So let’s just out with it as quick and painlessly as possible so all of you die hard, ‘Nolan can do no wrong’ folks can skulk off to mutter amongst yourselves. I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it. I more failed to like it than approached liking it. So there it is. In a nutshell. If you disagree vehemently and think that i’m insane or some pot smoking, know nothing turd, fine. I can live with that. Lord knows i’ve lived with worse.
I guess i want to know what happened? But then i shouldn’t scratch my head too hard. I really like Nolan’s work. I mean really. In terms of directors out there he’s got to be my 7th or eighth favorite of the ones that i can actually name. Okay. I’m lying. He’s more like 16th or something. I like his films but i always feel like he could take them a little further than they end up going. I know, i know. He directed Inception and it was AWESOME!!!! Notice the use of capital letters and multiple exclamation marks. That would be me, being facetious. I didn’t love Inception either and felt that that could go a little further than it ended up going. But that’s exactly what i mean. Inception is mind blowingly amazing. So here’s one of those moments where i think i can say both. It’s amazing. And it’s disappointing because i feel like – as amazing as it was – it could have been even more amazing and i felt like Nolan had some gas left over in that tank but never bothered to push it.
The same thing with the third batman, though in this case i have to say it felt more like he started out in a fully tanked up hybrid on a marathon journey coast to coast and then decided to stop at the local bookstore and pick up a travel book instead. I suppose i’m not making much sense.
I’m deliberately leaving out the actual names of the movies, cuz – frankly – who cares except the die hard fans. Anyway. I was pleasantly surprised by the first of the Batman reboots. It had the audacity to completely alter the character into something we had actually seen before but just not quite in that way. In Batman Begins we see Batman/Bruce Wayne as Ridley Scott’s Alien – something that inspires chilling fear in the heart of any schmuck who thinks doing ill is a quick way forward. It was a fresh approach for the cinematic character of Batman – if not the character himself, who has been through that iteration in the pages of comic books before.
But in Batman 2 Shit Got Real (to boil down the entire plot of Bad Boys 2 into a one liner) It was, in my humble opinion, practically perfection. Of all of Nolan’s films i admire this one the most. The interplay between Batman and the Joker and the exploration of their psyches moves that thing forward in beautiful ways that rightly were hailed and feted throughout the land. It was, at it’s heart, a movie about psychologies – very driven personalities that were completely at odds with each other. I could go into rhapsodies about the Joker’s Iagoesque destruction, and the Batman’s lurching realization that they are perfectly suited to each other. It becomes a twisted romance in it’s own way. The Batman may protest this in the final reels of the film but there are a few glimpses that he knows this all too well. Petty criminals just won’t do for the Bat. What’s the point of saving the city if your adversary is little more than a twit with a gun? No. He need’s the Joker and the Joker needs him. And it’s beautiful.
And then there’s Batman the third.
I know. Critics have been going nuts about how brilliantly timely it all is. But since when has being ‘timely’ been the thing we’re looking for from cinema? I thought the benchmark was timelessness? In that regard i’m afraid the new batman will be mouldering away in the curiosity archives ten years from now. Yes it has it’s timely nods to the occupy movement (writ large and idiotically), but it also jerks along it’s timeline in a series of whiplash inducing jump cuts to the point where you may lose track of where you are in the three hour cinematic montage. And really that’s what it is. It shifts so quickly that you don’t have time to engage in the philosophic nuance that Nolan seems to want to lead you to. ‘
Batman trots out a few new Day Saving gadgets much like James Bond films of days gone by – their use guaranteed by staging and their foibles highlighted in neon so that even the stupidest film goer can’t fail to realize when the new gadget will be used and what, exactly, ought to be expected from it. He trots out some new Allies: Selina Kyle (who, in playing Catwoman to the over the top hilt, becomes the most interesting character in the film even if it is some of the most cringe inducing over acting since… well… Halle Berry’s regrettable turn) Officer Blake – played by Joseph Gordon Levitt – who seems destined for Robin-hood or maybe Nightwing-man. And these new additions divide our attention from the mostly ailing Bat. They give us something new to look at and think about while we’re wondering what happened to our dark avenger that makes him seem like a slightly younger version of one of the Grumpy Old Men. Blake and Kyle are the real centerpieces of the movie. Or at least they should be. They have the most to say about the position the Bat holds in the world as the symbol he has self consciously created. And realizing that i wish – i really do – that Nolan had focused more on them during the screenwriting process as i feel like that would have made the denouement of the Batman trilogy much more interesting. What would the Batman have looked like – what would the perspective have been – if we watched the whole thing more from their point of view – one a career criminal and the other a dedicated cop? Personally i think it would have looked more like the moving, engaging film it clearly wanted to be but wasn’t.
As it was it was a sometimes exceptionally pretty snoozer – full of an excess of sound and fury and signifying only an exhaustion of imagination. Nolan is a terrific director. Don’t get me wrong. I wonder how much of his vision got turned over in the producer’s office because i often feel that his creativity with his subject matter points to something greater. I really hope that the next time he has a finished script he give’s it one more time on the draft table before jumping in. I think, i know he’s got it because we’ve seen it in The Dark Knight, but it isn’t in evidence here.