The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

by Steve Habrat

It is finally here, folks! One of the most anticipated films of all time is finally crashing into theaters and everyone is dying to know if it lives up to the sky high expectations that have been set by critics, fanboys, and average moviegoers alike. Well folks, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in his wildly prevalent Batman franchise, does live up to the gigantic expectations. In fact, it lives up to those expectations and then blows them to smithereens. If you can believe it, Nolan manages to craft a film that is bleaker and darker than anything he came up with in his shadowy origin tale or his chilling bridge film. This goes way beyond dark territory and dives headlong into black no man’s land. Nolan pits our flesh and blood hero against a foe that he is no match for and throws in an evil plot to end all other evil plots. Raising the bar even higher than he did with 2008’s showstopper The Dark Knight, Nolan once again begins tinkering with the formula of the superhero movie and what he conjures up is a mammoth ogre of a film that finds itself intrigued with our unshakeable fear of terrorism in our post 9/11 world. It could be called a rehash but Nolan is witty enough to put the lives of hundreds of thousands on the line and with a number like that, there is no way everyone can survive.

I won’t provide too much about the plot in this review so I will stick to the barebones basics. Eight years after the Joker brought Gotham City to its knees, crime has been almost completely scrubbed away from the streets of Gotham. The city still mourns the death of their “white knight” Harvey Dent, who was driven insane by the Clown Prince of Crime and went on a killing spree that left several individuals dead. In an attempt to keep hope alive in Gotham, Batman (Played by Christian Bale) has taken the fall for Dent’s crimes and disappeared from the city. Commissioner Jim Gordon (Played by Gary Oldman) has been grappling with the fact that he has been feeding the public lies and finds himself on the verge of revealing the true Harvey Dent to the citizens of Gotham. Bruce Wayne, who is still licking the wounds he suffered at the hands of Dent and the Joker, stays locked away inside Wayne Manor, which has now been rebuilt. Wayne is shaken out of retirement after he stumbles upon a vampy burglar by the name of Selina Kyle (Played by Anne Hathaway) making off with his mother’s necklace. As Bruce begins to investigate Kyle’s background, he discovers a much larger plot to destroy Gotham City. This plot is being led by the terrifying mercenary Bane (Played by Tom Hardy), who is diligently building an army below the streets of Gotham, waiting for the proper moment to emerge and turn the city to ash.

Dropping the thriller routine that he was fond of in The Dark Knight, Nolan crafts a large-scale disaster epic that leaves our hero scrambling to gather all the help he can find. He discovers that he may be able to trust Kyle, who is desperate to erase her rocky past any way she can. Batman also finds that he can trust Gotham City beat cop Detective John Blake (Played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an admirer of Batman’s efforts to clean up the city. He also finds help in the usual suspects Lucius Fox (Played by Morgan Freeman), his gadgets man, Commissioner Gordon, and Alfred Pennyworth (Played by Michael Caine), his trusty butler. While The Dark Knight Rises slowly evolves from disaster film into war epic, Nolan bombards the viewer with countless images of destruction and devastation that settles in the pit of your stomach like a rock. We’ve all seen the scenes of the football field collapsing and the overhead shots of bridges getting blown to hell, but that doesn’t soften their impact, especially when Hans Zimmer’s rumbling score joins in. It is through heavy scenes like this that you have to wonder if these new alliances will even make a ripple against Bane’s tidal wave of terror.

While The Dark Knight Rises has plenty of jaw-dropping action sequences, the film is carried off into greatness by the performances of everyone involved. The standouts are definitely the new kids on the block, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The one who steals the movie (fitting for her character) is Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, who is never once referred to as Catwoman. A Robin Hood figure dressed in a black body suit and goggles, Kyle is firecracker as she slinks through this boys show. She gets a kick out of seducing rich men and then taking them for all that they have. While Hathaway is great, she gets some competition from Hardy’s Bane, a hulking terrorist with a fang-like gas mask bolted to his face. While Hardy is given the nearly impossible task of following up Heath Ledger’s Joker, he holds his own as an equally sadistic “liberator” who manhandles anyone who tries to go up against him. Rounding out the new kids is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s beat cop Blake, a good guy who catches the attention of Commissioner Gordon, and Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate, a Wayne Enterprises investor who is desperately trying to shake Bruce Wayne out of his funk.

