The Dark Knight Rises, easily one of the most anticipated films of the summer, is now out. So, does it just rise, or does the Dark Knight soar? Before I go any farther, I want to send my condolences out to the victims of the shooting in Colorado. What happened was a cowardly act by a clearly deranged person to people who simply wanted to have a good time at the movies.
Okay, on to the film review. Taking place eight years after The Dark Knight, Gotham has achieved a relative peace. The lionization of Harvey Dent (helped by Batman taking the fall for the District Attorney’s crimes and death) has resulted in Gotham taking down organized crime under the Dent Act. Helping keep the lie going is Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), who is visibly worn down from the act. And Batman? Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse. But when a cunning cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) comes into his life, Bruce starts to reemerge. And it’s just in time, because Bane (Tom Hardy) is coming to destroy both Batman and Gotham.
The dumbest question fans keep asking about this movie is if it’s better than The Dark Knight. This is a dumb question because the quality of all three films is equal, it’s just the stories they tell are so universally different. Batman Begins was an origin story, the journey of a man to a hero. The Dark Knight was a neo-noir crime thriller focusing on the emerging battle between Batman and the Joker. And this one? This is a massive epic, a huge ensemble piece about war, revolution, and resolution, sort of a superhero version of A Tale of Two Cities.
Odds are, if you didn’t think much of the last two films, you won’t like this one. Its the same direction, same acting level, same quality of film. Bale honestly nails Bruce Wayne every film, this time playing the retired hero as someone who has not moved on, and if he’s to do so, he has to rediscover his reason to live. Michael Caine continues to do great as Alfred, constantly trying to do what’s best for the surrogate son he’s been raising, and Morgan Freeman is still an enjoyable sight as he mixes wit and humor with his role as Bruce’s tech man Lucius Fox. And Oldman has Gordon pegged for this story as the man whose desire to do what he can for the city has his conscience eating him from the inside.
So, what about the new additions to the cast? Well, they are almost equally stellar. Anne Hathaway is this movie’s Heath Ledger, because like Ledger I wasn’t sure if she was the right choice for the role. But she not only nails the essence of Catwoman (whose codename is never mentioned in the film), she may be the first actress in a film to actually bring what the comic character is to life. No lame cat puns, no over-sexualized costume, just a street-smart, agile, daring woman with hidden depths.
Hardy as Bane has a tough act to follow. Ledger’s Joker was electric in every scene, his presence filling you with raw terror at what he might do next. Bane is not the Joker. He’s not out to watch the world burn for fun. He has a plan, and executes it ruthlessly. His voice is interesting, sort of this taunting pleasance despite the fact that you know he can snap you in half if he feels you deserve it. I love that they remembered Bane is smart as well as strong, and gives Bruce the most harrowing physical confrontations when they do meet in the film.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins the cast as cop John Blake, an idealist who looks up to both Gordon and Batman. He’s a really likable character, proving his mettle throughout the story. I wish I could go more into it, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Also added to the cast is Marion Cotillard, playing Miranda Tate, a philanthropist trying to get Bruce Wayne back into the world. Honestly, this character felt tacked on as just a new potential love interest for Bruce, only really becoming interesting in the climax. Again, I can’t say why my opinion changed, but it was brilliant.
So, are there cons? Sure, but they’re minor. The beginning of the film takes a long time to get to the meat of the plot, which is necessary as we need to introduce all these new players to the saga, but still the anticipation was killing me. Also, I kept thinking that after Joker, Bane was not as frightening. He was still badass and a great villain for this particular story, but still.
So, is this really good? Honestly, I liked this story more than the last one, but that’s mainly because I like sweeping epics over thrillers. And the strange thing is, with this final film, Nolan has crafted the ultimate Batman cinematic legend. Batman Begins covers all the essentials of Batman origin stories, Dark Knight is the ultimate Batman-of-the-present story with the hero facing his greatest foe, and The Dark Knight Rises is the ultimate conclusion story, bringing back elements from the first film and bringing things full-circle while mixing in elements of Bat-epics like Knightfall, No Man’s Land and The Dark Knight Returns. And after the climax is done and you see the epilogue, the feeling of catharsis is amazing. I cheered when the film ended, satisfied with how this particular Batman saga ended. And while I know they’ll probably make a new Batman movie series, probably to lead to a Justice League film, and it’ll probably have more of the comic’s fantastic elements, I will say this… it’s going to have big shoes to fill.
|The legacy of good quality films continues as Nolan gives us not only the most epic story yet, but some of the best action as well as one of the best Batman conclusions ever written.||Joker is a tough act to follow, and the first act is a bit long.|