The Dark Knight Rises is quite possibly the most anticipated movie of the summer. Years of hype have built it up, with many hoping it will get the Best Picture nominee that everyone wanted for The Dark Knight. In the end, some will be disappointed, and some will be satisfied. Isn’t that how it always works with trilogies though?
For now, mild spoiler warning. A heavier spoiler warning will come later
The film takes place eight years after The Dark Knight, and it shows in Bruce. Rises firmly establishes that Batman isn’t the main persona anymore. Bruce Wayne has become Bruce Wayne again. Wayne doesn’t have a great reason to be the Bat anymore. But like any good comeback movie, he needs a kick. And Joseph Gordon Levit gives him that kick. For a franchise that has established itself as very grounded, Wayne’s decision to become Batman again seems very comic booky. It’s not a bad thing, but worth noting. Also, Levit’s character makes a huge leap of logic that can/will get under some people’s skin. It’s one thing to assume something, but then having the character he is talking to go along with it seems out-of-place. But then again, this does involve come book characters, so we were going to have leaps of logic eventually.
The beginning is the weakest part of the movie. Nolan has difficulty in setting up all the chess pieces and conflicts that play out through the movie. Everyone is brought back in rapid fashion, making some scenes feel rushed. We have three new characters, and they are quickly brought in and explained in a rapid fire manner. We feel for these characters later in the movie, but the lack of set up makes some of the plot points ring a tad hollow. But the one character who is established perfectly is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (although she is never called that in the movie). The two that don’t fare as well are Cotillard’s Miranda Tate, and Gordon-Levit’s John Blake. They appear, quickly set up, then that’s it. The audience isn’t given time to feel for them before the conflict starts. But we do feel for them by the end, mostly due to the actors making up for the bad set up. The plot is slightly convoluted in act one, and uses a recent political movement more than it should. Having a politically charged movie is fine, but don’t over do it to the point where the audience doesn’t care. But the clumsy set up pays off later in the movie, as the plot becomes slightly simpler.
But once we get into act two and three, the momentum picks up. The plot moves along at a clipping pace, but never feels rushed. There is plenty of action, and Nolan never loses sight on the characters we have come to love. Things are going boom, but the focus here is the character moments. Where the plot hits the brakes though is when Bruce is sent off to a prison in the desert. Five months are supposed to pass in this time, but it never feels like time is moving along. It’s visually pleasing, and works well to set up the ending, but it feels as if days have passed instead of months. But once Bruce is back in Gotham, the tension level rivals The Dark Knight. Again, it’s slightly comic booky, but the audience will love it.
The entire film has a sense of “the end is coming”. Be it Alfred scolding Bruce for having a death wish, or be it Bane’s plot for Gotham. There is barely any humor, and every character is thrown in the gutter scene after scene. It’s a great metaphor for the human spirit, and one that never gets preachy or so blatant that it loses its message.
The biggest praise that I can give The Dark Knight Rises is that the ending had a sense of completion. I didn’t feel the NEED for another movie. It ends the franchise nicely, with each character getting enough time to complete their own story. It’s a strange thing to feel in an age of franchises that never end.
The acting is on par with The Dark Knight. Christian Bale is great at Bruce Wayne/Batman. As said before, we see Bruce becoming Bruce again, and leaving the Batman persona behind (to a degree). Bale works this in nicely, and is arguably more interesting in Rises than The Dark Knight. He’s a man who is finally facing down the things that have hurt him and turn that emotion into something positive. Michael Cain’s transition from butler to full on father figure through these movies comes to a head early in the movie, and Cain breaks the audiences heart. Cain hits the scene right on the head, and while you hate to see what Alfred does, you can’t help but feel for the guy. Hathaway IS Catwoman. She’s a thief with a heart of gold, and she never lets the audience lose sight of it. Her chemistry with Bale is electric, and something Batman Returns was severely lacking. Joseph Gordon-Levit is good, but his blatant New York/Boston accent could use some work. He is likable though, and continues to prove that he is ready to headline big name movies. More on him in a bit. Sadly, Morgan Freeman isn’t given much to do as Lucius Fox. He’s in a lot of the movie, but is only there to be a catalyst for the plot. Marion Cotillard is likable, and does the best with what she is given. Tom Hardy brings a lot of life to Bane, considering the majority of his face is covered. There is a rare intensity that you don’t see often in fight scenes. There is pure rage in his eyes. Gary Oldman isn’t in the movie much, but he’s great as James Gordon. It’s clear the years of lying have started to take its toll on him.
I think of The Dark Knight Rises as Return of the Jedi. Great film, but flawed. And people are going to hold it against Rises because it came out after The Dark Knight. No movie could have lived up to the expectations that fans have been giving this movie. Bane isn’t the Joker. Years from now, people won’t think of each movie individually. They will remember the entire trilogy, much like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Go in expecting a great Batman movie, and you won’t be disappointed. And sorry folks, but The Dark Knight Rises won’t be getting a Best Picture nominee. The Dark Knight had a better chance. Rises will only get the nomination if the Academy feels bad enough (which could happen).
For the next segment, I’m going to go deep into spoiler territory. But I have made the text white, so you won’t accidentally read it. If you want to read the spoilers, just highlight the text.
Nolan nicely brings in one of Bane’s most famous moments from the comics: when Bane broke the Bat. It doesn’t feel forced, or a favor to the fanboys. It works in the story, and is brutal. This is why Bruce has to go to a prison in the desert. Miranda Tate gets a name change late in the movie, to Talia Al Gul. Even a veteran Batman fan like me was shocked when it was revealed.
And then there is the ending. It’s saddening, even though we all somewhat knew that Bruce was going to die. It hits you in the gut. But he does survive, which may seem like a cop-out, but Nolan uses it for what comes next. Alfred described how he wanted Bruce to live a happy life. Have a family and what not. And now that Bruce does, with Selina Kyle, it’s as if Batman DID die that day. For Bruce anyways.
One of the things that didn’t sit well with me was how fast John Blake deduces that Bruce is Batman. This would be fine if he was an established character, but he’s brand new. Not only that, Bruce just goes along with it. Throughout the movie, John Blake feels like Robin. He has the gun ho type of attitude that Batman needs occasionally to keep him from becoming a villain. So it’s fitting that when Blake goes to claim what Bruce left for him in his will, we find out his real name. No, it’s not Dick Grayson. It’s Robin. His real name is Robin John Blake. And then we find out Bruce left him the Batcave……it all just feels right. Part of me was hoping that we’d see Robin fly down onto the new Batsignal and greet Gordon, sadly no.
Ok, end spoilers.
The Dark Knight Rises gets 4/5.