walking out: why “step up 4” was a way better movie than “the dark knight rises”.

21 08 2012

until last week, i’ve only ever walked out of one movie- meet the parents.

picture it, it was the year 2000, and my boyfriend at the time (who also happens to also be my boyfriend at the present) had seen it with friends, and assured me that it was hilarious. i do think it’s notable to mention here how weird it is that the company that you’re with has so much sway in how much you enjoy a movie. but yeah, i don’t think i have to explain why i walked out of that one (robert de niro- WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?).

but then last week, i went to see the dark knight rises at the nickelodeon (again, with that boyfriend who possibly has a chronic case of the bad movie karmas).

with an 87% fresh rating on rotten tomatoes, and having enjoyed the first two movies very much, i was poised and open for peak enjoyment. i really really wanted to like it. i wanted it to be amazing. i wanted it to be the booming crescendo in a symphony that was the (so far pretty good) dark knight trilogy. but right from the outset, i just couldn’t get on board. also, i accidentally spilled most of my smuggled in wheat thins on the floor during the opening credits.

let me make you a nice tidy bulleted list of where things went wrong for me: p.s…. SPOILER ALERT.

1. i couldn’t hear a damn thing. i get that they chose a villain with a scottish accent and a speaker for a mouth (the joker is dead and they had to do something). but, you can’t just strap a speaker mouth onto a scottish dude (or rather, an english dude doing a scottish accent) and expect most people to be able to understand what he’s saying. i admittedly don’t have great hearing, but i came in at about 25% comprehension. this went swiftly down to 0% when he was rocking the mic in the stadium scene. a note to sound techs- speaker mouth + microphone= a motherfucking garbled mess. the new yorker noticed, why didn’t any of the people making the movie?

2. i didn’t give a shit about bane. what was the plot to this movie again?  something or other about a nuclear bomb and giving the city back to the people and then blowing them up or something? yeah, i have no idea. while the joker made criminal mischief compelling- charming even in the last film, bane’s heavy handed anarchy just makes him seem like a big dumb bully shoving batman around on the playground. what’s the point? why is he so cranky? maybe the key to his likability got lost in the 75% of words that i didn’t manage to make out. i have no idea, and i don’t care. if you want a superhero movie to be good, the villain needs to be enrapturing. they should have called in voldemort or at least magneto. now that shit, i would have watched all the way through.

3. they have officially taken the batmobile TOO FAR. during the first vehicle chase scene where batman drives his car down a dead end street and then rises from this darkness in this shape shifting neon bedazzled rocket car… I LAUGHED OUT LOUD. it was too stupid. christopher nolan has fought to keep his characters in this semi real world- devoid of actual super powers, but then he lets unbelievable bullshit like this happen? it’s so silly and over the top that it completely pulls me out. i understand that this is a superhero movie and that some level of fantasy is implied. that said, the vehicles and weapons in this movie looked like some sort of 4th grade fantasy drawn on a paper bag book cover during social studies.

4. i was not feelin the chemistry. certainly more with catwoman than with whateserface, but not really with either. bruce wayne has been a depressive recluse for 8 YEARS, pining over the death of his soul mate rachel. he’s just starting to finally puff back up again when whatserface (miranda tate apparently) pulls her dusty picture from under a sheet and flips it upside down. AND THEN THEY DO IT ON A BEARSKIN RUG. what? i don’t care if he is the fucking batman, he never would have been able to get it up after looking at rachel’s picture/talking about her for the first time in 8 years. he’s not ready.

5. just stop it with the sad alfred scenes already! the entire first half of the movie is punctuated with these tearful speeches from michael caine. i get it, you want to get the max impact from your oscar winner, but i’m watching batman, not fucking steel magnolias.

6. too fucking long. this was really the nail in the coffin for me and my lovely date. right around the stadium scene, i got up to pee and asked the snack bar guy how long the movie was on my way up the stairs.

“two hours.”

[pause]

“AND 45 MINUTES.”

motherfucker. we weren’t even half way there, and i was already bored and hungry and cranky.

remember the days when movies had to be 90 minutes long or they wouldn’t fit on a VHS tape? i miss those days.

when i got back to the bathroom, i whispered to my date (“the movie is only half over”). 10 minutes later, he asked me if i wanted to leave and get food.

i yelled “i couldn’t do it!” to snack bar guy as we headed out to the street.

now, flash forward. different day. different date (hi kate!).

i’m seeing step up 4 (revolution) at the westbrook cinemagic, and the expectations are LOW. 42% fresh on rotten tomatoes low. but i love a dance (or cheerleading, or gymnastics) movie no matter what, so let’s get this party started.

and you know what? it was off the motherfucking hook.

no, it wasn’t a hollywood epic with lots of big name stars and a director whose name i know.

no, nobody leaked preproduction shots to TMZ.

no, it didn’t have a patented m. night shyamalan twist ending (no, i didn’t see dead people).

and no, it will definitely not be a featured selection at cannes.

