Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 18-24: The Dark Knight Rises and That’s It

In Theaters

Only one movie opens this week—and that’s no surprise. Put simply, no one wants to put their film up against the poised juggernaut of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Not even the art titles care to tackle this one, but then the current run of art titles—Moonrise Kingdom, To Rome with Love, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Your Sister’s Sister, and even Bernie—are going strong enough that that market might be saturated anyway.

In a summer season that’s seemed like one event movie after another, this one looks like the title that most deserves the accolade. That, by the way, is not a value judgment. I have no idea if this is really better than what has come before it, but The Dark Knight Rises looks even more a pre-sold title than The Avengers. Certainly, all those people who get bent out of shape if you call them fanboys are jazzed to the max. I keep reading comments where people say things like, “I don’t have to see this to know that it’s going to be the greatest movie ever made.” (Now, really, does anything but fanboy match that mindset.) One person did allow that it might be second to Citizen Kane. But another announced that anyone who doesn’t love this, doesn’t “deserve” to watch movies. And they’re out for blood, too. I pity Marshall Fine—the poor boob who “ruined” their 100 percent positive reviews (God save us from review aggregation sites!) by not giving the movie its due. In the space of a few hours, he received 335 responses (and they keep growing)—a portion of which were wishing him dead, one suggested he was a pedophile. (There’s a reason the term fanboy exists.) And there’s the usual contingent who think they can pressure Rotten Tomatoes into removing him. There really are people on there who think all their whining and name-calling caused the removal of Armond White. Update: The name-calling and death threats—yes, death threats—got so out of hand (especially after three other critics didn’t love it) that the folks at Rotten Tomatoes “temporarily” disabled the comment section for this movie.

Bear in mind that all these internet villagers with their website torches ablaze have one thing in common with me—they haven’t seen the movie. The thing is I know that Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker to be reckoned with—The Prestige (2006) and Inception (2010) prove that. That doesn’t make him infallible—and I am increasingly disenchanted by his Batman movies. For me, the main things they brought to the comic book movie are pomposity and a lack of humor—and Christian Bale, which is pretty much the same thing. As a result, yeah, I’m going to be a hard-sell on this new one. At the same time, I’m hoping to like it. I don’t have any real desire to sit in misery for a whopping 164 minutes. I’ll find out Friday morning. (Yes, I know, there are midnight shows on Thursday. I’ll leave those to the faithful.)

As noted, none of the art titles are leaving. The Fine Arts is holding Moorise Kingdom and To Rome with Love. The Carolina is holding those along with Your Sister’s Sister, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Bernie. Bernie, however, is again in split shows—and with two new art titles slated for July 27, I’d be very surprised if it lasts more than another week.

Special Screenings

In addition to the usual screenings, don’t forget the showing of Orson Welle’s The Stranger (1946) at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., July 18 at The Carolina. Admission is $5 for Asheville Film Society members and $7 for the general public.

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) at 8 p.m. on Thu., July 19 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) is this week’s film from World Cinema on Fri., July 20 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing part one of John Frankenheimer’s The Iceman Cometh (1973) at 2 p.m. on Sun., July 22 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. (Part two shows on July 29.) The Asheville Film Society is screening James Whale’s Show Boat (1936) on Tue., July 24 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

There’s a fairly wide range of titles this week. On the higher end of the scale we have Friends with Kids and Salmon Fishing in Yemen. Then there’s Lockout, which Mr. Souther didn’t think was awful. But on the really low end of things there’s The Three Stooges, which I hope never to encounter again.

Notable TV Screenings

A week of perfectly reasonable offerings—even some great ones—but there’s really nothing that stands out as unusual.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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33 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 18-24: The Dark Knight Rises and That’s It

  1. Orbit DVD

    Few more out: Casa de mi Padre, Get the Gringo, 4:44 (new Abel Ferrera) and Intruders.

  2. Jeremy Dylan

    Certainly, all those people who get bent out of shape if you call them fanboys are jazzed to the max.

    I have no problem being described as a fanboy – or describing the guys piling on Fine as asshole nutbars.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I have no problem being described as a fanboy

    Good. It wouldn’t stop me from calling you one if you denied it.

    or describing the guys piling on Fine as asshole nutbars.

    And you call yourself a fanboy!

  4. Fanboy

    “for me, the main things they brought to the comic book movie are pomposity and a lack of humor”

    What you might perceive as a lack of humor translates to many as just a more authentic take on where the Batman comics have been, in story and in tone, for the past 30 years. Batman was never meant to be particularly humorous… unless of course you’re Joel Schumacher. I dunno, maybe you have to be somewhat into the comics to fully appreciate what he’s done with this series.

