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The Dark Knight Rises - The Ex-Communicator

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July 29th, 2012


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08:55 am - The Dark Knight Rises
I went to see The Dark Knight Rises on the first day it came out. I had fairly high expectations, and they were disappointed. I ended up falling asleep, which I have only done once before (Van Helsing).

You don't decide to dislike a film because of its political subtext or its narrative incoherence. Because really that isn't what is happening. I'm not enjoying something and then my inner critic says 'Oh, I just spotted incoherence' and so I dutifully reject any pleasure it gives me. Or 'This embodies values I don't agree with. I'd better not enjoy it then.' I think sometimes people think that's what viewers are doing, because that's how they describe the causality in a review.

But the experience of the causality is the other way round. I am watching a film and it just doesn't grip me, and my emotions disconnect, and in this case my subconscious actually stepped in and switched me off completely. I think I was snoring (I was sitting next to my son's girlfriend and she's a bit too tactful to say). And then when you come out of the cinema you ask yourself 'What went wrong?' and then you start thinking about narrative incoherence or whatever.

The other thing is: what about people who did enjoy it? For example my nephew has 24/7 personal carers, who are good decent people. One took him to see TDKR and they both loved it. Are they wrong? 'Up until now Transformers was my favourite film, now this is.' Is that wrong? No, it's two young guys who approach the spectacle with open hearts. Good luck to them, but in another way they are technically 'wrong' in that the film really is incoherent.

Actually there were good aspects to the film. The actors did well with what they were given. Catwoman was good: ultra sexy without being exploitative. There were some interesting ideas (delivered cack-handedly). But the plot was ridiculous, and the dialogue was absolutely terrible. Just awful. And the values were confused so you didn't have a consistent emotional reaction, unless your reaction is just 'Oh flying cars and explosions!'

If a story is fantastical it's good to present it on a bed of authenticity. That was what I liked best about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, particularly the Fellowship. Batman Begins was like that. But TDKR doesn't make you feel the authenticity of the frame in which the story happened. That was the biggest problem for me.

Your city is cut off from the rest of the world, with no public services or law enforcement. You are trapped underground in a noisome sewer with thousands of other people, for months. You are imprisoned in the 'worst prison in the world' and you have a dislocated spine. These are pretty extreme and interesting situations. Did this film in any way make you feel what it would be like to be in any of those situations? Not at all. Of course such a story can't be 'realistic' but it can be authentic. And then you would feel emotion. Which I didn't.

ETA Abigail's review here describes the elements that made the film fail - such as the incoherence and confused values - and that is the type of analysis I am alluding to, explicating what went wrong. I suppose in my review here, which isn't really a review at all, I am trying to say why that matters. Because if it was all terrific fun it wouldn't matter.

I wonder whether Nolan was fed up with doing Batman films before he finished this one.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:nostalgia_lj
Date:July 29th, 2012 09:00 am (UTC)
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I liked it mostly but the politics disturbed me.
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From:communicator
Date:July 29th, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)
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I saw your review just after I posted this. I think we had the same reactions to many of the scenes, but probably the whole thing hung together better for you. Well, you weren't passed out for half of it :-)
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From:espresso_addict
Date:July 29th, 2012 09:00 am (UTC)
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I've not seen the new film, so I'm not reading the spoilers part, but I found TDK incoherent, overlong & dull (after on the whole enjoying BB a lot).
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From:communicator
Date:July 29th, 2012 09:05 am (UTC)
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I wanted to see it. I saw it. So not a waste of time and money in that respect, because I had to know. Same as Prometheus. I had to know. But I am starting to wonder if Hollywood and me have parted company.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:July 29th, 2012 12:32 pm (UTC)
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But I am starting to wonder if Hollywood and me have parted company.

