I’ve never thought there would be a better Catwoman than Julie Newmar, never, until Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises took the role after uttering a single “Oops.”
It’s an “Oops” filled with sexiness and insincerity, coming as it does after Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) interrupts her in the middle of a robbery and before she dresses on her catsuit. The “Oops” and its Jean Harlow naughty-girl reading come early in the film and the rest of Hathaway’s performance appears to flow from it.
She can flip, she is funny, and she looks fantastic astride the bat cycle thingy. She can definitely kick some ass, and she doesn’t overdo the cat thing. She’s just fittingly right. She’s also the one bit of bubbly in a film that’s otherwise so turgid it would be unbearable. The Dark Knight Rises is as draining as it is entertaining.
As with a lot of comic book adaption movies, between the anticipation and hysteria, and the aggressiveness of the film itself, this is a work that challenges thought or opinion or anything short of obedience.
Will Ferrell is personally my favorite comic performer due to of his absolute, 100 percent commitment to his characters. Different from Seth Rogan, or even Jack Black, he never winks at the audience. That’s not a criticism, winking is fine. But I adore Ferrell for playing even the silliest scenes, especially the scenes with the ferocious intensity of Al Pacino truffle-hunting an Oscar. Christopher Nolan, the director and co-writer of The Dark Knight Rises, as well as the two prior films in his “Dark Knight Trilogy,” is the Will Ferrell version of comic-book filmmaking.
Nolan takes even the most jocular material and makes use of it with so much energy, inflates it with such fierce imagination and intelligence, that he mesmerizes you and makes you believe too, dispersing skepticism, disengagement, and critical thought like the puniest of foes. The fact that he has a handle on narrative and knows how to shoot and cut an action scene helps too.
Those are also James Cameron’s talents, but in my mind Nolan wins and I know it’s not a competition, and I bet the two men admire each other’s films because he’s drawn to material far nuttier than even Cameron’s. I doubt he’ll ever overcome his 2010 masterpiece Inception, which might be the craziest studio film ever released, but The Dark Knight Rises comes close in its fusion of boldness, twist, and Wagnerian bloat.
At one shocking moment, while Gotham City is facing destruction, Bruce Wayne ends up in a literal pit of a prison in some unknown Middle-Eastern or South Asian country where the raggedy residents yell like extras from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Wayne’s back is broken, or almost, the walls of the pit are unescapable, and the only thing our beloved hero can do is lie there and listen to some wrinkly old man explain plot points. I found myself thinking this is like one of those cliffhangers on the old Batman TV show, but so much more major and darker and yet sillier. And then I just fully sink myself to the rest of the film, the portion I hadn’t already surrendered to Anne Hathaway.
Here’s another perspective to regard block-busters. Most of them just stick you in your seat, Michael Bay’s films being the prime example. Cameron’s and Nolan’s films take you somewhere exotic or incredible and then beat you down. By comparing, Steven Spielberg, who pretty much invented modern pop action-movies 40 years ago, is a kept classicist.
In my opinion, you definitely must approach comic books’ kid fantasies with Nolan’s level of commitment, either that or camp it up. Most comic book adaptions fail horribly at trying to draw the difference, with breezy performances like Robert Downey Jr.’s in the Iron Man movies and The Avengers, or Tobey Maguire’s in the original Spider Man, and sloppy, rushed scripts that sop up too much cocky-profundity in an effort to please the fan boys who take this stuff seriously.
As for Bane, the new film’s top villain? I’m not entirely convinced. He’s creepy and relentless, and his facemask is engagingly horrifying, a production design flourish paying tribute to Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, and Jason Voorhees. But Bane seems never come alive. To an extent that depend on everyone’s Heath Ledger hangover, but I think there’s also a creative choice that stopping Tom Hardy from performing his best. His voice is completely Vader style, but to such a boogeymannish extent, it turns out a thundering if musical wheeze, that it becomes divorced from Hardy’s physical presence. It also includes a plane different from the rest of the film’s soundscape, floating on top of the mix as if it’s a public service announcement.
One more thing: I love that Nolan’s Batman movies spice up the normal teenage fantasies with civic and political paranoia. New York has been destroyed I don’t know how many times onscreen since the event September 11, but never before like Nolan does here. In 2008, a lot of conservatives caused chaos over the fact that The Dark Knight Rises story of extra-legal, vigilante justice appeared to support the Bush administration’s more on the anti-terrorist policies. In the new movie, Bane takes over the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Gotham City’s job creators are cruelly criticized by collectivist thugs, and, as you know, the city’s savior is a multi-millionaire who hasn’t worked in years. A grateful Gotham says absolute nothing about his tax returns.