Doom & Doomer: The Dark Knight Rises

dark knight rises international posterDOOM DELUISE: Ok, so Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is over. I don’t know about you, but this conclusion isn’t at all what I expected, but we can get back to that. Overall, all things considered, would you say this is a satisfying final chapter, or did you leave the theater wanting more from it, or, at least, something different?

JIM DOOM: My gut reaction was disappointment. I won’t say necessarily that it’s not what I wanted, but I wanted to leave with the feeling I left with after seeing The Dark Knight, and I didn’t get that. That said, the more I thought about it, the more I guess I appreciated it as the closing chapter to the trilogy.

In what way was it not what you expected? I’m not sure I can really articulate that just yet.

DOOM DELUISE: Well, as you probably know, I went into this clean. I didn’t watch any of the trailers. I saw brief glimpses of posters and promo stuff that you really can’t avoid. Stuff where you catch a glimpse of it and immediately avert your eyes, y’know? So I didn’t know how they were approaching Bane. I didn’t know this takes place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. I didn’t know anything, which is how I wanted it. So I was really surprised to see the basics at the start of the movie – – Bruce Wayne’s a hermit, has given up the mantle of the Bat, has a bum knee, etc – – and then, from there, I was surprised by how little amount of screentime The Batman actually gets.

Not all bad things. I quite liked the movie, especially the ending, but it just is not what I was expecting.

I heard that the badguy was going to be Bane, and I assumed we’d get a story heavily based around Knightfall. Instead, this movie seems to draw from Knightfall, No Man’s Land, and a LOT from The Dark Knight Returns, which, those last two, I never would have guessed. Kinda cool.

JIM DOOM: I avoided spoilers, but I did have fun taking in the trailers as they came out to allow myself to get excited as a proper consumer. That said, I did my best to go in with no expectations. I loved how The Dark Knight — even with expectations — just kind of caught me off guard in an amazing way, and that’s the experience I wanted with this. So I guess I had a basic sense of where they were going, the tone they were taking and that sort of thing, but that’s about it.

I liked that it had as much Dark Knight Returns as it did, but I thought that was one of the areas in which it fell flat for me.

DOOM DELUISE: Can you expand on that for just a minute? You say it fell flat. To me, that seems to say that there are certain parts of the movie that they waste time on yet don’t actually do anything for the audience. What scenes or plot threads, specifically, fell flat in your eyes?

JIM DOOM: Well, I don’t agree with your paraphrase that that means they waste time. The example being what I mentioned – the actual return of Batman. That should have been this huge moment of emotional release, and it wasn’t for me. I felt like his return was hardly demanded by the people; it seemed to be more of a scratching of Bruce Wayne’s itch.

Bane makes his first big public appearance, and Batman’s already back on the scene.

It’s like someone tried to talk a kid into getting ice cream.

And the little bit of coaxing he does get is from all these folks who figured out his identity. I was like “Jeesh, does everyone know who Batman is?”

DOOM DELUISE: I agree that that scene doesn’t work, especially as, like you said, it should be a big moment of emotional release, but, instead, in his first act as Batman in 8 years, all he does is distract the police from catching the badguys and then steals police evidence before escaping in his plane.

JIM DOOM: And as someone who was really excited for Batman to come back, I was like “Maybe you shouldn’t come back, Batman.”

I’m not sure that’s very high on the list of reactions that Nolan wanted Batman lovers to have.

I understand the storyline value in Batman’s return being sort of muddied. But you only get to have Batman return from an 8-year hiatus once, and I feel like that’s a moment you need to figure out how to milk.

Well actually, now that I say that, this movie actually includes two Returns of Batman, and in the second, he just sort of pops back into Gotham as Bruce Wayne for a conversation. The flare-to-flaming-Bat-signal gimmick was pretty cool, but I think I’d have much rather seen that before actually seeing Bruce trotting around Gotham.

Both returns were just duds for me.

DOOM DELUISE: That scene, the first return, reminds me a lot of the worst scene in Batman Begins, when he first debuts the Tumbler, and they keep cutting to all these awkward shots of cops calling it in, like, “Uh, suspect is fleeing in a … tank.” They just include all of this frivolous comic relief that undercuts what’s going on onscreen to the point where you’re never really given a moment to get excited and feel the actual dramatic tension.

JIM DOOM: Oh man, I don’t want to get too off topic, but speaking of The Worst of Batman Begins, I cringed when Batman did that classic Batman Begins thing of repeating a line that someone else said to him earlier in the movie. That happened like a dozen times in BB, so when Batman told Bane he would give him permission to die, I was like “No! You don’t have to use other people’s lines! You can just say your own thing!” But that was so Batman Begins.

I didn’t think this movie used poorly timed humor as often as Batman Begins did, but the demise of Bane sure was anticlimactic. As a villain, he deserved so much more than a convenient intervention and a zinger.

