Batman returns in the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga. Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, and Tom Hardy star in The Dark Knight Rises from Legendary and Warner Bros Pictures. This may not be the sequel we want, but is it the movie we need?
(Editor’s Note: this review is SPOILER FREE!)
Eight years have passed since the death of Gotham’s District Attorney, Harvey Dent. Commissioner James Gordon has used the lie of his death to enact the Dent Act, which allows for certain liberties for the Gotham City Police Department in arresting and incarcerating organized mobsters. With crime on the downturn, Bruce Wayne feels that Batman is no longer needed. He becomes an almost Howard Hughes-esque hermit within his mansion so the police don’t have to waste their resources hunting him.
But a storm is coming for Gotham at the hands of a masked behemoth and international terrorist who only goes by the name Bane. He is setting his sites on Gotham to cripple its finances and cut it off from the rest of the world in order to enact marshal law within the streets. His mission is to balance the power of wealth and give the city back to its people.
While the chaos ensues, a sleek and sexy cat burglar takes advantage of the bedlam to sink her claws into Gotham’s riches. Selina Kyle (aka: Catwoman) who is in deep with the mob, steals for sport and necessity. Her main goal is to clear her name of past crimes. She will do it by any means no matter who she has to cross.
After an attack on Commissioner Gordon at the hands of Bane and Gotham continuing to spiral out of control, Bruce Wayne has to make the ultimate decision: to bring Batman out of retirement to become a symbol of hope and savior of Gotham. But at what cost? Who can he trust? Can Batman defeat Bane and become the hero that Gotham needs AND deserves?
Four years ago, audiences were treated to a spectacle of brilliance in the form of The Dark Knight. Director, Christopher Nolan flipped the superhero film genre on its ear by turning a once thought of “kid’s only” fables into a legitimate adult form of genius story telling for not just the nerdy audiences, but all audiences. Add to that, the Academy Award winning performance of the Joker by the late Heath Ledger as well as the rest of the talented ensemble cast, and The Dark Knight will forever be the standard that other superhero movies will be compared to. With that being said, I went into The Dark Knight Rises with an extreme level of skepticism. So many movie legacies have been ruined by lackluster sequels. My heart didn’t want me to want to love this Dark Knight iteration as much as the previous. I sat in my stadium seat and tried my hardest to pick apart flaws, but I found that I couldn’t (well, maybe just one: the over-modulated and sometimes indecipherable voice of Bane, but more on that later).
I am going on record to say that The Dark Knight Rises is a masterful interweaving of mythology and commentaries of real world issues. The best way to describe the plot is an “Occupy Gotham” protest with Bane holding the microphone as a representative of the 99% and the army to back him up. For the comic fans out there, imagine a huge dose of “Knightfall” with subtle hints of “No Man’s Land.” If you know those story arcs you be happy at how well they were represented.
Christopher Nolan is a fantastic story teller. I have been a fan of his since Memento. I was embarrassed to call myself a Batman fan after the deplorable raping of the character at the hands of Joel Schumacher’s “rubber nipples” and bad puns. Nolan flipped the script and remade the character…human. You saw his pain, his loss, and his fears. You seen him fall and learn how to get back up. Between the story, dialog, action sequences,and character development, Nolan’s Dark Knight saga ends in a triumphant crescendo of emotions that I was not expecting. I cheered, roared, laughed, and even wept. The musical score by Hans Zimmer provided the backdrop with themes for each character and sequence which set the mood as you rode the roller coaster.
Christian Bale returns to play Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader. Unless it was movie magic, he seemed to have changed his actual physical appearance by looking extremely thin. Though not as drastic as his performance in The Machinist, Bruce Wayne looked meek and feeble. When Batman makes his triumphant return to Gotham, Bale looks like he added pounds to his body to complete the transformation. Batman can’t take on the task by himself. His butler and surrogate father, Alfred, portrayed by Michael Caine, is the Jiminy Cricket to Bruce’s Pinocchio. Alfred is, in fact, a representation all of us. When Alfred cries, we cry. When Alfred smiles, we smile. He says everything we want to say, only Michael Caine does it in a fantastic English accent. While Alfred may be Bruce’s conscious, Lucius Fox, played by Morgan Freeman, is his brains and moral compass. While not having a huge role in this film. Lucius has his moment on screen to show off his latest invention, The Bat: a flying “Tumbler” Batmobile with rotors under the aircraft that can pull off some amazing aerial maneuvers. It may not look pretty sitting still, but just wait until you see it in action. Rounding out the “good guys” in the cast is Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer John Blake, and Marion Cotillard as business woman Miranda Tate. Gordon is trying to right the wrong of his lie and rescue Gotham with the help of Blake as his assistant. Miranda Tate not only is the rich girl trying to bail out Wayne Enterprises from financial disaster, but also becomes a bit of a love interest to Bruce and acts as a possible life for Bruce should he decide to hang up Batman’s cape and cowl.
