Wednesday, August 1, 2012


"It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." -- Jim Gordon (by way of Charles Dickens).

The Dark Knight Rises is a beast of a movie. It had to be; they had no choice. After the phenomenal success that was The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan and co. couldn't very well go back and make a more subtle, character study type movie like they did with Batman Begins. This was, after all, the final film in the trilogy. It had to make the crowd go wild.

Here is what I love about Christopher Nolan's films: he tries REALLY HARD. Even if you don't like his movies, you have to admit that the man will go to whatever lengths necessary to tell the story he wants to tell. He has become the master of what could be considered "intelligent popcorn films"; that is, movies that have all the flash and bang of a summer blockbuster, but also take the time to focus on the drama at hand.

I purposely waited to write this review, because it's going to have spoilers, and I'm sure at this point everyone has seen the movie. And if not, you really should--in IMAX. More on that later...

The Dark Knight Rises picks up 8 years after the events of the Dark Knight. Gotham City is a peaceful place and Batman (and Bruce Wayne) have vanished from the public eye. Bruce Wayne limps around his mansion with a goatee and a lost look, channelling Howard Hughes at his craziest. But trouble is brewing in Gotham; beneath the exterior of peace and calm lies something more sinister. 

Bruce Wayne is first snapped out of his seclusion by a cat burglar who has been robbing from the rich. She even rips off Wayne, posing as a maid to steal some pearls--and also Wayne's fingerprints. 

Bruce does some fancy computer work and discovers the name of the cat burglar: Selina Kyle. 

But Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman--although they never call her Catwoman in the movie) is small potatoes compared to what's really coming. A slimey Wayne Enterprises board member (which is a kind of employee Wayne Enterprises seems to hire a lot) named Dagget is trying to make a power grab of the floundering company. He's so determined to get what he wants that he's been bankrolling a group of mercenaries, led by the hulking, mysterious Bane.  

Of course, none of this matters to Bane. He has his own agenda--he wants to destroy Gotham, and with it, Bruce Wayne.

Thrown into the mix is Commissioner Gordon, still struggling over the cover-up about Harvey Dent's death; Miranda Tate, a philanthropist trying to help Wayne Enterprises; and a young beat cop named John Blake, who, it turns out, is more important to the story than anyone could've guessed before hand. 

I've seen The Dark Knight Rises twice so far--the first time in IMAX, the second in a "regular" theater. When I left the IMAX showing (opening night at midnight), I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was ready to proclaim "this is the best film of the trilogy!" It had totally blown me away.

But when I saw it a week later in a regular theater, my mood changed. I still loved the movie, but I was more perceptive to the flaws this time. With that in mind, I suggest anyone who is going to see this movie should plop down the extra bucks and see it in IMAX.  Nolan shot over an hours worth of footage in IMAX, and it shows. You are complete engulfed into the world of the film; the soundtrack takes you over and for nearly three hours you are in a blissful, overwhelmed mood. 

But, like I said, the Dark Knight Rises has flaws. 

The film has been surprisingly divisive amongst fans of the franchise. Some hail it as a masterpiece, others hate its guts. It's a polarizing film. I guess that's to be expected. I'm pretty sure after the Dark Knight, the fans of this franchise all had their own ideas of what the third and final Bat-Film should be. And therein lies the problem. 

The majority of complaints I've read about the film seem to be people complaining about not what was in the film, but what WASN'T. People are pissed they didn't get the movie THEY wanted. That's not how movies work, kids. 

But again, there are those flaws I mentioned. For one thing, even at nearly 3 hours, the film feels rushed. This is a good thing in the sense that the film flies by; there's almost no down time, and you never get bored. But as a result it feels like they had to condense the plot to fit it all in there. I honestly could've watched another hour of the film and still been engrossed. 

There are also some glaring editing mistakes that really should've been caught in a film this big. A scene in a court room involves Bane having one of his goons bring him Miranda Tate, but in the very next scene, she is fine and dandy and talking to Bruce. But then later we see that Bane is "holding her hostage" to get Batman to come to him. All Nolan and his editor had to do was simply move the scene with Bane calling Miranda over to a later position (or even cut that small scene entirely). Instead it's just there in your face, making you think "Why didn't they fix that?"

Matthew Modine's character, a cop named Foley, is completely useless. He's set up to sort of be the heir to Jim Gordon's job, and there's a scene near the end where Gordon chastises him to come out of hiding to fight Bane and his army. But other than that, the character is flat and serves almost no purpose, and then is killed off screen. 