Then we have the veterans who all exit Gotham City in plenty of style. Bale shines even brighter here as Wayne, now a gaunt recluse who has shut himself out of the world in the wake of what the Joker took from him. You will want to stand up and cheer when Bruce finally leaves the halls of Wayne Manor and hits the streets once again as the Batman. As Batman, Bale brings a ferocity that we haven’t yet seen from him as Batman. We briefly glimpsed it in the interrogation scene in The Dark Knight but here; Batman is a predator that is foaming at the mouth. Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox jumps at the opportunity to get Bruce back in the crime fighting game. He gets to unveil Batman’s latest “wonderful toy” The Bat, a prototype flying machine that is beyond nifty. Caine’s Alfred gets the most emotional moments of the film as he pleads with Bruce to not confront this new evil that is ripping Gotham to shreds. He gets one specific scene with Bruce Wayne that will hit you in the gut like a wrecking ball. Then there is Oldman’s Gordon, who is suffering from the fib he has told about Harvey Dent. You will fight back geeky applause when Batman and Gordon finally reunite after eight years.

Sadly, The Dark Knight Rises does have a few flaws, which are mildly distracting. One in particularly really bothered me but I won’t reveal it here because many may label it a spoiler. There is also one character that is left slightly undeveloped, which was a shame because it would have improved the twist at the end of the film. Despite the flaws, Nolan once again holds up a gritty reflection of our current political backdrop. While I don’t think it was intentional, Nolan touches upon the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 99% rising up against the 1%. The film was written just slightly before the protests but you have to hand it to Nolan for picking up on the tensions. He also can’t resist touching upon terrorism, the theme even heavier here than it was in The Dark Knight. While I am reluctant to say too much about the film because the less you know going in, the better it will be, I can promise you that the last hour of this film is why we go to the movies. You will fight the urge to leap out of your seat and throw air punches as Batman and Bane battle for the fate of Gotham City. I’ll admit that I was fighting back tears in the final moments of the film, Nolan wrapping everything up in the finest way possible, which meant the world to this Batfan. While its few flaws may make it fall short of being a masterpiece, The Dark Knight Rises is easily the best Batman film ever made, the best blockbuster of the summer, and the best film of 2012 so far. If you want my opinion, epic doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Nolan has delivered here. It is a commanding tour de force that will almost make you forget to breathe. A must-see.

Grade: A

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Posted on July 20, 2012, in REViEW and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Excellent write-up. I agree with you, about that underdeveloped character with a twist being one of the film’s distracting flaws. As much as I adored all of Selina’s development (without which I don’t think we would’ve have gone for her and Bruce’s chemistry as much), I think some of those scenes could’ve been swapped for more light being shed on that other character in question.

    I was absolutely gobsmacked at exactly how much of a war epic this thing turned into in the second half. That it took such a turn and still faithfully remained “a superhero movie” underneath it all is so impressive to me.

    Also: “I can promise you that the last hour of this film is why we go to the movies.” Spot-on. There is no contemporary film more satisfying or cinematic than the end of this movie.

    Thanks for writing! 🙂

    • Thanks, Nikki! Glad to find another supporter of The Dark Knight Rises. For the most part, everyone I have talked to said they have loved it. Even a few of my friends who aren’t big on running back to see a movie a second time have mentioned they’d like to see it again.

      Yeah the way it morphed into a war movie at the end was incredible. There were so many scenes that had my stomach in knots. It is hard to discuss the film right now since some people still haven’t seen it and they want to avoid spoilers. I do think that if they had developed that one character a bit more, the twist would have knocked us off our feet. It was still a surprise but it could have been more powerful.

      The final fistfight between Batman and Bane will go down as a classic movie showdown. You want to jump up and cheer.

      I’m going to give your review a look here shortly. Thanks for checking the review out!

  2. That’s a great point re: the twist. Without any set-up, it felt like it was completely out of left field. And if I might say so, unnecessary to the plot or the enjoyment of the film. It had done more than enough at that point to cross the “enjoyable film” barrier. I guess the only thing that it added was that it tied the film back together with the first film, but it wasn’t really necessary given Bane’s alleged identity.

    Also, the fact that… a certain someone whose name I shan’t give… survives the film… That bugged me. It felt like a cop-out because the entire film had been leading to that conclusion. If Nolan had followed through on that, I’d be heaping praise on the film.