DOOM DELUISE: Totally agree. I think Bane’s the most compelling part of this movie, and they do such a good job of building him up as the ultimate badass throughout the movie (though, small nitpick – – they give him about twice as much dialogue as he should have), like during the scene in the cage in the sewer when he first goes toe-to-toe with Batman. And that whole final fight between the two is amazing. There’s some serious triumph in seeing Batman finally best this guy physically. So to put that on pause and then later end it with, as you said, a convenient intervention and a zinger… just sucks.

JIM DOOM: Yeah. I loved the idea of Batman beating him down, and then that moment when Bane is like “I broke you…” — Bane can’t believe how awesome Batman is! That’s so powerful!

Granted, the way that scene transitioned into the reveal of the actual villain — I have no problems with that. So I don’t think the exit from that moment was necessarily a problem. But it just needed to end better.

DOOM DELUISE: Again, I agree completely.

JIM DOOM: Maybe don’t even have Talia repair Bane’s mask. Just let him die there. Let nameless goons fulfill the role that Bane does from that point on. Let him die an almost sympathetic character, after we hear his true story.

ALMOST sympathetic.

DOOM DELUISE: It’s such a weird movie. To me, it seems like a movie that has everything TECHNICALLY correct. Like, Bane is as badass as he should be. Catwoman fits her role perfectly. Batman’s the primary focus of things, just as you would want from a final movie in the trilogy, and all the characters behave in their proper roles and fulfill their proper functions. But from there, it seems like their script-writing process was just that they googled, “Hero’s Journey” and plugged in Batman’s name for all the major points. It’s a tired expression, but it feels very paint-by-numbers.

Nothing’s necessarily BAD, there’s just very little that is super duper good.

Would you agree with that assessment?

JIM DOOM: Yeah, I think so.

I think one of the things it did well was attempt to be a third chapter to a trilogy, as opposed to just a third movie. There were a lot of good references to Batman Begins, like Ra’s al Ghul, Bruce falling in the Batcave, Gordon consoling Bruce, etc. I appreciated that effort at making it a bookend and not just another chapter.

But getting back to your point about it just seeming tired and going through the motions, I thought the faux-romance between Batman and Talia was much more interesting than the one we were supposed to be into — Batman and Selina.

Why does he like her anyway? Because she’s daring? Poor? Politically jaded?

DOOM DELUISE: She’s got spunk!

JIM DOOM: I didn’t feel anything about those two, but you knew they just had to get to a point where they were together, just because.

DOOM DELUISE: Yeah, I tried to appreciate that part of the movie as much as I could, in spite of the fact that I’ve never once thought of Catwoman as an interesting character IN THE SMALLEST LITTLE BIT.

dark knight rises bane posterSwitching gears a little bit, and moving away from the movie slightly, what do you think of all of the political controversy surrounding the movie? There’s been a lot of talk about the depiction of class warfare and how Batman’s standing up for the 1%, etc, and there’s the whole business with El Rushbo saying that Bane is part of a conspiracy to associate villainy with Bain Capital. Just a lot of fuss, it seems. Probably because it’s an election year, but what are your thoughts on that, if any?

JIM DOOM: I actually thought it came off as a pretty disgusting caricature of the Occupy movement. I was just assuming that the script was probably written before that happened, but the thinness of characters like Selina’s roommate, for example, being such a collectivist strawman, seemed more politically than dramatically motivated.

That little scene where Selina was like “This used to be someone’s house” to which her roommate responded something like “It’s all of ours now” was just like “Okay, yeah, we get it; if you think it’s societally unhealthy for our economy and government to be disproportionately controlled by a tiny group of super-wealthy people, you’re one step away from mass murder and joke trials run by a known serial killer.”

The Mutants were a much more compelling group of hive-mind villains in DKR, and the commentary that exists when they switch their allegiance to Batman was so powerful.

DOOM DELUISE: That’s probably worth noting. One of the things working against this movie more than anything else is the fact that it’s the sequel to, arguably, the best comic book movie of all time, and it draws a heavy influence from, arguably, the best comic book ever written. That’s really hard to live up to.

JIM DOOM: Except it seems to learn the lessons of neither.

DOOM DELUISE: Especially when you’re dealing with an audience that is so creative and can see points where they’d do things totally differently.

JIM DOOM: That definitely makes it harder.

DOOM DELUISE: But yeah, I don’t think it’s intended to be politically motivated by the Occupy Movement, at all, considering that the script was written two years ago, but it definitely explores the topic that created that movement, and it does so in a pretty lazy way.

Especially considering how huge this movie’s going to be, it’s not just lazy, but it’s pretty irresponsible.

To refocus things, it sounds like we’re being quite hard on this movie, but I just want to point out that it’s just a lot easier to talk about things that don’t necessarily work that well in this thing than it is to just high-five each other over the parts that do work. But let’s do a little high-fiving. What parts of the movie do you really think stand out as phenomenal?

