I just got home from seeing a marathon of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films, including the new one, and I have to work out some thoughts. I kept this spoiler free, but most of these ideas will make more sense after you’ve seen it, which (spoiler alert?) I strongly recommend you do.
- The biggest question, of course, is how good is it? Does The Dark Knight Rises live up to the other films, especially the second? Certainly it’s an excellent work, and I’ll be honest that my preference is for the new film (even though I eventually loved The Dark Knight), but I’m fairly confident that most people will say that they thought The Dark Knight was even better. Most fans of the series will still opt for its darker, more complex vision. Fair enough.
- But consider that they are very different movies. TDK was a dense, episodic thriller. In fact, watching it again during tonight’s marathon, I was struck by just how much ground Nolan covered. TDKR, however, is a more linear narrative, with a single focus, albeit one that constantly crescendos to an emotionally explosive climax. Where TDK packed in as much of everything as possible, TDKR actually goes out of its way to strip down the distractions of excessive characters and subplots so it can develop its primary interests as much as possible.
I just watched Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins again. Burton’s film has an irrepressible panache that still makes it terrific fun, and Nolan’s first Batman film shouldn’t be underrated because it stands in the shadow of its even more superior sequel.
But I never noticed a plot element they have in common. In each of those movies, the villain’s plan to plunge Gotham into chaos hinges on getting much of the city to inhale a massively-dispersed poison gas at the same time. In Burton’s Batman, Joker uses the Smilex in his parade balloons to kill everybody who came to get some of the $20 million he was throwing around. In Batman Begins, Ra’s al Ghul vaporizes the city’s infected water supply to instantaneously gas the populace.
The latter plan is the better of the two (why would people come to Joker’s parade right after he already killed a bunch of people by poisoning their beauty products, anyway?), but it strikes me as strange now that essentially the same plot device would be recycled like that. But then again, I never noticed for several years, so I guess it’s not that bad.
Three years ago, I wrote a critical review of The Dark Knight which earned me a thorough beat down from a whole host of readers. My review was based on my visceral reaction to the psychological torture and moral shades of gray that I saw in the film at the time.
However, I finally watched it again last week. A few things made me want to give it another chance:
- The teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises hints that this third film will be a redemptive story with a more clear-cut victory, perhaps making this a trilogy in the Star Wars-Empire-Jedi format. I can appreciate that.
- Last year I read Frank Miller’s graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, which obviously influenced Christopher Nolan’s movie. It was excellent.
- Anne Hathaway will be in The Dark Knight Rises, so I pretty much have to see it.