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The Dark Knight Rises (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Juno Temple, Daniel Sinjata, Chris Ellis, Tom Conti, Nestor Carbonell, Brett Cullen, Aidan Gillen, Joey King, Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson.

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan.

Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Distributed by Warner Bros.  164 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

And so ends (at least, supposedly) the latest incarnation of Caped Crusader, with both a whimper and a bang.  Christopher Nolan has been insisting that his Batman series with Christian Bale as the Man in Black will be a trilogy – despite the fact that The Dark Knight Rises quite explicitly sets up a potential spin-off series with Robin the Boy Wonder and even vaguely hints that continuing the adventures of the Bat may not be out of the question.

However, now we can only look at the series as is, and more specifically at the final chapter in the trilogy.  So, dealing with the most obvious questions first: Yes, the series ends on a mostly good note.  No, The Dark Knight Rises probably isn’t quite as good as it could have been, though it is mostly rather enjoyable.  The Dark Knight Rises is significantly better than the series debut, Batman Returns, though it does not live up to the center chapter The Dark Knight.

As always in Batman movies, the hero is something of a blank slate, so the strength of the movie really rides on the intrigue of the villain.  And Bane, the muscle-bound, intricately-masked super-villain here is no Joker, but he is a rather interesting character on his own.

Actually, if Batman as a hero is still a bit of a blank slate, Bruce Wayne as an alter-ego is more intriguing than ever here.  (This is good, because Bruce has significantly more screen time than his superhero alter ego.)  Bruce Wayne has become a beaten man in this film – partially crippled, disinterested in his life and his company, bereft at the loss of his one true love and an essential hermit in his own home.  This is all due to the events of the last film – eight years ago in the film’s world, although only four in ours.

Wayne is actually revived from his torpor through an odd circumstance.  He is robbed of an heirloom by a gorgeous cat-burglar posing as a maid.  Anne Hathaway brings great charm and a badly needed sense of levity to her role of Catwoman Selina Kyle – who has been rehabilitated to semi-good girl status here and who is still a much more nuanced and memorable villain than Bane.

While Wayne is not that concerned with loss of the necklace, he takes the robbery as an opportunity to return to the land of the living.  (He also feels the first stirrings of attraction he has felt in quite some time.)  Good thing for Metropolis, Bane has created an underground lair in which he can hatch his plot to destroy Gotham City.

To be quite honest, the plot to overthrow the city is the least interesting part here, at least to me, it seems a bit overly obvious at the same time as it feels rather unlikely.  Mostly, it all feels like it has been done before.  For a series that is so imaginative, this whole section is way too derivative of older films such as Children of Men, Escape from New York, Mad Max, Perfect Sense and countless others – including several from the filmmaker’s own body of work.  It is not a fatal flaw, just a minor irritant, but the middle section of the film comes as close to losing the audience as it ever gets.

Oddly, The Dark Knight Rises shows both a growth and a stubborn refusal to change in writer/director Christopher Nolan.  In fact, The Dark Knight Rises feels a lot more like Nolan’s last film Inception than the previous Batman films – and not just because actors Tom Hardy (Bane), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Blake), Marion Cotillard (Miranda), Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane) and Michael Caine (Alfred) all played significant roles in both films.

The Dark Knight Rises has a dream-like, fugue-state feel to it.  Much of what happens in the film probably would not be possible – even in the comic book boundaries of this film – by the light of day.  However in a dream state, they all make an odd sense.  While this is bit of a constant of Nolan’s work – even early films like Memento and Insomnia explored the vast differences between the waking state and dream life – it rather leaves you wishing that the auteur would do something completely different, or at least unique in his world, like he did several years ago with The Prestige.

Still, one can’t deny that Nolan has a terrific visual eye and an imaginative story-telling style.  Like his other Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises sometimes strives too hard for the dark side, but it is a fascinating artistic viewpoint.

One thing is for sure.  If The Dark Knight Rises is indeed the end of this chapter of the Batman saga, the character is certainly going out on a hell of a better note than he did in his last series – with the Joel Schumacher/George Clooney disaster Batman & Robin.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 18, 2012.

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