Review: The Dark Knight Rises
“The Dark Knight Rises” essentially solidifies my view that Christopher Nolan is the most exciting director working today. In a mere 12 years he’s gone from total obscurity to not only helming 3 of my favorite thrillers (Inception, The Prestige, and Memento), to now has accomplishing something few can claim: creating a trilogy of films in which the quality never drops, but remains consistently excellent from beginning to end. This rings true from the almost perfect casting choices across the board, to the ambitious scale of events, to the way the plot is expertly crafted, allowing an almost 3 hour movie to fly by with ease. “The Dark Knight Rises” solidifies this 3-part series as one of the premier works of filmmaking, and is a worthy conclusion to the stories told in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”.
I would recommend to anyone going to see this new film (and really, who would I not recommend it to?) to brush up on the previous films in order to get the full experience. Although I’m sure it’d still be a solid movie, the way all three films form a cohesive whole cannot be understated. There are plenty of callbacks to “Batman Begins” in this one especially, which add even more depth to the proceedings. Be sure that you at least understand the backstory with Bruce Wayne’s original training before you dive in. Special credit must be given to not only Christian Bale (who puts in another terrific performance, especially on the Bruce Wayne side of things this time around) but to Michael Caine, who delivers some of the best scenes of the movie and really has become the glue to the film’s emotional core.
Although Tom Hardy could hardly be expected to match the Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger, he does a great job here. A different kind of villain, Bane is very smart but much more barbaric and punishing than The Joker ever was. He can take Batman in a fight as well as craft elaborate plans to keep us guessing. This is a film which packs a number of fun twists sure to please those like myself that love unpredictability at the mutlti-plex. Best of all, said twists immediately fit into the canon of the series without creating gaping plot holes.
Anyone who questioned the casting of Anne Hathaway as Catwomen can rest ye fears, for she is terrific in the role, bringing a familair yet unique nuance to the role, and providing a much different take than we saw in Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” so many years ago. She gets several funny lines that, along with the other occassional humorous moments, serve to keep the film from being a total drag.
That being said, you can definitely expect this entry to be the darkest of the three films, and that’s saying something. One of the best aspects of the film is that Nolan is free to do whatever he wants with these characters. By not being forced into an automatic happy ending in which the hero is sure to come out on top, we are forced to consider the posibility of Batman actually being killed. You want to feel invested in a main character? See this movie without any spoilers and see if you find yourself not caring about what happens in the final act.
Nolan shows once again that he is an expert at balancing strong character development with exciting action, never overdoing either. With so many characters to balance, an admirable job is done, to the point that even newcomer Joseph Gordon Levitt suceeds at getting across a fully fleshed character that we care about.
Once again there’s several amazing action set-pieces, all the more effective because of Nolan’s penchant for limited CGI. Although the hand-to-hand combat has always been one of the weaker aspects of the series, it didn’t bother me too much here. And being able to see it in IMAX without being forced to deal with 3D is admirable. Nolan realizes that his movies don’t need a gimmick, the strong story and great action sequences can speak for themselves.
This is another film that will most likely need to be seen multiple times to truly appreciate the way the themes that have permeated the series are woven in and referenced. Yes, there are flashbacks inserted to help everyone “get” it, but from the wide scale way that the atmosphere and events mirror our own realities and insecurities in the real world, to the ways in which small touches create poetic moments for the characters, there’s a lot to take it.
Once again, the most interesting aspect of this Dark Knight series compared to most superhero movies (or movies in general, for that matter), is how the characters are so wonderfully three-dimensional. The heroes have flaws and often break their own moral standards, whereas the villains often have redeeming or at the very least empathetic qualities. The world is not black and white, and no one understands how to interject complex moral quandaries into film quite like Nolan. Much like in “The Dark Knight”, there are a few key moments where we are forced to put ourselves into the shoes of someone onscreen and think about what kind of choice we would make in that situation.
“The Dark Knight Rises” may not exceed the thrilling prescedent set by 2008’s “The Dark Knight”, but it does nothing to sully the name of the franchise or its creator. Once again, Christopher Nolan gives us a brilliant “thinking-man’s blockbuster”, packing enough action, mayhem, and jaw-dropping feats to please just about anyone, while leaving plenty for us to digest, discuss, and relive for years to come.