The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review (PG-13)

The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan’s (supposed) last foray into Gotham City, is long, loud, melodramatic to the point of overly serious, dark, violent, has at least two characters that were unnecessary and is maybe even a little illogical at times… and I loved every minute of it. Despite starting a little shaky (trying to establish a myriad of new characters) and much angsty hand wringing by the principal players… oh, the melancholy… Despite ll that, I left the theater with the same smile on my face that I had when I saw first Batman Begins (multiple times) and later The Dark Knight (even more multiple times). I’m sure I’ll be seeing this again (yes… multiple times).

The story begins where The Dark Knight left off, even if 8 years have passed in between the two films. District Attorney Harvey Dent, Gotham City’s ‘White Knight’ turned villain (as Two Face) is dead while Batman (Christian Bale) and Commissioner  Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) basically perpetrate a lie (that Batman killed Dent) in order to allow people to still believe that Harvey Dent was a symbol of hope. A law called the ‘Dent Act’ is passed and helps to eradicate crime in Gotham City while being somewhat controversial (does that sound familiar at all?).

Many miles away, the CIA is transporting (by airplane) a Russian nuclear physicist named Pavel (Alon Aboutboul) and a trio of terrorists connected to a violent criminal mastermind named Bane. The CIA agents uses some unusual tactics to try to get information about Bane. When it’s revealed that one of the terrorists IS Bane, the events quickly take a turn for the worst. Another plane appears and there is a fairly spectacular sequence where Bane’s men rescue their leader and take Pavel for their own purposes.

Bane (played by another Nolan favorite, Tom Hardy) is a thuggish lout that speaks calmly and eloquently (while brutally killing people with his bare hands). He is prone to speeches about his philosophy and politics. He very much reminded me of ‘The Humungus’ from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Hardy’s physical presence made Bane look like a guy that Batman was going to have a really long day with.

In the years since the previous film, Bruce Wayne and his alter ego have receded into the dark halls of Wayne Manor. He is spoken of as a Howard Hughes-like hermit who no longer has any contact with the outside world, making his way around with a cane and seen only in shadow even at fundraisers thrown at his home. At one such event, a mysterious woman (Catwoman, of course, played by Anne Hathaway… everyone knows that) posing as a maid attempts to steal a necklace that belongs to Wayne’s mother.  Bruce intercedes and she proves to be more than a match for the ‘out of the game’ superhero. The theft isn’t the real purpose for her being there, but I won’t reveal any of that. You can find out for yourself. In fact, I don’t think I need to go any further with the plot.

There is quite a bit crammed in here. Red herrings. Appearances by characters from past films. Some (expected) plot twists. There are several things in the film that will be predictable to comic book fans, but I was amazed that Nolan managed to squeeze some surprises out of the proceedings. And there was one ‘reveal’ that I KNEW was coming, but when it came and how it came felt like it was shocking. You’ll have to see the movie to understand that and see if you feel the same way. It has a little bit of a twist, too. A knife twist.

I do think there might have been a little too much here. A little editing might have made this a much tighter movie. I thought the characters played by Matthew Modine and Juno Temple were extraneous and unnecessary. And nothing against Temple, but her character especially was not needed. I’m struggling to remember anything pertinent that was said  or occurred when she was onscreen.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle on the other hand… I was never one of her doubters. Hathaway’s actually a pretty good actress. People had problems with Katie Holmes, then Maggie Gyllenhaal and now Hathaway (I doubt anyone will have problems with Marion Cotillard, who probably would have made a great Catwoman herself). I don’t know what it is with the cattiness of some fans to the female leads in this series. I’m fine with all of ’em. Hathaway actually has enough of the aloof sexiness necessary for the character. She emotes. Her inner turmoil was believable. And she just looked good in all of the slinky outfits (I’m actually glad the director got rid of that dominatrix-style whip for the character, too).

Another Nolan favorite, Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears as a young, idealistic police officer who becomes a prominent player in Bane’s attack on Gotham by getting notice from Jim Gordon and for proving to have a talent for detective work akin to Batman’s. There was much speculation as to who his character would turn out to be. I won’t say anything about that, but he gets a significant amount of screen time and I never once was wondering why they were concentrating so much as his character rather than Bruce Wayne. It makes sense in the story and Gordon-Levitt is generally a likable actor (except in that damn Hesher movie).

What’s to say about Christian Bale? He probably plays a lesser role in this than in the last  two films. he doesn’t have as many of the great scenes between he and Caine or Freeman. His character lacks the lighter touch of the past two films, also, but I guess his ordeal and the circumstances in this one are far more grim.