JIM DOOM: If you can take out his cartoonish Bond-villain monologues, I thought the character of Bane was pretty amazing, best defined in that scene when he offs his corporate financier.

DOOM DELUISE: Also, the Robin character? Joseph Gordon LOVE IT!

JIM DOOM: Hahaha so I was dating this girl a while back, and she was like “I heard that Joseph Gordon Levitt is going to be Robin.” First off, I was like “Why would she tell me such a huge spoiler if it’s true? Does she have no idea what an awful thing that is to do? Is she just trying to seem in-the-know or something?” But mainly, I dismissed it because I was thinking there is no way that Robin would fit into Nolan’s universe.

But the way he did it was great, because it’s not that he’s Robin — he’s just going to be the next Batman. Or at least that’s how I took it.

DOOM DELUISE: Yeah, that’s how I took it, too. It’s the thing that Nolan has consistently done best with his trilogy – – he takes a familiar character from the comics and, rather than being a slave to the “source material,” he just tells his own story with it in a way that works in his universe.

BTW, speaking of spoilers, I was out for a few drinks on Tuesday, and this friend of mine was just like, “Oh, by the way, did you hear the rumor that Batman dies at the end of the movie?”

It just baffled me. What alternate dimension are these people from where it’s okay to say stupid bullshit like that?

JIM DOOM: I stopped by The Sydney for a drink before the show to see a friend who’s skipping town for a few weeks, and one of her friends said something like “I heard you get to see Superman.” At first I assumed she meant the trailer for the new Superman movie.

But then I got your text saying “I hear Batman’s in it!” And then I was like “I wonder if the big rumor about someone being in it — I’d just heard a rumor about a character being in it, nothing more — is that Superman makes an appearance at the end, and maybe this movie implies a coming Justice League movie.”

And then I looked around in the concession line and saw a bunch of nerds in Superman shirts, and I was like “Blast! These nerds are betraying spoilers!”

So then when I saw the Superman teaser I was pleased, because Superman in this movie would have been so bad. PRO: Does not include Superman

Oh, I just remembered another thing I really liked, and that was Batman escaping from the pit, and learning to fear death. I really liked that fearing death was the thing that he was missing in his life. And fearing death taught him to love and soar and all those other sappy things.

DOOM DELUISE: Totally. Also, as a fan of The Wire, it was nice to see “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” cameos from Tommy Carcetti and Bunny Colvin.

JIM DOOM: Oh I don’t know them. I saw Quinn from Dexter though.

And Thomas Lennon from the State!

DOOM DELUISE: Oh yeah, as the doctor! I laughed when he showed up. No reason, really, I just like that guy.

Who was that Congressman that Catwoman kidnaps? He looked really familiar.

JIM DOOM: I couldn’t peg him, but at first I thought it was Chris Cooper. It wasn’t.

I also always get Matthew Modine and Crispin Glover mixed up. For the longest time, I was like “Crispin Glover sure is acting like a normal person!” but then I realized it was Matthew Modine.

DOOM DELUISE: Oh, it was Goodwin! The Congressman that was kidnapped. He played Goodwin on Lost.

JIM DOOM: Oh yeah!

DOOM DELUISE: I don’t really have much more to say about this movie. To wrap it up, I think it’s the Return of the Jedi of the Dark Knight Trilogy. It’s not as good as Empire Strikes Back, and it certainly has quite a few flaws, but it’s an emotionally satisfying final chapter. Someday, we’ll look back, and we’ll just see each movie as a part of the larger story, with this third act fitting in nicely. As it stands today, though, ridiculously high expectations, coupled with the strength of the material they were drawing from, leaves us with a strong movie that’s hurt by the fact that it’s just not quite strong enough. It’s a really good movie that we all wanted to be perfect. Give it some time, and I think we’ll appreciate it a bit more for what it is rather than what we wanted it to be.

It’s the Batman movie we deserved, but not necessarily the one we needed right now.

Your closing thoughts?

JIM DOOM: I think that’s very well said. My main complaints about this movie involve a lot of my complaints that I’ve had throughout this series — the strained attempts at humor, the forced romantic subplots, the awkward need to have dialogue callbacks — so there’s nothing if not a consistent voice throughout, I suppose.

I have plans to see it again this weekend, and I have enough respect for this movie that I’m looking forward to watching it again without the first-time filter.

We’ve only had three superhero film series last this long, that I can think of off the top of my head anyway, and this is so far above Batman Forever, Spider-Man 3 or X-Men 3 that it’s not even worth elaborating. This is still awesome; its only flaw really is that it’s not as powerful as its predecessor. But that’s basically the story of every trilogy (minus Toy Story).

DOOM DELUISE: Right on. Well, enjoy your second viewing. And one of these days, we should review The Amazing Spider-Man so I can rant about how godawful that movie is.