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MOVIE REVIEW - The Dark Knight Rises

Posted July 26th 2012 by Frankie Aguilar.

We've all known since the end of The Dark Knight that the Batman story, at least Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's version, would be coming to an end. So the anticipation of resolution to four years worth of fan speculation is basically a stent put in place to protect against the hemorrhage that'll result from the ending. For many people, this version of Batman is the only Batman they know, and not just from an age standpoint, but in aversion to the Schumacher debacles or the inspired Burton flicks. This is their trilogy. This Batman feels real and rooted in a world close to ours and to think that not only is this the last time we'll experience him this way but that Warner Bros and DC are already planning a reboot feels like bringing your new fiance to your wife's funeral. Nostalgic nonsense aside, you must be wondering how this movie ended up, so here we go.

I can't start this particular review without paying homage to one of the truly spectacular artists of our time. Christopher Nolan is a directorial genius and deserves all the credit and accolades that have and will be lauded upon him. His vision and execution of the Batman franchise alone is legendary. No one pulls off epic set pieces in "real world" settings the way Nolan does and his storytelling, specifically with a character whose mythos is as deep and varied as Batman's, is top tier. And extra loves goes out to Hans Zimmer, who just continues to create one wonderful soundscape after another. Above all else, The Dark Knight Rises doesn't fall victim to the superhero threequel curse. It's not the best in the trilogy, that title will forever remain with The Dark Knight, but it's definitely better than any of its competition (Spider-Man 3, Xmen: The Last Stand, Ernest Goes to Jail.)

The next thing that needs to be addressed is Anne Hathaway and, more importantly, her portrayal as Catwoman. Anyone who asked me what I thought about Catwoman, even up until the moment the movie started, would've received a venomous tirade about how much of a mistake it was to have her in the film and how it was the first step towards what ends up being the biggest failing of every threequel: character overload. Surprisingly, Hathaway does more than just keep from being terrible; she actually creates the best and most memorable version of Selina Kyle/Catwoman to date. And in a movie where almost every character, ancillary or otherwise, seems stoked to say "The Batman" or "Bane", Hathaway is never referred to as Catwoman. Nolan even created a real-world reason and use for Catwoman to wear f'n heels during combat. But maybe you're more interested in Bane and his apparent hatred for the Pittsburgh Steelers Gotham Rogues, and we're going to get to that, but not before I illuminate something.

I've never been one for spoilers in my reviews, and that's not about to change, but there is one plot piece that is integral to my entire analysis of TDKR. Harvey Dent's death and fall from grace was covered up by Commissioner Gordon and Batman at the end of The Dark Knight. This act, and the public outcry against the Batman, sent Bruce Wayne and his alter ego into exile for the eight movie years that have passed, and while this is the impetus for everything that happens going forward, there's something more telling: it's like The Dark Knight never happened. Not once are any of the events or the Joker ever even hinted at. While Harvey Dent's status as the hero that Gotham needed and the eponymous Harvey Dent Act being the reason for peacetime is in direct correlation to the end of The Dark Knight, no other character growth or ramifications are felt from that movie. I get that the death of Heath Ledger probably changed the direction of the franchise, but the lack of reference is a little weird. If anything, TDKR feels like a sequel to Batman Begins, making these movies less of a collection of stories within a shared universe, but still not quite a true trilogy.

So where does Bane fit into all of this? As alluded to previously, TDKR is more a successor to Batman Begins, and consequently Bane's motives and attitude fall more in line with the villains in that film. Like Ra's Al Ghul before him, Bane is as interested in the destruction of Gotham as he is in the destruction of Batman. The main difference between these rogues comes from an ideological standpoint. Where Ra's sought the destruction of a decadent Gotham in spite of the Bat, Bane's reckoning is in direct opposition to the falsehood of Batman's ideals and their lack of reflection on Gotham. And his wrath is visceral and savage.

What Tom Hardy does for the characterization of Bane is similar to, if not on the same level, as what Heath Ledger did for the Joker. His performance has created an almost definitive version of Bane and he was able to do it with a lesser known and beloved character. Where the Joker had socio and psychopathic motivations with an obvious focal point on the Batman, Bane's path towards destruction is more systematic than chaotic. His plot is not only partial to wanton devastation but predicated on attacking the hearts and minds of a city that is ready to be purged. His reckoning strikes at the very soul of Gotham, which for all intents and purposes is Batman.

