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The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review

Review; Jul. 21, 2012; Channels: Movies; By Edward Kaczynski
Christopher Nolan's final Batman installment a triumph

Christopher Nolan's career is (relatively speaking) still young -- in that he's only directed about 10 films -- however, in that short span, he's managed to establish himself as one of the most talented directors today. With credits such as Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and of course, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight under his belt, it's difficult to imagine him releasing anything less than a masterpiece. 

The Dark Knight Rises

Then there's the other side of the coin. After all, a director's job is to strive for perfection, and The Dark Knight was about as good as a Batman movie could get. How do you beat it with a sequel? What element do you introduce to shake things up?

That element was pain. Physical pain. Mental trauma. Soul-wrenching anguish. Hopes raised and dashed solely for the purpose of destroying hope.

Nolan's intended central theme of Batman Begins was the idea and application of fear. The Dark Knight took a similar stance with the concept of chaos. The Dark Knight Rises focuses on the pain of its central characters, in terms of both cause and effect -- and there are few characters in the Batman universe more analogous with causing pain than Bane.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City is relatively peaceful. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has reduced organized crime to all but a standstill, Batman (still wanted for murder of Harvey Dent) hasn't been spotted in years, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a reclusive eccentric. Meanwhile, infamous cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) has been plying her trade on Gotham's rich and powerful, while the enigmatic mercenary leader Bane (Tom Hardy) builds an army in the sewers of Gotham.

The Dark Knight Rises Stills
Click the image to view movie stills

At 2 hours and 44 minutes, this is easily the longest film in Nolan's trilogy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you're aiming to end a series. You're not just finishing a story -- you're also saying goodbye to characters who've grown increasingly complex over the course of three films. And in a world as harsh and dark as Nolan's Gotham, their complexity has seemingly bred apathy and regret for their actions. Bale plays Wayne as a man who's completely given up in a world that seemingly no longer needs him, unable to move on from the death of Rachel Dawes. Hathaway's take on Kyle is one of pettiness and spite over her station in life, mixed with jealousy and rage at the excess she sees being squandered by Gotham's social elite, and Oldman's Gordon has become bored and complacent, filled with an inner turmoil over the lies he's forced to tell in order to protect the image of a dead man.

However, this complexity of dark human emotion is what sets Nolan's Batman trilogy apart from the run-of-the-mill comic book adaptation. Without characters being able to stumble and fall, how can we cheer as they get back up?

Hardy's Bane is completely menacing. Everything about the masked villain is methodical and calculated, while remaining surprising and unpredictable. His physical size, coupled with his speed and agility, makes for a character of contrasting-yet-complimentary qualities, his brute-force methodology seemingly at odds with the florid prose of his speech ... when you can understand it. Although not as poorly mixed as the early trailers made it sound, Bane's speech has several moments where it's muddled and indecipherable. That said, once you tune in, it stops being much of an issue.

The Dark Knight Rises Stills

Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job as the idealistic John Blake, a young cop who becomes a sort of surrogate son to Commissioner Gordon. At first, he almost feels like a throw away character until you realize he's almost the sole beacon of idealism in a sea of cynicism, and he becomes (in a way) the most important character for channeling the hopes of the audience.

The story requires just a bit of steam to get going, but it barrels downhill at full force. Unlike the manic, psychotic intensity TDK splashed in the audience's face from start to finish, TDKR takes the time to build up an air of true desperation and menace. Also, treating the trilogy as a single narrative highlights Nolan's abilities, not only as a director, but as a storyteller. Bookending the narrative flow with flashbacks from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Nolan delivers on his ability to tell a single story in three parts, rather than three stories which share similar attributes.

Comic book purists are going to be upset at some of the characterizations (I'm honestly guessing here, but let's just say ... Alfred), but that begs the question – what doesn't get them upset? Honestly, I'm having trouble coming up with something negative to say regarding TDKR. OK, The Bat? Batman's new flying-mobile? That was kind of weak.

The Dark Knight Rises Stills

The bottom line: The Dark Knight Rises is nearly perfect. It's, without a doubt, the best movie of the summer and quite possibly the best movie of all 2012. In fact, the only really bad thing I can say about TDKR is that this is the last Batman film Christopher Nolan will be involved in -- at least for the foreseeable future. Which means one of three things ...

1). The studio continues the series with someone else directing. Joel Schumacher looks to be available, and I hear he's looking to ruin another Batman franchise.

2). The studio reboots the Batman series. Because if Punisher: War Zone taught us anything, nothing can undo investment into a character or an idea faster than a poorly done reboot.

3). There are no more Batman films, and we (as a society) accept that we've been given a really great trilogy of movies and demand the studios give us something fresh and original instead of rehashing the same stuff over and over.

Option 3 is the best choice we can make. It is also the least likely to happen.


mikehussey - Jul. 28, 2012 at 12:57:33am

This is an iconic movie ever i have seen. terrific performance and direction. All efforts to make this king of movie is really very appreciated. I liked the batman series and Christopher Nolan's Memento, The Prestige, Inception. This too are the best in this category.
Comment edited by mikehussey at Jul. 28, 2012 12:58:02am

Comment edited by mikehussey at Jul. 28, 2012 12:58:24am

Review Score

Parents Strongly Cautioned

A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture's single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous.

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