With the death of Heath Ledger, the daunting task for Nolan was to provide a suitable antagonist to Batman. Where the Joker provided Gotham with whimsical anarchy, Bane provides cold calculating terror behind the mask of brute strength, and Tom Hardy brings the monster to life. Bane has no remorse. He is a juggernaut of destruction. The hardest task that Hardy had was to convey any type of emotion using only his eyes since the majority of his face is covered in a mask. Now while this is better than the Mexican-wrestler luchador mask from the comics that would have covered his entire face, it makes any type of dialog spoken very difficult and at times hard to understand. You could tell from the audio track that Bane’s voice was over dubbed to the movie to try to make him more comprehensible, but there were still times I was scratching my head at what was said. This is tough because Bane speaks softly and carries a big stick. When Bane does indeed speak, you really have to strain to listen. The film did however do fantastic job in Bane’s origin. When I read the “Knightfall” novel, I was actually sympathetic to the horrors Bane endured as a child. Now while I did not feel the same for his character in this film, it was better than the dumb creature portrayed in Batman and Robin. Bane may not have the flair for theatrics as the Joker, but Bane provides Batman with the challenge in fighting a physically superior being. To make Bane realistic in comparison to he comic book counterpart, the film removed his addiction to the chemical Venom. The film cleverly goes into great detail why he does indeed wear the mask.
Anne Hathaway portrays Selina Kyle. In the film, she is never referenced as “Catwoman” per say, but she is indeed a cat burglar wearing tight black leather. Hathaway does a brilliant job as being the morally ambiguous Kyle. She does an amazing job of instantly changing her emotions and adaptations the way a chameleon can change its colors for survival. She is a proper representation of why she works so well with Batman. Even though he knows he can’t 100% trust her, he knows that deep down, she isn’t a murderous villain as the rest of his rogues gallery. Batman has always felt that if he provided her with better options, he can be her salvation, and the movie does a wonderful job walking that tightrope. Initial photos of Hathaway in her outfit met with huge anger from fans, but if you remember so did the test photos of Heath Ledger in the Joker makeup. I’m here to qualm your fears and say that Catwoman’s outfit not only looks sexy, but each facet of it has a purpose. From her high heels to her goggles that when flipped up look like pointy cat ears, her costume is as versatile as Batman utility belt. Michelle Pfeiffer may have looked great in sewn together shiny vinyl, but she was pretty much a one dimensional character. Hathaway makes Catwoman a multifaceted foe and ally to the Caped Crusader.
I walked away from The Dark Knight Rises wanting more. There were quite a few major reveals that I absolutely will not spoil for you, but when they happen you’ll be as amazed like I was for not expecting them. The screening I attended was not in IMAX, but because Nolan shot more footage in The Dark Knight Rises than the previous, I barely noticed the jump from one size to another. The movie is almost three hours long and at no time did I feel like it dragged. It was perfectly paced by the over-the-top action sequences interspersed with slower dialogue sequences. I want to emphasize one thing to families: this is not a little kids superhero movie. While there is no heavy cursing or gratuitous bloodshed, the film has strong adult tones and situations that small kids might just not understand and grow bored with. Where The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man are a bit more family friendly, you may want to keep the kids at home. I’ll leave it to your judgement. If you have let your little ones watch The Dark Knight and they liked it, then let that be your guide in taking them to The Dark Knight Rises. I absolutely recommend The Dark Knight Rises at theaters as soon as possible, but definitely rewatch Batman Begins first. I can’t explain why, but trust me, once you see The Dark Knight Rises you’ll understand.
In Theaters: July 20, 2012
Runtime: 2 hours 44 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
Genre: Adaptation, Action/Adventure, Crime, Sequel
Distributor: Warner Bros Pictures
Official Site: http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/
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