September, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Quality over Quantity and Why It Was Better Than The Avengers.

First off, let me just start by saying I will (I promise), even though being a HUGE! Christopher Nolan fan and an even HUGER fan of his Dark Knight Trilogy, try to be as unbiased as I possibly can. I will give a brief description for both movies (as basic of a synopses as I can) and then once you know the film I’m talking about, make a clear and coherent presentation on why I believe The Dark Knight Rises was the better of the two.

I’ll be far and start off with the The Avengers:

Marvel’s The Avengers (for those of you that have lived under a rock this summer and no, you cannot play the “age” card with this either! I’m pretty sure if you asked your grandparents about the movie they would at least know it from the previews) is the 6th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that started back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. The movie represents a cross over, combining several already established franchises into 1 epic action packed extravaganza. The film’s main cast is Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson.

To simply put the synopses: Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye and all summoned together by Nick Furry in order to save the Earth from the destruction of an alien race led by Thor’s adoptive brother Loki. Simple enough, right? Nothing out the ordinary. It is your basic summer popcorn film.

My argument: As a movie lover in general, I cannot bring myself to say that this was a bad movie. It was honestly everything a comic book movie should be and then some. Outrageous special effects, unbelievable fighting scenes, some campy humor thrown in, a reminder of the days of comic books, and just all around entertainment. There is no doubt in my mind that this film will go down in history as one of the biggest box office experiences. For a while there it was closing in on Titanic’s original theatrical box office numbers. But factoring in the revenue made my its 3D re-release earlier this year the film has since surpassed the $2 billion mark, making it far out of reach for The Avengers. Still, a $1.5 billion box office run is something to brag about and something that nowadays warrants a sequel. All that being said, to me, its flashiness. Nothing of real substance. Yes, you cannot fabricate box office numbers but in my honest opinion, that was what was pushing The Avengers along.

When the numbers came back for its opening weekend, a staggering $207 million debut, it made news the world over. And the plot, the movie itself, what I’m paying to see played out in front of me, was kind of swept aside. Headlines sort of went from “The Avengers: One of the greatest movies of all time” to “The Avengers: One of the biggest movies all time.” To the normal reader “greatest” and “biggest” sound the same, but when it comes to film, they are very different. The Avengers record setting box office was its blessing and its curse.

Very few articles that I can think of really went in-depth with the actual story of The Avengers. We all knew what it was about on the whole, but what about the actual film? The dialogue, the performances, what was written about them? The only case I can bring up here is critic’s reactions to Mark Ruffalo’s performance as the Hulk. A character already portrayed by 2 actors in a very short time frame (Eric Bana played the Hulk in ’03 and then Edward Norton in ’08) Ruffalo had to shine in the shadow of 2 well established actors. And he eventual came out on top. 

Like I said, I have no doubt in my mind that The Avengers was big and will remain big for a very, very long time. But what made it big was its sheer return of investment.

Now for The Dark Knight Rises:

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is the 3rd and final installment of Nolan’s take on Batman mythology that started back in 2005 when Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise with Batman Begins. The movie brings to a close problems first introduced with Batman Begins and then those followed up in its 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight, into one giant, monumental and revolutionary cinematic experience. The film reunites Nolan with recurring cast members Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and (spoiler for those who still haven’t seen it, Cillian Murphy) while at the same time introducing Anne Hathaway, Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy.

To simply put the synopses: Batman, following the death of Harvey Dent, has taken the blame and has been in hiding for 8 years. With the introduction of Selina Kyle a.k.a Catwoman (although never referred to as such in the film) Batman must return to crime fighting to stop the terrorist known as Bane from destroying all of Gotham with a nuclear bomb. Yet again, simple right? Your typical good guy vs. bad guy film. But herein lies the huge, and I do mean huge, difference between The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers.

My argument: Nolan created a comic book movie without it being a comic book movie. He created a superhero that wasn’t a superhero. He created a fantasy world without the fantasy. At the end of the day, yes you can argue that some of The Dark Knight Rises is farfetched (i.e. Bane turning Manhattan into some form of a utilitarian state. But it’s a lot more relatable than a space-time vortex that transported aliens from another galaxy here to enslave the human race.) In a post 9/11 world, and using New York City as the backdrop for Gotham, Nolan took a fantasy world created decades ago by Bob Kane and modernized it to fit in with every fear we can think of in the 21st century. Today, we constantly face the threat of nuclear war and the destruction of Wall Street, all of which were subplots to The Dark Knight Rises.

When it was released on July 20th, the premier was overshadowed by the tragedy in Colorado, an action that was in part materialized by the Batman mythology. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t have the projected box office results to catapult its success in the same way that it did with The Avengers. Instead it was met with horror and disbelief. But through all that, it maintained its ground. Eventually topping the box office for 4 consecutive weeks and grossing an impressive $1.05 billion in revenue, surpassing the then-record breaking haul of its predecessor.

The success of The Dark Knight Rises was not solely contributed to its return of investment. What made it so successful was the acting, the direction, the dialogue and the special effects. I have read countless articles from the likes of Roger Ebert and outlets like The Telegraph and The Guardian that praised the performances of Michal Caine in particular, as well as Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and even Anne Hathway whom many criticized as the choice of Selina Kyle before even seeing the final film.

What made Nolan as revolutionary as a director is that he is able to make the unbelievable believable without the heavy use of CGI. Let’s face it, that’s something that The Avengers would be nothing without.  It isn’t relevant only with The Dark Knight Trilogy – think the zero-gravity hallway scene from Inception.

The Dark Knight Rise was able to break box office records without the surcharge of 3D, become one the highest rated films of the years based off of quality and not quantity and manage to do all in the wake of a massacre that claimed the lives of 12 people and injured 58 innocent people.

As a lover of film, I believe every film has something special to it and therefore something relatable to the audience. Even critical panned films from the likes of Adam Sandler (i.e. Jack and Jill) still resonate with audiences in some way because film will always be at the mercy of the viewers. So in the end I won’t completely disregard The Avengers.

Cinema has completely done an overhaul in the past 20 years or so. It is no long the Oscars that vote what movie was best of the year (technically speaking they still do.) It is now in the hands of the audiences that can turn little no-name movies into franchise (i.e. Saw) or completely change the face of the Academy Awards, signaling that you can be a critical and commercial success, not one or the other (i.e. Avatar.) This realization is no more relevant than with The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises plays perfectly to both sides of the movie-goer’s spectrum: those who want nothing more than action and explosions and those who want substance and creability. In the words of Selina Kyle, The Dark Knight Rises has “given them everything.”

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