Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises
Wholly unsatisfying conclusion, Batman!
"Everything that has a beginning has an end." That's not just a random reference to purposefully vague and self-important Matrix dialogue just for the hell of it, no: my reaction to either trilogy's final chapter is one of disappointment and bewilderment. Hell, both trilogies start out strong only to grow progressively worse. Even as a guy who'd long since jumped off the Nolan-Batman hype train I was hoping for something just a little bit more substantial than this. The suffocating pacing, for one, only serves to highlight the worst elements of Nolan's filmmaking style. It tries to cram almost two movies worth of character introductions and plot elements into a semi-regular "epic movie" running time, and still tries clumsily to tie the story into the series' first installment. There's hardly a chance to catch a single breath between all the overly slick Trailer Joke Decay-ish one-liners, overblown action sequences, self-indulgent monologues, heavy-handed metaphors, and aforementioned skeevy plotlines. It seems a bit to me that they kind of winged the whole thing a tad after the whole Ledger tragedy probably scuppered the original finale idea. Don't know, just seems to make sense. (It probably wouldn't have been much better, anyway.) Anyway, on to the good points. Bale makes a fine Batman to the very end... despite Nolan's cowardly attempt at giving him a "happy ending" (Or did he? Vague, multi-interpretational Chris Nolan ending powers, activate!). Bane was cool and a believable badass, despite his Sean Connery speech impediment. I guess Tom Hardy can look intimidating, as long as they put a Goatse mask on him. Too bad they couldn't stick the landing: his unintentionally (?) underwhelming exit launched a clusterfuck of titters from every aisle around me. While it was nice to see Dr. Crane back, as well as another mystery character from Batman Begins, it only served as a depressing reminder of the potential that once shone so bright in that first film. The Dark Knight Returns is pure Nolan, for better or worse; style overly poorly wrought substance. I was hoping this film's comparative failure would at least help kill off the trend of "gritty" contemporary superhero films, but alas, no dice thus far. Darn the luck! Darn! No sir, I didn't like it.
Why "disaster"? Because, well, not only is the plot kind of a mess on it's own terms, but the themes are badly expressed and it doesn't line up with both previous entries in terms of narrative or themes. At the end of the last movie, Joker teased the idea that Gotham would start producing loads more crazies from within and that stopping the mob meant NOTHING. This movie: Oh, Batman's been retired for eight years, the Joker's OBVIOUS THEMATIC SEQUEL HOOK never happened and we need to have external forces acting on Gotham as the threat. They also teased Batman needing to actually avoid the cops. Cops actually mostly seem like they're still on Batman's side in pretty much the entire movie and it's still just a smoke-screen. Last two movies: Batman needs an actual replacement. This movie: We never see John Blake (their only attempt at showcasing a replacement) as competent detective, competent ninja OR competent hand to hand fighter and there's not even room in the plot to have Batman train him, on-screen OR off-screen. Rich v. Poor theme: For an entry in a Gordon-heavy franchise that seems to have at least a little sympathy for those making due with lower resources, wouldn't Barbara Gordon/Batgirl be a more natural inclusion than either Blake OR Catwoman? That way, you could also imply that SHE'S the one who kept trying to hold the rogues at bay when they started coming out while Batman thought the mob was the end of it and he could sulk in his castle. Ending: They want us to think it's unrelentingly optimistic that Gotham is being defended by Blake. Even setting aside questions of having ANY competence at this job, who was the guy in the comics who locked himself in the Bat-cave during the day? Oh, that's right, Jean-Paul Valley, the guy who ultimately went completely stir-crazy. I guess it's more technically watchable than the gaudy Batman & Robin, but for something that is so driven by occasional stuff from the past movies, it's almost as bad or, even, worse than that one in terms of narrative and thematic cohesion.
