Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Sorry it took so long for a new blog.  It was partly because I didn't particularly feel like writing a review of this movie immediately after the tragic shooting that occurred and also partly because I've been getting ready for my 200th blog post and I've been struggling with the schedule of stuff I needed to get out.

There’s not much to say about The Dark Knight Rises. It’s the sequel to The Dark Knight, which it is itself a sequel to Batman Begins. All three movies were directed by Christopher Nolan who also directed Inception, which was #2 pick for best film of 2010 (second only Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). I’ve been led to believe the original sequel to The Dark Knight was meant to heavily feature The Joker (Hence the way he was defeated in the second movie while Two-Face was foolishly disposed of) but due to the death of Heath Ledger they were forced to go a different route. As a result the movie has closer ties to the first film than I suspect was originally planned.

The hype for this movie has been understandably high. After all The Dark Knight was considered by many, but not everyone, to be the best superhero film ever made and a sequel to something like that has a lot to love up to. So did The Dark Knight Rises fall above or below the perhaps unrealistically high bar its predecessor created?

Find out after the jump.

Cops never seem to want to arrest the right costume wearing sociopath
It has been eight years since a deranged Harvey Dent went on a killing spree that the Batman ultimately volunteered to take the rap for in order to protect Dent’s hero image. In the years since, thanks to the new “Dent Act”, Gotham City is finally free of organized crime and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse in the rebuilt Wayne Manor, now long retired from vigilante activities. However a mysterious masked mercenary called “Bane” (Tom Hardy) has come to the city will ill motives. Bruce realizes that he must once again take to the streets as Batman, but after eight long years and crippling injuries his ability to defeat such a powerful new enemy is in serious question.
I want to get this out of the way so that no one misunderstands me: The Dark Knight rises is a very good movie. It’s very well written and it’s very well directed however it’s not as good as The Dark Knight was in these two categories. But even so it’s well worth the price of admission.

Okay? Are we clear? Good, now let’s actually talk about this film.

As I said the writing is very good here and the direction is solid. There’s no complaint here. Christopher Nolan already has a reputation for making films that are strong in these points, so he basically manages to keep about the same level of quality that we’ll used to. This flick is damn near three hours long yet somehow the pacing of the movie, as well as the “edge of your seat” factor, causes you to barely notice how depressingly long the movie actually is. That’s a difficult feat. Similarly the movie has a large cast and you’d think it would feel crowded but in fact everyone fits into their places well and are developed just enough for everything to work.
Is it too much to ask for just one cat pun? Please?
Speaking of characters I’m pretty damn sure that this is the best supporting cast (and cast of characters overall) in any comic book superhero movie. Accepting that this is well casted, with large amount of Oscar winners and nominees everywhere, this is an extremely well-acted film with no real weak points. I’m particularly enamored with Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and JGL (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of course) as John Blake. These two really help make this film tolerable in parts that would have been considered fairly weak otherwise. For my money Hathaway’s performance is a real highlight as she nails the concept of Catwoman, a strong, sexy, dangerous and charming package, in what is easily one of the strongest performances in her career. I’ve always defended her as an actor since way too many people tell me she’s just a pretty face. I’ve always used Rachel Getting Married as my example of this but I think The Dark Knight Rises can be added to the list. Of course the most important parts of a film like this are the hero and the villain. As far as Tom Hardy as Bane goes he’s pretty fantastic. Bane is a weird character in that he was awesome in his initial appearance in the comic, being both physically and mentally threatening, but every appearance he’s had outside of the comic he’s a glorified thug (and often not really all that glorified). This is the first time Bane has been portrayed in a way that’s worthy of the original character, and Hardy ends up being perfect for the role. Also I like the voice he uses, even if it's not what the comic book Bane would be using.

Christian Bale is still pretty good as Bruce Wayne/Batman but his “Batman Voice” still feels a bit ridiculous. At the very least all the parodies that have been done over the years come off very accurate when compared to the real thing. But even so I like Christian Bale as Batman tends to feel more human than the character usually comes off as (I still maintain that Batman is just as hard to relate to as Superman).

