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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
A fire will rise.
Filmmaker(s): Christopher Nolan

Following the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman assumes responsibility for Dent's crimes to protect the late attorney's reputation and is subsequently hunted by the Gotham City Police Department. Eight years later, Batman encounters the mysterious Selina Kyle and the villainous Bane, a new terrorist leader who overwhelms Gotham's finest. The Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Dickensian Cleanliness

What, what a difference between this and any Marvelmanaged film!

Nolan (with wife and brother) have clearly refined this script a few times. There is a lot of story to cram in, and a few necessary inflection points to destabilise us. They impress, and this merger of story, image and Zimmernoise works well. But you already know that. As I post this, a mere few days after opening, the film is in the IMDb top ten of all time!

This comment is about a simple dynamic: condensation.

• the love story that leaves us satisfied doesn’t happen on screen. It is all in our minds, teased out by an amazingly economical shorthand.

• a similar love story on the villain side that has agency in the plot — that literally changes much of what we assumed for two hours, is also sketched with a very few, high power strokes.

• a terrific device involving the otherwise talkity butler. Early, we get a story about when Bruce was away; Albert visited a Florence cafe once a year for one short drink on the off chance he would see Bruce thriving (with no plans to return). This story came complete with images of one such disappointing visit. At our very end after all the normal reveals, he makes the trip again. The stare we get from Albert is a fold that resets our memory of everything we have seen. All the action and noise is put in our past as it has been in his.

• often in these plot-heavy films, the bad guy doublecross is either heavyhanded or needlessly complex. Here it is simple and again uses a shorthand that depends on our film memories,

• we have a lot of exposition about the history of an elite group of mercenaries and their prison. This takes an amazing percentage of the film, almost equal to the capture and holding of the ersatz Manhattan. As overwrought as all that is, the deep test of soul — the test that transforms — is reduced to one act: jumping from one ledge to another.

• unlike any other comic-based superhero film, the bad guy here has the most minimal costume; a mask and even that is explained as necessary in a Darth Vader sense. we’ve all been to so many summer films with illogically costumed villains that this registers.

This and other notable dynamics tells me that Nolan and company understand the power of understatement in a sea of excess. Less matters when more surrounds it. An example of the excess is all the business about Robin's orphanage — down to the kindly but dumb Irish priest.

I do think this is worth watching; the Dickensian influence is noticeable and welcome, especially after the hodgepodge story of the last episode. Still, there were two elements of the story that made me step out of my role as engaged watcher.

One was an elaborate raid on the stock exchange, where a terminal is hijacked using Bruce Wayne’s fingerprint. Many people die and the place is wrecked. Here is the story logic:

• Though everyone in the world would know of the raid and the use of that terminal by the crooks, no one would question the validity of trades made in Bruce's name.

• The loss of Wayne's money would result in him being removed from the board.

• Wayne’s departure would automatically result in a schemer’s succession, and that would somehow ‘give control’; of the corporation.

?? This control would somehow extend to the closed fusion reactor project.

Nothing in this computes. Hey, I’ll buy the stadium bit, and the bomb, and the citizen trials because they all make sense in the storyworld. Not this.

The second thing that got me… and this is because I know too much. In 'Iron Man,' it worked to have Tony Stark be a supergenius inventor, whose company also secretly made cool gear even with the perky secretary in charge. It makes no sense to me to have a company run by an avuncular caretaker make military weapons and for those to be sequestered as they are here.

Military systems in general aren’t really that sophisticated. All prototypes break. Everyone who pays attention knows about them. They take scads of people to develop. They take 15 years to design. If Wayne had that kind of money (modestly say $800B), other things would be vastly different.

The Marvel universe works better so far as the gear.

Hathaway here is what Uma Thurman tried to be some time back.

Posted in 2012

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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