This was nearly it. But in the end if you wanted the same as other superhero films, this was probably very enjoyable, but the bar was set too high for Nolan and whilst this nearly rose as high as the very greatest of films, it fell short in a way that makes it hard to enjoy if that was what you hoped for. Christopher Nolan knew what he was doing, this was different again and if it succeeded he would have created three entirely different films that each beat almost every other film in what they tried to do and yet still came together as a whole. Bane was the perfect villain for this, the story was right, the stakes were unbelievably higher. He completed Batmans arc and took the very best from stories like No Mans Land. Catwoman was exceptional and I can't believe what they managed to do with Gordon-Levitt's character. But it doesn't come together. There are two big flaws that I can identify.
- The story is of Bane tearing Batman down but it also starts 8 years later with a Batman whose just finding his feet again. It robs the power from the former and makes everything too unfamiliar and uncomfortable to get a grip on, and we don't get the security to compare with later events
- Banes voice. In early trailers it was unintelligible and to fix it they made it sound like a children's cartoon character (and we're not talking The Brave And The Bold here). He has fantastic lines, but he needs a typical deep growly villain, instead his lines have no weight and they don't give the film the drive that the film demanded from Bane.
Great movie; very predictable
This movie is exactly what fans demanded after watching TDK; it's exactly the gritty, grim tale that you wanted to see once again. Whether or not that's actually a good thing is another story. First off, there's a lot of repetitive elements here: A psychopath, hellbent on destroying Gotham For The Evulz, normal people standing up to the bad guys in the climax, and a Twist Ending with the revelation of a new villain. Which, unfortunately, anyone familiar with Batman/Ra's Al Ghul mythos can see coming from a mile away. They've tried to build up on the previous film, which works, but only to some extent. My biggest issue with the story was that, somewhere along the way, it stopped being about Bane and became all about Ra's. Which is a pity, because Bane just steals the show every single time he's on screen. There's not many actors who can say lines like "Ohhh you think DARKNESS is your ally?" and "The shadows betray you because they belong to ME!" and pull it off in a reality-grounded film series like this. I don't know if the actor mimicked the voice himself or if it was digitally altered (possibly both), but anyway, nicely done. Similar great performances by the rest of the supporting cast, as well as the behind-the-scenes crew: cinematography, camera, art, etc. etc. The music was great but a bit too loud; combined with the length of the film I left the theater with a headache. They've tried to adapt the No Mans Land event here, but I feel like they didn't go all the way with it and it just comes off feeling rushed. It would've been great if they'd actually adapted it all the way through, because NML is a rare bat-event favourite of mine. Instead, once again, it became all about Ra's and The League Of Shadows. The prison scenes were unnecessary and just campy. Just because its a hole in the ground it's supposed to be some hell on earth? There aren't any gangs among the prisoners; there seems to be no shortage of food or water; there are no guards at all, and the inmates live in harmony and cheer each other during escape attempts. This is the worst prison in the world? Not TDK-level but its a great popcorn movie; view it was a Summer Blockbuster and try to have fun. Overall 7/10.
The Dark Knight gets tricked and so do we.
Nolan must be laughing. That is the constant image that I get after watching this film because he has successfully duped millions of people into throwing money at a movie that he just didn't care about. This can be the only explanation as to why a director who made one of the greatest comic book movies of all time would create such a banal movie. The movie dispenses with originality and cleverness only to replace them with lazy retreading, dumb decisions and absurdities. We already saw Bruce Wayne become Batman but we were forced to see him train all over again, just to fight the same villainous group who employ practices from previous villains. Why must we see Bruce Wayne train all over again? The answer is due to the widespread stupidity of the cast at large, with few exceptions. Batman/Bruce Wayne is so utterly fooled, decieved and hoodwinked by the baddies that he has to start all over again. Within the fist half hour, he is tricked despite holding an armed crossbow against an unharmed opponent. Moving on to the absurdities; despite many characters showing less than average sense they end up achieving ridiculous feats. For instance, a penniless Bruce manages to make his away across countries and into a quaranteed city. All of this is offscreen which all but shows that the film is wildly inconsistent in the capabilities of its characters. On top of this comes the over the top "symbolic" practices that the characters seen to love. Whether its creating a huge burning bat symbol with a trail starting near thin ice or having the police charge headfirst into bad guys with armed tanks. Now this was supposed to be THE most realistic Batman films and yet these feats are far more ludicrous than having a bat credit card; which is at least somewhat practical. The action isn't great; just some explosions and flailing of fists here and there. Lengthwise, the movie is one of the longest comic book movies ever, which just means having to suffer through more of the films failings. If there are any positives it might be that at least the actors tried. Tom Hardy's Lord Humongous is not as prolfic as Ledger's Joker but his variety from jovial commentary to cold brutality is enjoyable. But that's it. The Dark Knight Rises is long, dumb and boring. I look forward to a reboot which actually bares resemblance to the titular character that we love.
