June 19, 2013
Written by Garrett Schumann
Thursday, 09 August 2012 14:56
Some movies become symbols for their times. This week, Garrett Schumann, who wrote for this column for many years as The Reel Son, takes a look at the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.
The meaning of this movie has changed dramatically in the last two weeks. While, at the beginning of July, The Dark Knight Rises was simply the most anticipated movie of the summer, the film has since become much more — a symbol of the innocent conviction and modern mythology, crushed and violated by an act of cowardice and malice we all still mourn.
As much as The Dark Knight Rises’ cultural fingerprint has transformed since it premiered, what remains unchanged is the devotion of its followers. By my estimation, only the Harry Potter movies have exceeded this Batman series’ ability to excite, inspire and unite its fans, creating a legitimate subculture and lifting it to the forefront of our general cultural consciousness. This is quite an achievement in an era when a once-ironclad mass media has eroded into innumerable and fickle streams of interests, tastes, likes and dislikes.
Unfortunately — for Christopher Nolan — I have never bought into his version of the Batman saga. My original title for this review was, “The Dark Knight Rises: The Prettiest Girl in the Room,” because that is exactly what the film is in my eyes. Entertaining as it is, The Dark Knight Rises fails to realize the once-in-a-generation grandeur I hear so many people attribute to the episodes of this series. Still I think it is the best of three under-achieving films.
Certainly, I have line-item grievances with the series’ casting and storytelling, but these should not overthrow the inescapable profundity of the trilogy, if it actually possesses it. It is my experience that, when interacting with works of true genius for the first time, their details — no matter how I respond to them — do not obscure the realization that I am in the presence of something of immense cultural importance. As I sat in the theater, alone with two of my friends, I felt nothing but a sense of anticlimax.
I know there are many people who feel The Dark Knight fulfills the promise of this trilogy — I’m not sure if I am able to address that issue because I am disappointed in the promise itself, and do not care whether this third movie works with the other two. We all have the urge to find heroes, fictional idols of virtue and honor. The Dark Knight Rises can satisfy those cravings; but, beware, for it does so with shoddy narrative workmanship and a cloying sense of self-importance.
Clearly, my reaction to these films is a minority opinion, and, sometimes, I wonder why I missed the boat on this series — I hope my dislike of Christian Bale’s growling annunciation wasn’t the only factor. Even though my two friends and I were able to discuss plot points and crack jokes in an otherwise empty theater, I did not have a meaningful experience with this movie. I am happy for the people who will be inspired by The Dark Knight Rises because we all need that kind of influence in our lives. Unfortunately, I choose to look elsewhere.
The Dark Knight Rises
* Content: Medium. Despite its dissatisfactory narrative, The Dark Knight Rises looks great. The production value of this whole series has always been as good as it gets, and this movie meets the bar set by Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
* Entertainment: Medium. This is a summer popcorn movie, but the action sequences are fairly run-of-the-mill and are not exceptionally compelling, though they certainly will not bore you.
* Message: Low. The film’s moral symbolism is confused, and, like The Dark Knight, this film’s story has real-world political implications that, similarly, don’t come across clearly.
* Relevance: High. We all know how the meaning of The Dark Knight Rises has changed since opening night, and that fact is represented in my rating. Also, people thirst for fictional heroes like Christian Bale’s troubled Batman, so a movie like this serves a real purpose.
* Opportunity For Dialogue: High. I actually think the tragedy associated with the film is a more worthwhile discussion topic than the film itself.
The Dark Knight Rises runs 164 minutes. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.
3 Popcorn Buckets
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