Hello g33ks, m33ks, and anyone else who knows better than to still believe in Harvey Dent. I have just returned from a screening of THE MOST ANTICIPATED FILM OF 2012…The Dark Knight Rises. The Dark Knight Rises is the conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy that started with Batman Begins (2005) and continued with The Dark Knight (2008). Let me repeat that: this is the last film in the series. Nolan promised that he would only do three films, and he’s lived up to that promise. Many have used this statement to speculate on the future of Batman in this series, or perhaps a lack of a future. So then the question becomes, how does this final film in the series live up to the insane hype? Is it a quality film that is somehow better than its predecessors? Or is it impossible–no matter how hard you work–to make a film that can stand up against The Dark Knight?
For the benefit of those that wish to know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the film before getting to see it, here’s your official SPOILER WARNING! I will try to be light on the spoilers, but there will be some.
When a film is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Michael Caine (Alfred), Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon), Thomas Hardy (Bane), Joseph Gordon Levitt (Officer Blake), Matthew Modine (Deputy Commissioner Foley) and Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate) its safe to say the expectations will be pretty high. When that film is the sequel to what many agree is the greatest comic book film of all time, and the concluding chapter in the greatest trilogy since Star Wars, Godfather and Indiana Jones, it is definitely going to be difficult to appease the expectations of your audience.
The first two films in this series established that Nolan would acknowledge elements of the Batman legend and utilize them where they work best, but he wouldn’t be afraid to move them around, combine them, or even discard them should he need to. This film is where such liberties become less subtle. Nolan combines the origins of two well known Batman characters, disregards the existence of characters that would not work, and concludes the film with a major change to The Batman’s legend so big that it would be considered blasphemy to many squires of The Dark Knight. That said… if you can step away from the comic books and the animated series just enough to allow Nolan to tell his story, the huge leaps he takes make a lot of sense.
It has been 8 years since the death of Harvey Dent and on the 8th annual Dent Day, parties are held all over Gotham City celebrating the good that has come from the legacy of Gotham’s White Knight. The Dent Act has given judges the ability to incarcerate organized crime figures for life without possibility of parole, and so Gotham has become the city without organized crime. It is also a city that has existed for 8 years without The Batman and, for the last three, with a totally reclusive Bruce Wayne. Bruce had apparently spent a huge chunk of his own personal fortune to start a new clean energy project that could power all of Gotham with no waste of any kind. Unfortunately, the project failed, and he now spends his nights prowling the halls of Wayne Manor instead of the rooftops of Gotham. Life seems to have become very quiet for Bruce. But, when a clever and beautiful jewel thief, named Selina Kyle, breaks into his ‘uncrackable’ safe and steals his mother’s pearls, he decides to go after them. Making his return to Gotham life after many years, Bruce learns that his company is barely profitable, Lucius Fox has been stockpiling anything dangerous created by the company, a woman named Miranda Tate who has helped fund the clean energy project wants a personal relationship with him, and a shareholder, John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), wants to take Bruce’s seat on the board of Wayne Enterprises. Underneath all of this–literally below the streets of Gotham–waits the mercenary known as Bane. He has been plotting for years to get to this Dent Day, and now that it’s arrived, it’s time to begin the “liberation” of Gotham City.
This plot, which contains an elegant mix of original story and Batman comic book story arcs “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land,” is both simple and complex. Bane is the ultimate match for Batman as he’s physically stronger, just as much of a tactical genius, and he’s willing to die for his cause. He’s a Monster… a beast that climbed out of the depths of a prison known only as Hell on Earth. He has created an army of zealots that do nothing but work endlessly to further his cause. He is motivated by something so powerful that it is believable that this man can actually kill Batman. All of this leads to the question: “What is to become of The Batman?”
The acting in this film is top notch and it’s nice to see that everyone is given time to work. Calling out standout performances in this this film is just rehashing the cast list over again. Everyone is fantastic; but, if I will praise anyone, it’s the newcomers Levitt, Cotillard and Hathaway for finding their way into this final installment and fitting in as if they’d been part of all three films in the series.
Christopher Nolan knows how to get the best out of his performers and his crews. That is evidenced again by the incredible melding of practical and digital effects, the acting, and the beautiful cinematography of Wally Pfister, Nolan’s Director of Photography. When Nolan decided that they were shooting this film in IMAX, it became a challenge for Pfister to shoot the movie in a grander scale with a larger more burdensome camera. The film is gorgeous and if possible should be seen in true IMAX. For many of you that means driving an hour or so to a true IMAX theatre. Yes I know your local AMC swears it has IMAX but really there’s a good chance you’ll be paying extra money for Digital IMAX or Lie-MAX. Trust me: see it on a true 70mm IMAX screen like I did and your eyes will thank you.
Does this film live up to the hype? YES!
Is this a better film than The Dark Knight? No, and I don’t think that’s possible to achieve. TDK was lightning in a bottle, a one-of-a-kind piece of filmmaking that only comes along once every several decades. TDK elevated an entire genre and changed the Academy Awards voting procedure. It’s a lot to ask The Dark Knight Rises to be better than that. That said, it is an extraordinarily satisfying film–good in all the ways you want it to be. Action, acting, plot, and special effects all come together to make this a worthy sequel to The Dark Knight and conclusion to the series.
Is this film better than The Avengers? No; to me, they’re in a dead heat, but on different scales. The Avengers is a fun movie blockbuster. Its cast, director and script are incredible and it is a tribute to filmmaking. That said, it’s still a trip to an amusement park. It’s awesome…the best day ever…but The Dark Knight Rises is like going to visit NASA. It’s also the best day ever but it’s more mentally rewarding than it is adrenaline-fueled. Both are awe-inspiring thrill rides that send shivers down your spine and make you laugh and cheer, but in different ways.
Will you be happy with the conclusion? I am. The theatre I was in was (for the most part) was. And I hope you will be, too. It’s rare that critics applaud at the end of a film. That’s all I’ll say about that.
At this point, it’s ridiculous to conclude that this review will do anything to sway you into seeing the film. You decided that three or four weeks ago when you bought your passes to midnight or 3am screenings. You came here to have your particular hope for the film justified or fear of the film assuaged. I hope I was able to do that. This is a solid film. It’s better than Batman Begins, but not better than The Dark Knight. It’s just as good as The Avengers and much better than The Amazing Spider-Man (which itself was a quality flick). You’ll want to see it more than once; you’ll probably cheer out loud and you may even find yourself a little bit sad that the ride is over.
– Mr. Khon