The Dark Knight Rises

PhotobucketI love Christopher Nolan. Memento. Insomnia. The Prestige. Inception . Even without the Batman trilogy the visionary director has an impressive filmography. With the crowing achievement that is The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan caps the trilogy in a way that is both artistic and crowd pleasing. It was a task that could’ve been insurmountable, Let’s face it, The Dark Knight is considered by many to be one of the greatest superhero films of all time. If the auteur doesn’t quite equal that last episode for its poetic heights, he certainly approaches it for sheer spectacle and rousing emotion.

When we last saw Batman, he had taken the rap for the crimes of Harvey Dent, Two-Face, and gone into hiding. Now branded a hero, Harvey Dent is currently being celebrated at the 8th annual Harvey Dent Day, since the once noble district attorney’s death. The lie has given the city hope in the decency of man, but it has also had the adverse effect of branding Batman a criminal. A new supervillain, Bane, comes into power aided by a business rival of Bruce Wayne. His appearance coaxes Batman out of retirement who must now fight the terrorist and put a stop to his destructive stranglehold over the city.

Batman is nothing without fascinating side characters and there are at least two worth discussing in detail. Tom Hardy is Bane, a supervillain who speaks using a digitized voice-box. He’s suitably intimidating, the brute force of a wrestler coupled with an intellectual capacity to match. Overall it’s a startling portrayal and a memorable villain worthy of the Batman universe. The thing is, his voice is so distorted, so electronic sounding, he’s difficult to comprehend at times. Because Bane wears a mask that covers half his face, we can never see his mouth so the performance sounds as if Hardy has been reduced to an actor playing the body with a different actor’s disembodied voice, a la James Earl Jones as Darth Vader. Regardless, he’s frightening and the drama more than makes up for the deficiencies in the hard to understand dialogue. The other figure is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, a sleek and sexy cat burglar that has sort of a love-hate (read ambiguous) relationship with our main protagonist. This re-reimagining of Catwoman definitely is a modern update. She’s never referred to by that name and her costume bears little resemblance to the character we have come to know in previous incarnations. Nevertheless, Hathaway’s interpretation is wonderful. She’s literally given the best lines in the production and she manages to deliver them with a winking sensuality that makes her altogether captivating. She isn’t Michele Pfeiffer awesome, but she is awesome nonetheless.

These two figures would’ve been enough to maintain an interesting plot. However the somewhat overly complex storyline has an over-packed supporting cast. These include a key executive on the board of Wayne Enterprises (Marion Cotillard), a resourceful police officer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt ), acting deputy commissioner Peter Foley (Matthew Modine), Bruce Wayne’s business adversary John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) and his assistant (Burn Gorman). Of course this doesn’t even mention returning favorites Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Police Commissioner James Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. There’s even a couple of surprise cameos which I won’t elaborate on for fear of spoilers. It’s a dizzying array of personalities and at times one wishes the narrative had simply focused on the Batman vs. Bane concept for simplicity. When these two face off in hand to hand physical combat, nothing matches the well choreographed scenes for raw visceral action.

As expected, what’s a summer blockbuster without grandiose set pieces designed to really wow the audience? From a football stadium attack to a prison riot – The Dark Knight Rises has edge of your seat excitement in one extravagant demonstration after another. The opening prologue aboard a CIA airplane is a breathtaking event that galvanizes interest right from the start. Later there’s a particularly chilling takeover of the city that inadvertently recalls occupy Wall Street protests. These aren’t empty examples of pyrotechnics, they’re brilliant illustrations arranged to give life to a script with a depth rarely seen in these types of films. If Marvel’s The Avengers is lighthearted, fun popcorn entertainment, this is the somber creative vision of a master at work.

Christopher Nolan realizes that none of these fantastic displays would resonate without an emotional connection to the people involved. The magnitude of despair woven into the development of various characters is indeed impressive. Christian Bale’s personal conflict to reconcile his desire to help his beloved city vs. a longing to live a normal life is beautifully played up in this installment. Michael Caine provides some of his most affecting work of the entire series. His interactions with Batman highlight this inner struggle. And struggle he does! Bruce Wayne rises not once, but TWICE in this chapter. The first time is his re-emerging from his self imposed exile. The second is almost Rocky-esque in the way it exaggerates our hero’s underdog status. It’s a bit manipulative sure, but it’s effective because it gets the viewer to cheer for someone who’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Christopher Nolan more than lives up to the daunting mission of putting a fitting coda on the Dark Knight series – a satisfying conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies ever. It stands for goodness in the face of evil and isn’t that what superhero films are all about?

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24 Responses to “The Dark Knight Rises”

  1. I saw the movie twice on opening day (friends and I had planned well in advance) at an Imax theater, it really is such an incredible achievement and fitting conclusion to the trilogy. The only bad thing about it is that Nolan is now done with the Batman character and will be moving on to other things. Shamefull plug link to my review inserted here: http://wp.me/p1LZxf-IT

    With regards to the Bane audio issues, I have a suspicion as to what the problem is – I believe that most people who will be having problems understanding the character’s dialogue at times will be in cinemas where the bass speaker is not properly turned up enough. Both times we saw the movie his dialogue was clear and easy to understand, but the first time we were in the back row, and the second time we were 3rd row from the front (after coming out the first time the queue was already horrendously long!). The second time it was more noticeable, that Bane’s voice carries a particularly powerful resonance, most of which is pumped through the bass/subwoofer, that’s part of what makes him such a presence on screen, and I believe that these cinemas that don’t regularly calibrate their sound systems are in need of a tune up.

