Viewing posts tagged an accurately named trilogy

An Accurately Named Trilogy III: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises offers something with no counterpart in Nolan’s career: it’s a hot mess. That is not to say it’s a bad film, and certainly not to say it’s the worst of Nolan’s career (that’s clearly Interstellar). But there is a mad unruliness to it that is utterly uncharacteristic of Nolan’s work. Nolan is, as I’ve said before, an enormously fussy director. His work thrives on constantly trumpeting his presence as an auteur, inviting the audience to feel smart for keeping up with him. This is not inherently a bad thing - it’s nothing that isn’t true of Steven Moffat, for instance. It’s just how Nolan rolls. When it works, as with The Prestige, the result is a gripping puzzle box. When it doesn’t, as with Inception or Interstellar, you get something more akin to a stupid person’s idea of what a smart movie is like. But The Dark Knight Rises is neither of these things. Instead it’s a film Nolan simply loses control of - that becomes a sprawling tangle of competing ambitions that doesn’t know what it wants to do even as, at any given moment, it’s doing it with characteristic hyper-focus.

To some extent this is visible ...

An Accurately Named Trilogy II: The Dark Knight

It seems silly to start anywhere besides the Joker. We’ll set aside the cynical but not entirely unfounded question of whether the performance would be as celebrated as it is were it not for Heath Ledger’s untimely death and the ghoulish speculation (since refuted) that the psychological intensity of the role was a cause. Sure, it’s tough to imagine a Batman film winning an acting Oscar under less tragic circumstances, but that’s in no way what’s interesting here. What’s interesting is that Ledger and Nolan took the most oversignified character in Batman mythos (and yes, of course I’m including the big rodent himself) and offered a game-changing take on him. The hunched, disheveled figure with a Glasgow smile is a new angle, skewing the Joker towards a materialism that is generally precisely what’s discarded in other efforts to make him more grandiosely crazy. Ledger and Nolan offered a new way for the Joker to be.

By some margin the least interesting parts of this are the most often remarked upon. Yes, Ledger’s schlubby maniac was an easier fit for a certain strain of geek masculinity than the more overtly queer portrayals that came before him. But frankly, anybody who needed ...

An Accurately Named Trilogy I: Batman Begins

It may be an accurately named trilogy, but its edges are both fuzzy. The Dark Knight Rises ends by gesturing forwards to an unrealized draft of DC’s film aspirations. Batman Begins, on the other hand, is inexorably tethered to the Burton/Schumacher films its title declares its separation from. Batman begins because his franchise had been driven into the ground by Batman and Robin eight years earlier. The choice of villains is perhaps the clearest remnant of this - two villains who had not been used in the previous series, including the Scarecrow, who was going to be the villain of a fifth Batman film ever since it was going to be directed by Joel Schumacher and called Batman Unchained. Even Hans Zimmer’s score interpolates Danny Elfman’s.

Even considered purely within terms of the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins is odd. Again, the title is a clue - it’s the one part of the trilogy not to have the phrase “Dark Knight” in it. But more to the point, it’s the only film in the trilogy to be directed by Christopher Nolan, promising young director coming off of Memento and Insomnia as opposed to Christopher Nolan, director of major blockbusters. And this shows ...

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