7.22.2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) [Non-Spoiler]

DIRECTED BY
Christopher Nolan

STARRING
Christian Bale - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Tom Hardy - Bane
Anne Hathaway - Selina Kyle/Catwoman
Gary Oldman - Commissioner James Gordon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - John Blake
Michael Caine - Alfred Pennyworth
Morgan Freeman - Lucius Fox
Marion Cotillard - Miranda Tate


Genre - Action/Adventure/Crime/Drama/Fantasy/Comic Books

Running Time - 165 Minutes


PLOT
Eight years have passed in Gotham City since the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who Batman (Christian Bale) took the blame for to preserve his good reputation. Gotham City, under the Dent Act, has now become a safer city, arresting more criminals than ever. However, Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) is feeling guilty about lying about how Dent really died, pondering whether he should retire. Also, Bruce Wayne has retired his Batman persona, living as a recluse in Wayne Manor to the point that the public hasn't seen him for the past eight years.

As Wayne Manor hosts a society function in honor of Harvey Dent, a waitress enters the Wayne Private Wing and steals a necklace, from a fool's proof safe, that belonged to Bruce's mother. After Bruce confronts her, the waitress escapes through the window. Checking the safe, Bruce realizes that this waitress, who he learns is Selina Kyle (
Anne Hathaway) due to her record as a cat burglar, really wanted a copy of his fingerprints for some unknown reason.

As Bruce attempts to get back into the swing of things in the public eye, a huge masked mercenary known as Bane (
Tom Hardy) [a former member of Ra's Al Ghul's (Liam Neeson) League of Shadows] has arrived in Gotham with a sinister plan to destroy the entire city just to watch people suffer. After Bane messes with Bruce's personal life, including stripping Bruce of all his financial assets, Bruce decides to adopt the Batman persona again to stop him. Unfortunately, Bruce's battered body [and betrayals from supposed allies] is no match for Bane's strength, worrying Bruce that his work to save Gotham from criminal activity may be for nothing.


REVIEW


HITS

- The direction. For the third straight BATMAN film, Christopher Nolan has knocked it out of the park with his visual presentation to end this fantastic comic book trilogy. With each installment, his confidence as a director has definitely improved, showcasing his vision in a near flawless way.

The biggest success Nolan does is take a near-three-hour film and make it feel half its length. I'm one of those people who feels apprehensive in watching any movie that's longer than two hours. Not only is it a long sit, but my attention span starts going haywire if a film is usually longer than that. But Nolan's visuals kept me engaged from beginning to end, making me feel surprise when I realized the film was already in its thrilling final act. That's the perfect sign of a great film - when it feels much less than its running time, you know you're enjoying yourself.

The cinematography by Wally Pfister is great, as the film looks gritty even if it isn't as dark visually as the other installments. The editing, especially the cross-cutting between different character's perspectives within scenes, was amazing.

The quieter scenes were done masterfully as well. The action sequences are beautiful here. I loved the James Bond-esque opening with Bane on the plane. I loved the Batman chase with Gotham's police. I thought the Bat plane was wicked cool and loved any scene involving that. But my favorite had to be the one-on-one first fight between Batman and Bane. No music or anything - just two men beating the crap out of each other. It gave the moment a different feel and I loved that it involved a pivotal Batman comic book moment taken from the 1993 arc, "Knightfall". Christopher Nolan directs his best BATMAN related film here visually, making every moment count for something in terms of thrills and action.

- The narrative and characters. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a fantastic continuation of what Nolan and David S. Goyer had set up in 2005's BATMAN BEGINS and in 2008's THE DARK KNIGHT [which is still my favorite of the three]. This installment introduces more characters than ever, changing some of their origin stories to fit within Nolan's vision of the Batman story. While Bane isn't Latino, doesn't wear a lucha libre mask, or need the Venom drug to enhance his strength, Nolan's Bane is light years ahead of what Joel Schumacher did for the character in 1997's BATMAN & ROBIN. In fact, I like that Bane is more realistic here. While he is strong here, he's not super-strong by a drug but rather from training most of his life. And while he does use physical strength to hurt others, it's his massive intelligence and cunning that brings down the eight years the Dent Act had done for Gotham City. Bane is so matter-of-fact and confident that you can't help but take notice of him and somewhat respect him. He's not a villain that says he'll do something and never gets the chance to. Bane will let his actions speak for him, making his silence louder than any words he says. I thought Nolan and Goyer did an amazing job with Bane. Sure, he's not the most colorful villain in Batman's rogues gallery. But he has a presence and an intimidation factor that most villains would die for.