    Nolan has definitely raised the bar for what comic book movies can be, and what they are capable of. If that comes across as pompous then that just says more about the genre prior to his entry into it than it does about the director himself. Besides, Nolan’s Batman is certainly no more pompous than your typical art-house indie flick. Just sayin’ …

  5. Ken Hanke

    What you might perceive as a lack of humor translates to many as just a more authentic take on where the Batman comics have been, in story and in tone, for the past 30 years. Batman was never meant to be particularly humorous… unless of course you’re Joel Schumacher. I dunno, maybe you have to be somewhat into the comics to fully appreciate what he’s done with this series.

    Well, it kind of depends on where you are in Batman history as to just how downbeat these things are supposed to be. The comics I read in the 1960s are certainly not accurately reflected in the Nolan universe. And Schumacher looks positively restrained up against the TV show. Personally, I’ll take the Burton films over the Nolan ones. But even in the Burton moviies — which are part of the newer era of Batman — there’s an element of humor.

    Nolan has definitely raised the bar for what comic book movies can be, and what they are capable of.

    Yes, so I hear. I don’t see it, but I keep being told it. Frankly, if you want to go that route, I think X2 is far superior.

    Besides, Nolan’s Batman is certainly no more pompous than your typical art-house indie flick.

    Kinda depends of the art-house indie film in question.

    Now, maybe I’ll think this latest is everything that’s claimed. I won’t know till after the 11 a.m. show tomorrow.

  6. Jeremy Dylan

    Nolan’s Batman is certainly no more pompous than your typical art-house indie flick.

    While I probably side more with you than Ken on Nolan’s Batman pictures, that’s not much of a defense.

  7. Ken Hanke

    My problem is that I’m not sure what constitutes typical. I can think of quite a few art/indie titles playing at this very moment that are hardly pompous. In fact, I can’t think of one out right now that is.

  8. Fanboy

    Certainly a trivial thing to banter about after last night’s events, but here goes…

    “Well, it kind of depends on where you are in Batman history as to just how downbeat these things are supposed to be. The comics I read in the 1960s are certainly not accurately reflected in the Nolan universe.”

    Pretty much everything since the 70s has been pretty dark in nature, so the current movies at least reflect the tenor of the times when it comes to the source material. In that regard, Nolan is in many ways the only one who’s gotten it right.

    “Personally, I’ll take the Burton films over the Nolan ones. ”

    I’ve never understood how anyone could think the Burton movies are better, unless of course it’s just a stylistic preference. I enjoyed the first two Batman flicks, but it’s pretty clear, at least to me, that they look extremely small and limited in scope next to Nolan’s versions. Kind of like comparing Superman 3 to the first two in that series: one is campy, fun and decent entertainment, the others actually legitimate dramas that transcend beyond your typical genre offering.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I enjoyed the first two Batman flicks, but it’s pretty clear, at least to me, that they look extremely small and limited in scope next to Nolan’s versions. Kind of like comparing Superman 3 to the first two in that series: one is campy, fun and decent entertainment, the others actually legitimate dramas that transcend beyond your typical genre offering

    Well, one man’s scope is perhaps another man’s bloat. I’m unclear…are you calling the first two Superman pictures from the 1970s “legitimate dramas that transcend beyond your typical genre offering?” If so, we have a huge disconnect.

  10. Fanboy

    Well, yes. At least in comparison to the third film. And the fourth.

    Many film historians, even to this day, consider those first two Superman flicks the best the genre has ever offered, at least until recently. Richard Donner really had something there, in my opinion, At the very least, they certainly transcend your typical comic book flick, and that’s all I was asserting. For instance, look at what those first two Superman films are up against in comparison since they were released, beyond the three lousy sequels:

    Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider and it’s sequel, the first five Batman movies, Catwoman, Blade, Fantastic Four and its terrible sequel, Swamp Thing, Green Lantern, the Hulk movies, Judge Dredd, Tank Girl, the Punisher for God’s sake, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Spawn, The Rocketeer, etc.

    I feel like it’s pretty obvious that at least the first Superman movie is in a different league entirely than any of those other comic book movies.

    On Batman, what we’re discussing here is also whether the Nolan films transcend the typical comic book genre film, not whether they’re bloated, which is simply a matter of taste and isn’t worth arguing over.

