Movie Review – “The Dark Knight Rises”

The team of Nolan, Goyer and Bale have assembled the final chapter in their Batman saga. It’s got pretty stiff competition from superhero films this summer, as well as competing with the legacy from the first two chapters. Does it make the cut?

Cast and Crew Information

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle
Michael Caine as Alfred J. Pennyworth
Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon
Tom Hardy as Bane
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake
Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
Matthew Modine as Foley

Written by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Premise

The Harvey Dent Act has given the police the power to clean up the streets and wipe organized crime off the face of Gotham. Bane sees this as a problem and seeks to rectify this, forcing Batman to come out of an eight year retirement.

High Point

“Kid, are you in for a show tonight!”

Low Point

Timelines don’t add up in one aspect of the movie that cannot be discussed without a major reveal. DO NOT read the following until you’ve seen the movie. I’m serious. This is a big piece. Miranda Tate has been supporting the clean energy project and the fusion reactor for years. Dr. Pavel, and only Dr. Pavel, knows how to weaponize it, which is what she really wanted it for. Unfortunately, Dr. Pavel’s results were published “six months ago” when the chips are down. Why was she involved prior to that? The publication date needed to be changed to make her sinister character work. I know someone peeked. When you see the film, you’ll be mad you did.

The Review

This scores points for originality. Yes, it’s an adaptation, so it won’t get a perfect score, but Nolan took a major risk ending this Batman story the way I doubt any big screen Batman story will end ever again. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects are excellent. Nolan respects the immersive nature of physical effects and employs far more than most directors would, using CGI primarily to clean up the image of a physical object. I can point to pieces of an image that must be effects and pieces of an image that must be the real thing. At no time can I point to the seam in between them, and at no time did the nature or quality of the effects interfere with the suspension of disbelief. This is exactly what visual effects are supposed to be. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story holds together very well. This team understands something that the Burton/Schumacher team clearly didn’t understand: comic book characters are defined by their characters, and not their powers. Burton and Schumacher gave us a Bane powered by Venom, but Nolan, Goyer and Hardy gave us a Bane that is driven mad by upbringing, and uses a combination of physical strength, cunning, and meticulous planning to achieve his goals. Similarly, this Catwoman is a fully developed character who is true to the comic book interpretation overall, despite never actually using the name “Catwoman.” It also serves as the perfect “third act” to the story started in Batman Begins, but is richly structured enough that it will likely be more satisfying in isolation than, say, The Avengers. The only story issues I see could well be relics of rewriting scene X after filming scene Y and not having time to perform ADR in dialogue referring to time frames to keep things consistent. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting is difficult to judge. Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are still knocking it out of the park. Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt step into their roles just as comfortably. Hardy was decent, but the nature of his facemask and the sound mixing of his dialogue makes it extremely difficult for him to emote properly. He was never unconvincing, but he had absolutely no chance of having the impact Ledger’s Joker had. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production is extremely well done. This is a team that did it right the first time, and they’ve had two previous films to learn from. They are firing on all cylinders, and have the proven box office track record to justify the 164 minute runtime without being subjecting to being edited down for the sole purpose of getting in an extra screening opening weekend. (See the deleted scenes from Green Lantern or X-Men for examples of what that does to a film.) I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response can be summed up as follows: 164 minutes of film felt like it was barely 64 minutes of film, and ends on two incredibly powerful emotional notes. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, it’s another chapter in one of the most perfect superhero franchises to hit the big screen. I think it’s too long and too dark in tone to have enough kid appeal to catch up to the box office numbers for The Avengers, but I do think it’s ultimately a better film. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, The Dark Knight Rises receives 39 out of 42.

5 replies on “Movie Review – “The Dark Knight Rises””

  1. Dark Nexus says:

    No, no, your low point is incorrect. Pavel’s results weren’t published six months ago, Pavel was “killed” 6 months ago. His results were published well before that, though your right that they were published after Talia’s involvement in the clean energy program. Though she could have just been running off the concept of “someone will find a way”.

    The timeline that didn’t add up for me was a smaller scale one…. It was daylight when they left the stock exchange. They needed 8 minutes for the program to run. Half way through the chase, it was the dead of night.

    And as for the climax, some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

    • The low point was treated inconsistently. They quoted two different timelines for that event which differ by more than the amount of time elapsed during the course of the film. I don’t want to say more yet.

      • hussein says:

        I know I’m probably rationalising this, but he may have only published the conclusive findings 6 months ago but as an academic he has presumably published preliminary results, position papers and other stuff leading up to it. Salami science at it’s best!

  2. octa says:

    It was a solid Batman story but I really felt it was too long. The pacing almost felt, I don’t know, pretentious? It’s hard to put in to words but I’ll try: It was almost as if the director was self congratulating himself on creating this gritty world and flawed characters instead of delivering an action movie. The characters almost seemed bored with everything they were doing!

    Maybe I had the wrong expectations going in but I felt The Dark Knight created this perfect balance of plot, exposition, and action that this third part was lacking.

    Bane had no charisma. Not sure if Tali was supposed to fill that role, but she didn’t provide it either.

    The ending was great, though I felt his sacrifice was more a result of a series of bad events than a true motivation to save the people of Gotham. *shrug* I’ve always felt the Nolan movies did a bad job of showing how the public at large viewed the Batman – usually it has just been the POV of the cops.

    In order of my favorites: 2 -> 1 -> 3.

  3. JD DeLuzio says:

    1. Fascinating, complicated political stuff, touching on revolutions, official corruption, Occupy, conspiracy theories, and so on. Loved the references to the French Revolution.
    2. Best non-comic handling of Selina Kyle yet.
    3. It had a number of things that, even in a film about superheroes (especially a grounded film about superheroes), didn’t fly. Most obviously: forced stock trades accepted as valid.

    Well worth seeing. We’ve had two excellent, but very different superhero movies this summer with this and Avengers.

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