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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Dark Knight Rises Teaser PosterI originally went to write the review for The Dark Knight Rises early Friday, but it’s difficult to focus on a review without reflecting a bit on the tragedy that’s occurred. That being said, I’m confident what follows is my opinion regardless of events. Also, I’ll do my best to not reveal any spoilers, but when I can’t avoid it, you’ll see [Spoiler] [End Spoiler] with text that needs to be highlight in between.

I went into The Dark Knight Rises expecting a masterpiece, and hoping it’d live up to my expectations, or at least come close. While half of the movie knocked it out of the park, the other half struggled in an incoherent mess that lacked a narrative. This was two movies. An epilogue to The Dark Knight and then The Dark Knight Rises which harkens back to Batman Begins. It’s a fitting end cap to the trilogy, but struggles when examined on it’s own.

I should back up on my thoughts on the first two movies. Batman Begins was a realistic take on the character, a reboot and jolt to comic book movies similar to what the comic book market experienced during the early part of the “gritty” 80’s. It was a voice and vision not really seen at that point and showed “comic movies” can appeal to mass audiences, while not losing their self and also update material for a modern age. The Dark Knight had brilliant acting and action that was amazing. However, while there was improvements on the original, what I could tell was originally two movies was rushed and compacted into one film. It was compressed and felt that way, giving short shrift to some plot points, like Dent’s turn into Two-Face.

The Dark Knight Rises attempts to fix that compressed feel experienced in the second film. It opens as a prologue to it. Giving us the events following Dent’s death and the subsequent cover-up. Gotham is now “safe” and Batman is retired. This is a choppy experience without a narrative, instead being told through scenes and events. We’re introduced to the villain Bane, a terrorist who is doing…. something. The voice we worried about in the teaser video shown is redubbed over and at times is out of place. There’s still issues understanding what Bane (and others in fairness) are saying, but that might have been the audio in my theater.

Now we come back to Gotham, Christian Bale is back as Bruce Wayne is a hermit hobbling around and locked in one wing of his manor. He walks with a cane, and we have to come to our conclusions as to why, though a specific reason isn’t given. We assume it’s from wear and tear from his time being Batman. Since he has no purpose, he has no direction and has locked himself away. He was order and law, so what does he do in a city where there is order and law.

Enter Anne Hathaway‘s Selina Kyle/Catwoman who decides to rob Wayne. This gets Wayne to start looking around again. The law and order is broken, he must return it.

Through a very complicated plot, Bane, actor Tom Hardy, comes into play which drags in Garry Oldman‘s Commissioner Gordon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s John Blake, a rookie cop into the mix as well. Bane is chaos, pure and simple. He wants to take from the rich, but what he really is after is revenge. [Spoiler] Bane it turns out is part of the League of Shadows, which you might remember from the first film and he’s come to Gotham to achieve what the League couldn’t. [End Spoiler]

Wayne finds out his company is in shambles and enter Marion Cotillard‘s Miranda Tate to the rescue and save the corporation. She’s interested in the clean energy project it’s been working on.

From there, the movie borrows from various Batman comic book stories including Knightfall and No Man’s Land. There’s absolute themes director/writer Christopher Nolan was going for. Balance in society is one. Whether it’s balance of wealth or balance between good and evil. It’s prevalent throughout the movie. Though he rips from the headlines and people might think of the Occupy Movement while seeing the movie, Bane and his terrorists as more in common with Al Qaeda and their battle against the West and their claim of it’s decadence.

Once Batman confronts Bane, the movie picks up with twists and turns you at times don’t see coming. The final reveals left the audience gasping. The ending of the film is beyond satisfying, really feeling like a proper ending and at the same time, leaving itself open to what comes next and absolutely ends on a high note. I left the theater smiling, and this is one of the few movies I’ve seen three separate applause sections, where the theater went nuts with approval.

Is the movie perfect? Absolutely not, there’s lots of flaws. But the focus not on Batman, but those around him mixed with themes relevant to today’s society and acting that’s beyond what you expect in a “comic movie” makes the movie a win and satisfying experience and conclusion.

Directing: Nolan does a great job, but there’s absolute flaws. The first half of the movie is choppy in scenes with very rough transitions. I felt like I was watching scenes play instead of a flowing narrative. Also, one of the big money shot scenes of the movie [Spoiler] Where Bane breaks Batman’s back [End Spoiler] is quick, instead of the dramatic lingering shot I’d of expected and wanted. The second half of the movie flows really well though, covering a lot in a little time and avoiding modern movie directing cliches like action scenes you can’t follow. Grade: 7

Acting: The focus on the movie is the supporting cast. Oldman, Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine especially. Oldman and Caine pour on the emotion in scenes where they lay out their motives and reasons for acting the way they do. This is as much the supporting cast as Bale’s. Hathaway and Hardy are great additions. Hathaway does great with what she’s got mixing in action and sexiness along with independence and vulnerability. Thought Catwoman’s motives and background is thin, she does a lot with what she’s given. Hardy’s Bane is supposed to be a brute and Hardy plays that role well. Event with a mask obscuring his face, he can tell what he’s thinking and his mood. In every way I believe he’s Batman’s equal if not his better. Grade: 9

Plot: I’ve discussed how the beginning has issues and the second half though satisfying and clearer is still pretty complicated and convoluted as far as the scheme Bane is attempting. Other issues… [Spoiler] What is it with comic movies having the hero reveal his identity!? Blake just guesses and Wayne doesn’t try to deflect it?! This rookie cop is that smart and no one else can figure it out. Also, the corporate take over schtick was a bit much to find the nuclear generator. Finally, the Bat seemed out of place. The new Batmobile and Batpod seems realistic, but that vehicle was out of place. I will say the use of the knife in Miranda/Talia’s attack on Batman was fantastic, especially since there was a discussion between Bruce and Fox about knives and the suit protecting against them in an earlier movie. Another example of organically tying them together in numerous ways. [End Spoiler] The movie ties into the first and second movies quite well though, capping off a trilogy and tying it all together in a way I wasn’t expecting. Grade: 7.5

Overall: It’s funny in that I’d rate the overall trilogy higher than any one of the movies. The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting ending and boy one hell of an ending. I got chills as it played out it’s conclusion. The movie is very flawed, but an experience that’s a must see. Relevant to today’s world, and a plot that doesn’t dumb it down for the audience, it’s a visual feast full of action and acting that we should expect from a summer blockbuster. It’s an absolute must see, I just wish I could rate it higher on it’s own. Overall Grade: 7.5

Side Note: Where was DC in promoting their comics at all!?

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