Review: Dark Knight Rises

Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph-Gordon Levitt
Runtime: 164 min.
MPAA: PG-13

“Theatricality and deception can be powerful agents.”

With those words of wisdom began not only the journey of the Batman, but Christopher Nolan’s remarkably meticulous and grandiose tale of the denizens of Gotham City. For all of the ferocity and determination of Bruce Wayne, and the pomp and circumstance of the Joker, and the dedication of James Gordon, and the loyalty of Alfred Pennyworth, it is the humanism of Gotham that drives the entirety of the series.

And it is Dark Knight Rises that offers a catharsis for those people, and for those that would test their mettle.

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MorePop: Batman – The Night of the Owls

“Beware the court of owls, that watches all the time,
Ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime.
They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed,
Speak not a whispered word of them or they’ll send the talon for your head.”

 

When I initially wrote my first impressions of DC’s New 52 for this column, there was only one issue per series out. Now we’re up to issue 11, just about all the books have finished at least one arc, I’ve dropped some from my reading list, and added others. After issue 1, I had Scott Snyder’s Batman series as my fourth favorite out of what I’d read. With more issues and time, it’s become pretty clear that the Court of Owls/Night of the Owls Batman arc is easily my favorite thing in the entire New 52. Re-reading the whole thing yesterday in preparation for this post only confirmed that. It’s really well-structured, with strong continuity and works incredibly well both in individual issues and the arc as a whole.

The New 52 relaunch included four Batman-centric books, plus a myriad of other Bat-family books. At first, you wonder why there’s a need for Batman AND Detective Comics AND Batman: The Dark Knight, not to mention Batman & Robin. Checking them all out, though, they each have a slightly different approach to the Batman mythos. Batman is dark and fairly realistic in tone, the clear parallel to Nolan’s Batman movies. Detective Comics takes a much more old-school comic approach, with colorful and larger-than-life villains, more along the lines of the video games Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. I’m not quite as familiar with Batman: The Dark Knight, but it seems to hit somewhere in between, with its first arc concerned with a Bane-derived fear toxin. Meanwhile, Batman & Robin is almost a family drama, focusing on the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damian, the current Robin. I’ve enjoyed all these books to varying degrees, but Snyder’s flagship Batman is head and shoulders above the others.

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Countdown to The Dark Knight Rises: Rank ‘em [Christopher Nolan]

 
Everyone involved with the third row got together this week and looked back at Christopher Nolan’s career to coincide with the release of likely the biggest movie of 2012, The Dark Knight Rises. Throughout the week, we’ve had (and will have) some pretty in-depth and thoughtful pieces surrounding Nolan’s films and Batman in particular. Of course the most facile of these tasks was left to me: gather everyone’s ranking of Nolan’s seven films from favorite to least favorite and then aggregate/score them into one “definitive” list.

Christopher Nolan

It wasn’t even close. Pretty much all of us agree that Insomnia and Following are Nolan’s weakest two films whilst memento. and Inception are his two best films; though some extreme love can be found for The Prestige sprinkled throughout. Meanwhile his Batman movies come smack dab in the middle. I’ve never seen so many people come together on a director as exciting as Christopher Nolan and we all come down almost exactly the same way.

So here is the mathematical certainty that are Nolan’s films ranked from weakest to strongest (check the bottom of the post for our individual ranked lists):

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Countdown to The Dark Knight Rises: Retro Cinecast (Ranking Christopher Nolan)

 

          
          
          

Since we’re all in Batman mode this week, I thought it might be fun to dig up an old discussion we had on the Cinecast a couple of years ago after Inception had just been released. The usual podcast guys are here along with special guest, Bob Turnbull, in which we each individually rank all of Christopher Nolan’s films from worst to best. There is quite a discrepancy with a couple of titles and so the gang does their best to sort it out over the course of about 40 minutes. And we yell at each other. It’s great.

Christopher Nolan

This is a lengthy “snippet” from a much longer show that included a full spoiler review of Inception and Mr. Nobody as well as some other reviews and DVD discussions. But you can listen to just the Christopher Nolan stuff right here:

Countdown to The Dark Knight Rises: The Many Faces of Batman

When Bob Kane and Bill Finger created the character of “The Batman” in 1939 to capitalize on the success of DC’s foray into superheroes with Superman, they probably had no idea they were creating one of the most enduring characters of the 20th century, not just in comic books, but in popular culture at large. At first a character modeled on hard-boiled pulp detective fiction, remorseless and ruthless when dealing with criminals, over time Batman came to be one of the most justice-oriented and ethical of all superheroes, refusing to kill even his worst enemies. Led by a need to avenge his parents’ death, Bruce Wayne, devoid of superpowers, leveraged his intellect, his wealth, and his indomitable will to protect the citizens of Gotham City against the kind of senseless crimes, both petty and grandiose, that had taken his parents from him.

In the post-war years, Batman’s image shifted from a noirish denizen of the night to a brighter figure; a respected individual rather than a vigilante in the shadows, and by the 1950s he was dabbling in the science fiction plots that had taken over pulps and comics in general. Though the comic series was pulling back into more serious detective stories by the 1960s, the colorful, campy Batman burst onto TV screens in 1966 with Adam West as the caped hero. In response to the success of the show, the comics turned back to campy, and predictably, when the show’s success waned, so did the popularity of the comics. The bright and colorful take on Batman was over (and DC worked for decades to shake the campy image), and it was time for Batman to return to the shadows. Under Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, he did so, becoming once again a grim avenger, but it would take Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (1986) to fully bring to life the Batman that most of us are familiar with today.

Miller’s dark and complicated take on Batman popularized the character once again, and along with books by Alan Moore (The Killing Joke) and others led to the noirish Batman films of Tim Burton. Joel Schumacher’s return to the campy style of the ’60s TV show didn’t fare as well with ’90s audiences already acclimated to a more sinister Bat-style, but Christopher Nolan’s Miller-inspired Batman series was exactly what the modern generation wanted. Nolan’s Batman is complicated, dark, morally ambiguous, and a far cry from either the pulpy crime-fighter of the 1940s or the campy do-gooder of the 1960s. Yet they are all Batman, and the fact that the character has managed to sustain such a wide variety of approaches over the past 80 years without his backstory undergoing many significant changes is pretty amazing. Superman may be the hero who stands up for truth, justice, and the American way, but Batman reminds us of the seedier side of American life, the darkness that is inherent in our grandest cities, and in our most upstanding citizens. He is also that most American of things, the self-made hero – he is heroic because he chooses to be, because he chooses to fight for a better world, even though he knows such a world may not, and may never exist.

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Music in Film: Batman Special

As part of our Countdown to The Dark Knight Rises series I was going to simply sing my praises of the Danny Elfman Batman score, which I find to be one of cinema’s most memorable and downright awesome blockbuster soundtracks ever created, but when I thought back to the music in the various cinematic incarnations of the character I realised that most of the scores have been pretty memorable, so instead I bring you Batman music through the ages…

1960’s Batman Theme

You can’t talk about Batman music without including this, which I imagine made an appearance in the 1966 movie:

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