The Dark Knight Rises Review

So the day prior to the release of the Dark Knight Rises I was absolutely exhausted. For one reason or another I got very little sleep before waking up early for work and I was the most exhausted I have been in years. I tried to make up for this exhaustion with coffee and energy drinks and naps but for one reason or another I couldn’t sleep and the caffeine was not helping. This one night where I was required to stay up until 3:00 am, a feat which I normally wouldn’t even bat an eye at had me worried about whether or not I would be able to fully enjoy the premiere. As the credits started rolling for the movie around 3:00 I found myself rather upset that the theater wasn’t playing a 3:30 showing. My exhaustion had vanished and if the opportunity had been available I honestly would have gone on to watch that show. As well as the 7:00 am show.

What it is: The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s final film with Batman and it is the epic conclusion to his much beloved trilogy. The film stars Christian Bale who is once again playing Gotham’s dark knight and he is accompanied by several familiar faces including Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine. Joining the cast for the first time is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane in addition to other Nolan staples such as Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Why I absolutely loved it: So as you have probably gleamed by this point I kind of enjoyed the film.

The film starts out at a party marking the eighth year since Harvey Dent’s death. Right from the get go we are seeing the impact of the Dark Knight. We see the effect that the Joker and Dent had on Gotham as well as the strain it has had on the people of Gotham. It shows that each movie isn’t more or less its own thing with reoccurring characters but rather one chapter in a single story. Not only are the events of The Dark Knight established early on but as the movie progresses we also see that the events of the first film also have a big impact on the story. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were both brilliant movies but both were building up towards The Dark Knight Rises. Each movie isn’t its own standalone thing but rather a piece of the bigger picture in addition to each one being great when looked at individually.

While the old and familiar played a major role in the film in no way whatsoever was it stale and littered amongst the throwbacks and the recognizable were quite a few new faces. The first I wanted to talk about was Catwoman. To sum up Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman in one word would be ‘wow’. When it was first announced that the villainess/heroine would be making her debut in TDKR I honestly a little underwhelmed. Sure she is an iconic character in the DC universe but I just never really cared about her and never really understood why I should. TDKR completely changed that for me. Holy crap was she awesome. As much as I love Chirstian Bale as Batman I honestly felt that Anne Hathaway was a better Catwoman than Bale was a Batman. It really just felt like the role Hathaway was born for. She was intelligent, clever, cunning, fast, sexy, funny and completely badass; she was everything Catwoman should be and Hatheway perfectly captured the Catwoman essence. I found myself smiling every time she showed up on-screen which fortunately was quite often. Words can’t really adequately describe my glee at Nolan not only being able to portray Catwoman perfectly but he was also able to give her her iconic cat ears but in a not stupid “I am deliberately wearing cat ears” way.

The next new face I wanted to talk about was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character John Blake. Blake is a new face not only to Nolan’s trilogy but also to the entire DC universe and he is an addition I am glad Nolan made. Blake feels a lot like a younger James Gordon with little splashes of Bruce Wayne sprinkled on top. While he is not a traditional DC character and is more or less is just another friendly cop –by friendly I mean one who likes Batman and eventually collaborate together—he does serve an incredibly important role in the film. In the past two movies it was really Batman and Gordon working together and other than that they were alone. Even though Gordon was a police officer more often than not he is alone in his support for the Bat and he is alone in fighting alongside him. With the addition of this single character fighting besides Batman and Gordon, Nolan is able to demonstrate that they are not alone this time around. It is not only Blake fighting besides them but all of Gotham is as a unified front against Bane.

