Friday, July 27, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Comic films seemed to dominate the summer of 2012. The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers were two great successes, but there was no greater excitement than that which surrounded The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s revered trilogy. It was a must-see, and the only question was whether or not it could live up to the standard set by 2008’s The Dark Knight.

As I’ve stated many times, I’m a fan of comics books. With that said, I’ve always been more of a Marvel man as opposed to DC, but I still know my fair share about Batman lore. Plus, I enjoyed Batman Begins and thought The Dark Knight was amazing and should have won an Academy Award for best picture.

For those who don’t know about the latest installment, IMDb explains: “Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.”

People have been hailing The Dark Knight Rises as an Oscar contender, but I don’t agree. It was a good movie and highly enjoyable, but it wasn’t nearly as good as The Dark Knight. It’s hard for me to imagine Rises could win either Best Picture or Best Director when the middle movie didn’t. That’s not meant to be a dig on the new chapter, but rather a compliment to The Dark Knight.

Getting back to business, The Dark Knight Rises was better than good, but fell short of being great. It was a great continuation of the story and a satisfactory capstone to the trilogy, but it didn’t have the same mind-blowing performances (i.e. Heath Ledger as the Joker—which earned him a well-deserved posthumous Oscar) and dark storyline that made The Dark Knight so great. As Nolan has stated, the new installment features “Pain” as a theme; whereas, Batman Begins centered on “Fear” and The Dark Knight on “Chaos.” For me, watching “Chaos” is the best, but “Pain” trumps “Fear;” in other words, The Dark Knight Rises is better than Batman Begins but not as good The Dark Knight.

Christian Bale once again portrayed Batman, and he did an awesome job as always. Likewise, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine were back in their respective roles, and each delivered brilliantly. New additions to the cast included Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Gotham City Police Officer Blake; Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman; Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul; and Tom Hardy as Bane.

All of these actors delivered engaging performances, but it was the main villain of the film that impressed me. Thanks to my love of comics, I was aware of Bane, but a lot of people weren’t familiar with the character. To put it bluntly, Bane is pain incarnate. He experiences it (his tricked out mask keeps it at bay), and dishes out even more. I really enjoyed watching Bane in action, and contrary to many, I was a fan of his voice, which was based upon Irish traveller and bare-knuckle boxer Bartley Gorman (1944-2002). It certainly takes some getting used to, but I thought it brought a touch of class to a bad-ass villain. A nice job by Hardy.

On the other hand, the addition of Catwoman seemed a bit frivolous. The character, while a big-time player in the Batman universe, didn’t add much to the film and it almost seemed as if she was added to appease fans. I’d have like to have either seen her character's development expanded or tied into the storyline more intimately, but to be completely honest, it’s not easy to fill the shoes left by Ledger’s Joker. Bane is just a step behind, but Catwoman failed to bring the duo into the upper echelon of villain.

As I said before, while they may not be at the same level as Ledger’s Joker, the performances in The Dark Knight Rises did not leave me wanting. In fact, my only qualms involved the story. Whereas The Dark Knight was a tight package, The Dark Knight Rises was more of a sieve, able to hold it’s own but with a few holes.

One of those holes was glossing over some lingering questions. I respect Nolan’s decision to avoid talk of the Joker, who is neither mentioned nor referenced in the film, out of respect for the late Ledger, but there were some situations introduced that warranted clarification. For instance, Bane ends up taking Gotham City hostage for many months, but the timeline surrounding it wasn’t exactly clear as it seemed events were taking place over a couple days/weeks as opposed to months.

Likewise, Bane imprisons Bruce Wayne in an “ancient place” somewhere in the world, whichappears to be somewhere in the Middle East. Inexplicably, the time it took to get Wayne to the prison, and his subsequent return to Gotham City are glossed over. Not a big deal, as any competent viewer can fill in the blanks, but it was still a blank that needed filling in, something you didn’t see much of in The Dark Knight.

There were a few other instances like those above, and they did not go unnoticed. They didn’t sink the ship, so to speak, but they were a few loose ends that could have made the film better had they been tied; although, the film did clock in at 164 minutes, the longest of the trilogy, so I supposed they couldn’t explain everything in great detail.

In regards to the ending, which many have found polarizing, I won’t say much as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. However, I will say that it was a satisfactory ending. I liked the twist with Gordon-Levitt’s character, and was hit or miss with what they did to Batman. If this is really the last film for Nolan, I might have avoided the route they took, but then again, no one likes to see the hero die. Plus, while Batman lives, there’s always a chance for a fourth film, which no doubt sits well with studio executives.

All in all The Dark Knight Rises was on par with what I was expecting. This review might come off a bit negative or lackluster, but let me be clear—it was a very good movie and I enjoyed it. If you liked the first two films, you’ll enjoy the third.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 82%

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1 comment:

  1. With a couple of surprising plot twists, and several crowd-pleasing nods to his previous Batman films, Nolan delivers a near-perfect farewell that tops off one of the best trilogies in some recent time, especially for the superhero genre. Great review Chad.