The Dark Knight Rises – The New Film

Yesterday I was part of the enormous outpouring of U.S. moviegoers who packed the theaters for the opening of "The Dark Night Rises."  Undeterred by the news of insanity from Aurora, Colorado, I went with a friend to see an early evening show at the Regal Cinema in Battery Park City.  NYPD officers were idling out front, as promised by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, but I didn't see how that would have prevented a similar incident at that theater, as they were down at the street level, were not checking bags, there are no metal detectors, there is an alternative entrance to the building that was not guarded, and the theater is several stories above street level (reached through escalators and an elevator).  So the police officers were there to "show the flag," not to accomplish anything substantive.

There was some tension and apprehension among the audience, but the only real distraction I confronted was a serial texter sitting where his flashing smartphone screen was an occasional distraction to me.  (I hate it when people do that, despite the pre-show announcement that texting is prohibited during the movie.  By contrast, I was pleasantly surprised that there were no cell-phone signal disruptions during the long movie, at least none that I heard.)

As to the film itself – It will be a big financial success, although I don't think it is an extraordinary artistic success.  It is a summer action film.  There is lots of action.  There is plenty of noise. There are explosions.  There are fights.  There are nifty sets and costumes.  There are dastardly villains and flawed heroes.  There are Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman doing their wonderful supporting role things.  There are great toys in play for Batman.  There is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a not-too-bright but very loyal young cop.  I'm not going to include any plot-spoilers here, but by now so many millions of people have seen the film that keeping details of the plot a secret seems a waste of energy.

Was it worth seeing?  Yes.  Would it have been better to see it at an IMAX theater rather than in stadium seating at a regular theater?  I don't know, but I find that the projection and sound at Regal's Battery Park City location is pretty good, and even though it is a multiplex the wide screen was decently large.  Audiences there tend to be better behaved than at the midtown theaters, because there is a much higher ratio of local residents to tourists.  (Battery Park City is a bit off the tourist path.) 

My one complaint: I found the dialogue hard to decipher at times, because of the tendency of the actors to mumble their lines, speak them too quickly, or throw away syllables.  In addition, the leading villain wears an apparatus on his lower face that obscures his speech, and when dressed as Batman, Christian Bale disguises his voice in a way that also sometimes obscures meaning.  (By contrast, one can always understand every word that Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman utter, and when he's not dressed as Batman, Bale is also very good about articulating his lines.)  But understanding every word isn't essential to following the somewhat convoluted and occasionally confusing plotting….  In the end, it's about the action and the noise more than about the story.

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