Like many of you, July 20th at 12:01 AM, I was in my theater seat waiting to see how the legend that is The Dark Knight comes to end. I am no critic, but I read a comment that said, “to real people, praise or pans from a friend carry more weight than a dozen prominent critic reviews.” Being that I consider most of you friends, I hope you all can appreciate my opinions.
WARNING: for those who have yet to see the movie, this post is revealing and does contain some spoilers, so read at your own risk.
During the first 30-45 minutes, the movie proceeds at an elevated speed. Which after viewing the entire film was necessary to set the stage for the phenomenal second half. The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the Joker unleashes havoc upon Gotham City and it’s officials. In present day, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.
The plot has the villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), armed with a nuclear weapon that could destroy all of Gotham as well a massive transfer of wealth using the stock exchange. Simply put, Bane is a relentless demon that utterly and convincingly destroys Batman, and pushes Bruce to new limits. While his character was undoubtedly a more than formidable foe, he wasn’t the virtually unstoppable juggernaut we know him to be, which proved evident in his second/final encounter with the Bat. Although he is as evil as they come, he has a one-note personality, without humor or nuance, which I did not particularly enjoy. At no point did Bane lose his calm and allow himself to be overcome with rage. Not to mention, the absence of his overuse of venom, but we won’t get into that. Many stated that Bane is not Bane without breaking the Bat, and I agree. I was relieved to see that Nolan gave the fans what they wanted, as an epic first showdown between Bane and Batman culminated with Bruce’s back shattering on the knee of the physically superior juggernaut.
Character motivations shift on a dime, and if you understand even half of what’s specifically going on, you’ll be doing better than many. For long stretches, there’s little that is compelling and holds little interest beyond a general concern for the fate of Gotham City. In my personal opinion, it was too easy to get Bruce back in the game. For someone who’s vowed never to don the cape and cowl again, all it took was a sufficient threat and a headstrong beat cop who’s figured out Bruce’s secret, to coax him out of retirement. Maybe it was the injury Commission Gordon suffered from his first encounter with Bane, but Bruce was quick to suit up, even against the adamant wishes of Alfred.
Christian Bale does a great job reprising his role Bruce Wayne/Batman. I applaud his ability to get into the space of a retired, overly confident, yet somewhat broken hero, as he struggles to come to grips with certain realities. Unlike in past films we don’t see Bruce putting on the facade of a billionaire playboy to allude citizens of his secret identity, as a handful of characters in this film are aware.
Michael Caine has another fine performance as Alfred Pennyworth and to some might be deserving of a Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination. However, it was slightly distracting that Alfred is so worried about Bruce that he couldn’t seem to converse with him without getting choked up. After the first time where he shares a cherished vision of his future for Bruce, this becomes a bit humorous.
Morgan Freeman is the same beloved charismatic Lucius Fox, and Gary Oldman has yet another strong performance as Commissioner Gordon who is shouldering extreme guilt about the cover-up of Harvey Dent‘s crimes.
Marion Cotillard has a solid performance as businesswoman (and Bruce’s part-time lover) Miranda Tate, whom Bruce announces CEO of Wayne Enterprises. To anyone who knew anything about the film, it came to no surprise when she reveals herself to be Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, the main antagonist of the first film. However, I was stumped on her connection to Bane, especially when she explains that she was the child (as opposed to Bane) who escaped the underground prison to which Bruce Wayne is exiled for a lengthy and dreary stretch of the film.
Anne Hathaway has a refreshing performance as Selina Kyle. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t thunder a whip, purr, or have feline themed one-liners (outside of her one-time “cat got your tongue?”), but it never really feels like she’s Catwoman, rather just an exceptional thief. The entire film she’s thieving as a means to a promised way out of the life she’s found herself leading. However, I would have like to have seen a little more of a back story as to why she’s suddenly in Gotham, or how she became to be so good at what she does.
One of the finest performance of the newcomers, for me, was officer John Blake portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who I (along with many fans) guessed is actually Robin (but perhaps not the one we suspected). In the film, his name is “Robin John Blake”, a change I heavily disliked. His name should have, at least, been Richard alluding that he was indeed Dick Grayson (the original Robin). However, that conflicts the story Robin John Blake told earlier about the origins of his parents death which retained no circus involvement. I also found it intriguing that his younger orphan friend’s name was Tim, hinting that he was Time Drake, the third Robin. Back in December, a friend of mine said “if we are truly lucky enough to see our most famed sidekick, I’m sure it will be nothing but a brief but powerful moment that leaves us in our theater seats, yearning in the dark for more.” He could not have been more right. Although it wasn’t until the end, it was such an awesome and powerful moment to see “Robin” in the Batcave gazing upon his destiny as the next masked protector of Gotham. The closing scene leaves the audience at peace knowing Alfred’s vision for Bruce, which I won’t share, actually comes true.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
A central weakness of The Dark Knight Rises, when compared to the other films is the absence of a compelling, complicated villain. Do not misunderstand me, Tom Hardy was sensational as Bane, however there’s no topping the second movie; and Heath Ledger saw to that with his unforgettable portrayal of the psychopathic clown prince of crime. However, I try not to compare films within a trilogy because like with every first film, there’s a story that has to be told, and with every final film, there must be closure to any loose ends. Middle movies allow for certain freedoms that the others don’t get the luxury of having. All in all The Dark Knight Rises was a superb film providing moments of jaw-dropping spectacle, and is a more than fitting end of what will, for quite some time to come, be the definitive superhero film trilogy. It was not only the superhero movie we deserved, but also the one we needed. I give The Dark Knight Rises 4.5/5 stars.
Now I want to know what YOU think!
Do you agree/disagree? What do you think they should have done differently? Let’s chop it up in the comment section below.
- Batman Beyond: The Dark Knight Reborn (movie) anyone??