The origin is also different with Selina Kyle, who is never called Catwoman in the film, but definitely dresses the part. She's more of a thief in this film than a sexual force of nature wearing leather and using a whip to scare her victims. Selina is tough and smart, while being subtly sexy and attractive to men. She also takes care of girls who are just like her, as well as care about what happens to Batman and Gotham City while trying to make it seem as if she doesn't. I thought the chemistry between her and Bruce Wayne/Batman wasn't as sizzling as the one in 1992's BATMAN RETURNS, but it was definitely there. The two characters are definitely attracted to each other, but are more guarded here due to their pasts. I thought Catwoman's role in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES fit within the context of the story.

I think the only real notable new character was Officer John Blake, who is a young officer who seems to idolize Batman and wants him to continue keeping Gotham safe from criminals. He shares a past similar to Bruce's, making them connect right away. He's also tough, intelligent, and brave, making him instantly likeable. I liked the build to his character development. He seemed like a random supporting player, but his character gains depth with every scene he appears [which is a lot] as the role gets meatier and meatier until the final act. To me, John Blake was the best new addition to the trilogy other than Bane [I liked Catwoman but she had a bit less depth than those two].


The other supporting characters get less to do this time around, but they all play an important part in the trilogy's conclusion. Commissioner Gordon is now guilt ridden over his part in hiding Harvey Dent's true fate, feeling as if the cleansing of crime in Gotham is based on a lie he can't keep anymore. He pretty much a background player until the final act, but Gordon [while flawed] is still heroic and likeable. Lucius Fox doesn't get much to do as well, but he's important within the narrative anytime he appears. And Alfred, who isn't in the film as much as I would like him to be, is the emotional core of the film and has some of the best scenes in the film. I thought the character was written strongly here.

But the film, thankfully, belongs to Bruce Wayne/Batman. He's broken, both physically and mentally, after putting his life on the line to give hope to a city that struggles with keeping it. He put his body on the line just to become an inspiring symbol to Gotham, even letting the citizens believe he murdered Harvey Dent - a man who also inspired the city, refusing to let them in on the truth. Hiding himself for years, he let the city live on without him. Then when Bane shows up to destroy everything he and Dent had done for Gotham, Bruce has no choice but to suit up and take this menace down. He has trouble taking on Bane, but he has to find it in himself to rise again and save Gotham City and right the wrongs he made eight years ago. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES isn't about Batman stopping a terrible villain to save the day. It's about Batman coming to terms about his true mission in life. It's about Bruce Wayne coming to terms about how his traumatic past has effected his present and will his future. Just because Batman has retired doesn't mean that Bruce Wayne has to. They're one and the same, and Bruce has to rise above the pressure he has placed on himself in order to truly live his life and be happy with who he is and what he has accomplished. That's the real story of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Not politics. Not good vs. evil. It's about living and Bruce Wayne starts to realize that he hasn't really lived since his parents died as a child. Bane is just the catalyst in making him realize that his anger and fear have stalled his life. He has to struggle with the living world and must step out of the darkness in order to see the proverbial light. It's a great tale and a perfect way to end a trilogy for this character.

Is the narrative perfect? No. There are certain plot holes and things that could have used more depth. I won't spoil those things because not everyone has seen this film yet. While I felt the narrative for THE DARK KNIGHT was stronger and more personal, I still think this was the perfect end story to a very successful trilogy. You understand why things happened the way they did and the dialogue was great as well. Watching Gotham implode and crumble due to the words and actions of one man that Batman has trouble defeating really raises the stakes and makes the ending much more satisfying. The flaws don't really hurt the film much at all in context of the entire trilogy.

- The acting. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has some serious acting chops. Christian Bale has his best performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the entire trilogy. He anchors the entire film, looking worn and battered, yet still playing the hero who will never give up until justice is served. I found a lot of his emotional moments really convincing, his chemistry with Anne Hathaway to be strong, and his Batman voice was finally perfect. Bale conquers the hero who must deal with his personal demons to truly become a symbol for the city he loves believably. He gives the role a ton of depth and layers that make you want to root for him. I thought he was fantastic in this. I also thought Michael Caine was really strong as Alfred, giving the film its most emotional moments that almost brought a tear to my eye. He's extremely poignant in the role and gives it a ton of class. Bale and Caine are great together and you really feel their bond.


Anne Hathaway was an interesting choice for Selina Kyle, as she would have never crossed my radar when it came to the role. Michelle Pfeiffer is still my ideal version of Catwoman, but Hathaway plays the part well enough to make her presence important to the story. In fact, instead of trying to emulate past actresses in the role, Hathaway makes the role her own by not being overly sexy, but intelligent, tough, and cunning. She also manages some nice chemistry with Bale, which makes their relationship interesting to watch. I liked the ambiguity of her character, whether she was good or bad. Hathaway played it better than I would have believed.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fantastic as Officer John Blake. He gives the character a lot of depth, and it helps that his character has a great arc from beginning to end, allowing him to play the role off of many people and many situations. I thought his character was very fitting for this film, and I loved the twist his character takes at the end. Gary Oldman does well with what he's given as Commissioner Gordon. Morgan Freeman brings some humor again as Lucius Fox. Marion Cotillard tries as best she can as Miranda Tate. She's a good actress but I wish her character had more depth.

