Thursday, May 28, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Dark Knight Rises (with guest blogger Hardeep Aujla from Word Is Bond)

Much of The Dark Knight Rises was based on DC's Knightfall crossover event, or as I like to call it, 'the one where DC thought it was wise to give Batman a fucking ugly '90s Image Comics-style makeover.'

Every Throwback Thursday, I randomly pull out from my desk cabinet--with my eyes closed--a movie ticket I saved, and then I discuss the movie on the ticket. This time I've gotten Hardeep Aujla, an editor from a U.K.-based hip-hop blog I've contributed pieces to, Word Is Bond, to come back after his guest TBT post about The Signal and discuss the movie on the ticket I drew.

I've noticed that the strongest Christopher Nolan movies contain the least amount of scenes of male actors crying, while the least satisfying Nolan movies are the ones with the most male cry-face scenes. Following? I haven't watched that one yet. Memento and Insomnia? Barely any male weeping scenes in those standout Nolan thrillers. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Inception? Slightly more male blubbering. But it was kept to a minimum--just three or four male crying scenes in the first two Batman films--and in each of those two films, one of those three or four scenes proved how much of an asset Gary Oldman, who's great at crying scenes and didn't overdo it in those films, was to Nolan's Batman trilogy. I can't remember if Hugh Jackman or Christian Bale were ever in need of one of those magician's hankies for more than just a magic trick in The Prestige, but I believe the crying was also kept to a minimum in that one.

As for The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar, Michael Caine had to cry in every single scene of his in The Dark Knight Rises, and he did it in that anguished voice I can't ever hear again without thinking of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's hilarious impressions of later-period Caine sounding like he's yodeling during emotional scenes, while 70% of Interstellar's nearly three-hour running time consisted of Matthew McConaughey blubbering exactly like Jon Hamm in the SNL auto-tuned crying sketch. The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar have turned out to be two of Nolan's least satisfying blockbusters, although I'll take The Dark Knight Rises over the Joel Schumacher version of Batman any day. So Mr. Nolan, if you want to win back some of the critics who weren't impressed with Interstellar, maybe you should try relying less on making several of your stars cry-talk like Felicity on Arrow all last season. Meanwhile, Hardeep enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises more than I did. He explains why.--JJA

Batman and Bane face off to see who could sound the most like a goofy monster from The Muppet Show.

The Dark Knight Rises
By Hardeep Aujla

Bob Kane thought the cake-bomb-pondering Batman of the 60's was an enjoyable farce, but that wasn't the character he had in mind when pencilling his way to a 6000% pay-rise in 1939. Such was the success of Batman. But it wasn't all enjoyable for the one-time kid who just wanted to draw goofballs like Popeye when he grew up. If things went south when he slapped the first sketches on DC editor Vince Sullivan's desk, he would have gladly gone back to drawing funnies. "I received more pleasure from drawing them than I ever did from drawing Batman", wrote Kane in his '89 auto-biography Batman and Me. And that's kinda the point of Batman; we're supposed to feel uneasy about being in the company of this character who at first glance looks like he reps the villainous axis. Furthermore, Batman is alluded to be a personal projection of Kane's; it's right there in the bio's title, the coalescence of a beat-down he took as a kid whilst pretending to be Zorro and rum-running-era New York. Roger Ebert found Tim Burton's noir-laden Batman (1989) to be "a depressing experience". Then many viewers deemed Christopher Nolan's recent trilogy, particularly the concluding entry Dark Knight Rises, to be sullen and overwrought, which was vindication in the ears of others who were on board with Bob's (and writer/character flesher-outer Bill Finger's) intimate, dark vision and had waited years to see it return to the screen.

It's as if the Halle Berry Catwoman movie never existed.

Sure, the films might not bring a whole lot of new ideas to the table that the many weekly rags and hardback "graphic novels" have given us over the decades, but if you asked Bob Kane, nothing else ever did after Superman and Batman bookended the continuum of all superhero possibilities. Regardless, it's probably fair to say that Bob and Bill would've approved of Nolan's submersion of Batman back into the dark and his eagerness to use him as a device to speak to audiences on a different level. And I have enjoyed how Nolan speaks about contemporary issues pervading our times in these films.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle, covertly anomalous (or perhaps not entirely given the crowd) during a ballroom thing, whispers to Bruce Wayne, "You'll wonder how you ever lived so large and left so little for the rest of us..." While this does echo contemporary economic injustices and does unsettle Bruce in a similar way it probably unsettles the real-life financial "elite" in the West who are somehow surprised that billions in the East would like the same standard of living as them, this film doesn't have a neo-imperialist agenda just like The Dark Knight didn't have a pro-George Bush agenda, despite how many opinions would have you otherwise believe. Instead we have Bane, whose character is conveyed superbly, overriding the need for facial expressions with a menacing mask and subtly expressive body language, from placing the back of his hand on someone's shoulder to an unflinching walk despite the surprise revelation of the Bat-Glider: small touches that spoke volumes. Bane attacks a city we are shown to be undeserving of pity or protection primarily, again, through the indignation of Selina Kyle, who observes how the rich show no austerity and resorts to cat-burglary out of inevitability in an unjust city: a product of Gotham (a character in its own right in this film) as much as Batman or his supervillains are. Bane's storm on the stock exchange is therefore a not-so-subtle device to this end, and from there on in we get a few big plot holes and, more importantly, a Tale Of Two Cities-style discourse which Nolan openly footnotes the entire film with via a direct quote at the end.

Christopher Nolan kept the IMAX footage to a minimum in the Batman movies because IMAX cameras are so fucking noisy when you switch them on. They're the Sam Kinison of movie cameras.
Fan-made poster

But like he did in The Dark Knight with the ferry climax, Nolan counters villainy with the kind of virtuous responses that all great comic books often do (Raimi also struck gold with the same idea during the train sequence in Spider-Man 2). This time Batman must re-live his genesis following a beat-down of his own that would've had Bob Kane flashing back. Spurred on by the words of his late-father that've echoed throughout the entire trilogy, he rises once again from defeat but this time things are noticeably different. Most striking cinematically is that his final punch-up with Bane is in broad daylight, a departure from pretty much every major fight scene in the series. He no longer relies on the shadows as an accomplice; his mission now is not to strike fear into the enemy but to inspire Gotham's oppressed inhabitants. The classic formalities of narrative dictate that Batman too must perish with the darkness of the city that created him, and his sacrifice at the end achieves this whilst also redeeming him from the long-standing dishonour established at the end of The Dark Knight. In this regard, The Dark Knight Rises has a much more positive and conclusive ending than many attribute it with: a story that shows Bruce Wayne won't always be a victim of both the city and himself, and a story that Bob and Bill, at least, might've taken professional and personal comfort from.

Batman w Slanket: Yawn of Justice

Hardeep Aujla writes and edits album reviews for Word Is Bond in Leicester, England. Selections from Hans Zimmer's Dark Knight Rises score can be heard during the AFOS blocks "AFOS Prime" and "Hall H."

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