    See this in Imax if possible, roughly about half the shots in the movie have been shot in Imax, and it looks glorious up there on the screen.

    • Oh I didn’t mention it in my review but I did see the film in IMAX. I wanted to focus more on the film itself and not my film going experience. But yes it was incredible. I highly recommend it in that format. The sound was very loud and Bane’s voice was very electronic. At times the words just weren’t clear as if the sound person had overly mixed the vocals to sound other worldly. I don’t think it had anything to do with the sound system as it was one of the best. Thanks for your comments. You seem like a big fan of the series.

  2. Nice review Mark. Rises is my film of the year right now…

  3. I was waiting for this review of yours with bated breath. So glad it’s finally here!! Can’t believe TDKR’s finally here, for that matter… :( I wonder who’s going to direct the next interpretation, because another one is INEVITABLE. I hope someone great like Christopher Nolan. If we get another Joel Schumacher directing a Batman movie, I’ll FLIP.

    Great review. :D I’ll have to wait a few weeks for this one. One, because the theaters are so jam-packed (though maybe not as much as they would be if that nimrod hadn’t shot 72 people who went to see it), and two, because I’m planning on going with a friend–he’s memorized just about every line Heath Ledger said in The Dark Knight–and him and I are not available simultaneously until at least, like, the 3rd, 4th, or 5th of August. I’m so excited. Surprised to find out the new turn Nolan took on the “Catwoman”. I’m glad Anne Hathaway isn’t Halle Berry bad in her role, but I’m kind of sad that she isn’t quite as great as Michelle Pfeiffer. I loved her in Batman Returns.

  4. I need to watch this. This week will be the longest of my life. Fantastic review, as always.

  5. Great review Mark, I just got done viewing this movie for the second time in two days and I can tell you that it does hold up very well for a second viewing. I actually felt like I understood a lot of points quite a bit better the second time around, especially Bane’s motivations and the political aspects of the film.

    Anyways if you’re interested I’m going to be posting a series of reviews digging in to each major character or set of characters as well as a few other aspects of the film, so I’d love to hear from someone like you in a more Spoiler filled forum. Cheers!

    • I saw the film on opening day and I already feel like I’m falling behind. You’re like the 10th person to tell me you’ve seen the film TWICE already! Anyway, I look forward to your reviews.

  6. Hi Mark – thanks for dropping by my blog and for your comments on my review. Like you, I feel a bit like I’m lagging as I only saw it on opening night and two days have gone by since, without a second viewing. I’ll rectify this situation tomorrow.

    I loved the concluding paragraph of your analysis…totally agree about the emotional connection and the ‘rising’ of the underdog.

    Here’s to many more viewings…

  7. Great TDKR analysis. Good opening. No spoilers. Excellent! The Dark Knight Rises is an awesome movie. Batman and Gordon in ending scene is best movie quote ever.

    http://www.filmending.com

  8. A brilliant right up Mark. I’m glad you gave it the thumbs up for IMAX I would of been disappointed seeing as The Dark Knight was superb in that format. I think me and Amy will have to go and see it again in the near future.

    I don’t know if it’s because we saw a special Batman Begins/The Dark Knight screening this week but my anticipation for this film was through the roof, I would go as far to say this is my favourite trilogy ever.

  9. So I see you were a guest on Aaron Neuwirth’s podcast about the film? ;) Congrats, Mark!

  10. I finally saw this!!!! Stay tuned!

  11. The movie is superb! I particularly like The Dark Knight costumes. Wish I had those abs. Haha.

  12. Aw…….the magic of Imax ! Such an awesome and visually stunning film. I think they succeeded on a satisfying ending to this trilogy. I saw it twice and loved it even more the second time.

  13. garylee828 Says:

    This is by far the greatest trilogy I’ve ever seen! You know a trilogy is great when you can watch any of the 3 films and have a hard time deliberating which installment was the best. Ultimately, I would select “Dark Knight” as the best, mostly b/c of Heath’s immaculate performance, but there were moments in the other 2 that warrants consideration.

    Another thing so great about this trilogy is how perfect the closing scenes of each film are; they leave you wanting more. Batman taking the Joker card in part 1; Batman riding off and evading the police with cape blowing; John Blake discovering the Batcave.

    A bad ending can really taint a film, and Nolan paid great attention to every detail from beginning to end in each film.

    Glad to see you like this trilogy as much as I did. Except I think I liked Batman Begins more than you as I would rate it higher than 3 and a 1/2 stars. I’d give it a 4 1/2 or 5. But I didn’t love it the first time I watched it. It was a couple years later I grew to love it after watching “Dark Knight”. Not sure when the last time you’ve seen it, but if you haven’t watched it since the series concluded, give it another viewing and I think you’ll appreciate it in a different way, just as I now do.

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