Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Franchise Frenzy: The Dark Knight Trilogy

Welcome to Franchise Frenzy! Every other week I post a column analyzing the quality and pop culture impact of a certain Hollywood franchise. This week, I swear to Christopher Nolan and cover The Dark Knight trilogy.

Three movies have really impact blockbuster cinema in the 21st Century: Spider-Man, Batman Begins and The Avengers (Inception as well, but mainly because every trailer now needs a BWAAAAMMMM) Spider-Man opened the floodgates for comic book movies, while The Avengers told everyone that more complex blockbuster storytelling was possible. And every single reboot for a while there cited Batman Begins expert mix of darkness and fun as the ultimate way to pull off a blockbuster film.

Looking at The Dark Knight trilogy as a whole, can one blame filmmakers for taking cues from Nolan's epic films? After all, all three really delve into some heady topics, while making sure there's more than enough explosions to keep one interested. But while The Dark Knight is the one credited with being the apex of such qualities, let's not forget that the aforementioned Batman Begins truly started things off with a glorious bang. Perhaps it's because I was it with lowered expectations (I saw it and The Dark Knight at a marathon screen at iPic prior to a Midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises), but I just found Batman Begins to be simply phenomenal.

From the start of things, one can tell we're not in Joel Schumacher's film-making anymore. Liam Neeson, making for one effective mentor, helps make his turn into the major villain (along with Cillian Murphys super duper freaky Scarecrow) believable. But the real stand out here is Christian Bale. Now, Christian is doing well as an actor in general, but I don't think he's ever given his due in his dual roles as Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Bruce, he exudes confidence in public while being a shell of a man in private. But when he's Batman, he unleashes a kind of primal beast within himself that;s simultaneously riveting and terrifying. Is this the same man who earlier bought a hotel just so two gorgeous women could take a dip in a pool?

By the time The Dark Knight rolls around, things get even better, as everything in this movie has been perfected to the point of just cinematic euphoria. Much of that goes to Heath Ledger's Joker, who, even six years later, does not lose one bit of his edge. Every time his mouth opens up to unleash some new blood curdling phrase, you can feel fear creep into your veins. Few cinematic characters can conjure up emotions as distinct as Ledger's Joker, a personality that drives a film that refuses to settle for simply good; everything in it must be at the highest quality possible.

Similar to Bale's Batman, I feel like Aaron Eckhart never got his fair share of praise in his turn as Harvey Dent. A sense of tragedy is relentlessly abundant in this picture, but it's doubtful it would be the potent if it weren't for the finale scene of the movie, in which Dent threatens Commissioner Gordons family. The man Gordon, and the entire city, once championed is now holding his children hostage at gunpoint. It's terrifying, but it shows how dark something so pure can get. Even Batman isn't immune to being sucked into doing regrettable things, namely whenever he uses every cell phone in Gotham to help track his adversaries.

In the face of The Dark Knights massive grosses, the main takeaway Hollywood took was "Go dark or Go home" The 4 years in between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises saw not only a drastic uptick in darker Hollywood blockbuster, but also a huge increase in rumors as to just what Nolan would do next. you think this onslaught of Star Wars: Episode VII news and set photos is bad? Oh buddy, it's NOTHING compared to those 4 years, where even Nolan's sneezes seemed to say something profound about the next Batman feature.

After that kind of hype, wasn't it inevitable for The Dark Knight Rises to arrive to internet scorn? Every aspect of it from the understandable (the Robin bit at the end is pretty stupid) to the ludicrous (No internet, I don't care how Catwoman became a maid at Wayne Manor). While this third movie does have flaws, it still carries over the virtues of the first two movies by being epic, thoughtful and most of all, simply just fun. While I wish it was just maybe 10 minutes shorter, even then there's so much good stuff I don't know precisely what I'd cut. Tom Hardy rocks it as Bane, while Anne Hathaway may be the best part of the movie as Catwoman. Plus, the action sequence depicting Batman returning to Gotham right after Bane takes the stock market building hostage is a tour de force of what the caped crusader can accomplish.

Until the end of time, the flaws of The Dark Knight Rise swill probably remain controversial to those on the internet, but it's indisputable that this trilogy of films is one of the most important made in recent times. Its effect on blockbusters, Christian Bale, Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger (just to name a few of the countless things it's impacted) are immeasurable and I'm sure they appreciate it as much as I appreciate all the wondrous things these movies bring.

And now, the original Dark Knight teaser that gives me shivers every time I watch it.

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