|Though Flawed, Nolan's Conclusion to the Series is Still Great||2 out of 3 users found this review helpful.|
I just want to start off by saying this will be a spoiler-free review, assuming you have seen both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. A journey that began in 2004 comes to its final conclusion in 2012. Christopher Nolan has done what could not be accomplished before: he created a trilogy of Batman films that grounded the Dark Knight in reality, while staying true to the roots of the character without becoming campy or comic-bookie. Nolan's follow-up to the critically and commercially successful The Dark Knight had big shoes to fill; try as he might, he could not create another masterpiece The Dark Knight left behind. While this may sound as though I dislike the movie, nothing could be further from the truth. The Dark Knight Rises is still a good Batman film as well as a Christopher Nolan film. He gives us a satisfying, though somewhat convenient, conclusion to films that will stand up as examples in film-making and story-telling for years to come.
The film picks up eight years after the conclusion of The Dark Knight. Batman has not been seen since he was framed for Harvey Dent's murder. The Dent Act, a direct result of his death, has enabled the police in Gotham City to put away criminals with ties to any organized crime. The city has prospered and has been peaceful ever since. Speaking at an event for the newly created Harvey Dent Day, Commissioner James Gordon has an entire speech written out that tells the people of Gotham the truth behind Dent's death: that he became the villain Two-Face and kidnapped Gordon's family. This is quite the stark contrast to the white knight the people thought he was. Bruce Wayne has also become somewhat of a recluse, no longer attending social functions and disappearing from the spotlight. His curiosity is peaked when he confronts a woman disguising herself as part of the wait staff at Wayne Manor for a gathering. She steals his mother's pearls and this prompts him to want to learn more about this mysterious cat burglar. Meanwhile, a new threat arrives in Gotham in the form of Bane, an immense man who is quick to punish those who won't get in line with him and his plans.
As with The Dark Knight, Nolan wastes no time introducing the new villain of the film right away to the audience. While Bane is a hulking mass that can destroy most people, he is also quite intelligent and he uses both skills to great advantage. He is as ruthless as The Joker but cunning like Scarecrow. Tom Hardy portrays Bane with the intensity that hardcore comic-book fans will appreciate, while still remaining someone who could exist in the real world. While Bane works with his overall theme of wanting chaos and giving power back to the people, it feels like some of the same themes that resonated in The Dark Knight. Joker's social experiments were on a lower scale though he had the people of Gotham's attention. Bane takes that on a bigger scale and focuses his energies but it doesn't feel as plausible.
The theme of redemption runs rampant throughout the film, mostly surrounding Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne/Batman. Gordon wants to let the people of Gotham know the truth of what happened with Harvey Dent, but he cannot bring himself to do it. He feels as though the people would not be able to accept this truth about their hero, and would turn against Gordon and the police, descending Gotham back into a cyclical state of violence and corruption. Gordon has a run-in with Bane, and has to recover from that to help the city. Bruce's redemption is both personal and related to Batman. He still struggles with coming to terms that he is a broken man and Gotham no longer needs Batman. While one would think that is ultimately what Bruce wants, he seems unsatisfied. He still believes that Rachel Dawes was going to choose and marry him over Harvey Dent and that eats at him everyday. As Batman, he finally sees a way for the city to accept him as their savior when Bane's terror starts coming down on Gotham. He had grown accustomed to being Gotham's dark knight that he has forgotten what it was like to live a normal, ordinary life.
Christian Bale reprises his role as billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader. Though Bale's performance is just fine, his Batman voice is a bit toned-down from The Dark Knight, as it is less raspy. He does have one scene in the film that reminded me of Jack Bauer, which was rather amusing. Other than that, Bruce is fairly uninteresting this time around. Don't get me wrong, the first time he appears on screen as Batman, I got very excited and had a big, stupid grin on my face. The problem is that what Bruce has to go through to prove he is worthy enough of being Batman is not so interesting and gets over-shadowed by the newer characters brought on board. Lucius Fox is once again played by Morgan Freeman and not much has changed with his role. He still assists Wayne with new gadgets while running Wayne Enterprsies and providing some of the film's humorous situations. Michael Caine as Alfred is one of the highlights of the film, and is used quite effectively. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say the scenes he is in are some of the most important and emotional scenes of the film. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon has also been consistently one of the better characters of the three films. His transformation throughout the films has been almost more interesting than that of Bruce's.
Nolan brings in a few more new characters other than Bane to help bring this story to a conclusion. Anne Hathaway is cast as Selina Kyle, a woman of many talents though master thief is at the top of the list. I was pleasantly surprised at her performance in the role. Though most people assumed she would fill the role of Catwoman, Nolan never comes out and says as much, which is probably for the best. Selina is a nice complement to Bruce; she helps bring him back down to earth and when they meet as their alter-egos, there is a chemistry that lights up between them. Marion Cotillard is Miranda Tate, a woman who has a great interest in Wayne Enterprises and Bruce too. Without going into spoilers, I was most disappointed with her performance; not so much because the acting was bad, but because the character is not given much to do. Cotillard is a good actress and I wish Nolan had given her a bit more time to grow. The best new character is John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He is a younger cop on the Gotham force and his intuition and hot-headed nature quickly get him places in the police department, as well as a mentor in both Jim Gordon and Batman. The transformation his character goes through is far more interesting to watch than Bruce Wayne's. He has a passion for justice and doing what is right, even if it means crossing boundaries others won't. While I was delighted to see where his character ends up at the end of the film, I was also a bit disappointed because I wanted to see more.
This is a great film but it is not an amazing film like The Dark Knight was. Nolan tries to cram a bit too much in the final film and some characters and plot get lost in the shuffle. The ending of the film left me a bit disappointed. I really thought Nolan was going to take us in a direction I was not expecting, and he completely flipped it around to something different that had less of an emotional impact. The final scene of the film, on the other hand, was an amazing shot and it was one of the highlights of the film. Bane is a good villain, and I'm glad to see him brought on screen in a different iteration than the comic, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened had Heath Ledger still been alive. I don't think Nolan was done telling the Joker's story and that he would have lived through the third film to see a more grand conclusion. Alas, we will never see that movie. There is a whole sub-plot with Wayne Enterprises that seemed to be shoved in for the sole purpose of moving part of the plot along, as it has no other effect on the film otherwise. Another thing that I personally missed is the Chicago skyline and back drop as Gotham. Being from the Chicago area, I felt a certain affinity towards the film, and I also got to see some of the locations they shot The Dark Knight in while working there at the time. No offense to Pittsburgh and New York, but Chicago has and always will be Gotham City in my mind. If you can, see the film in IMAX. While the costs a bit more, a lot more of the film is shot in IMAX and it looks amazing in those scenes.
I knew going into this movie that there was no way Christopher Nolan could top The Dark Knight. While that film is near perfect, I came out of The Dark Knight Rises thoroughly satisfied with the universe Nolan had created and how it ultimately ends. Though the film has its own set of problems, a lot of them are nitpicking at the details. What we are left with is a trilogy that can rival most films, past and present. Most directors generally peak in the first or second film and create a third that just can't live up to expectation. Though The Dark Knight Rises has those same issues, I will take a Nolan film that has some issues than most other movies. If you have put in the time and investment into the world Nolan has created, make sure to complete the journey and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Trailer 2: The Dark Knight Rises
It's finally here in an HD, non-watermarked format!
Teaser: The Dark Knight Rises
The talk of the town is finally here and no longer in shaky cam. Get a glimpse of Bane!
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