The sense of urgency and tension are bigger than the previous film, as where the Joker wanted to create as much chaos in Gotham as possible Bane actually has a darker agenda. It feels larger than its predecessor without feeling bloated. When there is action it’s good as the fight scenes are fast and fun. Despite having the least original, least interesting name in the entire Batman franchise the new vehicle, “The Bat”, is a really cool addition to the movie and I wish there was an excuse to use it more.

That all said The Dark Knight Rises has some pretty glaring issues that keep it from surpassing the previous film. If you recall in my The Amazing Spider-Man review one of my biggest complaints about it was that it too dark for a Spidey film and that it was trying too hard to be a Batman movie. Well weirdly I have a similar complaint for this film, and I realize that it main be kind of bizarre to say that about a Batman movie, but the fact is that this movie tries to be too grounded in reality in order to tell a darker story and it actually hurt my enjoyment.

You mean if we actually adapt Bane in a serious manner it creates a good story?
Now Christopher Nolan has been trying to create a Batman that could exists in the real world since Batman Begins but I feel like this one tries the hardest to achieve that, what with Bruce Wayne’s injuries having ruined his body and health. The problem is that it’s impossible to make the concept of Batman realistic. He’s a billionaire who’s absurdly intelligent and physically powerful who goes out and successfully wages a one man vigilante war on the world while dressed as a bat and gets away with it. It’s completely unrealistic but it doesn’t matter because it’s fun. This movie lacks that element of fun that had me interested in things like Batman: The Animated Series (still probably the best adaptation of the character after all these years). I like watching Batman unapologetically beat the hell out of criminals, not a retired Bruce Wayne using a cane to walk around and being a generally out-of-shape version of Batman. Hell, even something as simple as actually referring to Selina Kyle as “Catwoman” at some point would have helped the “fun factor” of this film (They briefly call Harvey Dent “Two-Face” in the last film, why not something similar here?), Basically this isn’t really a superhero film so much as it is a cerebral action film, much like Nolan’s previous film Inception was.

Of course I can accept this if I assume that this character isn’t really the same as the comic book hero; an alternate reality Batman whose shouldn’t be compared to the original. However because The Dark Knight Rises takes itself so seriously it’s hard to forgive all the plot holes. I loved The Avengers and had too good a time to mind all the leaps of logic and with the over-the-top and extremely quotable Joker running around I didn’t even notice the problems with The Dark Knight. However this movie doesn’t have that same tone normally associated with this genre so I found myself unable to ignore all the gaping plot holes and cues to suspend my disbelief. Look, if we’re going to say that all the physical abuse Wayne went through in the first two movies have permanently messed up his body I’m going to wonder why those some injuries don’t seem to impede him during the climax of the film. There’s a lot of stuff but I don’t really have time to get into every single thing.

Also I wasn’t in love with the ending. Certain aspects of it kept me from disliking it per se, but I still came out of the theaters disappointed by it. That said I’m 100% certain that this is my personal hang up since on an intellectual level I understand that this was pretty much the best way for Nolan to end his trilogy with a definitive conclusion. I just wasn’t feeling it, I guess.

Pictured: 50% of the reason I watched the flcik
The Dark Knight Rises is a very good film; it just doesn’t try to be a superhero film. And since it’s not a superhero film it doesn’t get a pass of the parts I’d normally give such a flick. In a universe where we pretend that gamma radiation will turn you in a green monster I can ignore plot contrivances fairly easily. But I can’t really do it here. It has its flaws and it is more about angst than having fun but it’s still one of the best films of the year by quite a bit. I did really enjoy watching this film despite the negative stuff I had to say. I just want it understood that this isn’t the best superhero movie of all time and in fact not even the best Batman film of all time. Still well worth a full price of a ticket at the movies though.

The Dark Knight Rises gets 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


-Wonderful acting from an incredible cast

 -Great new characters in Selina Kyle, John Blake, and Bane 

-Well written plot and excellent direction 

-Great pacing 


-Not a very fun film 

-There’s a few plot holes 

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