One of the few great superhero threequels
The Dark Knight Rises is a thrilling epic that's every bit as good as its predecessor as well as that *other* big superhero movie that came out this year. It's good for different reasons than The Dark Knight. Batman number 2 had Heath Ledger as the creepiest Joker - natch, the creepiest villain - of all time, excellent characterization and introspection into the characters' psyches and complications. Number 3 has an easier-to-follow (and more sweeping) plot, a grander scale (more opportunity to show off the city and what happens to it), and a villain (Bane) who, while not as classic or memorable as the Joker, is just as great a villain in his own right. Like with the other movies in The Dark Knight Saga, every actor gets a chance to shine. Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway are brilliant as newly re-imagined baddies Bane and Catwoman, plus heavyweights such as Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman haven't lost any of their luster returning as members of Batman's posse. Joseph Gordon Levitt is also excellent in his role as newcomer John Blake. Perhaps the worst performance is Christian Bale as the Batman himself, and even he isn't too shabby - even his infamous Bat-voice isn't as bad as in the previous movie. The action scenes are huge, and make "lame movies with great special effects and action sequences" such as Transformers Dark Of The Moon completely obsolete, especially since here, they're mostly done by using real physical props, rigged explosions and vehicles rather than excessive CGI. The movie doesn't have many major issues - it has everything a great movie needs. Where it falls short is that "special thing" to make it rise above other movies of its stature - TDK had Ledger's Joker, and The Avengers has Joss Whedon's signature wit oozing out of every second of dialogue. Despite this, I enjoyed it more than The Avengers (maybe because of my Batman bias), and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good superhero action epic.
The epic (albeit, not perfect) conclusion the trilogy deserved -
Batman Begins was a gritty, strong, origin story. The Dark Knight was Sequel Escalation and the greatest superhero film of all time, only rivalled by The Avengers. And now too by its own sequel. FYI, I've never read a comic, so take my views accordingly. The film starts at a time when Gotham is at peace, so is low on action early on. This worked for me, because we know the storm is coming. A little calm beforehand builds tension and anticipation, though I can see why some disliked the pace. This time allows for the introduction of new characters, primarily of Nolan's Production Posse, all of whom are superb. Marion Cotillard in particular is stunning, once again demonstrating her immense talent with psychologically complex characters. Likewise, Tom Hardy's Bane, with a performance clearly drawn from that in Bronson. Joseph Gordon Levitt also stands out as one of the few good police in Gotham, proving to be one of the most likeable characters in the series, while retaining the dark humanity that most of Nolan's interesting characters bring to the table. As standalone film, TDKR does work, with flashbacks and explanations mostly removing the need to have seen the earlier films. Still, it clearly functions better as a trilogy's third part, doing well to tie off loose ends and concluding things as appropriate for such a film. Certainly, I recommend seeing the first two, as there are relevant plotpoints and the emotional impact will be enhanced if you've seen them. The film's plot - and primary villain - are an interesting hybrid of the first two. Gotham's destruction is imminent and both its innate corruption and the Leage of Shadows are involved. Bane is likewise a hybrid of Ras-al-Ghul and The Joker, with an evil muppet voice for some reason. He's less interesting than The Joker, but not by much. This makes the film a little predictable (one early action sequence mirrors one from TDK a little too closely for my liking) but more of a good thing is a good thing. Short version: TDKR's strengths vastly outweigh its weaknesses. The latter are Bane's evil-muppet-voice and a slight feeling of repetition of plot and villain. The former are the cast, acting, script, direction, effects, scale - everything else, basically. This film is still a superhero classic in its own right, and a worthy conclusion to one of the great trilogies of the current era.