    Burton’s Batman felt constrained to the simplified, claustrophobic world the early comics defined, from its ridiculous cardboard cut-out set designs to the dirth of one dimensional characterization of the key figures. It had its charms, sure, but Nolan’s trilogy reaches for a lot more thematically and at least attempts to be something more than a prisoner to one director’s rigid visual style (pretty much every Tim Burton film is suffocated by a singular, narrowly defined visual direction that you either love or grow tired of). Whether or not Nolan succeeds on this level is debatable of course, but that his Batman trilogy transcends typical comic flare, and whether it has had a major influence on the genres direction by doing so, isn’t really debatable. Burton’s films did nothing of the sort and haven’t really been historically significant or influential at all beyond nostalgia. I think it’s pretty clear whose take on Batman will be considered more important, more epic in scope and influence, and thus more transcendental of the genre.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing. If you grew up reading early Detective Comics your idea of what constitutes a successful Batman film may be totally different from someone who nerded out on Frank Miller.

  11. Big Al

    I would agree with FanBoy, sort of. First, there wasn’t much in the way of serious comic/superhero films to compare Superman 1 and 2 to, so they were rather original and did treat the subject in a serious but not overblown way. I was pretty young at the time and was affected by some of the drama, i.e. the death of Lois Lane in S1 and the humbling of Supes (and America!) by the villians in S2.

    As for “campy, fun, and decent entertainmant”, I hate, Hate, HATED S3!…except for the Lana Lang moments. And Gene Pryor?…(vomit!)

  12. Big Al

    As for Batman, I was pleasant surprised at how dark the previously comedic Michael Keaton could be as Batman (this was before “Extreme Measures”).

    I liked (not loved, mind you) “Batman Begins”, mostly cuz I’m a Liam Neeson Fanboy and thought Raz Al Ghul was a cool mentor/villian.

    “Dark Knight” was too long and complicated for me and I had to watch it TWICE AT HOME to “get it”, which I definately would NOT have if I had to suffer through it in the theatre. I cringed a little too much at Heath Ledger’s Joker and was turned off by Aaron Echart’s Two-Face (maybe I just prefer him as a hero). Between the three of them, I almost forgot who movie was about. I did like Maggie Gyllenhal better than Katie Holmes (again, fanboy preference).

    I plan to see “Dark Knight Rises” but am already prepared to be disappointed by Tom Hardy’s mask. Burton’s advice to Keaton to “let the suit do the acting” will not cut it here.

  13. Jeremy Dylan

    it’s pretty clear, at least to me, that they look extremely small and limited in scope next to Nolan’s versions

    I like both Burton and Nolan’s films. I don’t see why a smaller scope makes Burton’s inferior. BATMAN remains one of my favourite films and a lot of this is due to the intimacy Burton, Hamm, Skaaren and Michael Keaton grant the audience with the title character.

    It still has plenty of dynamic cinematic spectacle and grandeur.

  14. Jeremy Dylan

    it’s pretty clear, at least to me, that they look extremely small and limited in scope next to Nolan’s versions

    I like both Burton and Nolan’s films. I don’t see why a smaller scope makes Burton’s inferior. BATMAN remains one of my favourite films and a lot of this is due to the intimacy Burton, Hamm, Skaaren and Michael Keaton grant the audience with the title character.

    It still has plenty of dynamic cinematic spectacle and grandeur.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Many film historians, even to this day, consider those first two Superman flicks the best the genre has ever offered, at least until recently. Richard Donner really had something there, in my opinion, At the very least, they certainly transcend your typical comic book flick, and that’s all I was asserting.

    I’m sorry. I thought they were silly and pretty much rubbish when they were new and that hasn’t changed. (And this is coming from someone who considers Richard Lester one of the best filmmakers ever.) That anyone can take them seriously — especially, Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor — is remarkable to me. I actually prefer at least eight of the films you think they’re superior to.

    On Batman, what we’re discussing here is also whether the Nolan films transcend the typical comic book genre film, not whether they’re bloated

    For me, the way that they try to transcend the genre is by being bloated.

    Whether or not Nolan succeeds on this level is debatable of course, but that his Batman trilogy transcends typical comic flare, and whether it has had a major influence on the genres direction by doing so, isn’t really debatable.

    First of all, if these movies really transchended the genre, their influence would be felt outside the genre. And even within the genre, what films beside Nolan’s own have been influenced by his Batman films?

    I think it’s pretty clear whose take on Batman will be considered more important, more epic in scope and influence, and thus more transcendental of the genre.

    Well, we have to leave that to history and see where what lies 20 years on. Let’s say, I’m skeptical.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing. If you grew up reading early Detective Comics your idea of what constitutes a successful Batman film may be totally different from someone who nerded out on Frank Miller.

