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The Dark Knight Rises Review

6 min read

In 2005, Christopher Nolan took on the challenge of making the Batman series interesting again after a failed series of films by previous directors. His take on the comic book hero was unique in that it placed the Batman mythos in a more real-world setting than a fantasy one, concentrating on character building which in turn lent to story strength. The best part about this was that in doing so, not only was Batman / Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) fleshed out, but so were supporting characters such as Alfred (Michael Caine) Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman).  Batman Begins established these people very well so that when they were utilized in The Dark Knight, the events that played out had a tremendous impact not previously depicted in comic-to-film adaptations, which consequently raised the bar for such films. So the test for The Dark Knight Rises would be could this bar be maintained while bringing this trilogy to a conclusion?

As the film opens, we see a CIA plane transporting a scientist and three hooded prisoners. The lead agent attempts to interrogate them regarding a mysterious assassin called Bane (Tom Hardy, Star Trek: Nemesis), but eventually finds the tables turned in one of the most imaginative aerial sequences on film. Commissioner Gordon meanwhile, is giving a couple speeches about how heroic former D.A. Harvey Dent was, and how his efforts led to the Dent Act, which apparently helped imprison over 1000 criminals. All the while, Gordon is choking back emotions on what Two-Face tried to do to his family.

The second speech we see him give is during a Police function being held at Wayne Manor, where partygoers and staff note Bruce himself hasn’t really been seen in 8 years. Alfred sends one such staffer to deliver a tray of food to one of non-occupied rooms, but this staffer apparently has other ideas, as she scopes out the room in question and gets what she wants. Bruce appears to discuss this situation with the rather attractive staffer (Anne Hathaway), but since he’s limping with a cane now, the discussion doesn’t go his way. However, Bruce decides to learn more about her as Alfred admonishes him to get back into the world and deal with real issues, such as a persistent woman named Miranda Tate (Marion Cotilliard, Inception) who keeps trying to meet him, as well as the business of Wayne Enterprises.

We’re also introduced to Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who visits orphanages and speaks to children. He does so this instance to talk to the younger brother of a murder victim. They boy mentions folks going into sewer tunnels more and more frequently where people are supposedly finding work. A crazy series of events leads Commissioner Gordon to investigate the tunnels himself and that’s where things get nuts…

The screenplay here by Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer takes a while to get going, and gets choppy jumping from one scene to the next at times. Not totally certain if this is their flaw or director C. Nolan’s storytelling, which is usually soother than this. When it gets going though, it does so on a grand scale, while incorporating many of the storylines from the comics. Some are pretty obvious such as a chase scene straight out of Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns.’ Others are more amalgamated. It’s a bit of fun to pick out where the story influences are likely coming from as guessing there Goyer and the Nolans must’ve consumed a ton of Batman lore to prep this and the previous films.  Largely, the story works but has a couple holes that are a bit weird. Also, the ending is pretty good and can be open to interpretation like most of Chris Nolan’s films.

As to the characters, the supporting ones remain as solid as they have in previous films. So the challenge is seeing how the newer ones are adapted here. Catwoman kicks a lot of butt, steals stuff and plays an integral part on several levels in these events, while managing to get into Bruce’s head a bit with her sensuality. We do also get to see how she and her sidekick Molly live, much like the comic story Batman: Year One, among others. This is only a glimpse of her character as time permits but for the happenings of the film, it’s enough.  Anne Hathaway does earn her stripes as one of the best to play the character alongside Michelle Pfeiffer and Eartha Kitt, like I figured she could after seeing Love and Other Drugs.

John Blake is an interesting character in that he’s just about the only one not screwed up by any previous events and he wants to do right by everyone, and Levitt’s tempered enthusiasm comes through pretty well.

The biggest question mark was seeing how Bane would be depicted on film and whether he could be a truly powerful opponent for Batman in a way that’s not cheesy or presented for laughs the way he was In Batman & Robin. Nolan said he’d be re-doing the character for his world and assembling from comic book story elements with some real world refinement, I have to say Bane is a devastating opponent for Batman. Between Nolan’s re-imagining and Tom Hardy’s portrayal, they’ve retained the most terrifying aspect of the character while staying true to him in a way most other media haven’t outside of the comics. The most terrifying element isn’t merely Bane’s power; it’s the fact that he has his physical abilities and is able to outsmart Batman. His physical menace though is considerable. At one point, he makes a simple hand gesture and you know someone’s about to get messed up. Oh and to all the comic fans who are angry about him not using the Venom steroid, let me assure you, the way he’s written here, he DOES NOT NEED IT. I know many of you miss Heath Ledger’s Joker, but Bane is just as terrifying in a different way, and Tom Hardy’s performance here is damned convincing as it was in the prison drama Bronson.

This leaves Christian Bale who has to demonstrate greater range for Bruce Wayne and Batman than he had to in the previous movies. Wayne is a shell of a man at the start of the film, having been shattered by the events of The Dark Knight. I almost expected to see Ace The Dog walking around with him through Wayne Manor the way he was conducting himself, and it isn’t the lowest point we see him at as both his body and soul are pushed to hellish limits through this movie. He also experiences some good times as well though, and Bale brings believability the whole time. He’s someone to root for not just because we’re told to do so but because he’s a man who is put through a lot but works to move past all of it because he really wants to save the people of Gotham City. This gives the final battles the most impact as Bane’s plans unfold.

All in all I enjoyed this movie a good bit. I didn’t consider it quite as strong an installment as The Dark Knight, but it’s just a step or two below, while still quite above many other similar works. Even though I had an issue with part of the story’s resolution, I did find myself altering my list of favorite comic-to-film adaptations after viewing this one in a way I hadn’t previously considered and tend to think of it as an overall satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, one that both comic fans and casual moviegoers can enjoy. I know someday there’ll be another series of movies with a different take on Batman’s world. After seeing it through the eyes of Christopher Nolan however, I have to say the next director to tackle the subject will have a lot to live up to.

Grade:  A-

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