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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Warner Bros. Pictures: Tom Hardy and Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight Rises"I was immediately blown away after seeing The Dark Knight for the first time. I couldn’t believe how good it actually was and how great Heath Ledger was as the Joker. With no hesitation, I proclaimed that this was the greatest comic book movie of all time and I couldn’t wait for the next installment. At the same time, the next installment did worry me somewhat. Would it be as good as The Dark Knight? Could it be as good as The Dark Knight. Well my questions would be answered once I saw The Dark Knight Rises for myself.

The story in The Dark Knight Rises starts eight years after the events that took place in The Dark Knight. Batman (Christian Bale) has disappeared and is now a fugitive after taking the blame for the death Harvey Dent, the District Attorney of Gotham. No one has seen or heard from Batman since then and it looks like no one will. The chances of seeing the Caped Crusader is even less likely when you add to the fact that Gotham is now considered a safe place and there doesn’t appear to be any reason for him to return. That is until Bane (Tom Hardy), a notorious mercenary arrives with lofty goals based around the destruction of Gotham.

After a nice action set piece to get the ball rolling, The Dark Knight Rises settles down and begins to tell a story that’s letting us know who some of the newer characters are and tells us about Bruce Wayne’s current living arrangements. Wayne is still depressed and emotionally beaten down, because of what happened to Dent and several others who were victims of the maniacal Joker. He’s a shell of himself in that way, but he’s also physically past his prime due to his age and all of the injuries that he’s received due to his adventurous excursions as Batman.

He’s not truly happy in his current state, but he is what I would call “content by force,” because he doesn’t appear to have much of a choice psychologically speaking.  He appears to be in dire straits and no matter what Alfred (Michael Caine) says or tries to do, Wayne seems to have shut down almost completely. What helps him overcome this however are his meetings with a few people who are either disrupting Gotham or leaving their mark on it as he phases himself out of some of his various roles in life. These people in one way or another inspire him to rise and take on the role of the Batman one last time.

I’ve given Nolan a decent amount of props for his work on some of his previous movies, including Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I’ve always respected his intelligent filmmaking, his attention to detail and his ability to create a smooth and even story. He even made a movie telling a story backwards make sense. While I’m sure he’s still capable of doing all of these things that I gave him credit for, I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed with The Dark Knight Rises. I thought that it was a good movie overall, but it’s not done as well as it could have been.

This Nolan led franchise is supposed to hang its hat on realism to at least some degree, but this movie goes away from that almost completely. Many of the lines are really cheesy early on and a good number of the characters aren’t anywhere close to being believable. At least early on in the film they kind of remind me of the characters from the Batman t.v. series from the 1960’s featuring Adam West as Batman. They are a little too animated compared to the previous two films and that’s something that I really didn’t anticipate.

The flaws of the characters are shown primarily in the first hour of the film and it is one of the things that makes the movie feel a bit jumbled and uneven in these early stages. It also doesn’t help that that first hour or so of the movie is slow and they are very heavy on the dramatic side of things. The slow and dramatic style doesn’t sound like it would work with characters who deliver too many cheesy lines. It zaps some of the emotion from it, because it’s hard to take it seriously when it’s done this way.

They also spend an extremely large amount of time introducing the new guys at this juncture of the movie. That’s one of the reasons why it took so long for them to get completely invested into the main story. They don’t even leave enough time to really resolve some of the issues that are carried over from The Dark Knight. These issues are essentially just thrown out there, they may or may not open up potential wounds and then they are left alone. I would have liked to have seen how some of the people affected by this news truly reacted, but we didn’t get much of a response.

Overall, I’d say this portion of The Dark Knight Rises is decent, because other parts of it are good and the action is usually solid. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but there’s nothing terrible about it either. It just lingers on a bit longer than it should have and a few of the characters were surprisingly too cheesy and corny. The of high level of cheese probably wouldn’t have stood out to me as much if I wasn’t going by what Nolan did with the first two Batman movies before it, but he was the one who clearly wanted to separate his trilogy from the other Batman movies, so comparing it to his previous work is reasonable in this case.

