Wayne, Bane & Michael Caine

Fiona wasn’t sure she wanted to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I said I’d go myself, but she forbade me. So we eventually saw it together (and in IMAX) and in fact she liked it best of all three films — mainly for Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman/Selena Kyle, the only reliable source of humour and sexiness. She was  fan of Michelle Pfeiffer’s work in the role, but Hathaway, though less feline, is more woman-shaped, a fact Nolan even accentuates by having her ride a motorcycle in the doggy position.

This one does seem to me to succeed better than the previous two films, and in fact it could be argued that Nolan’s series defies most if not all historical precedent by improving from film to film.

There’s nothing maybe as extraordinary as Heath Ledger’s remarkable Joker — but to my own surprise I enjoyed Tom Hardy’s Bane, with his ridiculous voice (sounding at times, more in phrasing than accent, like James Mason talking into a polystyrene cup). For a man who’s been through so much (spending his life in the world’s worst prison, having his face smashed off), Bane seems to be constantly very, very happy — I’m judging more by his vocal delivery than by his facial expressions, admittedly. He’s quite inspirational in that way. Of course, he does murder almost everybody he meets. I’m reminded of James Coburn’s diagnosis of CIA assassin Godfrey Cambridge in THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST — “That’s why you’re so well-balanced: you can get out you’re hostility by actually killing people!”

The film is dotted with favourite actors — Nolan even finds a good use for Matthew Modine, an appealing thesp who seemed to go out of style once his eternal boyishness ceased to match his biological age — and striking faces (stand up, Burn Gorman).

Fiona always maintained that Christian Bale’s Batman voice is that of the dog who can say “sausages” (and “Anthony” and “a jar”) —

It’s nice here to see Bayle given what seems like more talking scenes as Bruce Wayne, who talks like a person and doesn’t require a cheerful northerner to manipulate his jaw muscles.

I did feel a bit sad for Michael Caine, who does too much blubbering in close-up — the kind of big emotion that would play less unpleasantly from a distance. I’ve never had any desire to see Caine blubber (Billy Wilder suggested that strong emotion is best filmed from behind). Incidentally, Alfred the butler in the comics is usually written as a sardonic geezer who masks his devotion to Bruce Wayne with his cutting wit — make him sentimental and the character really loses all depth.

The film is generally better at emotion on the grand, operatic and epic scale rather than the human — which is true of most blockbusters these days, but particularly Nolan’s. Still, it matters than Nolan can deliver the excess required to do this kind of thing well, as attested by the opening aeroplane stunt (featuring a welcome Aidan Gillen) which is gloriously absurd yet put over with po-faced conviction.

Nolan’s shooting and cutting of action has been a talking point throughout this series. There was a cunning plan behind the incoherent cutting of the fights in the first movie — make the audience as confused as Batman’s enemies. The trouble with that idea is that an action movie audience would rather see a stunning action sequence than be plunged into the confusion felt by the third goon from the left just before the caped crusader punches his lights out. The second film was altogether less messy, although by delayed effect it picked up most of the bad reviews for confusing staging (I think only the truck chase really lost me), though I’d agree there was room for improvement.

This time round, we get a chance to see the fights in wide-ish, waist-high shots that actually last more than one punch. Unfortunately, Bale or his stuntman in that heavy outfit can’t really move as fast as we always imagined Batman should be able, so the fights (some set in broad daylight) feel clunky at times. And Batman has a disconcerting way of going in without a plan and getting his ass kicked. The Batman written by Grant Morrison in the comics would never do that, and certainly not twice in a row with the same opponent. It not only makes the character seem dim-witted, and it’s dramatically unsatisfying to see him fail to learn.

But I’m being a touch over-critical — I enjoyed the movie’s sweep, and felt the plot delivered some good surprises that shouldn’t have been possible with such  well-known mythos. Some of this is done by changing character names, and some of it might not have worked if I were more quick-witted, but it felt satisfying to me to find a couple of familiar comic book figures, hiding in plain sight.

“Why so serious?”

19 Responses to “Wayne, Bane & Michael Caine”

  1. Bizarrely, a friend used to have a dog that said ‘Batman’. It didn’t sound like Christian Bale though.

  2. I wrote about the film for the PjH, capsules…(second from last)

    Aside from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Hathaway, the film is pretty dull, which The Dark Knight, for all its great flaws wasn’t. And yeah, the Colorado shootings really sucked out any weight or good cheer from watching it.

  3. The opening in which the masked goon turns out to be the chief villain is presumably a nod to “Dark Knight” in which *exactly the same thing happens.*
    Oh come on, this was terrible. Ahem…
    Hathaway was initially brilliant, but then vanished for an hour only to return and ride a big bike with massive guns. Was it really too much to ask to have her maybe steal something again?
    Wayne starts out as a broken recluse so Bane’s trashing of his fortune is meaningless.
    Also WHY? Why was Batman blamed for Dent’s death? How is that a good idea? Nothing anyone does in this film makes sense.
    “My name is Marion Cotillard. In three scenes’ time we shall be sleeping together because I am a lady. It’s important because of the twist.”
    “Today is Harvey Dent Day.” Pwhahaha! There’s this recurring theme in the trilogy of policemen giving speeches that let us know whether Gotham is fine or not, rather than showing us any evidence of it. Does this city actually have any citizens? Some prisoners get released and set up a court, and everyone else is, what, hiding for ninety days?
    Meanwhile Batman has been left to rot in an unguarded prison full of doctors that can only be escaped by jumping.
    Oh but once he’s out, I wonder how will he ever get all the way back to Gotham, especially now the city’s in lockd- Oh no there he is. Oh okay.
    “You find the bomb. I’ll stop Bane.” Stop him from what?
    And that mask is a painkiller?! Or does Bane have a mask simply because Bane’s supposed to have a mask?
    Meanwhile how will they ever locate the bomb? He’s hidden it on one of three completely unguarded trucks driving in plain sight around a deserted Gotham. Seriously, it could be on any one of those three trucks? They’ll have to check all three trucks!
    No recurring salvation army when Batman drops the bomb into the sea? Boooo!

