The Dark Knight Rises (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2012) – Thought it was funnier than the first two in the series, with a decent number of those little comic-book influenced zingers. Nolan tried this once or twice in Inception, but they fell flat. It actually seems like Mr. Serious is starting to develop a sense of humor. You also have to appreciate the sheer scope of the film. It’s large-scale and unapologetically so. Thanks in part to those IMAX cameras and their demand for panoramic shots, one doesn’t feel too closed-in, like in so many action movies these days. There are shots that admit Nolan’s affinity for Malick, such as from the bottom of the deep well, mostly static but with a slightly swirling movement like the one at the bottom of the cathedral staircase in The Tree of Life. At the level of story, still not sure what to make of Alfred’s abandonment of Bruce and eventual apology. Alfred is essentially the nag throughout the series, allowing some moments of fatherly connection to lace his highly didactic dialogue. It often seems like Alfred’s advice to Bruce functions just to add dramatic tension. We all know Bruce will do the Batman-thing regardless of what Alfred says, and the movies themselves repeatedly vindicate the Batman character in all of his darkness. That being said, Rises had lots of tongue-in-cheek moments, suggesting something like satire. The film has been criticized for its highly conservative worldview. But, let’s look at that. It’s so incredibly conservative, it so deafeningly stomps out the “people’s” “revolution” as engineered by Bain, beginning at the stock exchange, destroying American competition itself as pictured in a game of American football, and it creates a dystopia so reminiscent of the Soviet Bloc that all these excessive images almost undermine themselves, as if intentionally. Gonna go ahead and make the claim that Rises may offer a different take on Nolan’s whole Batman series that may undo whatever celebration of the figure that was apparent in the first two. Add to the above the character of Scarecrow returning in Rises and acting as a judge. His character here makes you think of the old Adam West Batman TV show, it’s so over-the-top. This makes it funny, it suggests we shouldn’t take it so seriously, and most importantly, it suggests that while we suspend our disbelieve and cheer on some guy dressed as an anthropomorphic bat, we are liable to ditch wisdom at the same time. When the Bush administration started bombing Iraq around ten years ago, they called it the “Shock and Awe Campaign.” The country may have been divided about the Iraq invasion, but the vast majority of folks were watching their TV screens in rapt absorption, subliminally or consciously waiting to be entertained. Following the carnage, we zoomed out and saw things a little differently. It looks like that’s what The Dark Knight Rises also does, so, bravo.
Man’s Favorite Sport (1964, Howard Hawks) – The fam wanted to watch it, and as an avid lover of all things Howard Hawks, I was game. But wow, how silly. In the 30s, Hawks gave us Bringing Up Baby. In the 40s, His Girl Friday, and in the 50s, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Now, this. Felt like he was going for the basic vibe of Bringing Up Baby, with the crazy woman harassing a man who’s been plucked out of his element and plopped into a world of zaniness. (Come to think of it, all those films just listed feature destabilized men and women exerting a controlling force.) Hudson doesn’t pull of the slapstick clumsiness that Grant did, but it still makes for an interesting piece. Women in this world are sexualized (the actual name of one of them: “Easy”) and/or rendered so nuts that they need the stabilizing force of a man to calm them down. The men, on the other hand, thrive when they are with one another. The crew of old guys who love fishing and drinking are never really seen with female companions, and that seems to be how they like it. It’s precisely female companions that throws completely out of whack the life of the main, male character. Wife did well to observe the point of the opening credits sequence, which is basically a montage of women in bikinis. “It’s called Man’s Favorite Sport,” she said, explaining the significance of the scantily clad women. Aha. Also, wow, a running gag with a guy who can’t work zippers.
“take the cash from my hand, hear the register sing
and the roar of the lion logo on the screen
I should buy some popcorn ”
– Desaparecidos (Conor Oberst)
Interested in what you said about Alfred. It seems to me his words are the only ones that hold up as good advice. Joseph Gordon-Levitt ends up rejecting every kind of authority and embracing a vigilante-ism, Commissioner Gordon lies and stands by his lies, Catwoman can’t stay selfish forever, clearly the Bain-folk are misled, and Batman is personally responsible for just about every problem in the film (from the under-funded orphans to the giant bomb he’s made with a villainess). If there’s an editorial voice in the film, it’s Alfred saying that what Gotham needs is an engaged Bruce Wayne, not the bat. What I took away was that Nolan thinks we need more Alfreds.
Hey, Pete. You may be right about this. I’d like to see the film again. Something weird is going on within the film in terms of what it’s trying to say and with whom we’re supposed to sympathize/identify. This is why I developed a weird theory about the whole thing actually being a sort of satire. In the end, sure, Alfred may be vindicated, but, strangely, so is Bruce Wayne (and Batman), which makes it seem like we can have it all. This is what Alfred rejects. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much stock to put into the ending; it’s just an ending, a neat way to tie up the narrative. I’m a little more concerned with how the film (and for that matter, all three films) treat the Wayne/Batman character and what they intend to elicit from audiences.