    There were quite a few bits of dialogue that made me roll my eyes. All of the “rise” lines were a little too on the nose, and John Blake’s full name made me groan.

    I’m feeling awfully “meh” about the film in general. I love the concept with Bane, and I don’t mean to misrepresent my feelings about the movie on the whole. I’m floating around 3.5 out of 5 stars.

    • I loved the reveal of Blake’s character. I almost fell out of my seat. I know Nolan said he would never bring that character into his Dark Knight universe but I thought it was appropriately gritty. And yeah, the character at the end was a tough pill to swallow. I had a feeling that that specific character would make an appearance. I really loved the ending and I thought it fit, without saying TOO much about it. A lot of people have been saying this dislike Bane but I really enjoyed him. I thought his evil plot was pure evil. It made The Lizard’s plot in The Amazing Spider-Man look laughable, which it kind of was on its own.

      Personally, I think it goes:
      1.) The Dark Knight Rises
      2.) The Avengers
      3.) The Amazing Spider-Man

      Kinda bummed you weren’t big on it, John. I actually thought you’d dig it.

  3. I probably oversold my mehness about the movie. I really did like it. One caveat that I should add, and I think it’s an important one, is that I’m very unfamiliar with the comics and the graphic novels. I get the feeling that those familiar with that stuff weren’t as thrown off by the twist.

    As for Bane, I liked him. I think his voice is a detriment, but the weight behind him- the entire ruse about a revolution for the people used to distract people from… well, I don’t want to spoil things for your readers, but you know what I’m referring to- the thing that he was distracting everyone from… That was great stuff. I loved the concept behind Bane.

    The pros for me: the performances of Hathaway and Joseph Gordon Levitt, the concept behind Bane, that it tied the series together neatly, the raw action and chaos starting with the bridges and football stadium.

    The cons: the survival by a certain character (you know who I mean), some of the dialogue, the twist without any set-up… basically, that the last half hour kind of felt like a cop-out because it had led up to something different.

    The other thing I’ll admit… good or bad, I may have been poisoned by The Avengers. The Batman series delights in its joylessness, and that’s part of what I’ve loved about it. Then I saw the Avengers, which was as fun as a barrel of monkeys. I even re-watched Batman Begins and there’s still a little fun in that one. And The Dark Knight was so amazing (as a comic book movie) that nobody cared if it was joyless. This one… I wish it had a little fun in it. Just a tiny taste.

    Anyway, I’ll give it this for sure- it’s been 2 days since I’ve seen it and I’m still wrestling with the themes. That’s a good sign. I’m sure I’ll rewatch it relatively soon.

  4. (I was kinda drunk when I wrote all of that so please take that into account)

    • Haha this movie has been pretty divisive. Some of my friends have called, texted, or come to me saying they loved it while others are seething with disappointment. I was talking to one of my friends who went to the midnight showing with me this afternoon over lunch and we both agreed that if he-who-must-not-be-named would have died, that would have been pretty bleak and turned some people off completely. Still, I think Catwoman brought some fun to it. My mom is still raving about her to me and it’s almost been a week since I saw it with my parents. It is rare for my mom to still talk about a movie a week after she saw it.

      I guess it is the DC guy in me that really makes me love this movie. I loved The Avengers but they are just too cheery sometimes. The geek in me will still run out on September 25th and geek The Avengers on Blu-ray but I will be really looking forward to completing my Batman collection.

      Speaking of Blu-ray, have you seen the Alfred Hitchcock set and The Universal Movie Monsters set that are getting released around Halloween? I had a minor freak-out when I read about them. I may go broke, but they sound incredible. Thoughts?

      • The irony is that I’m much more in favor of the dark, bleak stuff (ergo pulling for that ending). And I’d take TDK over any of the Marvel movies, including the Avengers. I was surprised quite a bit by how much I enjoyed The Avengers.

        I hadn’t heard about the Hitchcock thing, but I’m dying to see those Creature Feature Blu-rays. Those movies are so much fun and they hold such a special place in movie history. As it is, I own the Frankenstein, Dracula, and (my favorite) Wolf Man Legacy Series editions, and I roll them out every October. The best part… hopefully some theaters will show the updated versions in October. If they’re smart, they’ll do a double feature with Frank and Bride of Frank.

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