I’ve been wrestling with the anticipation for The Dark Knight Rises on an ever-increasing level over the last few years. Until a few weeks ago, it was a gradual thing, nothing too grand, but then we got to July and with the film only weeks away, I kinda lost it. I went batty. Prepping for Shooting the Script’s Batman coverage only exacerbated things. I gave in and have been on a Bat-binge for the last three weeks. This exponential increase in eagerness to see the film combined with the events surrounding the release of The Dark Knight Rises has been overwhelming. When I finally saw the film it was less like entertainment and more like treatment… like getting my fix… like something I had to do… like a release… of all this pent up eagerness mixed with anxiety. It was a very bizarre movie-going experience. It’s strange how ridiculous the simple act of going to see a movie became. It’s only a movie. Still, something about Christopher Nolan’s trilogy–and Batman in general–has given us a lot to talk about.
BRYAN: Well, you know I’ve been looking forward to it. And I spent all last week re-watching Nolan films.
ADAM: All Nolan films, not just his Bat-films, correct?
BRYAN: Most. I couldn’t get a hold of Following. And I’d seen Batman Begins and Insomnia within the year so I didn’t bother with those two. But the others yes.
ADAM: So, you had the Nolan-centric build-up, while I had the Bat-centric build-up. Now riddle me this: who enjoyed this movie more?
BRYAN: Wait, did you re-watch Bat-films or read comics?
BRYAN: Well, I didn’t enjoy this movie all that much. So what does that tell you?
ADAM: Doesn’t tell me much unless we talk about why.
BRYAN: Before we dive in, even though we’ve been circling round already. You just watched all bat films? How do you rank them? I don’t think Burton’s hold up too great.
ADAM: I still love both of Burton’s Bat-films, even though I don’t agree with the writers’ (Hamm and Waters) take on Batman being ok with killing people cause it’s a “darker Batman for a darker time.”
BRYAN: And Joker killing his parents.
ADAM: Yeah, don’t really have as big a problem with Joker killing Batman’s parents, I get how they wanted to tie the characters together more.
ADAM: I’ve come to terms with Batman Forever, don’t love it, kinda like it.
BRYAN: Me too.
ADAM: Batman & Robin is still a Hell-worthy trespass.
BRYAN: I couldn’t finish it.
ADAM: I like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm more than I remembered.
BRYAN: The animated series is the gold standard for me.
ADAM: I love the series more than Phantasm, but this time around I enjoyed Phantasm more than I did originally.
BRYAN: Did you see that video essay about the animated show being the best because it takes the best of Batman?
ADAM: I did not.
BRYAN: I will point you to it then. Anyways. This new Batman was not a bad film, but I was never fully engaged with it.
ADAM: Why weren’t you engaged?
BRYAN: Look, there are a lot of little nitpicky things to get into, some are ignorable, others grating and the internet is ablaze with listing them, but my main point of contention is the plotting was unnecessarily complicated and incoherent. It set aside logic and logistics in favor of theme to the disservice of the theme and motivation.
ADAM: That’s quite a mouthful. Lets start with logic and logistics.
ADAM: Are we talking in-movie logic or filmmaking logic in general? Or both?
BRYAN: Ummm? Yes.
ADAM: How about just a specific example?
BRYAN: Right. It’s like this, see. There are multiple times when characters don’t respond to a situation how either a human or the well-established person would respond to something, e.g. Alfred to Bruce not quitting. This makes my brain do a double-take and takes me out of the moment. Then there’s something like the prologue, it is a marvelous cinematic moment, but it carries no weight because I don’t know why what is happening is happening.
ADAM: Bane explains what’s happening in the prologue during the prologue. So, that part didn’t really bother me. Also, like every other normal person, I watched the prologue when I saw Ghost Protocol, so I knew what happened already.
BRYAN: Before getting into that, I will say, from time to time, I still had difficulty making out Bane’s dialogue. So, I might have been confused by that. But there is no context for the scene. Bane is caught, how/why? For his plan, sure, but we just met him, but the CIA dude has heard of him. The CIA guy has prisoners, why? Then Bane steals the scientist, but who is that guy? We won’t find out until an hour and a half later. Drop Zone did this same thing better and more concisely.
ADAM: Wow, Drop Zone, you went there.
BRYAN: Yep. But moving on. The film then thrusts a bunch of new subplots on us without really naturally blending them in. Suddenly there’s Marion Cotillard, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Catwoman, Congressman, Matthew Modine etc. We’re told a lot of stuff, but none of it is smooth.
ADAM: Yeah, they do foist quite a few new characters on us. But I thought you weren’t going to nitpick?
BRYAN: If I was to say I didn’t really understand what Tate’s role in the story was or why I cared about her, that’s a nitpick. But the bigger issue is not just being foisted with exposition, but when the exposition still leaves me confused. Like I’m pretty sure everything that happens in the film is explained within the film, but it still doesn’t make much sense.
ADAM: And I still say you’re nitpicking, put the scalpel away for a sec, bring out your mallet, and crack this thing open. What is your biggest problem with this movie?
BRYAN: I did not understand Bane’s master plan for a single second. From the prologue to the stock market to the stadium and on.
ADAM: And you understood the Joker’s? Go bigger.
