Posted by: GregMo Roberts Source:Killer Reviews
The most highly anticipated film of the summer is also the film that has to work the hardest not to disappoint. After The Dark Knight wowed critics, stunned fans and set box office records in the summer of 2008, the bar was set incredibly high for the third (and final) film of the trilogy. All of the particulars were back – Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon. But more importantly was the man returning behind the camera. Christopher Nolan who had directed the first two films was concluding is epic masterpiece. And with such a visionary director and a committed, competent cast behind him, expectations were not that the final Batman movie hits it out of the park, but it must be a game winning grand slam as to not be considered a letdown from its brilliant predecessors.
A six-minute scene of the new film was attached to the IMAX Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol print back in December of 2010 to help whet the fan base appetite. The film showcased Bane (Tom Hardy), the DC comic baddie that would be Batman’s foil in the final film. Bane is less known to casual fans of the Batman character as opposed to The Joker (The Dark Knight Rises) and Scarecrow (Batman Begins). But any disappointment over the choice of villain (after all, The Riddler, The Penguin and Egghead all remained untouched), was silenced when fans rallied behind the director and watched in awe as the scene where Bane escapes capture from authorities in a death-defying plane-to-plane action sequence was presented.
That sneak-peak seems like an eternity ago and now the clock has stopped ticking on the release of the The Dark Knight Rises, a film that has created plenty of buzz and speculation as the story has been kept tightly under wraps.
Before we get into any review of the film, we will answer the question as to whether it is essential to screen the first two films before jumping into the final chapter. It’s hard to imagine anyone not having seen Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, but the answer is ‘Yes’, you will benefit from seeing both films or reacquainting yourself with their particulars. More Batman Begins than The Dark Knight. The Joker is not referenced in The Dark Knight Rises, but Harvey Dent’s legacy plays a key role in the new film’s storyline. That’s not to say you will be scratching your head without an understanding of what is transpiring in Rises. But it will help.
The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after we saw the death of Two-Face/Harvey Dent and as Batman ran towards the shadows taking the fall for the death of a city’s model citizen and District Attorney (Dent). We learn that Batman has since retired and the city has gone nearly a decade without their dark knight.
It is within the city’s climate that Bane is spawned. Played with unrecognizable gusto by Tom Hardy, Bane is not as interesting at Heath Ledger’s The Joker, but he is just as merciless. Bane dons a mask making him sound like Kirk Douglas attempting to impersonate Darth Vader, but his voice is hardly the mumbled mess that we all feared while watching clips and trailers.
Bane’s reign of terror over Gotham reaches from the football field to the Gotham Stock Exchange. And it is his relentless mayhem brought down upon the city that gets Bruce Wayne (under some encouragement by butler Alfred) to don the Batsuit one more time.
The above synopsis would be too straight forward for a Chris Nolan film so he and his brother Jonathon that wrote the screenplay add new characters to the mix including Anne Hathaway that plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a newbie cop John Blake and Marion Cotillard who again teams with her Inception director for her role as Miranda Tate who works for Wayne Enterprises. Each have their own stories – some that work and some that don’t. Hathaways’s Catwoman is the most intriguing. She might not have the sexiness of the Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman in Burton’s Batman Returns, but her character is closest to the DC comic book character which it emulates. The John Blake character is both important to the plot and is a worthy diversion from some of the eye popping action sequences. But Cotillard’s Tate was someone we (and the film) could have done without.
These three characters are needed (along with Alfred, Lucius and Gordon) to help bridge time between Batman appearances. What will surprise many attending the film opening week-end is how long the stretches are between Batman screen time. An early fisticuff with Bane leaves Bruce Wayne battered and bruised and he has to tend to his injuries while Bane continues his domestic terrorism.
As is with any concluding film in a series, Nolan brings all the components together for an ending that had villains rising, Gotham citizens rising and the Batman rising all towards a finale that brings full closure to the Batman Begins origin.
The Dark Knight rises is clearly the best film to look at in the series. There an hour or so of IMAX included in the print and the design of the film is breathtaking. The action sequences are well done particularly the Bane airplane escape, but how could Nolan compete with his own semi-truck flip over in The Dark Knight?
Hans Zimmer composed the musical score for the film and he does what Hans Zimmer does best. He makes it loud and rousing. That is not essentially a compliment as there were two scenes were we found it hard to understand what a character was saying over the bombastic music. But the theatre seats shook and the audience seemed appreciative of the now all-too-familiar Batman theme music.
Having been able to take hardly a breath from the screening of the film to my computer to pound out my impressions, I can commit to an impression that The Dark Knight Rises is a good film. A very good film. It is dark and gloomy. It is depressing and bleak. But it is a worthy entry in what has become an incredibly entertaining (and lucrative) franchise for Warner Bros. Where Marvel’s superhero entries of 2012 – namely The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man – were happy and colorful, The Dark Knight rises is what I now refer to as Superhero Noir. Nolan definitely has infused a style all his own.
We did not find The Dark Knight Rises as innovative and original as its predecessor, The Dark Knight. But we will be able to compare it equally to Batman Begins and that is still high praise to say the least. As early referenced, The Dark Knight Rises is absolutely glorious to look at. The best of the series in terms of visuals. But the story wasn’t as layered as its predecessors and we thought things became a little convoluted in terms of plot.
The fans in our screening didn’t seem to care. They cheered and roared with each returning character’s appearance on the screen and again when the Batman ‘rises’ later in the film. They seemed to get further pleasure out of ‘The Bat’, the flying vehicle that Batman utilizes to great effect in the film.
At nearly three hours, The Dark Knight Rises is an exhaustive journey, but one worth taking. Far too many trilogy’s have concluded with inferior third entries that try and tie things up in nice bows without properly staying true to the look and feel of the franchise that got them to this point (we are looking at you Matrix: Revolutions). Not so much here. Nolan tells a new story that just happens to conclude things for our Bat hero. And all combined, Nolan’s Batman trilogy is the best superhero tandem of films of all-time. Bar none.