, circa 1966, "Holy Gee,  Batman, here we go!"
Those decibels assaulted me straight away and I held my ears,but after all, I knew what I was in for: the supposedly final installment of  The Batman, who is partly a depressive cypher of emotion and partly a robotic security force, a crunch-crusader, a vigilante with a Shakespearean six pack of psycho baggage to match his abdominals that resemble the casings on a Toughbook laptop. I braced the popcorn between my knees and my right hand clenched.

This was it.

We have guns, we have deafening cracks across the face, we have explosions that will rock you in your seat, those over-loud percussions that now seem to be a Dark Knight trademark. We have a megalomenace  with over large muscles. And everyone acts as well-intentioned or as psychotic as we expect. Such is  Christopher Nolan's vision of Allan Moore's cult graphic novel The Dark Knight. And he delivers a sound story in keeping with the provocative first installments even if you don't care for such a detached rendering of our Saviour in Shadow, the near demigod of DC comics. Everything is duly Grimm in Gotham.

The only criticism I have is that The Batman  seems to have overstayed his welcome with very little surprise in his slams or his speech.

We know that Bane (Tom Hardy) is coming: that overblown, testosterone Terror that is half Darth Vader and part Hannibal Lecter and we are well briefed that Batman will leap to the occasion.

No surprise there.

The real interest are the moments between mind and matter, the episodes when we are told of the arc of the hero or anti-hero and the struggle within. This is the heart of drama, a connecting   link between Pop Art and real archetypes that  form the basis of most superheroes and literature. And we get some of that here. 

But for the most part, Nolan ignores literary ambivalence and puts Christian Bale through his motions, playing The Cowl coming out of retirement to hold a Last Stand against Loony Libertarians.

There seems less anti-hero angst and more torture and aggression, along with a gaggle of guns and bombs galore. The second installment had more of a balance, since The Joker (Heath Ledger) possessed such weird charisma in a performance that almost reaches a point of dark magic akin to Linda Blair as the demon Regan in "The Exorcist". His role is that visceral and almost as frightening.

Tom Hardy, although he does his best with a limited role, seems all Blunder and Brawn. Bane booms and busts. The Hulk has more subtlety and thrill about him. How, I wonder, can you be afraid of someone whose dialogue is so muffled and melancholy? At least Darth Vader had the diction of James Earl Jones.

A wonderful exception however is Anne Hathaway in the role of Catwoman. As the embodiment of sable silk in human form, she is both sinister and sweet. Hathaway has a real sense of fun with her role, and in contrast to the now mechanical Batman that Bale puts on autopilot, there is a refreshing tease and a lightness to her lithe character. She injects a feline noir sensitivity to her cat-footed role. Hathaway works so well because she suggests rather than illustrates. Much can be said by gesture. Selina is all melting looks and menace. She excites us because she can go either way. The other characters are lacking in such moisture of mystery, and  make sterile deserts from their predictable depths.

Yet,  after three outings, it is best to see this long segment  as part of a necessary whole that creates the unique cyber-pathic version of a beloved hero known as The Batman--- an eerie and existential creature-man driven as much by rage as he is by reverence for the potential of youth and what is right. As a stand alone film, "The Dark Knight Rises" may ultimately slink away rather  than stalk in darkness, but the inimitable signal traced in fire along with the man in his cape is still worth crusading for.

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