The Dark Knight Rises Review

Contains spoilers.

How do we kill the batman? With nuclear weapons!

The new batman is worth a see, in theatres. The worst of it’s sins is the voice acting. Bane is just dreadful and sounds like Alfred on Steroids. Seriously, he’s voiced by a genteel old man. Batman himself spends almost the entire movie in threatening mode and his voice also gets in the way of the dialogue.

The plot itself is tight (except for Bruce Wayne in the cave prison – how did he get there and how did he get back?). Bane gets hold of a nuclear bomb and threatens to destroy gotham with it. Recurring themes throughout the movie are that police officers are trapped underground, Bruce Wayne is trapped under ground, Bane is trapped under ground. See where this is going? Fox? Trapped underground! It would have been nicer to have this theme explored more but it doesn’t quite happen.

Thematic elements are tightly presented although the social analogy doesn’t quite go as deep as the other movies have previously. The theme is clearly socialism – Bane starts off the movie by claiming he will free Gotham for the people in an Abraham Lincolnesque speech as he blows the doors to the prison open wide. Inmates are given weapons. Predictably, instead of actually freeing Gotham, they invite a second holocaust.

First of course the government itself is disposed of through violence. People then commit theft to “the rich” and then when nothing is left, they start to commit wanton murder and destruction. People are executed. When they run out of political prisoners to execute (the rich) they turn on each other. It’s an obvious allegory to the holocaust and pretty much the rise of Nazi Germany. The parallel to America today is obvious but the movie manages not to be preachy about it.

That’s good, because emotional tension runs high. The acting is absolutely top notch except for Bale in the beginning of the movie and whoever plays Bane himself. The problem is the actor doesn’t know when he’s talking  with the mask on so he doesn’t know how to express himself with his eyes. The problem continues on in the movie where there’s parts where he’s talking under the mask but nothing is coming out. It’s not particularly jarring.

You figure out fairly soon on who Robin is going to be, but the writing is well enough done that the part is engaging right until the end. About the only part which is particularly campy is when catwoman uses the bat-o-cycle or whatever it’s called to blast out the police officers and there’s a charge directly out of braveheart between the police, armed with only sidearms, and Bane’s gang which has an array of G36s and light machine guns. In real life it would have been a wildly nice gesture which lasts 10 minutes as the police are cut to ribbons. For a movie which works hard on it’s technical merit with exotic EMP and upside-down bat-o-coptors, it’s a bit jarring to get there.

The twist at the end is absolutely fantastic but again, easy to see coming if you’re familiar with as much as the animated series which was popular in the 90s. The nice part is how it handles batman canon – although the movie will appease hardcore batman fans and people who have half a clue about socialism, the movie remains accessible to even the most unprepared fan in the audience. It includes graceful flashback moments to keep viewers engaged but reminded about what happened in previous films.  Catwoman is easy on the eyes, for instance, without being overtly sexualized which means you can take the wife and not have her be completely offended. Anne Hatheway, however, is really sexy in the catsuit and plays the role extremely well. She’s sexy when the role calls for it but manages to avoid it when the role does not.

Is it perfect? No, but it’s darn good, and worth a see on the big screen.

Avatar Sucked and James Cameron Should Kill Himself

Avatar works by two basic premises – It’s not racism if they’re blue and no-one remembers Heinlein.

Basically it’s like a Japanese videogame. It’s beautiful, it’s got wonderful imagry, you can get lost in the film. The foreign culture lends it alien wonderment. But ultimately, the plot paints itself into a corner, and there’s precious little plot to begin with so it has to end with a hail mary pass where suddenly this magical tree can do soul-tranfers as to let our human antihero become a blue tribal idiot.

If you’re saying “This sounds like Stranger in a Strange Land“, you’re right. It is SiaSL, but instead of being born in a foreign culture and coming to earth, Jake Sully is a human who never feels at home on Earth and then goes to Pandora where he meets and alien cast and finally understands people. He’s disgusted by how people have “lost touch with nature” and love the blue’s treehugging faggotry and then the movie ends with the blues having a huge war on humans. Great – so all the beauty and whatnot he fell in love with and the movie ends with him picking up a spear. Suddenly there’s powered armor, nuclear weapons and if you’re saying “I saw this when it was called Starship Troopers and it still sucked” you would be correct. To add to this, Sigourney Weaver washes up playing the same role she played in the Alien series (a doctor – a series of video logs) and basically you could rip out all her dialog, plunk it down in Alien 4 and not notice anything amiss.

Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s a ton of great imagry in there. Cameron probably watched the garden in Coraline about 100 times and then some kind of shangri-la generic crap to figure out how Pandora looked. The problem is that he wanted to make a movie like The Thin Red Line (still one of my favorites) but the problem is he’s not willing to go into the madness that is war. He wants his actors to be squeaky clean and he wants there to be some deep moral message against a beautiful backdrop. The problem is that he’s not willing to make his people bleed. Yes, the “bad guy” warmonger gets killed. Yes the hotshot pilot gets shot down (you’re not sure if she’s KIA or just out of the fight). The blue guys have their “betrothed” warrior get killed so Cameron won’t have to deal with a weird lovetriangle. And finally, when he’s rained fairly generic and nonsensical destruction down on a generic, beautiful and nondescript planet, he has the chance to really say something about the cost of violence, war and greed but instead of killing Jake Sully, we suddenly find out there’s a tree which can move his soul into a new body (conveniently supplied by a soulless avatar used as a meat spacesuit so there’s no cost to that either) and we realize that there’s no sacrafice anywhere except in the backdrop – the very nature the blues are supposedly fighting for in the first place.

This movie borrowed much from much greater works, and all of it was wasted.

Update: Global Politician calls it “Dances With Wolves in Space” and I think he’s spot on.