The Dark Knight Rises

Wallpaper for The Dark Knight Rises

“Deshi Basara”

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post as life has gotten very busy for me over the past year.  Every once in a while though something comes along that reignites a spark deep within and for me that something was “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Anyone who knows me knows that Batman Begins is one of my favorite movies of all time.  There is something so intriguing to me about a Super Hero that is not actually Super.  Bruce Wayne may have the resources, technology, and ultimately money to fund and finance the creation of the weapons, vehicles, armor, and toys that he uses to combat crime but beneath it all he is still just a man with a mission to be a symbol.  He’s tangible.  The Batman could be me.  The Batman could be you.  That is the beauty of it when fed through my own personal aesthetic.

I have not been more excited to see a movie than I was to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Even my excitement for “The Matrix Reloaded” did not compare to this.  And I must say that this film did not disappoint me.  There were no trailers at my midnight showing, which I’m gathering was an error on the projectionists part but you’ll hear no complaints from me.  “The Dark Knight Rises” takes place eight years after “The Dark Knight” so it may be prudent to re-watch the second movie, if not both predecessors before seeing this one but it’s not a must.

The movie opens with a pretty intense escape/rescue scene in which Bane is introduced.  Tom Hardy’s take on Bane to me was rather incredible.  A la Hugo Weaving in “V For Vendetta” it is a difficult task to act through a mask of sorts that covers 70% of your face.  All of the emotion has to be played through the eyes with eyebrow gestures as punctuation and with the voice.  Throughout the whole of this two-hour and forty-five minute movie whenever Bane is on screen I believed him blindly.  Hardy’s acting technique was quite different; more honed and focused, here than I’ve seen him in anything else and it was amazing to watch.  As a terrorist Bane truly does not care about steamrolling barricades to his endgame and the fight training Hardy had to undergo is showcased well in the few physical fight scenes he has.  In his matter-of-fact bass-heavy and somewhat mechanical tone you believe him when he says, “when Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.”

Christian Bale’s aging Bruce Wayne, now a recluse after Batman takes the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes, is robbed by a hired “hostess” Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a determined and agile woman who warns him that a storm is coming for the privileged who “have lived so large and left so little for the rest of us.”  She has robbed more than just his mother’s pearls though, which brings Bruce out of the confines of the west wing of his mansion and back to the sub-level of his house, an underground lair that has seen little action as of late.  When Commissioner Gordon is hospitalized and urges The Batman to return to Gotham, Bruce is faced with the task of getting his body back in shape to return to Gotham as the symbol of hope that was lost with the death of Harvey Dent; the truth of which the city of Gotham is still ignorant about; a truth that Commissioner Gordon struggles with.  During this time Bruce is faced with re-involving himself with Wayne Enterprises, specifically a clean renewable energy source WI has been building for Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a mysterious woman who seems to be working her way into Bruce’s bruised and battered heart, something Alfred would like to see happen before it is too late.

The catalyst to The Batman’s return to Gotham is the arrival of Bane (with a bit of prodding by John Blake, a police officer played with nuance and resolve by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an excommunicated member of the League of Shadows, the organization that Bruce himself was trained in by Ra’s Al Guhl in “Batman Begins” and left to help save Gotham and not destroy it.  It seems that Bane is here to complete the plan that Ra’s had set in place many years ago but why? The answer to this question does come and with a cost.  This is as basic as I can make the plot structure without giving away important details as to the connections between characters and story elements.

Anne Hathaway is quite good as Selina Kyle, a character never referred to as Catwoman, a good script point.  She has trained physically for the role and it shows.  She transitions from a sly and undermining professional thief to a scared and anxious girl who wishes to wipe her slate clean with a computer program she was told existed.  When she is told no such program exists by her hired man, a man tied to Bane, she gives up hope of changing her life for the better and agrees to help this new enemy.  There is more to her than meets the eye according to Bruce but Selina disagrees.  Kyle is playing both sides to her own end but a villain she is not, something Hathaway’s performance remains informed of.

Gordon-Levitt’s character of “hot-headed” police officer John Blake shares a past with Bruce and urges Bruce to return to Gotham, knowing who he truly is.  Blake represents a persisting hope within many citizens of Gotham for the return of The Batman and never relinquishes his belief that good can prevail even in the midst of such a terrorizing enemy who lacks moral fortitude for almost everything and possesses an army that will die for their cause.  In the end Blake sees what his beliefs can do and finds solace in knowing that his city is not only safe but will continue to be protected.

The score for this film, composed again by Hans Zimmer, has all of the familiar themes from “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” but also has a new theme featuring the chant heard in the film’s trailer for many of Bane’s scenes.  This new theme is very smartly written as it not only quickly builds suspense but the music beneath the increasing chants reminds me oddly of a virus, composed of billions of nano-molecules, spreading throughout its host; much like Bane and his army spreading throughout Gotham, taking it over.  Hopefully that makes sense.  Mixed with Christopher Nolan’s directorial and cinematic choices, the film truly is epic.

There was a point halfway through the movie where I feel like the tone or action did plateau.  For me the movie never quite reached its crescendo or peak point but did come very close.  I would have liked to know more about Selina’s history as well as the exact circumstances behind the mask that Bane must wear to keep from feeling the searing and crippling pain he would without, however the movie would then have been well over three hours and I do understand that sacrifices had to be made somewhere.  As a conclusion to a trilogy “The Dark Knight Rises” does stand as the epic conclusion that Nolan promised.  The last five minutes of the film garnered cheers and applause from the midnight audience and when you see it you will understand perfectly why.

