Review: The Dark Knight Rises

daniel cohen concludes his batman month series with a review of the final nolan-directed batman film…

Plot: Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham City has enjoyed a period of peace. Still distraught by the death of Rachel Dawes and Dent’s turn as Two-Face, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hasn’t been Batman in all this time, becoming a total recluse. When a violent mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy) threatens Gotham, it forces Wayne to don the cape and cowl once more.

 

In The Dark Knight, the Joker famously says, ‘I’m like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one.’ That’s how I felt with this movie, because I’ve waited so long to see it. And while it’s not everything I thought it would be, it’s still an incredible piece of filmmaking.

Christopher Nolan’s ambition as a director is nothing short of amazing. Yes, he gets the money and resources to pull off these spectacles, but he uses every ounce of their potential. Even more so than Inception, this is his most ambitious movie to date. He’s basically sitting at a giant computer with thousands of red buttons and pushing them all at once. He’s trying to pull off something grand in every sense of the word, and for the most part, he succeeds. There is a drawback though in trying to deliver a lot of story. While it’s never muddled or confusing, there are some big moments that just felt rushed.

The editing is really jarring. For example, when Batman sees Gordon for the first time, it’s an awkward transition. Batman repels down a rope into Gordon’s room, and suddenly the next frame is Gordon right in the middle of this really emotional speech. Whoa…these guys haven’t seen each other for eight years. Can we just get a moment here to take it all in? Batman and Bane meeting for the first time is also a critical scene, but that felt hurried as well. I’m not saying these scenes aren’t impactful. I just wished Nolan took his time a little bit more. But like I said…there’s a lot of story going on.

 

Just like with any Nolan Batman movie, you know the acting is going to be off the charts. This is Christian Bale’s best turn as the character. He’s the soul of this movie, as he should be. I would go as far to say Bale is Oscar worthy here. He’s got a lot of different emotions to cover in this one film: isolated, funny, intense, angry, scared, and as Batman, very intimidating. You don’t see a lot of Batman in this movie, but you see plenty of Bruce Wayne. Without spoiling too much, there’s a sequence where Wayne basically has to get his mojo back. This whole section of the film is incredible to watch, and Hans Zimmer’s score really adds another dimension to it. It’s the Rudy moment of superhero movies.

And while Bale is my favorite part of the film, there’s no shortage of memorable performances. Michael Caine as Alfred is also Oscar-worthy. Every scene he’s in pulls at your heartstrings. Although I have to admit, Alfred makes a choice in the middle of the film that just seemed inconsistent with his character. Gary Oldman is great once again as Commissioner Gordon, although he kind of takes a backseat in this one. This was probably my favorite outing for Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, who’s basically been the Q of this series. He’s got a lot more to do, and provided much needed comic relief.

 

And then we have the new characters. Anne Hathaway plays the iconic role of Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, although she’s never explicitly called that. Hathaway is great in the role, and she’s definitely a lot of fun and bad ass, but overall, I wasn’t blown away by the character. She had a nice little character arc, but to be honest, she was primarily used as a plot device to get characters to certain places. Hathaway does have a great chemistry with Bale though, both when they’re in the costume, and out of it. She’s certainly more intriguing than the other female lead, Miranda Tate, a Wayne executive played by Marion Cotillard. This character seemed unnecessary. There’s a romantic angle they play between her and Wayne that was completely rushed. Even though Cotillard was great in the role, I’m not sure an actress of her caliber was needed, and it may have been better if a lesser known actress were in the role for reasons I’m not going to get into.

My favorite new character in the whole movie though was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as rookie cop John Blake. Who doesn’t like Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Whenever I see him in a movie, it just puts a smile on my face. And the development of this character is one of my favorite elements to this whole movie. This was absolutely brilliant.

 

The only major character I haven’t touched upon yet is the main villain — Bane, played by Tom Hardy. More than anybody in the film, Hardy’s role was the most challenging for several reasons. First of all, he had to follow Heath Ledger’s Joker. Right there, that’s an insurmountable task. And not only that, he had to do it behind a metallic mask. Bane was the character that left me pondering the most after watching this movie. At first, I thought he was just an average villain. I didn’t see the personal conflict developed enough between him and Batman. But after thinking about it more, Bane really stuck with me. He truly is a great villain. First of all, the acting Hardy does with his eyes is incredible. But the thing everybody was worried about with Bane was his voice. And ironically, this was the best part of the character. It really reminded me of Darth Vader. And the character’s dialogue and personality was a little bit like Vader as well. And I don’t mind that pieces of his dialogue were difficult to understand. It made him more mysterious and scary, although he does have some great lines, especially with Batman. My only real issue with Bane was a couple things they did with him at the end, but I won’t spoil it.

Speaking of Bane, the fights in this movie were quite fascinating. They are just brutal, and they almost felt like a Rocky movie at times. A lot of the fights end with some really powerful moments that will knock you on your ass. I do feel like the film could have benefited from an R-rating though so they could have really amped up the brutality.

 

What is amped up though is all the action. Holy spectacle, Batman! From the first scene to the last, the action sequences were ridiculous. The vehicles in particular were unbelievably bad ass. I couldn’t decide which was more bad ass: the bat-pod, or the new jet, The Bat. I will say this though: just as the final battle begins to take shape, The Bat does something to intervene that was so crowd pleasing, it may have been the coolest moment of the film.

And speaking of the climax, I need to address the ending. Now don’t worry…I’m not going to spoil anything. For the most part, I was satisfied with the ending, albeit a little too predictable. But there was one element to the ending that just didn’t jive with me, and I felt was a major inconsistency with one of the characters. I’m not going to say any more, but it was a big problem for me. I do like that the film ties so much back into Batman Begins, but it may have been a little too much. The plot really is very much a rehash of Batman Begins.

I could go on all day about this movie, but bottom-line: it’s a fantastic film, but it’s not the Dark Knight. It just doesn’t have those Batman/Joker interrogation scene moments, or the tense moral debacle that the ferry scene provided, or the riveting Two-Face stand off at the end. While this movie has its own powerful bag of tricks, it is over populated by a lot of new characters, so it’s not as tight as the previous entry. And even though I loved the John Blake character, his story does take a little bit away from the end of Bruce Wayne’s journey. Make no mistake though: this trilogy is right up there with the original Star Wars Trilogy, and you could even argue it’s the best.

 

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.