I don’t know if he would be able to recover from the kinds of injuries he sustains in this, but he sells it. He is almost underrated (and understated) as the best big screen Batman. there will be more Batman films and other actors that play him, but the next actor is going to have big boots to fill.

The story itself is an appropriately epic finish to the trilogy. The stakes are raised ever higher than the previous two. If there was a fourth film, I don’t how Nolan could escalate things any more than he has without completely abandoning the semi-realism (for superhero films, leastways). He actually got a little further away from that anyway with this film’s events. Even the technology in this one is a little more into the realm of the fantastic than the past two Batman flicks.

Nolan juggles quite a bit with telling a fantasy story with a little substance behind it, servicing the character and this will certainly work a s a crowd pleaser even if it is a lot more somber in tone than what came before. There are some great action scenes, especially involving the latest Bat-vehicle aptly named The Bat. There are some Braveheart style battle scenes. I have to say though, one of the weakest parts of the film were the hand to hand fights. I don’t know if they switched out their fight choreographer, but this film wasn’t quite as believable to me when it came to the fistfights. And I’m not just talking about Catwoman’s fight scenes.The funny thing about those was that when I saw Get Smart, Anne Hathaway sold me on her character’s fighting prowess. I don’t think they sold Catwoman’s skills in this as well as she did in Get Smart. Based on that film, I figured she would make a great Catwoman and I think I was proven right after see this, but I digress. Having Bane and Batman reduced to a punch out with all the heavy machinery seemed like a little bit of an anticlimax, though. They were still enjoyable. I thought Nolan had a bit of trouble with the choreography/editing of the climaxes of each film, but The Dark Knight Rises possessed a lot more clarity when things were at their most chaotic.

Some might complain that there wasn’t enough ‘Dark Knight’ in the Dark Knight Rises, but there was a purpose behind that. Bane probably is more prominent than The Dark Knight, himself, but unlike Tim Burton’s Batman where Nicholson’s star power and persona pushed the main character into the background, Nolan imbues Batman’s appearances with greater impact. I think it actually made it a bigger event when Christian Bale finally shows up as Batman as opposed to Bruce Wayne. There seemed to be an intentional backing away from the main characters that audiences have come to love, almost like the characters are trying to move away from the business of this continued war against the criminal element.

The audience doesn’t get the level of involvement from Batman’s supporting cast of the past films. Alfred (Michael Caine) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) are benched to make way for newer members of the cast. Gary Oldman (thankfully) still has a very large role and in my mind is the trilogy’s MVP. All of the film’s characters seem to parallel the director’s desire to resolve the onscreen conflict and move on with their lives (and I don’t mean that in a bad way), but still leave with a satisfying end and maybe a wink at the audience.

I’m very sad that this franchise is ending (at least with Nolan if he stays true to his word). This trilogy ranks up there with the greatest trilogies of all time for me. The Star Wars films (the better, funnier original trilogy), the Toy Story films, Indiana Jones.. It ranks right up there with the best of them. I don’t where it ranks among the three films of this franchise. Seeing it again will probably give me a stronger opinion about that even if I feel like this one isn’t quite as good as the first two. I go back and forth, depending on the day, deciding which of those is the better film. I gave both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight my highest rating, despite feeling that both have flaws (I can do that). This one is no different and it brings the series to a close by coming full circle to its origins. I have to say I disagree PROFOUNDLY with criticisms that the film is ‘no fun’ for its lack of humor or for slow pacing (as critics like Roger Ebert  have stated). I felt it moved quickly and left me hoping that this isn’t truly the end for this cast and their director. If you liked the first two, I’m sure you’ll like this one, too. If you didn’t, you probably don’t care for superheroes no matter how well that they’re presented. For me, though, this is a strong contender for the top spot in my Best Films of 2012 List…

5 of 5. More please.


2 Responses to “The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review (PG-13)”

  1. […] 4) The Dark Knight Rises (Sadly, the end of the series… supposedly.. for director Christopher Nolan and company, but a completion of a great trilogy. Very few ‘superhero’ films end up being about anything other than FX and fantasy, but Nolan managed to take Batman into the realm of real films. None of these are great superhero films, they’re just great films. Both sequels have built on the foundation of the original, but have what amounts to stand alone stories. I will acknowledge that TDKR is probably the least of the three, but is still satisfying as Nolan’s final chapter. I think you could do a film study class on each of these as to what works on film and the integration of all of the various parts of filmmaking that add up to the whole. Every part added another layer in how the story was approached, from the cinematography to the acting to the soundtrack. The next Bat-director will have big shoes to fill.) […]

  2. […] Crash! Site « The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review (PG-13) […]

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