Unfortunately this day, something so many millions of people have been waiting years for, was marred by the horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado where a 24 year old dressed in a bullet-proof vest and a gas mask opened fire on a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” leaving 12 patrons dead and 59 wounded according to the Associated Press (  The victim’s ages started from just a few years old.  The gunmen apparently had no motive and did not resist arrest, claiming he was The Joker.  My thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to the friends, families and loved ones of those that were directly or indirectly involved in this.

It has been a long time since I’ve written a blog post and therefore I’m sure my thoughts are a bit scattered but I do want to end by saying that “The Dark Knight Rises” is a film definitely worth seeing.  It’s now intrinsic connection to the shooting will and has undoubtedly put many people off from seeing the film.  It is a quite unfortunate circumstance that a place where so many people venture to in the hopes of temporarily escaping was forced painfully and fatally back to reality by one armed man against a theatre full of innocent patrons and to seemingly no end; as if a motive would make the situation any more understandable.  This film and its predecessor are both mired in bad news unrelated to the films content itself so when viewing “The Dark Knight Rises” seeing it as part of cinematic history and not any harbinger of death or bad karma as some have suggested.  Rising up is a central theme to the film and now is the time for patrons to rise above the negativity that someone sought to cast over so many others.

Alice in Wonderland Banner

Alice in Wonderland

 “You’re all late for tea!”

Fervent Cheer

I may be a week late but I finally decided to see “Alice in Wonderland.”  Being a fan of Johnny Depp and normally being all for the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton/Danny Elfman collaborations I wanted to see this movie but “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” actually disturbed me.  I thought visually it was stunning but the underlying emotionality of several of the scenes, the ones with Oompa Loompa songs in particular, made my cerebellum cry.  I remember sitting in the theater with my best friend hearing children all around us laughing hysterically and thinking to myself that I would never bring my kid to watch this now knowing what it was; but how could one know, no?

ANYWHO…  I had reserved myself to KNOWING “Alice” would be even more bizarre than “Charlie” in every way imaginable simply because it took place in an imaginary world, unlike “Charlie”.  I can honestly say that I was wrong.  Perhaps it was the partnering with Disney or a more severe editing eye on Burton’s part but it wasn’t bizarre.  I have not read the books or seen the original movie so I was not hoping it would be like anything I’d seen before.  It was not bizarre but was just macabre enough to be satisfying, an element that “Charlie” greatly needed.  While this movie had classic Burton visual elements that we’ve seen in “Charlie” and in the “Sweeney Todd” “By the Sea” number, what did puzzle me was that I felt there was a missing element; one that I am still searching for but I want to attribute to the screenplay. 

The film began with its rising action but once Alice, played with great character awareness by Mia Wasikowska, reached Wonderland, to me, it plateaued for a good 45 minutes, or until Alice reached the White Queen played by Anne Hathaway (in this, seemingly a mix of Snow White and Ariel with a schizophrenic edge).  Not that nothing of interest happens in those 45 minutes but the new elements were not introduced in a way that I found intriguing.  Many of these scenes, beginning with Alice’s shrink/growth scene seemed to have a Quentin Tarantino quality to them and last a few moments longer than they should have.  Fine for Pulp Fiction, not so much here. 

Depp’s Mad Hatter, an interesting coupling of Jack Sparrow British with fits of angry Scottish, is first seen at the famous Tea Party that has a bit more build-up than delivery and I found my focus to be more on the March Hare than the Hatter.  As we follow Tarrant Hightopp as the Hatter is named, we see more levels of his character.  Depp’s Hatter is indeed multi-layered, his persona changing with different emotions, the change being manifested in his eyes and skin, a great creative element.  Perhaps it was the ultra-visual makeup but Depp’s Hatter was not as mad as one might expect after his Willy Wonka, however it does not fail to deliver the performance the film required.  Perhaps less was indeed more in his portrayal for such a character could quite easily become a joke. 

The Red Queen, played with a child-like sense of “mine!” by Helena Bonham Carter, was an intriguing character within the larger character of her castle.  A castle which slightly resembled the Disney logo castle covered in heart shaped accents.  The details within the castle were all intriguing from the winged creatures carrying chandeliers to monkeys holding seat cushions.  Her henchmen, red mechanical playing cards with spears, were also a nice touch as was the Knave of Hearts, played effectively sinister by Crispin Glover

The Jabberwocky scene was also a bit of a disappointment.  I expected and wanted it to be larger in size and the battle that ensues I wanted more from, not just in length but in imagination as well.  Neither the Red nor White Queen fight in the battle, something I really wanted to see.  Another pleasing moment in this scene and throughout the film really was the airy appearance (apparition to borrow a Potter term) of Chessur, or the Cheshire Cat, played with a sleek seductive brilliance by Stephen Fry

Overall the film entertained in spurts but not completely from beginning to end.  Furthermore, Danny Elfman’s score wasn’t as “wild,” for lack of a better word, as some of his previous film scores.  And though I was beginning to feel his film scores tend to stay on one track, the lack of familiarity was something I missed.  Don’t fix what ain’t broke I suppose.  The opening title sequence did maintain that classic Burton/Elfman feel (a bit reminiscent of the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban title sequence) but after that the score seemed a bit more mainstreamed than normal.  I would see this film again so I could better appreciate the smaller details that this film is chock full of, costumes and scenic design especially.  I would however preface suggestions to see it with a message not to expect the classic story.  I would also definitely buy the two-disc DVD to see what went into the creative design in pre and post-production because though I wanted more, I’m sure a lot of thought went into creating such a visual retelling of a classic story.