The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises had a lot to live up to with such a high bar set before it. With a fantastic villain, larger threats, and intricate plots The Dark Knight Rises serves as an amazing action movie. Although the movie may not have been as tightly written as The Dark Knight, or even featured a villain that stole the show as much as the Joker, it manages to create a fitting conclusion to the series that will leave fans and viewers extremely satisfied. Whether or not the movie holds up on subsequent viewings remains to be unseen but with afterthought there are a few plot holes that come to mind. Nonetheless, The Dark Knight Rises is a movie well worthy of high praise and is a fantastic addition and conclusion to The Dark Knight Trilogy.

(As a warning, please do not visit the youtube site for the trailer and only watch the embedded version, youtube comments are spoiling the movie.)

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been four years since the release of The Dark Knight. It seemed like it would be ages before the release of the final installment, but that time is finally here. Last night, July 20th, 2012, I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. Leading up to the movie I had my concerns, and of course the most burning question of all was would The Dark Knight Rises surpass its predecessor? The answer isn’t an easy one, and it’s definitely an answer I couldn’t make with just one viewing. As of this write up I’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises twice now and would love to see it once more. Although I kept flip flopping back and forth in my mind, I’ve finally come up with an answer. The Dark Knight Rises is a better movie at face value, but the details could be the undoing for this movie.

 

 

The scale has definitely been upped for The Dark Knight Rises, and threats feel larger. About a month or two ago I watched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight back to back and I surprisingly found myself leaning a little more towards Batman Begins as being my favorite. It took me a while to finally place my finger on it but I realized that, like The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins has a villain that posed a threat to Gotham as a whole, whereas the Joker’s main objective in The Dark Knight was to corrupt Batman. Yes, he did kill a lot of innocent people, and held hostage two ferries worth of citizens, but the goal for the Joker was getting Batman to break his one rule. The Dark Knight Rises is to be the book end of Nolan’s Batman trilogy and it’s very fitting that like the first, we have a villain that poses a threat to more than just Batman. After all, Bane is supposed to be Batman’s toughest villain yet.

 

In one of the first posts I made for Thinking Cinematic, I mentioned going to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in IMAX where I was able to catch the first six minutes of The Dark Knight Rises. In the post I described my displeasure with Bane’s voice, claiming that he was nearly inaudible. I’m very happy to say that it was an issue that was definitely addressed but there are still a few scenes where it’s hard to hear him clearly. I know Nolan said that it’s not important to hear everything he says, but it takes away from the scene when I’m straining to hear the main villain. That being said I still enjoyed Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane and applaud the risk they took with the creative choice on Bane’s voice.

 

Although I hate to bring it up, I don’t think I can get through this review without taking a moment to compare Bane/Hardy with Joker/Ledger. It’s without a doubt that Heath Ledger gave an amazing and beautiful performance as the Joker that will forever be cemented in legend. He was chaos personified and downright stole the show. It seemed nearly impossible for Nolan and his crew to strike lightning in a bottle twice but I believe they were able to do it. Among the people that I saw the movie with, they all claimed that they still liked Joker/Ledger more than they liked Bane/Hardy. I believe Hardy gives a performance that was on par with Ledger’s. Bane was menacing, ruthless and sent chills down my spine in every scene. It’s such a shame that his character suffers due to the voice problem, when Hardy was able to do so much with a character whose face was nearly covered for the whole movie. I will say that when his voice was audible, I loved how his character was very jovial in tone and it sold me on Bane’s character. Bane brought forth a feeling of power over Batman that I hadn’t felt before in the other villains and Hardy is able to demonstrate this in body language alone.

 

 

Spoilers

 

 

Joker relied on brilliant traps and tricks to outsmart Batman, Ra’s al Ghul perfectly matched Batman, but Bane was the villain to beat Batman. That’s what makes Bane such a great villain, the fear that Batman did not stand a chance.

 

 

End Spoilers

As stated before, this movie is to be the bookend of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and above all else he nails the mark. The Dark Knight Rises calls back on a lot of references from the first movie that really brings the series to an end. Nolan and Co. are able to deliver an ending that is satisfying to fans and leaves everything tied up neatly. There’s more to be said about this but I will save it for the end in the more spoiler section of this review.

