Let me start by saying that I was really looking forward to this movie. As usual, I painstakingly avoided trailers like the plague and steered clear of other people’s reviews (for fear of spoilers).
I’ll also admit to being mostly entertained from start to finish. I mean all the ingredients were there: gadgets, explosions, gunfire, special effects, a formidable opponent and a hot chick. What’s not to love?
But as I stumbled over the customary dusting of popcorn and headed for the exit, the main thought in my head, even before I hit the foyer, was: “Meh“. Perhaps I’m getting harder to please in my old age? What was it that felt so…off?
I admire Gary Oldman’s acting chops (tho’ I actually prefer him in bad guy roles to be honest). I’ve also been a Christian Bale fan since catching him in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. Plus, just as people feel obliged to pick their favorite Bond. I guess I’d be inclined to select Bale as my favorite Batman. (Even if the throaty phrase “I’m Batman” now conjures up images of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, rather than Christian Bale himself ;o)
I’ve also enjoyed how Batman films have evolved since Tim Burton’s 1989 rendition, with Michael Keaton in the lead role. Much darker than the campy 60s TV series with Adam West; where most, if not all, of the action took place during the day. (I guess it was less scary for kids).
Burton’s renowned for all things dark; so it was great to see a Batman closer to Bob Kane’s original notion of shadowy vigilante fighting crooks who work the night shift. Scarier to get the sh1t kicked out of you by a bat from the inky blackness, than be approached by a dude wearing undies over his spandex pants in broad day-light me-thinks. (The main appeal of the Burton-to-Nolan evolution has been the steady transition of Batman’s attire to a more imposing body armor).
I guess Keaton’s Batmobile was closer to earlier comic book designs; in that it was a millionaire’s fashion accessory, with enough gadgets to double up in a crime fighting capacity. (Ah, who remembers the days when being a multi-millionaire was enough of an ambition? Back when Billion and Gazillion were both unimaginabley humungous figures, I guess).
With Bale’s Batmobile and indeed other gadgetry being military grade, I guess it added a reality injection to Batman’s migration from Caped Crusader to Dark Knight. More menacing than ever and believable/exciting for today’s desensitized youth. But with more money, sophistication, fire power and such a military undertone, I guess I should’ve seen the inevitable leap from vigilante to soldier. Something which kinda spoiled the Batman feel for me. It just felt like a movie for a completely different character.
As I say, I did find parts of it entertaining. I liked the reclusive beginning. 8 years away from the fighting, pining for a love lost and similarly 8 years devoid of any interest in socializing or even running a multi-billion dollar company. I appreciated the focus on the toll his previous crime fighting days had taken on his body and his struggle to bounce back.
But I didn’t like the fact he was fighting full-blown terrorism straight out of the gate, that most of it took place during the day and that he was kinda lost in a crowd of heroes. It seems that every (post 9/11) action movie feels the need to continually tip a hat to the heroic deeds of firemen and policemen nationwide. So, whereas in previous outings the Batman was the single incorruptible force to be reckoned with in Gotham City, now he kinda gets lost in the noise of everyone else being heroic. Where’s the fun in that? I don’t wanna see Bond as just one face in a crowd of advancing soldiers and I don’t wanna see Batman lost in a sea of cops either.
Also Nolan’s outing seemed to drop any details of a fictional Gotham City as somewhere dark, gloomy and full of gargoyle covered buildings. Maybe, again, to cater for the next generation of viewers and make it easier to identify with. But it just struck me as lazy, detracted from the customary sinister mood/back-drop and just made it feel like it could’ve been filmed in any city in America. (If you’ve seen one sky-scraper you’ve seen ’em all).
In terms of realism for the action scenes: It doesn’t take Bruce Lee to figure out that if punching Bane in the grill doesn’t have any noticeable effect, perhaps a boot to the groin might be worth a shot. And as someone who masterminded taking over the City and cutting off all escape routes, Bane didn’t seem particularly intelligent either.
If Batman and his allies shun the cover of night and the element of surprise; choosing instead to come out in broad daylight and stand in the middle of the street; it might be easiest to dispatch the sucker with a missile from an armed car, leaving nothing but a pair of boots and 2 whisps of smoke. (Rather than go hand-to-hand yet again. You don’t go to all that effort of gaining the upper hand, only to wage it all on a gentleman’s bout of fisticuffs).
At least the emotional ending left the franchise open to Bale bowing out and the birth of a new hero. I stopped reading Batman comics at an early age, so I’m open to the surprise of whatever comes next. At least if I have no preconceived notions with respect to that story-line, perhaps I’ll be less prone to disappointment next time round.
3 out of 5 for me. But I’d be interested in other people’s opinions. (I’m sure the movie will make lots of money for the studios/actors concerned though).