There is always going to be crap, I don't think that's ever changed.
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From:electricant
Date:July 29th, 2012 10:42 am (UTC)
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I also found TDKR profoundly unengaging and without any kind of emotional reality. I haven't figured out why exactly, but yes, being disengaged meant that I picked up on a lot of technical flaws that I suspect wouldn't have bothered me if I'd been immersed in the story and characters.
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From:communicator
Date:July 29th, 2012 11:12 am (UTC)
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Yes I was thinking about Firefly, which takes place in a ridiculous universe that doesn't make any physical sense, and arguably had peculiar libertarian values, but was authentic in some way that made it emotionally satisfying.
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From:executrix
Date:July 29th, 2012 11:59 am (UTC)
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WRT Firefly: the Alliance certainly has libertarian values, since it operates by dumping people out on the edge of nowhere and waiting for them to have enough stuff to appropriate (including the inside of their heads). And Mal and perhaps Jayne have libertarian values, but the show is about "what is Mal going to be like when he grows up?"--I don't think that the show expects viewers to agree either with the Alliance or with Mal and Jayne.
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From:communicator
Date:July 29th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I'm not really making a good case, just sort of nodding to the issue. I think the values in TDKR are probably worse in any case, because they are more embedded, but I probably wouldn't care if I liked the film more.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:July 29th, 2012 12:29 pm (UTC)
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You don't decide to dislike a film because of its political subtext or its narrative incoherence. Because really that isn't what is happening.

Agreed. I think what happens is that you enter the experience with a certain amount of goodwill towards the piece; a certain amount of benefit-of-the-doubt or suspension-of-disbelief. Perhaps I should call it the "flaw allowance". When you are enjoying yourself, when things work about the piece, the flaw allowance increases. When things are irritating and not working, the flaw allowance decreases. And when the flaw allowance falls below a certain point, the flaws have run out of their allowance, and they bother you. It isn't that you weren't noticing the flaws before, it's just that you didn't care.

I had to develop this model to explain to myself why I like Doctor Who so much, when it clearly has flaws and plotholes that would bother me in other situations, and also why there are completely different reactions to said flaws by different people. I mean, of course it would be better if the flaws weren't there, but there's a certain point where one can enjoy something despite the flaws, and another point where one can't.

And, yes, there are some people who are in it for the visual spectacle, and enjoy it at that level - and if one tried to drag those people to watch Blake's 7, all they would be able to see would be the wobbly sets.
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From:communicator
Date:July 29th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
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Ah yes, we B7 fans are world masters at making allowances and turning a blind eye. We've had thirty years of overlooking faults for the sake of love.
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From:executrix
Date:July 29th, 2012 01:04 pm (UTC)

Accounts

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There are always a lot of aspects to any artistic creation. OK, we'd be mad to say that B7 lives up to today's state of the art for the physical set-up of high budget productions. But it's still interesting to see a show that's really about something and that has characters that give you something to think about.

And viewing often isn't sequential--often, we'll see the fifth show to use a particular trope before we see the first show to use it. At which point we often shake our heads and say that the first show is "Oh, that old thing."
From:abigail_n
Date:July 29th, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
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If you're looking for some more analysis of the film, and particularly the problems with its politics this post rounds up some interesting pieces (mine notwithstanding) and add some good ideas of its own. I'm particularly impressed by Aaron Bady's piece in The New Inquiry.
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From:communicator
Date:July 30th, 2012 10:23 am (UTC)
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Oh thank you. You were talking about how loud fannish consensus makes you feel resistant (in re Prometheus). But there's a spectrum of reactions to TDKR. Mostly negative, but not completely homogeneous. Like Prometheus scenes were painstakingly engineered, and then the emotional force was pissed away.
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From:archbishopm
Date:July 29th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
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'Up until now Transformers was my favourite film, now this is.' Is that wrong?

Yes.

But now I feel better about how I have felt no desire to go see it, even though I have loved everything that Christopher Nolan has ever done (except for Insomnia). Oh well, at least the new improved Spider-Man was so new and improved that we were watching part of the Raimi version on TV yesterday and we were like, my god, what did we ever see in this film, I mean, organic web-shooters, what the deuce.

Ooh Breaking Bad is on in less than five hours ooooh.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:July 30th, 2012 10:25 am (UTC)
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I didn't like Inception either, for some of the same reasons as this - it seemed to lack vivid presence. But I know most people loved it anyway.

I am loving this season of Breaking Bad.

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