Now Bane is one hell of a villain. Nolan has taken a few creative liberties throughout the trilogy but for the most part has stayed relatively true to the comics (one or another). With Bane, Nolan has taken perhaps the most creative liberties to date and I am sure there are some people out there who are unhappy about this. And by people I mean like two or three die-hard fans and Bane purists out the 7 billion people on Earth. Sure Nolan diverged some from the real Bane but his take on the villain is at least in my own opinion way, way better. Prior to this movie I had always really thought of Bane as this ruthlessly strong and massive brute. Nolan painted him as a ruthlessly strong and massive brute who also happens to be an evil mastermind. Not only is Bane able to physically dominate the Bat but he also has the intellect to outsmart him ultimately providing us with a much deeper villain with a much deeper relationship with our hero. Sure in the comics he was more of a mastermind and genius than Joel Schumacher painted him to be but honestly I never really thought of Bane as an evil genius until now. Another big liberty Nolan made was not covering Bane’s entire face. Bane has traditionally always worn a mask over his entire face and thank god Nolan decided to show off his eyes this time around. Tom Hardy has been one of my favorite actors for a while now and even with a mask covering up 75% of his face he delivers one of his most powerful performances to date. With just his eyes Hardy is able portray so many emotions and a ridiculous amount of intensity. With only his eyes he is able to deliver an amount of intensity than anyone else would need his or her entire face to accomplish. Nolan’s version of Bane’s mask not only is superior to other variants due to the uncovered eyes but the mask also serves to distinguish Bane from the rest of the crowd with an incredibly unique voice –which you can understand 95% of the time– and equips him with a mug that gives him the appearance of someone who could bite your face off.

As much as I loved Nolan’s take on Bane’s origin story they never really explain that giant scar running down his spine.

Everyone I have discussed the movie with has absolutely loved Hardy’s Bane but his incredible performance begs the question: is Bane better than the Joker? Most of the people I have talked to have most certainly felt that he was but I am not so sold. While I might not completely agree with them I can understand where they are coming from. Hardy delivers a powerful performance and is hands down one of the best movie villains of all time and if Bane and the Joker had a villain-off I would probably bet that Bane would win. So in some sense Bane is a better villain but regardless of Bane’s intensity and power, his performance didn’t haunt me the way Ledger’s did. I spent a lot of time after The Dark Knight trying to figure out a single word to describe Leger’s performance and that was the word I settled on: haunting. Heath Leger’s Joker was just so uniquely perfect and he perfectly captured that insanity behind the Joker which in my opinion makes him the greatest villain of all time. In no sense is Bane a bad villain. Like I said I honestly would place him in my top five villains of all time –do I see an upcoming list?— and off the top of my head the only other villain in movie history that might steal second from him would be Darth Vader.

As awesome as the movie and its cast were I do have a few minor complaints. First off I felt that there were a couple quick fixes that occur earlier on in the movie. For example we see in the beginning Bruce has a messed up leg, so much to the point that he must walk with a cane but then all of a sudden he gets an awesome machine leg brace and he is completely healed for the rest of the movie. I remember counting four real instances in the movie and they all happened early on. Every time Wayne or friends is faced with an apparently unfixable situation they quickly answer it with an unrealistic solution. It’s like every time he is faced with a hurdle he simply pulls out a step-ladder from his bat-belt and walks over it. These situations build up the tension and have you going crazy trying to figure out what he will do next and the answer has you mumbling about how stupid it was. These moments always feel like the creator gets really excited establishing an awesome situation and then exhausts all creative ability and just finishes it with some quick fix.

The Dark Knight Rises is the longest in Nolan’s trilogy clocking in at two hours and forty five minutes and it is absolutely necessary because there is so much content that needs to be covered. That’s my only other complaint actually that is wasn’t long enough. Several scenes felt like they were rushed and smushed to fit in. For the most part this wasn’t too excessive of a problem but there are a couple of scenes I really wished had been half an hour or so longer. Like I said this movie is closing in on three hours long and I honestly wish it was closer to four. There are few movies I can say that for and very few that I would encourage to increase the running time to an amount that high but TDKR is an amazing movie and at no point did I feel that those one hundred and sixty-four minutes were too much.

[SPOILER ALERT. Do not read the following section if you have not yet seen the film and do not want big chunks of the plot spoiled because I am going to be discussing several of the films major and final revelations. I am going to throw in a picture right here to mark the start of the spoiler zone and will throw in another one to signify the end of the spoilers.]

