Dark Knight Rises review from guest reviewer

Nic here. One of my fourth cousins, Parker, is a good friend of mine, as well as a connoisseur of films. Also, he loves the Batman. He and I have had discussions about the Caped Crusader, and in particular his film exploits as helmed by Christopher Nolan, for some time now. He was anticipating The Dark Knight Rises the same way I anticipated the Star Wars prequels.

Well, he's seen the movie, and has written a review for us. So, after the break, I invite you read his thoughtful analysis of the film.

        It’s been four years since The Dark Knight graced the silver screen and I still remember my theater experience to this day. In fact, The Dark Knight is the movie that I credit for starting my passion for film. It just worked on every level. Who could forget Heath Leager’s iconic take on the Joker? He had a tremendous on screen presence and brought intensity to every scene he was in. The story captivated most in the audience and when the credits rolled, it was received with a thunderous applause. The Dark Knight was a masterpiece, no doubt, and The Dark Knight Rises was the inevitable squeal. However, expectations are through the roof and the bar has been set extremely high, perhaps even too high for Nolan to meet. So can Nolan not only give us the final installment that we deserve but also the one we need?

        The story takes place eight years after The Dark Knight; Gotham is in a time of peace. The streets are clean, and the days of organized crime are over under the Dent act. However, underneath Gotham, in the sewers, a fire is rising. Bane (Tom Hardy) is building an army and his plan is about begin. Unaware of the chaos lurking below, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) is still covering for the lie about Dent, thus keeping the public’s view of Batman tainted. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse and keeps himself locked up in Wayne manor, thinking there is nothing the world can offer him anymore. Once the reports of Bane begin to surface, Bruce realizes that Batman is needed again to save the people he vowed to protect. Enlisting the help of someone whom he may be unable to trust, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) leads Batman to the "Masked Man." Good and evil clash, and this could be Batman's greatest triumph or he may finally be broken.

       One thing I will say about the film is that the cast is fantastic. Others that I didn't mention are Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. This is an A list cast and Anne Hathaway is surprising very good in the role of Cat Woman. She’s agile, sly, and ultimately alluring.  Tom Hardy delivers a tremendous performance as Bane. What he is able to connive with just his eyes is truly astonishing.  Hardy brings a certain level of physical ferocity to the role that not many actors could. When Bane enters a room, Hardy is able to quickly convince us that Bane is powerful, ferocious, intelligent, and just downright nasty. Bale gives a terrific performance as Bruce Wayne, authentically showing Bruce's inner demons and the final redemption of the character. However, the best performance comes from Michael Caine. The emotional depth given to Alfred in this film is unbelievable. There were moments that had me choked up a bit.  Michael Caine just knocks the lines of dialogue out of the park. In particular, the scene where Alfred tells Bruce he never wanted him to come back to Gotham is just flat out masterful.    

        Which brings me to my next point, the emotional core of this movie is the anchor that keeps it afloat. We feel for Bruce and his journey. We want him to move on with his life and at the end succeed at saving Gotham. This is what makes the action scenes so satisfying, because we are so invested in what's taking place. This is also what makes Nolan such a great filmmaker because he believes in story first and spectacle later.              

        However, when Nolan does deliver spectacle it's exhilarating. The set pieces, the thousands of extras and the large scope really make this feel like an epic conclusion. The battle scenes between Batman and Bane are dark, gripping and overall exciting. The best quality is the fact that the majority of the action scenes are not CGI. Most of these stunts are actually performed on real sets which give an extra wow factor as well as making them more believable. This all goes back to Nolan whose decision to do things the old fashioned way is stroke of genius.

        Of course the cinematography and production value is phenomenal. There are so many scenes that are amazing to look at. One scene where Batman leads the final charge at Bane is particularly stunning. Snow is falling and every image put on the screen is absolutely beautiful.  

        The themes in this film come full circle from Batman Begins such as why we do we fall?   It has the idea of becoming a symbol rather than merely a man. There's some social commentary on Wall Street and the stock market. The class system is also touched on a bit as the rich get sentenced to either exile or death once Bane takes over.

        Still that doesn't mean the film is without flaws. At times, Nolan tries to do too much; there are too many characters arcs and plot lines being juggled at once. This causes moments of the film to come across as rushed, not every character arc and plot point has room to breathe. The rushed arcs make some character motivations appear muddled and twists feel like they came out of nowhere.

        Also, where is Batman in this movie?  There is a lot of Bruce Wayne and hardly any Batman. This wouldn't ordinarily be a complaint if it wasn't the conclusion to the trilogy. Additionally, this film more than its predecessor, feels like a comic book movie. Now I know that The Dark Knight Rises is a comic book movie but I personally loved the dark, realistic tone that Nolan established in The Dark Knight. What The Dark Knight did was transcending its comic book origin and becoming pure film. The Dark Knight Rises did this at times but there were moments that drug it back down.  Some lines felt a bit cheesy for this universe, the final kiss between Batman and Cat woman didn't fit, and the whole nuclear bomb plot was a little silly.

       Now we all know that a hero is only good as its villain and Bane wasn't quite as interesting as the Joker. What I loved about the Joker were the moral conundrums he gave Batman. He wasn't just simply a physical threat but really tested Batman's inner moral code. Bane is only a physical threat to Batman and that was less captivating. Also, we don't know a lot about the Joker, he had no origin in the film. That made him come across as the embodiment of pure evil for evil has no origin. Not to mention the Joker was very likable due to his humor, Bane lacked that severely. Now I'm not saying Bane wasn't a good villain, I loved Bane but the Joker was, well, ahead of the curve.

       Even with its problems, The Dark Knight Rises is still a great movie. It's wonderful to see intelligent filmmaking in a summer blockbuster. Nolan really trusts and believes in his audience, not feeling pressured into dumb, cliché and uninspired work where explosions take the front line over the story. Nolan treats his audience like they are intelligent human beings, giving us complex stories that spend a lot of time on character interaction and yet he proves that it can be successful. Nolan truly wraps up this trilogy well and really leaves the audience satisfied. Yet I don't think people will give Nolan as much recognition as he deserves. The film community certainly will but the average moviegoer probably doesn't even know who he is. The majority of moviegoers will never know who saved modern Hollywood but then I realize they do know “It was the Batman."
Posted on August 17, 2012 .