    You’re presupposing nerding out on comic books. I nerded out on movies and gave up on comic books by 12 or 13, so I really don’t have any concern over the fealty to any era. I guess you could say I’m less interested in what makes a good Batman film than I am in what makes what I think of as a good film. That certainly colors my view of the Burton films, since I’m far more interested in Burton than I am in Batman. For that matter, I’m more interested in Nolan than Batman. And in that regard, I’ll say now that I liked the new film better than the first two he made.

  16. Ken Hanke

    I did like Maggie Gyllenhal better than Katie Holmes (again, fanboy preference).

    That just sounds like sanity to me.

  17. Fanboy

    “First of all, if these movies really transchended the genre, their influence would be felt outside the genre. And even within the genre, what films beside Nolan’s own have been influenced by his Batman films?

    In my opinion Nolan’s directorial style has already been somewhat influential across genres, especially action films, in the way they collectively have reached for a little more thematically. I don’t know if I can point to anything empirically other than comic book films, but the point I was making is that his Batman films go beyond (maybe “transcend” is too loaded a word) the typical comic book flick in a way that others haven’t.

    As far as comic book movies that have been influenced by Nolan’s Batman, look no further than the latest Spiderman, which had a very obvious (at least to me) Batman Begins feel to it. And of course the new Superman previewed (which, granted, Nolan produced) looks like a cross between Terrence Malick/Nolan style directing and story-telling. I don’t think it’s an accident that Warner Bros. is attempting to revive a dead franchise with an approach that has proven to be successful, commercially and artistically, something they know works and is connecting with a larger demographic beyond the next Ghost Rider sequel.

    With that, I think going forward you’re going to have a lot more of these movies coming across as self-important, “bloated” and “pompous” to some critics who are more accustomed to comic book films being approached in a more compartmentalized way (i.e. Burton). There’s no reason some of these characters cannot have a more serious treatment.

    Finally, the original Batman movies came out over 20 years ago, and I can think of no film, comic book or otherwise, influenced by those particular films. So it would seem history has already spoken on that matter.

    I’m not trying to dump on Burton’s Batman, but, they were what they were. They didn’t really move the needle a whole lot, looking back. And really, the only way those first two could be influential is in the visual style/art direction, since they added up to little more than visual eye candy, in my opinion. They definitely set a mood, but thematically they didn’t exactly reach for the brass ring, to say the least. Nolan has mined the Batman character in ways Burton never began to because his films (like so many of his) were more about setting a visual tone first and foremost, with characterization, plot and themes coming across as secondary.

    “I’ll say now that I liked the new film better than the first two he made.”

    Always the contrarian :)

    I thought it was a solid finale but it felt incredibly rushed and clunky in spots, compared to the first two.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I think we may conclude that basically, we simply don’t agree.

    But while history may have spoken on the Burton films (without which you’d probably never have had the Nolan ones), it has not spoken on the Nolan films.

    Personally, I hope you’re wrong about this ever-growing influx of dour, self-serious comic book movies. Maybe Snyder’s The Tree of Superman will be one step too many.

    It’s a personal thing, I grant you, but I got much more out of $750,000 worth of Safety Not Guaranteed than I did out of $250 million worth of The Dark Knight Rises.

  19. dasdrew

    How in the hell can one NOT like Donner’s 1978 Superman? Jesus Christ.

    Now that that’s out of the way, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and 1992’s Returns has nothing on Nolan’s trilogy. Nothing.

  20. Ken Hanke

    How in the hell can one NOT like Donner’s 1978 Superman? Jesus Christ.

    Pretty easily actually.

    Now that that’s out of the way, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and 1992’s Returns has nothing on Nolan’s trilogy.

    Other than a sense of the joy of filmmaking, perhaps not.

  21. Fanboy

    “Personally, I hope you’re wrong about this ever-growing influx of dour, self-serious comic book movies. Maybe Snyder’s The Tree of Superman will be one step too many.

    Money talks, and if the latest Batman movies are any indication, I think the days of comic book movies as little more than a fun time with one-dimensional characters are thankfully coming to an end. It’s a different world now than it was when Burton was littering his sets with Robert Wiene-inspired backdrops, so again, I see nothing wrong with giving these characters a more serious treatment beyond the typical schlock, something that reflects the times a bit more. I don’t see why we should conclude that these characters, just because they spring from comic books, shouldn’t be taken more seriously and should only be relegated to light-hearted, feel-good fare. The Batman characters are some of the most complex in all of comics, and Nolan is the only one to have acknowledged that.

    I can see how the his films may come across as stuffy when all we’ve been used to for several years up until Batman Begins is lots of examples of style over substance.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Or “The Thin Red Cape”?

    Chances are more likely we’ll end up with something more like Zack Malick’s Sucker Punch.