 

I’ve always loved the witty banter and jokes among Alfred, Bruce, and Fox. It’s something that has been prevalent from the beginning but I don’t feel The Dark Knight Rises had as many of those moments as before. Even to an extent some of the dialogue was really stiff. Specifically speaking, there’s a scene between Catwoman and John Dagget where he’s describing a device that Catwoman is after. I understand that he was suppose to be speaking sarcastically but whether it was the writing or the delivery it just felt like the writers were trying to force feed the audience. It took me out of the illusion for a brief second.

 

“In Nolan We Trust,” a familiar phrase often-posted in online forums when fans discussed the inclusion of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I, myself, was not pleased with both Hathaway and even the inclusion of the character Catwoman. Nothing against Hathaway, but I just didn’t see her fitting in the Nolan universe. I am happy to admit how wrong I was to exclude Hathaway so quickly from the series. She does an amazing job and creates the best depiction of Catwoman seen to date. She brings to life a character that is able to flip between emotions in an instant as her character needs. She is extremely distant and cold with enough depth to her personality to keep the audience intrigued with her motives. She’s extremely adaptable and is more than capable of holding her own in the dark gritty world of Gotham. Catwoman brought a very entertaining anti-hero that was able to bridge the gap between the villains and the heroes and this all thanks to Hathaway’s brilliant performance.

 

Catwoman was one of the many new characters that were introduced to the series. One of the more notable and prevalent ones was Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character, Tim Blake who brings another entertaining viewpoint to the story, however although Tim Blake was a great addition some others left me a bit more puzzled.

 

I’ve often stated before that I’m not much of a comic reader; hence all my super hero knowledge comes from vague memories of the cartoons and video games. I don’t know if the movie was taking for granted characters that we should have known from the lore but for the first twenty minutes or so I was trying to remember whether or not some of the characters had been introduced. The movie treats them like they have been, and even treats a few plot points like we should have known its existence coming into this movie. It’s distracting at first but eventually things come to focus and I was able to pick up on characters quickly and where they fit in this movie.

 

MINOR SPOILERS

There’s an exchange between Miranda Tate and Bruce Wayne where they discuss a clean energy project that had failed. (There were a few minor references between Fox and Wayne as well as Tate and Dagget but the real meat of the discussion comes from this specific conversation with Tate at a costume party).  I kept asking myself what Clean energy project where they talking about? I knew I had seen The Dark Knight enough to know there was never any mention of such a project so it was a bit of an annoyance to have it discussed so matter-of-factly.

END MINOR SPOILERS

 

 

Personally, I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises more than I enjoyed The Dark Knight. I will say that Joker’s performance may have been a little more entertaining than Bane’s but overall Bane brings to the table a threat that is on such a larger level than the Joker did. The plot itself is intricate and admirable but not without glaring faults. There are a few plot holes and goof ups, which became more apparent on my second viewing, but I like to be more lenient since the movie was handling such a larger plot. I fear that the details will be its undoing, I’ve also read a number of complaints stating that there was very little on screen time with Batman. I didn’t notice at first but it did stick out to me on the second viewing. However, I feel like as a whole, Batman/Wayne’s plot was more than donning the cowl. I’ll discuss more below.

 

My dad made an argument to me that really stuck out and I completely understand. I will discuss detail more down below, but vaguely speaking, he had said a certain plot element with Bruce Wayne had been done so many times before that it was all to familiar. I can see where he’s coming from, and to a certain extent I agree but I think the execution and the context of the movie is what made it stand above the rest for me. Again, I understand this is a bit vague but I’ll clarify later, the main point being is I can see where some viewers will get the sense that The Dark Knight Rises borrows from familiar story arcs.

 

Another complaint that I had before the movie came out was the inclusion of members of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a long time Steeler fan, this is hard for me to say, but joking aside, it stuck out way too much in the trailers. I could understand the inclusion of them in the uniform as bodies playing  on the field but when they had close ups on them it just took me out of Gotham and the movie. Especially when the camera has a shot with Hines Ward’s back turned to the camera almost centered on his name. Now and even then, I knew this was being nit picky, but with hindsight, I can say that the context of the scene was done so incredibly well that it didn’t break my illusion and in fact, the scene at Heinz field ended up being one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

 

The Dark Knight Rises had a lot to live up to with such a high bar set before it. With a fantastic villain, larger threats, and intricate plots The Dark Knight Rises serves as an amazing action movie. Although the movie may not have been as tightly written as The Dark Knight, or even featured a villain that stole the show as much as the Joker, it manages to create a fitting conclusion to the series that will leave fans and viewers extremely satisfied. Whether or not the movie holds up on subsequent viewings remains to be unseen but with afterthought there are a few plot holes that come to mind. Nonetheless, The Dark Knight Rises is a movie well worthy of high praise and is a fantastic addition and conclusion to The Dark Knight Trilogy.

