Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Second Banana In The Lead
I am not going to review the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, because:
a) I am not eloquent enough to give it the full analysis it deserves.
b) I think it’s near impossible to express my viewpoint of it without accidentally giving away spoilers, or at least heavily hinting at them. “I liked the bit at the end where you’re like “Noooo way,” and then like “really?” And then like crying and then “YAY!”
c) I want to see it again and think about it some more.
d) Everyone is reviewing it, so why be a meagre also ran? I am a poor man's version of a poor man's version of a poor man's version of someone who has opinion on films.
Instead I am going to discuss Nolan’s love of creating supporting characters that, in my opinion, supersede that of our main protagonist.
When I watched the previous Batman film, The Dark Knight, I left firmly on Team Dent. By the end of that movie I wanted Harvey to have his redemption. I wanted him to escape the clutches of the law. I was prepared to leave the cinema and set up a Kickstarter to fund the surgery on his face, so he could retire to Aruba to raise lamas in peace.
This Dent over Batman love is not a criticism of Nolan.
I actually think it’s a testament to the great writing of the Nolan brothers. They took the time to sketch out such an interesting, diverse and full-bodied character in Aaron Eckhart that I preferred him to the whininess of Brue Wayne and the dryness of Batman.
If I were Rachel, I would have run away with him and his chin.
As for The Joker, his constant Iago-ing made him such a tantalizing mystery, that I wanted to staple him to a therapist’s couch and scream, “Now tell me about your relationship with your mother you crazy bastard!”
I was so lost in the stories and journeys of the supporting cast, that I felt like their actions and opinions became more fascinating then Batman’s, and I had similar tingly feelings in The Dark Knight Rises.
I think this is a purposeful decision on Nolan’s part.
After all he is known for boldness and forward thinking in the superhero genre, mixing gritty painful realism with flights of very organized crime fancy, but he is also know for giving us people to care about along the way.
(Side note: It always amazes me how Super Villains are not only skilled in the ways of fighting and persuasive and perceptive monologue giving BUT also in the ways of organizing. They manage to put together plans and heists with every possible outcome foreseen and accounted for about four months in advance. I guess God does give with both hands.)
Nolan appreciates what is important in keeping us invested in the film, and maybe it’s not always the singular journey of the main dude. After all everything that occurs around Batman is reflective of his situation, and the bigger picture can only help us better understand the environment he struggles to survive in. We are intermingled in his tragedy and his pain, as well as who he has influenced/created/pissed off with his vigilante ways.
In the current film the “baddy” Bane and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “Orphan Cop” are given an extraordinary amount of screen time.
This is in part because they are, as in The Dark Knight, meant to be extensions of Batman. The darker British side and the wet haired big eyed innocent side.
However the amount of running time dedicated to their story meant the eye movements and single tear from Tom Hardy’s Bane fascinated me more then the “one last job” journey of Christian Bale.
If we were at a party, and Bruce Wayne was the host, I would be trying to chat to the guy with the predator style morphine mask much more then the Waynester, because he would seem like he had something better to say. Sure it would be in an unsettling speech pattern, and I would spend much of the time trying to decipher how he ate, but none the less, he would say many wise and cool things.
I have also been pondering other films where, for me, the supporting characters stories are more interesting then the main stars.
(Lets automatically discount Tom Hardy from everything, because he automatically wins at Inception and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Scandalous, I know.)
The other alternative I came up with was Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in Scorsese's Gangs of New York.
He blows the simpering main protagonist DiCaprio right out of the water.
Lewis makes it seem so easy and effortless, therein genius lies, where as with DiCaprio you can see the foundations and ridges he has built to construct his character. He is always acting, and its fine, but it’s not enticing or striking.
It’s just there. Like a plain biscuit.
The character of Bill is complex, but in the wrong hands he could have been played as nothing but a burgeoning psychopath. Lewis and Scorsese take the time to weave layers into him. Make him commanding. We get a man with courage in his convictions, with certainty and as an audience we know no matter how morally corrupt his actions may be, he believes they have to be done. I found myself aware of every second he was not on screen, hoping he would return and distract from the awful chemistry/accents of Dicaprio and Diaz. He was evil, sure, but I rooted for him.
I guess that’s the take home message.
If you’re a super evil person in a film, but you're fully etched and intriguing then please let me spend as much as time with your as possible, and that’s something Nolan does.