As for Tom Hardy, he's brilliant as Bane. He's menacing just through his eyes and body language alone, which is a contrast to how eloquent he speaks. His voice under the mask does take time to get used to, but Hardy puts his all into the role - being scary through his obvious intelligence, which is enhanced by his physique [which Hardy gained 30 pounds of muscle for]. Hardy is a beast, as he's physically imposing and downright vicious. He handles the dialogue exceptionally well, speaking as if he's doing Shakespeare in the Park - which actually makes him more awesome. I love that the script gave Bane a ton of depth, especially within the final act, allowing Hardy to really play off many emotions believably. He may not have been as great as Heath Ledger in THE DARK KNIGHT, but Hardy really crafted the perfect villain to end the trilogy. I think he deserves an Academy Award nomination in a Supporting Role. Let's see if it happens.

- The score. Hans Zimmer score is awesome and really enhances the film to the utmost level. Some of the themes, like "Gotham's Reckoning" and "Rise", really create super emotional moments along with the visuals. I also love that the scenes without any music were just as powerful. A powerful soundtrack mixed with powerful visuals and a powerful story. I can't complain about that.


MISSES
- Miranda Tate. Obviously I have to nitpick about something, but I felt a certain character deserved more depth. I think my biggest one was Miranda Tate, who plays an important role within the narrative, but there's not much going for her until the final act. She just meanders until then, popping up and being mysterious [well not for me since I figured out what her real story was]. I get the less we knew about her, the more believable her twist would be in the final act. But I wanted to know more about her and I think if we did, her story would have been more powerful when we actually learn it. Does it hurt the story at all? No, not really. But after it was done, I thought that Marion Cotillard deserved a character she could play with more. Instead, she was just there for me until the end. Thankfully, she performed 'there' really well, so I didn't find her character bad or anything. I just wish she were given more to do.


THE FINAL HOWL

While I still prefer THE DARK KNIGHT [and still find THE AVENGERS to be on top of my 2012 list so far], THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a masterful conclusion to a wonderful trilogy. Christopher Nolan directs a solid film, with great actor, a perfect final narrative, and a wonderful score that makes the film feel epic. Sure, it has flaws here and there and as its own film, it probably won't stand up compared to the trilogy's middle act. But as a part three in a three-story act, the BATMAN trilogy couldn't have ended any better. I know the Colorado tragedy has taken the wind out of this film [the victims and their families are in my prayers] but it's definitely worth seeing in theaters. I sense this will get some love around Oscar time and it deserves any nomination it gets. Nice to see someone finally managed to complete a Batman story without screwing up the franchise. I'm very interested in how the character will be rebooted in 2015.


SCORE
4 Howls Outta 4



9 comments:

  1. Great review!

    That ending twist with Blake made me groan! But I didn't actually hate it, as much as I joke that I do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! And I liked the ending. But it's sort of a tease since this is the last installment. I wouldn't mind a spinoff actually.

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  2. Great, good to know this one doesn't suck! I too wonder what the next batch of creators will come up with. Here's hoping it rocks.

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  3. Awesome review my man. Totally with you on that first fight scene. Just a complete all out brawl. One of my favorite scenes with Blake is when he goes to Wayne Manor to talk to Bruce, I won't say more than that. And I actually did crack a tear with some of Michael Caine's performance.

    At the moment, The Dark Knight is still my favorite of the trilogy, but that very well may change after I watch this one as many times as Begins and DK.

    Thanks for the review, sir.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. Yeah, I loved that hand-to-hand brawl, especially without any music in the background. John Blake was a highlight for sure and I liked how matter-of-fact and intelligent he was. Wish there was another installment because I would love to see more of him. And Michael Caine was incredible in this film.

      I'm not sure if this will ever beat THE DARK KNIGHT for me. But it's definitely better than BATMAN BEGINS. Appreciate the comment as always.

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  4. I think you make some very good points in your review of the film. It is a very fitting conclusion to the christpher nolan batman series. However, I think it is a better film that The Avengers because The Avengers does not take on the emotional toll on its characters/Hero's that The Dark Knight Rises does. I think that is the key concept that make The Dark Knight Rises better. At the same time I do hope against hope that Batman will not return to silver screen for a long long long time, and I mean for at least 20 to 30 years. That is how much these three movies have effected me.

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