An Excellent Conclusion
The journey of Bruce Wayne developing his superhero personality is now complete: the story's conclusion serves its purpose well while retaining the dynamism and energy of the previous installments. The twists and turns of the plot might confuse some, but the film masterfully subverts cliches and continues to surprise the audience. The inclusion of Talia was an fantastic example of Nolan's intricate storytelling. The plot is carefully constructed, and the execution is outstanding; it's a brilliant finale. Nothing feels rushed or passed over, nor are scenes prolonged for the sake of running time; this particular story is just the necessary length. Theme abounds, raising intriguing questions about hope and despair, the cost of prosperity, and what humans will do to survive. The themes only enhance the movie, never bogging it down. The quiet, emotional scenes have as much drama as the battles: the scene where Alfred leaves Bruce is heartbreaking. The acting was excellent, but Levitt and Hathaway especially shone in their roles. Levitt plays an honest, hardworking cop from a rough background who's determined to do what's right no matter the cost to himself. The understated nobility and astounding bravery are integral traits of his character. Bruce has achieved his goal: Levitt sees him as a symbol of hope rather than an individual, though he's personally criticized for his faith in Batman. Hathaway proves her acting abilities as the sexy, effective, vicious cat burglar who's a knockout in heels. Her initial meek behavior around Bruce, almost instantly subverted, is possibly a Take That at Batman Forever, but if so, it's certainly warranted. Selina Kyle is no damsel in distress, rather, she's a powerful combatant who doesn't hold back. Hathaway plays her with a definitive personality and something of a roguish charm; it's difficult to dislike her. Sophisticated, dangerous, and pragmatic, Selina Kyle is without question the most Badass and well-rounded female character to ever appear in a comicbook movie. Props to her: she's the one who kills Bane. Bruce's character growth completes its full circle, as a result of pain, sacrifice, and being pushed to his very breaking point. It's all worth it, in the end: Batman is finally recognized as a hero of Gotham. This film is highly recommended. 10/10
Loved it Despite Getting the Best Spoilers Early on.
Going by the topic, yes, this has spoilers in it. Abandon all hope of surprise ye who read here. As an internet nerd, avoiding spoilers, especially for big movies, can be work. Especially when one's friends assume you have seen it (or a spoiler ends up in an article by accident). That's how I found out detective John's first name, which was one of the two great spoilers, albeit not one that affects the movie's overall plot. The other one did. This movie was so well done, it didn't even matter that I knew Talia al Ghul was in in and by knowing they would be there, inferring that they were the true villain. Despite the fact that I was able to say "well, there are only two women featured at length in this movie and the other one is eliminated for being Catwoman, Miranda must secretly be Talia. That's right—this movie was so good, knowing The Big Reveal did nothing to diminish it. It was still pure awesome for me. Everything seemed to fit just so. My favorite parts were the Deputy Commissioner's Moment Of Awesome in the climax, the reveal of John's first name (yes, even though I knew it was coming), and Alfred getting to have his old dream come true at the end. And i love the character of Lucius Fox to death for ever and ever, and not just for taking the same name as Draco's dad and being a Badass with it. Things to pick at...well, I have issues thinking that the bridge copd has no way of communicating with a senior official quickly when John and the people showed up, Bane's voice sometimes seemed off, and well, is it bad that I wanted to see a quicker, closer look at Bane's corpse? I mean, it took the heavy artillery to take them out, might as well make sure they bought it, am I right? Other than that, it's Made Of Awesome Also, props to Anne Hathaway for doing all that work in stiletto heels when her fellow female writing this can't manage more than a 3/4 inch heel unless it's a wedge for walking much less fighting. Serious, serious props to her.