  4. One can indeed have fun with plot holes in this one.

    Some of them surely have solutions in the longer cut we’ll probably get on DVD — I can’t believe they’d make such a big deal out of Gotham being in clampdown only for Batman just to turn up. Presumably the methods he uses to get back to America and into the city just weren’t interesting enough to justify making the film even longer.

    Nolan’s inability to do things economically cuts both ways — obviously studios like him because he’s not afraid to spend money, but this movie needlessly begins with two Gary Oldman speeches at two public events.

  5. I’ll tell you PRECISELY why so serious — the Colorado massacre. As one knowing interneter observed this mass execution didn’t happen during a screening of Happy Feet Two.
    I’ve never liked Nolan. And by that I’m going all the way back to Following. Anne Hathaway is a lovely creature — on screen and off. But I much prefer her doing battle with Meryl Streep’s Amanda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada then in this multi-million dollar instructional video for psychopaths.

    And that’s not to mention my darling Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Just the other day I was surfing the tube when I discoevred on one of the sci-fi/horror channels re-runs of the 1991 Dark Shadows series with Jean Simmons, Ben (Chariots of Eggs) Cross, Barbara Steele(!) and a little boy named Joseph Gordon-Levitt. THIS is the work he’s suited for — at any age. Needless to say Barbara doesn’t get to seduce him here. But they would be a sensation in a remake of Devil in the Flesh.
    Outside of that I want to see more of Joe in movies like THIS

  6. Very excited that Joe is doing a sci-fi with Rian Johnson (whom I like a lot), looper.

    I stayed away from the Aurora shooting in my piece because it’s been overdone. Although I do think it’s grotesquely funny if the shooter dyed his hair red to look like the Joker… who has green hair.

    When I was discussing having a gun in a scene in a children’s show, a man at the BBC said the thing to consider was not imitable behavior (because if a kid has a gun that’s evidence of a bigger problem elsewhere), but how the thing would play if a news story broke right beforehand about a shooting spree.

    In that light, DKR was uncomfortable viewing only twice: the invasion of the stock exchange triggers the fantasy of running into a crowded space with firearms; and Catwoman using guns to settle a conflict. Batman hates guns, and up until then only the villains use them to kill. Joe throws away his pistol after killing somebody. It’s actually an anti-gun flick, until that moment, where a killing and a quip remove any meaning. Nolan has said he wanted to reference political events without actually saying anything about them, and one has to admit he succeeds. Unfortunately.

  7. Interesting. I actually had a far bigger problem with the knives in Dark Knight.

  8. I don’t remember the knives, I only remember Heath Ledger’s pencil.

    Certainly the films fetishize weaponry and gadgetry, and Nolan’s “realist” approach can make that a little icky.

  9. Knives in people’s mouths. Knives all over the place. That was his thing. What was wrong with good old fashioned magic poison? Basically you’ve put your finger on it, the realist approach has made the whole thing more icky. And simultaneously less real.

  10. … although, with compliments to David E, I also remember 500 Days of Summer as an instructional video for psychopaths.

  11. No no no. Instant modern classic — practically an Annie Hall for the 21st century.

    Nolan should be doing James Bond, actually. Although I don’t know if he could make it charming. Remember when Bond was charming?

  12. Ah, but that was before things got serious. Nowadays, even Harry Palmer seems charming.

  13. Nolan should do more period films, maybe. The past seems charming. Speaking of which “Annie Hall” is the “Annie Hall” for the 21st century, surely? Or are we not allowed good things any more? Again, boooo.

  14. The Prestige is certainly his best film, not just because of the period setting, but because of the source novel, I think.

    He does cast extremely well. Levitt and Hardy in Inception create a comic antagonism out of thin air that makes their scenes a joy (it’s a great shame the film separates them for the third act). And he seized on Dileep Rao after seeing him bring the entertainment in Drag Me To Hell.

    The Avengers is going to mean more silly, light films. I just hope they’re good.

  15. I’m usually very cynical of comic-inspired films, but I enjoyed TDKR in the main except for Hardy’s Bane who didn’t do it for me. Christopher Nolan is a terrific director, although he was helped by a fine cast – a great end to the trilogy though no doubt a film studio will resurrect it Spiderman-style in a few years in order to milk the cash cow dry once more.

  16. 500 Days of Summer is one of the great Downtown L.A. movies — along with Losey’s M, Zinneman’s Act of Violence, Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles and of course Blade Runner.

  17. The area certainly seems to have gone upscale since the noir days. Though it was great seeing the Bradbury Building once more. A structure (inspired by a dream) which is utterly distinctive but which manages to look different in every film.

  18. What exactly is the point of the Christopher Nolan BATMAN movies? They are utterly devoid of everything that made the series so much fun to begin with.

    Personally, I’d much rather sit home with a DVD of BATMAN & ROBIN – one of the most deliriously enjoyable ‘bad movies’ since BARBARELLA.

  19. Perhaps Nolan is supplying what was previously missing: structure. The Burton movies had the right Wagnerian-carnivalesque feeling, but were shapeless and unmotivated, strings of one-liners and set-pieces. Nolan constructs, mechanistically, elaborate games where every piece falls into place. Somewhere between the lively mess of Burton (and the even messier Schumacher, I suppose) and the cold, pre-programmed Nolan, lies a really good Batman movie.

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