Ok, here’s something you’ll not read every day. A pre-review, review. But Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Rising, the third and last in the series, is a movie that deserves more than just a simple review.
First, I have not seen or read any reviews. Man, that’s hard but I’ve managed to even avoid overhearing some loudasses in Starbucks who were talking about the movie (by moving outside!)
Second, a caveat. I’m a big fan. No, a really big fan. The Dark Knight is one of my favourite movies of all time. Oh don’t give me that ‘Battleship Potemkin was better’ crap, this movie had it all.
But therein lies the biggest challenge for this movie. Spiderman 2 was fantastic. Spiderman 3 was a disaster. So clearly simply having the same main character in a tight costume zipping around the city isn’t quite enough.
So what is?
What makes a great movie? Or, more appropriately, what made The Dark Knight a great movie?
Number 1. It had a brilliant start. No 40 min of awfully clever and artistic shots like Meloncholia. No showing the hero in his normal world. No. It started like a bus rolling down the hill. A bus full of explosives. Pushed by a madman. That opening grabs us by the throat and never lets go.
It’s dizzying and sets the tone for the whole show. You never know what’s going to happen next.
Number 2. The villain. Heath Ledger may have created the best villain of all time, a creature of chaos and destruction, a match – no more than a match – for our hero. He fights the hero for the very soul of the city and always seems to be one step ahead of Batman, even forcing the caped crusader to choose between saving a good man or the woman he loves (which, as it must, ends badly for our hero.)
But Nolan goes deeper here. Listen to the music he attaches to the Joker. It’s like an engine running out of control, a whirring, ever increasing sound, louder and faster and louder and faster and LOUDER AND FASTER.
3. Moments, Dammit, There Have To Be Moments.
Moments of horror. Batman goes to save the woman he loves but has been tricked and arrives, even then, too late to save poor old DA Dent. Two-Face using the coin to decide the fate of people, one side of the coin burnt and blackened, the other still silver and pure. Funny Moments, like the Joker pressing his detonator and, behind him, the hospital not blowing up. He turns, bemused and confused, pressing the detonator again and again until, boooooom! Sad Moments.
Epic Moments: the Dark Knight, hero, savior of the city has to become the scapegoat for all that’s happened so the city can survive, so the Joker’s dream of poisoning its soul cannot succeed.
4. There have to be quotable lines. This movie was filled with nifty quotes. Lots of them. It gives us nerds something to talk about. “How did you catch him?” Bruce Wayne asks of Alfred who once had to fight an undefeatable enemy. “We burned down the forest,” he replies. (Also a “MOMENT”.)
5. It has to make us feel something. All movies do. (Oh, I don’t mean we leave feeling the movie was crap. No no no. I mean we feel something for what happens to the characters.) Are we happy? Sad? Do we share Batman’s anguish when he cannot save the woman he loves? Do we cry? Do we laugh? Do you leave thinking, man, I would have loved that movie to go on for longer?
Does it evoke an emotional response?
This is, by far, the hardest of all things for a movie to do. It’s subjective for one. I know someone, not me, no not me at all, that gets a bit weepy every time the sister jumps off the cliff in Last of the Mohicans. Others don’t. I know someone , again, not me, no not me, who thinks Wil Ferrell’s Land of the Lost is hilarious. I even know someone, amazingly enough someone who is still a friend, who thought the Dark Knight sucked sweaty monkey balls.
Clearly not every movie can appeal to everyone.
So what then, does The Dark Knight Rises have to do?
It has to start fast.
The villain has to be outstanding, an opponent Batman cannot possibly beat, someone we will remember for a long time.
Nolen has to craft moments for us. Great moments. The ones we will call up our friends and tell them about.
There have to be quotable lines.
It has to connect to us not only on a popcorn level but on an emotional level.
Will it be able to do all 5?
Personally I doubt it. 4 out of 5 will still make this a good movie though. 3 of 5 and I’m gonna be very disappointed. Anything less and I’ll really, really hate it. Why? Because they did it with the Dark Knight.
The showed us what they could do.
Review to come.