Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: The Dark Knight Rises Official Movie Novelization!

Through our podcast The Book Was Better we’ve developed a greater understanding of the book of the film, and connected with a new breed of novelisation appreciators and aficionados. So how could I not draw your attention to the book of one of the biggest (and meatiest) films of the year, Christopher Nolan’s monster bat epic: The Dark Knight Rises.

Author Greg Cox, scribe of many a Star Trek novel, is the chosen one who faces the mammoth task of unraveling Nolan’s dense story and further illuminate and expand upon the writhing mass of characters and plot threads shouldering each other for our attention. Rumour has it that he even mentions a certain clown-faced criminal. And our good friends at Titan Books have been kind enough to give us a copy!

I had mixed feeling on the film, which I found enjoyable but somewhat convoluted. Will the book be better? Join me after the jump!

I think that writing the novelisation of any film is a tremendously difficult task to balance. The author is saddled with an established story and inherits its strengths and weaknesses, having to sell plot points and character action without the distractions of music or flashy visuals. In my favourite novelisations the writer rises to this challenge by leaving their own personal imprint on the work, adding flourishes, embroidering sequences, and getting deep into the inner thoughts and motivations of the characters. The very best movie tie-in books can make you forget that there’s even a movie.

Cox instead employs a more straightforward approach, sticking extremely closely to the events on screen and recounting them in simple prose, mostly devoid of metaphor and simile, and never really digging too deep into the character’s thoughts. We do get a taste of their internal monologues but they are usually very simplistic reactions to what is directly in front of them, bordering on stating the obvious. So simplistic in fact that I felt that all of the characters inner voices were indistinguishable from each other and this was jarring when juxtaposed with the richer dialogue of The Dark Knight Rises screenplay.

This novel is certainly true to the film, and does manage to accomplish what it sets out to do, but it lacks the film’s impact. A prime is example is at its climax when Batman makes a rash decision to solve Gotham’s problem. In the film it is earth-shattering but in the book it almost seems brushed over. The choice is made to view this event from a distance rather than get inside Batman’s head and understand what is driving him at this tense moment. This is definitely a supplement for the film, more than it is a substitute.

All that said though, the book was extremely useful for helping unravel some of the denser plot threads that whiz past while watching the movie. It provides a great opportunity to study and ponder what is really going on in Nolan’s script, and I relished the chance to dig into and finally understand the more complex (or quickly explained) parts that sailed over my head in the theatre. This is a welcome companion piece to tide you over as you wait to study the film on Blu-ray. I especially enjoyed reading over the film’s better dialogue sequences and really thinking about what is said. And if you struggled with understanding Bane then this book has your back.

With most films available to purchase soon after their theatrical release, the novelisation lacks the import that it had for many of us in the eighties and nineties, but if you’re a hardcore Batman fan, or even just a novelisation fan in general, then you’ll still want to pick this up. I was eager to add it to my own collection, and even though it’s not one of my all time favourites, I am glad to own it.

Oh... and the Joker? Despite the buzz that was generated by a lot of blogs, it really is just a throwaway and relatively non-committal comment. Arkham Asylum’s criminal population has been shifted to Blackgate Prison and it is speculated that the Joker is the Asylum’s sole remaining occupant. Or maybe he’s escaped? Nobody knows. It’s food for thought. Cox seems reluctant to add too much to Nolan’s mythos and I can’t say I blame him. It’s an intimidating prospect, and one that might hold back ta perfectly servicable novel from being brilliant.

You can find out more about The Dark Knight Rises novelisation at Titan’s site.

1 comment:

  1. The Dark Knight Rises is all about risks, and there are payoffs and failures to go with it.

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