BUT…

1. i could hear it. but even if i couldn’t, even if every single character had been wearing a bane mask and speaking into a megaphone, i still would have understood the plot and enjoyed the spectacle.

2. i never got bored. 106 minutes zoomed by. i never felt compelled to check the time or beg the snack bar guy for mercy. i never once asked myself “is this 20 minute chase scene really integral to the plot?”. the premise might be simple and a bit hackneyed, but shit kept moving along.

3. the dancing, HOLY SHIT THE DANCING. 

notice that i didn’t give you a SPOILER ALERT for this part. i did it because if you like cheesy dance flicks, you should go see it and i don’t want to ruin it for you.

yes, i understand that making a really good big special effect-y 3-ring circus of a movie like the dark knight rises is probably a lot more difficult than making a practically straight to dvd movie about a breakdancer and a modern dancer falling in love and trying to save their quaint neighborhood from big bad developers. but, the batman kids also had a bigger budget, bigger stars, better writers, better editors, and pretty much better everything-ers (except maybe dancers).

when you make a movie, there is a certain implied promise to your ticket buyers. the first two batman films (although i still argue that the 2nd one was at least 45 minutes too long) kept that promise by being compelling, well acted, and visually stunning. christopher nolan had every resource in the world to close the deal with the final installment, and he fumbled. it was confusing, slow moving, and an overall pretty unsatisfying finale.

meanwhile, step up revolution had nothing. a relatively small budget (33 million to the dark knight’s 250 million), not much for a script, and probably not a lot of expectation of quality. yet, they delivered a movie that kept me in my seat the entire time (except for that one part where i made a mad sprinting dash to the ladies room), and left me feeling like my $10 had been well spent. i even went online later to rewatch the trailer on youtube, and see if there were modern dance classes available in my neighborhood. hell, i would go see that shit again right now if i new how to drive.

maybe i just have lousy taste in movies (i probably do), but i’m sorry mr. nolan, this is one dance battle that you just can’t win. (or rather… “you just got SERVED”).

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12 responses

21 08 2012
Evelyn Paolilli McElroy

Just losing the Wheat Thins would have been enough to make me leave! Damn, don’t mess with my food!

21 08 2012
bessmarvin

it was a truly tragic moment most especially because i had paid $5 for a single box of wheat thins at a local convenience store. it was also very loud and drew unnecessary attention to the fact that i had smuggled in food from the outside.

22 08 2012
Jeremy

Ok, you got me on meet the parents. But I wouldn’t go so far to say I have CHRONIC bad movie karma. After all, I did manage to see The Abyss in the theatre, with the wide screen and all, by chance, when I was 9 y/o.

22 08 2012
kate @ bbf.

step up revolution looks awesome – i love those dancing/cheering/drumming feel good movies. and i also have a hard time understanding heavily-accented/fast-talking actors, so i know dark knight is not for me!

31 08 2012
bessmarvin

dude. we need to have a girly movie night. i have the “bring it on” box set!

22 08 2012
kk

You made me laugh so motherfucking hard as I read this masterpiece of criticism. I think you should only write movie reviews. And, hey, girl…will you write one for the latest Gitgo film?

31 08 2012
bessmarvin

thanks kate! i wish that writing snarky movie reviews was a sustainable career path. ok, i wish that writing was a sustainable career path. do you really want me to review your film?! i will, but only if you promise that no one is wearing a speaker mouth 😀

31 08 2012
kk

Yes to the review. And just a lot of potty mouth.

22 08 2012
JimJimmyJames

I know what you mean about expectations. I couldn’t get through SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, even though everyone raved about it. I like your review…no “h” in crescendo, though.

28 08 2012
bessmarvin

i remembered thinking that “something about mary” was pretty good when i was a teenager. and then i rewatched it as an adult and burned with the shame of my folly. also, thanks for the spelling tip! i’m totally a shit speller and my dynamic spelling feature doesn’t always pick things up.

22 08 2012
Edmund Charles Davis-Quinn

I liked, but didn’t love the new Batman. Definitely didn’t feel like walking out. The last two movies I felt like that for were “Cowboys vs. Aliens” and “Alexander”. Was really, really close on Alexander.

28 08 2012
bessmarvin

wow, how did “cowboys vs. aliens” even get made? sometimes i wonder about hollywood… and by sometimes, i mean ALWAYS.

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