Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dark Knight Rises, The (2012)


Director: Christopher Nolan
Notable Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

This is going to be a tough one to get through knowing the backlash from fan boys about this film. Firstly, it must be said that in the end I very much still enjoyed this epic finale in Christopher Nolan's "Batman" Trilogy and there are amazing things about the epic scope and nature of the film. Secondly, as I walked out of the movie theater I could not the shake the feeling of massive disappointment. Where some good friends of mine clamored about the film being Nolan's best, I was stricken by the thought that this was actually Nolan's weakest film and throughout the night I grappled with this thought...and this is the review that I came up with.

It's been 8 years since the death of Harvey Dent and the fall of the Joker. Batman has been in exile and Gotham's clean up on crime successful. This leaves Bruce Wayne (Bale) a recluse over the loss of his love Rachael and the lack of Batman in his life. His absence from his job and society is kicked into gear when a daring jewel thief Selina Kyle (Hathaway) breaks him his mansion to steal some pricy jewelry. Upon further investigation, Wayne discovers that this is only the beginning since she was hired by some powerful folks attempting to unleash the devastating mercenary Bane (Hardy) into Gotham. With a massive plan to hold Gotham to its own lie by unleashing dystopia, Batman will have to come back and rise to the occasion...but has it already been too long?

A man with a cane and a Caine.
As I always love to do, let's start with what is awesome about "The Dark Knight Rises." The film is damn epic. With Nolan's use of IMAX cameras and its massive 250 million dollar budget, he never lets any of it go to waste. From its wicked plane hijacking for an introduction to the film to its Gotham-seperated-from-the-rest-of-the-world military occupation of its finale, the vision of "TDKR" is one of grandeur. The plot is massively intricate as it navigates personal growth for characters, business manipulation, and finally holding an entire city in dystopian chaos with a nuclear device. There are a lot of things all going on at once and Nolan packs the film with enough thoughtful events and plot twists that it's guaranteed to keep one glued to the screen for the entire (almost) 3 hour run time. "The Dark Knight Rises" is also extraordinarily well cast (as is all of Nolan's films) with some stunning performances all around once again. Bale highlights the depth and despair/hope of his duel identity while Caine gives a rather blustery performance before he disappears in the second act. Even my most nerve wracking aspect of the film, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, owns the role and perhaps steals the show from all of the other actors for most of the film's play time. No pun intended. Nolan shows that he is a rather brilliant visual director with this film and his casting and designs for the film really do embrace the epic nature of this final piece.

"Two can play the skin tight black leather outfit game!"
The issues that arise for me with "The Dark Knight Rises" stem from issues that were present in both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." With both of those films, Nolan tried desperately to make a comic book world 'real' by grounding it all in more realistic situations and focusing on great character work. He damn near came close to perfecting the balance on the second film despite its somewhat over complicated plot. Here with the third film, the epic nature of its plot exponentially gaps the balance of real to comic book and gives us far to many scenes of ridiculousness and half hearted ideas. The writing, in itself, was too big for it's own britches here and the film succumbs to being less realistic and losing many of its great characters who drown in their own places within the bloated plot progressions.

This missed balance of how real the film needed to be really affects how it comes across. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS so if you haven't seen the movie feel free to quit reading now. Examples of such can be found in the first sequence. Although I give him that the plane hijacking is massively cool visually with awesome stunt work, but...why? Who hijacks a place like that? What a needless way to bring down an aircraft. And that's only the beginning. We get massive nuclear bombs made from potential Earth saving energy sources (whom my friend Matthew pointed out is the exact same plot from "Spider-Man 2"), a military controlled state lead by Bane who sort of just hangs out in the last half, and Bruce Wayne gets his back broken only to sort of hang on a rope in traction, get punched, works out, and then escapes an inescapable prison to somehow make it back to Gotham with no funds and no connections. The film tries so hard to be so clever with its epic plot that it somehow forgets that these films needed to feel real. I definitely think that the brothers Nolan should have pushed for a 'less is more' concept for the film.

"Wooly coats for EVERYONE!"
Not only that, but for the most part I felt like the plot easily took the focus away from the characters. Right from the get go, the film began to drag at times taking dramatic turns of detail and character motives that felt unneeded. Bruce Wayne needs a cane for a third of the film, gets a magic knee brace and its never mentioned again. Alfred wants him to move on and then when he's needed as Batman he scolds him a couple of times then he leaves in protest. Lucius Fox also appears a couple of times, really does nothing to add to Wayne's character, shows off the new Batplane in a sort of random occurrence, and then sort of takes a back seat. Even Wayne seems to have forced character growth. What was the ill developed love relationship with Miranda Tate? It didn't feel remotely real and how it concludes at the end lacks the necessary punch that it needed to work. In all honesty, the best two characters in this film are John Blake (played with a fierce realism by Gordon-Levitt) and Catwoman...errr...Selina Kyle. They actually have good solid growth and great moments in the film stealing most of their scenes and really adding to the missing character work.

It does massively help that the ending to the film was worth it. It makes up for a lot of the issues presented by the first two-thirds of the film. It has a delightfully tight ending and a few surprises that will have fans clamoring despite some of its ridiculousness. I definitely won't give that away here in this review, but know that its worth seeing the film just for its last fifteen minutes even if I felt like Bane (whom I loved as a villain through the first portions, despite his breathy Sean Connery impersonation) just sort of dwindles away.

It's hard to say any movie that Christopher Nolan has made is bad. His direction and his casting in the end save this film from a lot of its writing flaws both in plot and characters. In the end, I did enjoy the film for its visual prowess and glorious moments of great writing...but its easily one of the most flawed films he has done. It's simply too epic for its own good and has to cut corners in realism to make it all work. I'm sure that I'll take some heat and hate for this, but despite what I was told..."The Dark Knight Rises" is Nolan's weakest effort to date.

Written By Matt Reifschneider


  1. I don't agree at all with this review. I think Nolan has crafter an intelligent superhero film which takes it's time with the story and characters to build to a rousing climax. In fact, the first two thirds of the film have some of my favourite stuff and Morgan Freeman probably gets about the same amount of screen time he did in the previous 2 films. Watch it again, you may change your mind.

  2. I do plan on watching it a few more times. Hoping to hit it up in IMAX next. I do think Nolan crafted an intelligent superhero film that takes its time with story and characters to build to the climax. That I agree with. What I don't agree with is to the degree that he sacrifices some of the concepts to get there. My guess is that with another viewing I may change my opinion about Wayne's character arc and perhaps my view point on Bane (I know I only understood about 75% of his dialogue withe the weird mask/accent). Perhaps even with the relevance of Fox in the whole thing.

  3. "It's hard to say any movie that Christopher Nolan has made is bad." No, it isn't. "Inception" was shit dipped in shit and sprinkled with shit croutons. See how easy that was? I haven't seen "The Dark Knight Rises" yet, but I've endured the other two overlong ass-numbers. They were sort of okay but not great. I'll probably feel the same way about this epic piece of mediocrity too.

    1. Dr. Blood, you are a fucking moron, and your comment is dipped in shit. Inception is a brilliant film, and so is The Dark Knight Rises. Haters can get fucked.