So where does this all put us? The new additions are filled with depth and motivation, and are executed excellently by their actors. Christopher Nolan is at the helm of a story poised to put a nice lid on what will probably go down as the best Superhero movie "trilogy" of all time and has had all the money and time he could need. Storywise, we've got an aging and out of practice Batman, the physical embodiment of terror and destruction for him to battle in Bane, and an amoral love interest that, thank God, isn't Rachel Dawes. Sounds like a recipe for greatness, but then something happens: The movie starts and stumbles almost immediately.

After the amazing opening sequence that was previewed before Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the movie falls flat. To describe the pacing of the first act as disjointed and awkward would be putting it lightly. Landing somewhere between flashback clip show and blatant foreshadowing, Christopher Nolan employs a technique I never thought I'd ever see from him: hand-holding. If it's not flashbacks of exactly what a character is feeling or expounding upon, it's characters point-blank explaining things, and this technique persists throughout the film. Trust me, it's nice to have a little refresher and I don't mind flashback cuts, but to have it happen every time plot is being developed devalues the movie-watching process, which outside of these cutaways is amazing. I'm not sure if Nolan lost faith in us as moviegoers, or if he needed us to know exactly what was going on at all times, but either way it makes the first third of this movie difficult to fully invest in.

The Dark Knight Rises is a Batman movie without a whole lot of Batman, and while I was fine with this from a story standpoint, it took a lot of the oomph out early on. The fact that we had to watch Batman get his groove back was a little strange, and not because it made the gap from the beginning of the movie to that first Christian Bale/Batman growl longer, but in reference to the gap between the movies in this fictional Gotham world. I find it really hard to believe that the Batman from the first two films would truly hang up his cowl and drop Bruce Wayne into exile. I know they put a Band-Aid on this story element with the Harvey Dent act, but it's wholly unbelievable given the characterization that preceded it for him to up and quit his role as Gotham's protector. I know it's nitpicky and fanboyish, but I really enjoy the world that Christopher Nolan created for us and this plot device really didn't do it for me.

It bums me out that the majority of my feelings about this movie are going to come across negative because I really enjoyed it. There are so many great things about this finale that's it's hard to know where to begin. Christian Bale turns in another wonderful performance and has cemented his legacy as the Caped Crusader for all time. I don't even chuckle at his ridiculous bat-voice anymore. Series newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt ends up being a hugely important figure in this movie and holds his own against a brilliant cast, even if he does serve as a deus ex machina multiple times throughout the film. Fact is, the dude can act. I don't think I'll ever get tired of all the gadgets and ridiculous vehicles that come out of the R&D department at Wayne Enterprises; it's kind of our best link to the fantasy world that Gotham is supposed to be. And of course, all of the action sequences are spectacular. From Batman and Catwoman fighting side-by-side on rooftops to Batman thrashing thugs in the sewers to the big climactic throwdown with Bane in the streets of Gotham, Batman is kicking ass all throughout this movie.

Of course there are plot holes, and things that, when measured against the relatively "real world" feel of the film, seem comparatively outlandish. It is a superhero movie after all, right? My quibbles may be nitpicky but it's only because of my immense love for this iteration of one of my favorite heroes ever, and my appreciation for the brilliantly crafted films of Christopher Nolan. This movie is disjointed and I don't think many people would disagree. I could point out that there were more than a few things added in, specifically in the "everything went better than expected" ending that were more cheesy than any fan service should be. I could even call out how ridiculous the sound editing for Bane's voice is at times, most pointedly with reference to wind noise in a moving plane. What's important is that, overall, this is a fantastic film, regardless of the comic book moniker or not. What more can be said about a group of filmmakers that have completely changed the way that an entire genre of movies is viewed? This seven-year love letter to Batman fans everywhere has been a wonderful ride and filled with three of the best moviegoing experiences I've ever had. The Dark Knight Rises is as much an event as it is a movie, and I sincerely hope that DC and Warner Brothers hold off rebooting this franchise for a while, because I don't think it'll ever be done any better.

Tags: the dark knight rises, Batman, Christopher Nolan, DC, Comics, movies

Posted in: Reviews, Entertainment

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User Comments


More than fair review. Well done. However, I did want to make note that I think is worth mentioning to explain the reason why there was a lack of Joker: I agree wholeheartedly when you say that this felt like a sequel to Begins rather than DK and that's a shame, but the no-mention of Joker was intentional. Not from a story stand-point, of course, but Nolan has said that he wanted to leave the character out as a sign of respect for Heath Ledger. Here's a link to an article that features a short quote from Nolan:

Tuesday, July 31st 2012

Pino Mills

This movie was garbage and no real Batman or Cinema fan should like it.

Monday, November 12th 2012

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