Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises" will fall

Christopher Nolan’s massively anticipated conclusion to his Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises” (TDK Rises) will be released on July 20th. The film is the follow-up to what was briefly the fifth highest grossing film in history.* Christopher Nolan is a master film maker and really has never made a bad film. That being said, there is no way TDK Rises will not be a disappointment.

*It is now the 12th highest grossing film in history. However, the vast majority of the films that bumped it down were all released in 3D, which carry a premium in ticket cost.

No film in the history of ever has had the massive expectations that “TDK Rises” faces and met those expectations. “Star Wars:Episode 1.” “Spider-Man 3.” ThoseMatrix” sequels. Not all of these were bad films. In fact, most of them were even “Certified Fresh” by RottenTomatoes.com. However, none of these films were able to meet the expectations that fans had.

Many disappointing sequels faced similar obstacles that TDK Rises faces. The preceding film was, almost without prejudice, wildly popular and successful. Otherwise, the sequel would not have gotten made. However, being incredibly popular and having a cult-like following are two different things. “The Matrix” was incredibly popular but it was never a way of life for people the way comic books or Star Wars is a way of life for people.*

*The argument could be made that “The Matrix” is, in fact, real life, which would make the film less of a movie and more of a portal to reality, at least to the small, tin foil hat-wearing community.

In addition to life-defining moment for the comic book crowd, “The Dark Knight” also featured one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema in the Joker.* For the uninitiated, The Joker was a person with no back story to explain his behavior and who “just like[d] to watch the world burn,” as the trusted butler Alfred put it and Heath Ledger knocked the role out of the park.**

*In order for a movie to have an iconic hero, the film also needs an iconic foil. The principle is basically the same as the philosophy of yin and yang. Light and dark are somehow connected and dependent on each other. A film cannot have a captivating hero without an equally captivating villain.

**Ledger was really on quite a run of impressive performances prior to his death, starting with 2005’s “Lords of Dogtown” and including his Oscar-nominated performance in “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Dark Knight.” It was clear he was on his way to the upper-echelon of actors, with company such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

Star Wars had that kind of villain. Darth Vader was a conflicted person who turned to the evil Emperor Palpatine to save the lives of his children. Ultimately, Darth Vader’s true self shows through when he kills Palpatine to save his child once again, the heroic Luke Skywalker’s life. Darth Maul looked sweet but pretty much was terrible. None of the villains in either of the first two Spider-Man movies had the depth or intrigue of Darth Vader or the Joker.

That leaves “Star Wars: Episode 1” as the most comparable film in terms of anticipation to “The Dark Knight Rises.” Both are follow-ups to wildly successful films that contained iconic villains. However, the two films still have one difference: as previously stated, Christopher Nolan is widely viewed as a master filmmaker. Many argue that he has never made a bad film and his work on films such as “Memento” and “The Prestige” would seem to support that claim.

George Lucas, on the other hand, had, and still has, a slightly different reputation. Sure, he was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for “American Graffiti” but within the Star Wars universe, he was always viewed as a good idea man who could not necessarily write compelling dialogue or direct a stunning film. Although the possibility was remote, people still knew that there was at least a possibility that a George Lucas written and directed Stars Wars film may be a little hokie and not that good.*

*Of the original three films, “A New Hope” is regarded by many as the weakest of three, and is the only one that Lucas directed and is also the only one that he wrote completely on his own.

There is simply no way that “The Dark Knight Rises” will not be a disappointment. More than likely, the film itself will be great. Christopher Nolan has earned the reputation as a direct that does not make bad movies. No matter how great Tom Hardy is as Bane, he will not match Ledger. He can’t. The bar has been set too high. “The Dark Knight” redefined a genre of film and set the standard for what a movie villain could be. “The Dark Knight Rises” can’t, and won’t, be able to repeat that performance, no matter how great it is.

-Written by Tony Fioriglio


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