BRYAN: YES! If we must bring up The Dark Knight, it’s the perfect comparison. In that film, Joker has rigged the boats and talked Dent into the dark side because he wants to fuck with everyone and bring them to his level, and try to corrupt Batman. Now, how he manages to hop around the city planting bombs with ease might not be logistical, but the motive is clear, concise.
ADAM: You’re making this way more complicated than it needs to be. How about: there isn’t enough Batman…
BRYAN: That’s another one, but this is my biggest. What is Bane trying to accomplish in any given scene?
ADAM: Well, your biggest doesn’t make any sense. Bane specifically tells us that he’s just fucking with Gotham.
BRYAN: Why? Did Gotham touch him when he was a child? There’s no motivation for him.
ADAM: Did you sleep during the movie? He says he’s the League of Shadows.
BRYAN: Which would mean he’s trying to destroy Gotham, not fuck with Gotham.
ADAM: Fucking with Gotham is part of his plan to destroy it. Seriously, what movie were you watching? He tells Batman about the despair hope can create, so he’s going to make Gotham think they’re in a situation they can manage, give them hope that it’s something they can escape, when really there is none. He literally says that. If anything, your complaint should be that 80% of Bane’s dialogue is exposition.
BRYAN: Well that’s the most outrageous and overcomplicated plan a bad guy has had in a long time, and it never worked for me.
ADAM: That’s all well and good, but now it just seems like you weren’t paying attention to the movie.
BRYAN: I did.
ADAM: Bane tells us everything he’s going to do.
BRYAN: My point is: he says that to him, but then what he does to the city doesn’t feel like he’s giving Gotham hope. He gives that speech about the oppressed, which doesn’t make sense. He let’s out prisoners, and everyone on the island is cool with this? And he mentions a trigger man, what? So, someone has the switch and… I don’t get it. The way the device was originally introduced is random at best too. How is that hope?
ADAM: So, you’re biggest problem with this movie is that it confused you and now you’re nitpicking, and it kinda reminds me of the scene when right before Bane breaks Batman. And Bane just broke you.
BRYAN: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You say it like it’s my fault and not the films.
ADAM: Well, I understood what was going on.
BRYAN: An engrossing and efficient action/thriller should not be this convoluted.
ADAM: The “hope” for the people of Gotham is that they have a chance. Bane lets them think that if they follow his crazy New World Order, that they can survive, when they can’t.
BRYAN: Sure, I basically understood what was happening. But it was so senseless that it ruined any flow the movie might have had. Does the city seem like a city that all this stuff has happened to it at the end? That sounds like a nitpick, but without it, I’m more likely to go with the crazy story.
ADAM: It is a nitpick.
BRYAN: If, in fact, the island was as fucked as it should be after that amount of time, then I wouldn’t think twice about it. But all these narrative lapses kept jarring me out of the film. I don’t nitpick something when it’s working, and most of this film wasn’t working.
ADAM: You nitpick when you’re breathing.
BRYAN: You suck balls when you’re breathing. Shut your mouth!
ADAM: You’re nitpicking so much that it’s making it look like I loved this movie, when I still don’t know if I do.
BRYAN: How about we switch gears, what did you like?
ADAM: I liked the stuff with Catwoman. I thought Anne Hathaway was great, especially in her playful moments with Christian Bale. I think she brought out a lighter side of his performance.
BRYAN: I wish this film was all Batman/Catwoman. She kills it. That scene of them fighting should have been 20 minutes longer, but instead it’s interrupted far too soon.
ADAM: It’s just that there so much. I feel like that would be a more valid argument than picking apart the logistics of Bane’s master plan. There’s just so damn much crammed into this movie.
BRYAN: That was a very Dr. Evil plan of his. The film has like 5 different MacGuffins.
ADAM: There are moments within various storylines that I do like. I love the stuff with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, that could have been it’s own movie.
BRYAN: I guess we agree on the best parts. Yes JGL was great. He was handed a few tough bits but his sincerity made them work. All the acting was good.
BRYAN: Bane’s voice was silly but I liked it. No one was bad. It’s more a plot problem.
ADAM: I will agree that there are plot problems, but I still think we’re seeing things in very different ways.
BRYAN: Well, you might sound like you like the film more than you did, but I’m sure I sound like I hated it more than I did. It’s still Batman. There are some very good things in here.
ADAM: I think they made the Bane/League of Shadows story too epic to be balanced with everything else going on. Like, do the Bane and Catwoman storylines OR they Bane and Blake storylines, but not all three, because then things get muddled.
BRYAN: Yep. My point is that muddiness then causes incoherence. And then there’s: Why Would Batman quit? Why would Alfred want Batman to quit? Why would Alfred quit? Why did they fuck with the stock market? What the fuck is a clean slate device? What happened to Lucius? What is the logic of that prison? Why do they chant “this is awesome”? And so on.
ADAM: This is going on way longer than I imagined.
BRYAN: Oh and why did Nolan rip off The Iron Giant? I just imagined Batman saying “Su-per-man.”
ADAM: Seriously, to be continued…
Will Bryan nitpick The Dark Knight Rises to death? Did Adam actually enjoy the film? Tune in tomorrow for this Quibbles exciting conclusion–same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!