The Dark Knight Rises

Selina Kyle: "There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."

To start off, this is a ponderously dense and intricately plot-heavy movie, with dozens of mini-arcs and character through-lines. The narrative structure was a little cumbersome and slightly messy, having to cover a lot of ground and tell a lot of story. But the plot itself was exceptionally well crafted, and successfully brought all the disparate pieces from throughout the entire series together in a satisfying way, all the while introducing a number of new characters.

In other words, I loved it.

As the main villain, Bane was an interesting choice. He served his purpose well, and exceeded my personal expectations. He was also perfect for this story, even if I wasn't that excited by the villain in general. Tom Hardy's performance was really excellent, though, striking a fascinating balance between barely contained monster and intellectual juggernaut. He dominated the screen and was absolutely believable as an unstoppable force. His back story was also pretty well done, even though it was a little too truncated, in my opinion.

For those who were concerned about Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, let me put your fears to rest, because she was phenomenal. In fact, for me she was one of the best aspects of this film, and completely embodied the character. I'll go out on a limb and say that I liked her performance as much as Heath Ledger's, but for somewhat different reasons. She stole every scene she was in, and managed to pull off crafty indifference as an endearing character trait. I don't think she'll earn the same accolades as Heath did, because she wasn't the driving force behind the story like the Joker. That being said, I think she deserves whatever praise she gets.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake) is a far more important character than I thought going into this movie. He is an everyman, and in a lot of ways the main protagonist of the story. He is like Gordon in the first movie, the idealist cop who is surrounded by people with their own agendas. I loved this character, and found myself rooting for him throughout the film. Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate) is an environmentalist businesswoman that serves as both a romantic interest for Bruce Wayne, and as a plot device for the main story involving Wayne Enterprises. I thought she did a good job, she was likable and interesting, but I think she was overshadowed a little by Hathaway's Catwoman.

Oldman, Freeman, and Caine were all wonderful as usual, each having some great moments to shine. There were also several smaller roles played by some recognizable names. Burn Gorman (Torchwood) had a small role as a corporate rival for Bruce Wayne. Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) had a fun bit part as a CIA agent. Nestor Carbonell (Lost) was back as the Mayor of Gotham. Brett Cullen (Lost, Person of Interest) got to have some fun as a womanizing Senator. Fredric Lehne (Supernatural, Castle, Justified, Lost) had a small part as an unfortunate security chief. And Desmond Harrington (Dexter) was an obnoxious bridge guard. Oh and Christopher Judge (Stargate SG-1) had a bit part as a mercenary. There were some more fun surprise characters and actors, but I don't want to give too much away.

Then we have Christian Bale. Bale's Batman has almost been a secondary character throughout the series, since it has always been more about Bruce Wayne's journey, especially since he spent even less screen-time in the suit than in the previous two movies. But at the same time, Batman's presence was never more felt. Batman hung like a shadow over everything, pun intended. The mask had finally become the symbol that Bruce wanted it to be in the first movie. For me, the character arc was extremely satisfying, and we also had some of the best character moments of the entire trilogy. He got to be funny for the first time. And most importantly, both the actor and the character served as a much needed anchor for the plot, keeping it from flying too far off in the wrong direction. Simply put, without Bale this trilogy wouldn't have been as good.

Acting and plot aside, the movie was gorgeous. Sweeping vistas, beautiful composition, and stunning locations made the entire film feel grand. The cinematography was really wonderful too, and the fight scenes had a visceral quality to them that made you feel every impact. Also, the combat didn't feel as choreographed this time around, which was probably due to Bane and his insanely dominating presence. I was also impressed with how seamless the effects were. If there was CGI, I didn't see it, which is the best praise I can give. Finally, I thought that the music was really exceptional, as usual. There was a scene that involved ritualistic chanting that was awesome, and also a big scene that had a little boy singing The Star-spangled Banner that sent chills down my spine.

Do you have to see Batman Begins and The Dark Knight again to appreciate The Dark Knight Rises? No. But I'd strongly recommend it, if just to brush off your memory and allow all the wonderful story codas to have the emotional impact they were intended to have. However, if you have not seen the first two at all, you might be incredibly lost, since the plot builds on and completes the story started in those films.

I'm not sure where exactly I'd rank it in comparison to The Dark Knight, but it was more than a worthy follow-up.