Actually needed to be longer
It seems a ridiculous thing to say. The Dark Knight Rises is already more than two and a half hours long. Everything that is in the movie is fantastic. There just needed to be more of some of it. Batman's status as a symbol, for instance. Early on we see one child (from the trailers) who draws bat symbols and wishes for the return of the Dark Knight. All three movies in the trilogy have had one kid o represent the effect batman is having on Gotham's children, and in this finale it would have been appropriate, and better, to see more of this. It would have hilighted Gordon's mistake at the end of TDK even more. Harvey Dent could never inspire the younger generation the way Batman did (though there is an argument to be made that any inspiration a real life Batman would have on children could easily be negative). Similarly, when things go to heck, one person makes chalk bat signals on walls as a show of defiance and hope that Batman would return to set things right. This is the aspect that should have been played up. Many more people should have turned to the bat as the symbol of resistence, and the faux batmen from TDK should have returned at that point. Of course without the real Batman they'd be hopelessly outnumbered and outmatched, but it would give the idea that Batman is first and foremost a symbol that the movie tries to convey much more resonance. Finally, there is a reveal that, while good and effectively built up to, required just a little more follow-up to be fully justified. Even a three second action scene where one character beats some random person up would have sufficed. Other than wanting more of those things to make TDKR more complete it is near perfect. The writing, characterization, and acting is great. The action scenes are what you'd come to expect from Nolan, meaning images of destruction that are works of art in their own right. The fights are finally shot from far enough back that they don't seem choppy and it is easy to tell what is going on. No, it isn't as good as TDK, due to missing those things I mentioned and the drop from Joker to Bane (who is still one of the best movie villains ever, just not as great as Heath Ledger). TDKR makes up for this, though, with greater scale and scope than ever before. A great end to one of the greatest movie trilogies ever.
Great Piece of Cinema, But The Dark Knight was the Superior Film
I'll get this out of the way, I loved this movie. The scale of it all was (though the word has been ruined by overuse) epic, and every actor gave a believable performance, with special recognition given to Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Anne Hathaway. That being said, there were some definite issues. For the first forty five minutes or so the film progresses at an uncomfortably breakneck speed, not letting character introductions sink in long enough. The pacing stabilized after the first act, however. As to the question of Bane's voice, it's really only a problem in the very first scene, where it was poorly mixed, and the accent seemed too posh. Again, this issue corrected itself once Bane arrived in Gotham. However, I believe the good outweighs the bad. Bale gives his best performance of the trilogy, Tom Hardy is suitably menacing and devious as Bane, Michael Caine gives a highly emotional turn as Alfred, and Anne Hathaway absolutely steals the scenes she's in. Add in various Mythology Gags (including a possible nod to the Martian Manhunter, of all things) and the riveting score by Hans Zimmer, this is a fitting end to the Dark Knight Saga.
Flawed, but ultimately thrilling when the action picks up
Overall, I think this film was excellent. It was a really nice summer flick with excellent cinematography, slick mechanical designs and aesthetics, some black comedy, and good action. It really tugs on emotions too; who can't help but feel the humiliation as FEMA trucks are sent to supply an American city that looks more like a war-torn Least-Developed Country, while the military sits powerless? That said, I feel as if it suffered from a few problems. The first is that the pacing isn't all that great. The film is really fricking long at 2h45m, but it's obvious that a lot of stuff was probably left on the cutting room floor. We start with this Catwoman subplot and a ton of exposition, but then pay for it at the end. "Oh by the way, here's Bane's backstory." Which would have been nice, as Bane came across as a relatively dumb meathead for most of the film. The second is that the film seems to really be trying to project that "we're still relevant, dammit!" From Bane's Occupy Movement-like rhetoric, to a scene recalling the events that led to the infamous Siege of Fallujah last decade, the film tries to provide commentary that ultimately seems to not really go anywhere. Perhaps it's to highlight that Bane's motivations aren't as genuine as they seem, I don't know. But they really seem to be there to stand out for their own sake, rather than feeling like an integral piece of the narrative. But still, I enjoyed it. Summer blockbusters are supposed to be relatively mindless anyway, so viewing the film as an action movie I can let it slide...it's still more intelligent that the majority of them. Grab the popcorn, and prepare to be pinned in your seat when things finally begin.