The Dark Knight Rises is, overall, a pleasure to watch and is a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the splendid trilogy by Christopher Nolan. It’s long and imperfect, but worth it.
Here’s a trailer:
Released July 20, 2012
Written by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, and David Goyer, based on comics by Bob Kane
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Matthew Modine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Aaron Eckhart, Nestor Carbonell, and Chris Ellis
* * * * *
Since taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s (Eckhart) crimes eight years ago, Batman has been in hiding, essentially retired, and Bruce Wayne (Bale) has been a hermit. (Interesting that nobody seems to make the connection…) But when Wayne Enterprises suffers financially and Wayne has a chance to get an altruistic investor named Miranda Tate (Cotillard) involved in helping his company, Wayne leaves his isolation. He also meets a talented cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Hathaway).
Then Bane (Hardy) shows up and essentially wants to lay waste to the city of Gotham, ostensibly freeing the populace from the rule of the upper class. Now Batman has to use all of his resources to escape from a horrible prison that Bane tossed him in and save his city from all out destruction. He gains an untrustworthy ally in Kyle, still has Lucius Fox (Freeman) around to help him with gadgets, and of course has his trust butler, Alfred (Caine), by his side.
Add to all of this Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) wishing he could tell the world the truth about the hero Batman and a young, determined cop named Blake (Gordon-Levitt) who wants to make a difference in the world and help Batman.
Bane’s plan is complex and very destructive and he is very businesslike in his brutality and battle. Batman’s hurts are real and his burden will likely require his life. Selina Kyle seems to want to escape from her thieving life. Alfred wants Bruce Wayne to leave Batman behind and help his city as Bruce Wayne, finding a full and happy life for himself. Blake wants to stop Bane and keep Batman around so the sometimes impotent police can get a hand.
While the story gets quite complex, and we don’t see a lot of Batman and instead see a lot more of Catwoman and Blake and Gordon, this is still a very fine movie, albeit somewhat long. But so much of good happens in this film that the running time is totally forgivable.
The writing of The Dark Knight Rises is a clinic on tight plotting, thread weaving, and character-driven action. Each event that occurs comes about because a character has made a choice, which is why the movie is so engaging the entire time. True, we only first see Batman himself about 1/3 of the way through the film, but the character development is wondrous to behold.
The production design is not quite as dark as the first two film; there is definitely more light in this movie. The city is a character in itself and the staging is quite nice. Granted, there are some inconsistencies and a few goofs, like with the frozen river and Wayne Manor, but these are inconsequential. The camera work is epic, soaring, and at times very intimate, helping the stakes of the film hit close to home. That said, some of the editing is a little off, with a few transitions seeming rough and one really strange timeline goof which took me out of the story. This would not have been hard to fix and I wish Nolan had done so.
The acting is top-notch, and in a movie that is so crowded with talent, it’s an unfortunate truth that some folks get little screen time. Freeman’s Lucius Fox is one example; we see very little of him. Christian Bale carries the film on his capable shoulders, giving us a very risky superhero in a damaged, lost man who is not sure what his place in the world is. Tom Hardy basically growls and speaks in a strange voice, as well as lumbers and beats the tar out of Batman; honestly, he’s hard to understand at times. There’s not a lot to Bane, which is unfortunate for him since he’s following in the villain footsteps of the Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Cotillard is a lovely presence and she does a find job with another somewhat underused character in Miranda Tate. Oldman is pitch-perfect as usual, giving us an aging, still tough and principled Commissioner Gordan. But Gordon-Levitt, Hathaway, and Caine steal this movie. Blake’s motivations are displayed in his body language and fire. Hathaway practically channels Julie Newmar combined with Michelle Pfeiffer, nailing the part of a deliberately cold, selfish thief who is not happy with who she is but who knows what she’s capable of and will do what it takes to get what she wants or needs. Then there’s Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth. He provides the soul, the conscience, the heart, and really the salvation, for Bruce Wayne. He’s just lovely.
With a few goofs, a far less interesting villain than its two predecessors, and a lot of ground to cover, The Dark Knight Rises rises to the challenge of tying up this excellent, ground-breaking trilogy. The emotional climaxes pack a serious punch.
On its own, The Dark Knight Rises takes the number two spot for this year’s rankings so far. As a conclusion to the trilogy, it would take the number one spot.
Content warnings: lots and lots of stylized violence and a few near-gruesome images, some explosions, some harsh language, minimal sensuality
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
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