Christopher Nolan, I love you for being the genius that you are. From early on we were given several tid bits about the film from trailers and auditions about who was going to be joining the next Batman’s roster and once we were given a glimpse most people, myself included, thought we had gotten things figured out. When we first saw that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was going to be playing a young and idealistic cop we felt for sure that this meant we were going to be seeing Robin or Night Hawk make an appearance regardless of the character’s name being off. Even after Nolan expressed his disinterest in including the character in this final chapter I held on hope of seeing the Bat’s faithful sidekick showing up in one form or another. I mean how perfect would it be to see Robin come in as Batman left. Who would be dissatisfied with that ending? I understand the sidekick has a natural disposition of being cheesy and lame but if simply implied he would show up you wouldn’t even risk that on top of giving fans what they want. Walking into the theater I knew what I wanted to see happen but I knew that it most likely wouldn’t. The character’s name was completely wrong and even Nolan had pretty much shot down the concept. Because he did this it made that final revelation that much more fantastic. We had all but given up hope of seeing him and then there he was.

The next revelation is another one people figured out pretty early on. When it was first established that Liam Neeson was going to be returning and that Marion Cotillard was going to be joining the cast it seemed pretty clear that she was going to play Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, Talia Al Ghul, arguably one of Batman’s greatest foes. Being a giant fan of Batman Begins and Neeson’s portrayal of Ra’s you can only imagine my excitement of the prospect of seeing his daughter make an appearance. Once again though as more information became available it appeared that Cotillard wouldn’t be playing Talia but rather some other lady name Miranda, again destroying our hope of seeing the character’s we wanted and once again, making her eventual revelation all that more exciting.

Now I have loved Nolan for his directorial abilities and storytelling for as long as I could remember names of directors but the way he handled these seemingly obvious secrets was masterful. Once casting calls go out the world pretty much knows what’s up with a movie and the basic gist of the plot. By using different names and denying what everyone wanted to hear he was able to maintain the power of every big revelation in the film and was able to make it an amazing revelation even for the people who figured it out on day one.

With that being said, it makes you wonder what else Nolan has lied about to maintain the significance of the revelation. Perhaps that whole statement about being done with Batman? I know it’s a long shot but he has established that he is a man who cannot be trusted in the best sense possible.

Before ending the spoiler section I wanted to mention exactly how stoked I was that Nolan included Bane breaking the Bat. This is arguably one of the most iconic moments in all of Batman lore and I know that I personally would have felt a bit cheated and jipped if this scene was not addressed. This scene in addition to the those two big revelations has got to more than make up for any artistic liberties Nolan took with the series. I hate to admit this but I was honestly squealing with joy at each one of these moments due to my inner comic book geek being overly ecstatic.

[END OF SPOILERS. The rest of the review is completely spoiler free so read on without fear.]

As Christopher Nolan has mentioned in interviews, TDKR is one of the most epic movies to be released in years and the fact of the matter is that it really is. Not only is it the ‘biggest’ of the trilogy but I cannot think of any other action movie that even compares to it or is even close to being on par with it. Admittedly the scale of the situation isn’t as large as the situation in The Avenger’s but the way Nolan paints the situation you really feel the weight of Bane’s actions in a way that few other movies have captured. Sure Nolan is responsible for the beautiful cinematography and perfectly constructed shots throughout the trilogy but he is also just a masterful storyteller. I am hard pressed to think of another director who would have done as well of a job with the trilogy as Nolan did if someone else had been given the script.

Batman is facing the most difficult and intense situation and villain he has ever before and this leads to an incredible movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat with your eyes stuck on the screen for all two hours and forty-five minutes. The amazing cast delivers great and spot on performances from all which means that both you comic book lovers and non-lovers alike will love this movie. The scale of which everything happens leads to not only the best super hero movie of the year but arguably the single best super hero movie of all time. As Christopher Nolan time and time again reminds us that he is force to be reckoned with I feel it would be only fitting to use his own word to end on. The Dark Knight Rises is absolutely epic.

While for the first half of the movie I was settling on something closer to a 4.5/5 than a 5/5 due to those few small complaints I had in the beginning the second half had me settling on something closer to a 10/5. I give The Dark Knight Rises a 5/5.

So with that being said, go watch this movie right now. There is a pretty good chance you will see me in the theater back for more. This is the first movie since the first time I watched Fight Club where I wanted to immediately watch it again the second I finished it. The Dark Knight Rises is such a good movie and it is so absolutely epic.

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