The Dark Knight Rises Directed by: Christopher Nolan Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard Running Time: 2 hrs 45 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 20, 2012
PLOT: A masked crusader named "The Batman" (Bale) must save his city from the terrorism of a very large masked man named Bane (Hardy).
WHO'S IT FOR?: For the many, many fans who are undoubtedly going to see this regardless of whether it is a big piece of crap or not, this finale to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is more align with the dramatic mythology in Batman Begins than it is the non-stop game of The Dark Knight. If you were originally under the impression that this movie is about a medieval man standing up from a chair, The Dark Knight Rises is absolutely for those who appreciate an intelligent drama, along with startling massive spectacle.
EXPECTATIONS: With such a story from Dark Knight and the success of Inception, where could a third Batman movie take audiences next?
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman: If somehow we forgot, Bale reminds us as to why he is so capable of taking on this centerpiece Swiss Army Knife performance. He is skilled at portraying the intense depths of weakness, both inside and out, echoing how we first got used to him in Batman Begins. However, when he needs to throw an impacting double punch, or provide comic relief as the reckless Bruce Wayne, those such attitudes come just as naturally to him. Throughout this entire trilogy, Bale has succeeded in complicating a character who already carries the burden of having two lifestyles. His work is done and well here. Score: 8
Tom Hardy as Bane: To address a problem that is sure to polarize viewers on this character, while also cause an annoying trend of "What did he say?" mid-movie inquisitions, the voice of Bane doesn't lend itself to immediate comprehension, but such uneasiness makes him more mysterious. Because you need to process everything he says, you hinge on his every word, and in turn, can't wait for his next statement. The fact that this once one-dimensional human wrecking ball speaks with an almost comically proper English accent makes him even more uniquely delightful, as he pontificates through his echoing mouthpiece with the calculated proclamations of an 18th century politician (if they wrote their John Hancock with someone else's throat blood). His tendency to hold his large jacket by the lapels confirms that within Hardy's monstrous physique is the spirit of a leader who believes in the government of chaos. Score: 9
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle: The word "cat" is only said once in this nearly three-hour film, so any type of "Catwoman" comparisons should die there. In this universe, Selina is her own character, and Hathaway is her sole proprietor. From her very introduction as a troublesome servant, Hathaway has a lot of fun with this role, and is the most entertaining when manipulating the trustworthiness of her innocent appearance (playing the victim during a shootout). As the movie kicks into gear, Kyle's own drama isn't lost within the script. Thankfully, she isn't consolidated to just a piece of leather pants. Score: 7
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake: The rising star finally successfully chews into the concept of delivering grit, after awkwardly toying with it as Leonardo DiCaprio's assistant in Nolan's previous Inception. We especially get this situated sense from a brilliantly delivered monologue in the first act, in which the motivated young detective interrogates and inspires Bruce Wayne and Batman at the same time. Working with a heroic role that is without gadgets or huge muscles, Gordon-Levitt provides the heroism of average ability moviegoers also need to be cheering for with this story. Score: 8
Rest of Cast: Without spoiling anything, Gary Oldman's character sees a reduced presence in the film, but his performance doesn't suffer from it. Michael Caine, as Wayne's butler Alfred, also sees a limited amount of scenes, but he surely leaves his mark in a couple of dramatic exchanges between Wayne relating to a burned letter in The Dark Knight, and the pain he experiences as Wayne's friend. Morgan Freeman returns for some comic relief as technology guy and now Wayne Enterprise leader Lucius Fox. Marion Cotillard is disarming as the financially well-off Miranda Tate. Score: 7
TALKING: Standing taller than the action is the dialogue, which is always delivered with exciting noir-like sharpness, whether the lines are comic relief or not. With character interactions always spiritually tied to the film’s many themes, The Dark Knight Rises is always discussing with its audience through character dialogue heady topics that include the alternating power of hope, the futility of peace, or even the reasons for wearing a mask. Though its effective statements are never preachy, they are as muscular as Bane’s leg. A great credit to this script’s motivations and inspirations, The Dark Knight Rises features fascinating philosophy debates, with or without all of the skull punching. Score: 9
SIGHTS: These are very well choreographed action sequences (chases, combat), and the usage of the IMAX format mostly meets their essence. As it swells to its climactic third act, the film reaches its biggest mass yet, but captures such size with underwhelming scope. Quite simply, a battle between hundreds, if not thousands of people, could use a few more wide shots (especially with all of IMAX’s potential) to give us a clearer idea of the crowd's magnitude, and the size of the space people are scuffling in. This isn’t to say that other action moments are underwhelming by any means. Gripping sequences (even one filmed in the stock exchange) provide great spectacle, especially when the image utilizes every corner of the screen. Even when the action is admittedly low key, (or not at all), the usage of IMAX cameras provides an enveloping sense to the already spectacular image. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The fight within The Dark Knight Rises of brain and brawn is not just between Batman and Bane, but also the sound mixing. There are times when The Dark Knight Rises (experienced in IMAX, at least) sounds like a perfectly loud roaring beast, with Zimmer’s score going up against the crushing sounds of Bane’s punches, or the extremely loud engines of Batman’s latest mode of transportation. However, there are also moments in which Zimmer’s epic crescendos swallow some of the dialogue, making Bane not the only character whose important dialogue may not come in crystal clear. It is likely no coincidence then, that one of the film’s most beautiful moments involves the lone voice of a little boy singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” a sequence that gives fearful Americans another dramatic context to the words, “land of the free, home of the brave.” Score: 7
BEST SCENE: The first fist-flailing showdown between Batman and Bane. It hurts just to watch.
ENDING: Appropriate stories are closed, while a new one begins. The result of an incomplete third act, this ending does feel emotionally underwhelming, even though the concepts are all there.
QUESTIONS: How many back pats did the writers give to each other while constructing this film? How long does Bane hold people hostage in that football stadium? Does Batman go down to Bane’s lair underground thinking he could just drag him out? I guess so, right? Is Bane dead, or is he just knocked out? Would they just put him in prison? Wait, the crazy-looking prison monk now speaks English?
REWATCHABILITY: It might feel a little long in the second time, but the movie is so well-made and intricate that there would be plenty to feast on, no matter how many viewings.
This story's desire for perfection receives some dings from some nitpicks, and to be fair, there can be a lot of nitpicks. The third act pushes fantasy a little too far (we all could do without an evasive sequence recently seen in Avengers), while also visually underwhelming the magnitude at hand of such a climax. The intense drama between these characters that leads to huge events is wonderfully presented, but this power is lost a bit when the editing can't seem to keep up with the massiveness. While there are plenty of moments in which Dark Knight Rises exhibits superior cleverness in its surprising yet possible writing, there are also times when it gives in to convenience (a readily placed truck during a chase scene, for example). It's Joker's entertaining, yet logically-exaggerated plans from The Dark Knight all over again. The marriage of gritty realism and costumed hero and villain fantasy that Nolan and Co. seem to be striving for with this game-changing trilogy still isn't a pure one.
Make no mistake, The Dark Knight Rises is still great entertainment, in all senses. The screenplay is rich with ideas, as explored beautifully through sharp dialogue shared by across-the-board wonderful performances. This is storytelling that holds your attention with its poetry, and its character parallels. It doesn't even need Batman on-screen for an extensive chunk to hold audiences attentive. That being said, these intricate action sequences have great power in themselves, especially when featuring the sharp left-turns and moments of cleverness that have made Nolan's noir-ish take on the Batman character so dynamic. We will certainly miss them.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10