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|By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com)||Ver 1.0 2020.06.22|
The film hits the ground running, and it doesn't let up until the end credits. Along the way, we see Bruce tinkering on and refining the Batman persona, as well as the incredible sacrifices he must make in the process. I also liked the presentation of Batman as being part of a greater team of willing and unaware allies, and not as a one-man show. One could say that by presenting Batman's vulnerabilities and limitations, it humanizes the character and enhances the audience's suspension of disbelief.
The myriad of villains are all fresh and interesting, as well as adding additional layers to the story, the setting, and the Batman/Bruce Wayne character. The cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful at times, and the visuals are another standout feature of the film. Also, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's music also has a je ne sais quoi that takes the film to another level.
Probably the only flaw to this film is that it renders Tim Burton's and Joel Schumacher's Batman films almost unwatchable due to their cartoonishness...
Like the other good Nolan films, this one gets better on repeat viewings. On the one hand, it helps make a bit more sense of the non-linear storytelling, but on the other hand, its wonderful discovering the hints and clues about the two protagonists—and the film has a lot of them sprinkled through its narrative, if you're paying attention. And speaking of the protagonists, it is remarkable that they are neither portrayed as good nor evil. Amoral at best.
One of the highlights of the film is the magic, and how so-called magicians perform their illusions. Naturally, it evolves into illusions and experiments that use electricity—something that still has magical properties for many people even in this day and age. Above all else, this film is a good mystery (or illusion, in the sense that the movie defines it as such), and even if you missed the clues (or caught them), the reveal at the end is still shockingly cathartic.
Christopher Nolan's films are generally what I describe as 'breathless', in the sense that they have so much to say. Such as "Inception", "Interstellar", and "Batman Begins". However, The Dark Knight doesn't feel like that. Well, aside from the first reel, and the last ten minutes. The rest? I'll paraphrase Wikipedia: 'the film is always climaxing, and scenes are cut off just as they're getting interesting.' That 'constant climaxing' ends up deadening the senses, and coupled with the cutting off, it prevents some of the film's most important points from making a proper impact.
I'd also like to add that Bruce Wayne is practically invisible in most of the film... troubling, as he is the most interesting character in "Batman Begins", and arguably the one person who the film should have been paying more attention to. The other character missing from the film is Gotham City itself. Maybe Nolan gave the city a bright and clean overhaul to make the film more relevant to the audience, but it came at the cost of eliminating a lot of the inner city grunge—the very thing that spawned Batman and gave him his raison d'etre.
As the movie is full of excellent, believable performances, and as each scene more or less works on its own, I'm left with the conclusion that the movie overreached itself, and the pacing problems are down to grief during editing over the (at the time) recent passing of Heath Ledger. And speaking of Ledger: his performance is one of the main reasons to see this film.
I'd like to note that I'm making this review after watching the film numerous times. I felt that it was more effective on the first viewing; which is another thing unusual for a Nolan film—usually they get better after the first viewing!
This film is about what it takes to be Batman—in the sense of the will needed (what makes Bruce Wayne a 'super' hero), and the emotional and physical costs involved. This film unflinchingly examines both. They're not pretty, but through it, the Bruce Wayne character is rounded out even more than we could have hoped for. That examination of Bruce Wayne makes this film one of the better ones in the series. More than the title character alter ego, it is Bruce Wayne himself who is the most interesting thing about Batman - and this film continues from where "Batman Begins" left off in probing what drives him on.
I really liked the film's running theme of questioning 'how much is enough' and 'when is it time to move on'. Questions that the viewer readily answers, but the film holds off answering until the very end. And oh, what an end! The film keeps building and building and building... for a truly cathartic payoff. And in a decade of endless sequels, it's great to have a proper conclusion to a film franchise (never mind that this one was restarted a few years hence).
Hans Zimmer's score is also one of, if not the highlight of the film. Not only does it revisit the themes from the preceding films, but he incorporates aspects of the story into it (sometimes even before we're aware of their significance—another reason why Nolan's films get better when watched again). And at one point, I found myself wondering if the apparent co-opting of Bane's theme by Batman in the climax was a deliberate choice! Great stuff.
I went into this movie with trepidation—it was billed as a science fiction film on par with "2001: A Space Odyssey", that saw the creation of not one, but two (!) scientific papers, and was generally panned by the Internet movie-going public. Suffice to say, my expectations were more than surpassed by this movie.
It had me firing on all mental cylinders—and that was before they even launched into space! The way the film introduces the setting and characters benefits the rest of the film immensely. By the time the title journey begins, we've got an extremely solid foundation for why they must make the journey, the stakes involved, and most importantly, an emotional bedrock underlying it all.
That emotional bedrock, and the character growth and choices stemming from it, have made this film truly unforgettable. I've seen many films, and forgotten just as many of the characters that populate those films. The ones in this film have stayed with me. So, too, have their sentiments and advice. Perhaps my perspective as an expat parent has made the emotions in this film that much more poignant for me than to the usual young adult moviegoers.
One of the things I really liked about this film is its depiction of near-future space travel. Perhaps more than the broad strokes of space travel (if I'm getting dizzy briefly looking out the windows of their spinning spaceship, what about the astronauts in the film?), it was the small touches that really got me (what is the most fascinating music for an astronaut on an interstellar journey? The answer is surprisingly akin to what an expat listens to in their adoptive country!).
Perhaps as an expat parent, this film talked to me much more than it does to others. Nevertheless, it is another bold step forward by Christopher Nolan, and by focusing as much on the inner, mental challenges as much as the external, physical ones, he has succeeded in creating another thought provoking, great movie. Recommended.