Movie Reviews

Review: The Dark Knight Rises


Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale
Anne Hathaway
Tom Hardy
Gary Oldman
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Marion Cotillard
Michael Caine
Morgan Freeman

Eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, Batman faces a new evil who threatens to take over and destroy Gotham and possibly Batman himself.

Batman has been my all-time favorite superhero ever since I could remember. I grew up watching the fantastic animated series and the films produced by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. While Burton’s films were appropriately dark and fun (mostly due to Jack Nicholson’s turn as the Joker and MIchael Keaton’s turn as Bruce Wayne), they couldn’t have strayed further from the source material. One prominent rule Batman has always stood by was the fact that he never killed anyone – his moral compass was always intact. Something completely lost in the earlier film’s adaptations. This is what the animated series always got right which, before this most recent trilogy, was easily the best version of Batman outside of the source material.

There are so many things wrong with Schumacher’s films, it is not even worth talking about.

Now, we have Christopher Nolan’s immaculate interpretation of the superhero icon in this trilogy of films. Going for a dark, realistic, and character driven approach to the series, Nolan has achieved something truly special with what is my favorite trilogy of all-time. The Dark Knight completely changed the game and raised the bar for the superhero genre overall. Topping that film is one feat I don’t believe most filmmakers would ever want to attempt, and even Nolan wasn’t sure he was going to make another Batman film. Needless to say, he and co-writer David Goyer came up with a story that was worth telling and would tie up the films satisfyingly. I believe that this film is not only on the same level as The Dark Knight, but completely changes my outlook on the trilogy as a whole. Before this installment, I looked at each film separately even though they did tie together quite nicely. Now, I see the trilogy as one story cut into three parts – much like the Lord of the Rings series.

This time around, we meet Bruce Wayne hiding in one wing of his mansion a broken man. Scarred from the consequences that come from being The Batman, especially after what happened at the end of the previous film. His body is weak, he is emotionally broken in this time of peace for Gotham as his heroic symbol has become a villain to those he’s risked his life to save. The storyline here allows Christian Bale to give his best performance in the trilogy. As Wayne, he seems to be more open, more accessible than before. The Dark Knight took much focus off this character because Harvey Dent was ultimately the protagonist of that film, leaving Wayne an unchanged character throughout. Here we focus almost solely on Wayne and his struggle to find the rage and fight that he used to have. The duality of Bruce is one of the most interesting aspects of Nolan’s adaptation, having the ‘playboy’ type Gotham knows him to be, as well as the angry, damaged man he truly is. Bale owns the Batman growl and has given us the most honest, interesting, and exciting interpretation of this character we are likely to ever see.

The Dark Knight Rises is a tough film to write a review for, as I could easily spoil many aspects of the film – so I am just going to give you my general thoughts on it. Put simply, I loved this film. Combining the character-driven storyline of Batman Begins, the action set pieces and level of danger from The Dark Knight, Nolan has created arguably the best Batman film ever. Personally, I find the story in this film to be the most interesting and by far the most emotional in the series. I shed some tears and held my breath in taut moments throughout this film because I have become so attached to these characters over the years. This is a very intense film, and at nearly 3 hours long, I have to say that the time flew by (I can confidently say that now having seen the film twice now, three times by the end of this week). I love the action scenes here, they are so completely epic, consuming, and as realistic as possible with a film like this. The villain, Bane (portrayed with terrifying perfection by Tom Hardy), is one of my favorites in recent memory. While he is not as much fun to watch as the Joker was, I found him utterly frightening at moments and enjoyed Hardy’s portrayal of him to its fullest. And put simply, Anne Hathaway nearly steals the show as Catwoman. I have never been a fan of her work, but I believe this may be the best we ever see her…and the character as well. This is the most fast-paced three hour film I have ever seen, the action is epic, the story complex and emotional, perfectly acted, exquisitely directed, and wonderfully shot by Wally Pfister.

This film has come upon a surprising amount of criticism, mostly due to a few very minor plot holes. While I understand where the criticisms are coming from, I find it very hard to believe that those very small aspects ruin the film. Most I have heard about can be simply put to rest by citing one scene in the film or a few lines of dialogue (the script is heavy, and you must pay attention – even I didn’t put some things together until my second viewing). I only have one very tiny problem with the film regarding how one twist was handled near the end, but I completely understand why Nolan chose to do what he did. I feel as though this film is being severely underrated by critics because of a few small things. Nolan & crew get SO much right in this film and should be commended for their achievements. The fact that they shot about 90% of this film in-camera should garner respect for it alone. In the CGI age we currently stuck in, it is a true breath of fresh air. Yes, The Avengers was fun, but I would say that 80% of that movie was done in post-production and I would take the action sequences in this film over one that was mostly shot in a sound stage. It’s hard not to appreciate the grandiose style of this trilogy, and I honestly believe that’s where much of the love for these films, as well as Nolan himself, come from.

Giving the audience artistic spectacle filmmaking at it’s absolute best while taking the time to tell an exciting, relevant story without skimping on character development should just be icing on the cake at this point. Look, there are going to be plot holes and imperfections in every single movie ever made, it’s almost guaranteed. The fact that the ones in this film have gained so much criticism and hate absolutely astounds me because they are so devastatingly minor and easy to overlook. That these miniscule problems “ruined” the movie for some people is unbelievable. If Nolan had covered every single “problem” people have noted in this film, it would run around four hours long…and then those people would just have one thing to complain about. The reason these things are in the film is to save the running time. Occasionally, the viewer must fill in the missing pieces (especially ones so self-explanatory as these) because nobody enjoys watching four hours of exposition.

There are a few things I would like to go over before I wrap this review up. First of all, the choice of Bane as a villain was simply genius, most notably how Nolan chose to tie him into the series. One thing Batman never had was a villain that could challenge him physically, and he most certainly finds that in Bane. The first meeting between these two is one of the most well-done, heart wrenching, tense, and devastating scenes I may have ever seen. My favorite scene in The Dark Knight was the interrogation scene between the Joker and Batman…and the primary confrontation between Bane & Batman is the “interrogation scene” for this film. These are the scenes where things get “real”, where sense of danger gets amped up to 11, and where you see the true threat the villain poses for Batman. It’s such a fantastic scene. I could talk in length about every action set piece in this film, they give us something completely different each time. The opening scene alone is one of my all-time favorites, up there with The Dark Knight, Raiders of the Lost Ark, last year’s Drive, and Kubrick’s 2001. I love Bane’s voice (although there was one very quick line that I didn’t quite catch), Michael Caine gives a heartbreaking performance, and that ending…Chris Nolan sure knows how to end a film, doesn’t he? Last, but not least, seeing this film in true IMAX – not the LIE-MAX that you see in most theaters, but the 6 story tall screens – is absolutely jaw-dropping. With around 72 minutes (almost half the film) shot in full IMAX format, the movie becomes an experience.

I could literally talk about The Dark Knight Rises for days. But please just go see this film, it deserves your attention. There are so many things I want to mention, but don’t want to spoil. I would LOVE to talk about this film with anyone who is interested. Things you didn’t understand? Things you loved? Things you didn’t love? Please shoot me an e-mail (under About Kyal), I would love to discuss this film with you. This is my favorite trilogy of all-time and I am extremely saddened to see it end, but I definitely look forward to what Christopher Nolan will bring us in the future.

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language

Runtime: 165 minutes

Grade: A+

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