  23. Ken Hanke

    I can see how the his films may come across as stuffy when all we’ve been used to for several years up until Batman Begins is lots of examples of style over substance

    Problem is I’m just not finding that much real substance.

  24. Jeremy Dylan

    Money talks, and if the latest Batman movies are any indication, I think the days of comic book movies as little more than a fun time with one-dimensional characters are thankfully coming to an end.

    If you’re accusing Burton’s BATMAN pictures of being that, I find that bizarre.

    Nolan’s films are far from the first comic book films to present three dimensional characters and serious dramatic heft – BATMAN, BATMAN RETURNS, X-MEN, X2, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, SPIDERMAN, SPIDERMAN 2, etc.

    There’s a big potential downside of the success of Nolan’s trilogy – and that’s a parade of pale imitations of his style and the film’s tone.

    I’ve already seen some ominous press releases, promising ‘gritty reboots’ that are ‘rooted in reality’, for films and franchises that have no business playing in that sandbox.

    Comic book (and even more generally, fantastic literature) films are not all of the same genre.

    Batman is a action crime thriller, Superman is a old Hollywood adventure serial, Spiderman is a romantic comedy action adventure and X-Men is Sci-Fi action thriller. I they all ended up as attempts to impersonate Chris Nolan movies, I’d feel ripped off.

    The positive development I hope Nolan’s films pass on to other franchises is the idea of telling a story with a beginning, middle and end within the franchise.

  25. Big Al

    “Money talks, and if the latest Batman movies are any indication, I think the days of comic book movies as little more than a fun time with one-dimensional characters are thankfully coming to an end.

    If you’re accusing Burton’s BATMAN pictures of being that, I find that bizarre.”

    I think he was saying that Nolan’s Batman trilogy was the first and only hero adaptation that IS NOT mere one-dimensional fun. I sort of agree. “X-Men 2” tried to add dimension but came off too preachy and sanctimonious. Spider-Man’s teen angst was a little too obvious, and character development in general diminished with each film so as to be non-existant by #3.

    Speaking of dimension, will we see “The Gay Lantern” on the big screen soon? And if so, will Ryan Reynolds be sucking face with a dude?

  26. Jeremy Dylan

    I think he was saying that Nolan’s Batman trilogy was the first and only hero adaptation that IS NOT mere one-dimensional fun.

    That’s what I thought he meant. And I was arguing that at least half of the existing comic book films would qualify as more than one dimensional fun, particularly the Burton films, the first two X-men films, the first two Spiderman films, Road to Perdition, V for Vendetta, etc.

  27. Fanboy

    Sorry, but I absolutely find Burton’s Batman films and the characters within to be one-dimensional. As I mentioned earlier, the biggest problem I have with Burton as a filmmaker is that he consistently champions his unique visual style over story and characterization, and nowhere is that more obvious to me than in his Batman films. I enjoyed them for what they were, but please, don’t tell me the characters had depth! Big Fish is one of the few exceptions, where his memorable visual motifs are matched by characters who actually breath and aren’t cardboard cut-outs.

    I guess it’s hard to say it better than Ebert, on the first Batman flick:

    “The Gotham City created in “Batman” is one of the most distinctive and atmospheric places I’ve seen in the movies. It’s a shame something more memorable doesn’t happen there. “Batman” is a triumph of design over story…”

  28. Jeremy Dylan

    I enjoyed them for what they were, but please, don’t tell me the characters had depth!

    I’m sorry, but I think we may just have to agree to disagree on this score.

    I still think the scene where Michael Keaton goes to Kim Basinger’s apartment to try and tell her he’s Batman is a marvel of characterization, a real convergence of complex emotional beats within the scene, and then that switch flicking over when Nicholson walks in and Keaton realises he has to do whatever he can to pull focus to himself to protect Basinger.

    There’s a wonderful volatility to Burton and Keaton’s take on the character. The mask gives him license to let loose on the turmoil he’s repressing in everyday life, which only comes out in that one scene outside of the costume.

    It would’ve been interesting to see how the character arc would’ve progressed if Burton hadn’t been so adamantly anti-sequel and excised most attempts at continuity from Daniel Waters’ screenplay for BATMAN RETURNS.

    There are strong, bittersweet resolutions for the character in both films, but there’s no overarching character arc across the to because Burton wasn’t interested in building something between the two films.

    Vicki Vale: I just gotta know, are we gonna try to love each other?
    Bruce Wayne: I’d like to. But he’s out there right now. And I’ve gotta go to work.

    Really, that’s about as good a summation of the Batman character as I’ve seen.

  29. Ken Hanke

    I guess it’s hard to say it better than Ebert, on the first Batman flick

    Well, you’re certainly entitled to Ebert’s opinion.

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