The Dark Knight Gets Semi-Aroused

The Reign of the Kitsch of Death has finally been broken. Director/writer Christopher Nolan has proven you don't necessarily need an actor named Taylor to create incomprehensible muck. One monikered Christian Bale will do as well.

To be blunt, from its opening second, The Dark Knight Rises is so unintelligible, both plot-wise and sound-wise, that at the screening I attended at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, I'd say nearly a quarter of the dialog was muddled. And if you just want to focus on the lead villain Bane (Tom Hardy), raise that figure to 75%. Believe me!

Whoever thought that a bad guy with his mouth, nose, and ears concealed with a metal contrivance was a good idea should rethink the notion, especially when he has to mumble over Hans Zimmer's generically pounding "music." (Well, admittedly it did work in Halloween, but that psychopath didn't have to hold a discourse.)

Anyway, for the first fifteen minutes or so of this batty affair, some folks have boarded a plane with two hooded prisoners, but then the prisoners take over, and their accomplices, suspended from another plane, tear apart the original plane, and everyone starts shooting at each other. At that point, Bane, who is one of the hooded gents, starts siphoning blood from one of his captors, who is now his hostage, and they jump from the plane together—and you'll have no idea why. Or who's who. Not even after watching the whole two hours and 45 minutes of this dreary, misguided, half-baked enterprise will you be enlightened.

Apparently, if I can unearth the plotline, and this is where the plotline usually goes, the head of the League of Shadows or someone connected to him wants to destroy Gotham City because its inhabitants are reprehensible. After all, they are humans. What do you expect? But who will save the day?

Not Bruce Wayne (Bale), who having a limp (no cartilage in his knees) and an aching heart, has sequestered himself because he lost his true love in the previous film. Alfred (a wretched Michael Caine), his butler of sorts, meanwhile, wants Wayne to bury Batman, find a mate, and get married. How about Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a highly successful businesswoman who has invested in a clean energy product with Wayne and once played Piaf with "No Regrets"? Or why not Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar turned Catwoman, who steals his mother's pearls? Of course, an even better option would be John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cop who's head of the Bring-Back-Batman fan club.

Not to spill the beans, an hour and a half into The Dark Knight Rises, Bane starts blowing up the city, and that's what we're waiting for. Also, there's a spectacular, nearly witty bombing of a football game, a few killings of Wall Street investors, and unending shots of Wayne trying to climb out of an inescapable underground prison. Think of Sisyphus on Quaaludes.

But what's worse than the dreary dialogue and the one-note performances (only Hathaway and Gordon-Leavitt rise out of these ashes) is the half-baked politics of this "epic."

The Nolans (brother Jonathan is co-writer) seem to be arguing that if the status quo is altered in any way, America will descend either into a police state or a French revolutionary debacle where the rich are battered by the have-nots. Ecologists, too, for that matter, don't get off easy. They really want to nuke us. As for the law, it has to be corrupt to achieve justice, and then poor secular humanism is depicted as more of a quirk of the few than the many.

But who goes to a Batman film for consciousness raising? You want entertainment, don't you? Ably, this Dark Knight will supply you with at least 20 minutes of sound amusement. Just bring your knitting for the rest of it. - Brandon Judell


Mr. Judell is currently teaching "The Arts in New York City," "American Jewish Theater," and "Theater of the Sixties" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice,, The New York Daily NewsSoho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint. Logo - 120x60


Either you went to a crappy theater, or you might want to look into a hearing aid. Also, you've been out-voted nearly 99 to 1 on the quality of acting, in fact I haven't seen one other review that actually calls out the actors for being straight up poor or unconvincing. Then again, when you can't hear half of whats going on over 3 hours, you'd probably get pretty grumpy. Not going to take this review too seriously.

Other reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes have complained

about the sound as well. And I asked five strangers in the theater I was at, a major venue in New York City, about the mumbling; they all said they had trouble understanding the dialogue, especially Bane's. With certain actors, though, such as Gordon-Leavitt and Anne Hathaway, every word was clear as a bell. 


As for the acting, who did you believe gave fine performances?


For a reviewer who agrees with me, try Rex Reed, as I've noted before.

I find it humorous that in

I find it humorous that in the final paragraph, the reviewer says that we'll be bored watching this movie. He needs to look up other reviews for this movie so he can see that he is in the very small minority of the people who were not entertained by this movie. I am perfectly accepting of your negative opinion about the movie, Mr. Judell, but speak for yourself; don't tell us that WE will be bored just because you don't like it.

Ah, but most critics speculate that their readers will agree .

. . with them. The critics who like The Dark Knight are insisting that their readers will enjoy the film. How do they know that beforehand? And are their self-important pronouncements any less insulting than mine?  How can anyone read your minds and guess how you will react to any film, book, or video game? It's sort of a game we play.

Your review reads as

Your review reads as political rather than critical. More concerned with oh no Nolan doesn't like us? So you based most of review on what may or may not happen if we did have a 'revolution.' It reads like a hippie being disgruntled that their utopian world may not happen if they decide to overtake Wallstreet & corporate America. Trading one devil for another and deserving both. I admire your bravery dear sir for allowing comments on your site.

Politics vs. Criticism

You seem to believe that the politics of a film is not up for discussion. Try reading the theater reviews of George Bernard Shaw or the film reviews of Colette or James Agee. Movies not only comment on our society, they can shape our society. Just watch "Metropolis" or "A Face in the Crowd." How can you write about them without confronting their politics?

My stance has always been that a film's politics is as legitimate to discuss as its acting and editing.

(By the way, this is not my own site, and I consider being described as a "disgruntled hippie" as a compliment.)

You Batman/fantasy/sci-fi

You Batman/fantasy/sci-fi fans are friggin' pathetic. The man is giving a valid opinion for the mature adults in this world instead of the emotionally arrested young men still living in their parents' basements, worshipping Batman (who is not a real guy by the way), and attending ComicCons. Take a bath and go out and meet girls once in awhile, it might change your adolescent perspectives.

Dark Knight Rises Reveiew






I'm sorry my prose does not please you, but . . .

I must say your writing has energy and is instantly engaging.

Your metaphors are humorous, and also it's great to find someone so exuberant about a movie.

I could actually see you composing a comic about a superhero who goes around transporting film critics from their Earth homes to a faraway stark, frigid planet where all they could watch are films about superheroes.

Well done.

Careful with that ax, Jay!

Love the whole CAPS experience of your rebuttal to Mr. Judell's review. But are you serious? Where are your counterpoints to his valid points about the movie's shortcomings?

Moreover, what a boring little world it would be if everyone agreed with everyone else. If you loved the movie, what does it matter what a critic thinks about it. Everyone with a free will is entitled to his/her opinion.

Moreover, I might suggest you check your spelling and grammar before you leave a comment. I counted at least 7 errors.

And for the record, it's CULTURE CATCH, not CLASH.