4 out of 4 stilettos made of steel.

10 comments:

Iago said...

My friend mate the comment yesterday that The Dark Knight was mostly about two masked men, two wildly different philosophies facing off against each other but the men behind those masks and ideologies didn't really matter - we never really found out anything about the Jokers past for example. Rises was much more balanced and a better film for it: Bruce Wayne was at least as important as Batman and that gave the film an immensely satisfying emotional core. There were several points that I had a lump in my throat and that just didn't happen with Batman Begins or The Dark Knight.

It's true that Anne Hathaway is at least as spectacular as Heath Ledger was, just in a different way. She was sensational and had such a presence onscreen. Tom Hardy (who I have to admit is one of my favourite actors so I may be biased) was wonderful and made so much with a character who is normally seen as one of the weakest in the Batman canon, and Marion Cotillard is exceptional as always.

Nolan has pulled off something exceptional: a perfect trilogy and one that has so much power and such a panoply of talent. Really looking forward to seeing it in IMAX tomorrow.

Dan O. said...

If there’s anybody in the world who could have made not one, not two, but three epic and great Batman films, it’s Christopher Nolan and it’s so sad to see him end it all. However, what a great trilogy he gave us and if anything, this movie should mainly be remembered and loved for that reason. Good review J.D.

Matthew L said...

Loved it. Tried to see it IMAX, but all the shows were sold out. Will try again later. :)

Loved the multitude of storylines going on making for a dense but discernable plotline. Loved Anne Hathaway's Catwoman and Levitt's Officer Blake. Out of all the Bat vehicles, I think the Batcycle is my favorite.

It was a great ending to Bruce Wayne's journey. I liked that this trilogy was more about the journey of Bruce Wayne as in the comics there's more an emphasis on Batman.

Also liked the fact that even though I had access to and had read several of the spoiler/rumored items from the comic website I moderate, they didn't encompass how they would unfold so I was still pleasantly suprised. I especially loved the end scenes, particularly the reveal of Officer Blake's "name". Nice nod to the comics. :D

And speculating, wonder if what happens at the end of the movie coupled with the Man of Steel teaser trailer and the other rumored DC movies in the works, could they be setting up a JLA movie? :)

Mark said...

Just saw it. Did not feel like a 2 hour 40 min movie (until it was over and I had to get out of the seat). Unfortunately, the theater I was in really cranked up the music soundtrack, enough to make the actors voices hard to hear.

Although this tied in all three movies, it felt more like a sequel to the first film, probably due to the League of Shadows. One thing I liked about Batman Begins is that I think Bruce Wayne was more interesting than Batman, which is the right way to ground the story.

I do like the story Nolan told. I've read some reviews that complained this isn't "their" Batman. But in the comics, the character hasn't aged in 60 (?) years. In this movie, he is definitely mortal, and felt about as real as a comic book movie can get.

CrazyCris said...

Christopher Nolan has just thrown down the gauntlet to anyone planning on filming a trilogy in the future: now THAT's how you do it folks! Instead of movies getting progressively worse, rehashing the same ideas until you begin to wonder what it was about the first one you liked so much... Nolan has crafted a trilogy that got progressively BETTER! And each one serves to illustrate our characters' growths!

Here's my quick crazy take on it:
http://crazycrishereandthere.blogspot.com.es/2012/07/movie-madness-dark-knight-rises.html

sanyara said...

Excellent! We paid out for the VIP seats in our local cinema in Cambridge & were completely blown away. As has been said already, this is definitely the benchmark for future trilogies. Was saddened to see how much Michael Caine has aged though, a wonderful man who you just imagined would go on unchanged forever...

Mark said...

@sanyara: Are you basing that on real-life pictures of Caine, or how he looked in the movie? They could have used make-up on Caine to emphasize how much Alfred was being worn down: by his lie, seeing Bruce bitter, and knowing that he would likely outlive Bruce.

sanyara said...

@Mark: Good point - so I trawled for some real life pix, & thought the images of him at Chelsea Flower Show were better, he's definitely looking older. Ah, but so are we all...

Mark Greig said...

Just got back from seeing it. Incredible. Simply incredible. I think I loved it even more than The Dark Knight.

Roman said...

Saw it and loved it! I still prefer The Dark Knight, but this was still incredible. The performances were great, especially Anne Hathaway.