July 22, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Well, it as finally arrived. Let the crying, wailing, and gnashing of teeth commence. The Nolan Batman cycle has reached an end. Of there is one thing we can be happy about, it is that Christopher Nolan did not let the franchise go awry on his watch. Unlike what happened to the Schumacher films on the back end of what Tim Burton began, we will not find nipples on the batsuits or any overly corny dialogue. Nolan approached the character with a specific idea, and now that his tale has been told, it is time for it to end. And what an end it is.

With the release of The Dark Knight Rises, it has encouraged some of my online friends to reexamine their position and where the recent cinematic incarnations of the caped crusader. This has brought to light one friend's belief that Batman Returns is the best of the Batman films. It certainly is an interesting position, and one that is backed up by that Tim Burton directed film being a truly strange and creative film. I agree that I is a very good film and a certainly underrated one.

It is certainly interesting, but he also went on to state a belief that he could see the Nolan cycle as being possible to have been crafted by any number of other filmmakers. I am not so sure this is true. There is something about the intelligence, thought, emotion, and attention to detail that Christopher Nolan brings to his Batman films (and anything he has made for that matter) that I am not sure could be replicated by anyone else. I understand that not everyone will connect with the films the way that I, or many others, do. It is he nature of the beast. Some will genius, others cinematic boredom.

Christopher Nolan has made something special with his Batman cycle. His trilogy of films have had an amazing build from start to finish, each film taking us through a very specific phase of Bruce Wayne/Batman's existence. In a way it is rather operatic in nature. This trilogy has carved an indelible mark into the Batman mythos, one that is not likely to be forgotten. At the same time, it has also set the bar rather high for subsequent Batman films. I hope that whoever takes up the reigns has a similarly intelligent take that does not try to duplicate what was done here.

The Dark Knight Rises brings us the final chapter in this telling of the Dark Knight legend, and what a tale it is. It picks up the story in Gotham some eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. In that time, Harvey Dent has become something of a folk hero. It is in his name that Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has scrubbed the city clean of organized crime. Crime still exists, but at a much different level. The city is a much better place than it was Batman first appeared, and especially since he last time he was needed.

In this Gotham, Batman lives on as a legend talked about on schoolyards, whispered among the police force, and recalled as the murdered of Harvey Dent by others. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has locked himself away in Wayne Manor. He suffers under the weight of failure and loss. Alfred (Michael Caine) sees to his needs.

Bruce is encouraged to return to some of his masked detective ways when a cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Ann Hathaway), makes off with a personal possession of Wayne's. It is right about this time that criminal activity begins to increase, along with the appearance of Bane (Tom Hardy) in Gotham. Whatever he is there for, it cannot be good and it makes Bruce want, no, need to don the cape and cowl again.

Now, I don't want to go with a full plot description, that would not do any of us any good. This is a movie that is best discovered as it is unfolding on the screen in front of you. It takes you back to Batman Begins, through The Dark Knight, and then full circle as the events unfold in this closing chapter. The Dark Knight Rises is the biggest in scope and is perhaps not quite excited as perfectly as its immediate predecessor, but still stands just as tall. This is an ambitious film that sees this world just about burst at the seems as the populace is pushed to take action.

It is fascinating to see the various pieces come together and understand how the prior films' events have all been leading to this. It is also interesting to see how the movie events have drawn their inspiration from their comic counterparts. This is not the Bane of Batman & Robin.

Bane is a diabolical villain, physically powerful but also possessing a brilliant mind. He leads what is essentially a revolt against the government and authority. But are his motives wholly altruistic? His speech on hope is quite revealing.

It is fascinating to watch Bane's plan unfold and how the people react. It is equally fascinating to see Bruce Wayne's reaction and his sense of responsibility, guilt, and loss that drives him forward.

Everything builds to the inevitable conclusion. It is a rousing finish that will leave you wanting for more. Just as it should. Leave on a high point. This is clearly not the end of tis universe, there are surely more stories to tell, but this sequence has run is course.

I am sure that there is plenty to nitpick about here, but sometimes it is more about the bigger picture of the story than certain thins within the film. Can this idea lessen the overall impact? Sure, but not necessarily. A similar thing happened with Prometheus, there were some narrative issues/inconsistencies, but being in a film that was more involved with something bigger did not affect me as much. Characters may have some questionable motives or perform actions that may not seem to fit the moment, but in the moment, who is to predict what the character is thinking? Rational thought is not always in play, but the big story being told is. Interesting to consider if nothing else.

One of the many interesting aspects is the place that emotion plays. Much of the film could be described as cold, but there are moments where emotion plays a big factor. I am thinking specifically of a most of Alfred's (Michael Caine), he has a few amazing moments of deep emotion. Fear induced by Bane is also felt throughout.

Of course, Bruce cannot be left out of the equation. There is a lot going on with him in the emotion range. Batman is different than the majority of other superheroes. He has no powers and is always living with the guilt of his parents death. He is hardly the only orphan hero, but he always seems to carry a lot more weight with it. It is quite evident here, with both physical and mental pain.

I feel the need to bring this to a close. Let me finish by saying that The Dark Knight Rises is a spectacular film. It is a weighty film, heavy on drama and not as fun as, say, Marvel's The Avengers, but it is a fantastic experience. It is a fitting close to his cycle, introduces some new characters, brings back some old, and makes I all fit. There is probably a lot more to say about the film, but now my words are beginning to run dry.

It is a movie to see to see on the big screen, and quite possibly more than once. I greatly look forward to what Nolan gives us next.

Highly Recommended.

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cate mckoy said...

Very nice. Can't wait to see it.

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