Monday, June 17, 2013

The Dark Knight Rises and a Memory of Light: Spoiler-warning

I know I'm late to the party. "A Memory of Light" came out back in January and "The Dark Knight Rises" hit theaters almost a year ago and has been on DVD since December. I won't structure this as a review then (although I will give my ratings), and instead focus on what I took away from both works. I'll assume everyone has read "A Memory of Light" and seen "The Dark Knight Rises". If you haven't purchased them yet, here are the Amazon links:

Both works are the long-awaited conclusions to their respective fantasy series. AMOL is Book 14 (15 if you count the prequel) to the acclaimed "Wheel of Time" (WOT) series, and TDKR is the end(?) of the trilogy of Batman films done by Christopher Nolan with Christian Bale playing the eponymous superhero.

There are a lot of similarities between the two, but especially in the very end of both. The Dragon Reborn of WOT has long been a stoic character who tried to make himself stronger by blocking out emotion and only recently realized that caring made him stronger, while Batman has always been a douche and never really realizes it. Still, both characters set about sacrificing everything they are and represent in order to save the world (or just Gotham) in spite of their douchiness.

In AMOL, the times where I was overwhelmed with emotion were frequent throughout the first 5/6 of the novel or so, and the military action was welcome although I'm sure some long-time readers may have been put off by something that seemed to always take a backseat to the personal struggles of the characters (with the exception of Mat) over the course of the series. It was fittingly epic in size and scope, and the sacrifices and failures as well as their successes never really seemed cheap or done for effect, something many people ending their series could take as an example (I'm looking at you, J.K.). The sexism that's always been a part of WOT was still present and annoying/frustrating, but finally took a back seat near the end of the book.

In Batman, I was not emotionally invested at all in these storylines. Alfred was the emotional core of the movie, but I found his actions either overly-done or illogical. Catwoman, err, Selina Kyle rather, appeared as though she was going to be a well-developed character and I thought her actress did very well, but then it evaporated in the last half of the movie. The character played by Christian Bale in the first parts of the movie was not Batman and I found it hard to believe that he wouldn't try another way of fighting crime and trying to make Gotham better. Well, he did in his clean energy but then gave up on that entirely when it could be weaponized. (BTW, Iron Man did it, so apparently Iron Man's doing it right). And then after being crippled a couple of different times came back entirely too hale. The fear of a nuclear device being weaponized strikes me as being completely and totally insane, seeing as how EVERY NUCLEAR DEVICE COULD BE WEAPONIZED. Maybe if he had finished it and installed security like EVERY NUCLEAR PLANT HAS, then....excuse me, I'm getting off-track.

Batman was full of inconsistencies and illogicallies, but overall it just wasn't enjoyable. What makes Batman's character so attractive is not that he needs to fall before he can rise, it's that he has already fallen. It's that his calling IS his hell. It's that he can't let injustice go even if it means completely dedicating his life to ending it and solving crime.

I believe I ranked "The Dark Knight" a 10 out of 10, whereas "The Dark Knight Rises" is barely a 6. I could go on and on about how terrible it is and the many, many poor choices they made in the movie, but I'll leave you with just one horrible mistake, not just a bad decision, but an outright-they-screwed-up mistake: Miranda is captured by Bane, and then magickally shows up at Wayne Tower, and then Batman asks Gordon where she is and he says she is captured by Bane. Apparently, Miranda was not supposed to be captured by Bane until after Batman met with her at Wayne Tower, or else Batman should be somewhat suspicious that she can come and go from Bane at will and why would he have asked Gordon about her if he just saw her? In a movie of this scope, with this much of a budget, and this much of a "high production value", this completely broke the movie for me after the already unenjoyable time I was having with it.

AMOL had this same start of a break in spite of the incredibly enjoyable time I was having with it. Egwene sacrifices herself in some sort of magickal nova (which is already super-cliche, but that's OK) and it seems unnecessary. From everything up to this point, it seems like Egwene should be able to manifest the counter-balefire weave to win the day and not have to kill herself doing it. Egwene's legacy as one of the best Amyrlins is ensured, but it seems like her death was completely unnecessary and unimaginative. She also died killing a bastard of a character that should have been wiped from the Pattern books ago. And then nobody learned the weave from watching her do it! Balefire remains a problem for the rest of the book.

And then here is where both works combine in the completely insane decision to have their ready-to-sacrifice-themselves-main-characters that have literally lived just to die...have a happily-ever-after ending.

The writing had been on the wall for both for quite a while. I fully expected both characters to live. Rand, the Dragon Reborn, mostly because he was so insistent that he had to die and also because of the ridiculous number of women in love with him, and Batman, because they mentioned the autopilot wayyyy too many times and because of Alfred's wish.

In fact, after seeing Alfred's wish to see Batman being happy, I think the movie went on the track of no return. At least with AMOL I had about 750 pages of awesome until the absurd ending and reactions of the characters around Rand. What did I enjoy about Batman? Robin was OK, although entirely too competent and his knowledge of who Batman is was insane. Gordon was OK, although he should really consider checking his coat pockets and I think the movie would have been better with his death. This version of the Batwing was reasonably cool, although the autopilot feature was wayyy too contrived and set-up. And Selina Kyle was interesting for the first hour or so, and Anne Hathaway did a good job with her.

Like I said, I can believe that neither character died (Batman and Rand), but it was just stupid that they both got traditional happily-ever-after endings when especially Batman's character does not seem like he would ever be satisfied with a happily-ever-after. And how does someone with Rand's power not try to help? The endings were rubbish. I can't remember the last time I was satisfied with an ending of a series though.

"A Memory of Light": 8.5/10, B
"The Dark Knight Rises": 6/10, D-

What were your thoughts? Is there a series that has a satisfying ending somewhere?