Super Types

July 23, 2012
 

Movie Monday: The Dark Knight Rises

Title: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Cain, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Release Date: July 20th, 2012
MPAA: PG-13

Eight long years after the death of Harvey Dent, Gotham has entered a new found peace with no signs of Batman (Christian Bale). However, underneath its streets rises a new threat – Bane (Tom Hardy). Now Bruce Wayne must rise to the occasion if he is to stop the league of shadows from trying to destroy Gotham once again.

This summer’s superhero blockbusters have all been about anticipations in the making. First it was The Avengers, and now it’s the end of the Nolan trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. It’s been seven years in the making, and it’s been one hell of a journey.

If you saw Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, then you’ll probably already know what to expect out of this one. This is very much a Nolan film, with all of his usual strengths and weaknesses.

For starters, Christopher Nolan knows how to pick one hell of a cast. He doesn’t simply pick big names or pop stars and models. And for that, I respect him. There’s really no one who does a bad job here.

Christian Bale does a great job as always, and this time the bat-growl becomes a little more recognizable. He adds some Howard Hughes to his Bruce Wayne (and perhaps a little bit of Patrick Bateman, as well).

On the opposite side of the spectrum, is Tom Hardy as Bane. Hardy is almost unrecognizable thanks to the mask, bald head, and his portrayal. However, his voice is pretty hilarious. It sounds like Sean Connery speaking through a Darth Vader helmet.

Everyone else steps up to the plate, as well. You’ve got great familiar performances such as Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. Newcomer Anne Hathaway pulls it off as Catwoman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a surprisingly intriguing supporting role for someone who’s not in the Batman mythos (or is he…). But I think the best performance goes to Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth. He actually isn’t in much of the film, but whenever he does show up, Caine gives an emotionally gripping performance with what could’ve been hammy dialog.

While Nolan is known for picking a great cast, his greatest strength is perhaps the heavy use of theme and ambiguous shades of grey. Which is to say that like its predecessors, The Dark Knight Rises makes no compromises with its story or integrity. Nolan and Goyer don’t shove a forced message down our throats, but instead raise some interesting questions. Although Ledger’s The Joker certainly has the most intriguing philosophy in the Nolan-verse, Bane and Catwoman raise some interesting questions, too. Here, the villains aren’t without their reasons, the poor have their sympathies, and even the rich and the authorities aren’t all that bad. This has caused both conservative and liberal pundits to accuse The Dark Knight Rises of being pro or anti-Occupy Wall Street (the irony being that the script was written before OWS). If anything, though, the reactions prove that this film does take itself seriously, and Nolan isn’t afraid of making a story that’s not simply good vs. evil.

However, Nolan’s most impressive storytelling technique is his ability to tie The Dark Knight Rises back to Batman Begins. I won’t spoil it, but I will say there are a lot of references and plot lines that harken back to Batman Begins. Not to mention that even cinematically and thematically this film feels closer to Batman Begins than The Dark Knight.

If creating complex themes is Nolan’s greatest strength, then his greatest weakness would hands down be editing. Like Batman Begins, this film could’ve used better arrangement and a little trimming. Fortunately, the fight scenes and camera work didn’t have that quick-cut seizure technique that plagued Batman Begins and even The Dark Knight to an extent. But like Batman Begins, the story could’ve been nipped and tucked here and there. Especially since many of the character’s scenes could’ve been shortened in favor of other characters. Take Matthew Modine as Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, for instance. Don’t get me wrong, he did a great job and the character certainly had his importance. But a good deal of his scenes seemed to come at the sacrifice of time with Commissioner Gordon. I understand Gordon is just one of the many characters, but you’d think they would pry more into his personal life, especially now that he’s separated from his family.

There’s a lot more nitpicks I could go on about, such as [SPOILER ALERT!!!] “How was Bruce Wayne able to get from that exotic prison to Gotham City with no cash under 24 hours?”, or “Oh cool, Robin made an appearance here. Wait a minute…ROBIN ISN’T NAMED ROBIN!!!” [SPOILERS ENDED]. Despite all of its flaws, The Dark Knight Rises is a damn good film. It might not be the best comic book film ever, and it’s certainly not up there with Casablanca, but it’s a nice end to The Dark Knight trilogy and does tug on a heart string or two.

Andrew Hudson
ahudson@comicattack.net
@Hudsonian

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