If I was caught off guard by anything else in The Dark Knight Rises, I’d have to say that it’s Bane as a character. He’s much more underdeveloped than I thought he was going to be and he’s basically all about muscles and being physical. Just by looking at some of the plans that he conjures up  in this movie, Bane is obviously a smart man, but it doesn’t really show through that much and neither does his evil nature. He bullies people, smacks them around, breaks necks with one hand and speaks in a poetic tone at times, but he doesn’t do much else. His character is definitely bigger, stronger and probably badder than Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he doesn’t feel as threatening or as imposing.

On the positive side of The Dark Knight Rises, I’d have to say that much of the action can be seen as the number one  saving grace of the movie.  We get more and more of it as the film rolls along and you’re eventually allowed to forget about how cheesy some of those lines are before it gets to this point. During the action sequences, there are quite a few set pieces that are fun to watch as Nolan attempts to create epic battle scenes predicated on political oppression and the call for the people to rise. The action is mostly fast, fun and contains a large amount of energy.

A good deal of that energy comes from Han Zimmer’s hard soundtrack. Some people (like me) might love all of the noise that comes from Zimmer’s work here, but others may not take to kindly to it, since it’s extremely loud. It’s kind of like they turned the bass up as high as they could and just let him go. There are a couple of times when one of the Batman’s new toys will show up on-screen and you might not be able to tell if it’s Zimmer’s music playing in the background or if it’s the engine from the very loud vehicle when it first pops up. Despite the fact that some might not like the level of noise, I liked it because it pumps up the action and adds a bit more emotion and drama to these scenes.

When I look at The Dark Knight Rises in its entirety, I’ll always say that this it isn’t a Batman movie to me. I’d classify it as being more of a movie that just has Batman in it. The truth is, Nolan is now telling the story of Gotham city and the people who live there more than he’s telling a story about Batman. I kind of figured this would be the case going in, because I knew that they were basing the movie on one of the Bane stories from the comics and it would be impossible to feature a movie completely about Batman with what goes down in that particular story.

Despite not being a true Batman film in my eyes, The Dark Knight Rises serves its purpose as an official ending to a fantastic trilogy that changed the genre and Hollywood altogether. It doesn’t compete with Batman Begins and it doesn’t come anywhere close to The Dark Knight in terms of quality, depth or greatness, but it is good in its own right. Despite its obvious flaws, it’s a fitting climax that sends Nolan and his franchise on their way for good if he chooses to truly let it go.

I was interested in seeing how they would end it, because I’m pretty sure that Warner Bros. is going to bring back Batman in some way, shape or form sooner or later. He’s too financially valuable to them just to let him go away for good. I did wonder however, if they would leave the door open in order to continue this story if they choose to or that door would be slammed completely shut? If it’s completely shut, they would have to start over again. If it’s open just a little bit, there would be potential to continue this version of Batman. After sitting through the entire movie, they left my question unanswered, because it was handled in a way that I didn’t expect going in.

They can connect the next set of Batman movies with this trilogy or they can do the opposite and start over with a new outlook and a new style. Nolan left the door wide open while still closing it almost completely shut. Does that make any sense? Of course not, but that’s why I loved the way this film ended. I won’t say what happens, but it might not be what you expect due to the multiple twists that present themselves during the wonderful closing scenes. Either way, this trip through Nolan’s take on the legendary superhero known as Batman was extremely entertaining and I can’t wait for the next set of Batman movies to come through regardless of which direction they end up taking.

Score: 3.5/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast:
Christian Bale
Gary Oldman
Tom Hardy
Anne Hathaway
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Marion Cotillard
Michael Caine
Morgan Freeman
Matthew Modine

Film Length: 164 minutes

Release Date: July 20, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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