‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Movie Review – The Truly Epic Conclusion
Most of the time, the term “epic” is used with extreme hyperbole. There’s nothing “epic” about watching someone fall off a skateboard or land an awesome bike trick. However, there is plenty of room for the word “epic” in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. Starting with the first movie, Batman Begins, Nolan sets up a story that puts the superhero genre in the background. They’re still considered genre movies, but we all have Mr. Nolan to thank for creating something more than an archetype. Especially after the follow-up, The Dark Knight, superhero flicks have a new standard to abide by.
The grittiness and realism of the previous installments may take a slight hit during Batman’s final chapter, titled The Dark Knight Rises, but it effectively sums up the three-part story. With the exception of ignoring the Joker completely (a good idea given the tragic circumstances of Heath Ledger’s death), The Dark Knight Rises is another great Batman installment. Unfortunately, it will get compared against its predecessors a bit too much.
First, let me be straight with you: I am self-proclaimed Batman and Nolan fanboy. Maybe that’d make it easier for me to love the film, but it’s worth noting that I was terrified this would somehow tarnish the previous ones. So, with giddy expectations come the apprehensive ones, too.
Thankfully, I didn’t feel cheated at all.
Taking place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, a cleaner Gotham City emerges after the “Dent Act.” Even though Gotham doesn’t know the true events, crime has dwindled without the help of Batman (Christian Bale). Bruce Wayne, too, has sunk into the shadows like Batman, both physically and financially. Even though Batman’s in retirement, the right circumstances could un-retire his cape and cowl.
Those right circumstances involve the four new character additions. The first one being the physically dominating, mask-wielding Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane’s motives aren’t exactly clear, but his unique mix of intelligence and strength is a new test for Bats. Secondly, we get Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) as Batman/Bruce Wayne’s-sorta-love-interest, sorta-nemesis. Finally, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) round out the new characters as a business partner and an up-and-coming police officer (respectfully).
Though there are plenty of different conflicts, the most prominent involves Bane’s insistence to burn Gotham to the ground. Although the city has cleaned up, he develops an underground army that threatens to turn the poor against the rich (a la the Occupy movement). Some will find this a bit heavy-handed, but I’d like to mention that the film development took place before the Occupy movement. I give the filmmakers a lot of credit for weaving social commentary into a “tentpole” movie.
Following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Heath Ledger and his Joker, Tom Hardy had the grueling task of trying to keep up. And, I dare say he was just as good. I don’t think he’ll take a bunch of awards home, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve them. Hardy’s Bane is a straight-up terrorist and he has incredible scene after incredible scene.
Everyone else was solid, too, but I’d like to spend some time on Anne Hathaway. I can practically still hear the moans from the character addition (and casting choice), but I think Hathaway gave a fabulous performance. In terms of Nolan movies, I think it may be the best female character he’s filmed. If you aren’t willing to go that far, at least you can agree that Hathaway’s performance added some humor and femininity the series needed.
Another thing The Dark Knight Rises improved were the fight scenes (in particular, the hand-to-hand ones). Hearing Batman physically grunt while Bane savagely growls like an animal sent chills down my spine (one of many times throughout the movie). Pretty much every action sequence is filmed in full IMAX (70 mm. film), making The Dark Knight Rises one of the best looking films I’ve ever seen – I could look at Nolan’s sweeping landscapes in IMAX all day. Say what you want about the future of presentation, but I am 100% on the IMAX bandwagon.
Still, I can step back and acknowledge what some of the “flaws” may be. I’ve hinted that the realism is a bit more tested, but there is a considerable portion of the film where Batman is gone. I was fine with it, but I understand some of the outcry. Also, with four new characters added, the film had to scramble to develop all of them simultaneously, which probably wasn’t ideal.
However, while I can acknowledge some flaws, I still think this is one hell of a movie. I knew the end of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy was coming for years. Luckily, I was able to curb my expectations, meaning I wasn’t looking for the next The Dark Knight. Instead, I wanted a movie that rounded out the trilogy. There is no doubt, in my mind, that The Dark Knight Rises achieves this. Not only were there some great nods to the previous movies (and some comic book material), but it’s got the grittiness, amazing themes, powerhouse performances, and amped-up fight scenes that end the story right where it should end.
Follow me on Twitter @jmacle