I love the ending--with Alfred spotting Bruce and Selina alive and well in a cafe; however, this scene was very heavy-handedly telegraphed at the beginning of the film. Alfred talks about how he always wanted to spot Bruce at this cafe, and know that Bruce had "finally made it" out of Gotham. They might as well have had the words FORESHADOWING flashing on the screen during this scene. 

But the flaws in the film do not equal the sum of its parts. There is far more good than bad. 

The film has a long list of "best things about this film" items, but at the top of that list is Anne Hathaway's Catwoman, who steals every scene she's in. For some reason when Hathaway was announced for the part, the fanboys were PISSED. I don't know why--I have nothing against Ms. Hathaway. I find her charming and attractive. But she apparently wasn't good enough for Catwoman. Then again, Heath Ledger, when announced, wasn't "good enough" to be the Joker, and we all know how that turned out.

Hathaway's Catwoman is the only character in the film who gets to have fun. Everything else is so dark and gloomy and hopeless, but Hathaway is clearly living it up. Every sly line, every seductive look, every smart ass remark rings true. If they made a spin-off movie about Hathaway's Catwoman, I'd be first in line.

While we're talking about performances, let's talk Tom Hardy's Bane. As soon as footage started to come out with Bane, there was concern over his voice. People were saying it was hard to understand, or just goofy. Honestly I never had a problem understanding a word he said in the film, but that's me. 

Hardy is fantastic as Bane. He makes the character seem terrifying and brutal, and yet at the end, he even manages to make us feel a little sorry for the guy. Sure, he's a murderous, neck snapping, face smashing monster--but he also helped save a little girl from a prison full of lunatics! He even sheds a tear. 

The voice Hardy chooses to use is indeed strange. But I think the fact that the voice is SO DAMN WEIRD makes the character even more interesting. Who the hell in the world can you think of who has a voice like that? No one. It's just too damn weird. And that's what makes it compelling 

The always alluring Marion Cotillard is Miranda Tate, who is obviously Talia, Ra's al Ghuls daughter. I'm pretty sure as soon as she was cast in the film, every Batman fan knew exactly who she was. It wasn't surprising when she stabbed Batman in the back (literally). But when Cotillard finally goes "bad" at the end of the film, she brings a bitter iciness to the part that sells it and makes us overlook how obvious the twist is, and how underwritten the part was.

Then there's John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The film is just as much about him as it is about Batman. Not only is this about the Dark Knight rising, it's also about Blake's character rising up from just a beat cop to being something more. Gordon-Levitt does fine with the part, but like Miranda Tate, I did feel like he was a bit underwritten. The character could've used some fleshing out. 

And then of course we have series regulars Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Caine's Alfred is surprisingly absent for most of the film (I was not expecting that). Freeman doesn't have much to do, but he's always fun to watch. And Gary Oldman is, well, Gary Oldman. He's the coolest mother fucker on the planet and the best actor in the galaxy. 

And last but certainly not least we come to Christian Bale. Yes, Batman still has that goofy voice (again, it doesn't bother me--but that's me). But this is easily Bale's best performance of all three films. Bruce Wayne goes through so much in this movie, and Bale sells it all completely. I think Bale is a fantastic actor, but in certain movies he seems to be taking things a little TOO seriously. Here, he breathes new life into the character he's played twice before, and you can tell he's loving every minute of it. 

Hans Zimmer's music is incredible. The best of the trilogy. It's non-stop, churning, pounding music that refuses to let you catch your breath. Without it, the film wouldn't work nearly as well as it does.

The Dark Knight Trilogy is an amazing feat. It did the impossible: a good superhero trilogy. Most superhero films hit the "third movie curse", but Christopher Nolan and co. have avoided that but making the films bigger and more complex as they went along, but never losing sight of their original mission: to present Batman in a "realistic" world. It was a franchise full of amazing moments, and awful real-life tragedy. 

As a Batman fan and as a film fan, I'm grateful to Christopher Nolan for taking the character seriously, and for doing what he does best: trying REALLY HARD. 

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Warner Brothers reboots the franchise. I highly doubt it will ever live up to what Nolan has created here with these three films. 

The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect film, but it is a perfect ending to the universe of these films. The characters get what they deserve this time--not what they need. 

I, for one, am going to miss this franchise.

Final rating for the Dark Knight Rises: 9 out of 10 Bats. 

No comments:

Post a Comment