 

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at rrsolis@me.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
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All paragraphs from this point onward will discuss MAJOR SPOILERS from The Dark Knight Rises. If you have not seen the movie, please refrain from reading below until you have done so. Again, I will not be warning before each paragraph from this point onward.

 

 

 

 

It’s later revealed that Bane is an ex member of the League of Shadows, which if you remember is the main group of villains that Ra’s al Ghul brings to Gotham to destroy the city and restore balance. Bane picks up where Ra’s al Ghul fails and I like that they went with this direction. It created a bookend sense to this series and made The Dark Knight Rises feel more of sequel to Batman Begins than The Dark Knight did. They angle of this movie was that the legend ends here, and I love that the end comes full circle.

 

Like I said earlier in the post, Bane is the villain to beat Batman, and the fact that they both had the same training makes Bane even more villainous. Bane delivers an amazing speech to Batman on their first brawl together that sent chills down my spine. The scene itself is incredibly painful to watch, and is even highlighted more by the lack of any musical score for this scene. It’s in this moment that you realize how overwhelmed Batman really is. His blows are doing absolutely nothing to Bane and Bane is completely manhandling Batman. There’s such a sense of dread and futileness that it was painful on so many levels.

 

Another complaint that was too spoilerish to describe dealt with Alfred and Wayne. Alfred finally reveals to Bruce the letter Rachael had written in the previous movie about choosing Harvey. Although Alfred and Bruce were already engaged in their argument the main volatile moment was when Bruce gets angry with Alfred for trying to use Rachael to stop him from returning as Batman. He feels betrayed and goes on this long spiel about how he had found someone to love but she was taken. Maybe 10 minutes later he’s shacking up with Miranda Tate. I was angry with the way this was handled because ultimately this is the last verbal exchange between Bruce and Alfred but it’s all for naught when Bruce’s only legitimate argument was undercut with his moment with Miranda Tate. On top of that the romantic subplot felt forced in with very little set up.

 

I decided to completely leave out Joseph Gordon Levitt aside from a few praises in the top entry because his character is hard to talk about without spoiling it. Levitt plays Tim Blake who early on discovers that Bruce is Batman. I felt completely confused with this reveal because it was extremely quick, and on top of that I was already dealing with trying to figure out all the other new characters which were spoken so mater-of-factly. However, like the others, Blake finds his focus quickly and becomes a very entertaining character. A Gotham city cop, turned detective provides the young idealism of right and wrong and serves as a great opposite to the relationship between Batman and Gordon. The last movie left us with Gordon and Batman conceiving a lie to keep Gotham safe. When Blake finds this out he is hurt and feels that he has been duped but it serves nicely in his plot line especially when he ends up donning the cowl. We get to see his arc start from being a cop to the next Batman, which I loved. The movie is able to conclude the trilogy and characters we loved with the ability to continue in a satisfying way. Even if Warner Brothers completely reboots the series the audience can be satisfied knowing that Batman never truly dies. Which fits perfectly into the theme of the first movie, that you must become more than just a man.

 

I know there are complaints about how little time on screen was spent with Batman but this movie was more about Bruce. All his life Bruce covered up his fears with anger and Batman. He himself had never conquered his fears, and that’s what his time in the pit addressed. Bane clearly stated that he wanted to break Batman both in body and in spirit, which he does. Bruce is able to rebuild his spirit, which in turns creates a stronger Batman. It’s a major turning point for Bruce and I think it’s more important than having more time with Batman.

 

Finally this leads me to my dad’s main complaint. He claimed that the story of Bruce in the pit retraining and strengthening was so familiar (Rocky) that it bored him a little. I understand and can see his view but like I said it’s such a pivotal point for Bruce. The context of the scene is so fantastic that the execution is flawless.

 

Just to reiterate, I really enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises thoroughly and highly recommend it to fans and viewers a like.

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